|Chapter Title||Aileen's Elopement, A Secret Marriage|
|Newspaper Title||Kilmore Free Press (Kilmore, Vic. : 1870 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Aileen's Troubles|
AILEEN'S TROUBLES. By Minnie Ahearn. Chapter IV.—Aileen's Elopement. General Westlake and his daughter were seated at the breakfast in the pleasant break- fast room at Westlake Park. 'Has Miss Darrel came down stairs at all this morning,' the General asked of a ser vant. 'No sir, and her room is locked. ' Maybe she overslept herself,' suggested Aileen's cousin, an evil glitter in her black eyes 'She should not have done so,' responded the General angrily— he hated unpunctuality. 'Ring that bell please, Irene; it is just be- side you. A maid entered the room. Go and call Miss Darrel immediately. Tell her to come down at once. 'In a few moments the maid returned. 'I called out, sir, and no one answered,' said she in great excitement, ' and the door's locked. Rising from the table*, General Westlake went quickly, up and called, knocking at her door. No answer. The General hurriedly went round to the balcony and entered Lena's room by one of the French windows. The bed had not been slept upon. Aileen was gone. Hastily General Westlake went down to his daughter. 'Lena is gone her bed has not been slept upon,' he cried breathlessly. ' Not in her room,' Irene exclaimed in sur- prise, but lowering her eyes to hide the triumphant light that flashed into them. 'Come to her room and see,' her father said, and together they went to Aileen's room . Irene pretended to be thoroughly aston- ished, and gave vent to exclamations of won- der. 'Oh ! here's a letter on the dressing table, and addressed to you father. General Westlake hastily seized the letter and read— 'Dear Uncle,— ' You will doubtless be surprised when you get this letter and find me gone. I went with somebody l dearly love, but to whom I knew you would never give your consent to my marrying. I love him and he loves me and that suffices. 'Aileen Darrel.' 'Oh, heavens !' exclaimed the astonished General, 'this from Lena. Read it, Rene, readl it, and then throw it in the fire. Rene read it with a little start of surprise. There was a crowd of servants around them by now, and rising, the General said— 'Let no one mention Miss Darrel's name again in this house,' and rising his head haughtily he went to his own room, while his daughter went to the breakfast room where she had left her letters. The servants were in the hall discussing the absorbing topic—Aileen's departure. ' P'r'aps she got jealous of Miss Westlake. She did be in love with Captain Bradly, you know,' cook said, ' Miss Irene was runnin' after him you could see with half an eye. Tha 's it,' said Larry the groom. 'Shure I hate the sight of that crane necked thing— Miss Westlake—that's what she ought to be called. If Irene only heard—she thought her neck so stately so aristocratic it set off her appe-ar ance so. 'Miss Irene looked glad though she tried to hide it from the General,' chimed in the house maid. At this moment Miss Irene herself came tripping down the broad staircase. The General forbade her name to be men- tioned in this house;' she said in her haughty way. ' Disperse immediately. They did disperse and Miss Westlake took her letters from the table to her room. There were none from Gordon Casati—only from friends living a few miles away. General Westlake conducted himself much as usual that day, appearing at luncheon and dinner. Next morning Rene received a letter from Gordon Casati which ran. ' Dear Norma,— 'I arrived with my prisoner at Perry's last night safely enough. She will be trouble- -some, I know. She tried to escape last night, but Mrs Perry is the woman to stop that, as you know yourself. I've not time to write much, but will be down to see you on Wed- nesday. My love, do not trouble to write. 'G. C.' The next day came and with it Gordon Casati. Miss Westlake met him, but he was quite cool towards her and did not take the trouble to conciliate her when she burst into a passion and so they parted bad friends. Irene made him promise to meet her at the wood that evening. All the evening Rene was nervous and excitable. The General went to hisroom immediately after dinner, saying he would not comed down again, and at this Rene secretly rejoiced. Then she went to meet Gordon Casati. You are early, Norma,' he said coldly, as she came up. 'Yes,' was her hurried response. ' Gordon, I have come to ask you an important question,' she said, plunging into her subject at once. ' Do—— 'What is the question? Casati inter- rupted. ' Do you intend to marry me ?' 'Why-er- yes,' he said, starting with sur- prise. ' Why do you ask. He spoke hesitatingly, for Gordon felt it would be distasteful to have Irene for a wife. Perhaps he would rather Aileen Darrel. ' Well you must do so at once. General Westlake is going to Melbourne to-morrow, 'I'm going with him. You must procure the license and we'll be married at once. ' Have you gone mad? cried he, recoiling a few steps 'You know I cannot— 'I know,' cried she, with blazing eyes, that I'll tell the General all your plans if you do not do as I say, But, Norma, it would be impossible to get away from wherever you're staying. 'We'll stay at a hotel and the old man's got a lot of business to do to alter his will, I hope. He will remain there a few days and you must procure the license and— 'Oh, yes, we can manage easily in that
