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3BWBâMBâ^ [COPYRIGHT.] A DAUGHTER OF THE TROPICS. BY FLORENCE MARRYAT, 'Author ofil Love's Conflict" Vtronique" etc. CHAPTER XIII. YOU ARE A REAL WITCH. ^HE remarks passed by the other women upon 3-iily Power, as soon as her back was turned, (Were tinctured with as much charity as is usually displayed by the female sex towards one of its own gender. A mysterious illness," said Mrs. Arlington, aneanmgly, as she returned to the drawing- Stab]11 SaW n° s^>ns ^inner- Nor I," acquiesced Emily Hartlebury. "In I thought the flat-fish (that's our nick. |. me *°r her in the theatre, Mrs. Arlington, °ausa she's such a wet blanket) was looking lively this evening. If»I thought TO⢠eno«gh to flirt I should have said she was flirting with Mr. Kerrison." Clever enough!" sneered Nelly Nevins; she s clever enough for that, you may take my ord for it, and a good deal more. I always Aspect those very quiefc, mousey, saint-like creatures, who consider rouge wicked and lip- salve an abomination. She's no more ill than I am. She's had her dinner and she's got another appointment. That's about the length of it." "i think it goes deeper than that," replied Mrs. Arlington. I observed her manner com- pletely changed when those two gentlemen came into the room. I fancy they have met before, though I don't know why that fact should have any effect upon her." "There's something not altogether above board in Miss Power. She is too reticent about 'her affairs. No one knows anything about her antecedents. I suspect she is a woman with a 'history," croaked old Mrs. Forbes (whose own llistories, had they been written, would have .1illed a library), "and I don't like to see such people received in good society. One never dtnows with whom one is associating." "Pooh!" cried Miss Hartlebury, "she's not handsome enough to have a history. Ugly, pale-faced dab! No more expression in her face than in a table. I don't know what Mr. Kerrison can see in her "Oh his interest in Miss Power lies wholly in the fact that she looks like a half-starved beggar on the stage," laughed Mrs. Arlington, anxious to believe what she affirmed. I am not so sure of that," responded Miss fNevins. "Everybody's talking of it at the 'Meridian, and my belief is she's no better than she should be." Lola Arlington was still biting her lips and fuming over this remark when the gentlemen came noisily into the drawing-room. Mark 3 £ errison's eyes made a tour over the apartment At once in search of his divinity. Why, where is Miss Power ? he exclaimed. "Miss Power was not well, and has returned tiome, Mr. Kerrison," replied Mrs. Arling- ton, coldly. The consternation depicted on all the mascu- ,1ine faces at this intelligence made her frown, but she particularly noted the start with which Esme Fielding received it. "Aot well!" repeated Kerrison, "what was the matter with her ? Why didn't you send for a doctor ? Why didn't you tell me ? Surely you never let her go alone?" She insisted upon it, Mr. Kerrison. These ladies are witness that I begged Miss Power to remain here and let me send for advice, 'but she would have her own way. She said all she wanted was to get home." But she may flint on the road. There may be no one to look after her when she arrives at her house. I really think someone ought to ifollow and inquireif she is safe," said Mark Kerrison, with a look of distress. He was longing to go himself, but he hardly knew how to accomplish it. Here were three other lady guests dependent on him for attention and hospitality. He could not be so rude as to leave them to amuse themselves whilst he ran after Miss Power. But his annoy- ance was very patent to alt present. She 11 do well enough, Air. Kerrison," re- marked Miss Hartlebury, tossing her head, you needn't look so miserable about it. She is one of those sichly girls who have always an ache of some sort, or other on hand. I daresay she's bilious. She said she'd be all right 'to-morrow. But it is so rntratge-so suddenâa lady leaving my house in this way. I don't like it at all," replied Kernson, wiping the heat from his brow. "I think Mrs. Arlington should at least have persuaded Miss Power to lie down for an hour or so before she went home. The doubt we are in concerning her will spoil our evening." "ReaDy, lr. Kerrison, I am not to blame," said Mrs. Arlington, in an offended tone. Miss Power is evidently a young lady who likes her own way, and she refused to listen to anything I said. But since you are so anxious to hear if she has reached home in safety, why do you not ask one of these gent Jemen to go and ascertain for you ? It would not take more than half-an-hour to drive to the Waterloo Road and back. I am sure Mr. Fielding would be obliging enough to go if he were asked." 