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“I beg your pardon. Do I- Oh yes -do I admit that I am a fool ? Certain. ly,” he answers, a little confused. “I think women ought to have everything that is rare and costly and luxurious, particularly if they are handsome and elegant.”
“I don't follow you there,” interposes Mr. Vivian. “If a woman is handsome and elegant, what does she want of adventitious circumstances ? Give the adornments to the plain and ill-formed, who need them.”
“Oh, I would give them to the whole sex, if it were in my power,” says Guy. “ They are all charming in some way or other.” And he feels honestly as if he thought so for the moment, after another stolen glance at Mrs. Scarlett, who is exercising a sort of witchery over him.
“My dear fellow, you must be very VOL. I.
much in love with one woman to have such rose-coloured sentiments towards the whole
"I!” And, to his intense disgust, Guy feels himself blushing like a school-girl.
“Your face betrays you,” laughs Mrs. Vivian. “Come-confess, Guy. Was there not some lovely young woman who kept you all that long time in Rouen ?” . “Indeed,” stammers Guy, feeling vexed, for some unaccountable reason, at the allusion being made before Mrs. Scarlett; but her soft voice interrupts
“Do tell me about Rouen. I have always wanted to go there so much. I don't know why I never accomplished the wish."
Guy is on the verge of proposing to make a party and go there—of offering to be her cicerone ; but the sudden thought of Dolores stops him. He scarcely knows
why, but he feels as if it would be cruel to her to return to Rouen with another woman. So he merely tells his questioner about the places of interest to be seen, dwelling particularly on the curious old Eau de Robec.
“Milly," interrupts Mrs. Vivian, “we promised to be at Madame Chiffon's at half-past two."
“So we did. I will put on my bonnet," Milly says, rising. “Shall we persuade your husband and Sir Guy to go with us, and give us the benefit of their taste ?” with a saucy look at Mr. Vivian.
“I'm an awfully good judge of bonnets,” says Guy eagerly, hoping she means it seriously.
"Pshaw!" cries Charles Vivian; "come with me, and I'll show you something worth looking at. I'm going over the Emperor's stables."
“Good-bye,” Milly says, smiling.
Guy feels horribly disappointed that she has not given him her hand at parting; for the last ten minutes he has been won. dering if she will. Half the sunshine seems to have fled from the room with her. She has not been gone five seconds when he wants to see her again.
“Mrs. Vivian,” he says eagerly, as he is left alone with her for a few moments, “do take compassion on me. I am here all by myself. Won't you let me be your escort sometimes, when you want to go to a theatre, or anywhere? I know Vivian isn't very keen about that sort of thing."
" Thanks-yes ; I shall be very glad. I often want some one to take care of me. That comes of being an old married woman.” (With a sigh.) “Mrs. Scarlett is a charming widow, so of course she has dozens of men to look after her.”
This speech envelops Guy as with a
damp blanket. To be Mrs. Vivian's escort while dozens of men, curse them ! are surrounding this woman who has so strangely fascinated him !
"I shall be charmed !” he makes answer, a little drearily. “When may I begin ?"
“ To-night, if you like,” responds Mrs. Vivian, giving him her hand with a coquettish smile. Poor little woman! she is pleased at the thought of having such a stalwart, good-looking young fellow in attendance upon her.
A sunny gleam comes across her of the old times when she had half a score of lovers ready to her hand. What a fearful thing it is for a woman who has beauty, and no resources within herself, to pass the halcyon days of la première jeunesse !
And Guy is trying to smile, and wishing frantically that the little plump jewelled hand in his were the lithe white fingers he watched across the lunch table.