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Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

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OUR SHORT STORY. I CUPID'S MESSENGER. I By PEAHKES WITHERS. I The girl in the pale grey frock leaned her elbow on the mantelpiece and, tilting her chin a trifle, contemplated the Yf)¡¡ng officer through half-veiled lids which did not wholly hide the gleam of amusement in her eyes. "Won't you sit down, CaptaIn-" She consulted .j;h card she had just propped against the little gilt clock but did not add the name she read there. "Heath," said the good-looking young officer, giving his toothbrush moustache a pat. .Dudley Heath, but commonly—not to say vulgarly—called by your brother, Hamp.vtead Heath.' He thinks it funny, and 1 don't contradict him. Your brother, MMB Carrington, plumes himsell on his sense of humour." The girl's lips twitched. "I rather fancy," she remarked, "that a sense erf humour runs through the whole family. But do sit down, please!" Captain Heath sat down. He dropped his cap, cane, and gloves on the carpet beside him. and crossed his long legs. "I had to keep my word, of course," he said. "Shame the poor old chap couldn't get any Christmas leave, especially as Midhamp- toa is such a rotten hole-I beg your pardon, I ought to have said, an appalling .-pot '-fur a training camp. (One gets dashed slangy in the Army, don't you know.) Still, I don't fancy Sidney deserves JIBY tears all the same. He's in tow with a clinking little damsel in the neighbourhood. Daughter of the local squire, nod all that; and he's banking on having dill-ller with the family to-day. So, you see, there's no occa- sion to send him a wreath of mistletoe or anything of that sort." "It was very nice of you to call," decided the girl. "It's much more satisfactory to get one's Christmas greetings by-by deputy than by letter. Don't yøll think sor" "Much more satisfactory to me, I a-ssure you In fact, it's a great pleasure." The girl smiled. "It.' a pity all the rest of the family are out, isn't it?" she murmured. "My mother and father have gone to church, and my younger sister Ethel is—well, I fancy, she » reallv somewhere in the grounds." "She's an awfully pretty kid," declared Captain Heath with enthusiasm, then bit his underUp with violence."you've seen her-" "Oh!" cried the girl, "you've seen her" "ot at ail, not at all!" he declared hastily. "Sidney had a photograph of you and vour sister, taken togethur-" "He showed you that.- 1 s Did he send any messages r" yes. He sent lots of love and so 011. And he wished you a very jolly Christmas, with heaps of mistletoe—I mean pudding, of course. And—oil, I don't know—the usual sort of Christmas pow-wow, so to speak. He .er no, I don't like to tell you that, although I badly want to." ilwivr.-do the things I want to myself, Captain Heath," declared the girl, perching herself on the arm of a chair, gazing coquot- tishly at the young officer. "Well, he—that is, your brother—said that lik, hoped you-that you-well, that you would be good tonic." Good to you? He said that?" She arched her brows at him. "Yes. He did, honest Injun! You see, I'm practically an orphan. I hate to push my- self on your notice, but I'm really a most deserving ca-se. I've got six days leave, one stodgv uncle, one gouty father, and one high-voiced spinster aunt with a wart on her nose. They're all gathered together to h<-r n c;? e Thev're all g- celebrate Christinas in their own fashion, and—'Ugh! I'm afraid to go home! If only I had a really topping sister now, like Sid "Onlv a sisterdemanded the girl. "Well, I'm not really particular about the degree of relation-ship. Perhaps—on the wholen-it would be better if it were some other fevow's sister. Girls don't show their be.<t side to their brothers, do they?" "Is that Sidney's philosophy?" "Oh. no-iu- aa idea of my own. "I see. Well, you'll wait till my parents come in. won't you? By and by, would you like anything to drink? You would I I can see a thirsty look in your eyes!" She ran? a bell by the fireplace, and a few minutes later Captain Heath was con- tentedly sipping a whisky-and-soda. You don't look nearly so nervous now." announced the girl critically. "And, reaUy, I think you managed awfully well." "Managed what?" questioned the young man with a start that nearly upset his beverage. "Everything' By the by, I suppose Sidney didn't send any written message* "Not a line! But, I say, what did you reallv mean about managing?" "I was thinking what a dreadful thing it would have been if you'd called before they went to church." "Would it? Why?" There was a blend of eagerness and anxiotv in the Captain's voice. "WeD, for one thing," announced the girl