More than ever he coveted the girl who had rejected him, more than ever he determined to make her, what the law told him she should be if he married her, his own. He left her suddenly, anger and rage at heart, and she, with a sad and weary restlessness upon her, wandered out into the clear moonlit night, and stood gazing over the beautiful lake at her feet, and at the tiny cottage at the far end where her father and mother had died, and where she had been born.
What was it that stood in Speranza's eyes? Tears, large and clear as crystals, were falling from them, and sobs shook her graceful upright frame, as she stood with her hands clasped to her forehead in an agony of grief. Only seventeen, poor child, and yet so miserable! It was a cruel sight for any one to see. But no one saw it save the pale moon and twinkling stars that looked down calmly and sweetly on the sobbing girl. A harsh voice sounded suddenly at her elbow, a rough grasp was laid upon her arm. With a cry in which loathing and horror were mixed Speranza turned round, only to confront the contemptuous, haughty woman, who had never said a kind or nice word to her in all her life.
In vain the miserable child had striven to explain to the infuriated woman that she did not care for Lord Altai. Such an explanation had only aggravated the countess's anger, who, after many and various threats, had declared that unless Speranza consented to gratify her darling boy's passion, she would induce the earl to deprive Speranza's two brothers of their allowances, and therefore of their professions, which, in other words, meant ruin to them.
She was a clever woman was Lady Westray. She knew exactly where to strike to gain her end. The threat which she threw out about Speranza's two brothers she knew pretty well would take effect; for did she not also know that out to them the poor child's whole heart had gone? Rather than injure them, the girl determined to sacrifice herself. A month later a great wedding took place. Envied of all who saw her, Speranza de Lara became Viscountess Altai, and the wife of the man whom she detested and loathed. He could go and do as he pleased; indulge in brutal excess, pander to every hideous passion of his heart, poison with his vile touch the beautiful creature whom he looked down upon as "only a woman"; but she , if she dared to overstep the line of propriety, and openly declare her love for another, she would be doomed to social ostracism, shunned and despised as a wanton, and out of the pale of decent society.
She did so dare! For six long years she bore with his brutal excess and depraved passions; for six long years she suffered the torture which only those who have so suffered can understand. Then she succumbed. It was a dark November evening when she met her fate. The Altais were in Scotland, entertaining a party of friends for the covert shooting in Lord Westray's splendid Wigtownshire preserves.
The guests had all arrived but one, and he put in an appearance when the remainder of the party had gone upstairs to dress for dinner. Lady Altai had waited for him, as he was momentarily expected, and on his arrival he had been ushered into the drawing-room. His name was Harry Kintore, a captain in a smart marching regiment. As she entered the drawing-room he was standing with his back to the fire, and their eyes met. Right through her ran a thrill, she knew not why or wherefore, while he, transfixed by her beauty, could not remove his eyes.
There have been such cases before of love at first sight. This was a case about which there could be no dispute; both felt it was so, both knew it to be beyond recall. How she struggled against her fate none can tell. With her husband's increased brutality the gentleness and devotion of young Kintore was all the more en evidence. And when at length he bade her fly with him beyond the reach of so much misery and cruelty, was it a wonder that she succumbed, and flew in the face of the law that bound her to the contrary? She left him, that cruel brute, who had made her life a desert and a hell.
She left him for one who to her was chivalrous and tender, loving and sympathetic. The world cried shame upon her, and spoke of Lord Altai as an injured man; the world ostracised her while it courted anew the fiend who had so grievously wronged her. A mere rencontre, that's all. Arthur and I have arranged a little lark, and I told him to meet me here. I knew you wouldn't mind. Gone off to his club. Thinks I've gone to get a gown tried on.
He, he! What fools men are! Of course I pretended to be awfully cut up, rubbed my eyes, got up a few tears and sniffs, got rid of him with a kiss or two, packed him off to his club, and at twelve o'clock Kil and I are off to Maidenhead together. This announcement creates the greatest amusement between the two ladies, judging by the peals of laughter that follow it. Why, I was with H. You can't think what a jolly day we had, Vivi. Some of the recitations were quite delightful, and there was a boy called Hector D'Estrange, who was simply too lovely for words.
We all fell in love with him, I can tell you. I never saw such eyes in my life. Won't he break some of our hearts some day! It appears he has taken the school by storm. Does everything tiptop. Splendid batsman, bowler, oarsman, wonderful at racquets, undefeatable at books — in fact, my dear, beautiful as an Adonis, and clever past expression. What fun, Dodo, it would have been to see my Adonis punching the overgrown bully!
I did laugh when Estcourt told me. I do so hate overgrown boys. Don't you, Dodo? Love to Kil. Don't let Trebby catch you, and a pleasant outing to you both;" saying which she is off out of the room, and running downstairs to meet her friend Sir Arthur Muster-Day, a smart young guardsman, whom it has pleased her for the time being to think that she likes better than any one else in the world. They are off together, happy in each other's company.
Sir Arthur is not married, and he thinks it just the thing to be seen about as much as possible in the company of one of London's newest belles. Lady Manderton doesn't care a rap for her husband, and is considerably bored that her husband evinces a certain amount of affection for her; she only married him for his money and position, and did not at all bargain for the affection part of the affair.
