Chapter 174508445

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Chapter NumberXXXIV.(Continued). XXXV.
Chapter TitleRELAXATION. TERROR.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article174508445
Full Date1892-01-23
Page Number1
Corrections7
Word Count4258
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-07-04
Newspaper TitleThe Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)
Trove TitleThe Devil's Own. An Australian Story
article text

THE DEVIL’S OWN.

AN AUSTRALIAN STORY BY MRS. RICHMOND HENTY. (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) CHAPTER XII (Continued.)

As an exception to the general rule Mrs. Cholmondoley counted quantity with quality, being refined and well educated—moreover she was a viscount’s daughter with plenty of

sang bleu in her veins as to pedigree and precedence—dressed well—talked well— though perhaps too honest and outspoken in her opinions for society in general, but being pleased with every one and every- thing every one was pleased with her. This very hot afternoon she is in one of the tents eating strawberries and cream and fascinating little Mrs. Chausuble with pleasant conversation. Voices behind them in the tent arrested her speech as she stops in it to listen to them. “There near the fountain,” says one. “Yes, that is Sir Hubert Armytage,” says another, a real live baronet—just out from Enlgand. ” Mrs. Cholmondoley does not know the people from Adam, but she turns short round and faces them. “I beg your pardon," she says with a slight bow, but did I hear you say Sir Hubert Armytage?" She awaits an answer, but no answer is vouchsafed, they simply stare at her rudely. Perhaps it’s a breach of etiquette on her side speaking to unknown people at a private assembly. She bites her lip, not accustomed to rudeness, then, with her sweetest smile she says gracefully, as if by way of apology : “Pray excuse me, but Sir Hubert Army- tage is an old friend. I have known him from a child and his mother before him. I did not know he was in Australia;” and with a sweep of her rich train and stately bow at the party who had tried to teach her manners she had crossed the lawn to the fountain, where the baronet was standing, and was very nearly putting her plump gloved hands on his shoulder to his great surprise and confusion. “Hubert, my boy,” she said lovingly, her face beaming with delight, “how I have longed to see you—and now, at last, at last.” She looks in the exuberance of her joy, as if about to kiss him—but something in his manner chills the joyous greeting—she takes her hands away hastily only looking into his face whilst he is blushing scarlet for very shame at “being mauled over by that alarming pyramid," says stumpy little Mrs. Harlequin Culloden, the woolbroker’s wife to a friend. “Hubert, my darling, have you forgotten me? and the old days at Woodlands? surely not; let me look at you again—is it really the dear old Hubert of old—it cannot be—and yet—yes—you are so changed. The Indian climate has burnt you as brown as native. Even your eyes seem changed? I should never have recognised you, though to be sure your hair is the same as even ” The baronet gets redder and redder. “Curse them; will no one come to my rescue to get rid of this dreadful old woman,” he thinks to himself, but he stammers a few words about hot climate, sunstroke, long illness, which seems to appease his friend. “Ah yes!” she says sadly, with a sigh. “We heard of your illness. Trevor has fretted so much at getting no letter from you for months—years is it not? I shall have some- thing to tell him in my next letter, and some- thing to talk about when we get back to dear old Woodlands. Do you know, it is prettier than ever, particularly Fairybank. The ferns and crotons in the dell have grown up so. Do you remember the fright you gave us all when you jumped from the cliff into the river. How angry your father was and how I scolded you, and out of revenge you called me old “Chummy.” Dear, dear, I remember it all as if it was only yesterday; what a pickle you were, but such a pet in the dis- trict; a bright curly haired, blue-eyed lad, full of fun and mischief. Your very curls seemed to laugh ; and how well I remember your abomination of Eton jackets in the holidays. How you used to borrow my little flannel dressing jacket to shoot and fish in— yes, and swim in too—I remember your poor father's disgust. Poor Sir Launcelot! such a dear timid old man. I never loved anyone so much, not even my own father nor the dear old colonel,” she said, clandestinely, whisking away a tear, then pausing for a time. It was a pity,” she continued, re- covering