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A BROKEN WEDDING RING.

y H^Y^tRfHA; r M. GUC(^ CHAPTER XVU. Half an hour passed, and' they were etifl talking under the "verandah on the" western terrace. " It seemed to Leah but a few minutes, and yet a change had been -wrought in the time! Quite suddenly, and almost unconsciously to her, the whole world had changed for her— her__ *" life. ."had grown complete. But a »4ifrfle -while- before her hadEptJeei desolate. the _- brilUanojpwith which she had been sur- - rounded,"-there was a sense of chill and loneliness, of unrealized wishes, of vague hopes,', of urigratified" "desires—a sense oOhfcemptihess oEall-things.'. It had vanished as 'ktitiyr before the sun, and a sweet, harmopious sense of the fulness. ' m of jiiei had taken possesion of her. She coulavnave stood for ever by the passionTooting at Sir Basil and listening to hrm; but .the general remembered the "duties of hospitality. "You will stay for the day 7 " be said. "One of the grooms can ride over to Glen for anything you may -want." He did not knovF-that his niece, whom the noblest and.wisest in the land had failed to,win, was waitihg'with' the keenest anxiety to, hear whether their guest would accept her uncle's invitation. "Leah,"' said Sir Arthur, " perhaps Sir Basil would like some refreshment after his_long walk. ' "Sou walked from Glen, Ilhelieva.?" ..... „....-,., .'Yes; I came through the" woods," replied the young "baronet: " I envy you those woods and the river." "If you will take my advice, Sir Basil," eaTd "the general, "you will have some claret-cupl For a warm morning like this there is nothing like.it. .. I.will join you in a few minutes—l have to see my - steward. Leah; you will-take Sir Basil into-the house. - When he has had some refreshment, he will join the party on the- lawn." ... With a smile for his niece and a bow for his: guest, Sir Arthur hastened away, leaving them alone together. It seemed to Leah as though the air throbbed; her heart beat-fast, her hands trembled; all tbe rest of the world had fallen from her, arid she "stood alone .'with him. 'This is a beautiful old place," he- said. "I like the river. What fanciful lights ftnd-shades there are on it ! " The calm, quiet words - brought - her down from an exalted frame of mind to commonplace life. "It is' indeed lovely," she, said. .'/Bo you like boating ? lam very fond of it. I have a pretty little boat of my own, and I spend many hours upon the iwater." But I must-riot forget my uncle's instructions.. You must come and have'BO'me refreshment."' She replaced the trailing sprays, of the orimsbn flowers which she had held all this time in her hands. She did nothing in the least degree unusual, yet every little"incident -was vividly stamped . .on her mind.. With the strange, new '. "feeling, abgtr£ her"she walked" by his side down the long terrace. She took him into the drawing-room; "Bring some light refreshments—also some fruit," she said to a servant; and with her own hands she offered him. some delicious grapes. She remembered every word he uttered, every glance, every movement of his ; and when he had taken what he wanted Bhe looked at him with anxious, happy eyes. "Shall we go on to the lawn now 1" ehe asked. "I am quite at your service, Miss Hatton. Have ycu a large party at Brentwood ? " She looked at him again, with -thel

dreamy, vacant gaze of one who has for-

gotten everything, then remembered suddenly, and blushed as he had seen no

other woman blush before. The first thought that occurred to him was that perhaps she had a lover among the visitors, and was shy of mentioning his name —else why that vivid, beautiful blush ? It was gone now, and she was smiling as she spoke. '< "Not a very large party," she replied—"the Duke and Duchess of Rosedene, old friends of Sir Arthur's; Xady Maude Trevar, who is distantly related to the duchess; Colonel Farquharson, whom.my uncle loves very dearly because his face is bronzed and he calls luncheon.' tiffin.'"

"Old Indian friends, I suppose ? " said Sir Basil. "Yes, they were inseparable for some years. There are also Captain langley and a very pretty niece, of - the: Hold Colonel's. That completes tbe list." ~ " It sounds like a very r gß<JdTist,-'tfßßf * lie said .

She remembered 'how he held the door open as she passed, and when the long train! .of ipale amber. . was. caught. he stooped down to free it. She remembered how they passed through the grand old entrance hall, ancj, out by the Bide door on to the- lawn. The duchess was seated in the shade of the great cedar tree, with Lady Maud by her side, and pretty May Luson, who was evidently ready for mischief. Not far from them the colonel — a fine, handsome, elderly. man, with a long, gray, drooping mustache—was enjoying a cigar and a newspaper. Captain' TfongUty had. been, read-'

ing aloud to the ladies, but had been

dismissed, because, as the duchess - - solemnly assured him, he had no taste' —for-ttnything-but humour.

