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THE LOVE OF A LADY; OR, ROWLEY…

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[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] THE LOVE OF A LADY; OR, ROWLEY LE BRETON, BY ANNIE THOMAS. AUTHOR OF Deit;iis Donne,Tla/jecl Out,Eip-a of Bhnclon,"cfa CHAPTER XI. HELEN'S LAST WORDS. HELEN was dead! Whether it was grief or relief, sorrow or surprise, remorse or resignation that he felt, Rowley could not be quite sure Helen was dead That was all of which he was certain. She bad died in an ecstacy of spiritualistic emotion, and he had been half fr*gbi eiied, half disgusted at some of her rhapsodies—especially at those which had evidently 1. een the oTspring of soiree promptings from her cousin, A nes Hewlett But as soon as she ceased from these, and went gently and sweetly to her last long si. ep, the half-fear and half-disgust was super- seded by a calm torpor of feeling concerning her and all other th'ngs that disgusted him with himself. Not a single thought of Kitty Daubeny crossed his mind for some time. He remembered Dora Marchant vividly. Remembered how she and her wiles had been sources of serious sorrow to his wife, and marvelled a little at such a purifred and serene nature as Helen's having condescended to feel any- thug approaching tJ jealousy of a woman of such a di ve ent and lower moral calibre. Then he reminded himself of Dora's beauty that was not the result of mere perfection of feature or complexion, but that in its very im, erfections was more bewitch'ng than any mere perfect beauty could be. I wonder if she'll write to me?" he asked him- self. I- he's superficially kind-hearted, and she's awfully fond of doing what looks good-natured That good o'd chap Marchant will think it odd if she doesn't, after the parade that was made about our friendship when we met up at the boarding house. She'll surely send me a line." The doubt as to whether she would do this or not interested him slightly at first, but shortly became more absorbing. It began to annoy him that Dora should show herself indi erent to any important fact that concerned him. Though the 1 ve which had once wistell between them had burnt itself out, he believed he still felt that it would be pleasant to have Dora's friendship to fall back upon, and he chafed under her silence and apparent lack of sympathy. Meantime Miss Hewlett was only t o profuse in her oTe s of the latter. She pursued Rowley with touching little attentions, following him into the library when he wanted to be alone with well aired and neatly cut newspapers, and desperate ent eaties that he would let her do something, anything, for him." This was before the funeral, while Rowley still imagined himself to be the master of his own house and the inheritor of his wife's wealth Dora's image—the fascinating, thrilling, warming memory of her pursued him incessantly for two or three days and then receded suddenly, and he thought of Kitty! With the thought of her came a throb of dee", pass onate oy! He was free and he would woo find win her for his wife, and so exorcise that fair ane that l eautif ul evil spirit who had haunted him since Helen's death. There would be a little dil'culty, he admitted to himself, in introducing himself to her as a widower, as he had never posed before her as a married man. With a girl of such a straightforward nature as Xitty there would be a cerfain amount of awkwardness in avowing that he had been sailing under false colours during all the months of their intercourse. But when once he had boldly faced and overcome that awkwardness Kitty would forgive and go on loving him—as frankly and freely as she had been doing of late. I'm not a vain fellow!" (In common with many men of his mental and physical calibre, he was rather fond of telling himself that he was not a vain fellow.") I'm not a vain. feilow, but I do think she has taken rather a liking to me already, and now I'm free to fan the liking into a warmer feeling. Dear little girl!—I always see her a 3 I saw her that first day in her white sailor suit sitting on the edge o." the table." He was working hard at the last chapters of his novel in these days, and Helen's death did not inter- rupt the work. There was no want of feeling evidenced by this<5fa t, I have inotvn a mother maddened by grief, by the death of two of her sons within two days of each other, bring her professional habit to bear upon her work, and write the third volume of the novel on whch she was engaged within a week of those sons' death. The e was no want of feeling about il. In fact, the circumstance of Helen's death permeated the atmosphere amidst which he wrote, softened, refined, etherealised it. Those last chapters were infinitely better than the first < They had more t u(h and suffering, hjj^an nature^nd sensp. .{!