|Chapter Title||SHARING CONFIDENCES.|
|Newspaper Title||Fitzroy City Press (Vic. : 1881 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||The Rival Claimants|
The Rival Claiiants. By I8S. IIARRIET LEWIS. Author of "The Sundered. Hearte," * The Badhy shcirn," **2eDoer-lLife," Etc., Etc. CHAPTER V. IARn'tOa coNYODeNcar. The nail back to Point Kildare was made iri a perfect silence on the part of the Lady Kathleen. Bssauntyne ad. dressued.her occasionally, buta she crouched in the stern of the boat, paying no heed to hii words, and not once turning her wild, despairing eyes upon him. The presence of Mary, the Lady Kathleen's maid, prevented any illusiona to the dread secret existing between the strangely, fraudulently wedded pair; and Baasantyne lapsed at last into a moody, sullen silence, which lasted until his boat grounded on the shore of Point Kil dare. Then the Lady KaIthleen, rejecting her bridegrooi's 'proffered assistance, arose and clambered out of the boat. At the same moment Lord Thresham's sloop rounded into the little cove. The Lady Kathleen paused a moment in the moonlight, on the rocks, turning her wild, white face toward her lost lover. She waved her hand to him, and moved slowly away toward the castle, followed by her maid. "One word. Kathleen 1" cried Bassan tyne, following her. " I have much to say to you-much to explain. I must see you alone for a few minutes-" TheLadyKathleen turned, confronting hinm with a desperate face. "Notto-night," sho said. "The hour is late. I do'not care for your explan atiuns. It is enough for me to know that you are stillliviong. Had I known that, I should not have been mad enough to dream of marriage with Lord Thres ham. And yet I might have known it," she added, bitterly, " by my instinctive dread of a public marriage with his lord ship." "I should have thought you had had enough of private marriages l" sneered Basoantyne, as her ladyship's faithful maid, with native delicacy, moved on to ward the castle. The Lady Kathleen started as if shot Her face grew even paler and deathlike in its expression. Yet she possessed saif icient self-command to say, with an on natural calnmess: `.We will let our interview end here. If you have anything further to say '.to me, you must call at the castle, during suitable hours, and like other visi torn." Bassantyne frowned darkly, then laughed softly, whale his eyes glittered evily. SIndeed!" he said, jeeringly. "And what is to prevent me, my lady, from go ing intothe castle with you now ? I am your laIwful huisband, 'as that snivelling maid of yours can testify. Were sy wife stays, her husband should be welcome. I think S will go in with you, and claim the huspitolity of this' peerless Lady Horn-" Tire Lady Kathleen's blue eyes were all afamoe reminding one of lightningsa speed ing through an azure sky. "You will follow me to the castle at your peril," she ejaculated. ' So sure as you ask for me at the castle doors as your wife, I will have you soundly horsewhip' ped by the servants. You know that what I say I mean." Basanttyno uttered an imprecation. He believed her. - "U nderstand that this fraudulent nmar rirge of to-night does not alter the state of affairs between us," continued the Lady Kathleen, haughtily. "' You con proclaim our marriagea tithe ends of the earth, if you choose. 'I shall not contradict' you. 'lit, thderrtthd o,'tirat-t dimarriage netween usii a i a' mirdejije only in name. Woshtill'laever be more to each other than weare ait this moment." She mioved away abruptly, and hurried to the castle. Her maid was waiting for her by a private garden door, and the two enaneed the dwellisg. Lord Threaham had beheld this inter. view from tlre.rldeck of his sloop, ready to interfere for thle Lady Kathleen's protec tion, when need, 'and he now watched the castle with keen and eager scrutiny, 'until a sudden gleam of. light from an upper chamber announied that her ladv shit. 'had gained her room., Then ihe rained his. sail again, and moved out intor tihe channel, proceeding to the north.' ward. Niro lBasantyne showed no haste to depart. He lrrnged arbodt the rocks and in and out iof the shadows of the trees, and mutteroe' to hinmselffas he watched the light gleaming.from n ,upper win now : S hni'll bedoin again to see m0el Don't I know her pride and her terrors I She knows that I Ihavre no nice scruples, and thisa Iwould ask inothing better than to lumrbl heir hIaurhlty soul I Sihe knows that 'n suy Ihands she is like a mouse in acat's paws She'll be on her knees tome pre netJl "
