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FOR LOVE OR MONEY?

[By Winifred Graham.] Author of ' The Lovo-atory of a Mormon,' ' The Star Child,' ' Angels and Devils and Man,' ' A Social Pretender,' etc. [Aix Right? Reserved.] I. Clover Davenought was a singularly beautiful girl. Both her admirers and Envious critics had widely speculated since her debut, who would win this fair specimen Ci England's girlhood. Even Royalty had worshipped at her shrine, for she* was a particular favorite of Prince Cecil, whose house parties at Morven Castle were celebrated. Of course, everyone knew he must marry a bride of royal blood, but it was considered quite likely Miss Davenought might mate with a duke, or some lover of high social standing. Great was the amazement of her friends svhen, quite suddenly, her engagement was announced to a colonial millionaire, one Bertram Cope, whose money had been made in trade.

" It will certainly be a case of ' Beauty and the Beast,'"" declared a rival _ of Clover's, as she discussed the girl's :hoice. "Mr Cope is the most unromantic ;reature on earth, of colossal build and rubicund coloring; he might be a burly farmer, and he does not even dress in pood taste. She will have her work cut Diit to shoulder him into society. One thing is certain, she won't be asked any more to Morven Castle. Prince Cecil is most particular whom he knows, and even Miss Davenought's 'beaux yeux' could not coax an invitation out of such a starchv host for the colonial fiance."

But"the speaker had not reckoned with Clover's power. Not only her beauty, but a nature full of sympathetic, charm made Prince Cecil hold "her in high esteem, far above the ordinary society girl of butterfly instincts. He"was thoroughly curious to know why she was marrying a man who seemed "so utterly unsnited to the tall, aristocratic maiden, with her flowerlike prettiness and usually fastidious tastes. He could not believe the general rumor that this marriage was po'.elyfor money, and that love did not enter into the bargain. Clover herself tried to explain to him just what she felt about Bertram Cope. " You see," she said, '' I met in the social round ao many ' cotton-wool men' that this new type came as a wonderful change. He seemed to me so utterly fearless, "so strong and masculine, without an 3;mce of affectation, though he has built up this fortune with his own brain. IVheu you know him it is like digging ilewn into a well-stocked mine, which yields its treasure only after a certain imount of perseverance. Some of my friends twit me with his not being one of our set. I like him for his reticence, and none of the sneerers need know him. We shall make our own world, and it won't be such a bad one, if I have my

way. Prince Cecil felt a renewal of curiosity is he listened to her naive words. He liked all she had told him of Bertram Cope, and made a quick resolution. •' 1 have quit* a picked party," he said, "of specially nice people, coming down to Morv«n Castle, for the first shoot of the season. I shall send you and your fiance an invitation —that is to say, if Mr Cope cares for sport." Clover looked singularly pleased. "Bertram is a splendid shot." she- declared. " xlow very good of you. He will be simply delighted." Clover prophesied rightly, and the engaged couple arrived together at Morven Castle, to the great astonishment of Prince Cecil's guests, who had never dreamt for one instant that Bertram Cope would be admitted to the sacred circle.

The great hall seemed like some vast lathedral, with a marble staircase which might have come straight out of the \Arabian Wide, shallow steps, farptted in brilliant crimson, made a E lowing and radiant effect against the ■hits background. They le<l to an imposing gallery, where glass doors opened into mites of rooms provided for the guests. LUovers room was next to an apartment set aside for Lady Adela Fane, who, it ivas easv to see, had instantly taken a ttrong liking to Miss Davenought.

Or. the very first evening, when Clover R-as dressing for dinner. Lady Adela cam© to her room.

"' \\e all have to he, painfully punctual here," she said, with a little laugh. "Dinner is a festival with, the Prince; to treat, it with disrespect wotdd be criminal in his eves."

Clover's maid had already fastened her dress, and discreetly left the room, that the ladies might talk alone. Adela Fane spoke quickly aa the- door closed. "I did so want, a private word with you," she- said, in an undertone. '"I have heard a great deal about you, Miss Davenought ; you were described to me a* one of the cleverest girls in london. Of course, I know you have great influence with Prince Cecil; he has never taken such a sudden fancy to anyone before. Naui-ally, we all talk about it; but you don't mind that!"

"Oh, no," replied Clover. goodhumoredly. "To be talked about is always t. compliment—at least, I like to think so; jveii when people are disagreeable, it thows you interest them." Lady Adela had not come to indulge in small talk. She had something of importance to say which was burning on her lips. '' What did. you think of Count Ernest de Marchant':" she asked. ignoringClover's previous remark.

