Patrick MacGill.

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

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quavered as he spoke.

Then the two young men each gave the
other a hearty pressure of the hand, and
Lord Faversham turned into his hotel,
where he found his mother anxiously sit-
ting up for him. He never knew how
much it had cost her to see him go off to
that ball — and Sandy Beaumont went back


210 Flirts and Flirts.

to his partners. The first of these was
Miss Zieri, wliom he found professing her-
self very cross because tlie first bars of
the Guards' waltz had been already played,
and those were the only ones she really
cared to dance to.

" Oh, mon Dieu !" she said ; " how you
English eat ! you are only just done sup-
per, I suppose, and I left you eating one
hour ago, one hour, no, two hours."

Sandy did not explain what he had been
about ; but maintained he saw no reason
to apologise for his tardy appearance since
he found her so very well amused, pro-
bably she had been very sorry to see him
come to her at all.

'' Amused !" and Miss Zieri shrieked
with laughter, " avec ce hete dliomme la.
Oh, for shame, M. Sandy."

'' I don't understand you," said Sandy,
the imperturbable. '' Of course I don't
flatter myself that you will find me at all
as agreeable as the man of your choice."

" The man of my choice ! que dites vous !

Flirts and Flirts. 2J1

what do you mean by that !" and the httle
French coquette stood still and looked at
him with wide open eyes, and the most
comical look of astonishment.

" Why, you are engaged to him, arn't
you ? I thought it was all announced, and
that I ought to have congratulated you
long ago."

'' So you thought I was une petite intri-
guante, and that I had come over to Eng-
land ready to marry any great fool of your
countrymen like that hete M. Simpsou.
No, no, M. Sandy, I have only seventeen
years, and no dot, it is true, but my face,
which is worth something, or my glass
tells me lies ; but I have no hurry, and

I'd rather sweep floors than ah, bah !

Let us valse ! Do you not hear the music
that you stand still and talk ?" When
after one or two turns round the room
they stopped, again Miss Zieri went into
one of her fits of laughter, " and you really
believed it ! Oh, but you are simple —
simple ! Oli, mon Dieu ! mon Vieu r and

p 2

212 Flirts and Flirts.

Sandy took lier laughter very easily ; lie
was not thinking mucli about her, but
still he was glad she was not going to
marry Mr. Simpson, a gentleman in whom
he had not yet been able to discover one
single good quality, and all the while he
was watching Kathleen, who was dancing
with some stranger, and looking very beau-

Count Manfredi was now sitting in the
balcony in the seat that had been occupied
by Major O'Connor, talking — oh, how very
differently ! — to Mrs. Courteney, for the
Count was a man who had no need ever
to draw back ; he never went further than
he intended, and to-night he was anxious
to make sure of the ground he had con-
quered the day before, over at Southsea,
and Mrs. Courteney felt very keenly the
difference between the two men, knowing
so well, too, which it was she cared for,
and knowing also, that they both knew,
she cared not at all for her husband, and
she was very miserable. Poor, poor Ada

Flirts and Flirts, 218

Courtenej, slie had arrived at that niood
which says, '' Let them prate about de-
corum, Who have characters to lose," but
she still did care how " the world went "
more or less. The fatal die had not been
thrown, she had not yet crossed the Rubi-
con, so she had donned her green satin,
and brushed back her dark locks, looping
them up in the most imposing of chignons,
and then she had put unfortunately a trifle
too much red on the cheeks that had
grown so much paler and thinner than of
old in these last few days, and had come
to the ball, ready to meet what Fate had
in store for her. She had not '' wings like
a dove ;" she knew she could not ever really
*' flee away and be at rest," but she felt she
could not remain much lons^er with her
husband, and that she would never be able
to go away with Major O'Connor, and so
she began to see that what Fate had in
store for her, might be that she should go
away with the Count. She did not wish
it ; wish it ! oh, no ! ten times rather

214 Flirts and Flirts,

would slie go on even witli this wretched
life she was leading now, but she felt that
this life was not to be for her much longer,
and then what refuge would she have ?
And the Count talked to her of Italy,
talked of his villa, of the beautiful scenery,
of the sunsets, and the moonlight, and the
pleasant easy Italian society, and though
he did not openly suggest the idea of it
to her, not in any way, so that she could
say, whether she would go there, or would
not, yet he pictured her to herself, as
ruling over an Italian palace, showing her
all the while how much more suited she
was to it than to any English lodgings at
Southsea or elsewhere, and the society of
a marching regiment.

