Patrick MacGill.

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

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for him ; of course I shall marry somebody
else. That is in the nature of things, I
wonder who it will be though. Not
Sandy ; no, I should like that best really
I think, but he's a great deal too good for
me, dear boy, and it wouldn't be fair to
marry him without caring for him. Then,
he's got no money, and neither have I.
Oh, dear ! there's the coffee," and then
she went into the drawing-room, as I have
before said, and after drinking her coffee,
she went out again, and thought again,
and this time she considered within her-
self what she would wear at the concert,
and had not thought of anything suffi-
ciently killing, before Sandy came out
and joined her.

E 2



Lord Faversham and De Yeux were
dining at the club together, and among
a variety of other subjects, as they sat
over their wine, they discussed the young
ladies of Eyde, and Lord Faversham
waxed eloquent over Miss 0' Grady's
charms. De Veux drank his wine slowly,
seeming much struck by the force of
the other's remarks, but not saying
much. At last as the young earl came
to a full stop more for want of breath
than anything else, he said slowly and
impressively : " She's a deuced fine girl,
I grant you. But she's skittish — to my

Flirts and Flirts. 63

mind it's a great fault, and she certainly
is skittish."

"Skittish be d— d," shouted Lord
Faversham, who had not been cooling
himself over a cigar as Sandy had
thought advisable, but heating himself
considerably, what with the wine and
the exciting nature of the subject they
were discussing. " She's perfect, I tell
you," and he thumped the table as he

"Who is?" asked De Lancey, coming
in at this moment. " I say, what a row
you two fellows are making. Will one
of you come and take a hand at whist ?
we want a fourth."

" Oh, hang it, do you ? well, I don't
care if I do ; only it is confoundedly hot
in here, and it would be so jolly cool on
the pier."

" You can easily go down there after-
wards, we shan't be playing long to-
night," and Major De Lancey and Lord
Faversham walked off together. " Why

54 Flirts and Flirts,

are you sucli friends with tliat fellow ?''
asked the former, as soon as they got
outside the room. " He'd lose his money
to you, if you wanted it ; but you don't,
and you won't get any other good out of

" He's a fool," said Lord Fayersham.

'' Of course he is. But being friends
with a fool won't be any particular use
to you, Faversham, and I can't think
why you are always together. Who
was that lady you were calling perfect,
too ?"

" Miss 0' Grady," said Lord Faversham,
now hanging his head, and blushing deeply
as he spoke.

''Oh, Miss O'Grady, was it? well,
she isn't perfect, I suppose, any more
than any other woman — a finished flirt, I
should say. But I would not talk of
her, or of any other lady, I had any
respect for, with De Veux."

" Come, De Lancey, you're prejudiced ;
he's not half a bad fellow after all, and

Flirts and Flirts. . 55

some people do say she'd have liim, if
he offered," and Lord Faversham grew
almost tearful.

"Why, isn't he engaged to some girl
near his own place ?" and seeing a
sign of assent — '* Well, if he is, he
must be more than half a bad fellow to
go on as he does with any other girl,
while that is the case. Besides he is a
fool, as you say, Faversham, and you
can't learn too soon that folly is catch-

Then they joined the other two men
and sat down to whist, and after Lord
Faversham had roused his partner's wratb
to an almost alarming extent, by some
unusually preposterous play, he cooled
down sufficiently to take an interest in
the game, and show that skill in it
which he really possessed. De Lancey
had known well enough which of the
two young men would be likely to accept
his invitation, or he would not have given
it. De Yeux, left by himself, sat a little

56 Flirts and Flirts.

longer over his wine, muddling his
never very bright intellects, till at last
he thought, as Faversham said, the room
was very hot, and it would be much
pleasanter on the pier ; so he sauntered
out, and at the door of the club he met

" I say, Beaumont, come down the
pier with us, old fellow. It's horrid hot
in there."

" I dare say, I wasn't thinking of going
in," and Sandy in his easy going way let
De Yeux link his arm in his, and proceeded
to the pier with him.

'' I say, Beaumont," said De Yeux
again ; it was a very common beginning
with him. " Whose was that bay mare
with the white star on her forehead,
I saw knocking about your quarters,
when I was over the other side this
morning ?"

