“But you won’t let them over-persuade you; you won’t be induced to listen to them, will you? Promise me you won’t?” he asked, anxiously.
Vera looked up frankly into his face and smiled.
“I give you my word of honour I will not marry Mr. Gisburne,” she answered; and then she added, laughingly, “You had no business to make me betray that poor man’s secrets.”
And then Sir John laughed too, and, changing the subject, asked her if she would like to ride a little bay mare he had that he thought would carry her. Vera said she would think of it, with the air of a young queen accepting a favour from a humble subject; and Sir John thanked her as heartily as though she had promised him some great thing.
“Now, suppose we go and find Hoggs’ cottage,” she said, smiling. And they turned back towards the village.
A SOIREE AT WALPOLE LODGE.
When the lute is broken,
Sweet notes are remembered not;
When the lips have spoken,
Loved accents are soon forgot.
As music and splendour
Survive not the lamp and the lute,
The heart’s echoes render
No song when the spirit is mute.
About three miles from Hyde Park Corner, somewhere among the cross-roads between Mortlake and Kew, there stands a rambling, old-fashioned house, within about four acres of garden, surrounded by a very high, red-brick wall. It is one of those houses of which there used to be scores within the immediate neighbourhood of London—of which there still are dozens, although, alas! they are yearly disappearing to make room for gay rows of pert, upstart villas, whose tawdry flashiness ill replaces the sedate respectability of their last-century predecessors. But, uncoveted by the contractor’s lawless eye, untouched by the builder’s desecrating hand, Walpole Lodge stands on, as it did a hundred years ago, hidden behind the shelter of its venerable walls, and half smothered under masses of wisteria and Virginia creeper. On the wall, in summer time, grow countless soft green mosses, and brown, waving grasses. Thick masses of yellow stonecrop and tufts of snapdragon crown its summit, whilst the topmost branches of the long row of lime-trees within come nodding sweet-scented greetings to the passers-by along the dusty high road below.
But in the winter the wall is flowerless and the branches of the lime-trees are bare, and within, in the garden, there are only the holly-trees and the yew-hedge of the shrubbery walks, and the empty brown flower-beds set in the faded grass. But winter and summer alike, old Lady Kynaston holds her weekly receptions, and thither flock all the wit, and the talent, and the fashion of London. In the summer they are garden parties, in the winter they become evening receptions. How she manages it no one can quite tell; but so it is, that her rooms are always crowded,