|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Adam and Eve|
Adam and Eve.
BY MRS. PARR,
Authoress of "Dorothy Fox," "The Gusan Smithy," &c. &c.
AUNT HEPZIBAH'S house stood well up the hill, far enough away from the village to escape the hubbub and confusion which, during the removal of any considerable store of spirit, was most cer-
tain to prevail. Hidden away in the recesses of a tortuous valley, amid hills whose steep Bides bristled with tier after tier of bare broken rocks, to reach or to leave Polperro by any other mode than on foot was a task of considerable difficulty. Waggons were unknown, cars not available; and it was only at the risk of hiß rider's life and limbs that any horse ventured along the perilous descents and ascents of the old Talland road. Out of these obstaclea, therefore, arose the necessity for a number of men who could manage the drays, dorsals, and crooka which were the more common and favored modes of conveyance. With the natural love of a little excitement, combined with the desire to do as you would be done by, it was only thought neighborly to lend a hand at what ever might be going on ; and the general result of this sociability was that half the place might be found congregated about the house, assisting to the best of their ability to impede all progress, and successfully turn any attempt at work into onf usion and disorder. To add to this tumult, a keg of spirits was kept on tap, to which all comers were made free, so that the crowd grew first noisy and good tempered, then riotously merry and quarrelsomely drunk, until occasions had been known when a general fight had ensued, the kegs had got burst open and upset, the men who were hired to deliver them lay maddened or helpless in the street, while the spirit, for which liberty and life had been risked, flowed in the gutters like so much water. In vain had Adam, to whom these ecenes afforded nothing but anger and disgust, used all his endeavors to persuade his fellow-workers to give up running the vessel ashore with the cargo in ber. The Polperro men, except under neces sity, turned a deaf ear to his entreaties, and in many cases preferred risking a seizure to foregoing the foolhardy recklessness of openly defying the arm of the law. The plan which Adam would have seen universally adopted here, as it was in most of the other places round the coast, was that of dropping the kegs, slung on a rope, into the sea, and (securing them by an anchor) leaving them there until some convenient season when, certain of not being disturbed, they were landed and either removed to a more distant hiding place or conveyed at once to their final destina tion. But all this involved immediate trouble and delay, and the men who, without a complaint or murmur, would endure weeks of absence from their homes, the moment thoße homeß came in sight grew irritable under control and impatient of all authority. With a spirit of independence which verged on rebellion, with an uncertain temperament in which good and bad lay jostled together so haphazard that to calculate which at any given moment might come uppermost was an impossi bility, these sons of the sea were hard to lead and impossible to drive. Obstinate, credulouß, superstitious, they looked askant on innovation and hated change, fearing lest it should turn away the luck which they vaunted in the face of discretion; making it their boast that so many years had gone by since any mischance had overtaken the Polperro folk that they could afford to laugh at the soldiers before their faces, and snap their fingers at the cruisers behind their backs. Under these circumstances, it was not to be supposed that Adam's arguments proved very effective ; no proposition he made was ever favorably received, and this one was more than usually unpopular. So, in spite of his prejudice against a rule which necessitated the sequence of riot and disorder, he had been forced to give in, and to content himself by using bis authority to control violence, and stem as much as possible the tide of excess. It was no small comfort to him that Eve was absent, and the knowledge served to smooth his temper and keep down his irritability. Besides which, his spirits had risen to no common height, a frequent result of the reaction which sets in after great emotion, although Adam placed his happy mood to the credit of Eve'a kind words and soft glances. It was late in the afternoon before the kegs weru all got out and Bafely cleared off; but at length the last man took his departure, the visitors began to disperse, Uncle Zebedee and Jerrem disappeared with them, and the house was left to the undisturbed possession of Joan and Adam. ' I shall bring Eve back when I come,' Adam said, reappearing from the smartening up he had been giving to himself. ' All right,' replied Joan, but in such a weary voice that Adam's heart smote him for leaving her sitting there alone, and with a great effort at self-sacrifice he said : ' Would you like to go too?1 ' Iss, if I could go two p'r'apß I should,' re torted Joan ; ' but as I'm only one praps I might find myself one in the way. There, go along with 'cc, do,' she added, seeing him still hesitate. ' You knaw if there'd bin any chance o' my goin' you wouldn't ha' axed me.' A little huffed by thin home-thrust, Adam waited for nothing more, but, turning