|Newspaper Title||Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Bride's Promise|
By the Author of ' Pknklofe,' &c. Chapter I. Sir Gerald Haughton of Haughton sat alone in the chill winter evening in the grand old dining-room, -with the portraits of dead and gone Haughtons looking dowrrat the solitary man as he lay back in his arm-chair, gazing musingly into the fire, the light shining on the costly silver and glass of the dessert on the table and flashing on h'is grave, noble face, upon which Time's fingers had begun to lay a trace. Sir Gerald Haughton was long past forty and a bachelor yet, and people said that Haughton would never have a mistress, although they were young ladies enough who would only be too proud to accept the hand of tall, stately-looking old Sir Gerald, whose dark locks were fast turning iron gray. But Sir Gerald little cared what people said or thought — it was nothing to nim. He let them go their way, and fully de termined to go his without question or reason to any one. On this night he sat looking very thoughtfully into the fire, resting his cheek on his hand, a half wistful look in his kindly blue eyes. The rain was dashing and pattering on tbe window panes, and the November tvind howled mournfully enough around the great old house that had faced many and many a wild storm. Suddenly Sir Gerald raised his head and listened ; a ring at the hall door was pealing through the house, and in a few minutes the door was opened and a young lady was shown in. He started to his feet. ' Bride, my dear child, what has hap pened ?' He led her to the fire and took off her wet oloak, displaying a very fair pale face, with fair hair and'dark blue eyes. There were rain-drops on her hair and face, and, exhausted with bufleting with the rain and wind, or from some other cause, she was trembling all over. Sir Gerald repeated his question, but received no answer. Evidently his strange visitor was too agitated to speak. ' What is it, dear ?' he said, taking her cold, trembling hand in his own warm, strong ones. ' What has happened to make you come out on a night like this ? Nothing wrong at home, I hope ?' Then she lifted her face and looked up at him with eyes |tull of trouble and lips that quivered and would not speak. 11 Sir Gerald,' she said at last, ' I have been trying to come to you all day, I wanted to see you, and ? ' She stopped, while crimson blushes dyed her cheeks.
' Well ?' he interrogated gently. 'It is about my brother Aleck,' said Bride in a low tremulous voice. ' Well, Bride, and what about him ?' He spoke very quietly and calmly, his kind eyes looking down at the girl's agitated face. ' Is it any trouble, dear ?' he said. ' Do you want help ? You know, Bride, I would do anything for you.' , Bride's eyes drooped. ' I want you to lend me one thousand pounds.' It was out at last, with a kind of gasp and then her eyes flashed one frightened glace up at his face to see the effect of her words. But, if Sir Gerald felt any surprise at the strangeness of the request he showed none, and only said — ' Two thousand pounds, if you wish. Shall I write you a cheque now ?' Bride burst out crying, and hid her face in her hands. ' How I hate myself for having asked I'1 she sobbed. ' Oh, what can you think of me for asking for what I may never, never be able to pay back again ? But you were the only friend 1 had.' ' Hush I' he said quietly. ' Let there be no talk of paying back between you and me, Bride. 1 once said there is nothing I would not do for you — and I mean it, and consider it a proof of your trust in my words, your coming to me in your trouble. Now tell be about Aleck.' He placed her in the velvet arm-chair, 'and stood looking down at her with a strange expression on his face, as she leant forward thanking him in a broken, shaky voice for what he had'done. ' You have saved him,' she said, ' from ruin and disgrace. Poor Aleck, he dared not write to papa, and so he wrote to me, and said there was nothing to do but sell hip commission — he Wad debts on every side.' She stopped, and then went on, while the color mounted to her face — ' I showed no one the letter, and they do not know I came here to-night, and— and, if I send him the m«ney, Aleck would guess where I got it — and ? ' ' I will manage it for you,' said Sir Gerald. 'Don't .trouble youself, child; I will arrange it all so that Aleck will never know. Will that do ?' ' Oh, what can I do to thank you ?' responded Bride gratefully, looking up into his face with eyes f ulT of tears. ' You can do somethiag,' he said, sud denly coming forward and bending his eyes upon her. ' Be «my wife, Bride — little Bride. I have loved you long. Do you think you could be happy with your old friend to love and take care of you always?. Look up, child, and tell me. Will you be my wife ?' And with white lips Pride faltered ' I will,' though even as she did so another face rose up before her, and the hand Sir Gerald held turned cold as ice. It was a strange wooing; but Sir Gerald Haughton little thought that he had, bought his future wife for a thousand pounds ; that Bride, her heart filled with gratitude to her friend, dared not answer ',No,' when he asked her to give herself to him. He had been planning it so long that he never knew it fell like a thunder bolt upon Bride, whose young face turned, white to the lips as she lifted her eyes to his and realised how matters actually stood — that she had promised to marry Sir Gerald Haughton, and that her promise must be kept. ' I must go,' she said in a low, frightened voice. 'They will miss me at ' tiome.' J [To be continued.) '