Chapter 65654291

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Chapter NumberIII
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Full Date1891-05-08
Page Number4
Word Count1475
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleFitzroy City Press (Vic. : 1881 - 1920)
Trove TitleThe Rival Claimants
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THE RIVAL CLAIMANTS. CHAPTER III. APIER THE S(RANOE MARRtAO. For a moment that seemed to each like an eternity, Loid Treshman and the Lady Kathleen.regarded, each other through the deiep gloom-of the lonely Scottish church in an appalled and awful silence. The Ipriest crept down from his desk and stood in-the background of the group, Spale with sudden alarm. . His sister and her ladyship's maid drew also silently nearer. But the figure of the strange and sinister intruder who had usurped Lord Tresham's place at the altar and tricked him of his bride, did not change in his attitude of triumph. The pale, faint gleams of moon light that stole in through the dim and dusty windows showedthroogh the thick bahadows. themeyinyaxs ,n meilo.thaL. corved his lips, overspread' his face, and gleamed mockingly from iii ayes. Lord Tresham as yet paid no heed to this man. He had eyes only for the bride who had been stolen from him-for the white and 'trembling Kathleen, whose anguished, incredulous face was turned to him in desperate pleading and despair. " What does this mean ?" his lordship asked at last, in a strange and husky voice, breaking the terrible silence. "Speak, in Heaven's name, Kathleen l" "Idon't know l" answered the Lady Kathleen, in a wild, broken voice. "1 thought it was ycu, my lord. Until you came in, I had not detected the cheat. The church was so dark, and I was so agitated, and I looked for no one but yon-" His lordship set his eth together, and drew his breath hard. He turned abruptly from the Lady Kathleen to the priest. "How is it, Mr. Cowan. " he asked, still in that husky voice. "Is-is her ladyship married .r Mr. Cowan, a naturally timid man, who was overwhelmed with distress at the strange turn affairs had taken, bowed his head in assent. There was a moment's pause. Then his lordship spoke again. "Is the marriage legal?" he asked. The Lady Kathleen lifted her drooping head with a thrill of reviving hope. The priest hesitated, then replied in a distressed voice: "This is a terrible situation, my lord. Idon't know what relief the laws of Eng land will yield her ladyship, but I nam con strained to say that I believe this nmar riage to be legal." A low mocking laugh c2me from the strange bridegroom. That laugh aroused the tiger in the breast of the cheated lord. He was tempted to spring upon Iis enemy in a deadly assault, but he csontrolled his pas. sions with a powerful effort, and address. d himself again to the clergyman. "Does not the fact that this miscreant impersonated me invalidate the mar riage I" he asked, with supernatural calm ness.. "The lady had' no inteition of marrying him, and even the Scottish law cannot hold her bound I" "I have never known a case just like this," said the clergyman, " but marriages are valid when one of the contracting parties conceals his or her identity under an assumed name, the other party believ ing the name to be the true one. In this ecse we have a gross fraud, but I firmly believe her ladyship to be legally bound." " I do not I" cried Lord Tresham. "No law can uphold this fraud and deceit. The Lady Kathleen will never drag this experience linked with her name into a divorce court. She repudiates his fraudu lent marriage. It shall be as if it had not been. We will take our places before tho altar, and you shall marry us now-" "I cannot!" interrupted the priest. nith agitation. "'I dalre not, my lord I The Lady Kathleen is already married. Let her seek justice at the proper tri. bunal. To marry again. with thes nmar riage ;:snannuilld, would be to commit big my." Again the sinister bridegroom laughed mockingly. Lord Tresham turned abruptly upon his enemy, and for the first time looked at hint fully, keenly and squarely. Until this moment hs had been so absorbed in the wreck of his happiness, and in his own and the Lady Ktthleen' despair, as to pay but little heed to hint who had wrought all this misery. But now