" Though even then the jewel would
make the setting appear contemptible,"
said the Count, and Mrs. Courteney toyed
with her fan as she listened, and did not
look at the Count, who looked so passion-
ately at her, but gazed straight before her
into the ball-room, through the ever open

Flirts and Flirts, 215

window, and there once and again slie
caught sight of Kathleen 0' Grady, beauti-
ful, beautifully dressed, with few but costly
ornaments, admired by everyone ; ladies
and men alike pleased by a word or a
smile from her, and seeming herself almost
borne aloft and raised from the ground
by her Spring-tide of youth and hap-

Once and again too, Kathleen stole a
glance into the balcony, and saw that
Count Manfredi was still sitting beside
Mrs. Courteney, and then her cheeks
flushed, and woe betide the man who was
near her, for who could stand heart whole
the smile of irresistible sweetness that she
would cast upon him then ! She was
gloriously beautiful that night, and she
had not been long enough at Eyde for
any one to be tired of her yet, and not any-
one could have found a fault with her,
unless that she seemed almost vulgarly
happy, and then the queenly carriage of
the well-shaped head, and the graceful

216 Flirts and Flirts.

dignity, with wliicli slie moved, forbade
such an idea for a single moment.

At last, Count Manfredi came for another
(lance ; then the bright radiance left her,
and the large blue eyes wandered drearily
about the ball-room, and she listened with a
distrait air, and the Count talked very little.
He had come straight from cloaking Mrs.
Courteney, and he felt as if he had done his
night's work, but while one of his schemes
was prospering so well, he knew it would
not do quite to neglect the other, or he
ran the risk of not having sufficient time
to complete it.

" Vous avez Tair distrait, Mademoiselle,
vous ne me parlez pas. Est-ce que vous
pensez a moi — moi ?" and the dark eyes
looked down full of meaning, and the blue
eyes that had striven to look up indig-
nant, failed, and looked beautifully pa-
thetic, and then they waltzed fast and
furiously. Then the Count talked of
blighted existences, of hearts that had
loved once, and would give much to love

Flirts and Flirts. 217

again, and could not ; of other liearts,
that were young and fresh, and had their
sufferings to endure in the future, helas !
would that it were not so. Which of my
readers does not know that kind of talk ?
li is so old, so old ; bah ! it seems almost
musty, when one comes to write it down,
and yet, when it was all said to Kathleen,
though she was a nineteenth century young
ladv, and knew more of life than her contem-
poraries generally, it sounded all new and
strange, and intensely interesting, and she
did not believe that the one heart could
not love again, nor that the other heart
had much to suffer, and as to Mrs. Courte-
ne}^ the thought of her troubled her no
longer. The Count was a man of the
world, and men of the world often amused
themselves with liaisons with such people,
but that was all, quite all. He might still
marry her herself, Kathleen, and become
a reformed character ; or he might marry
her, and not become a reformed character,
and either way she would love him very

218 FUrts and Flirts.

mucli, and the one heart would learn to
love again, and the other would have very
little to suffer.

Sandy Beaumont was not quick to un-
derstand other people's thoughts ; he had
that great gift of tact which prevented his
hurting the feelings of those around him,
but he could not well have said what those
feelings were ; he was very downright
himself, and believed quite simply what-
ever people told him, unless he happened
already to know something positive to the
contrary, and he was not one of those,
who care for watching other people, and
find such watchinof amusino^ and instruc-
tive. But " Believe me. Love has eyes,"
as Miss Louisa Pyne sings so sweetly, so
though with his own eyes Sandy was not
good at seeing much, that went on around
him, yet with those that love lent him, he
saw enough to make him very sorrowful
on the night of that Regatta ball, and it
was with a heavy heart that he went home
to his hotel after it, and ordered himself

Flirts and Flirts, 219

to be called early next morning, that lie
might be up in time to see Lord Faver-
sham off. He felt a sort of fellow-feelinof
with the young earl, both had risked their
hopes in the same venture, and both were
alike shipwrecked. For the first time he
said to himself, in all sincerity, that his
beautiful cousin would never be anything
more to him than a cousin; he had often
said it before, but he had never really be-
lieved it till that night, and believing it his
life seemed a very dreary prospect to the
young man.

