|Newspaper Title||Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Priceless Violet|
BY EFFIE ADELAIDE ROWLANDS, Author of "A King and a Coward," "A Child of Charity." "Love, the Con queror, etc., etc.
Douglas Leicester left : the ??Manor oa that Uttle scene with Feo - ? He wa3 impaUent to be awar He did not spare himself in his rpflw tions. He told himself fa re £an On e fore ble phrase that he had been an ab! solute fool to drift into anythin™ like a flirtation with a gir, of?wStempS^ tnent He might have foreseen the end .When he was not angry with himself he was amused. - *•" ? B<?d J<*e that Feo should hare dreamed such dreams No one admired her beauty more than he aid, but he was discriminating in his admiration, and it seemed to him an impossibility to reconcile ? such a per sonaUty as hers fitted into a place in the world of social refinement. He was away and driving to the sta tion almost before the village was awake. "It will not do to risk anythln"" he said to himself, though a sneer curfed his lip at the thought. "These sort of •women take-one off one's balance, as it ?were. One never knows what she "might or might not do. A strange creature to have been born into such a family. What a world ol difference stretches between fcir and that other girl™ The faintest touch of color showed it self on Leicester's sallow, face for an in stant He always found something* annoying. even humiliating, when thoughts of Vio let came to him. The girl's quiet determination to have nothing to do with him had struck a keener blow at his vanity, and at what he called his pride, than he at fir=t rea lised. The knowledge that she had gone away from her home on purpose to avoid him, enforced the disagreeable truth that she disliked him. He bit his lip sharply when he remem bered that he haa offered to Violet what •was. in his estimation, the greatest gift he could offer to anybody—himself—and that she had coldly ignored his proposal. Eis mind was full of vague ideas of rsvenge on this girl. He was going to London now, and of course he would meet her. He had known Lady Blanche Mont gomery for a number of years; it would, therefore, be an easy matter to bring liimself once more within the sphere of .Violet's life. . . It was only when he remembered Violet that he found a certain satisfaction steal to him In the knowledge of hU folly with Feo. He knew so well tnat that proud, deli cate creature would resent to the quick Uis treatment of her half-sister. , He meant to let her know of it in some ?n-ay or other; in fact, he promised him self certain agreeable moments during the next few weeks that should be fur nished at Violet's expense. He had comfortable chambers in town, and he found the life very agreeable af ter his late sojourn in the country. Though not exactly a popular man, still Sir Douglas hnd his place in society. azd every house of note was xtpen to him. He found a pile of letters at his cham bers and clubs, which enclosed a num ber of invitations, some for past events, some fcr that very day. He picked out the two or three he thought would be amusing. There flitted through his mind the thought as he did so that at one or ano ther of these entertainments he might possibly meet Violet Huntley. Indeed, it surprised him later, when he sauntered through the large rooms of a certain political house, to find how eagerly his eyes went in every direction in search of that delicate, girlish face, -with its proud yet sweet expression, and its eyes of vio- Ut blue. Lady Blanche and her granddaughter, however, were apparently not present. Later on Sir Douglas found himself chatting with his hostess, a brilliant, in tellectual woman, with no pretence to beauty. . " Lady Senshurst had welcomed Sir Dcraglas very warmly. \ "Where have you been hiding yourself al! this time?" she inquired. "Come and sit down, and te!l me all about your self." Sir Douglas laughed as he answered: "I have been rusticating." '•A ncvel experience, I should think." Lajy Senshurst laughed, and he Liughed "I am quite out of the swim- he said to her. "I know nothing that has been going on; give me soxe of the gossip. Let us start with your ccx first. Who ?U> the new beauty this season? We want one very badly." Lady Senshurst reproved him with a !isht blo-w of her fan. "What disloyalty," she said, "when we &--c surrounded by beautiful women." "Who were beautiful also—shall we fay forty years ago?" inquired Sir Douglas. languidly. "What a wonderful people we English are. "When once we have accepted a favorite'we go on wor .-hinping that favorite, shutting our eyes tntiirly to the advance of time and de '2s-.