|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Found Out|
CHAPTER XVI. '
To cliocht that I was like yoursalf , And loving ilk ano I did seo :
But here I swear by tho Heaven's clear, ' I never loved a mah but theo.
All the ladies rotired to their rooms on the return foni the farmhouse, for tho frosty air had tired thom',-and below stairs tho men made morry after their kind in tho smoking-room, and thanked Heaven tó'bo saved afternoon.tea. Two of tho women dismissed their maids quickly, and drank
no tea that afternoon, and both, though from very different points of view, were eagerly re- viewing the scenes enacted in the feneing-room overnight.
Let us yield the pas to the guest of the house, as she sits thinking, thinking, as never in all her frivolous life has she thought before. Like a pa- norama, the last ten years of her life unrolled, and she saw herself, as maid, wife, and widow, preferring Dashwood to any other man she had ever met, but always conscious that, however she might attract him, she had no talisman by which to reach his heart. It was notorious that he had not loved his wife, and, if he amused himself, it was so negligently that he seemed to feel the trouble more than the pleasure of his ties, and she had never suspected the deeply rooted influence of any other woman in his Kfe until she had heard Fitzhugh's story, told by Dashwood's neigh- bour. Then, at a bound she had leaped to the truth, and later, with a still bolder flight, made up her mind that Velasquez was Fitzhugh's son.
, It was on these convictions that she had acted at the masked ball, and in her male disguise stolen hither and thither, whispering her doubts and suspicions, but it was only by seeing the curious effect her words had on both Dashwood and Ve- lasquez, that she began to seriously suspect tho former of having, by false means, brought about his friend's self-destruction. Later, as she was trying to regain her bed-room unperceived, she found herself entangled in dark corridors, from which she strove to escape, until she heard steps approaching, when she drew back, but to her terror they halted opposite her. Tho next mo- ment she heard a gratiner, sliding sound, a step or two forward as through a door, and then the same sliding sound, and sho knew herself alone.
But she had scarcely recovered, when a lighter footfall seemed to approach, and tho flicker of a candle showed, and soon, looking neither to tho right nor left, a tall fignre in a white silk mask and domino paused at the same spot opposite the hider, and with one trembling hand shading the light so that it fell on a particular panel, pressed a thumb on it, and at the same moment the light went ont, and a cold current of wind rushed to meet Mrs. Vivien as, without a moment's hesita- tion, she stepped noiselessly through the aperture close to Katharine, and into the thick darkness immediately beyond.
In the turmoil and excitement of . her nerves, strained to one point, Katharine heard and felt nothing j she swiftly closedjthe panel, and ran for- ward to meet her lover, but mot instead-Velas- quez. Scarcely a word uttered in the room that night was lost on Mrs. Vivien ; lying shrouded in her cloak against the wall she heard all, and like another Jael, felt that another Sisera was given over into her hand when she found herself in possession of the scrap of paper that she felt
certain held the ohio to the real truth of the tragedy consummated in that room.
But the clue had been snatched from her before she had properly seized it. She shuddered even now at the thought of the cold hand that had fomched hers, and which she took to be that of the dead man's .... but she wished now that it had been his, or that of any living man-save Jack Stormonth. Here was a power by which he could compel Dashwood to give him Katharine, and was it likely the lover would fail to turn his know- ledge to such profit ? Then her chances were ruined. If the young fool had gone abroad, she might have made her game, but with him at home, perhaps in tho immediate neighborhood, she could not be safe for a moment. And without that scrap of paper she could prove nothing, and all her suppositions would be laughed to scorn by all reasonable people, while Dashwood would
smile at and defy her. Nevertheless-and here she set ber teeth hard-she would play out her cards as gaily as if the most intrepid heart, cer- tain bf success, beat in her breast, and by the time the first dressing-bell rang she had settled her plan of action, and decided on the moment (not far distant) when she should commence tho
And naturally she had never been so fastidious before as to the shape of her gown, and the com- plexion of her looks, so that her maid wondered if she had found fresh swains to conquer, and presently inquired in the servants' hall what new gentlemen were expected that night.
Meanwhile Katharine, too, was alone, divided between joy that Jack was not going away, and terror lest he should have supposed her to have made an assignation with Mr. Velasquez in the fencing-room before she received his letter.
For surely he had been angry with her, or why did he not come forward, even though a stranger was-present ? Why did he let her lift up her arms, even hold up her face (oh ! how that poor face blushed at the thought), ,to Velasquez as her lover, when a few steps would have brought him to her side ? He must haye doubted her-doubted her ! She wrung her hands at the thought. And he must have been inflexible in his anger, or why, when she stole there for tho second time, did he not come to meet her? But bitterest, cruellest thought of all, she had been so near to the bliss of his voice, his touch, yet had missed both, and she could i have sobbed for tho loss of that hour of happi I ness, tlie sole ono, porhaps, that she might have
a chance of, before sho carno of age !
Thon her tears turned to anger against Mr. Velasquez, that he must have known Jack was there, but held his peace both then, and during their conversation this morning. Perhaps he looked upon this affair as BO purely clandestine that, from a sense of delicacy and regard for her feelings, ho did not allude to it, and if her opinion of him was bad, pray what must his be
of hoc ?
Yofc novel* had she carried her head higher than when, full ton minutes before the dinner hour, she descended to tho drawing-room, intent on having a few words alone with her father. It was his habit to onter tho room some minutes before his guests, and his! daughter, found him there to-night, rather near 'the door, and bending over some portraits in-enamel of the most famous b"eauties*of-his houser" She approached him 5 as
lie looked up, she,said, in a low, clear voice : j
ffPafeer*,T-Kâve''HrÔken'iny promise'to "you, in '
the spirit if not in the letter of our agreement. I have met Jack Stormonth once, and should have met him a second time had he kept the appoint-
I " "Where did you meet him ?" said Dashwood,
turning sharply on his daughter.
" In the fencing-room."
He put his hand to his breast as if in momen- tary pain j then he said, in his usual cynical
" Could you not have found a more agreeable rendezvous ? And may I inquire the dates of these meetings ?"
" The first was on the evening that your guests arrived ; the second was to have been last night."
j (TO BE CONTINUED.)