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.C"I.<'¡".r --I 1-0-e- ??, ?ll 0- ?Q ?. ? I l. 1 [ALL RiGwn RKSBEVSD. ? .r2;;s=:¡ BY T ALICE & CLAUDE ASKEW. i *The Rod of Justice," etc. A T I I CHAPTER XIII. I WORKING OUT THEIR DESTIOTSS. "Mat-everything hangs upon my de- cision ? "Eve looked at Andrew with her clear blue eye6, and as she did so the stern expression that had distinguished her face when she first entered the study vanished, and gave place to a soft and winning smile. "Why, Andrew, you don't really want our engagement to continue, you know; you are simply speaking out of a sense of duty, and because you have rather a fine idea of honour. But, my dear old frioend-my loyal friend—I'm not going to take you at your word. We neither of us love each other, Andrew—that's the long and short of it— and our freedom is the best thing that could have happened to us. I do not believe that we should have been happy if we had married, for to make marriage a success there is one thing needful, and that is love." He nodded his head thoughtfully. A re- lieved look had come over his face. He felt just like a reprieved criminal, for it had been a bitter moment for Andrew when he bad decided that he must play the game with Eve, and be ready to make her his wife if she still cared about marrying him. For when Andrew had discussed the ques- tion of the breaking off of his engagement with his father a week or two ago, it had always been with the idea that some amiable arrangement would be arrived at between the two old men, Peter Rawson and Jabez Gil- man. He had never imagined for one single instant that his father would practically force Peter into breaking off the engage- ment himself, any more than it entered his honest heart to imagine that Jabez would take advantage of the opportunities he had had lately of discovering the true state of Peter Rawson's financial affairs, and then proceed to pick a violent quarrel with the old man, so that it would be impossible for Peter to retain his self-respect and become Jabez Gilman's partner. From Andrew's point of view, his father had been guilty of the most black-hearted treachery, and the young man refused to realise that such things often occurred in business when it was one man's object to get the better of another man. Andrew had cer- tain old-fashioned ideas—ideas that Jabez had never been able to eradicate from his eon's mind. He believed, for instance, in treating even an enemy fairly; and he also held that if he had once eaten of a man's bread and drunk his wine. that you must consider yourself his friend, and act a friendly part towards him. And now he was most bitterly ashamed on has father's account. Yet, curiously enough, an independent spirit had come over the young man-his old awe and dread of Jabez nad ceased. Morally he felt himself his father's superior, and his fear of the strong, passionate man vanished, for Andrew-who knew only too well that he had no great business abilities, and could never make a fortune by his own endeavours—recognised that to the day of his death he would be an honest man, and it was this fact that gave him more celf-confidence than he had ever felt before. His o}d timidity deserted him, 'nd for the first time in his life he dared tO act on his own authority. Quite suddenly, ''Hite unexpectedly, he had become emanci- pated, and Jabez Gilman would never be 8.ble to rule his son with a rod of iron again as he had ruled him in the past. "Then you think it is really better that we should consider our engagement off? You really mean this, Eve?" He addressed her in low tones, and he spoke with unusual decision, for there was Do hesitation, none of his customary diffi- dence; it was a man who was speaking-L n who had come into his kingdom, into land of freedom. "Yes, Andrew, I do mean it. But I shall alw. ays be grateful to ou for ha.Ting wanted to marry me after all that has happened, and it was fine of you—very fine-to be ready to defy your father for my sake. And yet not for my sake exactly"—she looked tt him with clear, thoughtful eyes—"but be- muse you thought it was your duty as an honest man to do so. You would never flinch ?om doing your duty, Andrew, I think-in- ?ed. I'm sure you wouldn't." 