|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.
*N AMJER/CAN STORY OF THRILLING INTEREST.
By Maby. E. Bryan,
I (Commenced in the Evening News of Sep I tember 20.) ? v ? I CHAPTER LIV. — (Continued.)
She knew all that lie bad renounced. She remembered his social accomplishments, his powers of fascination, the homage of his satellites, his fastidious, pleasure-loving nature. Could she fail to remember how he had loved her? — how desperately he had sought to make amends for the wrong he had tried to do her ? He had saved be#r life — at ?what fearful cost to himself she was reminded every time she jsaw him. That terrible crush
ing fall had left its trace. A slight lameness clung to ihiTn ; a deep scar showed redly on his white temple. She went to hear him once, and again she caught the infection of his zeal. His eloquence took her out of herself. She was caught up in the fiery chariot of- his im passioned love for his kind, his thirst to do them good, to win. them to his side in the fight. He came to see her. His clear eyes read her secret. He knew that her heart was solitary. He had feared so' from her poems. He alone felt the meaning of that undertone of sadness there was in them. He said to her, ' You need work.' f Give me some of your work/ she answered. And so he took her among those she could help — children starved in body and soul, women bowed with ill health and neglect, and the memory of past sins, miserable and forsaken ones to whom a She had a comprehending sympathy with such people : she was so patient, so simple, so kind, with no shadow of patronising. She was eo winningly helpful in small household ways of sick-bed attendance and care of children and preparing of food, that she did more good than she knew. He watched her little ways — childlike and winsome as of old, and yet with that ? unconscious dignity that had amused and charmed him then — he watched her, and he said to himself, as he had said before, ' She is a pearl above price — and I have lost her.' They talked only about her work ; about books and the new thoughts that were born in the brains of progressive men, and the schemes for the good of humanity that were fermenting in other minds besides his own. She looked up to him with loving reverence. Here was a hero worthy to bend the head before — such a hero as the age demanded. She would have deemed it sacrilege to remember, save as a past unmeaning dream, that this man who seemed enthroned above human weakness had once loved her. It was a mere flickering passion flame, she thought, long ago eclipsed in the white light of re ligious philosophy. She underrated her power of holding the heart of a man ; she under rated the strength of the passion she had in spired. Men like Carleon have tenacity, as well as strength of feeling. His love for this sweet child-woman whose deep soul he had instinctively probed was the passion of his life. It had. been subdued, held in check ; not killed. No mortal man can crush a strong feeling utterly under the heel of his wilL Only by repeated struggles, eternal watchful ness, is victory won. Carleon bad sought to do the ?R'oman he loved a kindness ; he did himself a hurt. He realised it, and made his resolve. Strong as he was, he dared not stay and face this temptation. He left the city suddenly. He went to the far north-west — a self -sent- missionary to the Indians. From time to time Kildee heard through the papers of his great work among the poor savages. Occa sionally she saw his name appended to earnest appeals on behalf of the Indians — to bold rebukes of the injustice done them. He espoused their cause against their oppressors — against their pretended, friend — the Govern ment. He wrote of their needs, their wrongs, the cruelty that drove them from their valley homes, -where they had planted their fields, had built their cottages, and churches, and schoolhouses, and were making pathetic efforts to become civilised and to rear their children in more enlightened ways. Through the grasping covetousness of the white man, with hia Government backing, the poor
creatures were driven from those beloved settlements in the more fertile valleys, and forced to fly with, what they could take, and herd upon some bleak rocky spot of inhospit able plain or hillside, shelterless and heart broken. Carleon depicted the wrongs of this savage race, and their sins which had grown out of these wrongs. He denounced the villainy cf agents sent amongst them to swindle and plunder, and to demoralise them with liquor. Kildee read his vivid words with eager sympathy. She iaissed him sorely. More than once she thought of writing to him, but she could not venture to do this. In his short note of farewell he had not asked her to write — had given her no address — had said he would be as nomadic as Noah's raven. Once she went to Lear a lecture by a man ?who had been travelling and sojourning on the Pacific coast. He spoke of Carleon ? of his self-denying life — how, with all his accomplishments, liis social and intellectual gifts, his large fortune, he yet lived in rigid ein-plicity among far-off wilds, with a savage, uncongenial people, for the sole sake of doing good to that people, through the sole motive of lovfl and pity. 'The man ia sublime,' said the lecturer. * Ho is a hero, to whom Napoleon is a pigmy. When he dies in. that far-off land, let it bo said of him as of one not so great : Lay not a lanrel crown, but lay a sword Upon his lonely grave, for he ias fought Alone against a'host ? : At his far, frontier post, Nor rest nor love iior pleasure has he sought. As Kildee listened she found herselfsob bing.' Life was harder to her now. Her home-life was overshadowed. Max had failed in the business speculations he had under taken. The money lost had been hers. It had come to her from her father's estate. It was all swept away. She did not reproach him by a look — instead, she comforted him with loving, encouraging words. But he was soured with disappointment. These sweet, weak natures easily sour when things go wrong. Max had tasted the novel intoxicat ing cup of prosperity, the gratification of being thought a man of means, the sensuous delight of surrounding himself -with, petty luxuries and being liked and caressed in society. He keenly resented the loss of these.