}:¡e, "åoout them. They were',alsd inore vividly descriptive. The incidents were more graphically wor' ed out, more picturesquely produced. In fact, through suffering he had passed into the sphere of apprecia- tion of life's passionate possibilities. When the thought of life's passionate possibility came into his mind, the vision of Kitty accompanied them. It was hardly a blow to him when he learnt the nature of his late wife's will. He had never 1 nown the need of mney; therefore the knowledge that he was not to have any from the source from which he might most justly have expected it did not distress him-at first! He allowed himself to feel a little aggrieved at the wording of that codicil in which everything was left to Helen's dear cousin, "Agnes Hewlett, to be by her disposed of, to the best of her ability, for the well-being of her (Helen's) beloved husband Rowley Le Breton." He drew himself up to the full extent of his splendid height, and looked coolly down on every- body, as the full meaning of the wording of this posthumous blow fell upon their understandings. Then he simply stood aside—out of the circle of their aplenetic gratification—and raid This being the case, it seems I've no longer any place here. I'll say good-bye to you and The Rest at once, Miss Hewlett." She looked up hurriedly There were tears in her eyes, her la Le, thick nose N-, as reddened more than slightly, and her completion was opaque with much weeping and a host of stormy emotions. Altogether her appearance was more than rather repellent to the man whom she desired to attract. An overwhelming rush of such affection as she was capable of feeling impe'led her to speak-to make a final er"'ort to coerce him into at least enduring her. Before you gü, Rowley, it will be necessary for me to see you alone "I fail to see the necefsity, Miss Hewlett," he interrupted coldly;" the only bond that united us as the merest acquaintances was brok en by my wife's death "I have a message for you from Helen—a solemn message," she whis; ered you must not, you dare not refuse to listen to it." He made a perfectly involuntary mo ement of impatience, but by a strong e'i'ort refrained from saying that already she had compiled him to l'sten to several editions of Helen's "last words." Dolefully depressin and tlightly enigmatic "last words," to), they had been nevertheless he had listened to them with respect. But now he could no longer constrain himself to do this, for the conviction forced itself upon him that the' solemn message" Miss Hewlett now wanted to deliver to him was merely an emana- tion from her own disordered brain. For her sake, for your own sake and for mine! promise me that you will not leave home wit! out seeing me alone and listening to me r" she pleaded, and he answered with a li jitne s he was far from feeling: I have no home, no ties, and, I am thankful to add, no responsibilities concerning either you or myself, Miss Hewlett." Then with a slight salutation to the assembled company of Helen's friends and mourners, Helen's unjustly treated husband went away from the room. His preparations for going were nearly completed, and all his thoughts were with Kitty now. He would tell her the whole truth—make a clean breast of everything to her-of everything, at least save that old romance of which Dora Marchant had been the heroine. But Kitty should bear the sad story of h:s unlucky marriage from beginning to end. He would tell her the truth so clearly and simply, now that he was free, that she would surely forgive him for the lie he had acted while he was bound Forgive him, and be more interested in him than ever, when he bad proved to her that dearly as he bad prized her I comradeship and aid in the days of his affluence they would beat more priceless value now, w" en. like herself, he belonged to that noble army of toilers in art who toil to live among other things. How sweetly she II forgive me and love me the dear little girl," he was telling himself, when there came a 1-nock at the door, quic ly followed by the appearanceof Miss Hewlett in his room. "I have conquered my pride and come to see you," she began excitedly; listen to Helen's latest words." "Pardon me, I have listened to them already several times." Not her latest.' for they were only told to me last night. They are sweet, solemn words, Eowley. You must hear them, though it embarrasses me to repeat them. Still you must hear them, for they are of vital importance to you." "Won't you sit down?"' he remarked, placing a chair at some distance from the one he himself occupied, for whilst s;ea'ng she had edged herself into unpleasant proximity to his position. She flunT herself ungracefully into the chair he proffered and began her tale. Helen's message to you, sent through me last night, was in these words: 'Tell Eowley that my spirit wat hes over