|Chapter Title||THE INACOCRATION OF WAR.|
|Newspaper Title||Fitzroy City Press (Vic. : 1881 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||The Rival Claimants|
t~ovelett. The Riyal Claimants,. By MRS. HARRIET LEWIS. Author of " The Sundertd Hearts." " 71, Basilif Sc esem," "lTe Doable LZ," • "- - -L - -.- - . -CHAPTER XIV. I. THE NAtO?rATtIO OF Wln: The utter consternation of the Lady Nora'siguardian and suitor at her unex pected appearance, and at the revelation that she had been a listener to their con fidential interview, can be more easily imagined than described. Lord Kildare uttered an oath. The lawyer became deathly pale, and leaned, trembling and appalled, against the closed door. A strange look came over his face-a look of terror, anauish and awful dread. His semall, slight figure seemed to shrink within itself, and to contract into smaller space. His thin hands worked nervously together. "You-you nave been in the alcove all the time, Nora ?" he asked, in a quiver ing voice. "I have," the young girl answered. " You have heard all we have mid ?" "All, Michael I know that you have intercepted my letters to Lord O'Neil, ald his to me. I know that you have opened those letters and read them. I know now that yot are without honor, and that. you are false and cruel and treacherous. And I loved you so, Michael I cave you a daughter's re verence and affection. I thought your gentle ways, your meek and quiet man ner. the expression of a refined sold. And I find them the cloak of a bold and scheming nature. , Oh, Michael I" The big brown eyes were hidden now with. tears. The sweet young face, pale and grave, was convulsed with anguish. The scarlet mouth quivered with an in finite pain. The false guardian reeled under her words as if she had struck him a deadly blow. "'I know now," said Nora, "that I oughtto have contested this man's claims to Point Kildare. Sir Russel and Mr. Wedburn have been misled by you, ,Miehasl. But my: error is not irrepar able. :I shalt start forEnland to-night, -within the`bour;'and-tell him?al"n-h-r o overheard. I shall go back to Castle Kil dare as its mistress. The tenants you, Redmond "ildare, have ill-treated, will defend me in my occupation of the esadle until thelawproclaims my rights. Jus tice shall be done. My father's.inherit ance shall not go to one who hasm-o right to it." She spoke proudly and firmly, but with a stern sadness that looked terrible on a face so young and lovely, so formed for joyous expression. " By Heaven ! she will ruin us!" cried Redmond Ki'dare, in wild alarm. These words were like a trumpet-call to the old lawyer. Helifted his anguished face and drooping figure, and strove to command himself. "Spare me, Nors," he pleaded.. " What good can it do you to expose me ? You can never prove the truth of your a sections.. I shall deny them, There's: not a man in Dublin who has a better re-: putation for probity than I. No one will believe you- - " SirtORssel will But I shall seek, not' to expose your treachery, but to regain. my rights,"said the Lady Nora, half-con temtpttously. " I intend to submit this question to a jury-who shall be the vner of Kildare ?" IRedmond uttered an ejaculation of aarm. The lawyer succeeded in gaining his 'elf-command. He .locked the door 'ituietly, and put the key in his pocket. . desperate look gleamed from his eyes. [is face grew stern and rigid in ,its ex .oression, losing all its softness, meekness a,,d rentleness. '. You throw downthe gauntlet,Nora?" 'e said ; "you mean war?" "Imean to recover my inheritance," 'aid the Lady Nora, firmly. '' Stand aside, Michael Kildare. I desire to leave this room." "That you cannot do," declared her guardian. "You cannot goout frombere until we have come to some settlement of this business.. Seeing that matters have been forced to an issue you will have to give me your word of honor that you will marry Redmond Kildare--" .. "If Iam kept-a prisoner here till I :?iake sutch a promise, I shall die here," :""said Norn, with passionate emphasis. " I will arouse thehousehold." S She made a swift movementtow.ard the bell-pull. Redmond Kildare, in obedience to a sign from the lawyer, was ahead of her, and quickly knotted the rope beyond her reach. Nora ran to the windows. They were shuttered and fastened. Before her slender fingers could unlatch the front fastenings, Redmond Kildare was at her elbow. The fact was evident enough. She was a prisoner, without a chance of escape. Realising the fact, the young girl was wise enough to cease her resistance. She pushed a chair toward the fire and sat down quietly, looking ather two enemies, her brown eyes burning with defiant fire. "I am your prisoner. Mr. Michael Kildare," she said, nodding her little spirited head. "I yield to superior strength. And now, having achieved your brilliant victory, what do you intend so do?" The lawyer cast aside all his weaknesar
