|Newspaper Title||Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954)|
Í CHAPTER lil.-(Continued.)
. Natural ly, nothing but the traditional Second-cousin, mu chere. Really, it ia quite a pretty romance-tho struggling artistic genius who ia too proud to speak, now you are in another sphere. Surely you are not offeuded V
Tn spite ot her babyish affectations and infantino innocence, mero mannerisms overlying a tender kindly heart. Holena, Marchioness of Hurlingham, was not entirely without an underlying vein of shrewdness. She was clever enough to see now that the innocently-directed shalt of a bow drawn at a venture had penetrated between the joints of Vere's armour, in spite of her reputation for being perhaps the moat'invulnerable woman in London. '? * I am not offended,' Vere answered, recovering her chill composure at length ; * only such frivolity annoys one at times. What a lot of idle scandal poor woman- kind hos to endure ! What is that 1 '
Gradually above the roll of carriages, the clatter of hoofs, the subdued murmur of soft voices, and the light laughter, a louder hum arose Borne down on the breeze came distaut sounds of strife, and now and then a shriek in a woiuan'B shrill notes ; it seemed to swell as if some panio had . striken the heedless crowd farther down
tee drive. Every face restless and uneasy with the sudden consciousness of some coming danger, was turned in the direction whence the evidence of trouble arose, as a carriage and pair of horses, coming along at lightning speed, scattered pedestrians and riders right and left, like a flock of helpless sheep, in a wild medley
Aa if by magic, a lane teemed to have opened, and coming along the open apace tore a pair of fiery chestnuts, dragging after them in their fear and fright a mail 'phaeton aa if it had been matchwood. .With a feeling of relief, the helpless spectators noticed that the vehicle was empty, save for its driver, who, with bare head and face white as death, essayed manfully to steer the maddened animals straight down the roadway, a task ren- dered doubly dangerous and difficult from the crowded state of the Row, and the inability of certain tyros to keep the path sufficiently olear.
In the midst of the turmoil and con- fusion there arose another cry, a shout of fear and unheeded exposi tion, for, crossing the roadway smilingly, without the semblance of a fear, came a little child, bearing in her hand a bunch of roses ; a little girl, with sunny golden curls and laughing blue eyes, standing like a butterfly before a sweeping avalanche. There was another shout, and again the tiny passenger fsiled to note her danger as nearer and nearer came the .horses, till through the now paralysed, helpless crowd burst the figure of a man, who, without a moment's besitation,sprang and caught the child just as the pole of the carriage threatened to strike her to the ground. There was no longer time for an escape, a fact of which the heroic stranger was perfectly aware ; and grasping the laughing maiden with one powerful arm, with the other ho made a grab for the off-horse's head, and clung to the bridle with the bulldog tenacity of despair. For a moment the animate, checked in their headlong eareer, swerved to the right ; there was a crashing sound of broken panels, and a momeut later . hild, rescuer, horses, and driver lay in
aa inextricably struggling confusion,
'.j For a second or two thera followed "a dread intense silence, as each butterfly of fashion contemplated with fascinated . horror the struggling mass; then, before
the nearest could interfere, it was seen that the stranger had risen to his feet, his dress soiled and stained, and a stream of ruddy crimson slowly trickling down
Ju's face. Just for a brief instant he aweled from very faintness, then, dashing the blinding blood from his eyes, he stooped swiftly, and at the imminent risk of his brains, drew -the now thoroughly frightened eb ild right from under those terrible hoofs, end taking her in his arms, ¿..«taggered rather than walked to a seat.
. J- ' Lady Hurlington, besides herself with
Uriel and terror, the lady pf fashion . merged for the moment into the mother, 1 had descended from her carriage, her face
pale and haggard, and hurried with Vere to'the seat where the stranger reclined. i It was no time for ceremony or class dis-
tinction. With a gesture motherly and natural, as if she had been moulded of meaner clay, she snatched little Violet : from the erma still mechanically holding ' her, with a great gush of thankfulness to find that,' with the exception of the fright, not one Bingle h»ir of that golden head had been injured.
<? ' By this time the crowd bad sufficiently
recovered from the threatened realisation - of sudden death, and with regained snit, and sufficient society veneer to mur -?.r the usual polite condolences and ? ?? congratulations to the now elated mother.
The rescuer sat with his face buried in his
hands, a whirling, maddening pain in his head, and a mist before his eyes as if the , world had suddenly lost its sunshine.
'Tere, with tears in her eyes and a tremble
in her voice, pushed her way through the too sympathetic crush and laid her hand . gently on the sufferer's arm. 'I am
afraid you are hurt,'she said. 'Cánido anything for you V
i Winchester, for he it was, looked up < vaguely, the words coming to his ears like < the roar of the sea singing in a dream,
« dream which was not all from the .-? land of visions. Be wondered dreamily - where he had heard that voice before.
With an effort he looked ap again. For the first time in five years their eyes met in the full light of day.