- ? . _ -,„ "You are very cynical." Lady Sene fcurs: said; "bat if you are tired of all the women that you know, well—there 'ire one or two fresh ones. As a matter of fact. I am expecting a girl here to night about whom everybody is beginning to rave. There Is nothing startling about her: she is simply a. type of a lovely Eng lish girl. Bat perhaps you know her. ; I remember you have always been good friends with Lady Blanche Montgomery." Douglas Leicester felt his pulses thrill tor an instant : "Strange to say," he said, lightly, *1 met Mi=s Huntlcy in the country the other day. Her father lives within a stone's throw of my old place at Covertdale. Sac is certainly Very charming." "She timinds me of her mother." Lady Ssnshurt-t caid. luth a tender Inflection in her voice, for she had loved Mary Hnntley very deeply. "I should have taken an interest in her for her mother's sake under any circumstances, but lam i doubly interested in her since I ha\ c , rriet her, and to-night more than ever." "Why to-msht?" queried Sir Douglas, languidly. "Because I ha.\e jo£t heard that Violet ha? promised herself as wife to a man I for whom I have the deepest reepect and ' affection. But, of coarse," Lady Sens hurst ei claimed, "you must know about this engagement. I neier thougnt of it until nOiT." Douglas Leicester's sallow face wore almost an aged expression for an instant. "Everything you tell me. dear friend," he said, suate'y, "cornea asnens. Who fa the fortunate man that has won this charming English eirl?** ' Lady Sensnurat Indicated with her fan a certain young man standing not very tar from them. "Look at him attentively. Do >:>u not consider he w<.ara a look of ab=o!uts hap piness?" sho asked,. lightly. -~ - Douglas Leicester followed the direc tion of her fan. and then a dark frottn knit his brows, ror there, wearing. a= Lady Senshurst had said, an air of un mlstakaDla gladness ana delight, stood the man he had taught himself to hate —Jersme Leicester, son of an old enemy, and heir to his on n title and possessions. It was rwme time since he: had seen Jerome, and he inrtantly noted the look of prosperity and success which was so clearly impress d In the young man's wcote fc-arms. 490 J
. It would have given him inleise satis faction to have been-able to read'very niHerfent signs & theref but the usual reelings which came to him so" naturally when he found himself j n Jerome's pres ence, were swampedin this moment by the recollection that he was looting upon on?. who had obtained that which he had been • refused--, ?'...-? v^ kind of venom" s£irred his heart for yiloet, ana a new! determination rushed i through his-mind to let this girl suffer in some.way for;,her, treatment of himself. Fortunately he was spared the- necess ity of speaking further on thfa matter with Lady Senshurst. for several people had joined his Hostess and he was able to, slip away. ? : ,'..- : ? 1 He walked home through the clear Jvarm night, in as bad a temper as he had ever experienced. • _ It was a Clow to him to realise that \iolet was going to be married, apart | from anything else, and he- found it almost impossible to reconcile-the idea at her. marriage with .Jerome Leicester. . Doubtless," he saiu to himself, sullen ly, "they, are already counting on the days when they will take all that I have. They imagine I shall never change—that I love my freedom, too much :tp saddle myself with a wife—perhaps." with. a bitter laugh, "that I am too old. to 1 ?marry. Well' I must' set to work arid teach them a different iesson.'r . ?:• >; 1; He walked on slowly, smoking his cigar, his thoughts Veering from one dis agreeable phase to another. ' ?' -- He was a man who hated to be baulk ed of anything upon which he had "set his mind, and he found out now that the suggestion of uniting his life to Violet's (which had come to him but vaguely in the beginning)" had grown into a very definite intention. j More thin this was the desire to let this girl feel in some way or other how unwise she had been;to treat him with so little deference.V This matter ha'a j sufficed to fiirnishia! very comfortable background of thought during the past day. „ - - ?- ?? ?~ ... In fact he had made the strange dis covery that hia memories of Violet, and schemes in connection with them, had constituted something approaching an interest in life. ? . It was by no means pleasant, there fore, to have to tell him£?lC that he must say farewell to this interest, and sit down Quietly and accept his "dismissal as though it had been the most ordinary thing in the world. ; i 'When he reached his chambers he turned and strolled about-the streets for awhile., He had a restless disinclination for solitude upon him, and he also.wanted to see if he could not light upon some solu tion of this disagreeable matter. He was a man of fertile ideas, and after he had smoked a cigar he felt the pressure of Impatience and anger pass from hia heart ,to a great degree. True he had lighted upon no clear pathway, but he had worked his mlna round in a large measure to its former condition. "They are.engaged, certainly," he said to himself, "but an engagement is not a marriage, and I believe I may be clever enough to find some means of demon strating this. Violet little ttwoght how foolish she was when she made an enemy or me. I am not a pleasant enemy, neither am I a man who submits easily to be treated with contempt and open disUke. Kate has 'been.'kind to me all my life," he concluded,' as he threw away the end of his cigar, "and I have a sort of Idea that fate will continue to show me this klndneES.