|Newspaper Title||Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Priceless Violet|
By EFFIE ADELAIDE ROWLANDS. Author of "A King and a Coward,"A queror," Etc.,Etc.
a: h<r mother's death. er t- Ctrl had suddenly resolved to forfeit ST ft S2iS. tBW "*?*?-? As to how she was eomg to manage all this busing wlthout ut^u^ prundmothers curiosity Violet did not know far a moment: she trusted to £^T tO tod her at Ifbertl" tor a *"*? Th-? matter was of such vital Import ant to herself and her happiness, that ovea at tbe risk o£ annoying La4 y li.anrtit* she would carry out her deter nurruion to see both her family lawyer en J Sir Docglas's also. she wrote, therefore, a fen- brief words t.> the address DeugJas Leicester had p.-.. n to her. and she gave this to her i-.t: i. with injunctions that tt should be posted at once. Then. Just as she was cheat to so down stairs? she was surprised to rweive a visit from Feo. Clad in a wonderful morninff frown of trsiifna and lace. Feo looked radiantrr l^--iutiful. ? I thoucht you would lite me to tell :-v^ how miserable Jerome was last nis'ai." Feo sail "We all tried to cheer kim up. bat he would not be cheered. rif icanti-i you." Violet's face flushed. The words gave her a pieam of happi r.-ts. and she felt h'-r heart warm to her h-iir-sister, for surely this was an evi e-n-e of Feo's affection. ? Thank you. Pee. dear." she said in < h. r pretty, sratle w-ay; "it is very nice of }-U to come and tell me this. I was aw fu!:r sorry I could not be down stairs. I'-j: th- pain in my head was sircply tor tUTo." ?You look better thL? nrorains," Feo ?V- was wondering how she could begin !?• jraff Violet Into the toils she was •'pr-ading for the girl. '• T am sure you had something to "?Try you yesterday," she raid, in her I rough, blunt fashion. ' Violet paused, then the need of sym pathy, the longing to speak out. forced i.=r into speech. Sie looked at her yister for aa instant, tatn she told the truth. "I was dreadfully worrkil. Feo. I did r.nt mean to teli you anything about It,' ?.because, after all. you car.not help me. 2.-.J father did not wish you to Imow anything about it. But still we are sisters, and even though you cannot help. I think you ought to know." She knelt down by Fto. and as gently -"is possible she to!J her the story of her day's work of sorrow, aad Feo listened v."ith knit brows- In her way sh-? was just as much £^.ff*red as Violet had been that Douslas L??ic?ster should have interfered in her father's business, but the cause of her =n~er was very different. F.'o had a shrewd instjrht into some Lairj?S, a;ul she knew At once, just as c!*arij- as if the truCi had been written th-fore her. that Douglas Leictster had rt.'n^ what he had simply and solely • i Violet into his power. And at the r:?v sussesiion y, at man _ wflo j, a( j tr>-i:?-i her to lightly, could care so deeply f r another. Feo's whole pxssionate t- Uish. vain nature was In a blaze. She was. in f-ict. so ftirtous in the first i^utnt that she almost lost fight of the fact thai Violet had put Into her hards ti~ very weapon she needed to strike a Mow at her sister's happiness, and to as s:*t her towards gaining her own. But. as Violet went on speaking; the calmed her sf'-If. and little by little she saw that the r.~t she desired to close about this other pirl's life was lying to her hand?. It v. as not easy to F*i) to play a part, rut she managed to hide her feelings fiirly well, and she talked out this mct t-r with Violet with such apparent reason 2nd interest, that Violet felt relieved and ?:ad that she had spoken. Sh? left nothing untold, she even show <-l Feo Douglas I*?i?=ster*? letter, and she spoke of her dceire and intention to C-> to the lawyer' that afternoon •lt will be difficult to manage." Violet said, "but I .shall have to do it, for I rar^iot live through another day without f-.tilns I have taken same steps to rid cor father and ourselves from this man's interference." And F?h> promise to help Violet and I > do all she could. "As you have written to say you are Coins you must go," she declared; "and I :hink you are quite risht. Vi. Sir Douglas is odious enough as it is. It was v-ry Impertinent of him, I think,- to cU hfaiself up ic our affairs. You leava if- to w.c: I will find out a way and nrake some ?cuk for you this afternoon. You v. 1.1 try not to be too lons, won't you? A.-..1 then, you see. if Lady Blanche tr^kes a fu.ss when you come back, you cau juat tell her everything, and your rr.inJ will be at rest. But now I must ku and dress." Feo said, ristne. "or pise I stein If-- late for breakfast, and then Lady Elicche will be anpry. which will upset U-; for the rt-sl of the day." Violet brushed away some tears from hvr eyes when ehe was alone. She was conscious of nothing but a Breit sense of happiness that at last Bhe an.i Fr^j h.ul met in sympathy. Phe was deeply touched by her ?U?er's rJiange of manner, and altogether her h?