Patrick MacGill.

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

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cared about had gone to Goodwood ? Did
you really think it kind ? Indeed I believe
you did, you stupid Sandy, and that it
never entered into your head to think that
your kind words, and honest blue eyes,
and merry winning ways might in the end

Flirts and Flirts. 105

make those pale clieeks paler, and those
sad eyes sadder.

" I believe you're the greatest friend
Kathleen has," said Sandy. '' I wish you
were my friend, too, I should like to have
some one who would speak of me behind
my back as you do of her."

" You must deserve it then," said Sybil
looking up, and trying to speak merrily,
for she feared Sandy must find so much
grave talk very tedious.

" Well, don't I ?" he said, and this time
his eyes succeeded in meeting hers, and
her eyes as they just glanced up at him,
and then looked down again, expressed
very fully that she thought he did.

" Do let us swear a friendship, and date
it from the Cup day at Goodwood. It
will be such an easy date to remember.
What is the ceremonial we ought to go
through ? Did you and Kathleen exchange
vows, or what ?"

'' No, I don't remember that we did,"
and Sybil laughed. " We never settled

106 Flirts and Flirts.

tliat we would be friends ; it came natur-
ally somehow."

" I wish it would come naturally now.
Can't you make it ?"

" 'No, I couldn't make it. But I think
it does come naturally. I know I shall
always be your friend," and Sybil's cheeks
burnt painfully, as she said this very quietly
and firmly, but without daring to look up
at him again.

" Come, my dear, we must be going,"
said her aunt, turning round to her at last,
" Mrs. Villars is going up in this tram, and I
am sure we had better go too. It is much
too cold here for pleasure."

" Too cold for pleasure," repeated Sybil
to herself half mechanically, as she got up
to follow her aunt, her cheeks still on fire
as it were. Sandy walked with them to
the tram, and he pressed Sybil's hand ra-
ther longer than was quite ncessary, as
he handed her into it, saying, '^ Friends
then for always, don't forget mind."

" I never forget," said Sybil, and sat

Flwts and Flirts, 107

down in tlie tram looking back at liim, as
he walked away ; and after a few steps he
turned, and seeing her looking after him,
took his hat quite off, and gave her one of
his bonniest smiles, and Sybil's cheeks
burnt more than ever, and for a moment
or two a happy smile played round about
her lips. But as she dressed for tea that
night not a few silent tears rolled down her
face, so few people were there to be kind
to her now, and Sandy was so very kind
and so very good. " Oh, how can Kath-
leen have cared to go without him to-day r"
she wondered. " He is worth more than
all her other admirers put together. Can
it really be that she does not care for him,
when he cares so much for her too." Then
the tears rolled down again, and Sybil took
herself very seriously to task, and suc-
ceeded in seeming almost merry as she
talked to her aunt during the rest of the
evening, feeling as if she had been very
wicked not to have been more grateful to
her, when she had offered to take her down

108 Flirts and Flirts.

tbe pier, since it had been so very pleasant.
Poor Sybil, she had been such a dearly
loved petted child till lately, and now she
was so very lonely in the world, and so
unaccustomed to a loveless life that she
turned greedily anywhere, where was the
least semblance of love.



*' Have you been waiting down liere all
this time for us, you dear, stupid boy?
Somehow we missed our train, and had to
drive ever so far," cried Kathleen, as she
joined her cousin, who was standing wait-
ing at the top of the pier steps to greet
the race-goers on their return.

'' Oh, M. Beaumont, c'etait cliarmanf,
parfaitement charmant, we have so amused
ourselves. The races have been ver good,
ver good ; all my horses won," said Miss

" Indeed, I'm glad to hear it. How
many pairs of gloves ?"

" Pairs of gloves," she laughed out con-

110 Flirts and Flirts.

temptuouslj. '' A locket and a scent
bottle, and six — eight — how many pairs of
gloves, M. Simpson ?"

''Ob, a dozen at the least, I should

'' No, but you were to keep the count,
you know you were to. But you are so
Mte — -so Mte. How many was it, M. De
Veux?" asked she in tones, that could
hardly have been more imploring whatever
the subject had been.

" Well, were the races good ?" asked
Sandy of De Lancey. " Of course the
favourite won ?"

'* Oh, of course ; but they really were
the very poorest races I ever saw. Plan-
tagenet's won a pretty lot though they say.
I can't think whom he got to bet against
him, for the other horses made norunniog
at alL"

" Then I am afraid you will not have
formed a very good opinion of our Enghsh
races, Mrs. Zieri."

