Chapter 82508889

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Chapter NumberII.
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82508889
Full Date1899-11-02
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1392
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950)
Trove TitleAn Astounding Marriage
article text

CHAPTER H. '

' 'Mary, you are wanted, dear. A gentleman is waiting in^ the ' office. Some table-decorations, I think.' , Irma Gaunt poked her strong, sensi ble face through the door of the cosy ? -little snuggery where her cousin sat reading. ' ;* It was 1 1 o'clocE jn the morning — too

early .for the first fashionable raid on the luncheon and tea-rooms which the 7 tw-5 cousins managed with such signal success. . . ' . ' -It was three years since the two orphan girls had invested their capital in the great enterprise which was to / bring them: moderate affluence or star vation! It had brought them the for mer. . The dainty rooms, with their rich hangings and sweet flowers, were always thronged, and the girls were lhaking their fortunes in a modest way. ? Practical Irma managed the catering; Mary the ornamental saw to the ar rangements— the floWens, the dainty refinements that stamped their estab

lishment ?with a cachet achieved by , . none of their rivals. Besides, Mary '?'?'' had earned quite a reputation as an artistic floral decorator. ., In the sea son she was besieged with orders — often entreaties — to superintend the . ?'? decking of dinner and- luncheon tables, ? ballrooms, and corridors; and this ad ded nicely to their.- income. ? . ' Mary put down her book, and, after patting her shining hair, and smooth;. , ing out her pretty grey dress, made her way to the comfortable office in which - they transacted their business. The tall,, fair-haired young man — he - ' was little more than a boy — who rose - ' as she entered looked at her with ? '? strange, apprehensive eyes. What he saw wag a fair picture. Mary Lennox was one of- those women on whom kind Nature seems to have ?showered all her fairest and' best, gifts. . \

She was beautiful ; tut that was only a beginning. She was tall, slender, ex quisitely modelled; she had hair'like ripe corn ; dark eyes, full of purple shV dbAvs ; a mouth and nose and chin with which there was no fault to find ; a skin like ivory. She had taste in dress, and knew , how to wear her clothes.1 But above and beyond all that was some thing to which it was difficult to give 'a , name ;, but it was her greatest and best j beauty — a strong, simple, restful soul j looking out of those deep eyes, a great heart, a broad mind, an honest, truth-' i'ul, steadfast nature that brought com; fort and peace wherever it went; / 'I have come to'ask whether you are free this afternoon, Miss Isennox,' the young man said, in a queer, hesitating way, ':to -undertake the decoration of a table for a dinner to-night?' Mary consulted a little silver-bound book hanging on her chatelaine. * 'Yes,' she said, in her clear voice, a voice you could only - associate with simple truth, 'I could come at , 2 o'clock. Would xhat suit you? I cannot make it later.' . 'That will do very well, thank you,' the young man said, still more hesi tatingly. 'Will you tell me' what the 'decora tions of the room, are,' she said briskly, 'and what kind of a dinner it is?' .? 5'It is a bachelor's party,' he said, flushing hotly, which she' did not notice, '-and the room is entirely pannelled and furnished in old oak; it was brought from. a'Dutch house.' ? ' ' ' | ''Old oak? Why nothing can look lovelier than gardenias and old- oak,!' she said firmly. 'Shall I .order the flowers, or will you?' ' v- 'Oh, I'will' see to' .that' he'.' said. ? ' 'And the address T she asked, think ing what a singularly unbusinesslike young man he, was. ,'Oh, of course ! Pardon me, I forgot 17,, Eaton Place.' .,-.,'. % . - ,;.v . 'Thank you — and the name?' ' 'Oh, yes. The name — the name is Smith.' ?'''..? - 'Thank ' you,' she 'said again, scrib bling in\er book. ? ' 'I shall be there at 2 o'clock. Please order plenty of flow ers. ,-. Good-morning, Mr. — Smith.' ' -' Smith— and .old oak — and garde nias I' she laughed to herself. ''What a queer combination !',?;!. -At half-past. % .that' afternoon Irma| sitting in , th'e.' pretty -4itting-room,' drinking coffee and allowing herself {he luxury of a favorite book in the lull between luncheon and tea, was in terrupted by the. appearance of a tall, dark man) with a. ' scholarly-looking stoop and eyeglasses. .).--, V. . SKe received him' unceremoniously, waving him into a chair,''arid John.How itt, Q.C., aged 40, subsided, obediently into it: ' - ' ' '.?'.-',.' On the third finger ^-f Irma's left hand was a half-hoop. of choice pearls, .and John, Howitt had placed it there two

pears ago. It seemed, however, as he often humorously^ complained, that he was to gefrio farther,, for Irma obstin ately refused to exchange her life of freedom for the shackles of matrimony until she had saved enough money, when invested, to give her an adequate income for life. From which it will be seen that her independence went deep er than most women's. . 'Where ^s Mary?' the barrister asked. \ 'Decorating1 a dinner-table,'.' was the absent answer. ' 'Where?' , ' . - .- , 'Somewhere in Eaton Place' — stili more vaguely. 'Do let me finish this chapter!' ' ?. , ' John Howitt helped himself to some fragrant Turkish coffee from the little copper pot, lighted a . cigarette, and awaited, his absorbed companion's 'con-' venience. - ' - . She threw the book down presently, and gave him a cordial hand. i

'?You're looking ill, John,' she- said, lyith concern.' 'You're overworking.'' ,He patted her large, white hand, and looked Affectionately -Sin'to the sensible, strong face 'bent on him, touched by the anxiety* in the sharp, grey eyes behind the 'eyeglasses. ,Irma always said that their friendship dated from the moment they first discovered that they both wore glasses for that same reason, for this self reliant woman wasi very chary of show ing her feelings as a rule. He was think ing at the moment what a much more pleasing face hers was than,many a wo man's who was accounted beautiful. There was strength, in every line of it ; a certain beauty in the curves1 of tlie wide mouth, 'while the white teeth and wavy; burnished chestnut hair were per fect.- '? , ' 'No, I'm not overworking,' he said. 'I've -been very busy lately; but, you know^I like work as well as jou do.' There 'was silence for a while, the sympathetic silence that only exists be-' tween true companions; then the man spoke: — - 'Is Mary, going to marry Lord Gil tore?' .?--'I don't know,' she answered. 'I sincerely hope not. This is the third ttiihe he has asked her. I hate a man who can't take a refusal!' . ? 'You are the wonder of your sex, my dear!' he remarked. 'I don't like Gil-1 tore myself; but his charactei\is irre proachable, and so is his position.' * 'I suppose the world would think it a

great' catch for a girl who keeps a tea shop,' Irma' said scornfully. 'Person- ally,^ don't. He's too old; and she dde'sn't care -for him. I don't think she will.marry him.' The barrister took his leave. He wag due, back at 'the courts, and had only snatched half an 'hour for one of the little 'chats that Avere like water to the parched earth in the ,dry drudgery of his daily life. ? . /' n He was a Tvell-Tmown and. very, wealthy man. He had- had the . opportunity of meeting the-fairest and' cleverest/women of his day-jV-but no one had ever won his n'eart until he had met practical^ level headed Irma Gaunt! ? * f .- ' , ? . /She sab .on when he had gone,' and dreamed ten minutes ' away — a! - rare thing for' her.1 ' ? S-y \ * - *- ' ' ; ?' ' (To be- continued.) r ' ]\