|Chapter Title||AT BALLYCONNOR.|
|Newspaper Title||Fitzroy City Press (Vic. : 1881 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||The Rival Claimants|
1l1ovelist. The Rival Claimants. By HIIRS. HARRIET LEWIS. SBa1ij'sJ ,SeAcn 'm "',The lgsble LOZ",' OHAPTEB XVIIL SAT BaIurLconaon. The terror anti dread of the Lady Kath. leen, as sne descended the stairs of the hotel in Dublin, leaning upon the arm of her sinister andi strangely wedded bridegroom, were fully equal to the terror convolsing the heart of the guilty Bassantyne. She real iced that, as he had said, his ruin would be her destruction. 0" Be brave, Kathleen I" whispered Basanu tyne, feeling her form tremble under its wrappings. "A moment of weakness will ruin nos now. For your own sake, be brave I" The adjuration was heeded. The Lady Kathleen cast aside her momen tary weakness, and drew up her proud figure, and they passed out of the hotel lobby into the street, a waiter preceding them and open. ng the absh door. The orlmness of an utter desperation was supon the features of Bassantyne as he crossed the narrow section of sidewalk to the waiting vehicle, snanned the street to the right and to the left of him. His furtive glances were not longin deteat ing what they sought. As a little distance a man was loungiqg earelessly against a druggist's window, his i?ce turned towards the hotel entrance, his eyes fixed in careles sioruting upon BaEten. Syoe. This man was a keen-eyed, sarly-browed fellow, slenider of figure, and wore a white ieckeloth. He looked like a poor curate, or wiould have done so but for the sinister ex presion of his dark countenance. "Lame Bill, sure enough I" mattered Bast santyne, his face growing paler. "How he looks'at me I" At this moment the lounger aroused him self, and came slowly along the walk towards the cab, walking with a perceptible limp, and still keeping hie eyes fixed upon Bassan tyne. There was. a puzaled expression in his gaze, which was not unmarked by the object of his attentions. Yet Bassantyne, with a wonderful self. control, sprang lightly into the cab, closed the door, and was borne away toward the station. As the cab receded down the street, the lourg:r halted, and looked after it for a few moments, eastl with that puzzled expression of countenance, and then sauntered into the hotel, making his way to the office. He found the clerk at his desk, and easily obtained a eight of the hotel register. " That was a very striking looking couple whb went away just now, he remark-d, oeusally. -" the gentleman looked liked the Grand Tusk. with his long, waving beard. I'liit;uleo he's a duke at the veryleast " SOo' no," replied the clerk smiling, " al. though be has woo a prize which more than oni oune has nued for. Ha is a plain com moner, but immnseely rich-a Mr. Bassan. tyne. one of the English Bassantynes. He h, jues.t married one of the greateet beauties of Irelnd, the Lady KRthleen Connor, the last 6f the Connors of Ballyconnor." Tne lounger ran his dirty forefinger along the reid tered list until he came to the names of N?ou, BS~eaer'yse and the Lady Kathljen Ba-usotyne. t.ltting his finger on those names, he stared thoughtfully at the hand writing a little while and then remarked: S" How oddly things turn opt This Mr. Baseeseyne reminded me somehow of a person I knew in another part of toe world. That ifanty of mine was foolish enough. It was all along of meeting another party I once knew. And that reminds me.' he added, tendering a cigar to the alerk, " that I met a man in the taproom this morning -a fellow dressed in black, with a long soar ?orose his forenead. Looked hke a gentoa man's servant. Who might he be, do you shink 2" But the clerk, thile inclined to be com municative, could afford Lame Bill no deceiive information. Presently, there being a new arrival, and the clerk bring busy, Lame Bill sauntered out, making his way to the taproom. Here be prosecuted his enquiries with no better suocess. Finally, in the course of his apparently aimless wanderings, he came upon one of the hotel servants who was able to enlighten him in some degree. The servant told him that the man wath the scarred forehead was the valet of Mr. Bassantyne, that his name was Murple, and that his master had discharged ham that morning, and that Murple had gone home to his iriends, who lived in county Antrim. This information, the servant added, had been given him by Mfrple himself, at the very moment of taking his departure. nAhI County Antrim I" tsid Lame Bill. rarelessly, as he turned away and went out into the street. "And he calls himself Murple I I know he recognised me in the tap room, for I saw his eye fall before mmne. Sdon't believe he belongs to Antrim. In fact, I know him to be a Dublin man. That very remark about Antrim shows that ho eeognoiaed me, andhas fled. Evidently he enpected weuld make inquiries abshout him. As to his discharge by his master, that's all fudge. He ran away, and be may torn up at Ballyoonnor in good time. He won't lose a good place, and good hiding, when he could save both by manoeovring. I've struck luck at last. I'd like to finger the reward for him and for Gvntleman Bob I Odd how that swell Bssantyne reminded me of GOentleman Bob I But how aboot Murple, or Hewville, or whatever name he ailes under now ? 1'll just make myinquiries abhoot him, and if I ftail to find him, I'll take a trip down to Ballyeonnor." With this resolve he set about his investi gallons. Meanwhile congratulating himself on hay smg successfully met the danger that had menaced him, Bnssantyne. with the Lady lKathleen and her maid, drove to the railway station, and was soon steaming down to Wieklow. SI telsegraphed early this morning to you istward that we might be expected an this
