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,Phyllis' Adventure


[ (ALL Eights Reserved.] Phyllis' Adventure k BY P JEAN MIDDLEMASS, Author of "Count Remini," "In Storm and Strife," ———— i The rain was pouring in torrents as she Btood, limp aùd helpless, on the stretch of toad that lies between Baiulgate and Folke- stone. Phyllis Stourton was a wilful young beauty Who, on exploration bent, had started on a t-lbious morning in search of some pleasing adventure. She ha.c beoa '• warned that the Weather was l-'kely to be "dirty," but when iloes youth accept a "rIling if it does not coincide with inclination. "ShD would be all right." she declared, I and if it did rain, in tLene civilised days a I cab or a 'bus wÖuld not he far off." From which it may ba inferred that Phyllis Stourton was London-bred, Sha was so, and I Wished with all her heart she were in Picca- dilly, looking out of the window of the Lyceum 'Club, instead of gazing hopelessly around at dripping trees and a road fast be- coming ankle deep in mud, while her bu- coming muslin frock was till it was a mere flimsy rag and yet there was never a Conveyance of any sort within sight or hail, Ah: Something' moving in the distance. Whether it were a cart or a motor she re- solved to stop it and ask for help. Surely even a boor would not be barbarous enough to refuse assistuuco to a wandering damsel tn so sore a pliant. "Hullo Corn in Egypt—an omnibus." Her troubles were over. She would be landed in Folkestone in next to no time. Not so fast, pretty Phyllis. "Full," shouted the conductor in a sten- torian voice. Then seemingly taking pity on uer miserable condition, as fie felt the rain streaming down his neck from the brim of "is straw hat, he stopped the vehicle. "You can get up here along of me, young *ady, if you like," he said, "leastwise it is better than the ditch." Phyllis needed no pressing; with one Spring she was on the footboard, and the rain streamed from her erst dainty skirt as she Jumped. Nor was the footboard any drier than the toadside, only it would get her home at last. She had a dripping umbrella, but she could *ot hold it up; there was no space, and in truth her condition seemed to be but little eliorated, and she looked longingly at the toside passengers in their cosy, dry seats. •Several of them were men, yet no one offered to change places with her—only one lady Suggested that she might come just inside, 'here the elements would not reach her uite so ragingly. .She followed the advice, but it was difficult, gilice the omnibus was too low for her to stand upright. A middle-aged clergyman offered her his hand "to steady her," he lald, not his seat-that he retained most determinedly. Phyllis rejected the offer of |he hand with scorn—his Knee would have Been more useful, she thought. She was a Young woman of flippant tongue, and was about to tell him how much she preferred the aid of her own umbrella to that of his Proffered hand, when suddenly speech was arrested, and eyes into eyes they looked at each other, with something of recognition iu the gaze. The outcome of the reciprocal glances was Scarcely pleasing. No word was uttered, and further civility of any sort was ottered the elderly cleric, who looked round at the rain as it pelted against the windows— *ave for the wetting it would entail, he would forthwith quitted the position. lie, however, decided for dry clothes, While Phyllis stood on, kept steady by her jjmbrella. At first when she saw him she **ad paled and appeared troubled, but a twinkle soon came into her pretty eyes, and a smile about her rosy mouth. Phyllis could 40t long remain under a cloud, the sunshine of her nature must assert itself, and the absurdity of a most trying situation appeal her sense of the humorous. Folkestone at last At the very outskirts the antagonistic clergyman, pushing so roughly against Phyllis that she fell forward ^to the arms of a fat woman, got out of the Coveyance, and the laughing girl-for by- fbis time she had thoroughly recovered from passing embarassment—sank down into *he seat he had vacated, and looked about her Assuredly, as though taking her companions *Qto the confidence that she intended always o have the best of him. In the corner sat a man she had not ob- ferved till then, but he had been watching with keen interest. "A historiette," he mentally decided. "I **11 fathom it—make first-class copy." He was a sprouting novelist, always on the out for incident, moreover the girl her- interested him, she was so fair to look ,oil. I lie was a young man of generous and Sentlemanlike proclivities; twice he had been ?a.the point of rising to give her his seat, «Ut, rivetted by the mute passage at arms be- *>een her and the clergyman, he had been J*° much absorbed till ft was too late to in the matter. Only when Phyllis got out did he also do j » but he did not attempt to follow her, at not in a manner that she should sus- him of doing so, though to find who she he was quite resolved, also to learn what Jie episode was that connected her with the • a& whom her presence seemed so greatly to e agitated. t Wampachs!" so the young lady was, as bad supposed, not a mere nobody, only a <=licious type of the modern young woman, "Ose pleasure it is to wander about una^- j^Panied, and who is ever ready to resent a ^*&iliarity He must be careful, for Leic.