Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

11 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



THE PEARL NECKLACE (A Story of a Mysterious Robbery), BY ARTHUR APPLIN, Author of "The Chorus Girl," "The Stage Door," "Van Oylk Diamonds," "The Butcher of Bruton-street," etc., etc. CHAPTER r. Michael strotcbed himself, blinked his eyes, yawned, turned over on his side and looked sleepily at the curtained windows The sun, topping the trees, was already beat- in against the blinds, through the partially opened window the breeze which heralded the dawn brought the sweet autumna1 scent of damp earth, fallen leaves and perfume of violets In the garden' the birds were already wide awake; the thruish bang his matins, the spar- rows chattered, and the starlings noisily dis- cussed the business of the coming day. Michael Villette blinked his eyes again, and sat upright; then, realising the hour, the d»y and himself—he tutnbled >?ut of bed. drew k the curtains, palled up the blind and n. seted the dawn, the sunshiae-and man hood. For he was twenty-one years of age. The day, once eagerly desired, had arrived at last; the day of emancipation, he had called it, the day of freedom. The day when he was a man with the whole of his life lying in hia two hands, to do with it as he pleased. Life! Even though lately misfortune had iauarht him it was not so sweet a thing as once he had dreamed, yet it was very good. Health was his. and, though he had lived twenty-one years. Youth and to a heaithy youth there is no such thing as defeat—scarcely Death ex- ists. The rising sun seemed just then to Michael typical of his life, the 6ky was all clear blue, Cot a cloud on the horizon therefore clouds were impossible. Nothing could bpr the pro- gress of that mightj majesty 01 light; from east to west he would travel his full course. ghining on the world And so Michael dreamed his life. He flung the windows open and leaned right out and breathed deep of the sweot clean air And he laughed—it was good to be twenty-one and alive, good to be strong. The world was at his feet and it was all beautiful; nothing had power to harm him, and his power for good was infinite He was a man, he could make or mar; and lie was going to Make. He could love or hate: and he was going to Love. Love! He was wide awake! The thought of love sent the blood dancing hotly in his veins; he need have 110 fear or shame of con- fessing his love now—now that he was a man, tree to choose his own mate, his own path, in lifo. Again he laughed; just for a moment the spectres of doubt and poverty looked up at him from the woodlands where the sun was chasing the faint, autumnal mists away. But even as the suashiin-* dispersed them, he hastened his wpectre flight with his laughter; he jumped into his cold tub, then quickly dressed, and opening the dooT of his bedroom noiselessly, Crept int.) the passage and listened. Outside the world was awake, but inside the old Hall, his little world of men and women stiJ! slept. FooLs he whispered in his arrogance; they idid not know what they missed. He walked ttlcnsr very quietly until boa reached the heaod of th? staircase there be hesitated, but glanced toward' a room in the corridor on the left. A couple of steps past the balustrade, a sharp run across the lawn heavy with dew-and then fe leaf-strewn path through the woodland where the autumn Sowers nodded farewell to summer, until almost hidden in a bower of forest foli- age he would find a thatched cottage and one whose eyes the morning sunshine had surely opened—one who had also heard the song of lore, and twenty-one. Yet first there was R.uth. she who had shared the joys and sorrows of childhood with him, his twin sister, his best pal. H" walked quickly t-o her door, knocked eortlv. and listened; there was 00 reply, so turning the handle he opened it and entered. 'And. a he did so. she stirred be saw. from her whire nest, two white arm- stretched out, saw the shower of golden hair spread across the pillo-v: then a pair of great blue eyes blink- fed sleepily at him. "Is that you, Mike?" asked a sleepy voice. "Good heavens, it isn't breakfast time yet, is it I" He stood b-side the bed looking down at Her rladly, and with brotherly pride, realising for the first time in his life her beauty. And unconsciously his thoughts found words, and th? words escaped from his lips. "By jove, if Harvey could pee yon now-" He stopped awkwardly and laughed; and though the mists of sleep clouded her brain, the bleed Quickened in Ruth's veins and warm- 1 h?r face. ,I¡j{J your first thought with the sunshine and the birdit calling yon. and the winH whi-pering and the smell of flowers, and —arid vour firSt thought is that vcw'rr- !abc for breakfast! Ruth, don't you know it's twenty-one we are to-day, and there isn't a cloud in the sky. and I'm going out to s iy 'How-do-you-do' to the world—and you ought to be coming with me. But I'm glad vou. r, rot." he added boyishly. as, stooping, be ki-sed her quickly, and turned away. Path fat upright