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O^y-r. ■-jij<K>0<HK><>0<HM>CH3H3-0<><><KH>G<>-Q Y tLL Kwhts Rbsxeveb. J 9 THE WEAVERS BY 5 AUCE & CLAUDE ASKEW. 2 E a_l_i ??l Y Authors of "The ShuJamite," "The Rod of Justice," etc. 0 CHAPTER XV. THE PATTERN CHANGES. Strange thoughts passed through Fancy's brain as she stood at the end of the drive waiting for the moment when Rodney Grieve would spring off his bicycle and pro- ceed to open the high iron gates that fenced the drive that led to The Firs from the road. She realised with a curioua bitter- ness of spirit that Fate had evidently de- cided that she was never to win Rodney's love—the love she would have given her very soul to possess-for it was not likely that he would turn to her now that Eve was free and that her engagement to Andrew had come to an abrupt end. What was to prevent Rodney from preas- ing his suit? It was not likely that old Peter Rawson would frown at him on this occasion, for surely the broken man would ,be only too thankful that shelter of some eorfc was being offered to his only child- and a home. For it would be better-far better from every point of view—for Eve to marry Rodney Grieve and go and live with him at his comfortable old house than make her way up to Londou and endeavour to ?Kfa a sorry living in a shop. Of 0o= Eve would marry Rodnev-had she not already admitted that she had learnt to love him? And she and her old father would find a safe asylum in the young man's home-they would live in comfort, if not in luxury, and in some ways Eve would ho marrying above her station, for Rodney Grieve came of a far better family than she did of a grand old Korman stock, whilst Zye. when all was said and done, was nothing more than a trader's daughter. Yea, it seemed as if Eve's future was set- tled—comfortably settled-but Fancy won- dered what she herself was going to do, and then it came upon her in a flash, of cer- tainty that as far as she could see she had lip choice. She must marry Andrew Gilman or else starve, and be thankful that the young man had not found her out and realised the double game she had been play- ing with him—how she had merely regarded him for a long time as the second string to her bow. Now her whole future depended upon him-her whole life—for how terrible, more than terrible, it would be to have to make her way back to London again and begin once more the hard fight for work. No, she would not return to that city of terrible contrasts, and go about begging for work as she had begged once before, till her clothes almost fell off her back, and she had blistered her pretty feet, and her boots were full of holes. Oh, it was a comfort to feel that she had a man who would look after her—a strong giant of a fellow-the blonde giant who had kissed her against her will a few minutes ago, but whose kiss had brought a new interest into her life, a new excitement. For Andrew in his present mood—in his new development, had a fasci- nation for Fancy that she had never felt before, she was half afraid of him; and women of her type like to feel afraid. Be- sides, he had subdued her wildness at the very moment of revolt, he had conquered the pixie in her, evolved the woman. But for all these reflections and Fancy's strong oQnViction that she must marry Andrew and be thankful for the chance that had put him in her way, and give up any hope of ever being able to capture Rodney's heart-to wrest it from Eve, she flushed vividly when Rodney leapt off his bicycle, just as she had imagined that he would, and proceeded to open the heavy gates and bring his machine into the drive. She stood up slight and motionless in the middle of the rQad, and made not the least attempt to come to Rodneys assistance, for it seemed to the girl as if her limbs had suddenly Ç'own leaden. Besides, she viewed Rodney -111 a new light. He was no longer the man Who might be her lover one- day, he was going to marry her cousin Eve--she had lost him for good and all-fen- just at the moment when she thought that Fate had been playing into her hands the whole con- dition of affairs had changed; there was no ioa^ er any barrier between Eve and Rodney, they were free to seek each other out. 1 "Fancy, I'm glad to see you." Rodney hurried up to where the red-haired girl was standing. "I was up at Yardley this after- noon, buying a new set of harness, and I hoard news that astonished me—took my breath away—but I expect it was only a rumour, a malicious rumour, almost' incred- ible gossip." He spoke in short broken sentences, his breath coming hard and fast, and he had never looked <30 well as at this moment-for excitement had coloured his cheeks and kindled a name in his eyes—the passionate excitement of a lover who had suddenly heard strange