Chapter 169577434

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Chapter NumberXVIII. (Continued). XIX. XX. XXI.
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Full Date1891-12-05
Page Number1
Word Count4629
Last Corrected2020-06-30
Newspaper TitleThe Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)
Trove TitleThe Devil's Own. An Australian Story
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CHAPTER XVIII. (Continued.)

“Come and I will show you the doctor's photo. He is taken with five snakes alive, all darting about, only kept prisoners by his hands and feet,” said

Mrs. Fortescue. “ But the jolliest story I know was when we were on a visit to the Dunmores. Mrs. Dunmore had a pet snake she used to keep in a fish globe covered up in a possum rug, and at a party they had one night, I, leaning against the concern, it suddenly gave way with a crash, and then it dawned upon us that the snake would get out. By jove ! what a commotion. The women shrieked and the men turned blue, and we all jumped on chairs, afraid even to leave the room. After sundry pokes with a poker, and sundry plunges with a fish- ing rod, in trying to haul up the rug, we managed it, and found the poor brute had never even moved. The glass had only given way at the top. The scene, I can tell you, can be imagined, the women with all their dresses tucked round their legs, eyes gazing with horrors,” said Nor- man, flinging on to the back verandah a pile of game and fish that would haver done credit to a party of English sports- men. CHAPTER XIX. CHILDHOOD. “I am fond of children, I think them the poetry of the world; the fresh flowers of our hearths and homes; little con- jurors with their natural magic work- ing by their spells what delights and enriches all ranks, and equalises the different classes of society. “ I am sure they are at some mischief,” said Mrs. Fortescue, tapping quickly at the schoolroom door, which she found locked one morning as she was going into the garden with Lord Vereker. “ Enter milord,” said Ernie in a mock tragic voice, opening the door quickly and bowing, as his mother with her com- panion entered. “Oh! what a dreadful smell of mice," said Mrs. Fortescue. “ It’s not me,” said Dicky; “ it’s Elliot York, Lord Newry and the Duke. W have been giving them a run whilst their stables were cleaned out, dirty little beggars. They’ll be the ruin of me—they eat so much. That last pennyworth of bran lasted no time.” “Why don’t you open the window, boys,” said Mrs. Fortescue, opening the window wide herself. “ Too busy, mother dear,” said Dicky. “What are you about?” said his mother, looking round and seeing nothing but the skeleton of a boat. “Ah, I mustn’t reveal the secrets of the star chamber,’’ said Ernie, who was a clever lad, food of reading books far beyond his years, as he fixed the bowsprit of a juvenile brig he was looking at be- fore him. “ Let me help you, Ernie,” said Lord Vereker. “ I am a splendid hand at boat-building, from a walnut-shell, with a pin stuck in it for a full-rigged frigate, guns and all. " “Then I wish you had been with us at Muddlecum last summer,” said Ernie, looking up; “such a jolly time we had of it, and no mistake.” “I wish we were there again,” said Dicky, with a sigh. “ Alas, my beloved brethren! Cry not for the moon ; your tears can do ye no good,” said Ernie. “ Do you remember the regatta— Ernie’s regatta? Oh, do tell Lord Vere- ker all about it, ’twas such fun,” said little Enid, sitting bolt upright, as if about to say a lesson. “ If you won’t, I will—what do you think ?” “ Give her some victuals and give her some drink,” said Dicky. “You rude boy ! We were all down at Muddlecum,” said Enid. “ You should say, ‘ And it came to pass that we were,’ ” said Dicky. “If you interrupt I won’t go on. Well, one day Ernie said, ' Let us get up a re- gatta.’ So we went to all the ladies and gentlemen we knew there, and asked them for money—not much, you know, a shilling or two shillings ” “Opened a subscription list you should say,” said Ernie, “ amongst the aristo- cratic society of Muddlecum,” “ Muddlecum—where’s Muddlecum,” said Lord Vereker.” “ Oh, the jolliest place out, at least for boys,” said Ernie. “Well, Miss Fortescue, I am all at- tention,” said Lord Vereker. “ And so one afternoon about four o’clock the regatta was to be down at the creek.” “To come off,” said Dicky. “ And we all went (the four boys and me) with Miss Edwards, our governess, you know; but just as we left our house a whole lot of other boys joined the boys with their boats, and very soon a whole long string of them, just like a school.” “ Yes, and didn’t Miss Edwards blush just," said Dicky. “ No wonder ! Poor Miss Edwards to find herself headed by a procession of boys of all kinds—good boys, bad boys, town boys, country boys, all laden with boats. It was trying for the good