|Chapter Title||"I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU."|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
" I DO NOT BBLIBVB SOU."
Thus, for more than a week, this farce went on.
Philip Paxton was wretched from his losses and disappointment, yet, with the determination not to succumb to it, and with his nsw object in view, he strove to keep up an appearance of content and en- joyment which he was far from feeling.
Arley, having discovered, to her mortification and dismay, that she had given her love unsought, re- solved to hide her secret, and be "game" to the last.
She had never been in wilder spiiits, never more witty and merry, than during the ten days following the announcement of lady Elaine's engagement to Wil Hamilton ; yet, in spite of all, the company at Hazelmere began to notice and wonder at the strange pallor that settled over her face, at the fitful bright- ness of her eyes, the hard, unnatural riag of her usual silvery laugh, and the unaccountable nervous* ness which made her start and fluBh at the opening or shutting of a door, while the tears weuld rush into her eyes, and her lips .would tremble, if any one spoke to her suddenly.
Another strange circumstance which others besides Philip began to notice, was her persistent avoidance ofthat gentleman.
Hitherto they remembered, she had sought his society, persisting in chatting and jesting with him and drawing him on, until the two often became the life of the whole party.
Now, though she was not less gay, thoujh her laughter and merry repartee was heard as often if not oftener than before, yet she managed to shun his companionship, and if by some chance she found bfarselE thrust upon him, Bhe would somehow con- trive to draw Mies Simpson or some one else equally distasteful about them, and then with marvellous tact slip away, leaving them mistress of the situation.
This, of couree, became irksome, to say the least, to the victin of these arts, for he was fond of gay company and a good time, and did not care to waste his energies playing the agreeable to simpering old maids or bashful girls, and be chafed angrily over it, particularly as every moment now was precious, and be was anxious concerning his future prospects.
" Curse the little witch," he muttered angrily one day, when after several ineffectual attempts to secure a quiet tete a tete with Arley, she had BB often eluded him. " I am almost inclined to believe that she is really a witch, and having read my designs is pur- posely and even mockingly evading me like a verit- able ' Wil-o'-the wisp.' She is BO ducedly pretty and cute about it, too, that it only makes the pursuit more fascinating ; and if it wasn't for the necessity of the case it might be more enjoyable. However, the end has got to come- the question mmat be de- cided before long, for the state of my finances is precarious and won't stand this kind of life a great
Next day, after reasoning thuB, he resolved to meet strategy with strategy.
Several of the gueats who had remained at Hazel- mere since the dinner party departed that morning, leaving the family and original guests by themselves.
Of course the lovers were absorbed in each other that was to be expected. Philip had disappeared in some mysterious manner immediately after assisting Miss Simpson, with his very bestgraceint» hercarriacre and waving her a smiling good-by ; and Arley greatly relieved to be left to herself, and imagining that he had gone on a tramp, relaxed her vigilance some- what, and made up her mind to have a quiet, reBtful day.
On the sonth side of the bouse there was a little
piazza shaded by a stately old beach, and were a hammock had been Bwung to tempt anybody who might be lazy, or wish to while away a quiet hour or two with an interesting book,
This was a favorite resort of Arley'e, and now, be- lieving herself free and unwatched, she stole thither with book and pillow and snugly laid herself away to enjoy her supposed liberty.
I should not have used the word enjoy, for she was very miserable.
Nothing but her pride kept her, from giving up the battle a«d running away from both her trouble and friends, for she had promised to remain several weeks longer at Hazelmere.
But if she went she would have to give eome reason foi breaking her promise, and her face burned and her blood boiled with shame and indignation as she thought of the true and only one she could give.
" WaB woman ever such a fool befare ?" she would cry in scorn and rage day after day, as she took herself to tBBk for her folly. " Am I so much weaker and lower than others that I should thus disgrace my sex ?"
But it was of no use to upbraid herse'.f thus ; she knew that she loved Philip Paxton with all the strength and passion of her young heart, and hav- ing given that love unasked, the knowledge brought her only wretchedness and shame,
How quiet it WBB there upon the piazza as ehe swung idly back and forth ! there was not a sound save the rustling of the leaves over her head, with now and then the twitter of a bird as it lighted for a moment among them.
Lady Hamilton waa engaged in a consultation with the housekeeper. Sir Anthony was looking over accounts in the library, Wil and Lidy Elaine bad gone for a row on the lake, and Annie and Fred were arranging the list for invitations to their approach- ing wedding.
" Whit a luxury it ia to be alone," Arley sighed, doubling her pillow to make her head higher ; then tucking one pretty hand under her cheek she g »zed dreamily out over the rich green lawn before har, and serenely believed herself to be utterly forgotten, for the time being, by the whole household, and as secure from intrusion as if she were locked within her own room,
But she did not remember that a large bay-window ran out from the hsuse jost beyond the piazza, and that in the third story, and overlooking it, was Philip
But so it was, and he bad stationed himself there to watch his opportunity.
He had seen her steal out upon the piazza with her book and pillow, and watched while she settled her- self comfortably within the hammock. He knew that she was not reading, for she turned no leaves, He knew that she was not happy, for her face was ead and pale, except' when, now and then, a vivid blush would mount to her brow, and her lips curl with scorn and pain.
She was very lovely lying there in her graceful abandon, in spite of her evident trouble, and he would have been glad to Bit there and watch her the whole morning through,
But he knew that now was his opportunity, and he was determined not to loss it.
