|Chapter Title||O BITTERNESS OF THINGS TOO SWEET.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Phantom Fortune|
"O BITTERNESS OF THINGS TOO SWEET."
Only for an instant did John Hammond stand motionless after nearing that unearthly shriek. In the next moment he rushed into the corridor, expecting to hear the sound repeated, to find himself face to face with some midnight robber whose presence had caused that wild cry of alarm. But in the corridor all was silent as the grave. No open door suggested the entrance of an intruder. The dimly-burning lamps showed only the long empty gallery. He stood still for a few moments listening for voices, footsteps, the rustle of garments, but there was nothing.
Nothing? Yes, a groan, a long-drawn moaning sound,
as of unutterable pain. This time there was no doubt asN
to the direction from which the sound came. It came from Lady Maulevrier's room. The door was ajar, and he could see the faint light of the night-lamp within. That fearful cry had come from her ladyship's room. She was in peril or pain of some kiud.
Convinced of this one fact Mr. Hammond had not an instant's hesitation, but pushed open the door without com- punction, and entered the room, prepared to behold some
But all was quiet as death itself. No midnight burglar had violated the sanctity of Lady Maulevrier's apartment. The soft steady light of the night-lamp shone on the face of . the sleeper. Yes, all was quiet in the room, but not in
that sleeper's soul. The broad white brow was painfully contracted, the lips drawn down and distorted, the delicate hand, half hidden by the deep Valenciennes ruffle clutched the coverlet with convulsive force-sigh after sigh burst : from the agitated breast. John Hammond gazed upon the
Bleeper in an agony of apprehension, uncertain what to do. Was this dreaming only, or was it some kind of Beizure which called for medical aid? At her ladyship's .-'ge the idea of a paralysis was not too improbable for belief. If this was a dream then indeed the visions of Lady Maulev- rier's head upon her bed were more terrible than the dreams
of common mortals.
He went back to the corridor, and looked round him in
doubt for a moment or two. .
Close against her ladyship's door there was a swing door, covered with dark red cloth, which seemed to communicate with the old part of the house. John Hammond pushed thia door, and it yielded to his hand, revealing a lamp-lit passage, narrow, old-fashioned, and low. He thought it likely that Lady Maulevrier's maid might occupy a room in thia half-deserted wing. As he pushed open the door he
saw an elderly man coming towards him, with a candle in his hand, and with the appearance of having flung on his
" You heard that scream ?" said Hammond.
"Yes. It was her ladyship, I suppose-nightmare. She is subject to nightmare."
" It is very dreadful. Her whole countenance was con- ( vulsed just now when I went into her room to see what was wrong. I was almost afraid of a Ht of some kind. Ought not her maid to go to her ? "
"She wants no assistance," the man answered coolly. " It was only a dream. It is not the first time I have been awakened by a shriek like that. It is a kind of nightmare no doubt, and it passes off in a few minutes, aud leaves her
He went to her ladyship's door, pushed it open a little
waj', and looked in.
"Yes, she is sleeping as quietly as an infant," he said, shutting the door softly as he spoke.
" I am very glad ; but surely she ought to have her maid near her at night, if she is subject to those attacks."
" It is no attack, I tell you. It is nothing but a dream," answered Steadman, impatiently."
. «Yet yon were frightened, just as I was, or you would not have got up and dressed," said Hammond looking at the
He had heard of this old servant, Steadman, who was supposed to enjoy more of her ladyship's confidence than j anyone else in the household ; but he had never spoken to
the man before that night.
"Yes, I came. It was my duty to come, knowing her ladyship's habits. I am a light sleeper, and that scream woke me instantly. If her ladyship's maid were wanted I should call her. I am a kind of watch dog, you see, sir."
" You seem to be a very faithful dog."
"I have been in her ladyship's service more than forty years. I have reason to be faithful. I know her ladyship's habits better than anyone in the 'house. T know that she has had a great deal of trouble in her early life, and I believe the memory of it comes back upon her sometimes in her
dreams, and gets the better of her."
"If it was memory that rung that agonised shriek from
her just now, her recollections of the past must be very
"Ah, sir, there is a skeleton in every house," answered James Steadman, gravely.
This was exactly what Maulevrier had said under the yew trees which Wordsworth planted.
