Chapter 31365471

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Chapter NumberX.-Continued
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Full Date1898-05-11
Page Number4
Word Count2610
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleQueanbeyan Age (NSW : 1867 - 1904)
Trove TitleLove's Conquest
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LOVE'S CONQUESTS CHAPTER X.--Contiunued Mr Hilton was not more than two or three and thirty, but he was a man of such sound sense and judgment. that he occupied a high position in the county, and. his: opinions carried more weight on the Bench than those of many an older man. No one was more ready to acknowledge his merits thin his wife, and on ordinary occasions she invariably deferred to his judgment ; but she had an independent spirit, and occasionally she took it into her thoughtless little head to decide for herself. She did so now; and, with a look of superior wisdom in her china-blue eyes, she reflected how limited were the qual fications of" the wisest of men to understand a situation which to a woman was as clea, as daylight. Ah, well, it was no use arguing about it ! And she- let the subject drop. But, when her husbend had driven off, Mrs Hilton remembered that she ought to retutrn some books which she borrowed from More ton Manor, and she was soon sitting behind her spirited little ponies as they trotted along a winding country lane. The prettiest part of the drive was where Sir Patrick's property commenced. Here the great trees overhung well-edged lanes, form ing a leafy arch, and through the trees could be caught glimpses of woods and meadows, fine cattl -, and comfortable red-tiled farm houses which had an air of wealth and pros perity and betokened a rich and liberal land lord. Sir Patrick Esmonde's estate was a m6del of beauty and order. The fortune that his wife had brought him had enabled Sir Pat rick to restore and m-ke extensive additions to the beautiful old seventeenth century house that was almosb tumbling to ruin wheri he came in possession of it ; and he did not rest until lie had brought the whole plece into-a well nigh perfect condition. He then wished to extend the property by buying more property; but the adjoining estates belonged to men who valued them too highly to be tempted by the most liberal offers of their rich neighbor. The land which Sir Patrick especially covetted was a stretch of woodland visible from his house, which belonged to his nearest neighbor, a retired naval officer ; bu, old Admiral Neville was deaf to all the blandishments that wete lavished upon him, and he could nob be in duced to part with even the rmallest slice of his ancestral eores. The only chance of Sir Patrick's desire being gratified was by a marriage between his son and Admiral Neville's young heiress. But this hope was a slender one to build upon, for the little motherless maiden at Ashholt was twelve years younger than Denys, and it seemed im probable that the handsome impetuous young soldier, whose wealth male him the mark for every mach-maker in London, would remain free until she was old enough to be his bride. But a casual remark of the Admiral's on one oceasion when Sir Patrick was pressing him to sell a piece of his land had sunk deep into the Baronet's mind. 'If your boy cares to wait until Maisie is old enough for him, you shall have the whole place, my dear Esemonde,' the Admiral had said laughing. ' That's your only chance. The words were lightly spoken, but Sir Patrick had never fo getten them ; and as the years slipped by, his mind dwelt more and more upon the scheme which he perist ently cherished. The little maiden was now nearly eighteen-a small maiden still, and not gifted by nature with eny especial grace or beauty; but she was a simple minded sweet-tempered girl, with win-otoe ways that had endeared her to all the neighborhood, and she had quite won Sir Patrick's heart. The time had come when the old man might look forward to the fulfillment of his long cherished desire, and f-om his son's im pending visit he had great hopes of its reali-ation. Captain Esmonde had not seen Maisie Neville since she had le-ft school a ' finished ' young lady ; but then in her childhood she and Denys had been great friends ; and he had often laughingly acquiesced in the plans that his father had sometimes been betrayed into sp aking about. In reality the young man had never given the matter a serious thought. His brilliant prospects and fascinating personality had made him the object of many schemes and Sir Patrick. had had. many a false alarm,: but season after season had gone by, and one attack after another had failed, until the most enterprising spirits had given Denys up in despair, and his father had been lulled

