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said one afternoon, as she drew a low chair up to the hearth in Laura's dressing-room. “You are such a good-natured pet! But, I declare, I should put down that dreadful Heathcote woman, were I you.” “ Has she offended
?” “She! Not at all. She would if she could, however; but, fortunately, young ladies of the present day have learned to take care of themselves, and if Miss Heathcote would confide her sorrows to you, I fancy you would learn that she has met her match.”
“I am sorry there should have been anything unpleasant."
“ Don't trouble about me! But what does the creature mean? I dare say she has been good-looking in her day. Oh! here you are, Colonel Home! Come in. I am just genialising myself by Laura's fire before going to dress.”
“I beg your pardon for intruding," said the colonel, suavely," but I wished to tell Laura that Sir John Markham and his brother-in-law, Lord Serle, are to be here by dinner-time."
“Oh! you dear man, come over here at once, and sit down between us, and tell us all about it. What news that is !” * « Do
you feel such interest in it, then ?” asked the host, as he closed the door, and, advancing to the fire, there assumed the spreadeagle attitude so dear to the heart of every true-born Englishman.
In itself, it is not by any means an elegant pose; but so much depends on who does a thing. The colonel's elegant, easy figure certainly Ient the lounging attitude all the grace of which it was susceptible, and Adelaide, leaning forward towards, and looking up at him, evidently admired him excessively,
“It's so nice of you to have a fire, Laura !” she said. “ Even at this time of year we have many a cold day, and it is so stupid of people to refuse baving fires because the calendar says it is not yet time for them.”
“I like warmth so much," said Laura," that I generally, except in the very hottest weather, have a fire here some part of the day.” Then, turning to her husband, “I did not know you had asked Sir John and Lord Serle, George.'
Yes, I met them at the club when I was last in town for a day; but I had no idea they would have come.”
“I do not know Lord Serle, but I thought Sir John Markbam not very entertaining,” returned Laura.
My dear girl, to a properly constituted mind a man of his colossal fortune must always be abundantly delightful. As for his entertaining qualities, he would be a great fool to take any trouble to be so. Most people would think him agreeable whatever he might do
But, Colonel Home,” interrupted Adelaide, “Sir John Markham is all very well, and, if he had no brother-in-law, would be entitled to our very best consideration, but where Lord Serle comes poor Sir John is quite eclipsed."
“You seem to think very highly of Lord Serle, Miss Lenox. Do you know much of him pro VOL. LX.
“Of him, personally, I know nothing. I was always on the eve of seeing him when we were abroad, but, most provokingly, I was always too early or too late, or too something or other, and we have never met; but I heard of him perpetually-his wealth, and taste, and good looks, and talent, and, above all, his fastidiousness. Is he not very fastidious ?”
“I really don't know."
“Is he indeed so handsome, then ? What sort of style is he? Don't you know him very well? But of course you must, as he is coming here."
“ Yes, I have known him a long time. I don't know much about what you call his style ; he is, however, a great lady-killer."
“ Is he, indeed ? How delightful!"
“ How is it delightful ? As a trial of strength ?-on the when Greek meets Greek' principle ?"
“Exactly! Somebody wept because he had no more kingdoms to conquer, and I can quite understand the feeling."
“I dare say. Therefore, I suppose, you have beforehand determined on the subjugation of my poor friend Serle ?"
“ You must confess there would be some triumph in conquering so invulnerable a man.”
“Fortresses are only invulnerable when the attacking force is unequal to the task of reducing them.”
“I am quite curious to see this wonderful man, about whom you both seem so much excited,” said Laura. “Do you like him, George? I have never heard you say much about him, nor do I think I have ever heard him particularly spoken about by any one."
“Oh yes, I like him quite well enough for all the purposes of our intercourse. I can't say we are especial friends. Now that I come to think of it, indeed, I confess I have no especial liking for him, but we are in the same set, and think alike on many points. And Serle is a fine fellow, and the fashion. It is the thing to have him at one's place; he is really so wonderfully clever, and enjoys everything with so much verve, that things are always sure to go pleasantly when he is there.—But you had better be careful, lest you should be beaten at your own game," added he, turning to Adelaide.
