|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||A Thousand Pounds|
A Thousand Pounds.
( Written for the Queenslander.)
(Continued from last issue.)
OF course Allan knew nothing of the actual cause of the quarrel. Even Jack himself "had not fully comprehended at the moment Marsden's meaning; but the mere hear
ing of Annie's name from those vile Hpa had sufficed to set fire to the passion of anger Against his oousin which had been smoldering so long, and he had been so absorbed in the de light of feeling Marsden stagger under hla stronger arm that he bad not then dwelt on the significance of the words that had aroused him. Now, however, that during that silent walk he had been revolving In his mind the scenes of the past evening, the perception of what might have been Manden's meaning flashed upon him. Allan wondered at the sudden start and the quickened pace which became so rapid that, though no laggard, he had some difficulty in keeping up with. Bat Jack gave no tongue to his thoughts, and Allan, true to his kindlj nature, sought only to soothe, never to intrude. It waa a great relief to him to see Jack safe in his own room, but even then the signs of intense pasaion were so visible that Allan could not feel safe in leaving him. On the pretext that his room was very hot, he came back to Jack's, and leaning out of the window proceeded to smoke. Contrary to cus tom, Jack did not join him, but still sat in the chair on which he had thrown himself when he bad first come In, neither speaking nor moving, bat looking straight before him. This silence grieved Allan sorely; several times he was on the point of speaking, but checked himself. More than two hours passed in this fashion, and Allan began to feel intensely sleepy ; he dosed and woke with a start—and dozed again—but still Jack remained motionless. At length, to his great relief, Jack got up and, after stretching him self and brushing his band across his forehead as though to brush away an incubus of thought and pain, declared hit intention of going to bed. Not till he beheld him actually asleep did Allan quit his post—he would not own even to himself the dread that was upon him. As soon as he st,ir lilm asleep, he went to his own room, and, overcome with the day's journey and the night's vigtL threw, himself on the bed and slept till a kte boor the next morning. His first thought whan he Woke waa for Jack. He hurried to his room and found it empty. He enquired of the s«rvants,andth«y toldhim that "Mr. Fielding had gone out vary early." Allan was puzzled and anxious ; what did this portend ? A morning's stroll ? or some project o! last night's passion carried out ? If it had been later in the day, he might have thought Jack had gone to the lawyer's, but as yet the offices were shut: the Anglo-Saxon nature con siders it a point of honor to keep to its ancient habit*, no matter how changed the circumstances under which they are maintained ; it must Bleep during the cool freshness of the morning hours and work during the meridian heat even in the tropics, and so at 8 o'clock the official day had not commenced. There was nothing for it but to wait, and this very unwillingly Allan settled himself to do. Meanwhile Jack—upon whom the remem brance of Maraden's last words had pressed more and more heavily, as his feverish brain lent them a meaning worse even than bis foe intended —had slept uneasily for about an hour and had then risen. He could not divert his thoughts from the scene in the Hutchinseß* house. What was Marsden doing there? Why was Annie among the gueßts ? -a thing he had never known to occur before; and why had Annie seemed strange and frightened when Bbc saw him ? She knew nothing of the feud between him and his cousin ; it could not have been in consequence of that The wild suspicions of last night seemed to gather intensity ; the more he pondered the worse it all seemed ; he felt as if his world, the little world in which he lived, was being sapped to the foundation. There was no faith, no trust, no honor in man or woman. The feeling was unondurable. With a great effort, he compelled himself to be calm, dressed leisurely, and then, calculating that by the time he reached Break fast Creek the household would be Btirring, he set out Early as it was when Jack arrived, Mr. Hutchinfl was up and walking about the garden ; Jack was glad of it He meant that there should be nothing clandestine about his movements with regard to Annie. He went boldly forward, and after a very brief greeting asked to be allowed to see Miss Farquharson. Without troubling to feign a fraction of an interest he did not feel, Mr. Hutchins carelessly acquiesced, and tolling Jack to go to the house he proceeded with his daily inspection of his rose bushes. The bright smile and blush with which Annie greeted him gave Jack the first pleasurable
