|Newspaper Title||Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1867 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Love's Conquest|
LOYWe CONQUESTI CHAPTER II.--Continued. 'Indeed,' he said impetuously. ' Well, your views on that subject must have have • ?changed; Lads Adels. You have not always .'held'those principles, I think.' 'Always,' she declared firmly; ' and, as far as it has been in my power, I think I have acted up to them. I know perfectly well what you are referring to, Captain Esmonde,' she added, facing him with firmly set lips and steadfast unflinching gaze, ' and c. I am aware that you .have not hesitated to t. agive public expression to your opinion on the subject. You do not know enough about the matter to be qualified to judge; and you have condemned me unjustly ! I should like - you to understand that I shall regard any further attention from you only in the light of an additional insult.' Captain Esmonde stood for a moment stunned and confounded. It had never occurred to him that his strictures upon her conduct would come to her ears; but some kind friend had, of course, repeated all he had said--possbly embellished by additions. What -must she think of him and of the excuses he had made for his absence at the beginning of the dance ? In what a con temptible light he must appear to her. In an instant it flashed upon him that he h-d never had a full explanation of the breach of faith that had aroused his indignation so strongly. His friend had shown an unusual reserve about the matter. What if there were cir cumstances that justified her action ? What if he had cruelly misjudged and insulted an unoffending girl The face . that he was gazing at, half fascinated, was a sweet and good face; and, as he gazed, his prejudices passed away, con ;,,futed by their own baseness. It was impossible that she could have done anything that was not womanly and noble; and it was he that was in the wrong. He stood arraigned before those proud and beautiful eyes, and for a moment could find nothing to ;..oay.; but the conviction that he had made a 'f frightful mistake forced itself upon him, and hie struggled to get at the truth. '' I: do not know what version you may have heard of what I stated about you this afternoon, Lady Adela,' he said at last. * What I said was that you were engaged to r1,:a friend of mine, and that you broke off the engagement because he lost the greater part of his fortune. Is not that true ' ' It is not the whole truth,' she answered; ':and you.cannot have heard the story from Mr Buckfas leigh hisn.elf, for I do not believe that he" would have wronged me by giving :such an impression.' She paused for a moment, and then, as be said nothing, but waited for her to con, inue, she added ' I am not going to justify myself by telling you the facts, Captain Esmonde. It is not worth my while, for I do not care what your .,opinion may be; and we are not likely to -''meetbagain. It would not be much pleasure to either of us if we did ; and I hope we shall not. "But, before we close this conversation, there is one thing that I should like to ask you.' ' What is it?I' he inquired, in a tone of humility that might have disarmed her. ' It is this,' she said, in a low voice that hetrayed how deeply wounded she had been. 'bYdu uphold a high code of honor and integrity, and you judge without mercy any one whom you believe to have transgressed it, even if a woman who is helpless to defend herself is concerned ; but how.have you acted S-yourself 1 You thought yourself justified in making an engagement which you never S intended to keep, you publicly proclaimed your intention of breaking it ; yet you come to me now and pretend your defection was r' due to circumstances over which you had no , control. You asked me for a dance in order .that you might inflict on me the mortification of sitting it out; and now you meet me with .. false excuses. Is that consistent with your . views of truth and right?' He, indictment was unransiwerable. Es ,monde had not a word to say for himself; and he felt that an attempt at apology or palliation of his conduct would be worse than useless. . Did you have to sit out that dance :, because I did not turn up 1' he said wit I an S.. abruptness which gave no indication of the "- ".;very genuine repentance that he felt. " No; I danced it with Mir Haughton, who knew that you would not be here.'
Esmonde understood then who had been her informant, land he concluded with per feet reason that his remarks had lost none of their sting in the repetition. 'I see,' he said quietly, ' that 1 have offended you beyond hope of forgiveness. You have heard whit I said on the cricket ground, and I am afraid you have a right to resent it. I thought I had good grounds for what I said ; but if I had, I had no right to say it in public. If I have been mistaken as I begin to think I may have been-and you are not to blame, then you must think me a brute indeed. I don't attempt to vin dicate myself-I know you will not accept any apology of mine now-but I wish to say that I am sorry if I have given you pain, and I acknowledge that my conduct was un justifiable. After this, my presence can be only an anoyance which I am bound to relieve you of.' He bowed and turned away so hasitly that Adele had no opportunity of makiug any answer. Some one was blocking up the doorway of the conservatory. Emonde. pushed him aside rudely, not pausing to see who it was, and went out into the ball room. The person in the doorway advanced towards Adela, and arrested her as she was about to leave the conservatory. • It was Lord Tressilian, and his smug villainous countenance was not pleas-nt to see, for it was flushed and heated, as if he had been indulging in the champ-agne and iced Ameri can drinks that were so feelv provided in the supper-loom. [' say, Adela, what's been going on here 1' he demanded, wi'hout a trace of his cues bomary drawl. ' What's been passing between you and Captain Esmonde ? I smelt a rat somewhere, for I saw that something very queer was taking place.' ' Considering that you are short sighted, it is wonderful how much you contrive to see,' remarked his sister with a quiet but rather weary smile. ' How long have you been in that doorway, and how much of our conver sation did you overhear 4' ' Enough to form a pretty good guess as to what you were about,' he -said, with a sneer. ' I wished to find out why your dance with Esmonde never came off, and I arrived in time to see the way in which you serve any fellow whom you are desir ed to treat civilly. Upon my honor, Adela, your persistency is enough to make a saint swear.' ' If it goes by swearing, you are exactly a saint, Greville,' she answered solemnly. ' You know that it is incumbent upon you to marry a rich man,' he went on fiercely, " or, if you don't, you ought to know, for it has been drilled into you since you were a baby ; and, with your'great advantage, it is a positive disgrace to you to bb on our hands still. You are six-and-twenty now, and you woti't have many more opportunities; yet this is the way in which you behave, flinging away your chances-and my chances, too, by Jove ! I'll tell you what it is, Adela-you are bent upon being a disgrace to the family, and you will succeed. I know how it will be. You will end by marrying some disreputable cad without a shilling, or else you will die an old maid.' 