"Yes — yes," said Mrs. Zierl who could

Flirts and Flirts. Ill

not understand English, while her daughter
exclaimed :

" Oh, we never looked at the horses.
Mon Dieu, it's all the same thing. I've
seen them run at Chantillj, and they
always run all ver fast, and one is the
favourite, and that is always my horse.
Brown to-day, it was grey at Chantilly.
No, brown there too; always brown. That
shall be my colour, who will wear my
colours ?"

Then there was a little chorus of " I
will," from all the men of the party, while
Sandy added : " But I have not seen them
yet. Mayn't I have a peep. Miss Zieri, at
the most beautiful dress that appeared at
Goodwood to-day ? That large cloak hides
you entirely."

'' Oh, you want to see my toilette, do
you? Well, you shall — if you will hold
my cloak like one good boy. There — am I
not charmante T^

" Charming, indeed," cried Sandy, with
emphasis, whilst the little coquette stood

112 Flirte and Flirts,

still for an instant on her wonderful
pointed heels, then bursting into a peal
of laughter, as she gathered round her the
cloak which Sandj held to her as gin-
gerly as if he were afraid of extinguishing
her. She was as fresh and bright looking
as when she started, and really it was diffi-
cult not to fancy her some changeling from
fairy-land, as she stood therein her fantas-
tic toilette, an orange silk petticoat, a
primrose silk dress cunningly shortened
over it by a peculiar graceful device known
only to Miss Zieri, a fancifully shaped
black lace peplum, falling over the prim-
rose silk, a golden band clasping her tiny
waist. Then though the body of the dress
was orange again with tight fitting sleeves
of the same, there was a tiny almost in-
visible jacket of the lighter silk and black
lace with long hanging sleeves, and the
two shades of yellow mingled and relieved
each other in an almost incomprehensible
manner, while the feathery golden hair
partly looped up in a chignon, partly escap-

FUHs and Flirts, 113

ing in curls seemed to gain brilliance from
the yellow silk. On her head she wore
two or three wreaths of autumn leaves tied
on under her back hair by deep yellow
strings, while the tiniest little white veil
made believe to conceal her exquisitely
chiselled features. Poor Sandy did not take
in half these details, but he thought it the
most wonderful and bewitching costume
he had yet seen Miss Zieri in, and would
have been dumb with astonishment, had
she not so openly asked for his admiration.
If Christine Zieri had ever had a head
to be turned, it might well have been
turned by the admiration she had met with
that day. Everyone had been asking who
she was, every one, who had been able to
be so, had been at her feet. Kathleen
might have competed with her, had she
been allowed colours and a Parisian cos-
tume, but confined to black and white, and
a London milliner, she had no chance ;
besides, a bonnet never was so becoming
to her as a hat, and somehow compared

VOL. I. 1

114 Flirts and Flirts,

with Miss Zieri's frothy vivacity, Kath-
leen's Irish merriment seemed almost
heavy. Certainly Lord Faversham was
her faithful admirer all day, but he seemed
to be faithful almost by an effort, and
Major De Lancey, though he might be
said to devote himself more to her than
any one, rather held aloof, cold and im-
passible. " So English he is," said Miss
Zieri, and gave herself up to pleasing
those she could please so easily. Mr.
Simpson actually offered himself and his
fortune in so many words, but in the ex-
citement of captivating a new acquaintance
on one side, and of hearins^ she had won
a scent-bottle on the other, Miss Zieri had
no chance of answering, and up to this
time she had not given the matter a
thought. As for Mr. De Veux, he had
been quite fascinated by the little syren to
the forgetfalness of Kathleen, Helen, every
thing, and had been an abject slave all
day, but without getting any reward, for
Miss Zieri despised him utterly.

Flirts and Flirts, 115

" West-ceims que M. Simpson est heaucouji
joins riche V she asked of Major De Lan-
cey, and getting an affirmative, slie asked
again, '* ei leqihel est le ])lus hete V and
shrieked with laughter.

And now of course my readers will sup-
pose that Kathleen was desperately jealous,
and would be much incensed that Sandy,
who had given up all the pleasures of the
day for her, that Sandy also should devote
himself to Miss Zieri as soon as he got a
chance, and that, when she talked over
the day alone with her mother and cousin,
she would say something disparaging of
the young lady, or repeat how that heavy
swell, Ted Bulkeley of the Grenadiers, had
asked her ''who that little actress was,"
while staring at Miss Zieri through his
gold eye-glass, and then drawled out,
'' not pwoper though, I suppose." But
Kathleen did nothing of the kind ; some-
how, I do not think she ever was jealous,
whether it was as Sybil Mordaunt would
have it, that she was too grand and



116 Flirts and Flirts,

generous for anything of tlie kind, or
whether as many people would have said,
she knew it was wot a politic failing to give
way to, anyhow I never heard of her
expressing any feeling of the kind, and this
evening she talked of Miss Zieri by her
Christian name, and said that she had quite
lost her heart to her.

