Chapter 19813766

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1889-05-04
Page Number833
Word Count3908
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleUnder Capricorn
article text

The Storyteller.

Under Capricorn.



"Miss Lassell, will you kindly come with me?" asked the police-magistrate the next morning. "I am going to talk with Duprés, in order to try to obtain further information.

He evidently distrusts me, looks on me as a possible prosecutor, calls me' Monsieur le Chief de Police.' Absurd ! He wishes to speak to you, and if you will do ns the favour of ooming it will no doubt inspire him with more confi dence." " Certainly, I will come," replied Marie, and ran off to find her sun-hat and parasol. Then, attired in delicate tints of pink and cream, she tripped away with the stately Major, radiant in his white linen suit and crimson cummer bund, down to the beach where the lighthouse stood. As they entered the room where the ropes and lighting-apparatus were stored, they saw the Zouave, his head bent over his task, carefully mending the worn jacket of his uni form, whioh had evidently been carefully washed. It meant much to him; the other men had gladly discarded their convict garb, but his dress was a badge of honour. After several days of rest and food, and in decent clothes, the change in his appearanoe wm very striking. "A *$eadid-look_g follow," aa the Major had said, be certainly was, and as the sad gray eyes were raised their truthfulness and candour was even more evident than before, when they had been olottded by distress and oonfu-on. As his visitors etdtered he rose, with a military salute to the Major, and a profound bow to Marie, and brought forward seats. " I thank Mademoiselle and Monsieur; it is an honour quite unexpected. You read my history, Mademoiselle ?n "Yes, and I have translated it. It is vary sad. lam so sorry for you." She spoke gently, earnestly. The man tamed aud looked at the little English lady, sitting in the sunshine that streamed across the floor, barred by the shadows of the iron net over the lighthouse dome. How dainty and sweet and pure she -#*as! The loveliest sight he had seen since— Something dimmed the deep eyes. He turned quickly and laid away the darned Zouave jacket, and when the brown face was turned again towards Marie and her companion it was only wistful.* " And Monsieur le Chef de Polioe—he under stands also P It will not be necessary for his Government to detain me P" "Pardon me, my man! You leap to con clusions. We shall certainty detain yon till the question of your disposal has been discussed. Whatever the deoiston of the court may be you will not, I think, try to evade it." " If it is just—no—and I believe it most be; they will not be severe to one who has broken no law, human or divine." 44 But military, Dupres. Now, Miss Lassel and I are anxious to hear further. Yon may trust ns; your confidence shall be sacred. Yon are fortunate in having aroused this lady's interest and syitopathy; they may help yon more than you. expect; and I"—the Major smiled his rare warm smile—" my poor fellow! I have had sorrow enough of my own to make me more anxkra* to help you, than perhaps I seem." Dupres looked surprised, pleased; a great hope shone in his eyes. They talked for a good while, and Marie forgot to be nervous, being so muoh interested, although she was keenly conscious that the Major's Frenoh was more fluent than her own. The sun rose higher still; a needle of light shot across the Major's head, showing how many white hairs mingled with the brown. " And yet," mused Marie, after the fashion of girls, "he is a comparatively young man; I suppose India and overwork did it." " Le Oapitaine tolls me that we are to be sent to Brisbane by a steamer. So I think I under stood P" " Exactly, I have wired for the Bertha. Bhe will be here to-night, and leaves early in the morning. You will march your men to the pier; there is to be no attempt to escape; it would be useless. Tell them they will be kindly treated.'' «.' Poqr -fretches !»* sighed Duprds; " where should they go P they cannot suffer more than t^ey have already done." ": So," said Marie sadly, '•' you think, Major, that they wtyl be returned to Noumea P" •( That depends. It aU hangs on the terms of the extradition treaty. We shall see." Dupres' eyes filled. "It was a great risk; an awful voyage—and for so little; but if they

