Adrien Leroy (Chapter 7, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 7

It was the night of the great ball at Lady Merivale's town house. A Blue
Hungarian Band was playing dreamily the waltz of the season, to the
accompaniment of light laughter and gaily tripping feet. The scent of
roses filled the air. Masses of their great pink blooms lurked in every
small nook and corner; while in the centre of the room, half-hidden by
them, a fountain sent its silver spray into the heated air.

If wealth and luxury alone could bring happiness, then surely Eveline
Merivale should have been the most envied woman in the world. A renowned
beauty, a leader of fashion, with every wish and ambition
gratified--save the one which, at present, the chief object of her
life--to enslave and retain, as her exclusive property, Adrien Leroy.

Her husband, the Earl of Merivale, she regarded as a necessary
encumbrance, inevitable to the possession of the famous Merivale
diamonds. His hobby was farming, and he detested Society; though quite
content that his wife should be made queen so long as he was left in
peace with his shorthorns.

Certainly Eveline Merivale was not in love with her husband; but, on the
other hand, neither was she in love with Adrien Leroy. It simply added a
zest to her otherwise monotonous round of amusements to imagine that she
was; and it pleased her vanity to correspond in cypher, through the
medium of the Morning Post, though every member of her set might have
read the flippant messages if put in an open letter. There was a spice
of intrigue, too, in the way in which she planned meetings at their
mutual friends' houses, or beneath the trees of Brierly Park, or at
Richmond.

Not for worlds would her ladyship have risked a scandal. She prized her
position, and loved her diamonds far better than she was ever likely to
love any human being under the sun. Still, it was the fashion to have
one special favourite; and it was a great thing to have conquered the
handsome and popular Adrien Leroy. It was little wonder, therefore,
that, when midnight had struck and still Leroy was absent from her side,
Eveline Merivale beneath the calm conventional smile, was secretly
anxious and inclined to be angry.

She was looking her best to-night; and although she had already been
surfeited with compliments from duke to subaltern, she yet longed to
hear one other voice praise her appearance. There was, indeed, every
reason why Lady Merivale should be lauded as the greatest beauty of her
time, for she carried all before her by the sheer force of her
personality. Dazzlingly fair, with hair of a bronze Titian hue, which
clustered in great waves about her forehead; her eyes of a deep,
lustrous blue, shading almost to violet. To-night she would have borne
off the palm of beauty from any Court in the world, for her dress was a
creation of Paquin, and enhanced to perfection her delicate colouring,
which needed no artificial aids.

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