slowly, "because, you see. I haven't a brother!" "Haven't a brother?" "No—nor ever had one!" "But-I stty-oh, you mustn't pull a fellow's leg like this, Miss Carrington. Sidney "Sidney isn't my brother!" Captain Heath drained his glass at a gulp and set it down on the nearest table with a shaking hand. He-he-" he stammered. "Is the one who has been pulling your leg," she informed him demurely. "Captain Sidney Carrington—not Dora Carrington. As a matter of fact, I shouldn't dream, of course, of indulging in any such unladylike pastime." "Oh. I say, but you are—you must oo!" "I'm not! And as I'm not, what do yon suppose my people would have thougnt' of vou if you'd said to them, Good morning Your aon has asked me to call! They could hardly have believed you, could they, considering they haven't any son?" Captain Heath produced a handkerchief from the cuff of his sieeve and mopped his face with it. "Bv George!" he said, "you're doing it dashed well, but you are doing it, you know. I'm quite game to admit that Sidney didn't reallv ask me to call-that I suggested it. rovsdlf—and that lie didn't seem particu- larly keen to let me. That was pretty low down of me, I'll admit, but I well, it's awful to have to give oneself away like this, but I was just crazy to meet you. I bagged Sid's precious photo! I've got it on me now! And it's perfectly true. as yott rather hinted a while back, that I've been wan- -c,round g v;(,-Tt- dering round and round the grounds, won- dering now the deuce I could manage to meet you before I ivncountered voor people. And then-" "All this ia rather embarrassing, of course, interrupted Miss Carriflgton with a queer little" catch in her voice which might have indicated suppressed laughter, or, on the other hand, practically suppressed anything. "The point is that SidHey is not mv brother, and that consequently I can. t be bribed into sisterhood by your revela. tions, and ought not, therefore, to encou- rage vou to go on with them. Sidney is my cousin!" "Thank God for that. though he doesn t deserve to be," cried Captain Heath fer- vently. "The callous Wrute! After all^ it migiht have been worse! I suppose he If t me walk into this trap with both feet out of a sort of lingering jealousy on your account —eh? I can understand it, for that othet girl isn't a patch on 16 girl lsn t a patch oa-I beg you pardon. I guess this is my cue to make an undigni- Red exit. I'll clear out J" He reached wretchedly down to gather his belongings from the carpet; but the girl moved impulsively across to him and < touched him on the shoulder. "You can't possibly go till you've met my people," she objected. "Besides, I don't want you to! I've—I've been expecting you all the morning!" "What?" gasped the bewildered young man. "What do you mean?" "Sidney wrote to me about you," she ex- plained. "The letter arrived last nights And he sent a photograph of you so that there couldn't possibly be any mistake." Good Lord!" groaned the Captain. "I wondered what he wanted it for! What did he say?" She produced a letter, in some mysterious fashion, from the neck of her frock, and handed it to him. "I don't think you ought to read it, really," she toM him. "But. on the other hand, I thing you ought to. S<* please do!" He read the letter: "DEAR DORI.S,If a chap named Health comes potting round, as he threatens to do on Christmas morning, with loving messages and all that sort of tosh from me, just kick him out, will you? He's been a bally nuisance ever since he's seen that picture of you and Ethel. Don't kick him hard, though, because he's one of the best. And after you've kicked him take him under the mistletoe and give him one for me! t'I've told him you're my sister. You could hardly expect me to tell him you're the girl that's turned me down six times in succession, could you? And if I'd told him you were my cousin he might have been a bit more diffident about butting in. After all, you said you'd be a sister to me, so I've onlv told the truth. All the fun of the fair !—Yours, "SIDNEY. "P.S.—I've found a topping little girl round here, so if Heath wants to join the Brotherhood, don't mind me! It's simply a question of taste." "Of course you'll stay. won't you?" be- seeched Doris. "My people are bound to insist on your having dinner with us-and I think you've earned it." "Earned what?" daringly inquired the Captain. "Something to eat, of course, silly man!" "I say," he reflected after a while, "what an awful mess it would have been if I had met vour people first!" "Yes," she agreed, "it would. But you couldn't have done it. You see, my eister Ethel was scouting for me, and if it had been necessary she would have warned you in time





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