way,' he said, trying 'to appear glad, but not feeling so. Chapter V.—A Secret Marriage, The morning sunshine shone on the glossy black head of Irene Westlake as she stood by the side of Gordon Casati in St. Mary's church. He promised that he would marry her and was now fulfilling it. The knot was soon tied and Gordon Casati, after making vows which he did not intend to keep, signed his name in the registry, and his wife her's— Alma La Fontele. Gordon Casati believed in no God, he may e have when a child. At any rate he said no prayers now, if he wished to he could not, for they were forgotten. Sometimes he felt a faint twinge of remorse, but quickly shaking it off he turned his thoughts into other channels. 'Are you satisfied now ?' he said, a little roughly, as together they went down the aisle. 'I am perfectly satisfied, Gordon, if you love me. Gordon was silent, he felt one of those occasional twinges of remorse now. No, he would not tell a lie in this holy place, would not burden his miserable soul with another sin. 'Why are you silent, Gordon?' They had reached the street by this time. 'Alma, Alma, abandon this sinful life. Tell General Westlake all and go back to Italy with me, I will do the best I can for you there where we will Iead a new life and— ' What are you talking about?' A pair of scornful black eyes were raised to his face Irene Westlake knew that he meant what he said, but lose the money and the life of luxury she planned for, she wouldn't. ' Are you going to get good? The expression of his face changed. He could not brook the scornful glance of the black eyes. It was the turning point of his life. Had good influence been near he would have reformed, but as it was the mood soon passed off and a few moments later he talked and laughed as lightly as of yore, and when Irene got into the hotel she mentally con- gratulated herself on her cleverness in stop- ping Gordon from being a goody goody. Alas ! for herself that she had. As for Gordon, now completely his old self again, he caught the train to Beechly, a station ten miles from Yarravale. Beechly was not half so pretty as Yarravale, the country was flat, with none of the pretty hills of the latter, and a tree fern was a rarity. There was a small town and a good few houses about so that the tradesmen made a fair living, and quiet and out-of-the-way as the place was they were contented to live there. When he alighted from the train he found a trap there to meet him. ' Well, Perry, Dreadfully' cold isn't it? About what time is it? 'Ten o'clock, sir. ' Jolly late. I'm tired and hungry. 'Aye, the Mississ'II see to that, sir,' said the man, an ill-looking fellow poorly dressed and wearing a slouch hat. Casati made no more comments until he reached a tumble-down looking house. ' My old woman is inside, Mr Casati. Casati went into the house and met a thin, sour-looking woman in the passage. She received him with a smile upon her sour face. This way, Mr Casati, this way,' leading him into a bare-looking but clean little room. Supper was laid on tho table— coffee, toast and cream and cake. Casati eat heartily and then went up the steep, narrow staircase opening the door of one of the rooms he entered. Aileen Darrel sat in the room, a book on her lap, her cheeks flushed, her eyes spark- ling. Never had she appeared, more beauti- ful to Gordon Casati. She rose with a haughty, defiant gesture. ' No good trying any of that nonsense,' he exclaimed.' I've got news for you—welcome news, 'I think,' he said, with a sardonic smile. 'No news you bring me can be welcome' was her haughty rejoinder.' ' I rather think this will,' he said, Aileen flashed a look of contempt at him, but he went on quite undaunted. ' I intended to do you the great honour of making you my wife. With a low cry Aileen started back 'Never will I consent,' she cried, 'I don't ask for your consent,' he res- ponded; 'but let me tell you'nor" of imy plans. Aileen, her eyes dilating, her breath com- ing in gasps, suffered him to proceed. ' We will live in a foreign land, my pet ; perchance in beautiful Italy, my country. I will make you my wife in two weeks' time or so. Au revoir. Aileen sank down on her chair after he had gone. Gordon Casati was no stranger to her, for when she resided with her mother he had been in the neighbourhood and had actually asked her to marry him. Aileen, who abhorred him, at once refused, and after vow- ing that he would have her some time, left the place saying he was going home to Italy. Soon she went to bed in a dazed way, while Gordon Casati planned in his room diabolical plans. Next day he wrote to Irene to meet him at the usual place, telling her that he should be down the next day. 'Irene read the letter with softly flushing cheeks. He comes to see me—his wife now —thought she. Their morning interview was very pleasant to Irene. Gordon brought her a lovely brooch and was very sweet to her during the time. None of the old playful indifference. He of his own accord asked her to meet him under an old oak tree in the wood. That evening Gordon Casati stood not far from the place of meeting where he could see Rene and not be seen by her. At last she tripped up to the place of meeting and finding no one near sat under an aged oak. Taking a pistol from his pocket he raised it and fired. With a piercing shriek Irene Westlake sank from her sitting posture to the ground. Casati crossed swiftly over to her. She was still conscious and though the shot was fatal, she might live a few hours more. As he stood looking down at her she wear- ily opened her black eyes. 'You fired the shot, Gordon.
