|Newspaper Title||Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1867 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Love's Conquest|
- CAPTER XV. The visitor.: who came in thue inoppor tunely. wad. Maude Throgmorton, looking unusually bright and prebty and fresh, She
was a tall slim girl, with a rather too pro nounced aquiline nose, and her bright brown eyes were set rather too olnsely together; but she had an exceedingly pretty warm. tinted complexion, and a wealth of shining hair of an unusual and a very beautiful shade of rich red-brown. The contrast between. the two girls was complete, and it was not to Adela's advan tage.: -She was two )eara older than Mande, and today the difference of age seemed much greater, so pale.and worn did her sad little ftce. look beside the bright colouring, of Maud.'s animated features. Adela's eyes, with their clear. translucent depths of violet. grey, could never lose their beauty, and th,.y were lovely still;- but her recect tears had left their tracts upon cheeks and eyelids, and Maude's sharp eyes were not long in obser ving them. ' I am afraid you -must be, feeling seedy, Adela,' she remarked, after the usual greet inga. e' You are looking wretched.' ; : Am IV' said Adelr with a smile.-:Well, ST-don'b think I: am very well. -I alwaityl feel this time of the year trying ;"and I have not been;up to the mark for many: months. It has been such a wet summer that:one has not been able to get out much. But you look l!ooming, Maude--I don't thiink I ever, saw you looking better. It's really quite refresh ing to see you.' The warmth of the appreciation in, her look and tone was so genuine and unaffected that it was impossible to doubt the sincerity, of the compliment; aiid Maude flushed, partly from pleasure, and partly from some 'other feeling. 'I thought that, as `the afternoon had turned dut" so wet, you would probably hot be going out,' she said a little confusedly, 'and thab y u rh:ght be feeling dull and mopyA lh ;by, yourself,o Iqt Imade up mytu und to dcoile overor ra chat'. i. - That was very "kind of you,;' respoided Adela warmly. ? ' Do take off your damp jacket and setile yourself i? th'is comfortable chair by, the fire; :and I'll it.ig the bell, and tell themIto -put the carriage up and-bring us in some tea.', Maude demurred, and declared that she could only stay a few minutes'; but Adela was-liospitably bent upon detainitg her. s . Thie afternoon tea table, with its glittering e and inviting equispage, was piesentlybrou~ht u in; and,-leaning comforbtbly back, in low o chairs, with 'dainty cups of delicate old a Wor-crster in their hands, the two- girls 'sat e cosilyjip the firelight, which became every. n moment brighter and more cheerful-looking t as the daylight -faded and deepened into dusk. - . S-Maude, who generally had some amu'sing r or.interesting little tale to -tell,? a propos of 1 every name '-that came up in conversation,. could be an entertaining companion when she t chose; and she chatted-away very pleaiantly ulponbevery codnceivable subject as she sipped f the faintly, scented Indian tea. She had been I speaking about' her mother: when she said; as 1 she put out hr hiand for a piece of dake - S'Py the way, I wonder if you remember i Frank's friend, Captain Esmonde, who came to stay with us for our dance -' ' Yes--perfectly,' answered Adela. ' Oh, of course you do.-' Hed came with us to luncheon here the 'next day--didn't he ? Well, I heard a piece of news about him I yesterday.' :' What is it ? Anything interesting l' inquired Adela crsually. ' Well, ~. don't know that I should call it interesting 's id Maide, raising her eyebrows with a half disdainful little move; ,'.butb it might be if one knew'hiim: better, i suppose. He is either engaged, or ju tron the pointt of it. You know my friends, the Ernest Hiltons live at Fernydale, which is close: to Sir Patriek s place in Berkshire ;'and Mrs Hilton writes to me to say that Captain EEsnairode has been at home for the last three vweeks, and she h-is seen a good deal of him. He has been making the most of his - opportunities, she says, to carry on a tremendouis flirtation with a little heiress whe lives close hy.; 'ndl things have gone so far now thiab.thereo?eems no d, ubt tlatb it is going to be "a?tch?7'. ' Oh,' said Adele, ' I call that interesting I I am always interested in hearing:!about engagements. Do you know anything about' the young lady V' ' Her name is Mai-ie Neville, and she is wonderfully pretty and, charming, Annie says-a little thing, but very fascinating, and onlyjnest come out. Sir Patrick is very eager for the match, and as the estates that she will come into are next to his,'she is a great favourite with him; so perhaps Captain E monde may be in earnest at last. Other wise I should think it might 'be another of the little comedies that he likes to amuse himself with. He is a fearful flirt !' 'Do you think so 7' responded Adela; and her tone c'early implied that sihe did not. f ' I don't think it,' replitd Maude airily -' I know ib. He is the worst flirt I ever met -for a man; and the best of it is he gets so inifatuated that he really thinks heis in earnest t'li'the timae--until he flits to another flower. Heis "a regular .butterfly, and nothing else.' rT Assnr't n* ean wikkl ..nswl Is:A A.1 1..
