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COMPLETE STORY.I

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COMPLETE STORY. An Old Maid's Love Story j BY KATHARINE COX (Author of Love's Lottery," etc.) Miss Priscilla, Cresswell adored Romance— Pelt with a capita) R—and had always dreamed Ij some day, it would come to her. From th' ear^'est years she had devoured novels—not j 8 •tealistio or problematic ones, oh, dear, no, ..r «er Bimple mind wonld not have nnderstood ?tn"—but the sentimental, mildly sensational L 08 that dealt with love and hatred, with bro- 'o hearts, and troths plighted, with handsome jj^iand exquisitely lovely women, and some she mused, some day in the not vary far II en, and exquisitely lovely women, and some dkyi she mused, some day in the not very far ''pre she hoped, one of those bitter-sweet ex- igences, that so often crossed the paths of the L**ut8ona heroines in the novels would come to j f: And at last, after many, many years of "'•lent waiting, the one romance of her little, lonely life came. Ihrt met h'ra a* Rectory garden-party— ? Rlthonph she never cared particularly for i 5'dR to the Rectory, the Rector's two young "Rhters, Maudie and Phyllis, being rather apt »h i k clown BP0U her—-07 weeks afterwards 8 looked back upon that day as haviucr been the Kmning of a new era in her JiTe. From the (j'y first moment that she bad entored the »wiog-room, he bad paid notioeable attention her- her, the little, faded, middle-aged spin- et> whom nobody had ever noticed before, and j i starved heart went out to him in affectionate | ?*'tude at once. j fc. • Was the only man who nad ever admired '"—no wonder her head was turned. .rUe, the incongruity between them was al- ''d'00!01". he was so young and stroag °d bandeome. and Bho—well, of course, tbeie lb' Co'bing to admiie in her personal appear- jj but more incongruous things than that £ happened sometimes ia the novels. Why, Sn 8 daughters had eloped with penniless t*tes, and Dukes had married kitchen-maids ..a&3 it was well known that fact was stranger "J* fiction. t when Lientenant Cayley-Claveriog, aged indefinitely quartered with his ^•"ttent at Mudminater, asked Miss PriseiHa •"well, aged tbirty-aoven, and definitely at Mudminster until some Prince Hj^'Biing rode by to take her away, if he 'bef i Ca" 80me^meB at ^ot bouse and see her, OQa '"tie lady was thrown into an almost danger- Btste of nervous excitement. It's awfully kind of you to let me come and Wm^00'" l^e y°DDR Lientenant said, good- (l.~aoi,redly on the occasion of his first visit to l'to ^kby drawing-room. You see, MthD8w 'n Mudminster, and hardly know any 'He people here at pieBent. But the first mo- ot 1 BKW you I took a fancy to you—you looked HId." ,Wj*n laughed — a good, hearty, boyish 'On spoke well for the condition of his 1^a—and took another slice of the chocolate 1^a—and took another slice of the chocolate which she was banding to him. ie y°a havo r'PPiDK cakeB here, tco," genially, with his mouth full. By but they're infinitely better than that j^P.v stuff they give you at the Hall and the Y4 ctDIY." And dear little Miss Priscilla1 who the cakes with her own dainty hands every 'he ancl v^6l!nGsd*5 morning, looked upon l&8Qt llBr temtik as a great personal compli- handsome he is." she thought, as she ic. ched bim devouring, wtib the appetite of a j)l °°lb°y, tbo tempting morsels which she |0 before him. And bow polite and kind Iklid so Li Quite » flattBre." tj^ d so Lientenant Cavley-Clavering con- pay her insidious visits—and it was the love of the cakes alone, either, as berS! Priscilla, who had been browsing amongst n°vels more than aver lately, persistently J*ed herself. *0iiti^ and there came a letter, an 0, « which sent her into the seventh heaven flighted excitement. "ltDear Miss Cresswell,tbe letter ran, I come this afternoon at fonr o'clock, do V8( .'nk you could see me ? I have something 'mpoitant to say to you. Yours very sincerely, R. Cayley-Claveriog. Iw -S. — I wiote this because I am so very Jons that you should be in." l^d she see him 1 Miss Priscilla kissed the i0 ,8ri and folded it away in a private drawer "11 er escritoire-a drawer wb,cb was already to a laded bunch of violets that had one day from the button-hole of his K(, 'a her drawing-room, and a midget pboto- y&u of himself as a boy at Eton, that he had ber. She had had ono taken of herself iu ^rea8> bought oa purpose, to give to o *tl return. she Bee him ? She sat down at once at lij,Siting table, and dashed off a note, in her A.Prim, old-fashioned handwriting. "ear Mr Cayley-Clavering, p,eaBe ca" th'a afternoon at four i shall be delighted to see you. Yours very sincerely, x Priscilla Cresewell." scribbled tbe wards, Priscilla Cayley- fUlj across her bloitiug-paper, just for | £ < and to see how it looked—then blushed and threw tbe blotting-paper into the tv'e-paper basket. nnnDBideDly I How disgraceful of her how could she h*ve done it T litt,Qt she was smiling all the time, and once, a WVater, took the blotting-paper out again, A *|9 have another look at it. »Bat when, at fonr o'clock precisely, the ,ttle maid-of-all-work came up to Miss t(jB c,'la's bedroom with a visiting-card bearing of Lreutenant Cnyley-Clavering, she her mistress in a perfect flutter of tremu- ,eXcitement. the young gentleman to wait in the **id ?