|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||A Golden Dawn|
CHAPTER XII. Alan soon forgot Hyacinth's words. He was of a singularly bright and happy temperament. He had a certain vague idea that all women had high-strung nerves, and were never to be properly understood. When Hyacinth said any thing that was not quite comprehensible to him, he attributed the want of clear ness to the fact that she belonged to the sex supposed to be swayed by feelings without reason. He wondered a little sadly and a little gravely at the word " torture." What could the child mean, when every hair of her head was dear to him and he worshipped the ground on which she stood.
It was one of Lady Fraser's fancies never to recognise the engagement between the two lovers. She never alluded to it. She never made even the faintest comment upon it. She gave no sign of having heard about it. She took no notice when others mentioned it. If any allusion were made to the coming marriage, she affected to mis understand it. More than once Hyacinth found her self wondering whether she knew of the engagement or not. Surely she did not ; though they called her a flirt, she must have some notion of honour, and no honourable woman would seek the admiration of another woman's fiance. When Lady Rosedene wished to speak to Alan, or took him in any way from Hyacinth, she always made some laughing apology. When Lady Fraser asked him to sing with her, or to take her round the grounds, or to read.to her, as she often did, she never affected to think that Hyacinth was in the least concerned. And, as she found that Alan fell easily into the net spread for him, she became more and more encroaching. She totally ignored Hyacinth, and openly claimed Mr. Branston. If some of the guests proposed going out for a drive, she always asked Alan to drive her ; if they were walking, and he was with them, she chose him as her com panion ; if the evening was fine, she invited him to stroll round the grounds with her. Alan was impatient at first. Some times he excused himself, and went away with Hyacinth. Sometimes he was irresolute, and a witty jest from the beautiful siren brought him to her side-a constant fire of witticisms kept him there, She was kind to Hyacinth in a cold formal fashion, but she never mentioned Alan to her. The others looked on-Lady Rose dene with vexation and impatience, the rest with amusement. One day Hyacinth, passing the library windows, which opened upon the terrace, saw Lady Fraser seated in the deep bay-window ; a dark head was bending over her,. and just as Hyacinth went by she saw Alan take the white jewelled hand and kiss it. It was not much to kiss the hand of a beautiful woman ; and she could not tell that Lady Fraser had tempted him-drawn him into it-by showing him one of her rings and leaving her warm hand in his. It was no wish of Alan's-he had no desire to kiss any hand save Hyacinth's ; but, when she left it in his own, with a plain invitation in her eyes, he was but a mortal man, and he kissed it. There was not much in the action; but it shot with deadliest pain through the girl's loving heart; it smote her with bitter ness like death ; her face paled ; her lips trembled ; she looked like one whose heart was transfixed with a sharp sword. She went on her way-she was taking a message to the head-gardener about some flowers that Lady Rosedene want ed-but over the brightness of the May day a cloud had fallen ; a funeral pall lay over the gold of the laburnum and the purple of the lilacs ; a dark mist hid the budding roses and the lily-leaves the birds seemed to have changed their notes. What was the fiery horrible pain that made her heart bleed ? She went on quickly. She wanted to be alone to think over what she had seen. She gave the message to the gardener, who looked at her in amaze ment-her face was white and her lips trembled. Then she went from the park to the woods, where she could be alone and sob out her pain. If she had known that Alan was searching every where for her, with hot impatience in his heart against the widow, she would have gone to him. What bewildering pain it was! She flung herself down, hiding her white face and her burning tears in the long soft grass. The memory of that kiss was a burning pain; it tortured her. How was she to bear it ? Was his love so light that a few glances from those dark eyes and a few smiles from rosy lips could take his heart from her. The white hands were clenched ; the pretty lips trembled with deep-drawn passionate sobs. How could she bear it? She loved him so well. Why