As for Vivi, after her friend is gone, she jumps up and rings for her maid. That important individual having made her appearance, she and Vivi are soon engrossed with the all-paramount question of the moment — dress. Half-a-dozen gowns are pulled out, put on, pulled off and discarded, until at length one appears to please more than the others. Vivi is satisfied. The gown remains on her person, and in a short time she is dressed and ready for her day's outing. Twelve o'clock strikes. A neat brougham dashes up to the door.
In less time almost than it takes to tell it, Vivi has taken her seat in the carriage, and is being whirled through the busy streets of London, en route to Captain Kilmarnock's rooms. There she will pick him up, and together they will proceed to Maidenhead, what to do God knows. We had better leave them. A few minutes later, and there is another ring at the door, and the footman opens it to Mr.
As he does so, the latter inquires —. Marie is called, and arrives all smiles and bows. C'est tout. He wanders down the street in the direction of St. He wonders if Vivi has forgotten the promise she made him that morning to lunch at home, and go for a ride with him afterwards. He so rarely sees her now, and when he does it is seldom alone. She never seems to have any time to give to him, and yet he is not brutal to her, or neglectful, or wrapped up in some one else, as many other men are.
He loves her so dearly, and would do anything to make her happy; but he can quite see how she shuns him, and how much happier she looks when in Captain Kilmarnock's company. And then, with a shudder, he starts and stares eagerly across the street, for there she is — yes, actually there she is, in Captain Kilmarnock's brougham, with the captain beside her, driving rapidly in the direction of Piccadilly.
Trevor has a strange lump in his throat as he ascends the steps of the Conservative and enters that roomy club. Trevor, as he throws himself wearily into a chair. The soda with its stiff complement of brandy arrives. It is mixed carefully by the waiter, and handed to the sad-hearted man.
He drinks it eagerly. He has not a strong head, and knows that he cannot take much, but he feels that oblivion must in this instance be sought, if possible, no matter how, so long as it is attained. The brandy, in a measure, has the desired effect. He feels it perforating through his body and mounting to his brain. Things don't look quite so gloomy to him now, and the loneliness of his position is less acutely felt.
Two men are talking to each other close by him. He knows one of them. I'm afraid I haven't time to just now. Trevor, leaning forward in his chair, "anything particularly clever? Didn't see you, old man. Every one is talking about it. It's deuced clever and original, whatever one may think of the opinions, and is clearly written by a lad who will make his mark in the world.
I want something to read," exclaims Mr. Trevor eagerly, reaching out his hand for the periodical, which the baronet passes to him good-naturedly. It is open at the page of honour, the first page in the book, and as Mr. Trevor scans the heading he reads it as follows: "Woman's Position in this World. By Hector D'Estrange, an Eton boy. And there are some parts to which he turns again and again, as though he would burn their truths into his brain, and keep them there never to be forgotten. One in especial rivets his attention, so much so that he commits it to memory.
Up to a certain age the treatment which she and her brother receive is exactly the same. Why, I ask, should there be ever any change in this treatment? Why should such a marked contrast be drawn later on between the sexes? Is it for the good of either that the girl should be both physically and mentally stunted, both in her intellect and body, — that she should be held back while the boy is pressed forward? Can it be argued with any show of reason that her capacity for study is less, and her power of observation naturally dwarfed in comparison with that of the boy? Certainly not.
I confidently assert that where a girl has fair play, and is given equal opportunities with the boy, she not only equals him in mental capacity, but far outruns him in such; and I also confidently assert, that given the physical opportunities afforded to the boy, to develop and expand, and strengthen the body by what are called 'manly exercises,' the girl would prove herself every inch his equal in physical strength. There are those, I know, who will sneer at these opinions, but in the words of Lord Beaconsfield, I can only asseverate that 'the time will come,' when those who sneer will be forced to acknowledge the truth of this assertion.
Why should the professions which men have arrogated to themselves be entirely monopolised by their sex, to the exclusion of women? I see no manner of reason why, if women received the same moral, mental, and physical training that men do, they should not be as fit — nay, infinitely more fit — to undertake the same duties and responsibilities as men. I do not see that we should be a wit less badly governed if we had a woman Prime Minister or a mixed Cabinet, or if women occupied seats in the Houses of Parliament or on the bench in the Courts of Justice.
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If you stunt the intellect, tell her nothing, and refuse to exercise the physical powers which Nature has given her, you must expect little from such an unfortunate creature. Put man in the same position in which you put woman, and he would be in a very short time just as mentally and physically stunted as she is. A high-spirited girl or woman will not, in every instance, accept this definition of her duties by man as correct.
That such a definition is clearly man's, it is not difficult to see, for woman would never have voluntarily condemned herself to a life of such inert and ambitionless duties as these. But so long as this definition of woman's duty and position be observed and accepted by Society, so long will this latter be a prey to all the evils and horrors that afflict it, and which are a result of woman's subjection and degradation.
Marriage is contracted in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred by women desirous of making for themselves a home, and because in no other quarter can they adopt agreeable and pleasant professions and occupations like men. Were it possible, they would either not have married, or at least have waited until, with the knowledge of man which they should possess — but which, unfortunately, nowadays comes to them only with marriage — they could select for themselves, with their eyes open, a partner suited to them in every respect.
