Chapter 138657457

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138657457
Full Date1893-07-15
Page Number35
Corrections0
Word Count2274
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleOne Christmas
article text

THE STORYTELLER.

ONE CHBISTMAS.

Br Mrs. Herbert Hammill.

Chapter II.

" Look here, old chap," he said, " I'll just go and explain matters to Sir John—he's an awfully jolly old fellow; and as for Lady M'Farlane, she's a regular angel. They'll be

as pleased as possible to see you, and you'll

like tliem all no end—I can promise you [

that."

So away he wept, leaving me in my poor old father's study, where for so many years he had managed his affairs so successfully; and there was very Bauie chair in which he had sat that morning, when all in a moment he learned from the newspapers the sudden and entire ruin that had befallen us. I could scarcely believe that a stranger was coming to bid me welcome in place of the dear old |

man I bad loved so well.

"Here's my benighted Antipodean," broke in' Itogerson's voice gaily, putting old memories to. flight, as he opened the door and came in with the present master of the houBe, a fine, handsome-man of about fifty, •with a firm, strong-looking face, whicli re laxed into a pleasant smile as, holding out his hand, he saii cordially:—" ! am very , . . . :3Tr. " * -

igtad to see you,™Ir. Malcolm. Our friend here has told me something of your adven tures. I hope yon will stay and spend the evening with'us. But "first, Nei! for good ness sake get him upstairs and into dry

clothes." J

Up the broad-oak staircase, all festooned with holly and mistletoe, and fight into my own old room, Rogerson led me. I gazed about me as one in a dream, while a curious ltip-van-Winklish feeling stole over me.

" Come on, old man," he said: " don't stop to sentimentalise, or yoO'll lay in an attack of rheumatism. What have you got in your bag? Dry togs? That's all right. Well, be as quick as you can. They're having no end of fun downstairs.'' As he spoke he stirred the fire into a glorious blaze, drew up beside:it a comfortable easy-chair (mine), and began to tell me about the different members of the family.

"First find foremost, there's Miss M'Far lane. Her name is Jessie, and she's—well,

I won't say anything about her, for you'll j

soon know her and can judge for yourself. Next to her comes Archie. He's a schoolboy, and up to anything. Then Mollie, nearly fifteen—awfully pretty she'll be; and a tribe of little ones from twelve years old down wards. Nancy and Robin are my favourites, I think, but they are all as nice as they can be. Oh, and by-the-by, there's an elder brother somewhere.- I have not seen him for a longtime. Ready? Come on, 1 hen. We'll find them all at the Christmas-tree, I expect"

" Ah, that is a new idea, I don't remem ber that We ever had any Christmas-trees."

"Nor-! ; but then, you see, Lady M'Far lane is English, and dearly loves to keep up the customs of her childhood. Oh, I assure you. Christmas Day is as much thought of in this house as New Year's, as you will soon see for yourself." , "

The joyous sounds of music, the merry peals of laughter, and the excited little shrieks of happy childhood led us direct to the-Scene of revelry, the long old picture gallery (alas? no longer did our ancestors | look complacently from its panelled walls).

ThegaTlery'had been brilliantly lighted, and at one end—that furthest from the entrance—was placed a beautiful dark fir tree. Among its many -branches twinkled innumerable coloured candles, glittering balls, and what seemed to me a whole shopful of toys.

'Round about, with happy faces and eager eyes, were, grouped children of all ages—rich and poor. Standing upon a chair, with one "arm raised high above her head to reach some distant .toy, coveted by the child at her side,' I first; saw Jessie M'Farlane.

The light was shining on her upturned, laughing face and oh her golden hair, and I thought then,'"as I do now, that face the

sweetest and-the fairest that I had ever

seen.

