|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||A Golden Dawn|
- -. FAMILY HERALD] CHAPTER IX. ° The glad days of the happy winter passed away brightly, and the home of I the solitary student was brightened by the love and joy of the-young .lovers. His life was cheered, too, by the con 1 stant kindness of the Squire. Great baskets of game, hot-house fruits, and that which he valued more than all, 1 huge psrcels of books, were sent by Alan Branston. It was characteristic of him that he was never so pleased as when lavishing kindness on Francis Vane. He established a rule that he should be allowed to send what he liked to Hyacinth. Francis Vane made some gentle remonstrance ; but be was overruled. 1 "You live out of the world, and I live in it," he answered. "I see what Hyacinth wants, and you do not. I shall think you do not believe in my love for her unless you allow me to send what I will." The father ceased to remonstrate, and the gallant young lover lavished costly gifts on his beautiful fiance. Francis Vane had had a small legacy left him, and he gave it all for his daughter's trousseau. He entrusted it to Mrs. Morley, who was only too delighted to assist. The most wonder ful week of Hyacinth's life was the one she spent in London shopping with Mrs. Morley. So the winter months were fully occupied, and some of the brightness of old times came over the house. It was marvellous how many excuses Alan found for going to Sweetbriars; he rode or drove over regularly, on one pretext or another. Mr. Vane and his daughter became so accustomed to see him that when he was not there the day seemed robbed of its brightness. The snowdrops, the violets, the yellow crocus, the primroses, all came up. The stern face of winter gave place to the smiles of spring. The hedges bloomed with pink and white hawthorn, the dark branches were covered with leaves, the meadows were full of life, and when fair sweet May came round Lady Rosedene filled her house again with visitors. She had found a new beauty, and she must have a pleasant group of friends to welcome her, She invited Hyacinth, who gladly promised to visit her. Said her ladyship "You must bring some of your pretty new dresses, Hyacinth. You must do honor to the Squire's choice." When Alan Branston heard that she was going to Dene Hall, he besieged Lady Rosedene until she extended her invitation to him. She had a presentment of coming evil, for she said to him "Come if you like; but I think you had better spend your time in making Elmsthorpe Grange ready for your wife." She laughed as she spoke, and he laughed as he answered that he would far rather spend his time in making love to his wife that was to be. It promised to be a very pleasant and harmonious party. Hyacinth looked forward to it with the greatest delight. She was to go on the second of May, Alan on the fourth. Francis Vane parted with her, fearing no ill, knowing that he would soon lose her al together. Yet that night, as he sat watching, it seemed to him that a strange cloud rested over his wife's grave. Hyacinth Vane said to herself that she should always love Dene better than any other place, because it had been the scene of her love-story. It was pleasant to linger in the gardens and grounds, to look round the rooms and remember all that had happened there. Lady Rosedene was delighted to see her. She was in excellent spirits. "Peoplemay well call my house attractive," she said. "I have two of the lovliest women in England in it now; and the wonder of it is that you are such foils to-each other. You are fair as northern lily ; and my new guest is dark as any Spanish signora-the most beautiful burnette I have ever seen ;all other women look plain beside her. Still I prefer fair women." When Hyacinth went down into the drawing-room, shb was better able to judge. Many old friends greeted her; every one was pleased to see the fair young face ; Hyacinth saw a superbly beautiful woman, with large dark liquid eyes, full of fire and passion, and a muotith like a rose. She was a picture of loveliness, on whom no man could look unmoved. Hyacinth had never seen anyone like her. She wore a dress of black velvet, cut so as to show the marvellous neck and shoulders, with their warm tint, and the bare rounded arms, on which shone rich bands of gold. She carried a richly-jewelled fan and wore diamonds in the masses of dusky hair that sat like a crown on her head. And her brilliant face had the imperial beauty men in olden days gave to the goddesses they worshipped. She read the wonder in the tender earnest eyes, and smiled. There was more character in her smile even than in her face-it came slowly, and was, to a keen observer, cruel. Lady Rose dene introduced Hyacinth to her. Lady Fraser smiled again, and in her turn looked intently at her golden-haired rival. Hyacinth thought the sound of her voice very sweet. She watched her with wonder. She had never seen any one so superbly beautiful and so superbly dressed. Lady Fraser was older than herself by some years, and the contrast be- 1 tween the fair fresh golden-haired girl and the beautiful dark.eyed woman was curious in its way. 1 She fascinated Hyacinth-it was a certain fact that, if Lady Fraser once took the trouble to smile in any face, I she made the owner of it captive at I once. There was no power to resist; she possessed a marvellous gift of fascination. She smiled a little at the i young girl's unconscious homage. 1 " We shall see what we shall see," said Lady Fraser .... On the fourth of May Alan Branston came; and when he reached the Hall Lady Fraser had gone out into the I grounds. Sid.hiad found for herself la