away, he closed the door after him, and set off at a brisk pace up the Lansnlloß-road, towards Aunt Hep zibah's house. The light had now all but faded out, and over everything seaward a cloudy film of mist hung thick and low ; but this would soon lift up and be blown away, leaving the night clear and the eky bright with the glitter of a myriad stars, beneath whose twinkling light Adam would tell his tnle of love, and hear the sweet reply ; and at the thought a thousand hopes leaped into life, and made his pulses quicken and his nerves thrill. Strive as he might, arrived at Aunt Hep zibah's he could neither enter upon nor join in any general conversation ; and so marked was his 1 The riglit of rc|>ul>lmliiny "Adam .vkl Ere" in Queensland liua U:eu liurchiutxl by tha propriotura of the V"«n«fanifo-,
silence and embarrassed hia manner that the assembled party oame to the charitable conclusion that something had gone wrong in the adjust ment of hia liquor, and knowing it waa ticklish work to meddle with a man who, with a glaas beyond, had fallen a drop short, they made no opposition to Eve's speedy preparation for imme diate departure. ' Oh, Eve P Adam exclaimed, giving vent to deep-drawn sighs of relief, as, having turned from the farm-gate, they were out of sight and hearing of the house. ' I hope you're not vexed with me for seeming such a fool as I've been feeling there. I have been bo longing for the time to come when X could speak to you that for thinking of it I couldn't talk about the things they asked me of.' * Why, what ever can you have to Bay of so much importance?' stammered Eve, trying to Bpeak aB if she was unconscious of the subject he was about to broach, and this from no coquetry but because of an embarrassment so allied to that which Adam felt, th .t if he could have looked into her heart he would have seen his answer in its tumultuous beating. ' I think you know,' said Adam, softly ; and as he spoke he stooped to catch a glimpse of her averted face. ' It's only what I'd on my lips to say last night, only the door was opened before I'd time to get the words out, and afterwards you wouldn't so muoh as give me a look, although,' he added reproachfully, 'you sat up ever so long after I was gone, and only ran away when you thought that I was coming.' 'No, indeed I didn't do that,' said Eve, earnestly ; ' that was Joan whom you heard. I went upstairs almost the minute after you left.' ' Is that really true ?' exclaimed Adam, seizing both her hands, and holding them tight within his own. ' Eve, you don't know what I suffered, thinking you were caught by Jerrem's talk, and didn't care whether I felt hurt or pleased. I lay awake most of the night, thinking whether it could ever be that you could care for me, as by some magic you've made me care for you. I fancied .' But here a rustle in the hedge made them both start Adam turned quickly round, but nothing was to be seen. "Twas most like nothing but a stoat or a rabbit,' he said, vexed at the interruption ; ' still 'tis all but certain there'll be somebody upon the road. Would you mind crossing over to the cliff? 'tis only a little bit down the other side.' Eve raised no objection, and, turning, they pioked their way along the field, got over the gate, and down through the tangle of gorse and briar to the path which ran along the Lansallos side of the cliff. Every step of the way was familiar to Adam, and he so guided Eve as to bring her down to a rough bit of rock which pro jected out and formed a seat on a little flat of ground overhanging a deep gully. 'There,' he said, in a tone of satisfaction, ' this isn't bo bad, is it ? You won't feel cold here, shall you ?' ' No, not a bit,' said Eve. Then there was a pause, which Eve broke by first giving a nervous half-suppressed sigh, and then saying : ' It's very dark to-night, isn't it V 'Yes,' said Adam, who had been thinking how he should best begin his subject. ' I thought the mist was going to clear off better than this, but that seems to look like dirty weather blowing up f and he pointed to the watery shroud, behind which lay the waning moon. 'I wish a storm would come on,' said Eve. ' I should so like to see the sea tossing up, and the waves dashing over everything/ What, while we two are sitting here V said Adam, smiling. 'No ; of course I don't mean now, this very minute, but sometime.' 'Sometime when I'm away at sea?' put in Adam. Eve gave a little Bhudder. ' Not for the world. I Bhould be frightened to death if a storm oame on and you away. But you don't go out in very bad weather, do you, Adam ?' ' Not if I can help it, I don't,' he answered. ' Why, would you mind if I did ?' and he bent down so that he could look into her face. ' Eh, Eve, would you V His tone and manner conveyed so much more than the words that Eve felt it impossible to meet his gaze. ' I don't know,' she faltered. ' What do you ask me for ?' ' What do I ask you for ?' he repeated, unable longer to repress the passionate torrent which he had been striving to koep under. ' Because sus pense seems to drive me mad. Because, try as I may, I can't keep silent nny longer. I wanted, before I said more, to ask you about somebody you've left behind you in London ; but it's of no use. No matter what he may be to you, I must tell you that I love you, Eve ; that you've managed in this little