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[COPYBIGHT. ] THE TRIALS I OF MADGE MOBERLEY BY FLORENCE HOPE. Author of Tangled Threads," The Brown Rosa.ry," &a., &c- "•SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS CHAPTERS. CHAPTERS I to III.—Madge Moberley, plain but fascinating, is travelling to London to take up a position as governess. Her brother Phil is to meet her at St. Pancras. The train stops at Kettering and she is left alone, but on its moving again a man with a dog whip jumps in. When London is reached he secures a porter for her luggage. Phil is not there, but a gentleman named Christopher Keane comes up with the news that her brother is unavoidably detained. He takes Madge to see the shops, and then they meet Phil at a restaurant, and after luncheon Madge takes train to Wimbledon, and nearing "The Towers," her new home, in a cab, sees a woman's face peer- ing at her through some bushes. Later on, in her own room, she hears footsteps stop outside the door, and opening it sees the figure of a woman just disappearing. Madge falls asleep in the schoolroom, and wakes up, to hear the swish of a gown, and the door closing. She rushes to her bedroom and locks the door just as a scream rings out, followed by a heavy fall. She is not allowed to see tile mistress, and is depressed by the shadow that hangs over the home. Entering the dining-room one night, she finds the prostrate form of a woman, a dark crimson stream trickling from her lips. CHAPTERS III. (continued) to V.—Madge disoovers that the dark stream is not blood but port wi-ne. In an instant the mystery of the scream, falls, etc., is clear. The mistress of "The Towers" is a drunkard. The nurse informs Madge that only Kent liochford, a cousin of Mrs. Lovell, can manage ner, and also advises her to keep out of his way. In an album Madge discovers a photo of her companion of the train. She does not like his face, and throws the book down QQ f). ;S;"Al of plidto walks in, fol- lowed by Mr. Lovell. who. Intra uoes them. it is Kent Rochford. Madge leaves them, and is going upstairs, when she finds Mrs. Lovell peep- ing from her bedroom door. In low, agonised tones, Mrs. Lovell asks if Kent Rochford is down- stairs. She says he treats her like a dog, and also beats her. Next day he and Mr. Lovell leave for Paris, and in bidding good-bye to Madge he puts his hands on her shoulders and says he has a good mind to kiss heik Madge meets Christopher Keane, who is assisting a local w h o is ass stl' n,- a loca l doctor. He asks her if he can be her friend but it is something deeper than friendship he craves. They reluctantly part at "The Towers," where Madge finds Mrs. Lovell at the piano,. and is invited to join her. CHAPTERS VI to VIII.—-Mrs. Lovell confesses her craving for drink, and Madge tries to persuade her to give it up. She warns Madge against her cousin, Kent Rochford, saying that he will ruin the girl's life. For several days she does resist, and Madge, accompanied by Chris Ke ane, visits Phil. Mrs. Lovell sees a fancy waist-bag in Madge's room, and is told that her husband bought it for Miss Moberley in London. She works her- self into a jealous frenzy, and sends out for drink. Madge returns from London, and that night there is a dreadful scene between her and Mrs. Lovell, who is mad with passion at finding Madge with her husband. Next morning a note from Mr. Lovell informs her that his wife is going away for a month. CHAPTER VIII. (Continued). ven,ÚI',>¡ scene was compromising enougii. The lateness of tne hour—alter midnight—tne sleeping houseuo.d, the silence of the nignt- And Mauge neroeil—wearing a loose tlannel dressing- gowu tniown on in a uurry over her nightdress, lier long hair hanging in a thick plait down her back, her tace pa.è and agitated, and her nand ciacped in Air. iovoii s. Could appearances be worse The very manner in which tne gin tore her hand from Air. Loveli's affectionate ciasp seemed to denote guflt. "lio this is your friendship, your Hypocritical kindness to me You steal down at midnight to make love to my husband, you-" Alr. Lovell interrupted the foul word that rose to his wlle's lips by an angry exclamation of re- monstrance. There was a sickening odour of brandy, that Mrs. Loveli had evidently been partaking of freely; stiii she was sufficiently saber a to know wilat she was saying, as she had slept off the worst etfects of the drink. Jihe turned upon Madge •again with a. vOLey of viio abuse. The gin; with white, set face, stepped forward. "Let me at least explain my reason tor being here at such an hour," she said. "Mrs. Lovell, an explanation is due to you, and I beg you will listen to it." "There can be no exp-anation of such infamous behaviour; and see, you are not even dressed!" cried the infuriated woman, pointing scornfully at the frills of Madge's nightdress that shewed at her wrists beneath the loose sieeves of her dressing- 'town. The pallor of the giri's face turned to crimson. She turned pioudiy to Mr. Loveli. You at least will believe me when I tell you that I came down for some aconite for Maud, who I fear has caught a chill. If you will allow me, I will take it at once and go." She moved as she spoke to