Chapter 70984081

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Chapter NumberXV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70984081
Full Date1885-09-19
Page Number32
Corrections0
Word Count5346
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleFound Out
article text

The Novelist.

Found Out.*

BY THE AUTHOB OT "COMIN' THEO' THE EYE."

CHAPTER XV,

Oh gin I had a bonny ship,

And men to sail wi' me ;

t It's I wad gang to my true love,

Sin' be winna come to me 1

At Maliinger Towers nothing but the unea pected was permitted to happen, so that who: after the great man's departure, a servant ar nounced that donkeys were at the door, no on expressed surprise, and all the women went t put on their hats and jackets, while each mai went to pick out the best beast for his presen

charmer. '

Velasquez wa3 the first in thc field, and had secured tho strongest and handsomest anima long before Katharine appeared ; Lord Noll wa¡ the next luckiest, and so by infinitessimal degree! of excellence (for they were all nearly as big as mules), each ass found a temporary owner, anc when the ladies descended, they found as smart s set o.f grooms in waiting as they could well have

wished.

Only Mrs. Vivien frowned when she saw Noll al her bridle-rein, and she turned quickly to theil host, exclaiming :

f Don't you come with us ?"

" I join you later," he said, as he settled her in the saddle, "and hope to find fresh roses in your cheeks. Your steed is humble," he added, with a slight smile, "but a more ambitious one could not have kept his feet amoment on the iron-bound

roads."

He moved away as he spoke, and almost imme- diately the cavalcade started, and without confu- sion, since every cicisbco held his lady's bridle reiñ, and if more than one errant glance strayed to Velasquez in envy, he did not know it, as ho led

Katharine's beast down the hill.

Probably, conversation can never be more a^reebly conducted than when a woman rides at ease, and a man walks beside her, his head about on a level with her shoulder. They are alone, but they enjoy the pleasure of movement; the air, the changing scene, act as a gentle stimulus .to their thoughts and looks j and no better opportunity could be found in which to c onverse, in the real sense of the word, or to murmur those words of folly that sometimes outweigh in value the whole

world's riches.

I think I should reckon real conversation as the chief intellectual pleasure in life. To hear, to see, to reçoive ; to have lips, eyes, soul, all speaking to you at once, and to feel the power in yourself to respond to, to echo such speech ; to be swayed by a brilliant fancy, thrilled by a noble thought, satisfied by a happy allusion-Ah ! How chill after such reading is the printed page, how unsa- tisfying Nature's most perfect one, since into it

there is breathed no heart !

But conversation, as an art, did not flourish among Mallinger Dashwood's guests. : They could easily flirt without speaking, but few of them could speak without flirting, and perhaps the only two . who occasionally conversed were Velasquez and Katharine. Prom the first moment of their meeting thero had been a curious bond betwen them, and whether they remained silent when to- gether, or spoke little br often, there was a sense of repose, of pleasure, that each found missing in the society of others.

But the man's heart had spoken out boldly to his face from the first moment in which he beheld Katharine, and was he to be blamed if her gentle, serious attitude bf liking towards him seemed to indicate dawning love. He had never heard of Jack Stormonth. and within five minutes of his introduction to her, a male gossip had told him

she was fresh from school.

Some men might have wondered at a girl's school fetters lasting till she was 19¿, but Velas- quez realised nothing save that she was his enemy's daughter, and that at first sight he had fallen in love with her. .How could he tell that her with- drawal, from the frivolous society around, was the . natural shrinking from interruption of a preoccu-

pied mind, br that in his quiet strength and re- serve she found a haven to which she might flee,

and be at Ieasure to think ? .

' Perhaps if men knew how much more they charm women by their reticence than by their foolish vows, they would for the greater part be- come mute, and practise eloquence by their fea- tures alone. The silence that is without stupidity, the look that needs no word to second it;, is better than any language ever spoken, and Katharine had tmconsciously turned from uncongenial sur- roundings to repose herself mentally upon one who never taxed, and never wearied her.

Those other men, whose bold glances pursued her, only awoke in her a cold, proud anger that she scorned to display, and her manner had already assumed the dignity of a middle-aged woman rather than the spontaneous gaiety of a girl. But while the women said " She is dull !" each man thought of how glorious tho awakening would be for-Velasquez.