But though he waited long and confi dently, he waited in vain. He walked down to the little Gothic chapel, half hid among. tho trees,' and sauntered back again he showed.himself boldly on the shore; and once or twice approached the garden door; and the hours passed, and still ohe did not come. The light died out from the upper window,andthe ocastle was eheoudedoat last in darkness and gloom. " Ourse her I" muttered Bassantyne, as the conviction forced itself upon him that his vigil was useless. " She means to defy me ! WVe'll see what she'll make' at that gamel She'll find me a very tiger nowi I'1 bend her spirit, or Illi break it Nothing shall stand between me and the goal towards which I'm pressing. The Lady Kathleen and her fortune shall both be mine!" He set his lips together in a'grim, hard. expressiom, pushed off his boat, leaping into it, and sailed moodily away, taking his course to the northward, to ward Baltycastle, where he had taken lodgings. 'The stately roof of Ksldare Castle sheltered' that night two anguished girlish faces, two despairing young heartis SAnd it also sheltered one soul as darkly exulting as that of Bassantyne-that of the rival claimant of IKildare. Neither of the two step-sisters slept. Both spent the long, restless hours in thinking of their lovers, between whom and themselves obstacles so insuperable Yet nothing in the looks or' maner of either, when the two girls met in the breakfast room the next morning, betrayed their secret terrors and anxieties. The breakfast room was an octagon shaped apartment, fronting the sea. Its walls were softly tinted with the faintest flush, and were hng with pictures framed in gilt. A white and red mottled carpet, surrounded by a gay, wide border, covered the floor. The regularity of the walls and angles was broken by an immense pro jecting window which overhang the rocks and the sea, and commanded wide views to' the eastward, and to the north and south. The sashes of this window were open, and the pleasant morning breeze breathing September coolness-swept into the apartment, filtering through the hang ing baskets of flowers, and filling the room with fragrance. The round table in the centroof the room was covered with snowy damask, and glittered with sparkling crystal and silver. The furniture, uphol stered in scarlet leather with gilt nails, added to the cheery, reastheticlook of the room. Where all was bright and sunny, yet pleasantly cool, it seemed as if heavy hearts must be unknown. The Lady Nora was first in the room. In her dainty white morning dress and rutffled black silk apron, she presented a lovely picture of the young mistress of the household. She had justcome in from a ramble in the gardens and conservatory, and was now binding together a bunch of frogrant blue violets, inclosing them in a sheath of geranium leaves which one of the hanging baskets afforded. Site was thus engaged when the Lady Kathleen entered the room. She was looking pale, but at sight of her young step-sister she assumed an artifcial gayety that could have deceived no one less pre occupied than the Lady Nora. " Always busy, Nora I" she exclaimed with assumed lightness, kissing the wist ful, upturned face, and failing to notice the brooding sorrow in the sunny brown eyes. "I do believe nature intended you to be a poor man's wife-I do, indeed. Here you are with the best houseseeper in all Ulster, who has lived in the family these thirty years, and you will persist in overseeing ,natters yourself, and knowing all the servants, as well as every person on the estate. I saw you from my window, about an hour ago, directing the gardener." "Yes," returned the Lady Nors, with an involuntary quiver of her sweet, spirited mouth. "I want to make the most of my privileges while they remain to'me. Bythe way, Kathleen," she said, turning the conversation abruptly, "you were out late last evening. I did not hear you come in." The Lady Kathleen's fair face flushed "Yes, I was out late," she answered. "I came in very quietly, not to disturb you.; But what 'do you mean, Noesra, when yon say you want to make the most of year privileges while they