|Chapter Title||THE LADY EATHLEEN.|
|Newspaper Title||Fitzroy City Press (Vic. : 1881 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||The Rival Claimants|
1Roveiigt. The Rival Claimants. By ItRS. HARRIET LEWIS. Autdor of " 7Te Suadrad H.ear?., i'. r" Bailtis Scheme," te Dauble Li f," Eto., Etc. CHAPTER II. THE LADY KATHLEM. The late Earl of Kildare, the father of. the Lady Nora, had inherited the title and estates of Kildare somewhat' lite in,, life, und had lived to enjoy his honors and possessions only three or four years. At the date at which we have introduced his daughter to our readers he had been dead a little more than a year. He had been married twice. His first wife, a lovely Irish lady, the mother of Nora; had died in. her daughter's child hood. He had niarried again, a year after coming into his title, his second wife 'the widow of w in Irish piee,, with a daughter some eight years the"8enior of of his own. This second wife had died two year. after her union with him. The dauzhter of the second Cnuntess of Kildare was the Lady Kathleen Connor, who while the strange interview between the rival claimants was proceeding in the breezy sea-side parlor, was strolling along the rocks to the northward of the castle, to-ping close to the water side, and ab sorbed in her own thoughts. The Lady Kathleen was in the prime .f a magnificent and statuesque beauty. the was tall and fair and large, with a uceenly figure and slow and stately move eruts. Her coumplexion was dazzlingly .th'te. and rendered fairer by contrast ith the black lace shawl ohehad flung e:,relessly over her light brown hair. Her eyes were blue-of the deep, rich, lovely blue, only to be found now and then in Irish eyes, and when once seen never to he forgotten.' She had been educated in France, and had mingled for years in English society, but a year after her m.-ther's marriage to Lord Kildare she had come to the castle, where alhe had since remained, to the creat surprise at her fashionable friends, who wondered that one sofitted bynature to adorn society could bear to bury herself it, the seclusion of a lonely Irish castle on ilonely Irish coast. Despite the differ ence in the ages of the two step-sisters, a warm attd fervid attachment had sprung ap between them, and Sir Russel Ryan, he guardian of the Lady Nora's fortune, leemed that she could have no better ruardian of 'ier person than the Lady Iathleen Conner. There was a shade of anxiety on the ?ly's face, as she walked on slowly, w,.,rhrd in her own thoughts, and a 'roulled look in her azure eyes that told if a strange and secret unrest. Presently she arrived at a low rocky oluff, and here she sat down, wrapping her lace shall closer about her, and looked with derelate eyes off upon the waters, upon which the twilight was softly closing down. A few'mtinutes later she was aroused from her reverie by the sound-of a quick, light-: tread approachit"g': hei7ovetr-thse rocks, frot 'the .di'ection'o f.ihe ,castle. She luooked up startled, . and glanced over her shoulder, recognising the new-oomer, as might be.judged -by the sudden flood of scarlet tinging her cheeks. "Lord Tresham I" she exclaimed, half " Yes. it's Lord Tresham l" retarned the ititriider, as' he' came on'with a apri'ning tread.' "I 'ciuld 'not"'leave Irelhiid, Lady; Kathleen, without'a last viil to you, an;d here,! am I", By this: time he had gained her side, and was holding out his hand to her. He was a' hatndsomte," noble-looking man, of some thirty years of age;'with a commanding figure, and a soldierly car riage that well h .ctame him. He was hn Enclishunan, had been bred a soldier, but having recently come into his title, had sold ott his commission as colonel. and retiied from the army. .His black beard was ct tshlrt. after the tmilitary fashion, giving a rather stern expresauon to his Equari-cut face, which sternneias was in part conntoerrted by the kindly gleam' in his grave, pleasnnt eyes. "' oa.n goin t, leave Ireland, wu.:,': akedt the L:uly Kathleen, the stt., et .,lii,i frms her heleks, leaving •?her strangely pale.