'' Oh, Stella, you mean, I suppose.
She's Jumper's, and a beauty she is. He's
as good a judge of horseflesh as any man

Flirts and Flirts. 57

I know, and that mare lie picked up at
Newmarket two years ago. Directly lie
saw lier, he says he took a fancy to her,
so though the fellow who'd bred her asked
£200, Jumper forked out at once, and
now he could easily get twice that if
he cared to part with her. But he's lots
of tin, I only wonder he cares to stay
in the service ; he gets lots of leave
though for all the races, and in the
hunting season too, and that's all he
cares about."

'' It's not very good hunting in these
parts, is it ?" said De Yeux. " I shouldn't
mind it your side, but over here it would
be a long time before I'd care to ride down
some of the hills."

" I believe you, my boy," said Sandy,
who was himself somewhat of a centaur
on horseback, though he had never owned
even a pony ; but he had had the run
of the stables of some of his relations
from very early years. De Yeux, who
owned as large a stud as was re-

58 Flirts and Flirts.

quired by the exigencies of his particular
branch of the cavalry, and appeared every
day of the season in town on a showy
thorough-bred in the Row, but who was
known not to be good at fences, feared
his friend might be laughing at him, so
abruptly changed the subject.

" You've been dining at Lady Kil-
lowen's, haven't you ? lucky dog."

" Yes, she always gives me my feed
when I'm over here. I wish she'd put me
up too ; hotel bills run up such a precious

" Rather, don't they ? I say what a pity
it is your governor spent all his tin.
Now, if you'd a few thousands, I dare say
you might make up to that cousin of
your's," and De Yeux gave him what he
meant for a knowing look. It was lost
upon Sandy though, who was engaged
lighting a cigar.

" Never thought of that," he said, puff-
ing away vigorously.

" Ah ! now didn't you really ? well of

Flirts and Flirts. 59

course there' d be no use thinking of it,
as you haven't got the tin. Your cousin
runs for pretty high stakes, I should say."
This time his expression, though intended
to be as knowing as before, was inquiring
as well ; but it was equally lost upon
Sandy, who continued smoking in silence,
disdaining to talk of his cousin with
such a fellow as De Yeux; then think-
ing he might as well extinguish him,
began :

" You're engaged to a girl somewhere
down the country, arn't you?"

"Yes, I am engaged," said De Yeux,
very slowly and deliberately, after pausing
a moment to consider, during which he
also produced a cigar.

" Why, you say it, as if you were not.
Do you mean to throw her over ; or is she
jilting you, or what ?"

" No, I don't mean to throw her over,
and she's not at all likely to be jilting me^"
said De Yeux, in the same deliberate tones.
" Her mother took a precious lot of trouble

60 Flirts and Flirts.

catching me, I know that," and he laughed
a disagreeable laugh.

"Well, I shouldn't say that of the
mother of the girl 1 was going to marry.
But then, I'm not worth catching, so no
one's ever tried it on with me," and Sandy
laughed, not a very pleasant laugh either.
He was thinking what sort of fortune De
Yeux must have to make him more worth
a mother's getting as a husband for her
daughter, than himself : "I wonder how
much it is," he thought to himself.

"Yes, that's just it," said De Yeux.
" No one ever tried it on with you ; but
they have with me, and as for that I am
not going to marry the mother, so I shall
say what I choose about her. Helen is
not at all like her," he added, after a few
moments' pause.

" Is she pretty ?" asked Sandy, care-

" Oh, yes, very pretty; but nothing like
your cousin, you know."

Sandy winced. " Why, what has that

Flirts and Flirts. 61

to do with it ?" and standing still, he
looked straight into his companion's face,
then began knocking his cigar ash oflP on
the pier railings.

'' Oh, nothing, nothing," stammered De
Yeux. " Of course a fellow wouldn't
break with one girl, because she was
not as pretty as another girl. But if that
other girl would have him, why then — "

"Why, what on earth do you mean?"
cried Sandy, now fairly roused. '' What
on earth do you mean by talking of one
girl, and another girl — and my cousin, too ?
I won't have her talked of in this sort of

" Come now, old fellow, there's no use
in quarrelling. You must have seen for a
long time that I was sweet on her, and
you might as well tell me what the odds
are. It's not as if you had any chance —
I shouldn't ask you then — but you know
you couldn't marry her on your pay. You
Icnow you couldn't, Beaumont, so you might
as well be my friend as anyone else's, and

62 Flirts and Flirts.

what's the use of my breaking with Helen,
if I can't get the other afterwards. You
wouldn't have me offer as it is, would you ?"
and a sudden light seemed to break upon
him, for he had never thought of this plan

" By Jove, I never thought you were
such a brute, De Yeux," growled Sandy,
'' and you think my cousin could care for
you !"