'I hope I sh?uldn't, Eve, but I don't now. I've not shown much moral courage bn. the past. I've done whatever my father I has told me to do. I have obeyed him im- Pbcitly, and he has treated me like a little rather than a grown man. But all that I come to an end now. Father and I must have a talk together; he must hear my qpinion as to the shameful way he has Seated your father. And look here. Eve"— flushed, and a somewhat embarrassed look came over his face—"I believe—I've \Ter gone into business matters myself, tQugh-but I fancy there is a little money t I've got of my own, money that my Poor mother left me, and, if so, your father :lst accept the loan of it for a while; it 19ht stave off present difficulties." No, no," Eve interrupted. "It's noble you, and generous, to have made the sug- gestion, Andrew, but my father could never £ oept money from your hands—the son of the man he is fighting—though, indeed, I don, t think it right that this fight should ntmue, and I shall tell dad so to-day. I shall implore him to end this long, esg struggle that has gone on for so lnany years, to end it at once for the sake Of the unfortunate mills hands, the poor, wretched folk who have suffered so terribly ?ng to this senseless competition between  parents. It is of the mill hands we must ""ink, not cf ourselves, and it would be tter for me, then, if my father owned that he was beaten, if your father con- quered, for once an end has been put to £ °nu>etition a better day will dawn for the ands. Mr. Gilman, having no rival in the e'd to undersell, will be able to pay his Qiployees a better wage than he has done for Years. Besides, he will take over mv fot? her's mills. I expect, and a new day of prenty will dawn for Yardley."  W-ut your father would hate to feel that e had been worsted in the battle," Andrew exclaimed; "he'll fight on iw long as he can, you see if he doesn't, Eve! Why, the old man is as plucky as they make 'em; he won t. give in without a struggle, he'd I'D,tlt,er die. IJ "Ile 1l.l'Il8t give in," Eve interrupted. She poke with a sudden touch of nervous pas- ;10n. "For if you are going to talk to your aher frankly to-day, so am I, Andrew, to 11llne. I am going to point out to him that "e has 110 right to inflict misery upon hun- reds and hundreds of human beings simply to bolster up his own pride and to prolong an mtermlDable conflict. He must give up all that he holds dear; he must make a supreme renunciation of his pride, just for the sake of his workpeople. And he will do this—I am convinced that he will—once I have shown things to him in the Prcpcr light, and have made him realise that in this world no man liveth only for himself. For oh, we must think of the mill hanils; we have forgotten them long enough as it is, but they must be remembered now." She Btood up tall and pale, her eyes glow- ,?, and as Andrew stared at her he told 'Eiself that he had never realised how j ?"tiful Eve was before, and how deter- I rJtJed she had grown. She, too, had seem- ?'?v put away childish things, just as he ??, and was taking up her own stand. Eve, I ?'?u he had thought little better than a ??ly schoolgirl, a beautiful, brainless )?? creature, brought up in the lap of ^Ury, who would be afraid to rough it I suppose you are right, Eve." He spoke 'owly, thoughtfully. Indeed, I am quite ?re you're right, but I doubt if you will S? your father to see things from your rtt of view; he will fight till he drops. I '?leve, till he hasn't a coin ldt in the OCkN' I hope not, I trust not." Eve raised a Pmewhat weary hand to her forehead and d back her hair. "Surely he will lten to me," she continued; "he must, he j, I don't believe that he will listen to you, j ve, any more tli,-tii my father will listen to {1e," Andrew retorted. rr Stil], we must try, both of Ug, 11.11d do what we can with I ese strange old men, who have seemingly orgotten to be anything else but weavers, d who put their business, their fatal oneyinaking, before everything." I "Ah yes, weavers," she cried, "tlu.t's what they are, weavers; but do they want to weave shrouds? Do they want to bring about a strike and watch King Famine stalking through Yardley, and the grey wolf howling all round the town—the grey wolf whose other name is starvation, and who brings pestilence and fever in his train? And as your father refuses to be generous and intends to take Cruel advantage of all that he has found out with regard to my father's financial position-well, let one weaver cease to weave—one poor old man- for the threads will be scarlet, and the pattern of the fabric would not be a pretty one. She paused, then she looked at Andrew with her big blue eyes. "You are surprised to hear me speak like this?" she questioned. "I met a poor woman when I was out riding some weeks ago, a woman who had fallen on evil days, and through no fault of her own, as far as I could see. And she told me certain hard truths. She let me plainly understand that I was a weaver's daughter, and that the men and women who worked in my father's mills cursed me over and over again in their hearts, cursed me because they were badly paid, harshly treat- ed, whilst I could live in luxurious idleness, clothe my body in soft attire, and fare deli- cately. For they didn't understand, poor igouls-how could they understand—that it was the competition going on between our two fathers that was doing all the harm, Andrew. But the words that woman said will haunt me tto my dying day. She con- jured up in a vivid picture all that the poor are called upon to endure, to suffer, and I tell you, Andrew, that I shall never rest till my father has had the moral great- ness to abdicate; in