Softly, as a cat creeps upon her prey before the final spring, he stole down stairs, out upon the lawn, and Bround to her very side, before she was conscious that any one was approaching.
"You do no find your book veryinteresting, doyou, Miss Wentworth ?" he said, coming slowly up the steps, and standing directly before her, for he did not intend that Bhe should circumvent him this time. His patience was at an end, and he was determined to settle an important question without further de- lay.
Arley started at the sound of his voice like a frightened fawn, the rich colour, which she tried in vain to repress, surging up to her temples.
" How do you know ?" she demanded, with a pretty air of defiance, BB she gracefully swung herself to a sitting posture in the hammock, the toes of her tiny slippers just touching the floor of the verandah.
If she bad been caught napping, she meant to fight hard to preserve her secret intact.
" How I know ?" he repeated, with a laugh that was very pleasant to her eirs. "Because you have been lying here for the last half hour, and have not turned a single leaf."
" And you have been watching me," she flashed back, indignantly, but turning hot and cold as she remembered of what and whom she had been think- ing during that half hour.
"Yes, I confess it, I could not help it, you made such an attractive picture, and since yon would not allow me to come near you, I have been obliged to worship at a distance," he returned throwing a sort of sad tenderness into his tones,
" Mr. Paxton I I do not understand. You speak in I enigmas," Arley said, assuming a look fcool sar-1 prise, though her nerves tingled to her very finger-1 tips at hie words. '
" Don't you understand, Miss Wentworth P" he in- quired, bending a scrutinizing glance upon her. "Bo you suppose I can believe that your strange cold- ness and avoidance of me, during the past fortnight, bave been wholly unstudied on your part P Can it I be possible that you have unconsciously resorted to I a hundred devices to keep out of my way, and to
hold me at arm's length all that time, end until I can bear it no longer and have intruded upon yon now, to make you tell me the cause of this sudden change ?"
" Make me tall you ;" Arley repeated,proudly, her cheeks vividly red, but with drooping eyes, while the fingers which were plying idly with her book
trembled with nervousness.
" Yes," he said, decidedly, " I think I owe it to my- self, and to you as well, to inquire into the cause of yrjur displeasure, and how I have given offence."
This he bad said with a sort of quiet dignity which impressed his listener more than any number of
accusations would have done.
"I am not displeased-you have not offended me," stammered Arley, feeling miserably guilty for the way shs had been treating him; then, conscious that she was making a worse blunder, she could have bitten her tongue off for having admitted so
" Then why on earth have you treated me so, Ar- ley ?" he burst forth with a shadow of passion. " Pardon me, Miss Wentworth," he continued, more quietly, "I am forgetting myself; but I am in trouble, and I am going away from Hazelmere. But I conld not go until I had made my peace with you ; we were such good friends for awhile that I could not endure the thought of leaving you offended with
Arley had lost all her brilliant color during the latter part of this speech, and she forgot everything but that he was in trouble and going away, and Bbe would be thrice wretched when she could see him
" In trouble, Mr. Paxton ?" she repeated, with gentle questioning, and raising her great dark eyes to his with a look which thrilled bim in spite of the fact that he was playing a treacherous part. " I am very sorry."
" Thank you ; and will you miss me P-will you be sorry to have me goP he asked, bending near to
But Arley was too proud and high-epirited to. fall into his arms in any such way as this. She could not forget how eager he had been in his pursuit of Lady Elaine, end, drawing back a trifle, she replied» somewhat coldly >
I "It ia always unpleasant to have an agreeable
party broken up, and I am very sorry that Annie and Wil will be sorry to have any of their guests depart."
Philip Paxton flushed at this, and began to fear that it might not be so easy as he had anticipated to win this independent little beauty with her snug
Still he had seen some things to encourage him she had flushed beneath his glance, become confused when he had taxed her with'being offended with him, and grown pale and depressed when he had
spoken of going away, j
These were sights that pleased him, but she was so quick to evade him at every point that he found it very difficult to bring matters to a crisis.
He stood thinking a moment what it would be best to say next, and during that moment Arley
She dare not trust herself longer alone with him ; she had nearly betrayed herself once already, and she was anxious to get away to the solitude of her own room and out of all danger of a Beco»^J,îéiding
to such weakness.
" I shall have to ask you to excuse me, Mr. Pax- ton," she said, looking at her tiny watch, and then holding it up to him with an arch look. " See how late it is getting to be, You know Annie is to have a lawn party this afternoon, and I must go and make myself as bewildering as possible for the occasion. You do not go to-day I hope," she added, as if that was a matter of secondary importance, " it would be a pity for you to lose all the fun."
He bit his lips with vexation, for she was making the task be had set himself to accomplish, abomi- nably bard,
" Why will you be so obtuse ?" he cried, crowing crimson to his very brow-" you compel me to be very abrupt for-I came here to tell you-to ask you-to be my wife 1 Arley, I love you."
It to«» very abrupt surely-very awkward though there was a ring of desperation in his words that suited Arley better than if it had been a more finished
Her pulses leaped and bounded within her with joy, with which, however, very much of pain was mingled.
But her reply was as abrupt as his avowal had been, and it amazed and confounded .him with its independent frankness.
She lifted her face-very beautiful it was too, with thoee crimson spots on her cheeks-and, looking him straight in the eye, said :
" Mr. Paxton, I do not believe you."