" Oh, no, I don't. It's the money you
know. No, I don't think about her caring
for me ; but she might marry me without.
I'd be quite satisfied if I could only make
sure she'd have me. For she's a glorious
creature, as Faversham says, glorious.
Of course she don't care for me ; but how
should she ever marry anyone she cares
about, if she runs for high stakes. The
odds are all against its being the same
man, the one with money, and the one
she'd care about. Now, he might be like
you, Beaumont, and you know she couldn't
marry you; so why shouldn't she take me.

Flirts and Flirts. 63

wlietlier she cared for me or not. I
old fellow, you roiglit as well be my friend
now, you really might ; do you think she'd
have me ?"

They were at the end of the pier now,
leaning on the railings at the left hand
end, as you go down, looking back at
Ryde. It was a fine calm eyening, with
just a little ripple so as to lengthen out
the reflections of the many lights in the
town, almost indefinitely. Sandy thought
he could distinguish that from Kathleen's
window, and looking at it, and thinking of
her, as she had been that evening, he said,
very firmly, " No, I do not." But it cost
him a twinge only to say that and nothing
more, for he did not just then think him-
self quite so much out of the running as
De Yeux had seemed to do.

The latter seemed rather mortified.
" You don't, don't you," and he threw his
cigar away, showing thereby that he only
smoked for fashion's sake, not because he
really liked it, or he would not have parted

64 Flirts and Flirts.

with his cigar just then, when he wanted a
httle consolation. No man, who really
liked smoking, would have thrown away
his cigar just then, not unless it was quite
smoked out, and he was on the point
of lighting another. But De Veux was
annoyed by Sandy's answer, and that put
him out of sorts with everything else ; so
he threw away his cigar, having nothing
else to hand that he could throw away,
and did not light another. Sandy, though
the shorter, was a good stone the heavier,
and De Yeux would not have cared to try
muscle with him. After a few minutes
some comfort occurred to him. '' I believe
it is better to have a wife that cares for
one, and Helen certainly cares for me, cer-

Sandy would have liked to have told
his companion again, what a brute he
thought him ; but somehow his conscience
was not clear enough for that. He could
not make up his mind whether they were
rivals or not ; he saw painfully clearly the

Flirts and Flirts. 65

force of De Yeux assertions that Katlileen
must marry a ricli man. But then was it
quite certain that he himself would never
be rich ; he knew of no way in which he
was likely to become so, but somehow he
had never thought of himself as doomed
to poverty for all his days, and often
planned what he would do, when he came
into a fortune — marry Kathleen, of course,
if she would have him. That was always
his first thought, and De Yeux himself
seemed to think she might in that case.

'' Anyhow, she would never have him,"
said Sandy, to himself, ''so I am being
honest towards him."

He was watching a dark- looking boat
passing across the little stream of light
that he fancied came from Kathleen's
window, and he felt impatient for the boat
to pass, that he might see the stream of
light clear and unbroken again, and
strained his eyes to watch it. Just as he
was about to pronounce it quite clear to
himself, the light was put out ; then Sandy

VOL. 1. F

66 Flirts and Flirts.

turned impatiently from the railings, and
began walking along the broad end bit of
the pier, where the Eyde world prome-
nades, De Veux still sticking to him :

*' What is she like ?" asked Sandy, after
a short silence, meaning Helen, of course,
not Kathleen ; for he was ashamed of being
so much wrapped up in his own thoughts,
and did not know what his companion
might think of it.

" Oh, she's a little thing, and she has
fair hair and blue eyes like Miss 0' Grady.
But she's nothing to compare to her, of
course; she is like a rosebud every one
says, and Miss O'Grady — she — she's the
full-blown rose."

'' The queen of roses, you mean," said
Sandy, by no means thinking his cousin
flattered by the other's comparison. " But
if she cares for you, De Veux, you
couldn't have the heart to break with her,
could you ?"