" Good night, sir," said Steadman.
"Good night. You are sure that Lady Maulevrier maj be left safely-that there is no fear of illness of any kind ?'
" No, sir. It was only a bad dream. Good night, sir."
Steadman went back to his own quarters. Mr. Hammonc heards him draw the bolts of the swing door, thus cutting
oft all communication with the corridor.
" There are some minds which cannot forget," Johr Hammond said to himself, as he meditated upon hei ladyship's character and history. " The story of he: husband's crime may still he fresh in her memory, though i is only a tradition for the outside world. His crime maj have involved some deep wrong done to herself, some out rage against her love and faith as a wife. One of the storie Maulevrier spoke of the other day was of a wicked woman'; influence upon the governor-a much more likely stor than that of any traffic in British interests or Britisl honour, which would have been almost impossible for ; man in Lord Maulevrier's position. If the scandal was o that darker kind-a guilty wife-the mysterious disappear ance bf a husband-the horror of the thing may have mad a deeper impression on Lady Maulevrier than even he nearest and dearest dream of ; and that superb calm whicl she wears like a royal mantle-the queen-like bearing an gracious smile with, which she greets all comers-may b maintained at the cost of struggles which tear her heart strings. And then at night, when the will is dormant I when the nervous system of the brain is no longer dominate
hy the sovereign power of waking intelligence, the ol familar agony returns, the hated images flash back upo the brain with all the pictorial power of a fervent imagine tion, and in proportion to the fineness of the nature an temperament is the intensity of the dreamer's pain."
' ' I wonder that a woman of Lady Maulevrier's intellec should not have , better known how to treat her ow malady," thought Hammond.
Mr. Hammond inquired after her ladyship's health tb ! next morning, and was told she was perfectly well,
j " Grandmamma is in capital spirits," said Lady Lesbis
"She is pleased with the contents of yesterday's Glob Lord Dènyer, the son of one of her oldest friends, has bee making a great speech at Liverpool in the Conservati; interest, and her ladyship thinks we shall have a change ( parties before long."
" A general shuffle of the cards," said Maulevrier, lookit up from his breakfast. "I'm sure I hope so. I'm t politician, but I like a row."
"I hope you are a Conservative, Mr. Hammond," sa
Í "I had hoped you would have known that ever so loi ! ago, Lady Lesbia. "
j Lesbia blushed at his tone, which was almost a reproac I "I suppose I ought to have understood from the gener ! tenor of your conversation," she said, "but I am terrib I stupid about politics. I take so little interest in them.
; am always hearing that we are being badly governed--th Í the men who legislate for us are stupid or wicked-yet tl ! world seems to go on somehow, and we are no worse."
I " It is just the same with sport," said Maulevrier, " eve: ! rainy spring wre are told that all the young birds have bei I drowned, and that we shall hâve nothing to shoot ; b j when August comes the birds are there all the same."
j "It is the nature of mankind to complain," sa t Hammond. "Cain and Abel were the first farmers, ai ' you see one of them grumbled."
j They were rather lively at breakfast that morning
Maulevrier's last breakfast but one-for he had announc his determination of going to Scotland next day. Oth fellows would have shot all the hirds if he dawdled ai longer. Mary was in deep despondency at the idea of 1 departure, yet she laughed, and talked with the rest. Ai perhaps Lesbia felt ever so little moved at the thought losing Mr. Hammond. Maulevrier would come back
Mary, but Mr. Hammond was hardly likely to retur Their parting would be for ever.
"You needn't sit quite in my pocket, Moll," said Ma lévrier to his youngest sister.
"I like to make the most of you now you are goi away," sighed Mary. " Oh, dear, how dull we shall all
when you are gone.."
" Not a bit of it, you will have some fox hunting, per h a]
before the snow is on the hills."
At the very mention of fox-hounds Lady Mary's bright young face crimsoned, and Maulevrier began to laugh in a provoking way with side-long glances at his sister."
" Did you ever hear of Molly's fox hunting, by-the-by,
Hammond?" he asked.
