Chapter 52282529

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Chapter NumberXV
Chapter TitleA PARTING.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52282529
Full Date1889-08-28
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count1980
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Curse of Carne's Hold, a Tale of Adventure
article text

CIÍAPTBR XV.-A PASTING.

The sun bad already Bet an hour when Ronald Mervyn reached the HoBpltal, bat the moon bad just risen, and the atara »ere abining brilliantly.

Mary Armstrong met him at the door.

"I saw you coming," ehe asid, "and father advised me to oome oat for a little tarn, it ia snob a beautiful evening."

" I am glad yon have come out. Mary ; I wanted to speak to yon."

Mary Armstrongs colour heightened a little. It was the first time that he had oalled her by her Christian name since that ride through the Kaffirs. She thought abe knew what he wanted to epeak to her about, and abe well knew what ahe should say.

" Mary," Ronald went on, " you know the story of the poor wretch who was devoured by thirst, and yet could not reach the cup of water that was just beyond hie grasp !"

" 1 know," Mary said. 1

" Well, I am jost io that position. larnoo plaoed by an inscrutable Fate, that I cannot atretch out my hand to grasp the cup of

water."

The girl was silent for a tlmei

"I do not pretend to understand yon, Ronald. Why cannot yon grasp the cup of

water!"

i " Because, aa I said, dear, there is a fate

against me ; beoauss I can never marry ; [ beoanae I most co through the world alone. i I told yon that the name I bear is net my I own. I have been obliged to change it,

because my own name is disgraced ; .because were I to name it, there ia not a man here of those who just at present are praising and making much of me, who would not shrink

from my side."

.' Noj Konald, DO ; it cannot be."

''It is true, dear; my name hu been

associated with the foulest of crimes. I have been tried for murdering a woman, and that woman a near relative. I was acquitted, it ia true ; but simply because the evidence did not amouot to what the law required, but in the sight of eve'yous I went out guilty."

"Oh, how could they think soi" Mary said, bursting into tears ; " how could they have thouitbt, Ronald, those who knew you, that you could do thiB ?"

" Many did believe it," Ronald said, " »nd the evider.ce was so strong that I almoat be- lieved it myeelf. However, thus it is. I am a marked man and an outcast, and must re- main alone for all my life, unless God in his mercy should clear this thing ur.'

"Not alone, Ronald, not aloue," the girl cried ; " there, yon make me say it."

" You mean you would stand by my side, Mary ? Thank you, my love, but I could not \ accept tba sacrifice. I can bear my own lot,

bnt I could not see the woman I loved pointed

st as the wife of a murderer."

" But no one would know," Mary began.

"They would know, dear. I refused a commission the General . tiered me to-day, be- cause were I tu appear as an officer there are a score of men in this expedition who would know me at once ; but even under my present name and my present dress I cannot escape. Only this evening, as I came here, I was taunted by a drunken soldier, who most know me, as a murderer of women. Good heavens I do you think I would let any woman shale that ? Did i go to the most lonely part of tbe wo, ld, I might escape for years, hut at last the blow would come. Had it not been for tbs time we passed together when death might at any moment have come to ns both, had it not been that I held you in my arms during that ride, 1 should never have told you this, Mary, fur you would have gone away to England and lived yi.ur life unhurt ; but after that I could not but Bpeak. You must have felt that I loved you, and had I not spoken, what would you have thought ol

me?"

"I should have thought, Ronald," ehe «aid quietly, " that you had a foolish idea that be cause my lather had mosey, when yon were but a trooper, you would say nothing ; and I think that I should have summoned np courage to epeak first, tor 1 knew you loved me, just as certainly aa I know that I shall love yon always."

" 1 hope not. Mary," Ronald said, gravely j " it would add to the pain of my life to know that I had spoilt your»."

" lt will not spoil mine, Ronald ; it ia good to know that one ts loved by a true man, and that one loveB bim even if we can never come together. 1 would rather be single for your sake, dear, than marry any other man in the world. Won't you tell me about it all, 1

should like to know."

" You have a right to know, Mary, if you wish it ;" and drawing ber to a seat, honald told her the story of the Curse of the Carnes, of the wild blood that flowed in his veins, of

his half-engagement to bb oonito, and of the circnmstanorts of her death. Only ODO» ehe stopped htm.

" Did yon tove ber very moch, Ronald ?"

