Chapter 18942601

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Chapter NumberXIX
Chapter TitleJANE COLLINS' STORY[]
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18942601
Full Date1885-01-03
Page Number13
Corrections0
Word Count3832
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleArley
article text

FICTION.

(Vrom EaRllifei Anicrlcvn, and ofbcr Perlodlcali«)

CHAPTER XIX.

JANE COLLINS' STOBY,

Ârley awoke, weary and unrefreshed, the next

Morning. She had experienced a sense of protection { and safety while abiding beneath the same roof with Philip, even though ehe saw so little of him ; but now, alone in her new quarters, with no one to whom she could speak one word, a feeling of desolation, al- most of despair, settled down npon her. Frightful dreams assailed ber ; sleep would no sooner weigh her eyelids down than she would start wildly up, trembling in every limb, perspiration starting from every pore; end this wee repeated again and again

uutil she was nearly exhausted when morning broke)

but very thankful to have her night of honors at an

end,

After eating her simple breakfast, which she had arranged to have brought to her room, she dressed herself with great care for her call upon the English

consul.

She chose a dress of rich black silk, very elabo- rately made, and fitting ber to perfection. She were no collar, bat fastened a mass of costly creamy lace about her throat'with a single blazing diamond, and pnt mates to it in her small ears. She tied a dainty, bewitching hat of black aod white lace over her soft' brown bair, and drawing on her loag-wristed pear gleves, looked the elegant lady from the top ef her pretty bead to the tip of her little foot.

Her trials, and sorrows and homesickness bad wem upon her somewhat so that she bad lost some- thing of her former girlish roundness, and this, with with the pallor engendered by her restless night, gave her an extremely delicate, refined, even patrcian look. She had noticed it herself while fastening the tieB of her bat, and a faint smile curled her lips, as

she murmured :

"If I am not A Hey Wentworth, the grandohlld of the renowned Dr. McAllister, I certainly have tome evidences of 'good blood' about me."

There was not a particle of vanity in this speech however ; there wes only a feeling of content in the fact that no low-born person could possess certain characteristics which looked out at her from the glass. The mystery of her birth was ever appermost in her thoughts, and she never saw her reflection without asking, " Who was my father -who my mother ? Oh ! shall I ever know ?"

When she arrived at the residence of the consul, ehe gave her card to an usher, and was shown into a reception-room, where she found several other», who, like herself, were seeking an interview with her majesty's representative.

Arley sat down upon a vacant chair to wait her turn, and then glanced about her to see if she could find an English face among her visitors.

No; they were all foreign-Germans, French, Russians, and, for uught that she knew, Turk and Mohammedans, but not one regular John Bull among them nil did she eee. She heaved a sigh ot

regret, and a feeling of loneliness began to steal

over her again,

Suddenly, however, every nerve in her body tingled with a strange delight, for, diroctly behind her, she beard.'nn unmutaken English voice say, in a loud, eager whisper (

"John, John I do ye remember the beautiful lady that wai picked up at sea, eighteen years ago, by the veEsel that brought UB from Bombay P '

A shock like electricity shot through Arl y at these words, and turning her head a true, she Baw, seated in the shadow of a curtain a little back of her, a burley, red-faced Englishman and, she supposed,

bis wife,

Bat she pretended not to heat what had been enid, while, in fact, she was stroining every nerve to catch

what should ootna next.

" I'm not likely to forget the leddy, mother, when I helped to haul her aboard, and thought sure the were dead, when her putty white face dropped [so heavy on my shoulder. But that were nothing to the way she cried and grieved for her baby, that she was never to see again, when ehe came to, poor thing : and bow ehe clung to her good man, moaning fit to brenii one's heart, and all he could do wrs to hold her close and say never a word, though kin own face were that white and hopeless it knocked me all in a heap every time I looked at him, But what brought 'em to yer mind just now, old woman p"

" 'Sh John ! not so loud, mnn ; but the first chance ye get, give a look at the purty girl sitting right afore ye, and tell me if she isn't the very image of the leddy ye helped to haul aboard the Black Swan on her home'ard voyage P I tell ye, man, she has the very same pair of eyes and wavy brown hair, the same pretty red Ups and baby chin,"

Arley felt all the strength suddenly leave her, as if all power to move bund or foot had deserted her She seemed like some frozen image planted there without either life or motion, though she was filled with a nerveuB inward trembling. ~,

Had she came all the way to Spain-had it been needful for her to suffer during the past year, to be led hither in this strange way, and under suchpeculiar Circumstances, in order to discover who she was, and to have the great enigma of her life revealed to herp

Was the mystery about to be solved P Was she to learn through this routh uncultivated couple who tur father and mother wereP

A conviction of this result fastened itself upon ber mind as sha listened to their conversation, That reference to the vessel from Bombay pieking up some castaways at sen, the mention of the fair young mother who eighteen years previous, had mourned for her little one believing that she hud perished in the cruel waters, and more than all, the strong resem ' blence which these people had traced in her face to the beautiful leddy inspired her with a wild hope that at last she was to obtain some clue to her pirentage.