news about the beloved. "What have they told you up at Yardley, I Rodney?" She looked him straight in the -eyes, and she spoke in clear cool tones, and .no one would have guessed how madly fancy's heart was beating-to suffocation. For it seemed cruel irony on the part of Fate that she should have to explain to Rodney that Eve was once more free to accept his if he to offer it-freo to bestow lter love upon him. "Well, I've heard one or two stories," Rodney answered, "and the first, and of course the most important from my point of view is, the amazing tale that Eve's engage- ment to Andrew has been broken off-at the ■eleventh hour—when practically the whole ot the town has been bidden to their wed- ding next week-and all the mill hands were to be entertained and feasted — feasted | loyally on the night before the wedding. And as to the second piece of intelligence. it's merely that your uncle Peter and •Tabes Gilman have had a terrible quarrel, ailrj will not become each other's partners, but continue the old miserable rivalry j "which has cut like a canker into two fine e¡tl}v businesses." He paused, then gave an impatient jerk to one of the handles of his bicycle. "Of C I don't believe either story," he d. "they are both absurd on the faco of 1incredible." out what you have heard is quite true," 'ttterrupted. Colour had faded awav f roin, her checks by now, aDd she had grown quite pale again, nor did she look even pretty at the moment—but mieerablv email weak. "Eve and Andrew bave broken off their engagement—there will be no marriage, T;Ie have just had a long talk together, and have come to this important decision, ad my uncle and Ntr. Gilman have had a irigtiuul quarrel, and they would rather cut ■each other's throats, I imagine, than be. come partners now—even to save a whole world from rum. There, I have told you two fine pieces of news, haven't IF" She tried to smile, but the attempt was a failure, and she shivered for all the warmth of a summer evening. You're cold- he looked at her anxiously. "Fancy, you don't know what this means to me. Why, I feel a changed man. I feel as if I could fall down on my knees and thank God, for she is free—my darling is free—she is no longer to be sacri- ficed-married against her will. She nevei cared for Andrew—never." "I know that," Fancy interrupted, "they were just good friends—but they've admit- was much to each other. She hesitated for a second, and then obey- ing some curious instinct which she could not quite fathom, she laid a light hand upon Rodney's arm. "You had better go up to the house at once and see Eve; she is all alone, and she will be glad to see you. For I Buppose, l'lt know, I expect there is no need for mo to tell you, that she has grown to care for you during these last few weeks—to—to love You. And as for old Uncle Peter, I imagine ha would be only too thankful to welcome you as a son-in-law now, and to give you nnd Eve his blessing, for this place will bave to be sold quite shortly, and then Uncle Peter and Eve will be two friendless and homeless wanderers. Why, Eve .only to me a little while ago of earning her own Jiving. You can see her. too, can J-Hi uot," she added, laughing a little bit- terly, "the fair, lovely girl who has no knowledge as to Inw the poor live, or how difficult work 13 to find. Just now she is simply overflowing with confidence in her- self and in-in life." "Let her keep that confidence," Rodney interrupted tenderly. "But as to going out to work—oh, well, Eve will never have to do that as long as I can work for her. But are you sure—quite certain-that what you said just now is the truth. You were not jesting with me when you said that Evo loved me-you meant it?" "Of course I meant it," she retorted. "Do you think it likely that I should joke on such a subject? But there, go to Eve, go and see her for yourself, and find out. As I said just before, you will find her quite alone, and having shut the door on one lover there's no earthly reason why she shouldn't be ready to open it to another." She laughed somewhat bitterly, then she pulled herself up sharply. "It was wrong of me to speak like that," ehe added, Hit-it wasn't fair to Eve, for she has never loved Andrew—never, she only got engaged to him because her father prac- tically compelled her to do so." "I know that," Rodney muttered, "but it was kind and good of you to tell me so, Fancy." He hesitated for a second, then he sud- denly stretched out one of his hands, and caught Fancy by her slim wrist. "I want to tell you something," he said. "I want you to feel happy about your own future, as well as Eve's, for of course you must feel rather anxious. But there's no earthly reason why, once Eve and myself are married, you shouldn't all come and live with