train', K?toleec," said -Baee?tyne, ?m?no Dublin hid begih welltleft behlind thi,- no du a feeling of security began to replace nit late anxieties and terrors. "I foresaw that you would uonsent to leave the city this morning. and I made all my arrangements to that end." "It is as well that yon telegraphed." re. plied the Lady Kathleen; "hut the house would have been wrady for our reception in any case, as I wrote to Delaney, my steward, last week, telling him of my marriage and intended return to Ballyoonnor. I expected then that the Lady Nora would accompany me, but her guardians refused to leave her in my protection any longer. Poor Nora I'" she added, etghing drearily; "I wonder how all this is to end for her, and for me." Turning her face to the window, the Lady Kathlean preserved a resolute silence until the brief railway journey was concluded. B aesantyne hired a carriage, of which there were several in waiting as the station, to convey them the remainder of their jour. nev, and the travellers were soon hurrying out'of the seaport town toward the interior of the country. They ascended and descended the steep and rugged roads, through a sparsely settled region, passing now and then the stately villa of some rich land owner, set in noble grounds, and approached by a grand avenue, but more often coming upon the miserable' cabin of a peasant, whose pies and whose shildren wandered in and out of the low doorways, and whose heavy, sad-faced wives looked out of their small, miserable, broken windows in sorrowful envy of the "the quality' going by. Basseantyne's spirits arose at they ap proached the mountains. He believed he would be buried there beyond all possibility ol diecovery; and as his spirits rose the Lady Kathleen's fell. Her blue eyes-blue as her' own soft Irish sky-held in their depths the shadow of a great despair. Her pale face, pure as the snow in its delicacy of com plexion. was wan and woful beyond descrip tion. Little'need those humble peasant women, staggering under the curse that rests so heavily in Ireland-the curse of unrewarded toil, of unmitigated poverty, of unrelieved oppression at the hands of the soil owners little need they have envied the poorLady Kuthleen, for a heart even more despairing than theirs beat under her silken bodice, anud a life even more miserable than theirs seemed to stretch out before her in the limit less future. Arriving in the shadow of the tall Wieklow mourtains, the roads became more rogged, at times being almost precipitous. The scenery became picturesque, in places even to wildness. At length the road, growing narrower, wound itself lie a dusty serpent through a wild mountain pass, making perilous curves, climbing bare limestone rcksa, and winding along by rude ravines and steep gullies, and rneosing, by rustic bridges, half-dried moun. rain torrents. Suddenly the travellers came out upon the orest of a hilL "That is Ballyconnor lying below us,' said the Lady Kathleen, arousing herself from her tnoughtfal trance. Basseantyne stared eagerly at the home of his bride. Below them, shut in by the gray, tall Wicklow mountains, like a jewel in a rough setting, lay aJovelygrean valley, as beantiful as the ebarmed Vale of Avosa. which waa not many miles distant. In the midst of the emerald valley, upon which the early afternoon sun was shining, the village of Ballyconnor, its neat houses set in gardens, was plainly exhibited. The long village street, the continuation of the mouon tain road, the tall church with its square tower, the rustic chapel with its steep roof and gables, were all plainly seen from the hill, which our travellers had begun to descend. " There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet,"' murmured the Lady Kathleen, with tender, brooding eyes, and with a soft, sweet emile breaking through her sadness. S" Ah, yes I" said Bassantyne, continuing to scan the valley. " It looks secluded and hidden from the world, and that's the main thing. Whereis your home, Kathleen Z" The Lady Kathleen pointed at the farther end of the long village street. There were presented all the fatures of a beautiful estate fields, woods, parks and gardens, and in the midst of all these stood a stately old mansion, built of the gray lime stone of the neighboring mountains. The sunlight falling on this dwelling showed its beautiful, wide windows, its great square bell-tower, its slender turrets, and the great colonnade along its