More silent than usual woro tho two who led thc way down the hill, and through the village, where every cottage furnished its contingent to behold tho latest of Maliinger Dash wood's

"whims."

Tho clear air, tho smalt blue sky above, and the whiteness all around and below, made a brilliant setoff to the costumes that, sufficiently good for asses, lent more colour to the scene than if the stereotyped hat and habit were alone visible.

/'Lord!" said one of the'village women,"it minds me of the times when ladies always wore their best bonnets when they went a-horseback and a deal decenter and handsomer they looked with their strings tied under their chins, than in tho men's 'ats they wear now?a-days !"

But there was not a village maid present that day who would not cheerfully have worn a bonnet and ridden an animal that she profoundly des

pised, if its bridle-rein were beld by such a swaii as now strode merrily beside it.

All the women, save Katharine, were laughing at the novelty of the situation. The cold hac brought bloom to their cheeks, and fresh lustre t< their eyes; their coquettish hats and braided jackets, of dark blue, of red, of white, the charm- ing little feet revealed by their short skirts, al] combined to render them more dangerous in this unexpected guise than when most fully equipped for conquest.

Not a soul, save Katharine, knew where the ride was to end. There was an Arcadian air of simpli- city over the jaunt that deceived even some of those worldly people into thinking that such primi- tive amusement was preferable to the mechanical rise and fall, the measured beat of fashionable life, and sentiments that would have been virtuous if directed towards the right quarter, began to

animate more than, one fair brea-1.

" What a good woman I could have been, Noll," said Mrs. Vivien, sighing, " if I had married a man like Dashwood, with the village people to look after, and a donkey to ride now and then !"

" You're much better as you are," said Lord Noll, tersely, and Mrs. Vivien sighed, perhaps with some real compunction, at the thought of an announcement she would probably have to make to him within a few days.

Low ripples of laughter, a hum of pleasant voices followed Velasquez and Katharine as they ascended the slight hill that gave exit from the village, but not a word passed between tho pair till the level road was reached, and only the white hedge-rows stood on either side to listen. I Then Katharine sooke.

I "Why do you Btay?''she said, abruptly.

He made her no reply, but looked straight he

fore him.

i "We have been friends," she said, slowly

" from tho first moment that we met, I think thal we were friends, and yet you. are hore as inj father's enemy, aud as a spy."

He bowed his head as if in assent, but still preserved silence.

"And pray," she went on, with a ring of angei in her proud voice, "what could you know abo'ut Jack P I suppose some of the people here must have gossiped to you, and perhaps you thought ib a fine thing to decoy me to the fencing-room."

Velasquez turned and faced her with eyes as proud as her own. -

" No," he said, " I did nothing to bring you there j and the room is yours. You have tho right to enter it any hour of the day or night, but I have no right."

" Then who forged the letter ?'' cried Katharine, "the letter in his dear handwriting, and thrust into my hand on the mere by a man taller than any other present, save you and my father."

: "Perhaps it was your father," said Velasquez, who, after long and stubborn thought, had re- solved that-he would not put Katharine to the torment of knowing that Jack had been waiting for her last night, so that only by unlucky acci- dent they had escaped the mingled bliss and j misery of being clasped in each other's arms

She started violently at Velasquez's suggestion and turned white as the snow around them.

" Then he knew-he knew it all along," she half whispered aloud, " and there is a year and a half, to wait-and if he is not killed in battle, and comes back, there is nowhere that I can see him, that I can speak to him. Jack-Jack !"

Her lips trembled, her cheeks paled, great tears of longing dimmed he lovely eyes j then her head sunkrand in a gentle, timid voice she said :

" Have I ever said, or looked, or done anything to make you suppose that I should speak to you as I spoke last night-unless I had thought you were somebody else ?"

In spite of his wretchedness, Velasquez smiled at the naivete and confusion of the question.

"You have never given me the faintest hope of such good fortune as seemed to fall to my lot last nisrht." he said, gravely, "but to the man who

loves, all things are possible, even to the belief that a woman is as capable of a sudden and faithful passion as himself."