'' And, mother, her get up was the
very prettiest, most coquette thing pos-
sible. You should have seen it. It
suited her down to the ground, didn't it,
Sandy ?"

'^ It was very wonderful," was that
young man's more artful than altogether
honest reply. " She must have set the
course on fire rather, didn't she ?"

'*No, now that was just the beauty of
her dress. It was not at all noisy. Now
there was Lady Plantagenet there all in
cherry colour — a lovely dress, and she
looked very well in it ; but it was fortu-
nate it was a dull day, or people would
have been afraid to go near her."

Flirts and Flirts. 117

" That Mrs. Courteney was tliere in
something rather awful, De Lancey said,"
interposed Sandy.

" Oh, she was in rose-coloured silk with
that white lace cape she always wears, and
a long white lace flounce, a trifle too
decolletee certainly. But I happened to be
standing near her, and really her neck
looked too lovely through the white lace,
such beautiful blue veins, and so well
shaped too."

'^ Oh, if you admire that woman!"
grumbled Sandy. " One can see the paint
standing on her cheeks, and as to her neck
I dare say it's all enamelled."

'' Oh, now Mrs. Stonman, she really is
enamelled, and she had the loveliest satin
dress on, I asked her where she had got it
from, and she said quite loud, ' Oh, one
of my men gave it to me.' Really I don't
believe she is respectable, she was there in
a brake full of men."

'' What did make you go and speak to
her then ? Eeally, Kathleen, I wish you

118 Flirts and Flirts.

would not do such things. Was Sir Henry
with her as usual ?"

" Yes, he was there, too, I think. But
it's all right, is it not ? thej are going to
be married soon ?"

''Well, his wife may have something
to say to that," said Lady Killo wen testily.

" Oh, but I thought he was going to
get a divorce, and they give out they are
engaged always."

" They may give out what they like.
But he'll never get a divorce, and she's not
at all the sort of person I wish you to be
seen with, Kathleen. You should not speak
to such people, but you always do some-
thing of the kind if I am not with you."

"Yes, you ought to have gone too,
mother. It's never any fun without you,"
she added caressingly, '' I'm sure to-day
I'd just as soon have stopped at home with
you and Sandy."

" Well, I'm sure I don't know why you
didn't then. I never asked you to go, I
know. Very dull it's been for me all this

Flirts and Flirts 119

afternoon driving out with Lacly Long and
Iier daughter. I hate driving."

''Who do you think I've been scuffling
with whilst jou were away ?" interrupted

" Oh, who ?" asked Kathleen, putting on
an air of great interest. " I knew you
must be up to some mischief, when you
were so anxious to stay here. Well, which
of those tall Miss Yivyens was it ? Did you
go to the top of the roundabout and look
down with Grace, or sit at the bottom of
the steps at the water's edge with Amy?"

" No, neither," laughed Sandy, " they've
too many men hanging about them for me.
No I've been talking away like five o'clock
to your dear friend Sybil Mordaunt, a dear
good little thing she is too, though she
hasn't got a kick in her."

" What scuffling with Sybil 1 oh you
very bad boy. I shall never forgive you,
if you make her unhappy, and she takes
every thing so seriously too, it isn't fair
with her."

120 Flirts and Flirts.

" Isn't it ? not mucli danger I'm afraid.
But what makes her so serious though ?
Is she very poor, or what is it ?*'

" Oh how I have wasted my pity on you
when you were so well employed I so it's
come to that already, has it ? how much
money has she ? Well I*m sorry to tell
you, that as your cousin, seriously, Sandy,
I advise you to be cautious how you get
entangled. I believe she's almost entirely
dependant on that aunt."

" No, not really, by Jove. Poor girl I
But how is it ? I thought her father had
a nice little place in Lancashire.'*

"Yes, but that was entailed or some-
thing, anyhow I know it's gone to a dis-
tant cousin. The father and mother died
very suddenly within a fortnight of each
other, and nothing was arranged properly
about the money. Sybil never speaks of
it at all, nor of them. I've never heard
her mention her father or mother in any
way, I think. It*s some time ago now, you
know, but it was very dreadful at the time

Flirts and Flirts. 121

I believe, and she hardly knew this aunt
at all, or any of her relations. She'd
always been abroad before, and I don't
much fancy she likes England now."