quietly but with decision. 'I fancy .it is natulal to him to "be warmly.interested in a good many- people, and particularly women; and I daresay. the little deferential attentions which he pays them mightvery likely lead to misconceptions sometimes; but I should not say that he was a flirt or a butterfly.' ' I don't know,' rejoined Maude. ' All I can say is that that is th'e reputation he has got ; but of course in this instance there are reaions why itshould be something more than a. mere flirbation. I dareany, he is really engaged io. Miss Neville.' :'Very likely,' said Adela,; it sounds a suitable:sort of thing.' She spoke so easily and naturally that Maude glances scrutinisingly at her, wonder-. if it really'was a" matter of indifference to' her';` but the young lady's ouriosity did niobt receive:much gratification. Adela sa6 perfectly still, leaning back in her chlir in an.attitude of repose, her slender hanids-they were very pretby'hands, Maude noticed-lightly clasped on her knee, her rings sparkling and flashing in the ruddy firelight. Her g.ze was fixed musingly upon the:burning coals, and in the half light the expression of her face was not easy bo.read. "' Yes-:io doubt it is suitable, and there. fore it-is likely,' said -Maude, rising. ' Dear :me,' how dark-it has got-it must lie gettiig a quite late,' she exclaimed as a servant came 3 in bringing lights and a letter on atray which be handed to his young mistress. ' I mues. be going or I shall come to grief in driving f
.through the woods ; and mamma does get so n fidgety.' In a few minutes the cirriage was brought round, and taking an affectionate. leave of g her friend, she drove away. e 'I don't believe she cared one bit,' che said to herself, as she drove her shaggy little ., ponies down the steep incline at a pace t- which made the small boy clinging on behind t, brembnle for his safety. ' She has got no h heart at all; andI am gladOaptain Esmonde e esca.ped frum the snare.l' if But, could Maude have seen Adel.i as she s, stood at that moment in the empty drawing t. room, with tightly clasped hnda and y sorrowful eyes .her judgment might h-avi I been different. Adela was thinking of Op d tain Esmonde, ani her f-ice wasi clouded with an expression of intense paip as she; recalled' the circumstances of their brief acualintance., , No,' she said firmlyZ-' he is not a.flirb I _- I- gave him :a ..distinct r?fnsal, ani ifhe;has ,ttirnedito:some one_ elsiibtis only natural' ; ib isinot only' inatal,t it' is righti Why tI should he go on wasting vain regrets about it me I ought to be glad and thankful if .b this news is true.' it And yet she knew that she was neither k glad nor thankful ; and, though, in disicussing ,r:the subject with Maude, shlo had so readily - conceded the possibility, she did not in her heart of heart believe that it could be true. k It was not yet true-he could not have ,b forgotten her so soo.--the look of love and f devotion which had been so ineffaceably y stamped upon her memory gave the lie to r that. Ah, well, why should the thought give her such pain I Why was she so'foolislh a as to suffer her mind to dwell upon remrm t brances that would bea so much better forgotten i d She moved away from : the fire, into which d she had been :idly staring,. and, to give, a: different turn to her thoughts, took up 'the I letter which had come for her by the- after- p noon-post. She opened it, wonderingvaguely. e from whom it came. The large forcible a looking handwriting was strange to her; s and yet it had not the appearance of a brisi ness.letter. -She read the first line, and, -as e she; huiiriedly turned to the sigatbure, it gavye her a shock which caused her to turn whie to the lips. It was Sir Patrick's letter, ajid it could scarcely -have -come at a more unfortunate momanb. Adela read it.through, and each ?sentence 1 fell like a blow upon her-,sinking spirit. t She read it . again, until the hard and Sitplacablle words were branded upon her. Sheart; and che sa?t where she was, with the letter in her biand, as if she had been stunnedr until the sound.of the: dressing-bell reminded her of tihe dinn.:r-party for which f she would hav to get 'ready. SHow: shem rnaged to get through the.long 9" evening Adela `never knew. i'.Tlie : splitting headache that came on she felt to be almost Sa blessing, as it deadened her:, powerr of . thinking; and she was so litupifidhd by pain that she was inio p.tble of responding: to = the remarks which Mr Blunt addressed.to her. at dinner. Lord T,eseilian looked angrily ?tb her across the table. He noticed her look of suffering and :oppyession, -and :wAis furious with her; but Mr. Blunt was more consi derate. He guessed that her silence was caused by indisposition,' and, feeling sorry for her, shielded her by taking a part.in the general conversation. SI'aam afraid that you are feeling very far from well,' he said, coming up 'to her, - wbed the gentlemen entered the drawing-room. - ' I have a bad headache, which m ikes: my brain feel hopelessly addled.. I was very poor company at dinner, I know ; hut I really :could not help it. I am extremely sorry, Mr Blunt.' Sh'e looked up with'an imploring expression that went straight to a heart which had hitherto been sinigularly unsusceptible to the glances of beautiful eyes. ' Had you not better. go to bed 1' he said kindly: I am sure