“What do you mean ?" asked Adelaide, with that innocent upward look which was so effective from her dark blue eyes, with their long, gold-tipped lashes.
"I speak in riddles,” returned the colonel. “I should say that Sir John would be a more promising quarry-two years a widower, and notoriously desirous of filling the vacant shrine with a new goddess."
“I don't like widowers," said Adelaide, with a pretty shrug of her shoulders ; " mementoes of the dear deceased are apt to bore one after a while. No, I shall have nothing to say to Sir John, but I insist on an explanation of your meaning all the same."
“I can tell you, I am sure,” said Laura. “ Lord Serle is said to be an adept at flirtation; and you, too, Adelaide, are rather clever in that way, so that George naturally thinks it possible you may be worsted in the game."
Adelaide flushed angrily.
“You are very spiteful, Laura. I am sure Colonel Home meant no such thing. He would not be so ill natured to me,”
Which speech was pointed irresistibly by another appealing glance.
“I did not mean to be spiteful, Adelaide, but I had no idea that you would think me so for saying you flirted.”
“And why, pray, should you think me so careless of public opinion ?”
“ Merely because you had always seemed anxious to brave it. And because I heard you, not two hours since, say to those people in the billiard-room that you flirted on principle.”
Adelaide laughed, but the laugh was not very successful; an embarrassed, rather unpleasant sound it was. “That was my nonsense.
How horridly matter-of-fact you are, Laura ! Who could think of talking sense to such men as those to whom I was speaking two hours since ?”
" Peace, ladies !" said the colonel; “I came here for a little quiet, and, if you two begin to quarrel, I see I shall have a fine time of it."
“You need not fear," answered Adelaide, with her frankest smile. “ Kiss and be friends, Laura. I am a sad naughty thing, with my self-will and tempers, and everybody knows that you are an angel.”
So she bent her golden head towards Laura, and pouted her rosy, child-like mouth into a most kissable shape, and poor Laura kissed her, feeling at the same time an intense longing to box the little serpent's ears! And Colonel Home, who looked on smilingly? Well, he thought to himself his wife was a very common -place young woman, ill bred and ill natured to attack her sweet young guest as she had done, and that the sweet young guest was a gracious, loving, good-tempered, forgiving little darling.
“And now," began Adelaide, “now that we have made it up again,' as the children say, let us come back to the theme on which we were busied when your lord and master interrupted us, Laura. Perhaps he can explain."
“ Explain what?" asked husband and wife at once.
“ About Miss Heathcote. I can't imagine what special hatred she has
It might be the rivalry of belle-dom, were it not that she is more like my mother than my rival, An old creature like that, with her stagey airs and graces, and tragedy-queen attitude, must have played her part out long before I was born. Ridiculous old piece of antiquity!"
“What has she done to you ?" asked the colonel, laughing.
“Oh, she has been insufferably impertinent. Such a course of snubbing as she has put me through! But I said rather a neat thing -for me, that is_in the billiard-room this morning. She had been showing off her classic and antiquarian lore before that Mr. Hanbury, who is so mad about such things, and I ventured to put in my little quota of knowledge about Pompeii and Herculaneum--you know I have been there, so I spoke confidently—and Medusa stared stonily at me, and then with the slightest possible smile of contempt, went on as if I had not spoken; but just then she dropped her bracelet, so I picked it up, and handed it to Mr. Hanbury. Add that to your col
lection of gems from the antique,' I said. And I laughed as maliciously as I could, looking full in her face as I did so. She understood me, too, for she gave me such a look. She had better not provoke me, though,”
“ What a little vixen you are !" said the colonel. “I always found Miss Heathcote rather agreeable than otherwise_in fact, we used to be great friends; but if she takes to falling foul of you, we shall be friends no longer.”
“Adelaide, I think it is fully time you thought about dressing."
“Oh!”—with a little shriek-“so it is, and this Admirable Crichton coming to dinner. You shall see how I shall get myself up.”
