|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 AMERICAN STORY OF THEIL LING INTEREST.
Bt Maet E. Bbyan.
(Commenced in tine 'Evening News of Sep tember 20.; CHAPTBS XII.— Continued.
'Max had a great 'bouquet of roses and carnations In one hand ; the other hand he held oehind him. Lottie flew to him and caught the flowers ' For me ! Say they are for me !' she cried. ' They are. Hall sent them. He will be here, he say 5, in half an hour. He has been very busy all dav, but his heart has been
vrith you, bo he desired me to say ; I am not prepared to guarantee the assertion.' Lottie buried her face in the bouquet, to hide the blush that made her cheeks as pink as the roses. ' You must keep them fresh ; they'll be lovely for you to wear to-night,' eaid Kildee, coming forward. ' You shall hare part o£ them,* Lottie declared. Kildee shook her head. * I won't consent to rob you of a single rose,1 she said. Max still held one hand behind him. 1 Gome here, little one,' he said to Kildee * Do you think you were forgotten ?' He drew his hand from behind, him, bringing into view a bouquet, smaller than Lottie's, but composed of exquisite flowers —white and deiicately tinted and fragrant. ' Tours,' he said, and gave it to her. She caught it in both hands and held it up. She whirled around in delight. .' Hazard is generous with his gifts,' Lottie said, a faint shadow stealing over her face ' Hazard, indeed ! Do you imagine he sent it ? Hazard has forgotten my ex istence He never did fancy me — muchly — used to tease me hatefully, I remember, and cropped my kitten's ears once. No, my flowers come from somebody else — some- body who never forgets me/ she said, raising her brown eyes to Max and layinar her head against his shoulder in the frankly affec tionate way he had liked so well awhile a.^o, but of late somehow, did not find so satis fying. Awhile ago, too, he would have Btooped and kissed, her with a frankness equal to her own. He did not kiss her now He touched her curly head with his plump, white hand; he stroked it gently, and if she had been observant she would have felt the tremor in his fingers. None of fchem noticed it ; none of them paid any attention to him. It seemed a matter of course to pet Kiidee, as it was to take advantage of her nimble fingers and deft q-aieii movements, her readi ness to help and her womanly wise devices The professor broke up the tableau- He lad gone into the outer room while waiting for his tea ; he came out this time, looking more worried than before. ' Everything goes wrong,' he said. ' St. Peter is in the sulks and won't touch his violin He'il not play a note to-night. He is sitting with his head between his hands, and won't even look up.' ' Kildee can bring him around. She always can,' said Mrs. Duck, soothingly 1 Go to him. Kildee '
Kildee had already gone. Gust:who came from the. room presently, reported that Kildee had coaxed St. Peter round so far as to make him sit up and loot at her. In a-littlfi while she came in, leading by the hand a remarkable- looking: being — a man well-proportioned, biit gaunt and thin, with a long, pallid face and lon^, snow-white hair and beard, contrasting strangely with his young- loosing features. These indicated a man scarcely thirty, with the expression that pervaded them was almost child-like. They indicated also refinement. His head ?was well-shaped — the forehead broad and full. This made it most strange to see the black vacancy of the eyes. They had a bewildered, wistful look, as of a lost child, and there was a child-like pathos in the droop of the mouth. * 1 have brought him in here because this room is brighter and prettier, and he has the dumps worse than usual, poor dear,' said. Kildee. ' I think his head hurts him. Auntie, let him have the arm-chair, please. I know what'll brighten him — egg-nog ; I'll make him some.' ' Where will you' get the eggs, Kildea ?' ' You never mind, Mr. Frank, I'll not trouble you. I go provided for Sfc. Peter.' She deposited her charge in the easy-chair and then drew out the ex-bonnet box and brought nut of its depths a couple of eggs that had been packed m cotton iu a little box ti themselves. ' Why the mischief were not those eggs i demolished by the baggage smasher ?' asked Frank, woaderingly. j ' Because they are guinea egg-*, stupid — I nearly as hard-shelled as. jour cranium ; I shall I try .conclusions ?' and she made a j feint of breaking one upon his head. She set him to stirring the yolk« for St I Peter's beverage,, while she beat the whites, | standing