you are not fit to ,stay up.' ' Oh, I shall contrive to-last out until: thei end of the evening.' she answered?l with -a faint smile, -I - must. It is .only this tireeenme headache that makes me so stupid, and I am not going to be such a poor creature *as to give in to it.' -' Let ine, at any iate, put. a cushion behind your'head and rnove the lamp away; you don't want all that bright light streaming into your eyes There-isn't that better ?' In Mr. Blunt's pronunciation there was a slight 'bur' that hbetrayed his North-Country origin; but the want of polish in his words and manner did not detract from their real kindness ; and the considerate care for her oomfort, to which she was so littleaccustomed, brought a sudden mist to Adela's eyes, and they were more b-autiful than ever when she raised them t3 thank him. That glance of gratitude, unconscious though it was, did a great deal of mischief. One glance from ther n rost exquisite eyes he had ever seen lhad already wrought havoc in poor Mr. Blunt's heart; the second impelled him to a step that he hid not dreamed of taking so soon... Adela was seated neat the grand piano at one end of the room; the ientlemen who had come in afr,- rtinnnr huri
gathered round the fire at the opposite end. Lord Cistlehurst was deep in conversation with Sir John Shepherd ; Lord Tressilian and the rest of the p irty were engrossed in a game of cards. Mr. Blunt saw at a glance that he and Lady Adela were to all intents and purposes alone, and he sat down. by her side. ' You need to be, taken care of,' he said earn-ebly. ' I fear it is presumption in me to ask for it, but, if you would give me the irigh6 to care for you,, it would be the happi ness of my life to do it." I would give you such love and devotion as you have neecr known; and I.would do all tha .I could to make you happy.. The frost of .,years: had'.begun 'to silver 1 Jonatha? iBlun,'s hair, but ib had not touched his heart ; and the feeling by ,which he was, now carried away was, as fervent as if he had been five-and twenty, instead of five-and forty. "He would' not be checked .by tbhe signs of dismay.in-,Adela's "face.. '': - ' Oh, Mr. Blunt, I am very, very sorry I ' she said, in great distress. ' You are most kind, and I am truly -grateful to you, .but indeed that cannot be.' 'Will you not think of it I he urged, I know-that there is a disparity of agebetween us that may seem great to you-though to most people it would not-and I cannot offer you such a position as you perhapsehave t a right to expect. I have not had the ad. b vantage of. birth or education that your huse hand oigh't to have, I know; but, if your a family are ready to overlook that, perhaps h
the strieng?hIi of my devotion to you might make ilp for it in time.` You s'hould' have everything you could possibly wish, for, that money could give you ; `your elightest wish would bi law to' me,' and, your happIiness should be the study of my life !:I '':Will you not think of it' The. appeal was not wibthout ibt effect,, for Mrr Blunt had "uinknowingly chosen the most' favorable mment- for' hisi purpose. Adela looked 'lt him with dilti;ted eyes and triembl ing lips. Tressilian' ewas in the roo mn': Sr Patrick's letter "lay in';her' dredsing-table drawer up stairs. : Theria were' peiiecution and misery 'bfore and 'behind heri but' she now saw a haven' where' there' would be shelter and safety ;' whete thes would at least be protected from insult and :druel y ; and iri her need she was almost ready to `cling to the kind hand held out to h r. "Why shold she not? 'Why, if it were in het power, snould she not m ke this good and 'upright man h ppy, and find a refuge in his protecting kindness and affection ' ' I wish I could, she said, in "a low tone, that was almost a whisper, but had an in-I tensity of feeling in it that amounted to agony-' oh, I wish I I could I' The last words fell from her lips almest in voluntary ; and, seeing how near he was to gaining a concession which was beyond his hopes, Mr. Blunt ventured to take her hand. 'Why do you hesitate ?' he asked gently. 'Ts it because you do not love me i It is not likely that you should 'now-I do not expeot it. Bnt I do not despair of gaining your affection in time, if you will be my wife. Lord Tressilian gave me to. under. stand that I should have no rival in the' field ; and, if your heart is free, tlhere can be' nothinig wrong in your giving me a chance of winning it.' But her heart was not free; and now for the first time: Adela realised 'the ttitth to' whioh she had so long been trying- to blind herse'f." From .the commencement of h r acquaintance with Oaptain Esmonde she had been careful to ?,ard heself "against him When she had r jected him, she had tried to believe that thi- pain and regret that shi had felt was upon his ecoount ; and ever since she had be 'n fight ng against the con viction that her heart had been traitor to her will. The information of Matide Throg morton had conveved to her ,hat aftornion had clone something to bring he truth home to her, and Sir P trick's letter had done more; but it wat the id a of giving herself to some one else that made all clear t, her in its full significance. She had gtven hr,' heart involuntarily into Oagtain Esmonde's be ping, and it wouhl b. his always. It 'w' impossible th.,t she should marry anyone else. LTO BE CONTINUED] _ _