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THE HOUSE IN PICCADILLY. A TALE FOR MAIDENS, WIVES, AND WIDOWS; AND, INCIDENTALLY,
FOR ELDERLY GENTLEMEN.
'A SYMPATHIZING HEART.' * WHERE is Floy, Gussie ?
“I have had a great deal to annoy Mrs. Knightly asked the question me this morning, Gussie -a very of her eldest daughter, as that young great deal ; don't ask me about such lady entered the room, still equipped matters now; I don't feel strong in habit and hat, where the comely enough to bear it; still, since you widow sat in luxurious idleness. have spoken on the subject, I must
Gone to her own room, mamma, say – No: not to marry Frank and Gerald has ridden off straight Tollemache with it and dissipate it to Woolwich; he sent a good-bye in a worthless manner. to you by me, for he had no time to What do you mean, mamma ?' come in.'
Augusta sat down now and faced Augusta stood looking absently her mother ; ‘I very rarely under-out of the window. She had some- stand you,—now less than ever; for thing to say, and she was not clear you could not mean that I am not to as to how she would say it. The marry Frank Tollemache; and you knowledge that Gussie had some- could not mean to apply the epithet thing to communicate had dawned worthless to anything in connection: upon Mrs. Knightly from Gussie's with him-or me. What did you manner; therefore she too felt un- mean? comfortable.
*Exactly what I said,' replied - Whom have you seen this morn- Mrs. Knightly, angrily, that I'll ing, Gussie ?
not give you a fortune-it's mine to Oh, several people.'
give, remember, - to waste, yes, “Why don't you go and take off waste, on such a worth on a man your things? I want you to go out who has boasted that he's going to in the carriage with me; I want to right himself and get out of his disgo into Regent Street.'
graceful difficulties by marrying * Dear mamma,' began Augusta, you. I hope you understand me turning round suddenly and fac- now.' ing her mother — a proceeding . This is your final answer, which made that good lady feel mother? You will tell me your herself guilty of meanness, some- authority for these libels about how or other, in having listened to Frank? anything against any one who was 'Yes, it is , and no, I won't go dear to Augusta ; 'dear mamma, I betraying a confidence. I hope you will get ready to go with you any understand that, though you do so where, after you have answered me rarely know what I mean.' a question. Is my marriage to take 'Yes, I quite understand you, place, as was arranged, in August ? mamma,' said Augusta, quietly; and
What do you mean, Augusta ? then rising she went to her own Mrs. Knightly always would try room. to gain time before she answered a Augusta was not a woman to straightforward question by asking attempt to melt a person's harsh another.
resolve by tears; she had a deeply· Will you take measures in fact, rooted objection to public weepings; will you give me the fortune papa at the same time she was very far always promised me?
from being a hard woman. Florence Mrs. Knightly always had tears shortly afterwards wandering restat command ; three large ones lessly into her sister's room found rolled down each cheek.
Augusta just rising from her writVOL. I.--NO. IV.
ing-table whereon lay a note addressed to Sir Francis Tollemache, with pale cheeks and red rings round her eyes.
*Gussie, dear! what is the matter? she asked anxiously, throwing her arms fondly round her sister's neck; and then Augusta, who was not a bit of a heroine when there was no occasion for it, burst out crying afresh; and after binding Floy down not to say a word to mamma nor to Baines, poured her sorrow into her sister's sympathetic ears.
• What a rage Rupert will be in, Gussie! he's so fond of Frank; do ask him to speak to mamma.'
* Has mamma shown herself so anxious to serve Rupert, Floy, that we could reasonably hope for his speaking to be of any use ? Now let me bathe my eyes, for I'm going out with her, and I shouldn't like her to see that I had been crying
She did not look like a Niobe as she swept down the stairs and through the hall after her mother. Still less did she look like one as she took her place in the open carriage-one of those sloping carriages in which it is almost impossible for a woman to be anything but graceful-and shook out her voluminous skirts into soft, easy lines and folds. Some peculiar golden-lined flowers, which rested under the brim of her white bonnet at the top, and merged away into nearly white at the sides where they came in contact with her face, prevented the pallor of her cheeks from being conspicuously apparent; and a hazy veil concealed the redness of her eyes. She gave her mind to some silks at Swan and Edgar's in a way that enchanted her mother -for whom they were—and was so politely attentive to her mother's rather weakly nothings, that on their way home after a happy hour of shopping, out of the fullness of her heart that lady spoke:
“I am very much pleased with the way you take it, my dear; you're sure to do much better; and if you'll follow my advice, you'll at once send back whatever presents he may have made you.'
