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NELL-ON AND OFF THE STAGE.
By B. H. BUXTON, AUTHOR OF 'JENNIE OF "THE PRINCE'S,”'' WON !''FETTERLESS, THOUGH BOUND
TOGETHER,''GREAT GRENFELL GARDENS,' ETC.
OPHELIA'S GAY DECEIVER. JACK CLIFFORD had certainly been heart, and that indulgent disposimost successful in his self-imposed tion which distinguishes women task. He had desired to curry who are generally described as favour with the 'fine-lady mother' 'motherly.' She treated young of that charming Miss Trevor, in Jack as though he were her son. whose début he had chanced to He was quite aware that a hearty take such an active part; and, welcome, and a seat at that hospitbut an hour or two after he had able board in Leicester - square, started on his would-be agreeable were at his disposal whenever he mission, Mrs. Hall had pronounced should choose to avail himself of him to be 'a most charming young those privileges; and yet he had gentleman.'
hailed this particular invitation Nothing succeeds like success. with special delight, because he Mrs. Powell, who occupied a looked
upon it as a good omen for part of one of the roomy old houses the voyage of discovery on which in Leicester-square, had invited he had determined to embark, as Jack to come and have luncheon soon as he had exchanged a dozen with her after the rehearsal was words, and half that number of
The invitation was in itself glances, with the ingenuous little no unusual one, for Mrs. Powell, débutante. like the other ladies at the Sphere,
He left the theatre with a very thought Jack Clifford a most de clearly defined purpose, and stepped lightful young man, and lost no out on his way to Leicester-square opportunity of proving the pleasure with the greatest alacrity. He, not she had in his companionship. He unreasonably, expected to glean was always in such excellent spirits, more accurate information from he knew so much, he talked so the manageress anent her new prowell, he dressed admirably, and he tégée than any one else would be was so handsome.
likely to afford him. The manageress had a kind All he had definitely ascertained YOL XXY
in the greenroom was, that Miss from the widow of the late Clement Trevor was John Hall's step- Trevor. daughter, and that he, being proud It had so happened that Clifford of her, had given her a very supe- had become acquainted with the rior education. And Mrs. Blenkin history of several members of the sop had privately bestowed some Kentingtown family during his short additional information upon him. apprenticeship in Bedford-row, and 'The girl is a ninny,' said she, 'and this knowledge he now felt would will never be worth her salt. My be of the utmost value to him in sister Araminta has taken a deal his intended attack on the proud of trouble with her; but the poor
widow of a scion of that noble child has no style, although her family. mother is a most stuck-up lady, Jack was young, impressionable, and gives herself all the airs of her and somewhat impetuous, but he most gracious Majesty.'
was by no means wanting in shrewdJack's ideas on the subject of that ness; and having, as he considered, last-named and most illustrious a good chance of winning Miss personage were of the vaguest Trevor's regard, which he already character ; but he did flatter him- coveted, he was resolved to employ self that he should be quite able whatever tools lay at hand to aid to create a favourable impression him in the construction of so agreeupon the lady who had conde- able an acquaintance. scended to marry kind simple John The people who knew Jack best Hall.
were all ready to admit that he was Very adroitly did Master Jack a very sharp' fellow, and he disnow set about his further investi- played even more than his usual gation; and so cleverly did he perspicacity in the various moves hoodwink his unsuspecting hostess, he made in the pursuit of his sudthat he had extracted the most mi- den desire to be received as a nute details of the scene-painter's welcome visitor by Miss Trevor's family and circumstances from her, without giving her the faintest hint Jack unhesitatingly admitted to that it was the pretty young dé
himself that Nell's trusting eyes butante who had inspired him with and charming manner had comsuch interest.
pletely captivated him, and his Mrs. Powell, who considered most eager desire at this moment Jack a very model of good nature, was to perfect an acquaintance simply concluded that he spoke which had begun so auspiciously. the truth when he stated that, as To admire passionately, where it was in his power to render John he admired at all, was indubitably Hall a service, he wished first of 'Jack's way.' He knew no half all to be acquainted with his actual measures ; and no sooner had he position, his income, &c.
