|Chapter Number||XLIII. (Continued.)|
|Newspaper Title||The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||The Devil's Own. An Australian Story|
THE DEVIL'S OWN.
AN AUSTRALIAN STORY BY MRS. RICHMOND HENTY. (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) CHAPTER XXI. (Conutined.)
“I won't keep them waiting,” she said, hastening along at a pace totally unnatural to her. He was silent, keeping pace with her
till they reached the garden gate, where she stopped to gain breath before entering the house. In the meantime Mrs. Cholmondeley had become very anxious about the girl's absence. “What can have become of her," she said to a young girl who had just entered from the tennis lawn, hot and tired looking. “I have not seen Madamoiselle Marin since lunch," said the young lady. “Per- haps she is a field naturalist." “I beg your pardon—a what?’ said Mrs. Cholmondeley. “A field naturalist," repeats her com- panion. “There is a society of field naturalists here, don’t you know. Did you never hear of it? It is great fun. I am a member, though I don't know a beetle from a spider, and if I saw a pink frog to-morrow I shouldn’t touch the thing with a pair of tongs. But it is jolly fun going out with a nice party in search of curiosities, et cetera. Last Thursday we lost our way, and a whole body of us had to put in at a wayside inn, finding it impossible to get home before dark. Such a sensation we created amongst our stern parents, who were tear- ing their hair in anxious tribulation about the lost sheep. Ah ! here comes Madamoi- selle. Now we shall have a rare treat." Madamoiselle Fanchette entered, and smilingly received the welcome—quite an ovation—accorded her as she took her seat at the piano. She had a superb voice, and so thoroughly cultivated, no wonder people said she ought to be on the stage. She was going on it. In a few more months she was coming out in Italy. The song ceased. Compliments and congratulations flowed in from all sides, as the singer retired to give place to some new performer. Forth followed the girl with his eyes as she sat down by Mrs. Cholmondeley, taking up a photo that was near her. Mrs. Annelaye was beside her, thank- ing her for the song she had charmed them with. “Whose is this ? ” said the girl, holding a photograph up to her hostess. “ Is—is it meant for Mr. Annelaye?” Mrs, Cholmondeley frowned slightly, vexed with her young friend for touching on so sacred a subject. “No, that is only a cousin." “Have you one of your husband ?” said Fanchette, not usually troubled with qualms of feeling. “Yes—l think you saw it, did you not, Mrs. Cholmondeley?” “No, my dear. I did not like to ask you for it, to tell you the truth,” said that lady. “Oh, it is here,” said Mrs. Annelaye, sweetly, reaching her arm out to take a photograph in a folding frame near her, which she opened and then looked shocked—it was empty! For a moment she looked too grief stricken to speak. “It has slipped out. It must be some- where about—under the table, perhaps” said Mrs. Cholmondeley, getting up and looking under the table. Other visitors assisted in the search, looking into every possible nook and corner of the well furnished and crowded apart- ment. Mrs. Annelaye rang the bell and in- quired of the servant. No, she had never seen it—had never even seen the interior of the ease. Mrs. Annelaye, with a grave face, tried to think back and re- member last she had seen it. Mr. Gordon tried to help her, for the Gordons were neighbors, and friendly in-and-out intercourse prevailed between the famil.... Mr. Jones remembered Mr. Hubert Army- tage being struck with the picture. “But that was ages ago—before the races," Mr. Jones said. “ Oh, it will turn up when you are not looking for it, I expect it has got into some book. I remember losing a photo for years, and after I had quite given it up, it one day fell out of an old dictionary; goodness knows how it got there," said Mr. Gordon cheerfully. Mrs. Annelaye hoped so too. “ However, you shall not be disap- pointed, " she said sweetly, to Mrs. Chol- mondeley. “ I have one upstairs, you shall see, if you will excuse me for a moment, it is in one of my drawers up- stairs.” There was a pause for a few moments in the conversation, everyone seemed to have his or her idea as to the missing photo, though scarcely one hit upon the real fate of the portrait. More- over, few, if