|Newspaper Title||Bowral Free Press and Berrima District Intelligencer (NSW : 1884 - 1901)|
|Trove Title||The Christmas Fairy|
TKJS CHRISTMAS FAIRY.
CJJAl'TKIl XIII. CONTINUED.
* It is my am, too,' alio aaui, straggling to speak collectedly, but ovory wovdwiis an effort. ' I tried to hope you might forget nic, but I could not: and just now, I only thought—that—that—Oh! what shall 1 do ?'* Slio broko down into conviilsivo wcop ing; but. When onco more Lord 1' alcouo.x •would have taken her in hi? arms, sho ro: coiled: • NO, lio !' she -gasped: you must not tempt inc. Am I not weak enough ?
A hardened man would havo rejoiced to hear those words; but Leigh l<alconcr grow whito to the lips, and drew buck. Eor tio llnng herself on fclio sofa, and buried he
face iu the cushions. There was a terrible I struggle within her. The moment sho had bo dreaded had come upon her ; sho must clvooso between lovo with dishonour; and honour without lovo. She was so young to live all the years to como in lovoless soli
.. tude; ami yet how those loved her would!
crievo if she yielded to Lord Falconers prayer! And thofathor, gently born, who had commended lier to a dear friend a care , the spotloss mother who bore lier, who had always reigned in her imagination as some tutelary saint; liow could sic grieve, oven in tho space of Paradiso, ovoi her child s sin I But tho cavtlily love—tho living Love that would enfold bor and fill hoi* ach* ing heart—how could sho put that ft way from her ? . , . , ,
Leigh Falconer knelt beforo lier, and put his arm rouud her, and drow hor cently to liim, aud, alas ! sho did not re sist him now. Trembling, halt shrinking, yet yiolding, sho suffered him to hold nor to his breast, to lay his lips on lici'3, claiming lier as his own. . . _ ? , .
' Have I not proved my lovo ? ho wins
pored. ' It .shall never fail you, Bertie, I.i
will bo faithful to you till death, You do be, | liovo mo, darling ?' , , i
Would nothing save her ? Was sho lost; indeod ? Oh ! far bettor that tho sea had
claimed tho goldon-liaived baby than that | she liad been saved for this fate ? Belter death hads hold hor than tho arms that
clasped her now. Always lovod, ijlw^y3
with him; homo, brother, sister, lather, mother—they had beon so to liev—all blot ted out I this great lovo was all in all.
• ' I kept that letter you wrote,' slio said,
softly; ' I have worn it lioro always—on my heart, with——
Tho word that would have followed frozo oil' her tonguo. She stopped, gasping for breath, gazing wildly in her lover's faco. .
' Bertie 1' ho cried, 'my life 1 what is it
11 am mad !' sho said, hoarsely ; ' mad 1 Let me go 1' .With a fierce wrench slio tore herself from his arms, and sprang to hot foot. Falconer rose too,stricken and abasliod, tho rod blush of sharno on his brow. Iu one dazzling flash ho saw himself as bo was, traitor, seducer, false to all ho had held most dear, wronging most whore ho loved most, sinning beyond pardon ; the agitated girl beforehim was to him ail accus ing augol. Ho was asbanied and humbled beforo lier. But Bortiothrew her self on her knoos, trying to clasp his hand in hers. - , ;
• No, no 1' sho cried, ' tho shame is mino, liot yours. Ah! you aro truo to
yourself sti'll. Slay——hear sao—; it was
this—, this.' . , i
She thrust lier hand into her bosom, ana drew out a little bag.'
• See!' she roso to lier feet; ' tlns savod me, this letter, my father's!'
'.your father's, Bertie ! You know who lio was ? For Iloaven's sake, speak )
' Did they novor. tell you ?'—with trem bling fingers she was undoing the fastenings of the bag. ' I was pioltod up at sea, and this fragmont of a lottor was found on
: me.' . .
She liad drawn it,forth now, and pressed it passionately to her lips, then put it into
Jier lover's hand.
' Bead it 1' alio said, ' read it!'
But as Lord Falconer's eyes fell on tho scrap of writing—which had boon carefully, pasted on to whito papor—lie reeled back as if lio had been shot, and a lioarso cry broKo from his lips. ... . ?... ?
• ' Alfred Lancaster,' ho said; 'oh, lioa
^Yon know him 1' exclaimed Bertie,
clasping her hands; 'you knew my father?' . .