remain to you? Has Larry O'Neil proposed at last, and are you thinking that you won't be just as much mistress of Kildare when you write your name Nora O'Neil 1" "1 wish my troubles were as childish as that would be," said Nora, looking drearily out on the waters of the channel. " You cannot imagine whathas happened, Kathleen, so I will tell you. We have 'a ueat He came last night, and I ex pect him to make his appearance every intant-" "A guest, Nora?" " Yes. He claims to be the eon of my uncle Redmond, and calls himself Lord Redmond Kildare. He announced him self, in fact, as the true heir of Point Kildare." The Lady Kathleen wasat onde startled and shocked: "Why have you allowed him to re main here over night, Nora ?" she asked: "He must be an impostor I"' "I wish I. could think so. He has proof enough of the truth of his aseer tions. He brouight me a letter from MichaelKildareconfirming his assertions; It seems that Michael has known the story all along, and has kept It secret, hoping the young man would never dis cover the truth, in which case Mr. Kil dare did not intend to enlighten him I - I can trust Michael, fiathleen I He is one of my guardians, being associated with Sir Itussel Ryan. He regards me with a father's affection, and I have had too many profs of his love andpride in me to doubt that this discovery has cost his many pangs. But right is right, Kath leen. If this stranger in entitled to Kildare, he must have it. When the last shadow of a doubt is removed in my mind, and when my guardians have decided in this ms's favor, I shall resign everything to him. Butit's hard,' Kath leen-" "I won't believe in the man'a claims i" asserted the Lady Kathleen, impetuously. "H~eis acme poor impoetor. Of cosres: It would ho tntdness to doubt tite words' or the lore of Mr. Kildare, but the letter from him might have been forged. You oughttutelegaph to him and SirRussel this morning..' '"'Mr. Kildare says in his letter 'thlt he. will be here with Sir Russel in a dtv or two. I can only wait, Kathleen. If they do not arrive to-day, I will telegraph to both I" "And meanwhile 'this impostor musg remain here." Before the Lady Nora could reply, the door opened, and the subject of their conversation entered the room.
Seen by daylight, Lord Riedmond,, or Mr. Kildare, as we may call him for the present, was much more propoaseossing inappearance. His resemblance to the Kildare family was more than ever striking. The Lady Kathleen, acknow ledging the introduction performed by the Lady Nora, was impressed by his strong likeness to the family of which he claimed to be the heir and chief repre sentative, and her heart sank within liher with a sudden dread that his claims might be verified. "I am pleased to meet the Lady Kathleen Connor," observed Mr. Kildare, taking the seat at the table which the Lady Nora indicated to him. "I have heard that she was formerly a great belle in London and on the Continent, and that she attracted marked attention at thse French court a few years since. I cannot wonder at it since I have seen her," he added, gallantly, and with a Chesterfieldian bow. The Lady Kathleen acknowledged the compliment gravely, and he was en couraged to resume, more lightly. "of coarse, these little facts have come to my ears only recently. I knew nothing of society. Its charmed halls have been closed to me. Until a month since I was in complete ignorance of my real history and rights, and was a humble student at Gray's Inn, London, looking forward to the time when I should be in the active practice of my profession. How that has all changed I But to return to what I wan aying, Lady Kathleen, tMr. .~iljlare'toli.me how' you hjd lived with the Lady Nore as an elder shster; and how your affection for her bordered upon the romantic. You may he sure that the grim old Dublin lawyer appreciates your affection for his . darling Lady Nora." " Mr. Kildare is very much attached to, his young cousin," observed the Lady Kathleen, coldly, as she sipped her coffee. " He idolizes her !" exclaimed Mr. Kildare, enthusiastically. " If I had not been in possession of so many proofs of my identitjr, he would have denied it even to me. Notwithstanding he wrote a letter containilng a plain statement of facts to the Lady Nora, he was in a state of the keenest distress when left him. I dare say he will be