" Perhaps that is true, said Katharine, in a low voice j " and a woman's pride is melted in her love, but only when he has declared his. And'when I sued tto you" (the hot blood painted all her face) "did you not feel a sense of shame and disap- pointment in me, ranking me with those-those women who are following us ?"

Í \ " They, are not women j they are butterflies/' I said Velasquez, with contempt. Then, with a

sudden change of voies, " I only thought-O, madman '.-that knowing me so far beneath you, it had pleased you to stoop, like the angel that you are, and save me from those schemes of hatred and revenge that have embittered and oversha- dowed my life."

Katharine's self-consciousness faded} her color sank ; she forgot the burning sense of shame for herself, of irritation against him that had suc- ceeded her gentle attitude to him the night before; and looking at him, she was struck with the traces of habitual suffering that his face betrayed.

..." My father has inflicted some wrong on you or yours ?" she said, slowly.

" I cannot tell you," he answered in tho same tone. " But henceforward I work for you and Stormonth ; and my revenge, if I over take it, will touch neither your happiness nor his."

Katharine bent hor brows as ono puzzled ; at last she spoke : ?

" I am trying to understand," she said. " When last night I-I mado.lovo to you, thinking you were Jack, you-you were on the point of return- ing my advances, when my father's approach separated us. When I returned later (and surely it is a shameful thing for a girl to go twice in the dead of night to meet her lover) you had changed ; you had no happy airs; you seemed to find it natural that I had mistaken you for Jack j and, accepting the situation, you even swore to help us." She paused, then added in a lower tone, " Such conduct was not natural."

. Velasquez turned and looked at her. For a moment all the fierce, passionate love he had for her .surged upwards from his heart to his eyes, and he said to himself that he woiüd respect neither Jack Stormonth's rights, nor any other

man's, but win her-aye, and keep her in the fae

of all.

But those eyes of Kitty's, so proud, so tru< cheeked his madness. He knew that it was onl, for Jack she looked thus. Had not a new sweet ness, an adorable loveliness come to her when sh had lifted her arms to draw him towards her, fo that kiss which now was as far away from him a

if worlds divided them ?

" You are right," he said " such conduct wai unnatural. Some day, perhap3,1 may be able t< explain it. You asked me just now why I remair here, and others must share your surprise. To bt left behind as Mr. B.'s paid servant, minding his goods and chattels like an extra or casual valet; and with less than a valet's welcome."

" You were not born to be tbc servant of any man," said Katharine, looking at him, haunted by some vague resemblance to Jack, that ex- tended even f urther than the similar carriage of the shoulders, and the height that had deceived her overnight.

" No," he said, " I was born to something worse

-dishonor!"

She barely caught the last word, for it was almost drowned in a shout of " Velasquez, Velas- quez !" from the nearest cicisbeo in the rear.

Katharine turned in her saddle, and looked back. The bright cavalcade moved more slowly than at starting j most of the women were tired of a new sensation, and only hedgerows were there to admire, and tho keen air had made them eager for luncheon, though it was not yet 1

o'clock.

"Where are we going?" cried out Lord Dolly. " Here," said Katharine, and Velasquez stopped to unfasten a gate that led by a narrow road, deep with ruts, to a farmhouse visible in the

distance.

Then ensued cries, exclamations, convulsive clutches at support more substantial than bridle reins, as the asses floundered and stumbled in the ruts, so that Mallinger's guests reached the farm- house in various graceful attitudes of affection, to the delight of the farm servants, who had no idea that " quality" husbands could be so atten-

tive to their wives.

Katharine alone required no assistance, and had shaken hands with the house-mistress before

the others came up.

Half-a dozen of Dashwood's servants were in waiting, and hurried forward.

Beyond the ample house-place showed a large and cheerful kitchen, with a blazing fire that seemed to throw red "lights on the crystal and silver of the long table that faced it, and more than one woman . uttered a sigh of relief as she lifted her skirts to warm her feet by the burning logs. Soon hats were removed, and the splendid i chevelures of gold, of black, of brown, and bronze, ' struck admiration into the soul of the farmer's daughter, as in tho background she gazed upon

them.

