|Chapter Title||THE GROWTH OF LOVE.|
|Newspaper Title||The Narracoorte Herald (SA : 1875 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||By False Pretences; or, The Dilemma of Norman Lennox. A Christmas Story|
, CHAPTER III.
THE GROWTH OF LOVE.
: The dinner at Gadogan House that
evening was the most enjoyable mealj ? Norman Lennox had. ever partaken of. i
To one who had spent six weeks on ship-; board, to'say nothing of his idle days in the colonies, the luxuries of a
well-appointed" table were thoroughly j acceptable, but these were minor points in'the category of Norman's enjoyment. His host exerted himself to the utmost to make his guest feel that he was completely welcome, and in this effort he was ably seconded by his daughter. If Norman thought her lovely when he sawher first, he thought her superlatively charming now. Her iich brown hair, in shining coils, gave an increased charm to her face and form ; her .movements" had the grace and dignity which evidenced gentle birth and culture, and when she spoke, Norman, who had hitherto cared but little for the society of women, felt a thrill of intoxication fill every fibre of his . being.
; There were no other guests. The family party was made up by the widowed sister of Mr Carter, Mrs Hilliard, who managed his household, and .acted as chaperone to Alice, who, Norman learned* had only returned from France a year previously, where she had been to com plete her. education. Her mother had diedffve years before.
When the gentlemen joined the ladies in the drawing-room, Alice played and sang for them. Her voice, a rich con tralto, lent an added beauty to the ssnti -mehtr of the songs, and Norman sat entranced, -scarcely heeding the occasional remarks of Mr Carter and his sister.
That night ?" he scarcely slept The '-change from the motion-; of the vessel, witb its.monotonous chant of-engine and wave, to the stillness of the luxurious room, was of itself sufficient to keep him awake, but tbe excitement of this new trend in his affairs absolutely' forbade sleep.
- During the next few dayB he learned more of his host. He was a city magnate, the principal of the firm of Carter and Carter, whose financial operations dealt with speculations in eveiy part of the globe. Norman was ashamed to confess to himself that.he had never heard of the firm, as he listened to Mr Carter's description of the magnitude of their -operations. The elder man appeared to lay special stresB -on this, and took Nor man to Bee the city establishment with the evident desire to impress his guest with the idea of his solid financial standing, a fact of which the house in Cadogan Square was quite sufficient to convince
The days slipped rapidly by—halcyon days they were to Norman, who by this time had relegated the miserable memory of the past into temporary oblivion. The members of the family appeared to vie with each other in making his stay plea sant, and day by day he felt himself fall ihg more desperately in lave with Alice ' Carter. He yielded weakly to the temp
tation, though, ever and anon, the sha dow of the past would glide across his pleasing thoughts, but, as he was daily in her company, he doggedly refused to think of anything but her charming per sonality. Sometimes it puzided him to see the. evident satisfaction her father appeared to find in their companionship. Such favor, Norman felt, could not have been more freely vouchsafed had he known him for years, hut it was quite palpable such was the case.
Three months passed, the winter had gone, and the opening spring gave oppor tunities for pleasant rides and drives, in which the young people were thrown to
gether more than ever, and it was at thin time that Norman became sensible that
he was regarded with a deeper warmth of feeling by Alice. An increased diffidence when they were alone,
variance of touch and tone, the thousand and one indications of the presence of unspoken affection, daily enlightened Norman to the growing regard of the girl
he loved for him. When this became
clearly apparent to him, he took himself seriously to task, and, after a mauvais quart dliexirc, resolved he would go away. The dark shadow of the past be came a funereal pall, under which his
dearest desires must be buried.
But Mr Carter would not hear of it. He was particularly insistent, and added that later on, when Norman had enjoyed his leisure a little longer, there were cer tain business matters to which he would ask his attention. Norman did not quite grasp the meaning of this, but forbore to question him, for on several prior occa sions, when he had commenced to speak of his father, or of his own prospects, Mr Carter had begged of him not to refer to the matter just then, or had deftly turned the conversation. And always from such a colloquy Norman would retire slightly dazed. And when he men tioned the idea of going away to .Alice she said nothing, but the look in.her eyes decided him to stay.