herself, "you ever left England, Hubert, I am sure that terrible murder would never have happened had you been at home. The colonel was furious about it and worked day and night to discover the cruel cowardly brute. All in vain—so sad—so sad—but a truce to sad memories on such a time. Where are you staying Bertie?” “At the Continental,” he said slowly, “ Strange," she said. So are we. I have a young friend travelling with me—a beauti- ful singer; come and see us often ?” “I am leaving in a day or two," he said. “So are we,” she said, “for Coalhaven ; are you? Perhaps we can go together.” “No, we are going to some of the islands,” he said. “I must not monopolise you altogther, even with Auld Lang Sync for an excuse. Hark they are playing one of your old favorites. Have you given up music? I remember you used to rave about it. I thought you would turn out a Wagner or a Liszt. Au revoir, I shall reserve my kiss till we meet chez nous; come soon and very often.” Mrs. Cholmon- doloy added as with a shake of the hand she left him, and walked away to a quiet seat in a retired part of the grounds to recover her senses, and as she said to herself, “such a surprise. ” The baronet, hot and scarlet, stood still, his eyes following her till she was out of sight. “Cholmondoley—Chomley?” he repeated. “I know or seem to know the name —but where? Trevor Chomley, Trevor Chol- mondoley —where the deuce have I seen it. The devil—I have it,” he muttered to himself angrily. “We have all been admiring your pose, Sir Hubert,” said little Flo Vernon, dancing up merrily before the baronet, now pale and startled looking. “Is there a photographist anywhere about, or are you studying effect for somebody? I know who, though she is not thinking of you. Her back is turned ; she is talking to Dr. Sarpent, her most de- voted admirer—such a nice man.” Sir Hubert pulls himself together, pretend- ing to be much interested in Miss Flo Ver- non's girlish prattle. “Isn’t it a nuisance we can't have tennis.” “Why, Miss Vernon?” She laughs as she says : “ Fancy me being Miss Vernon! But about tennis—tennis flannels not admissable at At Homes” (with a shrug of her shoulders) les conveniences— but flannel suits are much more becoming than stuffy cloth coats and belltopper nats, are they not?" “Yes, particularly in this heat, I am be- ginning to envy the South Sea Islanders.” “I don’t,” she said naively. “I should never be content with a niece of string for my costume. I like to have lots of lovely dresses—and lots of money to spend in pretty things. Jack is in one of the Fiji islands, and he tells us that the natives have no clothes— that there are no shops—mustn't it be horrible—I would rather be a postman or a lamplighter here, they do see something of life—I am to come out next year, and we are to have fetes and a ball on my account— you must be here, you’ll see how well I shall dress—there’s mamma beckoning to me— I forgot her message. Mama wants to know if you have had any refreshment, or would you like an ice, or some champagne cup?” “No thank you, I am going soon, a host of engagements”. “Not yet; tisn’t six o’clock, Sir. Hubert,” says the voice of Mr. George Vernon, as he joined the pair. “Come and have an iced drink inside; those fizz ups tempts one to drink, but they take all the strength out of you—you seem to feel the heat,” added the host kindly, for the baronet was ghastly pale, feeling hot and cold by turns. “Yes, the heat always upsets me since my illness.” “Come and lie down a bit,” said Mr. Ver- non, “our house is an icehouse for coolness.” “Thank you, I shall get better presently, it is already cooler; there must be thunder about.” They join a bevy of young ladies under the trees for a time. “Who is that woman in white, standing by by herself near the band," said Sir Hubert, leaving the bevy of young ladies abrupty, to their disgust, and turning to Mr. Jones, who is near. “R..her a pretty woman,” continues the baronot still gazing at the object of his curiosity or a.miration. “That’s our little widow, Mrs. Annelaye— pretty?” “My dear fellow she is positively beautiful—pretty is not half good enough for her, she is as nice as she is beautiful—come and be introduced, though I warn you that the little beauty is rather stand off, even with her most ardent admirers. “I like that in a woman,” said the baronet, as they cross the lawn to the band, when a woman exquisitely yet simply dressed in white, was listening with rapt attention to

