Chapter 161822503

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Chapter NumberXXV
Chapter TitleTHE REDLUSE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161822503
Full Date1895-06-08
Page Number37
Corrections0
Word Count2256
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Third Volume
article text

THE NOVELIST.

THE tHlRD VOLUME.

BY PEBGHT3 HUME,

Author of "The Mystery of m HsnaomOab,"

"The Iione Inn," "TheOhmese Jar," &o.

CHAPTER XXV.

THIS UEOLUdE.

Mean while Jenny was prooeeding homeward id a rather unhappy state of mind. The con versation had left an unpleasant impression, and she was by no means sure what it would lead to, A hundred times did she wish that ?he had not meddled in the matter; but it was " sow too late lor regrets, and she reoegnised

"that she must bear the burden of her wrong doing, '"hough, indeed, she oould see no reason to characterize her notion by so harsh a

•name,

"A bundle of old papers in a garret," she thought, walking quiokly through the lane, " whore was the harm of reading them! And at they contained an interesting story 1 fail to see that I aoted wrongly in telling it to Frank. .The Laroher affair can have nothing to do with papa even though Kerry was so angry. I'll speak to Kerry, and ask him li I have done wrong."

Aooording to her promise ehe was deter mined to say nothing to her father for at least twenty-four hours, for she was curious to see if Mr. Hilliston would oall to speak of the matter. If he did so, then would oe the time to exoulpate herself; hut, pending such visit, ehesaw no reason why she should nut cousult with Kerry. He had expressed anger at tier possession of tho papers, so he, if any one, would be ablo to explain ii ehe had been rash. On Kerry's anawer would depend the explana

tion due to her father.

Thus thinking, s.ie speedily arrived in a deep lane, at the end of which she turned into a white gate set in a rugged stone wall, Nut trees bent over this wail, dropping their fruit into the ruts of the roud, and on the opposite aside rose a steep, green bank topped by black berry bushes. This by-way was little fre quented, and here quiet constantly reigned, Unbroken save by the voices of birds. It was a great plsoe for nightingales, and many a hummer evening did Jeunv stand under the bBnding boughs listening to the warbhugs of those night singers. So bird-haunted was the spot that here, if anywhere, Knots might have OOinpeBed his famous ode. Indeed, the road was known as Nightingale-lane for obvious

reasons.

Passing through the gate Jenny saw herore •her the little garden, odorous with homely oottage flowers—sweot-wiiliaui, delicate pea blossom, ruddy marigolds, and somhro buelios of rosemary. A hawthorn hedge on tho right divided the iliwars from the kitchen garden, while to the left grew gnarled apple and pear trees, now white with bloom. A sprawling psaob-tres olung to tie guarding wall of the lane, and beds of thyme and mignonette perfumed the still air.

In tho oentre of this sweetness was built Lhe humble oottage of Ferdinand Paynton, a broad, low-roofed building, with whitewashed walls and quaint windows, diamond-p-Pied and snowy-ourtained. Pots of flowers were sot within, aud under the loaves of the thatohed roof twittered the dart ng swallows. One often eees auch psaoeful homesteads in the heart of England, breathing quiet and tran quillity. Hose Oottage, as it was called, from ibe prevailing flower in tho garden, was worthy to be enshrined in a fairy tale.

Here lived Fordinsnd Payntun with his only daughter, and two servants, male and female. The one was Kerry, a crabbed old Irishman, stanoh as steel, and devoted to his master; the other a withered crime who was never seen without her bonnet, yet who bore the reputa tion of being an exosllent cook and an econo mical housekeeper. As Mr. P.iynton was poor, aud spent more than he oonld afford oa bookB, Maria was very necessarv to him, as she soraped and screwed with miserly £ire, yet withal gavo him good ineaie, and kept the tiny bouse like a new pin. Kerry attended principally to tho garden and the books; looked after Jenny,. whom be was always aoolding, and passed his leisure time in fishing in the Lax.

