|Newspaper Title||Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1867 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Love's Conquest|
- LOYE'S CONQUEST. ,COHAPTER VT.---Continued. He was in danger of incurring another rebuke for inattention, when the door opened and Adela appeared. In that huge room her figure appeared small and slight, but it was in Esmonde's eyes invested with a charming grace and dignity. She wore a beautifully made white gown, with a cluster of deep red roses at her slender waist, that made her look as if she had stepped straight out of an old. world picture. She came forward with a slight deepening of the faint rose-colour in her cheeks, but with absolute composure, and for a moment Esmonde had the privilege, to which he had been foolishly looking forward all the morn ing, of again holding that small and slender hand within his own. It was very quickly withdrawn; and then Laldy Adela took a sept by Lady Throgmorton, to whom she devoted most of her attention until some .other guests who had been invited to luncheon were shown into the room, and the people who were staying in the house came dropping in on their return from drives and rides and the various occups tions of the morning. There was a large party at the luncheon. table and Captain Esmonde found himself next to a loquacious married lady of sporting tastes, who completely monopolised him and kept him so constantly employed in trotting to and from the nearest dumb-waiter, chang. ing her plates and attending to her varied wants, that he had scarcely a moment in which to sit still and watch Lady Adela, as he wished to do. She sat at the head of the tab!e and fulfilled the duties of a hostess with perfect ease ; but she said very little. The sporting husband of the sporting lady-they were friends of the Viscount'n, and were staying in the house--'at next to her, and she did not appear to take much inteiest in his remarks upon racing matters. Lord Tressilian came in when luncheon was half over, and sainted Esmonde with effusive friendliness. He took an empty chair by Miss Throgmorton, and disposed himself to entertain her with drawling com ments upon the events of the previous evening, diversified by complacent references
to his, own achievements in the field ,that morning. He had just come in from shooting and he looked, if possible, more unprepossess ing than ever in his Norfolk jaclrat and heavy boots; but Maude did not seem to look unfavourably upon him. It struck Esmonde, who glanced at her once or twice from his place at the opposite side of the table, that she was a young lady who would prefer any partner to an empty chair; and he might have carried his conclusion further, fo Maude would have found the attentions of any man a welcome change from the monotony of feminine society. Lord Oastlehurst himeelf was not present. Adela had explained that he seldom joined them at luncheon ; and, as the guests were leaving the dining-room, she went up to Captain Esmonde, and asked if he would mind going to talk to her father for a little while in his own sitting-room. 'He has nott been well lately, and be suffers very much from gout, which makes him rather irritable. He does not c re to be all day' with these people, but he would enjoy a quiet talk with you,' said Adela. Will you come and see him now 1' Esmonde assented willingly, and followed her out of the rooma. She led the way through the great empty hall, up the wide stone staircase with its balusters of carved oak, and across the spacious landing with stained-glass windows, then, opening one of the doors that led out of it, she pushed aside the heavy portiere of crimson velvet that hung over the entrance of a room that was very much more cosy in'dimensions and comfortable in its arrangement than any that Esmonde had yet seen at Castlehurest. It was an octagon-room, and thlee sides of it were filled in by a sort of bay-window, giving a magn:ficent view of the park and surrounding uplands, and admitting abund ance of light, which revealed that in the furnishing of this room no modern ideas of comfort or convenience had been disregarded The Earl sat in easy-chair near an old fashioned open hearth, on which-though the weather was warm-a huge wood fire was blazing ; and, in the loose folds of an Indian dressing-gown, he looked more p:c tureaque and venerable than when Esmonde first seen him. It was evident that Lady Adela's hint as to the irritalde st;te of his temper was not without grounds, for he was as sulky as a bear, and he growled out some untelligible anathema as she came in ; but he seemed pleased to see Captain Esmonde, and bright. encd up during his visit. Adela soon rose from her chair to leave them ; but, as she was was going out of the room, her father checked himself in the middle of various quesrions about Sir Patrick to demand angrily what site was rushing off for. ' I must go down, papa,' she replied firmly. 'Some of Greville's friends are going off this afternoon, and I must be there to say ' Good ,bye. [ will not stay any longer than I need;' and, disregarding the Earl's diesatis fled grunt, she withdrew. She was away for about an hour ;. but, when she returned, Lord Castlehurst was still talking energetically about his old ac quaintance, and he had heen charmed into a mood of unusual amiability by the pleasure of finding an appreciative listener to the old word reminiscences. Esmonde had happily brought with him a recent photograph of his father, and the Etrl was commenting upon it when Adela entered the room. ' He has worn well-worn well,' he said, with something like a sigh ; ' h- looks a good ten years younger than [ do ; but I csn scarcely believe that this is ' Hot-pot Pat' ,f ' ours '-that's what we used to call him. Did you know that, eh 1 I'll wager he has never told you that ! But I remember him a smart dashing young fellow-the Adonis of the regiment. You will never be as haud some as your father was, young man I' ' I have not much time for improvement, I am afraid, my lord,' observed Esmonde, meeting the quizzical glance from under Lord Castlehurst's shaggy eyebrows with a good humoured laugh. .' Not much time-but plenty of room, eh I Ha, ha, ha ! Do you fe-1 that there is room for improvement, Esmonde ?' And the Earl chuckled, as if he thought this was a very witty retort. 