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where, though amateurs constitute the body, a sprinkling of professionals is necessary to make "the thing go." These were the professionals who came to “dear Lord Bindley's” regularly ; but besides these there came the regular guests, who arrived with all honours, and whom the others contributed to entertain. Such were the colourless (morally speaking) ladies of true breeding and refinement, the Countess Seaman, and her two daughters, the Ladies Mary and Alice Mariner-elegant, tranquil, and trained ; Mr. Bulfin, the Member; the Lord Robert we met before, who turned up later, and all but invited himself, but they were delighted to have him ; Mr. Talbot, and Mr. Hardman.
Bindley was a stone fortress-like building, rising bluntly in a fine park. There were noble trees, ponds, and a few deer seen skipping away coquettishly as the frequent carriage came rolling up the avenue, smooth as a skaiter, on the outside edge. There was a "grand hall,” “restored ” cleverly-i.e., rebuilt-by Inigo Robinson, the well-known fashionable architect-a “gentleman," be it understood, and not a professional man; and the house was “ mounted ” in the best taste, as indeed it might be said, without intention of jest, the guests were. The stables were a show in themselves; and grim visitors, intending to be sarcastic, used to wish they were horses. Everybody was brought " to see the stables,” even unequine visitors; and there is nothing to the untechnical eye less likely to impress. In the house was the usual staff, high-sounding names,groom of the chambers, and the like.
This was the first night of the festival, and though nearly the whole company had then arrived, it was like the first day's voyage out on board a steamer; no one had settled or shaken down into their places, and all were looking at each other askance.
The inauguration dinner was over. Lord Bindley had sat on his throne, with Louisa Mary Countess Seaman at his side,-a tall and vast lady, with an impassive and monumental face, trained to show neither joy nor sorrow, and yet by some arrangement of her hair suggesting the crest of a cockatoo. Her daughters had camped lower down. The supernumeraries had arrived early, had got out their properties and dresses, and were working hard already. They had all come up, or rather come in, to the “noble” drawing-room at Bindley, which, as picnic parties know, is on the ground floor, and with its eight great windows gives upon the lawn. The lamps are lit, balls of powder are bent over tea-cups, the new orange liveries are on, and Wood and wife are spurring about like mounted orderlies. Every instant they are beside the noble host and hostess making a sugges
tion. “I think, my lord, if Miss Georgina Malcolm were to sing now." "Ah, very good idea, Wood. My lady will go and ask her." Or Mrs. Wood draws rein beside the hostess. She thinks “If they got the two old gentlemen down to whist, Mrs. Soft and Miss Soft would make up the party." Lady Bindley smiles approbation ; a very good idea. “Don't know what they should do without the Woods." They have no ideas their own property, and think this rather cheap faculty of "hitting on ideas” perfectly wonderful.
Mr. Bolton was present, browsing quietly off Mr. Bulfin, the Member, and the Lord Robert. Bolton knew nothing of the topics kindred to these gentlemen, yet with that valuable, weighty manner of his, contrived that both should be listening to him with a deference and a delusion that they were receiving real information from a man well up in the subjects. Yet on analysis his information resolved itself into the quotation of aristocratic authority. “When I was at Plympton last year the French minister was there, and he said,” &c.; or, with grave correction across the table, “I think you are misinformed. Clumper himself told me the whole story, and complained bitterly of the man;" “ Clumper” being the Viscount with that title. Yet he had an admirable gift, for these noble names were introduced, not with constraint and even tremor, but with a calm steadiness that was admirable.
The Malcolm girls were not "put on," but were wisely kept in hand, so as not to exhaust all the attraction. They were in reserve, as it were. By and by all would see.
A delightful night for the Beauty. It seemed like a dream, or rather as if he was awake again, and all between had been a dream. The dressing-table upstairs was covered with the silver-backed brushes, now again on their travels, with the essences, silver boxes, and general display of Truefittism. That was like the old days. Here he was himself, beautiful to look at. Such linen, such hair, such rings. He was like the morning star, and he was so happy. The old little utterances came back uninvited ; congealed, as it were, like the Munchausen words,—even the old lisp. And now Wood's wife, putting spurs to her steed, is beside my lord whispering, and nodding in the direction of the Beauty.
“Ah, to be sure. A capital idea !” And away the aide-de-camp canters, and is beside the Beauty in a second. “Oh, you must. His lordship makes it a point.” There is a joke among the men about the Beauty's singing, and great fun is looked for from the sentimental chanting of the Beauty. Oh, I say, you must now. You shan't get off. Sit down, Talbot, and give us that little thing of your own.”
Reluctantly he agrees, but he is so happy he would do anything. Yes, he would give them a short thing he composed -a mere trifle“One last and lingering smile.” He had not his faithful accompanyist with him ; but he had brought the music-by a sort of accident he seemed to convey—and a young lady was on the spot put to the duty. Then he began plaintively and sweetly :
“He stood beside me at the door," K. T.1.
The “men” nudged each other at his sweetest passages. They were intensely amused, and chuckled at the Beauty's pathos. As he rose, a hearty man said,
“Of course that was yourself, eh? Drawn from life, eh ?” “How?”
"Oh, the lingering smile, of course; and an uncommon lingering one it was, I'm sure. They couldn't get rid of it.”
