|Chapter Number||XIV (CONTINUED)|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Society, Friendship and Love|
" SOCIETY, FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE. "
. (Continued.) 1 . '
By E. A . B.
But the tree fell harmlessly alongside, and Margaret found herself clasped in Maurice's arms and a burning kiss on her
........... cheek."-CHAPTER XIV. . , .
" 1 do not know," said Máurice, with a sort of half groan> quickly repressed. The scales had fallen from his eyes at last, and he could see into his own heart. He was still bound to Dorothea, and he loved Margaret, and this dreadful old woman seemed to know it. ' He1 renewed his restless' walk about the room in a sort of stupor, incapable of seeing any of the shades or side lights of the scene'which, Mrs. Guise liad called up before him ; only these two glaring facts stood out in bold relief-he loved one cousin, and was engaged to
A click of the gate startled him ; before he looked he felt that Margaret Was in the room. Mechanically he took her hand in. his ; mechanically he noted the white cheeks, the dark rings round the eyes, and the heaviness of the eyes
themselves, which showed that she had not come quite un- ? scathed out of the battle in which she had borne herself so bravely. But he dared not look long, for his own feelings
She sat down by Mrs. Guise, and began to tell the old ' woman of her plans, Maurice meanwhile listening as though he were in a dream. They talked on till poor old Mrs. Guise broke down and shed some tears at the thought of parting with her dear Miss Margaret.
" I am not gone yet," said Margaret, trying to cheer her. " 1. do not know how soon I may get a situation, not within a month, perhaps. Do not be afraid, Mrs. Guise, I shall still come many times to plague you and laugh at the tracts."
" 1 wouldn't mind so much, dear, if you was going away with a good husband to take care of you and be kind to you."
"Mrs. Guise, Mrs. Guise ! For shame ! Is this the end of your convictions ? " cried Margaret ; but a strange' feeling,
which she conld not explain to herself, and which was gone ' almost as soon as it came, suddenly checked her laugh and made her look round for a new topic.
" Must you go ? " said Maurice, leaning forward to speak to her. He had scarcely spoken before, and his voice now was so forced and strange that it startled her and made her feel more nervous than before. "Need you ask me ? " she said in a quick, low tone ; but the moment the words were out of her mouth she would have given anything to recall them. Maurice said no more ; he was carrying on such a painful struggle with himself that he had no strength left for idle conversation. Margaret saw the sky growing black outside and wished to go home, but was afraid, she knew not why, to walk home with Maurice. Perhaps the first glim- mering of truth was coming to her also, and she chose rather
to remain blind.
At, last she could delay no longer, and,, with a loving
farewell to. old Mrs. Guise, who had wonderfully recovered . her spirits, and a stiff little bow to Maurice, she set off at a quick pace, for the sky was growing blacker every moment. Maurice could struggle no; longer ; he seized his hat and fol- lowed her. " Have I offended you ?'.' he asked humbly. " No," she.answered with a slight, shake of the head, and they, walked on some way in silence.
Presently the rain began to fall ia heavy drops, and soon . there came a brilliant flash, followed by a loud peal.
" Are you afraid of a thunderstorm ? " he asked. " No," she said ; " I believe I rather eojoy it."
" Then you are likely, to have plenty of enjoyment before you reáeh home, and to be wet through besides. Shall we look for a shelter ? " . But Margaret did not care to seek for a shelter in his company, and insisted on going on.
The storm grew worse and worse, and by the time they were well past the last house, with a good mile of desolate road before them, it came down with such, violence that Margaret could scarcely keep her feet. Maurice asked her no more questions, but put ber arm within his and bore her along for about a hundred yards. The rain fell in such blinding, torrents that they could not see a foot beyond them, save when a brilliant flash lighted up the whole country round ; and all the winds of heaven seemed to be ? blowing upon them. Gradually the flashes came thicker
and thicker till they were almost incessant, and the thunder
roared continuously, so that they could scarcely hear each. other's voices. Margaret began to feel exhausted, and Maurice himself was pretty well tired out with internal and . external struggles. ?
At length they came to the outskirts of a piece of scrub which flanks the road on the left side. In this scrub, about a quarter of a mile down, there was, as they both knew, a deserted hut, formerly built by some wood-cuttérs. '' Can we not reach it ? " cried Margaret, who felt that she could not walk many steps further against the wind and rain. Maurice heard her above the awful noise, and turned into the path
which led to the hut.
The trees were for the most part ringbarked and dead or dying, and he looked up anxiously at their white spectral branches waving and shrieking wildly in the wind. " Mar- garet," he cried, " it is not safe ; we must turn back ; " but before the words were well out of his mouth, a huge bough came crashing down apparently over their heads. "For God's sake, Maurice, move," cried Margaret, who saw it coming, and, seizing his arm, she tried to draw him out of the way. But the tree fell harmlessly alongside, and Mar- garet found horself clasped in Maurice's arms and a burning
kiss on her cheek. For an instant she seemed stunned, but , suddenly wrenching .himself from his embrace,, she set off
almost at a run to the deserted hilt ; she had meant to turn , back to the road, but, in , her, excitement, mistook the path
and presently reached the little log building, into which
. Maurice followed her.
Why do you come here ? " she cried, wildly.
" I will go out again if you like," he answered, with a humility that disarmed her.