As it is, what does one see? Women, especially in the higher grades of society, marry only to escape in many instances the prim restraints of home. Others marry for money and position, because they know that the portals, through which men may pass to try for these, are closed to them. The cruel laws by which men have shut women out from every hope of winning name and fame, are responsible for hundreds of wretched marriages, which have seared the world with their griefs.
If, in the narrow sphere within which she moves, a woman errs, let not the man blame her, but rather look to the abolition of unnatural laws which have brought about her degradation. Trevor sits very still in his chair. A flood of thoughts have come to fill his brain. They keep him very busy and occupied. The revelations thrown upon woman's position by the straightforward, truth-breathing article of Hector D'Estrange, have taken him by storm, and have completely revolutionised his ideas.
He has hitherto been so accustomed to look upon and treat women with the self-satisfied, conscious feeling of superiority assumed by men, that such ideas as these before him are startlingly strange and extraordinary. His position with Vivi, and hers in regard to him, presents itself now to his mind in a totally different light to that in which he has hitherto been accustomed to regard it. He remembers how he first met her hardly a year ago, a beautiful, lively, healthy girl, whose scheming mother, knowing no better, had thrust her into the busy mart, willing to sell her to the highest bidder.
He remembers how passionately he fell in love with this girl, how he never paused to ask himself if his love were returned. He recalls full well the bitter look that had crossed her face when he had asked her to be his wife, and the cold, matter-of-fact way in which she had accepted him. Then his thoughts fly back to his wedding day, and a shudder runs through Launcelot Trevor as he recalls the utter absence of love on her part towards him. And, remembering all this, he cannot but feel that Hector D'Estrange is right. If, in the narrow sphere within which poor Vivi had moved, she had, according to the notions of propriety laid down by Mrs.
Grundy, erred, Launcelot Trevor feels that the blame must rest not so much with her, as with the cruel laws that had left that beautiful girl no other option but to sell herself for gold; for be it remembered, she had been educated up to no higher level, been imbued with no better aim.
She had been taught that the only opening for a girl is to get herself well married, that while men could go forth into the world with a score of professions to choose from, she must for ever regard herself as shut out from that world of enterprise, daring, and fame, created, so says man, solely for himself. He sits on in his chair, his thoughts still busy with the new problem that has presented itself so startlingly to his mind.
The luncheon hour is far past, much of the afternoon has slipped away, still Launcelot Trevor remains where he had seated himself many hours before. Men keep coming in and out; friends and acquaintances nod to him as they pass. He scarcely heeds them, or pays attention to what they say. His mind is absorbed by the truths which he has faced for the first time. Suddenly he starts; the clock is striking seven. He remembers that at eight o'clock he and Vivi are engaged to dine out. He jumps up, bids the hall porter hail a hansom, and in a few minutes is being driven towards Piccadilly.
He walks slowly upstairs. All is very silent in the room mentioned. He stands on the threshold, hardly daring to open the door. He can hear a rustling inside, and, yes, unmistakably the sound of a kiss. He coughs audibly as he lays his hand on the door's handle. He can hear a scuffling of feet, and on entering perceives Vivi sitting bolt upright on the sofa, and Captain Kilmarnock apparently warming his hands over the fireplace.
Unfortunately there is no fire! She looks at him as he comes in, and for a moment their eyes meet. A bright flush rises to Vivi's cheeks. She expects to see him furious, as he had been that morning, and is surprised, nay, even awed by the sad expression on his face. Good-evening to you, Kilmarnock. Are you to be at Ferdey's to-night? Good-night, old chap.
Must go and dress. Vivi dear, don't be late. He goes out as he speaks, and closes the door behind him. Hector D'Estrange's words are still next his heart. He is hardly out of the room, when she looks up at Captain Kilmarnock. The scared expression is still in her face. You had better be off, old man.
Didn't hear the front door bell ring, did you? But you are right. I'd better be off. To-morrow at three. Don't forget. It is early yet, nevertheless the streets ring with the sound of trotting and cantering hacks, as well as the more sober paces of the strings of horses returning from exercise to their respective stables. People are coming and going at a rapid rate.
They nearly all seem to know each other, judging by the little nods, and "good-mornings," and suchlike familiar greetings with which friends meet, and in which these afore-mentioned personages indulge, as they hurry by each other. A party of horsemen and horsewomen are just riding out of the stables belonging to The Limes. They are laughing and talking merrily. We have seen two of the women before, and their names are Mrs. Close in attendance upon them are two smart good-looking men, whom we must introduce to the reader as Lord Charles Dartrey and the Earl of Westray.
The former appears to be entirely taken up with the first-named lady, the latter — already introduced to the reader in a former chapter as Lord Altai — with the last-named one. There is yet another pair in that cheery group that we must particularly notice. They are a man and woman, both young, both good-looking, and both unmistakably at home in the saddle.
If one can judge from appearances, the woman must be about twenty-two years of age, the man perhaps five or six years her senior. Both are mounted on grey horses, and both look every inch what they are, splendid equestrians. The woman is well known in Society's world, as also in the tiny hunting world of Melton. They trot through the streets at a merry pace, down past the Harborough Hotel, over the railway, away on by Wicklow Lodge, towards Burton Lazarus.
