|Newspaper Title||The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||Crowned with Good|
We must date the events recorded in this chapter from a certain day, about the middle of October, at the time when Lionel's infatuation caused him to be a very frequent visitor at the house of Gertrude Marriner's guardian. i While the sott breath of the springtide was waftinc perfume
around Mrs. Bushby's mansion, and Nature was radiant in her robes of delicate green, the wild winds of autumn were baring the trees of their russet and crimson leaves in the garden of a pretty villa in the neighbourhood of Cannes. Though the month of October in the south of France is usually one of the most agreeable of the twelve, yet on this particular. October sudden storms of wind and Hoods of rain had devastated the harvest fields and ruined the laden vines, causing great poverty and privation among the peasantry of that sunny region. . At a long French window of the house I have mentioned stood a young and very elegant-looking girl. Her eyes were fixed upon the grey and troubled ocean, visible from the front of the house, and she seemed so lost in melancholy contemplation of its restlessness that not even the advent of another lady into the room had power to arouse her. The latter individual, although she must have been some thirty ynars older than her companion, bore a. very striking resemblance $o her, and a stranger would have , immediately iormed fhe cqrrect Buppp.sition that the two were mother and daughter; ' AJicia, dear,1' sa^d the elder, lady, advancing to the window, 'do you know whether the letters have arrived yet?' . . , AHcia Lindsay, for she it was, moved slowly frorn her station at th(e casement, and threw herself wearily intq a chair by the fire before she answered thp question. ' . :'? . 'Yea, Jeannie brought thein to me. but I told her I. had no occasion to rend letters ; I believe she hasgone:in search of you.' .Lady Sfnclaj'r touched the bell, and a servant entering delivered to her a packet of letters. , - - » ' One for you, AJicia, from Frederick, and two for me from him. What can ba the meaning of it? He must have found he had something else to say after posting the first. What does he say to you, my dear ?' . ' ' . ? . ?.'? ' ? '? :!'??&
' Oh, nothing in particular ! I don't at all see the sense of his writing when he was here so lately.' 'Alicia, it is not kind in you to say that, my dear. Sinclair is very fond 6£ you, and he likes to write to his sister, as any affectionate brother would.' 'Affectionate brother !' cried Alicia, and a dangerous gleam flashed from her splendid violet eyes. ' You call him that, and yet you know he enticed Lionel away from me ! — Lionel, whom I love far better 'than my own life! ^ But you are in league with him, mamma, so it is of no use talking to to you.' Lady Sinclair sighed. 'I have often told you, Alicia, that it was your own — your own waywardness that alienated your husband from you, and thai; if you had not exhibited your temper before him, you might have lived most happily together. I am sure, if I had known you would have broken out so, I could hardly have brought myself to undertake such a responsibility as furthering the marriage. I knew you had a temper, of course. It was in your poor papa's family, I found, after I had married him. But 7ie never showed it, and I could not have conceived that you would ever so far have forgotten yourself.' Alicia's lip curled satirically. 'You need not try to deceive me, mamma. You know that I am as well aware of my own condition as you are, so why should you persist in feigning ignorance of it ? Mad as I have been— -yes, you need not,look so horrified, mamma, you know it is true — mad as I was, poor Lionel would never have left me if you and Sinclair had not interfered.' ' Well, well, my dear, if it Avere so we are very sorry for it,' said her ladyship soothingly ; ' but you must make up your mind to be content without him now, and be satisfied with the princely allowance he gives you. It is more than I could have expected, but his father, I know, is a very wealthy man.' Alicia appeared not to heed these remarks. She was gazing at her reflection in the mirror opposite, with the same expression of melancholy absorption as that with which she had looked from the window on the, sea. Were it not for the wildness so fre quently apparent in her manner, Alicia Lindsay would have been wholly charming, and she was endowed with no small share of beauty. Now, as she half-reclined on the easy chair, her attitude was full of grace. Her fashionably-made dress, of dark-blue velvet, fitted perfectly the stately figure, and contrasted well with her rich complexion, which retained all its freshest tints of youth. For, sadly as the mind within