|Newspaper Title||The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||The Devil's Own. An Australian Story|
“To weep and sleep, Dream—wake —and find one’s only one hope false Is what we can bear, for we do endure it
And bear with Heaven still.” —BAILEY. “I am dreadfully sorry, dear, but the cavalier I had especially intended for for you to day has proved unfaithful to his promise to lunch here. I am so sorry, for your sake,” said Mrs. Annelaye, walking across the room to where Fan- chette Marin stood, looking out seaward. “Do you mean Mr. Forth’s friend? Well, I am glad,” said the girl, looking up brightly at her hostess. “I hate him, Mrs, Annelaye. I do—I hate him. I am so glad he is not here to-day.” Mrs. Annelaye looked at the girl’s face for a moment as if to read if possible the meaning of such strong language, but could learn nothing. “Are you, dear ?” she said, softly, half in a surprised, half in a regretful tone. “I am so sorry. I did not know—you see, I have only known Sir Hubert Army- tage so short a time. Then, for your sake, I am glad he is not here.” Mr. Forth, who had been leaning against the mantelpiece, his eyes fixed in admiration on the girl in the window, started in surprise at her words and lis- tened ; but the entrance of guests inter- rupted the conversation. “So that very erratic young man, Sir Hubert Armytage, has flitted,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley to Mr. Forth. “Why don’t you keep him in better order ?” “I am not his keeper, Mrs. Cholmonde- ley.” “No, but tell me was it not a very sudden idea? He told me last night he should be here to-day. Where is he off to now ? You see, I consider myself privileged to ask questions about him, for we have been more than friends for years. I have known him all his life, I may say —at least, until he left his home for a far away country, and was dead to us all and memory dear.” “I believe he has gone to the country for some shooting. Yes, I fancy is was a sudden whim.” “Well, I must say I consider it very rude of him,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley, “but he is so sadly altered.” It was a dainty lunch—small and tempting dishes, light but choice wines, the table decorations simply one parterre of exquisite flowers. " What a beautiful table,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley to Mrs. Jones. “ I think you Australians quite eclipse us with your dinner-tables. But then, what a charm- ing luxury it must be to have profusions of flowers all the year round fresh from your own gardens. In London, I try to have flowers in winter, but the price they cost is simply ruination if one enter- tains much and is fond of flowers.” Mr. Forth had been told off as escort to Mdlle. Marin, and as they walked into the dining-room, Darby and Joan fashion, a chill seemed to have come across them, particularly Mr. Forth, who was very silent, for try as he would he could not get over the words he had heard in the window of the drawing room only a little while ago. He could not rest till he knew what they meant. “For goodness sake say something. Have you lost your tongue ? You are too entertaining, Mr. Forth,” said his neighbor in a pettish voice, as she watched a fly near her plate and then killed it with her hand mercilessly. “Yes, I am very rude. What excuse can I make? I am only an emergency man, you know—an apology, a substitute here for ....., wealth and manly perfec- tion," he said, sarcastically, taking a side look at his partner, “Title, wealth, and rubbish,” she said, scornfully, “who do you mean?” “Sir Hubert Armytage. You know him it seems,” he said bitterly, “I have been suffering positive agony since I heard you speak of him as you did. Tell me, Fanchette, what did you mean ?” “Oh, I lost my heart to Captain Army- tage long years ago—unrequited affection, I was only a little girl, he was a grown up man.” “Oh, is that all, and then you met last night,” said Mr,, Forth, in a relieved tone. “No, I have never seen Sir Hubert Armytage since I was twelve years old,” said the girl. " Till last night in the conservatory?” “I never saw Sir Hubert Armytage last night,” she said, in clear, distinct tones. Could he believe his ears?—did he hear aright? Could the girl he admired, he loved, he worshipped, tell a deliberate lie, coolly, to his very face? What could it mean—she could not have forgotten. “She must have some motive for deny- ing her i.terview with Armytage,” thought Fo.th. His idol had fallen. " Yes, if you remember, I met Army. tage leaving the fernery as I entered. He must have annoyed you in some way—in fact, he had evidently said something very insulting by the way you answered him I could not help hearing your last words.” “If you mean your friend he is beneath my contempt.” “How mysterious you are, Fanchette.