It is a beautiful morning, and the sun is shining brightly on the flats that lie below. Dalby Hall, nestling amidst its woods on the far hillside, stands out distinct and clear, with the same bright sun gleaming on its gables and windows. The others are a little on ahead, and these two have fallen in the rear.
Jack looks at the speaker with a smile. I never saw you looking better in my life. She flushes up. Florrie Desmond does not care about compliments, — she values them at their worth, — but she and Jack are fast friends, and she is not quite averse to them from him. She answers, however.
She is a clever woman is Flora Desmond, cleverer far than some people take her to be. Her bringing up has not been exactly like other women's, and she has always kicked against the restraints and restrictions put upon her sex. She is the daughter of the Marquis and Marchioness of Douglasdale, and an orphan, having lost her father at an early age.
Lady Douglasdale was, in her day, a very beautiful woman, a persona grata at Court, where her husband exercised the duties of Comptroller of the Household, and was a favourite with his sovereign; but after the marquis's death she took greatly to travelling, and thus it was that Flora Ruglen, in conjunction with her twin brother Archie, saw most of the great world of Europe before she was ten years of age.
Travelling expands the mind, and brightens the senses. It had this effect upon the girl, forming much of her character before its time. At that early age she exhibited peculiar characteristics. No one could get her to settle down to study under a governess; she loathed the sight of school books, and led her unfortunate preceptors a sad life; yet, in strange contradiction to so much wilfulness and apparent indolence, she was seldom without the companionship of a book in her play hours, and when not otherwise engaged with her brother, would invariably be found poring over these books, thirstily seeking knowledge, or committing to paper, in powerful language for one so young, the impressions of her youthful brain.
She had dreams had Flora Ruglen — dreams of a bright future, an adventurous career. The time had not arrived when the road which she and her twin brother had been pursuing, would branch off in different directions, his leading forth to opportunities of power, fame, and glory, hers along a lane, narrow and cramped, and with nothing to seek at the end, save that against which her bright independent spirit rebelled and revolted. But it came at last, when the companion of her happy childhood's days was taken from her, when Archie was sent to school, and she was left alone.
It came upon her with a suddenness which she found difficult to realise, and the blow was terrible. To describe what she suffered would be well-nigh impossible. Only those who by experience have learnt it, could be brought to understand the horror of her position. But Flora Ruglen, having faced it, brought all the courage of her nature to support it, though from that moment she became utterly changed. She had no one in whom to confide; neither her mother nor any one else would have understood her. With girls of her own age she had nothing in common, and they looked on her with awe as a proud, stuck-up being.
None could guess at the warm heart that beat beneath Flora Ruglen's apparently cold and reserved demeanour — except one, and that one was a boy of about her own age. She had made his acquaintance during the holidays, when Archie, home from school, had invited his "best pal" to spend them at Ruglen Manor, the beautiful dower property of Lady Douglasdale. It was with young Lord Estcourt that Archie Douglasdale had struck up so keen a friendship. The lads had been "new boys" at Eton together, and in the first strangeness of introduction to that boy's world had been thrown into each other's company a good deal, being in the same house, and, as in Flora's case, much of the same age.
She was interested in her brother's friend, inasmuch as he had lately lost his mother, and was an orphan. It did not take long for a firm friendship to spring up between the boy and girl. Nigel Estcourt was an only child, had never known what it was to have brothers and sisters, and was ready to look upon Flora in that light gladly enough.
He and she were a great deal in each other's company, and for the first time in her life she unloosed the cords of her heart, and told him of the trouble that had descended upon her life. He sympathised with her did young Nigel. How could he help it, being, as he was, the friend of Hector D'Estrange?
That extraordinary boy had risen to be head of the school. None could equal him at Eton, and his name had gone forth beyond the portals of the college as the coming man of his day. The article in the Free Review , which had first brought his name into prominence in the year , had created a good deal of discussion in many circles.
Of course it had been vigorously attacked. What great stroke aimed at Justice and Freedom but has ever been so opposed, hounded down, and decried? But truth is like a bright sun which no mortal power can dim. It may be clouded for a time, but it must shine forth and ultimately prevail. He had left Eton, gone to Oxford, and had there taken high honours.
He no sooner made his appearance in the world of fashion, politics, and letters, than he was received and courted everywhere. Never before had a youth risen so rapidly in the scale of success. He was undoubtedly the idol of his day, and in only twenty-one. It was extraordinary. Hector D'Estrange would marvel often at it himself. He had gone out into the world in what was mere childhood, prepared to combat with the many difficulties which he knew must beset his path. He was over modest was this boy. He had not sufficiently estimated his great and surpassing genius, but it had shone forth, been recognised and approved of, because he was a man.
To return to Flora Ruglen. At the age of eighteen she lost her mother, and the guardianship of the girl devolved on her aunt, a giddy, worldly woman, the late marquis's sister, and Countess of Dunderfield. No two women could have been more diametrically opposite then these two, no two characters more unlike.
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Briefly, and to cut the matter short, Lady Dunderfield insisted on taking Flora into Society, and set herself to bring about a match between the high-souled, high-spirited girl, and the Duke of Dovetail, a rich old monstrosity, whose rent-roll was nigh on a million, and whose body was afflicted by almost every disease under the sun. Had the girl been in a position to map out her own line of life, what a different tale might now be told!
