In a moment the pleasant oak-raftered coffee-room of the inn became the scene of hopeless confusion and discomfort. At the first announcement made by the stable boy, Lord Antony, with a fashionable oath, had jumped up from his seat and was now giving many and confused directions to poor bewildered Jellyband, who seemed at his wits end what to do.
For goodness sake, man, admonished his lordship, try to keep Lady Blakeney talking outside for a moment while the ladies withdraw. Zounds! he added, with another more emphatic oath, this is most unfortunate.
Quick, Sally! the candles! shouted Jellyband, as hopping about from one leg to another, he ran hither and thither, adding to the general discomfort of everybody.
The Comtesse, too, had risen to her feet: rigid and erect, trying to hide her excitement beneath more becoming sang-froid, she repeated mechanically,
I will not see her!I will not see her!
Outside, the excitement attendant upon the arrival of very important guests grew apace.
Good-day, Sir Percy!Good-day to your ladyship! Your servant, Sir Percy!was heard in one long, continued chorus, with alternate more feeble tones ofRemember the poor blind man! of your charity, lady and gentleman!
Then suddenly a singularly sweet voice was heard through all the din.
Let the poor man beand give him some supper at my expense.
The voice was low and musical, with a slight sing-song in it, and a faint soupçon of foreign intonation in the pronunciation of the consonants.
Everyone in the coffee-room heard it and paused instinctively, listening to it for a moment. Sally was holding the candles by the opposite door, which led to the bedrooms upstairs, and the Comtesse was in the act of beating a hasty retreat before that enemy who owned such a sweet musical voice; Suzanne reluctantly was preparing to follow her mother, while casting regretful glances towards the door, where she hoped still to see her dearly-beloved, erstwhile school-fellow.
Then Jellyband threw open the door, still stupidly and blindly hoping to avert the catastrophe which he felt was in the air, and the same low, musical voice said, with a merry laugh and mock consternation,
B-r-r-r-r! I am as wet as a herring! Dieu! has anyone ever seen such a contemptible climate?
Suzanne, come with me at onceI wish it, said the Comtesse, peremptorily.
Oh! Mama! pleaded Suzanne.
My lady er hm! my lady! came in feeble accents from Jellyband, who stood clumsily trying to bar the way.
Pardieu, my good man, said Lady Blakeney, with some impatience, what are you standing in my way for, dancing about like a turkey with a sore foot? Let me get to the fire, I am perished with the cold.
And the next moment Lady Blakeney, gently pushing mine host on one side, had swept into the coffee- room.
There are many portraits and miniatures extant of Marguerite St. JustLady Blakeney as she was thenbut it is doubtful if any of these really do her singular beauty justice. Tall, above the average, with magnificent
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