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.... ill The MarnageofMari…


 ill The Marnageof Mari 1 I l? -I ii -BY- EDITH C. KENYON (The "NEW ALLEN RAYNE") I Author of "The Wooing of Mifanwy," "The Winning of Gwenora," "Nansi's Scapegoat," etc., etc. ji 1 j CHAPTER I. HER FATHER'S LAST CHARGE. THROUGH a beautiful valley in the N heart of Wales, not many miles I '—' from the West Coast, a young girl, of about twenty, was riding her little Welch pony at a break-neck pace over the rough country road. Her face was flushed and tearful; she wore no hat, and her I, black hair, soft and silky, fell like a dusky cloud about .her sUm young form. 1 The glorious sunshine of a bright May I day rested on the young green foliage of l the trees, on rising ground, at both sides of the valley, and just below the narrow road, a river flowed on noisily, iW by the waters of a dozen rivulets proceding from the hills on either side, and swollen by the heavy rain at the previous night. Young ferae and mosses, creeping plants, and bu,hes of gay white may-bloom, and the budding trees above, were reflected in the river, while, over all, was a perfect sky of almpst Italian blue. Fair was the Llyfnant Valley, and joy- one the songs of the birds; thrushes, rob- ins, blackbirds, with, now and again, the call of the cuckoo from the neighbouring woods, or, sweetest of all, the pure and -exquisite singing of a skylark, soaring aloft from the grass land further off. But the heart of Mari Hughes was sad aad apprehensive, so much so that, al- though she dearly loved Nature in all her moods, she had no thought just then for anything but the darkfmed room, to which she was going a& fast as her pony's feet could take her. Oh, De tines, quicker Quicker ehe oiiied. Jt k fatker-fatfier, who is dy- ing. Your dear master, Dermko! Gailop! I Gallop, darling!" The pony, who had put back his ears, to listen to hie mistress, straightway ooru-I prehending, broke into an even i=l gallop, and his ohm yo?ag rir added more eutreatiek;, whenever tor a moment his pace slackened. I But now the sound of an advancing i hotrseman from the other direction was to I be heard, and the girl, glancing np, per- ceived a big and somewhat lanky youth, with a fine, straightforward look upon :his face, tiding a chest mat horse to m<!et I her. The girl drew rein. Ivor," site eried, Ivor, how is ke? Don't 'Ny he has gone! Don't No. No. Be calm, Mari. Let Der- (inos tre&t a little. He's sweating aw- iully I Yo.¡'ll do him harm. Don't you j know the saying, Make haste slowly ?' "w Slowly, when there s a possibility of my being too late All the. same she ai- lowed her pony to stand, and patted his n&ck gently, by way of consolation, Slowly! If we could have fl(?wn we would, when it's father, father who is dying." We've all to die some time, Mari," Eaid her brother, and father has had so much pain to bear. He wants to go. He'll I have no pain where he's going, for if ever ) a man were a sWnt-" He broke off, 'ith a sob which could not be wntroiled. He's too good to live! He'll be safe enough. It's we who will juiss him. What shall we do without him?" cried the girl. As if in sympathy her pony neighed, j and &he patted nine, again, softly, with one hand, mindful of hi" feelings, even in her own trouble. Riding on again they soon reached the end of the valley, and, turning to the right, ascended a road winding about as it went up the hill ci.4c, until passing1 through an open carriage drive gate, and along a drive ttcded by tall fi -trees, they readied a kmg low house, with gable eixk. and a quaint over-ha ung roof. Three or four dogs sprang op from all sides, barking with delight, and jumping about their mistress, as she slipped down from her saddle; one especially could not make enough of her. He was a brown and white collie, named Rover, her father's gift to her on his last birthday. Throwing the reins on her pony's neck ehe ordered him to go to his stable, whereupon the well trained animal passed on to the stable-yard, and Rover, taking the hem pf her riding habit in his mouth, prepared to walk in to the hOUIOO with her. | Ivor did not send away his horse, bu t j Jiitcited one rein to a hook, on the rough stone wall of the garden, cunningly hid- deu by rose-trees, hanging over the wall, j and already showing pink and green buds, The young man followed his sister into -lie house, as he entered hearing her run-j zting up the old oak stairs, uncarpeted and bright with coustant polishing. The dog key down on the mat at the foot of the stairs. Ivor did not follow her, but dropping into a wonderfully carved old chair in ithe hall, sat listening, j There were voices