Patrick MacGill.

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

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velveteen dress sitting down on tlie other
side of the band, and felt sure it belonged
to his cousin. Now having reconnoitred
sufficiently, he and his friend advanced
from their post of observation, and then
whilst Major De Lancey did the agreeable
to Lady Killowen, Sandy longed to make
friends again with Kathleen ; but she
greeted him very coolly, and the Count
was talking to her, and he successfully
prevented her cousin from edging in a word,
every now and then glancing at him in a
manner expressive of his determination not
to let him do so ; till the latter grew hot
with anger, and at last went away discom-
forted, and sought comfort from Sybil
Mordaunt, whose large sad eyes and
gentle voice had a charm for him, inde-
pendent of her being his beautiful cousin's
chosen friend. And so the game of cross
purposes was played on on Eyde Pier almost

Flirts and Flirts. 289

more busily than usual all that sunshiny
Saturday afternoon.

But that evening, Sandy did make his
peace with his cousin. Lady Killowen
asked him to dinner and Major De Lancey
also, and she did not invite the Count,
and after dinner they all went down the
pier, and there in the cool quiet starlight
Sandy made his cousin accept the loan of
the money, which he had procured to re-
place the cheque he had provoked her
into tearing, and Kathleen accepted it very
readily and carelessly. She graciously
permitted Sandy to do her this service,
and she frankly forgave him for all that he
had said the other day, and she did not
seem much to care in what terms he had
written to Lord Faversham.

" You took care not to hurt his feelings,
poor boy, I hope," she said ; and then she
turned off to another subject, and it never
seemed to occur to her to ask how Sandy
had got this money that he was lending
to her, or any other questions about it,


290 Flirts and Flirts.

and Sandy thouglit as he had often thought
before that hers was a very strange charac-
ter, and he tried to decide to which of the
many noble and beautiful qualities he so
much loved in her, this apparent strange-
ness was owing. But Sandy was not good
at this kind of thing, and he came to no



Lady Long's dances were always very
exclusive affairs ; this year she gave one
on the night after the first day of the town
Regatta, and the aristocracy there wiped
out the recollection of the vulgarities they
had been mixed up with during the day ;
the tub races, and the duck hunt, when
that vile duck had worn a chignon bigger
than two heads put together, topped by a
flying night-cap, and had actually brushed
his dripping garments against the dainty
Morgan built suit of one of the few mem-
bers of the peerage Ryde delights in doing
homage to ; and worst of all, because most

u 2

292 Flirts and Flirts.

generally exciting, tlie pole dance or pig
hunt, as the English strangers called it,
with its greasy pole, and many ignomi-
nious tumbles into the water, finishing
this day, as it so often does, with a yet
more ignominious winning of the pig, when
one shivering wretch crept on hands and
knees along the pole, and succeeded in
freeing the unhappy prize before following
those who went before him into the
briny, and the pig squeaking dolefully,
as it struggled to swim, was nearly torn
asunder ; while four or five men contended
with each other which should push it into
a boat and carry it off to terra firma, and
the rabble of Ryde having for once in a
way taken possession of the pier (generally
held sacred from it by that blessed two-
penny preliminary to passing the gates)
hissed and huzzaed alternately.

It had been a shocking noisy jostling
mob certainly, and even those who had
made a dignified retreat into boats, and
contemplated the scene from them, felt

Flirts and Flirts, 298

tliat they had hardly been at a safe distance
from the general vulgarity, and were re-
lieved to find themselves in Lady Long's
dignified well-lighted rooms.

And now, much pleasure though it would
give me to do so, I will not describe where
Lady Long's house was situated, nor what
her rooms were like, nor whether her
boards went cros sways, or were slippery
as glass, or covered with matting ; for I
wish in no ways that anyone skimming
these pages should be able to fix on any-
one of the notabilities of Ryde as repre-
sented by her ladyship. Believe me, she
is not any of the notabilities reigning in
this year of grace, when you have the
good fortune to come into the " pleasant
places" of the Isle of Wight; but she
was one of the notabilities and a very
leading one too in that year when
Kathleen 0' Grady was the beauty of Ryde,
and no one disputed the palm with her.
There has not been such another year be-
fore or since. In that year, Lady Long and

294 Flirts and Flirts.

Miss Long and even Teddy Long were very
important people, and if they have passed
away since, leaving no traces behind them,
other great people have done the same.
"Look on my works, ye mighty, and
despair," said Ozymandias, King of Kings ;
his works are gone, and here our know-
ledge of him ends. I could tell you much
more of Lady Long and her son and her
daughter, though they too have left no
works behind them to tell of their past im-

Their house was one of the best houses
in Eyde ; they could not have been such
great people there otherwise; they had
many rooms opening into one another,
which they threw open to their guests on
the occasion of their giving a dance, and
one or two of the rooms opened out on to
a terrace running along one side of the
house; beyond the terrace lay the garden,
and on the night of this particular dance
\u was so fine and sultry that the windows
were all thrown open, inviting those, who

Flirts and Flirts, 295

cared to do so, to wander out and enjoy
themselves alfresco.

