|Newspaper Title||Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1867 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Love's Conquest|
LOYE'S oONQUEST. CHAPTER VI.L--Continued Tuhe herarish manner in which Tressilian had chosen to effect his manoeuvre aroused in Denys a feeling of wrath and indignation; hub,' when he had assented to the Viscount's proposition, he had said truly that it was of ll things what he most wished. It was such an opportunity of being alone with -Lady Adela as he had hardly dared to hope for, and he followed heir with quickened pulses and eager determination to press his suit. A few minutes later they were standing before an easel in Adela's private sitting-room -a pretty little room, but bare, with shabby furniture and but few signs of comfort about it. Denys held up a lamp, so that its light might fall upon the picture, and he stood looking at it for some minutes in silence. It was a charming sketch of a charming subject, and the old Elizabethan house, with its many wings and gables, steeped in mellow sunshine, was taken from' the most pictur esque point of view. A flight of stone steps filled in the sunny foreground, and, beyond, Esmonde thought he could recognise a turret that lihe had good reason to remember. 'It is exactly as it looks,' he said, thinking -more of the subject than of the picture, and forgetting evetything else. ' It has always seemed to rne a sort of ideal place, and now it is so more than ever since--' Ho broke off suddenly and, turning to Lady Adela, met the questioning half-startled glance of her dark gray eyes. ' May I go on, Lady Adele ? May I tell you why I care for this house more than any other that I have ever visited 1 It is because it was there I first niet and learned to know you.' The expression in his eyes, even more than the softened tones of his voice, was eloquent, and, knowing what was coming, Adela could not keep back the flood of colour that rushed to her face. 'JNot there first, I think,' she said, nerving herself to repel the attack ; 'it was at the cricket-match that we first met.' ' Ah, can't you forget that V' responded Esmonde, in a tone of reproachful entreaty. He set the lamp down and went a step nearer to her. ' Oh, Lady Adela. once more I im plore you to put that out of your mind. and to forgive me ! If you knew how I loved you, I think you would ! I love you so deeply that I cannot live without you. And I want you to do more than forgive-I want you to love me in return. Can you-will you do that ?' She shook her head decisively. ' Don't ask me,' she said. 'You don't know--' The colour had. faded from her face as suddenly as it had come, and it`: had left her pale. ' What don't I know '' Esmonde asked. 'Are you thinking about your sister? I know about her, and I should never ask you to give her up. If you will be my wife, Adela, there will always be a home open to her.' 'Ah,' she exclaimed, with a deep breath that was almost a sob, ' you know about that. You have heard about poor Elizabeth, and you say that. But who can have told you ? Ah, I know,' she said, catching her breath, as a light suddenly broke upon her ; 'it is Tressilian's doings. I saw him with you this evening, and my heart misgave me. He has been urging you-he has said something but, oh, I hope-I hope you would. know better than to listen to anything he would say 1' The appeal went home to Esmonde's con science and he felt miserably guilty as he remembered the communications that had been made by her brother and listened to by him ; this was a secret which he hoped I would never come to her knowledge. ' It was not from Lird Tressalian that I learned Lady Elizabeth.s sad story,' he said earnestly; ' and you may believe me that I nothing he could say on any subject would 1 in any way effect my intentions or influence I my actions.' - 'What did lie say to 'you 7' Adela asked, B with a persistent determination to discover C the truth at any costs. ' Did he ask you Oh, no, he couldn'bt-ho couldn't have done I thatI' I: Her words were so incoherent that it would have been difioult to make out what t she meant.; but the agony ofEoutraged pride a in her face betrayed clearly enough what she I dreaded, .and Denys knew that nothitg that c Ihe could say' would prevent her quickened t ,.i'pceptions from divining thatb this sudden n o
