Patrick MacGill.

Flirts and flirts : or a season at Ryde; in three volumes (Volume 1) online

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■ Life is but a Kotundorum,
We care nothing how it goes ;
Let them prate about decorum.
Who have characters to lose."









Have you ever lived on Ryde Pier,

kindly reader ? is it yet to you as much

unknown as any part of Fairyland, or are

you, perchance, an old habitue who have

'^ there got by heart a thousand sweet little

^ extravagancies in ladies' toilettes, taken

^ honours in that interesting study of

^^ ankles, nowhere else half so diligently

Jf pursued, and are already partly hardened

\ to the great excitement attending any

-j^^pretty novelty's first advent on those oft

X trod boards ? Yet if so, you know, none

"v better, that nowhere elsie do you feel halt

^ VOL. I. B

2 Flirts and Flirts.

so mucli at your ease, and that, indeed,
compared witli the carelessly happy crea-
ture you find yourself there, in other
places you may be said to feel like a fish
out of water, or that hapless creature, the
engaged man, not indeed, at that des-
pairing moment, when he stands waiting
before the altar — a lamb ready for the
sacrifice — but at those less awful, yet
very trying times, when he makes his
appearance in society by the side of his
fair fiancee, after formal consent has been
given to his being made " the happiest
of men." But whichever is the case,
whether for the novelty of the thing, or
for old custom's sake, come with me to
Ryde Pier.

It is Saturday, the most crowded day
in the week ; the Marines have not yet
quarrelled with the Pier company, and
their band is playing merrily as ever, and
all Eyde season is gathered on the pier
to listen to it. For it is late in July,
when Ryde is already full of pleasure-

Flirts and Flirts 3

seekers, and we are late comers, you and
I. There, look at that girl, who is she ?
Oh, that's Miss Zieri; you may well look
at her, for everyone's talking about her.
Were such wonderful hottines ever seen
before, and how many inches high are her
heels, I wonder. But then, what an ex-
quisite Greek profile ! Hair of the fashion-
able colour of course, how on earth is it
done ? Petticoats slightly below her knees,
and a waist you could easily clasp round.
What a coquette she looks, as she skips
along on her high heels, chattering in
foreign English to those two tall men,
each in fits of laughter ! That is the way
with Miss Zieri's admirers, they are always
laughing. But now if you can tear your
eyes away, look at some one else ; ah !
that is Miss Smith. No, her father does
not keep a yacht, though she is rigged out
in the regular yachting style ; but young
ladies who yacht don't generally wear
such a cloud of golden hair floating down
their backs. Nor has she any connexion

B 2

4s Flirts and Flirts.

with the Navy, though her cuffs are all
correct. But trust Morgan for that. She
comes from the middle of the Island, and
has never been known to go further than
Ryde Pier; nor has she many acquaint-
ances there, still it's a fine thing to walk
up and down and be looked at. There, is
not that a get up ! white lace over mauve
silk, the white lace cape barely concealing
the snowy neck, and the tiniest of
bonnets, just three trails of ivy, lightly
resting on the dark shining hair. That's
Mrs. Courteney from South sea, and that
lady-killer beside her is Major O'Connor.
Not a very handsome man certainly, but
a dangerous, despite the stiff red hair, and
the short bristly moustache and whiskers
that so stubbornly refuse to curl grace-
fully. Look at his smile as he bends over
her, holding on his chimney-pot the while
by the hook of his walking-stick, for the
west wind is blowing pretty freshly.

But, stay, now we have once got clear
of that block round the band, where Miss

Flirts and Flirts, 5

Zieri's short petticoats are so mucli valued
bj the men who walk behind her, do not
try to examine all those interesting per-
sons, who care not to mingle with the
walkers, but peacock it at their ease on
their benches, laughing at you and the
other promenaders, and don't consider
themselves any part of the show. Come
and lean over the end of the pier, and
admire the beauties of Nature. Is not
Eyde beautifully situated with its innumer-
able pretty little villas sloping down to the
water's edge — it is high tide now. But
you are not listening to me; I see your
excuse, and forgive you, for you are wrapt
up in admiration of one of the beauties of
Ryde. We can boast of nothing fairer than
that beautiful creature sitting half way
down one of the flights of steps leading
from the pier to the water's edge — the
one that we happen to be lookhig over at
the top of. She is the beauty of the
season — glorious, golden-haired Kathleen
O'Grady. How merrily her musical laugh-