he seemed to arouse himself like a lion from a tratce. The light in the dim old cltu:oel was so faint and gloomy that he could not make oistthe man's features distinctly. But he saw that he. was tall and mtosstly built, with a heavy, massive frame that seemed a perfect torehouse orf strength. Like Lord Tresham, the tman was attired in black. His face. seeo indlietinctly through the gloom, was not unliske that of the man .ise had ss, foully tsrsmsated. Lord Tresh!?m moved a step nearer to him, a paIsionate fury whitening his face and glowintg fierily in his gyres. " This matter is to be settled between you and mte. then?" cried his lordship, 'ie cely.. . 'teri"ilril, na'eil -tonapp-altu - the law. I will.undertoke torid.theLady'l Kathleen of your claiml--" " Not here !" interrupted the clergy man, in a pansic. "Do not't profane the house of .Gi by unseemly violence. Come with me to the manse, and we will discu-a's the matter atd see what can be done. Let me conduct you, my poor Lady Katlhleen." He gave his arm to the Lads Kathleen, who clung to it, shrinking close to ,his. side; ansd he then led her from the chulch. Lord Tresham walkcd at" Kathleen's other side as sne having the right. Close behind him came Miss COwan and the Lady Kathleen's maid, and the sinister man who had wrought so asuch evil. But once outside the old cliurch and be yond the church-yard, Lord Tresham halted abruptly on the moonlit.. sward, and faced his enemy with a face so white and stern and savage that the LadyKath -leen also came to a h:lt. ititering;a low cry of terror. iss, Cowvan echohed the -Thiis is no place for you,"' said MIr. Cowa., aldrcssing his ~idetcr. " Go hack Sto tihe manso, asls take hler lidyshlp's Smasid with you." _ :" Miss C,,an nbhyrdc and walked-away

accompanied by the L dy Kathleens maid. The chief actors in ihelittle tragedy were thus left to themsel es. "Now, sir," cried " ,ord Tresham, fiercely, advancing a few steps nearer his enemy, "we will settle tlWe matter. But first tell me who you are." His eyes fairly blazed as they acruti nized the face of Kathle. n's bridegroom. His lordship had been fo: three years her ladyship's constant suitor and had known all her London friends. Yethe hadnever seen this man before. Her acquaintance with him, he rapidly thought, must have been very secret, or of a remote date. His fierce gaze photographed the man's face upon his soul forever. It was an evily handsome face, and as different from Lord Tresham's, now when plainly seen in the moonlight, as dark ness is different from light. .Except in the dark old church; under circumstances of peculiar agitation and anxiety, he oould never have passed himself off as Lord Tresbam. He was dark-browed, with black hair, bold,black eyes, a sallow complexion, wicked-looking mouth, half hidden in the forest of black beard which fell in chaggy lengths low on his breast. This heard he had carefully tucked under the lapel of his coat when he entered the church; but it now made its escape, constituting one of his most prominent features. "If you wish to know who I am, my lord," he said, "I have already told you that I am the husband of the Lady Kath leen Conner. If I had not been married to her to-night, but had simply appeared at your bridal, my very anreence mu-st have prevented your ariiage iag t hibr. If you desire further information in regard to me, permit me to refer you to my charming bride. Kathleen I" Hespoke her name imperiously. Some thing in his tones seemed to touch some hidden chord in her ladyship's soul. She started from Mr. Cowan's arm, and looked up wildly, as she might have looked upon one who had risen from the grave. " Nicol l"she faltered, recoiling several paces, her face whitening with an awful horror. "My God I Nicol Bassantyne 1" "Nieol Bassantyne, at your service I" said her bridegroom, his evil face all aglow with exultation. "You seem sur prised to see me, Kathleen I" The Lady Kathleen uttered a wailing, anguished cry. "Alive!" she whispered. "I thought you were dead I Oh, Heaven l pity me l" She tottered back, clinging to the arm of the priest for support. Her lovely face was blanched to a dtath pallor. Her blue eyes were full of wild horror. Lord Tresham forgot his own anguish and wrongs in her utter misery. (To be continued.)