little soul. I felt rather abashed myself, and as for you, Enid, you looked as if you were going to cry,” said Ernie. “ Well; even the people in the shops stared,” said she, “ as we paraded through the street down the hill—such a lot, nearly forty, I think, altogether.” " Well, how did it go off, Miss Fortes- cue,” said Lord Vereker, looking in- terested. “ Alas !” said Ernie; “ brotherly love did not continue.” “ No; they all squabbled so. Miss Edwards got quite frightened and insisted upon coming home. The boys were so rude, common boys you know,” said Enid. "I understand, not knowing the rules of etiquette,” said Lord Vereker amused. “Yes, that was it, and the day was squally and half the stupids hadn't proper rudders to their boats, so there was a general capsize, some boats being run down; other's bumping, and everyone declared his was the winner, so it ended in my dividing the prices amongst the few boats that were in racing condition at the end of the race—a sad affair. I was out of pocket. I Iost ninepence halfpenny—I did really— racing does not pay, I fancy, as a rule. A piece of string; my kingdom for a piece of string !” " There’s some in the cupboard,” said Dicky, busy with Elliot York’s cage. “I’ll find it," said Lord Vereker, going to the cupboard and hauling out sundry bodies, boxes, papers in his search, and at last bringing to light a pretty little photo in a case, which he spent some time examining. " Whose is this ? " he said, showing it

up; I found it knocking about amongst all the rubbish.” " Rubbish ! fancy calling all our goods and chattels rubbish," said Ernie. “That is mine ; it is a photograph of Aunt Vera in her wedding dress. Pretty, isn’t it ? I’m very fond of that picture.” " So it seems," said Lord Vereker soberly, putting the photo in a quiet corner of the empty top shelf of the cup- board. He had forgotten about the string altogether until Ernie asked him for it again, at which Lord Vereker soon brought some to light, and in doing so, said, “ What’s all this in the bottom of the cupboard ?” hauling up some thin yellow white fungus looking stuff. “Hush, sh, sh,” said Dicky. “Now mother’s gone we will let you into our secret. We were busy getting up a ghost just to frighten the maids. Its punk—a sort of fungus that lights up at night—and we stick it up in the shape of a man and put it in a dark corner of the garden, and it glares all round and looks ghastly. Such jolly fun. You’ll hear scream after scream. We did it at Muddlecum, and old Mrs. Winder ran all the way down the street nearly into the sea with fright—with nothing on.” “Oh fie!” said Dicky. Fie, fie; stick to the truth." “ Well, I mean with no bonnet or cloak—nothing but her indoor clothes," said Ernie, blushing. It was late that night after the ghost entertainment when the children went to bed, and Ernest Fortescue was left reading by himself, as was often the case. The lad was pouring over a new book of adventures Miss Vavasour had lately added to the children’s library at Seringa, when with a gentle tap at the door Lord Vereker entered. “ Hall, old boy, still reading. I thought it was you when I saw the light.” “ Yes, I couldn’t sleep till I saw how it all ended. A splendid story—quite thrilling—the adventures." “ Is smoking allowed here," said Lord Vereker. “ Oh yes, as far as visitors are con- cerned, and a delightful exchange for the smell of those horrid mice," said Ernie, shutting up his book, delighted at the honor of such a visit, for Lord Vereker was a great favorite with all the children, more particularly Ernie, who was more companionable, and Lord Vereker being young in thought and feeling, entered' into all the ideas and amusements of young people, so the two became “great chums,” as Ernie expressed it in his own fashion. They talked of adventures, sports of all kinds, Lord Vereker quite surprised at the boy’s intelligence. “ Well, good night, old fellow. I hope your governor will bring you to England, and you will look me up.’” Ernie looked more than pleased, for he knew the young lord meant what he said. They said good night, then the visitor halted for a moment, and trying to look nonchalant, said, “Oh, by-the-by, Ernie, that little photo of—of—of—your aunt, may I have it ?" “ Aunt Vavasour,” said Ernie, with a twinkle of his blue eyes mischievously. “No, the other; in fact I didn’t see one of Miss Vavasour,” said Lord Vere- ker. “ You don’t want it, you can easily get another. The fact is I am making a collection of photos of people I have met. Eh! can you spare it? Really.” “ Yes, you shall have it. I have two or perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so generous. Do you want it now.” “If you can spare it.” “ Oh, yes; don’t tell Enid, she always twits me if I give anything away that has been given me, but I know you will take care of Aunt Vera’s portrait,” said