11 That I will, with pleasure!" exclaimed Esmd Fielding, quicklv. "No, no," replied Kerrison, "I will trouble no one here. I can easily send a messenger to inquire after her if the ladies will excuse me for a few minutes." And bowing, he left the room. Everybody looked at everybody as he dis- appeared. Mrs. Arlington shrugged her shapely shoulders, expressively, and Euiily Hartlebury observed that Miss Power might be Venus newly-risen from the sea by the fuss that was TOade over her. The men stood about in uncom- fortable attitudes awaiting the return of their "host,^ and conversation seemed at a standstill. Esme Fielding commenced to examine the orna- snents and pictures, and worked his way round the room until he found himself near the sofa on which Mrs. Arlington reclined. Where. llpon -he dropped leisurely into a seat by her ;side and whispered, with a languid drawl: 11 Anything really the matter, do you think, Mrs. Arlington, with this mysterious Miss iWhat's-her-nameâLily Power ? I don't think it was illness at all, Mr. Field- ing, if you ask my opinion, although I could not "Venture to say so before Mr. Kerrison. I believe something had upset her." Esme Fielding flushed at the remark, but pro. fessed to ignore it. "By Jove But that's not likely, is it? Un- Kerrison said something to her during din* IDer." Cf Oh, no! I don't think it was anything Kerrison said Mr. Fielding," Mrs. Arling- toll answered, in a low tone, as she glanced hun. fC I'm a bit of a witch, you must than h a,. can people's thoughts better Do °omes to-" I fanov11?an y°u 01111 reac* m*ne And one tu- know., more than you imagine, time y0u u is, that this is not the first His dark elmet Miss Power." By Jove i 4 °Pened to their uttermost. I have guessed ever did you guess that?" very anxious to think you have been â¢'Mr,. again." J you give me her add' le said suddenly, can "Of course I can. ThL' i. «ight, Waterloo Road. jVlundred and twenty- but I know it is where she been there' "You are a real friend," he « -A scribed the address in his mem,! a? he tran" "I don't know how to thank^^m-book. Would rather not have it talked of â¢Â°Ug stand but I did knew LilyâMis's/p" under" ahe calls herselfâa long time ag0, and^'ave been wishing to renew my acquaintance. Dn you know if she lives alone ?" "I do not. I have never heard Mr. Kerri. son say. But the young ladies here call her a io,s personage, and therefore I conclude she lives by herself." One word more, Mrs. Arlington.^ Is there £ Qy truth in the rumour that Mr. Kerrison is acknow ledged admirer ? At this question his companion's face glowed "Wlth indignation. "No; certainly not. How wicked people are o say such tilings Wiiat should a man of 18 age want with a j'oung airllikc that? It woulj be follyâmadness Besides, he is not a j man. He never intends to change iay ,rK*^or1, told me so only the other Ah sighed FidJiivcj, "so rr.any menmake good resolutions until the temptation occurs to break them." You think it would be a temptation then. You think it might be so to some men," he answered, flushing. "Mr. Fielding, excuse my saying so, bu|i 1 think you would prefer that Mr. Kerrison did not yield to this particular temptation. To tell you the truth, I would." "Then put it out of his power by being first in the fieldâor rather, since you have been there already "I have been there already! he repeated after her, wonderingly." Yes. Since you have been there already, re-establish your influence to the exclusion of any other. You have so many advantages on your side, you cannot possibly fear Mr. Kerri- son for a rival." You are a real witch replied Esme Field- ing, admiringly.. But at that moment Mark Kerrison re- entered the room, and the conversation sub- sided, after which the evening passed far less pleasantly than it had been expected to do. The ladies chattered, and sang, and flirted, and did their very best to make the time fly but over all their merriment hung the shadow of their host's depression, and no one was sorry when the moment came for saying good-night. The messenger to Waterloo-road had returned before them with a pencilled note to the effect that Miss Power had a violent headache, but ho::ed to be better after a little rest. But in reality the rest was long in coming. Hours after her companions of the evening had driven off to their respective homes, and forgotten the incident that had disturbed their merry-making in sleep, Lily Power lay wide awake, staring into the darkness, and wondering what the issue of that night's renzontre would be. She had met him again. She had stood face to face, although she had never raised her eyes to his, with the man who had made the misery of her lifeâfrom whom it had been her effort for twelve months past to hide herself. She had left her home and changed her name, and entered a profession where she believed he would never dream of looking for her. And yet it had been all in vain, and Faite had brought their troubled streams of life once more side by side. What would be the next move on the chess- board of her destiny ? Would Esme Fielding, spite of the silence with which she had treated the note he sent her at the theatre, follow her to her home and force an entrance there ? Would he compel her, in self-defence, to appeal to stran- gers for protection against his insultsânecessi- tate her harrowing up her feelings by a review of his past conduct to her, and a repetition of the sentiments with which they