other words, to shut up his mills, the mills that your father can start again; your father who is aa rich as my father is poor, but whose hands are not quite so clean, I fancy." She raised her head, a proud look came into her eyes, a dazzling smile overspread her countenance. "I'm going to work for my living," she exclaimed. "I'm not going to be a spoilt doll any longer. It will do me no end of good it wi t ?r. It will me no e-n r of good. It will strengthen a weak character, for I know my own shortcomings. You see, Andrew, I realise that I am not strong as Fancy is strong, for instance, nor am I as clever as she is. But I think I shall get on all the same—I intend to get on. Yes, I will work for my own bread and butter, and for father's bread and butter, and we shall be happier, far happier in the days of our be happ itrh ;ii we have ever been in the days po erty of our so-called wealth. And oh, what a re- lief it would be to poor dad to leave this big house which we have found it such a diffi- culty to keep up lately, for you can pay too high a price for some things." She hesitated, then she held out her hand to Andrew. "Let us part friends," she said, "great friends. I don't suppose we are likely to meet very often in the future, but I shall always remember you gratefully, and I hope that you will marry some day and be very, very happy, and that your wife will give you all the love that you deserve." "Thank you, Eve he muttered slowly, then he glanced at her somewhat doubtfully. Should he or should he not tell her about his love for Fancy, his earnest wish that the red-haired girl would one day become his wife? He hesitated, then finally decided not to take Eve into his confidence, much as he would have liked to do so, for Fancy might be angry, and though he felt brave enough in his present mood to risk a quarrel with his father-in fact, he was almost anxious to have one so as to convince him- self that his new-found independence of spirit was a fact- quarrelling with his father and with Fancy were two totally dif- ferent things. Not for worlds would he risk annoying the girl with the red hair and the green eyes, that strange little elfish creature who had cast such a marvellous spell over him. "Good-bye, Eve, and—and God bless you." yo They shook hands with each other silently —the young man and the young woman whose wedding, but for the dramatic hap- penings of the last few hours, would have taken place in less than a week's time. And both Eve and Andrew felt a presentiment that the old ties were loosening, old cords slackening, their day of dependence on others was over, they had suddenly learnt to stand alone. Their respective parents, the two old weavers, would have to realise this, and to understand once and for all, that they must leave it to their children to work out the pattern of their lives for them- selveg and make or mar their own destinies. CHAPTER XIV. I AT THE CROSS ROADS. I -Fancy met Andrew in the hall just as lie was leaving the house after his interview with Eve. She had evidently been waiting for him, for she rose up, directly he made his appearance, from a deep-cushioned window seat, and stepped forward to meet him. He flushed with pleasure, for as a f^nera-l rule, Fancy rather kept out of his way, though Andrew had always put this down in his own mind to her strong sense of womanly decorum. She looked tired and palo; her eyes had quite lost their green glitter and were a mere dull grey. But her hair framed her small face becomingly, and her green linen gown clung tightly to her slight, agile ligure. "Well, Andrew," she laughed faintly. "I've been sitting here waiting for you to appear for nearly half an hour. You and Eve have had a long talk together, but have you settled matters between you at last?" She glanced at him anxiously as she said the last words, feeling sick and faint, for the suspense of the last hall" hour had tho- roughly upset Fancy's nerves. Yes, matters are settled at last—settled for good and all." He spoke with some decision, and the girl iccognised that a strange change had <ome over dull, honest Andrew since she had last seen him. He was no longer the amiable, good-humoured lout a girl could so easily twist round her fingers and deceive; he had developed in some extraordinary fashion; lie had actually become a force, a power. "I will walk down the drive with you if you like, Andrew." She made the sugges- tion somewhat shyly, her heart beating with undue rapidity. For the first time she was a. little afraid of the young man whom she had fooled so successfully for nearly two years. What would Andrew do if he ever discovered that she had only been pretending to love him all the time, this new Andrew with the strong resolute face? Suppose Eve had be- trayed her! "I should be very, very gad of your com- pany I have a great deal to tell you, dear." He addressed her with deep tenderness, and Fancy drew a short breath of intense relief, for