Mary tried to put her hand before his lips, but it was
"Why shouldn't I tell?" he asked. "It was quite an heroic adventure. You must know our fox hunting here is rather a peculiar institution, very good in its way, but strictly local. No horse could live among our hills, so we hunt on foot, and as the pace is good and the work hard nobody who starts with the hounds is likely to be in at the . death except the huntsmen. We are all mad for the sport, and off we go over the hills and far away, picking up fresh sportsmen as we go. The ploughman leaves his plough, and the shepherd leaves his flock, and the farmer leaves his thrashing to follow us ; in every field we cross we get fresh blood, while those who join us at the start fall off by degrees. Well, it happened one day late in October, when there were long ridges of snow on Helvellyn's dark brow, and patches of white on Fairfield, Mistress Mary here must needs take her bamboo staff and start for the Striding Edge. It was just the day upon which she might have met her death easily on that perilous ridge, and no doubt that is why she chose it, but happily something occurred to divert her lady- ship's fancy, for scarcely had she got to the bottom of Dolly Wagon Pike-you know Dolly-"
" Intimately," said Hammond, with a nod.
" Scarcely had she neared Dolly Wagon when she heard the huntsman's horn and tbs hounds in full cry streaming along towards Grisdale Tarn. Off flew Molly, all among the butcher boys, and farmers' .men,, and rosy-cheeked squireens of the district-racing over the rugged fields^ clambering over the low stone walls-up hill, down hill shouting when the others shouted-never losing sight of the tails of the hounds-winding and doubling, and still going upward and upward, till she stood, panting and puffing like a young grampus, on the top of Helvellyn, still all among the butcher boys and the farmers' men, and the guides and the red-cheeked squireens, her frock torn to ribbons, her hat lost in a ditch, her hair streaming down her back, and every inch of her, from the nose downward, splashed and spattered with mire and clay. What a spectacle for gods and men, guides and butcher boys. And there she stood with the sun going down beyond Coniston Old Man, and a seven
mile walk between her and Fellside."
" Poor Lady Mary !" said Hammond, looking at her very
kindly ; but Mary did not see that friendly glance which . betokened sympathy rather than scorn.
She sat silent and vëry red, with drooping eyelids, think-
ing her brother horribly cruel for thus publishing her
"Poor indeed. She came crawling home after dark, foot- sore and draggled, looking like a beggar girl, and as evil fate would have it, her ladyship must needs have been taking afternoon tea at the vicarage upon that particular occasion, and was driving up the avenue as Mary crawled to the gate. The storm that followed may be more easily imagined than described."
" It was years and years ago," expostulated Mary, looking very angry, "I was quite a child. Grandmother needn't
have made such a fuss about it."
" Ah, but in those days she still had hopes of civilising you," answered Maulevrier. "Since then she has aban- doned all endeavour in that direction, and has given you over to your own devices-and me. Since then you have become a chartered libertine-you have letters of marque."
" I don't care what you call me," said Mary. " I only know that I am very happy when you are at home, and very miserable when you are away."
"It is hardly kind of you to say that Lady Mary," re- monstrated Fräulein Kirsch, who up to this point had been busily engaged with muffins and gooseberry jam.
" Oh, I don't mean that any one is unkind to me or uses me badly," said Mary. " I only mean that my life is empty when Maulevrier is away, and that I am always longing for
him to come back again."
"I thought you adored the hills, and the lake, and the villagers, and your pony, and Maulevrier's dogs," said Lesbia faintly contemptuous.
" Yes, but one wants something human to love," answered Mary, making it very obvious that there was no warmth of affection between her and the feminine members of her family.