6 Flirts and Flirts,

ter gushes forth, as she talks to those two
young men sitting at her feet ; but some-
thing makes her look up, and at once she
sees and recognizes a pale delicate-looking
girl in black, whom we have not noticed,
though she is standing not far from us,
looking down, too, just now at that merry
trio on the steps. " Sybil," cried Kath-
leen, and beckoned so that she could not
choose but go to her, yet without
moving herself; the next moment she was
embracing and kissing her, regardless of
spectators. Eegardless ! nay, nothing
that Kathleen did, was ever done regard-
less of spectators, and even while she
kissed her, she probably thought to her-
self what the man at her feet would give
for one of those kisses. " Dear Sybil, I
must take you to mother. She will be so
glad to see you. Now, Mr. De Yeux, do
you know you are sitting on my dress ?'*

He was not; but he thought he was,
and, though looking delighted, professed
penitence, and Kathleen laughed her

Flirts and Flirts. 7

merry gurgling laugli. It was one of her
greatest charms, this laugh, and the Ryde
people tried to vote it bad style, after they
had once got over the first delicious sur-
prise of it. But she was the Honourable
Kathleen 0' Grady, so it wasn't much use ;
they might smile contemptuously at Miss
Zieri, and pooh pooh Miss Smith, and
purse up their lips and look grave when
Mrs. Courteney was mentioned. But
there was nothing doubtful about Kath-
leen's antecedents ; for her birth and
parentage you might consult the Peerage
— it was all written there in black and
white — there was no difficulty too in
knowing how she had been brought out
in London the season before last, how her
season had been curtailed by her father's
illness, how they had gone for the winter
to Rome, where for a month she had made
a furor. Then her father had died, and
she and her mother, Lady Killowen, were
now in Ryde for a little change, and " to
cheer dear mother up a little ;" so Katli-

8 Flirts and Flirts.

leen said, and for a moment the brilliant
happiness faded out of her face, and
allowed full force to the sad dreamy ex-
pression of her large grey-blue eyes ;
generally this was so much lost in the
brightness of her beamy smiles, blooming
cheeks, and gleaming hair, that few even
of those who knew her best, knew that
she had sorrowful eyes, and yet they added
greatly to her charms. They saved her
from ever seeming hard and unsympa-
thetic in the riches of her own youth and
happiness. Oh, beautiful Kathleen, how I
love you still ! was it your fault that you
joined the most designing of natures to
the most undesigning, most gushing of
manners ?

Lady Killowen belonged to the race of
useful mothers ; not that she looked after
her daughter's wardrobe ; indeed, she had
nothing to do with the designs of her
sometimes slightly starthng toilettes, nor
was it ever by her advice that Kathleen,
on rainy days, or days she chose to call

Flirts and Flirts. 9

rainy, would appear in an extraordinarily
old-looking winter dress, and tlie simplest
of garden hats. No, Lady Killowen took
trouble about no toilette but her own, nor
did she pique herself upon her cuisine, or
upon the careless grace that some ladies
are proud of being able to impart to their
drawing-room furniture ; but all the same
she was a very useful mother, and as
Kathleen would often say, there was no
fun in going any where " unless mother
went too." So now when her daughter
went up to her, she immediately reheyed
her of the possible burden of her friend,
leaving Kathleen free again to devote her
whole attention to Mr. De Yeux, who, as
a young gentleman of property, was the
fitting object for it.

"How amusing Miss O'Grady seems
to find that simpleton young De Yeux !"
said Mrs. Courteney, as with difficulty she
swept her lilac train past the group.

" That is the way you ladies always
treat what is said to you — when wo men

] Flirts and Flirts.

are so desperately in earnest," added the
Major, in an undertone, accompanied by
one of his dangerous looks.

Mrs. Courteney tossed her head. '^You
don't mean to tell me that boy is in
earnest. He's engaged to a girl in his
own county, I believe, or something of
the kind."

