Patrick MacGill.

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

. (page 7 of 12)
Online LibraryPatrick MacGillFlirts and flirts : or a season at Ryde; in three volumes (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Major De Lancey felt as if he was being
pumped. He had no objection to telling
all that he knew about Sandy; but then
the Count Manfredi must ask him more
direct questions ; so he only gave a shght
sound of assent.

" I knew one of that name once, you
would oblige me much if you could make

158 Flirts and Flirts.

me know wliether this young man were a
relation of his." This was said with that
profoundly courteous manner, that very
few men ever venture to assume with
another man, but which, when they do
assume it, always makes the man to whom
it is adressed, feel as if he were somewhat
of a bear, and must, indeed, make a despe-
rate exertion to raise himself to the other's
level. Major De Lancey hastened to give
all the information in his power.

" It is very likely you may have known
this young fellow's father himself. Charlie
Beaumont, as people always called him,
was a good deal abroad. There was some
story of his assisting an Italian lady, at
least an English girl, who was married to
an Italian, and was unhappy with him, and
bringing her back to her own people. Did
you ever hear of it ?"

'^ Mais oui — long ago ! So that was this
young man's father." He was knocking
off the ash of his cigar into the sea, with
his back turned towards his companion,

Flirts and Flirts. 159

then resuming his former position, and
smoking calmly, he said : " Some people
said he did not leave her with her own
people^after all."

*'I don't know about that. She died
soon afterwards, I believe. Poor thing I"

The Count, too, seemed to compassionate
her, for he murmured a " malheureuse .'"
between his shut teeth.

" That cigar was better than I thought,"
said Sandy rejoining them. '' No, thanks — ■
not another," as the Count drew out his
cigar case, and handed it to him, say-

"You will have a second then, tenez.^^
Perhaps the man coming round giving
tickets and asking for money, startled him
at this moment, or perhaps his hand shook ;
no matter, he dropped it, and one or two
of the priceless cheroots rolled about the
deck. He stooped to pick them up, but
he did not observe a faded flower that had
also fallen out.

" Some dear souvenir, Count," said

160 Flirts and Flirts.

Sandy picking it up, and handing it to him
with a smile.

How well the Count knew that careless
good-humoured smile ; he laughed a low
musical laugh. It was strange that he
treated the world so rarely to it, seeing
that he could laugh so well. " Dear ! yes
these souvenirs do indeed cost us dear.
Did your fair cousin never bestow such a
favour upon you," and he tossed the flower
in among his cigars.

Sandy's cheeks burnt, and he made no
attempt to conceal his annoyance, but the
Count did not appear to notice it, and
laughed on under his breath, as it were.
After all it was not a pleasant laugh. Major
De Lancey stood by puzzled ; he had liked
this foreigner well enough at first, but he
began now to feel a sort of distrust of him,
and was just as glad to be arrived at South-
sea, where the Count was going to land.

" You seem rather down this morning,
Beaumont," he said to his young com-
panion after they themselves had reached

Flirts and Flirts. 161

Portsmoutli, and landed there, the silence
between them having been unbroken up to
this time. *' Has anything happened to
you ?"

"No, nothing — I'm all right," said
Sandy rather impatiently. '' But — I say,
De Lancey, did you see Faversham this
morning ?"

"No, did you?"

" No, I only came down the pier after
he'd gone. But I went to look him up
last night, after I'd seen my aunt and cousin
home, and — I suppose I'm a fool — but it
makes me quite squeamish yet to think of

" Why — not haemorrhage, you don't
mean ?" asked the other with a sudden
knowledge that he did mean it.

" That's just it," said Sandy, " and you
know they're all a seedy lot, and he won't
see a doctor. He'll be kicking the bucket
before he knows where he is, and the worst
of it is, he says he don't care. But I
promised not to tell, so you won't go talk-


162 Flirts and Flirts.

ing of it in RycTe ?" said Sandy looking
up alarmed.

" That's not much my way."

" No ; so I thought, there couldn't be
any harm in telling you. But I wish he'd
go home, or write for some one. Hollo,
Briggs, you're a duffer, you are ! Sawing
at Fairy Queen's mouth in that way. Give
her her head, and she's as gentle as a
lamb, only give her her head," and Sandy
began patting and soothing the refi^actory
horse till she quieted down, much to Briggs'
surprise and dehght ; for he, being mounted
for almost the first time, and finding no-
thing else but the bridle to hold on to, had
been holding on to that like grim death,
and all the more so that Fairy Queen
pluDged and snorted, tossing her head,
and dashing the white foam about.

