|Chapter Title||"WHO CAN TELL"|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
"WHO CAN TELL?"
Sir Charles' kind heart ached for the fair, beautiful woman who had just taken leave of the man who should have interposed himself between her and all evil, instead of trying to crush her and blaat her reputation.
She was pale and very sad when she returned to ; him j her lovely mouth wore a grieved expression, and her eyes an almost hopeless look.
He refrained from speaking to her, but offering her bis arm, they passed out of the court-room in
Just outside the door they encountered Senor Proquelin, who had evidently been waiting for his
He seemed somewhat disconcerted to see her attended by the chivalrous Englishman, who had so bravely espoused her cause, and his face grew dark with anger as their eyes met.
But he carne forward and addressed himself to Arley.
"When shall I call upon the señora for-for a settlement?"heaaked,with a sort of shamefaced
Arley drew herself up haughtily, but before she could reply Sir Charlea thundered forth, in the villain's own tongue :
"Never, you dastard ! never dare to approach this lady agsin, or I will have y su arrested on the spot for the vilest perjury of which man was ever guilty. Mind," he added, "lama man of my word ; I am not to be trifled witb." And he looked it, too,
Tbe baffled lawyer glared fierce hatred at him from beneath his projecting brows, and thruBt his hand into bis boBom as if for some weapon, concealed there, with which to wreak vengeance upon the unmasker of his villainy, while he muttered bitter
curses upon him. |
But Sir Charles appeared not to heed him, though every sense was on the alert, and he passed quickly out of the building with his charge, nor did he leave her until he had conducted her safely to her own
" Mrs. Paxton," he then said, " I am going directly for my mother, and we will take you under our pro- tection immediately. These Spaniards are a treach- erous, revengeful set, and you have already been the victim of such miserable plots, that I do not like to leave you alone another hour, Have you any busi. > ness outside which needs attention ?"
" No," Arley said, " there is nothing to detain me." I " Then may I ask you to pack your trunks, and be
ready to gu away with ne when we come for you f" i " But perhaps lady Herbert might not be pleased witb such an arrangement," Arley replied, with some
" I will answer for that ; I know that she will be more than pleased, and my mother and I do not often disagree in our opinions," Sir Charlea said, with his genial smile; adding, "so please let me find you ready to leave when I return."
She promised, and be went away with a quick, eager step.
He was actually afraid to allow her to remain tbeie for he knew well the revengeful nature of the people of that country, and Senor Proquelin's dark looks as they left that court-house warned bim that hedid not mean to give up his anticipated legal fee, if either fair means or foul could obtain it.
He was back in an hour, as he had promised, and his mother with him.
Lady Herbert was a sweet-faced little woman of Bbout fifty, with a fair, almost girlish complexion, dark, kind eyes, a low rich voice, and a smile which won Arley's heart at once.
" My dear, Charles has told me of your trouble," was her greeting, as she took Arley warmly by the band, then drawing her gently toward s her, she kissed her softly on tbe cheek, for the girl's loveliness took her heart by storm.
Aria j's lips trembled at the tender, compassionate tone, and if Sir Charles had not been present, the would have bowed her head upon that motherly shoulder and sobbed out all her sorrows to her sympathising ear.
" I think with him," Lady Herbert continued, see- ing that Arley was near losing her composure, " that we muBt take you away immediately; will you come and travel with us for a few months before goiDg back to England ?"
" You are very kind madam," Arley replied, " and I will gladly do eo if I can be asefal to you-I could
not consent to be a burden."
The pretty matron laughed such a aweet, rare laugh
at th e,
"A burden, dear,"she said, "I should not allow you to be such-you have yet to learn what an ex- acting body lam, and I promise you that I shall see that you ore kept busy from dawn till twilight."
Arley smiled at this threatening assertion, but she did not believs that it was in her nature to be very
" Now," she continued, " there are a few disagree- able preliminaries which we will dispose of immedi- ately, and with those off our minda we will try to become better acquainted. I paid Miss Freble-my former companion-twenty pounds a quarter, besides travelling expenses, and her duties were to write my letters, read to me-for my eyes are quite weak -and make herself generally agreeable. Now, will that compensation be satisfactory to you ? and will Sou coase with me ? I want you very much, Mrs. Paxton, more now that I have seen you, than I did when my son described you to me."
"I think you are exceedingly kind, and I am very ¡jmteful," Arley began, with a suspicious buBkiness, for she knew well enough that the generous woman wBs actusted more from sympathy for her forlorn situation, than her desire to take an entire stranger
into such intimate relations,
But Lady Herbert interrupted her half completed
" You overestimate the kindness, bb you term it, my dear," she said. " I cannot tell ycu how lonely I have been since Miss Preble le'ft me. I believe I should have given up our trip and insisted upon go- ing home if Charlie had not run across you, He is very nice and kind, and tries to see that I have every comfort"-this with a fond glance at her idolized son-"but he is a man, and cannot under- stand all the little notions of a fussy old woman. Ah ! I see you mean to come," she continued, as her roving glance rested on Arley'a trunk, packed and ready to bB strapped. "Charlie, won't you attend to Mrs. Paxton's luggage, while I call up her land lady to settle ?"
Arley colored end laughed.
