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[SOW FIRST PUBLISHED.] BY MUTUAL CON- SENT. By J. MARSDEN SUTCUFfE, Author of "Tha Bells of St. Barnabas," "Tbe Romance of an Insurance Office, Of "Revealed by Fire," &c., &c. [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED,J CHAPTER XV. "took up, there is a small black cloud Alone amid the skies! So high, so pure, and so apart, A woman's honour lies." IV fW L A U D E Maclean Mlwu paced the dainty little (J^ drawing-room with an uneasy mind during If/W Protracted inter- view between Wini- ¥ ^re<^ anc* ^er husband. /1 VI 'r/m. The room was strewn (gW ffirB fa with the knick-naoks mb dear to a woman's 'Swff heart, and wherever his eye, glanced he found some new evi- dence of "Winifred's /\V^& taste or the deftness of her fingers (which jrtp bad converted a S Y$4 shabby apartment into *\w!k a co3^ artiatio room, t bespeaking its owner's fWii iement. U ow well he remembered Winifred taking the dingy little house in the shabby street, and of the cheerless air of this particular room When Winifred, yielding to his advice, resolved upon setting up housekeep- ing for herself, it was not of the mean-look- ing house in the mean street which she ultimately pitched upon for her domicile, but one of the newer houses in one of the more fashionable quarters of Kensington that he was thinking. But Winifred declined to accept any assistance from Claude's purse and insisted on having her own way. It 60 hap- pened that a house with studio attached was to he obtained for a sum that was well within the narrow possibilities of Winifred's own means, in consequence of the death of the occupier; and Winifred took the house with the furniture as it stood. It was in vain that Claude argued that the furniture was qld and worn, and would barely fetch the price of the proverbial old song at the nearest broker's, and that the rooms were ridiculously smaH. Winifred pointed ont that though tho rooms were small the studio was well-lighted. As for the furniture, she added with a smile, it bad one unquestionable recommendation; -it would not strain her resources too leverely. And ao against his advice the house waa taken. Claude Maclean was troubled in his mind, but he could not help observing the wonder- ful transformation that Winifred had effected during the six weeks of her tenancy. The carpet, which was worn threadbare so that its original pattern could only be guessed at, was all that remained to tell of the former shabbiness of the room, and even this lost much of its bareness by the liberal supply of deerskins that covered it. In other respects the change was complete. The chairs and souch had been recovered tastefully, and the woodwork brought to as much lustre as dili- jent polishing could impart. The faded .yall-paper was lost sight of in the chaste hangings, arranged, with skill. The narrow irindow and the empty fire-place were filled with flowering plants and ferns, whilst the mantel-board was ornamented with a new border, richly embroidered from Winifred's Dwn design. The ornaments, though cheap, were unpretentious, and their arrangement harmonised with the general effect of the room. As Claud# mechanioally surveyed the room he could not refrain from wondering at the change that industry and an exquisite taste, eked out by the expenditure of a very few shillings, had contrived to bring about to the onco sordid looking apartment and its mean furniture. But his mind wandered off to the scene that was being enaoted in the adjoining studio, and the discovery he had made, that the woman who had grown so dear to him was the wife of Sir Reginald Denison. It did not occur to him to doubt Sir Reginald's assertion of proprietorship in his wife. He accepted the statement implicitly. It ex- plained to him the reason of Winifred's long aileftce concerning those three years of her life that had challenged Lady Falconridge's attention, and which had led her to induce her son to delay his intention to bring matters to an issue; as it explained, Inn, e.-v^vn own declaration, made a few minutes before, II that their union was an impossibility. Claude's whole heart went out in compas- sion for the woman who had given his life>r new meaning, and his imagination took fire at tho thought of her sufferings. Ilis first thoughts were given not to himself, but to her who had grown into his heart, and with- out whom he felt that his life would be dreary and blank. Not for a moment did he doubt her purity and innocence. Hi.* mind instinctively grasped the truth. He saw her alone, friendless, without a councillor near her, caught in the toils that Sir Reginald Denison had laid for her feet-a victim of a too confiding trust and youthful experience. He did not wonder that she had fled from the life that her husband had prepared for her, or that she had renounced her busband's name, and striven to bury the unhappy past in oblivion. He would have wondered rather if she had consented to remain bis wife when once the scales dropped from her eyes and she learned to read her husband's character aright. lie shuddered when he thought of thorough process of disillusionising she must have passed through. What a burden of misery must have been laid on her young heart, he thought, when Denison appeared before her in his true colours, and what days and nights of horror she must have experi- enced before she could bring herself to separate her life from his. It was some time before Claude Maclean understood the fatal blow to bis own hopes, now that he had penetrated Winifred's secret. His mind was monopolised by the menace to Winifred's happiness involved in the re-appearance of Sir Reginald Denison, and in devising means for her protection against the exercise of marital tyranny. His pwn happiness seemed to him but the lightest dust in the balance weighed against