parted, as she believed, for ever? The poor child shook and shivered as she lay on her coverlet that burning night in June, and anticipated the trial that was before her. But Esme Fielding did not give her much time for speculation or suspense. She had hardly finished her modest meal the following morning, when, without any warn- ing, the door of her sitting-room burst open, and the man who had made and marred the world for her stood within the threshold. CHAPTER XIV. I HAVE XOT FORGOTTEN." Lily Power did not start or scream as she recognised her visitor, but she rose suddenly to her feet and stood holding on to the back of the chair, with- her breast heaving, and her, eyes staring as though she saw someone newly risen from the dead. "Lily!" said E3tne Fielding, imploringlyâ Lily He moved a step nearer as he spoke, and the action seemed to restore her powers of speech. Don't approach me she exclaimed, shud- dering. "Don't touch me, for I could not bear it "0, Lily !-don't be so hard on me Why are you here?" she asked, without heeding his last remark. Why cannot you leave me to live out the remnant of my life in peace ? My silence must have told you how little I desired to look on you again." "But I cannot exist from yo?t!ll exclaimed the young man, passionately. "I have tried to tear your image from my heart, Lily, but it is in vain. Everywhere I see youâhear you- feel you. The wodd is empty for me since you have ceased to fill it with your presence. You were my life I have »ot lived, in the true sense of the word, since we parted You should have thought of that before," she answered, coldy. Time was when I could have said the sameâwhen I did say it But all the answer I received was to find myself thrust out upon the world, without home, or means. I have survived it all. I have outlived my foolish despair. I have even made a sort of home for myself. And I have but one desire respecting the pastâto forget everything and everybody connected with it. Leave me to do that in my own way." Esme Fielding sank into a chair, and covered his face with his hands. 1 cannot," he said, the thought of what you may have suffered or undergone for my sake has made my life a misery I have spent the last twelve months in wandering about and boking for you my home has lost all its pleasure and interest for me. I cannot bear the name of Applescourt since you have left it." "That seems a pity," she answered, sarcasti- cally, since you bartered your peace of mind and mine for its possible possession. It should be doubly valuable to you now." I did not barter you for that. Don't make me out so mean," he exclaimed. I gave you up in deference to my mother's strict pro- hibition I thought that my duty to her Stop, Esmd Yielding," said the girl, inter- rupting his passionate disclaimer, don't de- ceive yourself, or try to deceive me, with so paltry a subterfuge. Your mother bade you choose between her goodwill and me, and you chose to let me go. I do not blame you now. I have outlived the pain, and I can better appreciate the policy of your decision; but don't call your interest by the sacred name of filial piety. Had your mother been a poor woman and I a rich one, you would not have hesitated to reverse your choice." "How can you believe me to be so mercenary ? If you would only hear me speak he pleaded. "I do not wish to hear you I have listened to you too often already and noth. ing you can say can undo the past You know how innocent âhow humble I was-when I first entered your mother's house as her com. panion. I am of as good birth as yourself; but I should as soon have dreamt of stealing as lifting my eyes to her son. But you came across me, and you taught me to love you you persevered for weeks and months until you had won my affection in return. And then, when the time of trouble came, in that supreme moment, when you should have stood up for me before the worldâyou disowned me A low groan from Esmd Fielding was all the answer she received. "Shall I ever forget that night," she went on, vehemently, her pale features lit up with indignation, when your cruel mother, having tound out the truth, taunted and reviled me until I dared her to send for you, and let me abide byyour decision. I believed in you then, Esme, I believed, to in my fellow- creatures. I thought that when men told women they were all the world to them, and they might trust themselves without fear to their honour, they meant that they would stand up for them and protect them against slander, and insult, and cruelty. But you undeceived me thoroughly. You cannot be surprised that my eyes are open now "Go on," he murmured; "you cannot say anything more bitter than you are saying." Have vou forgotten, then, what followed ? Do ⢠want' jour memory refreshed!; con. tinued Lily, panting as she spoke. 