She was not. The law denied her the right to choose her future; it curtailed her line of action within certain bounds. What could she do? The odds were against her, and she sought refuge through the first outlet that presented itself. This outlet was in the shape of a young baronet, a youth of twenty-one. He thought himself very much in love with Lady Flora Ruglen. He proposed, and she accepted him. Lady Dunderfield forbade Sir Reginald Desmond the house. The young people took French leave of her, fled to Scotland, and were married, and Lady Dunderfield, green with disappointment and rage, had to accept the fact.
Had she erred in the step she took? Perhaps so. What other alternative had she? Had the law permitted her to go out into the world and adopt the profession of her choice, there is little doubt that ere this Flora Ruglen would have made a great name for good.
He pretends to be offended at her remark does Jack Delamere, and pulls his horse a little away from her own. She notices the movement, and laughs lightly, as she urges her animal alongside him, and taps him gently on the shoulder with her whip. Look at those two riding over the fence alongside the brook. Who are they, I wonder? The woman can ride, it is easy enough to see that. They are just turning to the left through the gate leading to the Steeplechase Course on the Burton Flats, and as Jack Delamere's eyes follow the direction indicated by Flora Desmond, he at once perceives two mounted figures, galloping up the course in the direction of the grand stand.
One is a man, the other a woman. As Flora Desmond has declared, the woman can ride. She sits her horse straight as a dart. He is pulling a bit, but she has him well in hand, and he is not likely to get away with her. Is the world coming to an end, or am I dreaming? But who is she? It may be explained that this is the morning of the Melton Hunt Steeplechases, and that this party has ridden over early to the course to go round the fences, and inspect them severally.
They had bargained on being the first in the field, but now perceive that they have been forestalled by Hector D'Estrange and his companion. He is an admirer of women, and it is easy to perceive, even at the distance which separates the party from the stranger, that she is a fine one.
They all gallop down to the stand, riding along in a row towards Hector and his friend. He sees them coming, and says something to her, and Flora notices that she brings her horse closer to his side. Trevor and Lady Manderton are all eyes and stare as they pass the two. Hector has raised his hat politely, and wished them a good-morning. His face is flushed with the exercise of riding, his rich auburn hair shines out like gold in the sunlight, his glorious eyes, dark in their sapphire-blue, look particularly winning and beautiful.
But it is with his companion that the eyes of the others are busy. They are all struck by her extreme loveliness, and are loud in wonder as to who she is. Only Lord Westray is silent; white as a sheet, too. It is years since he set eyes on Lady Altai, and now he sees again, after a long lapse of time, the woman whom he so grievously wronged more than twenty-two years before — his divorced wife, Speranza de Lara.
He has of late been, by the way, making up to her. She has got tired of Sir Arthur Muster-Day, and has shelved him for the "wicked earl," by which name Lord Westray is known in Society circles. Trevor, too, though she still sticks to Kil, and makes him believe that she is as devoted to him as ever, has managed to hook on to herself several other devoted swains, to all of whom in turn she expresses a mint of devotion, while really feeling not the slightest affection for any of them.
She has played her part well, however, for they each severally believe themselves to be " the favoured man" in her good graces. I never saw lovelier, unless perhaps Hector D'Estrange's. What a handsome pair the two make! Cunning dog, young Hector, to have kept her out of sight so long. Now we can understand why he is so cold to women. Of course that's where his heart is, without doubt," answers Jack Delamere, with a smile. The meeting will long be remembered by the unparalleled success of Mr.
Hector D'Estrange, who, riding in the six races printed on the card for competition, came in first, the winner of every one of them. This success is all the more remarkable, inasmuch as four of the winners were non-favourites, so that the wins must be ascribed to the splendid horsemanship of their jockey. The feat is unparalleled, the nearest approach to it being when Captain 'Doggie' Smith in carried off all the races on the card except one, being defeated in a match which closed the day's proceedings between Lord Hastings' Memory, and Lord James Douglas' The General.
Such is the announcement chronicled in a well-known weekly sporting paper a few days after the Melton Hunt Steeplechases of , scoring yet another triumph on the path of thoroughness for Hector D'Estrange. They are standing facing each other are the speakers — one a beautiful, tall, graceful woman, with masses of rich gold hair coiled upon her noble head, and eyes whose light is like the turquoise gem, the other a middle-sized, handsome, good-looking man, whose dark eyes gleam with fury and disappointed passion.
We have seen them both before, this man and woman, seen them on more than one occasion; for it is not difficult to recognise in that evil-featured man the person of Lord Westray, or in that beautiful woman that of Speranza de Lara. He has come here for no good purpose has the "wicked earl. Twice in her life Speranza had defied him, and on each occasion he had had his revenge.
The first was when, as a girl of seventeen, she had refused him, and he, through the instrumentality of his cruel mother, who had played on her love for her brothers, had forced her to become his wife. The second was when, in defiance of man's laws, she had fled from his vile brutality and hateful presence, with the first and last love of her young life, poor Harry Kintore; and he, following up those two to the sunny land where they had sought a refuge, and where they asked for no other boon but to be allowed to live with and for each other, had shot down in her very presence the man to save whom she would have given a thousand lives of her own.