" Oh, but," said the other with another
of his knowing looks, " the more she cares

Flirts and Flirts, 67

for me tlie sooner she'll find out if I care
for any one else more, and then there's
nothing so bad to bear as jealousy, they
say. Better break with her at once than
expose her to that ; you see one pain
would only last a short time, she'd soon
console herself, I dare say — and the other
all her life. Hang it, if she once found
out I'd married her caring for some one
else more, it would be the devil and all
to pay. But, all the same, it wouldn't
do to be off with one love, before one
knew there was a chance of being on with
the other."

" There's a proverb to the contrary,"
muttered Sandy, and he looked hard at
the people flitting backwards and forwards
in the half-darkness, or sitting round
about, to see if he could distinguish any
acquaintance by means of whom to get rid
of his present companion, whose society
was every minute becoming more and more
distasteful to him. But the moon was
under a cloud for the moment, so he could

F 2

68 Flirts and Flirts.

not make out anyone, and De Yeux re- '
gardless of the proverb went on :

''Hang it, I don't know how I ever
should get off my engagement. I'd have
to do it by writing ; if the old mother once
got me iuto her clutches again, she'd walk
us straight off to the church, I believe,
rather than have had all her trouble for
nothing. She nearly worked herself into a
rheumatic fever by the draughts she sat in,
and the damp places she went picnicing
to, in order that we might see enough of
each other."

" How much are you worth ?" asked
Sandy coolly; he wished to know, his
curiosity now being fairly aroused, but
he did not expect to get the information
by simply asking for it ; yet if De Yeux
chose to be offended, he would be just as
well pleased. But De Yeux did not seem
at all offended.

" Oh, £8000 a year is what the estate
brings in ; but then there's a lot in India
securities besides, and they're always vary-

FlirU and Flirts, 69

ing, and wheii my uncle hooks it, tliey'll
be just about double, and he's over eighty
now, and quite in his dotage, and it's all
left to me."

" By Jove ! I had no idea you had so
much," said Sandy, and his surprise was
so unfeigned that De Yeux took heart
again, and exclaimed.

" Hadn't you ? then when I asked about
your cousin you really could not tell.
Now don't you think — "

'' Oh, there's Lady Long ; I must go
and speak to her," and Sandy rushed to
take refuge with his particular aversion,
who was seated exactly under the lamp
in the middle of the pier, as he had very
well known for some time, though in spite
of his desire to find some acquaintance he
had not been able to summon up courage
to speak to her. For Lady Long had a
daughter, and she knew Sandy had little
more than his pay, and so snubbed him
remorselessly whenever he was not with
his aunt or cousin, to whom on the other

70 Flirts and Flirts.

hand she made very great love, for their
star was in the ascendant. Sandy was
rather put to it to find something par-
ticular to say to her, and on the spur of
the moment invented a very sweet mes-
sage from Kathleen about the concert,
which fortunately came into his head ; for
De Veux having an immense dislike to his
own company, like most men of his class,
followed him closely, and the immoveable
handsome Miss Long did not say much to
take up his attention. But her mother
soon set that to rights, and then while
they both exerted themselves to entertain
the young man of property, the landless
subaltern escaped unnoticed into the dark-
ness again, looking upon that lamp as a
beacon placed by the benevolent to warn
the unwary off the rocks. His thoughts
were not very pleasant that evening, but
anything was better than the conversation
he was likely to meet with about that

** Ugh ! what a brute that fellow is," he

Flirts and Flirts, 71

thought to himself, " if it had been any
one else I should have thought he was
half screwed ; I dare say he was too, he'd
been dining at that club, but he's always
the same, and yet I suppose he has more
chance than I have, as he says."

But Sandy did not really believe it one
bit, though the saying so to himself did
make him feel rather down-hearted.



Now tlie reader must be kind enough to
take a little voyage with me over the water,
for we must see what was happening that
same evening in some stuffy lodgings at
Southsea. There, in a scantily-furnished
uncomfortably-shaped little room, sat Mrs.
Courteney at her writing table. The white
lace and mauve silk had disappeared now,
and given place to a nearly colourless tum-
bled-looking muslin, that had once evident-
ly figured at gay assembhes in the daylight,
and was now taken into evening wear for
economy's sake, not from any vague de-
sire of looking well. But though people
might or might not have admired Mrs.

