Chapter 70633528

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70633528
Full Date1896-12-19
Page Number37
Corrections0
Word Count2024
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)
Trove TitleHis Happiest Christmas
article text

CHAPTER II.

When Stephen Fallerton re entered the morning-room be found two visitors there, tie popular curate of Danesborongfa, Charles Dene, and a certain Frank Forrester, the Squire's son. They both accepted the hospit able Mrs, Galbraith's invitation to lunch very readily, and the little party trooped into the dinning-room, chatting sociably. Forrester 6&t on laQian's left, bat the ?fr'ir opposite him remained want until Mademoiselle La Croix made ber appearance, and was introduced to the two strangers. She bowed to the curate, with an air of frank interest, but when she

turned to Forrester, Fullerton, who could not doubt his own eyes, saw at once that they recognised one another. ' Forrester !' said Justine, slowly, ' what difficult name to say. Do £ indeed pronounce it rightly r1 Ab she spoke she laid her finger on her lip ; the action was so swift as to be almost im-. perceptible. Forrester directed bis attention to his plate. A moment later he said : ' May I pass you the claret, Mademoiselle Justine?' ' How,' reflected Fallerton, ' does he know her Christian name t' He watched them yet more closely, noted the dimples in Justine's cbeeks, and wished, with vague discontent, that T(*^'*n had dimples also. He never admired Forrester's way with women ; it annr.yed him more than usual to day. Even Lilian, who always championed the young man, commented on his 'empresse ** 'He need not be so very effusive. He might talk to someone else in the room,' she remarked. But I daresay the girl likes it.*' 'Nothing of the kind. It is only that, being a foreigner, she does not realise how fatnQiar his iwfliiy in*' ' Hash !' said TJ.it. n ' he will overhear yon.** 'And that little chnrcb at Vignerop,' Forrester was saying. 'Is it as quatat as ever?' In order to pat this question he interrupted the curate, who was addressing Justine. The girl coloured. ' Pardon me !' she said, ' Monsieur ad dressed me,' And she turned to Dene. Later on Fullerton let his curiosity get the better of him. He took bis opportunity, when Lilian was singing, and lowering his voice asked Justine whether she admired Frank Forrester. ?'Charming person,' she replied, speaking with deliberation, and evidently not without pride at her linguistic ability, *' and as band some as you make *em.u Fullerton shuddered. _ 'Havelsgainepoksnwrongfy^aheasked, lifting a pair of pleading eyes. He proceeded to explain, bat his wonder increased. Nor did it lessen as the days passed. If Stephen FoUerton found himself puzzled by the girl's frequent use of English slang, he was even more so by her manner towards Forrester. It waa as reserved as the other's was familiar ; yet she would ftnsn and tremble when he spoke, and sometimes lift her eyes pathetically to bia face as though she feared the words he was about to otter. Once when Lilian and Follerton had strayed into the garden after dinner, the former grumbled over the desert she had left un touched, declaring that here in the open air ehe could enjoy it to perfection. Justine volun teered to fetch it ; was gone before they could protest and returned well-laden. Forrester now occupied tfae lounging-chair next to T.nijtn ; be did not rise at Justine's approach, but, leaning back negligently, glanced at her through half-closed eyes, and with an air of ill concealed amusement. FuUerton assisted her in setting the ** al fresco ' repast ; she was visibly nervous, as was always the case in Forrester's presence. Presently the latter leant forward, and spoke 10 her, low and rapidly, in her native tongue. Fire darted from the girl's dark eyes ; she turned and looked at him, not boldly, but with repressed passion. ' Monsieur would have me pour out his wine for bun ? I will not,' she cried. ' I s.m Mademoiselle's companion ; I am no hired ** Mademoiselle must bave misunderstood oie,' hazarded Forrester, superciliously. ' I understood perfectly.' She stood for a moment struggling with emotion then turned and fled. ' I bave offended your friend ; I must apologise,' said Forrester indifferently. ' It would appear to be necessary/' observed Fullerton. ' A piece of nonsense, a fuss about nothing,' interrupted Lilian. Nevertheless her guest rose, exensed him self and found Justine La, Croix hidden in a distant arbour (her haunts were evidently familiar to him), weeping bitterly. ' Are we friends or enemies, Justine?' he asked. ' I do not wish that we should be either ; cut we not be strangers V 'I think not ; that would not suit my plans.' 'You have plans then.' 'I will explain them. Listen !' Her velvety eyes lost their softness a* ehe turned them upon him.