-irl felt lightened. CHAPTER XIX. F.ir the first time'in his life, Jerome JU if ester was thoroughly unhappy. As he turned away from L.l ay Eianchr's dimr. he found himself walk is? aimlessly through the streets with an athing hvad, and a pain in his heart that seerntd t<> catcb him as he breathed. His miad was. a chaos of troubled th-mght and memory- At one moment tt-ri> would flash viWCIy before him the visi.-sn of Violet's face aa he had seen it that afternoon so unexpectedly; then 41us vision would vanish and he Would hf- luokius into Feo'B tlark. mysterious •V.-, and feel the definite comfort of her ~> rripathy. Then again, this would pare an.s he would be telling over to himself, •.!.~ii*t fiercely, the story Feo had given "im of'DoUKlas Leicester's Intimacy in iJarlln Hontley's small household, at Covertflale. Then he would remember asiin with a new panff.that Violet had Jit-ver spoken to him about those many his kinsman had paid to her >?xrj?. Dt'Ubt of her. hoivever, was so new and So diilicult, that he found himself un consciously suggesting an explanation for her uiienee on this point . She naturally, he said to 'himself.. had ?nut cared to discuss Dougla3 Leicester - "with him. That was comprehensible when It was known how inimical he and 3ii3 ki.ifman were to one another. A vague sort of consolation stole for an instant <ir two into Jerome's thoughts. Tint as he passed on slowly this went from . him. Km] all the trouble came back again. v There might be an explanation of this matter, but what explanation could be offered of the stranse episode of the -afternoon? He walked and walked until he was weary# but when he got back to his 495
rooms, though his limbs were fatigued, his brains worked ceaselessly. It was useless to attempt to sleep, and indeed he made no effort to go to bed. He He simply sat by the open window and watched the dawn break gradually over the tops of the houses. '? His love for Violet had come so natu rally, and had been blessed with such sweetness, that he was unprepared for this dark shadow that had been cast so suddenly across the sunshine of hfc path. .To many, perhaps, the Incidents of the day would have shaped themselves very harmlessly, but Feo had made good use I of her time. } She had managed to instil far more poison even than she had herself been aware into Jerome's mind. It was Feo's work; it was her subtle suggestion at doubt that rankled now.
I Jerome had the sensation of . being separated from Violet by the oppressive atmosphere of doubt that surrounded .him. It had been such a blow to him not to soe her this night, and now he hardly knew whether he lonsed or dreaded most to meet her. He roused himself from his painful thoughts as the morning dawned, and flung himself on his bed, sank for an hour into a heavy sleep, from which he was roused by the knocking of his ser vant at the door. He felt ill and weary—even his cold bath did not refresh him—and he went eventually to his business feeling as if all the Joy of life had died for him for ever. Just as Violet had done, so he, too. had looked eagerly for some little word from her, and when he saw there was no letter his heart sank a little lower. Fortunately he had a heavy morning of workv-which gave him little opportunity for thinking about himself, but as his lunch lime came and he went to his club it" ail "rushed back to him with renewed force. It was noted among his companions acd fellow workers that Leicester seemed very much out of sorts. There was, indeed, a marked difference in his face. The day before he had been so full of happiness, and now he looked careworn and sad. and almost old. As he turned out of his club he asked for his letters, and be was given two or three. He opened the first with rather a puzzled expivpsion; the handwriting was distinctly common, and the paper matched the writing. Inside there was no address—only the date. It had evidently been posted in London that morning. Jerome Leicester's brows met in a sharp frown as he rc&d the few lines In scribed within. His first sensation was one of over whelming dLsgust and anger as he mas tered the contents. The words ran as follow: — "Is Mr Leicester a curious man? If so. perhaps he might like to satisfy his curiosity by paying a visit to enclosed address this afternoon about five. He will at least have the satisfaction of meeting Miss Violet Huntley in this neighborhood." The letter was signed, "One Who Hates Douglas Leicester." If such a note had been put into Jerome's hands a couple of. days before, he would have crushed it into the mud with his heel, and. indeed, his first im pulse now was to fling such an odious document far from him, but his mind was r.ot in its normal condition. Harassed and tormented 33 he had been during these past hours, these few venomous words sent by an unknown hand said to him a: once too little and too much. That vague mention of Douglas Leicester'? name set fire instantly to the jealousy that lay dormant in Jerome's nature.
