Patrick MacGill.

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

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Lady Long, who was most kindly anxious
for her to sing at the grand amateur
charity concert that Lady Killowen had
already consented to patronise. Kathleen
executed a sweeping curtsey, coming up
from it all smiles and blushes. She really
had no voice at all, never had sung except
joining in a chorus. But it was so kind
to ask her, she should enjoy it immensely,
if — In the end she consented of course :

26 Flirts and Flirts.

" My dear, do comfort me," she said,
going back to Sybil, '' I'm in agonies.
I've undertaken to sing to ever so many
hundred people, and I know just as much
about music as I do about fighting."

"Oh, Kathleen ! I believe you would
sing beautifully if you only practised.
I'm sure I've heard you."

Kathleen looked very serious over what
she seemed to consider her friend's flattery,
then she sighed deeply.

" No, I've put my foot in it, and
I'll take any odds I break down shame-
fully. But it would have been simply the
most ill-natured thing in the world, if
I had refused ; Lady Long was so
pressing. What a charming manner she
has !"

This she addressed to Mr. De Veux,
who was as usual standing " at ease,"
quite neglecting his duty of admiring her ;
he now looked as if he didn't think so,
but hardly liked to disagree with her, so
Major De Lancey spoke for him. " I think

Flirts and Flirts. 27

you would hardly say so if you knew her

" Oh, I dare say she's a horrid old hum-
bug. But I'm always taken by a manner
like that. It always does for me at once.
Sandy, what have you done with my cloak ?
Seeing the sun set always makes me shiver,
you ought to know that by this time, and
I asked you to bring it down for me."

" ]SFo, indeed," said Sandy, " I said you'd
be sure fco want it, and you declared you
wouldn't. You don't want me to go all
the way to fetch it now, I suppose."

" How cross you are to-day ; you want
me to catch cold, I believe. Do go and
sulk by yourself, for you don't seem fit
company for anyone else ; you haven't
opened your mouth to say anything plea-
sant for the last half hour. I'm sure I
don't know what I've done to offend you.
Oh, deary me, how cold this wind is !"

" Let me hold my umbrella over you,
that will keep it off," cried little Lord
Faversham, longing to do any service,

28 Flirts and Flirts.

however small a one, for the beloved

" If you come to the other side, you
■will be quite sheltered," said Major De

While Sandy in despair at seeing her
so completely engrossed, said good hu-
mouredly. " Well, if I am to sulk by
myself, as you say, I may as well fetch
your cloak. But another day, please let
me bring it down in the first instance."

Then he went, feeling himself a precious
fool all the time, and had only got about
half way down the pier coming back, when
he met his aunt and cousin coming up for
dinner, Lord Faversham alone now in
attendance. They were all coming up in
the tram, as the large one-horse omnibus
on the tram- way, by the side of the walk-
ing part of the pier is called ; so he had
nothing to do but to walk back again by
himself to meet them, when they got out
at the pier gates, with the cloak hung over
his arm as a sign of penitence. Kathleen

Flirts and Flirts. 29

was quite " fetched " by this attention, as
she said herself, and actually put it on to
show her gratitude, though it was quite
warm now between the houses ; so Sandy
stood his aunt's chaff with all his wonted
sang froid, giving almost more than he got
as was his way, and Lord Faversham was
in the seventh heaven, for though Kathleen
wore the cloak Sandy had brought her,
she talked to the pretty boy earl. She
must have been hard-hearted indeed not
to have shown him some favour in return
for all his boyish devotion, but gracious
though she was to him, she would not be
persuaded into going to the little Ryde
theatre that night, though he begged her
to do so with a fervour that seemed almost
ludicrous, seeing that all the time he owned
that he believed the piece that night would
be more than usually stupid, and there
were to be no good actors ; but as Kath-
leen would not be prevailed upon to go.
Lord Faversham took his leave at the

30 Flirts and Flirts.

door of their house somewhat disconso-

" How unkind of you, Kathleen, not to
ask that poor boy in to dinner," said Lady
Killowen, " I would have myself, only I
supposed you did not wish it. But really,
it would not have been much trouble to
you to talk to him a little, and only to
look at you would be pleasure enough for
him, I believe. Yery unkind of you, I
think it."

" Oh, poor boy, it would have been very
dull for him, and I'm not in the humour to
amuse anyone to-night ; besides, he's had
quite as much of my company as would be
good for him for one day, I'm sure."

