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[All Rights Reserved.] THE…


[All Rights Reserved.] THE FLOWER OF THE SUN. BY I JULIAN ASHTON. AUTHOR OF u The Temptation of Adrian Norreys," "Love's Reward," "A Spirit's Curse," &c., &c. CHAPTER VII. OLD LOVE IS WAKING SHALL IT WAKE IN VAIN?" THERE was no reason why the marriage should be delayed. A short two months engagement went quickly by only just long enough to enable Meta to prepare her trousseau. Then the wedding took place at a church in London quietly and unosten- tatiously, for though the squire was sublimely in- different to what people might think of his some- what surprising marriage, he shrank from a crowd oi eager sight-seers, and he entreated his fiancee to allow the ceremony to be as retired and private as possible, and Meta, who had no special wish for publicity, readily consented. The newly-married couple left the same day for Paris. From thence they proceeded to the Riviera, where Meta was delighted with the lovely scenery, and Mr. Tranby-who seemed only to care to live for the sake of pleasing her-was in a state of happiness such as he had never dreamed it possible for him to experience. Certainly things promised well so far. Gordon Tranby doted on his beautiful young bride, and Meta was frightened at the recklessness with which he instantly purchased everything she happened to admire-if it was a saleable article. At last she felt obliged to remonstrate gently with him on this point. You really must not spoil me so," she said. I have you, and everything else in the world I can need; and I shall feel quite uncomfortable if you persist in emptying your purse on me in this dread- ful way." My purse is a good deal deeper and longer than you or many people imagine, Meta. I don't choose to let people know how rich I am. My rent roll, of course, is more or less a matter of public notoriety; eight thousand a year"—Meta started with sur- prise—" but only my bankers and stockbrokers know how my investments have turned out. I have no secrets from you, my dearest wife, so I will tell you. I have a second account at the Bank of England, quite apart from my ordinary account at our local bank at the market town. And in that second account the balance lying to my credit last month was a little over £ 27,000." Gordon!" was all Meta could say. She had never dreamed of such sums. Well it's not very difficult to make money when you have plenty to begin: with. my dear. The trouble is to make a fortune out of nothing. Did you never hear the stock exchange maxim ? — Nothing easier than to make twenty thousand pounds, if only you are able to invest forty thou- sand in doing it.' That's the way I did under good advice, of course. I lost sometimes, I admit; I expected to; you can't always ensure things turn- ing out as you anticipate. But I did very well on the whole, and in a few years' time built up the nice little fortune I told you of quite apart from my rentals." That her husband was so rich, had never entered Meta's thoughts. She knew his income must be large, from the extent of land he owned, but what he had just told her was almost bewildering. But the conversation now changed to the subject of their next move. Mr. Tranby ventured to suggest Switzerland. She had never seen the great snow- clad mountains, and longed to feast her eyes on the noble pile of Mont Blanc. Of course her husband instantly consented, as indeed he would have done if she had expressed a desire to visit the North Pole or Central Africa. So to Chamonix they went, the following week. This was Paradise to her. She insisted on mak- ing two or three easy, partial ascents, and would gladly have attempted more difficult elevations, but her husband would not allow her to incur the slightest risk. They had been there a week, and were arranging for a change to Zermatt. Strolling up and down the long central walk of the garden in front of the hotel, Mr. Tranby was lighting a cigar, when he stopped suddenly, holding the match midway between the box and the Havana which his lips re- tained, and looking earnestly towards a tourist who was sauntering near them, said, in some astonish- ment- Bless my soul; there's Cecil, Who would have thought of meeting him here? Hi! Cecil, Cecil," he cried. The young man turned, and approached them leisurely. A look of recognition came over his listless face when he saw Mr. Tranby, but it was quickly changed to an expression of surprise when be looked from the Squire to Meta. Well met, Archdall, though I certainly did not think of encountering you here. When did you come ?" Only yesterday. I came on from Nice." Strange we did not meet you there. What are you doing now ? Still in that Indian post ?" "N 0, I'm my own master at present. A distant relative had the good taste to leave me a nice little sum of money in his will; rather unex- pectedly I must admit. It was not a large for- tune, but just enough to bring in a small com- petency; not enough to settle down upon, but enough to give me a holiday for a year or so before settling down again to work." Glad to hear it. But I must introduce you to my wife, Meta—Mr; Archdall, a sort of second cousin of mine; or to speak strictly, second half- cousin. The Scotch, I suppose, would make this quite a close relationship in their terrible tables of involved geneology; but we practical English people can't be bothered with such fine distinctions, and distant relation' is quite good enough. Eh. Archdall?" ° o The young man raised his hat courteously, but remarked in his languid manner: "It is a great pleasure to me to renew my acquaintance with Mrs. Tranby, for this is not our first meeting." Ah, so you have met before. More surprises. I wonder what will be the next. Where was it ?" At Wiesbaden, three years ago," said Meta. I made the acquaintance of Mr. Archdall through an English family with whom I was staying at that time." She mentioned the circumstance in the quiet, placid manner of every-day conversation; but with a self-command which cost her no small effort. Her heart was beating wildly, and the colour was only just returning to the check from which the first Bight of Cecil Archdall had driven it. Out of the buried past the spectre of old Love had suddenly arisen, as unexpected as-dared she say?