"Oh! you mean the dark man with the .tarrow eye*, who arrived when we were at tea. He and the Price seem great friends; but I was talking toother people, and did not form any definite opinion about the newcomer."

Lady- Adela pulled her chair a little rearer. "1 want you to notice him specially," she said. " If any word of yours could set Prince CVeil a;,ji:na him, you would be doing a really good work. Everyone knows Ernest is the enemy of all the Prince's family. At heart he is an embittered Socialist, and 1 should not be surprised if ho were a Nihilist as well. For some reason lie Ptinee'R affection. I know Lie- worked hard for this invitation, and fhey will be shooting together all through the week. That was why I prevented my husband coming here. I did not -viisli him to shoot, with such a reckless man as the Count. It would never surprise me f <> hear there had been an accident ; but these things sometimes work out differently, and the wrong man becoroea the victim. You might like to -warn, your fiance to keep his eyes open. There are wheels within wheels, and the story of Count de Marchant" s grudge against this royal house is too king to tell you now. Since Prince Cecd is unmarried arid has no heir, his death would make a considerable difference to certain people who mean much to the intriguing Ernest. The man has the face of a devil ; his very smile chills my blood." Clover was sitting very upright now. and her swift breathing seemed to animate her tiguxe with some wonderful vitality, which possessed an animal charm. She made Lady Adela. think of a dog listening at a door with its ears pricked up, and she thought how half tho society women in London would have laughed, away her fears, treating them as the exaggerated fancy of a nervous mind. Clover saw that her confidente was not a highly-strung or imaginative women, eager to bring a. dramatic'note into everyday life. The. calm assurance of her manner created its own effect. "Royalty seems always hedged round with danger," replied Clover. "But in their houses and among their friends they ought at least to be safo from assassination. I shall watch Count Ernest with interest, and I will tell Bertram what you think. Before he made his money he lived a wild and somewhat rough life in the colonies. Fear never entered into that fcheme of existence; men fought with their fists, and if necessary shot tnemies down, since the prairie was their only court of justice." Lady Adela, whose affection for Prince Cecil was very real, had already thought of Bertrand Cope as a kind of silent bodyguard—one who might stand between the

" I am so glad I spoke," she eaid, rising. "We must go down now ; it is two minutes to tho hour." Clover made her way to the drawing mora, conscious that this wonderful gathering interested her deeply. She had no time to notice tho richly-stocked cabinets, the inlaid tobies and chairs, the couches of beautiful design, covered with costly brocade, or the magnificent paintings on the wall. She looked only for one face—tho face of Ernest de Marchant. Now she saw what Lady Adela meant. Tho man's outward charm of manner seemed like a veil to mask some hidden evil. He had all the courtly grace of a distinguished foreigner, but his smiling lips were strangely cruel, and his eyes held secrets. They were the eyes of a man hardened by a sense of injustice, while his whole'expression suggested a revengeful nature, inwardly brutal beneath its polished veneer. Ladv Adela introduced him to Clover, and though he did not take her in to dinner, he was seated on her other side. She talked to him on many subjects, and fancied from one or two remarks that he liked her because she was young and cheerful. Even here, at tho Royal table, he could not resist a> sneer at the seats of tho mighty. The atmosphere was antagonistic to the real man, and though he was acquainted with many a crowned head, he had nothing good to say of his illustrious friends.

When they had discussed many wellknown people, Clover turned to the subject of sport. '"Ah! now you touch me on a weak spot, madame," he said. "I shoot, certainly, but I am not good at the game. I only took to it late in life, and you must'be practically horn with_ a gun in your hand to compare with English rivals." Clover listened while he ran himself down, and later on repeated his words to Bertram, describing Lady Adela's suspicions. "There may be something in it." said Bertram Cope, whose mind worked quickly through its business training. " I was talking to a man who has shot with de Marchant abroad, and lie declares our foreign friend is one of the finest shots ever known in his own country. Here, for some excessive form of politeness, he likes to hide his skill, to give the others a chance, as it were. Perhaps there is more than courtesy in this pose. It would be as well if all the Prince's guests were warned to keep ait eye on him when out with the guns." Clover looked uneasy. At the moment she was not thinking of Prince Cecil; it was for Bertram she trembled. '* I know it is rather a cowardly suggestion." she declared, "' but I would be so glad, Bertram, if you could arrange for a business appointment to call you back to town. I could stay here, for I don't shoot. I shan't have an easy moment if they put you near de Marchant." That he should give up the fine sport in store appeared so ridiculous to Bertram he -would have laughed heartily but for a jealous pang. Was this just a plan of his fiancee's to get him out of the way that she might flirt with some other man in the party? He shook his head violently and forced a smile.

