Chapter 70983533

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Chapter NumberIX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70983533
Full Date1885-09-05
Page Number32
Corrections0
Word Count1998
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleFound Out
article text

CHAPTER IX.

'Tia not the frost that freezes fell,

Nor Mawing snaw's inclemencie,. ; 'Tis nae sic cauld that makes me err,

" ' But my love's heart grown cauld to me.

When Katharine Dashwood stepped over th< threshold of the fencing-room she found it alinosi in total gloom; but as she advanced, a : ste] seemed to meet hers, and she ran forward t< throw her arms round a wholly irresponsive figure, that by its very immobility astounded her She had expected some coldness, but not to hav« her maidenly largesse so abruptly thrown back ir her face; and she retreated into the darkness without a sound, though while pride dictated s total disappearance, love held her feet fast, and

stayed her.

Only vaguely could she make out the profile of the man who stood motionless in an attitude of listening, and who wore the black domino and mask that had been de rigueur with all Mr. Dash wood's male guests that night.

The height of the figure, an indescribable something in its bearing that Jack had as surely inherited from his Fitzhugh mother as Katharine had inherited her carriage from her father, made the girl strain her eyes upon the figure, fighting against the counter-conviction that she had made a mistake, and stolen hither but to be met by a stranger. She still wore her white domino and a mask; but her mouth was young, and the mus» ! oles about it quivered yet, as she stood apart, her head bowed so that her height deceived the man, j and he took her for one of those ladies whose ad I vanees, more or less bold, he had silently re I polled during the past few days ; or he had I unwittingly intruded on some stolen meeting ap ! pointed by two persons who supposed the room I to be the most.secure from interruption of any ; one in the house, so he turned quickly to efface

I himself. '

But a peculiar swing of the shoulders, tine very way he planted his step, convinced her that this was Jack indeed-as angry, perhaps, as he was jealous, and with some fresh cause of offence against her since he had pressed the note'into her hand on the mere. And who else save her father knew how entrance could be effected to the robnï? or who else would have the courage to come

hither aloné P

A sob broke from her throat ; involuntarily she stretched out her hand as if to stay him, yet when he paused found no words, till once more he moved away-then she half-cried, half-fal- tered out- .'.?'.v'.".;-?.v',) .

" Would you leave^me so ? And when you know how I lo-loye you !" 1 - :,

The mah stood'still-as one petrified body and

soul. '

i " Why are you so angry with me ?" she said. " I have to please my father, and consider his guests ; but it is of you only that I think night and day." '

Still he did not stir, but stood as one who doubts his own ears and heart; yet why should not this miracle, that a young maid should fall in love as. irrevocably, as hopelessly at first sight with a y oung man; as in this same moment he had fallen in love with her; and why should she be more proud than Juliet, or take shame to herself for owning it ? Yet this was not the Katharine whom he had worshipped, and with no more hope of her stooping to him than a star from Heaven and perhaps something Of her preciousness and beauty faded in his eyes, as in the gloom he moved towards her, and took her hand. , ,

The grasp was warm, as was the kiss he pressed upon it, but surely she found it cold, or per- haps the shelter of his arms would have satisfied her better ; for "she shivered, then put up a timid hand as if to remove his mask, but he caught and

held it with the other.

: "I shall see you no more af ter to-night," she she said. "Something tells me that.you will never come back. However cold and angry you may be now, to-morrow you will remember that I love you-that I never loved any man but you-, and that not my father, nor any other, but only death, has power to part us." '

"Have you been jealous, dear ?" she went on after a moment's pause, and still he stood with bowed head before her j " indeed, you need not be,"-and from under the white domino stole a white arm, and lifted itself to his shoulder, for

she was hungry-oh ! so hungry-for a kiss of his mouth, and, perhaps, Heaven seemed close to her, as he stooped as if about to give it, when a grinding noise, as of a key turning painfully in the lock, made them start violently apart, and with a terrified whisper of " The fire-place !" the girl stepped noiselessly and swift as lightning to the wall, and in the same moment that be- tween two suits of armour a panel slid back, and gave exit to his daughter, Mailinger Dash- wood stepped into the room.

He locked the door behind him, then advanced to the centre of the room,'and listened intently. A moment ago he could have sworn he heard a step, but the faint light showed only the desolate perspective of floor, the richly beautiful walls upon which here and there a glint of moonlight strayed.

He wore the exact evening dress of Henry Irving in the " Corsican Brothers," a dress but little in excess of the present fashion, and his clear, cold features showed more distinctly in the half-light than had any visible there to-night. .