** He laughed; and then he passed in and mounted the staircase to his chambars. And even whilst he made this asser tion to himself, this same fate—in the shape of a girl's loyal and generous desire to put some sweetness into the life of another—was already beginning to work in hia favor.
CHAPTER XL Feo lost no time in replying to Violet's letter. She received this kindly-worded and affectionate little epistle by the early afternoon post, Violet having despatched it first tiling in the morning, and three or four hours later—just.. indeed, as Lady Blanche and Violet had gone to their rooms to dress for dinner—a cab drove up to the floor bearing two enor mous boxes, and Feo found herself at last standing in Lady Blanche Mont gomery's hall, a guest who intended to stay a very long time. ' The news of her arrival was carried up to Lady BUnche. who frowned sharply when she heard it. "Let Miss Violet be told." ivw all eJi6 said, however.and she sat lost in thought wheu she was alone again. A kind of impatience stole into her heart towards Violet. ? ??' In this last and most unselfish act the girl revived distinct memories of her mother. It was useless? for Lady Blanche to pretend that she approved of what had been done, for e\-er since she had given her consent, she had felt uneasy and dis satisfied. The look of gentle pleasure on her granddaughter's face throughout that day had only served'to increase ' Lady Blanche's irritation. She saw in this extreme liaste of Feo's to make sure of the position the strong est evidence of the girl's dominant and disturbing influence, and she conjured up the many disagreeables that were bound to follow on this introduction cf one so wholly at variance wlth^herself and thoee about her. Meanwhile. Violet had hurried to greet Feo*-with that warm glow in ; her heart that is only possible. ta_Eucb a thorough ly 'unselfish, tender nature a& she poss essed. i There, 'was nothing lacking in her greeting of her half-sister. ' She put her arms about Feo and kissed her affectionately. ; Feo had been, shown into Lady Blanche's boudoir,and was standing with a half-defiant expression on her face when Violet joined her. The greeting of the other girl toait away.this defiance, but there Tvas not sufficient generosity in Feo'3 nature to grasp in all its fulness the significance of Violet's sympathy and kindness. Had the position been reversed Violet might have pleaded and prayed a hun dred times,-.but Feo would always have refused to let. her share in anything she possessed. There was very nttle time for conver sation so Violet hurried the girl up to her room. "We ha\e a fe.t people coming to dinner." she'said 'I must run down and ask tnera la rearrange the table. I did not know you -n-ere coiping this evening. "I was only too glad to get out of that •n retched hole." r eo taid ."I tell you VI, it's a good thing you answered my letter as jou d.d. If I had had to stay there another ? cfc k—well. I don't know ?nlut would ha\e happened" Feo tossed her hat on to the bed with a reckless laugh. .Violet- looked at her' and a touch of alarm passed through he h e art. She ?ay. a slight difference In Feo. The girl's beaut j -nas thtie ;ust as it had bten, but sje was hardened in some nay; there was a bitterness about her expression, a nev nng in her speech. As Violet went down stairs her.brow 3 contracted. She felt instjictlveiy.that her erand mother r ould read thesl signs, and that thi_re na* \ery little chaace of winmns Lady Blanche's sympathj on Feo's b2 half. _ Phe- was herself a tittle excited and dls turbed by FiO's~suda?n""arrfral. A, kind of discordant note seemed to have b?eu struck: she had a rc-stless, uneasy beat ing of her"heart. and she found herself movin? aimlessly about tre room, wish ing that the evening was'ended, instead cf Just beginning. As she sto^il looking drearily out of the ?InJow the dcor opened, and Jerome Leicester entered.; They had not met smct! the pr<?CEdms night, and in an instant all Violet's lairue sensations of discomfort vanished. "I came early," the yaun? man said.
