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In Spite Of Herself

In Spite Of Herself image
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Two of Mrs. Morömér'a oxcellnnt guests, gentlemen, wero lolling in the room thia lovoly suminer's mörning, puffing luzily at their cigars as they endeavored to wliile away the timo between breakfaat and dinner in convevsation and smoke. Ono of fchem, whohad jast languidly j informed hia companion that Lis vory mai-ked atteation to Isabol Whyte, his hostess's pretty but impecunious nicce, waa nauglit but "a little flirtation," was a tall, handsome man of abont tbirty ycars of age, with that nnmisfcakable air of distinction which travel and good breoding stamp indclïbly I upcra the face of tliose whom fickle fortune favors with hor smiles. Leonard Asliley was a thorough man of the world. The room in which the two men sat smoking opencd through wide, Freach I windows on to the lawn, but on account of the heat of the morning sun the vene tian blinda wero drawn and tlio view of ; the gafden sliut off. "WoH, woll, old boy, amusoyourself, f yon v.rc not in any deeper than a bit of a flirtation," said Torn Mayne, after his friend's drawling rcply to a little atiled advice. "But I teil you, old -, it looks extremely like an old f:shioned courtship to outsiders, and i the aunt has got her eye on it, and upi pears well satisfled with the tuni affaira are apnarently taking. ïhero will bo quito a 'cut up' in that quarter when yon tlirow her over, and you had bettei t?.ke my advico and do it oasy; commenoe now and cool off by stages, for you can't caray it much furthcr ■without coming tosomeunderstanding. Oh, by tho vray, is the girl flirting too? Quitn i a bright little thing, she. Pity thero's not a penny in the fainily; that's the; oáiydrawback to her making aman a vevy clcver little wife ; bilt of course as it is, it's quite out of the question." ■Quite,'1 drawlcd As'nley, lichting a i fres'u eigr. "Lot's godowo to the river nnd Iiave a paddlo beforo dinner," and ; the Bubjoct of Isabel W'hyto was blown awav in smoko, as he lazily roae from Ins chair and walked to the window lèading t.i the lawn. As Asiiley ñxtm up the blinds and i stepped Ont on to the terraeo, a white ' muslin bnstled round tlie corfier of the building out oí siglit. ■Will Mr. Ashley join ns at te nnia this afternoon?" lt was Isabel who spoke, lookmg up I brightly into the face of Leonard Ashbo sat next her at luncheon. Pretty little Isabel, whose penniless virtues as a rich inan's wife bad boen wëighed in the balance and found wanting., %vas gazing into the eyes of the man who was playing with her heart, with her innocent, trusting, captivated soul lookuig out through hors. "With all my heart, Miss Whyte, if I may play as your partner." She blushed her assent, with her LliKi oyos fixed on hor plate. Thogame that afternoon must have proved remarkably pleasant to Isabel, whose iiushed and eagcr face beamed with enjoyment and satisfaction as she accOmpamëd Leonard aci'oss tho lawn after having been ignoininiously defcated in five games. Victory did not seem to be necessary to complete their happiuess, however, even Ashley showcd au unusual eturnestness as he walked by the side of Isabel with the racquets slung over hia Bhoulder, and bi.s tall form bent slightly. as he talkod ia low tones to the girl. His languid expression had given way to ono of ])leasurc, and his liandsome eyes snapied in a way that was in sharp contrast with his usual languor. "Kemember, Isabel," he whispered, as he partod with her at the house, "I am to have all the dances this evening!" "Yes, all." "VS'ith a tell-tale blushshe spedup the etairs. Leonard walked thoughtfully oflf to his apartment, a mixture of stranga fetlings creating a turmoil in his heart. When he reaohed his room, before changing his toilet for the evening, he threw oö his coat and hastily seating himself at vriting tablo began hurriedly a letter. He never ceased until the task which was a long one, was completed, except now and then to pause for a moment to find soine suitable expression, for the wording of the epistle appeared toneod considerable care. He finished it at last, and carefully folding it placed it in an envolope,wliich ho supersoribed in his best hand : "Wilfred Ashton, Esq., the Pines, Devon." "There, únele mine, this will be a little surprise for you at dinner to-morrow." With these words he laid the letter upon the table and began with unusual care to arrange his evening dresa. "Come, Isabel, out here the moonlight is beautiful, and the air sweot with the Juno flowers. We havo ampie time to enjoy a walk ainong the shrubbery oeforo the next danco. The breezo will cool you ; your face is flushed and heated. Besides," ho whispered, bending tendorly over her, "I