us at Hadley-you and Mr. Rawson. Though it's a crazy, tumbledown old house, there are plenty of rooms in it, and, anyway, it would be an asylum for you both, and I expect Eve would like to have you with her." Fancy shook her head. "It's very kind of you, Rodney, to make such a generous suggestion, but I doubt if it would appeal either to Eve or to myself, though I expect Mr. Rawson will be thank- ful enough to accept your invitation and to make his home with you. But he will be your father-in-law, and so have some claim upon your kindness—your generosity—but for myself-it's different." "But where will you go?" he cried anxiously, "what will you do? All sorts of strange rumours are flying about Yardley. They say there will be a complete smash up here, that everything will have to be sold, that the creditors will claim every- thing." Oh, I shall get along all right," Fancy answered carelessly, for as it hap- pens I am going to be married. But please don't congratulate me to-day, or say a word about this to anyone, for I intend to keep even his name a secret at present—the name of the man who has asked me to become his wife." What, you are going to be married?" Rodnev gazed at her in bewildered surprise. Was Fancy laughing at him, mocking him? For he could not forget that Eve had told him that her cousin loved him, besides, Fancy had given him the same sort of im- pression herself. And now she was talking so calmly, so sedately, of marrying another man. I hope you will be happy, Fancy. You must tell me more about this another day. 1 will not press you for your confidence now. No, I shouldn't," she laughed softly, but there was still something rather malicious in her laughter. I should just forget all about Fancy Felton if I were you and hurry on to The Firs and see Eve, for it's Eve you've come a'courting—not Fancy." He hardly heard the last word, her voice had dropped to such a faint whisper. Be- sides, he had already sprung upon his bicycle and was riding rapidly away, full of a strange impatience to be with Eve, to see her, and to ask her to confirm with her own lips what her cousin had just said. Fancy watched him ride out of sight, dis- appearing round a curve of the drive, and then she suddenly raised her hand to her eyes, for she was surprised to find that they were wet. Tears," she muttered bitterly, What a fool I am to cry." She laughed, and straightened a bow of ribbon that she wore at her throat with ner- vous, trembling fingers, and then gave a light touch and pat to her dishevelled hair— the hair that Andrew had ruffled when he had lifted her up in his arms to kiss her. To every Jack his Jill," she murmured, n tha's how the old song goes, and I sup- pose it was always intended by the strange unseen powers who apparently govern the affairs of this world, that I was to marry Andrew, and that Rodney was to marry Eve. But it's rather a pity that I lost my heart to the wrong man. She looked at her damp handkerchief, an odd little twisted smile playing about her lips, then slowly, very quietly, very deli- berately, she tore the handkerchief to rib- bons. I'm not going to cry any more," I muttered hoarsely, huskily. I'm going to eat and drink and be merry, for Andrew will take care to provide me with all the good things of this life, and I will be good to Andrew, I will make him as happy as I can, and it won't be difficult, those big, strong men are easily pleased. A little, a very little, contents them." She turned her head and glanced medita- tively down the long white road, then her eyes clouded. "A long road," she panted, "a road with- out a turning." CHAPTER XVI. THE OLD LOVE. tYes, yes, Eve, I will do what you say— you arc quite right, my dear, quite right. It's no good imposing unnecessary suffering upon the wretched mill bands and prolong- ing a useless struggle, but it's a strange thing to be listening to advice from my own daughter." Peter Rawson spoke in low tones, staring at Eve, who had come to him, an hour ago, to confess with a burning blush that she had just soon Rodney Grieve, and had promised to marry him, a decision that her father received calmly enough, though he frowned a little when Eve commenced to speak about shutting up the mills. He sh,\ok his head at first, and then gave way with a sigh. He looked a shrunken old man as he sat huddled up in the depths of a. big armchair, and five's eves rested on him with tender compassion that was beyond all words. "Dear dad, dearest dad/' she sank on her knees, bowed at her father's side, and threw her slim young amis about him. "You mustn't think that I am trying to advise you in any way; it's oniy that I feel that you are too tired and too upset to be able to see things as I see them, and so it's my duty to point out certain