here to-day, his anxiety being so great." No one replied to this remark, and'a silence fell upon the little group, which was broken only by the necessary courtesies of the table. Redmond Kildare bestowed frequent furtive glances upon the slight figure' behind the coffee urn, and upon the grave, proud young face, which 'was witching and piquant, even with, the shadowa upon it. His glances expressed a keen and growing admiration, which the keen-eyed Lady Kathleen did not fail to notice. Her misgivings began to deepen. , ' "There is a deeper trouble still in store for Nora," she thought. "This man has a terrible iwill. ' I would not like to wrong him even' in thought, but I believe he is as unscrupulous at heart as Bassantyne. It is a strange fatality that gives to both Nore and me enemies so singular." As if reading her thoughts, Redmond Kildare exerted himself suddenly to; be come agreeable, and uttered compliments of the step-sisters until even their well. schooled faces declared to him their annoyance. Then he talked, after a rattling, joyous fashion, of Dublin and Mr. Michael Kildari, of London and his mother, and discoursed epeculatively on the chances that had existed of his be. coming a barister,. and living and dying in ignorance of his rightful heritage. The breakfast over, he arose, and said: " If you will excuse me now. ladies, I will take a walk over the estate. I am an Englishman in my love of walking, and would ask no greater pleasure than a stroll under the trees shading the wide avenue that encircles the island. I may as well be getting acquainted with 'my future possessions, and with my future tenantry. Point Kildare is a princely heritage, and I am the most fortunate of heirs." He bowed and withdrew. The step-sisters looked at each other with agitation when he had gone, and they found themselves alone together. "He has the Kildare features," said the Lady Kathloeen, bitterly, '" but he has neither delicacy nor good breeding.' There was all the coarseness and rvul garity of a small soul in his exhultation over his good fortune just now." "You noticed the resemblance, then l" asked Lady Nors. " It is impossible to avoid noticing it., Even the butler and other servants re marked it. They would have known he was a Kildare if you hadn't called him so. But he must not win his triumph too easily. If your guardians, will think it, best, I advise yon to carry this case into the courts. Idislike the man excessively." " And I feel, when he is watching me, as if I were in the presence of some loathsome. glittering snake," shuddered the Lady Nora. "Kathleen, I am afraid of him." "Tell me," said the Lady Kathleen, after a moment's pause, "has he suggested that any compromise is possible 1" ''Yes. He said something about a com promise, but he did not explain." "Ah! You will hear his explanations sooner or later, for I fancy he would pre for the compromise to a full and complete possession. You will know what he has on his mind soon enough. And it the worst comes, Norn, darling, you will never be poor while Kathleen Conner lives. I have a fortune of my own that my father left me, and when your own is taken from you, I shall settle the half of mine on you." "No, no, Kathleon, my generous sister. I would not accept it. I want only what is my own. Besides," she added, with an attempt to apeak archly, " what would Lard Tresham nay 1" The Lady Kathleen arose and went to the window, holding her agitated face in the midst of the greenery of an ivy basket. "O, Nora I".sh said, in a voice that went to the Lady Nonra's heart. "Itsall over ibelueen Barry and me-" "Kathleen I WYhat can you mean ?" The youthful Lady of Kildare sprang froon'rher" chair and' ran to her step sisntr, furgetting her own sorrmws in this newer grief tier lovely face expreased tlhe tenderest sympathy, the keenest asixiety. - "Oh, Knthleen I" she cried, as Kath leen did not onswer. "What is the mat. t.rh' Have you and Lord Tresham qudir " Oh, no, no! Would it were oinly a quarrel that lies between us!" moaned the l.ady KIithlikn. 'If you haven't quarrelled, why. then, are you breaking your heart, Kathleen? Tell me alt about it I" auked hie Lady Noer, with an air of nraro and gentle authority. "Are you going to begin to have secrets for eie ?" (To be contianed.) Don't forget Rae Johnstone's benest, on Tuesday next.