where the medicine chest stood on the sideboard, but Mrs. Lovell, more than ever infuriated at her calm demeanour, eprang forward and intercepted her. "You are carrying on with my husband; you know you are, you worthless, bad girl," and seiz- ing Madge by the shou.ders, sne shook her violeutty. It was done in a moment, before Mr. Lovell could intervene. Piie with passion, he seized his wife by the arm and fiung her back; fortunately she felt against a big easy chair, and sank panting and exhausted into its cushioned depths. In silence Mr. Lovell took the key from Madge's hand and unlocked the medicine chest, handing her out the bottle she required. As he gave it her he apo.ogised in a low voice for his wife's in- famous conduct, and hoped Madge was not hurt. The giri could not answer; her nps trembled and her face was as white as a sheet. She felt as if she should burst into tears if she attempted to speak, and without another glance at the woman who had so insulted her sne went silentiy out of the room. She found the children already asleep, so she did not disturb Maud to give her the medicine, and turning out the light, she closed the door and went to her own room, but not to sleep. All her nerves were shaken by the wretched --ceiie she had gone through, and she was feeling ill and sick from it. It was not until the clock on the stairs struck four that she heard footsteps passing down the passage to Mrs. Loveli's apart- ments, and then there was silence in the house. Presently the cold, grey dawn crept through the chinks of the curtains, and the noisy twittering of sparrows and other birds betokened the com- mencement of another day. Madge wondered what was best for her to do. How could she remain after such words, such shameful things had been said to her? Would she be able to endure to live in the same house with a woman who harboured such a vile sus- picion about her? And yet had she not just promised that she would stay for the sake of the children? At half-past seven the maid came in with the hot water, and drew aside the curtains, letting in the bright sunshine of the spring day. "A letter for you, miss," she said, placing the envelope on the table beside the bed. Madge stretched out her hand for it, and tore it open, wondering what it could be, as the post had not yet arrived. The writing was blurred—a 6crawl in a woman's handwriting. Dear Miss Moberley, I apologise for what I said to you last night, and for my conduct altogether. I was excited, and I beg that you will try to forget what was said in the heat of passion. I ask you to remain on at the Towers for the sake of the children. Yours truly, Laura Lovell. Over leaf was written in Mr. Loveli's own writing— I am taking Mrs. Lovell away this morning, and shall return myself in a day or two. She will be away a month. John Lovell. Madge did not see either husband or wife before they left, but during the lesson hours she heard the signs of departure and the wheels of the carriage as it rolled down the drive. Then a great sense of relief came over her. For a month at least she would be relieve d from the strain of fear and anxiety that was telling on her over-wrought nerves. Dull as existence might be at "The Tower?," stagnation would be prefer- able to such scenes as those she had lately gone through, and Madge heaved a sigh of relief as she heard the gates clang to after the departing car- riage. CHAPTER IX. MR. ROCHFORD MAKES LOVE TO MADGE. During the ensuing month it seemed as if a shadow had passed ..w.y and left "The Towers" bathed in sunihine, instead of darkened by a c'üud of oppression- Mr Lovell brought home friends now and then from town. men who would stay from a Saturday till Monday. He also took his elder children to places of amusement—to a matinee of a pretty operette at a theatre, or to the Crystal Palace or a variety entertainment—accompanied, of course, by Madge, who was as keenly interested in the I things she si-w as any one of the children. Mr. Lovell admired her immensely, and was charmed by her bright companionship and natur- ally vivacious manners. If only- and he sighed, not daring to finish the thought that flashed through his mind. He had informed Madge on his return home that he had taken his wife to a hydropathic estab- lishment, where she had consented to remain for a month, and he had thanked the girl in earnest tones for her forbearance in staying on at "The Towers. At the least sign of his regard for her becoming too pronounced, Madge was on her dignity at onco I -st''ff, unbending and freezing; and the present he had brought her from Paris, a costly little brooch of artistic design, she refused to accept. "But I bought it for you, said Mr. Lovell, an- noved at her refusal. -Then keep it for Maude or A dehne, when they are older," replied Madge. "I cannot, and will not, accept any presents from you, Mr. Lovell." Her manner was so decided as to admit of no doubt in the matter. Now and then by accident, or possibly strataeem on Ke:nt, z part, he and Madge had met in the village or on the road skirting the common. A few words, a little stroll, that was all, but each meeting marked a red-letter day, &ad already the little god of love was