before Sfc. Peter, and talking to him j cheerin^ly. The regular sound and motion of the egg-beating aroused the daft creature's sense of rhythmic harmony, the strongest . instinct of nature He moved his head in time to it ; h*e looked about him wistfully, then at Kildee. * He wants his fiddle ; go and bring it to him ' Kildee said to Frank. When the iBstrument was put into his hands, he made a few languid passes of the bow across the strings. Kildee touched his hand ? * See here, St Peter,' she said ; 'lam I waiting for ypu to play thnfc I may dance. I And I'll keep time ; 'see ?' I She began to move her pretty* feet dance fashion, while she continued the egg beating. He nodded and began to play at I once, smiling at her as she danced and beat I ber egos at the same time. Her pretty I grey gown came just to the tops of her tiny I boots, and the play of her feet and the ease I and grace of her motions were a joy to see. I It had been a delight, the professor said, to I teach Kildee to dance. She took to it by I instinct. He hud an exalted estimate of I his own family ,'proficiencv in this I accomplishment, and he meant it as high
* She dances, sir, like ~a born Doke ' — meaning one of his own flock. The e,i-'g-nog was made and' Kildee gently took away the fiaint'B violin and gave him a goblet of the frothing nectar instead. He tasted it and testified his approval by smiling in jhis dazed, wistful way into her face. 1 Ah, he'« all licht,'* pronounced the pro
fessor, who had had his tea with a dash of. rum in it, and was again in spirits, ready to greet Hazard, who now entered on the scene, with effervescent rhetoric. Mrs. Duck's welcome was hearty ; she had warmly liked the handsome boy, and had cherished hopes of adding him to the family Lottie's piquant face was beaming with delight and blushes as she held out her hand. * You know all of us/ she said, looking around at the group. ' Gus and Frank have grown ont of the pea green sta^e since you saw them. Gus is our villian, which accounts for the scowl he has developed ; Frank is our lover We are proud of his moustache ; ifc is the ' early variety ' as we say of potatoes. Mamma here has grown younger, and Kildee taller and plumper, and — ' 1 And Lottie lovelier,' whispered Hazard. £ For shame ! You have not outgrown your propensity to flatter,' laughed the sparkling little actress. ' But here is some one 1 do not know,' said Hazard, looking with curiosity at the strange figure seated in the arm-chair, sip ping egg-nog. The blank face, bewildered, questful eyes, the odd, child-like dignity, the white hair and the smooth skin. The figure struck him as picturesque and quaint in the highest degree ' Oh. this is Signor Petnichio — our musical phenomenon — otherwise St. Peter/ ' ' St. Peter ?' ' You see the Ducciole Family Company carry their Saint along with them. The fun-making St Louis gaminB gave the poor dear that name because of his white beard and queer face, I suppose He 1r inspired as to music, . like Blind Tom — and a stark idiot in everything else.' ' Oh, Lottie, he is listening to yon !' cried KiMee, reproachfully ' Bemember he can hear, though he doesn't talk except in dis jointed words. He is hoc an idiot His soul has jnst gone out from him into his violin. His vioiin talks for him, pleads and moans for him — oh, eo well.' Hazard turned and looked at the girl more attentively. Home ring in her voice was strangely familiar to him. And who was ifc she resembled r1 Why could he not think ? The little high-bred way she carried her head, the dignity that was blended with her child-like grace, the winning beauty of her smile — the very droop of her eye-lids reminded him of some one he had lately seen. He kni;ted his brow in perplexing thought, but Lottie was claiming his atten tion. ' It is the strangest thing in the world,* she was saying. ' He understands nothing but music. Music must have been an in stinct with him, and when he lost his reason (through illness or accident, I think, for that head shows he was never born an idiot) why the instinct stayed behind Instinct does stay, you know, when reason goes. He plays divinely — dilficult compositions too. He had learned them by note, before his misfortune, or else he had .caught them by ear, as Blind Tom does.' ' Some day he may recover his reason — suddenly,' Hazard said, looking hard at the singular being, who., strange to note, raised his head at the same time and looked into Hazard's face with the wistful, intent ex pression one sees in the eyes of dogs.