have something to teil yon whioh can besaid botter under tho stars and in tho silvery moonüght. Come." A strango gleam came into Isabel's eves which Leonavd did not seo. and the tiiin lipa woro set in a straight line; but without a word she slipped her arm through his, and they moved out together into the glorious night. For somo moments tliey walked on among tlio troes and plants of the excellejitly kept park, without either mg. lio seemed norvous and ül at ease, seekiny for words to expresa his thoughJB. She was waiting. "Isabel, he said, finally, suddenly finding his voice as they reaehed a rustió bench at a remote part of the garden. "Isabel si t here a moment, the moon is briglit here, and I want you to read a letter I have written this afterhooji. "Will yon 't" "Certainly, Mr. Ashley if you dcsire me to." Slie spoke as thoxigh she feit no interest in this letter or its contenta, and the tone was so different from her usual childish, aflectionate style, that Leonard lookcd quiekly at her. She was not looking it him but straight ahead into the bushes at the othersido ofthepath, and an oxpression of mingled pain and triumph, alike unusnal toher, iilled her eyes. Ho did not see this, and taking the envelope fi"om his pocket, whieh he had dixected to bis uncle that afternoon and left unsealcd, he took t!ie letter from it and lumded it to her, "Eead it." As ho spoko all traces of his customary languid, oareless manner left him, and his eyes sp'arkled with inward ex' citement as he eagerly watched hor uni fold und read the lettor. In an uudertone, half aloud and balf j to herself, she read without changing her set exprossion : "Deab Unclx, - I havo changed mj plans somewhat since I last talkod witii : you, when you desired and I acquisced, that I should pay my court to the daughter of your old friend. As I say, ! Bince tlien my plans are altered, and ' feoliug that you are now my nearest liv: ing relativo, it is right jou should know of ni y intentions. The amount of it all is I have given my heart into tlie keeping of Miss Isabel "Whyte, who has yiekled to my love, and consented to becomo tho v.ife of your aft'cctionato uephew, Leonard." "P. S. - Let us hoar from you. " As Isabel finished Leonard dropped on his kneo. and taking herhandx.cried, quiokly, - "Isabel, darling! may I send it? Will you givo mo the right ? Say you will, dear. See I am waiting. You lovo me, you dn lovo mo, I havo seen it in your eyes and in vour words. Speak, Isabel; do not look so cold and calm!" tëhe turned her eyes upon him, still with that strange exprossion, and, with a half smile, said, - "Would not that be oarrying the joke a trifle too far, Mr. Ashley ?" "Joke?" gasped Ashley. "What do you mean, Isabel? You cannot think I am sijeaking in jestl" "I mean, Mr. Ashley, that the old gentleman, your uncle, would probably echo the sentiment of your triend, Mr. Mayne, and yourself, that I might make a mail a very dover little wife, only thero is not i penny in tho family ;and, of course, as it is, it is quite out of the question, qnite ! And not having any personal ill-feeling against your uncle, I must decline to mako him the subject of so practical a joke, and possibly put him tlioroughly out of humor with his excellent nephew, all on account of 'a little flirtation'!" As she finished speaking Bue rose to her feet, her lijis set, and her eyes flashiug with indigiiation. Ashley s:iid not a word. Ho feit the sting of his own words and was silent. The convorsation which had occurred ; in the ïnormng when lie wai yot struggling with the love whioh tlus girl had plantod in his heart even during what with him was but a flirtation, but with lier a cruel reality until liis cruel words had undeceived her. came quiekly beforohim, aadhe kiiew tliat he had lost her ; and oh ! how doubly precious she seemcd wow that all hope of winning her had iled ! He could not unaay those careless words which had so hopolessly woundfid hor sensitiva soul, though he scareely believed in the truth of them at the time. He knew that even if she had loved hini that love was dead, or her womanly prido woiild hencoforth smother it within her. He had no j word to say, and bowed his hoad as she nwppt by him with a quiot nod. Sho did not re-enter the room, but went at onco to her i ment, where as soon as sho liad closed and locked the door, she threw herself upon the bed, in the aginy of her heart found a vent in tears. "Oh, how I loved him!" she sobbed aloud. "How I loved hiin !"' and then with a new burst of tears she wailed : "And now, even now, I love him. but I cannot forgive those cruel words." "Really, Mr. Ashley, this is very sudden. Cannot your business be put ofl for a week or more? or better still, cannot Mr. Morfciiner, who goes up to town to-day, attend to it for