Hot or cold, wot or fine, rummer or winter, nothing varied in the routine of Rose Cottage. Mr, Paynton rose at 9, took hit breakfast, and read hi a paper till 10, then walked for an hour or so in the garden with Jenny. Till luncheon he wrote; after luncheon lie slept, and then wrote again till dinner time. The evening in summer was spent in the garden, in Winter within doors before a roaring fire in the bookroom. For more than twenty years life had gone on in this peaonful fashion, and during that time Jenny could not remember thsooourrenoeof a single episode worth record ing. Rose Cottage might have been the palace of the Sleeping Beauty during the huudred years' spell,

The inhabitant of this hermitage was a puEr.le to the gossips of Toorston, for after the iudnstriousenquinesnf twenty years they were

aswise as ever touching hieanteoedeuts. Then j he had arrived with Kerry, and his daughter, 1 a ohild of five, and, staying at the Inn of rtt. XSifrlda, had looked about for a email plaoe in the neighbourhood. Rose Cottage, then empty and much neglected, appeared to be the moat secluded spot proourable, eo Mr,

Paynton set it in order, patohed the roof, cul- i tivated the garden, and took up his abode therein. Here he had lived ever eiuce, rarely leaving it, seeing tew people, and accepting no invitations. The man was a reoluse, and dlBliked his fellow-ereatureB, so when Thor

ston beoame aware of bis peouliarities he was I left alone to live as he ahose. It may be

guessed that hie peouliar habits made him un- j

popular.

The Vioar was friendly to the misanthrope, j for in Paynton he found a kindred soul in the |

matter of booka; and many a pleasant even- j ing did tboy spend in discussing literary •ubjeots. The bookroom was the pleasantsst apartment in the house, cosy and warm, and lined throughout with volumes. In the deep window stood the desk, and here Ferdinand Paynton sat and wrote all day, save when he took his usual stroll in the garden. Jenny had also grown up iu the bookroom, and, as her education had been oondnoted by her . father, she was remarkably intelligent for a

country maiden, and oould talk excellently on literature, old and uew. For the softer graoes of womanhood she was indebted to the oare of Mrs, Lintun, who from the first had taken a great interest in the motherless girl.

Into this room came Jenny with lmr mind full of the reoent oonversation with Tait. She threw down her masio-book on the table and went to kiss ber father. He was seated in his armohair, instead of at his desk as usual. Mid looked rather sternly at her as ehe bent over him. Tall and white-haired, with a sad face and a slim figure, the old man looked sin gularly interesting, his appearance being enhanced by his peculiar garb — a dressing gown and a blaok skull-oap. Indeed, he was .mors like a mediaeval magioian than an aged gentleman of the nineteenth cantury. He looked like a man with a history, whioh was doubtless the reason Thorston

gossips were go anxioua ooncerning bis peat. la country towns curiosity ia quite

a disease;

In the hurry oE her entrance Jenny had not notioedthat a stranger was present, but on greeting her father with a fond kiss she turned to see an elderly gentleman looking at her intently. Mr. Paynton explained the preaenoe of the stranger with leas than his usual suavity, but from the tone of his voioe Jenny gueased that he was angry with her. Ab it afterwards appeared he had good

reaaon to be.

"Jenny, this is my friend, Mr. Qilliston." Hillistonl Jenny oould not suppress a start of surprise, even of alarm. Tbe pro pheoy of Tait had been fulfilled sooner than she expected. There was something unoanuy in the Bpaedy accomplishment of a prognosti cation in which, at the time, she had hardly

believed.

"Hillistonl Mr. Hilliston, "she repeated with a gasp of surprise, " already 1"

This tune it was Hilliston's turn to be surprised, and his faoe darkened with sus picion.

Wuataml to understand by * already,' Miss Payutou ?" lie e&id quickly.

" Why!— L'nat is—Mr. Cait," began Jenny, in excuse—when her father out her abort. lie

rose from hid obuir and exolaimed in a voiae(

of alarm—

"Tait I Then you have eeen him already,' " Yes, father,"uaid the girl in some bewil

derment at hia cone.

" Where?"