She longed to turn her face towards the man behind her, and beg him to answer his wife's question quickly ehe longed to tell them that she had been a castawa/ at sea, and waa a poor, ñámeles wait, whom nobo«' claimed j but she dreaded to interrupt the convp'0" lion, at least until she had learned something .or6> lest they should take offence because she had Brnea Bomething more, leatthey should takaoffenc^cause she had listened and refuse to tell ber any u*>

Calling a little harmless strategy to her aid, she ni. j

lowed her perfumed handkerchief to slip apparently

unseen, to the floor, hoping that one of the couple '

would notics it and return it to her.

An opening door just at that moment caused a draught of air, and wafted the dainty little aáair oi lace and lawn directly to the feet of the burley

«'John."

He stooped and seized it with eBger, tho ^ awkward dexterity, much gratified with this o /p_0T. tunity to satisfy the curiosity which his "¡^»g

remarks had excited. I

He reached out his great, coarse hand, r ^ touched Arley on the shoulder, much as he wouta have touched some frail, he&utiful flower _ fl&(j growing

very red in the face at his o wn bold' ^ 8aid blunaer.

ingly ;

I " Madam-miss-y ou-y ou'»- " iost yer 'kerchief."

Arley turned now with her 8weeteat emile.

" Thank you," you she '¿aid, simply but heartily, as Bhe took it from his c'.Qmiy fingers, while at the same time.t'ja bestowed a quick but comprehensive glance upsn the wongan at his side.

Bhoeavr an honest good-natured looking couple, stout-and rosy, but rough as to exterior, es a couple of .porcupines ; while they in turn, stared at her with . all their might, regardless of all rules of politeness,

if indeed they had been instructed in the Bimplest ( forms of etiquette.

Four eager eyes earnestly scanned that fair, beau- tiful face for the Bpace of a minute, and then Arley slowly resumed her former position, and waited as patiently aBshe could for what would follow.

The man heaved a deep, long-drawn sigh and sank into his seat, an expression of wonder and bewilder-

ment on his feet.

" I tell you what, old woman," he whispered, in a voice that was not altogether steady, "ii I were in the habit of aeein' or believin' in ghosts, I sh'd say one had 'peared to me to-day, sure-they are at like as two peat J"

" You're right, John," responded his spouse, in a

tone of conviction.

Arley conld not endure the suspense another mo- ment, and she moved her chair so as to face the couple again.

" I bag your pardon," she said, politely, but look- ing very white ; " I could not help hearing what you both have said. Will you please tell me the name of the lady of whom you were speaking, and whom you say I so closely resemble?"

.' Land alive, John ! it's ber very voice, too, or my ears deceive me," exclaimed the woman, in a startled tone, to her husband, and regarding Arley more cur- iously than before.

The young girl began to tremble visibly, and it was only by a strong effort that ebe kept bar teeth from chattering audibly-was ehe about to learn the

truth at last P

" I am BO glad," she said, after a moment, and to give them an opportunity to recover somewhat from their surprise, " to have found some of my country- men here, for you perceive that I am English like yourselves, I came here hoping to hear of some one who might ba about returning to England, but it is very strange, I think, that I should have chanced to Bit juBt here and overhear what yon have said. Will you please tell me of whom you were speaking ?"

The man and woman looked at each other in per- plexity ; the resemblance of which they bad spoken was growing upon them every moment, until it al- most Bsemed tbat the lady they had referred to Btood again before them, and was addressing them.

" Well, well, miss, this «re very queer," the man said at last|; I don't thtnh I'm dreamin', bat if ye were not so young looking, I sh'd say ye were the very leddy herself."

" Her name-please tell me her name."

Arley could scarcely control ber impatience.

But before the man could reply an attendant en- tered the room and announced that his excellency, the consul, had just received important dispatches calling him away, and he would therefore be unable to receive any visitors that day.