'' I will keep my eye on tho Count, and do what I can for our host if opportunity arises; but to quit thia place now I am here wouldn't be worthy of Bertram Cope." He patted his ample breast, looking strangely unheroic as he did so. But Clover had grown accustomed to his outward plainness. " All right," she said to Bertram, " I dare say you can tako care of yourself, and I don't want to drive you away ; but, oh ! I do wish Count Ernest would get a violent attack of influenza, and bo laid up all the time we are here. That is a nice Christian sentiment, isn't it, to go to bed upon?"

Two very successful days passed, in which the sport had been exceptionallygood. Everyone was in high spirits, for the Prince proved a genial host, and knew how to make his friends enjoy themselves. Clover did her best to lead up to the subject of Count Ernest, hinting he might not be quite loyal to tho Prince. But Cecil was instantly up in arms at the suggestion. '" Somebody has been putting that ridiculous idea into your head," he declared. "The fact that a few of my most intimate acquaintances look upon Ernest as a villain makes me more than ever determined to prove ho is not. Considering his people aie at enmity with mine. I think it is. very nice of him to still remain my friend. I appreciate his affection for mo, and I am sorry if scandalous tongues have prejudiced your mind against him."

Clover could never argue with Prince Cecil. He had such a strong belief in his own personality that the fact of Ernest's unpopularity endeared him to the host. None of the men seemed to get on with the Count except Btrtram Cope, -who made himself so pleasant that on shooting expeditions the wealthy colonial found himself purposely placed next to the foreign visitor. This was the tactful arrangement of Prince Cecil, tince he was quick fcj notice the likes and dislikes of his guests. The ladies never went out with the gune, much to the disappointment of those with, sporting instincts. Clover did not repine, since she hated to see tilings killed, and enjoyed the beauties of the castle perhaps more than anyone there.

A good deal of scandal was discussed in the various boudoirs when these women were left alone together. The Duchess of Clawbrook had already confided to Lady Adela it was quite impossible that the beautiful Miss Davenought could tare for stch a lover.

" FoTtunately for her," the Duchess eaid, "she is much "younger thain the ponderous Mr Cope ; J>e will probably be a widow before she loses her looks. Even if she were passee, her fortune could buy her a. young and charming husband. You know it is true that Mr Cope has made a will leaving her all his money now. Wouldn't it be luck for her if anything happened to him before the lamb was. led to the sacrificial altar? I always think she is in love with Prince Cecil. Certainly his attentions are enough to turn her head."

Lady Adela thought there might be some truth in the words, replying : " It will be rather sad to see such a beautiful woman tle<l to a. plain, unromantic partner. 1 don't know why, but I ieel tevrilAy depressed to-day. as if something dreadful were going to" happen. I am always supposed to be" a little clairvoyante, and .these intuitions never come to me for nothing."

Her companion laughed off the idea, for sho was' utterly devoid of superstition. Even as she did so there was a sound of running feet outside, and AdeLa Fane's maid burst into the room. ''Oh. my lady/' she g.'tsped, "such terrible newehas just- come to the castle." i'.dela sprang to her feet. " I know what it is!" she cried. "One of cur party has bee'i shot."' "Ah. then they told yon, my lady. They want somebody to break the news to Miss Davenought." Her Grace had risen also, and now she felt how easily her words might be put to the test. . "Is Mr Cope killed?"' she asked, in a calm voice, her cheeks paling slightly, though otherwise she appeared quite unmoved. " No, vour Grace ; but he is terribly injured. They say it was Count de Marchant's doing He was exactly behind the Prince, and as he raised hi* gun to fire at p. bird Mr Cope was seized with some kind of stroke, and fell sideways, knocking him over. The Count's gun exploded, causing the injurv, which is likely to prove fatal." " I will go and break ths news to hu fiancee," said the Duchess. "Someone must prepare her before he is carried, back." She -went quickly out. into the corridor, and just at that "moment a, wild shriek rang through the castle. Then Clover rushed towards them. Her eyes were widely distended, her lips parted' and trenbling, whilo her whole face was convi.lsed with agonv too poignant for words. In a flash the hitterest thoughts tortured the brain of the girl. "The one man in the whole world I loved," sho said to herself. The story of what had occurred.' was bluntly told to her by an agitated servant, "and instantly she felt Bertram was .A hero and a martyr.. She zueesed he had_

feigned the sudden illness -which averted a treacherous deed, and in return for his bravery ho was lying maimed and wounded. " It is the big, rough men," she thought, "who do these splendid things, while the more cultured and refined dream and are inert."

