|Chapter Number||XVI (CONTINUED)|
|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Found Out|
BY THE AUTHOR OP "COMIN' THEO' THE EYE."
CHAPTER XVI. (CONTINUED).
A shade oí pallor crept around Dashwood's thii lips, but bis voice was as usual when he said. " Since you are so explicit, may I ask during .what hours Mr. Storrnonth enjoyed the shelter of . nay roof last night ?"
" I cannot toll you/' said Katharine, with per- fect caluines3 5 "when I arrived, I found the rooms occupied to all appearances by Mr. Ve- lasquez only. But I wish to say to you, that if I was hurried by excitement into meeting him the first time, nothing can excuse my .willingness to do so on a second occasion, and you need not bolt and bar the door of the fencing or any other room against nie, for I will make or keep no other tryst with Mr. Storrnonth until" (her voice sank to one of purest love) " my twenty-first birthday."
" Tour assurances como too late," said Dash- wood, in a low voice that seemed to freeze her, so f idl of menace, of hatred, of even despair, was it ; bub tho next moment he had advanced to meet Mrs. Vivien, who looked even'more lovely and listless than usual. v
"Do I interrupt an interesting conversation?" she said, looking from ono to tho other, and acutely realising what a mistake sho had made in neglecting to take Katharine into her calcula ' tions. ? :
" Wo were discussing ' a topic that threatens to become tiresome by repetition," said Dashwood j then, turning to Katharine, added, '! Did you fool any angelic presence near you last hight ? - Because, though invisible, Mrs. Vivien was in your company for a considerable time in the fenc , ing room.'" ,
, ; Both women turned white as the dresses they wore, hut Katharine's was the pallor of deep humi- liation, while Mrs. Vivien's eyes wore fixed on Dashwood with so curious a gaze that the girl felt as one suddenly thrust outside some drama in ? which, tip to that moment, she had been taking
no insignificant part, and she moved away; leav- ing her father and his guest face to face.
:"So you defy mej Dashwood ?" said Mrs. Vivien. ' ' « '
" My clear lady," he said, " why will you bo sc melodramatic, and make a tragedy out of a trifle ? You hear a story, you get certain suspicions inte your: charming head, you put ona very uncomfort- able dress in order to confide those suspiciohSj then you lie for some hours in a very uncomfort- able position in order to verify them 5 but yon only surprise two lovers, both in love, though not necessarily with one another, and you overhear the soliloquy of an elderly gentleman, and con- nect it with a scrap of paper that, for whim's sake, ho keeps in a battered Russian helmet. With the acquisitiveness of your lovely sex, you proceed to confiscate this bit of paper as. soon as my back; is turned--" lie paused, then with an abrupt change of voico and countenance;'added,
'or did Storrnonth take it ?"
The question stabbed her like a sword-thrust unexpectedly delivered, and for a moment she staggered under it, then she said :
" Pray, who is Mr. Stonnonth, and what should I know of his doings ?"
But Dashwood had .discovered all that he de- sired, or that he did not desire to know.
Fury raged in his heart as he smiled and left her, to welcome some now guests who had arrived from town that afteroon, and whom he now intro- duced to his daughter.
All.the women, with two exceptions, were in high spirits that eveniug, and their complexions so fresh that another donkey ride might have been projected had not some signs of a thaw set in, re- joicing, the men's hearts and holding up a lively prospect of scarlet coats : and a rim with tho hounds very shortly. . r
It so happened that Mrs. Vivien and Mrs. Vel- asquez were placed side by side, aud the opportu- nity she had desired came. . . .
"How do you like Mr. Storrnonth?" she said as coolly as if she had asked how he liked the change in the weather.
" He seems a very good fellow," said Mr. Velasquez, after a moment's pause j " no doubt you are acquainted with him in tov/n"
"Not I" said Mrs.. Vivien j ", any: acquaintance with him is limited to an : interview, very brief, in tho fencing-room last night." ? :
Velasquez started, and looked at her.1
"Then you arrived there after I left?" he said, quietly. .
" On the contrary, I arrived early, and, expect- ing nothing, found a vast deal to interest and
enlighten me. :: _- *.
" lb was fortunate," said Velasquez,. coldly, " that other persons-and matters-than your- self were discussed. You will pardon my remind- ing you of the old adage-",
"There is another," retorted Mrs. Vivien, " that I prefer. It runs thus : ' Two is company, three is trumpery/" '
" In this instance there would seem to be four, or perhaps six," said Mr. Velasquez, with perfect composure, "for to my knowledge you are the fifth person who was present last night."
