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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCharles Rex - Part 2 - Chapter 2. Maud Bolton
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Charles Rex - Part 2 - Chapter 2. Maud Bolton Post by :zamrony Category :Long Stories Author :Ethel May Dell Date :May 2012 Read :2992

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Charles Rex - Part 2 - Chapter 2. Maud Bolton

PART II CHAPTER II. MAUD BOLTON

Someone was singing a baby lullaby very softly in the beautiful room with the bay window that looked straight over the rolling down. It was a very sweet voice that sang, and sometimes the low notes were a little tremulous as though some tender emotion thrilled through the song. The singer was lying back in a rocking-chair close to the bay-window with her baby in her arms.

Beyond the long, undulating slope there stretched a silver line of sea that gleamed with a still radiance in the light of the dying day. And Maud Bolton, who once had been that proud and desolate girl Maud Brian, gazed out upon it with happy, dreaming eyes. It had been a hot spring day and she was tired, but it was a pleasant weariness, and the little body that nestled on her breast brought sheer rapture to her woman's heart. It was the baby boy for whom for years she had longed in vain.

There came a slight sound at an open door behind her that led to another room. She turned her head with a quick smile.

"Jake!"

He came, treading softly, and stood beside her. The failing light on his rugged face showed it strangely softened, almost transformed.

He stooped after a moment and kissed her. "Why isn't the little 'un in bed?" he said, with his eyes on the sleeping baby-face.

The smile still lingered about her lips. "I thought he and I would both of us have a little treat tonight. Do you know he is six months old today?"

Jake's square fingers caressed the baby's placid forehead. "Yes, I know," he said.

Maud uttered a faint sigh. "And so--according to the law of the Medes and Persians--he is not going to sleep with his mother any longer. He is to be banished to the nursery. But I thought I would put him to sleep first."

Jake's look came to her face. "There's no law that I know of," he said in his slow way. "Keep him in here if you want to!"

She lifted her eyes to his--beautiful eyes, deeply violet. "Thank you, Jake. But it's all settled, and he won't mind."

"He doesn't matter so much," said Jake.

She smiled and laid her cheek against his arm. "No, it's all right. Nurse understands him. I won't have him again unless he's ill. I should have to then."

"Of course," said Jake. He bent down. "Let me have him! I'll take him to the nursery."

"Ah, don't wake him!" she said.

Jake's arms encompassed the little bundle and lifted it from her. The baby made a small noise that sounded like a protest, but he did not open his eyes.

"Don't you come!" said Jake. "I'll fix him."

And with light tread he bore his son away. Maud looked after him with a touch of wistfulness, but she did not move, and in a few minutes he came back to her, knelt beside her, and gathered her strongly into his arms.

"My girl!" he said softly. "My own girl!"

She clasped him round the neck, laying her head against him without words.

"Tired?" he said.

"No--no--not really! Too happy to complain anyway." She spoke in a whisper as if unwilling to break her silence.

"You want more help," he said.

She lifted her face and kissed his neck. "No, Jake dear. I don't want the children taken out of my hands entirely. Whatever should I do without them?"

"Look after me for a change," suggested Jake.

She laughed a muffled laugh with her lips raised to his. "Do I neglect you, Jake?"

"No," he said. "You're the best wife a man ever had. I believe I'm first with you--even now."

"Always--always first," she whispered against the lips that pressed her own.

He held her very closely to him for a space in silence. He had loved her with a fiery worship from the first moment of their meeting, but the wealth of her answering love still filled his soul with wonder. Over and over again he would tell himself that he was not her sort, but when he held her thus throbbing against his heart, he knew beyond all questioning that they were one.

"You haven't told me a single thing about today's meeting," she murmured presently.

Jake began to smile. "On my soul I had forgotten all about it. Prince Charlie has gained his first laurels. He won by two and a half lengths."

"Oh, Jake, how splendid! How proud you must be! I'm tremendously glad. And what about Charlie? Was he there to see his namesake carry all before him?"

"Saltash, do you mean? Yes, he was there." Jake's tone was somewhat dry.

Maud drew back a little to look at him. "I hope you asked him to dine," she said.