" ' Knew him 1' „
He sank into a chair, and buriod his iaco
in his hands in terriblo anguish. I
• Great Heaven if it liad boon too lato
Child 1 child!'—as tho girl knelt before liim, and tried once more to clasp,his hands in hers—' you know not what you do ! I am doubly dishonourod. Loavo mo, Bor
tlC' 1 cannot! Tell mo why you" are like
this ? You may be wrong about the letter.' . .
' Wrong ! I have read many a lottor oi
He lifted his head, and forcing himself to something like calmness, road steadily, not
once, but tliroe times, the broken lines ad-; Crossed by a dying man to his friend. Then ho rovorontly laid the letter down,aud, turn ing, put' his two hands on Bertie's shoul ders us he still knelt, and looked into her
^Bertie,' he said, ' Ifyou had showed mo
this a vear ago, how much had been spared us both! Now answer my questions. Where was it you were found ? On what coast was the ship wrecked from which you wore
• On the coast of Cornwall. I don't know tho name of tlio ship; but Tom Evelyn knows everything. He bpuglit me from the fisherman who found mo. That lettor was upon me,' and-I can remomber that I would not part with it. I remembered that my name„was Bertie that is why they called mo Bertie.'
' Bertie, tho man who wrote this lottor— Alfred Lancaster, was of gentle blood but poor. When lie was young, ho loved my mother (hor liamo was Alberta), but she never lov'od him. She had alwayR, how ever, a great affection for him, and when, -with' the wife ho afterwards married—1 will tell you urthcr presently—ho wont to Syd-; JK,y to n situation that was offorcd to him',? she promised to "bo always a friend to him
and his. . Ou her death-bed she niado mo promiso to carry out licr wishes—if lie should die, to care for his child. I wrote to your father, and told him of that promise. This letter that you liavo so cherished, was writtou by him, commending you to my caro —you, whom I would have destroyed —whom I was bound by every sacred tio to protect—to love audchcrish ; aud, oh, Bor tie, I have loved you; but my lovo would lmvo boen your curso.'
IIo roso iip and turned from lier, pacing tho floor to and fro, in a tempest of passion ato emotion; tho cup had been givon to his lips, and his own hand had dashed it aside. Tlicro was no barrier between them now— sho was his equal—ha could offor a hus band's name aud love, but darod ho asked her to forgive the wrong ho would have dono her? Would not this be added insult? And Bortio stood still watching him, with locked hands and lioaving bosom, a wild vague hope flushing her soft cheek, shining in her violofc eyes. Tho joy of tho know ledge that had como to her—tho knowledgo of gontle and spotless birth, was lost in that sweetest joy of lcnowiug that now tho gulf botweon her and tho man sho lovod was all but bridged; and sho belonged to him— her father had given her to Leigh Falco ner's caro, Oh, why would lio not speak to
What could ho say ? Aftor nil, she was but a poutomino daucor—an uneducated girl; his equal in birth, but socially divided from him still; hornamo a legitimate mark for scandal and careless gossip. And yet ho might feel himself bound to ful lil the ohargo so solemnly ontrustod to him, and know not how to do it. Howcould Lord Falcouor bo friond and guardian to tho some time pantominc artist? That last thought gave her courage. Sho moved a step nearer
to her lover.
' Lord Falconer,' sho said, and ho pausod and turned towards her. With an effort she wont on, not looking at him. o
• You must not feel yourself undov any obligation about mo. You could not woll do anything for me, aud thero is no need. I know that I am gently born, and I am
content. I shall bo none the better for tho
world knowing it; so I will remain as I am,
' Bortio 1' Lord Falconer cried, passion
ately, 'You drivo 1110 mad! Do you think all_ that tortured mo was tlio thought of an ob ligation that I knew not how to fulfil? It was my sin—the wrong I would liavo done you—that stood botween us. If you can forgive that' —ho stretched out his hands to licr, his voice was hoarso aud broken— ' 001110 to 1110 again. Givo mo a husband's rights to shelter you.'
No need for more, for Bertie spraug to his opon arms, aud throw liersolf on his breast. Ah ; what was oven tho happiness of that first knowledgo of his lovo of this ? There was no sliamo now in the kisses ho preasod on lior lips— no terrible awakening to misery and self-reproach. Sho wab bis own indeed; and it was 110 dream, but a blessed truth, for again and again lie whis perod the sweet word that never before had passed his lips, though lio had uttered a thousand endearments. .
[to be continued.]