-"l-thinkI-hadbetter," returned Lord Tresham, with a heavy sigh. !I have been stayiiig about here for months, like a moth Sflutenffihgbot aicii/dle. 1 have wearied your patience, Lady Kathleen. and have lived a life of suspense and anxiety. The oidy way to recover my lostpe'ce is to go-away and never see ot again. And as I have decided to bny a commsusion in a marching regi ment, and," he added, with a forced. smile, " ' go where glory waits' me I" The Lady Kathleen sat down, trembl ing visibly, and put out her hand blindly. Lord Tresham took it in his. Its cold ness and tremulousness struck him. He sat down .beside her on the rocks, and bent forward, trying to peer into her averted face. "You 'will miss me, then, Kathleen ?" he whispered. "Miss yout, Oh, imy Lord--" Thed sweet. voie trembled, and gave way. Something vry like'a sob iscaped the Lady Kathleeni'a lips. For a moment Lord Tresham seemed amazed,; :Then .he started, .his grave, stern face softening and lighting up with a sudden glow. "Kathleen I Kathleen I' he cried, "'Can it be that, after all, my years of devotion have touched yoir heart ? Can it be that you repent your rejection of me, and that you really' le me? Oh, Kathleen,'say that it ia so I" He waited for her'answer in an agony of hope and fear. 'The two were so absorbed in each other that neither heard nor heeded the quiet approach of an elegantly dressed man who was also coming from the direc tion of the castle. He had gained the shadow of adjacent rocks, when Lord Tresham'slimpasaioned questioning arrest ed his attention. He came abruptly to a halt, listened to his lordship's words, swept a hasty glance around him, to assure himself that his movements were unmarked, and then quietly dropped down into the shadow of the rocks, crouching there in a position to hear and see all that passed between the lovers.: From the strange expression on his face, one would have thought'ihat he also was a lover of the Lady Kathleen, add that' had hated with a bitter hatred his noble rival. The Lady Kathleen 'did not reply to Lord Tresham's adjuration,: except by another irrepressible sob, but she did not withdraw her cold .hand from his, and his sudden hope was strengthened., ,"Speak to me, Kathleenl" he.i rged. 'Shall I tell you for the hundredth time I love you ? You are no coquette, Kathleen. You ire not t'ifling with ome Say that you are not." "Ne, I am not trifling'with you, Lord Tresham," answered the Lady Kathleen, in alow, fluttering voice. " I did not mean that you should ever know my secret, but-O Heaven'help me l-I love you I ?.. ." You love me I" cried Lord Tresham, half incredulously and wholly ecstatically. "You love me, Kathleen I", "Yes," she answered, drooping low her white face. "Iddo' love you,' Barry. Take the knowledge with you to India-" S"ToIndia I" interrupted Lord Tresh am, 'clasping her to his heart with a sudden aind uncontrollable impulse of love. "But I am aoing to stay with you, my love I my bride I" The Lady Kathleen struggled to free herself from his embrace, andthen looked up at him with wild and frightened eyes, and lips that quivered strangely. "Don't " she said, putting up one shaking hand feebly, as if to defend her self: "Don't speiak so. There is more" than ever need for you to go, Lord Trosham. I can never be more to you than I am now-never." "I do not understand you, Kathleen," said Lord Tresham, recoiling. " You will not understand me, Barry," she said, in a voice of anguish. "I shall never marry. There isa barrier between as-" "A barrier, Kathleen I You do not mean that you are engaged to ' marry another-that yon are not free." "No. Iamnfree." " Then what barrier should there be between us?5 .. The Tady Kathleean shuddered, and a moaning cry of' pain broke from her lips. ' "I cannot tell you, she answered.". "It is enough for:me to say that there is a 'secret in my life which I can never reveal-not even to you.' And that secret is the barrier between you 'and nie Barry Trisham. ' I'onuldnot go to you as your wifewith that 'secret untold. You see, therefore, thit we cannot be married." ZLrd 'Tresham released 'the hand he held;,`nd paced to and fro over the rocks a few moments in anxious thought,. pass ing very near to the spot where the un seen listener was crouching. His lordship was a proud man, stern in his uprightness and' fineseinse