into peaceful security. He was therefore :totally unprepared for the news that was on its way to him. Mrs Hilton found Sir Patrick at home, seated in the sunny library, which opened into a garden that, even in this unpropitious season, was brilliant with flowers, The books she had brought back were restored to their former places on the shelves, and the Baronet, who was a model of stately courtesy, inquired if there were any others that she would cire to take back with her. Mrs. Hilton tbanked him, and said she would like some later on, when she would have more time for reading; she had no end of letterwriting to do just then and a good many engagements on hand. People were hoping for a little fine weather after such a wet month as the last had bseen, and the neighborhood seemed to be waking up a little. There were several garden-parties next week, and she herself wanted to give lone. She hoped Captain Bsmonde would be at homrn by that time 4 ' 01t, yes !' said Sir Patrick graciously. ' He vill be home in a day or two. He has been staying with some friends in Rampshire-a Mr Throgmorton, who was in the same regi iinent as my son.' ' Ah, yes,' responded Mrs Hiltpno;a' I know the Throgmortons. Miss Throgmorton is a great friend of mine, and I heald fiom her his:morning' 'Indeed !' exclaimed Sir Patrick, with interest. 'Did she mention my son 4' 'Ys ; she said he was staying there,' replied Mrs. Hilton rather awkwardly, for. she was resolved to be ,discreet, and as yet. her resolution held good. The Baronet went on with the stately *rbini'y which was habituail i' whvi henh was in good humour. .' !I hasebeen a. longstanding engagement tha?b:my so'n should pay a .visit to Throgmor t-onCourt, and I am glad that he should have done so at last. I believe they are pnrticu lerly nice people. Itisu:a good old family, I know.' '?Oh, dear me, yes l' s id Mrs.. Hilton. ' They are very nice people indeed; and SMaude is one of my most intimate friends. How long did you say Captain Esmonde was going to stay on there, Sir Patrick? 'rshe added rather absently. e ' A very short time now, I think. He ; may be home to-morrow- or the next day,' replied the old man.

' Oh, indeed I' exclaimed Mrs. Hilton briskly. 'Thst is a most fortunate thing --' And then she suddenly checked her sqlf, with an abruptness that at once attracted h-r hearez's attention and excited his curiosity. 'You were saying that it is a fortunate thing, Mrs. Hilton,', Sir Patrick, observed inquiringly ; ' may I-ask why 'i" Mrs. Hilton hesitated. Since Captain Esmonde was coming home so soon, perhaps it would be better to say nothing about the matter. This was an additional reason for keeping silence, as Sir Patrick could not possibly take any preventive measures in so short a time. Still hit son might not tell him everything ; and it was a thing he ought to know. The temptation of being the first to enlightea the Baronet on so momentous a matter was too strong to be resisted, and ·lrs.. Hilton's prudent resolutions suddenly and completely broke down. ' I meant that it was fortunate for Cap tain Eimonde's peace of mind,' she said boldly. ' My friend tells me that it is seriously endangered by a young lady whom he met at a dnce at their house, and who would scarcely be an acceptable daughter-in law to yotl.' In an instant the expression of the old man's face completely changed, and' there came into hi steel-gray eyes a look of stern severity before which Mrs. Hilton involun tarily shrank. ' My son's peace of mind--his-;peace dof mind endangered I Mrs. Hilb?ni are- you serious?' he exclaimed incredulously. .Pray explain what you mean.' Oh, I hope it may turn out to:be nothing. I=' she said in some confusion. !Only I heard this morning from Miss Throgomorton that Captain Esmonde had. got into some entangle. ment with one of Lord Casblehurst's daughters. She has refuised him -however, Maude thinks; and, if he is leaving so soon, he'will. be well oubt of her way. I dare= say there is no cause for uneasiness,+Sir Patrick. Very likely it was only a passing flirtation.' J"ut, if' Mrs Hilton imagined that Sir, Patrick :was to be satisfied by an assuranee of this kind, she was: be. -vAy speedily undeceived He. insisted upon hear ing:whab grounds she had to go upon, and, as he had profited by a long experience of cross-examining, she was completely at his mercy. He was nob'satisfied until :h had ectraoted from her the whole of the iziforma.

