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WHO WINS MISS BURTON?

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[AU, RIGHTS BE8ERV3D.J WHO WINS MISS BURTON? A T(ll of the London Season. BY MRS. C. M. HAWKSFORD. Author oj "John's Wije." CHAPTER I. THE London Season was over, and Agatha Burton was not engaged. Mrs. Burton had taken a house in Wilton-crescent, and done everything that could be done to forward her daughter's matri- monial interests, and was obliged to own that she had failed. M s. Burton was a widow, with an income that was comparatively moderate. Agatha was her only daughter but she had also a son, who was five or six years older than Agatha, and who had just got his Company in a cavalry regiment. If Mrs. Burton had lived in the country, she might have done so with the greatest comfort; but she had always been an ambitious, worldly woman, craving for excitement, so she preferred iiving far beyond her means for a certain number of months in London or Paris, and economising for the re- mainder of the year. Latterly she had felt justified in going even beyond her usual expenditure, in the hope that Agatha would marry well; and, up to the last few days before they left town, it seemed probable that her wildest dreams might be realised. Agatha was only nineteen, and beautiful— sufficiently beautiful to be conspicuous among the hundreds of lovely women who are gathered to- gether during the season in the million-peopled citv. Agatha's was not a beauty that grew I upon you; but it dazzled you all at once. The magnificent dark flashing eyes; the masses of raven hair, contrasting well with a skin that was in colour almost like alabaster, save for the bright but delicate red of the lips and cheeks nor was her figure less per- fect than her face. Tall and slight, but finely rounded; her Grecian head set upon her shoulders with matchless dignity, and undulating grace in all her movements. Agatha Burton had created quite a sensation in Town. On her first appearance in the parks, opera, or ball-room, Who is she?" had been the universal query and she had, in consequence of the public voice of approbation, been received intc circles which she might otherwise never had entered. Agatha had, of course, many admirers; and there were several men, anyone of whom Mrs. Burton would gladly have welcomed as a son-in- law a year before; but Agatha's London successes had quite altered the case; and the very decided admiration openly expressed by the young Earl of Dunmore, made her enter heart and soul into the endeavour to secure such a brilliant settlement for her daughter. Agatha's influences, during the last three years which she had spent entirely with her mother, had not tended to develop her best qualities and she had, in a great measure, imbibed Mrs. Burton s love of power and admiration. She was dazzled by the chance of becoming a peeress, and lent herself with the greatest willingness to the idea of giving her hand to a man who she knew in her heait she should always utterly despise. The Earl of Dunmore was an only son his father had died when he was quite young, leaving his mother his sole guardian. If there was one fear in the heart of the Countess, it was that he might marry and his openly expressed admira- tion for Agatha Burton aroused all her maternal jealousies. But the Countess was essentially a woman of the world; she always made a point of cultivating her son's friends, so that whatever was said or done might be done with her knowledge, in order that she might be able to exert a constant counter-influence. So she called on the Burtons, and squeezed Mrs. Burton's hand, and congratu- lated her on her daughter's beauty, asked them to her large parties, and check-mated them on all possible occasions. To see those two women together, you would have thought that their friendship was most sincere. Each had a game to piay, and played it well—Mrs. Burton, to marry Agatha to the Earl; the Countess, to prevent the Agatha to the Earl the Countess, to prevent the Earl from marrying Agatha. And to all appear- ance the Countess was likely to succeed for although the Earl, who was weak and vacillating to a degree, liked Agatha as much as he was capable of liking anyone, he stood still in great awe of his mother. This was, perhaps, in a great measure, owing to the fact that, being a sickly boy, he had been sent to neither public schools nor college, so that home-influence had all his life been predominant; and at the age of five-and-twenty, he was in many things as dependent as he had been at fifteen. His -appearance was far from prepossessing. Slight and sickly-looking with small, light-blue eyes; very fair straight hair, which he wore rather long; and a receding chin, that helped to give an expression which at times became almost vacant: —but he was an Earl, with £ 50,000 a year, and the owner of Dunmore Castle; so all London united in worshipping the son of Mamnton. If subsiding into the 'Dowager' became a necessity, the Countess would rather have looked forward to being supplanted by Lady Alice Wendover, the fourth daughter of the Earl of Carstairs. a pretty, fair-haired girl, over whom Lady Dunmore thought she might exercise un- limited authority, and thus retain her influence with her son so on all occasions when she invited Agatha to her house, Lady Alice was there also. But although Lady Alice often went down to dinner on the Earl's arm, it was at Agatha's side that he would be found during the remainder of the evening. When Agatha's brother, Captain Valentine Burton, got leave from Dublin, where his regiment was quartered, and came to visit his mother in Wilton-crescent, he was at once made the confi- dant of her plans and wishes, and entered into her views with a willingness that was, in a great measure, born of the hope that a large share of the advantages would probably fall to himself. Cap- tain Burton -or Captain Val., as he was generally called by his intimate friends—was certainly very good-looking, and, although selfish to a degree, was a most pleasant companion where he chose to make himself agreeable. He dressed well enough to be considered an authority belonged to