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[ALL EIGHTS RESERVED.] A FACTORY LASS OR OF I THE STRANGE STOIY OP VIOLET BY MARION WARD. Author of Love' s Thorny Path." -His Fair Lady." &c:. CHAPTER xvnr. I CLARA PFIATT KKPKNT8. I Violet went out into -tie crowded Bir- -ftin-ham streets feeling even laom ww- Jr^°ne than before, for sb& found Miss Munro's hard, cruel manner, and the insultS 6he had heaped on her, very hard to bear. The girl was just enough not to blame the Major for his sister's delinquencies, fait enough to feel sure he had had no suspicion of the reception which would be meted out to her. Another letter, signed Ada Staunton," Wag waiting for Violet when she get back to her lodgings. A very short letter this time, reproaching the girl for not keeping the appointment, and saying that her mother feared she must be very unfeeling, not to be more anxious to see her. How- ever, Mrs. Staunton would give Violet one more chance and be in Stafford House to- morrow at the same time. She wrote that last night," thought Violet, so to-morrow means to-<lay, but I shan't go to Stafford House again, I'd be I afraid to. Besides, Major Munro meant everv word he said about Mrs. Staunton," Dear me, Miss Mason, you are Laving a lot of letters just now," said Violet's land- lady in a rather vinegarish tone than usual, ItS she put her head in at the door with a soiled-looking envelope in her hand. it's to be holiod one of 'em '11 bring you good luck, for I am sure you are beginning to need it." Violet trifcd to smile at Miss Gibbs, but the smile would not come, and instead the big tears welled up into her beautiful eyes. It's a long lane that has no turning, -Miss Gibbs," s he said simply, and so I'm always hoping I may c-omo to the turning of mine at last." Harsh and repellent as Martina Gibbs .generally was, there must have been some kindness in her he-art, if you only dug down de^p enough to get at it, for Violet's sweet, patient voice touched her. She remem- bered how carefully the girl paid her rent, how hard she struggled on to try and tid y -employment, never complaining, never re. vilmg fate, and she suddenly bethought :herlf that there was one way in which she Bais"ht help her lodger which would cost her aot.hing. Can you work a machine?" Miss Gibbs asked ehrirply. "I mostly get my livillg at slop work, and I've got a press of it on just How; if you like to come downstairs when I get back from the, warehouse and lend a hand till bedtime, I'll pay you sixpence and stand you a snack of suppor." < Violet's face brightened. "Will you rcillyl I shall be dreadfully gad to come, Miss Gibbs. I can do machin- ing quite fast.. My friend Nora Smith's ♦mot^ her used to let me use her machine sometimes" "ivhy in the world don't you go round to Mrs. Smith and get her to help you?" demanded Miss Gibbs sharply. "I can't beg," returned Violet. "Per- haps it's pride, but I'd rather starve." "There, I'll leave you now to read your letr, and you can Wriie down to me at two sharp. I shall be bade from the ware- houtJo by then." The letter* was another surprise to Violet, ) fl?r it from the one creature in the. world from whom she oould least have ex- pected help-Cla-ra Pratt. It had no formal beginning,- but, like Miss Pratt nersclf, it was emphatic and to the point. "I S., Nv yesterday and you looked th^ at bad I haven't been able to forget it ever since. Of course, you know it was me who wrote the letter that got you the sack from Preston's, but vwhen I did it I didn't "mean you harm. I thought you were just the inspector's spy, whom ho'd sent to Preston's to find out all about their goings on. "Wuen you 'saved Bobbie, I felt real mean to think what I'd done, and if I could have got the letter back from the pillar-box I would "If you 'can forgive me the harm I've done you, I should like us to be pals. I'm going to marry Bill John-.ion on Boxing Day, and mother and me'll never get through all the sewing we've got to do for the wedding. If you are out of a berth still, you might come round and lend 9, hand. Mother says she'll pay you what she can, and I guess you aro a better hand at that sort of thing than we are; I always did like the way your skirts hung. Come round to t.e2- on Sun- day, and you and mother can fix things up. She knows all you did for Bobbie, and she's just set on seeing you. So no more at present from "CLARA PRATT." The tears came into Violet's eyes to think that even her foe should have been moved to pity her. She forgave Clara freely, for th letter explained what had hurt her more thaii anything, the indifference with which had treated her rescue of Bobbie. Kilet understood now just how she must ' felt, the shamed, humiliated sense of Owiug h?r little brother's life to a girl she -h? done her best to inj ure. I V,ioll-'t went down to join Miss Gibbs punctual to the moment, and she turned the with such nimble fingers that -M-e _g rim spinster was quiw satined with .alid tr Oa',cd her a?ista.nt to a 7*=c fricd bacon and hot cocoa when .her labours were ended, beside the Dl'CCWU3 KI~]K>.HV: agreed upon. Viole- had