Chapter 174508724

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Full Date1892-01-30
Page Number1
Word Count5274
Last Corrected2020-06-24
Newspaper TitleThe Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)
Trove TitleThe Devil's Own. An Australian Story
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"Rememberance is the only paradise out of which we cannot be driven away—Indeed our first parents were not deprived of it. RICHTER.

In another apartment of the hotel Conti- nental a different conversation is going on. It is between two men, Sir Hubert Armytage who has just entered and his friend or secre- tary or dependant or whoever he may be. Sholto Forth, who is lolling back in an arm chair, his feet up on another, the picture of cool enjoyment. “Knocked up?" says Forth, as the baronet enters scowling at everything." “No ; I am sick of the place; I am off to- morrow morning or Monday at the latest—it’s too hot here. ” " Hey day! what’s up — pretty widow snubbed you?” said the other man sitting bolt upright and staring hard at his friend, “ Widow? what widow?" said the baronet savagely. “ Forth, you forget your position. “Never,” said Forth; “never, I know my position too well worse luck,” he adds bitterly. “Humbug? Why the devil do you keep it then?” said the baronet, pulling the bell violently, ordering brandy and soda and a Bradshaw. “No train to-morrow,” says Forth; “and if there was you couldn’t go. How can you?” “ I can do as I please, which is more than you can say; so you can put that in your pipe and smoke it,” Sholto Forth utters not a word; he has taken up a newspaper to hide his anger and his clenched teeth, as he mutters to himself viciously, “curse the hound,” then he slowly recovers himself and says: “I don’t see how you can got away till after the races. You know you have backed Zola heavily, and of course she must win— that's your usual luck (cynically) ; but if you go away—when the cat’s away the mice are at play,” said Forth. “I expect you to keep the mice in order and, by Heaven ! you’ll have to keep watch— they'll require it. Your work is cut out for you. Arrange with Johnson about the mare. Those fellows can always be bought. By the way that fellow Stanmore, hasn’t paid up— shifty beggar. I’ll give him a hint, or you can. Just write Sir Hubert Armytage’s com- pliments to Captain Stanmore, and request that a settlement will be made shortly, and Sir Hubert Armytage, being a gentleman, always paying his debts of honor, expects other gentlemen to do the same. ” “What a queer way of putting it,” said Forth laughing. “ Hanged if I could write in that way," “Perhaps not; very likely not,” said the baronet sarcastically. “Your education has evidently been very much neglected on cer- tain points—habits and customs of gentle- men of the age.” “Gentlemen or baronets?” said Forth curi- ously. “Both,” said Sir Hubert, with a curl of the lip. “However, there’s no time to bandy words; you seem to have got out of bed the wrong side, Forth.” “Never felt happier,” said the other; “well I’ll not say that, but I will say that I feel as jolly as a sand boy, and if you had come in a little sooner you would have found me waltz- ing to the Blue Danube they were playing outside. “Glad to hear it,” said the baronet in surprise. “To what may I attribute the happy change. Solitude is not generally invigorating, and with the excepton of the waiters and chamber maids, whom I know is not your weakness, I don’t know anyone else in the house to en- liven one.” Sholto Forth was silent. He had intended to have opened his heart to his patron, as he sarcastically termed the baronet, but second thoughts, which are always of the head and wiser, made him change his mind, added to the gruff and growling manner of Sir Hubert whose tempers and whims very often made life almost unbearable to his so-called friend, so he kept the little episode of the dog and the girl to himself, nor did he confess how, for a whole hour, he had sat (with the door open and his head leaning aganst the wall) in rapt silence, listening to a voice that was as from heaven itself, as the rich pure notes poured forth that exquisite song, “ The harp in the Air,” touchingly, and so full of expres- sion and feeling, that Sholto Forth, hardened sinner as he called himself, base man of the world, could stand it no longer, getting up, banging the door, and stamping about as if to shut out the sad strains and touching words reminding him alas ! too cruelly, of the past of a certain day in the old cathedral at Exeter —of a voice there never, never to be forgotten —of a face well remembered in its soft gentle expresion and fair sweet outlines softened by the evening sunset shining with subdued light through