Chapter 82506544

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Chapter NumberVII.-(Continued.)
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82506544
Full Date1899-11-11
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count2658
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950)
Trove TitleAn Astounding Marriage
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'AS AST0MDH& lIAEEIieE,

BY A. CORALIE STANTON, - If*? 'Author of 'A Jealous Woman's Plot.' v.- ?' 'The Other Woman,' 'His Enemy's' ? - ? Hand.'

'?t\ - CHAPTER VII— (Continued.)

He stood before her, upright it ? is, ? true, with grave eyes, in which sincere V Borrow and self-loathing^vere admirably imitated, - she thought, with bijter scorn; but without a word of explana tion or self-defence. ', 'You are not auite -just to me',' was

''?' r?' all he said, in his- beautiful, magnetic j -l ', * voice that made her wince, because she' remembered .how -she had,, listened for. I' ' ' it. ' 'I dare not ask' fpr'your forgive-, '- ? ness. You. shall, have your wish.- You i'v shall never see me again !' ? ' ?' V v He went, with the air of -.a man who - T ' - ? can bear with dignity a just punish ;; ,-V _._ ment-; out she put it down to callous-' '?,. / ness. v ?' ';,',? .. She was alone with her brother^ Dou-, .';?; ? glas, whose piteous eyes touched her to ? '; V ' -tenderness. It was a curious fact. She ''\ -. . overlooked the yery real, repentance of '?/ ? . '?? the man she loved. . In his case she ^ - . lost all sens& of proportion.' But her \,j.' : brother's sorrow' she accepted, ahdgave ?\' ' r ., 'him her hand. , . : \, y ' ' i\- 'We will forget,' she said kindly.' '.-' 'I do not blame you -.so 'much. You V-.' . -.were. -his friend: I suppose lie influ ^'_. * enceg- everyone. Take me home, ;; , please.' , ' . '-__- '/ Alone, the full fury of the. storm of -'',/-? pain and anger burst over her. For i l\ „ -hours she knelt at her bedroom window, ;\f'^! motionless, her eyes^ unseeing, fixed on :,*' - the trees in the square, the rumble' of ?-; ? ' th.e traffic, ceaseles3, monotdhous, '(:''?-. 'echoing' distantly in .her cars, her'brain ?t' on fire with the sting of four words : £- - 'The shame 'of it! The shame of ?r..'., ' it! The shame of it!' She had given, her heart to a man^to ;j y . play with, to examine, to place under y'v - , tho cruel microscope of a cynic's eye. ;'? [ ' ' She had shown him, with a school-girl's ?\- '. idiotic ardor, that, he was in her eyes J1/' - the perfection of 'manhood. She had ;\u started with a prejudice in his favor, :': -because he was her brothez*'s friend. ','-' ' The first note of his voicev.had conquered '?' ' ' her; the rest had been but a succession ;J. of incidents leading up to his last and /''' final victory — her confession of love: ? ?:_' .' ? She saw it all clearly now. ? Each I ^ -word of his was a progressive step 'in .{''- the same direction; and each word, as *'.; ' Bhe dwelt on. it now, was a, keen-edged ; .' 'knife plunged into, her heart. Jie had ]??'/*' -thought her pretty, no( doubt. He ' '?; '. - had none the less despised women, be ft.- . ? .cause he said pretty, things- to_ her. It -V ' ^-,all partook of the nature of a,novef sen 'f ' ' . sation for him, an^ experiment3 to win :, '~\ ' the ignorant heart 'of the woman whom -vA' he had cheated into a position from -?':'.') which she nould not escape. ^ ;-_'? ' He would have married hrr. ' Why ./ ' jxoti ^ She: was, rich. She was his *'.''' friend's sister. - He would have mar . ,' ' - , ~ i - - ,? ' j1' ?. -si':. - ? '*''. /