overhead. He oould hear his sister crying, "Father! Oh, father ?" And the murmur of his father's voice as he sought to comfort her. Ifs a ImA job," said Ivor, rising, and going a little further away. What will poor Mari do without He was &peaking to himself, and thought that he was alone, but a thin, dark boy of eixteen came forward from an inner room, the door of which was open. A pipe was! in his mouth, and a paper-backed novel, i in his hand, be tray-ad the fact that he II was reading up to that moment. We shall get on all right, Ivor," he aid. Mother will be able to have her own way now. She has been suppressed j long enough. She is just aching to bo; off somewhere, and away from this dilui place. And I'm goisig with her. I shall see life then." There was exultation in ihis tone. You young cad!" exclaimed his brother, scornfully. Must you plan dis- cbedience to father's wishes before the .breach is out of his body?" Hie brother aoowled at him. How cross you are!" he cried. There's one rthing. Mother and I can do as we please, i fWe shall not have to obey you Your day as over You young rascal! I would give you *what you richly deserve were it not for 9iim who lies above," and the elder pointed supwards. With a passionate impulse the lad caught up a book from the tafcle, and threw it at his brother's head, just miss- ing it by three inches. Then he fled. Ivor made no attempt to follow him, but I picking up the book, glanced at it. and i ■placed it on a book-shelf in the shabbily furnished room, which was used as study; and smoking roojn by his young step- brother. Upstairs the dying man was saying in low tones for Mari's ears alone—a h<)s,- 1 pital nurse sat by a table at the other end of the-long, low bedroom—"I hope! rou saw my lawyer, Mari, dear? Is he tbojiung ? Will he be here very soon?"i anxiously. "I hope you told him that, I wanted a new will making as fast as pos- ubia. Did you say I was dyin.P- t Y,s, father dear, I did," answered Mari., in a broken voice. I told him, but—" she hesitated. How could she give pain to a dying man? Tell me everything? Is—is he drunk?" faltered her father, his painfully thin cheeks and thinner lips quivering. He was not quite himself. Mrs. Jones would not allow him to come. She said she would send him along to-m>orrow." Her father groaned. To-morrow will be too late," he said. "Bitterly do I re- gret having put off altering my will till now, when it cannot be done." I can send a telegram to an Aberyst- with lawyer," suggested the girl, He wouldn't get here in time," said her father, miserably. Never mind, dearest," Mari said, smoothing his pillow, and dropping the lightest of light kisses on his brow. Mari, listen," said the dying man. You have more sense than the others, though Ivor is a good fellow, and can be relied upon to do his duty." He paused, looking at her out of eyes fast growing dim. Yes. father. Ivor is good, staunch as steel' I call him." And he is that. If you take the lead he will support you. Mari, when I mar- ried your stop-mother I was infatuated, and thought her everything that was wise and good, especially after Tom was born, and she showed herself 6UCha loving mother. So I made my will absolutely in her favour. She is to have everything when I die—" he broke off. Did you speak?" ho-asked. I—I suggested not everything ?" confessed Mari. You see, father, there is Ivor. "Yet: I know. And what troubles me more, there is yon, my precious little girl. Oh. I was f-ootirh-I only put in a clause that my wife was to take care of you and Ivor. You were children then," his voice trailed into silence. "Mari kissed him again. He was so troubled, and, at such a time, it seemed monstrous to be thinking of money. lather," she said, Don't worry It isn't as i-f we were childrea still. We can both work. We can provide for ourselves." But there's more involved than just your maintenance. My child, don't you love this dear old house and the gardens, and the fields and cottages, and farm- stead, every bit of this blessed property which belonged to my father, and grand- father, great grandfather, and his father ? • That much I've been able to trace, anci j there may be more. When my father was dying he said, Hugh, remember, you owe it to your ancestors, who have won this place, bit by bit, often by the sweat of their brow, to keep it in the family.' Mari, I want you to have it eventually— if you marry you may get your husband to take our. name, but even if he won't,- it will be in the family still, if you have it," again his voice trailed away into silence. Mari moistened his lips, and gate him water to drink. It was all he craved for, just water. The nurse