' Yes, I did, and I may as well tell you all the truth now, Alma La Fontelle,' he said. 'I fired the shot that struck you down. Fool to think that I could love you after seeing Aileen Darrel. ' Tell me all,' she said faintly. 'I'll tell you all I have to tell,' was the answer 'and then another shot will end your w life. 'I am resigned. Go on. 'Alma La Fontele, I knew Aileen, aye, and loved her before I saw you. She was a girl of sixteen then, staying with her mother at Bra- fort, She didn't like me, but that was only a girl's foolish fancy. I proposed marriage to her, but she rejected me with scorn. I resolved to have her for myself, however, in spite of this. I went home to Italy after she rejected me, and there I met you and you ly know the rest. ' Yes, I know Wretch! Traitor! Double dyed villain !' Her hands were clenched; her dark eyes flashed. Gordon laughed bitterly, ' Alma,' he said, bending over her, ' Alma, do you remember that day I married you. Alma, Alma, if you had fostered that good impulse, instead of checking it, I would not be a murderer with your blood upon my hands to-day, nor would you be the wretched victim. I am only twenty eight, I could have reformed. I in- tend to kill to you now,' an he drew a pistol from his pocket, she watching him with a despairing expression upon her handsome face. Just as Casati raised his pistol a voice fell on his ear—an excited voice. ' Here's where I saw them. Just here, Oh I there they are. Gordon Casati turned with a start and saw General Westlake and a party, of servants, and a boy scarcely ten yards from him. Fright seized him, he turned hastily, fired at the prostrate form—and, of course, missed I —then ran forhis life pursued by some of General Westlake's servants. General Westlake advanced towards the still form of Irene. 'Irene' he called softly, 'Irene. She slowly opened her great black eyes. 'I am not Irene at all. I am Alma —Alma La Fontele. The general paused. We must carry her home,' he said. 'No! No ! Let me tell you my story here. I—— 'Her mind must be wandering,' the General said in a low voice to one of his ser- vants. 'No! No! No; would that it was almost,' shrieked Irene. 'Let me tell you. Do not move me. Send them all away. Ordering the few servants who had not gone in pursuit of Casati back. General Westlake knelt beside Irene, never dreaming of what she was going to tell him. ' What is it Rene? 'General Westlake,' she fixed her eyes steadily upon him,' General Westlake, I am not your daughter at all. I knew her in Italy and I came out to Australia when I found she was drowned and personated her. The general rose and recoiled a few steps. ' Are you telling me the truth he asked, hoarsely. 'Yes. Oh,yes! every word. 'I'm dying, 'twill do me no good tell a lie now I—— 'Go on. Begin from the first. 'I am an Italian, my parents were poor. peasants. I hated the life, I was very am- bitious and I had to work though I hated the poverty. Then I met your daughter, who was spending holidays with Mrs Hevellyn, for whom I was working. She was kind to me, but treated me as an inferior. This I couldn't bear. I often saw her after that, until Mrs Hevellyn died, when she always remained at the convent. When she started for home she was sixteen, I seventeen. Then the ship was wrecked but I never thought to personate your daughter then. About two months afterwards a handsome country man of mine—Gordon Casati, who had previously visited Australia, and had run through a large fortune, met me. He was spending the summer in our neighbourhood and he was at tracted by me—a peasant girl—and I—I loved him dearly, perhaps because of his aristocratic bearing and gentlemanly manners. I was uneducated and had never spoken to a gentleman in my life, yet I was superior to the rough peasantry. Gordon Casati per- suaded me to leave my home and, to tell the truth, I didn't need much persuasion, promising to make me his wife when I had sufficient education. I was quick to learn and in a couple of years could manage any- thing pertaining to a lady, though I had no solid education. Irene stopped and gasped for breath, her voice had been faint, but was now little more than a whisper. 'Tell me all,' the General commanded pititlessly. 'Then he told me I would have to leave school and suggested to me the plan to per-, sonate your daughter. He had been in the same ship as she was for a short time, but had left it before the wreck. He—he wished me to get your whole fortune, this she al- most gasped. 'Oh Heaven be merciful: I cannot go on. Cannot tell you of the plot- ting, the scheming to obtain what he called it —happiness. It is misery: It is death. I—— 'Go on' commanded the stern listener. 'It is but right' she moaned. ' Oh ! why did I listen to Gordon Casati! Oh! Why did I listen to him.Then she composed herself and proceeded. 