'' Yes, it's ' come, seen, and been con-
quered ' with Faversham," said Sandy,
" your heaux yeux are awful bad com-
pany for such an inflammable little fellow.
Much better for him to go and cool him-
self over a cigar, than to come here to



Claeence Villa, whicli Lady Killowen
had taken for the season, was just outside
the town of Hyde, close to the sea, which
all the best rooms looked out upon. This
is almost always the case in Ryde, even
when by reason of intervening houses the
sea itself is quite hidden. In the spring
and winter, when the cold north-easters
bluster up the Solent, people groan and
wonder how it is that the houses none of
them contrive to have any south rooms.
But just now those seaward-looking rooms
were very pleasant, and the view from
Clarence Villa was reckoned one of its
chief charms. The drawing-room, how-

32 Flirts and Flirts,

ever was darkened by the verandab. with
overhanging creepers, so that in the
verandah itself was Kathleen's favourite
seat, and it was there she withdrew after
dinner on the Saturday I have been de-

Lady Killowen remained inside working,
she was very fond of wonderfully elaborate
lace work, and was busy now with the
very last new thing in braid invented for
it. Sandy lolled on the sofa, talking to
her; there was no one whom he con-
sidered better company than his aunt,
when she was in a good-humour, unfor-
tunately this evening she was put out.
She had wished to go down the pier ; like
most of the visitors to Ryde they spent
the fine evenings there, when not at some
party or other, and Lady Killowen wear-
ing too much crape as yet to go to parties,
valued all the more highly her small pier
dissipation, so when Kathleen had said :

" Oh no, I can't go to the pier again,
I've had enough of it for one day, good-

Flirts and Flirts, 33

ness knows. But you can go without me,
mother ; Sandy can take care of you, and
the tete-a-tete won't be too much for the
minds of the good people of Ryde, will
it ?"

When Kathleen had said this, her
mother turned sulky. ''I certainly shan't
go without you, Kathleen, you know I
never do."

No, all the little amusements were sup-
posed to be for the young girl, and the
mother often said and really believed that
she herself was happiest in the heart of
the country, looking up curious insects,
and doing a little amateur farming ; but
it was not really the case, and none knew
better than Kathleen, how very fond her
mother was of the world and its pleasures.
Lady Killowen, however, had never ad-
mitted such a thing to herself, so she was
always particularly annoyed when anything
like this refusal of her daughter's to go on
the pier made it seem as if she cared about
society for herself. So she brooded over it


34 Flirts and Flirts,

as slie worked, and was snappisli to Sandy,
who, as her favourite nephew, was well used
to bearing the brunt of her ill-humour.

At last when coffee came — it came so
much too late at Clarence Yilla, Sandy
always thought, quite when one had given
up expecting it — Kathleen came in from
the verandah, the golden hair very rough
upon her forehead, and the plaits even
hanging loose in a woe begone manner,
peculiar to her when she was out of
spirits ; her cheeks were flushed, and
there was no smile now to hide the sor-
rowful expression of her eyes. She drank
her coffee in silence, and then was going
back to the verandah.

" Kathleen," called out her mother,
" if you have got a headache you had
much better go to bed."

" My head does not ache at all, mother,
I am only tired. There was such a mob
on the pier to-day, and I've nothing I
wish to do ; it's much pleasanter out

Flirts and Flirts, 35

" I've no patience with a great strong
girl like you being tired. You don't take
half enough exercise," and Lady Kil-
lowen's thread snapped as she tugged at
it in her indignation. Then Sandy felt so
displeased with his aunt, that he cared no
longer about displeasing her, so he went
outside to his cousin; who seemed very
tired as she had said, and rather melan-
choly as well. After a few vain attempts
Sandy determined to try what he thought,
though rather unwillingly, must prove an
interesting topic.

"What do you think of De Lancey,
Kathleen ? He's a good one for talking,
isn't he?"

''He talks well," replied she, some-
what listlessly. "You have always told
me so much about him, that I was
glad to make his acquaintance, for your
sake, Sandy."

" Very kind of you, really ; certainly
no one could have a better friend than
he has been to me. But suppose you

36 Flirts and Flirts.

were to take a little interest in me now,
just for my sake too."

" I take a very great interest in you
always, Sandy. You know that, well
enough. But you haven't been getting
into any trouble lately — you're not in
debt again, are you ?"