then. wide awake at last, and the gold of hair covered her whit ahoulders and fell to her waist. Sho shook it back and rubbed her bine eyes. "Throw me mv wrap from the armchair khero. Mike. Pull back the curtain, open the window wide." 14, obrved, and in an another minute she ■was «rc.nJmg bv his side holding his hand, and 'together they leaned out—Spring greeting the !A I1t.; 'T' r it she whispered. l'i;: nodded. "You are. By jove. I didn't lino- how ;011" srocd lookinz you were before. Ruth Everything's beautiful. Oh, if onlw w had money!" -•^tDpn'r let's think of tixaJt t0-4-w. Mike. Let's think of nothing but Youth to-day. It's good enough to bo alive, isn't it?" Mike nodded. There was silence, save for the song of the morning Hand in hand tbey stood together, leaning far out of the window, thd red monthly roses clambering over the old house brushing the girrs face, their red petals kissing her mouth. Though their lips were silent, their hearts were full, and each ralised that for the other the silence was prey nant. "Ruth, I've a secret, and if I don't tell some- one I shall shout it out in another minute! Lord, just because I'm twenty-one I feel a perfect, kid again. Ruth, I've got to tell you She laughed softly and pressed closer to him. "You stupid old boy, I know." Michael frowned then and tried to edge away from her. "You don't—or you ought not to." "You're in love," she whispered with a de- licious Laugh. "How do I know? You're twen- ty-one. aren't you?—It's the same thing." Mike turned on he- quickly. "And what about you "I'm a woman, so different," she inter- rupted quickly "But you love all the same," he insisted, now that his secret was discovered anxious that it should be forgotten. "Or, if you don't, you will soon! And be jolly well loves you, I know he does." She tried to silenqe him, whilst now the roses might have envied the colour of her cheeks. "Of course he does," Mike continued, "though at first I thought he was gone on Miriam." "A year ago you were in love with her," Ruth said slyly, trying to turn the conversa- tion "Oh, yes, you were, Master Mike. I don't blame you any man would fall in love with Miriam. She's splendid." Ruth sighed, and for a moment her blue eyes grew serious. "I wish you had been a little older and she a little younger." Mike shrugged his shoulders. "Oh. yes, and I bet the guv'nor would have liked me to marry her, just because she's got some money. She's not mv style, though she is such a paJ of yours, Ruth." "She's the dearest thing in the world," Ruth said emphatically. "Mr Harvey is very lucky, I think, they will be awfully happy." Mike drew back from the window, took his I sister in his arms and forced her to look at him. "Don't talk nonsense; you love him! I I'll swear he loves you. And, by jove, 1 meant what I said iust now-" Ruth broke away from him, and sroing to the mirror, commenced to brush her hair vigorously. "What about your love affair, Mike?" Mike crossed to the door. and took a firm rir of the handle "Look here, Ruth," he stammed, "if I tell you now. swear to keep my secret. Of course, be condes- cending about it. tell me I shall get over it, and all thai sort, of thing," he said, speaking with t.he self-consciousness of a rran of twen- ty-one. "But it's the real thing this time, and though I've got no money, and I'm a bit of an idiot; and haven't any profession. 1 love hr, and shall stick to her through thick and thin, though—though she is a gamekeeper's daugh- ter." "Adopted daughter," Ruth corrected, smil- ing at the mirror. "Yes, that's just it," Mike said quickly, "no onp knows who her parents Rre, but she's jolly well hren. better bred than you or me. And— oh. Ruth, she's splendid!" Ruth was silent. "Say she's splendid." Ruth laid down the brul>hes. and turnin her back on the mirror leaned against the dressintr- table. "Mike, isn't it. rather hopeless? You haven't a penny to bless yourself with father would be furious if he knew you even thought about her-like that, to marry. T meAn. You'll have to do something to earn a living soon. And-you are still in debt, aren't Mike hune hi -head. A moment ago, when ho had looked ,throl1gh hie bedroom window, the skv had been cloudless. Now the clouds were rising Rudrtenly one by one, gathering round the runnhine of his life. "Yes." he said Tlcomilv mind your knowing. you know everything, and been jolly decent about it. and I'm a foot to gamble. But, hang it all. the never givP5 me 3 penny. so what can T do? And flhp —it's beastly rough on her; the old brute of a father never gives her anything, and the irl have clothes. You know that, Ruth." Ruth nodded sympathetically. Mike allowed his eves to wander round the room. "You're so jolly clever with your needle; you always turn yourself out splendidly, eome- how everything you wear is just ooriect. You haven't half as much as you ought to lin'-e, but you're exqui*—that's what, I heard Harvey say." he added, triumphantly. Again Ruth's cheeks stole the colour of the roses. "Nonsense; how on earth could he believe he