He had known very little love, kindly
loving nature, though his own was ; his
mother had died, while he was only a child,
and since then he had scarcely ever seen
his father, living at school as most boys
do, and spending liis holidays for the most
part with an uncle of liis mother's, a
crabbed old bachelor uncle, who main-
tained that boys were best let alone, and
acted on his theory. There were servants,
who were all fond of him in their way, and

220 Flirts and Flirts,

there were the people in tlie village, who
always welcomed the young lad when he
came among them, and there were the
horses and the dogs, whom Sandy loved
as much as any human creature in those
days, and who, we may be sure, loved him
in return ; but of the kind protecting
mother-love, the greatest blessing tliat
God gives His children, when he sends
them forth to fight the battle of life, of
that there was none for him. Some-
times, and those were very happy times
for him, he would go over to stay at Killo-.
wen Castle, but he did not find it there,
though they were all very kind to him, and
called him Sandy, and kissed him, which
no one else did.

But though he was Lady Killowen's
favourite nephew, it was not anything
like mother-love that she gave him, nor
was Lord Killowen's regard for the boy at
all of the protecting kind ; while as to
Kathleen, she tyrannized over him as a
beautiful young girl will tyrannize over a

Flirts and Flirts. 221

boy, who is odIj a few years her senior,
and has been always in love with her.
He had been always in love with her, this
easy-going straightforward young Sandy
Beaumont, so much so that he had never,
even for a moment, thought of any other
girl in that way at all ; he was not much
given to looking forward, any more than
he was given to looking back, though he
did both this night, but in all his dreams
of the future, whenever he had made any,
the thought of Kathleen was the golden
thread, that made all the rest bright, and
now there was no longer any golden
thread, for, as he said to himself, his
cousin would only be his cousin to hira all
the rest of his life. Then of course he
would never marry, there would never be
any glad home fire-side for him, but always
wearisome mess dinners and monotonous
regimental duties ; henceforward, he must
learn to put all his heart into them. And
Sandy Beaumont sighed a long heavy
sigh, as he thought this, and thought

222 Flirts and Flirts.

too that now lie liacl very little heart to
put into anything.

"But if she is only happy !" thought
the brave young lover, with that abnega-
tion of self, not yet so uncommon in
lovers, for all that people talk of the sel-
fishness of youth, " if she is only happy,
I shall soon learn to bear my life, if it is

ever so dreary. If she is only happy "

and then he fell to thinking over what he
had seen that evening.

But that was a very painful subject, and
it did not seem to grow less painful with
thinking of it, so he soon gave over that,
but before he went to bed, he knelt down
and prayed, and to his prayers that night,
he added a short petition, that whoever
Kathleen married, he might be such a man
as would make her happy, then he went to
bed and slept soundly.

Not so was it with Lord Faversham ; be
thought it was because he was leaving
Ryde, and so doing was leaving Kathleen,
and life itself for the little time that he yet

Flirts and Flirts. 223

had to live, — and Lord Faversbam believed
wonderfully firmly, that it was a very little
time, considering how lately this belief had
first come into his mind, — and that little
time that he yet had to live, having left
everything that made life dear, he could
hardly look upon as life, and so he tossed
about and coughed, and coughed and tossed
about, and did not sleep at all, and was very
weary of the night ; and Lady Faversham,
who had an adjoining room, heard him
coughing, and grew also very weary of the
night, as she thought how often she had
listened to the same sound, during the
years in which his father had wasted away,
as so many of the Favershams had done
before him, and felt thankful, that she had
hastened to her son, as she had done, and
wished that she had never let him come
down to Ryde alone. But boys are not
like girls, and no fond mother can for
ever keep her son under her own

There was another person, who was also

224 Flirts and Flirts.

very weary of tliat niglit, and tliat was
Sybil Mordaunt ; she buried her face in her
pillow, and tried there to hide her burning
blushes, but there was no one but herself
in the room, and she could not hide them
from herself. For Sybil Mordaunt knew
that she had given away her heart un-
sought and unwanted to a man who had
no heart to give her in return, and she felt
that she could not take it back again for
all that. As to winning Sandy's love, win-
ning it even by means of the love she had
given him, Sybil had no thoughts of that ;
she called maidenly modesty and pride to
her rescue, and writhed inwardly as she
felt that love was stronger than either.
' But it must not be,' said Sybil, ' it is not
right that it should be, and it shall not be
so,' and then she prayed that she might
cease to love Sandy, not that Sandy might
ever come to love her, for though Sybil
had given her love away unsought, she
was still modest, and she was still



" He is not a fit person for Kathleen to
associate witli, and you ought to prevent

*' Nonsense, Sandy, you know whether
she would be likely to mind what I say,
and £40,000 a year would cover a multi-
tude of sins," and Lady Killowen seemed
to devote her whole attention to an intri-
cate stitch in her lace work.