any, of the guests had seen Mr. Herbert Annelaye’s picture, never, from motives of delicacy, having asked if there were one. “A most extraordinary thing is it not,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley, “surely someone must have entered at the window. Are there any natives about ? I remember at the Cape the natives used to steal anything they could lay hands on. I lost a workbox and other things off a table in the window one morning.” The little widow was not long absent, and on entering the room walked straight up to Mrs. Cholmondeley, handing the to her friend in silence. Mrs. Cholmondeley opened the case and looked at it. She took out her glass and looked into it, and as she did so all color faded out of her face ; she seemed too agitated to open her lips. Some visitors moved forward anxious to see the portrait, and more anxious to know the cause of Mrs. Cholmondeley’s agitation. “ Fanchette ! Fanchette!” she gasped, looking round for her friend, who came forward. “Who is that? you know the face," said Mrs. Cholmondeley. " So do I." The girl looked, then with a faint smile, half cynical, half self-possessed, saying firmly, " That is the portrait of Sir Hubert Armytage, no one who knew him could doubt it for a moment." "Yes," said Mrs. Cholmondeley, " that is Sir Huber. Armytage." Mrs. .nnelaye turned pale, and shivered at the very idea. Had Mrs. Cho- mondeley and her companion taken leave of their senses. “ Oh no ! " sh. said gently, “ dear Mrs. Cholmondeley you are mistaken, that is my husband Herbert Annelaye ; see that was his uniform, the Lancers. It is exactly like him, like what he was," she said, choking back her tears. “ My dear, come and see me to-morrow, we will talk it over quietly,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley more convinced than ever, but unwilling to create a scene or any
more sensational stir amongst the party who had mustered in full force since music and singing had commenced. Everyone had looked at the portrait. “Not a bit like Armytage,” said Mr. Gordon, the outspoken. “ Armytage is not half so good-looking, nor as gentle- manlike.” “Oh yes, I can trace a strong likeness,” said Mrs. Jones, " particularly the hair and beard.” “ No more like Armytage than, I am,” said little podgy Mr. Newbury, holding the picture at arm's length. “ That's something like a man and a soldier. Nothing would make Armytage look other than he is—a cad.” Newberry had lost on Lola, and had always doubted the baronet. “Hush! sh, sh,” said his audience in dismay. “ Pray goodie please to moderate, The rancour of your tongue.” Sang little Mrs. Seymour to the irate offender. Forth, with arms folded, had watched the whole scene from first to last. He couldn't quite make out what all the fuss was about. O! that he could believe what was hinted at. He tried amidst the hubbub to put two and two together, he found it impossible, he must think it out in the quietness of his own rooms. He looked at Madame Marin, a bright and radiant expression seemed to have come over the girl’s face while he had been watching her, what had she to do with Mrs. Annelaye’s photo of her husband. The party broke up, most of them thinking it merely a mistake of Mrs. Cholmondeley’s, as they said good-bye to their hostess, on whose face a soft shade of sadness had come, telling of a sorrow- ful heart. In vain Mrs. Annelaye pleaded to be excused that night from dining with the Jones’. “ No, we really cannot spare you,” said Mrs. Jones. “ That’s all right,” said Mr. Gordon. “ You see you must go , it would never do for you to remain at home brooding over the missing photo. It will turn up, it cannot be of any value except to your- self. We will call for you at seven sharp. It is a long drive. Now like a dear little woman be ready for a series of con- quests,” said Mr. Gordon, smiling as he and his wife said au revoir: “ I shall not go to the dinner party to-night; I have such a headache ; it is the sea air. I cannot hold up my head,” said Madamoiselle Marin as they entered their hotel. “ .y dear, you will be all right in an hour or so. A good cup of tea—and you cannot send a refusal now; it will put out the table so.” “No it won’t for Sir Hubert was ex- pected, and he has not arrived and can- not now go, so it will make no differ- ence.” Mrs. Cholmondeley was annoyed, and of l.te the good woman had much to be