And now he is here, oblivious of all his past brutality, to insult her with yet another proposal, one more hideous than any he has ever made before.
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Consumed with passion for this woman, who had defied him, he has actually come to propose that she shall forget the past and re-marry him! Forget the past! Is it likely? Will the memory of her suffering childhood ever pass away? Will the recollection of her wedding day fade from her mind? Will the six years of torture as his wedded wife disappear like a dream? Above all, can she ever forget her first meeting with Harry Kintore, the heart's awakening that came with it, or the terrible moment when, struck down at her feet, his dear eyes looked their love for the last time?
He grinds his teeth with rage does Lord Westray as her clear, sad voice distinctly gives him his answer. He is racking his brain for a means of overcoming her, and forcing her once more to obey his will. The fact that she defies him, hates him, loathes him, has refused him, only arouses in him more madly than ever the desire to become possessed of her once again.
Lord Westray possesses, in a heightened degree, in an aggravated form, the characteristic peculiar to all men, of desiring that which is either hard to get, or which denies itself to them, and which, if once obtained, fades in value in their eyes. It is Speranza's resistance to his wishes that fires him with the fury of a wild animal to regain her. Have I not been a match for you twice?
She shudders with horror as she hears his cold-blooded words, triumphing at his past deeds of brutality and crime. She pulls herself together, however. She is alone with him, and must keep him at bay. Speranza is no coward. I am beyond the reach of your vengeance now. Nothing you can do can harm me. She starts, and the rich blood flushes to her face as she eyes him with evident terror.
Can it be that he knows? He notes the start, the crimson blush, and the look of terror, and he congratulates himself on having, by a chance shot, hit on the right point to cow her. I congratulate you on your new conquest. You have aimed high. He is the rising man of his day, and you have thrown your net well to catch the golden fish. Are you not ashamed of yourself, however, woman, — you who are over the forties, to take up with a boy of twenty-one? She flushes again. Then he does not know? Thank God for that! How young she looks as she stands there in her unfading beauty, with a look in her blue eyes of contemptuous loathing.
She will let him believe what he likes, so that he does not know the truth; that is all she desires to hide from him. I am not ashamed to own it. Neither he nor I require your advice, however, as to how our friendship is to be conducted. And now I bid you leave me. I order you from my house, which I inhabit not by your charity. He notices a flash on one of the fingers. All the others are ringless but this one, and on it sparkles two splendid diamonds and sapphires set deep in their broad thick band of gold.
He knows this ring of old. He saw it long ago, when she held the dying head of Harry Kintore in her hands, and he knows that it was the young man's gift to her. That she should wear it, now that she has taken up with Hector D'Estrange, mystifies him. He is about to reply, when the door of the room they are in opens, and Lord Westray finds himself face to face with Hector. He is a head and shoulders taller than the earl is this young man, and as he advances into the room the latter's face falls slightly, and his fingers move nervously by his side. Like all bullies, Lord Westray is a coward, and doesn't half fancy his position.
But there is no angry look in Hector D'Estrange's eyes; only from their sapphire depths looks out a cold, calm expression of contempt. Allow me to inform you that this honour is not desired by Mrs. Your brougham is at the door. I must request you to seek it. He says no more, but stands with the handle of the door in his hand, waiting for the earl to obey. This latter looks at him fiercely, the eyes of the two meet.
Those of the bully and depraved coward cannot face the calm, disdainful look of Hector D'Estrange; they fall before it, and in another moment the earl is gone. They listen to the wheels of the departing brougham as it rattles through the streets in the direction of South Kensington. As its echoes die away the young man turns to Speranza. Ah, mother! God only knows the strain I put upon myself, or I would have shot him down where he stood, the brute, the fiend!
I nearly lost control of myself, but I heard your last words, and understood what you were striving to hide from him. Thank God I did, or in a hasty moment I might have laid bare our secret. At one moment I fancied he was in possession of it, but I quickly found out that he was on another tack. Horrible as the idea was, it was better to let him foster it, than to give him a chance of learning the truth. Ah, Gloria dearest! And she has worked well has Gloria de Lara, patiently and perseveringly, never losing an opportunity, never casting a chance aside. Her beauty and her genius have gone straight to the hearts of men, and she uses these gifts given her by God, not for vain glory and fleeting popularity, but in pursuit of justice and in furtherance of the one great aim of her life.
Tell me, my precious child," she continues, laying her hand on Gloria's shoulder, and kissing her gently on the forehead, "how have you got on with the clubs to-day? I came to tell you all about them, or I should not have been here until to-morrow," answers Gloria, as she seats herself on a low stool at her mother's feet. It is the middle of May, the sun is shining brightly, and the sparrows are hopping and chirping merrily about in the square outside.
The early green on the trees is as yet unclouded by the dust of London's busy season, and all is fair, and soft, and young to look upon. The large fortune and noble estates left to Speranza de Lara by young Harry Kintore have been well and wisely wielded by the woman, in whose heart the memory of her darling still shines as brightly as on the day he died.
She has never misspent a farthing of the vast wealth that he confided to her care. It has been used in carrying out philanthropic works, alleviating suffering, and helping on the accomplishment of their child's design, his child and hers. They are busy over a new one just now. With her mother's money at her command, Gloria, under the name of Hector D'Estrange, is establishing throughout London, and in the different large towns of Great Britain and Ireland, institutions where women and girls can meet each other, and for a mere nominal fee learn to ride, to shoot with gun and rifle, to swim, to run, and to indulge in the invigorating influences of gymnastics and other exercises, calculated to strengthen and improve the physique of those taking part therein.