of honor, But his love was stronger thun his pride., TheLady Kathleen, 'watnhing him, saw the struggle that went on in his soul, and was not startled when presently he re turned' to her, and took her face gently between his hands and studied it with a long and yearning gaze. It was a pure as well as lovely face.' Every "delicate and 'noble feature' ex pressed an honest, upright soul. There was no guile in those wide, azure eyes; no guilt or shadow or wrong-doing about'the sweet, tremulous mouth. He felt that he could stake his soul upon her purity and goodnee. !' Kathleen," he said, and his 'voice thrilled her like strange 'music, "your secret is your own. I will neveriuk you what itis. 'But it is clear'to 'me that:lit hai-caused you suffering and'dread. "Isite notaol" "Yes," she ansiwered. "Itis like the sword of Damocles. Whenathe morning dawns I never know.what "Will befall me bef,,re night. My life is full of terrors." "Yot are not fit to-cope with them alone; Kathleen; .I will never ask you to confide thisebecret to 'me." But'I do ask you to give me the right to protect you and care for you. You love me, and I love you.: What,' then, should prevent our mariage ?" *'You would marry me, then,.knowing that I possess a terrible secret I can never shlare witl?h you-a secret which may yet be revealed, to coverme with shame and anguisit ?" Lord Tresham looked at her steadily, and answered, gravely: "Do not mention shame in the same breath with the name of Kathleen Cohnorl I can shield you from the world, and I will do it I L comprehend that this secret of yours has kept us apart all these years. It munst do so no longer. I am going to take your destiny into my hands, my poor Kathleen I We must he married, and at once I" "Impossiblel" murmured Kathleen, her face flushing. "There is nothing to prevent our marriae, Brry ; there is no legal barrier; but I oould aevar stand at
-your side with acrowd looking ea te witness our. marriage I , I coould not I" "We could be married quietly, then, Kathleen," said her ardent, generous lover. " These is a little old church over on the Scottish shore. You have often been there, and know the old priest well. My boat is on the shore, Kathleen-" :' No, no I" broke in the Lady Kath leen, shuddering anew, as if stung by sonme sudden remembrance of fear. "It cannot be, Barryl I I could never accept your generous sacrifice. The more I think of it, the plainer I see how im possible it is that we should be married r' " Then you must not be allowed to think long on the subject," said Lord Tresham, with an air of samling authority. "Kathleen, I've waited for you a long time, and now that I have won your love, I don't mean to lose you through any ovir-delicate scruples on your partli I mean to make you my wife at once! Kathleen, I trust you impllcitly.' I want you to trustin me, also, and show your trust." "How, Barry?" "' By to-morrow you will be yotur old cold self again, and will condemn-your self for what:you will call this night's weakness. I want you to put itit out of your power to send me away hnpelessand anguished.' In ihort, I want you to marry me to-night." The Lady Kathleen uttered an ezolama tion of amazement. "To-night!" she repeated. " To-night I" the watcher crouching in. the rocks whisperedhollowly. "Yes," answered Lord Tresham, firmly. "It is but an hour's sail across to the old Scottish church. We can go and return before you will be missed. The Lady Nora has company, and will not think of you. We will take your maid as a wit neseto our marriage. And whenyou are mine, Kathleen, we will come quietly back to the castle and tell our story to Lady Nora. The quietest way is the best way. I never did like pomp and cere mony at a marriage. Trust to me, Kath. leen, and do as say." The Lady Kathleen hesitated. She loved Lord Tresham with allthe fervorof her nature. There 'were reasons 'coi nected with her fearful secret that made her'dread any'public marriage; and his lordship's¶persuasions, urged withi'allthe tenderness of his great soul, iiolined her to yield. The end can be foreseen. The Lady Kathleen yielded.to his persuasions, al though with tears and trembling. S," Let us be off at once I" cried his lord ship, in rapturoas excitement.' "Go for your maid, Kathleen, rhileI get the boat ready. ' He pressed her to his bosom, kissing her repeatedly, and hurried down to the beach. The Lady Kathleen went to the castle; presently r wtunhing wrap'ped in a slawl, and attended by her maid. 