hers. It was only gradually that the whole truth dawned on his mind, that, in the light of his unexpected discovery, Winifred had passed as completely out of his mind as though the Angel of Death had suddenly appeared in the path to claim his victim. Claude would have been less or more than human if in the darkness that overwhelmed him on realising the full consequences of the altered position he had escaped the sophistries and the temptations that come to men cast in a less heroio mould, and whose reverenoe for womanhood was ioferior to his OTTO, Just as his love was pure and true, purged from earthly elements, did the love that burned within his soul for the one woman, who in his eyes stood head and shoulders above her sex, clamour for its right to befriend and serve the endearing objeot that merited all possi- bilities of affection and service. It What is marriage without love," he asked. And he gave to it a name at which the, writer's pen pauses, hesitating to reproduce it here—a name that conveyed a bitter truth to his mind, though virgin modesty, that is annually bought and sold in the matrimonial market, has never a blnsh to spare for it. And what can a rite add to the union of two hearts made by one indissoluble love P he asked again. Love requires no higher sanctity," he exclaimed, continuing hit self- I communings and speaking aloud, than that in itself it shall be pure and ohaste it is its own law. To think to add to that is to paint the lily' and gild refined gold,' with a ven- geance." He was not aware that he had given utterance to his thoughts till be shrank from the sound of his own voice and the silence that followed. Then something like a blush dyed his cheeks as he perceived whither his thoughts were tending. Bat the demon of sophistry was at his elbow and gave him no rest. Why should it not be ?" he asked himself again. What is she to him or he to her that he should stand in the way ? Why should a past act of folly bar our union and destroy both our lives ?" But a low voice made itself heard in audible breathings over the war of contending feelings that were fighting for the mastery within him. "Would you defile your love— and her ?" asked the voice. The only defilement that can touch her is that her life should be linked with his," was the prompt answer he returned to the ques- tioning voice. Where love and truth are, defilement cannot be. Love sanotifies all things. In bitterness of soul Claude Maclean cried out against the inexorability of moral law that asserts itself universally and without pity for the hardship of the individual to whom it presents itself as a tyranny to be rebelled against and defied on just occasion being given; the occasion that bad now arisen, being one whose justice, he thought, justified rebel- lion. He pictured to himself the organised opinion that calls itself sooiety; saw faoes shocked with horror and hands uplifted with astonishment and condemnation, but his mind worked rapidly, and the kaleidoscope changes that followed with every turn of his thoughts placed the subject of his contempla- tion in some new aspect, until his mind grew confused, and he fell to thinking whither Winifred and he could fly, and where the happy dream of love should be lived. Bat the temptation passed as the breath vanishes from the mirror of the highly- polished steel, the strength and the unselfish- ness of his love, and the greatness of his nature constituted his danger, for the tempta- her against the insult and molesta- tions to which she was exposed by a worth- loss husband, to whom the law gave paramount rights. He saw no way by which she should be shielded from annoyance, unless she de- livered over to him to protect by night and by day. He trembled with exoitement as he saw himself occupying the position that his imagination conjured up, and when.onm mind conceived +!">" "Zib Winifreds iutfresrs and his own were identioal and that their joint interests could be most served by breaking down all trammels in the sacred name of love, the soul within him was shaken with a tempest. Bat if the thought of Winifred's menaced happiness gave to the temptation its fierce power, it was Winifred herself who came to his rescue. The vision of the woman whom he loved, dissolving the bonds that united her to a. moral leper in order to escape from the pollution into which she found herself being dragged as the wife of Sir Peginald Denison, and her lonely battle with., life, willingly encountered as a regenerating fire to cleanse her from the stains of a union in which nothing pure could live, rose before his mind and rebnked him. How could he invite her who had judged no cost too great to pay in order to escape from him a-positioll in which every pure longing was frustrated to tread a path, every step of which must be attended to a sensitive soul like hers with deepest mis- givings and earnest moral questionings. In the state of mental confusion into which the fierceness of temptation had brought him he felt himself unable finely to discriminate the right and the wrong involved in their mutual positions. He knew that such uuions as he contemplated bad existed before between men and women whose moral ideals might shame the great crowd of their detractors, and excited no more than a speechless wonder from all except the more garrulous and more impeachable sections of moralists and he recalled the names of men and women, some of them eminent in literature, whose unions founded only on the immutable basis of the soul and entered upon in defiance of the law of the Churoh and State, and in contempt of the II' conventionalisms of Sooiety, fulfilled the highest ends of marriage more nobly than most of the alliances that the State took cognizance of or the Church blessed and Society placed its hall-mark upon. But he drew back, appalled at the risk of