Once again ail those conflicting Thoughts which be had tried in vain to reason out during the night, encompassed him about. It came to him with a great throb of remembrance how strangely he had been ' struck the day before by the coincidence that he should have seen Violet and Douglas Leicester in the same place within a moment or two of each other; I and then followed all that Feo had said Ito him. His hiind trembled as it -closed over that 111-written scrawl. In such a moment he did not stop to ask himself from whence this message had come. It all seemed part and parcel of this strange difference that had been wrought in his life since the day before. He went back to his work, but he was like a man possessed. He found himself counting the minutes ti!l the- hour came round mentioned in that note, and all the time he was con scious of being ashamed of what he did. and hating this unknown person whom he knew not whether to call his friend or his enemy. But few men are masters of themselves in the teeth of a strong storm of passion. This was the darkest hour that had dawned in Jerome Leicester's life as yet—all the darker because it had come to him in suoh mysterious form. Plain, straightforward trouble he could stand and fight against, but there was an e'enrent in all this business that was new to him. and It found him unprepared to Seal.with it. Had any man told him twenty-four hours before that he could have per mitted himself not merely to believe that his beloved Violet was disloyal and un worthy, but could take steps to test this disloyalty—had any man told him that he would so far have lost himself as to let the poison of an anonymous letter lead him into a doubtful action. Jerome wouljl have repudiated such accusations swiftly and violently. Yet as the hours went by this was the state into which he drifted, and when he finally left his office he turned and went deliberately in the direc tion of the address that had been men tioned in this Fame letter. The difficulty Violet had anticipated in obtaining freedom for the afternoon was removed most unexpectedly. It was Lady Blanche's turn to play the invalid. ?When Violet went to see her 'grand mother, as was her usual custom imme diately after breakfast, she found the old lady quite.unlike her usual self. - . It wa=? evident that Lady Blanche must have caught a chill the day before. She had be<en greatly tried by the heat of the last wc*ek. and she now seemed so in disposed that Violet was quite anxious about her. She Insisted upon sending for Lady Blanche's favorite dootor. who joined Issue with her and managed to persuade the old lady to remain in her bed for at least t>£ greater portion of the day. When her uneasiness about her grand mother had been soothed, Violet had time to be conscious of a great relief- Had her grandmother been well she felt that it would have been impossible for her to have avoided a certain amount of questioning. As it was. Lady Blanche was cot too much lost in her own ail ment to forget that Violet had been 111 theiday before; but the girl was able to fence the matter for the moment- She vyas kept very busy all the mo'rn ing._ ' : ... '; Kpr grandmother had a hundred and one things for her to do. This occupa tion was beneficial to Violet ; it prer vented her.from' dwelling too closely on the business she had to face. But as the morning parsed and* the "afternoon came, she remembered with a thrill of excitement and anxiety that she was about to approach a most difficult and disagreeable task. The tact that her grandmother was in. her own room removed any obstacle that might have been thrown In her path. ;? . She was free to leave the house and to keep the appointment she had made. In fact. Lady Blanche herself insisted upon the girl going out in the carriage. "You need not go to these parties," she said. "You are just as well without the
atmosphere of the crowded rooms on such an afternoon. Take your sister for a drive, and tell Sparrow to draw up un der the trees in the park." Violet kissed her grandmother with an added tenderness In her old manner.and aa she went away from Lady Blanche a sigh escaped her lips unconsciously. It was such sharp pain to her to feel that she was deceiving her grandmother. She made a resolution to herself as she went to put on her hat, that It her inter view with Sir Douglas's lawyers should not prove satisfactory, she would write to her father and tell him that he must allow her to speak to Lady Blanche. "Indeed," the girl said to herself, with another sigh, "the more I think about It, the less possibility I see of settling thia matter without grannie's help." Fco refused to go for n. drive. "It is so hot,"" she said; "besides, you don't want me. If I stay at home and sit here quietly. Lady Blanche will not know whether lam out or In. I must say. VI.. It's very lucky that you arc able to get away Uke this. I thought you would have no end of trouble to keep that appointment." Violet smiled raintly, and went down stairs slowly. There was such an absence of feeling: or Intcr<st in Feo's manner, that she could not fail to be hurt by this indif ference. After all. the trouble she was taking so bravely upon her shoulders belonged ;is much to Feo as to herself; far more.ln d*xd, for Violet knew only too well for a-hat reason her father had plunged into this sea of debt She drove into the park and sat under the trees for a little while; then she got out and dismissed the carriage. The hands of the clock were pointing to half-past four; she had to find her way to the place where the lawyers lived. When thi- carriage bad gone Violet left the park hurriedly and took a hansom. Again and again a sigh fluttered from her