Upon hearing this, most of the people beat a hasty retreat, muttering their disappointment in no amia- ble mood, and Arley and her two strange compani- ons were thus left the sole occupants of the room,

" Now we can converse undisturbed," shs said, eagerly, as the last one departed, "and I will tell yon why I am so anxious to leam the name of the people of whom you have spoken. There is a mystery hang- ing over my parents gp, and I was separated from my parents by an accident at sea, and have never Been them since ; so you perceive that it is not strange that I should think from what you have said that you could perhaps throw some light on this dark subject

for me."

" Ah ! miss," the woman said, with a regretful shake of her head, as Arley paused and looked appealingly at her. " I'm sure no one could refuse to oblige a pleasant-spoken leddy like yourself if one could help it, but we don't know the name of the beautiful leddy who looked enough like ye to be yer twin sister-"

" You don't know the nome ?" Arley interrupted in a tons of bitter disappointment, her heart sinking I heavily at this intelligence.

" No miss. Ye see this was the way of it : My Han and I hud been on a long voyage from Ports- mouth, England, to Bombay, in the Black Swan, a saiin' vessel under Captain Conway. We've been sailcrg together, miss, ever since we were married, he on thideck, and I as stewardess; for, ye see, bein' rather und o' one another,"-and here the buxom dame blt)hed like a girl in her teens-" one didn't like to leo-a t'other behind, Well we'd had a fine voyoge mt,t of* the way till we entered the Bay o' Bisty, when things began to look kind o' threatenit, jU8t about sunset one day a great steamer ussed us, and every body on board looked as gay a^ smilin' as could be, and gave us three hearty cbeev, witn waTjn' kerchiefs, as if thej'd had a goodpassngb,0 far> and were in bigh feather over it. She, the st^mer> 800n went out 0£ B¡gh|. though, and we thougluthatwa8tnelaBt of her for us, and I couldd't help fr*in. t0 tnink how much taster she sailed than the nact gwarjf an& now much sooner she'd reach port. But i j,aQ- reason to thank Heaven, miss, for the slow -,aitm> ve8S6i afore many days. A storm blew up tbw- n>»ht-such a storm as I lopB never to be out in again. Me nor my old msn never expected to set our foot on iaD(j and for ibree days and nights we didn't do' much ^'

pray, Bat the fourth day the wind went down some,

and we knew the worst was over.

" Well, just BB we were roundin'Point St, Matthew, we came upon rigns of a wreck-floatin' spars, boxes, kegs, stools end such like, and later on durin' the day, we sav a queeg lookin' object to the leeward of us, wtt» something like a white flag flying from it. Our capain thought it looked suspicious, and ordered his m*1 to Dear awaï towards it, and after awhile ae ¡»d a boat lowered and Bent to see what it meant

It was wall that we came upon it just as we did n it proved to be a great chicken-coop, with a man tnd woman lashed to it, and both nearly dead from the cold, and bein' dashed about in the wild waves

They were brought aboard the Black Swan, and given'

up to me to see if I coold find any life in 'em

" The man came round all right after a little, but it was a tough job fetcbin' the woman to, but she

managed to weather it after awhile, and then it was I enough to break your heart to hear her take on, 1

í, ,^£r - I . *, /baby-my Ailie,' were the first words she

eva ehe came to herself, and her husband, who . t loft her a minute after be got her senses back(

jt over t-er and said in a hoarse voice, and his face  white as a sheet, ' Marg'rat, don't you remember ? Darlin', let ns be thankful that we aie spared to each | other.'

!" Upon that the leddy gave a scream and fainted

dead away again. W-all, it's co use tellin.' you of the time I had with her, but she just about grieved herself to death, but couldn't bear her husband out of her sight for a single minute. Day in and day out he sat in the eaptain's state-room-for he gave it up to them and bunked it like a common sailor boldin' her in his arma when Bhe was awake, and talking in a soothin' way to her, but lookin' as if he were just ready to die with grief himself when ehe was asleep and he was left to his own thoughts. I bad to feed her like a baby, for she was too weak to help herself, ond she was so pretty and gentle that I couldn't help lovin' her with all my heart; while I'm free to confess I never did BO much blub berin'in all my life as I did In those two weeks that we were makin' for Portsmouth, after we took ¡hem two castaways on board. But it was enough to bretik the stoutest heart to hear that poor mother grievin' for her lost baby.