"Mo, deer ; I can say so honestly DOW. NO donbt I thought I loved ber, though I had been Involuntarily putting off becoming formally engaged to ber; but I know now, indeed I knew long ago, that my passion when she threw me off was rather an outburst of disappointment, and perhaps of jealousy, that another ehoold have stepped in when I thooght myself so sure, than of real regret. I had oared for Margaret in a way, but now that I know what real love is I know that it was but as a cousin that I loved her."

Then he went on to tell ber the proofs against himself ; bow that the words he had spoken had come np against him ; how he had failed altogether to account for his doings at the honr at which abe was murdered ; how his glove had borne evidence against him.

"Is that all. Ronald?"

" Not quite all, dear. I saw in an English psper only a few days ago that the matter had oome np again. Margaret's watch and jewels were found io the garden, just hidden in the ground, evidently not by a thief who intended to oome again and fetch them, but simply concealed by someone who had taken them and did not want them. If those things had been found before my trial, Margaret, I ehould assuredly have been hung, for they disposed of the only alternative that seemed possible, namely, that she had been hilled by a midnight burglar for the sake of ber

valuables." j

Mary sat in ailenoe {or a few minutes and then at ked one or two questions with reference to the story.

"And yon had no idea yourself. Ronald, not even the slightest suspicion against any-

one !"

"Notthe slightest," he said, "the whole thing is to me aa profound a mystery aa

ever."

"Of course, from what you tell me, Ronald, the evidence against you was stronger than against any one else, and yet I cannot think bow anyone who knew you, could bave

believed it."

" I hope that those who knew me best did not believe it, Mary. A few of my neigh- bours and many of my brother officers had faith in my innocence, but you see those in the county who knew the story of our family, were naturally set against me. I bad the mad blood of the Carnes in my veins, the

Carnes had committed two murders in their frenzy, and it did not seem to them so strange that I should do the same. I may tell yon, dear, that this trial through which I bad ptssed, has not been altogether without good. The family history bad weighed upon my muid from the time I was a child, and at times I used to wonder whether I had madness lu my blood, and the fear grew upon me and embittered my life. Since that trial it has gone for ever. I knew that if I had had the »lightest touoh of insanity in my veina I moat have gone mad in that awful time ; and much as I nave Buffered from the cloud that rested on me, I am sure that I have been a far brighter and happy man since."

A pressure of the hand which he was hold- ing in bis, expressed the sympathy Bbe could not apeak.

" What time do you march tomorrow,

Ronald?"

" At eight, deer."

" Coola yon come round first ?"

" I could, Mary, bat I would rather say good-bye now."

" Yon mast say good-bye now, Ronald, and again in the morning. Why I ask yon ia j became I want to tell my father -, you don't mind thai, do you ? He mast know there is

I something, because he spoke to-day as if he

would wieh it to be aa I hoped, and I should ike him to know how it is with us. Yon do not mind, do you !"

"Mot like that, Ronald," and she threw ber srms round his neck. "Good-bye, my dear, my dear. I will always be true to yon to the end of my life. And hope always. I oannot believe that yon would have saved me almost by a mlraols-U it bad not been meant that we should one day be happy together. God bless you and keep you,"

There was a long kiss, and then Mary Armstrong turned and ran back to the hospital.

Father and daughter talked together for boara after Mary's retara. The disappoint- ment felt by Mr. Armstrong was almost as keen as that felt by Mary. Se had from the first been greatly taken by Harry Blunt, and had encouraged bis coming to the house. That he was a gentleman he waa sure, and be thought he knew enough of character to be convinced that whatever scrape bad driven him to enlist as a trooper, it waa not a dis-

graceful one.

"If Mary fancies this young fellow she ?hall have him," he had said to himself. " I have money enough for us both, and what good is it to me except to eee ber settled

appily in life !"

After the attack upon his house, when be was rescued by the party led by Ronald, be thought still more of the matter, for some subtle ohsnge in bis daughter's manner con- vinced him that ber heart bad been touched. He bad fretted over the fact that after thia Ronald's duty had kept him from seeing them, and when at last he started on his journey down to the coast he made up his mind, that if when they reached England he could ascertain for certain Mary's wishes on the subject, he would himself write a cautious letter to him, putting it that after the SBrvice he had rendered in saving his life and that of bis daughter, he did not like the thought of his remaining as a trooper at the Cape, and that If he liked to come home he would start him in any sort of business he liked, adding, perhaps, that be had special reasons for wishing him to return."

( To be continued. )