lips. "Oh. daddy dear," she said once to herself, "there Is nothing I would not do for your sake; but this Is very hard— very, very hard. I feel as if I had stepped into another world since yester day. Kvcn Jerome and his love seem far away. When we have been separated be fore it never seenjed as if we were really apart—he always seemed so near. Sow" —her hands clasped themselves together —"I try to feel that he Is near, and the more I seek for him the further away he seems to be." Her face mw very pale, and her lips quivered as the cab drew up finally be sought. It lay in the- neighborhood of the Temple, and had a legal aspect- Vlolet paid her cab fare and went ner vously in through the open door. She looked neither to the right nor the left as she did this, and. she was therefore utter ly unconscious that her every movement had been watched eagerly, yet with a sullen passion, by that very person who lived so dearly In her thoughts. Inside the doorway Violet paused. Though the day was so hot. here the air within struck almost chilly. It was so gloomy and so still. She paused a moment, then she ventured up the flrst flight of stone stairs, and gave.a-great start, tar some one spoke her name. The voice was that of Douglas Leices ter, who greeted Violut quite easily. "I am here before you." he said. "I thought it better that I should be pre sent at this interview. Miss Huntley. Will you come in here? My lawyers will see you directly." Violet's flrst emotion at sight of this man was one of stronc fear and doubt mingled. It was so natural to her to mistrust him; moreover, he had given her no sug gestion in his letter that he intended be ing present at this interview. He saw that she drew back for an in stant, and he held his breath, for that instant of hesitation was to lead either to his satisfaction, or acute annoyance. A quick gleam of relief passed over his face as he saw that Violet had overcome her prejndlce. and had put aside any question of doubt that might have sug gested itself to her. She did not take his j hand, however, she merely bowed, and then she followed him into the room on the first floor, holding; herself in that proud, cold manner which he had had cause to resent so frequently.
She found herself In a charmingly Jur nlshed apartment. There was nothing of the office about It. The walls were hung with a few good engravings, there was a rich carpet on the floor, and some expensive furniture scattered about the As she stood and looked around her, Violet was chilled again with a sudden suspicion of mistrust. "Is this right?" she asked him. hur riedly. "Is this where I am to meet your lawyers?" Sir Douglas put down his hat and his stick. "They will be here directly." he said, suavely. "But before you see them. Miss Huntley. I want to ask you to discuss this matter with me. Let me give you this chair; you will find it most comfort able." But Violet did not move. A deadly feeling of fear was creeping about her heart. "I prefer not to discuss this with you. Sir Douglas." she said, coldly, and rather faintly. "Be so go?d as to let me see your lawyers at once." Douglas Leicester stood with his face averted for an Instant, then he turned to her almost passionately. "Why are you so hard.'so cruel, to m<?7"* he asked her. "Have I given you any reason that you should treat me as you always.do? From the first you set yourself to despise and condemn me." The Birl drew back from him a pace. "I bez that you will not speak to me like this. Sir Douglas," she said. "TVe pain nothlnffj>y such discussion. I am here to go info the matter of arranging this business of my father's. Tou force me to take a disagreeable attitude. I came here." Violet said, hurrying her words a little, her courage going from her again, "not expecting to see you. Be lieve me. I do not wish to be hard or cruel; but I must ask you once more to regard this matter as I do, from a strict ly business point, and to let me see your lawyers at once." Douglas Leicester paused an instant, and then he laughed. It was not a plea sant laugh. "My dear Violet;" he said, coolly, "you are a very clever, practical, little person; but there ore some things which are be yond you. Tou made a mistake when you set yourself to be my enfrmy. I be lieve I gave you credit for more discrim ination. Let us cease talking nonsense. Tou know perfectly well that in coming hfcre this afternoon you have paid a visit to my private chambersi and that there are no lawyers to be found." A wave of hot color dyed Violet's face for an instant; then it receded, leaving her pale as death. She moved to the door without saying a word; but he stood between it and her. i "No," he said, passionately: "you don't | go yet! Do you think I have brought you here to let you escape so easily? Tou | turned from me at Covertdale; but here I am your master. Don't be alarmed, I j shall not keep you very long — only Just long enough to say a few plain words to you, and. when you have heard them, I fancy you will agree with me that you did a very bad thing for yourself when i you turned me Into an enemy." J For an instant Violet faltered, and her limbs seemed to grow weak. A mist floated before her eyes, and the beating of her heart was so fierce as al most, to choke her; but by a mighty et fore of pride and womanly dignity she ; called her courage together, and she stood facing him bravely, with a volume of con tempt and condemnation written in her wonderful eyes. ; ? ' j - (To be'continued.)- , I
? titu- PriscUJa (aged fartj> : ; No, Edtia, I don't bcllere In these early tnarrta?cs. Yo?'ll bare time enough to get sick of & man.lf you sUjr ningle tcn,ye?r? longer. Edith : Tltao enough, auntie, bat maybe bo cfcuce. *