" Some people's charms would make
one forget more than that even. Not
Miss 0' Grady's though, I don't mean,"
said the Major. Here a steamboat vio-
lently blew off steam close beside them,
and the flirtation which had been get-
ting deeper and deeper all the afternoon
was checked for a little. How often
ought Mrs. Courteney to have been
grateful to those steamers, I wonder,
during the course of that season. Some
people consider them the bane, and some
the making of Ryde Pier, ever bringing
life and novelty into the scene. Major
O'Connor often blessed them, I know
that ; but he was a rash man, the

Flirts and Flirts, 11

Major, ever going furtlier than lie in-
tended, and tlie steamboats witli their
noise and bustle just gave him time to
discover this, and beat a retreat before
order was restored.

'' What a dress Mees 0' Grady has —
the Honourable Katleen — how you call
her?" chattered Miss Zieri in her foreign
English to Mr. Simpson, her right hand
supporter. He had £40,000 a year,
and owned one of the largest schooner
yachts in the Ryde club, and never
talked, which suited Miss Zieri, who did
not like to be interrupted. Besides these
he had no other very apparent merits ;
though he was quite sufficiently tall.
" Really English young girls must have
great shame of their feet, or does she wear
it so long to catch people in it ? Mr.
De Yeux is one catch, n'est-ce jms ? and
he is standing on it now and he does not
see ; ah ! comme c'est drole ! Begardcz
how he stands with open mouth, and she
wants to walk once more, and he does not

12 Flirts and Flirts.

look to her, though she makes such a
pretty face at him. Ah, there the mother
has sent them off again ; she has accom-
plished it. How much has M. De Yeux a
year ? do tell me, you know everything."

" Haw, haw," laughed Mr. Simpson,
" only what you tell me, Miss Zieri !"

'' Ah bah ! I know nothing. I am but
a stranger, and you — you have been at
Eyde, oh ! a thousand times. Dites done,
Major De Lancey, how much is it ? Mr.
Simpson is so stupid. Voila, now I shall
not talk to you any more." And for a
few seconds the little coquette did not
speak to him, only giving him the intri-
cacy of her back hair to study, and her tiny
waist to admire. It was the latter that
had captivated the bulky Mr. Simpson,
who had by no means grown slighter since
he took to yachting ; but though he was
for ever showing himself about with Miss
Zieri, that is during the last fortnight,
since he had made her acquaintance he
was not quite captivated yet. '' A little

Flirts and Flirts. 13

foreign girl without a rap," lie called her
to himself ; "No, no, not quite so green
as all that," and he shook his wise head.
All the same he was thinking of her,
and if Miss Zieri had only known this, and
known also how very difficult it was to get
an idea into his thick head, she would have
felt that she had achieved a great triumph ;
for Mr. Simpson had never really thought
about any girl before. Like many another
young man, he took for granted that all
young ladies were secretly smitten with
him, and being well aware of his £40,000
a year, he took it equally as a matter of
course that all mothers would give much
to make him their son-in-law, and intend-
ing to choose his own wife some day or
other, steered very clear of enterprising
chaperones. But he had never even gone
so far towards taking pity on one of the
young ladies, as to decide he would not do
so, and this he had already done several
times as regarded Miss Zieri, so she may
be said to have gained a real triumph.

14 Flirts and Flirts,

All tliis time Miss 0' Grady was not
walking up and down, like these other two
ladies, snatches of whose conversation we
have been hearing ; her dress was too long
to do any thing of that kind with effect in
such a crowd, as is to be seen on Satur-
days on Ryde Pier during the season,
she was leaning over the railings in a
studiously careless attitude, and to say
truth, she was looking rather bored. Mr.
De Yeux was not brilliant, he would not
have had wit enough even to detach him-
self from the others so as to obtain this
tete-a-tete, had it not been for Lady Kil-
lowen. After a few minutes devoted to
welcoming Sybil Mordaunt, whose being
in Ryde they had not before known of,
she turned to one of the young men, who
had been sitting with Kathleen on the

" Sandy," she said, " how could you
let your cousin sit on those steps ? Kath-
leen, I am shocked at you, such bad

Flirts and Flirts, 15

Sandy Beaumont did not seem mucli
disturbed by her reproaches ; he was a
■well formed young man, about the average
height with broad strong-lookiug shoul-
ders, that seemed as if they could take a
good deal of responsibility upon themselves
without feeling it much ; his whole bear-
ing and dress showed the profession he
belonged to, as clearly as if he had worn
Her Majesty's uniform, without requiring
any aid from the hght brown moustache,
that was already beginning to shade the
decided well-shaped mouth. You could
hardly look at him without thinking what
a formidable antagonist he would make in
a wrestling match ; otherwise there was
nothing at all striking about him, but the
humourous smile that lighted up his face
now was very pleasing, as he said :

''Well, we didn't think the steps at all
a bad form, did we, Kathleen ?"