It was a very spirited dance ; Lady Long
understood ^tliis sort of tiling. She had
always enough men, and the right sort of
men, a more difl&cult matter this than the
former, and she had always the right sort
of young ladies, not quite so many of
them though as of the men ; and at these
dances Teddy Long, who was generally
rather by way of frustrating all his mother's
well-designed little plans, was useful to her,
and being perfectly good-humoured him-
self, did his little best towards making
other people so. He was indeed so very
good-humoured that night, that he con-
sented to dance one purely duty-dance —
and actually opened the ball with a
Countess, while his sister honoured Mr.
Simpson with her hand.

The Longs had lately altered their tactics
as regarded that gentleman, and were said
to be trying very hard to catch Mr. Simp-
son in those days, and unkind people said

296 Flirts and Flirts,

Lady Long had in so many words told
liim to ask her daughter for that dance ;
anyhow he did so. Kathleen had long ago
promised the very first dance to Sandy,
and she kept her promise ; and Miss Zieri
danced with that handsome young man,
who was taking his last draught of the
world's cup of pleasure, and Major De
Lancey and Mr. De Yeux danced with the
two Miss Gordons ; and Major O'Connor
stood up against the wall and looked
killing, as he reviewed the young ladies
preparatory to asking any of them to dance.
Mrs. Courteney, of course, was not invited,
nor were the Yivyens, which was really
very hard, especially as Colonel Beau-
champ was ; however he had the good
feeling not to go, and the Count Manfred i
did not arrive till later.

So the ball opened merrily enough, and
there was no want of anything, unless,
perhaps, that one want, which hosts and
hostesses do not seem to consider it a part
of their duty to supply — that want of

Flirts and Flirts. 297

sometliing to talk about. But after a
certain period that want was less felt, for
a rumour flew about tlie room, at first just
whispered as if the teller was slightly
ashamed of it, but soon talked of out loud
/hj all sorts of people in all sorts of com-
binations without any respect of persons.
Report told how the Italian Count and
Miss 0' Grady had been seen sitting
together in a quiet nook at the bottom
of the garden far away from the

"' Oh, by Jove, yes," said Teddy Long,
" I had it from the fellow who saw it. He
had his arm round her waist, and then he
kissed her. Well, why not ? very nice I
should say. They had been sitting out
ever so long by one of the windows, and
then they wandered down the garden.
They're there now, if you want to look
after them. I say, come down there with
me, won't you?" he said, to a fair little
thing, with soft curling hair, and a sweet
expression, whom just before he had been

298 Flirts and Flirts.

declaring to be " tlie dearest little girl in
the world."

" Hang it, you won't. Dance tins dance
with me then; it is our's, isn't it ?" and he
carried off the little fair girl, proceeding to
dilate to her on all the charms of the situa-
tion in which Kathleen and the Count
must now find themselves.

'^Yery jolly, I should think," said a
rosy young naval Heutenant to the eldest
Miss Gordon, as he tried to conduct her to
a luxurious ottoman of seductive appear-
ance, but as yet not very attainable through
the intervenino^ crowd.

'' I shouldn't like kissing the Count,"
said the young lady, coolly. '' Think of
his moustache !" She was wrapping her
light tulle draperies round her, trying to
save them from the feet of the crowd ; for
she had a praiseworthy regard for her
dress, and was much concerned about it,
so she spoke as if she would lijit otherwise
much object to kissing the Count.

" I should not care for that either," said

Flirts and Flirts, 299

the lieutenant, with a by no means un-
afFectionate glance into his partner's face.
His rosy cheeks and pretty dimples did
not prevent his being a flirt of the fast and
furious order. " You think the moustache
would be in the way ?" and whether in-
tentionally or not, he raised a no longer
white-gloved hand to the lips his service
regulations kept clear from any such

" I hope it won't scratch her," continued
the young lady, with equal coolness. " But
it looks so hard." She was still wrapt up
in protecting her dress, and sublimely un-
conscious of her partner's meaning. " She
is so beautiful, is she not ?" she went on
with more animation, having now escaped
the crowd. " Why there she is — where is
the Count ?"

And there sure enough was Miss 0' Grady
looking perfectly at her ease, only perhaps
a little bored, as she lent on Mr. Simpson's
arm, and tried to smile at his rather heavy
pleasantries ; and the Count Manfredi was

300 Flirts and Flirts,

also visible now wliirling round the room
at a prodigious pace with Miss Long, who
certainly made a good partner for a dance,
whatever she might be for the more lasting
relationships of life. But seeing the two
actors in the little scene that every one
had been talking and wondering about,
did not make the subject less interesting,
and for the rest of the evening they could
not speak or look at each other — and they
did so many times — without its being abun-
dantly commented on.

'' I suppose it will be anounced to-mor-
row," said Mrs. Gordon to Lady Long,
" they've been engaged for some time now,
I fancy. It is only a pity they were so
thoughtless to-night."

" Miss O'Grady means to have him,"
said Lady Long venimously. '•' I rather
wonder that Lady Killowen should think
him worth so much encouragement ; it is
only a foreign title after all. Are we to
wish your cousin joy, Mr. Beaumont ?"
said she, speaking louder, and turning a

Flirts and Flirts. 301

little aside to Sandy, who had been leaning
up against the wall for some time.

