Chapter 70983082

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Chapter NumberVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70983082
Full Date1885-08-29
Page Number32
Corrections0
Word Count1890
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleFound Out
article text

CHAPTER VII.

And lio was stout and proud-hearted,

And thought o'it hitterlie ; : - ? And he's ga'en hy the wan moonlight

Tomeo his Marjorie.

At dinner that evening the great man unex- pectedly appeared, and complained a little to his host;that it was only by merest accident he had heard of the festivity to he held that night. '.

"It was a sudden. thought," said Mr. Dash- wood, " and my people have been quick in carry- ing the idea out; and scouring the country for guests, for they are all coming."

" Even the milkmaids !" said Lady Becky, inno- cently, " for I hear, sir (and she pointed a look at the great man),'you have been taking lessons in milking lately."

"Oh! one or two," said Mr. B., with a wave of tho'hand, as one who puts behind him past follies. " But I have found the farmers' daughters in the neighborhood very handsome, and very much in need of spiritual information."

"Also the housemaids," said Mrs. Vivien, in an ,

audible aside.

? But roused by abstinence to a keener apprecia ? tion of the good things aroimd him, the great

man presently awoke to the consciousness of un- usual beauty in the air, and skipped into his mask and domino with a grace and vigour beyond the scope of a mere ordinary Apollo, a trifle beyond 70 years of age .

" Remember/' said Mr. Dashwood to the ladies before they went upstairs to spend an hour or so in putting on what might be adjusted in ten seconds, there are to be no scraps of ribbon-no rosebuds or secret signs-we are all to be entire strangers to each other."

" And say the moat cutting thing we can con- coct," skid Mrs. Beaumanoir ; " but se far as the mere is concerned, everybody is safe from me! So you are wise/' she said to Mrs. Vivien, as they went up the staircase together, and she glanced at the other's evening dress.

Mrs. Vivien laughed, and there was moro laugh- ter in her room dater, only bf a smothered kind, and of delicious quality, to judgo by the way her maid and she.enjoyed it.

No one took longer over the Bimplo process of tying on cloak and mask that night than Mrs. Vivien, unless it might be an unfortunate gentle- man whose black domino had disappeared from his dréssing-room, a white one appearing in its place, with a white silk mask laid beside it.

Though small of stature, he was a true Briton in Iiis way, and when he found there was not a spare black domino to he had for love or money,

he sent his valet on an embassy to a lady's maid, i ?from which the man at length returned trium-l pliant, bearing a much-flounced lady's skirt, and j a pair of silk stockings and satin shoes. j

To shave off a little golden moustache was the work of a few seconds, though this entailed con- siderable sorrow. But oddly enough, as the valet opened the ^door for the lady's exit, a lady's maid a few doors distant, covertly opened her lady's door to let put a gentleman.

Already from below, arose Bounds as of rapidly succeeding arrivals, but not a single voice. The many servants wore masks, and with dumb show

pointed to .the descent to. the ball-room, or tb j

those brilliantly, lit roems in the house itself, that were open to al! those who chose to enter.- -Men and women came in like ghosts, fluttered about a | little.while apart ; or in company, then separated, _ probably not, to meet again till supper, for the

perpetual.1 recurrence of black and .white forms bewildered the gazers, and made them wish that colours had been permitted.

Half the county women came that night un- willingly, coerced thereto by their lords-the other half gladly, and resolved upon an evening of amusement that would afterwards show in-their sober lives like a pago torn out of the " Arabian Nights."

Even in the country, gentlemen are sometimes known to have their wits about them j and a patch here, a bow on the' slipper there, may have been as cleverly followed up by them as those subtle hints that almost every great lady present had contrived to introduce into her attire

Bat soon it became evident that Mr. Dashwood had not been wrong in his estimate of the attrac- tions of the mere, for, by ll o'clock at least a couple of hundred guests, leaving the brilliant background of the ball-room behind them, had

stolon behind the' screen and out to the half lit darkness where masked attendants silently strap- ped on their skates, then, away, away'. ' like a swallow upon air, would stream put the white domino, and swift as it, the black one would stretch out in pursuit ; and. the real vigour, life and en- joyment of the ball that night was under the clear Btars, and not in the atmosphere that Mrs. Beau manoir alone found supportable The sound of music came faintly from within through the clouded panes of the long windows, a hurly-burly of revolving figures showed to the skaters without 5 beyond, and flanked by the hill, showed the thou- sand fights of Mallinger Towers, though none were* visible in the window whence Katharine looked out on the scene below. The moon turned to solid silver all: the objects on her dressing table, and'mask and domino that lay beside her; but why should she hurry to don them ? r

No hostess was,needed,-as no host wa3 visible, and she might dream here for another two hours so long "as 'she appeared in her place at supper, and the carnival would wag no whit the slower or the taster for her. presence. She had no secrets to hear^from any one ; the one sign of interest in her would be from one as, lonely as herself-Mr. Velasquez." And to-morrow, ;in early morning, Jacinthe worthiest of all to be among the guests below, would embark in the midst of the cold and the snow." ¡- ..?,(. . , , -

The thought suffocated her j she sprang up, fas- tened on her -mask, tied, her domino about her, then .without a; conjecture as to her looks, ran down the stairs, and mingled with the black and

white crowd below. .