"Into the storm !" she said. "No, you might be killed. "
That would be a pity," he answered bitterly, and then, coming a little nearer, " Margaret, say you are ¿ot angry
with nie." '
." Let us forget it," she said, her face crimsoning. " We were frightened,'and we-that is you-did. not know what . you were doing. How long will this storm last? Will
Dorothea be anxious about you ? "
" Dorothea ! What is Dorothea to me ? She is happy with , Walter Grimleigh. 'Margaret, can you not see that you are
, more to me than a thousand Dorotheas ? "
" Hush," she cried, " you are mad, and I must be mad . too, or you would not dare to speak so to me. . How can I . stay here if you talk so wildly ? "
"I am not talking wildly," he persisted. "I did not mean to speak, at least to-day, but sino it is done, why should I draw back ? I tell you that your cousin and I , made a terrible mistake when we bound ourselves by pro , mises that are now. a weariness to us both. She loves "; Walter Grimleigh's little tinger more than all I could give
her, and must I respect a tie which she disowns and despises. Margaret, is it only this sci uple .which stands
between us ? " . -
" I am dull of comprehension," she answered. " I cannot . understand how a man can be engaged to one woman and
offers himself to a second. Mr. Gower, recollect yourself. . You love Dorothea, and I know she dearly loves you. She , must love you, though wounded pride may lead her to hide
" Would it make you hide your's ? " broke in Maurice.
" We are speaking of my cousin. Go back to her, and she will forgive you all ; and some day, when you are happy with her, you will blush at the remembrance of to-day's folly."
" Shall I ? And you ? Did I dream that we were together under that falling tree, that you looked into my face and called me by my name-? "
" You are ungenerous," cried Margaret, passionately. " How do I know what I did ? I was wild with terror. I would have done the same for anyone. "
" Then Bay that I am hateful to you-that you wish me gone-that it is nothing to you whether or no I am driven to despair-"
"You are not hateful to me, and you know it. I wish you all the joy in my heart with Dorothea."
" Always Dorothea ! Do you not hear that she has ceased to love me, if her love was ever more than a passing faucy ?"
" And I tell you it is not true."
" And what if I tell you that your coldness is not true, that for one moment your face told a different tale, and that I will live on the blessed hope that has been given me till I can come to you and say, 41 am free, will you listen to me
now ? '»
"You insult me," said Margaret, her eyes filling with tears, " and, and-I will stay here no longer."
She tried to pass him, but he, moved to remorse at the sight of her distress, caught her by the hand. " Stay, and I swear I will trouble you no more. I was mad, as you say, but how could I help it ? I am mad still, but you shall see it no more. Margaret, Margaret, say that you forgive me. Do not drive me to despair."
"Yes, yes, I forgive you," she said, forcing a smile, "and see, the sun is shining once more, and the storm is over. Let all this folly pass away with it. Listen, the birds are
beginning to chirp. It is time to go home, but we will go . home alone. Let us say good-bye here-good-bye for good
" I am going home with you."
" You must not do so, I must go alone. Will you not say good-bye ? "
" I cannot," he answered, with averted face, and she, turning away without another word, was soon lost to sight among the dripping trees.
Near home she met Mr. Fitzalan and Miss G-rimleigh walking together. They answered her slight bow, the one with what was meant for a haughty stare, and the other with a stiff nod. ¡She was far too much occupied with her own thoughts to disturb herself about their demeanour, but that they were by no means so indifferent to her proceedyigs may be gathered from their conversation after she had passed
" They must have been together," said Miss G-rimleigh. " I know he went down this way this afternoon, and you saw her go after him half an hour later. She is back, but
where is he ? "
"Oh! I expect he will turn up soon," said the. tutor. " They have been having one of their tête-à-têtes " (he called it teet-a-teets) "at Mrs. Guise's. That old woman is a regular schemer."
" A horrid old woman, I think; I will not let Maurice take any notice of her in future. But see, Theodore, here comes Mr. Maurice, just behind her, of course. They must have separated so as not to be seen together. He ought to be ashamed of himself ; but, of course, it is that young woman's fault, and he is just the sort of man to let his vanity be caught by a girl who made eyes at him. Good gracious, Maurice ! " she cried, " where have you been? "
" Out for a walk," he answered, stopping unwillingly at her question. " I was caught in the storm, as you see, and am wet through."
" Well do not let me keep you. I am going to try and get some honey for mama, and I met Mr. Fitzalan, so he turned round to walk with me ; it is so dull walking alone,
is it not?"
"Very dull," answered Maurice, without the slightest recognition of her compauion, but supremely indifferent to her walking with all the tutors in Castlereagh, if she was so
"Did you see how queer he looked?" said Miss Mabel, aiter he had gone on. "I am really sorry for him, for I am airaid that this little prank has lost him Dorothea.'?
" I imagine she has been tired of him. for some time."
" YOB, he is too changeable for her, but she is so generous that L think she would feel bound to carry out her engage- ment even though she might like some one better ; but, of course, she cannot overlook anything so glaring as this, and, if it is only for Walter's sake, we are bound to let her know
what we have seen.''
"Of course," said the tutor, " but what have we seen ? "
"Quite enough to warrant us in supposing the worst. That young woman requires to be put in her proper place. Her conduct to you last night was infamous; and did you
hear her insolence to mama and me ?"
"I never could bear her," said the tutor, "and, to tell you the truth, I do not much care for Gower either. I do not think he has behaved well to you."
" Oh, 1 forgive him, poor fellow. Men are so weak, and I wish him well enough to be determined to save him from the clutches of that girl. "
And so the interesting and amiable conversation con- tinued without any restraint on either side, for these two were secretely engaged to each other, and patiently biding their time : Miss Grimleigh, till her Theodore should come in for a sum of money which he was expecting from a hypo- thetical rich relative, who had quarrelled with him, but showed signs of coming round ; and Mr. Fitzalan, alias Tonks, until he could pursuade his Mabel into a private marriage. After that his course would be simple.