proposal was in part due to her brother's interference. She was not likely to guess the full truth. It never occurred. to her that Lord Tressilian could be ac gnisant of what ha.ppened on that eventful night of the dance, less that he hnd been the author of the dilemma; and this was fortunatte, for what she did know was enough to rouse all her pride. 'You heard what he said that night, and he has been saying the same thing to you this afternoon-I know he has,' she said, with a sudden change of bone which ex pressed the depth of her resentment. ' Cap tain Esmonde, I should notb- have thought that you would have presumed upon that to ---to insult me !' 'I insult you,' excl:aime? Denys, starting as if he had, been stung-' I, who love you as you have never been loved before ? Lady Adela, how can you say that I How can you think that 1, could sOn perjure myself as to ipeak 'to you as? I am doing if I were acting from such motives as you imply? I assure your, on my . honor as a gentlemen, that .riothing that your brother has said, either to day or that evening, has made the slightest difference in my feeling for you. It is true 'that I might not have ventured: to speak to you so soon if it had not been for the encouragement that I received from Lord Tressilian. He seemed to think that I should have.a chance ; but he was mistaken ; you' do not 'caise'for me.' 'No-I do not-certainly I do not !' de Giared Adela. ' And you know that, if it had not been for that unlucky episode which vou think may injure me if it becomes known, you would never have thought of me Just think-you have only known me three ddays.' 'On" Mohuay youti?s mne for t?- first: time, and this is only Wednesday. Three' ,days ago.we.had not met; and to night you. ask me to marry you. It is too soon-much boo soon. In ordinary circumstances you would not have done that.' ' No-T shouldn't,' replied Esmonde. ' 'In ordinary circu nsbances I don't suppose a man falls so deeply a.,d irretrievably in love as I have done. But the circumstances have not been.ordinary ; and it is because I love you so much that I cannot allow you to be persecuted one moment longer than I can help. That is why I have spoken to-night. I love you, Adela. I love you more than anything on etrth. I worshipoeven the ground you tread upon. And if I could ge
you for my own, end get you to care for me even a little, I should be perfectly happy.' ' You think' so 1' said Adela sadly but inexornibly. ' You 'think so now, perhaps ; but you would very soon find out that you had made a mistake, and then you would bitterly repent having been impelled to take this step.' ' I should never repent it-never. Only try me!' he pleaded fervently. ' No, no. What am I thinking of not to make my meaning clear ' It is of no use to prolong this interview, Captain Esmonde, for it is painful for both of us. Believe me, I am sorry if I give you pain and dihappoint ment; but I hope your feelings towards me are not so deep as you suppose. I scarcely think that it can be, there is only one answer that I can give you, and I think you ought .to have known that.' 'Ame I to understand, then,' said Esmonde turning very pale, ' that you reject, me absolutely and finally 1' He saw from her face that his cause was hopeless, yet he went on with desperate earnestness. 'Are you quite certain, Lady Adela 'i Won't you think it over before you decide 7 It means much to me. It is true that it is only three days since I first saw you ; but in those few days I have been convinced that without you I shall never know what Iperfect happiness means. Can you not give me a little hope to live upon 1 You do not care for me now-it was too much to expect \that you should; you might learn to care for me.' 'Not after all that has happened ; I should never allow myself to do so,' declared Adela firmly. She looked so resolute that he saw she meant what she said. Her pride was invin. cible; and to Denys it seemed cruel. He had anticipated the probability that he might have some difliculties to face, but he was nob prepared to have his hopes so completely shattered. For the first time in his life he experienced a senusation of intolerable mental distress. Adela was shocked to see the strango blank look in his eyes, and her voice faltered as she said hurriedly. ' Forget all this, Captain Esmonde I Don't think of me; or, if you do, think of me only as one who was unworthy of your devotion. Indeed I am not worth it : and the time will come when you will be thankful that I had the resolution to prevent your making such a sHarifice. Forgive me for the pain I have