Meanwhile, the strings of immense onions fes- tooned from the roof, the half-cured hams, the great flitches of bacon, the evidences on all sides pf the rough plenty that the house contained, amused these fine ladies to the temporary oblivion of their appetites, and they flitted about like birds and would have extended their researches to the dairy had not one of tho servants advanced to in-

form them that luncheon was served.

"Do AVG not wait for Dashwood ?" said Mrs. Vivien, raising her brows as Katharine seated herself, and Velasquez took the place at her right

hand.

Perhaps the cold had made Katharine a little deaf, for she did not answer the question, busying herself entirely with those slight duties, as hostess, that at the Towers she scarcely needed to exercise at all. But to-day, in her father's ab- sence, she chose to assume them with as much heartiness as grace. She recommended certain excellent farm-house dishes to her guests, and echoed the murmured delight of the farmer's wife when her guests screamed at the sight of, but found sucking-pig, delicious.

It was iii the midst of a burst of laughter that the door unclosed, and Dashwood, pale in his dark riding dress, stood before them. Beyond the open house-place his black horse, flecked with foam and streaming with perspiration, was visible, its bridle secured to the wood-work of the -norch.

" You are late/'said Mrs. Vivien, gaily ; "come and sit beside me, and you shall have some pig."

He nodded to his daughter, but did not look at Velasquez as he sat down by Mrs. Vivien, and declining her off ers of a newly-discovered delicacy, asked for one of those everyday articles of diet to

which he was accustomed.

The servants had forgotten nothing, and served their master as perfectly as if he sat athis own table; but more than one of those discreet ser- vitors saw mischief in his air, and in the glance that from time to time he turned on Katharine and Velasquez in the midst bf the light talk he

scattered around him.

Soon the party broke up into little groups, and began to explore the farmhouse and its surround- ings. The. servants had withdrawn, and only Dashwood and; Mrs. Vivien were left in the kitchen, standing on opposite sides of the hearth, and as the door closed, their eyes met. ;

" And how do you find the. fencing-room by moonlight ?" ho said.

For a moment her color faded, though her glance did not quail before him ; then she said : ,

" I find it very well. But if one did not know tho trick of the sliding panel, one might find it awkward to be locked in-by one's host."

Did a lightning expression of relief cross his features as she spoke ? Sho could scarcely tell, confounded as she was by the unexpectedness of the attack, and with all her previously laid plans routed by some intelligence she had; ga- thered from tho newspaper just before starting

that morning.

" I have sent your domino to your maid," he said, negligently. " I think it must be tho one-with a great many tucks in it;-that Major Georges was speaking of at breakfast." ... ..

She made no reply ; he could only see her pro- file as she stood looking down at the blazing logs

attheir feet.

" Had I known that you intended to honor my poor room, I ..would .haye provided a fire for you,

and a chair," lie said, "or rather three chairs, as, like yourself, Mr. Velasquez and my daughter seemed bitten with a taste for observing my armour last night."

" It is very beautiful," she murmured, " and I have a weakness for observing armour-and lovers, so I followed Mr. Velasquez and your daughter in, Naturally they were too much engaged with each other to hear or perceive my entrance, and I had no idea of intruding on their conversation. My domino was large, and I am small. I wrapped myself in its folds, meaning to lie perdu until the room should be vacant. But rayhearing is acute ; I heard all, while I saw nothing. And then you entered." She paused, and for the first tine since she had begun to speak, looked at him.

"And your hearing being so acute, and my voice more distinct than my daughter's, you kindly listened to my-wanderings," he said, "and no doubt modesty hindered your coming forward to give me the pleasure of your company. For you know I am a little fastidious about women, and their charm is gone when I see them mas- querading as men."

Their eyes were held together now in a keen, searching look. Long ago he and she had mea- sured swords, and a quite inadequate bargain had been struck between them, for if she had once slightly fixed his fancy, ho had fixed her regard, and while he had forgotten she had remembered,

with the one supreme passion of a lifetime.

But .if love could not hold him, a secret power might, and after many years of seeking for the one vulnerable spot in his soul, she thought she had discovered it on the evening when he came face to face with Mr. Velasquez.

" Why will you treat mo as an enemy ?" she said at last, in the voice of one who rather suppli- cates than imposes conditions.

" I could never be yours," he said, gravely ¡ " but you treated me as one, when, under cover of a disguise, you crept constantly to my elbow last night, whispering mysterious questions, inu

endoes, doubts."