and indecision. He seemed to feel that great interests were at stake. and that he must rise in villainy to the needs of the occasion. Redmond Kildare began to feel that he was in safe hands. "I intend," said the lawyer, quietly, "to obtain your promise to marry Red mond." "You ought to know me better than this, Michael," said the young girl, gravely. "I am not afraid ef you, or your ally. And I am no coward, to yield to fear and importunities which I cannot give of my own free will." And thus it proved. The guardian argued, coaxed and threatened. All in vain. His ward smiled wearily, scorn fully, or contemptuously, by turns, but she was not to by driven or coerced. More than an hour passed thus. Redmond Kildare began to suffer all the agonies of dread and terror. The lawyer began to harden. Opposition al ways anger ed him. "Well, what are we to do ?" cried Redmond at last, impatiently. "She won't give in. We shall have to let her go to Sir Russel with her cock-and-bull story--" ".You don't know Sir Russel Ryan," returned the lawyer. "Once let the girl go to him with this story of what she has overheard, and he'll move heaven and earth to find out how much truth there is init. I haveno fears ofajury. The facts will decide the case. And the facts, as you well know, are all on our side. But whatI do dread is, that Sir Russel, in his Isatict.ideas of justice, and his hatred of oppresaioun, will remove Nora beyond our roach, and so forever prevent your union with her. That, in my opinion, and from my point of view, would be nearly as bad as -to see you turned adrift, Red mend." "I can't see what is to be done," said Lord Kildaro. " She won't promise." "No," said the young Lady Nora,com posedly, " she certainly won't promise what you want." "Then," said the lawyer, desperately, "we must hold you a prisoner until you will. Sir Russel Ryan is in England. You have few acquaintances in Dub lin. No one will umss you. It will be easy to say, if you are inquired for, that you have gone down into Wicklow to visit the Lady Kathleen. And, meanwhile, you will be shut up-in your upper chamber, my Lady. Nor, until your proud spirit bends." The young girl smiled. "How long do you suppose I should bea prisoner with those three windows in my room ?" she demanded, coolly. "True. A back room--" "How long should I be shut up in any room against my will, when my faithful Alleen remains here? And you may rest assured, Michael, that Alleen will accept no dismissal that does not come from my lips. She would never leave me without bidding me good-bye. You had better open that door and permit moto walk out quietly, thus saving yourself the discredit of a scndal." " Affairs have gone too far for that," declared the lawyer. "I shall prevent the scandal, but not by giving you your freedom. Redmond, be kind enough to pull that bell. Three times, please. That is my signal for my housekeeper." Lord Kildare rang the bell. Presently steps were heard without. The lawyer unlocked the door, admitting his house keeper. He then locked it again, restor ing the key to his pocket. Mrs. Liffey surveyed the group with wide-open eyes. It was evident, at a glance, that an unusual scene was in pro grease She regarded Redmond Kildare curiously, even anxiously. .. ' ?*"2mom ent's'tntervi? th oo; Mrs. Liffey, if you please," said Michael Kil dare, leading the way to the alcove. The prim, severe-faced, elderly house keeper followed him without demur. They entered the dim alcove, and dropped the curtains. "" What's the matter, fichael T' Mrs. Liffey asked, uneasily. "Who is that young men ?" "Redmond, Lord Kildare." Mrs. Liffey uttered an exclamation, and betrayed great agitation. "Is it posaiblet " she whispered. "How handsome he is I And that is Redmond '1" She peeped out between the curtains with eager, hungry eyes that seemed to devour his every feature. "Listen to me, Margaret," said the lawyer. "I need your heln." With this preface he narrated the par ticulars of his interview with Lord -Kil dare, and the one that had followed with Nora. "I need a woman's aid," he said in conclusion. " You know as well as I do that Lord Kildare and Lady Nora must marry each other." " Yes, I know," said Mrs. Liffey. " Help me to bring about this marriage, Margaret," said the lawyer, in an im pressive whisper, "and on the self-same day that they are married I will make you my wife. You have pleaded with me for years to do you this justice. I will do it as a reward for your successful. aid The woman's eyes sparkled. She caught up the lawyer's hand, pressing it to her lips in her delight. "I will bring about this marriage, 'she asserted, full of self-confidence. " And you will make nme your wife, Michael And I shall give parties, and wear diamonds, and visit at Kildare Castlel You may depend upon me. I would rather be Mrs. Michael Kildare than Queen of England." "Then come out and give me your advice." "One moment. Does he know r' "Redmond I The secret, you mean? No, he does not know,,and ho-mntaiever know. Bq guarded." , He lifted the curtains, and they re entered the library. The Lady Nora was still sitting by the hearth. Lord Kildare stood near her, a plieading his suit in low, earnest, anxious tones. The girl did not seem to hear irn him. but she turned her bright eyes to wards the lawyer and his housekeeper as they canerged from the alcove. But neither of the couple were looking h at her now. rs. Liffey lhad fixed her S gaze in a strange intensity of expressionr upon Lord Kilidaro, and approached hint e with an agitated face. f " Lord Kildare," said the lawyer, hastily, " thia lady is Mrs. Liffey, a Sreduced gentlewoman, who is servina at e present as my housek epr. She is a t moast etimablet and accomplished persona, and will be a great hell, to us in this it business." Mrs. Liffey extended her hand to Load a Kildare, whao took it coldly, and withl Ssome surpriase. To his increased mrprise, r she grasped his hand warmly, and he d could flheir large bony fingers actually tremile ii iris. ltiefr he ceould camenrt on this nin galar incid nti. if lie had wrished to. lirs. Liffey turned away. and faced the Lady SNor withn a grim and austere countenance f tromn which all traces of agitation had vanished. - To be continued.