. ? .She knew him now, recognised bim in
~a moment. But it was scarcely the same . Winchester who had restored her lost
ornament a fortnight sgo. Theoldshsbby raiment had disappeared, giving place to a neat snit, tech ss no gentleman bad been ashamed to wear. Fourteen days' steady work, inspired by a worthy object, had met an equal reward. It was no longer Winchester the outcast that Vere waa ad-
dressing, but Winchester the gentleman, ' and in his heart he rejoiced that it was so.
For a moment they were no longer the < centre of a glittering host of fashion ; - ' their thoughts together had gone back to
1 the vanished past as they looked into each .. other's eyes, neither daring to 'trust to
1 Jack,' said Vero at length- ' Jack, is ? it really you 1 '
'Tes, dear, it is I,' Winchester re- sponded faintly. 1 You did not expect to meet sae like this if-yon ever expected to
meet me at all.
'Do you think I forget,as-ag some people do ? Yon did not always judge md ?so harshly. How could we meet better ; how eoeU I'feel more proud of you then
I do at this moment?'
'. Gradully the crowd fell back. There -waa'not mach mischief done after all j nothing that a clothes brush and a little warm water would not rectify. Besides, Hiss Dene seemed to know the stranger, : and from one or two expressions, would Apparently prefer to be left alone.
Winchester's answering smile bad no trace of its accustomed bitterness. After all, there was something in the toft musio of Vere's tones, a charm in the reckless abandonment of self which fell upon his troubled heart like balm in Gilead.- There was something sweet also in the consciousness that he had played the man so recently in her sight, under the very eyes whose brightness alone he , had only valued. There was a stimulant worth all the tonics in the pharmacopoeia.
,He would have spoken again, but he was suffering from a grast rash of puin and giddiness, as if the whole universe was slipping into space. Directly after, the' feeling passed away, and ho was him
self once inore. By thin time ' Lady ii ut lingham had driven away, whiio tome one, more thoughtful than tho rest, had remained tn place his carringa nt Win- chester's disposal.
'This gentleman ia a friend of yours, Miss Dene !' he nsked. 4 Allow me to suggest that your groom takes your horse and that you drive likewise. You will pardon my sistor's apparent heedlessness, but you soe Violet is an only child,
Vere looked gratefully into Lord Bear haven'.s grave, handsome face, and ex- tended her limul in an impulse of gratitude
' I mi <ht have expected this from you,' sim answered warmly. 4 Believo mo, I am deeply obliged. Mr. Winchester is not only a friend, but a relation.
Lord Boarhaven gave Jack a hand-grip whioh said moro than the most carefully choson words. But what an effort this magnanimity cost him, only Vere, who saw that he had heard everything, alone
' Then 1 am forgiven V asked Win- ! chester as they drove along Oxford-street. ' Well, it is worth playing the poor part I have played to-day to hear that. Vere, Vere, what a self-opinionated fool I have been ! Do you know that for the Inst week I have been screwing up my courage to the sticking-point ? But when I found myself near you, my pluck failed.'
' You do not deBorve to be spoken to,' Vere replied, her cheeks aflame, her ««yes laden with unshed tears, though tho thrilling tenderness of her voice robbed the words of their sting. * How dare you
venture to treat me aa if I should be ashamed of my old friends V
Up to this point Winchester had hardly dared to analyse his sensations. Now that the impenetrable barriers of restraint
were broken down between them, he found himself talking in the old familiar strain, and wondering if the last five
j years were merely a phantasm ot his own
j 1 And Chris,' Yere ventured at length, ' though the question hud long been
trembling on her tongue, ' do you ever hear anything of him ('
Winchester told her everything, dis- guising nothing except the part of good Samaritan he himself had played towards the unfortunate Ashton. It must have been an interesting conversation, for Vere's face aa she listened grew very soft and tender, her eyes sweet and luminous. When at length the end ot Arlington street was reached, Winchester stopped the coachman, and insisted upon alighting, a step which Vere vehemently opposed.
' You are coming home with me,' sae said, ' Have you any idea who you will find watting there to welcome you V
' Not the slightest ; unless you havo persuaded-but that is impossible. Still, you must have a chaperon of some sort, lt is possible that you have our dear old Auut Lacy at Arlington-street V
. Not only posMblo, but an actual fact Come ; you cannot refuse now.'
Winchester hesitated for a moment, then, with a sudden impulse, complied. Of all his relations, the * Aunt Lacy ' in question was the only one who kept a green spot in his recollection. A little lator he passed a welcome guest through the very portals outside which so short a timo before he stood a wretched outcast and useless member of society.
Two hours ht ay, when ho descended tho steps again, with a bright eager look of exultation on his face, a servant loiter- ing in thu hall saw and wondered if it was
the came roan whom his mistress had brought home so recently. Ile linircrml
fur a moment for a few parting wolds with Ver».
' So that is settled,' be .said j 1 and if you should feel afraid-'
4 Af raie,' she echoed scornfully. 41
shall not feel afraid.'
41 do not think you will. . Now, remember you have promised. And above all things, Lord Bearhaven must know everything.'
41 promise,' she answered 4 If I could only see Chris«'
* But you can't do anything of the kind-for the present, at least. You must have perfect faith in me.'
41 have,' Yere replied, looking into his glowing eyes, 4 Had J not always V