jeojjardising Winifred's happiness and diverting her from following out her own ideas of life. From that moment the temptation passed, and his mind turned to a new problem. How was Winifred to be helped to recover the freedom she had enjoyed since she renounced her husband P. The question bristled with difficulties, but he faoed it with courage, oonsoious of new hojae that sprang up within him. Claude Maclean was not a fatalist, nor was he open to the influences of superstitious feeling. But he felt that his love for Winifred was the very life of his life—an indestructible passion that bad not been born with him to be for ever mocked. lie was content to leave the future to decide how or when his great love would meet with its full reward and satisfac- tion, but he was conscious for the first time of a confidence at some point of the journey that lay before him his life would be orowned with the joy of companionship with his spirit's mate, and this confidence never subse- quently forsook him. He was mentally planning a deliverance for Winifred from her present situation when he heard the street door banged loudly, and he strode to the window in time to see Sir Regi- nald Denison pass, wearing his hat pressed downwards over his eyea, Claude's breath came quickly as he saw the dark look of vene- mous passion that convulsed the handsome face. Clearly, if looks meant anything they meant that Sir Reginald, though vanquished, was in no mood to put up with his defeat. There was no time to lose. Claude felt that he must act. He went to the studio, where he found Winifred huddled on the couch, her face covered with her hands, whilst she lay sobbing as though her heart were breaking. The tension of her long interview with Sir Regi- nald, the dreary hopelessness of her poaition- wife and yet no wife, loving and beloved, yet separated from the man whom she loved by the fatal mistake of her life as truly as though they were inhabiting different planets-had proved too much for Winifred, and she bovred her head before the storm. Winifred," said Claude, in a tone of mingled sorrow and pleading, "speak tome. You shall tell me nothing, now or hereafter, but what you ohoose to tell. Speak, and say what I can do to help you." "Nothing, nothing. You cannot help me; no one can," she wailed forth, raising her sad and weary eyes, bedimmed with tears, to Claude. "Areyouin any danger? "persisted Claude. Will he return ? I do not know what to think," Winifred replied. He has threatened to compel me to return to him, and though he has gone I am in tarror what he will do next." Would you like to be placed beyond his reach for a little time until you can forrn your plans for the future ? "Ob, if I could," cried Winifred, catching at this hope. Leave it to me and I will manage every- thing," returned Claude; "and dry your eyes and I will send Marjorie to you." Claude left thfstudio.and having explained to Marjorie his intention to take Winifred to Glen-Orlooh by the evening mail, to plaoe her under the care of his mother, Lady Falcon- ridge, he instructed her to pack up whatever her mistress might require, and serve her with some refreshments, preparatory to th", journey. Marjorie, who was an old Glen- Urloch servant who had linked her fortunes with Winifred, at the express desire of Lady Falcouridge, was over-joyed at the prospect of having her feet onoe more on her native heath, and promised oomplianco vu'th Claude's wishes, who at ones went to maice his preparations, and +•<; ^—i^,uo some engsge- mat he had entered into for thai evening. But Claude no sooner left than Winifred regretted her assent to his proposal, With a truer knowledge of her own heart and its own weakness than would have been possible if Claude had not broken silence and told her of hia love she feared danger to herself, if sh» consented to remain until Claude returned and allowed him to take the direction of her move- ments. Her only safety, she felt for herself and perhaps, too, for him, was to put the barrier of distance and silence between them. She flew to her nCJk and began to write eagerly, feverishly almost. The words came to her at her need. My darling," she wrote, « I'may call you so for onco, may I not? Do not think un. kindly of me for what I am doing, J am only a poor, weak woman who dare not trust herself, and must seek safety from tempta- tion by flight. Do not attempt to follow me. That could only bring unhappiness to both. Forgive me, and—though [ foar it vain to ask it—forget nie. The enclosed bank-note will discharge Marjorie'a claims. J enclose the latch-key. Please put the house into an I agent's hands, reserving only my personal property. You wiU bear later how i wish it to be dispoted of. Once again I ask you to forgive me. If I had borne my own name it would have saved you a great sorrow. I can never forgive myself. -Your unhappy WINIPHED." Without waiting to read what she had written, she thrust the letter into an enve- lope, and ran to her room, where she found Marjorie engaged in filling a truhk with th0 contents of her not too extensive wardrobe. Marjorie hastened to explain that they were going to Glen-i irloch, and that she had Mr. Maclean's orders for what the wai doing. But Winifred was as though she heard her ) not. She laved her face to wash away the traoos of tears, for her eyes were red and swollen with weeping; and then proceeded to array herself in walking costume, whilst Marjorie completed her task. She sat down listlessly to the hasty meal that her maid-servant prepared for her, and then sent Marjorie with the letter she had written to Claude Maolean, enjoining her to deliver it into his own hands. As soon as she found herself alone she hailed a cab from the rank, and, telling the oabman of her d^stii.a'ion, promised h'm double far*, if he reache-i ;.h-n\i in time. 1 if To be continued J