with a Happy laugh,-hoplnf to fled you alone., jf. onlx _for.. a.:, second,"'. ,' _ , yvP*. to?fc ?er. Into his arms",' and''Violet let her h' € ad reot-on his thouWer with* jlttle, unconscious sigh. ' ™ ?;';? ' to feel the'comfort pf.his presence.',??'? * ".' ? .' | '' ?,He caught the sound of that sigh, and lifting her face, looked 'Into it anxiously !? "What have you been doing'wlth your, self to-day? _You look very pale, .Violet.'1 > "1 * have r donel.; ,very.. ? little," . Violet answered. I'Oniy. the usual things: but I think I am a little excited.", ... ,':, . Then she told him of Feo's letter ana of the girl's presence In the house. ; Jerome Leicester frowned slightly. Perhaps it was an instinct that warned him that the news, she gave so simply was destined to have some.great" effect .on ..their future.'-'" ,-•-.: ;?/•' ?': •*• ' iil-'-' "If it is your sister's coming that has robbed you of your color, my darling,™ he siid.'"then I; am afraid I anrtemptea to say I wish she had not come." , Violet put_up_hechand, eagerly.-?, ? "No, Jerome,"'she said,"'don't say that, even in jest; I was a little startled, for I:did not expect Feo till to-morrow at least; but now that she Is here I am ?ia<i; andlf^iant" you,-dear"—the girl went on a little more eagerly—"to help meto do all you can:to make Feo's-visit pleasant. Grannie has been very good," Violet went *on. hurriedly. ? "and when she saw that Ii was anxious to have Feo she agreed at once; but when you see them'together you will understand, I am sure.'that there can never be much sym pathy between them^ Grannie can be very cold and hard, you know, at time?, snd Feo is justaike a child; - she may oiTer.d without in the least understanding that she has done wrong. I don't know whether I have made myself clear."' - Jerome carried her hand to his lips. "I understand perfectly." he said. - Then the door opened, and Blanche appeared. V - .- She welcomed the young man warmly "Xow, Jerome," she said, "whilst I have the opportunity lam going- to give you an order.- You are ?- to take care of this young lady, and to exercise your command over her, and see that she does not turn herself into a slave. I consider that this interference on your side may be imperative now that her half-sister is here." . ": -: "•Violet will never forget that she be longs to me." Jerome said with a light laugh, yet with a tender and expressive glance at the blushing girl, "and I am very particular and careful of my posses sions." It was impossible for him. to: avoid Feeing that the advent of this other girl threatened to disturb the peaceful atmos phere'or Lady Blanche's house, and he felt strongly tempted to wish Feo" Tar enough before she had come on the scene. He had very little5 curiosity-to see this ho lf-sister of Violet's.' :: ; _ .: From all that had been told him about her he felt that he could draw a very accurate picture of her.' *"'.'" ?:- ?:-.-' \~--r.- It was; therefore, with something like a start that he looked up as Feo finally entered tlie drawlngroom. - ?-?- - . Violpt never remembered having seen her half-sister look so beautiful,as she did on this occasion. j ?""- ?'" -- She had been afraid that Feo would have appeared in some extraordinarily St>rseoiis gown—one of those "creations" which cost poor Martin Huntley so dearly—something altogether in appro priate; it was, therefore, a pleasant sur prise to her to soe Feo wearing- a very simple white frock.