you?" inqiiired the fair hostess, at the breakfast-table, when Leonard had made known his intention of leaving that morning. "Thanks, Mrs. Mortimer, but unhappily the nature of my business requires my personal attendance. I am extremely sorry to have to shorten my stay, which you havo rendered no enjoyable tkat it is a pain to havo to leave. " "Well, nt least you will lunch with us on the cliffs as proposed, and I will have you driven direct from there to the station in time for the afternoon train." "I shall be only too happy to enjoy the few extra hours in your society," answered Leonard, politely bowingto Mrs. Lorrimer, and casting a covert glanco at. Isabel, who still rotained her place brside him, having no reasonable excuso for changing it. As he left the table he paused behind her chair a moment, and then with a sudden movement as though hnving nerved himself to speak, he bent over her. "Miss Whyte,"he said, "will you go?' "Not this morning," she answered coldly. "I have a headache! I inay join them after luncli, when the sun is not so hot." She was avoiding him. He feit a sharp pain in his heart, but still persisting, he continued : "In a week I shall be on the ocean, Miss Whyte; will you not grant me one favor before I go. For the sake of my - friendship if nothing else?" She did not answcr, but bowed her head assentingly. "Go this morning to the cliffs." Once more she nodded without a word, and he was forced to loave her thus. She feit that, for all, he loved her now. and he was going away for that love. She knew she loveil hira - loved him with all her strong, womanly lieart but her pride had been wounded, and through that very love, and now she could not own it, thongh sho felt he was suffering deeply for the wound he had inflicted. What could he want? Was he going to renew his attentions at the cliff? She almost wished hewould, for sha feit her íove could not hold out against his ploading. No, he felt his position too keenly for his prido to allow him to recur to the subject again. Pride was widening the breaoh between two hearts which a flirtation had conimenced. The cliff was a picturesque spot, and no more chanuing place could be selected for a picnic or outdoor lunch. It overlookcd the river about fifty íeot above the level of the water, and shady trees grew almost on the verge. Isabel was looking thoughtfully over into the river, seated on a low flat stone, when Leonard joined her. "Miss Whyte!" She looked up quickly ; her face was palé and intensely sad, but she never started or changed colcr as her eyes met his. She had been thinking of him ; he had been fllling her thoughts. Why should his appearanca startle her ? "Miss Why te, " he continued, "I asked you to come here to-day that I might say a few words to you before I went away that I could not in justioe to myself leave unsaid. I will not detain you long, nor will I ropeat anything which may pain you. First, for the words which you must have heard between myself and Mayne, I sincerely ask your pardon. I will not attempt to excuse them except to teil you that even love of you was. unknowingly filling my neart. J. fcnow tliat smce then you intentionally led me on that you might all the more surely strike your blow. I have no word or fault to find, I bow to your iñdignation, but for all that is past, I love you now, deeply, devotedly, with all my heart. My own words are my own shame. I could not go away without telling you this. Now, frirewell." He held out his hand as he spoke; his face was pale and set. She took his hand mechanically, without meeting his eyesorspeakingaword. He stood a moment, then, with a sigh, turned away and was gone. For some time Isabel did not move, but reniained sitting wliero she was, with her eyes looking unseemingly out over tho river; then, with a little moan, fihesank on the grass and buried her face in her hanbs. "Oh, Leonard ! Leonard !" she sobbed, "come back to me!" But Leonard Ashloy was long sincs out of hearing, and once more her pride had ruled her heart. But he was not dostined to leave her 60. When Isabel had dried her eyes, and quieted her beating heart sufficiently to meet the rest of lier party again, Ashley had driven away to the station behind Mrs. Mortimer's lovely pair oí grays. The remainder of the afternoon passed like a dream to Isabel; her neart and brain were both nunibed with a dull, aching pain, until as the merry party were driving homeward, when the sun was slowly disappearing amid crimson clouds in the west, a man on horseback, driving like a madman met them. Even the sight of this rider tearing along towards them, wliich immcdiately intcrested the balance of the party did not arouse the girl from her , gy until he wlieeled up alongside the ! carriage, and gasping for breath which : he had ridden