concluded that Nell was charming, And the manageress had no than he also resolved, as speedily scruple in confiding honest John's as possible, to acquaint her with private position to her kind young that opinion, and to endeavour to friend, who so thoroughly learnt make it reciprocal. the simple history of the scene- To gain this point, he must conpainter's life from the loquacious trive to see Nell at home. lady, that he soon felt prepared to The greenroom or the wings of enter Miss Trevor's home on his the theatre were not adapted for own account, and thought himself the respectful pursuit of so modest pretty sure of a cordial welcome and refined a young lady. Jack's
instinct taught him that Miss He augured from the instant Trevor would shrink with indig- change in Mrs. Hall's manner and nation from the public attention her suddenly aroused attention that, which, to nine women out of ten, as far as the mother was concerned, was particularly acceptable. Women he certainly had hit on the right of that sort triumphed in any ex- tack. This success inspired him hibition which inspired jealousy in with fresh hope about the daughter. others; and Jack so thoroughly
Mrs. Hall's numerous and eager understood this phase of feminine inquiries about her poor dear Clecharacter, that he achieved his ment's grand relations relieved principal successes with the sex by Jack from all anxiety as to the furdexterously playing up to the part
ther conduct of this momentous of demonstrative lover, which en- interview. Mrs. Hall was quite abled the momentarily adored one content to listen to all he could to perceive that her (professional) tell her; and as he had actually sisters were smarting under the seen the countess-dowager and the cruel pangs of envy and jealousy. earl, her son, he launched forth
Miss Trevor would resent this into elaborate and rather theatrical sort of homage; of that Jack felt descriptions of those two aristoconvinced. A very different me
cratic personages. thod of wooing must be adopted 'From my poor Clement's dein her exceptional case, and in or- scription of his grandmother's apder that he might hit on the right pearance, I have always believed tack this prudent young man re- that our daughter Eleanor resemsolved to inquire at head-quarters. bled her ladyship,' Mrs. Hall re
With this view he presented him- marked, in a very impressive tone. self in Alpha-street, shortly after 'She has the same small hands and John Hall had returned to the the feet, the large expressive eyes, and
such a quantity of beautiful hair. Hall's character for bluff honesty When you saw my dear child this was too thoroughly known in the morning, Mr. Clifford, did this reprofession for Jack to risk a meet- semblance strike you at all?' ing with him before he had, to Jack had some difficulty in resome extent, prepared his way pressing a laugh. with the ladies. Mr. Hall might When he recalled the wrinkled have received the stranger with an face, the portly figure, and the gray unpleasantly direct inquiry as to hair of the old dowager, and was the nature of his business there, asked to recognise a likeness to and Jack strongly deprecated such that grim and ancient dame in the painfully straightforward manners young smiling débutante, he felt of speech. He timed himself very that an instant diversion in the carefully, and was, he thought, most course of conversation had become fortunate in finding Miss Trevor's imperative, and he very adroitly mother at home and alone.
avoided all further reference to her He played his cards cleverly, ladyship by expatiating on the and, for once, with due caution. grace and talent Miss Trevor had His inclination prompted him to displayed upon the stage this mornproduce his best trump at once, ing. but he so far curbed his natural The maternal instinct was flatimpetuosity as to spend quite ten tered, and Mrs. Hall's next quesminutes in commonplace chat be- tions confined themselves to the fore he even mentioned the magic manner, appearance, and probable name of Kentingtown.
success of her daughter.
*Thinking you would like to be With this excuse, which was not present on the night of Miss Tre- devoid of truth, Nell felt she could vor's début, I have brought you a escape from further conversation box,' said Jack, as he rose to take and also from the chance of keener his leave. Mrs. Powell offered it observation, which she had begun to me to-day, and I at once re- to dread. solved to ask you to make use of She longed to be quite alone, it.'
and with a feeling of intense relief Could any gentleman give more she flung herself upon her little convincing proof of his delicacy bed, thankful that now, at last, she and consideration than this Mr. could think over the crowding inClifford's every word and action cidents of the morning undisturbed. showed?