" Who knows, how .many followed its ?" said Mrs. Vivien, shrugging her shoulders ; " but I have a word- of advice for you. Don't give Katharine" Dashwood up because there has been some boy and ghi" nonsense between her and Storrnonth." Then she turned to the man next" her, and left Velasquz to recover from the dis- agreeable shock of knowing that the profoundest secrots of; his life were bared to thc eyes of a woman to whom tho keepiug of a secret was .probably impossible.
Across the pure white flowers that decorated the table, he had more than , once sought in vain to catch Katharine's glance, but she seemed en- grossed with tho new arrival from town, and had
never showed so brilliantly, or in such good spirits, as to-night.
Long ago the men in the house had fitted her with the title of a "contemplative charmer," and by this they did not mean that sho con- templated them, but herself. Now there is a story told of a gentleman of color who was so enamoured of his own beauty . that he spent his whole time gazing into a pool, until his mistress, burning with pity at her own neglected charms, broke his repose by rudely I bouncing into his looking-glass, and BO muddying
its waters that his own image disappeared, and he was forced to tho contemplation of hers.
No such interruption had apparently come to disturb our charmer in that quiet self-contempla- tion, or rather, self-communing, that made her move like one apart in the midst of the gaiety around her ; even her constant companionship with Velasquez did not suggest, Eave to very superficial eyes, any serious interest in him, and one by one the men ceased to concern themselves about so cold and preoccupied a Diana.
But Katharine, bright, alive, with ¡joy in her eyes to match the roses in her cheeks, with, words of wit on her lips, and music in the happy voice whose laughter was frequently heard during dinner, was a creature so radiant and lovely that, as lesser lights palo when the fair queen of night rises on tho horizon, so did she outshine all others present, wherefore jealousy ruled tho female, and admiration the male, bosoms, that surrounded Dashwoods table
He alone appeared to notice no difference ia his daughter, and -was his usual self, neither gayer nor sadder than usual,' and no one could have guessed the thoughts that came and went in his brain, or see the spectre that stood behind his j chair, and whispered, a single word over and over
again into his oar.
In the drawing-room Katharine's manner changed, as if tinder a freezing influence. She did not protend to understand these fine ladies, nor tho absence of their lords, but she had disap- proved less of Mrs. Vivien than the rest, since she was a widow, and free to follow her own. devices, even though they might be of no very elevated kind. .
But to-night Katharine felt only indignation
j against a woman who could so easily play thé
part of an eavesdropper, and her eyes expressed à very sincere contempt as Mrs. Vivien presently approached, and took tho vacant place beside i hor. ? ? . i
' " Miss Dashwood," she said, "you aro angry,
and justly so. But it was with no thought of spy- ing on you that I went to the fencing-roóm last night." "
! . ".Yet you remained to listen," said Katharine,
"Because retreat was ¿ext to impossible.'' ; ! "Then I should have advanced," said Katha-
rine, more coldly still, but longing wildly to ask
Mrs. . Vivien if she had seen Jack.
Mrs. Vivien shrugged her shoulders. " There are positions," she said, "where masterly activity is the ¡best policy, and this was one of them. But Twas
sorry," she wont on, in a different aud gentler j tone, "thatyour father should have come and
i spoiled your tryst."
y Did Jack come after I left?" cried Katharine, I the words springing irrepressibly from her lips,
j "Is Mr."Velasquez's name Jack ?" said Mrs. ! Vivien, opening her eyes.
í "I meant Mr. Storrnonth, the.man to whom I am engaged," said Katharine, proudly.
" A-h !" said Mrs. Vivien, with a peculiar j change of countenance.
. ''Do you know, him ?" said Katharine, feeling a little cold, she knew not why. : >
" No, but I hear of him very often, Is; he not in tho .--th regiment ?"
, "Yes." ? ? ... ' ???.
' ' " About the fastest regiment in tho line. And you are engaged to him ? " added Mrs. Vivien, in a'tone of incredulity.
"Is there any reason why I should not bs ? " said Katharine, haughtily.
',\None that I know, of," said Mrs. Vivien, add- ing in a half aside, "and Miss Dashwood is an
heiress !" . . - .
" Have you been engaged long ?" turning her blue eyes full of pity upon Katharine, who had scorned to notice her last words. V
"I think that you need not concern yourself about that matter in the least, Mrs. Vivien."
; "Really?. But it may. concern a friend of mine, the prettiest creature in a furiously dark style -that I ever saw. ¡ And I . believe she had good reasons for believing herself as good as engaged to Miv Stormonth a month ago. - You soe she lives at Farnbro15 and with men, absence does ,not make the' heart grow fonder, and I think your father said you had been at school abroad for the last two years ?" ;
; But Katharine had moved away,,and soon was the centre of a knot of men, not one of. whom found it -possible to leave her, for she had sud- denly developed some airs of a coquette, however stately, and when the party presently sat down to " nap," she was the life and soul 'of tho game.