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At Short Notice

Newyddion
Dyfynnu
Rhannu

[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]. At Short Notice BY FRED M. WHITE. Author of The Cardinal Moth." The Crimson Blind," The Midnight Guest," &c. CHAPTER II. Ethel's heart seemed to eland for a m0- ment, then the blood rushed back t ) her veins again, the feeling of numbness and sleepiness passed away, A moment later she look- ing up into the face of the man whoarrièd the lantern, and he wae gazing<k^oncernedly ifttoherown. A light of recognition came into his eyea. "Why, Ethel," he exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Don't you know how dan- gerous it is to be out in a storm like this? To think [ should run against you like this the very day I come home. But perhaps you. have not yet forgiven me." "Oh, take me back to the Grange," Ethel moaned. "Thank heaven you came in time. It is only a few minutes since I left the vil- lage and yet I am absolutely exhausted. I caine down here to see if I could find some assistance. All our servants have gone away and the General and myself are quite alone in the house." Roger Keene suppressed a smile, for the General's queer notions of discipline were well known to the young sailor, who was now hastening home to his father's house. Sir Roger Keene's residence lay fairly close to Seagrave Grange. There had been a time, two years ago, when Roger and Ethel had been someth ng more than friends, but some stupid misunderstanding had arisen between them, and a long voyage in the Chinese seas seemed to have nipped the romance in the bud. "And so you are absolutely dependent upon yourselves," Roger said chccifully. "How liise the General t is. Nobody but he would have chosen a time like this to get rid of all his servants. But I darc.av we shall find some way out of the difficulty. The first thing is to get you home again. Juat you lean on my arm and trust to me to pull you through. It is a precious lucky thing that I thought of borrowing a lantern in the village. I don't believe I should have got home with- out it." "But you will be snowed up yourself," Ethel protested. "And they will be anxious about you at home. And, besides, I don't see why you should go out of your way like this for my sake, especially after the way in which I Ethel broke off in some confusion. It seemed to her that Roger pressed her arm to his affectionately. "I thiak I know what you are going to say. he whispered. "But we will go into all that later on. As a matter of fact, my people won't be in the least alarmed, because they don't expect me till to-morrow, which is Christmas Day. and lots of things might happen be- tween now and then. You are not to say an- other word till you are warm and comfort- able again and have had some hot food. You are under my protection, now. How stupid we have been, Ethel." Ethel made no attempt to deny the charge. She war, ieeling strangely happy and comfort- able, despite their slow progress and the sting of snowflakes on her cheeks. They managed to pick tneir way between the snow- drifts, thanks to the f1(,lldly light of the lantern, until presently Seagrave Grange loomed out of the darkness, and the warmth of the dining-room was reached at length. A great fire blazed upon the hearth. General Francis had managed to light the lamps, both of which were smoking horribly. The anxiety cleared from his face as Ethel came into the room. "I was beginning to feel terribly worried," he said. "Hallo, Roger, is that you? How did you come here? Roger Keene proceeded to briefly explain. Without ceremony he extinguished one of the lamps and relighted it dexterously. In a few moments both lamps were burning brightly. Now you go off to your room at once," Roger said, cheerfully. "By the time you get downstairs I will make you some tea. I daresay you have got a kettle and hot water somewhere. If you don't know where it is I can find it. But don't you worry, Genera!. You just sit down and smoke a cigar and leave it to me. One doesn't knock about for two or three years in a coasting squadron without learning a thing or two. I flatter myself I can show you a way to do without servants altogether. After we have had tea we'll overhaul the larder and see if I can't cook you a dinner which, at any rate, will have the charm of novelty. It is a lucky thing that I happened to come along just at the right time. For once in his life the General yielded up the reins of office to a younger man than him- self. After all said and done they seemed to have ways of managing things in the Navy which certainly did not apply to the sister service. In an incredibly short space of time Roger had tea on the table. He had found bread and butter foraging about the kitchen, and presently the tea was flanked by a pile of hot buttered toast, to which all did ample justice. "Upon my word, this is a' unique ex- perience, the General cried. I have spent some queer Christmas Eves in my time, but never one like this before. I begin to feel almost glad that I got rid of those servants now. Better tea I never tasted." Roger Keene smiled discreetly. He knew the General well enough to feel that once the novelty had worn off he would soon be hungry again for the good things of life. But for the present it was pleasant enough; it was pleasant to sit there round the glowing wood fire with the curtains tightly drawn, listening to the howl of the gale outside and the angry swish of snowflakes on the win- dows. It was, in sooth, a strange Christmas Eve, but the very strangeness of it added t. its charm and piquancy. Ethel sat there in a big armchair, her eyes half closed. She WM still dwelling upon her miraculous escape; her heart was full of gratitude and tender aess towards Roger. But for him, the shud- dered to think where she might be by thii time. Cut off from the world as they were, the evening passed swiftly enough, and Roger's impromptu dinner was voted as successful as his tea. There was one part of the meal which the absence of servants could not mar. and that was the wines. The General brought them up from the cellar himself. He decanted some curious old port with a reverence and respect which became its great age. He was beaming with delight now. He did not look in the least like the culprit who had brought all this about. "Your very good health, Roger," he said; "and may this be the least pleasant moment in our lives. If you can possibly run over to-morrow and cook our meals for us, I dare- say we shall get along till we can man the garrison again." "I think I have a better plan than that," Roger said demurely. "1 shall have to leave you to get your own breakfast, but you shall see me later in the day." And Roger was quite as good as his word, for early in the forenoon on Christmas Day a comfortable-looking omnibus ploughed its way through the snow to Seagrave Grange, and Sir Roger Keene, followed by his son, alighted, and made their way into the house. "A merry Christmas to you," the Baronet said heartily. "My dear General, why on earth did you not let me know what was going on? Here we are in that big house of mine with no Christmas guests, for once in a way, except Roger, with enough, and more than enough, for a whole village, and you are actually starving here, with no one to help you. I am not going to listen to a single word. I'll send over a caretaker to look after the house, and meanwhile Miss Ethel and yourself are coming over to my place to stay till you can get settled again. Now don't waste any time, because the (MAN we ARE off the better. Just go up- stairs and pack what you want, and we can ^et away in time for a bit of shooting before There was no denying the breezy hospi- talitv of the speaker, and half an hour later the 'bus was rolling down the drive again in the direction of Sir Roger Keene s house, They pulled up at length under the big por- tico; the huge doors were thrown open, ana th« cosy hall sent out an inviting wf*r, Roger stretched out his hand and helped i Ethel to the ground. "As my future wife," he whispered; RÐW, promise." And the look in Ethel's eves answered the questitta.

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............ ----The Late…

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---+--FORCING CARROTS.

♦ STARTING INCUBATORS.

-+--THE FRUIT GARDEN.

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