Classes, too, technical and otherwise, for the education of girls and women on an equality with boys and men, as well as free libraries, form part of these institutions, each of which, as it is founded, becomes crowded to overflowing. In connection with these institutions Gloria has lately set on foot clubs, the members of which she is forming into volunteer companies, who are drilled by the hand of discipline into smartness and efficiency.
The movement has been enthusiastically taken up by the women of Great Britain and Ireland, thousands of whom have been enrolled in these volunteer forces. Of course Hector D'Estrange has his enemies. The jealous and the narrow-minded; the old fogies who would have a great wrong continue for ever, rather than fly in the face of prejudice to right it; the women who love their degradation and hug their chains; the men who think the world must be coming to an end if women are to be acknowledged as their equals, have all fought tooth and nail against the splendid idea and the practical conception of Hector D'Estrange.
Ridicule, abuse, calumny, false testimony, have been hurled against his giant work. They have each and all failed to disturb or harm it, for its foundation is built on the rock of justice, of right, and of nature. All the details for a big review have been discussed. We shall want two good years more to get everything efficiently arranged, when I calculate that Hector D'Estrange will be able to bring into the field quite , well-drilled troops. But I am in no hurry yet; there is still much to be done. And now I have some more news to give you, mother.
I have been invited to stand by the Douglasdale division of Dumfriesshire for Parliament, and to contest the seat when Mr. Reform resigns. I saw Archie Douglasdale to-day; he has promised to give me all his support. And what do you think, mother? Why, his sister, Lady Flora Desmond, has joined our new club. It is to be called the Desmond Lodge, and I have put her in command of it. Although I have many a good and true lieutenant thoroughly in touch with my ideas in our volunteer force, there is not one that can come up to Lady Flora. She will be a mountain of help to me, and I know I can trust her.
I could trust her even with our secret. It was only an allegory, to give you an idea of my high opinion of her. But, till the right time comes, our secret will be with me as silent as the grave. They talk on, busy with their plans, hopeful of the future, and what it is to bring, do these two women. The afternoon flits by, the chirp of the sparrows grows dull, the sun is sinking aslant the roofs of the opposite houses, the evening is creeping on apace. Gloria de Lara rises from her seat, and throws her arms around Speranza's neck.
Good-night, my precious mother. Kiss Gloria before she goes. And the girl passes out from her mother's presence into the silent square. She is echoing Speranza's prayer, and is pulling herself together, for out of that mother's presence she has her part to play. There is yet another scene at which we must glance before this chapter closes.
Let us enter Lord Westray's house in Grosvenor Square. He is in the drawing-room pacing up and down, his face dark with anger and passion. A footman enters, bearing on a massive silver salver a tiny scented bijou note. He hands the missive respectfully to his lordship, who takes it impatiently. Gives her another week before they sez good-morning to each other," he soliloquises to himself as he goes downstairs. As he does so. Lord Westray opens the note. It is from Lady Manderton, and runs as follows: —. Man's away, and we will have some fun.
Have asked several kindred spirits. Shall look for you at ten. She was all very well a little while ago, but nothing will satisfy me but Speranza now. I will have her or nobody; and if I don't have her, I will have what's next best, revenge. Lady Manderton gets the note a quarter of an hour later, and bites her lip as she reads it. My next man is Spicer. He's rich, he's good-looking, he's awfully in love, and he'll be very useful. He'll do. She sits down and writes another note.
It is addressed to the Hon. Amias Spicer, Grenadier Guards. She sends him the same sort of Invitation which she sent to Lord Westray. It is not long before an answer comes back. Amias Spicer is in the seventh heaven. He will be sure to come. The noble owner, Evelyn, Duke of Ravensdale, is giving a ball this night, to which all the pearl of London society has been bidden.
Flocks of royalties have been also invited, and nearly all have signified their intention of being present. It is a wonderful sight as one drives up to the entrance gates of the great mansion, which is ablaze with light. Every window is neatly framed in soft green moss, from out of which fairy lamps peep and sparkle like thousands of glow-worms. Festoons of roses twine around the porch pillars of the great front door, and the scene that greets the eye on entry almost baffles description.
Floating throughout the corridors and vestibules come the soft sounds of dreamy music, the atmosphere is redolent with the sweet scent of rare and lovely flowers, the place is a wilderness of beautiful sights, as up and down the broad flights of the magnificent staircase well-known men and women come and go. A burst of martial music ever and anon heralds the approach of royalty.
As each successive arrival takes place, the brilliant crowd sways to and fro to catch a sight of the gods which it adores. Above, the sound of lively strains announces that dancing has begun, and every one hurries to take part in the measure of the light fantastic toe. The dance music has suddenly ceased.
Every one has turned to ascertain the cause. The noble host is observed to be making for the centre of the magnificent suite of rooms where every one is enjoying his or herself. He carries in his hand a telegram, and with the other hand slightly raised, appears to be enjoining silence. Very striking to look at is Evelyn, Duke of Ravensdale. His age may be between twenty-five and twenty-six. He is very tall and broad-shouldered, his hair, dark as the raven's wing, close curls about his forehead, which is high, and white, and intellectual. His eyes are also very dark, with a soft, dreamy look in them, his mouth firm set and well made, is sheltered by a long silken moustache.