hover- ing near, ready to wrap his gossamer wings closer round them. The days were lengthening, and the spring was creeping into summer, the trees were full of leaf, and the common golden with gorse, the lark was singing its "sightless song" as it soared into the blue of heaven, and the atmosphere breathed life, and Nature was rejuvenated. Madge had just come back from a ramble with the children, they had walked to Richmond Park and back, and were tired. While the girls had gone in to take off their hats and coats, she sat down on a rustic seat in the garden, lingering in the pleasant sunshine, listening to the song of the birds, and enjoying the sweet fragrance of the flowers. She had just parted with Chris, who kad met them the other side of the common and walked back bv her side, and she was thinking of him. He had given her a hint that he might be going away froii Wimbledon, possibly from England. He wanted to "better himself," and there was the chance of his getting an appointment as medical companion to a delicate man who was going to travel for a year. Madge had urged his accepting the offer made him, which was exceedingly good, but she realised at the same time what a change it would make in her life. 't'l 't, 1 Chris gone, the place wouldn t DO tne same, I and she longed to cry out, "Uh. don't go; don't leave me:" She was saddened by the thought of his departure, and was gazing abstractedly into space when a black shadow fell across the gravel path, and. looking up with an involuntary shiver, she saw Kent Rochford. She had not Been him since his return from Paris, and drew closer in her corner of the bench as he took a seat beside her. But Kent Rochford was a clever man. and he had been thinking a good deal about "the little governess," as he called Madge, and he had come to the conclusion that his usual method of winning a woman would have to be different in her case. The girl charmed him, as she did most men, and he had come over an uninvited guest to "The Towers" purposely to see more of her. He spoke of his visit, and interested her in his vivid descriptions of places he had been to see; indeed, he made himself so agreoable that Madge forgot her aversion to him, and before going in to tea allowed him to persuade her to go with him i to visit the kennels. L After dinner that evening he and Mr Lovell joined Madge and the two girls in. the drawing- room, and until the children went to bed Kent Rochford amused them by shewing some new card tricks he had learned in Paris. Then when they had gone, he sat down at the piano and played odd snatches from various comic operas. Mr. Lovell was absorbed in a new book, and Madge, seeing one of the French doors open, slipped out on to the terrace. How still it was Not a breath stirred the deli- cate leaves on the trees; it was more like a June night than one early in May. She seated herself sidewavs on the. stone balustrade, and watched the stars twinkle out one by one in the dark heavens. Now and then she hummed softly to herself the catchy melodies that Rochford was playing. She could see from where she sat his tall, well- built figure, with the square, strongly-built shoulders, the slightly-greyish head bent over the piano, and the long fingers gliding over the keys. She was surprised to find that he was musical, and it almost seemed strange to see him without a whip, for he was associated so entirely with ani- mals, and the special dog-whip that Madge had first not iced-was usually grasped close in his hand. Presently she noticed a servant enter the drawing-room and hand Mr. Lovell letters arrived by the last post. Taking them from her, he left the room with the intention evidently of reading them undisturbed in the library. A sudden fit of nervousness seized Madge, She was alone with Kent Rochford, and the instinctive feeling of fear and dislike to the man came back to her. Could she manage to slip away round the house without his hearing her? Something cold touched her hand as she made a movement to go. She started at seeing that it was Jupiter, the bull terrier, thrusting his moist nose into her hand. She patted the dog gently, and was again about to attempt an escape, when without any warning Mr. Rochford suddenly rose from the piano and came out on to the terrace. The dog crouched lower under Madge's skirts. It was strange that Rochford should be more feared than loved by his animals. Jupiter was de- voted to Madge, and she was beginning to lose her first fear and repulsion of the dog. "So there you are. I wondered where you had got to," said Rochford, as he seated himself on the balustrade, so close to Madge that his knee touched hers. She did not move, for she would not appear to notice it. "What a perfect night! said Rochford, drawing even closer to her in the darkness. Her heart beat fast. Why should she be so dis- turbed by this man's presence? Then she felt his hand touch hers, and cieep to her bare arm from which the elbow sleeve had fallen away. She could not move, and her heart throbbed to suffo- cation. It was almost as if he possessed the power of mesmerism. She felt glued to the spot, and know that his keen, steel-blue eyes were fastened on her face. "You are