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THE RIVALS. A ROMANCE OF ILFRACOMBE. [Continued.] “ I will take your advice,” he said, “ But when can I see you again? My name is Gossett, and I am at the big hotel.” “My name is Mayfield, and I am staying there, too.” “ 1 don’t know why, but I don’t like him,” Gerald said to himself, as he looked alter Gossett, as he went up the steep path from the cove. “ They say that a man you have saved from drowning is sure to do you some harm; not that I am fool enough to believe that, but I don’t like him. Somehow or. other, I should say he was shifty. But, there, T dare say it’s prejudice, and that he is a good fellow enough, though certainly not a strong man, anyway.” Physically, the man did not look strong, and the world did . not trouble itself as to his mental strength. Paul Gossett was manager of the Metropolitan and Suburban Bank, a good position for a man of his age. A popular man generally, with a constant smile and a gentle manner. Much liked by the directors, and considered a very eligible man, indeed, at Clapham, where he lived.

Gerald Mayfield went for a sharp walk after his bath, and most of the visitors at the hotel had finished breakfast when he went in. Half an hour later Mrs. Heneage, and her daughter came in dressed for a walk. As a matter of course he took his hat.

“ What are your plans for this morning ?” “ I do not feel equal to much walking this morning,” Mrs. Heneage said, “so I think I shall sit down behind the Lantern rock. Maud will stay there with me, and in the afternoon we will go along the Tor walks.” “ Very well,’’ Gerald said ; “ I will see you comfortably seated, and then I shall go for a walk inland and be back to lunch.”

Three minutes later, at a turn of the walk, they came suddenly upon Paul Gossett.

“ Why, Mrs. Heneage, this is indeed a pleasure,” he said, as he shook hands with mother and daughter, with a warmth that showed that their acquaintance was an intimate one. “ How long htive you been down here ? and how long are you going to stay ?” Then, as his eye fell for the first time on Gerald, who was at this moment wishing in his heart that he had arrived just too late that morning to save his life, he recognised him. “ Ah, Mr. Mayfield, I did not recognise you. I had not seen you dressed before, which must be my excuse. Do you know, Mrs, tjteneage, this gentleman saved my life this morning ?” Mrs. Heneage and Maud uttered an exclamation of surprise. “It was a mere nothing,” Gerald said, almost rudely. “He was tired ; so I swam out to him, and he put his hand on my shoulder till a boat came. It is not worth mentioning.” Maud looked up in surprise at the tone in which Gerald had spoken, but Paul Gossett, without apparently noticing the rudeness of Gerald’s tone, went on.

“ No, Mrs. Heneage, it is of no use for Mr. Mayfield to try and put aside the obligation in that way. It was, I can assure you, a most gallant action of his. And lam ashamed to say that I lost my presence of mind, and was within an ace of drowning us both.” And he proceeded to relate the story.

“Excuse my interrupting you,” Gerald said; “ but as I don’t want to listen to my own exploits, I will go off for my walk.”

“ That fellow has comedown on purpose to see Maud Heneage,” Gerald, said' to himself as he strode along the country road. “1 should not be surprised if they were engaged, or next door to it.” “ Well,” after a long pause, “ I had no reason in the world to suppose that she cared a button for me ; I don’t suppose she ever gave the matter a thought, one way or another.”

It was late in the afternoon when Gerald returned to the hotel, having walked some thirty miles since starting. He had by this time made up his mind that he would stand aside and see what came of it. If Maud Heneage was in love,' with this man, the matter would soon be settled, and it was not for him to act as spoilsport to their wooing. This resolution he proceeded to carry into execution ; and for the next week siarted early upon long walks, and did not return until .late, leaving- the field open to his..uyal, an opportunity of Which Paul Gosset'wais not slow to avail himself. He .had,; months. before,.resolved to wip Mapd Heneage. ; .She was pretty, . stylish, and had money.