'To be reminded how you answered Mrs. Fielding s summons, and when she accused you o oving me, and told you to choosc between her affection and her property and her fortune, and the miserable girl whom you had taugij o _ri'^ in youâyou chose your mother s money, and let me be turned out of my .'situation -o ma re ry way in the world as best I could ? "Noâno, Lily you are too hard on_me. It was not so bad as that," exclaimed Esme folding, starting from his position. iou k.n^v 1 have no fortune of my own. I had not, ,fclme' evet) an allowance. H°w, then^ could I havepossibly east in my lot with yours My mother threatened me with di.sinheiiUince if did not let you go and so I felt compelled, icv your sake as well as my own, to accede to her demands, in hopes that my concession might be the means of my helping you ir. the future. And it has proved so. When my mother felt convinced I was in earnest she settled a regular allowance on me, and I have employed it in searching for you ever since. It is not a very liberal one, but it is sufficient for our needs-sufficient, at least, to absolve you from the necessity of appearing on the public stage to earn your living. O how it hurt me to see you there The shock nearly stunned me. I had been seeking for you high and low, but naturally under the name you held whilst with us. Had it not been for the change, I should have found you long ago. But giozv-iiow chat I have the happiness of seeing you again-tell me that the miserable past is forgiven and forgotten." Forgotten?" repeated Miss Power, bitteriy. That is how men talk. They behave falsely, faithlessly, meanly to us but the moment it pleases them to return, they expect us to for- give and forget. No, Mr. Fielding, I have not forgotten-I never shall forget. You had better understand that at once." I will make you do it, Lily. I will remind you of those happy days at Applescourt, when we were all in all to one another, until your heart yearns to taste the bliss of love again. I will talk to you of the sweet,summer nights when we wandered through the woods and fields together, and the balmy mornings when we rose in time to brush the dew from off the grass-so loth were we to lose one moment of each other's presence-until you cry Come back, Esmeâcome back, dear days and nights, and let me live that life of love again and you will say it, Lily, will you not ? It would seem almost as if she were ready to say it, from the tears that filled her eyes, but still she shook her head resolutely. ino-no You are quite mistaken. We were happy-there is no doubt of itâbut it was a foolish happiness; and the bursting of the bubble made us wise. At least it has made me so and the world can never be again what it has been." Let us grant that, then exclaimed Esmd Fielding, and agree to make the best of what remains. I cannot let you stay upon the stage, Lily, it is not a fit place for you." "I have no alternative." Don't say that. Have I not just told you that my mother makes me an allowance of five hundred a year. Whilst I retain it there is no occasion for you to work for your living." Thanks but I should not care to live on Mrs. Fielding's money." "It is not Mrs. Fielding's It is mine And I offer it to you! Come back to me, Lily, and share it." The girl seemed to consider for a momen whilst she regarded him steadfastly. Then she uttered, slowly In what capacity ? How can you ask ? As my wife-the solace of- "You wish to marry me, then ?" she ex- claimed, interrupting him. Esin6 Fielding flushed a deep red. Of course, after my mother's death. You would not doubt my honour, or that I should do you justice when it lay in my power, Lily ? But just at the moment, you know, it would be im- possible. They would be sure to hear of it at home, and every hope I have for the future would be ruined. You understand the reason there would be for a little delay, don't you? Lily said nothing, but pointed with her finger at the door. "What do you mean?" said Mr. Fielding, looking round. ,,Go! she articulated, after a momentary effort. There is the door-go!" "But, Lily, my dearest girl, hear me- Go!" she repeated. "You have insulted me with your presence long enough. I should not have been so weak as to listen to a single word from you I should have known, from bitter experience, how this interview would end. I know there are some women in whose natures the affections play so large a part that they can stand being humiliated, and mortified, and trodden on, and still condone the offence from the impossibility of tearing the offender from their heart. But that is not -the case with me, Esme. I loved youâah Heaven cried the unhappy girl, suddenly breaking down, "I loved you till I sacrificed the world for you, and thought it nothing-nothing in comparison with the bliss of knowing that you foved me in return. But now-it is quite different. I can- not see you without thinking of that night when your mother stood between us, and you turned your face away from me. It is only by Heaven's mercy that I did not take my own life from the pain you gave me. And now, even if Apples- court and all your prospective wealth were in your own possession, and you came and laid them at my feet with the name of I wife I I don't think I should take them I am sure if I did that they could never wipe off the stain that rests upon you in my sight: And so you, who did not think me worthy to be your wife- you I do not think worthy to