southern side, which, supported by stone pillars and arches, seemed a reminiscence of Italy. Bassantyne studied the old hall intently, while the carriage rolled on, and entered the sleepy little village. The progress of the Lady Kathleen up the long street was in some sort an ovation, for the news of her coming had been indoustri ously circulated by the steward, and shop keepers and villagers were on the look-out for the 'lady of the hall," whose presence at Ballyeonnor promised them pseouniay good, and in whose recent marriage they were greatly and coriously interested. At the end of the village the carriage en tered between two great open gates into the Connor grounds, and proceeded along a superb drive to the mansion. As they drew up before the latter, and the Lady Kathleen was assisted to the porch by Baesantyne, the servants flocked out without ceremony to welcome home theirlong-absent mistress. At their head appeared Delaney, the ataward. He was an elderly man, with the port of a royal duke. Many a nobleman of ancient lineage might have envied the humbly born steward his aristocratic air and the quiet dignity of manner which sprang from an in. nate nobility, which neither rank nor wealth can supply. The Lady Kathleen's face warmed with a sudden glow at the eight of him, and she held out her hand to him in hearty kind. e We are glad to see you at home again, Lady Kathleen," said Delaney. "And we congratlate the new master, and hope you wilt both live at the old Hall always. it's sorry times we have had longing to see your sweet eyes, my lady, and we are afraid you'd forgotten un all np at the grand castle in Antrim. But it's in the old home the hearts are waermett, my lady." The L.dy Kathleen returned an answer that isa:e th- oidl man's heart happy, and then greetedl Mrs. Delaney,- the housekeepere, and the various family senvents, .esoh by name. By the time the ceremony had been gone through with. and Baesantyne introduced as " the master," the Lady Kathleen found her sell in the central hall of the mansion. " TOe renr* are all ready as I ordered, I soupen'e, Mrs. Delaney " she asked. '" Yes, my lady,' replied Mrs. Delaney, a mild-fcoed. pleasant-eyed, ladylike old woman, dressed in gray. " The master's rooms are on the same floor, and opposite yours. Everything isas you ordered." " I will go up to your rooms at once,"said her ladyahip. " I willhave my lunch served in my own sitting.room. Mr. Bea?sntyne will probably prefr the dining-ron,. and he can he served there. And after lunch, crs. Delaney, I shall be glad to have you come up toseeme." Se maunted the broad staircase, followed by her maid loaded with pa,reels and came Sut upon the upper hbll, a nide, well lighted gallery, hung with pictures. From either side of thos hall several doors opened into the best private apartments of the mansion. Tne Lady KaIthleen, proceeding too near the front end of thebs gallery, opened a door at her right, and denoed into a i unny room, looting to the routh and sthe wet. 'Oaies was her prv?lte ei;ting-room, and
might wel have served, in aneient times, for a "ladye's bower." It bad two immen'ely wide windows of clear plate glass, curtained with lace and damask, one looking out upon the mountains and fields, and a portion of the village toward the south, and the other commanding a fine view of the mountains, and the larger share of the village toward the west. The air of the valley was already ebilly, although the month was October, and the room wore its winter dress, the velvet carpet and plush-covered chairs bring all of the most vivid crimson hue. There was a coal. fire burning in the grate, giving out a genial heat, and dissipating the dampness of the stono walls. "This looks like home," mused the Lady Kathleen. "' Everything is as I left it a year ago, after my last visit." fhe went into the adjoining rooms of the suite. The large dressing-room, lined with plate-glass mirrors, was furnished in crim. son, and had also a bright coal-fire which was reflected on every side. The bed-chamber hadbeen newly furnished as a sumptuous bridal chamber. The Lady Kathleen's lips curled in bitter mockery of the display. "It seems that I was not explicit enough in my directions," she said. " Mrs. Delaney has arranged this room for a happy bride. It is a heart-sick and disappointed woman who has come to occupy it alone. Oh, this is all so hard to bear, when I remember what might have been I Ah, that 'might have been I'" She knelt on the hearth-rug of white and gold, and crossed her arms on a chair, pillow ing her head upon them. And the desolate look in her blue eyes deepened, and the fall red mouth quivered, and after a little the tears came, seeming to well up from her very soul. A long time she knelt there, but at last, remembering that it was necessary to " keep up appearances," she arose, dried her eyes, and went into her dressing-room. Here a change of garments had been laid out for her by her maid, and, after a bath in her cozy bathing-room, the Lady Kathleen attired herself in a rich blue silk with'e long train, with trimmings of