ried her -with this lie on his lips, in his heart, without giving her a chance' of knowing him. ? ?; ? . , Probably he would have enjoyed the revelation of himself as the hero of the forced marriage ceremony, when it, was tcolate for her to go back: - He would Have treated' her to a -disquisition on the psychology of the fact 'that, while she had given her heart to Philip Men zies, she would have shrunk as from' defiling pitch from the man he really was: *? . ' 'So they deceive' usi!' she; muttered, as.in a fever, pacing.her room with rest-1 less feet. . 'And if in this, how much in other things — in all other things? We .give our heart to a man.- Some, chance enlightenment shows him. to us' a different being. Nothing warned us —no one warned us: It is a conspiracy, of the world against us. -Even'ourl nearest and dearest are silent, although (hey know. To spare us, they 'say. They don't know that' it were better' to pluck our living heart out than to allowj us to give it unworthily. .So they are, silent, -and .we find out afterwards,( and1 live the rest. of oiir life in shame that we! could liave laved such a creature.'' ' - She was like a, being distraught. -She stopped now in front of a large cheval' glass ; but the loveliness of the reflected picture 'gave her no pleasure. '. '~ She saw a tall, white form, with a'face whiter than the lace of the billowy dress, a pair of burning eyes in that small, white'facej a veil of loosely-waving gol den 'hair, tumbling over the shoulders, a sensitive, .trembling, -mouth — a - person ality that, carried on it the living mark of a. deadly wound. i ? -. 'No one1 — no one shall ever deceive me^ again!' she said wildly, brushing ,the thick hair from her forehead -with nervous, ring-laden fingers. 'I will 'be- lieve, nothing — no one! I will live for my clothes and jewels, and the heads I can turn and the hearts I can break!'' She watched, with satisfaction, a hard glitter come into the reflected eyes. 'Grow harder and harder !' she' apos trophised them. r'The harder you grow, the colder your heart will be ; and the colder your heart is, the happier you will become!' \ : Someone knocked at the door. .'It' was her French maid, Lucille. ' 'Monsieur Audain sent word to say that he hoped you would ridl trouble 'to go down to dinner, mademoiselle,' she' anid, in herr broken English. ,. .Mary flushed. Douglas wanted ' to spare her. Ho thought her heart was; broken — that she was weeping her eyes' out, thinking, tender', and miserable thoughts about his handsome friend.' ' ? 'He shall see that I don't^eare!' she told, herself. , 'No one — no man on' earth shall pity me!'1 , 'Kindly send word that I am going' to occupy my box at the opera,' she said.. ''Get me' out of these things quickly, Lu.cifle. The' dressing-gong sounded long ago. Do my hair up any how. You can arrange the diamond snake, in it. And I will wear the 'new bliick-jetted dress from Worth's, and all my pearls.' '',''' Douglas looked up, torn between ad miration ' and wonder, when his sister eii tered .the room. He had brought two men in to dinner, thinking she would certainly- not appears

He marvelled at her now^ as, with a graceful little apology for her unpunc tuality, she took her seat, and never let the ball of conversation once slip out of her control .until the meal was over. 'Does she not care, after all?' he asked himself, silent from sheer stupe faction, aa he listened to, her witty, frothy, small-talk, her skilful argument, enthusiastic as the rabid politician who was .her opponent, her lightning-like transition to gay repartee,' from that to the description of a. purely pathetic in cident. 'She cannot really care 1' It can only be said in extenuation of his erroneous conclusion, that to Doug las Audain a woman was a sealed book. CHAPTER VIII. Early on the afternoon, of the follow ing day, Major-General Hubert Francis Aldington, seventh Earl of Giltore, a man who .had distinguished himself and won, the V.C. in an Indian frontier war, but who was best known as the riches^ nobleman in England, alighted from a cab, and rang the bell of Douglas Au dain'sjiouse in Berkeley-square. The object of his visit was represent ed by a folded piece of paper in his pocket-book, on' which appeared a few words; signed by the fair mistress of the house, asking Lord Giltore, if possible, to call before teatime. Mary did not appear at once, and the gallant soldier wandered restlessly about her boudoir, wondering what- it was that he-was to be privileged to do'for the wo man 'who had four times refused his hand, heart, and fortune.' ) The most remarkable feature of Lord Giltore's face .was the one from which might be inferred the characteristic that had led him to refuse to take Mary's 'No' for an answer. His mouth had ?been described by a friend as 'a line of 'defermination.' ? This was, . perhaps, exaggerated ; but the firmly-closed lips, the istrong, straight .lines of the whole face, 'suggested an enormous amount of quiet, ''dogged perseverance verging on obstinacy.' Irma Gaunt's objection, which we have already. had occasion to note, to this most persistent suitor of 'Mary's was solely founded on his age, which was 49, and he looked every day- of it. ? He1 was a fine, well-built man, biit he had a most unsoldierly stoop, and his hair waswhiter than many men's at 60. His quiet, light-blue eyes lit up to sudden warmth as Mary entered the room: She sliook hands quietly ; then, Avith startling; suddenness, she said: 'I asked you to come to-day, Lord Giltore, because I want to know whether you arc still of the same mind— whe- ther you still want to marry me.' 'Want to marry you!' The man's whole self spoke in the repetition, con centrated in that one whispered yearn ing sentence. 'I am willing to be your wife,' '' she

said, and found herself pinioned by his hands, crushing her arms in their pite ous eagerness, while her eyes looked into, the bare soul of a. man who sees his 'one' hope in life realised. . » - 'Why?' he asked breathlessly. :|;. ?. '? Her lips tightened, her 'face paled, and she shook her head. 'You must not ask me.' . 'You love ine?' , . , 'No,' sorrowfully. ' ''? The light died from his eyes. 'Then why ?' he repeated. 'Do 'you pity me?' . 'No; you do not require pity. ? I would- not insult you so. - I would try. to make you happy.'.' _ .Her. voice. was! very wistful, so gentle and so earnest' that it gave him courage. - 'You are an angel!' he said, and folded her in his arms.