Augusta kept her head turned
away while her mother was speaking, and for a minute or two after. When she did turn it round she brought on it the smile with which she had just greeted some acquaintance who had passed. She did not answer in words then-or at all-but that day at dinner her beautiful little hands were almost covered with rings—with rings that Frank had given her, as Mrs. Knightly angrily perceived.
Miss Knightly was not one to regard herself as an advertising medium or moveable placard; therefore she did not feel called upon to rush about and inform every person with whom she had ever held friendly communion, that the engagement between Frank and herself was broken off, or at the best indefinitely postponed. But it was a kind of thing that despite her haughty reticence, would get talked about. And one morning when Rupert, after spending an hour or two in Tollemache's rooms, said to him in a laboriously impromptu manner, “If I were in your place, my dear fellow, I'd get out of this for a time-it's what I should have done myself if Georgie's father hadn't behaved so handsomely; couldn't you go abroad ? you needn't fear to leave her; Gussie will be true as steel to you. When Rupert said this Frank Tollemache knew that the brother and sister had talked it over, and that the suggestion that he should go away had been made by the lady to spare him possible mortification. And so with a faint but clinging reliance on that last feeble straw, time, which unhappy people so providentially hope is going to do much for them, Frank Tollemache and Augusta resolved to separate, until the mother's heart should be in the right place again.
Mrs. Vining had one of those dangerous little dinners which young married women will so recklessly persist in giving, regardless of consequences. Georgie Clifford was there, of course, and Rupert Knightly. They were a safe pair enough, for their wedding-day was settled ; it was not to them that settled; it was not to in this dinner was dangerous. Nor was it so to Augusta and Frank Tolle
mache, who, as he expressed it, was in such a happy, tolerant state, that there for a farewell feed, previous they would have talked to any one to starting off to the Continent for a who would have listened to them; time. No; to them it was a tedious, but only Mr. and Mrs. Vining were distracting affair this elegantly, inclined to listen to them. Miss arranged little dinner. This spot- Knightly had seated herself in the less table, with its delicate white back drawing-room, which was faintly service and dazzling glass and and softly lighted; and Frank stood silver, warmed and lighted up with by her side, leaning over the back red wax candles, seemed a mockery of a high chair, and they were of the grief—the sad, helpless grief speaking n low whispers. And that was filling both their hearts. Florence, sitting at the piano, played It was to radiant Florence—radiant little dreamy pieces, that did not though in simple white muslin, with disturb the melodious flow of words an innocent row of pearls round her which Colonel Crofton, sitting by even fairer throat that this social her side, poured into her ear. little meeting was dangerous, for “We have not been to Greenwich Colonel Crofton was there; and the once this season, they heard Mrs. keen, polished man was ever keener Vining say to Georgie, after a time. and more polished at Harry Vin- 'Would you like to go ?' said Coing's table than anywhere else. He lonel Crofton in a low tone to Flowas a favourite of the hostess, too, rence. If you would, in a short and that always gives a man im time I could make one of your mense advantages.
party; but it must not be just yet, He had been a frequent visitor at as I am bound for every evening for the Knightlys' house of late; and some time to come.' Florence could never sufficiently He wanted Georgie Clifford to be admire the refined tact which made off and away before that excursion him—though of course devoted to came to pass. her-persistently endeavour to in 'I should like to wait until you gratiate himself with her mother can go with us, Florence answered with her rich mother, on whom, as with a warm blush ;' but you see had been proved in poor Gussie's we are dependent in a measure on case, everything depended. Mamma Mrs. Vining.' cannot fail to like him, she thought, “Nonsense, excuse me, but if that and if my wealth may be the means is all, I will undertake to persuado of his being enabled to marry me, Mrs. Knightly to go, and then you how right he is to try and please can fix your own time. Perhaps we her so as to insure it. Florence had better not say anything about liked him too well to pause and it until your brother is married. consider how very unheroic such a Gerald will meet us there, no doubt, proceeding was on the part of this and we'll have a delightful family idol of hers. He did not say much party.' to her individually, whilst they He said the words designedly; were seated at table, for the party and for many days-till the Greenwas too small for the conversation wich day was among the things of to be anything but general. And the past indeed—they were meat Rupert did no small service to and drink to Florence; and her eyes Colonel Crofton's cause in the heart at once told him that they were so. of Florence, by talking to him a 'Dearest, dearest! then your great deal, and giving him the silence means that you wish my opportunity of saying a great quan- suit with your mother success,' he tity of clever nonsense, in order to said, bending down and lightly cover Augusta's sadness and Frank's touching her hand for one moment, silence.