this lovely frame was marred, its derangement had not as yet interfered with her bodily health. Her violet eyes were yet clear and sparkling, the colour still went and came oh her oval cheek, her lips were full and red, and the luxuriant masses of her hair retained their glos3y brightness. Poor Alicia, as she contemplated herself in the mirror, mar velled how it was that Lionel, whom she loved with all the passion of which her passionate nature -was capable, yet remained unmindful of her charms ; and she could not comprehend, though she was well aware of her own state, how impossible it was that Lionel should be with her. The poor girl had become possessed of the idea that if she could only meet her husband lie would be induced to stay with her by the sheer force of her own beauty and her love for him ; but, with the wonderful cunning of insanity, she kept these thoughts to herself, and was always on the watch for an opportunity ot extracting information as to Lionel's whereabouts from those around her. During the last month she had been so far restored as to be quite amenable to reason, and as her mother had always had great power over her, the medical man had considered it wise that, while this lucid interval lasted, Lady Sinclair should be her sole companion. London had at this time no attractions, so her ladyship did not deem italoas of time to visit her unfortunate daughter : hence her installation at the villa at Cannes. There was silence for a little while as Lady Sinclair proceeded to open and peruse her correspondence. The colour mounted to her cheek as she read the second letter from her son. The con tents ran as follows : — ? . ? ? ,S ' Dearest Mother, — Since writing to you I have heard rumarfrss as to Lionel Lindsay's proceedings inDunesk. I fear he is/con*. ducting himself in rather an imprudent manner— only what' we must expect, I suppose. I deemed it advisable, however/ to. tell you this, in order that any correspondence you receive froTiiryour friends in New Zealand may be carefully kept from AlicpCsTeyes. ' I enclose you, in fact, a letter from Mrs. Merton. Donrot. fea/- that Lionel is likely to compromise himself to any ertenit. ^1/ think better of him than to imagine it possible, and so Sdaresay do you. — Your affectionate son, ' SincBauv' 7\ Her ladyship's eyes flashed with very righteous indignatrsnasU she tore this note into fragments. 'I trust it may be onlyon ?imprudence'' she thought. 'It will be better for his own peace of mind that he conduct himself as a man of honour should. ' She glanced furtively atherdaughter, and seeing herstill wrapped in her own reflections, ventured to open the letter from her relative, Mrs. Merton. So engrossed was she that she did not perceive Alicia change her attitude, and regard her attentively with a look of eager curiosity. When Lady Sinclair at length raised her eyes, those of her daughter were fixed upon the mirror as before, and she was seemingly as unconscious as ever of what was passing around her. A knock at the door and the entrance of a servant at this moment appeared to arouse Alicia for the first time. ' *f vou. Please, my lady, the courier is waiting to speak to your ladyship for a few minutes.' ? Very well,' answered Lady Sinclair, and, turning to her daughter, she added, ' Alicia, dear, will you go and dress by and by ? I shall be ready for our drive in half an hour. ' ' Yes, mamma,' said Alicia, indifferently. Lady Sinclair hastily put the letters in her pocket and quitted the room. As she did so, one sheet of thin foreign papenescaped, and fluttered to the ground, unperceived by her. When the door closed Alicia eagerly rose and possessed herself of it, then sank back in her seat, resuming her nonchalant air. ?? It was well for her schemes that she did so, for her mother at that moment re-opened the door, to sny something about the keen wind and the necessity for warm wraps. When her ladyship was finally gone, Alicia stealthily re-opened the paper. It proved to be the second sheet of a closely-written and very garrulous epistle from Mrs. Merton. Alicia's eyes devoured the words rapidly, for she knew there was no time to be lost. In two minutes she had mastered the contents of the sheet A smile curled her lips, though she became deadly pale as she read. She placed the letter again upon the floor, where it might most naturally have fallen, and quietly left the room. In half an hour Alicia was seated in the carriage, wrapped in Furs, waiting for her mother, who, when ahe appeared, also ready for the drive, secretly congratulated herself on having secured the missing portion of her letter before Alicia could have seen it, and felt much gratified at the bright smile with which her daughter greeted her as she stepped into the carriage.