quite a good breakfast the next uay-orea-d and mar^aiin^, weak tea J from the already twice watered leaves of yesterday, and the unwonted luxury of "a n She felt so much better for it that she determined 'to go for a walk. It was a bright, sunny October day, with a dear -blue skv, jtlst the sort of morning to make one feel hopeful, and Violet forgot her shabbi- ness, her poverty, and trouble in, the glad- ness of the autumn sunshine. She longed to escape from the great city, where everything reminded her of her daily' struggle for work, so she walked out towards Ed gb as ton, and then some impulse made her turn up the Hagley Road and find her way to St. Augustine's Church. The last time she had been there was when she and Nora stood just outside the gatus to watch Rose Lerrimer's wedding pro- fession, and that August afternoon was strangely memorable to Violet. She had aeen that day for the first time Phyllis Avenel, the girl who so strangely resembled -her, she had met Roger Chesney, and shé lad heard of her aunt's accident and hur- led home in time to say "Good-bye" to her. So it came about that Violet could not -1 °°k at St. Augustine's. without special inte- T"at, and hearing the bells still going for before she realised her intention h G turned in at the open door, and took  in one of the back pews which were aheUed ?Free. th 'Vb\ ÐOrncr w?/eo dark that few people in ?t?hei church could have perceived her, but w en a stray sunbeam entered and lit up tbQ aeen? VIolet identified two people in the cong.rcga.hon. Sir Jasper Avenel, who sat in 013C of ithe !t pews, evidently the guest of I & lady &t v- j ? statelv matron in?eta I and furs; and i4:r beh,nd, quite alone, I Roger Chesney the man whose Idndoesa to. her that Saturday at Gm?& End had,cost t her her place at Preston's. Violet came .out before the sermon, think- • bag that, as 800 was so near the door. she could slip away easily; but one person in the church had noticed her sitting in her dark corner, and when she moved towards the door, he followed, so that when Violet passed through the gates he was only just behind, and easily caught her up. "Miss Mu&on! You can't think how often I have wondered how you were getting on. and whether you had received another TCttcr from 'Algernon Winter. The pink colour came rushing into Violet's cheek, then it .faded swiftly, and Roger Chesnev, seeing the pallor and delicacy of her sweet, sad face, knew, without any words of hers, how terribly ehe must have iuttered since their last meeting. » "You look too tired to walk," he said gently, "and there is a great deal I want to say to you, so will you drive back to Bir- mingham with me? We might have lunch together there, and then you can tell me quietly all that has happened to you since the Saturday I met you at Grange End." He hailed a passing cabman, and told him to drive them to the Pantheon Restaurant,' a quiet, respectable place which was always ape;) oa Sundays for two hours in- the middle -of the day, chiefly for the benefit of travellers. "Miss Mason."he said ,very gently, when he saw that Violet had recovered her com- posure, "I am quite sure that you have been in trouble since we met. Now, why didn't you write and tell me!" "I couldn't," she answered simply. "I had no claim on you, Mr Chesney." 7 "I thought we agreed that day at Grange End that we were to be friends, He said J simply. "I can only tell you this, if I had known where t-ofind you, I should have written to ask for news of you. I know that you haw left Preston's, for I asked one c: the press girls, and she told me you went on quite suddenly, no one knew the reason." "1 was sent away," she flushc-d crimson, "the Monday after I la&t saw you. Tho mailager was so angry with me that ho would not give, me a reference, and he put my name on the Black List, so that no one will employ me since." "The brute," exelaimod Roger Chesney, "I'd like to have the punishing of him! But what possible offence did he allege against you? lil had rather not tell you." "But I want to know. Remember you once promised me your friendship. Besides, Miss Mason, I have a little influence in BruIn, and I might be able to hear of some- thing that would tiuit you better than tend- ing a press." Thou Violet told him the truth, and Roger's indignation and self-reproach were great. D "I feel ashamed of myself," he said frankly, "but indeed it never dawned on me that your taking tea with me at Atkins* would have such consequences." "At Preston's they thought I was a spy," said Violet; "that instead of being a work- girl 1 was a friend of yours who bad gone to their factory to find out their secrets and report them to you." "Well, they were right in one thing," said Roger quietly. "I hope you and I are t'riends, but I never in my life came upon such a bare-faced, shameful act of tyranny. I wish to goodness I had known it sooner. £ fowever> I can promise you this, Miss, Mason, in a week, or at most a fortnight, you shall have a' better billet than any Preston's could give you." They were at the Pantheon- now, and he piloted Violet into the