He explained himself folly with cool frmilr clearness. He wished to marry Lilian Galbraith. He knew that she cared for him, and Justine most help him to his pn1^ ** If I were willing to do so, it would not lie in my power,' ehe said. 'On the contrary, your services wQl be quite invaluable. Fallerton admires you im mensely ; he has ceased to love Lilian ; at aU events bis love is waning. Exert your in- — fiuence ; take him off my hands ; give me my opportunity. Be sure I will not lose it.' ** Yoa would have me try to supplant Mis* GaJbraitb.' ' ' That is rathec ?.come waff of potting iC ' But it is the truth.' ' Certainly.' ' Then you are false and base. I am not — I will Dot help you.' She stood at bay, there waa no shadow of flinching in her great dark eyes. 'Then you will take the consequences. I suppose von are tired of your fine situation ; yon are ready to go back toVignerop. Under stand me well, realise that unless you. give me your assistance I shall expose you. She fixed her eyes upon him, team fell from, them and splashed ber white dress, bat -dut ppifiniup^ silent. ' You are willing for me to let yoax Dew friends know how you have deceived them 5' he con tinned. 'I am powerless,' sheened, wringing ber hands. ' You have only to be obliging.' ?* I have only to be a traitress.' He looked at her with growing wonder, almost amounting to admiration. Would she bold firm to her resolve? Would she refuse to aid and abet him in bis design 1 He re flected that it would be wise to give her tune ; he doubted her strength of mind. And there seemed to be reason in bis doubt*. Already she showed symptoms of wavering. There was a Dew expression in ber eyes as ahe said in an unnatural voice, ' How long do yon give me before I answer you ? This is an im portant matter. I cannot decide at once.' He smiled. . : 'I give yoo three days,' he replied. 'On the morning after the ball you most give me your answer. Bat remember lam inexorable Remember also that at the ball your oppor tunities are great. Do yon understand?* ' Perfectly.' 'And since yon lore Stephen Follerton jam will do well to consider my proposal,** h* added, speaking with significance. She turned from him with an impaEssssj gesture — her cheeks were crimson. 'If I only did know that he spes&ss the truth.' she said to herself, ' I migfat renuin here ; as it as. it is impoMnhlri. 1 will not break another's woman's heart Wcaose my/ own aches. And again. Stephen FnDerton. loves me, I feel it here,** laying' her band os. her heart. 'Therefore I cannot confesaaitf I cannot throw myself on their mercy. - lhstve no choice bat to go. Meanwhile then m the ball. I must smile. I most dance. I must not let them suspect me.' She stepped the polished floor like a queen.. Her dress of some soft, clinging ^MteisbxW was daintily fMhionff., her bare throat and/ arms gleamed with the whiteness of inn- her dark hair twisted into glossy ««£, crowned her wdl-shaped head, her eysa were bright with excitement. Fallerton gazed at her from his post at LdUxn's side, and wished that he faad never met her, and the girt meeting hSa glance^ wished with equal fervour that she had never quitted her home. It was late in the evening before he coofet find occasion to address her. She was rett ing in the conservatory, and he took a seat beside her uninvited. Forrester saw them and smiled. He told himself that aU was well ; be made a mock of woman 'a weakness as be watched the play of her fan, the ex pression in her eyes, the sweetness of bet smile. ' Yon are looking tired,' said Fott«r»e»K *'I am very warm; I have daoeed so much.' Indeed she bad not suffered fr«s» aaj lack of attention. ' A turn in the garden would doyoo all the good in tbe world. She shook her head, but relented when be again proffered his request, and they went oat into the starlight together. She walked at his side in silence ; her eyes were soft and dreamy ; speech-seemed to him unnecessary, to have her flo close to him was a joy in itself. He was almost afnid of break* ing tbe spell, yet be ventured to do so at last. and his remark was sufficiently commonplace. 'Yoo will catch cold,' he said, aT he wrapped a, shawl around ber — his finger*, touched her bare shoulder, bis face was close-, to hers. There was no coqnetzy in her glance,. her lips quivered, she steadied them aadi thanked him gently. ** You are very good,' she said. He laughed nervously. 'I wonder if that is merely a nollbe speech,' he said with warmth. **X voBdertfi you would mias me juat & littl&if 5 w«e not here ; if you would be at aU soovif ? ' She lifted her eyes, ske seemed to. batr, caught some of his nervoosaess, so troubledi was her manner. \{n\ she command hecasjf with an effort and spoke lightly — 'Miss yoa^ob, yeV*he replied, 'uwHed I Bhould. There woqld be no one to scold me when I talk slang ; I should get into many difficulties, But, indeed, even if you are not near X wjjl be careful; I will remember always that I* mast not say * Good night,* nor *Great Snakes,' nor—'

She passed her band over her brow in a puzzled way. 'Oh, never mtad,' be interrupted; 'I reasons besidmaylassaas in deportment,' 'Yet, you have been kind to me. I should miss yoB. far that also. I never forget a kind - Her manner was grave, bnt he was by oov Died to these quick changes of mood. When the ball m- over, and be paaaed through the hall, fresh from speeding some parting guests, he saw her going slowly upstairs, and arrested her [Irani Ms. She was looking weary, as he ? could not fall to observe. — Quod night,' be said, holding out his hand. She dimpled and blushed ; he could see her even tthiK teeth as she smiled upon him. - Good night,1* she said ; ' I will remember when it is fitting to nse the expression. Sleep wen.' Bat once in her room, she flung herself down in an agony ef grief. When she rase it was to pen a few lines to Mrs. Galbraith. They were Monad by tears, and they bade farewell to all who had shown her kindness. The bonsenudd handed tbem to her mistress * at breakfast next morning ; owing to the fete overnight this meal was late. Mo further in formation was forthcoming, save that Mademoiselle I* Croix had left early, taking her foggage with her. ?'I always drought she was an adventuress. I bope no valuables are missing, ' said Lilian. Mrs. Oalbraith reproached her for her hard ness. Stephen FaOer ton gazed moodily out of the window, and held his peace.