The Beauty was coldly repelling this familiarity, when a soft but firm voice tingled in his ear,
“Whether founded on fact or no, it is a good song, Mr. Talbot. Not forgotten me, I hope ?”
Who was this?
At the other end of the room there was a commotion. A tall, pink-faced, wiry man was pompously offering greetings and excuses mixed with many a “my lord, my lord.”
The Beauty started when he saw the face from which the voice had issued. It was Mrs. Labouchere, dressed in velvet and jewels; from a girl become a matron, with a tone of majesty and stateliness, her features firm, grown more hardened and classical, and with an interest of grief in her face. The fire in her eyes had intensified. She was surprisingly handsome, assured, and dangerous.
She had found the seaport unendurable; and, moreover, she wanted some action, some doing, to take her thoughts off. A son of this Lord Bindley had been in Colonel Labouchere's corps-Harry Bindley --and admired her cleverness, her "talk," her wit; in short, it would seem, everything but herself, which he could not admit. glowing description, she was included in Mr. Hardman's invitations. That gentleman was particularly confounded and put out by it.
“I am sorry, Rosa,” he said, apologising solemnly, when she met him in London, " that I shall have to leave you here; I have been asked to Bindley, to Lord Bindley's, a friend of mine. You know the place, and are welcome to entertain yourself here. I have told my coachman he is to hold himself at your service; my carriage and horses you can use.”
“Dear father," she said, calmly, “they have asked me also ; and you will think it strange, but I must go.”
Mr. Hardman grew red and hot. His weak soul looked to the monopoly of the invitation—to his royalty, as it were, in the favour of the lord.
“Going to Bindley! O, folly! What would you do there?"
“I have led such a life ever since-chafing, and fretting, and mourning-with the iron entering into my very heart. I want to fly from myself-for a time.”
“ Iron nonsense ! You are left very well off. But I really can't have you there. I have reasons of my own; and, to tell you the truth, I don't think my Lord Bindley would be anxious to have you. In your present spirits, you would not be an addition to the company."
“Father, pray don't weary me rther by discussion ; but I must go there. I have told you the reason.”
“Ah, I know," sneered the man of business; “to look about and pick up a husband. Very soon though ; ain't it?"
She gave him a look of warning-a wicked one; yet he felt there was as much contempt as danger in it. He stalked away, and she could allow him the indemnity of grumbling and stamping.
Remarkable looking as she was before she married Colonel Labouchere, she was now greatly changed. Whether from his training, or the odd, adventurous, social life out in Gibraltar, she had acquired a style and character of manner, which she wanted ; something akin to the change which turns the country lad into the smart soldier. Besides, grief and some other trials had given a firmness to her face; and from the time, on her entering the room, her ear caught the plaintive sound of the Beauty's notes, a sparkle came into her eyes, as though the fires of the brain and soul within had been stirred into a crackling blaze. Powerful eyes they seemed ; and perhaps it occurred to her as a strange omen, received with exultation, that she should have entered exactly as the Beauty was commencing his simple lay.
The appearance of this stately woman caused a sensation. Mr. Bolton, busy in corners, telling, softly, anecdotes which might have been commented on by references to particular pages of the Peerage (as thus—“see Combermere,' p. 50; see “Duke of Manchester,' p. 100,” &c.), raised his head slowly. Of course he knew all about her; at least she was like “ Lady Jane Minton.”
The Woods, spurring over the plain, drew the reins of their respective chargers to reflect in what way she could be turned to account for
the sports and pastimes of Bindley. The Malcolm girls looked at her from afar distrustfully; while the host, a well-known connoisseur of that article of virtù known as “a fine woman,” was greatly pleased with the sensation produced by his new guest, and for the first time spoke warmly to Mr. Hardman.
“ I am so glad you brought Mrs. Labouchere; we are greatly indebted to you, indeed.”
His lordship was presently improving his acquaintance.
“ Hope you are not tired with your journey, Mrs. Labouchere. So kind of you to come to us in this way; and I can assure you we shall be as quiet as possible. This is just one of our little yearly domestic gatherings. No fuss or publicity; only a little enjoyment among ourselves."
But the eyes into which he looked were travelling away over to the Beauty, who, unaccustomed to such generous compliments outside his own family, was rather wistfully looking towards the new figure, who had shown such an unexpected enthusiasm. In a few moments she was beside him.
“You have not forgotten an old friend, I see,” she said, in a low voice; "and one who wants friends sadly now. When I was near the door, as I came up-stairs, and heard your voice, and that song, it so touched me—it went home to me here.”
“O you remember my little song!” he said, pleased. " I know I only sang it for you once."
"It is really strange,” she said, reflectively ; “I heard it just as I left, as I was going away to happiness; and now, as I enter, I hear it again."
“Well, we may hope you are coming back to happiness.”
“Not if some people can help it,” she said—not to him. “ There are those here who do not like me, who would humiliate and undermine me, if they could. They would not care how I suffered.”
The Beauty did not take a deep or tragic view of things.
"O, I know," he said, carelessly. “You and Mrs. Talbot did not hit it off very well ; but there was nothing in it really. That I am positive of."
She looked at him with a sort of curiosity, but more with contempt. "Ah! of course.
I suppose I magnify things. And how are they? That gentle girl, too?"
The Beauty never liked people to say “your daughter.” That gentle girl was a much more suitable phrase, and he was grateful for it.