facts to you- facts which might otherwise have escaped your notice. For you don't want to be the means of causing a strike, do you, darling, and of inflicting intense suffering upon hundreds of human bein 84" You would far, far rather clcse your mills at Mice than pro- long a long and useless struggle. Yes, let that wicked man, Jabez Gilman, have the pleasure of feeling that he has worsted you in the long struggle—that he has beaten you to the ground. And you, for your part, dear dad, will know that nothing in your whole life has become you more finely than your decision to accsept defeat, to accept failure, just for the sake of other people, fqgr the sake of your mill hands. And God, Who writes all things down in His Book. daddy, will put a mark against your name, ard you will be paid back in full measure one day for any sacrifice you may bo making now, of your pride, for instance." "My heart will break when the mills stop, Eve." The old man spoke in low, faint tones. "I've been a weaver too long not to feel that the machines were alive--my machi.-es. Besides, the closing o of the mills will mean the closing of this house, the said of everything we possess. We shall go out as beggars, you know that, don't you? We f,ha,ll havo to make our way to che work- house, for, my pretty one, what work can you really turn your hands to?" "Heaps of work-heaps." she answered brightly. "But dear father, there will be no oceasion for me to work, really, for you know Rodney has been here, and he has been telling 1113 of his love for me. I knew that he cared for me before, but I never realised that he loved me quite as dearly as he does." She blushed, a warm, lovely blush that kindled her faco with colour, and her eyes gleamed and shone like stars. "He wants me to marry him soon," she continued. "And there really is no reason for delay, is there, for though people may talk a little, what does that matter? And dadda, dear, when you leave here it will be to come to us—to Rodney's home and mine —to your home, and I think, I feel sure, that the days of your old age will be made blessed to you—very peaceful. For consider, dear"—she stroked his grey hair tenderly— "you will have no tiresome business worries to contend with, no anxious cares and heavy responsibilities. You will no longer wonder fearfully, tearfully, how you can raise money to meet your financial obligations. You will just sit in a green garden, listen- ing to the bright singing of the birds, and the pleasant buzzing of the bees; you will smell the perfume of the flowers, and you will talk to me, to your own little Eve, for I shall be sitting with you most of the day, you know, my work bag on my knees. And oh what lovely talks we shall have together you and I, when there is no longer the mills to take you from me, your daily visits to Yardley. Why, you will be able to tell me all about my mother-the lovely mother who died when I was quite small, and I want to hear about her; and no one has ever told me—no one ever could tell me but you, dad." She lulled him and soothed him with her voice, exerting every womanly art she knew to make this hour less bitter, less tragic, for the broken man, and Peter appeared to lean on the daughter whom he had hitherto treated as & child, for the positions had sud- denly been reversed. It was Eve who had taken her place at the helm, and was steer- ing a derelict vessel safe into port; Eve who had found the happiness an hour ago that she had so nearly lost. She had been all alone in the big draw- ing-room when he had been ushered into the room. playing the piano as on a previous occasion, and she had collected all her music together, full of the idea that it was time she started making preparations for depar- ture. Then the door opened and Rodney ap- peared on the threshold, and a burning blush lit up Eve's face. But she trembled a little as she came forward to greet him, trembled because he was looking at her with such passionate adoration, such 110 wealth of love. She ceased to tremble the next moment, however, for Rodney opened his arms and called her fondly by name, and Eve, after one second of hesitation, fled, to her lover and threw herself with a sigh of the most utter content upon his breast, and resting there folded in his arms, her heart pressed to his heart, she forgot that she had ever fancied herself in love with Conrad de Lille, or that she had been on the verge of marry- ing Andrew Gilman, for it seemed as if there had never been anyone but Rodney really in her life. She could remember little that had passed, however, beyond Rodney's earnest entreaty that they should be married aa soon as possible, and that Eve must try and persuade her father to live with them, and make his home with his son-in-law. Every- thing