The friendship with the Carters intro duced Norman into a select circle of Lon don society, and a pleasurable round of gaiety of a subdued order gave him ample opportunity of learning the ways of a fashionable «orld of which he had often read, but, in his past days, had never supposed he would be particularly inte rested in. It was intensely enjoyable ; it was all so novel, and at times, to his vigo rous, practical mind,. so amusing, and Alice took a keen delight in listening to his criticisms of the people they met and the functions they attended. J
In the summer season they accepted, with Mrs H illiard, an invitation to Scar borough, to the seaside residence of a
friend of Mr Carter's—a Mrs Noel. This
lady had a hobby for keeping dogs, a dozen or so of various breeds being scat
tered about the establishment. One of
these animals was a splendid mastiff called Nero. Norman, with an Austra lian's keen eye for a good animal, horse or dog, took a great pleasure in watching this thoroughbred specimen, and his inte rest was a source of great satisfaction to its mistress.
It was the afternoon of a very hot day in July, and the guests had dispersed in
various directions. Most of them were
on the Esplanade, listening to the music. Alice, with Mrs Maitland, was walking to and fro on the broad piazza facing the sea, and Norman was standing at the open French window facing the lawn, and from which he could just hear the tones of Alice's voice as she talked with her aunt.
Below on the lawn was the mastiff Nero. Norman was abstractedly watching him, and wondered why the dog did not lie in his favorite position on the cool grass under the trees. With his head down he was moving round and round in slowly-widening circles, and giving vent to short angry snapping barks. Just then a gardener came through the shrubbery from the stables, carrying in his hand a hay fork, with two steel prongs. The man looked at the dog, then, leaving the shrubbery, walked a little way across the lawn.
Just then the dog lifted up his massive head. Foam was dripping from his jaws, and his great eyes had a wolfish look.
The man dropped the fork and ran. As he neared die house he called to Norman:
" The dog's mad, sir ; T must get a gun and shoot him. Shut the window."
Norman half closed the window as the
dog, attracted by the flying gardener, came creeping after him. At that moment Norman remembered that Alice and Mrs Hilliard were on the piazza outside. A terrible fear seized him, and as ihe dog crept, tiger-like; into the shrubbery-path, he sprang out into the garden, and snatch ing up the fork the man had flung aside,
he turned toward the house.
Three steps led up to the piazza at the head of the path. Near the steps was Alice petrified with horror at the sight of the huge beast, who had crept to the foot of the steps and was contemplating a spring upon the terror-stricken girl. Mrs Hilliard, at the far end of the piazza, was vainly trying to open one of the windows.
With a bound Norman sprang to the side of the crouching animal, and poising the fork in both hands, drove it with all his might, aiming it at the dog's head. But the animal swerved, and instead of the prongs piercing its head, they pinned him to the ground, one on either side of
Norman knew that his only salvation now was to keep the brute there until help arrived. But the animal was power ful—doubly powerful in its madness, and with its great back arched, its eyes bulging, and every hair erect with fury, it writhed and struggled to get free, while Norman, his every muscle strained to its 'utmost tension, forced' the beast's head down until the stout ashen handle of the fork bent under the pressure.
What if it should break. . It meant death to all three—the most horrible of all deaths, by a madness like that of the poor brute at his feet.
Norman could feel his strength going. The veins on his forehead seemed burst ing with the exertion, a red mist svram before his eyes, when a sudden explosion rang in his ears—another—and then he
'*• Let go, sir -he's done for."
Norman loosed the handle andstaggered back. The gardener stood with a double barrelled gun in his hands, and the dog
was in the throes of death.
Norman looked at Alice. She was still
standing, like a statue, at the head of the steps. Her beautiful face was white as marble, but her eyes had in them an expression he had never seen before, but which made his pulses beat madly. She held out her hands to him.
" Norman," she cried, and the next moment she had fainted in his arms.