'' What are yon storing at?" said Rogerson; " come on and be introduced to Lady M'Farlane." Of course, I was charmed with her from the very first moment—everyone was, " Hoar do you do, Mr. Malcolm?' she jsaid, in her kindliest manner, as she drew aside her velvet skim to make room for me

between herself and hei- little daughter. .'( Tins is Mollie, and now you must tell us bow you came to be; "Wandering on the moor gin bucU a dreadful night. Of course, we have so often heaid of you from Mr. Rogerson tliat you do notSeem likel a stranger to us at

all." .

"What agoodfellow Rogerson is!" Ithonght to myself,, and very soon we were chatting away quite comfortably, and my hostess was telling me everything she thought would interest me bftay old home—pointing out to me Be vera! dm village bodies who for this one night iuyear were made merry and enter tained right royally—comforted with packets of tea, blankets, and petticoats, and seat on their way rejoicing. All the village seemed to be assembled in that spacious gallery, and all seemed well pleased with their various gifts. But now there .was a general move towards the door* and those who were not going to remain for the dance in the servants' ball were ^tetMUnng to take their depar

ture.

One by one they filed) out, old men and maidens, young men and children, the gentler sex bobbing curtsies as they ^passed, tjke sterner with a backward scrape and a

.Vigorous pull at their forelocks.

' i Having denuded/the Christmas tree of its. A£iy last wax fairy aod its topmost gaudy flag, Miss M'Farlane came down from her chair, and, esoorted by Rogerson, crossed the room tb where we Were sitting. He, by the way, was looking ridiculously "pleased with him self;* ??

'' Of course, I was introduced, and after a ffetr moments, !' managed so cleverly as to beoppae her o£it-dt-cany) in the next proceed

iffbUskall was now ready for dancing, and

the servants were' all in waiting for their master, and mistress to.open the balk The fint quadrille' waif Solemnly performed by Lady M'Farlane,and old M'Greggor vis<i-vus to Sir John and Mrs. M'Greggor, who, .digni fied to a degree, was attired in a thick heavy blatek safln gowri,' with some white muslin affair wound about her ample shoulders, and with mittejiedhaiids religously folded in front

of "her, .

' On a.table at the end of the hall were three chairs, on which were seated the village fiddlers, and very good 'music they made too, as they bent their backs to their work, nodding thelr heads the while, and beating •time with their "hob-nailed boots.

• ? The: quadriilebehig.iiiiished, and the hall ripened with all due honours, we returned to

& i

the picture-gallery, leaving the Janea and the JcamBes to their own devices. But before going 1 was allowed to renew my acquaintance with the old housekeeper, Mrs. M'Greggor, who, dear old soul, was overjoyed to see me. though, between civilities to her present low and lady, and lamentations over my " banish ment." as she called it, and hopes that 1 would one day come bach to my own, slic was getting sauty perplexed.

By this time 1 hail gradually made the acquaintance of the whole tamilv, even down to the youngest of the uursery batch, which Kogerson had intercepted on their way to bed. Little cherubs they seemed to me, with halos of golden hair, and eyes as blue as for

me-nots.

"Do you play blind man's bull' in Aus tralia. Mr. Malcolm asked Mollie, as 1 joined a noisy group who were engaged in that time-honoured game.

"Always, when I get the chance," 1 answered.

"Then you must be 'He,'" she said laughingly, as she tied her handkerchief over my eyes and turned me round three times.

With little explosions of mirth 1 heard them all vanish to the other end of the gallery, and very soon I was entering into the spirit of the old game with all the rest and real of my boyhood's days. At last a truce was called, and tired of romping we drew to gether ana made a circle round the great carved fireplace in which the Yule logs were burning bravely.

" Now every one has got to tell a ghost story," commanded Archie. " l'ut the lights low, and someone begin ' Ouce upon a time.'"

"You must tell us one." said Miss M'Far lane, smiling encouragingly at me across Kogerson. who, of course, was sitting into her pocket (1 never knew such a fellow as

Kogeison\ "l>o tell us a storyT" shej begged. " we know everyone else's by heart, I because we always tell the same every ] Christmas," j

" But J'in the worst hand in the world at: a story." I objected, "though, by-the-by,! ttiat reminds me tnat coming over the moor this evening I saw—"

" What 1" interrupted Mollie, breath lessly.