sweet-maddening sweet. I can't re- sist you, you witch," he whispered, passionately, and then-in one moment his arms had closed round her, and his hot lips were pressed against her own. ——— I CHAPTER X. I I JUPITER IN DISGRACE. I I Madge gave a cry that was immediately stifled by his kisses, and the dog uttered a. low growl- an ominous sound. Jupiter was a dangerous per- son if roused to anger. Then the girl fought her- self free. "You coward she cried, her eyes blazing with anger. The dog darted out from beneath her dress and snarled, shewing his gleaming white teeth and strong fa.ngs at his master. "Even your dog despises you. Well done, Jupiter!" cried Madge, with an hysterical laugh, in which mockery and fury were blended. Then she dashed through the French window of the drawing-room and made her escape to her own room. Her lips burned; her whole frame seemed to have been soiled by his touch, he had held her so close. She flung open her window wide to get all the air she could, for she felt suffocated, and then in the silence of the quiet night she heard the cries of a dog in pain as the blows from the cruel lash of a whip struck him over and over again. "Oh! this is terrible!" she cried, tears pouring down her hot cheeks. "What can I do'. What, can I do!" She pressed her hands over her ears to shut out the pitiful cries of the poor beast. But no, this was cowardly of her; she must in- terfere-she must do something, the dog had tried to defend her. Then as she went across her room the cries ceased, e.nd she heard Kent Rochford's heavy footstep cross the hall to the library. She hurried down the passage to the nursery, where she found the nurse- just preparing to go to bed. "What's the matter now;" she exclaimed, on seeing Madge's pale, disturbed face. "Will you come with me down to the kennels? I oan't go alone, I might meet Mr. Rochford. He has been beating a dog. I want some of that stuff you've got for wounds and bruises; it may do some good. I must go to the poor beast." The nurse looked surprised; but she liked the children's governess, and knew that the elder ones were improving under her care. "Yes. I'll come," she answered, snatching up a light shawl. "But, you know, it don't do to inter- fere with any of Mr. Rochford's doings, miss, I can tell you." "Oh, I hate him; I'm not afraid of him. He is a horrible, cruel man," exclaimed Madge, as they hurried over the smooth turf of the lawn, and through the kitchen gardens to the stables. "Ah, but he don't hate you, miss, and what's more he'll have you if he i want you, mark my words," replied the nurse, in a low tone. "What do you mean?" said Madge, indignantly. "I don't mean no offence, miss, but if Mr. Roch- ford sots his heart on anything-no matter what- he'll get it, and if he 'ave made up his mind to win you for his wife, he'll win you, miss, some- how, by fair means or foul. He's got such a }11, it just masters everything and everybody." Madge shuddered. Then they reached the kennels and found poor Jupiter, who, chained up, was moaning piteously. Madge knelt down on the stones, and the nurse held a lantern she had had the forethought to pro- vide herself with. The dog licked the girl's hands gratefully as she did what she ceuid for his wounds, and tried to rub his ugly face against her soft cheek. "And you've suffered all this for me, Jupiter. Poor, poor dog 1" murmured Madge, her tears falling fast. Then she got some clean straw, and made up a softer bed for him, and so left him more at ease. The dog never forgot the kindness shewn him, and was faithful to Madge for ever afterwards. They returned quickly to the house down a side path that led to the back entrance, from whence they slipped in unobserved, and reached their rooms in safety. As the nurse bade Madge good- night she said impressiveiy, "The Lord take care of you, miss. I am that sorry Mr. Rochford have taken a fancy to you. It won't stop at his kisses, I know. You must look after yourself, and for goodness' sake keep out of his way; he's as deep, as deep as the devil him- sel f." For the next few days Madge managed to avoid him; and Mr. Rochford did not attempt to force himself upon her, but seemed calmly indifferent as to whether he had offended her or not. She was compelled to meet him at luncheon, which was her own and the children's dinner, but he only I spoke to her now and again in a casual way, and directed most of his remarks to the children, whom he teased or petted according to his mood. j Sometimes against kr own will Madge listened to his conversation with Mr. Lovell, which was I always on interesting topics, and she could not help admiring Kent Rochford's brilliant remarks and sharp wit. So gradually things settled down again, and if it had not been for Rochford's harsh treatment of Jupiter, Madge could almost have forgiven his conduct towards herself, and pardoned it as being a passionate impulse of the moment. He played almost as well as Mrs. Lovell, and it was a treat to listen to him; besides, his music was not so erratic as hers. This in itself was a powerful attraction to the girl, who loved music with all her soul. A few days afterwards she received a note from Chris Keane, asking her