"What, is that meant for a pun? Oh,
Sandy, you're not fit to be spoken to,
certainly not to be trusted with your

16 Flirts and Flirts,

cousin. Mr. De Veux, I sliall make you
responsible for lier. Are you going to
walk any more, my dear ? Now don't go
down tlie steps again, or people will talk
of you together."

" That would be dreadful, would it
not?" laughed Kathleen, as they went
away together.

Mr. De Veux said " Not at all, I should
like it immensely;" but he did not follow
up this opening that had been given him,
and the beauty felt rather bored, leaning
over the raihngs, for Sandy was not
there. Sandy, who with his own absurdly
bad jokes and comical expressions, had
that happy art of making others for the
time both lively and apparently witty ; he
was head over ears in love with his beau- '^ /
tiful cousin, and she knew it, and was by
way of snubbing him unmercifully, so that
he often vowed he would have nothing
more to do with her. But then she would
write him one of her sweet little notes, if
he was away from her — his regiment was

Flirts and Flirts. 17

just now quartered at Portsmouth over
the water — or if he was near at hand, she
would have a long serious tete-a-tete with
him, discussing his future prospects, poor
enough, poor young fellow, and saying
how weary she was of the idle butterfly
life she led ; and as she excelled at this
kind of thing, her cousin would quickly
be her devoted slave again, and swear
that any amount of snubbing must be
borne, if he could not otherwise enjoy the
society of the adorable Kathleen. But
just at present he was a little angry with
her ; they had been having great fun down
those steps, and Sandy knew well enough
that all the fun had originated in himself,
and not in that foolish fellow, De Veux ;
yet Kathleen, as was a little way of hers,
had made it appear otherwise, netthng
her cousin not a little in the doing

So now, he having no desire to exert
himself further in order to make
Mr. De Yeux agreeable to Kathlceu,


18 Flirts and Flirts,

tliouglit it not a bad idea to try if he
could arouse a little jealousy by appearing
fascinated by her friend's looks, and hung
about Lady Killowen waiting for an intro-

He found Miss Mordaunt, however, any-
thing but a useful tool with which to
revenge himself. She took everything he
said in his loose careless way quite serious-
ly ; the compliments he paid her seemed to
have no effect upon her, for she treated
them as a matter of course, and did not
once reward him with a glance out of the
sad dark eyes which he had rather ad-
mired, when he had seen them turned
upon his cousin, and as she would not
take a turn with him, and did not origi-
nate any conversation herself, the inter-
course between them soon began to flag.
Lady Killowen' s attention seemed quite
taken up talking to two of the Ryde
notabilities, who were begging her to
patronise a charity concert they were
getting up, and while Sandy was stand-

Flirts and Flirts. 19

ing idle, up came Major De Lancey and
passed his arm througli his.

" You promised to introduce me to your
cousin. Won't you do it now ?"

De Lancey was not a man to be refused,
though Sandy was not quite inchned for
it at the moment, and before the two had
made their way to her, young Lord Faver-
sham had joined the Irish beauty, and
was already carrying on furiously. He was
rather thrown into the shade by Major
De Lancey, for though the latter was in
the line, and Kathleen very much des-
pised the foot, as she called it, and often
made poor Sandy, who was in the same
regiment, blush at belonging to it, yet
she very much preferred the attentions of
a full grown man to those of a boy, even
though he was a boy earl. Besides she
saw at once that Major De Lancey was a
gentleman and a man of the world, though
he had the misfortune of being in the line,
so she devoted herself to him to the ne-
glect of Lord Faversham's pretty speeches

c 2

20 Flirts and Flirts.

and adoring looks. He was too hopelessly
smitten for there any longer to be any
pleasure in flirting with him; now De
Veux's being said to be engaged already
gave a piquancy to anything of the kind
with him, though he was too young too ;
besides though not half so good-looking
as Lord Faversham, who might have sat
any day for the picture of a cherub, he
had full nine inches advantage of him.
Not that Mr. De Yeux was by any means
bad looking either; though too lanky to
look good for much where physical
strength might be required, he did very
well in a ball-room with his silky light
brown hair waving off* a narrow but beau-
tifully white forehead, large limpid blue
eyes, a fairly aquiline nose, and a curling
moustache gracefully effacing the outline
of his mouth, though it did not conceal
how very often that unhappy organ was
held open, even when its owner had no
intention of using it to any purpose.
He would soon have been far less in-

Flirts and Flirts. 21

teresting to Miss 0' Grady tliaii the pretty
boy earl, if he had been only half as much
interested in her ; but it was provoking
to have a man hanging about her all day
long, and never showing by word or look
if he found the doing so pleasant or not ;
she was not the girl to rest easily till he
had done so.