the band which is playing Mendelssohn's "Greeting." "So sorry to interrupt your devotion to tho music, but may I introduce a friend, Sir Hubert Armytage, an old ship mate of mine ” The widow returned gracefully the stiff and formal bow of the baronet. “ You are evidently a lover of music, Mrs. Annelaye, I read it in your face,’' said he looking into the violet eyes of his companion, who seemed to resent the stare, for she added coldly: " Yes, I think with Shakespeare that a man who has not a soul for music is not to be trusted. I love Mendelssohn’s music, all of it; it is all so full of feeling.” Sir Hubert listened, seemingly drinking in every word she uttered, and not even taking his eyes from her face as she spoke in earnest tones, with her eyes fixed on the band. She had caught a glimpse of the baronet’s face, only for an instant—she had not liked it. It seemed as if she had seen him before, but that could not be. It must have been some one like, she thought, as Sir Hubert was taking his departure soon after. “Are you off, Armytage, ” said Mr. Jones; "by the way will you come to church with us to-morrow. There is to be some extra good singing—a new singer with a wonderful voice, is to take the solos. The verger will show you our pew in the midde aisle. You must lunch with us after. I call it lunch though it really is early dinner. My wife goes in for a heavy speech at nine o’clock on Sundays. ” " Thanks, no I leave church to the devil dodgers. I’ll look you up for a stroll later on—in the afternoon.” “Do come round by the side walk ; you’ll find me in my lair, in all probability snoring like a grampus. Early dinners are downright suicidal in my case. We’ll drive down to Mrs. Annelaye’s and cat muffins and brown bread and butter—by-bye, come early, I'll try to keep awake for you ; don’t forget the side walk, its nearer.” CHAPTER XIII. TERROR. “I feel my sinews slackened with the fright, And a cold sweat trills down o’er all my limbs, As if I were dissolving into water.” DRYDEN. It was on that same afternoon of the garden party on a sofa near a window of one of the rooms of the Hotel Continental at Goldsborough a young girl is lying asleep. A beautiful girl, the fair face full of dimples in its fairness contrasting strongly with her mourning gown of black, perhaps too plump to be classical looking; more of the Titians Venus type than that of a Raphael, more particularly in the wavy masses of golden hair that crown the head. The heat is oppres- sive and the pretty sleeper has evidently succumbed to its influence or fatigue, or both, for an open book, “Kate Coventry. ’’ lies the ground near, together with a dainty French shoe as if for company, whilst the well arched little foot to which the slipper belongs is innocently showing its perfection in its thin silken hose at the foot of the sofa. A slight breeze has got up outside flapping the Venetians and the noise together with a deep growl, awakens the sleeping beauty, the blue eyes wander round slowly as if their owner was stepping out of dreamland into real every day life. For a minute or two she is too frightened to move, and does nothing but stare in abject fear and helplessness at a large bloodhound— a veritable lion in size and appearance—lying crouched on the floor near her, its fierce look- ing head on the fore paws, the eyes glaring up savagely at the recumbent figure, ready for a spring she thinks with alarm. She is naturally timid, and has always been frigh- tened of dogs. “The brute is watching me out of his great big eyes,” she says to herself, and the sight takes her very breath away from abject terror. What can she do? The bell is at the the other end of the room, but she dare not move—the very thought of the jaws of the monster sends all the blood back to her heart, which is beating furiously. She musters up strength of voice to gasp “poor doggee, poor fellow,” kindly, though she dare not attempt a conciliatory stroke or friendly pat. The venetians still coninue to flap, at which the dog growls low but savagely. The girl is at her wits’ end. At length, summoning up courage, she raises slowly her arm—a plump, rounded, dimpled arm, bare to the elbow —from its position, the soft laces of the Indian silk sleeve having fallen, leaving the arm a bare, tempting morsel for any wild animal. Taking a piece of sugar from the silver tray of tea things near, she throws it to the dog, then another lump or two, fol- lowed by some biscuits, all of which the animal devours eagerly. She has come to the end of her little store, sugar basin and biscuit tin are both empty. What can she do? She shudders in dread as tho animal gets up, stretches itself and places a heavy paw on her, evidently to entreat sagaciously for more, but she has none to give him. The last remnant of courage she has is fast ebbing away, as she