him, and prays hourly that by his marriage with you he may escape the sna es which are being set for his distraction in this world and the nest. The absurdity, the ghastly folly of the proposition, and the way in which it was made, struck his sense of the ludicrous so forcibly that he laughed aloud. "Her spirit must have changed entirely before she could express a desire to see me married to anyone else. I am afraid you are in communication with a lying spirit who is deceiving you by pretending to be Helen." You were always a scoffer "—she spoke in anger, but still she managed to portray and express love for him so forcibly, so uglily, through it all, that he shrank more from her appearance than he did from her wrath. You were always a scoffer but I thought that at least you would have respected a message from the dead Such a message would never have been sent in such a way. That is all I mean to say about it He rose, went to the door, opened it, and stood holding it in such a "lay that she had no alternative but to lenve the room. But as she did so she gave him a surprise. Rowley, you refuse me and The Rest now. Fbould the time ever come when you will take both on Helen's terms, we shall be here-waiting for you." Then, before he could evade her, she flung her arms round his neck, kissed him, aud walked away. Confound the old harridan!" was his sole com- ment on this proceeding. Thank heaven! I shall have gone through a good deal of atmo phere' before I present myself before Kitty after being defiled by that squaw." CHAPTER XII. I HAVE FOUND—YOUR DonIS I" KITTY and Wag had been out in Regen't's-parl. for two hours—happily employed in their respective ways. The hackneyed but always delightful lines in which Tennyson describes the boyhood of the yea rushed back upon her memory as the girl alternately sat and sauntered about with her gigantic plaything, pet, and comrade, Wag. The maiden spring upon the plain Came in a sun-lit fall of rain In crystal va o,!rs everywhere. Blue isles of Heave 1 laughed between, And far in forest-deer s unseen The topmost elm tree gathered green From draughts of balmy air. Then in the boyhood of the year Sir Launcelot and tyuecn Guinevere Rode through the co-erts ofttr- deer. ("I forget the rest of that verse," Kitty solilo- quised, but-Oh don't I remember the last 1 nes of the poem! and dUll'! I wish that I rouldpant the picture I have a splendid 1 auncelot,' b-t-- I'm not quite sure, Wag. that I could paint a suitable Guinevere with anything lii e heart. Wag chortled, slob! ered. tinned his ma.'estically obli ,ne eyes upon his mistress, and licked h's lips He then for a few moments c.hiv'ed a s arrow, for he was a c'og "of parts," with a ee i sense of f e him our s of incongruity. It struck his renso the i,i,-Ii ul,)u: that :wosmall a thin" as a span"ow should fancy that so big a dog as himsel could be hunting it iu earliest.. Throwin himself into the fun of the situation he was holding his huge, handsome head > p aloft as he galloped, and ro fai'ed to see any of the obects in his path. Sudden'y he came in contact with something that retarded his nd ance3 with a light tap from a stick and the words --oti magnificent, rcat, blundering brute, you've ne :vly roken my leg." At the s'me moment his mistress from her seat of observation under the trees cried out, "Wag, Wag, you awkward, naughty dog Come back, sir, at once It Kittj> imiy,. an<?.rt>.9- man whose legs had been nearly Inocked from under him by the un on- scious St Bernard now blessed that uncouth animal for the collision. Wag turned in obedience to her command, and leaped back with ma estic sprawling leaps to Irs mistress. Eowley Le Breton followed the clod's e ample with an air and e pression of firmness ho was far from feeling. The moment for the explaua tion with Kitty Daubeny had come, and he was not pre- pared to begin it. Wag had reached her, and was playingpuppy trie" s with one of the neat l'ttje boots in which her pretty slim feet were encased when Rowley came up. It was a long. long time since artist and author had met for Helen's illnessand de th had made him keep him- self loyally apart from what was dearer to him than his own life. The few interviews he had indulged in with Kitty since that visit of hers to Walm-ey which had been such a revelation to her had been of a purely business nature. Kitty had merely meufoned the fact of her uncle having given her a St. Bernard pup, and had refrained from saying a word about the perfectly lovely woman and the perfectly beautiful dog whom she had seen at Walmsey, and recognised as the originals of the "Doris' and ag of his novel. Hut now when she saw him coming towards her under the spring sunshine and green treesi it came to her to feel that through her reticence perhaps she might miss the spring s nshine of her life So the resolution