annoyed about concerning her wilful young friend. However, she quietly went to her room to rest an hour, after coming down to the sitting room in a toilette of velvet, ready to start for Pekin Court, and fully hoping to find her companion well dressed and her head- ache gone, ready to accompany her. “Mademoiselle Marin says she is sorry, but her head is too bad,” said the maid, coming down to the room with her mis- tress’s cloak. “ It is most annoying how very trouble- some girls are,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley, getting into the hansom. The dinner party at Pekin Court was all that could be wished and expected from people rolling in wealth, with noth- ing to think of but how to spend their fortune sensibly for the benefit of their fellow creatures around them. Mrs. Cholmondeley whose eyes had wandered down the table with its blaze of choice flowers, rare china and glass, to the handsomely furnished room more worthy of the name of a banquetting hall, was charmed and surprised that such civilisa- tion could be in such a far away corner of the world. “ A penny for your thoughts, fair lady,” said Mr. Gordon, who by chance was sitting next to her. “ I was fancying myself as the Countess of Warleigh in Belgrave Square. I can- not imagine I am at the antipodes with all this magnificence, not only here but in other houses. In England people are contented for a lifetime with the same old furniture, be it ever so dowdy, ever so shabby. Here it is different, having nothing old enough to venerate you make up for it by everything fresh and fashionable, changing your furniture as you change your fashion in dress. I must say it is much the most satisfactory and refreshing, instead of wearying one’s eyesight with the same old musty look- ing chairs and tables a century old." “ That was curious about the photo to-day,” said Mrs. Jones, in a low voice, “ I could not make it out. Was that really Sir Hubert Armytage’s photo." “ I am quite positive of it —I know it for a fact—l have good reasons for knowing (lowering her voice). I have a fac simile photo myself like it, which Hubert Armytage gave me himself years ago. The mystery, for there is a mystery, will have to be solved somehow. Sir Hubert is expected back —I shall question him,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley. “ If you take my advice you will not say a word about it to him. It would totally defeat any plans you may have for solving the problem,” said Mr. Gor- don. “I have my own ideas.” “I know you will forgive my running away so early,” said Mrs. Cholmondeley, at an early hour that night. " I really am tired and Fanchette is not well.” It was quite early—not quite ten o clock —-when she reached the hotel and as- cended the stairs to their sitting room. The hotel seemed all bustle and con- fusion—new arrivals or perhaps depar- tures, she thought, seeing packages and portmanteaus in the ball. She has reached the top of the stairs, and is about to open the door of her room, when she stops at hearing voices within. It is Fanchette's and—and whose voice is it ? She opens the door quickly and sees to her su.prise and disgust, Fanchette, the girl whom she has befriended, adopted and treated as a daughter, clasped in the arms of the courier, tears trickling down the girl's face, whilst her companion, nothing abashed, starts to his feet and fac.s Mrs. Cholmondeley, as if angry at such an in- trusion. Mrs. Cholmondeley is too angry to speak, too much shocked and surprised to utter a word, so she simply points to the door shutting up at once Monsieur Gustave, who is about to, she supposes, make some excuse for his very unpardonable conduct before leaving the room. Mrs. Chol- mondeley is not a woman to storm and rave and stamp and scold, but she feels none the less angry at Fanchette's be- haviour, and the ingratitude of it, after years of loving kindness. This then was the reason of the girl’s remaining at home, pleading headache. It is hard to believe. She thinks for a moment, and then in an icy cold tone she says, " Fan- chette, go to your bed,” standing erect
until the girl, crying bitterly, slowly walks out of the room upstairs. Mrs. Cholmondeley, kind woman that she is, feels sorry for the girl’s tears of repent- ance. She thinks, alas ! they are not tears of repentance, but tears of regret for the departure of Monsieur Gustave.