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And they came. They had all heard the story of the widow's heir, so long
lost, and now, dark and mysterious as Count Lara, returned to lord it in
his ancestral halls. He was a very hero of romance--a wealthy hero,
too--and all the pretty man-traps on the avenue, baited with lace and
roses, silk and jewels, were coming to-night to angle for this dazzling
The long-silent drawing-rooms, shrouded for twenty years in holland and
darkness, were one blaze of light at last. Flowers bloomed everywhere;
musicians, up in a gilded gallery, discoursed heavenly music; there was
a conservatory where alabaster lamps made a silver moonlight in a
modern Garden of Eden; there was a supper-table spread and waiting, a
feast for the gods and Sybarites; and there was Mrs. Walraven, in black
velvet and point lace, upright and stately, despite her sixty years,
with a diamond star of fabulous price ablaze on her breast. And there by
her side, tall, and dark, and dignified, stood her only son, the
prodigal, the repentant, the wealthy Carl Walraven.
"Not handsome," said Miss Blanche Oleander, raising her glass, "but
eminently interesting. He looks like the hero of a sensation novel, or
a modern melodrama, or one of Lord Byron's poems. Does he dance, and will
he ask me, I wonder?"
Yes, the dusky hero of the night did dance, and did ask Miss Blanche
Oleander. A tall, gray-eyed, imperious sort of beauty, this Miss
youthful belles said.
Mr. Walraven danced the very first dance with Miss Oleander, to her
infinite but perfectly concealed delight.
"If you can imagine the Corsair, whirling in a rapid redowa with
Medora," Miss Oleander afterward said, "you have Mr. Walraven and
myself. There were about eighty Guinares gazing enviously on, ready to
poniard me, every one of them, if they dared, and if they were not such
miserable little fools and cowards. When they cease to smell of bread
and butter, Mr. Walraven may possibly deign to look at them."
It seemed as if the dashing Blanche had waltzed herself straight into
the affections of the new-found heir, for he devoted himself to her in
her in to supper.
Miss Blanche sailed along serene, uplifted, splendidly calm; the little
belles in lace, and roses, and pearls, fluttered and twittered like
angry doves; and Mme. Walraven, from the heights of her hostess-throne,
looked aslant at her velvet and diamonds with uneasy old eyes.
"The last of all you should have selected," she said, waylaying her son
after supper. "A woman without a heart, Carl--a modern Minerva. I have
no wish to interfere with you, my son; I shall call the day happy that
brings me your wife, but not Blanche Oleander--not that cold-blooded,
bold-faced, overgrown grenadier."
Madame hissed out the words between a set of spiteful, false teeth,
and glared, as women do glare, upon the gray-eyed Blanche. And Carl
listened, and laughed sardonically.
"A woman without a heart. So much the better, mother; the less heart
the more head; and I like your clever, dashing women, who are big and
buxom, and able to take care of themselves. Don't forget, mother mine,
I haven't proposed to the sparkling Blanche, and I don't think I
shall--to-night. You wouldn't have me fall at the feet of those
mealy-winged moths fluttering around us, with heads softer than their
poor little hearts--you wouldn't, I hope?"
With which Mr. Walraven went straight back to Miss Oleander and asked
her to dance the lancers.
Miss Oleander, turning with ineffable calm from a bevy of rose-robed and
white-robed young ladies, said, "Yes," as if Mr. Walraven was no more
than any other man, and stood up to take his arm.
But there is many a slip. Miss Oleander and Mr. Walraven never danced
that particular set, for just then there came a ring at the door-bell
so pealing and imperious that it sounded sharply even through the noisy
"The Marble Guest, surely," Blanche said, "and very determined to be
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