' When and where did you find him, Lottie ?' ' He is Kildee's discovery She was walking on a back street in St. Louis one afternoon when she saw a group of gamins tormenting a white-haired man. They had taken away hi6 hat and fiddle, and were try ing to get at his squirrel They had seen the little animal run into bis sbirt bosom for refuge He was frantically gesticulating,
which only excited the little imps' derision and made them worse. Kildee looked around for a policeman, but, as usual with that fraternity when they are wanted, there was none to be seen She knew it would be useless to remonstrate with the boys They would only jeer at her ; so what does our KiJdee do, but begin to sing- and dance — and she dances iike an angel, a? you ought to remember The gamins Jeft off torment ing the man, and when she stopped they begged for another dance. ' Not unless you restore my uncle hia hat and fiddle,' said our girl ' Then he can play for me, and I will dance properlv.' 'The hat and fiddle were at once restored, and Kildee kept her promise. She began to dance, and the queer being began to play and played deliriously Sne rounded up with her pas final with a farewell courtesy and was running off, when the odd yenius caught her skirt She turned and held out her hand and he kissed it devoutly. From that time be took allegiance to her. He followed her home ; he would not leave her Fortunately we found we could put him to use. We were troubled about music. He could play with so much soul and science in one that he always delights an audience Nobody claimed him He was da Ft, but harmless, so we took him travelling with us. He passes as a distinguished foreign artist musicale, who conldn't or wouldn't deign to speak English, and folks actually take on about his dignity, and call his idiocy — the
eccentricities or genius, in Mexico he lost his squirrel j somebody mashed it to death accidentally, and St. Peter had a fearful fight with the poor man A lady who took a fa,ncy to,Kildee gave her a marmoset for the Saint You know what a marmoset is ? a queer little miniature monkey. Well, the creature loves St. Peter as the squirrel did, and he carries it in his bosom. It is there now asleep.' Supper was brought in at this moment. The company ate in their room, not caring to make themselves common and to sate the curiosity the public might have as to the looks of the troupe- — the ladies particularly. . They supped early, too— before the regular tea-time, that they might go to the theatre. Hazard had a cap of tea poured ont for him, by Lottie's little hands. He would go with them to the theatre, he said, and would see a part of the performance — the scenes from Shakspere— but at half-past nine he must say good-bye, as his train left at a quarter to ten. ' That is such a pity/ the professor eaid, * Yon will not see Kildee in the ' Knight's Temptation.' Kildee's muse, and dances always bring down the house.' ' And yon should see .her play the great lady/ eaid Mamma Duck. 'It is amusing to see the digmiied graces the little witch can put on-. She eeems to the manner born ' . Hazard thought it more than lisely there was bice blood in the girl's veins, on one eide, at least, of her parentage/ He wished he had asked Max something about .her mother ? Was she dead ? Had they ever
heard of her since she left the tenement house so abruptly nine years before ? Max had busied himself sending off the needed paraphernalia to the hall, and had drunk his tea at a gulp. His usually joyous face was clouded. While they waited for the carriage he took Lottie aside * Lottie/ he said, ' I wish from my soul it was possible to get along without the ' Knight's Temptation ' this evening, or anything Kildee has to appear in * ' Why, in wonder's name r' asked Lottie ' Because, you will call it imagination and me a fool, but I beliere 1 saw Kildee's mother this .afternoon on tlie piazza of the other, hotel- She was dressed very differ ently — neat and plain — and she looked a good deal older than when we knew her, and they called her a different name, but I do believe it was no other than Mrs, Gonzalis And just think, if she should see Kildee to-night, see how lovely and bright she is, she would be sure to claim her ' * Oh ! Max, that has always bsen your bugbear — thai somebody would claim Kildee. Don't cross bridges before you get to them You have imagined before that you saw Mrs. Gonzalis Let's hope that it was- not she, or that she will not recognize us. I don't think she would know Kildee And it is not likely 3he would want the «irl Why, if she was alive, has she never claimed her child before ? liven if it is she, aud she does lay claim to Kildee, she will have to establish that claim, and we can show that she deserted the child, and has made no sign all these years, and that she was an improper character. You remember how showily she dressed, and how she went out nights ?'
fehe had some business, she said ; she was an auenfc for something We couldn't prove her to be an unfit person. She might explain the desertion : she micht work on Kildee's feelings and her sense of duty.' ' Hush with your mights and your per ? bapses. ' Cast that shadow from your brow,' ' sang Lottie, tapping him with her fan. ' You broad-shouldered, brave fellow, you. You are a coward where Kildee is concerned There's the carriage^ Come on.' (to be continued.)