And in this reflective solitude she As far as Mrs. Hall was con- came to a definite conclusion as to cerned, Jack had won the day. the conduct it would be her duty
He knew he could depend on henceforth to pursue. In the first her welcome and approbation in place, she must abstain from folfuture ; and having thus secured lowing the inclination which was his footing in Nell's home, there so strongly urging her to improve surely could be no difficulty in her acquaintance with handsome continuing the acquaintance so Jack, and her reserve must teach pleasantly commenced in the the- him to keep aloof from her in fu
So much was due to the unforNell listened to her mother's tunate girl, who had chosen to praises of Jack Clifford in unre- make her the confidante of her sponsive silence.
wrongs and her grievances this How could she indorse those
morning. laudatory statements about his It was very strange that Mr. kindness, his consideration, and Clifford should have taken the his being so perfect a gentleman, trouble to procure a box for her with 'Ophelia's lovesick plaints mother, and that he should have still ringing in her ears?
so successfully striven to ingratiate Mrs. Hall was far too much himself with that lady. engaged in various discursive ar- Was it so very strange ? guments about the Kentingtown A warm blush and a happy smile family, and in repeating all the were on Nell's face as she made news Mr. Clifford had imparted to this dubious inquiry. But both her concerning her noble relatives, the smile and the blush faded to notice Nell's preoccupation. away
she remembered the The girl had soon finished her threatening shadow which Ophelia meal, or such poor apology for it had already cast over this fascinatas had been set before her. Rising ing stranger. from the table, she stood for a Had it not been for that hauntmoment, her face hidden in hering and painful recollection, Nell hands.
would honestly have admitted to Dear mum,' she said, with a herself that Jack's visit was not very weary sigh, 'I really think I
strange at all, that this prompt must go to my room and have a action on his part was very delittle rest; my head aches; I never lightful, and that she felt exceedfelt so worn out in all my life. I ingly flattered by his evident desire shall adopt your remedy, and try to know more of her and her surand get some sleep.'
Ah, well, he would not be It certainly was fortunate that likely to pay any more visits to Mr. Clifford had called during Alpha-street, when once he realised father's absence. No harm was her determination to discourage done at present, and for the future them.
she must endeavour to forget the It was
fortunate that father laughing eyes and gentle manner knew nothing of this gentleman. which had so fascinated her this If it had so happened that John morning. Hall himself had made the stranger Both Ophelia and Jack must welcome at their fireside, all Nell's henceforth be as entirely ignored inhospitable intentions would have as if she had never exchanged a proved futile, for father's frank and word with either. But if it so hearty welcome would have at chanced that she met Sally again, once obliterated the absence of it she should not hesitate to ask her on her part.
for further information about her Mother was easily managed, and lovesick friend. Perhaps Phoebe Nell had quite sufficient experi- was really a little confused in her ence to enable her to conduct her mind. It was even possible that vacillating parent as seemed most her grievances were entirely imagidesirable under certain circum- nary. Delicate girls, with hectic
cheeks and wearing coughs, often She could so coax and manage had strange and morbid fancies ; her, Nell believed, that the feeble and that was a part of their illness. lady would have no suspicion of Nell distinctly remembered havthe invisible leading-strings moving ing heard a sadly interesting acher in a given direction, but would count of so suffering and deluded firmly believe that she was simply a girl from a very sentimental following her own immediate con- governess at Miss Plunkett's. In viction or inclination. But father that instance the unfortunate inwas far too simple and straight- valid had broken her heart in conforward to give any one a chance sequence of the imaginary cruelty of manquvring where he was con- of a youth who really was unaware cerned. If any kind of suspicion of the existence of his supposed had entered into his mind, Nell victim. knew exactly the course he would Nell distinctly remembered each take to set his possible doubts at thrilling detail of that most harrow
ing history, and vaguely wondered He had a steadfast truth-com- if it really was a true one. pelling glance in his honest eyes, With such a precedent in her before which even his wife shrank mind, she soon brought herself to in confusion as some prevarication consider it probable that Phoebe's intended to answer him died away grievances were all the creatures of unuttered upon her trembling lips. her morbid and overwrought con
If by some most unfortunate dition. Most likely the girl herself chance he should become aware had drawn Jack into an engageof her interview with Phæbe ment, which he had never intended Miller, Nell was painfully con- to fulfil. scious already of the searching It might be so. look and eager question with which Nell most earnestly desired that he would confront her. He would it was. then ask her for explanations
Her anxious meditations had which she felt she could not give reached this dubious point, when to any one.
she was startled by the sound of