-s- ^.r Barclay, susceptible beauty-lover as be «asj was greatly inclined to be in love with t»e fair Phyllis. He had no wet clothes to 3o jie wandered into Wampachs for a Winfky and soda, and, if possible, for a chat jj th the young lady who superintended the r> and who was one of his numerous ac- quittances. Wifu weH directed remarks and, giving himself away, he was an fait b much that he wanted to know. ■Carl S Stourton was the daughter of a de- merchant, who had so over- Is Pped his means, which, had once been very *otvJ that he had left his only child with thi Ug" ker beauty for dower, and no- Worldly and financially to depend on the benevolence and friendliness of an t-—her mother's sister, and who, strenu- tsejf 0llgh Phyllis' efforts were to free her- •UK 0TT1 shackles and make an honest and Ij^antial livelihood for herself, had no be- her success. to fy"is Stourton was out on a visit aunt. Notwithstanding that lady's kindness, the existence* of her own sons precluded all thought of so gwsd looking and impecunious a young- woman na Phyllis being a constant member of hn household. More interested than ever in the heroins of the rain, Cis Barclay was !4c) be introduced, especially when he wuii Phyllis was a journalist and in p-ood work, though where she resided when <• ¡ voluble acquaintance, who had given ac. much information, could Duriwg this lengthy comeisu inVc-r- larded as it was with amiable considerable time had elapsed, a. to Cis Barclay's surprise c i,-r take his departure he-saw Pliyiii. '>1 sombre black, walking towards a c: that led on to the Leas. The tropical rain of the afii" settled into a soft drizzle. That < modified weather she should agaii; out without some strong motive it credible. There was a mystery in the air, of L felt certain-; he must fathom it. ri v he followed her in earnest, but ir* fully; allowing her no chance of his supervision. Orce clear of the hotel she trotted ale a bri pace till she reached a f-, some bushes guarded the front of i < house. She did not, however, go n r: house-gate, but passed round the •; > the sea side. Up and down a walk that lay beneath a man was pacing, as though on a quarter dfeck. He was evidently waiting, in irrita- tion at delay. He wore a travelling cap, the peak of which was drawn over his eyes, and tha collar of his coat was turned up—more, Cis Barclay thought, for disguise than to protect him from the elements. This suspicion made him resolved to have a nearer look at the fellow," whom, to his astonished sight, he saw Phyllis had joined. In a casual sort of way he passed them, remarked by neither—they were too much engrossed with each other. A low whistle murmured on Cis Barclay's lips, fortunately it was lost to their ears in the sea-swish. He had recognised Phyllis' friend, and the recognition had given him sorrow—explained too it did, to some extent, the episode with the older man in the earlier part of the day. Ij: -rested in Phyllis as lie was, even on the verge of being in love with her, he felt that knowing what he knew of the man who was her companion, something must be done to save her from him. But how could this salvation be brought about?" Cis Barclay was perplexed. In search of copy he had not expected to run across a startling' adventure, the difficulties of which he felt almost powerless to stem, and, his head down, a -,cry dejected, thoughtful Cis Barclay it was, who wended his way back to the town; and yet he had always considered himself to be a man of many resources. Instinctively, as it were, he wandered back to Wampachs, though his own quarters were in quite a different direction, but it seemed as if he must hover about the spot where she dwelt, and thus, perchance, receive inspira- tion by which he could help her. Till her return he would wait about, and then over dinner and a bottle of champagne he would decide how a painful revelation should be made to this girl, to whom he had not even been introduced. It was a long wait, and the rain still drizzled, but at last she came flying along like a happy lapwing, trill- ing a low, sweet tune as she sped. Alas! alas! to mix a drop of gall with such happiness was scarcely an enviable task, yet Cis Barclay was not the first man who was learning what it costs to be cruel in order to be kind, nor did the poignancy of the stab he had to administer