''It seems to, in this instance. Con-
found it all," and Sandy ground his teeth,
and dashing the paper cutter he had been
playing with on the table, went to
the window, and threw it wide open.


226 Flirts and Flirts,

" Sandy," said Lady Killowen, angrily,
"that is not the way to beliave in my
drawing-room," but lier nephew did not
heed her.

" I tell you the fellow is not respectable —
is not leading even a commonly decent life."

'' That is your opinion. He goes every-
where here, and so he does in town too, I

" Because people do not know anything
about him there. But why did Mrs. Gordon
not let her daughter dance with him, as I
hnoiv she does not, and even La3y Long
won't have him at her house, pretentious
piece of worldliness that she is, and then
you let Kathleen go out in that accursed
Flora," and Sandy bowed his face upon
his hands to hide the hot angry tears
that started from his eyes at the

" Why did you not speak to your
cousin yourself," said Lady Killowen

Sandy was too angry with his aunt to

Flirts and Flirts. 227

represent how lie liad been over at Ports-
moutli, knowing nothing about it, but he
still was determined to fight it out : " So
because he has £4^0,000 a year, you
think him a nice young man for a son-in-

" From what I hear of Mr. Simpson, I
should not think he had much idea of
marrying,'^ said Lady Killowen with a
scornful emphasis on the last word.

This fairly maddened Sandy. " And you
can afford to sneer about it in that way.
I tell you, I will never speak to you again,
aunt, unless you promise me you will
never consent."

" Come, come, Sandy, let my work
alone," for in his anger and his wish to
force his aunt to look him in the face,
instead of keeping her eyes fixed upon her
work, Sandy was snatching it from her.
" Sit down now, and don't make a fool of
yourself in that absurd way. Wait till Mr.
Simpson has offered to your cousin, before
you get into a rage about it. In my

Q 2

22 S Flirts and Flirts,

opinion lie is not in the least likely to do so.
For the matter of that, he is engaged to
Miss Zieri, I believe."

" No, he is not,'' shouted Sandy, " she
told me so herself, and I never liked her
better than when she told me so. I never
thought there was so much good in the
little coquette before. Well, there's no use
stopping here, it seems — I shall go back
to Portsmouth, I think."

" Good-bye then," said Lady Killowen,
but Sandy would not say good-bye. He
went sullenly out of the room, without
ever looking at his aunt, and banged the
door behind him, as a parting sign of his
displeasure. Then he strolled slowly and
sulkily down the pier, wrapt in not the
most pleasant of thoughts, from which he
was finally roused by the sight of the
Count Manfredi, just landed from a Ports-
mouth steamer : " I thought you were out
in the Flora," said Sandy.

'' Did you ?" and the Count seemed to
read the young man's inmost thoughts with

Flirts and Flirts. 229

his keen cruel eyes, '' I was pressed to go,
but ce hon M. Simjjson is only spirituel
when alone with the ladies. I thought I
should be de trop in his harem."

Sandy felt this thrust all the more
acutely because he was determined not to
show it, but in his confusion, he forgot
what French he knew, and could only say :
*' vraimenty

" And you, how came it you did not
go. I wonder you should think your fair
cousin safe in such hands. But doubtless
you thought her too pure to be contami-
nated. Will she satisfy your big country-
man, or is Mile. Flora also of the party ?"

" You forget. Count, that you are speak-
ing to me of my cousin," and Sandy drew
himself up and looked sternly at the

" Pardon, mon clier, but I was speak-
ing of Mademoiselle Flore. Do not confuse
the two ; there is a difference."

*' A difference !" and Sandy grew very
white, " look here, Count, I don't know

230 Flirts and Flirts.

what you mean by it, but it strikes me
you wisli to quarrel with me, and — "

" The last thing in the world, that I
should wish, my good child. Who should
be friends if your father's son and I were
not ?" and the expression of the Count's
eyes grew more dangerous than it had
yet been. " Voila^ there is the Flora.
Strange you English are ; you talk of us
Italians as loose in our ideas, and yet what
Italian young lady would go out sailing
with Mr. Simpson ? He has no conceal-
ments too ; it is all above board. Every-
one here knows all about Mile. Flore, and
yet Miss 0' Grady goes out in the yacht,
that is called after her, nor despises the
hand that is vowed to her service."