" I don't know any reason for doing
so," said he, not moving from his place,
but looking rather pale as he spoke.

'^ Perhaps you think she might do better
for herself; but she does not seem to
think so," said Lady Long, piqued by his
holding so aloof from her, when she
deigned to speak to him.

" I am afraid I don't understand you,"
said Sandy, growing as red as he had been
pale before.

'' Well, certainly she is a very pretty
girl, and it is a pity she should marry a
foreigner. I quite understand your not
liking it at first very much. But you need
not be so very bent on keeping the secret,
when it must be all known to-morrow.
When I have anything I don't want any-
one to know, I shall certainly tell you,
Mr. Beaumont. It will be far safer with
you than with me," and Lady Long, the
most reticent of women, where it suited

302 Flirts and Flirts.

her purposes, moved on to see after her
other guests.

Sandy looked after her, then he glanced
at Mrs. Gordon with an expression that
seemed to say : '' Ft tit Brute ! I should
have thought it of her, but I did not ex-
pect it of you," and then he turned aside
to Major O'Connor, who was also doing
wall-flower as that gallant officer was in-
deed very fond of doing.

" She is a darling creature, is Miss
O'Grady," was the Major saying to a friend
also standing in the doorway, " but he'd
prefer poor Mrs. Courteney, if she would
have him. I'd bet you two to one, only
we'll never know, Charlie is such a devil
for looking after her now."

" The deuce he is ; not that he will
ever stop her seeing whom she Kkes though.
But to think of that Count's kissing
Miss O'Grady in the garden ! now if it
had been Mrs. Courteney I should not
wonder — "

Sandy brushed past the two men some-

Flirts and Flirts. 303

what rudely, objecting, as lie did so, to
their blocking up the door-way.

" Faith, it's her cousin, he'll have been
hearing what we said, and he is clean mad
for love of her, they say," said Major

" No, poor devil, is he ?" replied the
other. " Well he has not got the ghost
of a chance," and he laughed.

It was true, too true, that the Count
had kissed Kathleen in the garden, as
report had said; such reports are true
sometimes, though very often they are
not. He had kissed her, and she had not
objected, nor insisted on coming straight
back to the house, when he did so, but
had remained alone with him in the moon-
light, for some little while longer, and in
that little while longer he had not offered
to her. He had talked of the delicious
days at Eome, and the happiness he was
now enjoying at E-yde, but he did not
offer to her, and Kathleen had been born
in the nineteenth century, and knew

304 Flirts and Flirts.

what was what, as well as most girls, and
she noticed this omission on his part ; and
all his loving words and looks, even while
his arm w^as round her waist, did not
quite drive away a horrid fear that he
was trifling with her. Yet how could it
be possible, that it should be so ? that
anyone should dare to trifle with the
Honourable Kathleen 0' Grady, who had
been presented, and gone out in London,
and been a beauty even there ? It was
absurd to think anyone could trifle with
her, and yet — and yet — She supposed
he considered that he had offered to her,
and that it was in this delicate manner
Italians managed such things, and not
in the point blank English fashion ; but
all the same she would have been very
glad if the Count had been English just
in this one thing, and had offered in the
point blank English fashion.

It was very hard to make talk to that
heavy brute of a man Mr. Simpson, or to
that insufferable puppy De Yeux, and not

Flirts and Flirts. 305

to be certain whether she was the fiancee
of the Count Manfredi, or still a young
lady on her promotion, bound dutifully to
submit her charnjs for their inspection.
She had great powers of persuasion over
other people, and she would not have had
these, if she had not had great powers of
persuasion over herself; but whilst she was
actually in the same room with the Count,
there was something that made it im-
possible for her to convince herself that
she and he were engaged to each other.
When she got home, it was quite different ;
there as she undressed by herself, having
dismissed the sleepy maid, as soon as she
had unfastened her dress for her, she was
free to picture their interview to herself
as she chose, and first she wondered that
she had ever had any doubts, and next
she forgot that she had had any. And so
she thought her dream had come true,
and she was now engaged to the Count
Manfi:'edi, and Kathleen remembered that
evening after Major De Lancey had talked


306 Flirts and Flirts,

to her on the pier of him and of Mrs.
Courteney, and how she had vowed to
herself that she would never leave off
loving him.

*'Why did I ever doubt him?" she
asked herself. ''He has been just the
same all along. Only just after poor
papa's death, he did not care to speak to
me in this way. Foreigners, as they go
into mourning for such a short time, go
into very deep mourning, and they dor'"-,
do anything at all then, and so he didn't
think it was fitting. Now he has followed
me to England, and he is always just the
same. He has never offered in so many
words, because he thinks it would be
absurd. He thinks I have always under-
stood him, just as he has always under-
stood me." Then Kathleen sighed;
whether she understood him or not, he
certainly must understand her now.



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Online LibraryPatrick MacGillFlirts and flirts : or a season at Ryde; in three volumes (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 12)