|Chapter Title||BETROTHED LOVERS.|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
" Miss Wontworth ! I-excuse me-did I under- stand you aright P What reason can you have for doubting my assertion ?" Phillip Paxton asked, look- ing exceedingly astonished and somewhat crest-fallen at Arley's startling statement.
" Shall I tell you my reason P" Arlay asked, very white about the mouth, but meeting his flashing eye with a fearless, resolute look,
" Certainly. I think I have a right to an explana- tion. It is rather hard for a lady to tell a gentleman that she doubts his word, when he lays bare the secrets of his heart to her," Phillip replied, with an injured air.
" Very well, I shall tell you then, but it will not be pleasant for you to hear" Arley replied, in a straightforward way. "I do not believe in your professed affection for me because I know that ever since you came to Hazelmere unt'l quite recently you have been trying to win Lady Elaine."
"No let me go on," she said, as he seemed about to interrupt her, " for I bave a confession to make with this statement. You have Bought her ladyship upon every occasion appropriating her to "yourself whenever you could do so, and knowing all the time, as all of us have known, that Wil Hamilton had given her the deepest devotion of bra heart. I knew that Lady Elaine returned his affection, and knowing this I determined that if possible, the course of true love should for once run smoothly. And BO I-I have tried to thwart you whenever you attempted to force your attentions upon ber. I de not wonder that you are surprised," she continued, as she saw him start and change colour, " but it was for this purpose that I sacrificed my maiden modesty, seeking your society, laughing and jesting with you, and keeping you by my side by every art which I could call to my aid, Yes, I played this part for the sole purpose of thwarting your de- signs, and to allow the lovers all the enjoyment pos- sible ; and when my end was achieved-when they announced their engagement, I-I couldn't keep up the farce any longer, I hated myself for having ap- peared-and I assure yon it wat all pretense-the
bold and lor ward girl who had seemed to run after you and court your favour upon every occasion ; and! -and the reaction has perhaps made me treat yon with more coldness and reserve than I ought to have done. So you perceive, knowing as I do that yon were so interested in Lady Elaine, it is not strange that I do not believe you when you say that you love
" But I cannot understand," she went on, drawing herself up haughtily, " why you should make such an avowal to me, unless indeed you were driven to it from pique, I have heard of such things, but I think you might at least have spared me such a mor»
She would have passed him as she ceaBed speaking for she had wrought herself up to the highest pitch of indignation, and was quivering in every nerve ; but he placed himself directly in her path, and would not let her go, '
"No 1 no ! I swear that pique baa nothing what- ever to do with it I" he cried eagerly. "Hear mel You have accused me, and now you must listen to my defence 1"
A hundred conflicting emotions had been raging within him while ehe was speaking. He had been angry and mortified to learn how well she had read him, and how he had been outwitted by this keen, brilliant girl.
It irritated him almost beyond endurance to think that he had never once suspected her strategy, but had, instead, walked meekly into the snare she had spread for bim, and allowed her to beguile and dupe
bim to her heart's content.
He admired ber, too, for her pluck in thus boldly avowing it to him, and giving her reasons for her doubt of his integrity in this straightforward man.
Still, something in her way of speaking-a con- straint, a sort of forced bravado, that slight twitch* ing at the corners of har beautiful mouth, and tha look of pain in her eyes-puzzled him, and made him feel that perhaps there might be a more serf, ous reason for her keenness in reading his heart and motives than she would evan be willing to ac- knowledge to herself.
Like a flash of light the thought came to him, that perhaps while she had been spreading this net for his unsuspected feet, she bad been caught in its meshes herself-while she had sought to keep him from winning the love of Lady Elaine, she had léame* to love him before she knew it.
During the moment or two that he stood looking down into her expressive face, and trying to think what to say to defend himself, he had grasped and analyzed ber feelings, and resolved to govern him. self accordingly.
" Arley," he said, in a quick, earnest voice, " at any other time, nnder any other circumstances, I should have been mortified and angry at your frank con- fession ; for a man does not like to be told that he has been outwitted by a girl, even though the one who has accomplished it may have twined herself about bia heart in a way to make him love her very tenderly. But, forgive me if I say that I am led ta believe that your eyes must have been sharpened by something more than common observation to make you read me so well as you have done. Darling" and as he uttered this word, in a low, thrilling tone, he reached down and took possession of her two trembling hands-"let me 'confess' now. That first evening when I met Lady Blaine, I thought I had never seen any one BO lovely. I was
bewildered, fascinated, and I said to myself, ' This is . love at first sight.' I did seek her-I own it-for she
seemed to posses') a étrange power^whicU aiaw^Se
almost irresistibly toward her. But' when I VMS thrown or ' trapped,' as you, say, into your society, I began to feel that the spice and fire of your more ardent nature was more congenial to me; your vi. vacity, your wit and never failing spirits, touched a ' chord in my heart that had never vibrated before, and I became an only too willing captive in the net which you say you spread for me. But I did not become wholly conscious of this until after Wil's ena gageaient was announced and you began to shun me. You remember the saying
"How blessings brighten as they take their flight,"
and I have fully realized it of late, I assure you, and my eyes have been rudely opened by your treat- ment of me to the fact that it is you whom I love, and you alone. Arley, I want you for my wife, and I should have told you this before but for the cold« ness and inexplicable neglect with which you have treated me since you began to hate yourself for making me love you.- Dear, this is my trouble, or at least a portion of it-this waa one reason why I was going away from Hazelmere, I could not re- main and endure your aversion, Will you not bid me stay ? - whiBper but one word to tell me that I may hope, and I shall be happy. Do not tell me again that you do not believe me-try me, test me, and let me prove my sincerity to you." He spoke earnestly and passionately, and his words were very sweet to the ears of the listening girl.
Her heart longed to believe him-to trast him and be happy, though the still, small voice of her better judgment bade her " wait and be careful,"
Still his words seemed so plausible and sincere ; it looked reasonable, she thought, that he should be at once attracted by the Lady Elaine, who was so much more beautiful-at least in her opinion-than any one else. Everybody was attracted to her, but it did not follow that everybody must fall hopelessly in love with her,
(To be continued.)