''Poor girl, that's very sad for her.
How very fond she is of you, Kathleen !
we've been talking of you nearly all the
afternoon. Well, I must be going now,
or I shan't catch that horrid boat across.
Good night, aunt," said he getting up.
" Deary me, if it isn't actually raining."

"Your coat's in the hall, Sandy. You
left it there the other night," and Kathleen
was actually gracious enough to go out
and find it for him.

" Well, you've had a jolly day, I hope,
though you don't look very bright just
now," said Sandy.

''I'm only tired, that's all. You haven't
been very bored, have you, old boy ?" asked
she with her grand manner, handing him
his coat as if it were the robe of some
order of knighthood with which she was
investing him.

122 Flirts and Flirts.

" Oil I've managed to get on witliout
you. Wonderful, isn't it ?" and snatching
a cousinly kiss, " don't pine away for me ;
I'll be over here on Saturday again," he
said, and vs^ent out into the rain.

Kathleen was inclined to be sentimental,
as young ladies often are after a lon^ day's
enjoyment : " Dear old Sandy ! there's
nobody like you," said she to herself, and
she actually brushed away a tear ! "I
wish you could change places with that
dear ,silly I^ord Faversham, and then I
know what I'd do — I think I'd be able to
forget that horrid Count then !" Horrid
Count! oh Kathleen ! "Well I suppose I
shall have to marry soon ; what a bore
money is. Eeally Mrs. Lake is too bad,
those horrid bills of hers have been run-
ning in my head all day, and now to find
another impertinent letter when I come
home. Why can't she wait ? of course I
shall pay her some day, and I daren't tell
mother. She'd say I had been so extra-
vagant, and it wouldn't be any use either,

Flirts and Flirts. 123

for she's liard up too, I believe, and to
think it's all gone in horrid black crape,
which nobody looks well in ! Poor dear
papa, as if it showed any feeling for him
making a figure of oneself, and running
up long bills 1 but the world seems to think
it does.' H(^w do poor people go into mourn-
ing, I wonder. After all I believe though
most of that bill is for the ball-dresses I took
with me to Rome. I really thought I'd paid
for them. ; it's most vexatious. I shall have
to borrow from somebody though if she
keeps on writing. I'm sure I wish some of
my men would give me dresses like Mrs.
Stonman's. It would be very convenient,
and one only wears them to please the men
after all. As for me, I'm sure I'd be just as
happy if I'd only a cotton gown for summer,
and a linsey for winter. It's only for the
men one does it after all, and they really
ought to pay for it. Heigh ho ! I may as
well go to bed, I suppose," and then she
beo^au her disrobing:.



" The slow sweet hours," " tlie slow sad
hours," as the Laureate calls them, came
and went for the good people at Eyde ; and
they yachted, those of them who owned
yachts, or had friends who owned them,
and they played croquet a little, and
sauntered on Ryde Pier a great deal, and
the young people made love, and the older
people — there are hardly any old people at
Ryde, it's not a place where they go —
but those who didn't make love, why they
made remarks, and the bands played, and
there was mingled with the snatches of
conversation the tune of the last comic
song, or selections from an opera, or

Flirts and Flirts. 125

"Twilight Dreams," or "Merry Tunes,"
all just as it happened; and there were
no great apparent changes in the society,
only tliey all grew much more intimate,
and consequently interesting to one another,
and the tiny Miss Zieri was said to be en-
gaged to the bulky Mr. Simpson, and Amy
Vivyen received congratulations on the
prospect of her soon becoming the third
Mrs. Beauchamp.

The Cowes Regatta had taken place,
and most of Ryde had gone to the Cowes
ball, and mostly they had voted it not
worth the trouble. Yery pretty girls, very
handsome men, beautiful jewels, and beau-
tiful dresses ; but there was no room to
dance, and the supper was uneatable, and
why one of the first clubs in the world
should give its guests undrinkable wine,
was as usual puzzling all those who had
not as yet got accustomed to the idea, and
now the Ryde Regatta was to come off,
and the week was full of en2:a2:ements.
But on Monday there was nothing par-

126 Flirts and Flirts.

ticular to do, so that niglit was fixed for
the concert.