She had no thought of the significance of her speech. She was very angry with Maulevrier for having held her up to ridicule before Mr. Hammond, who already despised her, as she believed, and whose contempt was more galling than it need have been, considering that he was a mere casual visi- tor who would go away aud return no more. Never till his coming had she felt her deficiencies ; but in 'his presence she writhed under the sense of her unworthiness, and had an almost agonising consciousness of all those faults which her grandmother had told her about so often, with not the slightest effect. In those days she had not cared what Lady Maulevrier or any one else might say of her, or think of, her. She lived her life and defied fortune. She was worse than her reputation. To-day she felt it a bitter thing that she had grown to the age of womanhood, lacking all those graces and accomplishments which made her beauti- ful sister adorable, and which might make even a plain
Never till John Hammond's coming had she felt a pang of envy in the contemplation of Leshia's beauty or Leshia's grace ; but now she had so keen a sense of the difference between herself and her sister, that she began to fear that this cruel pain must indeed be that lowest of all vices. Even the difference in their gowns was a source of numil ation to her now. Lesbia was looking her loveliest this morning in a gown that was all lace and soft Madras muslin, flowing diaphanous, cloud-like, while Mary's tailor gown, with its trim tight bodice, horn buttons, and kilted skirt, seemed to cry aloud that it had been made for a tomboy. And this tailor gown was a costume to which Mary had con-
demned herself by her own folly. Only a year ago, moved ?<? by an artistic admiration of Leshia's delicate breakfast gowns, Mary had told her grandmother that she would like to have gowns of the same kind ; whereupon the Dowager, who did not take the faintest interest in Mary's toilet, but who had a stern sense of justice, replied,
"I do not think Leshia's frocks and your habits will agree, but you can have Borne pretty morniug gowns if you like ;" and the order was forthwith given for a confection in muslin and lace for Lady Mary.
Mary came down to breakfast one bright June morning, in the new frock, feeling very proud of herself, and looking
(Continued on page U.)
Continued from page ll.)
"Fine feathers make fine birds," said Fraulein Kirsch. "I should hardly have known you."
"I wish you would always dress like that;" said Lesbia, " yon really look like a young lady ;" and Mary had danced about on the lawn, feeling sylph-like, and quite in love with . her own elegance, when a sudden uplifting of canine voices
in the distance bad sent her flying to see what was the matter with the terrier pack.
In the kennel there was riot and confusion. Ahab was
demolishing Angelina, Absalom and Agamemnon were annihilating each other. Dog-whip in hand, Mary rushed to the rescue, and laid about her, like the knights of old, utterly forgetful of her frock. She soon succeeded in restoring order, but the Madras muslin and the Breton lace, had perished in the conflict. She left the kennel panting, and in rags and tatters, some of the muslin and lace hanging about her in strips a yard long, but the greater part remain- ing in the possession of the terriers, the lively pack having mauled and munched her finery to their hearts' delight, while she was reading the Blot Act.
She went back to the house bowed down by shame and confusion, and marched straight to the Dowager's morning
" Look what the terriers have done to me, grandmother " she said, with a sob. " It is all my own fault of course. I ought not to have gone near them in that stupid muslin, Please forgive me for being so foolish. I am not fit to have pretty frocks."
" I think, my dear, you can now have no doubt that the tailor gown's are fittest for you," answered Lady Maulevrier with crushing placidity. "We have tried the experiment , of dressing you like Lesbia, and you see it does not answer.
Tell Kibble to throw your new gown in the rag-bag, and please let me hear no more about it."
After this dismal failure Mary could not feel herself ill used in having to wear tailor gowns all the year round. She was allowed cotton frocks for very warm weather, and she had pretty gowns for the evenings, but her common wear was cloth or linsey-woolsey made by the local tailor. Sometimes Maulevrier ordered her a gown or a coat from his own man in Conduit-street, and then she felt herself smart and fashionable. And even the local tailor contrived
to make her gowns prettily, having a great appreciation of her straight willowy figure, and deeming it a privilege to work for her, so that hitherto Mary had felt very well
content with her cloth attire. But now that John Ham-
mond so obviously admired Leshia's delicate raiment, poor Mary began to think woollen-stuff as odius as poor Mrs. Oldfield thought it for her grave-clothes.
After breakfast Mary and Maulevrier went straight off to the kennels. His lordship had numerous instructions to give on this last day, and his lieutenant had to receive and register his orders. Lesbia went to the garden with her book and with Fräulein-the inevitable Fräulein, as Hammond thought her-in close attendance.
It waB a lovely morning, sultry, summer-like, albeit Sep- tember had just begun. Thé tennis lawn, which had been levelled on one side of the house, was surrounded on three Bides by shrubberies planted forty years ago, in the beginning of Lady Maulevrier's widowhood. All loveliest trees grew there in perfection, sheltered by the mighty wall of the mountain, fed by the mists from the lake. Larch and mountain ash, and Lawsonian Cypress - Deodara, and magnolia, arbutus, and silver broom, acacia and lilac, flourished and throve here in that rich beauty which made every cottage garden in the happy district a little paradise, and here in a semicircular recess at one end of the lawn were rustic chairs and tables, and an umbrella tent. This was Lady Lesbia's favourite retreat on summer mornings, a favourite place for afternoon tea.