trouble him so much at that moment as the difficulty he had in ad- ministering it at all. If he told the girl what he knew about this. man she had evidently accepted as a lover not only would she not believe him, but ho would put himself out of all chaixce of win- ning her liking and esteem, which was a catastrophe he by no means intended to court. "La nuit porte conseil," say the French. Cis Barclay, the fates being propiti- ous, might find a modus operandi by the mor- row. Meantime Phyllis had passed into her Aunt's sitting-room. "Where have you been? Are you wet through?" was the query. "Really you modern girls are an untenable property," and Lady Best she was the widow of a city knight-laughed-she was evidently in rare good humour. "■ No, I am not wet—got a seat in a 'bus, and who do you think was in it? He offered me his hand to keep me steady, till he saw who I was, and then he put it in his pocket." "Oh, Phyllis, I hope you have not been meeting with any disgraceful adventure. You are so reckless and headstrong." "Most respectable, I assure you—the hand pocketer was the Reverend Henry Carter. "Ah! I did not know he was in Folke- stone." "I knew he was in Folkestone, but what I do not know is why he hates me so cordi- ally." "Because you will carry on that foolish flirtation with his son." "That's no reasc)n-I am as good as he is." "Well, never mind the Carters, father and son, just now. I am only thankful the son is not here to hang around." Phyllis smiled, but said not a word, and the Aunt went on. "Here is an invitation to dine to-morrow night with the Russell Owens, and meet a few musical friends in the even- ing." "You will accept?' "Naturally. I do not suppose the Carters will be there. If they are, I do hope you will not fool with him. It is such bad style." "No chance of his being there, but I hope there will be an indefinite somebody. It is so dull to have no one with whom to exchange ideas." "Really, Phyllis, you are incorrigible. I am glad you do not always live with me, it would wear me out to look after you. As it is I often lie awake at night, thinking of what will become of you." Marry and settle down is the destiny of most girls." Just what you will not do-you are too volatile." Phyllis laughed. Well, never mind, auntie. Accept the Russell Owens' invitation and trust the future to luck." The first individual on whom Phyllis' glance fell, after she had shaken hands with her hostess, was Cs Barclay. To her he was a mere minim, though she had a vague sense that she had seen him somewhere before, while 118, He was so startled by the unexpected vision of Phyllis as, radiant in beauty and gowned in soft rose tinted mousseline de soie, she glided in after her portly aunt, that he had some difficulty in recessing ill-timed emotion. The gods were indeed kind. This was the very meeting for which he had been longing. An introduction between a distinguished journalist and a well known novelist, and then the pleasantly chosen party of eight sat down to an equally well chosen dinner. The Russell Owens were very appreciative of literature and art, though they themselves never used pen or pencil. The conversation became general. Mrs. Russell Owen strongly ohjected to tete-a-tetes at the oinner table, and always selected guests who could speak out and to the point. Cis Barclay was one of these, and on this particular evening he seemed inclined to beat the record. He was so brilliant and so ver- satile that Phyllis felt glad she had met him. He was another man of the clever contin- gency that contributes to social success." Under the joint influences of appreciation and champagne he became venturesome, and. resolved to throw the bomb he had been carrying snug in his waistcoat pocket on the I heart side. Have you read a smart book called Irre- pressible Peccadilloes'?" he asked, his eyes on Phyllis, though he addressed his hostess. Phyllis did not blench, and Mrs. Russell Owen answered briskly: Indeed, I have—most clever and pointed. It is published anonymously. I should like to know the author. Are you acquainted with him, Mr. Barclay?" It is written by a fellow called CarLer- Tom Carter. I saw him but a day or two ago —but I should scarcely dare to introduce him." Why so! Do the Irrepressible Peccadil- loes come too near home?" "I do not know about peccadilloes, but I personally avoid men who sail under false colours." This grows interesting. Is he Carter, is he someone else?" Oh, he is Carter fast enough—son of a parson, but he poses for a bachelor, when I know he is a married man." Cis Barclay's eyes as he spoke were still firmly fixed on Phyllis. From peony to white-rose—the change was so sudden that the shock was evidently severe. He regretted the pain he had caused, but was she saved was the question? She did not faint, which he quite expected she would do, neither did