There had been sundry practisings for
that, which have been left out in the short
summary of what the good people at Ryde
had lately been doing, for they had not
been very interesting, nor very well at-
tended. Kathleen had generally found she
had some engagement which prevented
her going ; and Lord Faversham, who, to
every one's surprise, had been suddenly
found to be possessed of a not very power-
ful, but peculiarly sweet voice, would only
undertake one solo, and that he seemed
to prefer practising alone ; so the two
most distinguished amateurs deserting the
practisings, the others tried to get through
their drudgery as easily as they could, and
were as tiresome as only amateurs about
to sing at a concert, or take part in thea-
tricals can be. At last the night arrived,
and every one concerned as usual said,
they were only looking forward to to-mor-
row morning when it would all be over.

Flirts and Flirts, 127

The concert was lield in the Town Hall
that time, and a low stage was erected at
one end for the singers. It was a pretty
sight to see the yonng ladies, as they filed
on to it, all dressed alike in white with
blue ribbons and pink roses in their hair,
and very beautiful indeed did Kathleen
look, as she appeared first of all with the
air of a prima donna, making now her first
debut at Ryde in colours. As she had to
do that, she had further gratified herself
by placing a pink coral comb in her golden
plaits, and tying beads of the same round
her white soft throat, and what with the
pink roses and the fresh bright blue
ribbons she had looping up her dress, and
tying back her sleeves, she had quite as
much colour as she required, and more
than most people would have stood ; and
she looked so bright and brilliant, that it
was with difficulty people refrained from
clapping her, as she advanced to the front
of the platform. But somehow, no one
quite knew how, a change came over her

128 Flirts and Flirts.

soon, and then people voted that she did
not look well in colours, and that it was
only being always in black and white had
made her so much admired, and they
sneered also at her standing up there to
look well, they supposed ; they did not
hear her voice, and for their part they did
not believe she was singing at all. Of
course she was asked to take a jDart, be-
cause it sounded well to have the Honour-
able Kathleen 0' Grady, but they did not
believe she could sing, and it was too
absurd of her to pretend to. That was
during the first part, then came the inter-
val, during which every one who cared to,
went into another room to have tea and
coffee. Lord Faversham had taken Kath-
leen in ; he had been like her shadow lately,
and she flirted with him, and laughed at him,
and amused herself with parading his pas-
sionate devotion before the still too insensi-
ble De Veux, and the other men who were
but half-and-half admirers, without trou-
bling herself to consider what the effect

Flirts and Flirts. 129

miglit be on the pretty boy earl himself. He
was now fetching her some coffee, when she
looked up and saw a tall slight man with a
distinguished foreign air standing beside
her, with a cup of cafe noir, heaping sugar
into it, as he gazed at her with large dark
eyes, that she knew but too well :

" Questo lei piaccia, signorina mia, cosi ?
Mi sono bene ricordato, non evero f said he
in his low distinct thrilling tones.

If Kathleen had been pale before, the
colour now came back abundantly over
face and neck and arms, and for a mo-
ment she was choked, then with a grander
manner even than usual she took the coffee
from him :

" No, you have not forgotten my taste
in coffee, I see. Thanks, Count," she said
in French, and in her nervousness she
laughed a pretty low gurgling laugh as she

'' Mais vous, Mademoiselle^ vous ne jparlez
plus Italien V and his eyes seemed pene-
trating her inmost thoughts ; those eyes

VOL. 1. K

130 Flirts and Flirts.

whicli Kathleen liad said to herself, she
could not resist, never could, so it was no
use trying. But she did try now bravely,
and answered again in French :

" Oh, I never could speak Italian, you
know, and it is so long ago now. How
long ago that time at Rome seems — like
another life almost."

" Another life ! and you live in this one
now ?" and again his eyes seemed search-
ing out her inmost thoughts.

" Thanks, Lord Faversham ; but Count
Manfredi has just given me some coffee.
Too bad of me to take it, wasn't it ? But
do drink that yourself now, to fortify
yourself for the song of the night. You
can't think how I am longing to hear it,"
and she smiled on him, and then against
her will almost, her eyes were drawn to
meet those of the Count, which had now
assumed a mournful expression, as if to
reproach her for her neglect of him, her
old friend, who was now a stranger in
her country, as she had once been in his,

Flirts and Flirts, 181

wlien they had begun to be friends. And
Kathleen hated and despised herself,
why could she not give him a cordial
welcome, as she would so gladly have
done ? " This pretended indifference, of
course he sees through it, and thinks I've
been breaking my heart for him. Oh !
why can't I be ordinarily friendly !" but
she could not, and yet all through that
concert she had been thinking what she
would say to him, ever since she had

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