dining-room, where about twenty people were sitting at lunch. Roger gave his order, and waited till. the food was brought 'slid Violet had taken some of it before he asked, Have you heard any more from Alger- non Winter'?" "No," she answered promptly, "I think he must have been a. fraud, and guessed be had bean found out from 'your keeping the ap- pointment instead of me." "wen, I went to the agent who had given him the key of Greenlands--a- very decent fellow indeed—and he told me that a Mr. Winter called on him and said he wanted to take a house with large grounds on account of his daughter's delicate health. It was precisely the same stpry that the supposed Winter told me, but there was this peculiar addition to it; at their interview Winter told the agent that he must retain the keys until Monday afternoon, but instead they were returned by post, and the post-mark: showed that they were handed in at the Grand End post-offioe at six o'clock on Saturday." "But does that prove any thin- -different P* asked Violet, vaguely uneasy, but not under- standing his meaning in the least. "I am afraid so. Don't let me frighten you, Miss Mason, but this is my theory: I think that Algernon Winter' must be the enemy of whom your aunt warned you on her death-bed, and for some reason or other he wants to get you into his power. "I believe that if you had kept the ap- pointment at Greenlands, he would have proposed (ift the role of your father) to take you ubVoad on a visit to some friends of his. If you had objected., tome narcotic would have been administered to you, and while you were in a state of insensibility, you would have been removed from Green- lands and taken to some place far away from Brum, where Mr. Winter would have kept you a close prisoner until he had in- duced you to leave the country. "Even now I don't feel sure of his object, but I think you must be the heiress to some property which, but for your existence, would belong eventually to someone dear to him." Violet Mason hesitated a little. "Mr. Chesney," she said slowly, HI feel a-ure that in your own mind you suspect someone you know of being Algernon Winter. "I do," he answered quickly, "but I have not one scrap of' proof to offer in support of my theory." "Is it Sir Jasper Avenel?" "What makes you think of him?" "I hardly know, uuIess it is because he went to see my aunt twice long years ago, and his daughter is what yon call. my 'double.' Sir Jasper's knowing my aunt, and my likeness .to Miss Avenel, seem to say that he may know something .of my story." "I believe Sir Jasper Avenel is your father," said Roger slowly, looking- at Violet intently as he spoke. "Oh, no," the girl's denial was prompt and eager. "I am certain you are wrong; no father would plot to injure his own chi( ld. Besides, you must remember that I have seen Sir Jasper quite half-a-dozen times. If he had been my father, some- thing in my heart must have told me so." Rogiikr Chesney smiled. "I should be glad to think I am wrong," he said, quietly. "I have known Sir Jasper for some time. I have partaken of iiis hospitality, and I simply hate to think that he has played a treacherous part." I "I feel sure he is not Algernon Winter.* Mr. Chesney, I was wishing very much, yesterday that I ceuld see you, because something strange happened to me last Friday, and I wanted to ast your advice." "I will advise you gladly, Miss Mason. If. only "YOU will believe me, I want to J)e your friend and ooussel lor." Violet told Roger everything. She showed him Mrs. Staunton's two letters, and gave him a full account of her visit. to Stafford House, her meeting with Major Munro, and his warning that the wotran who claimed to be Urs. Staunton was really Felicite Gromanza, a half-caste whom it would be iangerous for a girl evejj to know. Roger Chesney looked very grave. « "I never heard: the name of -Gomanz?, in my hfe, but I know enough of Major Munro to be sure h would not have given such a warning without grave necessity." "I felt that ^Major Monro was to be trusted," said' Viol?t, "but, Mr. Chesney, 1 was cruelly disappointed! I' had built" so much on Mrs. Staunton's first letter, for it seemed to • me that I was really going to fiiid my toothy at last." "JThe difappoiiitment must have bf n a blow," said Roger kindly, "but the Major's advice probably saved you from a grave danger. Now, Miss Mason, it may take me a week or two to hoar of just the right thing, but at the end of that time at furthest, I feel sure I shall have found you a suitable post. Will you give me your address and let me write to you? or could you meet me at New Street Station next Saturday afternoon? Perhaps that would be best, for then, even if thero was nothing settled, I could at least tell you what I •, hoped to arrange." Violet promised to meet Mr. Chesney in (the booking office at three o'clock on Satur- day, Roger choosing that hour because it was not a busy time at the great station, as by three most of the people who left off work at two had returned to their homes. r (To oe Continued.)






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