the best Clubs, rode the best horses, made a good book on the Derby, and was said to be desperately in love with a married lady of distinction. In appearance, although he had something of Agatha's haughty expression, he was as unlike her as possible, being much fairer, with eyes that had A shade of green in them, and light-brown hair and moustache. Taking him altogether, Captain Valentine Burton was a man who commanded a certain success, both with men and women he showed his best points to the world, and was appreciated accordingly. Mrs. Burton naturally expected that her son would be a powerful ally for the furtherance of Agatha s prospects and at first it appeared more than likely such would bo the case; for Lord Dunmore appeared delighted with his new friend, and sought his society on all possible occasions. But there was one quality in the' Earl's character that was his greatest safeguard and this was suspicion. He was suspicious of every one's motives and a well- timed hint from the Countess, that Captain Burton was desirous of cultivating him for the sake of his horses or shooting, put him instantly on his guard; so that after a week or two Captain Burton had got very little further than he had done the first few days. As may naturally be supposed, the constant assurance that Agatha was scheming to marry him for his money and position, carried due weight with Lord Dunmore; but there was another ele- ment in the Earl's character that brought him more nearly within reach of Mrs. Burton's toils- and this was vanity. He was vain enough to believe that Agatha really liked and admired him for himself; and nothing could ever shake this belief, although his mother naturally tried to do so in a thousand ways that were not too openly ex- pressed. The Countess had one advantage over Mrs. Burton — she was the Earl's mother, and understood his nature thoroughly, and was in wnsequence so far successful in her treatment, that the Season had reached its close and he had not been committed. She arranged a hurried visit to the Continent, and persuaded Lord Dun- more into thinking the plan every way delightful. She went with him herself to call on the Burtons, a- expressed many hopes that at some future might renew their delightful intercourse and then, with a triumphant expression on her face, she swept back into the family coach, and earned her son away with her. Agatha had certainly never loved Lord Dun- more; but she had meant to marry him, and she felt humiliated. Proud passionate tears rushed to her eyes when Mrs. Burton upbraided her with not having made the most of her opportunities, but she only said You cannot despise me more than I despise myself; not for having failed to secure him, but tor ever having tried. And without another word she left the room, and, alone in her particular little sanctum, endured the kind of misery those only can experience who are neither in charity with themselves nor with the world. Captain Burton, finding that his London home no longer promised to be very agreeable, returned to Dublin and Mrs. Burton made arrangements to give up the house in Wilton-crescent, and go to Brighton. Agatha hated the idea of Brighton; she longed for rest after all the miserable results of that brilliant London Season—the Season to which she had looked forward with such pleasure, and which she might have enjoyed so much, had not her mother's one aim and object been that she should attract Lord Dunmore-and for this, what had she not sacrificed—what had she not endured ? She had been almost rude to other men, whom she might really have liked and she had encouraged by a thousand arts a man she disliked to join her during her rides in the park, and to dance with her at balls. She had asked his advice; sung his favourite songs accepted his flowers; and given him in return her most winning smiles and the result had been utter failure At Brighton she would be constantly reminded of all that had passed, and would be pitied and condoled with. as the case might be. "Mamma," said Agatha suddenly, one morning. at breakfast, do you particularly care whether I go to Brighton or not ?" Mrs. Burton looked up. Care whether you go to Brighton! why, Agatha, what do you mean ?" "I mean," she said, "that I would rather v>t go, at all events for the present-that I should like first to pay my long-promised visit to Mrs. Vernor." "I'm sure I don't care," replied Mrs. Burton pettishly (Agatha had lost a good deal in her mother's estimation since the Earl had not pro- posed), "and perhaps it would really be a good thing, we certainly have been living at an enormous expense lately, and I could economise better alone." I thought of that," said Agatha, and Brighton is so like London that I should require to dress nearly as well as I do here; whilst at St Helens——" I should indeed say that anything would do for St. Helens," replied Mrs. Burton in a tone of voice which spoke volumes as to the utter nothing ness of the place that Agatha proposed visitine- but if you really wish it I do not object; you are looking pale and ill-natured; people will say that it is from disappointment, and make all sorts of disagreeable comments, if you are constantly en evidence, as you must be in Brighton. Whilst if you go where no one knows you, you ian rusticate and get up your good looks." Agatha left the table and went to the window: she looked out for a few minutes in utter silence, then she said, May I write to-day, mamma ?" "As soon as you like," Mrs. Burton replied, "and. indeed, the more quickly our places are settled the better the heat of London and constant late hours are beginning to disagree dreadfully with me, and I shall be delighted to get away." Agatha walked as far as the door, when Mrs. Burton called her back. "Of course you won't mind doing without a maid; I can't really spare Cameron, and I dont know how to afford two ?" You need not distress yourself, mamma," re- plied Agatha. Even if I wanted a maid ever so much, I could not take one to St. Helens there would be no room for her in a cottage like Mrs. Vernor's." And I am also quite sure that Cameron would not go," said Mrs. Burton; and then she took up the Times, and