Silence has sunk on all around. One might hear a pin drop so intense has it become. Every one is on a tiptoe of expectation. The sight of that telegram has set every heart beating. This is a telegram from my dear friend, Hector D'Estrange. He has beaten his opponent by 2, votes, and is now member for the Douglasdale division of Dumfriesshire. What a shout goes up! Men and women cheer again and again. It is felt that the pinnacle of fame on which that young man rests has gone up higher in the scale of merited success. Even his enemies cannot help feeling glad, for Hector D'Estrange is a name to conjure by.
She looks at him earnestly as she replies,. He has set all you women discontented with your lot; he has lit a fire which won't be readily extinguished. Mark my words, he'll burn his fingers over it yet, if he don't take care. He has won the devoted, undying love of hundreds, nay, thousands and tens of thousands of women, for his brave, chivalrous exposure of their wrongs, and defence of their rights. The music has recommenced; a dreamy waltz is sounding through the room; every one has begun dancing again.
Only the dowagers are at rest.
Not a man appears unoccupied. Yes, one is, though. It is the young Duke of Ravensdale himself. He is leaning against a bank of moss and roses apparently watching the busy throng. There is a far-away look in his eyes, however, which tells that his thoughts have flown beyond the giddy pastime of the hour.
He is thinking of his friend's latest triumph, and what will be the outcome of it all. For Evelyn Ravensdale's heart has gone out to Hector D'Estrange, and he loves him with that devoted, admiring love which some men have been known to inspire in others. Moreton Savage; "one would think there wasn't a pretty girl in the room, or a heart aching for him, by the way he stands there doing nothing and saying nothing.
I can't think what makes him so shy and reserved. He was all fire just now when he was telling us of Hector D'Estrange's triumph! Moreton Savage does look at him, but she is just as far from making him out as her friend Lady Tabbycat is. Moreton Savage is a dame whose mind has never soared beyond the fitting on of a dress, the making of matches, and the desirability of knowing all the best people in society. She has worked assiduously with those aims in view, and has the satisfaction of knowing that she has been more or less successful.
Such a thought as the condition of society, and the people in the past, present, and future, has never entered her brain. She is quite content that things should go on exactly as they are, that there should be immense riches on one side, intense misery and poverty on the other. Such problems as the relation of man and woman in this world, and the terrible evils arising out of the false position of the sexes, has never troubled her.
She has no wish to see mankind perfected, or to place Society on a higher level and basis than it is. There is just this difference, therefore, between herself and the man whom she and Lady Tabbycat are discussing, and that is that he does. Often and often have the young duke and Hector D'Estrange discussed these problems together in their early morning rides or cosy after-dinner chats. It is Hector D'Estrange who has converted him to his present way of thinking. He had come into his property a sufficiently self-conceited, spoilt young man; with the world at his feet, men and women angling for his favours, as many will do to the highborn and the rich.
He had never paused to wonder what he should do with his money, and position, and power. He was preparing himself to enjoy life in the only way which up till then he had viewed as possible, when a fateful chance threw him in the path of Hector D'Estrange. Men wondered at the change in the young Duke of Ravensdale. It was such a sudden one; they could not make it out; it mystified them altogether. Some put it down to love, and wondered who was the lucky one. He has roused himself from his dreams with a shake and a start, and is standing upright now.
A boy is passing close by him, a boy with pretty curling brown hair and large hazel eyes, a boy in whose face laughter and happiness are shining brightly, a boy whose life so far has been sunshine perpetual, without the storm and the hurricane. It would hardly be possible to find two brothers more extremely unlike than Evelyn, Duke of Ravensdale, and his younger and only brother, Lord Bernard Fontenoy. No one looking at the two standing together would take them to be related, certainly not so closely as they are. I have business that calls me away. Now, do you think, Bernie, that I can trust your giddy head to see to everything in my absence?
I suppose if you're away I shall have to take in the Princess to supper, sha'n't I? Do you think Her Royal Highness will put up with a jackanapes like me? Anyhow, you must do your best. Go and make my excuses to the Prince — A sudden business calls me away; I will be back as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, my boy, do your best to take my place. I am sure I can trust you. He lays his hand gently on the boy's shoulder as he turns to go.
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But IS he evil? Is there not a theorem which suggests that rule-governed sweet young things will in fact overinvest in the rule and, if you could selectively induce "rule disengagement," human welfare might rise? But no…that theorem was refuted some time ago. Can he still be saved by a good woman? Indeed there are so many good women out there and yet not one has saved him to date. Poor Roissy. Poor, poor Roissy. Bear in mind that younger women barring a few notable golddigger exceptions are not as practical as older women. They are more whimsical, flirty, passionate, and romantic, and this means you will get more mileage having a youthful outlook, being recklessly spontaneous, maintaining a high level of energy, and focusing on the emotional connections, than you would tempting them with the allure of financial stability and security.
Alex Tabarrok Email Alex Follow atabarrok. Tyler Cowen Email Tyler Follow tylercowen.