ever looks at me. Y 011 must have been talking to Miriam; I wish you could see her things. I'm a little ';east, relI", Mike, and she makes me green with envy. Oh. vea, money. mnn^y money—rometime< ivhen I'm in a wicked mood. I feel I would sell my soul for money." Mik nodded rrloomil\ "You'd better sell those old jewels of yours first; you couVl then run tip to town for a season and 11 food time. Not that they're wo-th much. 1 supposv' He lai'ghed. "I<ord. I'd like to hive thru neck luce of Miriam's, and a few of her rings; I bet they're worth a fortune." Ruth was looking into space; she scarcely heard what her brother said. did you play cards last night?" He nodded. "How much did you "Twenty-five -wwrftds." She t. nofchefv a little cry, and her facc grew pale. '^Mike, tKat's awful—how could you?" "I wanted the money so badly." he said sa- vagely. That Gondley chap, he makes a pot of money on the Exchange; he and Harvey suggested playing high stakes together, so I chipped in; I thought I might make a bit out of them. Thank goodness I lost to Harvey!" He hesitated. "I owe him nearly fifty pounds as it is." He gave a sigh as if glad the confession had been made and the worst told. His sun was indeed threatened now, shadows were gather- ing "You must give this up, Mike," Ruth said firmly, "It isn't honourable. Father can't pay. The house is already mortgaged, as you know, Rnd probably at the end of the month, when the house party breaks up, we shall have to go away and hide ourselves somewhere. This last extravagance was for our benefit., but I don't suppose it'll do us much good." Mike grinned. "I suppose he hoped to get one of us off." Again the silence. The birds outside sang more softly "Ruth. suppose Harvey did oro- pose. you wouldn't refuse him, would you?" Ruth grew busy before the mirror again. "Don't ask absurd questions. He's in love with Miriam, I know it; and she's in love with him. Why, she as good as told me so." Mike turned on his heel and sworo under his breath. "I hate Miriam." Ruth laid her finger to her lips and glanced across the room towards the door which com- municated her room with her friend's." "Hush, she may be awake." Mike sneered "Sunshine would show her up 1 I bet she puts her hair into curl papers and covers her face with grease when she goes to bed. Harvey in love with Miriam-" "And you're in love with Lila-far more in- comprehensible to outsiders," Ruth said re- provingly. Mike bit his lip. "All right, I'm sorry; look hero, you'll keep my secret—and, I say, what am I to do about Harvey?" "You must pay him." "If I don't win to-night, I can't.' Ruth sighed, and looked at the little old- fashioned jewel ease lyintr by her side. "\Vell, we must talk it over and see what can be done. But Mr. Harvey must be paid before any one else. And, Mike, when you see Lila to-day you ought to tell her the truth you ought to bid her good-bye. You cant marry her, it's ridiculous to dream of waiting; she's young, she's beautiful, and she's good." Mike opened the bedroom door. "I'm going to her now, going to tell her—the truth. But I'm not going to say good-bve." As soon as she was alone Ruth locked the door, then, whilst she found her keys, the made a rapid mental calculation, unlocked her jewel case, and took out the quaint, old-fashioned rings which had belonged to her mother, and her mother before her: a paste locket, a mini- ature set in pearls, and a small paste necklace, Worth altogether to a collector of the beauti- ful two hundred pounds, or so; but if Ruth tried to sell them she knew at the most- she might receive fifty or sixty pounds. And yet to her their worth was more than gold. She turned away and again looked from the win- dow, a mist before her eyes. The day was young and her heart was young, and life was full of infinite possibilities, and she felt the infinite, too. deep in her breast-defiire and love and the call of life. She walked to the door communicating with her friend's room, and, knocking, opened it and entered. s As she had expected. Miriam was still asleep. Ruth tip-toad to the. bed and looked at her friend, first with a kindly smile, and then critically. She had always refused to think of her as a rival, she had known her too long and loved her too well. But Mike had expressed ths feelings dormant in her heart, and she could not longer hide from herself the fact that she liked John Harvey better than any other man she had met. and that if John Harvey had liked her And she knew. too. though the knowledge gave her a twinge of shame, tbat her father had given this bouse party, and invited Mr. Harvey, in the hope that the popular and wealthy member for ftast Grimthorpe would pro- pose for Ruth's hand. So it seemed a strancre freak of fate that she herself should have insisted on asking her best friend, Miriam, to stay in the house at the same time, and that Harvey eihould have chosen her. Michael had libelled Miriam: her skin was clear and clean and healthy, and her hair was not disfigured by curl papers, though it had been neatly