Mr. Hammond followed the two ladies to their bower.
"This is to be rny last, morning," he said, looking at Lesbia. "Will you think me a great bore if I spend it with you ?"
" We shall think it very nice of you," answered Lesbia, without a vestige of emotion, "especially if you will read
" I will do anything to make myself useful. What shall
" Anything you like. What do you say to Tennyson ? "
" That he is a noble poet, a teacher of all good ; but too philosophical for my present mood. May I read you some of Heine's ballads, those songs which you sing so exquisitely, or rather some you do not sing, and which will be fresher to you. My German is far from perfect, but I am told it is passable, and Fräulein Kirsch can throw her scissors at me when my accent is too dreadful."
"You speak German beautifully," said Fräulein. "I wonder where you learned it ?"
"I have been a good deal in Germany, and I had a Hanoverian valet who was quite a gentleman, and spoke admirably. I think I learnt more from him than from grammars or dictionaries. I'll go and fetch Heine."
" What a very agreeable person Mr. Hammond is," said Fräulein, when he was gone. " We shall quite miss him."
" Yes, I have no doubt we shall miss him," said Lesbia, again without the faintest emotion.
The governess began to think that the ordeal of an agreeable young man's presence at Fellside had been passed in safety, and that her pupil was unscathed. She had kept a close watch on the two, as in duty bound. She knew that Hammond was in love with Lesbia, but she thought Lesbia
Mr. Hammond came back with a shabby little book in his " hand, and established himself comfortably in one of the
low Beaconsfield chaire.
He opened his book at that group of short poems called Heimkehr, and read here and there aa fancy led him. Sometimes the strain was a. lo ve song, brief, passionate as the cry of a soul in pain ; sometimes the verses were bitter and cynical; sometimes full of tenderest sympathy, telling of childhood, and youth and purity ; sometimes dark .with hidden meanings, grim, awful, cold with the chilling breath of the charnel-house ; sometimes Lesbia's heart beat a little . faster as Mr. Hammond read, for it seemed as if it was he
who was speaking to her and not the dead poet.
An hour or more passed in this way. Fräulein Kirsch, charmed at hearing some of her favourite verses, asking now for this little bit, and anon for another, and expatiating upon the merits of German poetsin general and Heine in particular, in the pauses of the lecture. She was quiteearried away by her delight in the poet, and was so entirely uplifted to the ideal world that when a footman came with a message from Lady Maulevrier requesting her presence, she tripped gaily off at once without a thought of danger, in leaving those two together on the lawn. She had been a faithful watch-dog up to this point ; but she was now lulled into a false sense of security by the idea that the time of peril was all but
So she left them ; but could she have looked back two minutes afterwards, she would have perceived the unwisdom
of that act.
No sooner had the Fräulein turned the corner of the shrubbery than Hammond laid aside his book and drew nearer Leshia, who sat looking downward, with her eyes upon the delicate piece of fancy work which had occupied her fingers all the morning.
" Lesbia, this is my last day at Fellside, and you and I may never have a minute alone together again while I am here. Will you come for a little walk with me on the Fell ? There is something T must say to you before I go."
I Leshia's delicate cheek grew a shade more pale. Instinct
told her what was coming, though never mortal man had spoken to her of love. Nor until now had Mr. Hammond I ever addressed her by her Christian name without the I ceremonious prefix. There was a deeper tone in his voice, ' a graver look in his eyes, than she had ever noticed before.
She rose, and took up her sunshade, and went with him meekly through the cultivated shrubbery of ornamental timber to the rougher pathway that wound through a copse of Scotch fir, which formed the outer boundary of Lady Maulevrier's domain. Beyond the fir trees rose the grassy slope of the hill, on the brow of which sheep were feeding. Deep down in the hollow below the lawns and shrubberies of Fellside the placid bosom of the lake shone like an emerald floor in the sunlight, reflecting the verdure of the hill, and the white sheep dotted about the slope.