be my husband. That is all. You had better know the truth at once, and trouble me no further. I beer of you to go, and never to seek me againâhere or elsewhere-for I will not even offer you my hand Lily, I cannot-I will not believe it he exclaimed, springing to his feet and approach- ing her side. The old negrcss's prediction had been run- ning in his mind throughout the interview, and he remembered that she had said that love, though maimed and bleeding, was hidden in the white woman's heart for him, and he thought if he made a bold assault on it that he would still win her. I know you love me he said confidently, "every word, every tone, tells me so; and I will never leave you alone until you confess it," "You intend to persecute me, then ? "Don't call it persecution say that I mean to persevere, at all risks, until I gain my end. You were mine once, Lily. I can shut my eyes and see, in fancy, your golden head upon my breastâfeel your hand clasped in mineâgaze into your eyes, and Stop I" cried the girl, vehemently stop I will hear no more. I have given you my final answer, and each further word you utter is another insult. I was yoursâHeaven forgive you that the tense is in the past-but I am yours no longer; and I never shall be your again. Do you understand me now ? My love for you is dead and buried-cold, motionless, and silent! Nothing you can say or do will ever make it live again I despise you-I hate you -I renounce you These are my last words now that you have heard them, there is nothing more to stay for." He seized his hat and cane. I obey you, Miss Power, and I will go. But do not imagine, because you choose to re- nounce me now, that I shall ever forget what we have been to one another on the contrary, whilst a chance remains of my success, I shall never cease to plead my cause with you." Then you will force me to appeal to my friends to protect me against your intrusion." "You will hardly do that, I think, whilst a memory of Applescourt remains. I may have offended youâI know I haveâbut that cannot undo the past. Don't forget how often you have promised to be only mine That was when I believed you to be true. Your conduct since then released me from all protestations of fidelity." "But your heart has not released you any more than mine; and I shall yet live to hear you say so. Farewell, Lily. This is not the last time we shall meet." He passed from her sight with a confident and self-possessed air; but the old negress's words-" You will find her, but yoit will not keep her "-were ringing in his ears as he did so. As for Lily Power, she stood where he had left herâpale, silent, and trembling-with the tears fast gathering in her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. CHAPTER XV. "WILL YOU BE my WIFE?" DID she love him, or did she nst? She could not have answorod the question with any certainty, even to herself. There were moments when, remembering all they had been to one another, she felt that t world was nothing to her in comparison to K->r< Fielding, and that she would bear any contume ly or dipgrace only to find herself once more by his side. J But these moments were few and far be- tween. They occurred only when she was physically weak, with her nerves overstrung, and her spirits at a low ebb. Far oftener she thought of him as she had seen and heard him lastâwith an averted face and a stammering tongue, and a general aspect of fear and self- excuse. She was still standing and thinking thus when a tap sounded on her door. Believing it to be the servant, she averted her face and said, CuUie w." The door opened, and, to her consterna- tion, revealed Mr. Kerrison. There was no time to conceal her tears. She was compelled to brush them hastily away and turn to greet him. He was shocked to see her careworn and distressed appearance. "Are you sure I am not intruding?" he demanded, gently. I asked for you, and the servant told me to walk upstairs. But I have come too early. You have not finished your breakfast." "I have quite finished, thank you. Pray sit down. It is I who should apologise for such an untidy room but I have not been very well, and I rose late this morning." It is to inquire after your health, as you may suppose, that I am here. We were so concerned to find you had to leave us last even- ing and I am afraid you are not much better to-day," said Mark'Kerrison, as he regarded her earnestly. I don't like to see those tear- stained cheeks and red eyes. Will you think me impertinent if I ask you to confide your trouble to me, and let me see if I can help you out of it ? At these words the girl's tears welled up afresh. You are very, very kind, Mr. Kerrison, and your sympathv is a comfort to me but your help must end there. My distress is purely of a private nature. No one can relieve me of it, and it is best not alluded to." I did not mean to be inquisitive," said Mark Kerrison, but I feel a great interest in you, Miss Power, and all that concerns you. It seems so unnatural that a young creature like yourself should live alone. There must be so many hours when you need companionship and solace." "Not many," she