Now he stood by and listened with his
mouth open as usual, while Kathleen and
Major De Lancey talked Rome, or rather
mutual acquaintances there; for he had
been there the same winter as she had,
only arriving there later after Lord Kil-
lo wen's death, and his daughter's retire-
ment from the society of which she had
been such a brilliant ornament for a short
time. Sandy, Kathleen took not the
smallest notice of; she had noticed his
temporary desertion of herself and at-
tempt on Miss Mordaunt, and she had
seen his signal defeat there, and despised
him greatly.

She looked very beautiful as she stood,

22 Flirts and Flirts.

still leaning on the railings talking to
Major De Lancey, the three others mutely
admiring her. " A glorious creature, by
Jove," a group of young Portsmouth
officers pronounced her, as they stood at
a respectful distance making their com-
ments on the young ladies of Ryde. The
black velveteen dress, immensely long as
Miss Zieri had so contemptuously re-
marked, made a good setting for her with
all her brilliant colouring, and it was
saved from that funereal look which black
velveteen will sometimes wear by the rich
white lace, all ladies now make, new old
point, as it is somewhat ludicrously called,
with which it was fancifully trimmed.
Her hat was of black velvet with a plumy
white ostrich feather curling well over it,
and falling caressingly over the golden
hair, drawn off her face and coiled up
behind in massive lustrous plaits, that
showed off to advantage the small well
shaped head, and were thus not suffered to
dim the brilliancy of her complexion as very

Flirts and Flirts. 23

shining hair will sometimes do. Her never
ceasing play of countenance was however
her chief charm, and that was seen to full
advantage now, for Major De Lancey was
a really agreeable man, and he had hit
upon an interesting subject. But Kath-
leen could never be quite absorbed by any
one thing or |)erson for long at a time.

'' I must really go and talk to Miss
Mordaunt," she said now. '' We used to
be such friends long ago, and this is the
first time we've met for about two years.
Is it not nice to find out she's living here
with an old aunt ! Poor dear, she looks
very unhappy. I mean that we should
amuse her as much as possible while w^e
are here. Do you know her. Major De
Lancey ? she is awfully clever, far too
clever for me. It's so good of her to be
friends with me, I always think — and do
notice her feet, they are wonderfully
small. General Vivyen made her try on
a Chinese slipper one day, and she really
all but got it on. He said it was the very

24 Flirts and Flirts.

smallest foot he had ever seen on an Euro-
pean, and so well shaped, too, and he's
one of the best judges there is about any
thing of the kind. I'd sooner take his
opinion than any man's I know about
beauty. What are you doing, dear ? do
come and take a turn. You'll get quite
bored sitting still."

Miss Mor daunt got up with alacrity, and
looked up at Kathleen with her large dark
eyes, so as almost to make Sandy swear ;
why could not she have looked at him in
that way ? surely Kathleen would have
thought him worth attending to, if he had
won such a look as that from her friend ;
as to caring about it for itself, he was
much too far gone in admiration of his
cousin's blue eyes, to see any charm in
brown ones ; perhaps Sybil had seen this,
who knows ? Major De Lancey was the
only one of the group on whom that look
was not quite thrown away; he wrote
down in the tablets of his memory that
Miss Mor daunt was a young lady with as

Flirts and Flirts. 25

fine and expressive a pair of dark eyes as
anyone could wish to see, but lie was not
tlie sort of man to care about any bit of
beauty of the kind ; only, as, in duty
bound, he looked out for the small foot,
he did so with more expectation of being
gratified, than he would have done before
seeing the eyes ; but the simple serge
dress, short though it was compared to
Miss 0' Grady's, effectually hid it, so he
turned from her to the beautiful Kathleen

Just then Lady Killowen called her
daughter up to her to introduce her to

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