watched from the; other side 4 the room, but did not inter- [ fere. I love every stick and atone about the place," Mari said, and especially the trees you have planted, and the gardens you have made and worked in and beau- titied. There will never be any other place so dear to me as this." You love it all. I knew you did. Child of my own heart you are! But your step-mother is different. She soon tired of being here far from the madden-I ing crowd. Oft-enhas she spent hours in trying to persuade me to leave here and take a house in London. Leave here, where every spot has some association doai^ to my hettrt! I couldn't do it." He lay I back exha usted. Mart gave him soda and milk. He 1 rested a little, and then began again. This house Bryncaredog, and land which I have inherited from my ancestors, must not 1)4" alloweq to leave the family. Your step-mother till want to sell it and go away to live in a city. But remember, I shall turn in my grave if this happens." j His eyes flashed angrily. He tried to lift his head, but could not. Then he begun { again, Mari, I charge you to use :?c-ry effort to keep the house and land in the family. Don't let your step-mother part I with it. If she sells it, she, who has ii, idea of the value of money, will simply waste the purchase money. It will run; through her hands like water through u sieve. Mari, keep the house in the family. Cling to it like a limpet to a rock." I will, father. I promise. If I can I will prevent its passieg over to strangers." He smiled at her. As he had said she was a child after his own heart. And presently he began again: H There are other reasons why you should not part with. it. In the old fighting days my an- oesters hid much money and many pre- j cious stones under the house and garden, I have always intended to have a great' search ma(Le.and that again is a thing I have -put off too long." He sighed. The nuree came forward, saying with an air of authori-, My patient must not talk any more. He is worn out. But this is the last chance I have, nurse, he expostulated. "And there are things I must tell my daughter." Well, only five minjites more," she conceded I However, extreme exhaustion prevented I his saying more than a few words, direct- ing Mari to do her beet for her brothers, and remember all he had said about the property. Mari promised to do her best to carry oat his wishes. You're only a child. Mari," were his last words to her. not yet twenty-one, but you have the heart of a woman. God: bless you!" 'i He died soon afterwards, too late to see II his wife, who, visiting a friend in Swan- t sea, had failed to return in spite of mess- ages by letter and telegraph. I The people in the nejghbonrhood con- sidered Mrs. Hughes very hard, and wholly selfish. Indeed 'tis a cruel wife she is to poor Mr. Hughes of Bryncaredog," they said. Unhappy he would be were it not for Miss Mari. Yes, indeed, poor fellow!" They all Irved Mari, but especially the poorest and most afflicted. These called ¡ her Our little Angel," and perfectly adored her. The others said, Our last crust it is we'll be sharing with Miss Mari, if the worst comes to the worst at Bryncaredog." That there were had days in store for that firie old house was generally believed by those who perceived the extravagance of its mistress. CHAPTER H. I AN UNCONVENTIONAL PROPOSAL. I I must sell this house and indeed the) who? e&tate, said Mrs. Hugb<? to thej I&vyer? 3?beneror Jkmws, a few days alter ? the funeral to which half the county I came. It will not suit my health, or l my inclination, to stay here a minute I longer than is absolutely necessary." But, madam," said the lawyer, "have you considered how very much opposed to such a plan my late client, your lamented husband, would have been? He was al ways so anxious to keep things going, and hand on this beautiful old house, and charming property, to his descendants, in as good condition as they were when his father left them to him." Yes, Mr. Hughes was peculiar in some! ways, but I am not, and I don't mean to stay oooped up here—I have had quite! enough of country life. The will leaves everything to me?" enquiringly. Ye6, madam, certainly. There is nothing left to anyone but you, although you are charged to take care of the tes- tator's eons and daughter." But I can do as I like with the in- heritance as a whole?" Yes, madam, certainly. But you would of course wish to comply with tho wishes of my late lamented client?" I wish you would think less of the late lamented client and more of the liv- ing one," she said, pettishly. Here am I, who have been made to stay here, in this jhole of a place, and have never had my own way