given you, and try not to think more hardly of me than you cAn help !' I '1 shall never think hardly: of you,' he rejoined gently ;' I shall always love and reverence you. But I cannot forget you that is impossible, hard and unforgiving though you have chosen to be towards me !' 'Am I hard and unforgiving I do not mean to be so,' said Adela, with a troubled glance. '?If you think I am- But never mind; perhaps it is better that you should. Now let us go; people will be wondering what has become of us.' She pub out her hand for the lamp, but Esmonde took it up before she could reach it. 'Let me carry it for you,' he said mechani cally. Tressilian scanned their faces narrowly as they entered.the drawing-room ; but he did not gain much satisfaction from his scrutiny. Esmond, went up to Mrs. de Horsey, and began talking to her with so little expression on his face that the Viscount doubted whether his sister's lover had during his absence touched upon any subject more important than the liws of colour and perspective. Adela lookedI white and chilly, and she moved towards the fire, remarking that the evenings were- getting sold. She did not say she was tired, but she looked worn our; and before long she gave the sig nal for retiring. - When the ladies had said ' Good night,' Lord-Tressilian proposed an adjournment to the billard-room; but, on his way through the hall, Esmonde went up to him and laid a detaining hand upon his shoulder. ' I think I will not stay for billie,rds to night,' he said, in his ordinary g-nial tone; ' it is g ,.ting latb, and I am afraid the people at the Co:ur may he sitting up for me. Y(,u were so kind -as to say that you would iro vide me with some sort of a conveyance; would you mind ordering it to be brought rou'?nd The Viscount turned and looked at. him eagerly; hut, when Esmionde chose to assume an impassive countenance, he wore a -mask that was impenetrable. ' Have y',u spoken to my sister ?' asked Lord Tressilian abruptly. ' I have,' was the laconic reply. ` Vell, how is it settled? 'What.!' he ejaculated, suddenly catching sight of an expression on the other's face which gave him an inkling of the truth. 'You don't mean to tell me that she has refused. you !'
'Yes, she has, You need nir. agitate yourself about it.; it is all over, and there is no more to be said. It is as I thought ; and Lady Adela can't help not liking me.' ' Did she say that 7 Oh, confound it all, won't I make her pay for this 7' exclaimed Tressilian, with an oath. 'Look here, Trossilian,' said Esmonde sternly-' you are not to persecute your sister about this! You treated her shame fully in breaking off her engagement to Tom Buckfastleigh! She has told me about the letter that you suppressed ; and a more dis honourable action I think I never heard of I If I stir up Balckfastleigh to come down upon you about it, there will be serious trouble in store for you; and, as I live, I will if ever I have reason to think that you have been bullying Lady Adela ! You must promise me on your honour that you will not, either directly or directly, make her suffer for what has occured.: 'She has told you the facts about her en 'gagenient to Btckfastleigh, has she 7' ex claimed Tressilian, ignoring Esm ,nde's threat. ' Then she cares more about you than you suppose, or she would never have taken the trouble to clear herself in your eyes. I'll tell you what, Esmonde-you have mistaken her, or you have let one of those fads that women have about hanging back stand in your way. She will soon be brought to reason. You are not going to throw up the game because the cherry does not drop straight into your month ' Esrtonde looked at him, revolving in his mind what possible means he could find of protecting the woman he loved against the tyranny of her unscrupulous brother. There was no relying upon his honour, and threats were of small avail, for his reputation was so badi and his character so well known that the penalty of exposure had no terrors for him. He had only one vulnerable point, and that was self-interest. Knowing this, Es monde at once decided what course to take. 'If I thought that,' he said slowly, ' if I believed you wrce right, I would certainly not give up the game.' ' Of course l'm right !' credl Lord Tressi lian. ' Do you suppose I don't know my own sister. ' ' The relations between you do not seem particularly sympathetic,' Esmdnde could,not help retorting. 'Still there may be some foundation for your opinion, and in that case it might be worth while to wait Qor a time and try my luck again. But I will do that
on one condition only, and that is that Lady Adela is not reproached or persecuted in the meanwhile. If you will engage not to worry her about the matter, I will come forward again and make another offer ; but, if I hear the least hint of undue influence being brought to bear on lie, I shall withdraw my pretensions completely and finally.. This is a compact. Do you agree to it.' £ Confound it, yes,' answered the Viscount sullenly. 'I'm not a Bluebeard, I suppose; I don't want to victimise my sister. I won't say a word if you prefer it. All the same, I think you're wrong.' Right or wrong,' said Esmonde inflexibly Sit is the only condition on which I engage to repeat my offer. You understand that. He made' Tressilian understand it very clearly before they parted ; but, when he went away, he was not at all certain that his prea utions would be of any avail.