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- Harry Heathcote of Gangoil - 23/23 -

She could only whisper something which was quite inaudible, even to him.

"I shall keep it, and think that you are all my own. Stoop down, Kate, and kiss me, if you love me."

She hesitated for a moment, trying to collect her thoughts. She did love him, and was his own; still, to stoop and kiss a man who, if such a thing were to be allowed at all, ought certainly to kiss her! She did not think she could do that. But then she was bound to protect him, wounded and broken as he was, from his own imprudence; and if she did not stoop to him, he would rise to her. She was still in doubt, still standing with her hand in his, half bending over him, but yet half resisting as she bent, when, all suddenly, Harry Heathcote was on the veranda, followed by the two policemen, who had just returned from Boolabong. She was sure that Harry had seen her, and was by no means sure that she had been quick enough in escaping from her lover's hand to have been unnoticed by the policemen also. She fled away as though guilty, and could hardly recover herself sufficiently to assist Mrs. Growler in producing the additional dinner which was required.

The two men were quickly sent to their rest, as has been told before; and Harry, who had in truth seen how close to his friend his sister- in-law had been standing, would, had it been possible, have restored the lovers to their old positions; but they were all now on the veranda, and it was impossible. Kate hung back, half in and half out of the sitting-room, and old Mrs. Medlicot had seated herself close to her son. Harry was lying at full length on a rug, and his wife was sitting over him. Then Giles Medlicot, who was not quite contented with the present condition of affairs, made a little speech.

"Mrs. Heathcote," he said, "I have asked your sister to marry me."

"Dearie me, Giles," said Mrs. Medlicot.

Kate remained no longer half in and half out of the parlor, but retreated altogether and hid herself. Harry turned himself over on the rug, and looked up at his wife, claiming infinite credit in that be had foreseen that such a thing might happen.

"And what answer has she given you?" said Mrs. Heathcote.

"She hasn't given me any answer yet. I wonder what you and Heathcote would say about it?"

"What Kate has to say is much more important," replied the discreet sister.

"I should like it of all things," said Harry, jumping up. "It's always best to be open about these things. When you first came here, I didn't like you. You took a bit of my river frontage--not that it does me any great harm--and then I was angry about that scoundrel Nokes."

"I was wrong about Nokes," said Medlicot, "and have, therefore, had my collar-bone broken. As to the land, you'll forgive my having it if Kate will come and live there?"

"By George! I should think so.--Kate, why don't you come out? Come along, my girl. Medlicot has spoken out openly, and you should answer him in the same fashion." So saying, he dragged her forth, and I fear that, as far as she was concerned, something of the sweetness of her courtship was lost by the publicity with which she was forced to confess her love. "Will you go, Kate, and make sugar down at the mill? I have often thought how bad it would be for Mary and me when you were taken away; but we sha'n't mind it so much if we knew that you are to be near us."

"Speak to him, Kate," said Mrs. Heathcote, with her arm round her sister's waist.

"I think she's minded to have him," said Mrs. Medlicot.

"Tell me, Kate--shall it be so?" pleaded the lover.

She came up to him and leaned over him, and whispered one word which nobody else heard. But they all knew what the word was. And before they separated for the night she was left alone with him, and he got the kiss for which he was asking when the policemen interrupted them.

"That's what I call a happy Christmas," said Harry, as the party finally parted for the night.


Harry Heathcote of Gangoil - 23/23

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