for more than seventeen yejars. Bnt I am free at last, and I mean to do as I please. I myself will be a law unto myseh' and she stamped her foot upon the ground. I am neither going to obey my step-children, or my lawyer. Do you understand? You are not wanted to advise, but only to do what I order." But, madam," began the man of law, and shook his head, significantly, ladies don't always understand business. And, betw-een ourselves, I have done you a great service." How do you, make that out?" de- manded the widow. She was sitting in her late husband's chair in his favourite room, the library, where he had so often 1 transacted business with Mr. Jones, and she was looking keenly at the latter's blotched countenance, and the shabbiness of his rusty black. Yon may not be aware that, on the last day of his life, Mr. Hughes sent Miss Mari in great haste to bid me come to make his will. He had told me he in-! tended to make one, leaving' his landed property to his only daughter, with merely an income from the estate, payable yearly to you and his sons. Had T hastened over to him. and made the will at his dicta- i tion, and seen him sign it, you would have been left almost dependent upon his daughter. Mrs. Hughes was amazed. She regarded him incredulously. So this was what her husband purposed, when she had so wil- fully insisted upon leaving him during those last few weeks of his life. You didn't go ? You didn't make the will?" she questioned, almost fiercely. I did not. I thought of you and your boy. I like to take the part of the widow and orphan, so I made wine excuse, and my wife improved upon it; she told Miss Mari I had taken a glaes too much, and was in no fit state to make a will. That saved you. That was how I cpuld read the old will, on the day of the funeral, leaving you everything." You expect me to believe all that. But I have only your word for it, and a man who can cheat his dying client can- not be believed by honourable people. You can go, Mr. Jones." He was too poor a creature to show re- sentment. I beg your pardon," he said. I ought not; to have spoken of the good deed done in secret for your! benefit entirely. I will not ask for grati- tude, I will merely say that if you will! allow me to sell Bryncaredog, I can do it better than any other man, as I know about the boundaries of the land, and so on, better than anyone." "Very well. Do your best. And re- member I must be obeyed." The lawyer bowed, and went home, lest she should change her mind. Three months passed away in futile efforts on his part to sell the Bryncaredog estate. Landed property in that part of the country had depreciated in value: the estate was far from a railway station, and much of the land was poor and stony. Moreover the lawyer would not risk money in advertising, so that only a limited I number of people were aware that a charming old house, and some cottages and fields, near the Llyfnant Valley, were to be sold. At last, however, Mr. Jones sent a pos- sible purchaser to view the property. He was a big man of a bout forty yeArs of age, with a clean-shaven, pleasant face, and the air of a business man. The name upon' the card he sent in was Mr. John Powell, and he informed Mrs. Hughes that he had made a fortune in Australia, and, being a Welshman, he had returned home to spend/his money in Wales, and if possible found a family of landed pro- prietors. "I am told, madam," said he, "that you are doing the reverse, and instead of acquiring land, are giving up what you possess of it, and instead of living re- tired from the world, as I mean to live, you are going to plunge back into the vortex of society. Take my advice. Don't do it." Ivor heard this, and then, he left his mother, expatiating in her thin, rather querulous voice, about the dullness of the country, and her great desire to live ag-.ii-i in the Mayfair, as ¡<-he had lived in the days of her youth, and went off to seek Mari, whom he found returning from a climb up the hill. behind the fields at the back of the hause. It was a glorious day, and the cool air on the top of the great hill had brought a pretty colour into the girl's cheeks, and a light into her eyes which intensified their beauty. So a possible purchaser has arrived," she said, when Ivor had told his tale. I was hoping that one would never turn up. You know father made me promise to do all I could to keep the place in the family." Well, mother is doing all she can now, though she does not know it. I left, her describing the joys of town life, and the deadly dttlness of the country. She hasn't the least notion of business. It never en- ters her head to speak of the merits of the place she wants