the dim stained windows of the old church. “ Will those days never never return,” said he; “no never for me—never for me. She is dead, ” He hid his face in his hands for a moment, then looked up and listened again. The voice had returned to earth, as it were, and was singing touchingly, “Never more,” then on to gayer songs, in a rich voice, full of laughing melody “Gin a body meet a body comin' through the rye.” For a while then all was silent, as the listener sat on picturing to him- self the face of the singer, the ideal face of an ideal singer, beautiful and sweet and gentle looking; no doubt “ she could not be otherwise with such a voice. “New arrivals,” Gustave told Armytage; “ well I have letters to write, so adieu to the pleasant picture I have conjured up. Lion, Lion, old fellow, are you there? No he is not. I must look after him. He is too fierce looking to be at large. I’ll ring for Gustave to hunt him up. I’ve my letters ready to post.” The whole afternoon scene had come before him, as Sir Hubert in his bad temper had said; “Forth, you forget your position,” re- minding him that he was a slave, a menial, as far as liberty went, tied hand and glove to a man for whom he had the greatest con- tempt; to whom, evidently he, Sholto Forth, had become a necessary companion, why, he knew not, except it was to civilise and edu- cate the brute in the usages of society after his barbarous life amongst the savages. “But I did not bargain to being taunted with being slave-ship, and told I forgot my position." “Forget it,” he thought to himself. How could he forget, he had but one hourly re- gret—that he had ever been so mad as to sell his freedom. It was at Rome at the hotel of a friend of his—Count Florien Belloni—where a party were playing baccarat, that he had met Sir Hubert Armytage, a man not popular in society, nor a favorite with Forth and his friends who had the entree of the best houses. Sir Hubert Armytage had been unusually reckless that night, and Forth in a frenzy of excitement had also staked heavily and lost; had staked again, hoping against fate, until his last piece of gold had gone and himself a beggar. He bit this lip in anger, and got up from the table saying lightly “I cannot fight against fate; good night friends; it is very late. I have had enough. I have nothing more to lose, ” “He was generally so lucky,” they said, as in his despair he was about to leave them. They pressed him to remain to play on, offer- ing their purses, and as he got to the door Sir Hubert Armytage touched him on the shoulder. “Never say die, mon cher. Here is my purse, make use of it— a thousand or so will never be missed. I have more than I know what to do with.” Sholto Forth with such temptaion at his elbow, had not the strength of mind to resist, proud as he was, so with eyes beaming, with hope and anticipation, he sat down again and played on, staking heavily, but to lose again, then too late, remembering his folly and mad- ness, and that he was worse than ruined he remorsefully said good night, despair written on his face, and hurried forth with what wretched intentions he himself only know. He strode on, away from the excitement and light of the gas lamps out into the darkness till be was quite alone, then he stopped for a momen to give way to bitter regret and tear- less thoughts. A voice in the dark startled him. “Mon ami, don’t be a fool, for the sake of a freak of ill fortune. ” “I was a fool to accept your offer,” said Forth angrily; “I made sure your money would turn my luck. Now that has failed better death than dishonor. I cannot pay you.” “Who asked you to pay, mon cher? I do not—life is prrecious. If your conscience is soft pay me in friendship. I am alone in the world. I want a friend and a companion, stick to me. We will leave this if you like and travel together. You will never regret it until you tire of me and fail in your friend- ship, but I must have the genuine thing and no sham.” Forth had accepted. They had travelled

together for over a year, Forth wondering what motive a rich baronet of birth and pedigree could have for paying the carte blanche expenses of a stranger. Certainly Sir Hubert had much to learn of the manners and customs of society. He was deficient even in grammar, to say nothing of gentle- manly habits and ways, from having lived amongst savages in the bush, thought Forth, who was a thorough gentlemen and accus- tomed even to homage from society, for his handsome face, good qualities, and useful accomplishments; but he was getting sick of his boredom in having to play showman to a baronet. “ I shall have to eat dirt a little longer, but only a little longer." CHAPTER XV. FASCINATION. “She's beautiful, therefore to be loved— wooed. She