|Newspaper Title||Fitzroy City Press (Vic. : 1881 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||The Rival Claimants|
--------1Ro~el st. The Rial - Claimants. By IRS. HARRIET LEWIS. Authos of I" Ti Su'dered Hearts," " 'Td Bailifs Shemei" " TheDouble Lifc," Etc., Etc. CHA'PTERVIT .-(CONTINUED.) Lord O'Neil arose and walked up and down the path before his guest. His face was pale, a sare sign that a struggle was going on his heart. Glancing around him, he saw that no one was near, and he came to a pause before the girl, trying to catch a glimpse into her downcast face. "Nora!" he said, his voice tremulous with feeling. "Nora, look up at me !" The young girl raised her drooping head, to meet a glance of fire from his glorious eyes, and an expression on his noble face that thrilled to her very soul. "Nora," said Lord O'Neil, "I've kept silent till now because you were rich. and I was poor and in debt. But now that poverty threatens you, too, I mayspeak withoet dishonor. 0, Nora! Nora darling ! Nora mavourneen! I love you ! I love you ! Let this storm that has eassailed you drive you to the shelter of my breast! Let me be your protector and husband ! Nora, will you give yourself to me? When you leave Point Kildafe, will you come to Glen O'Neil as its honored mistress, as my wife ?" His impassioned tones, his eager, passionate eyes, his impetuous manner, brought a flood of happiness to' Nora's heart. Her sunny eyes fell, her piquant face flushed to carmine, and a shy sweet smile quivered about her lips. "Speak to me, Nora," pleaded The O'Neil, half stooping, half kneeling be fore her, and trying to look up into her face.. "Can'tyou love me. Nora, mavour . isn sme'who'hav loved 'yo?L' all these years, and who have dreamed night and day of the hour when 1 might tell my love? Speak to me-" " Let my face speak for me I" whispered Nora. And then she shyly lifted her young face, so sweet, so tender, so bright, so happy, and the full revelation of it, and in her shy, sweet eyes, were an answer a thousand-fold more delightful than Lord O'Neil would have dared to hope for. In an instant he was seated on the bench beside her, her hands in his, her little head softly fluttering down to his shoulder. For a few moments a delicious silence fell between them. Then the song of some bird near at hand aroused Nora from her soft trance, and she started up, nill blushes and confusion. "Don't-don't kiss me again, Larry," she whispered. "' Ah, now-" This last utterance was one of tender reproach, for Larry, interpreting her injunction to suit himself, had stolen another caress from her rosy mouth. "Yeou are so aggravating, Nora, darl ing," said her lover, by way of excuse. AAnd it's all so new to me, tool An hour ago I should as soon have expected to be kissing the queen as you I And I want to make the most of my new privileges. The next time I see you it may be in the presence. of others, and you'll be so stately and cold I shall find it liard to believe there's a warm and true little heart under your haughty manner-" "I won't be haughty to you, Laurence. I shall never forget that I am going to belong to you some day. But I am not sure but I am wronging you in promising to marry you. You ought to have a rich" wife-" "And so I shall have, Nora, mavnur. neen. My bride will be rich in goodness, sweetness and beauty. I might say you ought to have a rich husband, but I am not so generous. I have no grandeurs to offer you, Nora, onlylovo and tenderness, but these will never fail. I know best of any one what the place is, and how un fitted the old hall is for a dainty young mistress; but it shall be repaired.if I have to repair it with my own hands. 'I am becoming a working farmer, Nora. I put my pride in my pocket the day I inherited my title, with this dreary worn out estate, and I have vowed to myself to make the Glen blossom some day like a rose-to render these acres fruitful, and restore Castle Ruin to its former glory." ".You willsucceed, Laurence, know." "I intend to," answered Lord O'Neil, with quiet determination. "I am al ready making good progress. I have sold off the lower oak wood to a speculator, who will pay me a handsome price, and remove the trees himself. And with the moneyI got from that source I shall re-, pair the old house and stables, buy a hprse or two, get all the new-fangler ploughs and farm machinery, and drain the marshthis side the bog. In'one: year's time you won't know the place.; And in ten years, Nora, I hope to clear theaestate of debt' and stand up a free man. It may tae longer than that, but I mean to be industrious and economical,, though not mean, Ndra,"he added; with asmile. "Bublthie crirsict of cltie.