'To gain his ends he educated Aileen and while I thought he loved her he was duping me, was playing a double game. He just told me that secret now. During his visit to Australia he had met Aileen Darrel and he really loved her— as far as he was capable of loving. He pro- posed marriage, but she disliked him and re- fused and he vowed he would have her by fair means or foul. I tried to cause Lena to break her engagement with Captain Bradly, in which I succeeded. Gordon began to grow cold towards me then and I threatened to tell you all if he didn't marry me at once. When you were in Melbourne we were married Two days later I received a letter from Gordon to meet him this morning, which I did. He than asked me to he here to-night and here am . General Westlake turned away, a stunned look on his face. The story he had heard rerndered him completely dumbfounded. Then his butler and confidential old servant ad- vanced. 'I overheard some of the story,
sir, and a maybe Miss Irene would know where Miss Darrell is. ' Yes ! yes ; Benson,' she may. 'Where is Aileen ?' he asked. 'At Perry's in Beckly . You had better send a carriage for her now else Gordon may—he—he may go there and take her with him in his flight. ' There is little fear of that,' rejoined the General 'The police I suppose are already on his track and he will try to save himself. Tell the groom or any man here to take the closed carriage to Beckly to Perry's place,' he said, turning to the servants. ' Does any- body know where it is ? ' Yes, sir,' it was the groom that answered 'I'll go.' The General turned to Irene and saw that it would be impossible to move her. She was lying on the ground panting and at times moaning, the General's pity was aroused. This woman had done him a terrible wrong, but he was a christian and she was a fellow creature, morever it was her blind love for a the man that had killed her—that caused, her wrong actions. Irene,' he said, pity- ingly, ' could you be moved home in a closed ii carriage. 'No,' she said, ' no it would pain me terribly I would rather die here with the trees moaning around me and the wind howling,' then she added, 'I could not get a priest in time. 'No but you can pray, we all can pray, he answered. Yes, but—but first forgive and beg Aileen to forgive and pray for me. She is pure and innocent, her prayers will be heard. ' And yours Irene,' he rejoined, 'and yours. Repent while there is time. ' Heaven knows how I repent,' - she mur mured, man does not, only God. God from whom I expect all mercy' She lay quiet for a time then asked, 'Who saw him fire. ' A little boy coming home through the wood. He recognised you and hastened and told me. 'Ah!' she sighed. God has been good to me, I might have Iain here for days unseen by a human being. There was silence for a while, during which Irene's lips were moving as if in prayer. Then her form quivered, the blood came from her mouth and nose in a crimson tide, the women servants hastened forward, but they could do nothing for her, her heart's blood was streaming away. Closing her black eyes Alma Le Fontele prepared herself to die. The pain was awful, but she had not the strength to scream out. General Westlake was kneeling beside her thinking that the frail thread of life was al- most snapped. But yet another spasm passed through her frame before her soul passed to its last account. * * * * * Two years 'afterwards, a golden haired woman walks impatiently up and down the breakfast room. Suddenly the door opens 'Is baby well this morning, nurse' she asked, advancing to receive the bundle of pale blue and white from the nurse's arms. 'Yes, as well as ever, Mrs Bradly. 'Yes, he is,' said Aileen for it was Aileen, a happy bright Aileen. Happy because she is Athol Bradly's wife. She kisses the soft fair face of her first born and the baby looks at his happy and pretty mother with a smile. The nurse withdraws and presently Captain Bradly enters the room. 'Am I very late Aileen' he asks. 'Have I kept you waiting? ' No, Athol,' she answers, 'I am playing with baby. Athol Bradly advanced 'He is getting very like you, my darling,' he says. ' He has blue eyes and skin like you, Athol. ' He is like us both,' and, Athol Bradly strokes his wife's golden hair and she lifts her hazel eyes affectionately to his and thus we leave them Aileen happy in her hus- band's love breasting her trials and troubles bravely, over-coming cheerfully and en- joying the fruits of her forbearance. * * * * * General Westlake spends most of his time with Aileen, very fond and proud of her baby which has been called after him, and when ever he thinks of Irene it is with pity not anger. Once a year he and his daughter throw flowers on the lonely grave of Alma La Fontele. The author of all her misery has never been found, he disappeared as com- pletely as if the earth had swallowed him up. Rumor says he found a watery grave, but he is most likely wandering over the earth a fugitive from justice. Finis.