And off she went, leaving the colonel divided between admiration of what he thought her naiveté, and jealous rage that any other than himself should be of sufficient importance in ber eyes to call for unusual exertion to make herself charming. Had his egregious vanity not been enlisted on Adelaide's side, he was quite sufficiently clear. sighted to have detected and been amused by her coquetry and minauderies. But every woman knows how gullible a creature man is when caught in the toils: there are no artifices too shallow, no affectations too ridiculous, to pass muster when the fair actress is the idol for the time being; the tricks which in another woman would disgust and repel, are in her but the playful freaks of a sweet, artless creature. And if any one should be foolhardy enough to essay so thankless a task as to endeavour to open the sealed eyes of the befooled patient -well, then !-ob, of course we all know how grateful we are to those who try to disabuse us of pleasant illusions. Thus fared it with the ill-advised Laura, when, on being left alone with her husband, she naturally enough adverted in no laudatory terms to Adelaide's unladylike views of things. She got for her pains a smart conjugal lecture, and an intimation that she would be much more to the taste of society in general, and to that of the speaker in particular, did she seek to model herself on the charming creature she affected to contemn. A pleasant hearing, but Laura had become well accustomed to hearing such depreciatory remarks, and she heard them in a silence which was neither peevish nor sullen, but which had just a flavour of the resignation of injured innocence.
Colonel Home then begged politely that Laura would do him no discredit in the fastidious eyes which were that day to see her for the first time, and left his wife to her meditations and her toilet rites; and Laura, after a little while, rang for her maid, and gave her orders, and, as she was being dressed, she went on thinking; and her natural feminine instincts, what vanity she possessed, and a spice of indignation, rose up in arms, urging her to make herself look her best. It must be said that she was not unsuccessful; her pale blue dress, with its delicate white lace falling like a cloud over it, suited her; and so did the pearls round her white throat and rounded arms. Miss Carey knocked at her door as she was drawing on her gloves.
“Oh! you are dressed,” she said, “and well dressed, too. What a lovely colour! How unapproachable the French are in matters of colouring! But do you mean to have nothing in your hair ?”
“I think not."
“And I am sure it needs nothing. But I imagine Colonel Home may like to see you look less like a girl. You must have something. What shall it be, flowers or pearls ?”
“Whichever you like. Show Miss Carey those blue and silver flowers, Watson, and my pearls.”
Miss Carey selected a double row of splendid pearls, which she wound in and out through Laura's beautiful brown hair.
“Now look at yourself,” she said. “Have I not good taste ?"
“They certainly look very well,” said Laura, with a smile, half pleased, half bashful.
“I never saw you look so well,” said her friend. " You would be a very pretty creature, if you could only be brought to think so regularly half a dozen times a day; it is a wonderful beautifier that consciousness of her charms which a pretty woman ought to, and generally does, have.”
“I bardly think you are right.”
“But I am quite sure I am right; and in any case we have no time for the discussion of the topic now. I see you are quite ready. Let me fasten that glove for you. Shall we go down now ?"
A VISIT TO THE RUINS BEEJAPORE.
In a sequestered district of the Deccan, or great table-land of Western India, seldom approached by Europeans, except as travellers or upon military duty, are situated the celebrated ruins which form the subject of this sketch.
I had been visiting a friend at the station of Sholapore, about seventy miles distant, during the rainy season of the year, when any escape from the damp and relaxing atmosphere of low-lying Bombay is so welcome, and hearing such wonderful and exciting accounts of this famed city, I determined on not allowing such an opportunity to pass by of seeing for myself the wonders of Beejapore.
The necessary arrangements for travelling, consisting of one palanquin for myself, and another for my servant and “kit,” were soon made ; so one evening, after dining at the mess of the Cavalry, I bid my kind friend adieu, and our expedition started, forming, when en route, quite an imposing little procession, with the attendant bearers, some carrying lighted torches. After crossing a river about midnight, I was not conscious of much until morning, the monotonous jog-trot of the palanquinbearers, accompanied by a kind of low, murmuring chant, or, less poetically, grunting, being productive of soporific tendencies. Morning, cold and raw, broke upon us, arrived at the bank of the river Bheema, over which we were ferried, with our palanquins, in large flat-bottomed boats.
Our progress during the day was much slower than I had been led to