'' Oh, no, I'm rather flush just now.
That last Derby quite set me up for a
bit. I say, Kathleen, you'll be going
over to Goodwood, won't you."

"Well, I don't know. Mother can't
go, you see."

"Oh! but you'll go with me. That
will be first rate; I tell you what,
Kathleen, I'll drive you over in Jumper's
dog-cart — no end of a swell turn out,
and such a clipper as the horse is. He's
the best fellow going, and will lend me
anything as soon as look at me, and I
heard him settling the other day about
driving over a lot of our fellows four-in-
hand. Oh, you will go with me in the
dog-cart, it will be quite glorious !"

Flirts and Flirts. 37

"Eeally, Sandy, you must be rather
glorious, I should say. You and mother
must have had something: hot and stronof
together before the coffee came ; some-
thing seemed decidedly to have gone to
her head when I looked in just now,
and as to you, you're quite muddled.
Do you take me for the junior ensign ?
the idea of my driving over in a dog-
cart alone with you to Goodwood, when
Jumper himself, as you call him, is going
four-in-hand too. Pray were we to start
from your quarters ? and was I to drop
into the mess-room to breakfast — sherry
and soda ! That's all the breakfast you
have, I believe. Come, it's time for
mother and me to go to bed now; so
you'd better be off to your hotel. Per-
haps you'll find some company better
suited to you there ; you're uncommonly
stupid to-night, old boy, or rather I'm
in no humour for talking," and whilst
she spoke Kathleen rose up, looking
grander and statelier than any young

38 Flirts and Flirts.

lady ever did look before this slang-
talking nineteenth century came in. Young
ladies keep men at such a distance by
their dress now-a-days, that they have
to draw nearer to them than of old in
their talk, or love-making would soon
become one of the forgotten arts.

Poor Kathleen ! she was feeling very
" down in the mouth" that evening, as
she would have said herself. Major De
Lancey had been very agreeable on the
pier ; but he had made the mistake, by
no means a common one, of choosing too
interesting a subject. If it had not been
for that gay time at Rome, I wonder
would Katharine's after-life have been
so very different ; had it really had so
great an effect upon her character, as
she thought it had ? As every now and
then in her serious moods she felt her-
self growing more and more into the
character she had started by so despising
— that of a heartless flirt — she attributed
it all to that short time at Home. But

Flirts and Flirts. 39

it is hard to say whetlier slie was. right
in doing so ; for a girl who could flirt
so well and so successfully had a great
temptation to resist, or to succumb to,
and Kathleen was fast succumbing. There
was hardly any one who knew her, who
would not have said she had already done
so, except of course those who were
blinded by her charms. She had few
women friends, very few, and of these
Sybil Mordaunt was the only one who
would not have owned to her faults.
She always said, '* I know she seems fast,
and it would be flirting in any one else.
But she is so impulsive, she never thinks
what she is about, and I beheve it is just
as well, for she has such noble impulses."
But then Sybil and Kathleen had been
friends as quite young girls, and before
the latter went to Rome ; now they had
met again, and were to see liow the
friendship of two years ago would stand,
whether it had been friendship at all, or
only the efi'ect of circumstances. But all

40 . Flirts and Flirts,

this time I am not telling what had
happened at Eome to canker our fair
English rosebud. So to eome to the heart
of the matter at once, I must say who was
the villain of that short Eoman drama. An
Itahan, nobleman, of course, dear reader,
you are quite right ; but do not let your
expectations fly too high ; he was not a
prince, nor even a duke, but a count of
the Holy Roman Empire.

The Count Manfredi had been introduced
to Kathleen her very first evening at Rome.
To show that they were not tired by their
journey, thought nothing of it in fact, and
left all household arrangements to their ser-
vants entirely, she and her mother had gone
to a large evening reception at Mrs. Til-
lotson's, an old friend of Lady Killowen's,
their very first night. It was a very in-
nocent bit of bravada, for Lord Killowen
was tired enough to prefer going at once
quietly to bed, and the servants were just
as well pleased not to be interfered with in
their unpacking ; anyhow Lady Killowen