to show him that she re oiceJ at the sight of him. and also to let him know that she had discovered his real Doris came into her m'nd s'multaneously. Thanks to your blundering Wag I have found you, Miss Daubeny. I was on my way to call when this old chap cannoned against me." She was looking at him with wide, open eyes and an expression of ghastly astonishment. His habili- ments of woe were horrible to her in their mourning intensity. She had never heard him speak of brothers and sisters, and she knew that his father and mother had been dead for years. But now, as she looked at him, she felt that some terrible calamity must have deprived him of a large set of dear relations. He was mourning for them so blackly. "I am so sorry for you You have had some great trouble,' she said eagerly- I have been wondering why you haven't come lately to see the illustrations, and blaming you for not taking more interest in your own book, and all the while you've been in trouble. I am so sorry!" He had taken her hand and pressed her back upon her seat, and now he stood before her, erect, hand- some, tall, and de' ant-lobking- also very much a-hamed ofh'mrelf. If yoii'll promise to listen patiently, and to for- me at the end of my story, I'll tell you what my trouble has been. It's over now, Kitty, and you have it in your power to compensate me for every- thing I've su'T'ered and for everything I've lost." ^he tried hard to smile, and failed, as she answered: When I was a little child I had to say my 1 sson, however hard it might be, before I had my Sl1 ar -rlums." "111 say my lesson straight off, though it's the hardest ore I've ever had to say. It begins with the confession that I have deceived you, Kitty. I was a married man when I knew you first. My wife died a month ego He paused, and looked intently into her eyes. Those eyes never flinched from his gaze, but a hot Hush spread like live over her face as she clasped her hands behind her head, and leaning back ag iinst the trunk of the tree, said: It would be impertinence on my part to offer you any words of condolence. I never knew your wife and I know so little of you "Kitty 1" Mr. Le Breton; our business relations must be attended to now that we have met again" (for the life of her she could i;ot help lading a little stress on those four last words). As author and L we shall always have so m eh to talk about —while I am illustiating your took. Come home with me and see mamma, and some of my last sketches, which I l-av,n't been able to show you yet. You will be pleased with those for the next two numbers I feel sure, for I have found—your Doris.' She rose as she spoke, and they walked along on the homeward course for some moments in silence. He liked her better than ever for the honest courage which made her refe se to feign a sorrow she did not feel for the death of his wie. But he dared not show that liking until he understood more clearly what she meant by saying she "had found-his Doris!" <:> And a perfect Wag, too," she went on, speaking calmly, though her heart was thumping in her breast with a multitude of emotions, the was disgusted with herself at finding how leniently she was regard- ing that sin of coaeealment concerning his marriage- of which he had been guilty. She could not get up a particle of jealousy against his dead wi 'e that poor Helen of whom he spo' e so deliberately. But when she thought of s .pple, seductive Mrs. Marchant, her- blood boiled But I'll do— I've done— all the justice I can to- her reauty and her grace. Her horrible 'charm' no drawing of mine can express, but I'd express it if I cdlld. Why are such women born to shine down such girls as myself ?" She was not a bad actress, honest and uncon- ventional as she was For even while these jealous fancies were coursing one another t rough her brain she kept the ball of conversation going. "And a perfect Wag too At brst 1 was contented with lIOll for my model, you d ar, lumbering, old wild beast," she continued, addressing th colossal maBS of frivolity and pluck who was gulamphing about her path. "But I found a grander dog to my chagrin !— the same day I found your Doris, so I drew them together, and now you shall see the sketches of them." They were at the door of the house as she spoke, and she threw it open, calling loudly for her mother- as she entered But Mrs. Daubeny was away on one of her many missions of unobtrusi ve mercy, and so it cam; to pass that Kitty had to entertain her guest at afternoon tea alone. She took him into her little studio, and placed the portlolio on the ta1 le before him. Then she rapidly selected threeor four fnished draw'ngs and a do. en sketches, and spread them out without a word. The first-a finished drawing this, done with the exquisite skill of an accomplished draughtswoman inspired by love—or hate ? was of Dora, ly ng