oat of debt has teeco ao a mania with me.' " I wish I' coulc have helped you in your labors 1" sighed Nora. " But I may not come to you utterly penniless, Larry. Mr. Kildare-I can't call him Lord 'Kil dare yet-said something about a com promise. He may give me what papa would have willed to me could papa have foreseen this rival claim. There are railway stocks and bank stocks and mine shares which belonged to papa entirely and exclusively, and it may be these Mr. Kildare proposes to give over to me." Lord O'Noil'a bright face clouded a little. "Likely it is that," he said. "'Mr. Michael Kildare, who is so fond of you, will protect your rights. Yet I could wish, Nora, that you were coming to me dowerless, or rather dowered only with the riches nature has given you. I do not like to be thought a fortune-hunter-" "Do you mean to imply that people would think it odd that any one should want to marry me if I had no money?" said Nora, gayly. "Ah, stop now, Larry I Mrs. Kelly is coming, with O'Lafferty." She arose from the bench and began busily plucking a bouquet from a bed of gorgeous dahlias, in which task Lord O'Neil assisted her. They were thus engaged, the sunlight glinting on the girl's rippling waves of floating tresses, and upon Larry's tawny hair, when good Mrs. Kelly, leaning upon the arm of the portly and conse quential steward, came in sight. Nora finished her bouquet, and -an nounced her intention of departure. OLafferty, obeying her command, hastened to bid Shane bring the horses to the front door. The lovers slowly retraced their stops through the garden, crossed the terrace, and strolled through the sunshine to the front door, where they found Shano, O'Lafferty, the horses and the dogs in waiting. The Lady Nora mounted lightly from her lover's hand. Mrs. Kelly climbed into her saddle by the horse-block, and clutched her fat hands into her pony's mane. Shane sprang to his saddle. "I shall ride over to Kildare this evening," whispered Laid O'Neil, as he adjusted the Lady Nora's foot in her stirrup. "I have somnething to say to your guardians, Nora, mavourneen, and you can, guess what it is." He pressed herhand,and, blushing and smiling, the Lady Nora, in a happy con fusion, broke from him, and galloped down the elm-arched road. Mrs. Kelly and Shane and the dogs followed rapidly. And the girl sped on with a light heart in spite of all her anxieties. The clouds that lowered above her head seemed to shut out all hope and gladness only an hour or two before, and now the glorious bow of hope spanned her path, and made life radiant and glorious. It was worth much sorrow and many pangs to be so happy as this. Lord O'Neil stood gazing after her with enraptured glance. His kindling face, his passionate glances, betrayed his secret to his faithful steward. and O'Lafferty, not being troubled with bash fulness, did not hesitate to break in upon the lover's trance. " She's a bonny lady, the Lady of Kil. dare!" he said. "The man that she marries can eat wedding cake every day in the year, begorra ! Good luck to herbright, sweet eyes I And it's a long purse she has. that'll reach from here to Dublin, and she's generous as the sun. With a purse like hers to put Glen O'Neil in its glory, and to make Castle Ruin Castle Splendid, and with her lovely face to :light up tho drawing-rooms,.e eould oistshiseo any nobleman in Ireland. She'll marry some day, I does be thinking," he added, with a long sigh and a sly glance at his young master. "I wonder who the bridegroom will be 1" Lord O'Neil turned hishappy eyes and glowing face upon his faithful attendant. He had not heard half O'Lafforty had said, but the steward had been his ardent worshipper from childhood, and it was his impulse to share his secret with him now. " I know who she'll marry, Shamus." he exclaimed. "It's a secret yet-but she has promised to marry me." Without waiting to hear OLafferty's excited and rapturous comments and congratulations, the lover turned back into the flower-garden, and gave himself up to his happy thoughts. CHAPTER VIII. ToE NEW CL.AEuW PRaseuas. The young Lady Nora was un usually silent as she rode slowly along the road that wound through Glen O'Neil and out upon the coast high way. There was no gayety now in looks or manner, but instead, a soft, brooding tenderness, a shy happiness, that deep ened the exquisite beauty of her piquant little face. Her sunny eyes shone with a radiant gladness now that contrasted strongly with their gloom of the earlier morning. Shane was as silent as his mistress, and Mrs. Kelly, only too delighted at being permitted to ride quietly, took good care not to arouse her young mistress from her reverie. The hounds were clamorous and noisy as ever, but their deep baying now and then was neither heard nor heeded by the Lady Nora. The little cavalcade was nearly an hour in reaching the draw-bridge of the Kile dare Cut-off, after leaving Castle huin. The Lady of Kildare aroused herself at this point and dashed over noisily, tihe hounds baying loudly at her horse's heels. She was about to turn into the wide avenue encircling the island, and proceed homeward. with - her customary speed, when the old bridge-keeper moved into her path, intercepting her progress. He was a white-haired old man, large of face and of figure. He was one of the faithful retainers of the family, and the Lady Nora loved him as one loves the familiar landmarks about a cherished home, as well as for his many virtues. He was a little bent with the rheumatism and with age, and now leaned heavily upon a massive black thorn crutcilh. A scar across Is ruddy forehead and a discoloration under one of his eyes caught the attention of his young mistress. "What does this mean, Donnis ?" she demanded, in surprise, reining in her horse. "'You have not been fighting ?"a The bridge-keeper came nearer to her, his' features working with grief. "It's that visitor at the castle, my lady," he answered, in a choking voteie. "'He knocked me down with his fist, and struck me with his horsewhip-" , The Lady Ndra's brown eyes flashed with indignant 'fire. Controlling. her anger. with a:'strong effort, she ex claimed:. .. S'What did:you do or say to him to call forth such brutality I" ' (To~ ie Csdnr~lbistsd