Flirts and Flirts, 41

and lier daughter went and rather aston-
ished the world by their sudden appearance,
greatly to their own satisfaction. Kath-
leen was full of the idea of Rome, mad
about its antiquities, but still madder
about its future. She knew most of
Browning by heart, lost no opportunity of
praising Adolphus Trollope at the exjDense
of Anthony, wore a miniature of Garibaldi
as a bracelet clasp, and vowed she pre-
ferred pink coral to diamonds ; she was
very young then. Early in the evening
Mrs. Tillotson came up to her : " My dear,
there's an Itahan dying to be introduced
to you. I don't like to refuse, as he's
quite one of the leaders of fashion ; but
don't lose your heart to him, mind, for
lie's a dreadful mauvais sujet, and all Rome
will be at your feet directly. You're just
like your mother, as I remember her, my
dear, only fairer; all the better that is
for your success here," and whilst Kath-
leen was still covered with blushes, (>ount
Manfredi was introduced to her, and before

42 Flirts and Flirts.

the evening was over, Kathleen felt that
Mrs. Tillotson's warning had been but
words wasted, if indeed it had not had ex-
actly the contrary effect to that which
she had intended, as such judiciously
worded warnings sometimes will have. She
had often had compliments paid her be-
fore, but never such compliments as the
Count's ; they did not only make her blush,
thev intoxicated her. Then he seemed to
have exactly the same ideas as she had
about Italy's future, only more clearly de-
fined; he did not know Browning, bat he
quoted Tasso — Petrarch too sometimes,
even that first night — and he called Italy
" my country." His eyes too ! the Count
was not a handsome man ; Kathleen knew
she had not thouofht him so before makinof
his acquaintance, though she had noticed
him at once in the crowd, for he was not
a man who could easily pass unnoticed.
But his eyes ! it was not only that the}^
were so large and dark ; they had such
an intensity of expression when they fixed

Flirts and Flirts. 43

themselves upon any one. Even in tliis en-
lightened century, many of his countrymen
would cross themselves as they passed him
by, dreading their possible evil influence.
And saved though she was by her English
bringing up from any such superstitious
notions, the blue-eyed English girl felt
there was no resisting them, and gave her-
self up at once to their influence.

The Count was introduced to Lady Kil-
lowen that night, and before the party
broke up, many plans had been formed be-
tween them ; how he was to get them per-
mission for this sight, and to escort them
to that, and how some day, not very far
hence, he was to invite them to a df^euner
at his villa, and show them the famous
view from thence, and the family jewels.
Lady Killowen piqued herself on being a
connaisseur about jewels, and some of
those in the Manfredi family were world
celebrated. But it matters little to tell
how it all came about ; the Count was a
prudent man of the world, and was really

44 Flirts and Flirts,

taken by tins fresh young beauty, who sur-
rendered herself so unresistingly to him,
and whom no one restrained by those
countless fairy fetters with which Italian
girls are bound hand and foot, so he took
care Kathleen was as little talked of with
himself as possible.

She herself took no thought of this,
any more than did her mother, who
had less excuse for her carelessness; as
for Kathleen, she did not even know the
meaniug of the verb to compromise, so
innocent was she in those days, and yet
she had been out for half a season in town,
and thought herself a wonder of worldly
wisdom. But the Count knew it very well,
and he knew that a man might be compro-
mised once too often, even for Rome, es-
pecially if he only cared to mix in its best
society, as he only did, and he did not
mean to marry Lord Killowen's daughter
and yet he almost loved her, and this al-
most love also made him reluctant to see
the fresh bloom visibly brushed off her in

Flirts and Flirts. 45

tlie world's eyes, even were it to be done
by himself. So be infused even more
mystery into his proceedings with regard
to her, than he would otherwise have done,
knowing well that this mystery would
prove an additional irresistible charm for
Kathleen, and Avould add so much to the
sweetness of those opportunities of inter-
course between them which he thought fit
to profit by, as quite to make up for those
others he would relinquish out of respect
to the world. A few half illegible words
pencilled on her dance card before it was
handed back to her, a bouquet with a note
in it, assignations often at places where
they would quite as certainly have met with-
out them, trifles of this kind perfected the
glamour that had been thrown over her
that first evening, if anything had been
required to perfect it, accompanied as they
all were by looks that spoke volumes ; nay,
much more than that, no number of vo-
lumes could have expressed what those
looks did, and so it all went on; while