waits breathlesly, almost choking with the beating of her heart. A sharp tap at the door, followed by another, but the girl is too panic stricken to utter even the words “come in,” though she knows it is her only hope. The dog responds with a growl, the door is opened slowly and noise- lessly by a waiter, evidently knowing or thinking that the occupant of number 6 is, or has, been indulging in a siesta this hot afternoon. The dog stands erect, growling savagely at the intruder, who beats a retreat quickly on seeing the ferocious look of the animal, after closing the door hurriedly. A dead silence follows—the girl can hear the agonising suspense no longer. The room seems to whirl round as she closes her eyes, her face, which had gradually been getting whiter and whiter, is now as marble itself in its deathly palor and bloodless expression. Hurried footsteps outside—the door is flung open with a bang without any notice as a man rushes in, seizes the brute by the collar, and, is about to apologise profusely for the dogs intrusion, when his words are arrested at seeing the girl’s face, for she is past notic- ing anything and lies in a dead swoon. He looks round for water, then finding none, he flings hurriedly a large bouquet of roses he has taken out of a vase near on to the floor, uses the water lavishly in sprinkling over the still white face on the couch; then ring- ing the bell violently, he rubs the pretty soft hands, and with a fan he has discovered sus- pended from her waist, he fans the girl till assistance comes. He has pulled up the venetians and opened the door wide for more air; the room seems stifling, large as it is, and the strong otto perfume of the many roses adds to the oppressive and suffocating atmosphere. His room is upstairs. He does not like to leave the girl in her state, or long ago he would have fetched smelling salts and eau de cologne. She is very beautiful he thinks to himself. He has had time to take in every item of the pretty unknown, even to the dainty shaped foot and perfectly moulded arm—he rather grudges the idea of intrusion or interference. A waiter answers the bell promptly, then hurries away to an upper story for the maid, who soon comes bustling in armed with a tumbler of water and sal volatile, but not smelling salts, thinks the stranger, apparently pleased as he makes the discovery, as he still watches the white face. The maid divides her attention between her young mistress, between times having a good stare at the tall, handsome, dark gentleman who couldn’t take his eyes off our young lady, as the abigail afterwards tells the head waiter confi- dentially. “Have you no smelling salts?” says the stranger, breaking the silence, which is be- coming alarming. “ I don’t know where Miss Fanny keeps it, and Mrs. Cholmondoley has taken hers with her, sir; but you are better now, Miss Fan,” adds the woman kindly as the girl opensher large eyes wonderingly at the group watching her, then closes them again as the stranger leaves the room, hurries up stairs, three stops at a time, to his room, and back again to the drawing-room with smelling salts and a large cutglass bottle of strong eau de cologne, which he hands to the maid, who has found it useless to get her young mis- tress to even look at the sal volatile. There is no excuse for remaining; he will reserve his apologies for the dog to a more fitting occasion, he says to himself as he reluctantly leaves the room silently, followed submis- sively by the dog who has lain quiet and well behaved (as if quite understanding what was going on) on the hearth rug awaiting his superior’s orders. The girl, though better, is still lying pale and silent with closed eyes, as man and dog pass the sofa on their way out of the room. The girl lies still for some time, then, hear- ing carriage wheels, she rouses herself and listens for a step on the hotel stairs—for her one friend, Mrs. Cholmondoley. “ I am so glad to get home again my dear, said a cheery voice, “ the heat was oppressive, it has tired me out for a wonder—I don’t feel myself at all—and the speaker threw herself into the first arm chair. “Let me ring for some tea,” said the girl, busy taking off her friend’s gloves and bonnet, “No, you must have some iced wine and water—I shall ring.” “Garden parties are so hot and tiring,