should this dark-eyed woman come between them ? Why should she woo him with her soft voice ? "He is mine !" she said, raising her face to the sky. " Why should she take him from me? He is mine !" The fever of jealousy that burned the loving soul grew cool in the rain of bitter tears ; but the pain remained. How it tortured her ! Presently she returned to the house. It so happened, as ill-fortune would have it, that Alan had overtaken Lady Fraser on the lawn, and Hyacinth saw them enter the honse together. As a matter of course, she thought that they had spent the morning together, while she had been weeping her heart out in the wood. The sight of them entering the house together made her grow faint. The bell was ringing for luncheon. She had only just time to remove all traces of tears from her face, and hasten to the dining-room. The widow and Alan were side by side; but a chair had been left for Hyacinth next to her lover. She took it; but it was a mere farce for her to pretend to eat. Alan was kind to her-he attended to all her wants; but he was laughing the whole time at some absurd anecdote that Lady Fraser was telling him. Hyacinth could not eat, bnt she had no wish to draw attention to herself. She contrived to keep up appearances, and joined in the discussion about a ball that Lady Rosedene had resolved on giving. But her voice seemed to her as though it came from a long way off. It was forced and unnatural, More than once she fonnd Lady Rose dene's eyes fixed anxiously on her ; and then she tried to rally ; but it was in vain. The sting of her pain was too bitter. How was she to bear it ? On that same day Alan asked her to go down to the lake with him, and she did so. They sat down upon the green bank that slooped down gently to the clear lake. "Hyacinth," cried the young Squire suddenly, " let me look at your face ? Why, my darling, what is the matter ? Your eyes are quite dim. What is wrong ? You do not look happy. And yet you must be happy. You cannot be otherwise."
"I am not happy. Oh, Alan," cried the girl, " do you not see that my heart is bleeding-not pained, not aching, but bleeding ? Can you not see it-you who love me so well? He looked at her in utter wonder. "No," he said. "What is it, my darling ? Have I displeased you ? "No," she answered; and he saw that there was mortal pain on her face ? " 'Displease' is not the word. You torture me I Oh, Alan, give up Lady Fraser !" He repeated the words in wonder. "Give up Lady Fraser I Why, my darling, what have I to do with her ? She is nothing to me." " She talks to you ; you sing with her ; you kiss her hand. I saw it. Oh, Alan, it is killing me I! You must give her up." " I have nothing to give up," he re plied. "I hope you are not jealous, Hyacinth? I do not like jealous women." " She causes me nothing but pain," said the girl earnestly. "But I see it is not your fault. She seeks you." "Yes, I think she likes to talk to me," he replied, little dreaming of the bitter anguish his words would cause her. "You see, she is a clever woman, and I understand her." " Give her up, Alan, for my sake because it makes me so unhappy to see you with her." "My darling," said the young lover gravely, "while we are in the world, we must do as the world does. Because a lady happens to be young and beauti fnl, and to show, as Lady Fraser does, a decided preference for my society, I cannot be rude to her. I must give laugh for laugh, jest for jest." " Give her up, Alan. Tell her you are going to marry me, and have not time to spare to her." " My darling, I cannot ; every one would laugh. They would say that I was under petticoat government." "But it is for my happiness," said the girl. "Sometimes, when she looks into your eyes and smiles, it seems to me as though my heart were burning. For my sake, Alan-- " "I have never wronged you even in thought, Hyacinth," he interrupted. "I would do anything to please you ; but, my darling, I cannot make myself a subject of laughter. I promise to keep out of the fair widow's way; do not ask me to make myself the mark of everybody's wit. Let us talk about something more pleasant." And he forgot the subject, while she suffered unutterable pain. But that evening, when Lady Fraser asked him to sing, the young Squire excused him self, he was going to play at chess with Miss Vane. The widow gave a glance at the fair face of the girl whose heart she was wounding for her own amusement. "You have been talking to your lover about me, ma belle," she said to herself ; "but you shall pay dearly for every word !" (To be continued.)