^-room«I will be down in a minute," IQ a- e little lady, endeavouring to speak with unconcern, which, however, she was far lie feeljn-an endeavour which, it is almost ^titi t0 wae ft complete failure, for Miss ^'iah"^a waa not 'D {he modern acoom- »fent ot CODCea,1DR the emotions-— tell it i^at I will be down in a minute." YOF. miss," and the maid withdrew. that she was alone again. Miss *1*8 a tnrne^t woman-like, to her looking- the 1' was not vaiQ> poor dear— no one m ^C8a 80—kat wbeu one is eoing to keep 4iiJst with on6's lover, well it is only in human for A daughter of Eve to wish to look her "beat. Ofj "■'iscilla, my dear," she said aloud, she W ialfeed aloud to herself, a habit frequently 0| J*'rei by people who are accustomed to lives b#c 6at loneliness. Priscilla, my dear, it has tlle the fashion for men to marry women 8 c'der than themselves, and I believe you jjiactnally going to be fashionable at last. b^l^hionable. It seemed an incongruous ap. "'coi °n when applied to tbe quaint, almost ti- ^itr y Pr'm little figure reflected in the %t tv°E i a°d the smart, tailor-made young ladies 8 Rectory, who had Kneered for so manv M iiias Prisc'lla for bBing a a dowdy would have laughed aloud if they had to Miss Priecilla herself, gazing *.aoently at the mild blue eyes, meekly bjr,e" hiir, and faded cheeks of her connter- there WSB nothing laughable about it. as Perhaps just as well, after all, (hat God OtK Riren us the gift of seeiDg ourselves as .,6'8 see us. Uiy now, what alterations can I make in 88?" She tripped about tbe room, nicking **iy. 'st one thing, and then another. There is ^"4 T blouse—no, that ia too bright a pink, know be does not care for pink. Ah, this 'old Ue cbiffon scarf, he always liked blue, he once that it matched my eyes I" she V>tj at recollection of the compliment, S K^U8.inK again before tbe glass, arranged °f finery round her neck. "There, I think 8h a" rig t now." kQq gave one more glance over ber shoulder, 'ha dQon, smiling to herself, tenderly, opened °°r, and tripped downatairs. eQtenant Cayley-Clavering rose from the 'aR-room sofa as Miss Priscilla entered. He and fair, and boyish-looking, with bsndsome features, and rather a weak 1|gc "■ Tbe type of man who, a person with kiwtrtltnrjut would have seen at a glance, would 58 be afraid to act upon his own initiative, "ho infinitely preferred to have some arm ?»ig -han his own to leiin upon. But Miss ^cl Wa3 not £ ''see,t,jn^> anc' thought b ■'e^er and strong and wonderful. bl1 came forward to meet her witb outstretched e. Her heart beat a little faster at she saw 3gerness in bis eyes. ^sar Miss Cresswell, he said boyishly, "I 0 awfully glad you were able to see me." big elzed both ber little trembling banda in his ^Bterfal ones — how she loved the master- tile tea of them—and dragged her down on to where he Bat beside^ ber. I am not *»o0tlr,,Pting you, you are not bu»y this after- ■ I bopu ?" be continued. She laughed, although the laugh was °he, at the bare suggestion. What occu- 4 sh bByor,cl ber flt0P,cl household duties to fill up her empty days ? It IN NO, she answered, a little tremulously, Ito, 1-1 am not busy." tu SlRbed, and leant his arm across the back 9°fa behind her. A thrill ran through ber 8 felt the contact of his arm. How big he his gay young soldier, how beautiful, and and strong I And to think that he should love with ber— her, the insignifi- 'e spinster, whom those borrid fast girls lec'o:y called a dowdy ftump 1" Bat 'HQ Granger thingB even than that sometimes '< yQe? ,D 'he novels. Je 8AJJU'VO always been PO awfully good to me," Seutly. Ever since we met I—I've '«in rt°»d of you. You remember our first meet- -L you T" bBa- Of course she remembered it. It ikely that sbe shoud forget the Rectory ''ii? ^ar'y» was lhe only social function, an occahional scbcol (reat that she was 4ot invited to. InsiguiticoLntoid maids were M \'t sought after in Muc-minster society. ». she repeated softly, I—I remember." ain, and bant forward in his seat, fixed rather moodily on the ground. Nrj ^a thought beseemed denressed and but then men aKvavsweie decreBsed on '« ^ccasions-at leaBt, so it said iivthe novels. been good pais ever since, We he continued. he pat out h'9 hind with an eager, t'tjg Resture, and laid1 it in her lap. &Ii89 V^ ,Hlr°ked it genlly with bo>- own. Bhe said, smiling, 11 we've—we've >i been good pals." ve allv,lJs confided in you, baveu't you c.ll my troubles and my joja f" V t I Yes, yon'çe always told me everything." She remembered the day when he bad almost broken down in telling ber how he missed his dead father and mother, and how her heart, for she war an orphan herself, had sympathised with his loneliness. Poor boy I He was young to be an orphan, and he missed bis anther dread- fully --rhe had always been his confidante in everything. His ayes scanned her face anxiously. And if I tell you something now you won't laugh at me, will you ? or-or-" Laugh at him I She looked at him with shining tender eyes. I won't laugb," she answered gently. Ot—or call me a, fool, will you 7" his ringing boyish voice was fall of wistful anxiety. Call him a fool I Was it foolish to be in love ? She Disced her hand on his arm. You can trust me," she Faid simply. He gave her band an affectionate squeeze. Forgive me for doubting you, my best friend," he answered repentantly. Then, suddenly, he ga\e anercous little laugh. Her heart began to beat quickly. She knew instinctively what was coming. I wonder what you will say to me when I tell you that I have been silly enough to fall in love r" The words were jerked ont awkwardly, his hands shoolc. hiii checks grew crimson. He was evidently boyishly ashamed of his confes- sion. And Miss PrisciUa ? The blood rushed up into her cheeks, her eyes grew dim, her head swam- she stretched out her other banc, and laid it on his knee. 1, Tell me, tell me her name," she whispered. Tell me --tell me what on call her," Her voice was so faint that he had to bend his j' head down to hear. He laughed again be was very nervous. j Her nametT I think HIO koow it," be anowered shyly. Miss Pxiseilla's beatt began I'Q beat so qnickly that she felt tie if it would rrffocate her, and I there was a loud singing in b: ear.. Know it. 1 Why, of course, she did bad ftia uo! known it Ifor thirty-seven years ? j But she would not. let him gaesi that she j knew beforehand what he wa* poing to tell her r soon. She must be bashful, she must be coy. Tbav was what they alwuys wer? in the novels You must be more explicit," she said, with her Jittle fain, sweetly wistful smile. The boy drew a deep breatb. He came a little I closer to her side. It begins with a P," be said in an awe- struck whisper, as if mentioning something Isacred. something to be spoken of with bated breath, 11 a I P.' 11 & Ip 1 11 Mine Priscilla's cheeks were burning with such a vivid crimeon now that they harmonised but sadly with the pale blue chiffon ronnd her neck. But, good gracious, what a long time the boy was in coming to the point. Dear me. then it is ante to be some- thing nice. Lots of pretty Damep begin with a P you know." He looked delighted. I'm awfully glad to hear you say that. I think it's a pretty name myself, the prettiest in the world, though some people art stupid enough to think it is old-fashioned. Yes Fiiscilla was rather old-fashioned, cow she came to think of it, but, oh dear I what did that matter so long as he liked it, and be thought it was the prettiest nntna n the world. Where did you meet ber first ? she ventured again shyly knowing perfectly well, little hypocrite, and yet longing to hear him say the words. At the Rectory garden party, two months ago. I—I loved her the first moment 1 saw her. There is snch a thing as love at first sight, although I know I used to laugh at it." I Yes, there was such a thing. she knew it her- i,.elf, for had she not fallen t. willing victim to Lieutenant Oayley-Clavering's charms the very first time that sho had sean*,hjm ? And to think that he had loved her at first sight, too I Really, she felt quite like a heroine in one of the novels. But what a long time the dear fellow was in still coming to tbe point. It was absurd to shilly-shally like this any longer, the moment bad come for her to help him out with his con. fession at last. "I was at the Rectory garden party," she said bravely. It was a bold stroke, and she was ready to sink into the ground with maidenly modesty and confusion the moment she bad made it. But the bait bad been taken be drew nearer to her on the sola—he spoke. "Ah, yes, i remember now. of course, yon were there, too. Then you saw my Phyllis—" Phyllis. Mislf Priscilla's eyes blanched, her little pinched, faded face grew grey ail the pretty colour died from her cheeks. Her bands were cold as she drew them away fron his clasp. •' Phyllis." Her voice sounded strangely quavering and oid. Phyllis, did you say ?" Yes, dear Miss Creiiawall. Phyllis Aveling, the rector's youngest daughter. Oh—" noticiug the pallor of her face, "you are looking quite ill. I knew I should only worry you and bore you with my beastly confidences-what a fool I am." He jumped up from his seat, fall of repent- ance at once, boyishly angry