as he affected to turn a page for her. But when they had all reassembled Florence, lowering her golden head in the pretty amber-coloured draw- to avoid his too earnest gaze, made ing-room, the party was not one in a short speech, but one that was which conversation was likely to be very much to the purpose. general. Rupert and Georgie were 'Yes;' and then as she dashed off a difficult piece, felt rather ashamed lame a horse that had once belonged of herself for being so very happy to Colonel Crofton, Gussie needn't when poor Gussie's heartstrings were have said that, was her thought as being so strained at. She could she stood before her mirror brushalmost have laughed (she said this ing out her bright hair; but when to herself, though in truth she could they come to know him better they'll have hit Georgie with pleasure), all do him justice, I'm sure. How I when Miss Clifford, on saying good hope mamma will like him! night to Colonel Crofton as they all And where do Rupert and you stood cloaked and hooded in the mean to live, dear?' asked Mrs. hall, remarked that he looked almost Knightly of her future daughter-inas sentimental as he had done on law, as she was preparing to leave the last occasion of her having met the room in Lord Clifford's house him there. It was very spiteful of which had been devoted for some Georgie, she thought, to refer to his days to the reception of all the passing admiration for herself in that new dresses for the great occasion. way; for of course it was only that. Gussie and Floy had been with She could almost have wished, too, Georgie all day deciding the questhat he had chosen other words fortion of what the bridesmaids should his answer than,
appear in; and Mrs. Knightly had And I cannot plead a fairer cause, just driven over to fetch them acMiss Clifford.'
cording to agreement, and to inBut, altogether, she went home spect preparations as far as they very happy indeed, and understood had gone. perfectly now why people liked din 'Where do Rupert and you mean ner parties.
to live, dear ? She did not condole with Gussie "Well, Mrs. Knightly, I've rather she did not, indeed, remember that wondered that you haven't asked Gussie stood in need of sympathy that question before. Where should and condolence-until she had re- you think would be the most proper moved the filmy muslin and pearls place? and ordered her maid away. Then Georgie was on her knees before she flung on a white dressing-gown, an artificial flower box, and she and ran to Gussie's door.
dropped a wreath into it as she May I come in, Gussie? Do let spoke, and looked up straight into me.' On her sister admitting her, Mrs. Knightly's face. she proceeded to explain how sorry Mrs. Knightly, aided by her conshe was that she had forgotten to science, read in Georgie's eyes, say good-bye more particularly to 'Don't you think the house in PicFrank, who was going the next day; cadilly, where you have stationed and as Augusta acquitted her of all yourself, would be the most proper blame, and rather absently accepted place for Rupert Knightly, Esq., and her excuses, she went off into a dis- his bride to take up their abode?' cursive canter through the wide field and the reading displeased her. of Colonel Crofton's merits, and was 'I don't know, I'm sure,' she anbrought up at last by Augusta swered, rather shortly. 'If I had saying languidly, and in a manner been consulted, which I haven't that clearly proved she had not been been, I might have an opinion to listening to a word Florence had offer; as it is, I have none. been uttering
Georgie, sweet and dear as she Whom are you talking about, was, rose freely if the least slight Floy? Colonel Crofton? Oh, I hate was put upon her; the laughing the man; he's so deceitful.'
light went out of her eyes in a moFloy had to make great allowances ment, therefore, as she stood up for Gussie's state of mind in order suddenly before Mrs. Knightly and to curb her wrath; she said good answered night to her sister rather coldly, and Consulted you! Considering that went off to a happy solitude.
my father has settled house, lands, Though Frank is going away, and everything that he has upon dear though he was stupid enough to Rupert, there was small occasion for