to try and meet him on Sunday afternoon at four o'clock, near the wind- mill. "I have something important to tell you," he wrote; "do try and come." Her cheek flushed. She longed to go, but could she? It was the first time he had made an ap- pointment with her to meet him, with the excep- tion of the day when they had gone to see Phil. 1. Don't trouble to reply if you will come," he had written; so she let that day pass, and then the next, until Sunday had come without her send- ing him a line. In the morning she went to church with the children and Mr. Lovell, and a4 through the sermon, which was long and very tedious, Madge was thinking of Chris, and in imagination going over the interview, She liked to feel his blue eyes looking into hers; they were true and honest, and made her feel she could trust him. Then he was young, like herself, and enjoyed things that she did. She had raced with him once and won a bet of of a pair of gloves; and her heart was always light and gay when she was with him. She had not to be on her guard as she had to be with Mr. Lovell and Kent Rochford. She did wish Mr. Lovell was not so fond of touching her hand and laying his own on her shoulder also of say- ing little caressing things that brought the angry colour to her cheek. I've come to the oonclusion I don't like men over thirty-five," she said to herself. "And they are not to be trusted," she added, thinking her- self very wise. On their way home from church Mr. Lovell told her that he expected Mrs. Lovell home in a few days. Run on in front, children," he said, as Adeline and Maud continued to listen. See, there is your uncle Kent coming to meet us—go to him." Then he continued, turning to Madge, "Of course, I don't expect her to keep right for long; there will only be peace for a few weeks, but she insists on returning and I can t prevent her. I am sorry for you; you deserve a happier home than this." I shall meet her as if nothing unpleasant had happened, of course," said Madge. It is very good of you to be so forgiving. You are such a strict little Puritan, or I would make life brighter for you," said Mr. Lovell, watching her face. "In what way? I don't understand, 'replied Madge. Well, you might meet me in town sometimes; I could arrange little dinners ■" "Mr. Lovell! Dom't compel me. to give you notice to leave," the girl interrupted. I beg your pardon. I really am sorry. I mean no harm, but it is hard lines, you must own that; I can't help being fond of you, and I only want to give you pleasure," replied Mr. Lovell. And ruin my reputation," thought Madge, I but she said nothing. It was a drowsy sort of afternoon, with the hum of bees and murmur of insects in the warm air. Maud and Adeline took their story-books out into the garden, and declared they should stay there till tea-time, so Madge felt free; but it was with a throbbing heart that she flew up- stairs a few minutes before four to get her hat and gloves. Then as she was coming downstairs ready eqii pped, Mr. Lovell came out of the library, and asked her to come and look through some patterns of summer materials for the girls' new frocks. Not liking to refuse, Madge spent a quarter of an hour deciding on the merits of blue, pink or green muslins. At last Mr. Lovell said: I know you are dying to go, so I must let you. Are you going for a! Isn't it too hot?" Not under the trees. I am not going far," answered Madge, and with a tell-tale blush she managed to slip away. "Thank goodness!" she muttered, as she opened the side door into the garden, and ran down the path, taking a short cut through the shrubbery, and climbing a gate that the gardenar had locked. But her heart sank again as she saw on the other side Kent Rochford, with Jupiter and a couple of Basset hounds he had lately bought. His back was towards her, and he was standing still, light- ing a cigar. Madge hardly knew what to do-whether to go back before he saw her and give up her meeting with Chris—but oh! the disappointment!—or to risk his speaking to her and go on. Well, he could not prevent her going; he had no authority over her, therefore why should she care 9 SoDpen- ing her sunshade she went on her way. Jupiter saw her first and leaped up at her with delight. What, out alone for once in your life, Miss Moberley, without those irreproachable kids! What a relief it must be!" said Rochford, look- ing at Madge with very evident admiration in his gaze. Her white pique dress with its touches of black suited her admirably, and so did her shady hat with the bunches of lilac against the soft chiffon. Yes, it is a real relief to be alone sometimes," replied Madge. "Then I am not to accompany you?" said Rochford. No, Mr. Rochford. I prefer to go by my- self. "Bien, mademoiselle!" with a profound bow. "I will not intrude." Back Jupiter, back, old dog," said Madge, as the bull terrier fawned upon her, and looked at her with almost a human longing in his eyes. He obeyed regretfully her word of command, and slunk to heel behind his master. "Now, whpre is she off to?" muttered Kent Rochford. To meet somebody, and it will be my business to find out who it is." (To be continued.)



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