with himself for Laving, as be considered, worried his kind friend. What a young fool I am," he repeated. II What a—" No, it is I who am the fool --and an old fool. my dear bov, is worse than L young one." Miss Priscilla's voice was calm again, some of the colour had come back into her cheeks-her lips were even parted in a faint smile. You see, her heart was broken, but the, death wound must be bidden somehow, the disgraceful scar must be pat away out of sight. She was not a soldier, or a person of distinction, or gifted with any pairticulac brains, but she was a woman- and women are brave. It is I who am a fool, an old fool," she re- peated. The boy's eyes opened wide in astonish- ment.. Wby are you a fool, Miss Cresswell ?" Sbe laughed quite carelessly she WSB able to She laughed quite carelessly she was able to manage even that now, and put her hand to ber head. s- A touch of the sun, I think. I was out in the garden early this morning, acd I daiesay that made me feel faint. I was very foolish to do it, I am old enough to know bet- ter," She caught her breath with k. strange little sigh. She felt that Ehe had grown very old in the last few minutes. "I am very old," she said, rather wistfully. Then with a sudden briskness. Come 1 tell me more about your interesting love affair. I wish yon good luck with all my heart." He smiled his face had recovered itt radiance. He had forgotten his concern &t ber altered looks already, in the remembrance of the secret joy which he was hugging to his heart. Hap- piness is always selfiuh. I knew you would sympathise with me," he criea impetuously that's why I came to con- fide in you. You sse." His N-oice quivered a little. I always used to tell &>! my secrets to my mother, but now you seem t r, rj,) instead. I really think that I first took to you because you reminded me so much of her. ^ou va both got the same, sweet, gentle manner, and the same wavy hair." His mother. And so that was the real light iu which he looked upon her—a& a mother. Miss Priscilla had no sense of humour, but something within her impelled her to smile. Truly the one romance of her life was rich in irony. Through the dim mist, which in spite of her brave efforts to quell it, was shadowing her eyes, she could see him drawing on bis gloves. Now that he had unburdened himself of his secret, be was impatient to be off. I am glad that I told you about it," he said simply; It's a relief off my mind. I'm a queer sort of chap-—much too confidential, and all that kind of thing, but I like to let somebody else into a secret when its got too big to carry about alone. And you wish me luck, don't you. Do you think she will have me ?" He looked at her with a hungry love-light in his eyes—a love-fight which was not for her, but for pretty, golden-haired PbyJisa Aveling. Phyliss, who, brave in bar own Bond-street finery, had so often laughed at the poor, shabby little spinster, and called her an old maid." Miss Priscilla felt as if she could have screamed aloud in her jealous misery. But, being a woman, and therefore brave, of course she really did nothing of the Bort. I am sure she will." one said promptly. His face fairly lit up with smiles. That's awfully sweet of you—you do put heart into a fellow. I know voa'd sympathise and back me np. I don't think," tugging jm- paitently at bis gloves, "that if 1 badn't come to you first I should have had the courage to go on to the Rectory, and—and ask Phyllis "—-his boyish face reddened np to the roots 01" his hair —" it seemed such awful cheek, you know, and -and she's so pretty, and fascinating, and gay, and such a ripping girl, altogether, and has such a lot of fellows after her." He paused for breath. Yes, Phyllis certainly had a lot of fellows after her—some women had so much love in their lives, while others had —none. But now," be went on again, everything seems to look pretty plain sailing—you've cheered me up such a lot. Since yon have told me so, I think somehow that she will accept me." I am sure she will," repeated that plucky little heroine, Miss Priscilla. He had reached the door now. Almost me- chanically, as if hardly conscious of what she was doing, she had risen from ber seat, and fol- lowed him across the room. At the door they stopped. She looked up at him, question- mgly, from her foolish little height of five feet three. He glanced down at her from his superior altitude of six feet two. May I ?" he said. suddenly. May you what ?" Miss Frisci Ih:i! heart be- gan to thump wildly against her ribs-Ob, why in Heaven's name, was the coy looking at her like that ? He laughr-d--t Lion, without a word, suddenly bent down, and kissed her reverently on the lirs. Good.byc- mother." The door opened, shut Pgain-he was gone. I The Oue Romance of Miss Priscilla's life was ended.

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