" La, miss !" as Arley buried her face in her hand- kerchief and sobbed over the sad story, " I didn't mean lo upset ye like that, though I can never tell about it without gettin' soft myself, for all it's more'n eighteen years ago. But as for her name, I were so bound up in takln' care of the poor thing, that I never once thought to ask who she were, and I never heerd the captain say. We sailed into Portsmouth harbor ali right one fine morning, and after I had wrapped ( the leddy up in my warm shawl to be taken ashore -for the day was cold-abe seized both my bands and aaid, with her white, tremblin' Ups :

"'Ob, you good woman, I ought to bless those hands that have helped to bring me back to life, and I do-I do for my husbond's sake ; but my heart is broken for my baby-my pretty angel,

Ailie!'

" The gentleman gave me a fifty pound note, with a hearty ' Heaven bless ye,' just afore he carried her up on deck, and Pre never set eyes on either of 'em,

nor heard one word about 'em sirca."

"Do you know the name of the steamer that they were on when they were wrecked P" Arley Bsked, with almost breathless eagerness, when the woman

ended her story,

«Yes, miss; it were the White Star and she were bound from Calcutta, India, to England."

Arley started, and a cry escaped her ; it was the same vessel on which, it was supposed, she had sailed with her nurse fer England over some eighteen years ago ; and thus it became 'evident that there had been two children of about the same age on board that ill-fated steamer. There might have been more-she did not know ; but she was quite sure now that both Ina and herself had been among the passengers, and while Ina had drifted into the bands of those rude fishermen on the coast of Spain, she had been rescued by one of the sailors of tbe White Star, mistaken for her, and thus sent to Dr

McAllister of London,

Something within her told her that ahe belonged to I his beautiful woman, to whose sad story she bad just listened-something aside from the strong re- semblance to her of which this honest couple had spoken ; end she felt that at last she held a clue, ! though a very faint one, to the mj story of her par-

entage.

It was very unsatisfactory, however, and would doubtless require diligent and patient search and in- quiry in order to make it of the least avail, while it was possible that she might never get beyond this

point.

" I believe you have been telling me about my own father and mother," she said, in a trembling voice to

the woman.

" Land alive, misa, ye don't mean it I" waa the as toniehed rejoinder, while the burly John leaned for- ward, wonder depicted on his face.

" Ves, I feel quite Bure of it," Arley said j " but oh ! if you could only have told me their name, the way out ot this puzzle would be comparatively easy."

Then she told them something of her own life, for she felt it waB due to them after their courtesy to

her.

" It are all like a story, miss, and it'll all come out right at last, never feir," said John; "and," he added, "all ye'vegot to do when ye go bock to Eng- land is to hunt up the captain of the White Star if he's livin', and the rest'il be esy enough,"

" If he's living !" Yes, that was it ; if the steamer had been wrecked, it was more than probable that the captnin had gone down with her; and thus the sequel to her secret remain for ever buried in the deep dark waters of the ocean.

Arley heaved a sigh, but she looked into the faces before her with a smile, and asked :

" Will you kindly tell me your name P I am very thankful to you for telling me this story."

" My name ? Sartin, miss. It's Jane Collins, and it'sone I've never hod reason tobe ashamed on either," was the satisfied reply, while the honeat creiture be- stowed an affectionate glance upon her husband,

" John here has been a good man to me," ate added; " and we've been middlin' prosperous in this1 world's goods, and we've roved the world pretty miich over together, first and last." j

" Shall you go back to England soon f " Irley in- quired, with a sudden heart-bound, and feeling that «he could trust herself with these rough, but evidently

honest people, more fully perhaps than été could

with others who might be wiser in the waji of the world. j

I " Yes, miss, The Rocket-that's the vessel John's mate aboard, and I'm stewardess-starts on h<r home- ward voyage next week, of a Wednesiay."

" Would you let me go with you? Could 1 obtain a passage in the vessel ?" Arley asked, eagerfr, while

her voice trembled with the earnestness of hjr plea.

" A eailin' vessel ain't no kind of a plnce fir a deli- cate young leddy like ye," Jane Collins re narked, doubtfully, as she eyed Arley's dainty flg'u e, from

top to toe.

" Ob, I would not mind the vessel, if only '. might go home ; and, somehow, I feel as if I shoulc be very safe with you and your husband,' Arley sait, while tears of entreaty aetuBlly gathered in her ejes.'

Jane bestowed a gratified look on her as he said

this ; then she replied : j

" Sure, mien, we'd do the best we could fo ye if ye dio go, but we are au in the Lord's hands' What

4'ye sny, John ?" and she turnea & auestionin ; glance . upon her husband. j -

"Reckon weean fix it somehow," he J turned, laconically.

"Oh, thank youl thank youl" Arley mi mured, andthes»»et brown eyes brimmed overvith the glittering drops which told how intense vere her longings after England. and home.