"There is no need of that," ahe Bald,"for she is paid. Your Bon requested me to be ready to go away when he returned, and I hove obeyed him literally. Please aceept it as an omen of my future 'oyalty to yourself."
"Thetis a good child," madam remarked, more and more delighted with her acquistlon, and she emphasized her words with an affectionate little pat upon her shoulder.
"Then I do not see, Charlie, but we are ready to np," she added, to her son. .. We will have the coach take us to our hotel, then carry Mra. Paxton's trunks to the station, while she helps me pack my own. We have thought best," she explained to Arley, " to leave Madrid to-night."
How the girl's heart bounded at this intelligence! How glad she would be to getaway from that hate- ful place, where she had Buffered so much ; and how thankful to look ber lost upon those swartbly, dark browned, flerced-eyed, jabbering Spaniards, and to feel around her the protecting care of a strong, good ! man and of a kind, pure woman !
I There was not the leaBt regret in her heart when
she turned her back upon her room and followed her new friends down stairs, even though there had come to her there the knowledge that she possessed a rare talent, which would, perhaps, ennoble all her future life, and which she might never have discov- ered had she not been driven into such extremity. She bad learnt that she was a heaven-born artist, and she had been determined to make the perfecting of this talent the aim of all her future years.
But she felt like a différent being as she took her seat beside Lady Herbert in the coach ; a great bur-
den rolled from her heart.
She drove with Sir Charles and his mother to their hotel, where ehe helped them to pack their large trunks, and a busy time they had of it to get ready for the evening trßin.
"I hope," Arley said, while in the midst of their work, " that you are not hastening your departure on my account. I should be sorry to have you lose anything worthy of note here."
Lady Herbert laughed softly. Her companion was considerate, at all events,
" Well dear," she replied, " to be truthful, I shall have to say that we ore hastening a little an your ac- count ; but at the same time I must confess that I Bball be glad te get away from this uncanny city, I haven't felt comfortable an hour since we entered this country, and alter Charles told me of his en- counter with that wretch of a lawyer to-day, I grew very nervous, starting nt every Bound, and imagining Spanish daggers and poinards waiting at every cor-
ner for him."
" And perhaps for her too," she thought, as she re- called that fierce flish of anger from Senor Proque lin's eyes, after Sir Charles' indignant assertion that she would pay him nothing for hiB services.
Evening found the Herbert party en route for Tou- louse, whence they were to go to spend the reru ainder of the summer among the Alps.
The wisdom of Sir Charles' move, in thus leaving
Madrid with all possible dispatch, may be shown i from the fact that when the shadows of evening had deepened into night, a Close carriage waa driven slowly and noiselessly to the door of the house where Arley had lodged.
A tall figure Blighted from it, and, after conversing a moment or two with some one who appeared to be inside, mounted the steps and rapped upon the door.
He waa kept waiting some time, at which he be- came very impatient, muttering in a low fierce tone at the delay, bat at length steps were heard, and then the door was unbolted and opened.
In his blandest tones the man ¡Dquired for Señora Paxton, though he kept his hat slouched before his face and his cloak close up to hie chin.
When told that the señora had gone, be burst into a perfect torrent of imprecations ; then appearing to doubt the woman's word, he insisted on being con- ducted to the room which she had occupied,
The landlady threw wide the door, and bade him enter, and leading the way up stairs she showed him into Arley'a room.
It was very evident that the pretty bird had flown, for there was no sign of trunks or bBggage of any kind ; the bed was stripped of ita clothing, and tbe curtains removed and sent to the laundry to make ready for another occupant,
"Where bas she gone?" the man demanded, harsh y, while he bent a scrutinizing glance upon the woman's face as if he thought ehe might be an accomplice in Arley'a flght.
"8he did not know," she replied-a senor and Benora had come there about the middle oE the after- noon, and she had gone away with them, taking 1 everything that belonged to her. She had settled
her bill, and she added, with an air of delight, had made her a handsome present besides, and was just the loveliest and sweetest Benora in the world.
The baffled man turned angrily from the garrulous creature and retraced his steps-they were not light ones either-to the carriage.
Here he -held a short consultation with its other occupant, then entered it himself and was driven
Yes, Sir Charles Herbert was wise in taking her immediately aw-y, for thus, perhaps, a dark deed was averted-who can tell ?
But as for the object of all this intrigue, she was safe, and hBppier than she bad been at any time since her marrlege.
She was being wirled away over mountain and dell into wild and rugged gorges, though deep, gaping, black-mouthed tunnels, but a feeling of restfulness and freedom waB mokiug her heart light, and smoothing the lines of cure from her brow with every speeding hour.
How kind the pretty little matron waa! bow thoughtful Sir Chirles, both for his mother and her- self !-bo chivalrous, so attentive-not ostentatiously bo, but by a thousand little acts and words betraying the nobility of his nature.
If Philip Paxton had been such a man ! If be had possessed a tithe of the manliness, truth, and honour which was manifested in Sir Charles Herbert's every- day life, how aupremely happy she should have been - how gladly, with how muoh pride she would have devoted all her life and energies to him !
She could not help drawing these comparisons, and wondering why-she did not murmur-she was trying to think that Heaven knew best, and she was so thankful to have found this refuge-she should have been shorn of all that goes to make moat women bo happy and content, and her life allowed
to become so barren and desolate. |