|Newspaper Title||The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)|
|Trove Title||His Happiest Christmas|
TALES FOR CHRISTMASTIDE.
HTR HAPPIEST CHRISTMAS,
h. E. HPDEHAN, Author of 'Clifford Dunn, Manufacturer,' ?? In the Leafy Month of Jane,' &c
[OOFIBIGHT.] CHAPTER L
Mta. Galbraith ni a wealthy lady, f nil of caprices which she had always been in a podnon togtatify. Therefore, when she took it into her head that it was desirable for her daughter to bave a companion, neither her daughter's protests nor those of her daughter's finn^, Stephen Fnllertan, were of anyavaiL She went her own way as naval, and inserted an adrertument in the newspaper withont
delay. ' Seqoired a yoong French lady, well con nected and highly educated, to act as com panion to another young lady, and assist in light domestic duties.' *? Why French »' questioned Lilian. 'Because it is most desirable that yon should apeak the language, love.' Lilian said no more ; this was a period of her existence when, for reasons best known to *''-»M, she was somewhat preoccupied. She expressed little interest when her mother announced she bad met with a lady who answered her requirements to a nicety ; even on the day when this desirable companion arrived «be exhibited nxy littie cariosity. 'Aren't yon longing to see her, to find out what she is like!' asked her mother. 'Not in the very least, I know already. Companions an all alike— meek, inoffensive creatures, plain to a 'degree, entirely un interesting, and execrably dressed. ' She glanced at the rrflpctton of her own person in tfae looking-gUtt. Her costume was of the moat expensive order, made after die regula tion ptT»r', in the extreme of fashion. It was a fa-Sntnpli of Bk31, but hardly harmonised with the simplicity of the wearer's pink and white face. Stephen Fnllerton glanced at her full rose-coloured sleeves, wbose stiffness offended his artistic eye, and smiled indulg ently. He wondered why woman had ao little taste ; why they ignored m completely the beauty of the human form, disguising it, nay contorting at their own sweet will. 'Come, mamma, have I not described Mademoiselle La Crouc well V asked the jpri. 'No, my dear, I can't say that you have. Of course I only saw her in her travelling dress, bnt as far as I could judge by a momentary glance, she is not particularly plain.' While the ladies discussed her, Justine La Croix opened tile larger of two good-sized trunks, and shook out a daintly-fashioned garment of a soft gamy fabric, trimmed with old lace. When she had donned it, (he surveyed herself wits an nimpnkpn inquiry in her eyes, as though ehe craved approval, tbougu a less anxious critic would certainly* have yielded unqualified admiration. ' I wish I was quite sure ; I wish I knew,' she said, turning in pivot fashion to get a view of her trailing skirts. But there was Done to reassure ber. She leaned out of Hie window and plucked a rose that peeped in at her. Wearing no ornament save this pale blossom, she ran lightly downstairs, repressing a little doubtful sigh. When she joined the others at the dinner table ; however, all traces of embarrass ment had disappeared ; she looked, so Stephen FollertoD thonghr, like an Umpress '1fl^l'o'^''C ; he could scarce refrain from an exclainatiou of surprise. . ?' Biaefc mitx her, does it not?' whispered Mrs. Galbraith ; 'such a figure, and such style. Look at the way she has stock that rose in front of her ; only a Frenchwoman would know how to do that.' ' Indeed, why not ? I should have thought any woman could stick a rose in front of her,' said 'Fullerton, almost peevishly. Then he exerted himself to look away from the blossom that nestled against Justine's white throat. Just at that moment she glanced brightly across at the speakers, and pnt them both to the blush by the quickness of her percep tions. 'It is pretty, is it notT she said, in her broken way. ' Madame will pardon me I am sure. I ventured to gather it, because it ventured t*- peep in «A my window. It hu a beautiful seem.' Involuntarily Stephen Fullerton met her eyes, ITiey were large, dark and velvety, her complexion was of a delicate cream-like tint, her lips curved in the sweetest of smiles. On her forehead rested a few soft tendril-like curls. Her beauty enslaved him, ber shy, pleading glance had the strength of mag netism. ' I will bring you some better roses to morrow,' he said ; and it was as though the words were dragged f com him. ' You are very good.' The soft voice had -a ring of gratitude. ' The gloire de dijona we grow at our place are twice as large,' he added. Lilian put down the glass ehe wafi raising to her lips and gazedat him. ' Thijr are the finest roses in the county,' Stephen asseverated. 'Oela va sans dire,' replied his fiance graciously. ' Now. Mademoiselle La Croix, own that I know one French phrase,' she added. . 'Bat I— I will teach you a thousand,' : cried the French girL 'Ah, the wicked v flower, see ; it has fallen to pieces.' ' She brushed the leaves away ; the action, Fullerton waa sure, was prompted not by coquetry, but by a tact porn of regard for other*. She had seen that UUan was annoyed
