“Do you suppose that a man happy enough to wear Lady Guenevere’s colors could lose? An embroidered scarf given by such hands has been a gage of victory ever since the days of tournaments!” murmured Cecil with the softest tenderness, but just enough laziness in the tone and laughter in the eye to make it highly doubtful whether he was not laughing both at her and at himself, and was wondering why the deuce a fellow had to talk such nonsense. Yet she was Lady Guenevere, with whom he had been in love ever since they stayed together at Belvoir for the Croxton Park week the autumn previous; and who was beautiful enough to make their “friendship” as enchanting as a page out of the “Decamerone.” And while he bent over her, flirting in the fashion that made him the darling of the drawing-rooms, and looking down into her superb Velasquez eyes, he did not know, and if he had known would have been careless of it, that afar off, while with rage, and with his gaze straining on to the course through his race-glass, Ben Davis, “the welsher,” who had watched the finish—watched the “Guards’ Crack” landed at the distance—muttered, with a mastiff’s savage growl:
“He wins, does he? Curse him! The d——d swell—he shan’t win long.”
Love A la mode.
Life was very pleasant at Royallieu.
It lay in the Melton country, and was equally well placed for Pytchley, Quorn, and Belvoir, besides possessing its own small but very perfect pack of “little ladies,” or the “demoiselles,” as they were severally nicknamed; the game was closely preserved, pheasants were fed on Indian corn till they were the finest birds in the country, and in the little winding paths of the elder and bilberry coverts thirty first-rate shots, with two loading-men to each, could find flock and feather to amuse them till dinner, with rocketers and warm corners enough to content the most insatiate of knickerbockered gunners. The stud was superb; the cook, a French artist of consummate genius, who had a brougham to his own use and wore diamonds of the first water; in the broad beech-studded grassy lands no lesser thing than doe and deer ever swept through the thick ferns in the sunlight and the shadow; a retinue of powdered servants filled the old halls, and guests of highest degree dined in its stately banqueting room, with its scarlet and gold, its Vandykes and its Vernets, and yet—there was terribly little money at Royallieu with it all. Its present luxury was purchased at the cost of the future, and the parasite of extravagance was constantly sapping, unseen, the gallant old Norman-planted oak of the family-tree. But then, who thought of that? Nobody. It was the way of the House never to take count of the morrow. True, any one of them would have died a hundred deaths rather than have had one acre of the beautiful green diadem of woods felled by the ax of the timber contractor, or passed to the