Flirts and Flirts, ■ 73

Courteney, as slie peacocked it on Ryde
Pier, hardly anyone could liave failed to
see beauty in lier now, as she sat in this
old tumbled dress writing by the dim light
of a refractory lamp. Her masses of dark
hair had somewhat loosened themselves,
and were pushed backed carelessly off her
face, showing to perfection the low clear
forehead with its bright blue veins, and the
finely cut profile was no longer distorted
by the scornful hard expression she had
worn among the loungers on Ryde Pier ;
the paint too was no longer visible in the

She was writing quickly and easily, and
when she had finished her letter she folded
it up, without once glancing over it again ;
then having sealed and directed it, she for
the first time showed anxiety about it,
displacing several things in her desk, and
hiding her letter away at the bottom of it.
But hardly had she done so, when a flush
came over her face, and with a scornful
curl of the lip she withdrew it from its

74 Flirts and Flirts.

hiding place, and arranging the desk as
before left her letter at the top, to be seen
at once by anyone who should open it.
Then she went to the open window and
looked out ; the moonbeams were shining
brightly on the broad white road outside
and in the distance, through a gap between
the opposite houses, she saw the sea tre-
mulous in the silvery light. She had first
glanced up and down the road to see if her
husband were coming ; then her eyes
turned to the distant sea, and rested on a
little white winged boat. *' Oh, that I had
wings like a dove, for then would I flee
away and be at rest !" how often, and how
often has that verse come home to many a
sorrow-laden heart, which has yet got no
further, ever seeking comfort where it was
not to be found.

From very early years had Ada Oourteney
been of the world worldly, and in all the
years that had passed over her she had got
no further than that one wish, that pas-
sionate longing to " flee away and be at

Flirts and Flirts. ' 75

rest." Where slie should flee to, she liad
never considered, only to " flee away and
be at rest," that was all her wisli. Once
she had been a child, simple and innocent
as other children ; then as she grew older
she had taken to flirting, much as her
father had taken to dram drinking, to drive
away dull care, and for many years she
had been very successful — had been the
belle of balls innumerable, and the talk
of half the regiments in Her Majesty's ser-
vice. She had been engaged most of the
time — not to one man, cela va sans dire,
but to a succession — at least so her acquain-
tance would have said ; Ada Jerninghame
would have told a difl'erent story. She
must dress, and if the men she flirted with
chose to pay her bills for her, she did not
quarrel with them, though they did also
choose to say she was engaged to them

Captain Courteney had fallen desperately
in love with her at the first ball he ever
went to, when he was an ensign just joined ;
she had given him a lock of her hair, and

76 Flirts and Flirts.

forgotten Mm. When he came back from
the West Indies, a captain, young in years
indeed, though with hair already turning
grey, he shewed her that lock of hair, and
told her how he had loved her for all those
years. Ada Jerninghame's heart was
touched by such constancy. The man she
had last been engaged to, had jilted her
cruelly, she longed to " flee away and be
at rest," and she became Captain Courte-
ney's wife, and went out with her husband
and his regiment to Malta. There the
beautiful Mrs. Courteney was more fetee
than ever Ada Jerninghame had been, and
while the rest of the world flattered her, her
husband grew more downright, than was
pleasant, in the expressions of his opinion
to her. He himself had cared for no one
else but the bright vision of his youth before
marriage, and he expected his wife to care
for no one else now at least after mar-
riage. She had been flirting all her life,
and knew no other way of employing
her time. If her husband would have

Flirts and Flirts. ' 77

flirted with her, it would have done very
well, but as he had cared for no one but
her all his life, he had never learnt the
art. At last at one ball the beautiful
Mrs. Courteney was missing, and some
one said she had started for Rome that
evening in the steamer ; her husband said
it was for change of air, and certainly she
looked much better in health, when he
fetched her back, equally suddenly, a short
time after. Then there was a great deal
of talk among the loungers at Marisch's,
the fashionable tobacconist's, and among
the Sunday gathering on the Club steps
to watch the church-goers down the pic-
turesque Strada Reale, and in the stalls
of the little Opera house — the new grand
one was not opened then, of course. The
bishop's wife left out the Courteneys
name in the invitations to her next " at
home ;" and another regiment which was
giving a ball nearly came to blows as to
whether they were or were not to be
asked. In the end they were, and half

78 Flirts and Flirts.

the regimental ladies absented themselves,
and Mrs. Courteney's dance-card was more
crowded than ever, and she sat great part
of the evening on a sort of throne in the
balcony, surrounded by men who paid
her abject compliments, while she hardly
listened, and her lips curled more scorn-
fully than ever — for she knew she was
getting cut, and all their silly flattery

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