at the turn the conversation had taken. With one touch she swept away the subject of her annoyance. And. indeed, Justine had infinite tact ; apparently without effort she won the hearts of aU, in the days that followed. Mrs. Galbraith yielded unconditionally to the charm of tfae girl's bright ways. She would ait at her feet when the others were absent, and chat gaily to relieve her employer's ennui, with no thought of her own pleasure. ' My dear,' said the elder lady one day. stroking Jnatine'e dark hair, 'tell me all about yourself. 'About myself I Bat, indeed, what is there to say ? X hardly know where to begin. How can I tell what would interest Madame ?** 'First tell me how they managed to part with tod. Did von Dot sav id toot letter
that yoo lived with your mother, and had only one brother? How could they let you leave them?' ?? Recaase we are very poor ; my father ia dead, Madame, as yoo already Jtnow.' ' He waa an officer.** This MtH. Galbrailh bad already learnt. ' But yea, he was in the army.' 'And your brother?' ' In the army also.' Her answers were laconic ; observing this Mrs Galbraith shifted her ground. ' Tell me about the house, my dear.' 'The house ia old; it has been in the family for years ; it lies back from the road way, and there are roses— roses every where t' At that moment Ijflian and Stephen entered. ' I have been thinking how well Mademoi selle speaks English,' aaid the latter, 'apt, wondering bow she picked it up.' 'It was quite easy; there were so often English gentlemen staying at onr home, and they would always speak with roe.' 'At your house, my dear?' Mrs, Gsl braith's astonishment was traceable in her tones. 'Yes, Madame.' ' In your father's lifetime, of course.' There was a touch of the virtuous British matron in this last remark, which was not lost upon her hearer. 'Since also,' she said swiftly. ' I bave a brother.' ' Your home is in Paria.' ' Ko, in the little suburb of Yignerim.' ' I know Vigneron,' cried Fallerton, ' it is charming. Did you not say that your bouse was on the right of the Btation in the Grande Rue?' ' Yee, bat— I cannot talk of it. Forgive mel' She gave way suddenly, and walked away, hiding her face io*her hiMiflff They looked at one another, vexed that they had hart her ; only Lilian had a hard word to »y about tfae French girl's sentimental non sense. As for Stephen he waa full of self reproach ; he had offended unwittingly, bat he longed to apologise. He wandered aim lessly into tfae garden, wondering when tfae opportunity to do so would occur. An «.pril face iooked oat at him from behind a mass of foU*ge. n '* I am so sorry ! he began 'Not at all I was foolish. It in, how ever, only just now that I have left my dear borne.** ** I know ; that is why I thought you would like to talk of Vlgneron?* 'Of Vigneron! Ob, no,' she said. 'If you would please me, let that subject slide.' He felt that he must have misunderstood the remark, and asked her to repeat it. She 'did so, watching his expression, which appar ently enlightened her. 'Have £ said what I shor.ld not?' she asked, somewhat anxiously. He explained that it was not a suitable ex pression for a lady ; that English ladies vroold pot think of using it. ' Oh, good night !n cried she, ' these Bngliwh |m^f«m are very particular.' This time his astonishment was -so great that a less observant person most have at once detected it. '? Was that also wrong V ehe asked, He told ber most emphatically that ic was. Her Belf-possesaion seemed to forsake her suddenly. ?* It makes me afraid,' snesaid. *l Why do I speak so?' This was exactly what he wished to know, but she threw little light on the subject. 'It was as they spoke— the gentlemen,' she said. ' When will I eve.- know if I speak aright ? And Madame will be angry with me, will she not?*' ' I am afraid so,' said her companion un easily. 'She has a craze about the pro prieties. You remember her advertisement, how she insisted on her daughter's companion being 'well connected.' She wouldn't like you half so well' if you could not prove tb&t your father was in the army.' *? He is in the grave now,' she replied. ' What does the rest signify?' ** Did he die in service ?' ' No, he had retired ; he was with us always, my dear father.' Her lipa trembled omin ously. ?'And my mother is very poor,' she sud. ' You are very kind. Monsieur Fullerton, you will help me. I must not lose this good and comfortable situation for a foolish trifle. Tell me what to do.' ' You mast be very careful, and above all don't say * Let it slide,' or ' Good night.'' 'What will I say when I go to bed, Monsieur 1' 'Oh, it u all right then.** 11 It is a difficult language, this English of
yours. Tell me if it is quite comme il faut to say 'Good morning V He reassured ber on this point, and she rose from her lowly seat, shaking her dainty skirts and smiling at him. 'lam very much obliged,' she said, and now I will go indoors again.1* He watched ber as ehe Bped along the garden path ; she did not glance back at him.