During that afternoon's parade, Sandy's
account of Lord Faversham's state of health
and mind kept running in De Lancey's head.
" That's a bit of Miss O'Grady's work," he
said to himself, as the refrain of that French

Flirts and Flirts. 163

song came back to him ao^ain and again.
" He's been hard hit, poor boy ; he must go
away, and have some one to look after him,
for he'll never do it for himself. The more
scorched a silly moth is, the greater hurry
is it in to throw itself altogether into the
flames, and it will be just the same with
this foolish fellow. I think I'll write to
his mother myself, and tell her of this at-
tack. That will bring her down at once, if
she's at all the woman I take her for. I only
hope I shan't frighten her out of her wits,"
and so after parade Major De Lancey went
straight to his room, and wrote to Lady
Faversham, not even taking off his uniform
till he had done so.

When Count Manfredi landed on the
little Southsea Pier, his face already wore
a very different expression to the calmly
courteous one he had preserved during the
voyage. It seemed as if a dark cloud had
passed over him, and his black eyes were
really terrible, with a lurid light shining
out of them. It was a sad story, the story

164 Flirts and Flirts.

of the Count Manfredi's life. Taken in com-
parison witli other Italian young noblemen,
liis contemporaries, he might once have
been called a very promising young man.
No genius, but clever undoubtedly, and with
a great power of concentrating himself on
whatever he had in hand ; ambitious too,
he really loved his country then, and did
not only toy with poetical imaginations as
to her future. With chivalrous manners,
well formed, and goodly to look afc, being
then unmarked by the dark traces guilt
and dissipation leave behind them, it was
no wonder, when he fell in love with a
young and beautiful English girl, that she
returned his love. But she was an only
child and an heiress, and thouo^h hitherto
indulged in every whim, this time her
parents withstood her wishes ; they would
hear of no marriage with a foreigner and
Eoman Catholic. The spoilt beauty took
her wilful way; whatever doubts she
might have had, as to whether she
really loved the Count Manfredi, were

Flirts and Flirts, 165

all dissipated by the opposition slie
met witli, wliich irritated as mucli as it
surprised her. It was not long before
the Count's burning words made her
consent to an elopement, and her consent
once obtained, his ready ingenuity quickly
got over all other difficulties. They were
married, and then she wrote for forgive-
ness, not doubting she would obtain it.
But her father and mother were too deeply
wounded by her ready abandonment of
them ; they said they would forgive her,
but they left Italy, refusing to see her, or
have any further communication with

Then this petted English beauty had to
accustom herself alone and nnguided'to
all the Italian ways in which her husband
had been brought up ; he would willingly
have surrounded her with English
comforts, but he did not even know what
they were. Cut off suddenly from her old
friends and associations, she soon found
that her husband's love, passionate

166 Flirts and Flirts,

though it was, did not make up to her
all that she had given up for it. She sought
distraction in society, and there talked and
behaved, as young English ladies do talk
and behave, but as Italians do not, and
the Count hovered jealously round her.
By degrees this grew more and more
unbearable to her, till she got to hate him
and his large dark eyes. Then there
appeared that merry, haphazard, good-
natured ne'er-do-weel Charlie Beaumont,
only six month's a widower, and consider-
ably out at elbows, but as ready for a lark,
or for any act of kindness as ever he was.
The beautiful young Countess poured out
to him her griefs and her wrongs.
Charlie advised throwing herself upon the
mercy of her own people, and for the
second time she consented to a secret
flight, if Charlie would this time be her
companion. Neither of them considered
the compromising nature of the position
till retreat was impossible, and when she
got back to her old home, at first she

Flirts and Flirts. 167

saw no cause to regret her rasli step, for
her father's and mother's hearts had long
since melted tov^ards her, and they
received her warmly, and without re-

But the neighbourhood looked coldly
on her, and thus being cut off from the
society of those by whom she had been
used to be courted as an heiress and a
beauty, wounded her to the quick, and
Charlie Beaumont was the only person
who came from the outer world, and
treated her with the loyal devotion she
had once been accustomed to claim as a
right, and he came again, and again. At
last she went away once more with him.
Then her father and mother shut up
the old house for a time, and went away
too, and when they came back, it was in
deep mourning, and they said that she
was dead, and no one knew anything
about this second going away with Charlie,
and they believed that she had been
hardly tried, and that the ItaHan Count

168 Flirts and Flirts.

Lad been a villain, and tliat their own
liarsli judgment, added to lier other sor-
rows, had hurried her to an early grave,
and they did all that lay in their power
now to comfort the declining years of
the poor aflSicted father and mother.