Hitherto his wooing f bad progressed but slowly, but now .lie .made-the most of the opportunity left for him by his rival’s folly. Although he was wholly unskilled in wooing, Maud Heneage had bad sufficient experience in being wooed to feel that this man loved her. And the thought was not unpleasant to her. She felt that he was strong and tender and true ; and when a girl feels thus of a man, unless her affections are pre-engaged, there is but little doubt what her answer will be when it is asked. When, therefore, Gerald suddenly gave up walking with her, and left her to the care of Paul Gossett, she was alike surprised and pained. Had she had an opportunity of speaking with him alone, she would have frankly asked him if she had offended him, but he seemed to avoid all opportunity for explanation; and, from pride and pique, she laughed and talked gaily with Gossett, who was always beside her. Gossett had from the first understood that he had a rival in the man who had saved his life, and dimly fathomed the motives which had actuated him in leaving the course clear for him. “ The man is a Quixotic ass,” he said to himself. I believe she likes him, and he is throwing away his chance ; but the sooner I get him out of the way the better.” At the end of the week Gerald came into the smoking room of the hotel late one evening. Gossett was alone there. ; For a time they chatted on indifferent matters. And then Gossett said ; “ I am sorry I don’t see more of you, but you seem always out, and I—well, ! I hardly look upon myself as a free j man.”

“ May I ask,” Gerald • said, after a moment’s pause, “if you are engaged to Miss Heneage ? ” “ Well, after what I owe you,” Gossett said, “ I do not like there to be any concealment between us. There is. and has been for some time, a sort of engagement between us. It is not actually an engagement, because her mother objects to long engagements, and is anxious that her daughter should not marry until sire is three-and-twenty. So, you understand, there is no avowed engagement, although, in point of fact, it comes to the same thing. It is a secret between us two now; and I should not tell you, but I know I can rely upon your not mentioning it or noticing it in any way. In a few weeks she will be within six months of three-and-twenty and then it will be publicly announced.” ; Gerald was silent for a short time, and then said quietly : . “ You are a fortunate man. I suspected it was so from the first time I saw you address her. And now I will say good-night and good-bye. I am going up to town to-morrow. Will you say good-bye for me to Mrs. Heneage and her daughter. “ A very good stroke,” Paul 'Gossett said to himself as he went out. “ Is T ow something of the same sort the other side,-and I think the game’s mine. He’s bard hit, and , won’t care about seeing us after marriage, and if he does, and it happens to come out, it won’t matter then.”

The next morning, at breakfast, he said carelessly to Maud Heneage. “ That queer fellow Mayfield went up to town this morning. He asked me to say good-bye to you and Mrs. Heneage.” “ Has he gone for good P” Maud asked, after a short silence, and Paul Gossett could see that she had grown suddenly pale. “ Oh, yes; from what he said, 1 fancy his wife has come back from some visit or other, and wanted him home.”

“ His wife !” Maud Heneage said. “Yes; did he never speak to you about her?”

Maud did not answer, nor did she go out for her usual walk that morning.

“ Married !” she thought to herself; as she was alone in her room looking out on the sea ; “ married !” Then she had been utterly mistaken in her judgment effaces; and yet as she sat there, she was unconsciously making excuses for him. He had, she felt sure, loved her; but he might not have known it himself, and when he had realised it he had altogether withdrawn from her. He ought to have told her. It was wrong, very wrong ; but yet he may not have meant any deliberate harm. He might be unhappy with his wife, : and so avoided the subject, thinking that, so long as she was but a chance acquaintance, it was no affair of hers. So, with an aching heart, she made excuses for him, and blushed to find herself doing so.

“ I have no right to think ol him,” she cried ; “ he is a m arvied man, and nothing to me. Thank heaven 1 never gave him cause to think I cared for him ; thank heaven, if we meet to-mor-row, I at least need not feel ashamed. It is all over now,” she said wearily, after a pause. “ They say every woman meets her ideal once in lite; I have met mine, but he was already another’s. Well, it does not matter who I marry now.”

Six months later the papers had the announcement of the marriage of Paul Gosset and Maud Heneage ; and upon the day the notice made its appearance Gerald Mayfield said to his partner : “ I have been thinking for some time Harper, that it would be well, if we had a house of our own at Melbourne.. I am sure we should largely increase our business. I have not been well lately, .and want a change badly ; what do you say to my going out for a year or two and starting business there? Once set fairly afloat, we could take Purvis in as partner, and I could come back again.” “ You surprise me Mayfield. I think that a branch house would, pay well, but I don’t see how we could spare you. I have noticed that you have not been yourself for some time, but two or three months’ holiday would set you up.” “ No,” Gerald said, “I want achange of work as well as of scene, I have been hard hit, old man, very hard hit'; and her marriage is in the Times this morning. I knew it would be there soon ; still, as long as it didn’t appear there might be a chance. It’s all over now, and! feel that I must go away for a time.” {To be continued.)

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Bibliographic details

THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 237, 8 January 1881

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 237, 8 January 1881

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