|Newspaper Title||The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||Crowned with Good|
CHAPTER VI. '::t
.... A few hours later two figures on horseback might be seen noiselessly cantering over the smooth turf at the side of the road, far in the rear of the homeward-bound picnic party, and going in the opposite direction. ' Keep up your courage, Miss Marriner,'
said Captain Merton to his pale and silent companion, though himself evidently sufficiently nervous and flurried. ' This is the road, to the left. It is fortunate the ground is so dry that no hoof-marks can possibly be traced. It's rather slippery, though. I needn't tell such a good horsewoman as yourself to take care,' he added, gazing with admiration at Gertrude's graceful figure, straight and lithe, beaide him. 'How dark it is under these trees !' said the girl with a shiver. 'Have we much further to go, Captain Merton?' ' We shall very soon be there now, Miss Marriner — in fact (looking at his watch) we ought to be up with him now. But, you see, lie may have had a dozen things to detain him, and it's a good way round to this point from Dunesk — besides, part of the road is nothing but pig-tracks through the bush. No fear of him being traced, or you either for that matter. Hullo !' sud denly cried the captnin, ' If that isn't Lindsay's horse I don't recognise what was once my own. Here we are, Lindsay, all The figure emerging from the evening gloom was indeed that of Lionel. He quickened the pace of his horse, and was soon at their side. Gertrude scarcely dared to look at him, and the voice
In which she tried to utter a few words of thanks and farewell to the captain was broken by sobs. He pressed her hand re assuringly, and, with a hastily-expressed hope for their happiness, 'tumed^his:hbrse's;,h'ead'an-i cantered away. : Left alone, the two gazed at his retreating figure in silence, : arid when horse and rider had disappeared . they also turned, and rode on' in the direction from which Lionel had come, still with out uttering a word. Once Gertrude glanced at Lionel's face; But the expression it bore deterred her from speaking. At last, however, she could bear the grim stillnessof the darkening wood land no longer, and. she leaned forward until her hand reached Lionel's arm. ' ? ' '? Speak to me,' she whispered from between her. pale lips. The pathetic look,, the timid touch of her little hand, rorised him . at once. As if freed from some spell, he started, and reined in his horse.' ' ? ' ' , ' - - : ? ' Well, little one, what shall I say to you for your bravery and ( goodness? You do not know what it has saved me from, my 'Lionel,' she answered, sadly ; 'we have done very; wrong. I will not allow myself to regret what lias passed, now that it cannot be undone, but I have a presentiment that some deeper trouble will come of this than merely the humiliation of running, away, or even the loss of friends.' , :: , . Heturned his face from her that she might not see the sudden pallor that came over it. ' ;' 'Don't let us talk of that, darling,' he' said at last, very tenderly. 'You know you promised not -to regret what has passed, so you must not brood upon it in this way. Now, we will say no more about it just at present. Let .us 'get on a little faster. Did you understand my scribble?' , ' Yes,' she answered; with a faint smile. ??''.''? 'I was afraid it was quite unintelligible— I wrote it in such haste, and so much agitation. I thought, for many reasons, that it was best to take Merton into my confidence. , He is a connexion of mine, you know ; I believe he was a* good deal attached to you, Gertrude,, but I knew a way to bring out what little of chivalry is in his nature, and he has behaved very well — far better than could have been expected from a fellow with such a mother. They — 'he and his mother, I mean — are leaving for Australia soon. But in any case I have no fear that he will turn informer. Besides, there really was no other man I could have asked to help me.' ' No,' said Gertrude, mechanically. 'I am sure you must be anxious — are you not? — to learn what I have decided upon doing,' continued Lionel; then, without waiting for a reply, he went on hurriedly :— 'I have arranged everything as safely and comfortably as I could in the time ; but I am afraid, darling, you will have to ride a very long distance to-night — far into the bush. I am armed, you see, in case of emergency ;' and he drew a pistol from his coat 'pocket. 'I have settled with some people who have a little land about two miles on the other side of Hawk's Rock to take you in for a little while. You are expected to-night, and when I4 have seen you sately there I shall ride further, and camp out in' the bush. In the morning you must join me, and we can ride onto another place where there is a Church of England minister. So, you see, the way is smooth before us. 'I am going to buy a farm, and after we are married we shall go to live upon it. We may have a taste of hard times if I do not begin to realise mucn before the ready money I have is exhausted, but you won't mind that, Gertrude, will you ?' 'Lionel,' said Gertrude, interrupting him as if she had not heeded what he was saying, 'I am afraid I have done wrong, but I must tell you — I wrote to my aunt, Buying what we were .about to do, and telling her that your father' — ' What !' he exclaimed abruptly, ' you told her we — but never mind. They would know it soon enough when they found we had disappeared. My father knows I loved you long ago. Don't trouble about it, my Gertrude. Before they are thinking of making inquiries, if ever they do so, we shall be far enough from everyone .who could harm us, living under a name they would never trace us by. Cheer up, little one ; all will be well yet! See.' he added, laughingly, we may exult, because we are out f of the wood !' And' as they emerged from the gloom of the trees/ on to a wide stretch of common the moon rose from a bank off clouds, pouring her pale light upon the scene and upon the twq. figures, casting long, weird shadows beside their track. V The sighing night-wind followed them, and Gertrude almost\ fancied she heard a murmur in its chill breath — 'Turnback, it is not yet too late !' But she only shuddered, and rode on by the side of the man who was to make for her the. happiness or the misery of her young life. ? - ? ? ?