There was not a breath in the air around them as those two sauntered slowly side by side in the pinewood, not a cloud in the dazzling blue sky above ; and for a little time they, too, were silent, as if bound by a spell which neither dared to break. Then at last Hammond spoke.
"Lesbia, you know that I love you," he began, in his low, grave voice, tremulous with feeling, "No words I can say to-day càn tell you of my love more plainly than my heart has been telling you in every hour of this happy, happy time that jTou and I have spent together. I love you as I never hoped to love, fervently, completely, believing that the perfection of earthly bliss will be mine if I can but win you. Dearest, is there such a sweet hope for me ; are you indeed my own, as I am yours, heart and soul, and mind and being, till the Inst throb of life in this poor clay ?"
He tried to take her hand, but she drew herself away from him with a frightened look. She was very pale, and there was infinite distress in the dark violet eyes, which looked entreatingly, deprecatingly, at her lover.
" I dare not answer as you would like me to answer," she faltered, after a painful pause. " I am not my own mistress. My grandmother has brought me up, devoted herself to me almost, and she has her own views, her own plans. I dare
not frustrate them."
" She would like to marry you to a man of rank and fortune, a man who will choose you, perhaps, because other people admire you rather than because he himself loves you as you ought to be loved ; who will choose you because you are altogether the best and most perfect thing of your year ; just as he would buy a yearling at Newmarket or Epsom. Her ladyship means you to make a great alliance-coronets, not hearts, are the counters for her game ; but, Lesbia, would you, in the bloom and freshness of youth-you, with the pulses of vouth throbbing at your heart-lend yourself
to the calculations of age which has lived its life and for- gotten the very meaning of love ? Would you submit to he played as a card in the game of a dowager's ambition?
Trust me, dearest, in the crisis of a woman's life there is one. only counsellor she should listen to, and that counsellor is her own heart. If you love me-as I dare to hope you do trust in me, hold by me, and leave the rest to Heaven. I know that I can make your life happy."
'.You frighten me by your impetuosity," said Lesbia. " Surely you forget how short a time we have known each
' ' An age. All my life before the-day I saw you is a dead, dull blank, as compared with the magical hours I have spent with you."
" I do not even know who and what you are."
"First, I am a gentleman, or I should not be your brother's friend. A poor gentleman, if you like, with only my own right arm to hew my pathway through the wood of life to the temple of fortune ; but trust me, only trust me, Lesbia, and I will so hew my path as to reach that temple. Look at me, love. Do I look like a man born to fail ?"
She looked up at him shyly, with soft eyes, dim with tears. He looked like a demi-god, tall, straight as the pine trunks amongst which he was standing, a frame formed for strength and activity, a face instinct with mental power, dark eyes that glowed with the fires of intellect and passion. The sunlight gave an almost unearthly radiance to the clear darkness of his complexiqn, the curly brown hair cut . close to the finely-shaped head, the broad brow, and boldly
modelled features. Leshia felt in her heart that such a man must be destined for success, born to be a conqueror in all strifes, a victor upon evei-y field.
" Have I the thews and sinews of a man doomed to be beaten in the battle ?" he asked her. " No, dearest, Heaven meant me to succeed, and with you to fight for I shall not be bested by adverse fortune. Can you not trust Provi-
dence and me ?"
" I cannot disobey my grandmother. If she will con-
" She will not consent. You must, defy Lady Maulevrier, Lesbia, if you mean to reward my love. But I will promise you this much, darling, that if you will be my wife-with your brother's consent, which I am sure of before I ask for it-within one month of our marriage I will find means of reconciling her ladyship to the match, and winning her entire forgiveness for you and me."
" You are talking of impossibilities, " said Lesbia, frown- ing. "Why do you talk to me as if I were a child? I know hardly anything of the world, but I do know the woman who has reared and educated me. My grandmother would never forgive me if I married a poor man. v I should
be an outcast."
"We would be outcasts together rr-happy outcasts. Be- sides, we should not always be poor. I tell you I am pre- destined to conquer fate. "
' ' But we should have to begin from the beginning. "
"Yes, we should haye to begin from the beginning, as i Adam and Eve did when they left Paradise."
"We are not told in the Bible that they had any happi-
ness after that. It seems to have been all trouble and
weariness, and toil and death, after the angel with the flaming sword drove them out of Eden ?"