That they were lost through, his own lack of judgment made him only more bitter. He returned to his studio, but he had poor success. His old, genial, bright manner was gone. He did not attract. He had never excelled as a painter, and now his hand seemed to have lost its cunning. . He had failed to follow Art with loving faithfulness, and now she took her revenge. It became a struggle with them to live. Their pretty home was given up, their furni ture sold, and the money spent in paving i board. Max would not apply to Kildee's relatives, for they had lent him money before, and he had used it to buoy the sink ing enterprise hg had invested in. He de termined to go to his aunt in Minnesota. She was well off, and she liked him. She had helped him more than once before his mar riage. He had not the sturdy independence
that scorns assistance. He was quite willing to be helped. He went, taking Kildee with him, and the little child had been born to them within the past year. But to his disgust he found his aunt on the point of marrying again, and wholly taken up with her prospective husband and his children. After a short stay they set out to return to New York. They were on their way there this December day. ' Such a drear, wild day ! The level, tree- ' less stretch of -land was one vast expanse of snow. The wind blew icily, the sky lowered in masses of heavy clouds. There was every sign of a fresh snowstorm. In a little while it began. It increased steadily in violence ; the air was filfed with, whirling, blinding flakes; the track was buried more and more deeply under the white drift j the engine panted more laboriously as it ploughed through the deepening mass, the train moved more slowly, and the impatience and anxiety of the passengers momentarily increased, Night approached, and still the snowstorm continued. At length it became evident that the train could not proceed. In vain the engine labored, struggled, and groaned like some living giant. In vain coal was piled under 'the boiler and steam raised till the safety-valves gave warning. The train re fused to move. It was snowed up. ? The night came down, and with its coming the snow ceased to fall, and the wind took up the cruel story. A bitter wind. The pitiless soul of the polar regions was in its breath. The thermometer fell rapidly. The cold in creased every minute. The passengers began to complain that the car was uncom fortable. ? Put more coal in the stove,' -was the cry, and the request was not promptly obeyed. Presently a fearful rumor began to circulate ; there was but little coal left upon the train. It had been used too lavishly in trying to force the engine through the snow. Before midnight the coal had entirely given out. The suffering began to be great. The crying of children, the querulous exclamations of 'women, and the muttered ejaculations of men were heard. The cold became intense. ' Burn the seats !' cried one, arid the words were taken up. The appeal was made to the conductor ; he ordered an axe to be brought, and soon half-a-dozen seats were broken and split to pieces and the fragments crammed into the stove. As they burned more seats were made into fuel to feed the fire and im part a warmth to the half -frozen occupants of the car. The seats were all destroyed, the passengers crowded around the stovt, pushing each other in their efforts to get near it, the selfish element coming out, as it does al waysin a time of periL Kildee claspedher child to her bosom and stood silent and suffering. She had taken off her warm- shawl to wrap about the little one. She looked anxiously at Max. His health was delicate. Disap pointment and anxiety had 'worn upon him. She felt glad that his overcoat was thick and new. She had knotted her fur boa around his neck to protect his throat. He waited to take the child, but she would not let him. He seemed to feel the cold intensely. He was blue and trembling. His sufferings made him selfish, almost to indifference. He hardly noticed that some rough men were crowding her. back from the stove. He made a feeble remonstrance, a weak attempt to oppose the elbows and shoulders that pushed her aud her child as well as himslf away from the life saving heat j then he gave up and let the half -drunken roughs have their wilL The door of the car opened and shut quickly.