Ernie, going to a drawer and taking out a case. “ Is this the same as the one I—yes, I see it is. Thanks, very many thanks. I won’t forget my promise of the other day ; I mean the small rifle ” “ I have never thought about it since. I am afraid mother would not let me use use it yet,” said Ernie, a shadow of doubt coming over his young face. “Oh, yes, I’ll tell her all about it. Its quite safe. A small child might fire it off safely, and it would just be the thing for you. Good night, Ernie.” “ I will come with you part of the way," said Ernie, locking the door of the schoolroom and shading his candle with his hand as they came on to the verandah, and Lord Vereker tossing away the half of his cigar, walked briskly to his room, saying good night to his young friend, who had refused to enter and keep his lordship up. Then sitting down in a comfortable chair, Lord Vereker took out his newly acquired possession and looked at it for some time, then closed the case and thought on and on, till the small hours came in—then with a sigh he gave up his reverie. What was the sigh for? There seemed no reason for Lord Vereker’s despondency, for himself or his new friend, Mrs. Anne- laye. He, the second son of a wealthy English duke, gifted with all the gifts requisite to make life perfect; she, the ideal of perfection, perfectly happy in her home, perfectly adoring her husband —what was the sigh for? wherefore. Echo answers—wherefore. CHAPTER XX. DREAD. “My mind misgives— Some consequence yet hanging in the stars Shall bitterly begin this fearful date With the night’s revels." SHAKESPEARE. It was getting on towards the middle of February very hot, for the summer had come in with a run, as if to make up for the past deficiencies in the way of heat, which had become almost unbear- able in its scorching properties. Bush fires were doing havoc on the neighboring runs, increasing the heat at Seringa by hot puffs, as if from a furnace wafted across from the conflagations, to- gether with a hot wind blowing fiercely. There was no going out of doors. Every one tried to keep cool by religiously re- maining inside, in the cool darkened rooms of both house and cottage. Herbert Annelaye had felt the heat more than anyone. He looked ill and had been much depressed in spirits of late. Mrs. Annelaye knew that her hus- band had been much disappointed at getting no home letters at Christmas, nor even since, though he had said little about it, not even alluding to his disap- pointment. Having always very reticent about his connections, his affairs and also his early life; and Vera with her deep love and full trust in her husband, had questioned him, so thinking, he must have had some great trouble in his earlier days, and good reason for his silence, she waited patiently till he should volunteer the confidence she merited. " Herbert, dearest," she said fondly that afternoon, stroking her husband’s fair, silken beard lovingly, as she sat by him, watching him anxiously, “ the heat has been too great for you, it is getting so much cooler now. The wind has changed, we will go into the glen, the

children are there, the cool air will do you good. I have finished all the pack- ing, come along dear.” “ Yes,” he answered wearily, " I have not felt myself for days past. Vera, dear, do you believe in presentments? I feel sure darling we shall have bad news, I have never felt so depressed. Perhaps it is the weather, we will go out into the fresh air.” Together they went into the glen, where in a shady spot near the stream, which was trickling but sparingly, they sat down together on a soft, mossy bank, shaded by the wattles and leaning against an old lurrajong tree. Mr. Annelaye was unusually silent for a time. “ Vera, darling,” he said, after a long silence, “do you remember the Valetta at Malta, when I joined the Kashmir.” “ Yes, dear, perfectly, I shall never forget it. Your face, worse than sad, the image of dispair, Aunt Dorothy was so shocked at seeing you, she said your face haunted her for hours after,” said Vera. “Your aunt had reason to be sorry for me, for I was in the lowest depths of despair, it was the breaking up of my life, that great trouble, and but for you, my brave loving little wife, I should have succumbed long ago. I loved you from the very first moment I caught sight of you waving your hand to some old friends of yours, as the boat steamed out of harbor at Malta, and yet I have been cruel and unjust in never opening my heart and telling you of my trouble, the blight of all my hopes and life, I ought never to have had a secret from my dar- ling, but I was a coward, fearing my con- fession would change you, love, but you shall know all and you will never blame me. It was this—About five years ago, or rather more, now I think of it, a brother officer with whom I—. Hark, there are the children, I will tell