answered, smiling faintly through her tears. You forget how exigeant you are with regard to rehearsals, and how many morning performances 'Miss Credo' promises to require. Besides, you must give me credit for occasional study. I want to improve vastly be- fore you entrust me with another part. Your generous praise makes me fearful lest I should not continue to deserve it." "But you might be taken ill in these lonely lodgings, without a soul to nurse you or look after you. You were taken ill last night, and had to return home and remain through the long hours of darkness alone. I could not sleep for thinking of it. It seems terrible to me. I wish you had some one to live with you." My dear Mr. Kerrison, I would much rather be alone. I am not a â sociable person, and the constant presence of another woman would worry and irritate me. When people are poor they cannot get away from one another; that is the unpleasant part of it to me." Mark Kerrison began to fidget on his chair. He had not come there with any more serious intention than that of asking after Lily Power's health but as he noted the evident distress she had passed through, and took in the lack of comfort displayed in her surroundings, the thoughts that had haunted him lately rose to the surface, and threatened to influence his tongue. For Lily Power was looking especially interesting that morning. The secondrate furn- iture and meagre breakfast-table seemed to add to, instead of detracting from, her charms. She stood in the midst of them, in her white morning-wrapper, like her najjaeaake flower in the rank corner of a kitchen-garden. With her delicately-chiselled features, her luminous eyes, her pale gold hair, and alabaster ekin, she looked like the incarnation of purity. No one, to see her, would ever have imagined she could feel the force of a consuming passion, far less that she had suffered it to scorch and wither up the very springs of her life. There are some men for whom such statue- sque temperaments express the ideal of woman. hood, and Mark Kerrison was one of them. "I believe," he said, after a long pause, that you once told me, Miss Power, you have no relations living." It is true. 01 have no relations; that is, none whom I consider such, or who wish me j so to consider them." Ah that is too often the case in this world. 'A little more than kin and less than kind.' I have experienced it myself. When I was a lad I relinquished the army for the stage, and all my family cut me in consequence. As soon as I had made a name for myself they offered to be friends again. I rejected their proposals with scorn I hate such hypocrisy But a man is so much better able to look after him- self than a woman. You, especially, are too voung and too tender, my child, to live alone. 1elf sic!"1" you would do if you The tone of his voice <was so earnest tnatir made Lily Power stare. "I am not-so very young," she said I was twenty-two last birthday and if I fell sick I could always go to the hospital." Mark Kerrison shuddered. The hospital! For yon! It is sacrilege to think of it; and I see this life is new to you also. You are not like others, who have sup- ported themselves from the beginning. You have not been used to battle with the world. I am sure you were brought up in a very differ- ent position." I was, till my parents died." And do you like the stage ? "Pretty well. It feeds me, and that is all I require of it. It does as well as anything else." Perhaps you do not anticipate remaining on it long, Miss Power ? I do not understand you." "Most young ladies look forward to mar- riage. Yours may be already a settled thing." She coloured faintly, and shook her head. 0, no I have no arrangement of that sort on hand, and am not likely to have. I shall never marry, Mr. Kerrison "Have you such a dislike to the condition, then ? "I have not tried it, and so I cannot say. But I should think it required more induce- ments than are ever likely to fall in my way to render it an irresistible temptation." "It certainly requires certain adjuncts to give it a chance of turning out happily," replied Mark Kerrison, gravely. "Money is a neces- sary evil in the arrangement. We hear a great deal of living on love'; but love, as we know, won't buy bread and butter. And, then, there must be suitability of temperament; that is, if two people cannot agree, they must agree to differ. And under such circumstances I consider marriage ought to prove a sociable and comfort- able arrangement, if not a very ecstatic one. What do you think ?" "I agree with you," replied Lily Power, who was, in effect, not thinking at all, except of the misery she had just gone through. Then will yoa be very much astonished," continued Mark Kerrison, nervously, "if I tell you that I have been considering the sub- ject seriously of late, and that ifâifâI can in- duce the woman I want to take me, I mean to get married myself ? "Why should I be astonished?" she an- swered, smiling. "Jam only surprised that, with all your advantages, you have not married before." Because I have nfver seen a girl whom I would have cared to call my wife