is a woman; therefore to be won.” Henry VI. “What a metamorphossis! transmogrifica- ion ! Couldn’t have supposed it possible,” said Eleanor Jones, throwing herself into a low and comfortable chair and taking a survey of the the room from ceiling to car- pet. “By jove ! it only shows what a woman of taste can do.” Certainly it was a room with its belongings fit to charm the heart of a more fastidious person than Eleanor Jones. There was no stiff formal suite of furniture to tire the eye or give one the backache with the dis- comfort of their uprightness. Sofa and easy lounges, low and comfortable modern sofas and fauteils were scattered about tempt- ingly, quaint tete-a-tete picnic, writing, work, and other tables placed only for use. Flowers everywhere, parmen violets in particular, their fresh fragrance perfuming the atmos- phere. An Eraid piano, with music scattered around it, told of the musical taste of the hostess, altogether the apartment of a woman of refinement and simple but good taste. Three years have passed over Mrs. Anne- laye’s head since we last saw her fighting her way through the thistles and weeds of her present home, but she is little altered for old time has dealt gently with her, and the bright young face is, if anything, more beautiful in its softened expression. It is Sunday afternoon, and as is her cus- tom, she has been reading to the children stories of their own choice. She is not a rigid Sabbatarian in any way, thinking it a day of rest and relaxation, of quiet pleasure and contentment. She likes to make her children think of the seventh day with de- light, rather than dread, so she fills her flowerstands, discoursing sweet talk about God’s gifts, as she picks the bright blossoms to the little ones around her, and when the afternoon comes they are all in a heap about her listening to some children’s stories she reads to them. But on this afternoon a loud ring at the bell tells her of visitors, so the readig is put off and the children have free permisson to go out in the garden for a time. “ How-dye Mrs. Annelaye; I’ve brought my friend, Sir Hubert Armytage, I introduced to you yesterday — an old shipmate,” says Ebenezer Jones, waving his hand and looking serio-comically towards the baronet, who ad- vances blushingly with a bow as the widow holds out her hand formally though kindly to both. “ You must have a magic hand Mrs. Anne- laye to have turned this into fairyland; only —let me see. Not three years the place was a veritable rats’ castle—what about the rats?” “ I have never even seen a mouse,” said the widow laughingly. “I must have frightened them all away.” “ I see you have turned the bowling green into a tennis lawn; a great improvement,” said Mr. Ebenezer Jones. “ Yes, it will be more useful to me, you see. I hear of girls playing billiards, cricket, and other manly games, but I do not think they have reached the game of bowls in their progress of their march in athletic sports.” The baronet has seated himself in a distant part of the room, apparently listening to the conversation, but in reality thoroughly ab- sorbed in the contemplation of a cabinet photograph in a handsome velvet folding frame that stands on a small table near the window. How did you like the singing this morn- ing, Sir Hubert?” says the widow, turning to her visitor at the window. “I never go to church.” answers her visi- tor. “I leave that for the sky ‘ pilots,’ Mrs. Annelaye.” “I beg your pardon ! the—the— ” says the widow. “Sky pilots, devil dodgers, parsons I sup- pose you call them,” said the baronet, still looking at the photograph he now held in his hand. Mrs. Annelaye looked serious, but only for a moment, then she blushed hotly. She had an old fashioned reverence for religion, and men of sacred calling. “I thought the singing lovely,” she said gently to Mr. Jones. “Such a heavenly voice the solo singer has. I saw you there with Mrs. Jones. “No; did you really. Well, do you know I gave you credit for never once taking your eyes off your book the whole service through. You always remind me of one of those pic- tures of—of—saint, saint—what’s her name. St. Cecelia, isn’t it You look so unapproach- ingly devout; so shockingly good.” “Well I did not feel very sanctimonious this morning to confess the truth, for th- heat was much too oppressive to be bear- able contentedly, they never will open the windows," said the widow. “ Why don’t you tell the verger?” said Mr. Jones. “I have done so before, and then some chilly mortal had them shut up again, giving me the snub direct. It was simply suffocating this morning. Fortunately I am not given to fainting, but I did feel the heat almost over- powering; perhaps living so much in the country has spoilt me