Chapter 59751115

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1883-06-30
Page Number3
Word Count1209
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)
Trove TitleClare
article text

CHAPTER En V. An aristocratic dinner-party ash sembled at Southrocks Hall -in- honor of Mrs.: Ivor Strahan's birthday. -The. young Squire shrank' .with al.most cowardly, fear from acquainting his wife with the fact that she had been cheated' in her matrimonial bargaii'n? that she wasmarried but to a struggling author., And his mother a?nd- poor Nellie--their prospects, too would be sadly changed ; and the borough he was about to contest must seek another candidate. All his dreams of Parlia-: mentary influence were now dissolved it was a very hard trial, but doubly, trebly so because it would fall upon Clare likewise. The brilliant lights that flashed out' into the darkness from every window of the Hall seemed fresh mockery of Sttrahan's distress ; he -entered by aside door, of which he possessed a latch-key, and encountered in the hall' a footman bearing a fresh relay of wine-glasses. " Who it dining here, Charles ?" asked the Squire, when the man had w'elconied him with glad sincerity. " Mrs. Courtrae, sir, and Captain Oourtrae, and Captain Algernon Courtrae, and the family from the Palace; and Lady Ducie is staying here, sir, with Miss Evelyn ; and Mrs. Strahan is here, sir, and Miss Ross, and the Farquhars, and ColonelTalmage and his lady, " - S"There is a tliehi ?" "Yes, sir, in honor of: mistress's birthday; the ladies are in the'drawing room, sir." He passed on, and the news soon spread through the house that the Squire had returned. Clare, whose yearning and sorrow had changed to in dignation that the occasion of her birthday had not even elicited a line from her husband, strove to appear deeply engrossed in conversation with Lady Ducie and the Bishop, her lovely face purposely turned from the door, though she knew every fresh entrance as the gentlemen left the dining-room. He came in at last, looking so worn and ill that his mother took him to task directly for midnight composition, and Nellie looked at him with eyes ex pressive of such sympathy that Captain Algernon growled some discontented words at her side. Nellie looked very pretty in white alpaca, brightened by knots of spring flowers, but Clare was queenly in trailing black velvet and priceless diamonds, relieved by rare geraniums in her braided hair and: at her breasts

.Ivor shook hands with her quietly and looked into her haughty face for a inoment as he wished her many happy returns of the day. He did not sit down ; he leant against the mantlepiece, and felt that if be did not unburden his secret at once he should never find courage to do so. "My friends," said he, turniig al most instinctively towards th3 place where Nellie sat on the sofa, guarded as usual by Captain AlergnonCourtrae, "if you listen to me a little while I can relieve my mind of a secret which' has been oppressing it for upwards of a month. -I heard from my butler that you were kind enough just now to drink the health of the- Squire of Soutbrocks. My friends you must no longer couple me with that title. Southrocks, having been. bought with my great-uncle's money, belongs to my great-uncle'a rightful heir, Frederick Strahan, who is alive and has laid claim to his father's legacy ; my claim is superseded, and I am no longer master here. You will understand that to-ex plain .my position is a very painful duty ; still it is a duty, and I am thankful it has been fulfilled. I am very glad; it see you all here to-night, and I have no doubt the true Squire will prove hospitable to his neighbours--mean while, in his name; I am sure I may ex press my hope that you will '.spend " pleasant time here." : " " But, Ivor, " cried his mother :com pletely startled, ".this can't: be true i Bless me, the secret of the 'amozine's' sold, and, if Fred Strahan's alive you're a poor man i " "I am a poor man, mother, " sa?id Straban quietly.; and then he left the room. Nellie Ross for the first time in her life had a real fit of hysterics, bot.:her tears were shed on the Captain's stalwart shoulder, for his arms were round her directly ; and, in utter dis regard of his mother's horrified ex pression, he told her triumphantly that she could not suspect him now of fortune-hunting. - A sympathising group gathered round Mrs. Courtrar, as she bewailed the lot of her " poor victimised Clarie ;" poor Mrs. Strahan, finding herself over looked in the general dismay, and knowing that her son always chose so litude in trouble, betook herself to the housekeeper's room, where she took good old Mrs. Fanshaw into her con fidence. And Ivor Strahan, alone in his study, where the lamp, half turned up, was dimly burning, threw himself upon the coucb, conscious only of a dull, almostin- tolerable headache. He closed his eyes, rand must have fallen into., troubled, uneasy slumber, for he dreamit that a cool gentle hand touched his forehead lightly, tenderly, and Clara's own m?~hical voice spoke his hamie "uTIvor-f Huisband I" He started- up, almost maddened by the sweetness of the dream; then a scarlet flush, almost girlish .in, its in tensity, spread even to his brow ; for Clrre; in'her velvet robe, knelt "beside: higi, and,:as" he -looked at -heri her beautiful face was bent to his. "Oh, Clare, - my queen !"-" Ivor dear'!" - SNo further. words, were neededthen; he held heri in such an e~iibrace:'that headache and heartache -were alike for gotten ; and she, crying quietly in the long din stddy,' crept -nearer'to him, and still nearer, as though his arms held: rest for her. He was the first' to'bresak the silence, and his voice was broken and trembling. S"Heaven_ bless - you, darling ! You -dare for-me at last a little ? Tell me just once, my love." i Clare seemed utterly tranSformed; she pht her arms about him again, and clung to him sobbing. " HoW could yon.leave me solong ?" " never will again, sweet. I will work ifor you right bravely while Heaven spares my reason." "I have read your poem, Ivor." "Have you, my beantiful ? I wish i had turned up the lamp, Clare--I cannot see your eyes, and your face is hi the shadow.' _.. --., . SShe laid it again beside hisj own, and whispered- - ,. - "I am:v.ery glada"we are poor, -else ?on would-never-have beieired it." " " Believed .what myzdearent_?' ," That your "wif~e had- a heart to give you.' - - SThere was: another: long silence, during which she ministered to., his headache most sweetly, -ridolt tenderly, abd he rested quietly agaidst - the geraniums at her neck, feeling such an hour cheaply purchased by the past month of torture. - They were whispering together very much after the fashion of Captain ALlgy and brown-eyed Nellie, now left alone in the drawiog-room, when. some one knocked at the study door, and' Clare glided shyly away, whilst her husband, suddenly remembering his duties as host, jumped up briskly from; the couch. (To be concluded in our nezt.)