sensation he had experienced during his unlucky visit to town. It was but momentary. Annie was standing by the piano, and on it lay Home songa, on two of which were written in a bold clear hand the name that seemed fated to be the bane of his life. The softness that had come into hia face when he first saw Annie vanished. The girl, whose eyes had followed him as they fell on the two ill-omened songs, turned pale aa she saw the change. It was fear simply that caused the pallor ; the fear of a nervoua simple-minded woman, in pre sence of the anger of the man Bho loved beat in the world. Jack interpreted it differently. " What is this between you and Mareden ?" ho Baid sternly, flinging away the hand he had held within his own. Annie was speechless with terror at his manner. She did not comprehend his meaning, and instead of answering she began to cry. The sight of her tears only incensed Jack the more ; he felt for her pain keenly, and his Borrow at inflicting pain re-acted against its object* " That will do ; there is no need for explana tions," he said trying to bo calm ; " I understand it all, and—you too. I see I frightened you. I am rough, and rude, and poor ;" and he laughed bitterly as he spoke the last words. It was a harsh discordant laugh, and to the end of her life Annie never forgot the sound. Annie still wept and trembled, and Jack, wound up almost to a pitch of madness, caught her hand again. " I love you dearly, Annie—too dearly to stand between you and happiness. I know I must givo you up. I would not take you to misery, but I never thought"—and a convulsion of pain finished the sentence for him. Annie cowered, and the tears came faster. She loved Jack dearly, but she feared him too, and now, when she beheld this paroxysm of rage and grief, she could only weep and tremble, and hope feebly that it would soon be over, and that Jack would be kind to her again. Jack read the averted face and clasped hands quite differently. He gave her up, and she assented without a word—not a single look. She was willing—glad, probably—that he had smoothed the way for her to better prospects. How could he have been so deceived t He looked at her again—with that passionately loving look and yet the repellent gesture with which we lately saw Hamlet turn from Ophelia. Love was strong, but reason was stronger ; if the girl could love Marsden she was not worthy of him, rough, rude,poor though he had just proclaimed himself. He turned to go, but he could not refrain from one last look—a memory to take with him to the wilds which from henceforth should be his home. The bowed head, the wavy hair, the heaving bosom, big with sobs, even though he believed them oot to be for love of him, affeoted him strangely. He oould not leave her thus. He approached, caught her passionately to his breast, and gave oae long kiss on the quivering lip*. " Good-bye, Annie. Be happy. I will never trouble you again," he whispered hoarsely. Then for the second time he turned away, and as he left the room Annie fell forward senseless. All she had heard, all she had comprehended, was the one word " Good-bye." Even the cold heart of Mrs. Hutchins was moved by the wan haggard face and the sunken eyes which looked so pitifully at her when at last they roused Annie from her long swoon. As for Jack, he strode out of the house and through the garden so quickly that he nearly knocked over Mr. Hutchins, who was still ex amining his roses. Mr. Hutchins recovered his equilibrium and watched Jack's rapid progress with no very tender feelings. When he went in to breakfast his wife told him of the state in which Bhe had found Annie. "Some lovers' quarrel, I suppose," he said. "He is no great loss to any woman I should think.—but, there! the greater the brutes the more the women love them." Which reflection was complimentary to him self, for as Mrs. Hutcbins did certainly not show any passionate devotion to her lord the fact weut far towards proving him not a " brute." It was late in the afternoon before Allan met Jack. " I have been looking for you everywhere," he said. " Have you ?" said Jack indifferently. It was hard on Allan, who waa so patient, to be treated with such reserve and indifference ; but Jack at that moment wus too deeply ab- Borbed by his own troubles to have thought for other people. Suffering makes us very selfish. Allan turned to walk beside him. " I have seen Marsden's lawyer," Allan con tinued, determined not to be vexed with Jack's coldness. The latter flinched a little on hearing the hated name, but the scene with Annie had been so in comparably more painful than any mon€fjr troubles that ho scarcely was conscious of what Allan was alluding to. " He says," Allan went on, " that the fact of your signature to the will as a witness bo effec tually nullifies the bequest that if you had the thousand pounds it would bo literally a gift from Marsden." " Let the cur keep it," growled Jack between bis teeth. " He Bays, moreover," continued Allan, " that in the previous will the bulk of the fortune wa9 left to you ; it seems strange to me that, that being so, the legacy bequeathed in this one should be bo smalL" " I suppose he thought it enough for me ; the wonder is why he ever mentioned my name at aIL" The conversation flagged. Jack was utterly in different about the legacy. What did it matter to him now? Hecouldnothaveenduredtogo backto the station with his altered prospects, even if he had got the money. Every stroke of work that he had done there had been done for Annie's sake, every thing was associated with the thought of her. Poor Allan ! it waa very hard to be treated bo harshly by his friend. Jack Beemed scarcely aware of bis presence ; as for any recognition of their friendship, it might have been an utter stranger by whom he was walking for any acknowledgment Jack made. Jack was going through ono of those supreme crises in a man's life when the universe to him
