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A Hero of the Pen by E. Werner

Alison had seated himself opposite the ladies


Before

Alison could reply, they were interrupted; a young servant girl appeared to announce the arrival of the lady of the house and Miss Forest, and to invite the gentlemen in.

Jane, with her usual self-importance, had kept her engagement secret from her relatives, and the betrothed pair met as strangers.

CHAPTER VII.

Lovers, Yet Strangers.

Five months had passed since Alison had seen Jane for the last time, in the elegant reception-room of her father's house, in an elegant toilet; now the tall figure came to meet him in a dark mourning dress, in the centre of the old-fashioned, simply-furnished apartment, which here served as the reception-room. Was it the contrast or the long separation? He had never seen her so beautiful.

"Pardon me, Miss Forest, for coming to visit you on my travels. Mr. Atkins assured me I should meet a kindly reception."

Jane reached him her hand. "A countryman is always welcome." Her glance met his; there was a wordless greeting; the only one between them; otherwise no token, not even the slightest, betrayed that here was a pair of betrothed lovers, who met after a half year's separation. Both had too much control over their features, were too much accustomed to

conventional barriers, to betray a relation not yet designed for publicity.

Jane turned to her aunt, and presented "Mr. Alison, a friend of our family?" Frau Stephen bowed; she could not understand the confidence and independence with which her niece received and dismissed strange gentlemen, this girl of twenty years, who, in her opinion, should still take refuge under her aunt's maternal wing, and at the most, only now and then venture a timid remark. Jane, had simply transposed matters, and assigned her aunt the silent rule. This by no means timid old lady had begun to be wholly controlled by the influence of her niece; she now remained passive and overwhelmed by a feeling of her entire inconsequence.

Alison had seated himself opposite the ladies. They spoke of his travels, of England and France, of the Rhine; but Henry's conversational powers were not brilliant. He waited from minute to minute, and with ever increasing impatience, for Atkins to give him an opportunity to be alone with Jane, but Atkins appeared to feel a lively satisfaction in his repressed vexation, and opened out the conversation to seemingly endless limits. The young American was not the man to be trifled with in this way; as no one came to his aid, he himself seized the helm, and simply requested Miss Forest to allow him to give over to her the letters and tidings from home which were designed for her alone.

Jane arose, and with a hasty apology to her aunt, conducted the young gentleman into the sitting-room adjoining the reception-parlor, leaving Mr. Atkins to console the old lady for this new American freedom. Scarce had the door closed behind them, when Alison stepped up to her, and with a powerfully repressed, but still impassioned gesture, took her hand in his.

"Pardon me Jane, for resorting to this awkward device! I could bear the suspense no longer."


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