return it will soon be over—they will not suffer long." ••Why?" whispered Marie, ewe-struck; " do you mean" •• They will disappear—be ptrdtu—jon un derstand ?" "And you! If'—the Major broke off; how oould he speak explicitly P The man understood. He rose to his magnifioent height and squared his great shoulders almost defiantly. "I? —pardon, mademoiselle! It is un- Jrieasant, but true—/ should be shot, blind olded, by my comrades—standing so, against the ramparts—« Beady P Fire!' Voila tout /" Marie hid her fees, shuddering. He spoke with dramatic effect. Tbe sun flashed on his outstretched arm, and lit the blue cross end the name; tbe Major saw both, and understood. '• Mademoiselle weeps; she has a gentle heart. Bat be tranquil! it will not happen; I will not return, del! no; never! never!" Marie rose, white to the lips, her eyes shining. •• Indeed yon will aot! They cannot wish it. Beiy on my help for your mother's sake; in mssaory of that good girl who had asy name I will work on jour side. I have a cousin who edits • great paper. I have written to him. If he cosms to see you, you will understand it is as • friend—an advocate." Dupres bowed his head, and kissed reverently the moved hand she held ont. " Dapres," said the Major, " I promise that all the influence I possess, official and other wise, shall be used in your favour. No! do not thank me; it is Miss Lassol's due; but for her I should not have been so interested in your ease. If you obtain freedom to begin life again, ia happier oireumstaness, yon will in • , great measure owe it to this lady." The Zouave stood before them, ani turned to Marie • look of humble homage—of intense devotion: ?• Mademoiselle, I cannot thank yon! none have been so kind, so sympathetic. May the good God reward yon! For me"—he stretched out his brown wrist and pointed to the shining cross—"on that I swear—and monsieur hears me—that, if ever in future time I oan do you a service, I will—even if it should be one that would oost me life itself. Remember! even to death!" The man's upturned face shone with the light of solemn self-dedioatioo. Instinctively the Major bowed his head as In a ohurch, aad the girl's tears fell fast. The Zouave's arte dropped; he fell on his knees by the little table and covered his face. The last thin needle of light kissed his bowed head and turned the crisp blank curls to golden bronze; a shadow broke the ray-»he looked ap—he was alone. <• Good-bye, then, Miss Tassel, till we meet again—l hope at Borne." " Good-bye, Major Spenoe. Yes, I suppose I shall be going there after Christmas—February, Aunty writes, would suit her best." ?May I call on yonr brother in Brisbane P I should like to know him." '•Certainly," replied Marie. "You will find him at the bank; it is onr home now he is manager " ': "lUcy I take a message f" , "Thank yon, yes; onljr that I am quite Istaong again, and soon coming home." 1 «As to that other business, I pledge myself to do my utmost. The papers by mail will Inform you of the course of events in that direction." . A sadden qntet seemed to fall on Turtle Point when the Bertha had steamed away and the K wonted ooaoourse of inhabitants had forsaken i nler. "Fancy!" said Xn. Gray; " only Aye days sinoe these poor ereataree oame; it seems a month." Bat Marie did not hear. Perhaps her ears wen, with her eyes, fixed on the steamer till she grew a moving speck on the sea-line. Next mail brought a newspaper; she read it with flushed oheoks, then flew to find the others. "Ted is a darling! Such a leader! and a summary;of Dupres' story. He 'objects to imported criminals,' he says; but, oh! ho does write well about the Zouave." Other papers spoke of the public interest felt Jn the ease. Communications from Nonmea lorn ended the prisoners, bnt no mention was mado of the military deserter. Major Bpeaoe openly worked for bio, pleaded Us cause with persons high in authority, and engaged learned counsel; though Marie did not learn that till long after. The cases were brought before the court, and the prisoners were detained till the warders should come from Noumea to take them baok. Poor souls! it oould not be otherwise—the in delible mark was upon them, the brand of shame; there was no hope, no mercy, for them in this world. Let us trust that they obtained it in the next, Pierre Lamarque twice attempted suicide before they left, and, desperate after ' leaving Sydney, whither they went to meet the • New Caledonian boat, leaped overboard, and being heavily ironed was seen no more. Suoh was the miserable end of a warped life. Meanwhile the soldier's oase was contested hotly, but at last to Marie's anxious eyes oame the final verdict "Dis charged," and an explanatory note from the Major enclosing a rapturously grateful one to himself from Dupres, written on leaving his temporary prison. He was going to Sydney, where were friends of his father. "So," said Marie, "that page—the most I exciting in my life—is turned now!" She was mistaken; it was not turned—quite.

Ck-ptbb IV. " TO LOSB A LOY2B, B.UT KBBP ? F___flX*' Marie returned home soon afterwards to tbe Brisbane bankof whioh her brother Paul was the manager. She was the light of his eyes, and he was very proud of his pretty sister, who looked more like a niece or a daughter, as he was the eldest and she the youngest of a large family. He was a confirmed bachelor, bald, gray-bearded, hut with the most infectious laugh—a man with •' the merry heart that goes all the way, while the sad heart tires in a mile." Though a thorough business man, his bright bonhomie made him a general favourite. Mrs. Thomas, Marie's old aunt and present house.