for close rooms and stifling atmosphere,” says the widow. “ Armytage, where's your manners? You have not spoken a word. Anybody would think you were shy; you’ve done nothing but take an inventory of Mrs. Annelaye’s nick nacks. I shall leave you to retrieve your character and apologise. I see the chilren Mrs. Annelaye, with you permission I’ll look at the sea with Puck—such a brave little fellow, Armytage; its great fun to hear him calling his mother ‘Dolly,’" said Ebenezer rising. “I will come with you, Mr. Jones ,” said the widow, evidently not caring for solitude a deux as far as the baronet was concerned. Sir Hubert looked angry as he joined them in their exit from the room on to the lawn, “Who is that man, ‘Dolly?’” said Puck, looking up at Sir Hubert cautiously. “That is Alldebaronte Phoseophornic, Puck,” said Jones,’“and has lost his tongue. He left it at the Hotel Continental” “Did you really? have you got no tongue?” said the child, wonderingly to the silent visitor. He is a naughty wicked man (pointing to his friend) little one ; don’t you believe him ; he is telling naughty wicked stories after going to church and pretending to be saying his prayers all the morning—naughty wicked fellow,” said the baronet, apparently recover- ing his good temper. “Puck, run in dear for mamma and tell Simmons to bring the tea and some claret to the summer house. It will be pleasanter than the house; there is such a fresh breeze from the sea.” Simmonds soon after appeared with the tray, the children went indoors and the trio sat on, watching the waves as they rippled almost to the floor of the summer house. “A glorious place for a bath," said Jones, “ if there are no sharks about, oh Mrs. Anne- laye, but if ifs and ands were pots and pans you would find me down here early some fine morning, as it is I have too much love for number one.” “Thank you, I will take a cup of tea, though, as a rule I hate the old maids’ tipple, to tell you the truth I am so sleepy I feel as blinky as an old owl—it is awfully rude I know—but church followed by a heavy feed is enough to take the life out of any one this weather. By-the-bye the races will be here soon, we hope Mrs. Annelaye you will give us the pleasure of your company on the drag—there, haven’t I done it well? Hearken ye people, I have delivered the wife’s message verbatim and properly, bless me, its won- derful what a memory I must have. Mrs. Jones is coming to see you herself about it— now for my message. You will come will you not? do—you shall have the box seat and handle the ribbons if you care for that sort of thing." “Thank you very much, I never go to races now, and if I did, I couldn’t very well manage it this time for I am expecting the Fortescue’s for the race week. ” “Oh, but you must come, I think I can give Mrs. Fortescue a seat,” “Easily,” said Sir Hubert, “I shall drive my own trap.” “ No, we cannot spare you: but Mrs. Annelaye you will come, it will be awfully jolly. No end of fun.” “Did Mrs. Jones really send me that message?” said the widow. “Honor bright," said Ebenezer, laughing. “I must write and thank her.” “Don’t trouble to write; but if you would rather do so I’ll take it.’’

“Why nee I trouble you," she said laugh- ing. "Do you doubt my postmanship? I’ll take it." “Then if you will excuse me for a few minutes Sir Hubert, I will write a few lines," she said, rising to cross the lawn. “ Mrs. Annelaye, you don’t mind our having a smoke during your absence? It will serve to make the heavy moments pass quicker,” said Ebenezer. “Hasn’t Mr, Ebenezer Jones improved in his manners, and ensemble since he went to Europe Mrs. Annelaye? At least every one says so, so it must be true, even I see a differ- ence of late. They spoilt him on board tho Lahore; they did positively. I began to feel quite jealous; it was where’s Mr. Jones here, we want Mr. Jones there; have you seen Mr. Jones? from all quarters,” said the baronet half cynically. “Poor Mrs. Jones! she is much to be pitied,” said the pretty widow pathetially, as she moved away. “Anything wrong old fellow?” said Jones to his friend; “you look so awfully down in the mouth.” “Do I?” said Sir Hubert. “I am all right but I hate Sunday; it’s such a crusher to one’s spirits—a wet blanket to one’s feelings; one’s very ideas and conversation are nipped in the bud in remembering it is Sunday, the dullest and most stupid of all days of the week. ” “Do you think so? I rather like Sunday, it is the only day I feel free from trouble, business, beggars, letters, bills and other nuisances, simply because there is no post— blessed interval of relaxation au reste after going to chuch. I feel somehow a better man and friendly towards the world in general; charitably inclined in