I do not understand you to-day. For pity’s sake put me out of suspense. There was a long silence. He waited anxiously. “How long have you known that man?” she said at last, suddenly looking round into his face. “Armytage ?—oh, not many months. He did me a good turn, so we became friends. In a week or two we separate.” “Have you quarrelled?” said she, quickly. “No, we are on the best terms; we cannot do too much for each other,” he said, in a sarcastic tone. “That means there is no love lost be- tween you ” “I have no love to spare,” he said, with a grave look. “Where did you meet him ?" she said, ignoring his remark. “In Rome.” “In Rome ? We were in Rome a year ago —after my father’s death. He was killed in a duel.” A light dawned on For.h that the duel had something to do with Sir Hubert Armytage. “My poor father was dead and buried before we heard of it. We were travel- ling at the time.” “Is that why you hate Armytage ?” “I tell you I have not seen Sir Hubert Armytage since—since I was a child. What do you mean? What has Sir Hubert Armytage to do with my father?” she said. He saw his mistake, but recovered him- self, saying— “l was going to ask you.” “But what made you suppose such a thing? Do you know anything about my father’s death ?’’ “How should I ? When was it?” “Just a year ago. We never could find out the full particulars.” “A year ago—November. I was in Yorkshire then—staying with some old aunts of mine. Charming old ladies in their way, but awfully whimsical and touchy; positively ropeable when a long frost set in and my hunters nearly ate their heads off in the worthy old souls’ comfortable stables.” At this moment there is a general move, and in a short time many of the guests ha.e adjourned to the drawing room, some to the beach, others to the garden; whilst a group who have just arrived are standing racquets in hand on the tennis lawn ready for a game. Forth with Mrs. Cholmondeley are in the drawing room, though his name has been shouted twice from the tennis lawn where he is in request as usual. Mdlle. Marin has disappeared no one knows whither, to Forth’s disappointment. Mrs. Cholmondeley, who, like most of of her sex, is a lover of bric-a-brac, says kindly— “ Now, my dear, I am going to look at your pretty things. Where shall I begin ? I have a weakness for photographs. I shall not want entertaining for an hour, there is so much to look at.” An hour passed. Tennis is in full swing. Pyramas and Thisbian pairs have returned from their wanderings in search of seques.ered corners and romantic nooks. Twice has Sholto Forth been on a foraging expedition in search of Fanchette Marin. She has eluded him, and is nowhere to be found. Forth is angry. There is a mystery about the girl he would like solved. Of one thing he is certain— he is not her favored swain. There must be some else in spite of her sweet words of encouragement at the ball, and “ If she be not fair to me What care I how fair she be?” he says, stroking his dark moustache fiercely. “I hope mademoiselle will delight us with a song. I hear she sings ex- quisitely,” says someone. " Oh, certainly, Fanchette will be very glad to sing to you. I wonder where she is—playing tennis perhaps.” " l saw Mademoiselle Marin near the beach a short time since," said Dr. .arston. “Thank you,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley to the speaker. “Mr, Forth, would you mind telling my young friend she is wanted here—to sing.” “Certainly,” says Forth, springing to his feet and hurrying through the open French windows, only stopping to get his hat, amongst a pile pf coats and hats on the verandah. He hurries on through the garden, and is soon on the beach looking up and down the long strand as far as the eye could see. Only flights of gulls are swooping gleefully for some dainty morsel of the finny tribe outside the breakers. A few poor children, with shabby scanty clothing well tacked up, are, with bare feet, picking their way cautiously over the slippery and seaweed covered rocks searching the holes and weed for some treasures of the deep. That is all that is to be seen on the sands this bright afternoon. Forth is disappointed at the empty vista before him. A quarter of a mile distant a point of the land juts out al- most into the sea, shutting out the view of the next reach of beach. He is angry with himself for his foolish anxiety to see her, but he strides on perservingly till he has turned the corner of the point of land, half scrub, half rocks, which has for years fought hard to maintain its ground and resist the cruel and bold on- slaught of the waves. Forth is gifted