she speak, but from her eyes she darted glances towards him which scarcely told of the love he hoped to win. How did he know that Carter was mar- ried?" both Mrs. Russell Owen and Lady Best asked in one breath, the latter being the more deeply interested of the two. to "A friend of mine chanced to be in the church waiting for another wedding party who, like Carter, elected the early morning for their nuptials," he explained. j "And the lady—his wife—who is she?" j That my friend does not know—nothing save that she is pretty and young." "He does not live with her ?" "He poses as a bachelor, and flirts with trusting maidens, as he did before." What a dreadful man," said Mrs. Russell Owen, laughing. "I am afraid, however, there are a great many like him. I don't know that I should be afraid of the acquaint- ance on that account. But then I am very free and easy. What do you say, Phyllis?" I am not in the very least afraid of him," answered Phyllis, promptly. She had abso- lutely recovered her sang froid, and her eves were sparkling with fun. "But, Phyllis, you hear he is a married man," expostulated Lady Best. Phyllis only shrugged her shoulders, ana murmured that she was quite capable of tak- ing care of herself. She evidently had no intention of giving herself away, nor did she think it worth while to be angry with Cis Barclay to whom she turned and—a dawn of light having come to her—she asked "if b? had not been sitting in the corner of the Sandgate omnibus the previous day, while she stood supporting herself by means of a dripping umbrella?" This was turning the tables with a venge- anco—the young man who sat in a comfort- able corner while the young lady stood, was silenced, and so the conversation drifted away from Tom Carter and his private affairs. At tho musicale, to which several other guests arrived, Cis Barclay was no mean con- tributor. He bad an exquisite, well trained baritone voice, which, appealing as it did to Mrs. Russell Owen's artistic sense, made him., one of her especial favourites. Nor did it seem that Phyllis was irnr.ervious to 111e charm of Cis Barclay's musical powers. She v. cr o erloided inn with compliments. In fact it almost seemed as if she were heaping coals of tire, encouraging the admiration for her, which she would not have been a woman and a charming coquette if she had not known she had awakened. If to drive him crazy for her sake was the punishment she intended to mete out to him for interference, assuredly she was succeed- ing to her heart's delight. When Cis Barclay went home that night, it was only to sleep fitfully, while he dreamt of Phyllis, nor was his love rendered any easier to endure by a telegram he received in the morning, obliging him to go to town for a couple of days. By the time he returned his love for her had become a passion, and he I' wandered about in the hope of meeting, while he wondered if he dared call on Lady Best. j On the Leas three individuals were ap- proaching. The old hero of the Sftndgare episode, his son, the clever author of Irre- pressible Peccadilloes," and—Phyllis. Whatever the trouble that had divided a' now seemingly happy trio, it had evidently been overcome. Instead of avoiding Cis Barclay, as might have been expected, they went straight up to hio- and •. held out his hand, while Phyllis smiled. "Well met, old fellow," said Carter, "quite a conclave of scribblers seems to have congregated to seek i aspiration from the waves. My wife—Phyllis—I think you are acquainted with her—my father I must pre- sent." So utterly taken aback was Cis Barclay, that he forgot to bow to the now grinning, pleasant-faced cleric, who was evidently av courant with what had occurred, and enjoyed the joke of Cis Barclay's bewilderment as much as did the newly announced husband and wife. And bewildered assuredly Barclay was. During the couple of days he had been ab- sent^ the old man's objections to Phyllis' mHVg8 with his son had been overcome by tl^Hptervention of Lady Best, to whom Phyllis had confessed the share she had had in the "Irrepressible Peccadilloes." when she 'allowed herself some weeks before to be lured into a private marriage with the author of the well-known book. I "She could not help it, but, she loved him so, and he pleaded so hard that it was indeed one of these Irrepressible Peccadilloes that no girl could withstand." she told her Aunti?, when she hung about her neck-forgiven, and promised thrit- a sum of she had fn- I led to tufve Pi.-yilis at her death should forth-.vim be settled, and Tom Carter's angry lather therewith conciliated. Thus everyone tent except Cis Bar- Iclay, who r. with himself, and tha ti.nio genial tiie Carters ¡ were .to bh-i, ever regretted that | a love oj n- I caused him to be- 1 coni > o.' -no commit Irrspres- JsibJHPec -pres-

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