you to- night, dearest, when the litte one are asleep and all is quiet.” “ Dolly, Dolly,” said happy little voices through the glon, as the little ones caught sight of their mother and came running to her. “ Oh, Dolly, I'm so hot and thirsty, please got me some water.” “ No, dearies, your tea is ready, and such a nice cake from Aunt Connie for Puck’s birthday. We will all come and have tea together, papa will have some with us, won’t you dear?” They wended their why home together, Mr. Annelaye having tea with the chil- dren to their great delight. “'A lazy day, Vera,” he said soon after, brightly, “I must make up for it, I’ll take the gun and go down for a duck or two in the swamp. ‘‘Goodnight chicks, don’t keep little mother too long, she is tired. A kiss all round to his little ones, “one for little mother,” he said lovingly, and Mr. Annelaye was off with his gun, Vera, as usual assisting in the pleasant duty of putting the children to bed. A beautiful picture was that in the nursery soon after—the beautiful young mother with her fair girlish face teaching her last born little baby girl to walk up her chest, the child crowing with delight, as she cautiously, step after step, placed the little dimpled feet firmly down, trusting to the firm hold of her little hands and guidance by the mother, whose beaming face was a picture, and so thought some one who was looking in the window—a dork looking face, and darker still in the shadow of the passion flower and other creepers under the verandah. As he watched the group and took in the whole scene even to little Puck trying to float his tiny shoe in the bath, slily peeping up now and then at his mother nurse to see if he was found out. A heavy step on the boarded floor out- side, and a tap at the door with a riding whip The servant opened the door. “ Is the captain in,” said a voice. “The captain, what captain?” ques- tioned the maid. “ Is Mr. Annelaye in ?” said the stranger, correcting himself. “I’ll see,” said the servant, always cautious of tramps, as she said after- wards. But Vera had heard the step and was very anxious to know who the stranger was. In after years she often remembered how more than anxious she had been that night to see the stranger and know his errand. “I wish to see Mr. Annelaye, particu- larly. I have a very important message from England for him, but only for him” Mrs. Annelaye was taken aback with alarm, but she summoned up courage to say sweetly, “I am so sorry Mr. Anne- laye is not in. He has gone down to the swamp. We will be home in a very short time. Will you come in and sit down.” The stranger, declined politely, and Vera returned to the nursery, where, after seeing all the little ones fast asleep, she assisted the nurse in putting a few things away, and then went out on to the verandah to watch and wait for her husband. " He will be back soon,” she said to herself, “or I would run up and see how Connie has stood the heat. So good of her to send down the chickens; Bertie will e...y his dinner after his long fast to day. I wonder who that man was ; I did not like his face, but one can never judge by faces. I must not be uncharit- able to-night. Perhaps he came from home and has brought Bertie good news. I wish he would get stronger; perhaps he will now this dreadful heat is over, for a a time i hope. I often thgink poor think pool; Bertie has something on his mind. Poor darling ! he almost confessed as much to- day, and he will tell me to-night, when the little ones are asleep, and all is quiet, he said. I am glad. .ot that I feel curious, but it will do him good—honest confession is good for the soul the say. The sun is going down, it must by getting late.” And so the young wife rambled on with her thinkings aloud, almost for- getting the time in her reverie. The little American clock struck eight distinctly—Vera started. "Bertie ought to be here,” she said. “He has never been late before, but it is a loyely eve- ning, and almost a sin to be indoors now that the stars are coming out. Dinner must be put back a little longer," she added to the servant, who came outside to inquire if dinner was to come in, as it was past eight o’clock. The shadows of night were creeping on, veiling the landscape in and a gloomy mist. The clock struck the half hour. " Perhaps he is up at the house,” she said, catching at a straw of hope in her anxiety. She listened again—all was silent. It had become suddenly quite dark, with the exception of a few stars, making the darkness more visible for, in Australia, there is no twilight. Night sets in soon after the sun sets, the only light being the light of the moon, if there is one, or the stars. Vera went out of the porch so as to listen more attentively. No sound except the melancholy wail of the curlew at a distant swamp, or the weirg night song of a mope hawk. “ Master must be up at the house, ma'am. I think you ought not to wait dinner. You must be famished, and its