'A few minutes later the lovers were out upon the' waters, on their way to the Scottish shore. The twilight had deepened into night, and the moon had riot yet arisen. , The boat went sailing away into the shadows, bearing the Lady Kathleen to a destiny whose good or evil fortune 'she could not yet know. Lord Trisham'a boat had beoone 'a mare' shadow, when the crouching spy crept out from behind the rooks, hurried down the beach, entered one of the castle boats, and sailed after the lovers. It was not yet midnight, when some three hours later the two boats landed within a few minutes of each other on the Scottish shore. The old church stood nearthe landing. Lord Treshamleft the L.ady -Kathleen and her maid in its prch; whilehe hastesed to'ths^'rlet'S. cottage. The sinister spy skulked in the shadow of the trees near the church, for the moon was rising. The minutes passed. At last Lord Tresham came back, full of happy exultation. Mr. Cowan, the priest, came behind him with the key of the church. The party entered. " We will be married in the moonlight," said Lord Tresham. " There are fisher men on the bedach, at a little distanice, and we do not want intrusion." The Lady Kathleen paused, looking up at him with sudden appealing. "You are sure you will never regret this ?". she asked. " Quite sure, Kathleen. I will never regret it. And, God helping me, you never shall." The Lady Kathleen'was reassured, and taking his arm, she suffered herself to 'be led into the church. It was dim and strange, 'the little cha ?b, full of diskylyhadows and spectral glbdms. The moonlight streamed in throuih the gay painted windows. At the further end of the vaulted room, behind his reading-desk, among' the deepest 'shadows, Mr. Cowan was standing, and on the pulpit stairs cronached the'figure of Lady Kathleen's maid. "They are waiting, you see, Kathlee,"' said Lord Tresham, as the two stole up the dim and lone!y aisle. "It will soon be over, darling.' A sudden panic seemed toseize the Lady Kathleen. " We need another witness," she whin' pered. "Why doesn't Miss Cowan come ofor her. I will wait in this pew until you return." LordTreeham obeyed, hurring out on hii errand. A 'minute or two later Miss Cowan silently entered the old church. And behind her came the figure of the spy who had crouched behind the rocks at Kildare, and who had followed the lovers across the Channel. There was a desperate purpose in this man's soul. In height and carriage he was not un like Lord Tresham, in the dim light. The Lady-Kathleen, in the darkness, and full of agitatlin, supposed him to be his lord ship.' She arose at his approach. The spy marked her movement with secret and terrible exultation. He had formed a bold, wild scheme, and he was determined to execute it. " Come,. Kathleen," he whispered. " We must lose no time." He offered her his arm, which was ac cepted, and they approached the dim and shadowy altar. Mr. Cowan began the marriage ceremony, for he, also, supposed the daring intruder to be Lord Tresham. "He'11 be none several minuttes longer." was the thought of the intruder. " He missed liss Cowan on the way. Before he returns, the Lady Kathleen will be my wife I" The marriage service proceeded. The Lady Kathleen's senses were in a whirl, vet a deep, strange joy began to pervade her being. The questions were asked and answered. And finally tie Lady Kath leen started from the delicious trance that held her trembling and frightened to hear the solemn words: "1 now pronoltcee you man and wife I And whom God has ?oined together let not man putasunder !' The words were yet ringing through the i?m seadows of the charmc, when the 6ridegroom stole his arm around the
bride's slender waist, and pressed upon her lips the bridal kis . At the same moment steps were heard at the church porch, and Lord Tresham came hurying in alone.::- . - A single glance at the two figures before the altar, and his lordship staggered back as if shot. "Kathleen 1' he cried.: . The Lady Kathleen, with a shriek of terror, sprang from the arms of her bride. groom. "Barry ". she erled. "Oh, myGodl" . "It is your husband, my lady I" said the sinister intruder, with a mocking vow. * (To bg Coinuend.)