pleasait shat behind.the plumed lilac trees. There a soft :western wind,; a sweet perfume, reached her without the warmth of the sun's rays.. There was on one amongst-the visitors whom she thought it worth her while to conquer, so she had given her morning to the study of some poems. Prerently, on looking up, she saw a stranger who interested her-a tall handsome man, young, with a brave bright face and dark earnest eyes- a man who was evidently a gentleman. from his erect, easy carriage and courtly manner. Who is he ? She answered her own question. It was the Squire of cour-e-Alan Brnu ston-Miss Vane's lover ; and a goodly lover he was, in Lady Fraser's eyes. As they passed by the group of lilac trees, engrossed in each other, and forgetting the world, she heard Alan say 'f I see no beauty in any face .but yours, my love. Other faces are blank to me." They walked on; but with the sound of the words in her earsan evil spirit entered the beautiful woman's heart, She laughed aloud-a faint cruel Iaugh. " What nonsense !" she said to her srlf. "I will teach him that othev faces are not all blanks. My face 2!-;'!! not be a blank to him. So that is tho child's lover. Well, he is a gall?et or e, tall and handsome-simple too, if h! thinks hers the only face on earth worth looking at." She was a woman of insatiabhl3 vanity. She had been so much wor shipped all her life for her marvellous beauty that she considered the heart of every man she met her lawful prey. She had but little trouble in winning them. A gleam from her splendid eyes -a touch from her white jtwelled hand-a whisper from her musical voice-a smile from her beautiful lips -and the weak heart of men went out to her, no]matter what bound them. She had never had the least trouble in making a conquest. The strongest and wisest of men had fallen before her like leaves from the trees. She was cruel. It was play to her to take a man's heart in her soft white hand, and, after toying with it for a time, crush it as she would have crushed a rose-leaf. Her vanity was insatiable-nothing ever daunted her. If she liked anyone, or thought the conquest of any particular person would add to her reputation as a beauty and winner of hearts, she pur sued that person to the bitter enl. The gentle heart of a loving wife might break, the love of a fair fiance might all turn to gall and bitterness Lady Fraser merely laughed. All that her victims won in return was a few smiles, a few tote-a-tites, a weeks fidelity, and then they had to make room for another. It was dull, according to her notions, at Dene ; there were several men, but none whom she cared to win. The handsome young Squire however took her fancy, and she smiled as she said to herself that she would win him. " Such boy-and-girl love-such non sense-only one face in the world for him ! It is high time he saw two. It will do him good-educate him. A flirtation with a wcman like myself is the best possible education for one like him. It will do the girl good too, if he takes to her in that way. She will begin to think herself an angel." She had nothing particular to occupy her during the next few weeks, and it would not do to get out of practice. If there had been a handsomer or wealthier man at Dene Hall, she would not have troubled Alan ; but he looked so handsome and so gallant, added to which there was the irresistible fact that he belonged to some one else, that it would be a little amusemnnt for her, and relieve the tediousness of her visit, to captivate him. It would be amusing, because at first he would doubtless rebel. After all, if she chose to edu cate him and show him that life held more for him than he knew at present, it concerned no one. When she had had her fair share of amusement, she would be leaving Dene, and perhaps would not see him again. She would not wish to see him-a few weeks were quite enough for any poor moth. She laughed softly to herself as she thought how the fair-haired girl would be lost in a maze of wonder and doubt, and how rejoiced she would be to win her lover again. She walked back leisurely to the house. "Yes" she said to herself, "I have nothing better to do. I will try if I can win him." And she dressed with unusual care, smiling as she did so to think how easy her conquest would be.