Clover always thought herself a strong character; but now she utterly collapsed, painful sobs breaking from her in a flood of torrential grief. She wanted to rush out and meet the mournful procession on its homeward way; but the Duchess and Lady Adela restrained her, saying her presenco might make things worse for Bertram. The words helped her to regain her self-control. There was always hope while life remained, and she vowed no paid attendant should • wait upon Bertram. She would nurse him so long as she had the strength to move, believing that the force of her love and the magnetism of her will might draw him back from the very jaws of death if she could only have sufficient faith in her own powers, which had never failed her yet. Drying her tears, she began to give orders from her head though her heart was numb and stricken, while all the blood in her body felt congealed. Through her forethought a telephone message was despatched to London's greatest physician, and all preparations personally seen to before the suffering body was carried to its bed.

The house gathering was prepared for the sudden entrance of gloom, but did not expect the men to return to the Castle in a state of furious anger. Bertram's name was on every lip in a tone of deepest veneration, since all who stood near knew and* spoke of his brave deed. For once the Count de Marchant had bungled, making his action so transparent that those who looked on guessed the dark secret of his heart. He had turned deliberately to shoot his host down like a dog, while Bertram, quick of brain, hurled his cumbersome form between them, risking his own life, a willing sacrifice for a fellow-creature.

Count de Marchant was instantly made aware of the feeling against him, while at last Prince Cecil, convinced by what his friend had seen, coldly suggestod it, might be better if Count Ernest took his departure from the Castle that very afternoon.

De Marchant continued loudly to pity himself for what had occurred. "Apoplectic people," he said, ' subject to seizures, have no right to indulge in sport. That fellow might well have killed me instead of almost killing himself. Even without a gun in one's hand, it is no joke to be hurled violently to the ground beneath such a mountainous form as Bertram Cope's." But no one, not even the women with whom he had tried to tlirt. spoke a word of .sympathy to the foreigner. With a sigh of relief they watched him drive away with his vale*., who packed with remarkable switness, and whose absence, was highly popular with the Castle servants.

The Prince's c-onfider.ti;il man, now that His Highness was convinced of treachery, told some rather startling truths. Tho Count's valet boasted many wild deeds on the Continent, and his prying habits gave color to tho idea that ho was a political spy.

Prince Cecil remembered Clover's warning. M Perhapis," he thought, "women have keener perceptions than men ; we are rash indeed when v.e laugh them down."

Those who. had said she could not be devoted to Bertram felt humbled and ashamed as they watched hor during those hours of tension, whea ho hung between life and death.

The great physician remained at the Castle throughout tho night, declaring if Mr Cope lived till the morning the crisis would be over; but he reluctantly gave little hope that the patient vvou'd ever open his eyes on another day. But a stranger could not gauge the latent strength which made Bertram Cope such a remarkable man. When he was believed to be unconscious, he knew ftdl well that Clover knelt by his side and prayed. He felt the soft touch of her hand, and caught the low sobbing which broke from her lips at intervals while she rained kisseh on his face—passionate kisses, of which he could hardly have believed her capable. He heard her call him such names as hero, martyr, saint, and a vague sense of humor stirred within him which seemed to deFy death.

When daylight came there was a marked change, in the sufferer —a. fall of temperature and a return of strength. " I cannot account for his rallying so wonderfully." said the. physician, giving Clove! - the first ieal words of hope. ''l believe,'' she said, "our spirits spoke to each other when you thought he was unconscious. Bertram always does as 1 tell him. I told him he must live, and he has obeyed me. That is all."

" We are often very far from the mark when we judge our fellow-creatures," said the Duchess of Claw brook some weeks later, speaking of Bertram Cope. "If I had not been at Morven Cast La I should have pitied the beautiful girl when her fiance «o unexpectedly recovered. I see in the papers they have gone abroad for their honeymoon, and will bo away for some months. I called -on her just before the wedding ; I have never seen a bride-elect look happier. ' I was only a child until that terrible day,' she confessed to me, speaking of the accident in the autumn.

'The fear of losing him made me 6u<ldciily old. Now I tell Bertram the difference between us is bridged over; wo are the same age at. last. You can't think howwell we. get on in consequence.' She certainly did not look a day older," the Duchess added, with a good-natured laugh; ''but I think I know what she meant. Pome people only find themselves when death or danger threaten. A surprise will await them on their return. Prince Cecil tells me Bertram Cope is to be made a baronet.

[The Exd.]

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19150102.2.11

Bibliographic details

FOR LOVE OR MONEY?, Issue 15690, 2 January 1915

Word Count
3,813

FOR LOVE OR MONEY? Issue 15690, 2 January 1915

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