46 Flirts and Flirts,

Lord Killowen lived on liis quiet invalid
life, seeming to get neither better nor worse,
till at last one afternoon he had an attack
of hsemorrhage. He lingered a day or two
after that, but in a hopeless state, and then
he died. The Count Manfredi twice left
cards to enquire, once before, and once
after the funeral ; but he never asked to
see the ladies, and soon after that they
left Eome, aud Kathleen heard no more
of him, except that in the one letter of
Roman news Mrs. Tillotson wrote to Lady
Killowen, in answer to her's telling of their
safe arrival, she said :

" Kathleen's admirer. Count Manfredi,
has been at his old ways again with a very
handsome Mrs. Courteney. They say the
husband is a great fool ; hearing what was
going on, he got leave from his regiment
at Malta, and hurrying here, insisted on
carrying her back with him. There seems
to have been rather an esdandre about it,
and now he has exchanged into another
regiment, giving out that Malta does not

Flirts and Flirts, 47

suit her healtli — she was here for change
— but some people say that no place will,
where her husband is, and that it was just
like his folly to interfere at all, she did not
care a bit about the Count, and only let
him pay her attentions to pass away the
time. I'm sure I don't know; he was
certainly very devoted. Who are Kath-
leen's admirers now ? I am just as glad
she is not likely to see anything more of
the Count, and, I dare say, so are you."'

Then the letter branched off to other
subjects, and as Lady Killowen never
answered it, being always a bad corres-
pondent, Kathleen had heard no more
Roman news, till this Saturday when Major
De Lancey was introduced to her, who
had gone there just after they left. Count
Manfredi's flirtation with Mrs. Courteney,
ended so suddenly as it was by her hus-
band, had made people forget his previous,
and seemingly so innocent one with Kath-
leen ; so that Major De Lancey, though
hearing many regrets at the beauty's de-

48 Flirts and Flirts.

parture, liad never heard her name men-
tioned in conjunction with the Count's,
and in a few minutes she drew out from
him a brief account of the little romance
that had taken place after she had come
away. He did not care to enter into par-
ticulars, though he soon saw that his fair
hearer had been brought up in the school
that takes ' Roni soit qui mal y pense ' for
its motto, and thinks nothing too shocking
to be discussed. He ended by saying,
quietly, as if there could be nothing par-
ticularly interesting or surprising in the
information : " That is Mrs. Courteney in
the white lace and lilac, walking with that
tall red-haired man."

It was then that Kathleen had recol-
lected it was two years since she had seen
her dear friend, Sybil Mordaunt ; she did
not care to talk any more just at that
moment to Major De Lancey, but she soon
recovered herself, and talked more merrily
than ever. Notwithstanding, she felt very
sad when she came to think it over that

Flirts and Flirts. \ 49

evening. So that woman ; that woman
with nothing but white lace over her
shoulders, and such evident paint, that
was the woman with whom Count Man-
fred! had consoled himself after her depart-
ure. She knew her so well by sight, and
had so cut up her and her dress often and
often on the pier ; there could be no ques-
tion but that she was bad form, and she
had such a loud harsh voice, too, and yet
Count Manfredi had been very attentive
to her, and Kathleen remembered how
often he had praised her own mellow
voice, and said it was the greatest charm
a woman could possess, and one of the
many advantages English and Roman
ladies had over others, and yet, when she
had come away, he had devoted himself to
this woman. She never forgot whilst she
was thinking about this, that no one,
except of course Captain Courteney, seemed
to think his wife had ever cared for the
Count at all ; nobody accused her of try-
ing to attract to herself his attentions, or


50 Flirts and Flirts,

of valuing them, when she had got them.
What could he have seen in her to make
him care about her ? and Major De Lancey
had said there seemed little doubt but
that he did care for her, and very much

'' I never thought him a good man,"
she said, sadly to herself, "but I did think
he had good taste," and then she thought,
how it would be, if she were to meet him
again, and to see him devoting himself to
Mrs. Courteney, and she vowed passion-
ately that that should make no difference,
neither that nor anything else. She would
love him always ; he was the first man she
had ever cared about, and he should be
the last. " I will be true to my love,
whatever I do," she said, *' I know he
isn't worthy of it ; but I shall not be true
to him, but to my love. That would be a
poor thing indeed, if my being true to it
depended on whom he cared for. T know
now he doesn't care for me. He doesn't
— I suppose he never did ; but I shall

FlirU and Flirts. 51

never be able to leave off cariug for him —
so it would be no use trying, and I don't
mean to try. I must be true about some-
thing, and so I will be true about caring

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