seems to hold nothing but himself—his happiness or bis misery. A year and a-half bad pssfled tinea the event ful visit to Brisbane which had decided the fate of their station and of Jack and Allan. It had been no great grief to either to renounce the station—there were no pleasurable associations connected with it—only hard work and bitter disappointment. In fi»ct with regard to their material prospects the decided stop that had been put to their undertaking hud been beueficiul ; they were not workiug on a sufficiently larcß scale to make a profit,jaiul they would only Imva drudged on till youth ftnd energy alike had been expended. As matters had turned out, thny were compelled to make another start. Tho Palmer gold diggings hud just brokeft out, and thither the two friends hud proceeded ; and, between actual gold digging and the thousand and one speculations that a gold rush makes room for, Jack and Allan were in a more pros perous condition than they had been since they came to the colony. Jack had worked liked a very Hercules ; no labor was too hurt], no undertaking too arduous, for him. Grappling with obstacle* waa hia fashion of stilling thought. It was not till tkey had been some months at the Palmer that he had told Allan of hia rupture with Annie, and even then he only gave the brief facts. Allan was very much puzzled ; from what he knew of Annie Farquharson, he thought Jack had wronged her by his angry suspicions. He would very much have liked to have ascertained for himself tho truo state of the awe, but at that diatanco it was impossible. Jack never alluded to Annie in any way, and except that there wan an intensity of bitterness in any chance observa tions he made concerning women, that told that the wound was deep and still unhcaled, Allan might have thought he had forgotten her. Of Mareden, Jack never spoke by any chance. It Beemed as if a chapter in the book of his life was ended, and the new one on which he had begun had no connection with the past. " What ib that thing in the water t" Baid Allan to Jack halting suddenly in hia walk. They had come down to Brisbane to charter a vessel on their own account, to continue a specu lation which had hitherto proved very profitable, and were now walking along the North Quay, admiring the beauty of the river and luxuriating in the enjoyment of civilisation again. " I Bee nothing," said Jack, looking intently in the direction in which Allan pointed. " It is a man," cried Allan hurridly, " Bee, he struggles!" Jack ahaded his eyes and bent them more in tently than before to where Allan pointed. Blight had injured his sight greatly, and he was often very dependent on Allan. " I cannot see," he said pettishly. " There, under the bank ; and there in an out rigger, keel uppermost not a hundred yards away," exclaimed Allan eagerly. Still unable to see the object* that Allan de scribed, Jack took off his coat and boots. Allan, whom the actual light of the drowning man's struggles had wrought to a more excited state, was already in the water •wimming straight across the river. Jack waa nofc long behind him; with a few of his powerful strokes he came up with his friend. Allan swam as fast as he could, but he was no match for Jack ; the latter had at last descried the drowning man, though only for a few seconds, for he disappeared beneath the water almost as Boon as he caught sight of him. Jack dived close to the spot where he had dis appeared. He could not tell whether he would rise again, or whether that was the final effort. AUaH watched eagerly for Jack's re-appearance. His friend oame up alone. " Nearer the bank, Jack," Allan cried, as well as his strength, already almost exhausted, wouM let him. " Get to land," tfas Jack's only answer. He was frightened for Allan, who was no great Bwimmer. Without waiting to Bee whether Allan obeyed, Jack dived again. This time he had something in hia grasp when he reappeared—a white livid face reated on his arm. The last dive had been a prolonged otto, and Jack felt he must husband his strength. Placing his senseless burden in the way that would least impede him, ho was turning to strike for tho shore, when to his horror he saw Allan throw up his arms aud disappear. For a second Jack gazed as if his seuses had taken flight. In that moment a whole whirl of thought went through his brain. The pros and cons stood out as clear as in a judge's summing up. Leave the man who waa a stranger and rescue his friend, or trust to his power of saving tho one first and then coming back for the other ? He decided on the latter course. All depended on himself. Ho gave one searching glauce around to see if there was any help, but they were utterly alone. Vory steadily, because of the intensity of his agitation, Jack Bwam to the bank—happily it was not many yards—but tho bank was steep, and to get the senseless body on it took both time and strength that could ill bo spared. So utterly engrossed had he been in dwelling on Allan's danger that he had not glanced at tho face of the drowning man. Aa he got him on the bank his eye fell on the countenance, and with an oath that was horrible to hear he let the body fall. It was Marsden, his foe, the defrauder of his happiness ; for him he bad imperilled tho life of his best friend. He mado one movement as if he would take up the senseless body and throw it back into the watery grave from which he had rescued it. For a moment he felt that he must do it—but only for a moment the frenzy lasted. He turned from the body as if the sight was horror, and threw himself into the water again to go to Allan's help. It waa almost too late. Allan had Bunk for the second time just as Jack ap proached. Jack went down with him, aud Allan caught him in the terrible grasp of a drowning man. For a few miuutes there waß a sharp wrestle in the water. When Jack reappeared ho had unloosed Allan's fatal clasp and waß carrying him, as senseless apparently as the man he had just rescued. It was a toss-up whether he could get him to the bank or no ; he was terribly ex hausted ; every stroke he made was faiuter and slower, till when close to the bank, on the very brink of safety, his strength failed—one inef fectual struggle, and they Bask together.