out, cried to Mrs. mer: "An accident marm! The greys bolted - Mr. Ashley at the house dead !" At the mention of Leonard's name Isbel carne out of her stupor, sat upright in the carriage, hor pale face now actually livid ; then carne a heartrending shriek, and she fainted. But bad news is always easily exaggerated, and when the pleasure party arrived home, they did not flnd Leonard Ashley dead, although he had anarrow escape, and lay bleeding and insensible in the drawing-room. The hornea had become frightened andjinmanageable at the sight of the railway, and running had thrown Markham out against a post on the side of the road, ana cutting an ugly gash in the back of his head, and rendering him with his black blood-matted hair and ghastly face, dccidedly eorpse-like in appearance;buton th arrival of the doctor they removed him to the apartment he had occupied, and mado him os comf ortable as human skill could, thongh he breathed heavily, and consciousness did not return. The doctor would say nothing cisive when he had done everything in his power for the time, and was aboui to go, shake his head gravely: i but poor.pale Isabel, whohadrecovered her oonsciousness bef ore they öftd [ reached the house, and had been most among thcm all wnh a helping hand, was not satisfled, and followed liim down stairsto the door, and lifting her pleading, tearful eyes to his, faintly asked for the verdict. "Well, littlo one," he said, looking 1 her pityngly, "I won't say there is no hope, but only constant watohing and the best of care will bring him through." Nothing more, but she thanked n im for that. For three days and nights she nevei left his bed for a moment while he lay nnconscious. She had forgotten hei pride now, His life depended upon hei watchfulness and care, for who else could give him that unceasing devotion 1 The bitter words he had spoken wera forgotten. When ha returned to life, if he ever did, she would creep away nnobserved, and he would never know that her unceasing care had ever brought him back. On the fourth day he began to show i signs of returning consciousnêss, and calling softly to the nurse who was sleeping in the nest apartment, sha looked at him for a moment, her eyes tillodwith softlove-light - for now in his helplessness could she not love him as she would if he were dead? - and moved lightly from the room. From that moment he grew steadüy better ; the crisis is pasaed. Isabel had saved his life. She did not agoin enter the room, but each day met the doctor outside the door. and heard his reassuring report, At last, one morning, as she was waiting outside his door, the doctor como out smiling, but did not close the door behind him as usual. Espying Isabel, he cried, heartily: "Ha, there's the little nurse that brought my patiënt back to life. I've been tolling Mr. Ashley about yon for the first time this morning, and he is anxious to tliank you ; and seeing you saved his life, I think it is quite proper in him. Come, he is much better this morning, and it will do him good to see someone. "Oh, no, no!" cried Isabel, turning pale, and pushing the kind-hearted doctor away, who was trying to draw her into the room, "Come along, como along," he persisted, misunderstanding her objection. "I teil you it will do him no harm, on my word," and h laughed one of his hearty, ringing laughs, and, despits her stniggling resistance, dragged her into the room. The chamber was darkened, and at first she could distinguish nothing, as the doctor pushed her, with goodnaturedforco, into the middle of the room, and went out and shut the door; but for Leonard who was leaning on hia arm eagerly watching, the liglit was sufficient. "Isabel!" he cried to the girl, who stood still in the middle of the room witn üer neaa uowert, wherO the doctor had left her, "Isabel, have you brought me back to life or death?" There was a piteons, pleading tone in his weak voice, and he tried to hold hin hand3out to her. Sho slowly raised her eyes to his ; hers were f uil of tears - all the pride was gone. "Isabel, come !" With a littlo gasping cry she moved toward the bed and sank on her knees. "Forgive me!" she sobbod, "I tried to cali you back, but it was too late - too late!" He gently drew her towards him and tenderly kissed her forehead. "Let ns both forgive," he said, presently, and then ha put both his arma aronnd her neck and rested horhead on his breast. For a long time they remained so, and then he said, softly putting bis hand under his pillow : "Hore, Isabel, is a letter I havo kept because it tells of my love for yon. Yon havo read it before. Will you post it for me?" Itwas only a little half-frightened whisper that answered : "Yes, dear!" But it was enough to cheer the heart of Leonard


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