|Newspaper Title||Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)|
|Trove Title||Mystery of the Red House: An American Story of Thrilling Interest|
Mystery of the Red House
AN AMEEICAlSr STORY OF THEIL LING INTEREST.
By Maby E. Bryan.
Tho afternoon was fine ; the bay in the i distance sparkled in the sunshine, a light sea breeze played with the grey moss .beards of the live oaks. Ochiltree race track — two miles out from the old city of Wallport — was in £ood condition — the dust laid by a harJ shower the day before. It was only four o'clock, but a number of
worshippers of horseflesh were showing off their fast trotters attached to light buggies that fairly spun round the course The foremost of these vehicles was drawn by a span of ponies — clean-limbed fellows that lifted their feet in thoroughbred style . He who handled the reins with graceful non chalance was Miles Carleon, owner of the race- track and of the finest turf horses in the State. He was over thirty, but did not look: so ; he carried his medium. height, compact figure with easy assurance ; he was fair and florid, with chestnut hair m half curls, and a light moustaebo shading bis voluptuous mouth. ' Hold on.' he cried out to a groom in front of him who was exercising his favorite horse — a black stallion, with a hint of Tartar blood in his powerful build * You are worrying Mahmoud, holding him in. Get down and take these reins. I'll let him out a little ; it's what he's fretting for ' He checked the ponies as he spoke, leaped over the wheel and mounted into the saddle the groom had vacated. A5 he was about to be off, two young men drovs up. * See here, Carleon,' cried one of them, ' I heard you say that Mrs. Montealm would be at your island party to-morrow ; are you certain of it ? Be sure of what you say — there's a bet pending.' ' One is sure of nothing in this world, least of all of what a woman will do,' Carleon answered, turning his head over his shoulder. ' Hold on. Have you heard the report — generally known — that her husband told her she should never enter his house again if she went to Aphrodite Island ?' ' Yes.' * And you believe ifc ?' - I think it likely ' * Then it's no bet, Thorabury. I'll not throw away money-' * I'll take you up, Tnornbury,' Carleon said quietly. ' What were the stakes ?' * Only a double ten.' * Make it fifty — twice that, if you like.' ' No thanks. The fifty is all I'll venture. I'm doubtful of that since I see how confi dent you seem.' 1 Well ; fifty it stands Dyke there is witness. Ta-ta. I can't hold Mahmoud any longer.' He wheeled the horse out of the race-track as he spoke and set out at a fast pace along the level beaten road that led to the city. * Carleon 's showing shrewd business sense of late,' said Dyke ; ' keeps things pretty well in hand, and is piling up the shekels Shouldn't wonder it he has an eye to enter ing the political field ' * Tell me about him,' said one of the equestrians, riding up to the side of the baggy — a boyish little blue-jacketed mid shipman from the United States steam-ship that lay in port ' I know he's a tiptop fellow ; fine judge of horseflesh, and wines, and all that ; but what else ? He owns this racecourse, doesn't he ?' ' Yes ; and the largest liquor house in Wallport, and the Arcade Gambling Saloon, where you dropped a few dollars last night. Carleon was born to good luck He ran through one big fortune ; and just as the world was clapping its hands' and crying out : ' Here he goes, down — down !' the seesaw of good luck bounced ' up, up,' once more. A miserly old aunt left him the half-million she had been starving herself to save ' * And so he once more rides on the. top wave of society ?' * Well, not exactlv. Wallport is straight laced — full of mouldy aristocracy. Carleon ran through his character as well as his money, and he didn'tget the former renewed. He's still - a bankrupt in that line. The Bourbon blue blood turns the cold shoulder to him Papas don't invite him ; mammas draw' their pretty charges closer under their wing when he Js- encountered. Even Mrs La Rue, jwho is only a hanger-on to the out skirts of the exclusive, doesn't pet him openly ;, she's afraid to. You see, he is notorious.' ' ' And who is Mrs. Montcalm,?1 * The handsomest womau in Wallport — - married to the haughtiest, coldest man. Just now, however, he-seems to be courting popu lar favor ; has joined all the societies, speaks on public occasions, bows io people on the streets and shakes hands with them — one can see it goes against the grain for him to do it. fi's clear he means to run for office. His elder brother, General Uolff Montcalm, will back him. The general is an old favorite on the political track, you know — an old war-norse, with no end of record, would beat any man now that could be trotted out, only he's retired. He'll give his influence to his younger brother; and if the nominating convention will only—' * Pray S6ri't give us any politics, Dyke ; save all that for your paper,1 broke in Thornbury,
' Does Mrs Montcalm belong to the La Rue set ?' asked the little midshipman. ' She does and she doesn't . We had her to a few germans this winter, but of late she is holding back She has a dull time of it in her home — husband neglectful, morose, neighbors unsocial. She has only been here two years ; and the Wallport women of the Bourbon stock are dreadfully cliq uish . They do not take kindly to strangers. So there is nothing for Mrs. Montcalm but to falf into the Sans Soaci ring — Mrs. La Rue, Carleon & Co. — who revolve outside the narrow orbit of the exclusive Mrs La Rue is witty and kind-hearted, Carlecn is captivating, and we, the ' Co ,' are inno. cently diverting. Unfortunately, Mrs. Montcalm's husband doesn't view us in thia benevolent light. He objects to our amus. ing his cara sposa ; particularly does he object to Carleon ; and so* — ' ' And so you are good to lose that fif fcy, Thornbury,' interrupted Dyke. ? Possibly. We shall see what a day will bring forth4' Meantime. Carlfi/m TiJirJ rA!?.r».Tifid - iT-.fi n~i+,v
