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will at some period or another ask themselves, “ Was he in love ?" It was not a difficult question to answer, as young men seldom propose it to their hearts until they are ready to answer in the affirmative; and now Augustus firmly persuaded himself that to marry Alice Lemington was essential to his happiness.
Lady Cunnington and Alice returned to the drawing-room at the same time, and Lord Sevridge joined the group, Lord Cunnington arriving a few moments later.
“ Lady Cassel's ball is to be a splendid affair, I hear,” said Lord Cunnington.
“ So I believe,” said Lord Sevridge, “ and there is one fair lady here present who is the subject of much conversation."
" Alice, receive your bright laurels,” said Lady Cunnington, playfully. “ And pray, my lord, what do they say of my pretty country flower ?”
“ They say that when country flowers are
transported to London they bloom brightly and beautifully; and they further, assert that the person Miss Lemington dances with first will be considered a very favoured hero.”
“How truly absurd,” cried Alice, involuntarily wearing an expression of mixed pride and disdain, “ as if women have anything to say, save 'yes,' when they are asked to dance. And pray, Lord Sevridge, who has told you this egregious folly?”
“ I believe I heard it from Miss Grey."
There was a pause ; a crimson blush covered Alice's face as young Cunnington raised his eyes to hers—a convulsed feeling of sadness crossed her heart, she extended her hand to Lord Sevridge, and she said,
“My lord, excuse the boldness of the question, will you dance the first quadrille with me?”
“ And be called the favoured one?”
“Yes, if you like to believe Miss Grey's frivolity.”
“I am too old to dance with a young girl.”
“ No, no, my lord, you cannot refuse me; if you do, I will not dance a single quadrille all the evening.”
Lady Cunnington pressed Alice's hand within hers, and she whispered a few words to Lord Sevridge. The latter looked at Alice half fondly, half sadly, and he consented to dance with her.
Young Cunnington turned to the table, pretending to look at a drawing, he offered his arm in silence to Alice, and they descended to the drawing-room.
“ How very cruel of you to act as you have done,” said Augustus, bending over the grapes he was offering Alice.
“Not cruel, but wise, Mr. Cunnington.” “ Wise to favour Lord Sevridge.”
“ He is too old to be the subject of silly conjectures."
“Men are never too old to admire a lovely girl.”
“ I am growing weary of flattery,” said Alice, pettishly; “no man can win my heart by talking of beauty. What is beauty ? You will see how lovely my white camellias will look this evening ; but they will be faded ere another sun has risen. Do you understand what I mean ?”
“That beauty fades, but the mind—”.
“A mind of eighteen years is yet in a baby existence, for no girl knows her mind much before sixteen, if she does then ; that which pleases a girlish mind one day is no more favoured the next : mine has not been proved yet. I have no faith in its impulses until it has at least risen above some trial.”
“ I never heard such philosophic reason
ing; do you seriously believe that you will not be contented unless you are a sort of heroine?”
“I do not mean that ; but if you come in the library to-morrow, before luncheon time, I will fully explain a subject which, I think, is very important to us both. No more, no more.”
Alice was attired in a white crêpe dress, elegantly but simply trimmed with white camellias. She had no other ornament, as she was in mourning; two camellias were placed amongst her luxuriant tresses, and, as she had told Augustus, they appeared very lovely. And so did Alice in her artless beauty ; her pretty figure so gracefully shrouded in its snowy robe, and her fair complexion, softened by the delicate texture of her dress, until her neck and arms were of a dazzling whiteness.
Lord Sevridge, according to his promise,