'Never mind, my hoy,' he continued, recovering his breath with some difficultby, 'you are a personable fellow enough, you can play to leg like a demon, and you've got a better temper than Sir Patrick ever had. By gad, what a gun-powder he was I That's why we called him 'Hot-pot.' 'Hot-pot Pat Cockdlorum'-that was the full name that he went by; but we very seldom dared give it him to his face, for his rages were no joke ! Does he have them still ' Esmonde hesitated a moment, and he was unable to restrain a tell-tale twinkle in his eyes which betrayed the truth. ' Ah, you won't peach,' said the Earl; 'but he hasn't grown out of his old ways, I dare swear, and, if you were to make a clean breast ofit, you would have toconfess that you have a hot time of it now and then I You
see, Adele, I am not the only pepper-pot of a paterfamilias.: Adela smiled, but did not look up from the photograph which OGptain Eamonde had handed to her. It represented a man of between sixty and seventy, and the face was a fine one; but, as she looked at it, she silently dissented from the opinion that the Earl had expressed in his comparison of the. father anI son. The features in the photograph were regular and well cut, and they were not more so than Eimonde's, and they had not the same im press of strength and refinement. The charming humorous indications about the mouth and eyes were wanting in the photograph, and the expression was alto gether different from Esmonde's. There were lines in the old man's face, too, of which there were no signs of the son's-deep furrows and crossed wrinkles that told an unmistakeable tale. After the study of this portrait thenr was no necessity to tell Adela that Sir Patrick Esmonde was a pasionate man, of fiery and unrestrained temper. ' Well, Adele,' sail Lord Castlehurst, with some impatience, ' we have not heard your opinion of the photo. ' Don't you think thte O.ptain E'monde is a long way behind his father in looks 1' Adela looked up involuntarily at Captain Etmonde, and mot a glance of such intensity that she blushed vividly and forgot the half laughing criticism which had been upon her lips. Those blue eyes resting upon her told their story clearly enough. Adela woul
have been a strangely constituted woman if she had not thought that eager face, lighted .p with love and admiration, far handsJmer than the stern features she had been about to compare with it ; but she was startled by its expression, and she was so confused that she could not find a word to say. She was rescued from her embarrassment by the appearance of Lord Treasilian, whose entrance distracted the Earl's attention from the effect which his inconvenient question had produced. ' I say, Adela,' said Tressilian, with his usual ill-mannered way of speaking, ' the Throgmorton women have gone. 'daude had some engagement or other, and they couldn't wait, so I t.,ld them I would make their excuses and say ' Good-bye ' for them, and they skedaddled about five minaues ago.' ' I suppose they had forgotten my exist ence,' said Esmonde, with an assumption of droll helplessness. ' It is too bad of them to have left me in the lurch with a gamey ankle ! Luckily the Court is not far off, and my loot is really alright to-day. I can easily walk there, and I think I had better he setting out.' ' Oh, you must nob think of walking,' ex claimed Adela; 'you shall be driven.' ' Confound ib-n I!' cried Lord Can le hurt. .' Stay and dine with us, won't you, Esmorde! I shall be better after dinner, and up to another spin. I haven't told you half of what I know about your father. You must stay. I insist upon it !' 'Of course you must,' said the Viscounb, as soon as he could obbtin a hearing ; ' it is quite settled ! And I have made it all right with Ldy Throgmorton. She wanted to send the c.,rtiage back for you, but I said you would stay to dinner, and we would send you home Pometime before morning.' Denys longed to acquiesce in this arrange ment, out he f irced himself to do violence to his feelings and declare that it was impossible. He raised all sorts of difliculties; but T ,rd Tressiliin, who possessed considerable powers of generalship when it was a question of serving any particular end that he had in view, had provided against most of them, and he made light of the rest. Esmonde turned round to look at Lady Adela's face, apprehensive lest he should read his dis missal there, but she had slipped out of the room; and when he reflected that if he rejected this interposition of late in his favor,
he might not see her again, his resolution wavered. To go away now was like b nishing himself from paradise-it warn giving up a chance which might never occur again. He thought of the delight of being ne r her the whole evening, of the privilege which would probably be his of taking her to dinner-of a whole range of possibiliries that might arise-and his mind was made up. Some lines written by the most chivalrous of the Scottish Cavaliers came into his head. " He either fears his fate too much Or his deserts are small Who dares not put it to the touch To win or lose it all." ' I'll put it to the touch-to-night if I can,' Esmonde said to himself.