" But the doubts are at an end," she said boldly, "and a scrap of paper taken from a Russian

helm-"

"Is quite at your service," said Dashwood, add- ing, as the door opened, and a confusion of voices and approaching steps became audible, " a lady's thefts are always forgotten."

" Wot if her theft included his honor," said Mrs. Vivien, in a very low voice.

" No man could wish to place his honor in safer hands," said Dashwood, as ho turned to look at the first person who entered, a beautiful young girl carrying carefully a dish of curds and whey, which she almost dropped on discovering the presence of the lord of the manor. She managed, however, to curtsey very gracefully, and to de- posit the bowl on the table without any of the male assistance that was so perseveringly offered by Major Georges and Lord Dolly. Her eyes were bright with anger, and her round soft cheeks rosy with rage; if she had dared, she would have soundly cracked these gentlemen's heads with her

?wooden ladle, for they had been chaffing her, and she was no match for their satirical banter. They had found out that she was ono of tho objects of the great man's admiration, and that her soul stood in ardent need of his ? prayers, personally conducted of course, but that her mother objected to such intercessions, and had actually threatened him with a broomstick if he came "loping round"

any more.

"With eyes like gimblets, and his trousers trodden into rags at his heels, Miss Katharine," said the farmer's wife, "to come round my Dolly like as if he was courting her, and he an old gen- tleman who ought to be saying prayers for himself, or for the country he's tried to be the

ruin of !"

Katharine laughed.

"Dolly can take caro of herself," she said; "and he is very harmless, both in politics and

love." .

1 They had lingered in the dairy together, and this was the first, word they had got alone that day, and now the old servant wlnspered

" And as for love, Miss, have you and Master Jacic kept true .to each other ?"

" Yes," said Kitty, softly. :'

"And is tho master as much against it as

ever ?"

J "He is just the same."

"And have von seen,him since you came back, Miss?":.-. . " . .

"Onco . . . . . and J shall never seo him again.": . .. . ,

"You haven^t quarrelled, Miss Kitty ?" said the I woman, anxiously.

V.No/büt hayo younot heard ? Hia regiment

is ordered abroad on active service."

"Yes, Miss, yes," said the farmer's wife, briskly, f but haven't you got the news this morning ?"

. "What news ?" said Katharine, stopping short with hand pressed to her heart.

" The war's, over, so Master Jack needn't go. My man got it from Stornionth Hall an hour be-

fore you came."

"Oh!" sighed Kitty, in a long, long sigh of joy. Then she put both arms around tho; wo-

man's neck and kissed her.

! " Thank you, . Miss Kitty," said the latter, gently. "I'll tell Master Jack that when I see him. And, perhaps, you'll be seeing him your-

self soon."

"Across tho width of a church, perhaps," said Kitty, rather ruefully, " but nowhere else. I hayo made a promise, Mary, and I must neither send him a message, nor write him a lotter, nor make a tryst with him--"

"Nor yet keep oneP" said Mary, her shrewd, kind eyes fixed on the girl's face ¡ " but if you break your word or no, I'm glad you kept that one in the fencing-room the other night."

"Did Mr. Stormonth tell you that?" said Ka-

tharine, proudly.

" How else could he have come to you, Miss, except through me ? Who but mo, having lived in service 15 years at tho Towers, knows the ins and outs of tho fencing-room, or how was't pos- sible for Master Jack to get into it ? And who but me could have got the letter safe to your hand, when every servant in the house has got

his orders about you ?"

'Katharine colored brilliantly.