he was not angry with her, evidently. He had not made the fatal discovery that she loved Rodney Grieve; she might yet bo able to throw dust in his eyes if she went about the task carefully. She smiled at him in answer to his last speech, and then they left tie house side by side, but as the big door closed behind them Fancy turned her head and gazed back somewhat curiously at the house—an in- scrutable look coming into her eyes, a look somewhat difficult to fathom. "I wonder how long it will be before there is a bill of sale attached to the pillars of this house," she muttered thoughtfully, "and the furniture falls under the hammer?" "Fancy, how can you talk so coldly about your uncle's ruin, and the sale of the home that has sheltered you for years?" Andrew looked at her rather reproachfully; then the sight of her pale, suffering little face moved him to pity, and he thought he understood how it was with the girl. "Dear, am I harsh with you?" he said. "Perhaps I don't make allowances enough for your overstrained nerves, and the state of excitement, of suspense, you must be in. For, of course, your uncle's failure will de- prive you of a home; but don't you ba atraid, Fancy, everything is going to be all right for you." He, took her hand in his—her little cold hand—and drew it boldly through his arm, despite Fancy's efforts to pull it away. "Don't," she cried nervously, "anyone might see us from the house, Andrew; wait till we have turned the corner of the drive." "No," he answered decidedly, "no more love-making in secret for us. Fancy, no more subterfuge and deceit; we are going to walk openly now, you and I; there's to be no more concealment of the love we bear each other. For I've come to the conclusion that there is only one path we will follow in life, and that is the straight path, and the things that cannot be done openly are best not to be done at all." She shivered a little, but she suffered her hand to remain in his firm clasp—she no longer made any attempt to withdraw it. "You are not going to marry Eve, then?" She spoke in low tones, and all the light seemed to go out of her eyes—they were just mere dull grey—a misty grey. "No, thank God," he smiled. "But I think I did right in offering to marry Eve, Fancy. Yes, I am quite sure that I did right and what I ought to have done under the circumstances. Remember, it's my father that has brought your uncle's ruin about, and if it hadn t been for a question of marriage between Eve and myself crop- ping up, my father would not have been able to gain his intimate knowledge of poor old Peter Rawson'a affairs. It was only just that I should offer to marry Eve, and so repair as far as I could the wrong that my father has done her and her house. But she wouldn't have me—she told me what I knew well enough before, that she had no love to give me, and that a loveless mar- riage was bound to turn out a failure. So Eve has got her freedom back and I have got mine, and now I can ask you, Fancy, to promise to become my wife. You have known for a long time now that you arc the only girl that I have ever loved, you are aware of all that you mean to me. So you will give me your promise right away, won't you, and then I'll go straight back to my father and have things out with him, and tell him that we're engaged to be married. She shrank back nervously, and she looked like a bird caught in a trap—there was a. hunted, distressed look in her eyes. "Oh, Andrew, he'll be so angry, your father will. He—he'll hate me, and he'll say hard things to you, and of course he won't suffer the engagement to continue. Do you think ho would want his only son, his heir, to marry a penniless girl like my- self, a waif? Why, the mere idea is absurd —foolish." "Not at all," he retorted. you who are talking foolishly, my darling, but that is because I have allowed you to see how much in dread of my father I have been all my life, how much in awe of him. But that's all over now. I've lost my fear of the man who could treat another man as shabbily as my father lias treated Peter Rawson, and if he refuses his consent to our engagement—if he declines to acknow- ledge you as his future daughter-in-law, and to behave towards you as he should behave —well, I shall just walk straight out of The Towers, that's all. I shall say good-bye to my father for a tifne, and set to work earing my own bread and butter. I've got a little money of my own—the small fortune that irv; mother left me, and I believe we could manage quit-e well on that for a time, you and I, it just brings in about two hundred a year. And I could look out for work of some sort—a berth that would bring me another hundred and fifty, say— and we could live on that, eh, Fancy? Any- way, I should be able to give you a home, dear—a roof over your head and food to eat— and there will be no necessity for you to go out to work." She stared at him with dilated eyes— stopping short in the middle of the drive, and the