" Well, I saw a strange blue flickering light. It osme tlie orthoilox three times. It seemed quite close to me. but every time I

tried to get near it it vanished in regular j proper ghost fashion." |

"Oh, but," said Mollie. greatly excited. | " that was a ghost. Mr. Maloohn! Tliat was j

our ghost. Do you know." lowering her

vxvketo a whisper, " that in the last few days! tliat mysterious light has been seen by three j or four different people." j

" What nonsense you taik, Mollie,'" said j her sister, rather sharply- " How can you : believe all the silly stories the servants tell you T" 1 turned to look at lier; I saw, to my

surprise, that she was deadly pate, and a j great tear had crept into her eyes. j

" But its not nonsense, Jessie, dear: its | quite true." persisted Mollie: "and only a

week ago "Lie* said she was in the unused ' wing, and she beard such strange sounds— quite distinctly—tramp, tramp, tramp 1"

" Bosh !" said Archie, scornfully. , "Yes, and that very same night Martha said she saw something very tall and black, carrying a blue light. It was just disappear ing through the curtains in the kmg tomior. Martha says she nearly died of fright."

" Well, now Mollie. you've had pewr turn." , said Sawrsm. " Malcolm, we call upon ' you to narrow us up! That bice light

business cc the moor doesn't count. Give us an Australian ghost story."

" The only one 1 eves- he*:d is well enough j known out there." I answered, " and; hundteds of people firmly believe in it to this day." ]

There was such an earnest appeal of " Oh. ay go on: do. Mr. Malcolmthat atlast I

" Well. many years ago. in the early days of the diggings, two men having made a lucky tuid. set out with their nuggets for Sydney. They had many miles to travel through the bush, and would be many days on the road before they could

expect to reach the town. At last _

only one arrived. He seemed in great trouble

about his mate, who he said tea bees ill for i some time, that he ted stayed with him and nursed him as well as he could, bet that Anally be had died. Well, of course, no one

thought mcch mow about the matter, but by-:

and-by there began to be same very startling j tales. Time after rime it was said that, on a ? certain lonely road, passengers by Hie coach } bad seen a ghostly Scare string oc a fence j and pointing into the waterhole beneath. The «

horses could not be persuaded to pass it, but j

snorted and trembled with fear, and iku I anyone attempted to approach rite figure, it 3 would point again to the waterhtde and dia-I appear. So many rimes was the apparition j seen, ana by so many di#erent people, chat at! last the wasrrboJe was snatched, and in it was j found the body or a mam It was. of course, I the miner's mate, who had bees murdered for j his share of gold." j

" tft how adksMsly creepy." said Mollie' with a little gssp. " And was the ghost ewer!

seer. assii; T" 1

"I do not think be was. and as far as I

can remember the murderer was convicted ; and hanged " j

"Serve him jolly «*51 right toe*" said Archie, whi*e Lacy ilTiabac oduwd,

"Thr at how late k is peeing: Qntei time for bed. Ah, here axe the water and i going to the window- she opened it lightly, \ and there stole rata she room the words off

trie old cstol— 5

*• cloi ties* yoc. raerjy csntiemsE ; ]

hw notbhigywu Asnav." j So ended my first vast in my old borne. j Rogersm mad 1 both stayed the night, lor though hts b-use wws not tar away, our kmd teastiradi not beared tegatetra into the cold, saying that she wsas sore I had bad encugh «f tiw already. Asny mend and I cfllyftete sad tdbd far tatade am day, 1 teaniir screed ckb a)0 that be tec ? «w smd h nte «ff tee KThbus.

Saw^plr «awtpy, m ndrhet at us net-; baaed Jesam :

(fh ht OntenL)