A man had entered. One glance at his strong, calm face made Kildee's fast congealing blood stir with a quickened motion j it was Carleon, journeying back eastward, through some impulse too strong to resist. His face inspired hope. ' He may help us,' was Kil dee's dreamy thought, * or, at least, he will take care of my child.' She sat where she had sunk upon the floor, and Max sat helpless by her. Carleon saw them. He made his way to her side. He lifted her quickly to her feet. He spoke to her almost sharply ; he felt she must be roused. ' Give me the child and drink this,' lie said. He put the baby on his arm and put the flask containing the brandy to Kildee's lips. * Drink,' he said, and she obeyed him. But her faculties were fast becoming paralysed. He handed the flask to Max, and with a few words of stern command, a vigorous sweep ing of his arms, he cleared a way through the men to the - stove, which still radiated a little heat. He wore a long cloak, lined throughout with the gray fur of the Rocky Mountain fox. He took it off, and putting the baby in her arms, wrapped both in the warm cloak, paying no heed to her remon strances. , ? ? 'T am. used to the cold,' lie said cheerily. 1 1 'Have weathered many a norther on the plains. Never mind me.' He made a place for Max beside Kildee, where she sat near the Btove. Then he stood by them with, arms folded over his chest, and talked cheer fully, glanced -from topic to topic, trying to keep them awake and animated. The* brandy had made Max rally a, little, but he seemed still to suffer greatly. _. The. long night hour went by. The fuel was exhausted — the stove cold long before help arrived ; it came at last. ,As the morn ing' dawned clear and bright over the waste of snow, the strong engine with a . supply of coal, which had been telegraphed for, came to their assistance. It arrived too' late for some. Several were frostbitteur— others had incipient inflammation of the lungs. Among these last was* Max. He was attacked with pneumonia. He was taken to the next station, a railroad village, -put to bed 'in the best room of the little hotel, and a physician summoned. For days he lay near -nto death, nursed bj»
Kildee with devoted tenderness and attended by a skilful physician -from Indianapolis, I whom Garleon had summoned by telegraph. * Stay with him, you shall not lose by giving him all your attention,' Carleon said to the doctor, who was has friend. The attentive nursing, the skilful treat ment, seemed about to achieve a victory.' Max grew better 5 then -was wilfully im prudent, relapsed, and was soon past hope. Just as the stars: came out in the pale sky of the Christmas eve, while the sunset afterglow yet flushed the u aste of snow, the life of Max Rubin went out, his last look resting . on the face of the wife he loved. They carried him back to the home of early years, and laid him beside his mother — his father slept by the arrowy Rhone in ' Vater land.' Carleon attended to everythiug. He left Kildee alone with her g^ief. The child would be her best comforter. After the funeral he was surprised to hear of Kildee's intention to go to New York. He had thouhgt she would ? go to her sister in the south. Had he known the indebtedness to Heathcliff, which poor unbusiness-like Max had incurred, he would have understood Kildee's reluctance to accept the warm invitation that she should come to them at once. She went to New York to the house in which she and Max had boarded before that ill-starred journey to the Pacific. Carleoji parted from her at the wharf directly he had seen her ashore and procured a carriage for her. She gave him her hand from the car riage window, and thanked him as she had done before. ' I will communicate with you on a busi ness matter as soon — as soon as I can,' she said. Her manner seemed to him reserved, even cold. ' She is remembering my old sins,' he thought sadly, as he turned away. He did not know the intricacies of woman's nature. He did not understand that she was blaming herself remorsefully for not having loved Max more devotedly. She had not failed once in outward duties ; but in heart she was con scious that she had not been able to accord him that perfect love, that proud, trustful looking-up to which was her ideal of wifely duty, Carleon saw her no more to speak to for. two weeks. He hesitated to . intrude upon her grief while it was new, but he was troubled about her future. He had gathered from Max, during his interval of improve ment, that he was without means. Every day he walked or rode by the house that held her and her child, but