" They were together, and they must have been happy. Oh, Lesbia, if you do not feel that you can face poverty and
the world's contempt by my side, and for my sake, you do i not. love me. Love never calculates so nicely ; love never fears the future. And yet you do love me, Lesbia," he said, trying to fold her in his arms ; but again she drew
herself away from him, this time with a look almost of horror, and stood facing him, clinging to one of the pine trunks, like a scared wood-nymph.
"You have no right to say that," she said.
" I have-the divine right of my own deep love-of heart which cries out to heart. Do you think there is no mag- netic power in true love which can divine the answering love in another. Lesbia, call me an insolent coxcomb, if you like, but I know you love me, and that you and I may be utterly happy together. Oh, why-why do you shrink from me, my beloved ; why withhold yourself from my arms. Oh, love, let me hold you to my heart-let me seal
our betrothal with a kiss !"
"Betrothal-no, no j not for the world," cried Leshia. "Lady Maulevrier would cast me off for ever; she would
"What would the curse of an ambitious woman weigh against my love ? And 1 tell you that her anger would be only a passing tempest. She would forgive you."
" Never-you don't know her."
" I tell you she would forgive you, and all would be well with us before we had been married a year. Why cannot you believe me, Lesbia?"
"Because I cannot believe impossibilities, even from your lips," she answered, sullenly.
She stood before him with downcast eyes, the tears streaming down her pale cheeks, exquisitely lovely in her agitation and sorrow. Yes, she did love him ; her heart was beating passionately ; she was longing to throw herself on his breast, to be folded upon that manly heart, to trust in that brave out-look which seemed to defy fortune. Yes, he was a man born to conquer-he was handsome, intellec- tual, powerful in all mental and physical gifts. A man of men. But he was by his own admission a very obscure and insignificant person, and he had no money. Life with him meant a long fight with adverse circumstances, life for his wife must mean patience, submission, long waiting upon destiny, and perhaps with old age and grey hairs the tardy turning of Fortune's wheel. And was she for this to resign the kingdom that had been promised to her, the giddy heights which she was born to scale, the triumphs and delights and victories of the great world. Yes, Lesbia loved this fortuneless knight, but she loved herself and her prospects of promotion still better.
" Oh, Lesbia, can you not be brave for my sake, trustful for my sake ? God will be good to us if we are true to each
"God will not be good to me if I disobey my grand- mother. I owe her too much, ingratitude in me would be doubly base. I will speak to her. I will tell her all you have said, and if she gives me the faintest encourage-
" She will not. That is a foregone conclusion. Tell her all, if you like, but let us be prepared for the answer. And when she denies the right of your heart to choose its own mate, then rise up in the might.of your womanhood and defy her. Tell her, 'I love him, and be he rich or poor, I will share his fate.' Tell her boldly, bravely, nobly, as a true woman' should, and if she be adamant still, proclaim your right to disobey her worldly wisdom rather than the
voice of your own heart. And then come to me, darling,
and be my own, and the world which you and I will face together shall not be a bad world. I will answer for that. No trouble shall come near you. No humiliation shall ever touch you. Only believe in me."
"I can believe in you, but not in the impossible," an- swered Lesbia, with measured accents.
The voice was silver-sweet but passing cold. Just then there was a rustling among the pine branches, and Lesbia
looked round with a startled air.
"Is there any one listening," she exclaimed. "What
was that ?"
" Only the breath of Heaven. Oh, Leshia, if you were but a little less wise, a little more trustful. Do not be a dumb idol. Say that you love me, or do not love me. If I you can look me in the face and say the last, I will leave you without another word. I will take my sentence and ¡go."
I But this was just what Lesbia could not do. She could
not deny her love, and yet she could not sacrifice all things for her love. She lifted the heavy lids which veiled those lovely eyes, and looked up at him imploringly.
" Give me time to breathe, time to think."
"And then will you answer me plainly, truthfully,
without a shadow of reserve, remembering that the fate of" two lives hangs on you and your words ?"
" Let it be so, then. I'll go for a ramble over the hills, and return in time for afternoou tea. I shall look for you on the tennis lawn at half-past four."
He took her hand, which this time she yielded to him, kissed it fervently, and in the next moment was gone,, leaving her alone among the pine trees.