If, as indeed -was the case, this gown had been chosen for effect, Feo had every right to be satisfied with herself., Her first appearance. Indeed, gave Lady' Blanche a touch of amazement, then came admiration. Despite all the obje iion that *he old lady had borne In her heart towards this girl, It was Impossible for Lady Blanche to shut her eye to the fact that here ."landing before her was a young woman of startling and unusual beauty. She said some few 1 "nds words to Feo, who"played her role on this occasion with an amount of tact which was generally lacking in her altogether; and the girl's whole manner was so subdued that Lady Blanche began to' feel less uncomfort able. Of course, there :were blemishes. " She felt that. Feo'3 style of dressing her hair was sightly theatrical ; *the bold ness of the brilliant eyes and the com mon tone in the voice Jarred on Lady Blanche. Nevertheless, on the whole she was agreeably disappointed in Feo, and the smile which she sent across the room to Violet carried this message to the girl. : : . . : , ? On his part. Jerome Leicester found Feo altogether different in individuality to what he had imagined. Violet had told him that her half sister's beauty was sensational, and lie found himself agreeing •with this alto gether. As he took Violet down to dinner he delighted the girl by his few hones: words of admiration for Feo. . " "Anil, after all, my little, flower,"'he said to her, "I: don^t believe, you need be nervous about the future."-.lt;seems to me that your half-sister, .and Lady Blanche will understand each other very well."-. ? ' . ' ~.', -, , ', " . It was a night of triumph for.Feo. ,',-' She liardiy knew, lierself in this new. guise. _ . ?"..??. ~, j ?;:.;. ' ;.."" Had she been true to herself she would have laughed and heve siven freer vent to the excited spirit that filled her jvery vuin. but though she was not clever she 'She knew that she Tiad been given an ,ekeeptional chance. - '. ?? , . . , . ; -Her letter to Violet had been c hazard. It was riot the'girt'tha' she doubted— she could twist' Violet round her flnger, she said to herself, cbntemptuous^'—it had been Lady Blanche she. feared. : ; Indeed, when the letter ht.d reached her, she had hardly believed in her good luck fora few minutes." ; ; : - : ? All the way up in1 the the train.she had taught herself, her lesson. At the beginning she must to " very quietly. " -. ,' Sh'"was. quite sure that Lady Blanche had given her consent protestingly ; it must be her task to "win her way az far as she could Into the good gracea of Vio^ let's grandmother. . .'?"? i . ,:**?• ?—'•'"' :: It was one thing tojUTive as a'guest but it was quite another thing to remain, as she Intended to remain, throughout the season. .: .- ? :- : : ? From time to time Feo had picked up a certain .smattering of worldly-wisdom, and. unconsciouslj. her late friendship ?nith Douglas Leicester had EPrved to educate her in many of three little de tails which play so inoportant a jiart in the story ?£ social success. For Instance, a few months before. Feo's idea of conquering Lady Blanche would have taken the form of arrajing herself in the finest clotlies the possessed; now s'ie understood how much harm that nould have done her. Hence a,quiet little gown of white and the air of-modest submission, even of depreciation, that was .?o dlsarming- VETien she went to her bedroom Feo was well satisfied with herself