'There might be worse fates than that,' thought the girl, as she look, din silent con tempt at the man before her. He was her brother, and pain and humiliation were mingled with her contempt as she compared him to the man who had just left her. Cap tain Esmonde had insulted her, and she had accused him of acting dishonorably-she had almost gone so far as to say that he was not a gentleman ; but in her heart she knew that he was not only a gentleman, but achivalroas one. And Greville, her own brother-No, he was not her own brother ; he was but her step brother, and she had no reason to feel humiliated because of him ; yet her cheeks flushed and her lips quivered with irresist able pain as he taunted her with bringing disgrace upon the family. Was there any thing that could further disgrace a name no tarnished I She did not answer her brother. He was in no fit state to be reasoned with, and she turned away. He watched her retreating figure with n scowl, and the smile which succeeded it was not tn amiable one. 'I got the better of her in that Buckfast leigh business,' he reflected ; ' and it sha'n't be my fault if I don't again. You had bettor take care, my proud sister! I have the whip-hand of you, and, by fair means or foul, you shall be made to obey !' He sauntered back into the ball-room, and stood, with his hands in his pockets, survey ing the guests who came streaming out of the supper-room, laughing anrd talking and looking for patrboors. The band was
beginning a waltz, and Adele was, speedily claimed for it. Captain' Esmonde was no where to be seen. Lord Tressilian svaggered across the room in search of one of the noisy over-dressed girls whom he delighted to patroniseo, and,' presently descrying one of the most reckless of the type standing in a recess by an open window, he placed himself by h'r side. He did not dance-' too much of a f.a-a-g,' he informed her-hut the ynung lady did not mind that. Miss Hopkins was the daughter of a wealthy brewer who had c,,me difficulty in holding his position among the county people, and she felt honoured by the notice of a lord. She liked flirtation better than dancing, and she laughed and giggled and took a forward part in the foolish and flippant conversation. ' By Jove, how it rains,' said Lord Tree silian, feeling rather weary after half-a-hour of this inane form of amuseme.nt. He leaned out of the window, and his companion craned her neck to look out into the night. 'Listen to the noise of the water, my lord,' sie said; the river must indeed be very full.' Above the sound of the pattering rain drops and the soughing of the wind through the trees, there came the roar of the rushing waters from the valley bn!ow. Lord Tres silian listened intently for a few moments, then he drew back his head again with a jerk. ' By George !' he exclaimed in sudden ex citement, ' the river is over the hanks and the meadows aae flooded. I should not wonder if the water were out all over the valley, and, if that is the real state of things, I should like to know how we are going to get home to-night I' ' Please, ox, drink water, water won't quench fire, fire won't burn' stick, stick won't beat dog, dog won't bite pig, pig won't go over stile, and Lord Tressilian can't get home to-night in time for the applo dumplings,' laughed witty Amelia Hopkins. ' Are the apple dumplings so very choice, Lord Tres silian I' Ten minutes earlier this sally would have received a favorahle reception, but Lord Tressilian was no longer in the humor for anything of the kind. IHe remarked snap pishly that he did not understand what Miss Hlopkins meant by her allusion to pigs and apple dumpling-he himself did not ase the point of such personal remarks; and, as to
the flood, it was all very well for persons who lived on this side of the river to treat it as' a joke, but it was no laughing matter for those who had to cross the valley if they wanted to get home. Miss Hopkins was instantly sobered by the change in his manner. 'You are right, my lord,' she said, drop ping her bantering tone ; ' I am sure it is no laughing matter. It will cause a great deal of inconvenience - and damage, too.; Dear me-it's very serious.' But Tressilian was not to be appeased, and the allurements of Miss Hopkins had lost their charm. 'Yes-it will do a deal of damage on the property all about,' he remarked loftily. SBut you have no cause for anxiety that I am aware of, have you, Miss Hopkins ' It wont affect you in any way, I suppose 1' And withl this parting snub be strutted away, leaving the unlucky Amelia to mourn over the changed spirit of her dream. Lord Tressilian went about the room an-. nouncing the- tidings and spreading con fusion and dismay among the chaperons Inquiries were set on foot, as to the extent of the floods, and it proved that his surmise was only too correct. The bridge had broken down, all the roads in the, valley were under water, and in the channel where the little river was wont to flow. so lazily there was now a raging torrent that carried everything.before it, and was utterly impas sable. Throgmorton Court stood on the crest of the hill, safe from the invading waters; and; on the opposite slope the towers bf 'Casle hursb would, by day, have been visible through the trees., Lord Cayqlehurst'a house we, as saf. ly out-of reich of harm as the Court.; t*ub the flood, which was the resul?:, of cpntinuous hevy rains, lay b,.tween, and' it would be impossible to get across the valley. The guests who did not come from the opposite side of the river were not as 'yet prevented from getti. g home, and they at once ordered their carriages ; but the Col. lingwoods and a good many would not' be able to reach their homes without mkine a long detour, and even then they would rtin the risk of finding' the way impassable: at some Point. Lady Throgmorton would not hehar of leaving, and she insisted that they must: all stay for the night at the Court. She mtde
light of .ll dioulltie4, dcdlared that there !was plenty of accommindation, and ' earried her point. It waa the easiest and moab sensible plan, and, when it was all settled, most of the party found a pletsanb exoitement in the novelty of the situation.