nlaited and bound. She was the exact antithesis to Ruth: her hair almost black, coarse and strong her eye- I' hrows narrow and straight, her eyelashes long and thick, and her mouth very full, with volup- tuous red lips; undoubtedly beautiful with the beauty which demands-to be free of fetters; she was tall, with well-rounded limb< beautiful Incc's- and shoulders, and a commanding figure beside her Ruth looted puny, almost insignifi- cant. One waa Anhxcditc, majestic om the sea; the other a little wood-nymph from the forest. Watching her as she slept, the red lips sligiitiy apart, the black lashes of her eyes beautiful against the while skin, the almost perfect fijjutrt clearly outlined beneath the clothes, lluih realised that it was only natural she should gain the love of any man she desired. it seemed utrcnge she had not married Liofoie, and shi knew that her name had often been in the mouths of the gossips. For Miriam Egglington was an orphan, with a comfortable little dot of thre hundred and fifty a year of her own. So many men had sought, but as yet none had succeeded m win- ning her Out of a world of men it seemed a little hard to Ruth that she should have chosen the one man thai, she herself might have loved. Sho admitted the might, but would admit no more. She looked so beautiful, sleeping, anconsci- ous of Rutb's presence, that the latter would not disturb her, but turned to the dressing- table and gazed a little enviously at the toys and trinkets and jewelg scattered therc. The clothes she had worn the previous even- ing were thrown carelessly on the dies! arfield at the bottom of the bed. a dainty ¡üarnof frills; and on the dressing-table the jewels she had worn, among them a long rope of pearls, Ruth picked the necklet up and looked at each rounded pearl, a soft, indescribable grey, with here and there a tinge of pink, where the light shining through the blinds touched This was one of Miriam's most yaluable possessions, and one that Rutl. had often coveted; ones Miriam had forced her to wear them, and she still remembered the joy she felt in their tem- porary possession. She fingered them lovingly, and fell to won- dering how they had come into her friend's possession, and whilst she did so, lifting them to the light and then holding them against her own white skin, Miriam awoke. "Thief!" Miriam laughed softly in a rich deep voice. and Ruth dropped the rope of pearls on the dressing-tablo and turned with little cry of surprise. "How you made me jump," she smiled. "I -ray thoughts must have been wool-gathf- ing." CHAPTER II. It was too late for Michael to try a-nd escape observation, the servants were in the bail sweeping and dusting. They looked curioush- at their young master as he hurried past them, greeting him shyly and offering their congratu- lations. And doubtless not a few wished in their hearts that the fortunes of the Villette household had been in the ascendant instead of, as they well knew. in the descendant. For youth and strength are always popular with the multitude, and Michael possessed a charm that was all his own; moreover, his high spirits, and his reputation for being some- what wild and eccentric, appealed to those who served him. But he was embarrassed by their salutations and made his escape as quickly as possibla through the hall door into the garden. Hurry ing along the gravel path he leapt the balus trade and ran across the lawn heavy with thq tears of the night, until he reached the shade and shadows of the trees. Then he paused, took breath, and looked back. The house still slept, only the window, on the ground floor were open, and the curtauv.- in his sister's room thrown back. Beyond the shadow of the trees another stretch of green sward, a line of 'ow wooden railings, and then an old fashioned orchard where the' violets raised their blue heads. He vfi'dtod fence, and the house was hid- tien from { vf and he from curious eyes. Her" and there paths of grass raised wet arms, violots filled the air with perfume. Mieha«.! walked slowly, stopping continually to olu, k the small blue flowers. The clouds which had threatened were disap- pearing again, the sun was scattering the mists whicP had risen so suddenly whilst h. talked to his sister. He was twenty-one, he reminded himself again, his life his own to do with as h0 pleased. I/Ove to pluck like the violets had lit the will. And the responsibilities of twen- ty-one? Why should lie consider those with the wind and the sun on his face, the dew kissing his hands and feet, and love beckoning him through the woods, waiting for him at the little cottage marked by a wreath of blue smoke which already drifted above the trees. Leaving the orchard he did not take the beafen path through the woods, hut made a half circle which brought him to the back of the cottage. He waited some time unclr rover of the tangled undergrowth. The windows here » were open, and now and again sounds of life were borne on the breeze towards him. Pre- sently Michael whistled softly; no answer was vouchsafed, but