" In the Church half an hour ago." " Did he question you ?"

"lie did."

" And you replied?"

"I answered his questions," said Jenny quietly, " if you refer to the Laroher

affair."

"I do refer to it," groaned her father, Bibbing back into his ohair, "unhappy girl — yon know not what trouble you have

caused."

Hilliston said nothing, but Btood moodily, considering what was best to be done, lie e;uv that Taio had been too olever for him, and had anticipated his arrival. Vet be had come as speedily as possible; not a tnomen had he lost since his arrival in Kastbourne to seek out Jenny and ask her to be silenc. But it was too late, he had missed his opportunity by a few minutes, and it only remained for him to learn how much the girl had told

his enemy. No wonder lie hated Tait; the i fellow was toe dangerous a foeinan to be j

despised.

" We may yet mend matters," ho Baid judioiously, "if Miss Jeuny will repeat

so muob of the conversation as she re- j

ine;nh«rs."

" Why should I repeat it," said Jenny, ob- | j'-ctiug to this interference, as Tait guessed she would? "There wa9 nothing wrong in the conversation with Mr. Tait that 1

know of." . I

" There was nothing wrong in your telling Linton the story you found ,n the Canterbury Observer" replied Hillistou dryly; "yet it would have been as well bad you not

done so."

"Kather," oriod Jonny, turning towards the old mm with an appealing gesture, " have 1 done wrong ?"

"Yes, child," be answered with a aigh, " very wrong, but you einned in ignorance. Kerry told me you hal found the bundle and read about the trial, but I passed that over. Now it in different. You repeated it to young Linton, and Mr. flilliston tells me that all London knows the story through bis

book.".

"I aia vory sorry," said Jenny after a pause, " but I really did not know cbat it was wrong of ine to aot as [ have done, A bundle of old newspapers in a garret. Surely I was justified in reading them—in telling Frank what I conceived would be a good plot for n story."

"Idon't blame you, M;ss Paynton," said Ilillihtun kindly; "but it so happens that your father did not want that affair again brought before the publia. After all you have had less to do with it than Fate."

" Chan Fate," interrupted Paynton, with a groan. "Good heavens, am I to be"

" Paynton I" said Hilliston, in a warning

Voice. |

"I forgot," muttered the old man, with a shiver. "No more—no more. Jouny tell us

what you said to &lr. Tait."' |

Considerably astonished, the girl repeated the oonvoreatiou as olosoly as ehe oould re member. Both II111 ieton and her f ither lis tened with the keenest interest, and seemed relieved when she finished.

"It is not so bad as I expected,"said the former with a nod. " All you have to do. Paynton, is to warn Kerry against gratifying

the curiosity of these young men. They will i be certain to ask bun questions." '

" Kerry will balHs them. Have no fear of that,"said Paynton harshly ; "and, Jenny, you are not to refur to this subjeot again with

Mr. Tait."

" Am I not to speak to him?"

Her father interrogated Ililliston with a look, received a nod, and answered accord

ingly.

"You oaa speak to Mr. Tait if you ohoose, and no doubt you will be introduced by the Vioar to Mr. Laroher. I place no prohibition on your speaking to them, but only warn you to avoid the subjeot of the Marcher affair.

Promise!"

"I promise. I am sorry I ever bad any thing to do with it."

"Say no more about it, my dear," said Hilliston, patting her shoulder. " How oould you be expected to know ? But, now you have been warned, do not speak more of it. We do not wish the unjustifiable ouriosity of these idle young men to be gratified."

" If you assist them to learn that whioh had better be hidden you will ruin me," oried Paynton with a passionate gesture.

" Father I Ruin you."

"YeaIt means ruin., disgrace—perhaps

death. Ah I"

He broke down with a ory, and Hilliston, taking Jenny by the band, led her to the

door.

"Go away, my dear. Your father is ill," he said in a whisper, and pushing her outside the door looked it forthwith. Jenny stood in the passage in an agony of fear and surprise. Ruin 1 Disgrace I Death 1 What was the meaning of thOBe terrible words ?