All this time the Count Manfredi seemed
to take no steps to gain information of
any kind about his wife, but he knew well
enough what went on ; he knew of that
second going away, and he knew of her
parents' death one soon after the other,
and how she dared not claim the money
that was now hers by right, but for very
shame connived at the falsehood of her
own death, receiving under a feigned
name the annuity they had begun allowing
her during their life time, and how that
annuity did not cover the spendthrift Char-
lie's expenses, and how he was careless
and neglectful of her, and how she hardly
sorrowed, when one day the news was
brought home to her that he had been dan-
gerously hurt in a steeple-chase, and there

Flirts and Flirts. 169

was little hope of liis recovery. Poor Charlie
Beaumont ! such a good fellow as he had
been all his life, and yet no one mourned
for him at his death, unless it were the
young son he had never seen for years,
who had just got his commission, and
hoped one day to make his father proud
of him. The Count knew all about it some-
how, and he knew what no one else except
herself knew, that his wife of long ago, who
was still his wife, though they had not
met, nor written a Hue to each other, nor
acknowledged each other in any way for
the last fifteen years ; that she was still
alive, living now in a pretty little villa on
the banks of the Thames. He knew this ;
had it not been for this secret, which no one
knew but himself and herself, he would not
have hesitated to make Kathleen O'Grady
his wife, when he first knew her so young,
so beautiful, and so loving, that winter at
Rome. Sometimes the temptation was
very great to him, for there was no one to
say that his first wife was still alive, but

170 Flirts and Flirts,

then Lord Killowen died, and events so
turned out, that lie did not fall under that
temptation. He was not in love with
Kathleen, not as he had once been, but
he regretted her, and in spite of his many
victims, his heart was still soft enough
for him to grieve at thinking what she must
suffer. But then there arrived the beau-
tiful Mrs. Courteney with a reputation.
Such a reputation ! the Count was just
in want of such a distraction ; she came
to Rome with a reputation, that was
doubtful — there should be no doubt about
it when she left Rome. This was before he
saw her. When he managed to meet her,
and he was not long about this, he was
startled. It was not her beauty, nor her
scornful expression that surprised him ; no,
it was her likeness to the wife of his early

It was this likeness, which in spite of
paint, of the general look of bad style,
of the difference in expression, in spite
of all this made the Count Manfredi turn

Flirts and Flirts. 171

pale wlien he first saw Mrs. Courteney.
A feeling of horror came over him that this
was what bis wife might have grown into,
and then he laughed at himself that, man
of the world as he was, he should be so
simple as to have still thought of her as
the young innocent creature she used to be,
and his scheme came back to him, and he
thought that this was the sort of scheme
people might freely indulge in now with
the Rosa of his early days. Then he was
introduced to Mrs. Courteney, and made
love to her, and took no care of her, as he
had done of Kathleen, that she should be as
little compromised as possible, for the feel-
ings with which he regarded the two
were quite diflerent.

That love of his for his wife of lonof ao'o
must, indeed, have been intense, that the
faint likeness to her in Ada Courteney
should have such influence over him ; it was
an influence that the Couut was powerless to
resist, audit chafed him that she should still
be as cold and scornful to his words of love,

172 Flirts and Flirts.

as tlie Eosa of long ago liad been, before
she fled from liim with Charlie Beauniont.
Now he had followed her to England, for
Captain Courteney had burnt that letter
forbidding him to do so, and he was going
to renew his acquaintance with her, having
just parted from Sandy Beaumont, the sou
of the man who had in his opinion done
him the greatest wrong that it was pos-
sible for one man to inflict upon another ;
though all the while it had been one of the
hapless Charlie's best impulses that had
orignally led him to protect the unfortunate
young Countess in her flight to her

The vengeful passions of Italians are
proverbial, and the Count's thoughts,
that had been all of love, had now re-
ceived this turn, and he tasked his brains
to devise some ingenious scheme. It was
no case for daggers or stilettoes, nor was
there any pretext for a duel. They were
in England, and the Count was a man of
the world, of the nineteenth century, and