" So my father does not trust me," she said

half aloud. 4

"Well, Miss Kitty," said Mary, ''when Master Jack rushed in here all pale and distracted about 5 o'clock that afternoon, and said ho must see you or die before he went abroad, (for he only got my letter that morning saying master had brought you back to the Towers), and how there was only ope safe placo lie knew of, and that was the fenc- ing-room, and could I get a note to your hand within an hour. I put on my cloak and hood, and he just hitched me up on his arm, and bundled me along through the snow, for it' was dark as pitch. So that I was breathless when I got into the housekeeper's room, with his letter safe in my ppeket. I knew that if the master caught me taking anything to you, he would turn my man out of the farm tho first opportunity, so I was puzzled how to manage it, for your maid might find it first if I hid it among your clothes, or put it on your table. Just themyour little pug trotted into tho room, and a thought struck me. The housekeeper had been called away, and picking up the dog I stole, by ways I knew of, to your corridor and knocked at your door. You said, ' Como in V and I half opened it and said, ' Are you alone, Miss ?' and you said, ' Yes.' Then I pitt the letter into the dog's mouth, and pushed him into the room. I heard you get up and. make an exclamation j then I pulled the door close, and ran down for my life. After I came down, the housekeeper said, ' Miss Katharine will be vexed not to have seen you, Mary, but master does not allow any one to see her without his express per- mission/ But I told her that I had no doubt you would be coming to see me one of these days, little Ihiuking how soon that would be. But all last night I was quaking for fear lest he'd be caught up at the Towers."

" Lnst. night !" said Kitty, turning very pale; " but he had gone back to rejoin his regiment, and men do not leave when they are under marching orders.: I could not think how he got that one night." . -

"His Colonel and General Stormonth are old friends," said Mary. "Perhaps that accounts for it. But the morning after Master Jack got back to . Hs' regiment,, a telegram came saying the General was dying, so off he started here again, but by.the;time he gets to the Hall, the General is better, :and quite out of danger."

.Katharine, stood palo and breathless, looking tlirough the diamond-shaped panes of glass at the afternoon :. now quickly closing in, that a few mo- ments ago. had shown to her, like the opening of a fresh spring morning.

''I was sitting by the fire knitting," went on Mary,' about 9 o'clock last night, when the door

opened./andyho should walkin but Master Jack! He'd got on a coat above his evening dress, and over his arm some loose black thing that he told me was 'a domino, and then he showed me a mask, and said he was going up to the Towers to join in the masked ball', where he could get a word with you, and nobody be the wiser. He looked pale, and said, f It's a fine thing to go straight from a sick bed to a ball, isn't it, Mary ? But the dear old father's'better, and she is first, she* always must be first with me.' Then he went away, and when-X got the message this morning from the Towers that the house party would require the use of tho kitchen for luncheon, my heart sank, for I. thought the master had found it all out, and was coming here to punish nie. But I saw at once by your face that it was all right," added Mary, briskly j "and now you'll be happy, know ing he is safo at home."

Katharine turned suddenly. Mr. Velasquez waa", qn fhe . threshold ; apparently he had been* waiting; without for her during this interview, find his patience was getting exhausted. For the first time :tbe patient, steady attendance on her that both; the and she had come to accept as natural, jarred suddenly and violently on Ka- tharine, ,and showed her in a false position to her own' ¿yes.

" I will come "presently," she said coldly, and he

bowed and, went out.

"Who is that gentleman, Miss Kitty ?" ex- claimed Mary, sharply ; 5f but there's no need to ask his name, only how carno he to be stopping in your father's house ?"

"That'is Mr. Velasquez/' said Kitty, too ab Borbed inLhor thoughts to notice Mary's tone.

"Ño,, itu is'/Mr. Fitzhugh," said Mary, with growhig excitement j " whatever he may call himself; - he's à: Fitzhugh. Don't I know their faces as .well, and even better than the Dash- woods' ? And that gentleman is the living image, except for complexion and black eyes, of the Fitz hugh-who was killed-who died, I mean, in the fencing-room at the Towers. And I'll swear

that he is of the same blood and race as Master Jack." ' ,

Katharine started. For a minute sho stood looking down, and thinking.. deeply ; then a light flashed over all her features, and she colored as if with shame; but not for herself, and lifted her head proudly.

" If he is a- Fitzhugh, Mary, ho has different ideas of honor to--Master Jack. Perhaps he takes after his father--" and then she stopped, hating herself , for the ungenerous speech, and

moved to return to tho house.

"Are you quite so sure, Miss Kitty, that he wa3 so dishonored ?" said Mary, curiously. /'I was your mother's maid then, and I saw.' him often-" she paused, and a peculiar expression

crossed her face.

"Letus go in," said Katharine, "or my father will suspect us."

At the kitchen door they parted, and Velasquez followed her-in. - .