bad for you," said the nurse kindly to her mistress. But Vera stood on watching, looking anxiously out into the darkened landscape. Listening—she heard footsteps, and watching intently saw a man cross the creek almost past the cottage in great haste. She recognised him even in the dull starlight only. It was Smithson, the fencer. " Did you see Mr. Annelaye, Smith- son?” she said aloud. There was no response from the man as he hurried past. “ He did not hear me, she said.’' Poor man ? He is evidently late for his supper. I wonder if he had met Herbert ; I wish now I had spoken louder, but I should only have detained the poor fellow. Oh ! if I could only coo-ee, but it might alarm Connie at this time of night. Dear old Connie, I wonder how she has been this very hot day." CHAPTER XXI. MURDER. “O horror! horror! horror! tongue nor heart cannot conceive or name thee. What’s the matter? Confusion now hath made his masterpiece. Most sacri-!- ligious murder hath broke ope the Lord’s annointed temple; stole thence the life o’ the building." SHAKESPEARE. Mr. and Mrs. Fortescue were just sit- ting down to an unusually late dinner, when the servant said, “ Smithson wishes to speak to you, sir ; he wants to see you at once.” Mr. Fortescue saying “ don’t wait dear,” went out into the hall to the door. “What is it Smithson? Anything wrong—bush fire ? “Worse than that, sir; Mr. Anne- laye, has been shot, and is lying down in the creek. I thought I’d finish the fence this evening, and was hard at it, when I heard a shot across the creek and a fellow running away and poor Mr. Annelaye on the ground. I was afeered of touching him, he seemed terribly hurt, so I covered him up with my coat and put my waistcoat under his head and run up to tell you, sir. There is a very heavy dew falling.” “Tell Johnson (the hut cook) and Barnes to come down with me at once. We’ll take a hurdle and a soft mat- rass. Poor fellow ! poor fellow ! ” said Mr. Fortescue, standing for a moment to wipe the big drops that had gathered from his brow before entering the dining room. “ Connie,” he said to his wife, quietly, suppressing his heart beating and emo- tion. "Connie, you are a brave little woman, so you must be brave and listen. Poor Annelaye has met with an accident down by the swamp—a gun accident. Vera must know nothing yet; it may be only trivial—God grant it may. We are going down to bring him up here. Barker has gone for the doctor. It may be nothing, but Vera must not be told yet, and when she is told it must be so very gently—-poor little, woman. Get a room ready at once, and a soft bed and a fire, wife; the; night is chilly, and the poor fellow is lying on the damp grass; he must want some warmth. Ill news travels fast, you must go down and make Vera keep inside until we have brought Annelaye up. Smithson says she was still watching for her husband when he passed. We shall bring him up on a wool mattress, it is the softest. Don’t, forgot the fire, dear; break it gently to the wife. As yet, no one knows any- thing except Smithson, whom I have warned to silence. The night is so dark I only fear Mrs. Annelaye will see the lanterns; perhaps you had better go down to the cottage at once and get Miss Edwards to see to the room. Don’t let the children know about it.” Down by the creek, near the wattles, lay poor Herbert Annelaye, pale as a corpse, blood oozing through his clothes from a wound in his side, insensible'or faint from the loss of blood. Norman Fortescue was a brave man, and was gifted with presence of mind ; moreover, was clever in surgery, and it was not the first time he had acted in an emergency. He had made it his busi- ness and amusement to study surgery and medicine for his own use, and a very useful study it had proved. Often in the case of an accident occurring at Seringa, or on the run, had Norman Fortescue been obliged to depend upon himself only, the one doctor, within several miles, being absent at the time when he was much wanted at Seringa and other places when an accident had occurred to one of the men, no uncom- mon thing where cattle mustering and and fast riding were concerned. Mrs. Fortescue, preferring to see to things herself, had sent down her nurse with a message to Mrs. Annelaye something about her children, and then set to work preparing the quietest room and softest bed, the tears welting up at the thought —oh! if he should die—if he should die—God help poor Vera and her little ones ; it would kill her. Having finished, she went on to the verandah and listened. They seemed a long time coming, but, alas! too soon did the mournful cortege, appear. On a mattrass lay poor Anne- laye, insenible still. A fleet messenger had gone for the doctor, and they awaited his opinion. (TO BE CONTINUED.) »-I I ■ ' . •