Flirts and Flirts, 173

Sandy was but tlie son of tlie man who
had warped his life for him, but were it
anyhow in his power to turn Sandy's cup
of hfe into such bitterness, as his own had
once been turned into, there were no
pains he would have spared to accomplish
this object. In what point was Sandy
likely to be most sensitive ? "Of course,"
argued the Count to himself, "he is in
love with his beautiful cousin, who calls
him Sandy, and treats him almost, yet
not quite, like her brother. Shall I take
her from him ? marry her ? or at least
pretend to do so I" and the Count laughed
bitterly to himself. " Shall I madden
her ? make her miserable ? why she
would but take refuge with this cousin of
hers. Fool that I am !" and then ho
murmured to himself " elle m adore,''
and felt that he could never have said that
with equal truth of the lost Rosa.

He had taken a carriage, being too
wise to trust himself unguided in the
Southsea labyrinth of unfinished roads,

174 Flirts and Flirts. ,

and now he found himself at the Courte-
ney's door, and with his usual good
fortune, heard that she was at home and
alone. Mrs. Courteney received him with
her usual coldness, and did not from any
vague feelings of politeness, conceal the
fact of her having written to him, or gloss
over in what terms she had done so. But
the Count refused to believe in the exis-
tence of the letter, till he had heard what
had become of it, and when Mrs. Courte-
ney gave him what account she could of
it, he took the full advantage this little
incident gave him. Mrs. Courteney had
been very miserable in these last days;
since she had insisted on going to Good-
wood with Major O'Connor, and without
her husband, there had been hardly any
intercourse between them. Her husband
came and went in silence, and had more
frequent recourse to the gin bottle, and
Major O'Connor did not come at all. She
did not know, she could not deign to ask
whether he had been forbidden to do'so ;

FlirU and FUrU, 175

but slie had a sort of feeling, tliat,
wlietlier this were the case or not, Major
O'Connor felt that he had gone too far,
as it was his way to do, and that he was
now anxious to draw back, as was also
his way. Then came the Count Manfredi
with honied words and passionate looks,
and gentle pressures of the hand, and
though she could not tell him all her griefs,
for they were not of the sort that bear
telling, nor was he quite the man to tell
them to, yet she gave him to understand
that they were many, and the Count's
sympathy was very soothing to her. At
last the clock struck, then she started :
" Oh ! the parade must be over. Captain
Courfceney is always home about this

Count Manfredi took this as his conge,
and even his doing this gave him a fresh
advantage : " And you will come to the
ball to-morrow night !" he said holding
her hand in his, and looking into her eyes
with one of his most powerful looks, and

176 Flirts and Flirts.

Mrs. Courteney for the first time, felt the
power of it, and it was not necessary for
lier to say she would — her face showed
that sufficiently. Oh ! she was so weary
of the dull misery of her daily life ; any-
thing, anything to escape from that ! The
Count Manfredi felt that his visit had been
a great success, he had got a hold upon
her now. Then, as he went away down
the broad white, staring road, he met
Captain Courteney, and the two looked
at each other for the first time. '' That
man never was ray rival," said the Count
to himself. ** Who was it then? and
what has become of him ?" and Captain
Courteney, before entering his own door,
looked back at the Count, and cursed him
with low deep curses, for though he had
never set eyes on the man before, he knew
he must be the Count Manfredi, and
that he was going away from a tete-ct'tete
interview with his wife, and though he
had burnt that letter, and so knew that
the Count could never have got that, yet

Flirts and Flirts, 177

lie had not been able to prevent this inter-
view ; and as he opened the door and
went up stairs, he felt verj sick at heart.




Kathleen and Sybil sat together in
Kathleen's dressing-room at Clarence
Villa, a dressing-room that was so fitted
up as to look as much like a sitting-room
as possible, though still retaining some
of its original properties. The day had
grown yet more oppressive, as it drew
towards evening, and Kathleen was only
very lazily making believe to illuminate
a very massive photograph album, while
Sybil half reclined on the sofa, watching
her. '' That man is the greatest beast
it was ever my luck to meet," said Kath-
leen, giving the photograph, as she spoke,
a rather startling red and yellow border.

Flirts and Flirts. 179

" London men are all beasts, I believe."

'* T liave always so wished for a London
season," said Sybil, bending forward to
look at the beast's photograph. '' But
you are getting quite hlasee, Kathleen."