back in her loveliness on a lounge like a bit of recumbent sunshine. A man stood by her side, looking at her with a look that he knew had often been in his eyes when they had rested on Dora: a man whose perfect likeness to himself struck him pleasurably. Not because he was looking at Dora Marchant with eyes of passion but because Kitty Daubeny had drawn him. It's Mrs. Marchant! Where did you get hold of her," he stammered out in his first surprise, and Kitty took the drawing from his hand hastily as she replied: I went to Walmsey when I was staying with my uncle, Mr. Daubeny, rector of Stretton. He told m& she was the loveliest and most interesting woman be had ever known so I wanted to see her, and—I found her what he told me." The look in her face said as plainly as words could have done—"And you have found her the same thing, and are finding it now ?" The accusation was not a true one. iltill he could not rebut it. Being unworded he could not contradict it. So he passed it over in silence, thus endorsing the impression in her mind. How wonderfully you've drawn it! I've seen that expression on her face a thou I mean you've got her expression exactly just with a line or two." Her's is a very changefulface,' Kitty said, looking searchingly at her own drawing of her rival's face. I could d, aw it from memory though, changeful as it is. You've known her a long time, haven't you ? She spoke of you as her Mr. Le Breton when 1 told, her I was illustrating a novel by a Mr. Le Breton.' That's her way," he said, with a slight vain, explanatory smile. I certainly am not her Mr. Le Breton in the way even of being a very familiar friend but she likes to annex men, bind them to her chariot wheels, and drag them about. It's the privilege, I suppose, of one of the love!ie-t blondes in England." What does f annexing a man' mean ?" Kitty asked bluntly Does it mean marrying him—or making a fool of him ?" The latter generally though, by Jove, Mrs. Marchant will never make a fool of me ——" U Again," Kitty put in quietly. "I've helped out your sentence for you. But don't be too sure! If to idoli e her, to 'think her so interesting that your interest in her can never cease-if that's to make a fool of a man, well, I should think she h id made one of you." I neither -se her, nor doT tslre an wrhixg interest in her. Your own words are making me- think more about her than I've thought for years- your own words and your lovely sketch of her.. Forget her, Kitty, as I'm ready to do. She has no part in our life.' Nor I in yours, nor you in mine We are author and artist, Mr. Le Breton; nothing more. The game oc comradeship is played out between us. Mrs. Marchant will do the pictorial part of your real life much more powerfully than ever I could hope to do it I will throw my 1 est into the illustrations of your books though so I erhaps, after all, I may be useful to yo I." Kitty, you're speaking rashly and foolishly. Mrs Marchant's husband is my friend! Do you understand what that means between men of honour ? Of course you do, little comrade the game of com- radeship is not played out, nor will it ever be between us- Tea steaming hot, accompanied by appetising buns- and fascinatingly-thin bread and-butter, came in at the moment. The neat handed Phyllis who brought it in liked to elaborate her arrangements when there was anyone to look at her. She bad been taught to do things deftly and well, and it pleased her to exhibit the result of her mistress's teaching to her mistress's guests Accordingly, now she lingered ab ut perfecting each detail until Mrs. Daubeny came in and Rowley Le Breton's chance of arriving at a right understanding with Kitty was lost-for that day. Still, that was a very pleasant hour which he spent in Kitty's studio. He bad arrived at a clear under- standing of two things. One was that he loved the girl more than he loved any other created being; the other was that the girl loved him well enough to be bitterly, exhaustingly jealous of that woman from the past whom she had discerned so clearly. This latter fact had balm in it for his tired, worried spirit. After having had hot advances made to him by a woman whom he described as a "scraggy old 119 harridan," it was comforting in some minor degree to find that a fresh flower-like nature Ii' Kitty's could be jealous of him. As they prew more accustomed to one another during that hour's desultory confidential conversation, he found himself telling portions of his own story and Helen's to Mrs. Daubeny. And she—sweet woman !— sympathetic womanly mother that she was, listened to him as though he had been her own son. "The loss of such a wife as he describes his to have been is a thing he will never recover—never! never!" she said tenderly to Kitty when he went away. (To be continued.)

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