The Count had been looking throughhis
double glasses at the Flora, watching Mr.
Simpson handing the ladies into her boat
preparatory to coming on shore ; now he
sauntered away to receive them. Sandy
looked after him in astonishment, he was
as if in a dream. Why did this man try

Flirts and Flirts. 231

to rake up every idea, that he knew must
be distasteful to liim ? that he did it on
purpose, he could not doubt — but why
should he care to do it ? ''I have done
nothinof to offend him — he cannot think
me a rival," groaned the hapless Sandy,
'* besides he does not care — he does not
care for her. Why did he not go out
yachting to-day ? I know Kathleen only
went because she thought he was going.
Oh, why is she so blind — so mad — why
does she not know he has been spending
the day with that miserable Mrs. Court-
eney?" and Sandy stood still and watched
them. He saw Kathleen's haughty look,
as she hardly deigned to shake hands with
the Count, and then he saw him almost
whisper something to her, looking at her
the while with those devouring eyes, and
then a change came over her face, and she
let him carry her cloak, and talked and
smiled on him, and they walked off to-
gether in animated conversation, and she
did not even see Sandy, who was stand-

232 Flirts and Flirts,

ing so near, watcHug it all ; but Miss
Zieri did.

'' Oh M. Beaumont ! will nobody carry
my cloak ? poor me, nobody cares for

" Why does not Mr. Simpson carry
your cloak?" said Sandy in a rather
grumpy tone, which he tried vainly to
make sound cheerful.

" Oh, he is enrage with me. He will
never speak to me again, he says. Such
a day as we have had ! Oh, ce vilain Ryde.
I will never come to it again. Mamma
must consent and go to Homburg, or I
shall be too ennuyee.''

'' You ennuyee ! I should have thought
you were always as amused — as amusing,"
said he with an effort.

'' Oh, mon Dieu I but what heavy com-
pliments you English pay; why do you
try then ? They are not in your nature.
But my good M. Sandy, why that air so
sad — why that sigh?"

" Why if you are ennuyee, Miss Zieri, I

Flirts and Flirts, 233

am sure you cannot wonder at anyone else
being so."

" Oh, Sandy. Where have you sprung
from ?" said Kathleen looking round at

'' From the pier," he replied drily,
devoting his attention to Miss Zieri's
cloak, which had up to this time been
hanging loosely on his arm. Kathleen
turned away again to talk to the Count,
and then he swore inwardly at himself
for having answered her so coolly.

When the Zieris' way parted from
Kathleen's at the toll-gate at the end of
the pier — for they lived on the Strand to
the east of Ryde, whereas Clarence Yilla
was to the west — Kathleen begged they
would not think of seeing her home, for
Sandy would now be able to do that.
Then Sandy tried to make up for his
previous coolness by his alacrity in giving
up Miss Zieri's cloak in order to do so,
but he did not get Kathleen's instead, for
the Count chose to walk on carrying that,

234 Flirts and Flirts,

and tlien to Sandy's indignation Kathleen
asked liim, if lie would not come in and
" see mother," which as Sandy well knew
at that hour, only meant an invitation to
dinner. The Count was just declining,
when he saw the expression of relief on
Sandy's face :

"I shall be charmed," he said.

"Good-night, Kathleen," said Sandy,
" I suppose you're all right now. I need
not wait any longer," and he walked off
without even waiting for an answer.

The Count looked after him with a
curious expression : " Poor young man,
I ought not to have accepted your kind
invitation. It has vexed your cousin."

'' If Sandy chooses to be vexed what
does it matter ?"

" Does it not matter ?" and the Count
looked curiously into her eyes, as if he was
trying to read some mystery hidden there,
and found it difficult, " and yet of all the
aspirants to your hand, I thought he
seemed the most favoured."

Flirts and Flirts. 235

'' Of all the aspirants to roy hand ; oli,
Count !" langliecl Kathleen. '' But Sandy
is not one of them," she added with an air
of displeasure.

" He would indeed be presumptuous
if he were," said the Count, and as they
went upstairs together, his hand touched
Kathleen's, it might be accidentally, or it
might not, but anyhow having touched it,

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