Lila herself appeared at the cottage door and stood facing the wood. polish- ing a large copper pan. She was of medium height, her hair dark auburn. Her eyes were unusual, for their colour seemed to vary with her moods, sometimes like the ocean, deep green, unfathomable, at other times rstlect- in? the blue 'of the sky and occasionally black with the threatening of a storm. Her features were clear cut, her face too long to be truly oval. She was limbed and very slender. Though apparently so fragile, her little wrists and ankles were as strong as steel bars, and her neck a pillar proudly supporting her head. Her clothes wore severely simple, suited to her po- sition; a short tight-fitting blue skirt and plain white blouse, the large low collar open at the neck. She bummed sf bersslf, as she worked, apparently unconscious of anyone's presence; but her eyes, bright and fceD as a bird's, con- tinually swept the tall bracken, the blackberry bushes, and the tangled growth. The moment Michael moved she saw him, her face lighted, and her whole slim body seemed to smile. She disappeared into the cottage, put down the pan, washed her hands, and giving a quick glance into the mirror reached the door again just as Michael crossed the threshold. "You're alone?" he whispered. She nodded. I knew you d come, Michael! You didn't say you would, but my heart told me, and directly the morning knocked at my door I heard your footsteps." Michael took her in his arms and held her closely, tightly, a long time. Words were un- necessary lips spoke and eyes, and the wood- lands, too. were full of the music of their hearts. "You're my own now, Lila," Michael said at last, holding her from him and looking into her eyes, blue now and cloudless. She 6miled, and her face was warm with his kisses; she tried to hide it on his shoulder, but he held her grmly, feasting his eyes on her beauty "Why yours now, more than before?" she asked. "Because no one can dictate to me now," he cried. "I am free, to give or to take. I'm a man at last, Lila, and neither you nor anyone else can laugh at me for a love-sick boy. And the first use I'm going to make of my man- hood is to take you, and make you my wife." Ho spoke loudly, even defiantly, for the for- ests and fields to hear if they would. But Lila's face paled and the warm colour left it. "Hush ,dear, he might hear." She disengag- ed herself, and putting her hands up to his face held it tenderly. "Yon may be twenty- one, but you're still a boy." "We shall see," Michael replied. "You needn't think I care who hears me now, for I intend that every one shall know." He held out his hand. "Come along to the orchard; there's half an hour before breakfast, and I want to talk to you." She put the bunch of violets he had given her in the bo6om of her dress, and then hand in hand they walked through the wet woods un- til they came to the orchard, and a rough Mat beneath one of the old apple trees. Michael lit his cigarette, settled himself comfortably in one of the comers of the seat, whilst Lila took the other. "Now look at me," he said quietly, after he had smoked in silence for a minute or two; "we're about broke, as you know. The house is mortgaged, and it'll be let to the first tenant that comes along, unless- something happens in the meantime. When the guv'nor dies I'm heir to all his—debts! Meanwhile I haven't any income—I haven't Any profession—and I'm not sure that I've any brains." He hesitated, took a long breath, then threw his cigarette away. "But I love you," he continued. not looking at Lila but gazing through the heavy-laden trees; "lots of people would say I was a rotter to teU you under the circumstances, but I've told you every day for the last six months, and I'm not going back on it." "I knew it twelve months ago," she whisper- ed. "Lord! How clever of you. Ruth found out too; now everyone's going to know-first of all mv father, then your father." Lila moved closer to Michael and laid her hand on his with an action that was almost motherly. "He has suspected for some time, Michael, but he's warned me it's useless to think of it- He'll never give his consent." "I don't want his consent. I don't want any- one's consent I tell you I'm a man to-dJ!.Y, and it'll be a bad look out for anyone who stands in my pan,. I want you and I'm going to have you, Lila, unless vou yourself chuck me. for I have nothing to oner you, worse than nothing," And again she to!d him whaf all women tell | the man they lovo, and he told her what all men tell the woman they would have as wife. Much the came story as the first man and woman had whispered one to the other beneath the apple tree in the Garden of Eden, uncon- ecious of the snake hidden in the grt«3. "I won't ask you to marry me until I've got a job." Michael said, "then if old Grimmett still refuses, I'll carry you off." Lila sighed, and fear dimmed the light of love that shone in her eyes. "He will refuso." She turned impulsively towards her lover. "Oh. Michael, we must be patient and wait until I'm of