'' Indeed I am, quite blazed as the
Sandy would say. But, oh Sybil ! how I
envy you ; you don't know what I wouldn't
give to change places with you, in spite
of all your dull life, and in spite of your
aunt, and she would be a nuisance to me.
How we should fis^lit ! I can't think how
she lets you associate with me, as it is.
I really don't believe she thinks me pro-

'^Oh, Kathleen, don't."

"It don't do me any harm. Lots of
people don't think me fit to have anything
to do with, and I'm sure if I could I'd
cut myself. Only, alas ! I can't."

'' That is all nonsense, I never heard o['
any one wishing to cut you. You are the
most popular person, I know, everyone
seems to like vou," and Svbil sio^hod

w ' I/O

N 2

180 Flirts and Flirts.

gently, then added quickly, '' and I'm
sure you quite deserve it."

" Indeed, I don't. Oh, Sybil, if you
only knew what it costs me to look so
happy sometimes. I do despise myself
so for doing so, but I know people always
like one the better for it. It takes more
than anything with the mob. The interest-
ing only does for tete-d-tetes ; then some-
times it's very fetching. Goodness, what
a flash of lightning. I suppose it's the
thunder in the air makes me feel so low.
Now if I were a man I should take a pick-
me-up. Isn't that what Sandy's always
talking of?"

'' I never heard Mr. Beaumont speak of
anything of the kind," said Sybil indig-
nantly, then growing rather red, and
stooping over the photograph book to
hide this. '^ That's a Roman photograph,
is it not ? so beautifully distinct. Have
you one of the Count Manfredi here ? Yes,
I remember tbat one. But it isn't really
like him, is it? Ob, that's a much better

Flirts and Flirts. 181

one, how dreadfully like it is to liiiii !
The eyes seem really to see one, it almost
frightens one to look at it. Kathleen, you
don't really care for him, do you ?"
Sybil's voice rather trembled as she asked
this bold question, and she did not even
venture to look up at Kathleen's face, but
the latter answered passionately :

" Care for him ! I believe I hate him,
and yet if he were to ask me to be his
wife to-morrow, I know I should not say
no, and I should be mad for joy, mad ! But
he will not — he never will — lucky for me
too ! Oh, is it not hateful, Sybil, is it not
degrading to feel hke that ! Oh, that
awful flash !" and the two girls rose and
ran to the window to look out, while aloud
clap of thunder rumbled in the distance.
The storm quickly grew worse, the thun-
der growing nearer and nearer, till it
seemed to burst right over their heads,
threatening almost to shake down the
house, while the rain poured down at
intervals in buckets full, seeming like a

182 Flirts and Flirts.

regular water spout, while it lasted. The
lightning was very glorious to look upon,
especially as the day fast darkened in, and
for a little while they watched it in sileuce,
then Kathleen said : " unlucky for the
yachts this. The race will hardly be a
good one I should think." There was too
much pretence at indifference to the
magnificence of the spectacle they v/ere
gazing at for Sybil to care to answer
this, and Kathleen soon felt it also, as
she exclaimed: ''It's terribly forked;
suppose it were to strike one of us dead,
do you think any one would really care ?"

'' I should if it struck you," and Sybil
looked loviugly at her friend's beautiful
face, passing her arm round her as if to
protect her. But Kathleen gazed at the
storm outside.

" Yes, because you are standing beside
me, and it would be very awful to you,"
she said, "but it would not really make
any difference to you. It would make
most difference to mother, I suppose; I

Flirts and Flirts. 183

wonder wliat slie would do without me,
and Sandy, dear old boy, he would really
care. It wouldn't make much difference
to him, for his regiment might be ordered
abroad any day, but I believe he would
really care more than any one. I wonder
how long Lord Faversham would take to
forget me, poor dear boy; I wish I'd
never let him get to care for me. You
think scuffling wrong, I believe, Sybil."
'' Yes, I think it very wrong."
" Then I wonder you have anything
more to do with me. But I only scuffle
with boys, and I never thought he'd get
really to care for me. Oh dear, I shall
never fore^et that sons^ last night."

" But it was a great shame to go on
with him as you did, Kathleen, you know
it was. Of course he got to care for you,
he did from the beginning. Why you
said yourself, that that was what made
him so uninteresting, that he was so des-

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryPatrick MacGillFlirts and flirts : or a season at Ryde; in three volumes (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 12)