fact." “Humbug! don’t talk such utter rot to me Jones ; don't try to pose as double distilled hypocrite. The role does not suit you, mon cher,” said Sir Hubert, “Puck cannot get the idea of your having no tongue out of his little pate—he is at present having a debate with his nurse on the subject of being able to talk without a tongue—with absurd illustrations on his part,” said Mrs.Annelaye, who had joined the four with a note in her hand. “ You came in time, Mrs. Annelaye, for Jones I assure you was fast losing his head and talking twaddle. “It will be a Welsh compliment to ask you to stay for a modest supper, for the last train, leaves about, nine and I am afraid there is not the chance of a cab in this primitive dis- trict.” “Thank you, but we must be off, I promised to meet Clavering at the Club at nine,” said Ebenezer, shaking Mrs. Annelaye’s hand and marching away quickly, leaving without in- terruption. “Good night, Mrs. Annelaye. May I come sometimes, and will you forgive my rudeness of to-day," said the baronet, holding the widow’s hand until she blushed rosy red, and looking very disconcerted as she drew it away quickly. “Ar-my-tage,” shouted a voice from the gate. Sir Hubert bit his lip in annoyance. “You have not answered my petition," he said. “Sir Hubert, any friends of Mrs. Jones will be always welcome here; good night, and you you know you have to contradict Puck’s theory about you having no tongue, ” said the widow, noticing the hot blood and vexation in the baronet’s face. “Happy little Puck,” said Sir Hubert, stroking his moustache and looking into the violet eyes, as he said good-bye once more and hurried after his friend, who, getting impatient, had been amusing himself with scratching with his stick the outline of a big heart with an arrow stuck through it, in the well rolled and smooth gravel drive. Had the baronet known the trouble and questioning anxiety he had caused by his last objectionable stare, he would have wished himself blind for many a long day, and deaf to the attractions of Vera Annelaye. They had nearly reached the station before she re- covered herself, as she sat on, deep in thought, her hands before her eyes as if to recall or shut out some vision of the past. “Where have I seen him? I seem to know his face, and yet it cannot be. He is only just out from England. I never met him there, and yet I remember his face, and I fancy in some way connected with my darling —but that must be fancy—he must resemble some friend of ours. I don’t like him, though somehow his face has haunted me all day. How silly I am, he can never be anything to me. I must go to the chicks, they always do me good.” “I remember now,” she said, pausing for a moment on her way to the nursery, with one hand on her forehead. I remember, it was on board the Kashmir coming out, I must have seen him. He must have been amongst the passengers—to be sure—Aunt Dorothy will remember him—and that accounts for his looking at my darling’s portrait so long and so thoughtfully. CHAPTER XVI. CUNNING. “And yet he thinks! ha, ha, ha, ha! he thinks I am the tool and servant of his will. Well, let it be through all the maze of trouble His plots and base oppression must create. I’ll shape myself a way to higher things, And who will say ’tis wrong.” BASEL. “So you really are off, Armytage?” said Forth the next morning, entering their sitting room and seating himself at the breakfast table. “Yes, I shall just take a run up country for a day or two; perhaps get a few shots, though I am not a dab at snipe shooting, not if I knows it. It is not in my line plodding through swamps and snaky ground for the sake of rubbishing birds that you can buy for a few shilings. No thank you ; I am not such a fool, but I promised that old fellow Cameron—Macgregor—what’s his name, that I would honor his old shanty with my pres- ence for a few days. He looked so pleased.” “I am sure Dugald Sutherland, if that is the name of your friend, will be highly de- lighted, and as for his old shanty as you call it, Sargent told me last night it was equal to any English country seat —both rooms, billiard room, and every luxury. ” “ Cannot I help you or do that for you whilst you get some breakfast?” “No; I won’t trouble you, thanks,” said the baronet, who was busy at a side table sealing letters. Sir Hubert Armytage always superintended the safe despatch of his own letters, sealing them himself with his own hand and with his own seal or signet ring, on which was en- graved a curious hieroglyphic that no one could read or understand but himself. Gustave, who always posted the said letters, stood this morning waiting in respect- ful silence near the door, with lowered eye- lids, except now and then when his master