keeper, was a character to whioh it would have required the pen of a George Eliot to do justice; of her more anon. Her husband, leas original but faithfulness itself, was caretaker. In February Marie went to Borne, Paul arranging to follow as soon as the yearly balance was over. It was a lovely evening aa a riding party cantered along the shady river-side ways, and through the overhanging scrub near the town ship. They had just left " Peradinya," the plantation which belonged to Marie's aunt, and enjoyed the quick movement through the dewy ?*-?• " I enppose," said Marie, as Major Spence joined her, " yon rode in the early morning in "Individually I rode at all hours," he replied, " and in all sorts of places, and on very different animals; but with Anglo-Indians generally the morning is the favourite time, from 6 to 9. India became the topio again; not that Major Spence reverted to it. It had been noticed that he never introduced the subjeot; but now he turned to the girl and asked rather abruptly: "Miss Lassel, did you ever read Colonel Meadows Taylor's ' Seeta ?'" " Yes, and I thought it admirable. I learned more of India and its peoples theu than from all the books of geography and travel I ever waded through. The style is splendid and the story so unique." "And Seeta herself?" " Charming! Tell me are there many like her—so noble and sweet—among the native women P Or has the writer drawn only on his imagination P " No, Seeta's oharaoter aad story are both drawn from life; there are not many like her, but there would be more if the conditions of life among them were more favourable to the development of suoh qualities." " Did you ever know any P When you were a commissioner, like •Brandon,' you must have had so many opportunities of studying oharao ter." The inscrutable look oame into the Major's face again. The Indian ring shone against his bridle rein. He looked away for a minute as if the question pained him, and then into the gir's interested face. "No, I never met anyone quite like Seeta; and what is your opinion of Brandon P" "He Was a splendid man; I liked him— anyone would—and I quite understand poor Seeta's devotion." " And his marriage—did you approve P" "Of course! Why not P But T don't fanoy that ho need have thought himself so con descending. He was hardly worthy of his wife after all, and I doubt whether he would have been capable of aoting as nobly aa she did." •' Perhaps not. Some day, Miss Lassel, I may tell you a similar story—that—that fell under my notice." " I should like to hear it, bat will it be as sadP" " Sadder—in some ways.'* "Did the girl dief" " You are anticipating—hot I may tall you no. It might have been better—for her—if she had," he added in a low alow tone, as if speak ing to himself. Marie wondered, bnt only said, "We had better canter on; lbs. Dene is looking for us." " Oh! Major Spenoe," cried that young lady, *' do look at the lovely Dypodis fat that gum tree ; unit yon send one of your kanaka boys jbere for it to-morrow P. Freo ia making a bush house, and we should love to have it." " There is no need to wait for the kanaka, Mrs. Dene; he would be sore to braise the flowers." To their astonishment he swung himself Mem his horse to the limb of the tree, and with his pocket-knife carefully detached the lovely orchid from the bark. " A new role for our dignified P.M." laughed Mrs. Dene, with grateful eyes, as she held his horse, "but so kind of him. I suppose he learnt that sort of thing in India." "I'm tired of India, dear," quoth frank Ifarie. Paul Lassel arrived on the scene duly—spec tables, laugh, and all—and immediately became Srime favourite with the -rirls, partly because s was so obliging and so devoted to all alike, and " did," as Louie expressed it, " the heavy father all round." There was nothing heavy, though, about kind Paul, whose optimist dis- Eisition saw the bright side of everything, who ft no face shaded that he oould brighten, and always sought out the plainest or least noticed lor special attention. May his kind inorease, for they are needed! It was a happy time, often afterwards looked baok upon in tender retrospection. The long sweet nays brought sunny mornings shining over the acres of green young cane, with fleeting showers that hang rainbows over the fields of tender rustling spears. The mills were still, and the great wheels silent over the empty pans; but there was life out in the cane-field, where the merry Polynesian islanders worked; and in the big shady house among the mangoes and passion-vines the time was occupied in sewing and reading, pleasant earnest talk, and in mysterious culinary operations whioh astonished black Fanny, the oook. There were sketching and boating expeditions np the river, or long rambles botanising in the busb, or wild scrambles through the scrub with the children, armed with trowels and fern-baskets, whence tho excursionists oame home loaded with curiosities, and too often accompanied by the festive tiok. Then there were visits in the township, notably to Mrs. Alwyn; and on Sundays Paul escorted them all to the church, where Mrs. Dene led the singing with a clear voice that blended with the summer sounds of winds and of leaves that oame in with the birds through the open windows, and where white man and brown worshipped their Father side' by side. In the evenings they often held musioalgatherings ospooiallyat Mrs. Alwyn's, as she was the happy possessor of the only grand piano in Burne. Picnics, too, were fre quent, snd in all these pleasant things the poUoe-magistrate, when his official duties allowed, had a share, though whether he would have oared muoh for them nad a pair of clear brown eyes, and a laugh all musio, been absent, is quite another matter. The set of the tide in that direction was sufficiently trident to tht

