|Chapter Title||AT LAST|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Love and Passion|
The sun shone upon Alicia Rossiter'« grave, lying out in the green, fragrant pine woods. A white cross stood at the head, and alter a time the English ivy clambered up to the top, winding itself lovingly all about the sacred emblem. And,-under the sod and the mould, Alicia Rossiter slept the sleep that knows no waking, while, at the old, weather-stained house, poor Tiny, on a bed of sickness, tossed to and fro in wild delirium. For her weak strength had given way when she had found her mother dead be- side her, and brain fever had supervened. She was very ill ; but, attended by a sympathetic neighbour and the old negress who had served Alicia for years lhere was a faith hope of ultimate recovery. And as the poor child raved in delirium, her constant cry was for the unknown father-he to whom she had come to look up SB one looks up to and reverences a superior being, but whom she had never seen, and whose sinful story she had yet to learn.
The weeks went slowly by, and six of them had passed " adowa the ringing groove of time," yet still Tiny was unable to fulfil her miBBion, and go forth in quest of her father, The letter was not sent,;and away in New Orleans, Guy Rossiter had long ago received the intelligence of Alicia's death from
Essica ! Her life held fair promises now. It seemed to her, in that first mad hour of triumph and un- alloyed bliss, that there was no such thing in the world as retributive justice. For her guilty con- science reminded her, with a sharp pang of memory, that her own punishment would be fearful were justice not -asleep.
- The day came at last when she was permitted by fate-rare fate, for she had waited many years!-to stand face to face with the man she loved-to lay ber white bands in his, and, with her glorious eyeB raised to his own, murmur Boftly : '
"At last I"
They loved eaoh other these two-there was no doubt upo-i that score. The long hard, cruel years of separation, which had rested so heavily between them, had not served to lessen that love: and stand- ing there, with no obstacle between them now, never any more, Guy Rossiter caught her in his arms, and strained her madly to hie heart.
" My own at last !" he panted, breathlessly, " Oh, Essica ! it is worth the waiting and the suffering, worth the anguish and the despair, this meeting Essica Essica ! it is more than we deserve.
For even in that hour of happiness the worm that dieth not was beginning to gnaw at this man's heart-the littlestinging worm Remorse. But she had no such scruples ; her hour has not yet come. The man's heurt was; more sensitive than the woman's, for when a woman falls-perhaps because her altitude is more lofty than bis-her fall is greater, and a throughly bad woman is worse than a bad man,
She lilted her starry eyes to his handsome face and noted with a pang the hard lines upon it. Ah, they might retain love and the passion of guilty rapture, but they had lost youth and the first sweet trust. ' Still h»r eyes roved over bis dark, hand same face, noting the tiny wrinkles here and there, and the silver so thickly sprinkled amid the soft dark ,wavy treBses. A man still in his prime, but bearing the very tangible marks of sorrow and suffering, Her heart went out to bim in a thrill of passionate idolatry-divine worship ; then he panted bitterly, vindictively, na ber sorrowful gaza marked all the sad ravages of time end suffering upon him : Heaven she is out of my way forever 1"
"All this he oweB -I owe-to Ä«r! But, thank There was no use in further delay to these two who had waited for years. And so it came to pass at last that Essica Carroll stood at Guy Rossiter's sidd in a gray old ivy-covered church, and the solemn vows were pledged at last which made the " twain one flesh."
Essica caught her breath with a gasp of mad exuV tation, and her eyes kindled with unholy joy. She had triumphed. Though years had come and gone, and she had made her way slowly over bleeding hearts, yet ehe had won. She bad said that she could wait twenty years if need be, and she had indeed waited nearly that time. It was worth waiting for. The revenge had come-sweet to her lips-yet was it to satisfying after all? But here-here was the love, the one absorbing passion of her life-all her own at last. No wonder she exulted, for she had won, and she held at last that which she had sold her own soul to obtain,
They went to Lawrence Parkland there the next few weeks were passed-such weeks of happiness as the two had never hoped to know. Essica had kept the secret of Tiny's existence well, and believing that the girl (whom she had not seen since her infancy) wou'd be an object of dissension between herself and Guy-a dark spot upon th'eir sunshine -she would sosner have died than reveal the truth, She hid it all away in the depths of her guilty heart, and shut out the sound of the still small voice which tried for a time to point out her duty. Yet she was after all uneasy and troubled. She was too happy, she said, with a little prescient shudder, and an insane determination entered her heart that if anything came between them new she would take his life and her own.
The days came and went, and two happy months rolled by. To how many human beings on this weary earth are sixty whole days of perfect happi« ness vouchsafed ? Alas ! to most of us, happiness is always in the past tense.
And then the blow fell. Juat when the sun was the brightest, and the sky the bluest, and the world looked fairest, the blow fell, \
Guy'Rossiter entered Essioa's presence one day, trembling visibly and pale to the very lips, an open
letter in one hand:
" Essica !" he said, sternly, and the beautiful dark eyes bent upon her perfect face were full of cold- ness, which looked-like scorn-"why have you never told me all ? Why have you hidden the truth from me all these long years ? Oh, great Heaven ! how cenld you deceive me so ? Essica Rossiter, an- swer me-I demand it-where is my child ?"
(To bt contmued.)