spoke, then the courier would fix his large eyes in wrapped attention, or curiosity, as if trying to fathom certain looks and expres- sions of his master. “Anything to be done whilst you are away?” said Forth helping himself to a cutlet. “Nothing for you to do, thanks Forth, ex- cept to make excuses for my absence; Gus- tave has his orders, then he can take a holi- day if you don’t want him. ” “No; I shall go and pay my respects to the lubly Miss Dinah. They say she has two thousand a year—quite a start in life for me if I could but get over the red hair and freckles, and Parkin Pere having been a publi- can in Van Diemen’s Land. By-the-by, that trouble that poor little widow must have had —Mrs. Annelaye.” “What has she to do with Miss Parkin?” said the baronet, pettishly. “Oh, nothing; but thoughts will wander away sometimes. Let me see, we were talking of Mrs. Annelaye—poor little woman —her husband shot dead without rhyme or reason. ” “ Poor devil; bushrangers?” said Sir Hubert “Nothing of the kind. Johnson was telling me all about it. No bushranger in the case, no ; some cowardly cur must have owed the fellow a grudge. It was evidently done for a motive, and in such a sneaking way. ” “I hope they’II catch the brute. The police are after him still, and the reward of fifteen hundrd pounds still offered, I hear they have a clue. Barker who is in the police, told me, and he must be good authority.” “D— — n !” said Sir Hubert, getting red in the face. " I burnt my finger to save the in- fernal stuff dropping over the envelope. ” Gustave looked up, caught his master’s eye looking at him curiously, then dropped his eyes again. “There, Gustave, six in all; now I’ll take a cup of coffee, nothing more, and I’m off. Call a cab Gustave. I’ll tip you a line old man (to Forth ) to say how I like the old cove. Don’t bother to write; I shan’t be away long. Good-bye Forth,” and the baronet, drank up his coffee and followed Gustave down stairs, before his friend had time to ask if letters were to be forwarded. “I wonder what’s up. Has the widow snub- bed him. Most likely. How he colored up at the name, and even burnt his fingers. Had he must be very far gone. I wonder what freak has taken him up the country. Some reason, Sir Hubert Lancelot Armytage, baronet, does nothing without a motive—no, no, not half such fool as he looks. What a thing it is to have a clever head for plotting

an planning; it would kill me though sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. No, Sholto, my boy, we'll let the world gang its ain gait and try to live honestly." “I am at monsieur's service, "said Gustave an hour or two later, bringing in letters. " I have nothing for you to do, thank you, Gustave; make hay whilst the sun shines. Be off and enjoy yourself whilst you can," said Forth, opening the first note that came to hand. Gustave bowed respectfully and re- tired. Forth read on: My Dear Hubert,—Come and have tea with me this afternoon, and bring your friend Mr. Forth, if he can tolerate simple afternoon tea, I wish to thank him for so kindly coming to the rescue on Saturday, In haste,—Yours, CHOLMONDOLEY. MONDAY. "Well it's luck my friend you are over the hills and far away or you would surely have got into one of your tantrums with me for not telling you about my Saturday after- noon affair. Nimporte, no answer needed— taut mieux. I’ll go and willingly accept some thanks from the pretty lips of Leonore or Violet, or by-the-bye, its Fanny, now I re- member. I wonder who she is? Very pretty foot, very pretty face, good figure. I wonder what she said at seeing the flowers scattered about on the floor. He might have had the decency to pick them up again. I think I ought to make up for my rudeness by send- ing her some—I will, there’s lots of time. I’ll stroll down the street and order some before I lunch at the club.” He looked over a few more notes and letters, answering some and putting aside others, then took up his hat and left the hotel, sauntering down the street in a happier frame of mind than he had felt for a long time—perhaps it was the balmy air and in- vigorating freshness of the morning—or was it having the coast clear to do as he chose and to go where he pleased that afternoon, and to see again a face that had haunted him since Saturday. He looked almost radiant and almost envied a little street urchin who sat whistling about in his childish exuberance of spirits. He stopped at a fashionable florist’s, a very rare emporium in or about Golds- borough, flowers being so plentiful as almost to be had for nothing. A superb bouquet of the choicest white exotics surrounded with a deep border of dark heliotrope, caught his eye as a hand was putting it in the window. (TO BE CONTINUED.)