"Oh yes," said Jake, with a touch of grimness. "Bunny saw to that on your behalf. He considers--and with reason--that you have a right to ask whoever you like to your own house."

"Jake!" Maud suddenly sat upright, her eyes burning like stars. "If Bunny said that--"

"He didn't," said Jake.

"Or hinted it even--it was perfectly hateful of him! I shall go and tell him so!"

Maud made as if she would release herself from his hold, but he restrained her.

"No--no, my girl! You keep calm! I can hold my own with Bunny, and he didn't mean any harm. I asked Saltash all right, and he's coming."

"Against your will," said Maud.

"No. Against my judgment, maybe. Not against my will. I've no objection to entertaining him if you wish it. You and I don't quarrel over trifles like Saltash."

Jake's tone was humorously tender. He patted her flushed cheek in a conciliatory fashion. She turned very swiftly and kissed his hand.

"Thank you, Jake--darling. But--you are master in this house, remember. No one enters it without your consent."

"Not even Saltash?" smiled Jake.

"Not even--Bunny!" said Maud, still breathing resentment.

He took her gently by the shoulder. "Look here, my girl! I won't have you say a word to the boy about this, see? I didn't know you'd flare up like that or I shouldn't have spoken. He didn't mean it that way. If he had, I'd have punched his head. And after all," his eyes smiled suddenly into hers, "I do live on my wife's bounty, don't I? Wouldn't I be driving cows on the other side of the Atlantic without it?"

"No," Maud said. "You'd be owning your own ranch by this time, and--and--and generally licking creation, Jake, as only you know how."

"Oh, shucks!" said Jake softly, and kissed her again upon the lips. "I'd sooner be here anyway. Well, Saltash is coming, so we've got to make the best of it. I shouldn't care a cuss if it weren't for young Bunny. But he's always been keener on his lordship's company than I've thought advisable."

"Oh, Jake," she said, colouring a little, "I don't believe Charlie would do him any harm."

"Not intentionally perhaps," said Jake. "I've no ill feeling for him, heaven knows, but I can't say I think his society likely to have a very improving effect upon anyone."

"I don't think you quite understand him," Maud said thoughtfully.

Whereat Jake laughed so suddenly that she looked at him with raised brows. He got to his feet, still laughing.

"Very likely not. We've had a good many misunderstandings, he and I, from the day I cowhided him for a scoundrel to the day I nearly shot him for a blackguard."

"Oh, but that was all so long ago," Maud said quickly. "He wasn't much more than a boy in those days. He has grown a lot since then."

Jake grunted. "Which way, think you? Well, I must dress. He may be here before we're ready for him."

He turned to go back to his own room, but Maud stayed him for a moment. "Jake," she said almost wistfully, "you know--with all his faults--he always had--possibilities."

"I know," Jake said, looking down at her. "He's made the most of 'em too."

Her face quivered. "Don't," she said. "It--isn't it rather ungenerous to condemn a man unheard?"

Jake made a faint sound of contempt or scepticism, but no reply in words.

She drew herself up out of her chair by his arm. "Jake, I want you to do something for me."

"Well?" said Jake uncompromisingly.

She met his look unswervingly. "Let me be a friend to him tonight! Let me be alone with him and find out--if he will tell me--whether there is any truth in this rumour that there was a woman on board the yacht."

"And when you've found out?" said Jake.

She made a little gesture of appeal. "Will you leave that to me? I have sometimes felt that I might be--a help to him if ever there came an opportunity. Jake, you don't mind my trying to help him? I have a feeling that I understand him better than most people do."

"I think it's a wasted sentiment," Jake said. "But--do what seems good to you, my girl! I shan't interfere."

"And you won't be vexed?" she pleaded.

He smiled his sudden, illumining smile. "No, I reckon you'll never vex me any that way again," he said.

She went close to him. "Indeed--no, Jake! But--don't you understand? I hate to go against your wishes--your prejudices--in anything."

He put out a hand to her. "You needn't be afraid of that either," he said. "If you do it--it's right."

She clasped the strong hand tightly in both her own. "That's the best thing you've ever said to me," she said. "Are you quite sure you mean it?"

"Sure," said Jake, and pulled her to him to kiss her once again.

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