point lace and orna ments of turquoise, and went out into her Bitting-room. Here her lounchoen was already spread upon a round table before the fire. Delicate trout from some mountain pond, game birds on toast, and a few of the finer vegetables, made up a repast that templed even the Lady Kathleen's capricious appetite. She sipped her chocolate and ate her meal leisurely, feeling a sense of relief in having reached the end of her journeying, and set tied down at last in thehome of her anoes In thecourse of the afternoon, not deem. ing it wise to give herself up to vain regrets 'and oseless imagining , she tied on her hat, drew about her the warm folds of in Indian shawl, gatherod up her train, and set out on a stroll through the house and grounds,Delaney, the steward, accompanying her. She did not again see Bassantyne until they met at dinner. He was thenin fine spirits. He had had a canter over the estate, and already felt him self a land proprietor, and a Connor of Bally sonnor. He had formed some new sohemes, too, and it was in accordance with these that be began to exhibit toward Kathleen amarked conrtesy and a lover-like devotion, that. pleased her household almost as much as it disgusted his bride. After dinner the ill-assorted and strangely joined couple adjourned to the drawmng room. This was a long and wide, low-ceilad apart ment, furnished in modern style. A fire was burning here also, for the old Hall was wont o be damp, and fires were usually kindled within its walls early in September. " I am well pleased with my new home," observed Bassantyne, pompously, looking out of the window upon the lawn with quite a grand seignorial air. "The tenantry and villagers treat me with the most flattering respeot. The fact that I am the husband of the Lady Kathleen Connor seems a passport to their hearts. I shall be safe here and happy. At least bhut one thing is wanting to; my bappiners." " And what is that?" asked the Lady Kath. leen, indifferently. "That is a revival of your old affection for me,', said Bassantyne. "To be beloved by you, in addition to being master here, would be a joy almost too great to bear. On, Kath leen I cannot the past be revived I" An indignant flush rose to the Lady. Kath. leen's oheek. " We have done with the past-youand I,' she said. "Do not speak to me of love?" " But you loved me madly once, Kath leen." The red flush in Kathleen's cheeks grew yet more vivid. "Why taunt me with a folly that is long past?" she demanded, bitterly. , Suppose 1 taunt you with your errors and orimes. I assure you I judge myself more harshly for that girlish folly and madness than I judge you.for your crimes. And Heaven knows I have soffered enoogh for it all. without this most terrible punishment of all.' Bassantyne frowned. "Do you know, Kathleen," he said, drum ming on the window pane, " that I hall ex peeted you would contest this Soottish inar riage ?" The Lady Kathleen smiled bitterly. " And if I had," she said, " you would have made a fine scandal. And Lord Thresham, hearing the storylinked to the name of Kath leen Conneor, would have turned his back upon me. And Nora would have been taken from me, as she has been, and I should have had to bury myself in some remote spot wheremy name is unknown. It is better as it is," and she sighed wearily. " Yes,it is better as it is," echoed Bassan tyne. "You and I can be happy here, Kath leen. We can make up our differences, con dole each other's faults, and in time the old love may come back." "Never. Iwould rather be miserable than to experience happiness with you. If I fan cied myself so low and degraded that I could ever love you, I would shut mysei up in a convent. Do not dare to speak of love tome again. You are here a fogitive in biding. I acsord you shelter and food, but we are and can be nothing to each other more than we are now. Do not speak to me of love again, if you wouid not drive me to keep my own rooms." She arose and quitted the room. Baseantyne looked after her darkly. ' L?t her wear her grand airs now I" he -emuttered. " IMy time is ominr. I intend2 to oo master of her in trnth as in name. I intend to intrench myself in the seat of the dead and gone Coonors-to handle their rev e.oes as my own, and to become in reality lord of the minor. And if Ktscleen stands in my way." he added, huskily, -I muot push oer asideo. I am in haste for Murple to come. I may need his brutal hand and Uusro pulous brain. With him to help me, I can defy Kathleen and her superannuated old servante. I can quiety depose her and reign in her stead." OHAPTER XVIII. The days of her imprisonment in the small, dark upper room in the cottage at Oiond.lkin drsggred wearily enough to the poor young Lud0 Nora. Toe only light that penetrated the gloom of her cell came through the small opening over the door, and her meagre supplies of fresh air came to her through the same sper An imprisonment more gloomy, more ter rible, more barbarousne, could not have been devired. The eapiive had no book, and if she had had books ohe aRold not have nhad lisht suf ficient to read them. To be continued.