most careless eyes. Mrs. Alwyn was pleased and surprised. She had not thought her protege so impressionable even to the influence of her favourite Marie. The sweet old lady wove into her knitting dreams that would have abashed both Marie and the Major if they had known of them. One pleasant moonlit evening there was a musical party at Mrs. Alwyn's, and as usual Marie sang. She was not a brilliant vocalist, but, what is bettor, a sympathetic one, and tears or smiles, as her theme was grave or gay, would come unbidden when Bhe Bang. During the evening a Scottish lady present asked for her favourite duet •' Huntingtower;" it was a favourite of Marie's, too—old and quaint. "Certainly, Mrs. M'Pherson," Marie re plied. "Major Spence, will you take your namesake's partP and don't criticise my 8ootoh." The Major and Marie often sang together; his voice was rioh and cultivated, and Scottish songs he particularly excelled in. "Excuse me, please, Miss Lassel? I oould not do it justice—do not ask me." " You would really rather not ? Oh, then I must ask some one else to take Jamie's part." " If you please." The girl turned away a little piqued; he had never declined before, and it would have suited his voice. " Mr. Alwyn, you will sing, will you not P" she ssked. " With the greatest pleasure," replied tbo little C.P.S.; and very well he did it too. astonishing bis mother, who had never heard him sing Scotch words before, and adding another leaf to his laurels; for Tom Alwyn was the most popular man in Burns ; but to him one saucy smile from mad-cap Louie was more than the praise of all the town. Bnt Major Spenoe heard only, saw only, Marie; his face paled through its bronze as, her voice thrilling with indignant pain and sorrowful re proof , she sang— Ah! ye suld _' told me that afore, Jamie, Ye suld a' told me that afore, Uddie. The happy denouement brought no change to his thoughtful face, bent forward in the shade of Mrs. Alwayn's chair. When it was over, and a little breese of talk succeeded, she turned to him. " You are triste to-night, Major. What is the matter P" He smiled—his rare smile—as he replied: " Dear friend, I will tell you—to-morrow." The old lady dropped her needles and laid her slight white hand on the brawn one. " You may trust me implicitly whatever it is. If there is serious trouble, why, lam only an old woman, but I oan help you better than a younger one perhaps." " Yes, you if anyone! Thankyou," and ha kissed the trembling hand as Philip Sydney might have kissed it. That evening Marie rode baok with Paul, | absent aad quiet, wondering over James Bdence's strange manner and wistful looks when he said good-night. Could she have vexed or hurt him ? Surely not! That he loved her she knew; a woman is too clear sighted, intuitively, not to see when she is beloved. That she loved him she had lately realised, and was not ashamed, since it was his innate goodness, his essential nobleness, that made hutt dear to her, not any outward veneer. All this had been a bird that sang in her heart " blithely, but soft and low," bat to night there were clouds in her heaven. And the Major P He walked homo to tbo Bungalow—his quarters, whioh he had fitted up Indian fashion—through the dewy moonlit bash, the night songs of the little cicadas shrilling through his ears. Their tune was ever the same, and he heard through it only— Sold a* told me that afore— Afore—_ore-f»ore-Jamie. He pulled his oap over his eats, to drawn their iteration, and strode on. The hones was •till. His housekeeper and the servants had ?retired. The whole plaoe was bathed ia weird glistening moonshine that hurt him, as I think roll moonlight always does—when we are in trouble. "It shone like this in GhusDeepal," he said to himself, " when we sat ont on the lawn to hear the Garrison band, and enjoy the coolness of the fountain— we! poor Sana! does she remember P If she does, does she care P" He sat down wearily in the veranda chair, staring absently at the sharp-cut glistening fronds of the dwarf palms by the steps—like Bir Bedivere, " revolving many memories." Then he lit a cigar aad settled himself down to think—deeply —Intently. There was a great struggle going on in this man's mind, on the issues of which more depended than ever before on any decision of his, though he had often in hte official capacity had to settle many difficult and vital questions. But this was the crisis of life with him; the moment to whioh we all come sooner of later; when two ways are open before us—self-inte rest, inclination, policy, social opinion probably, smiling, beckoning, towards the one; truth, right, duty inflexible, unselfish love, pointing with unerring fingers to the other, where standi the angel who has charge concerning ns. In that supreme moment when the ash-filled beautiful fruit of evil and the bitter-seeming oup of good lie before us for ohoioe, there is but One who oan help us, One who oan enter the arena of the tempted soul. This the magistrate knew well—this man had been a soldier and had won the Victoria Cross " for Valour" in an Afghan Pass; he bore on his brave breast a seam that would go down with him into hie grave. He had faced perils, done deeds, that the flippant scoffer would pale to read of. His name had been one of great authority over a v_t dlßttiot, but, in bis weakness of humanity, day in the hand of the potter he bowed—and knelt in his silent room and prayed. . When he rose tbe struggle was over ; his face was worn and very pale, but calm and re* solved. " I will tell her everything—to-morrow. If I lose her—and I must—it is the only right eonrse. God help me!" [TO BK OONT—TOKD.T

Will Oarletou attributes Us escape from early death by ooneunsption to daily and per** sistont inflation of tbe longs with fmfc ukt Be it now 42 ytan old.