Agatha left the room, and went up- stairs to write her letter. A few days after Wilton-crescent was deserted, and Agatha's new life had begun at St. Helens. CHAPTER II. IT seemed so strange to Agatha, after all the glare and glitter of London life, to wake in a tiny bed in a tiny room, to get up and smell the mignonette and roses in the garden that ran round Mrs. Vernor's cottage, which had let itself into a sheltered corner of the little bay of St. Helens — to watch the white-crested waves lapping on the golden sands, and to hear the strik- ing of the old church clock of Denborough, a little country town about half a mile over the hill Yes it was strange, but how pleasant! Agatha felt another being; all the artifices of her London life seemed to be swept into the past, and her better nature to reassert itself. Happily there was no counter-influence to mar her enjoyment, so she dressed herself in one of her plainest morning dresses, and went lightly down stairs to break- fast. Mrs. Burton had always been fond of the world, and of moving from place to place, making it in- convenient to have Agatha with her; so she had been placed at an early age under Mrs. Vernor's care, who with more or less assistance from masters had educated her up to the age of seventeen, when Mrs. Burton had taken her abroad. Mrs. Vernor had subsequently come into a moderate legacy and for the sake of her health, which was delicate, had bought a cottage at the little bay of St. Helens, on the Lancashire coast, in order to be near the sea, which had been particularly re- commended. She had often longed to see Agatha again. Feeling for her as she did almost the affec- tion of a parent, the news of her intended visit was a matter of great rejoicing, and she welcomed her very warmly that morning as she opened the door of the little sitting-room. Oh said Agatha, kissing her, is it not all so natural ? I feel as if I must get out my books and commence at once with Mangnall's Questions." Instead of which, Agatha," said Mrs. Vernor, a smile lighting up a pale placid face which bore the traces of departed beauty and the presence of a warm heart and a refined mind, you are a grand young lady from London come to cheer me in my old age, and give me glimpses of the beau monde." Agatha sighed. The glimpses of th& beau monde she had lived in would not, she suspected, enliven her friend very much. I hate London," she said I'm tired to death of gaiety of every descripton. and my greatest enjoyment here will be the never seeing any one but you;" and Agatha drew her chair to the modest little breakfast-table, and bent her queenly head over a bright patterned cup and saucer. What would you say," replied Mrs. Vernor, if I told you that I have an invitation for you already ?" For me ?" said Agatha, looking up. It's only to have tea with my old Doctor and his wife, and unless you like we need not accost it." But of this Agatha would not hear she wanted so much to walk into Denborough, and it would be so nice in the cool of the evening, and an early dinner and tea was just what she most enjoyed; so Mrs. Vernor sent a note to say they would come, and then left Agatha to amuse herself while she suprintended her household affairs. Agatha put on her hat and went out to sit on the sands, dreaming away a long morning, and think- ing how happy she was to be free to do as she liked-trying to forget that, but three short days ago, every wish of her heart had been centered on one point, that of making a brilliant marriage. At one o'clock she went in to dinner, and the day being very hot neither she nor Mrs. Vernor cared to go out again till it was time for them to walk into Denborough. Agatha dressed herself in a dainty high white muslin, which she thought only fit for the morning in London, and with a black lace shawl and a hat finishing her costume, she went into Mrs. Vernor's room, and announced that she was ready. Agatha looked very beautiful and very elegant, and Mrs. Vernor was almost startled into some expression of admiration as her old pupil stood before her, but refrained, thinking it might be bad for her. Alas! how little she guessed at all the flattery that had been lavished upon Agatha; how little she thought that Agatha's vanity took the form of being perfectly satisfied with herself, and receiving as a right the personal homage she met with wherever she went! The walk to Denborough was not more than half a mile, but then it was uphill, so they went very slowlv. but they got into the High-street a few minutes before seven. There really was only that one street of any importance; minor thorough- fares all ran towards this centre. It was like most streets in country towns, long and irregu- larly built, with a market-place at the top, and shops and private houses alternately on either side. Dr. Lynn's house was made conspicuous by being built in red brick, and having three steps at the front door and a brass plate on it announcing the fact of his occupation. Mrs. Lynn was at home, the maid said, and they were shown into a room just across the stone hall. It was not exactly a dining-room nor a drawing-room, but a room that had the air of being a general sitting-room a room that Mrs. Lynn always called the parlour, and which they generally used for all purposes except on great occasions, when the real drawing- room was undressed and made to look as comfort- able as its formal nature would allow but as all Mrs. Lynn's friends stood by the "parlour," and as they seldom entertain strangers, the drawing-room was quite a spectral uninhabited appendage. As Agatha and Mrs. Vernor were announced, Mrs. Lynn got up from an easy-chair to receive them, laying down a bundle of knitting over which she appeared to be busily employed. She was a kind-hearted, comfortable-looking old lady, dressed in a plain black silk of a fashion of many years ago, with snow-white curls under a cap that had also a good deal of white about it. She helped Agatha to take off her shawl, and gave her a warm welcome to Denborough, desiring the servant to let Dr. Lynn know that their visitors had arrived. (To be continued.)

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