she rarely had a glimpse of her. One day he saw her come out closely veiled and drive to a jeweller's shop. When she went into the shog she had a package in her hand 5 when she came out she no longer had it. Carleon waited until she had driven away, and then, went into the shop. The jeweller and his clerk were examining a set of beautiful pearls — just bought, they told him. He asked per mission to loot .at them. Inside, on the gold setting of each piece he saw the en graved initials of Ki! dee's maiden name. It was her father's gift to her on the even ing of his inauguration balL . She had needed money badly, Carleon knew, or she would not have parted with it. He bought the jewels ; he would find a way to restore them to her some time. Leaving the box at the jeweller's, he 'went to her boarding-house and asked to see her. She came in at once. * I am glad you came,' she said, as she sat near him. 1 1 wanted to see you to ask if you would kindly make out a statement of the expenses — for everything. I wanted to pay it.' (So it 'was to get money to defray the expenses of her husband's illness and burial that she had sold her pearls.) ' I will send you the bills,' Carleon said, ' with the receipts attached.' ?Receipts?' 'Yes, everything lias been paid. I had money in my possession belonging to your husband. I bought some pictures from him which. he had hung up in a gallery here. The money they brought paid for everything with a little balance over — some 300 dollars, which I have taken the liberty to put in«the bank to your account.' ' Oh, Mr. Carleon, ' the pictures 'were not
worth so much — not nearly so much. It can not ? ' ' It was a business transaction,' said Carleon conclusively, l Dr. Simms was witness to it. I have the order for the pictures signed by your husband. Now will you tell me your plans ? I have no riaht to aek, but ? ' ' Tes, you have the right — the right of jnj friend — my good friend. I can never forget your kindness to him and me. I am going to stay here and try to earn, a living by writing ; ohj not poetry. I know writing poetry would not bring ine bread. I am going to do news paper work for the Times. Mr. Wentwortb. is an old friend, I have written for him before things that pleased him, and he will try me now on a little salary— ^-enough to support me.' * Are you sure you are strong enough for it?' * Oh, yes ; I am never ill. It will do me good.' He looked doubtingly at her little pale face worn by nursing and anxiety. He was afraid she would see in her eyes the strong yearning that came over him. He walked to the other end of the room, then came back to where she sat. ' I am going away,' he said ; * going back to the Pacific coast. If at any time I can render you the service of a friend, will you let tne know? I b«g yftu to believe how gladly I 'would render such a service.' * I do believe it,' she answered. He took«her hand in his, looked with grave tenderness into her eyes, and said : ' God keep you, dear child \ good-bye.' It -was nearly a year, before she saw him again. It was a busy year to her. The 'work was new to her ; she tried hard to make it wholly satisfactory. And in the intervals of her newspaper labors she began to write a book. The 'work and the care of her child, and some anxious thought, wore upon her. Her face lost a little of its perfect oval ; her dark, sweet eyes had aweary look. Christmas Eve, as the twilight fell, she was seated in her tiny sitting-room,' beside the glowing grate. She had been writing, . but had laid down her pen to look at a pretty [picture — her child asleep -on the deep, warni-colored rug before the fire— ^a flaxen-hatred doll in one arm, the other .around the' heck of the pretty, snaggy white dog that #as also coiled up and comfortably napping.
? Come in,' Kildee, said as a rap came upon the door. She thought it was the servant with her tea. She started up when she saw the broad-shouldered figure and strong brown- i bearcted face. She came to meet him, with a flushed cheek and out-stretched hands. He held her hand, and looked down at her face. , * The work has not been good for you after all,' he said. : ? - ' Do not decry your own prescription/ she answered smilingly. * Once you said to me ' You need. work,' and I have found it a tonic and a panacea.' * May I change the prescription ?' he asked, still holding her hands and looking into her eyes. I said then, ' You need work ;' may I say now, ' You need love's tender care ?' May I give that to you, Kildee ? My own, my one love, I need you more than I can tell.' Her answer satisfied his heart. (The End.)