He dared not question any more. He had what he wanted; ought that not to be enough^ . And yet he had never dr'e'ame!4,'of fo coming thus' tV..- hiv., 'strangely* -passive, with a look: in her .pyes; thabrhe. could not understand, as if she were doing him a wrong. She did nbtVlove him now. Was that a rea son why she^never should? y Take . what the gods send you, Lord Giltore'!' .?' * A horrible spasm suddenly contracted his face into a rigid mask. His lips turned. blue, his cheek to the color of ashes., He staggered into a chair. ? ''The? girl 'watched him, terrified, as he struggled with the attack,' and finally ?regained breath and strength enough to murmur: 'It is over now. You see,' he added, with a smile, 'it won't be for longJ'

Mary was touched; and -she was a brave girl. She had voluntarily offered this man a. glimpse into^.paradise. She -had.no right t'o close the; gates again. ? 'I hope it will be for 'very long,' she said firmly! 'But tell me—what is it? Do you take care enough of yourself?' 'It is a combination of an old wound and a weak heart,' he explained. 'It may prove fatal any day— any moment. Perhaps I haye not been' over-careful of late ; but now, jf by giving away every thin.g I had in the world I could add a few years to my life, I would do it glad His w,ord& were accompariied«.by such a look of proud and worshipful joy, that Mary's heart sank within her. ' Would she be equal to it — the ceaseless strain on her slender resources that such a love as his would be? They drove in* the park together after tea, and the world wondered , and nod

ded its head with meaning smiles when it saw the millionaire, middle-aged earl seated by the side of the belle of the season. ? ? -, . ? ?'.. That same night, at a smart ball, the ?engagement was- formally 'announced. ? - Majy had crossed the Rubicon. She had set up an eternal barrier between herself and the man whose unworthi 'ness, she told herself, had killed her heart. ? ' Besides, she 'had undertaken a grave responsibility. She had, of her own free will, promised herself to a man she did not love — a. man, moreover, who had told her that any day, any moment, might be his last. Did she not owe him double care and tenderness? Gould she give it? Was she acting fairly? ?. A persistent, haunting voice said 'no.' The point of view from which she looked upon Lord- Giltore had. absolute ly changed. Before he had been mere ly a disinterested suitor— a -man who was convenient, who was there on the spot to save her from useless repinings, from her own heart. Now he was in vested with something of the. mystery of the unknown. She saw in him a man who calmly, cheerfully, but not lightly, faced death every day of his life. She felt a great respect' for him. And to her was entrusted the happiness of this precarious life.' She had taken it upon herself. ' She. wasnot'altogether sorry. It would keep her from- think Her brother was perplexed, terribly afraid for her. 'Are you sure you are happy 3' he asked over and , over again, with more zeal than tact. And she said impatiently at last:-1—; 'I have chosen for myself, Douglas. Surely that is answer enough.?' 'Have . you forgiven me ?' he asked timidly. 'I feel that you have- reason to hate, me!' ? 'I have forgiven you,' she said more gently. 'Please never speak of it again.' 'I must say one thing more,' he urg ed nervously. 'Will you never forgive him?' His heart was sore for his ab sent friend. In the calmer mood suc ceeding his momentary fury, he realised that he had perhaps misjudged his1 friend. Philip had been weak because he loved Mary. He wa's not a coward. It was, doubtless, true what he said he had concealed the truth'to spare her pain.' The girl's tender face hardened to stone again. , ' ( 'Never speak of, him again^ Douglas! I Can never forgive cowardice and false hood!' 'Tell me tlie truth, Mary,' he said sud denly, for he had caught a. quiver of her lip. 'Did you love him?' 'No; I never loved him!' She told the first deliberate falsehood of her life with a firm voice. A woman will do so much for the sake of her pride. Douglas sighed. He was more sorry than glad on the whole. To.be continued. A lamb, which had its hind legs fro zen off in infancy, was able to walk on its fore feet with its body erect