—un- welcome. The man who three short years ago had been all the world to her, whom she believed had disappeared into the vast crowd of humanity, had reappeared. And, oh! wondrous power of true love, she had to confess with a sinking feeling of the heart that she was glad to meet him again. Glad-how poor the word was. Life seemed happier all at once; the sunshine was brighter the music of the birds seemed to have gained added melody. And then her eyes wandered from the face she knew so well to her husband at her side. Then there's no need for formalities," said the squire, heartily, and you two are only renewing acquaintance. Dine with us this evening, Cecil; but I was thinking of England, I forgot we all dine here at the table d'hfite. Well, sit next us, at any rate, and then we can have a talk over recent matters. Hey! what is it ?" to a waiter who presentei a telegram to him on a tray. Oh ex- cuse me one minute," and, breaking the seal, he read the contents. "From my steward, Meta. He wants to know if I will accept an offer for a vacant farm. I must go to the office and wire him a reply. I shan't be ten minutes. You two can pass the time somehow till I come back, I've no doubt." And he hurried off to the telegraph office in the hotel. There was silence for a minute after he left them. Neither seemed exactly at ease. Meta was thankful for the opportunity of buttoning her glove, and bestowed more time and attention on that simple operation than usual. Cecil Archdall apparently was deeply interested in gazing after the departing figure of Mr. Tranby. At last the silence grew embarrassing, and the vanished squire no longer served as a pretext for absorbed attention. This is certainly a surprise, Mrs. Tranby. I did not anticipate meeting you here-still less as my cousin's wife." i The world is full of surprises, and it is the unexpected which generally happens." No doubt. Might I be permitted to ask when the happy event-on which I offer you my con- gratulations-occurred ?" There was a slightly veiled sarcasm in the tone, which nettled Meta, but she controlled herself, and merely answered: We were married only a few days ago." Archdall looked really surprised now. So lately? Well, accept my sincere wishes for your happiness. I am glad that it does not make you forget old friends, amongst whom I venture to include myself." I don't so easily forget old friends-or times,' replied Meta. Woman-like, she could not resist the gratification of this little needle-thrust. He changed colour slightly, but languidly answered: Nor I, I can assure you. The sight of you has not recalled them: only made them more vivid. Those days at Wiesbaden have seldom been out of my thoughts." "Then why—?" said Meta, impetuously, but hastily checked herself. What had she nearly been betrayed into saying ? And she-a bride of only a few days. I don't think we need prolong this subject. Do you make a lengthy stay here ?" Two or three days. But let me say one word more, Mrs. Tranby. I was going back to England in a few days, as I said, and on my honour, the object of my return was-to seek out and find you. That is the simple truth. I gained your address in Hampshire from the Meynards at Wiesbaden (they are there still), and I should have spared no cost or pains to trace you. And now, I find myself a few days too late! Here comes my cousin." That's settled," cried the squire, as he came up. Now Archdall, let us walk out to the little water- fall yonder. Try one of these," and he held out a case filled with Partagas to his cousin. I CHAPTER VIII. VISITORS AT TRANBY PARK. MR. AND MRS. GORDON TRANBYhad returned from their wedding tour, and were received with much rustic display of rejoicing on their arrival. A large bonfire was lit on the village green, a triumphal arch stood over the lodge gates, and when the carriage approached the Park entrance, the enthusi- astic villagers insisted on taking out the handsome pair of greys, and drawing it to the hall door by force of arms." Although the squire had lived very much alone for many years and mingled little with his tenantry, yet he had a kindly heart, was a generous and mild landlord, and many a deed of unostentatious charity was correctly ascribed to his agency. And now that he had (ohosen, at last, to take to himself a young and pretty wife, the neighbourhood were not backward to seize the opportunity of showing their good feeling towards him and his attractive bride. The usual round of calls," returned calls," and dinners followed. After this there was a quiet interval, and then the shooting season came. Mr. Tranby was too much of a horticulturist to be a crack shot, but he liked an occasional day's sport with his guests, "and took a pride in havi- plenty of game for these occasions. It was the first of Septemper, and a small party of five, including the squire, were setting out for an eagerly anticipated morning. Their destin- ation was a partridge drive" about a mile from the hall. Cecil Archdall was there, Mr. Tranby having sent a cordial invitation to his cousin to come for the first fortnight of the game season and share "the cream of the sport." Even if Meta had wished it she dared not have suggested any oppo- sition to this particular guest, however much she might confess to herself that it would be better in every way that they should not meet. But she recognised with a sinking heart how glad she se- cretly felt at the prospect of his arrival, and asked herself the question again and again, "Is he equally glad to see me, to be with me, to her me speak ?" Besides the squire the other members of the party were a Mr. Lascelles, a neigbouring squire of the name of Pickard, and a young attaché from the Foreign Office, Henry Driffield. A double dogcart conveyed four of them to the "drive," the squire taking the reins, while Mr. Pickard trotted after the vehicle on a fast cob of Mr. Tranby's, well up to his weight. It's rather cold for a September morning," re- marked the squire as they sped along. Yes an east wind is unusual for this month. One feels the change," said Mr. Lascelles, pulling up the collar of his light overcoat, as a keen blast whistled round their ears. "Don't remember such a biting wind as this, in September, for many years," continued the squire. "I hate sudden and unseasonable changes like this can't stand them. They often lay me up. Cold in winter and heat in summer are right enough; no reasonable man would complain of seasonable temperature at the proper time. It's a sudden snap of cold when the weather may fairly be expected to be warm that I don't like." Ah, you wouldn't have liked my experiences as a Queen's messenger, Tranby," laughed young Mr. Driffield. Before I became an attaché, I filled the doubtful post of a Queen's mes- senger, flying over half of Europe at a day's notice with despatches from Lon- don to Constantinople, or St. Petersburg, or Vienna at top speed. Always hurrying on at a tremendous rate; time-everything; delay-the unpardonable sin. Heat by day, cold by night, irre- gular meals, no easy berth sometimes, very decent at others." No, that wouldn't have suited me. I prefer the routine life of Tranby Hall, with my orchids and china. But here we are at the drive. Descending, he gave the reins to a groom, who drove away the trap to a farm stables at some little distance. Then the shooting party walked quietly up the drive; a long lane with high hedges on each side. A number of beaters were employed to drive the partridges from the adjacent land towards this lane. The high banks and tall hedges prevented the birds from seeing the shooting party until they were over the heads of the men, and as the beaters converged from all points of the compass upon the drive, a good "bag was a tolerable certainty. Just what I was afraid of," said the squire, buttoning his thin tweed overcoat. This lane lies due east and west, and the wind cuts down it like a freezing machine." Oh come, it's not quite so bad as all that," said Mr. Pickard, as he slipped a couple of cartridges into his gun. What a sensitive fellow you are, Tranby." You'll be warm enough after bringing down a couple of dozen brace," suggested young Driffield. Hullo, there's the first bird," and in an instant J,a 'J,1.1-J_ _40 L'1.1.J_ -J Ll_- au.D micttumuttuyi. WlWI uu ma Hiiuuiuer, ana wiw first victim of the battle was lying in the lane a few yards away. From that time the firing grew fast and furious. The birds came over their heads at first by twos and threes, then in half-dozen groups, and finally in regular coveys. The squire's coverts were well looked after by his keepers, and there was never any lack of sport for his guests. But the wind increased in force, till it blew half a gale, and the cutting gusts interfered sadly with the comfort of the party, and increased the diffi- culty of good shooting. After an hour and a half of it Mr. Lascelles thought he had not heard a shot from his right-hand neighbour, the squire, for some time. Glancing round to ascertain the cause, he saw Mr. Tranby had given up his gun to a keeper, and was standing behind a large tree, trying to get some slight shelter from the wind. It's no use Lascelles," he called, I can't go on. Couldn't hold my gun steady, I'm shivering so. and my teeth chatter like nastanets. Don't mind me, fire away." But Lascelles saw that his host really looked ill, and hurried towards him. No, this won't do, Tranby, I can see you are ill. You must have caught a severe chill, I'm afraid. We've had about euough of this I'll send the boy for the trap aud we'll drive home." The others willingly agreed when summoned and acquainted with the state of affairs. Mr. Tranby was quite unable to drive. He complained of faint- ness and acute pain in the side. Tranby Hall was soon reached, and the squire went to bed immedi- ately, while Dr. Ferguson was summoned. He is in for a sharp attack of pleurisy, and I fear —a complication of acute bronchitis as well. You must wire at once to tthe town for a couple of trained nurses. He will require the most incessant attention and care." Meta heard the doctor's report with outward composture, but her lips trembled. While recognis- ing that the services of the trained nurses were indispensible, she insisted on taking her full share of the work, and spent the greater part of each day in the sick room. The shooting party broke up the next day, only Cecil Archdall remaining to watch the course of his uncle's dangerous illness. For dangerous it soon proved to be. Day by day the patient's pulse quickened, the clinical thermometer showed a rapidly rising temperature, the breathing grew more difficult. Pneumonia supervened and the case became increasingly seri- ous. Dr. Ferguson, after quitting the sick chamber on the fifth day, did not conceal the grave view he took of her husbands's condition. I think it would be a satisfaction to you to tele- graph to London for Sir Francis Jephson. I believe he will say everything has been done that could be done for Mr. Tranby; but it is always well to have the highest opinion possible in such cases." Pale with constant watching and growing anxiety, Meta silently assented. The great London doctor could not reach Tranby till noon the next day. But two other professional men were summoned to the Hall that evening; the local solicitor, and his clerk. Gordon Tranby was going to make his last will and testament. (To be continued.)




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