A MAIDEN ALL FORLORN. CHAPTER VI. —A bit of Diplomacy.— (Continued). Averii laughed wickedly, but a little feebly. , ">ly intention !" she retorted. •'How could you think 1 meant that ? L said I'd marry him if he asked my. Of course, 1 knew perfectly w*Jll he would never dream of asking me. 1 wasn't sure who it was, till 1 saw his face when your sister came just now, then I knew. It is in the hope of winning 1 her that toe wants to paint a great picture. That's why 1 am determined to help him !"- Romerthwaite moved bis elbow, straightened his leg and resumed his former position. "O ye gods and little fishes !" he ejaculated solemnly. "What an ass I was !" Averii smiled in delighted acquiscence. "Did you think I ?" she began, but had* the grace to pause there, blushing. ••jMy "dear child, I beg your pardon," h« said hastily. "I didn't know what to think. Brian- had been down here three weeks,, ami he's a lovat*3 youth, and — in fact, I didn't know. But there was a time when hi raved over Kathie. I gathered she had scorned him, for his ravings suddenly ceased ; nevertheless I was not sure of the exact state of affairs." "So you sent for your sister," murmured Averii. "That was clever of y«u." There was mischief in the glance she darted at Mm, ami the earl felt obliged to repeat -his former criticism on himself. "I was an ass. But I tried to find out from you. Oh, clumsily! no doubt. I "don't really know any good way of asking a girl if she means to * marry a friend of one's own. It seen** ed to "me that if — if " "My affections were engaged," Av-i-r.'l demurely suggested. 'Yes, put it like that. In that case I wouldn't interfere, for 1 had no notion how Kathie felt. But you made it pretty clear that wasn't so; ami if you were only contemplating the alliance from a prudent point of u..\v— l suppose. I shall make you terribly angry— well,' then it seemed on'y fair play that she should see what was going on, so I sent for her. Ami whether it was a blunder or" not, 1 vow i cannot tell.? Now, are you going to forgive me?" • How"— began Averii In venturesome inquiry — "dp you know my afLciious are ■ not engaged ?"
llomerthwaitc stwlied the delicate face all aglow with merry audacity. l,hen he laughed in a fatherly niaftner. "My gooti child, 1 may not be the most -discerning 'of mortals, but, 1 think I can be sure about that. You are revelling far too thoroughly in the torment you are applying" to me, tor me to imagine that the matter concerns your affections in "any way. \eiy far from it. You arc extracting huge enjoyment from the trick you played on me, ami you are vertf much pleased to be able to dabble in match-making." •'You talk as. if I were a heartless horror," 4 cried she in a sudden exasperation which amazed her - as much as it did him:. "I am not. You chaff ive s"ami5 "ami talk mockingly, you treat «ne as if I were a baby, and laugh at me to yourself. I am only a •-country ■ girl, and xjuite ignorant of your gmnd socibty. I know ihat. But — -" Kh3 checked, herself, recovering her composure and wondering T why she, had lost it. He did mock at her in his sleeve, she was certain of that ;• but hitherto it had only added a sort of zest to their intercourse and inspired 'the touch of defiance on her part which made her always ready; to pick up any challenge he flung down. It had not even spoilt the curious feeling of confident familiarity that he always gave her. But now, all in a moment,- it had become well nigh intolerable, ami the rare tears started .to her eyes. His strong 1 , gentle hands closed over hers as* he went tlowhon one Knee beside her. •'My dear, look at mo," he said very quietly. In spite of those shockingly embarrassing tears, she had to obey, meeting his steady, -earnest gaze. •'i^o ydiT really think I mock at you, HttHe jgirl ?" he asked. "Can you look me hi the face and still say that? Averii, I know you arc clearsighted, ami 1 know you arc perfectly sincere, so 1 am content to leave it in your hamls. But if 1 thought you really Believed it — - Mock at you, child ! Don't you know that I've no words to express Iny wondering admiration and gratitude? You've saved the life of the only creature I have belonging to me in the world, -and you've shewn heroic fortitude which 1 could scarcely have believed possible."
"Oh, don't— don't !" implored Avcril, the tears running down her cheeks. "1 don't want — praise — like that." Rouierthwaito gently lifted her hamls ami. turning! them palm up-' wards, , kissed one ami then the other. Then he got to his feet again and stood smiling down at her. 'it's my belief," ho said with the quizzical, dry manner he knew she could uuderstaml, "that you want" pretty speeches ami fulsome compliments, you exacting young' person. But you shan't have them from me. It may be my . private o-pinj-o-n— ami as a matter of fact it is— that your eyes are the sweetest and your skin the fairest I ! have ever seen. I do not however, intend to tcll.pou so, knowing the vanity of the i em i nine heart. 1 shall, on the contrary, madam, continue to chaff you to the best of my ability ; ami I defy you to do anything else but like it/ It was . quite the best treatment for her. Expostulations and protestat urns ami promises of amendment woukl have left her overwhelmed with humiliation, whereas this cheered ami braced her to co-nmionscnsc, ami proved to her that he. did not despise her for her moment of weakness. She frankly brushed her tears away and smiled a bright response. "Thank you, that's A-ery nice of you. Do you remember what you called yourself a few -minutes ago? Well, I'm another.". "Are you really y he asked politely. "Upon my word ! it is remarkable how many points of rcsem-. •lance there are between us. We both like meddling' in other people's concerns, am! we are both ready to own when w« make a mess of it. Now I'm isaing to carry you a little , >va y U p the steps. The sooner that job is over the -better." He raised her very carefully In his arms,- } * vTo be Continued).
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Bay of Plenty Times, Bay of Plenty Times, Volume XXXVI, Issue 5109, 23 September 1907
THE STORYTELLER. Bay of Plenty Times, Volume XXXVI, Issue 5109, 23 September 1907
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