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      She is a block of wooda stone! she murmured. You will have hard work to secure her. You will never do it, meeting her only in places like this. Take them for a drive to-morrow. Get her alone with you. gentility

      Who could it be? Fair? And the gentleman?

      Oh! he? said Lord Selvaine. That is a nephew of mine. A very good fellow indeed.It has been said more than once that Esmeralda was one of the loveliest daughters of Eve; Trafford was a son of Adam. The blood surged tumultuously in his veins, his arms tightened round her, and he whispered her name.

      Mrs. Disney hated the great red-brick porch, with its vaulted roof and monstrous iron lantern, and the bell which made such a clamour, as if it meant fire, or at least dinner, when she touched the hanging brass handle. She hated to find herself face to face with a tall footman, who hardly condescended to say whether his mistress were at home or not, but just preceded her languidly along the broad corridor, where the carpet was so thick that it felt like turf, and flung open the drawing-room door with an air, and pronounced her name into empty space, so remote were the half-dozen ladies at the other end of the room, clustered round Belinda's tea-table, and fed with cake by Alicia, while Mrs. Crowther sat in the window a little way off, with her basket of woolwork at her side, and her fat[Pg 40] somnolent pug lying at her feet. To Isola it was an ordeal to have to walk the length of the drawing-room, navigating her course amidst an archipelago of expensive thingsFlorentine tables, portfolios of engravings, Louis Seize Jardinires, easels supporting the last expensive etching from Goupil'sto the window where Mrs. Crowther waited to receive her, rising with her lap full of wools, to shake hands with simple friendliness and without a vestige of style. Belinda shook hands on a level with the tip of her sharp retrouss nose, and twirled the silken train of her tea-gown with the serpentine grace of Sarah Bernhardt. She prided herself on those serpentine movements and languid graces which belong to the Gr?co-Belgravian period; while Alicia held herself like a ramrod, and took her stand upon being nothing if not sporting. Her olive-cloth gown and starched collar, her neat double-soled boots and cloth gaiters, were a standing reproach to Belinda's silken slovenliness and embroidered slippers, always dropping off her restless feet, and being chased surreptitiously among her lace and pongee frillings. Poor Mrs. Crowther disliked the Guard's collar, which she felt was writing premature wrinkles upon her younger girl's throat, but she positively loathed the loose elegance of the Indian silk tea-gown, with its wide Oriental sleeves, exhibiting naked arms to the broad daylight. That sloppy raiment made a discord in the subdued harmony of the visitors' tailor-made gownswell worn some of thembrown, and grey, and indigo, and russet; and Mrs. Crowther was tortured by the conviction that her elder daughter looked disreputable. This honest matron was fond of Isola Disney. In her own simple phraseology, she had "taken to her;" and pressed the girl-wife to come every Thursday afternoon."You have such an excellent nurse, Mrs. Disney, that I consider my position almost a sinecure," he said, smiling at the faithful Tabitha, who stood waiting for his instructions, and who never forgot the minutest detail.

      Isnt it a terrible fuss! she said, with a smile, as she put up her lips for him to kiss.

      The air was clear and cool upon this height, although the city below showed dimly through a hazy veil of almost tropical heat. Everywhere there was the odour of summer flowers, the overpowering sweetness of lilies of the valley, and great branches of lilac, white and purple, brimming over in the baskets of the flower-sellers.



      She drew nearer to him, and laying her hand upon his arm, looked up into his face with a yearning misery which made his heart ache; for what man can look unmoved upon the face of a woman whose unhappiness he has caused?


      Dont you know? said Esmeralda, rather unreasonably.CHAPTER XVIII.