Chapter 162409407

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162409407
Full Date1899-12-16
Page Number54
Corrections0
Word Count1577
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleA Christmas Development
article text

CHAPTER III.

''Things," to quote the two friends, were iiuteed moving. Frank, true to his in stincts, called as a matter of course every .lay at the farm to see how Muriel was pro gressing. Jt was a pleasant run on Mb bi cycle, and the old people, also tb>e young, made him so very welcome that he quite looked forward to his daily visit. But as the bulletins daily grew more favourable Frank saw ttiat his visits must become fewer arid farther between, and, to his sur prise, lie felt a momentary pang 01 disap pointment.

"I shall miss them all dreadfully," he wiid to himse-lf, "I wonder if they will miss me, or if in a week or two I shall be only an episode in their lives."

Frank miphit with truth have substituted "her" for "tiheir," because the one whom lie really meant was Muriel. Tt had dawned upon hirn that there was only one woman i.i I he world for him, and that one woman was Muriel Clifford. At length he made up

Jiis mind.

shall go and see her to-day, see if I nave anv chance, and if not return to Ade laide. It is hardly likely a girl like Muriel has gomai unwooed, though when I come to think of it, I have never seen any one there, and never heard any mention of a probab'e suitor." This decided Frank. He mounted his bicycle, rode out to the farm, and catching a. glimpse of the now convales cent Muriel in the verandah, soon joined

her.

"J am so glad you are "better," he said I gently, "and yet I am eorry, too.*" j

"Sorry!" ejaculated Muriel, "that is ra

ther unkind, is it not? Why should you , be sorry?"

"Because it means that we must part. My visits here have grown to be very plea sant to me, and, pardon me, Muriel? (Frank watched her face as he called her by her Christian name for the first time, for he did not feel very sure of his ground), but it is you that have made them plea sant. I shall miss you all, but you espe cially, very much."

"Are you going away?" Muriel's face , paled as she asked the question. i

"Perhaps," answered Frank, "it all de pends on you." Frank felt that he was making good progress at last.

"On me!" cried Muriel, "I do not under stand. How can I influence your move ments one way or the other."

Frank rose to the occasion. "Muriel!" he cried desperately, and Owen McAllis ter would never have recognised his some what careless friend in the earnest man who was now sipeaking, "Muriel, it all rests

with you. I love you as I never thought ! to love a woman, and if you can love me j ever so little in return, I shall be the hap piest man in South Australia: if you can not then I jnust go away for ever, and learn to thinK*of you with resignation, for forget you I never vn."

Muriel Clifford was a good girl, and an honest one, and the knowledge that Frank loved her was very precious to her, but she felt that she oould not grasp the hap piness that was within her reach, because the past held a secret, which to a girl of .her disposition seemed an insurmountable

barrier.

"I love you, Frank," she said, very low, but he caught it just the*same, "but I can not marry you."

"You love me but cannot marry me! That is impossible, Muriel, if you love me you must marry me."

"I cannot."

"But, why? why? What on earth is there to prevent it? We love each other.

Your parents do not object to me. I can 1 keej) you in comfort, nay more, in luxury,

uwier; !

"Frank-dear, dear Frank, I will tell you ! aH, only turn your head away whilst I do

so, for it is very painful to me. I vfas en- i gaged to be married when 1 was sixteen. 1 My betrothed went to Adelaide two years ago. We ?corresponded regularly. We were

. to hnve been married last mon'th. J went

to Adelaide to make some fin'aJ prepara tions. As I passed St. 'Paul's a bridal party camls out, and the bridegroom was the man T was to have married. How I raicehd m.v friend's house I do not know, but when I got there she handed me a letter. It must have parsed me on my journey to the city, and they had forwarded it on to me. Tn a few not altogether unkind words he told me how he had gradually changed towards me, and that marriage could only mean unhap piness for 3s both, especially as he had j grown to care for another, and m to pave

future misery v;e had better part. T was crushed, hurt, humiliated, all my pride and self-resper-t wounded, but to my own sur prise anything but heartbroken. Indeed,

when the fir.-lt shock v.ns over I wa« sen sible of a. feeling of relief. I came home a.s soon as T could, and met you in the train on. my homeward journey, and was annoyed and anhamed 'at myself for taking a distinct pleasure in hearing you npeaft, and in being ?afct'TW-ted by you, when you were a. perfect stranger, and .when I ought really to have tak'.'n no interest in anything."

"Muriel, dear, that story you have told me is no obstacle. The m'an wasi a villain and false. Yon are well rid of him. Let me bp the one to prove to you that all men are not false and worthies*. Marry me, and tit once, and let your fic-kle lover see that another can appreciate you, cten if ha could not."

'"'But it is so soon. Frank!" objected Mu

riel. "It looks as if I were fickle as well as . he.",

"You are not fickle, dear, for you never really loved him. lit is Frank Atterton that yon love, and Frank Atterton only, and it shall be hia life's work to see that you never regret the day you gave your life

into his keeping." j

Frank's persuasions prevailed, for once convinced that Muriel loved him he left no stone ur/t.urned to overcome her objections, and, as he argued, there was no need for delay, fo they misrht as well be married at once. But Muriel was firm oil one point.

They must be engaged at least three , montJhs. Muriel «ald twelve, but evenrtu- : allv came down to three, as twelve -was

qu-i-te beyond tlie bounds of Frank's com- : prehension. _ I

That ii'i erht McAllister, wondering at his ' friend's prolonged sib v, sent smother tele- j gr^m, "Are tih friers s+fl moving?" !

Frank wired back, "They've moved. I'm : to be married In three montfr.?. Will you be Vies^l. man?"

McAllister turned tMs last effusion up side down and tried to read it backwards, thinking perhaps that mfohit throw mme Kg'ht upon it, and was at last reduced to writine a Jetter-a thing he had r^.t done for yetra.

""MV dear Atterton (so ran this precious epistle), what is the matter? Come home at once. T will make all arrangements for you at Parkside. so that all you will have to do on arrival there v-fll be tio step into yotrr room, and stay there until yon are

cannot we marry each other?"

quite recovered. You know I warned you before you went away. When, you started, (talking about l(,ate I saw you were in a bad way, but I never dreamt of anything as bad as this. Come home atj once, and let us see

what can be done.

"Yours in sorrow,

"o. MCALLISTER." .

Prank and Muriel laughed over this until even laughter failed them, and then Frank

sent him an answer.

"You dear old Lunatic-It is you tihat are mad, not I. I tell you I am engaged to be married 'to fihe nicest and best girl that ever lived. We are to be married in Narra coorte in three months' time. I intend spend ing those three months at "the hotel here, and I want you to run up and. see Muriel for yourself. She knows all about you, and has read your precious letter. J. told her I had no doubt (the effort of writing it had reduced you -to such a state of mental pro stration that you would have to spend a week in bed to recover from the effects. She is quite anxious to meet you, and I want you to be best man. No shirking your duties. Tell me when to expect you.

"With best wishes,

"FRANK A."

McAllister read tthis letter, shook his head dubidusly, packed his portmanteau, caught the train, spent a fortnight iin. Narra.coorte, paid sundry other visits, and at the end of tffree months complicated matters by ar ranging for another wedding on his own account. He found Muriel's younger sister so charming that he pmposed a. double wed ding on 'tlhe same day.

"It's the air of this p1a«j," hla said, grtwe ly; "there's no getting away from the fact. Given Narracoortfi and a pretty girl, and a

fellow hasn't much show. It's in the air. I wonder if it's always in it, or if it's just a Christmas development."