A Jesuit might have said that Mr. Dashwood had a special purpose ia mating jail men wo- men álikeTiKat'ñight j but nobody knew the cost, skill, rand thought necessary to. produce thisjcom

pany at 48 hours' notice-for' only ; on'the night1 of Mr; Velasquez's arrival, had he resolved upon' this entertainment. ? /; ' 1.. * ; ' -,

Time' was short, the great man's visit,might per force "end oh the morrow: ;! tonight was Mr. Dashwood's opportunity, and he meant to use.it.

In arid out among the winged feet on the ice he flew, with a grace and skill that might have be- trayed him to those who knew him best 5 but the black* domino he; pursued outmatched him, even as there Tal\vays gained upon him a skater who had not for a, moment lost sight of him .since the ball began.," -.Then Katharine stole out, and with skates adjusted, rushed forward with a buoyant feeling as. of -wings . after stifling air; She was presently found by the man pursued by her father, and in Mr. Dashwood's momentary slackening .of pace, he found himself overtaken, and with a dis- guised voice in his ear.

" Who is Mr. Velasquez ? Why do you fear him?". . 1 .

Mr.". Dashwood, looked down at the inquirer, a black domino that hardly reached his shoulder, then, in ani equally disguised voice, said, "Ibe- lieve he ÍB the guest of our host, and a very hand-

some young man?'! .

"So your' daughter seems to think-look!

Their height makes it impossible to mistake them. Do yon mean to let him marry her ?"

" That is her father's affair."

" "Which is, yours ! Now, there is some secret connected with that young man, and the story told in the drawing-room last night."

" Whose drawing-room ?"

"Toura."

"Was I present?"

" No-or it would never have been told." " Was it to his discredit ?"

" The. world has accepted it as truth. Dut there are discrepancies in it-and a woman is at

the bottom of it.".

"What woman?"

"Fitzhugh's wife."

"I have heard that she adored her husband." " And hated his friend. Why ?"

"Probably a pure matter of taste." '<

" She must have had reason. What did you say to him in the fencing-room ? And what became of the letter that the butler saw pinned by the rapier to his breast ? There was no blood-stain

on the one found beside him."

" "Tou are better acquainted with the details

than I am."

" They will he burnt in on your heart before all ia done. Why did Mrs. Fitzhugh hate you ? Be- cause she felt your passion for her a dishonor."

"Did such a passion exist ?" said Dashwood, still in disguised tones. " His marriage did not point to such a conclusion."

"A marriage of pique, and one that his wife did not long survive."

. " 1 have heard that she died of a chill.' "

" To her heart, probably. Supposing you had been the poor man and Fitzhugh the rich, would the story you swore upon your oath at the inquiry be accepted.

"The farce becomes tiresome," said the man addressed, and the next moment was swallowed up in the crowd.

But before long, the one left behind came up with Katharine and Velasquez, and whispered into the ear of the latter, What is your secret here ? How are you concerned in the story told in the drawing-room last night."

" Katharine heard the voice but not the words ; she felt the hand that held hers close on it vio- lently, and at the same moment something was crushed into her other by a black domino who flew past her and out of sight in a second.

Then she discovered herself to be alone-de-

serted by Velasquez, but being quickly approached on both sides. She broke swiftly away, nor seemed to draw breath till she gained her cham- ber. Then with madly beating heart she held the scrap of paper to the light, and knew that her instinct was true, and the message was from

Jack.

" KATTT," it said, " if you are not as false and faithless as you seem, meet me in the fencing room at 1 o'clock to-night.

"Jack.'

She kissed the letter, with a sob of joy. What mattered his unjust thoughts of her, when a word from her lips, the cling of her arms round his neck, would silence his doubts for ever ?

And surely this visit meant that his orders for abroad were countermanded, that war waa averted and he would in the immediate future have the power, if not the will, to seek her, though it might be years before heart arid will alike permitted her

to beckon him.

(TO BE CONTINUED.)