tion contained in Maude's letter, and in self. justification she was obliged to repeat it al most verbatim, involuntarily heightening rather than lessening the e.caggerated colours in which the Collingwood failings were. painted. Something of this history was known to Sir Patrick, for, though his per?onal acquaint ance with Lord Castlehurst had long since been dropped, he had oocassionally heard discreditable stories about his lordship's after-career ; but he listened with amaze ment to this revelation of profligacy and" dis grace, and the idea of his son's marrying into suth a family was so repellent that he forgot to resent, as he otherwise would have done, the downfall of his own hopes and plans. Sir Patrick's prejudices were invincible, and the most skilful of diplomatists might have failed to reconcile him to a match which was in opposition to his own views ; but in this case the facts were presented to him in the most unfortunate manner possible, and they mide an impression upon his mirfd that neither reason nor persuasion would ever be able to efface. Re managed to restrain his wrath and; indignation before Mrs Hilton ; but she saw .enough to be thoroughly frightened by the disastrous effece that her disclosures had proluced, and she.went away with a guilty conscience, feeling that she h.d been doing serious mischief. If Captain Eimonde really cared for this girl, how could she justify her self for the part she had taken in helping to Sprejudice his father so fatally against her If he.did not really care for her, how thought less and unkind she had been in bringing about a storm for nothing ! She did not exactly admit all this to herself, and indard, had anyone upbraided her with what she had done, she would probably have said that she could not have helped it-she had let slip a word by accident, and Sir Patrick had dragged out the rest-but she knew very well what her husband's view would be, and as, with flushed cheeks and an uneasy con science, she turned her ponies' heads in the I direction of home, she wished most penitent ly that she had taken his advice and not t meddled in the matter. After seeing Mrs Hilton off, Sir Patrick returned io the sunny library ; but for him the sunshino had gone out of the morniig. The plans that he had been thinking over had lost their interest, and he sat down to

review the situation with compressed lips and level brows that denoted his wiioo~l more ominously than any passionate outburst would have done. Frederick, Lord Castlehurst -Sir Patrick remembered him well--a wild reckless fel low, whose few redeeming points-a certain light-hearted good.niture and careless gener-, osity-were even then becoming obscured by dissolute habits and untestrained self indtilgence. It was easy to imagine what the sons of such a man would be; and his daughters- Great heavena, that his son should chose one of them for his wife ! The daughter of such a reprobate, with such brothers, such it sister-she herself not much better-a flirt who, from mercenary motives, had jilted an honest man. Sir Patrick's anger and indignation, as he recalled Mrs Hilton's description, were too great for expression. A Roman Catholic, too, who would brine up Denys' children in an alien religion. Never, never would Sir Patrick consent to such a marriage: The mere suggestion of it was a outrage to his feelings, and he vowed that no power on earth should ever reconcile him to such a thing. Then he thought of little Maisie Neville, with her bright face and winning ways, and of all the-. advantages she would bring, and the remembrance added fuel to his wrath. 'No,' exclaimed Sir Patrick, t ising from his seat and striding out of the room on to the terrace, from which hde could see the trees of Ashholt-' no, that shill never be. If he marries that woman, be shall never bring her here:while Afterwards she may, come here,.and he-: will :have` what is legally his, but not one shilling more, by heaven. My fortune is my own to do what I choose with, and not one half penny shall he: have if he does not mbarry to please me.' STis vow recorded, Sir. Patrick .calmed down into a quieter and more sanguine mood. ' But the boy won't do it,' he reflected ' most likely he never meant to, and, the whole story isa cook-andbidull story got up by a parcel of silly women. Denys is no fool to be 'caught by the -artifioe.., of ,a designing woman. And he'is as piroud'as I am. , He would never give a wottan of that snrb. the chance of 'rejecting him. Rejecting him, indeed., Is. it a likely thing that she would reject him? . No; the Oollingwoods would be glad enough to get hold of him Miss Throgmorton is right there-but Denys

knows better than to give them a ch.ance. He may have been enticed into some flirta tion-T don't blam0i him for that - but itb is time he was settled in life, and I shoutld like to see him happily married. Little Matsie is just the wife for him, and, if Denys asked her, she would be sure to accept him. She was devoted to hin as ia child, and she has scarcely sarn anyone else-certainly no one else to be compared with Denys. As to the Admiral, he will certainly be willing. And Denys-well, lie will be hotse in a few days, and then we shall see If there is no truth in this story he will make no difficulty in carrying out my wishes, for a sweeter little wife than Maisie no man need wish for. But if this report is true, and he refuses, then-' The consequences that were to follow in such an event were not clear to Sir Patrick's mind; but that they would nob be of a pleaManb nature was ev.dent trom the heavy cloud on his brow and his firmly compressed lips. :