green branches of the trees seemed to throw a curious light over her face, for her pallor was extraordinary. "What! you would risk a quarrel with your father, you would leave your beautiful home and run the chance of being dis- inherited, and all for my sake. I—I'm not worth it, Andrew—believe me, I'm not. You would be making a very poor bargain." "Nonsense, dear," he interrupted her sharply. worth any sacrifice that a man could make. Besides, don't you under- stand, dear, it's not merely because of you that I should have to leave home? It would be because certain principles were at stake; also that the time had come for me to assert my independence—my moral indepen- dence—for I can no longer allow my father to treat me as if I were a schoolboy. I must show him that I am a man." "And you're going to have things out with him to-day t" Her fingers tightened on his arm. "You are going to put matters to a Wst at once ?" "Yes, this very hour. It's no good putting off a trying scene once you have made up your mind that you have got to get through with it. So you'll think of me, darling, won't you, half an hour later, having things out with the old man—meeting him on equal terms for the first time in my life. If we come to a complete understanding, if things turn out as I hope they will, you will marry me quite shortly, will you not, for we don't want a, long engagement? I will take you to Paris to buy some clothes. Yes, we will go to Paris for our wedding trip." He spoke with a quiet confidence that was very impressive in its way, and Fancy stared at the tall flaxen-haired giant in absolute amazement, Andrew, whom she would never be able to order about again, and treat as a foolish loon. What will the people say at Yardley," she muttered, if—if this all comes to pass, and they hear that you're going to marry me instead of Eve? Won't they be a little bit staggered—will it not be better to allow a longer interval to elapse between the breaking-off of one engagement—and your marriage with another girl?" He laughed. Now, it's no good worrying our heads about what people will say," he retorted, "for—hang it all!—what does it matter? It's the most foolish thing in the world to be afraid of a little gossip, or to care about your neighbours' opinions. As long as you can satisfy your own heart and conscience that you are doing right—well, that ought to be good enough for any man or woman." He paused. They had reached the end of the drive by now, and as Andrew and Fancy gazed down the long white road they saw a man's figure in the distance, a man who waa riding a bicycle at a great pace. "Why, that's Rodney Grieve, isn't it.. Andrew exclaimed, shading his eyes with his hands, and staring down the road. "I shouldn't be surprised if he was coming here to call so I'll clear off at once, for though I'm fond of Rodney, I don't want to meet him this afternoon, I want to get straight home and have things out with my father. And now, it's good-bye, Fancy, till to-morrow—for I shall be round here early to-morrow morning, dear, to let you know what has happened at home, and discuss our future plans." He bent down suddenly, and before she had time to utter a word of protest, or to draw back, he had gathered her up in his big powerful arms, gathered her up as simply and naturally as if she were a child. "Good-bye until to-morrow, darling. You're not to worry, remember—for every- thing is going- to be all right, one way or the other—and—and why, Fancy, why are you turning your head away from me— surely a man has a right to kiss his future wife?" 0 He had suddenly realised that she was struggling in his arms, turning an averted cheek, but in his big simplicity he put this down to maidenly timidity—to womanly shyness—and so he kissed her, pressing his lips to her lips, taking no more notice of her ineffectual struggles. And then a strange thing happened, for it seemed to Fancy that, as Andrew kissed her, her wild and selfish mood deserted her. For the first time in her life she knew what it felt like to be conquered—subdued—and the sensation was not unpleasant. But the extraordinary thing was that it 'should be Andrew whom she had hitherto flouted and despised in her own heart, who should be dealing her this strange lesson—conquering and subduing her nature. "There, my dear—till to-morrow." He put her down gently on the grass and strode away, a tall figure—the sunlight playing on his light flaxen hair, and Fancy, as she gazed after him, wondered if the blood of some long dead Viking flowed in his veins. And then, the next moment she had put Andrew Gilman from her thoughts for a while, as she turned to gaze down the long white road, waiting for Rodney Grieve to come UD, all unaware as to how she would f greet him, what she should say to him; merely conscious that she stood at one of life's cross roads—the place where the roada divide. (To be Continued.)





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