She gat thinking a -""S t'me over the events of the last few days. A savage joy took possession of her when she realised the effect that must be produced upon Douglia Leicester, when he' l)6icme aware'of , her presence in London and in" Lady Ulactlie llont gon-.erj'!, house. She loimt-d f>r the - moment to come when they should meet She - did nit know, of eour"!e, how she would btart her work of punishing him, but she trusted to chance to show her the way. And punish him she assuredly -would. The bitterness that"this man's treat ment had called up in her heart was made more pronounced -Rhen Fto set before he™elf the picture of Violet's hap i pinfs with Jeromp Leicester "It was impossible for Feo not to be- Jea.ous of tfils happiness. Jealousy was second nature to her. " , 1 Sht haJ told herself that Violet's lover i\*ou!J,"ot course, be sonxthing dull and ordinary—the sort of man she would not look at twice I Jeroire's bandEomY face anil charmJcg
mannerj hie undoubted devotion to'.'JYib-' ..leCcame, uppn r Feo_as?someUiine? of -i b,lowv .'."^""'-..,'- ' "-./'""r,'""'""',, "™" ft"."-.'T.T '".'..? V^Tle^'iis^far too.foo>? lor 'Viol9t'!ifB6fi' said to. herseh!;", Vand what "a: difference betweeqihlnj and Douglas! . I aur-ndt? surprised.that,Bouglas;hates him:- he's justjhe.klnd^ofniaai that .Douglas iwoulfl1 hate,, more ; especially; as he will have the title, unless our clever Sir Douglas cuts him out! of it;; TVell^'-Feo said to her-. ! self;, as she glanced'about f.her* with a 1 litUe laugh. "aftef?a]l, 1,-.have been-a fool!. : Instead of ,j knocking": my head against a. stone wall all .-this time-and, cursing my luck I had only to ask and get wkat I .want. This Is a little bit better than" that wretched old room at Cbvertdale, and if ;l; only "play-.my^cards well -lidbn't*. see .why. I should: ?verf go back ther* again. Violet can go back if she Ukes;"'since she's "so fond of daddy. What a, nuisance she Jis with all-her Questions! ._ I believe after all she cares as, much for-father, as she does for this man--she"s'.engaged to.;: i'- r'aon^t^tHlnk-- Jerome lieicester was quite pleased when5 he,heard the fuss she made about eyerj;-' thing.father was doing.""''3'?'-" -' ''-">-;?:-"*
Feo got up and gazed at hersrff a lorig time in-the mirror.-Or : " .-——:?-— ' ; "Surely my , chance * will ; come now,**1 she mutterea to herself. ; ';if Violet can set a husband. I ought to-do bette# thanJ she has done: not that I would not be coniented with the man who has chosen her/^Tras the next restless thought: "iff fact, that would be :the'neatest" way bt payimj back'my-friend Douglas,-and If ought to be easy, too," Foo afldea to herself, complacently,, as she turned with a final glance at her: loveliness arid pre pared to go to bed. r"I can So _wnat i: l like with most men." was her final drowsy thought. "I don't see why I should not do what I like with JeromeXeicester. Hi Is much too good to be wasted on violet/-' she repeated with Irritation. "With which flnal reflection Feo nestled herself .luxu riously on the soft pillows, ana in. a very little while was fast asleep. .: . .-- ' Nothing could "have been-, better;'or quieter than Feo's manner in the first few.days of her arrival In-town, r--^ T .: The agreeable impression she had pro duced lingered with Lady Blanche, who ted -further' been considerably; touched Vy the simple letter of gratitude' that jicLrtin Huntlcy had sent her. " • The man's, infatuation for 'his eldest child became more comprehensible to her In these days. li " It would have been difficult, indeed, for any parent cot' to have" had a strong pridein such a beantiful child. Lady Blanche was a woman who did nothing by halves. : , L, She had not desired-Feo to come, but once the girl was -Installed' In" her house she lost no opportunity of showing "F"eo all the kindness and hospitality for which she: was'renowned. ~-ic She decreea ithat the two girls should share alike.'and in order that Feo shouW have her chance' of gaieties she issued invitations for an "impromptu" dance, at" which she informally introduced the eldest Miss Huntley. : i !•'•- ?.'??"' "- -:>'.'• _From that moment the tHeme of Feo's beauty spread: quickly." (To be Continued.)