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   Chapter 7 THE PROPOSAL

Winsome Winnie and other New Nonsense Novels By Stephen Leacock Characters: 5143

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

They stood beneath the great trees of the ancestral park, into which Lord Mordaunt had followed Winnifred at a single bound. All about them was the radiance of early June.

Lord Mordaunt knelt on one knee on the greensward, and with a touch in which respect and reverence were mingled with the deepest and manliest emotion, he took between his finger and thumb the tip of the girl's gloved hand.

"Miss Clair," he uttered, in a voice suffused with the deepest yearning, yet vibrating with the most profound respect, "Miss Clair-Winnifred-hear me, I implore!"

"Alas," cried Winnifred, struggling in vain to disengage the tip of her glove from the impetuous clasp of the young nobleman, "alas, whither can I fly? I do not know my way through the wood, and there are bulls in all directions. I am not used to them! Lord Mordaunt, I implore you, let the tears of one but little skilled in the art of dissimulation--"

"Nay, Winnifred," said the Young Earl, "fly not. Hear me out!"

"Let me fly," begged the unhappy girl.

"You must not fly," pleaded Mordaunt. "Let me first, here upon bended knee, convey to you the expression of a devotion, a love, as ardent and as deep as ever burned in a human heart. Winnifred, be my bride!"

"Oh, sir," sobbed Winnifred, "if the knowledge of a gratitude, a thankfulness from one whose heart will ever treasure as its proudest memory the recollection of one who did for one all that one could have wanted done for one-if this be some poor guerdon, let it suffice. But, alas, my birth, the dark secret of my birth forbids--"

"Nay," cried Mordaunt, leaping now to his feet, "your birth is all right. I have looked into it myself. It is as good-or nearly as good-as my own. Till I knew this, my lips were sealed by duty. While I supposed that you had a lower birth and I an upper, I was bound to silence. But come with me to the house. There is one arrived with me who will explain all."

Hand in hand the lovers, for such they now were, returned to the Chase. There in the great hall the Marquis and the Marchioness were standing ready to greet them.

"My child!" exclaimed the noble lady, as she folded Winnifred to her heart. Then she turned to her son. "Let her know all!" she cried.

Lord Mordaunt stepped across the room to a curtain. He drew it aside, and there stepped forth Mr. Bonehead, the old lawyer who had cast Winnifred upon the world.

"Miss Clair," said the Lawyer, advancing and taking the girl's hand for a moment in a kindly clasp, "the time has come for me to explain all. You are not, you neve

r were, the penniless girl that you suppose. Under the terms of your father's will, I was called upon to act a part and to throw you upon the world. It was my client's wish, and I followed it. I told you, quite truthfully, that I had put part of your money into options in an oil-well. Miss Clair, that well is now producing a million gallons of gasolene a month!'

"A million gallons!" cried Winnifred. "I can never use it."

"Wait till you own a motor-car, Miss Winnifred," said the Lawyer.

"Then I am rich!" exclaimed the bewildered girl.

"Rich beyond your dreams," answered the Lawyer. "Miss Clair, you own in your own right about half of the State of Texas-I think it is in Texas, at any rate either Texas or Rhode Island, or one of those big states in America. More than this, I have invested your property since your father's death so wisely that even after paying the income tax and the property tax, the inheritance tax, the dog tax and the tax on amusements, you will still have one half of one per cent to spend."

Winnifred clasped her hands.

"I knew it all the time," said Lord Mordaunt, drawing the girl to his embrace, "I found it out through this good man."

"We knew it too," said the Marchioness. "Can you forgive us, darling, our little plot for your welfare? Had we not done this Mordaunt might have had to follow you over to America and chase you all around Newport and Narragansett at a fearful expense."

"How can I thank you enough?" cried Winnifred. Then she added eagerly, "And my birth, my descent?"

"It is all right," interjected the Old Lawyer. "It is A 1. Your father, who died before you were born, quite a little time before, belonged to the very highest peerage of Wales. You are descended directly from Claer-ap-Claer, who murdered Owen Glendower. Your mother we are still tracing up. But we have already connected her with Floyd-ap-Floyd, who murdered Prince Llewellyn."

"Oh, sir," cried the grateful girl. "I only hope I may prove worthy of them!"

"One thing more," said Lord Mordaunt, and stepping over to another curtain he drew it aside and there emerged Lord Wynchgate.

He stood before Winnifred, a manly contrition struggling upon features which, but for the evil courses of he who wore them, might have been almost presentable.

"Miss Clair," he said, "I ask your pardon. I tried to carry you off. I never will again. But before we part let me say that my acquaintance with you has made me a better man, broader, bigger and, I hope, deeper."

With a profound bow, Lord Wynchgate took his leave.

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