age—that's only about two years t and a half now—and then perhaps all the mys- tery about my parents will be cleared up. Any- way, T shall be free. I shall be glad to come to yon of mv own free will." l A peculiar smile crossed Michael Villet.te's lips as he rose to his feet. and. standing with his back to the house hidden in the trees, look- ed down at the girl he loved. f have waited very nearlv two years tic,: it II is," .he said, soeaking slowly and weicbing each word. "Why. I've ioved you ever since I j. was—eT«r tiace I can remember, though I didn't think much about it until I was nine- teen. I sort of took it for granted, until tud- I wondered -.That would happen if ever we were parted. And then I know—though I waited eighteen months before I told you: but I I'm not going to wait another eighteen months, must less three years. I may be a boy still in years, but just because I ani '1 know whar older people forget.—(hat youth is the time for love, that youth is the time for marriage. That, everything that is frocd comes from youth, and i' I'm not- going to waste it. minute n.ore of yours or Inine," Liia was silent, and though she shook her head it hardly seemed to expicss dissent, per- haps only doubt. each day that's born tells the same story." Michael continued, woros coming quick- ly now, his eyes growing brigght, almost tiorce, every nerve in his wdy tinglin with emotion. I at daybreak with life just opening its eyes that the world is most beautiful, the air cicar and invigorating, the birds sing their loudest, the perfume of the flowers is sweetest, the sky, whatever the day may be, most clear. I don't want. Lo wait until mid-day or mid- night to live. T want to commence now and I want you with me, and I'm going to have you." lie ben*, towards her and seized her almost in his arms and held her passionately. And even whilst she was afraid she rejoiced in histrength and his defiance. "Gimrnett has no right to keep us apart; afrer all, he's not your father If he's straight with me bo straight with him, but if he's obstinate and tries any of his bluff, wet!, I think I have something up my sleeve that will make him sing a different tune." Lila trembled. "You mean ?" It was well that Lila could not see his face, thu boyish expression had fled, the joy of life and love no longer danced in his eyes, instead they looked vindictive, and anger had tempor- arily aged him. "x^ever mind," Michael said between his teeth. "I knew long ago that you suspected, yon tried to tell me Lila nodded. "Yes, I have been a coward, I've been afraid to ta.x him with it, and all the time I knew he cheated; whilst lie pre- tended to catch the poachers he was poaching himself and selling the birds. And lately I've found out that the accounts he's kept are not all right." Michael laughed softly. "It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good I'll tackle him this evening. Lila. after the shoot, and if he says no, well, I shall have to tell him I've found him out. soon knuckle under then." He glanced through the trees at the Hall. "It's getting late, I must be going back. Don't look so unhappy," he smiled as he kiss- ed her, "things are not half asXsad as they might be. I'll get a job easily enough, and if you're afraid to face the world with me ——" "With you I should fear nothing," she whis- pered. "I am afraid of father I don't want you to tell him yet—that you want to marry me ar, once, I mean. I know he would refuse. T know therp would be a ene-and I'm afraid of what might, happen/ "What could happen? Don't you see he's in mv Dower: Lila shook her head. "Even if you oould prove he's in league with the poachers, even if you could prove he's cheated nnd stole, I don't believe he would give me up and let you marry me." She hesitated a moment as if she had 180me- thing to confess and yet was afraid. "Lately, Mike, I've begun to suspect I'm not quite like other girls. I'm sure there's some mystery about me, I shouldn't bother about it, only I feel sure that's why he's afraid of losing me, ".nd why he's never allowed me to meet neople in our own walk of life. Why. I haven't a friend in the world—I haven't anyone but you." Michael bent over her very tenderly, and, holding both her hands, kissed them. He was iL man now, and he spoke as one. "That's why J want to have the right to take care of you, be your friend and husband as well as your lover. And that's why I'm going to take you, Lila, even if I have to take you by force." The bell from the Hall clanged noisily, warn- ing the time for family prayers and the ap- proach of breakfast. And the heir of the mort- gaged estate and t,he family debts was not Ln his place. Without waiting for Lila to reolv ho ran quickly through t.he orchard. vaulted the wood- on fence and hurried through the trees towards the garden. But as he roached the long grass that divided Ihn gardens from the wood a TTlan stepped suo- denly out into the sunshine and confroated him. (To be continued.)







--------.,-------.. POET'S…


The New London-Birmingham…