when I marry my Crœsus I shall have my garden parties by moonlight.” “ I wish you had been there, my dear, I am sure you would have enjoyed it thoroughly. Everything was so perfectly arranged, and there were such lots of nice men. I used to hate the garden parties in England, at least generally speaking, there were so few men, but a tribe of women, who looked as if they were going to jump down my throat for being there—and without a man. “There; you must put your feet up and rest for a whole hour, I knew you would be late—the waiter asked me—so I thought it best to postpone dinner till eight. Now, tell me all about it, please,” said the girl sweetly. “ Well, my dear, it was altogether a lovely party, and everyone was very nice, but I had a surprise—I was going to say shock. Who do you think was there—you will never guess.” “How can I? It is too hot even to think.” “No other than Sir Hubert Armytage.” Her companion started and turned very pale. “Sir Hubert Armytage,” said she in tones of surprise, then a serious look came over her face. “Yes; Sir Hubert Armytage,” continued the older lady; “ but so altered— but the very wreck of his former self—in fact a booby or imbecile, or idiotic, to be charitable, from a sunstroke I fancy. You must remember what a darling, bright, slap dash fellow he used to be. ” “Of course, I saw but very little of him,” said the girl; “ but I remember his voice and laugh." “Yes, he was the veritable life of the house,” said her friend. “The last time he dined at Woodlands he horrified the bishop by pulling all my hair down and then danced the can-can round me—such a boy! The Hubert of to-day is only the spectre of my boyish love. I don’t think he said ten words, and as to memory he remembered nothing— positively nothing—stared like a yahoo, my dear; yes, a yahoo when I mentioned Trevor’s name; it quite upset me, such a pity, for I am sure he will end his days in a lunatic asylum, and the dear old, old title and family will be extinct. You are looking pale; don’t you feel well? It is the heat, so very trying. I feel it." “Yes,” said the girl; “and no wonder in the hot sun. It has been quite cool in this room, but I also had a surprise—a visitor. You will never guess who?” "It’s too hot, my dear, as you say, even to think. I suppose it was some one of the hotel visitors, who had mistaken his room, stupid fellow. ” “No; it was—who do you think?” “ I know. It was Sir Hubert. He left very early, though I couldn’t make out why. I fancied he must be ill.” “No, it was an immense bloodhound, that’s all I can remember, and then I fainted." “The brute,” said Mrs. Cholmondoley. “I know it—such a formidable looking dog too. I must speak to the manager. I found him on my mat this morning. He has taken such a fancy to me, poor thing; but it might frighten somebody to death.” “ What is he like, I mean Sir Hubert,” said the girl. “ Horribly changed, my dear, but you can judge for yourself. I asked him to come and see us soon. He is going away in a few days —altogether. I think I would rather we had not met. I would have preferred having the old Hubert of by-gone days in my mind’s eye—just as he was—unchanged, as I always picture him ; but that Hubert is dead, and a new man, an apology in fact, is in his place. No doubt the metamorpohisis is attributable to living out of the pale of civilisation the last few years, though from what I saw to-day and the people I met, there seems no excuse at all for young men degenerating as they always have the character of doing—getting uncouth and bearish after living in the colonies. I think now it must be their own fault if they do sink or degenerate; by the way, there was a very pretty little widow there. I was quite charmed with her my- self.” “But you are so easily pleased,” said the girl, with a little pettish pout, “and widows know how to be captivating.” “Ah! but my little widow was not one of your showy attractive bouncing widows and there was nothing coquettish about her, in fact, I did not know she was a widow at all; she looked so young and girlish. ” “ What did she wear?” said the girl. “ Her dress was perfect, and suited her. It was quite simple—white soft silk with a Iace bonnet and parasol to match; but she had such lovely flowers —roses and forget-me-nots. She quite won my heart, for she offered me her seat, no doubt thinking I must be tired with the burden of such a heavy brigade of fat to carry about, and I was really very tired and cross, and seats were few and far between, so it was very good of the little woman, and we became great friends. I found that she is devoted to music. I am so sorry you were not with me, you would have liked her, Fan.” “I never make friends like other girls. It always seems too much trouble to cultivate friendship in travelling only to be forgotten by them,” said the girl wearily. “ Nonsense, my dear; don’t get lacka- daisical,” said Mrs. Cholmondoley, taking the glass of iced wine from her companion. (TO BE CONTINUED.)