to sell. Come home, Mari, you've nothing to do but keep your tongue still, and not tell him of the beau- ties of nature you find here, and mother will choke him off." Mari thought so herself, as a little later, they stood in the Verandah, pausing be- fore entering the house by the French window which was open. Mrs. Hughes was weeping, positively weeping, and then saying in a voice broken with solys. Oli, please, please do buy it! Have pity upon me. I cannot afford to live in a town unless you buy this house, which is 90 deadly dull. I assure you we scarcely ever aee a. visitor. A fresh faoe is most unusraal—and—and I've lived her, more than swenbeeo weary years. Tut! Tut! Madam: that's not the way to sell property," said the stranger. You shouldn't cry Stinking fish. when you've got a beautiful old country house to sell!" Drying her eyes with a dainty lace hand- kerchief, Mrs. Hughes was looking at him in ootonimønt at his plain speaking, when Mari and Ivor entered. "Why, who is this?" he asked, looking Wbv, w h o is thiq  at the lovely young face and elim, girlish figure of Mari, whose hands were full of »ild flowers—hcfneysuckles, pink wild roses, heather, and great white dog-daisies. "My daughter. Th is is Mr. Powell I Maii t.Ue w i dow, from Auralia, Mari,' said Ute widow, I "and he, Ivor. iR a g?ntlpman to whom I am endeavouring to sell the house and land." Mr. Powell shook fcands with the young people, then be said to their step-mother, H Yon ask more for it than your lawyer mentioned. But. perhaps," his eyes rested on ')--tari. "Perhags if I con id make k home here, it would not be too much." He I talked on for a short time, admired Mari's flowers, and enjoyed/ the sight of her pleasure, as she fingered them caressingly, pointing out their charms. Then he onca more turned to !Srs..Hughes. a I love the country in Wales," he said; U I have hungered for it many and many a day, during my exile in Australia, where I was sent as a boy to make my fortune. I used to dream of coming liorne rich, and buying just such a place as this. But there, if I buy it and settle down, I'm thinking T should be lonely still—I should want a wife-—I've never been married, and I've dreamt always of the dear woman I should like to marry, but there's no such luck for me." On the contrary you will he sought after; gentlemen are so scarce here, and rich men scarcely in existence, this sicle of Aberystwith," said the lady of the house. "I shouldn't like to be married for my money," rejoined the man simply," You wouldn't marry for money, would you, Miss Hughes?" and he looked at her again as if he wouid read her soul. \O. of course not,she replied, adding, I "I haven't begun to think of such things yet." The she blushed, because his eyes i rested so admiringly on her, when she looked at him as s ho spoke. i Mari's going to be an old maid," said I Ivor, teasingly. She's not She'll break half a. dozen hearts yet," said the man, with, a smile which seemed to Mari the kindest she hod teen since the grave closed merhpr father. Mrs. Hughes began to talk to Mr. Powell again about the advantage it would be to her if he bought the property, and when she thought he was slow in responding, she went, lamenting that he was hard, and her children did not .-issist her as they ought in trying to sell the. place. Upon fhat. Ivor remarked, bluntly, "Mari doesn't want you to sell it, you know that, mother she loves it so dearly, and she promised father to try to keep it in the family." Mrs. Hughes turned angrily on Mari, dø- claring she had nothing to do with it, for the property was her own. Mr. Powell rose. Well," he said, "if Miss Mari loves this place it shows her good sense, and I tell you this, if she will come with it, I'll buy it at once at your pri,7t-, What do you mean ?" asked the widow, smiling through her tears of self- pity. How could she go with it?" I mean this," said the man, and there was an earnestness and even grandeur about his fine, weather-beaten Iface. which arrested attention. I ,m a blunt fellow; I've "worked my way up in Australia, and I can't make fine speeches, but if you, Miss Mari," turning to her, will be so very kind as to marry me. I'll buy this place at your mother's price, and." he hesitated a moment, and then added, "it will be yours and mine when we marry. Mari aid not a word. One quick, pleading glance she gave him, which seemed to look down into the depths of his heart, then she fled from the room. and from under the roof that covered him. Only out in the open, under the sweet air of heaven, and away from sordid con- siderations, could she dare to look the thing in the face. (To be continued.) ■ h.