" So the young pair of fools have found a more agreeable place of meeting than I suspected," he said aloud, and with a carelessness that showed how habitual was his sense of immunity from all scrutiny or eavesdropping here. His voice though low- travelled far, for he spoke as distinctly as he thought, and his worst enemy could not at any period of his life have applied to him the epithet of "unready."

He began to pace the room Blowly,; and on reaching the window at the end, looked out through the unshuttered pane at the crowd on

the mere below.

White and black-black and white ; the eddying circles upon which the flambeaux flickered, pro- duced the same feeling of monotony on his mind that they had long ago done on some of his guests; yet it was with a slight shrug bf satisfaction that he turned at last from the scene, and resumed his measuiedvwalk.~

Beside the fire-place he stopped and looked foi some moments into the yawning darkness, thee his slow steps passed on, and he paced the room twice before he again spoke, pausing close by the stain that faced the fire-place in the long, narrow

room. ' - - - ?' ,-. -

"So the fool has fallen in love with my daugh- ter," he said, deliberately, " and she has proved : as faithful as the rest of her charming sex. ' And i the men are cousins-and curiously alike in height and carriage. Tita's son-poor Tita ! (his voice ' took an indescribable accent)-thus goes our last j hope of vengeance. -, Apparently he never shared : your hopes-for his presence here is a mere acci- dent, though, perhaps j--.you may have thought it a lucky one. Shall I let the pair marry-stab you through the heart a second time-take away your son as I stole from you your husband ? What if he did love you-I had hos company in every day- light and evening hour he could command. What if you influenced him-yet your utmost influence could not >keep him for a moment from my side. You could, never bend issues to your will, poor Tita ; you could not even turn a man's love for you into hatred, though you tried as desperately as a starving man might strive for bread. When you Boomed me rnostjl loved you best; when, with my. wife's hand often on your arm, you met mé abroad face to face, and passed me by as if I were no more, no less, than the most indifferent stranger present, I swore to break your defiance, to make you, if but for one brief moment, mine ; i you were something to beat-to subjugate-and I after all, perhans. I eot the vital rart of you

when I took into my hand Fitzhugb/8 honour anc his life-and the future of his yoting son. If ] never loved you more than on the day when J* asked you to be my wife/five minutes after Fitz- hugh had spoken, and your transfigured face told all that I had lost and he had won, I never coveted you so much as when here in this room you cursed me, and with your foot on the stain his hood had made, accused me of having murdered your hus- band. Did you believe it ? . -,

'/And my wife must needs love you-poor Alicia, whose beauty was as water ¡to'the wine of yours-and in your fierce, grand way you loved her too>and pitied her-but, thank God, you never pitied me. I think that toward the last, s*me faint contëmpt'stirred in you for Fitzhugh I wish I had been by to see the blaze in your eyes when you dashed down the money on the table, and sat waiting his return. I think if they had not come to tell you he was dead, that if he had come himself, you would have hated him, and my game been one. The man who has power to raise such force of hatred in a woman, has power to move her just as violently in an opposite direction; and once I had mastered you, you must have loved me. There was no pretence in your hatred-no touch of coquetry in your com- position-you 'had not needed to learn a woman's first lesson, that it is only while she holds herself out of reach, that a man will madden himself

about her. ' < :

" And the woman below-r-that syllabub in pet- ticoats, that froth in tulle-thinks not'only to take your place in my heart, Tita, but to sit down by my hearth as my wife. She has some false j clue-possibly given to her by your son. What . does she expect to discover, or what does he ? Butif I could find you, Tita-" , u

! Bis voice ceased abruptly, and with it died the mote of human passion that might have made j his every word a revelation to one who had seen

only the callous, polished man of the workt-the I enemy even of his daughter, if her interests col-

lided with his own. ? . u

j When next he spoke, he was the self known to his acquaintances, probably to every one save the beloved woman whose image was so deeply im I printed in his heart,, that a lifetime had not been

I able to obliterate it. Think you there is no green

spot in the most arid heart? Find me one Í such heart, and I will give you for it a kingdom. ! For there is ho such heart on earth, or per I chance I might find the kingdom to. give in

exchange.

! "A Saturnalia has set in by now-I am wanted below/' he said j and in a few moments he had locked the door on two men, both masked,; and both in dominoes, who issued simultaneously from the fireplace, then in, the faint light removed their masks to glare one upon another. - J. .