There was some little stir when Leah, with, her handsome cavalier, appeared. Tho duchess looked up with a smile Leah led him to her first, amd her grace gave him a very kindly greeting — all women were ;atfera£terd to.'l Sir. Basill'thirmoment they saw-hint. They passed on to Lady Maud Trevar "handsome woman, -somewhat: passes bent" upon making the best; of herself. She received him with a mixture of what she intended to be girlish diffidence and womanly frank-! ness; both failing, the effect was lamentable. ;...:;

Captain Langley was very pleased, and pretty May, looking more like a fair rosebud than anything else, laughed with delight, " You live at Glen, Sir Basil 1" she ■aid. " I have seen a picture of "Glen. There are innumerable fountains' and terraces," " I hope you will honour mc by coming to sco, its attractions," he responded. "The-general. has-promised mc that pleasure,"

Se was quite at homo with them in d few minutes, The colonel—who, while he abused India, knew no pleasure out ef it—began to discuss with him the probabilities ef a frontier war. Captain Langley aired his griei^tnoe—whleh~was t'fe* •?i J S?i e .? < t'2 , L e 5h iledldedly- his- -InHis head he.'ffip In ft state ■pf shrank ifldignatfen about }fc, m J?a: .¥Wf §hwi me*, el time lady ,-l&ld $WW? Kr Basil, was

worth any trouble'to win. He was at home with them all, and quite happy. The duchess called -him' to her side, and began a long conversation with him. She was delighted with him, and considered him quite an acquisition. A rich and handsome young baronet with 'a fine .estate,;.he would fa-nt a wife; "and already she" had begun to'think of those of her acquaintance -who »were eligible-for the post. She regretted, that Lady Maiid was old and passee; her thoughts never went to". Leah. 7.. 2

Leah ■hadwcalled to mind not once, hut a' hundred times, that he was to be with them the whole day. She sat watching him with contented, happy eyes, with a light on her beautiful face, as he went from one to another, thinking there was no other like him.

During•» the afternoon, the duchCss called^Leah"aSider '...''?'"' "%, S »*.''."iL'ehh;".she' : t9iiid, "We." mugt.Tdo something to entertain, our .young neighbour. I do not like to see his'handsome face shadowed, by;, melancholy. What can wejdo?? _ ';..... ''~ .. ,- .; \. J'We will do anything that you siig--gest," replied-Leah,-.", -;. -•'-. -. '• X —"Something in Keif'voice" made'ih'e duchess look iip.; X c.;.»l .'"' . "'7... .7 ''3 '; "Leah, ■ child;""she.said,," what have you been doing to yourself'?-" - " Nothing," replied Leah. "Nothing? Nonsense ! " said the duchess, energetically. " I could almost believe that you had been rouging ! "

''I have. done nothing of the kind," replied Leah, half indignant, half amused. "Why do you say such a thing to mc ?:.*'

" My dear child, I perceive a change In you. A new soul shines out of your eyes; your face is transfigured! lt has struck mc at times that you had a restless expression, as though the world did not quite answer to your wishes. It has gone now. You look as though your heart - had awakened." She wondered still more when she saw' a crimson blu'sn cover -the beautiful face". " What is it, Leah? You have always trusted mc. You may say what you will, but I am quite certain that there is something which would account for the change in yom -Why, what happy""e'y"es you have! I never saw the golden gleam in them so plainly as I do this morning."

With all her keen sagacity and worldly knowledge, it was wonderful that she did not connect the coming of the stranger with the change in Leah.

"Nevermind," said the duchess. "You will not tell mc, Leah; but I shall find it out. I know that an offer of marriage rather "annoys you than not, or I should think you had received one this morning, and it had pleased you."