suburbs and turned into a narrow street, bordered by old-fashioned, dilapidatedlook ing' houses. Once this had been a fashion able quarter, and still there was an effort at shabby gentility to be seen in some of the
swellings. Carleon stopped before a tall, narrow bouse with weather-stained walls, from which the plastering had dropped away in places, giving it a leprous look. A 'crooked stairway led up to a porch with a mossy stable roof and pillars matted with. ivy. Ivy also muffled several of the srcvall narrow windows that had hood-like roofs and iron railed balconies. One of these windows W2,s open, and Carleon saw a slender figure :m black pass before it. ' She is here,' he said, ami dismounting, be gave his horse in charge of a venerable negro and entered the honse. ^He opened the outer ooor without cere mony, but inside the hall he stopped before a, door on the right hand and tapped gently At first there was no response ; he repeated bhe knock, and a female voice with a blight foreign tone said : ? Enfcrez.' The thrill tones of a parrot echoed the words. Carleon opened the door, and the lady stopped walking and turned round, facing him, leaning one -hand oil an old fashioned, claw-footed stand upon which sat the ca^e of the parrot. ' Welcome if ycu are a- friend !' cried the bird in Spanish. Carleon laughed, took a raisin from his pocket and gave it to the parrot with one hand, while -with the other he lifted the slim, passive hand of its mistress and touched it to his lips. ? I was riding by and called in to see how you vere,' he said 'Yon are looking well That dress of black soft stuff bound at the waist with only a cord is becoming. A black lace mantil'a over your head, a pomegranate flower on your breast, and Montcalm will think he sees before him the sweet little senorita who won his soldier heart in years agone.' A derisive smile flitted over the dark, delicate-featured face, attractive, though no longer fresh. ? You could always flatter to gain your ends,' she said. * You are strangely anxious I should meet my er-husband. You have come now to make sure that I keep my appointment with Captain Monical-m this evening. Well, it wants two ho-ars of tbat time — and I — I have been considering if I shall go.' *I thought you were decided. There was nothing in his reply to your note to make you unwilling- to meet him ?' ? ? Nothing. He wrote that he was greatly
gnrprised to hear from use. No doubt ; it is probable that he thought me dead. He could see no good, he said, that could result from our meeting again, after ail these years and changes ; but he -would be at the place appointed — the old cemetery — at six o'clock. I did not look for anything more or anything less. I felt sure he wonld come — he is afraid to excite my anger, lest I expose him ; this is the secret of his compliance.' ' And you are doubtful if you will keep the appointment you made yourself ?' ? Made at your instigation, if you please. Why should I want to meet a man who wronged me so cruelly, who ignored me so utterly for all these years — robbed me of my child, evaded my pursuit, and took up his abode in a foreign hind to escape me ? I had no thought of meeting him when I came to thiB place I came here to see you, to ask you for the sake of old — friendship — to advance me a sum that would enable me to go upon the stage. You had money to throw away, and 1 knew you were generous. You have that grace, if no other. I did not know, until yon told me, that Captain Montcalm waa living here with a wife he had married two years ago — he who is right, fully my husband.' ? Not lawfully, however.' ? I care nothing for your law. Honor is above law He married me honorably as our customs go. In my country of Mexico
the ceremony of hand-fastening is binding in right if not in law. The man who breaks ifc stains his honor. When I married Burrell Montcalm, it was not possible to have the rites strictly legal. The counAry was in a tumult. He was a wounded refugee from Walker's routed army of filibusters. My mother and I nursed him. back to life. Before hia wound web healed he insisted on marrying me We took tb-6 Towfi kneeling before the shrine of the 'Virgin in our old church at home in the presence of my mother and friends. It was a left-hauded marriage —so they call euch in Mexico— but ii was honorable and sadred as any. I never, doubted his truth ; love, gratitude, honor, all seemed to bind him to ine. Yet he left me in a year — me a mother, though bat little over fifteen— and weni back to the States. He said it was to prepare a home forme and reconcile Tjjs family to receive me as his wife. Bat he did not return. He stayed away four years. A few letters came at first
- — short and unsatisfactory ; then these ceased. I had ijo money to seek him : no friend that coald help me I was miserable ; looked on as a poor dupyd wretch by those about me Then I fell in with you You persuaded me to leave my child and go with vou to the States to hunt ior my husband, 1 went— and — ' (to be continued.)