until- until-" Well!" ejaculate^ Lily, almost laughing at his, timidity. "Untilâthe murder will out, my dear- until I saw you!" She started back as if he had struck hesc. Until-you-saw-me she repeated, in a low voice. Yes. Is there anything wonderful in that ? I am old compared to you, my child. I was forty-six on my last birt hday âmore than double your age-but I can love you for all that. I have loved you, I think, from the first hour we met. Your youth, your I-neliness, your pov- erty, and our anxieties ha v ;⢠haunted me ever since like a troubled dream. I want to take you out of it all. I want to carry you homeâto make you the mistress of my house and fortune âto raise you for ever above the grip of poverty, or the necessity to work for youserlf. And if you will accept my offer, Lily, and be- come my wife, you will make me the proudest and happiest man in England." Oh, no, no, Mr. j{.errison, it is impossible âit c.tit --vtr be Sh. he words with such a plaintive cry. t, riedhim. c. I it be?" > I â â¢â¢r worthy. It would be absurd! W;».t ould i he world say ? To take a girl from my p i,,iti;.n in the theatre, on the lowest rung of the ladder, and ask her to share your popu- larity and famous name, it would be too incon. gruous. Thi-y would jay you were inad You silly child I don't ask you to marry the worldâI ask you to marry me. And as for your position in the theatre (though I cannot imagine my not loving yea at any time), I an, sure you are sweeter and more unpolluted now than you could possibly be if you had gained the top of the ladder. If this is your only objec- tion, it is as good as none." He laid his hand gently on hers as he spoke, but she pulled it away from him. No, no there are other obstacles, but I can- not explain them to you. There have been sore troubles in my past life which I could not tell to any man. They do not altogether be- long to me, and I must not share them with a stranger. So I shall carry them alone until I die." "And suppose I am willing to forego your confidence, my dear ? To take you as I see you, satisfied that you are what you are, and that no woman could surpass you in my eyes? Cannot I in this way alleviate your troubles without intruding on their sacredness ? 0, no Mr. Kerrison, it would not be wise nor right in you to do so. Some day-who knows ?âyou might rise up and condemn me for my reticence. Ionly lMoentioned it to show you how entirely it forbids my considering your generous proposal." And were it not for this imaginary obstacle would you consider it ?" How could I fail to do so ? Do you think I am insensible or blind ? "Then, Lily, think of it now. I do not pretend that a marriage with me could fulfil all the dreams you may have dreamt of a future life. I am a plain, middle-aged man, rather rough in my manners and unsociable in my habits. But I love you. Your presence in my house would turn it into a little heaven for me, and I would repay your goodness by every means in my power. If a marriage that would raise you above want, above solitude, above the necessity for work or anxiety of any kind, pre- sents any advantages in your eyes, take my offer, and trust to me to see that you are not disappointed in your expectations." Again he took her hand in his, and this time she did not draw it awav. If I could be quite sure she faltered. "Quite sure of what my sweet?" That you would never come to me and say â' You married me under fasa pretences. I thought you everything that was good, and I find you are everything that is bad "I could never say that, under any circum- stance, if I found you had committed a murder, I could not say that! "Well, then, if you said, I expected more of you, and I am disappointed,' I think I should kill myself." "But I shall not be disappointed," urged Mark Kerrison. Will you think of the worst woman you have ever known," went on the girl, hurriedly, "and then imagine I am she. Would you ask me to marry you then ?" "I would ask you if you had committed every crime in the Decalogue. I want no assurances- no coiilidetices -i,.o revelationsâI want only you -just as you stand before me to-day, without one thing altered in your past or present; and so I say again, without a single question or con- dition, will you be my wife?" But still she hesitated. "You are not acting fairly to yourelf, Mr. Kerrison I have never thought of this before. It is a most unexpected surprise to me. I esteem and admire you above most men, your talent is a constant source of wonder to me, but I cannot pretendâit would be untrue to pretend I have even thought ofâofâloving you." "I do not suppose you have. I should scarcely believe you, my child, if you said you had. All I ask is to be allowed to love you. If the idea is not truely distasteful to you, grant my request." The idea excites nothing but gratitude in my breast. I cannot think what I have done or said to merit such a distinction but I am very sensible of it, Mr. Kerrison." "And you will make me happy, Lily?" If I can," she answered, gravely, as she placed her other hand on his. (To be continued. ) â â

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