There would inevitably have been "an end of one, two, and three," aa froggy in hia wooing says, if their struggles had not attracted the at tention of a man who was working at a short distance, and who had been hidden from Jack's sight by some intervening trees. The movement of the water caused by Jack's struggles with Allan had caught this man's eye, and he had run down to the bank to see what huge fish was causing such commotion. Luckily he was in time to see Jack fall back as he tried to gain the bank with Allan on his arm. Shouting with all bis might to draw attention, he plunged into the water and soon succeeded in bringing out both Jack and Allan. His crieß brought two other men to the scene. Some brandy hastily administered soon restored Jack; but Allan remained unconscious, and Marsden appeared quite dead. It was but a little while before a doctor was on the spot, and the sufferers were moved into the nearest cottage. Jack was still too weak to give any assistance, but he walked beside Allan, never trusting him* self to glance at Maraden. Already the knowledge had come home to him that he was a murderer in thought, if not in deed. His thankfulness was deep when he Baw Allan restored to consciousness ; he could never have orgiven himself if to rescue Marsden he had lost his friend. Allan feebly returned the warm grasp of his hand. " Where is the man V were his first words. Jack pointed to where Maroden lay, still in sensible. Allan looked — started- looked again from Marsden to Jack. " Good God 1" he exclaimed, as he Bank back. Jack Btood by him with folded arms and com* pressed lips. "He breathes!" the doctor called out in a joyful tone. Allan raised himself again. Yes, the man breathed, very feebly; then he opened his eyes, vacant at first, but with a dreamy consciousness. Drawn by some irresistible fascination Jack went to him. He stood opposite the doctor, looking down straight into the eyes of his foe. The open vacant eyes seemed to quail before him ; than they gathered greater consciousness ; there was a convulsive movement, and the eyes met Jack's eyes, fully, consciously, only a moment; then Jack turned away and covered his face. There was no more hatred, no more anger; whether Marsden lived or di d there was no more enmity possible between them. The agony that he had read in that dying glance expiated aIL How fervently he blessed the resolution that had made him leave Allan to go to the stranger; how still more fervently was he thank ful for the resistance he had made to that unholy prompting * When Jack uncovered his eyes again, Maraden was dead. It seemed aa if the effort had ex* hausted the tiny spark of life. He had atoned by that last moment of supreme agony for the Bins of a whole lifetime. " I never understood it all, Jack." "But then why did yon not tell me so, darling? Why did you never answer me a word, but let me go away believing my Annie faithless ?" " I could not speak then ; I could not even comprehend your meaning. But I wrote, and you never answered my letter." " You wrote ! when ?" and Jack drew closer to him the face that when he had last looked upon it was so troubled, and was now so bright and beaming. " The next day. The very next day, I wrote and asked you to tell me what I had done, and begged you not to leave me." " I never had the letter," said Jack, stamping his foot. " Mrs. Hutohins took it to poet it herself ; I am sure she would not have forgotten it," Annie added hesitatingly. " If she did she deserves that she should be as miserable as Bhe has made us," said Jack furiously. " Fool that I have been I" " Did you really think I would let you say good-bye to me, and never even ask you why you left me ?" said Annie stroking his hand fondly. " I was mad ; I can see it now, but then I was so unnerved—l felt so sure that Marsden had supplanted me. But there ! I will not try to explain. I was mad—really mad for a time. But oh, Annie, if I had only bad that letter, or if you had only written again!" " I did not like to write. I felt sure you had got the lett-r, and were determined to have no more to say to me. It has been a miserable time, dear;" and she let her head fall on Jack's arm. How Jack responded and how he comforted her we will not attempt to describe. Let everybody nay for him or her self what would be comfort* able under similar circumstances, and no doubt they will guess rightly the proceedings of Jack and Anuie. They were so contented after that that they even forgave Mrs. Hutchins, who ac knowledged that she might possibly have for gotten to post Annie's letter ; that really Bhe had thought bo little about the matter that even at that moment she could not say whether she had posted it or not. Jack was determined not to let happiness escape bini this time. Fortune seemed to shower all her favors on him at once. By Robert Mars den's death he had come into a large fortune, and here was hia little Auuie restored to him to share it with him andenhance every circumstance of joy. Of course they were married and lived long and bnppily, aud had heaps of little children— the acme" of human happiness, according to all the fairy stories. Allan never married, but remained the staunch faithful friend Jack had ever found him ; con tent to seek his happiness iv that uf others. Happy for the world that there should be Bouie such uuseln-th natures to leaven the groesuets* of tlit* seHi-IiJCHs which is the very essence of the ch'.uuctvr of luodt men ! [thk fnp. ]
" Very oppressive here, Mr. Spicer," B»id a fri'iid at one of the first concerts of the season. " Yes," Bait! the other, with a weary look at a guutloiuau who whb piping feebly on the platform, '" the anile uria ia dreadful."