"But you won't part us altogether,--will you, Fred?"

"No, love."

"I knew he wouldn't. And mother may come to your grand house and creep into some pretty little corner there, where I can go and visit her, and tell her that she shall always be my own, own, own darling mother."

He felt that he must put a stop to this in some way, though the doing of it would be very dreadful. Indeed in the doing of it the whole of his task would consist. But still he shirked it, and used his wit in contriving an answer which might still deceive without being false in words. "I think," said he, "that I shall never live at any grand house, as you call it."

"Not live at Scroope?" asked Mrs. O'Hara.

"I think not. It will hardly suit me."

"I shall not regret it," said Kate. "I care nothing for a grand house. I should only be afraid of it. I know it is dark and sombre, for you have said so. Oh, Fred, any place will be Paradise to me, if I am there with you."

He felt that every moment of existence so continued was a renewed lie. She was lying in his arms, in her mother's presence, almost as his acknowledged wife. And she was speaking of her future home as being certainly his also. But what could he do? How could he begin to tell the truth? His home should be her home, if she would come to him,--not as his wife. That idea of some half-valid morganatic marriage had again been dissipated by the rough reproaches of the priest, and could only be used as a prelude to his viler proposal. And, though he loved the girl after his fashion, he desired to wound her by no such vile proposal. He did not wish to live a life of sin, if such life might be avoided. If he made his proposal, it would be but for her sake; or rather that he might show her that he did not wish to cast her aside. It was by asserting to himself that for her sake he would relinquish his own rank, were that possible, that he attempted to relieve his own conscience. But, in the mean time, she was in his arms talking about their joint future home! "Where do you think of living?" asked Mrs. O'Hara in a tone which shewed plainly the anxiety with which she asked the question.

"Probably abroad," he said.

"But mother may go with us?" The girl felt that the tension of his arm was relaxed, and she knew that all was not well with him. And if there was ought amiss with him, how much more must it be amiss with her? "What is it, Fred?" she said. "There is some secret. Will you not tell it to me?" Then she whispered into his ear words intended for him alone, though her mother heard them. "If there be a secret you should tell it me now. Think how it is with me. Your words are life and death to me now." He still held her with loosened arms but did not answer her. He sat, looking out into the middle of the room with fixed eyes, and he felt that drops of perspiration were on his brow. And he knew that the other woman was glaring at him with the eyes of an injured lioness, though he did not dare to turn his own to her face. "Fred, tell me; tell me." And Kate rose up, with her knees upon the sofa, bending over him, gazing into his countenance and imploring him.


Most Popular