tlse had been a rush of delicious emotion, and she had experienced nothing like this before, for the romantic affection she had given the handsome actor was not to be compared to the love she felt for Rodney Grieve. All the deeper springs in her nature had been touched at last. She was no longer an impulsive, sentimental girl, a girl who had been put into an unfamiliar atmosphere and had lost her head. Eve was a woman—she had come to woman's estate— and she was giving herself into the keeping of a man, not a mummer. She would have to tell Rodney more about Conrad de Lille later on, however, and con- fess to that secret marriage-a. marriage which had meant no more, thank God, than the giving and receiving of a ring. Still, Eve felt that to-day was not the fitting time for her confession. To-morrow, when Rod- ney came round to see her and have an in- terview with her father—oh, yes, &he would teJl him to-morrow, but not to-day. She had hurried her lover away, being anxious to have a talk with her parent and satisfy herself that Peter Rawson had no objections to offer with regard to this fresh engagement, but was ready to give his con- sent to the marriage; and Rodney bad yielded to Eve's wish, and had taken hia quiet departure, for he realised how very nervous Eve would be till she had explained matters to old Rawson. He wanted the girl's mind to be at ease, for she had gone through enough mental strain lately, in all conscience. Eve had been rather agitated when she first broached the subject of the promise she had just made Rodney to her father, but Pefer Rawson received the news calmly enough, nor did he seem particularly dis- appointed to learn that he would not be able to avenge himself on Jabez Gilman by making bad blood between father and son, for Eve was very decided with regard to what she said about Andrew. She explained that they had both agreed that to continue their engagement would be absurd consider- ing that they were not the least bit in love with each other, and old Peter had nodded his head in silent acquiescence to this decision, for there was no more spirit left in the man. The violent quarrel he had had with Jabez Gilman earlier in the day, also the excited and overwrought state in which he had returned home, breathing out threats of vengeance against his rival; the scene in Eve's bedroom, followed by the trying in- terview with Andrew-all this had gone far to exhaust the old man, and he was as weak as a newly-weaned child. All his fire and force had deserted him, and he turned to Eve for protection and guidance, completely forgetting that until a few hours ago he had denied this tall, beautiful girl the right to think and act for herself she had been his child-his chattel-and he had bestowed her hand in marriage as he would he had refused to regard his daughter except as a pawn in the great game he had been playing with Jabez Gil- man. But now that checkmate stared him in the face it had suddenly dawned upon the man that this was no pawn but a young queen, and all that the queen said at the present moment was law, for this was a young queen who must be obeyed even if she was a man's own child. Eve, why do you ask me about your mother—and to-day of all days? Do you want me to tell you a carefully-guarded secret—how Jabez Gilman and myself were both rivals for your mother's hand in the past? But your mother—God bless her—pre- ferred me, though I was a much poorer man, and we had to have a long and tryiag engagement. But she stuck to me and waited, and Jabez married another girl- Andrew's mother—and your mother was one of the bridesmaids at that wedding, dear. But though we tried to pretend that all was peace and harmony it wasn't so. Jabez hated me from the hour that I won your mother's love, and made up his evil mind to ruin me one day-and now he's done it- he's done it-for my mills must pass from my hands into his." He sank back helplessly in his chair, then a pale smile flitted over his face. You're going to be happy, though, Eve, so perhaps it has all happened for the best, and young Rodney is a fine fellow in his way, though it's a pity he's so poor. Still, he ?an offer you a home, and that's more than your father will be able to do soon. I-I hope you'll be married at once-we don't want any more broken engagements." She started nervously-then smiled proudly. Oh, nothing can come between Rodney and myself now, dad," she murmured, "we know each other's heart." She laughed and kissed Peter, laughed be- cause she was so confident that a-11 was going to be well with her at last. She did not hear the tramp of distant foo-,steps- footsteps that she fancied had gone cut of hei life for ever. (To be Continued.)

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