" I would tell you if it were so, duchess" said Leah, " I look happy because—well, because I am happy. Hayc you ever seen a sky so blue, the earith So fair? Did the birds ever sing as th§y sing this morning? "Were the flowers ever so sweet? Something— Ido not know what it is—something has occurred which seems to have brought mc unutterable happiness." i

" It is worse even than I thought," remarked the Duchess. " Come and takfe this'chair. Let us talk prose, not poetry, and- decide upon what we can do to amuse your young neighbour. I like him, Leah. I shall not rest until the melancholy has left his face, and I see the brightness that belongs to youth shining there." CHAPTER XVIII. The day pass, as the days always do, whether they be shortened by happiness or lengthened by sorrow, but Leah Hatton kept no account of the hours. All that was taking place was a dream to her; the only effort she could make was to prevent other people from guessing her secret. He had come — the fairy prince who was to wake her from her long sleep; but the world need not know it —must not know it. It would think her mad, this wary, keen, wise old world that laughs at the sweet follies of youth.

She had surrendered her mind to a host of beautiful but unreal fancies; they had made the brightest part of her life. To any other than herself they would have seemed absurd; yet she had firm faith in them. She believed in this ideal lover of hers, who was looking for her in the world just as she was waiting for him. She had nursed heTself in the belief that she would recognise him the moment she saw him, and it seemed to her that she had done so.

Hundreds of handsome faces had passed, before her eyes, but not one had touched her heart until now. When she saw Sir Basil's she recognised it; a strange, magnetic influence seemed to come over her; in the depths of her heart she said to herself: " I have met my fate." But now she must hide her secret, lest the laughing wicked world should be amused by it. She never thought of Sir Basil's part in the matter, whether he shared her f eelingß and fancies; she was too much engrossed with her own. The day went on, and she spent almost every moment of it with him—a lovely day, that grew brighter and fairer with every hour that passed. • That evening she - stood inher_ dressing - room, the prettyParisian maid looking at her in something like wonder. Miss Hatton had most exqui.site._.taste, and liked always to be well dressed; 'but on this evening it seemed as if it were impossible to please her. Dress after dress was discarded; she could not choose her jewels. - "Take those diamonds away," she said, and the superb suits of rubies and -pearls were not pleasing to her. On' the toilet table, intermixed with crystal and 6ilver and richly-cut Bohemian glass, were some clusters of scarlet passion-flowers. She would wear them, and not the jewels.

The Parisienne sighed. They would look very beautiful, but they would give, her an immense deal of trouble.

Leah had a fancy that she would like to :Ue dressed after the fashion of her' picture; T>ut the black velvet looked too! warm and heavy for this bright summer night. . i&fc last she chose a dress of white _ shining silk, soft and fine, and; with it she wore nothing but passion-.-flowers. They crowned her dark, beau-, tiful head, and glowed like flames against her white neck; great trailing sprays fastened .the folds of her dress.

"They look more' beautiful than, jewels," said the maid; "but will they live, madam?"

"They will live as long as I need them," answered Leah. It seemed to her that the flowers she wore to please him could never die.

"I think, madam," said the maid, as she arranged the tall Psyche mirror, "if you will look now, you will be pleased." Pleased? She flushed crimson as she saw the reflection of her own most radiant beauty. She was glad to be beautiful; she rejoiced in her own loveliness. | The dark waves of rippling hair with their crown of scarlet flowers, the exquisite ..face with its fair bloom, the .white graceful throat and white should- ' .ers," the . perfect arms" and- hands, the "figure ./-so replete with sweet, stately, | subtle?:grace, gave iher infinite- delight. 'She - was* child enough" to kiss" her warm, white arms, and to smile at the picture i lv her mirror.

"I wonder," she said- to herself, "if he will find mc fair?"

There were still some minutes before the' second, bell 1 " would ring; she would not go down until the flush had departed from her cheeks and the sweet, happy expression of her eyes told less, or the duchess would soon discover her secret. ..She looked from, her open window tOr-the running river,-and snatches of 'song rose to"her lips. She could have faiicied. that even the river, knew what had" happened" td-day;" the waters laughed and flushed in the setting sun. Oh! happy day, day, to be remembered, for it stood out from her life as a bright star in the dark sky!

"The sixth of August," she said to herself; "I shall never forget the date. I have been in the world twenty-two years, but I have never lived until today." „ .

Then the bell rang, and she went down into the drawing-room. More than one present drew a deep breath of silent admiration. The general thought he had never seen his niece look so well; and the duchess said to herself, "Something has come to the child: it is useless for her to deny it."

Sir Basil, too, looked at her in wonder. He had been attracted by her appearance as she stood on the terrace; but not the sense of her great loveliness came over him and struck him almost dumb. He took her down to dinner, wondering that he had not been more impressed before, and he talked more to her than he had previously.

(To be continued daily.)

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A BROKEN WEDDING RING. Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 81, 5 April 1909

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