with good eyesight, but he fails to see anything but sand and seaweed. He is about to return and steach elsewhere when he catches a glimpse of a flash of white in the scrub bordering the shore some dis.a.ce off, that hitherto has escaped his notice. He stands still for a moment and looks again, trying to penetrate with his eyes the wilderness of shrubs, but in vain. " It's a woman dress surely,” he says, trying to see more distinctly. " Can it be her?” He hurries on, half in anxious and sorry expectation, half in hope that he may find her alone, though it is hardly probable he thinks dolefully. The tide is up, so he must perforce push his way through the thick ti tree scrub, and waste of fern and stunted shrubs. It is farther than he thought. Surely she would not wander alone so far away from the Nest, but he has a pre- sentiment that it is her, and he feels buoyant with the idea that he may find her and her alone, perhaps gathering leafy treasures from the wilderness, he says, knowing her love for flowers. He quickens his steps, telling himself of his love for her and how he will confess his doubts of late. His hopeful reverie is suddenly inter- rupted by voices. A man’s voice is spe.king loudly and excitedly, as if secure against intrusion and eaves- droppers. He is talking French. “ Bah ! ” says Forth disgusted, “ After all, only some French people picnicing ; what a .... A wild goose chase ; hang the frogs. What is pleasure to them is misery and vexation to me.” He is about to retrace his steps hurriedly, when something in the man’s tones stops him. He listens, thinking somehow the voice is familiar. “I tell you, mademoiselle, I saw him with my own eyes. I took the next
train, I followed monsieur into the interior; I could not be mistaken. He drove a long way, then he fastened the rein to the wheel and got out. I tell you I saw it all. He walked to a distance, then looked into the hollow of a large old tree. He had lost something, for half-an-hour he looked about everywhere, but there was nothing there evidently. What he was looking for had gone or been stolen. No, he did not see me ; I was on horseback far behind.” “Well, it must come to light soon,” said a voice. Forth recognised at once and shud- dered. He was no coward or sneak that he should play so mean a part as lis- tener, but he couldn’t help it; he felt spell bound. He daren’t move, he was so fascinated to the spot. “ Well, Gustave, you know the reward. A small fortune for one in your position, and if you could open that case—” Fo th could stand it no longer, he coughed loudly end waited. Quick steps, as if some one was hurrying away, and Fanchette Marin ap- peared before Forth, perfectly cool and self-possessed. “You here, Mr. Forth. Are you too botanising; see, isn t this beautiful— a rare kind. It does not look like a wild fern, does it; perhaps some old gar- den has been here in past ages and deserted?” She held up a small fine fern to Forth, who could see nothing rare or choice in it. He was too angry to speak and too agitated. That a girl who had professed affec- tion for him could be holding clandestine meetings was bad enough in itself, but to arrange meetings with Gustave Lagrange, the idea was revolting. What could it all mean, evidently she was in some in- trigue with Sir Hubert Armytage. That was clear enough, for was not his name twice mentioned, and was not Gustave aiding and abetting. Bah ! it was sickening. He felt too angry to speak, but speak he must. “ I came in search of you, made- moiselle,” he said coldly. “Did you? how kind. How came you to find me ? How did you know where to look ? ” she said airily, looking coquettishly up at him. “ I saw you in the distance. I knew it was you by your white dress.” “ Dear me, am I the only one in creation that wears white,” she said flippantly. “ I came and then I heard voices that I knew,” he said, looking fixedly at her. “ Voices! ah, then you found your mistake. Yes; I heard voices too, only a party of merrymaking, holiday folk having kiss in the ring over there,” she said, pointing to where she had been. He was astonished; could such deceit and such lies emanate from such a lovely form. It was the death knell of his love and his hope. “ Mrs. Cholmondeley asked me to find you,” he said ; “they are all hoping to hear you sing. I have been a long half hour looking for you, but at last my per- severance has been rewarded, he added in coldly measured tones. She looked up in his open face, trying to read its ex- pression, and know that he was changed towards her, though she could not divine the true reason. (TO BE CONTINUED.)