time to mako every bit of my heart your own.' ' Somebody in London V Eve Bilently repeated. ' Who could he mean ? Not Reuben May ; how should he know about him ?' The words of love that followed this surprise seemed swallowed up in her denre to have her curiosity satisfied and her fears set at rest. ' What do you mean about somebody I've left in London ?' she said ; and the question, abruptly put, jarred upon Adam's excited mood, strained as his feelings were, each to its utmost tension. This man she had left behind then could, even at a moment like this, stand uppermost in her mind. ' A man, I mean, to whom, before you left, you gave a promise ;' and this time, so at variance was the voice with Adam's former tones of pas sionate avowal that, coupled with the shock of hearing that word 'promise,' Eve's heart quailed, and to keep herself from betraying her agitation she was forced to say, with an air of ill-feigned amazement: 1 A man I left—somebody I gave a promise to ? I really don't know what you mean.' ' Oh, yes, you do,' and by this time every trace of wooing had passed from Adam's face, and all the love so late set lowing from his heart was choked and forced back on himself. ' Try and remember some fellow who thinks he's got the right to ask how you're getting on among the couutry bumpkins ; |whether you ain't tired of
them yet; and when you're coming back. Per* hape,' he added, goaded on by Eve's continued silence, ' 'twill help you if I aay 'twas the one who came to see you off aboard the Mary Jane. I suppose you haveu't forgot him /' 1 Eve's blood boiled at the sneer conveyed in Adam's tone and look. Kauing her eyes defiantly to his, she said : 1 Forgotten him 1 certainly not! If you had said anything about the Mary Jane before, I should have known directly who you meant. That person is a very great friend of miue.' ' Friend ?' Baid Adam. 1 Yes, friend ! the greatest friend I've got.' 4 Oh, I'm very glad I know that; because I don't approve of friends. The woman I ask to be my wife must be contented with me, and not want anything from anybody else.' 4 A most amiable decision to come to,' said Eve; ' I hope you may find somebody contented to be ao dictated to.' 4 I thought I had found somebody already,' said Adam, letting a softer inflection come into bis voice. ' I fancied that at leant, Eve, you were made out of different stuff to the women who aro alwayß hankering to catch every man'a eye.' 4 And pray what Bhould make you alter your opinion? Am I to be thought tuo worse of because an old friend, who had promised he would be a brother to me, offers to see me off on my journey, and I let him come ? You must have a very poor opinion of women, Adam, or at least a very poor opinion of me.' And the air of offended dignity with which Bhe gave this argument forced Adam to exclaim : 4 Oh, Eve ! forgive me if I have spoken hastily ; it is only because I think so much more of you — place you ao much higher than any other girl I ever saw—that makes me expect so much more of you. Of course,' he continued, finding ehe remained silent, ' you had every right to allow your friend to go with you, and it was only natural he should wish to do so ; only when a man's so torn by love as I am he feels jealous of every eye that's turned upon you; each look you give another seems something robbed from me.' Eve's heart began to soften ; her indignation was beginning to melt away. 4 And when I heard he was claiming a pro* mise, I ' • What promise ?' said Eve, sharply. 4 What promise did you give him V replied Adam, warily, suspicion giving to security an* other thrust. 4 That's not the point,' said Eve. ' You say I gave him a promise ; I ask what that promise was?' 4 The very question I put to you. I know what he says it was, and I want to hear if what he says is true. Surely,' he added, seeing Bhe hesitated, ' if this is only a friend, and a friend who is to be looked on like a brother, you can't have given him any promise that if you can re* member you can't repeat.' Eve's face betrayed her displeasure. 4 Really, Adam,' she said, ' I know of no right that ycu have to take me to task in this manner.' 4NoV he answered. ' I was going to ask you to give ma that right, when you interrupted me; however, that's very soon set straight. I've told you I love you ; now I ask you if you love me ; and, if so, whether you will marry me ? After you've answered me, I shall be able to put my questions without offence." "Will you indeed !' said Eve. ' I should think that would rather depend upon what the answer may be.' 4 Whatever it may be, I'm waiting for it,' said Adam, grimly. 4 Let me see, I must consider what it was I was asked,' said Eve. ' First, if ' 4 Oh, don't trouble about the first; I shall be satisfied of that, if you answer the second and tell me you will accept me as a husband.' 4 Say keeper.' 4 Keeper, if that pleases you better.' 4 Thank you very much, but I don't feel quite equal to the honor. I'm not tired yet of doing what pleases myself, that I need submit my thoughts and looks and actions to another person.' 4 Then you refuse to be my wife ?' 4 Yes, I do.' 4 And cannot return'the love I offer you ?' Eve was silent. 4 Do you hear ?' he said. 1 Yes, I hear.' 4 Then answer. Have I got your love, or haven't I ?' 4 Whatever love you might have had,' she broke out passionately, 'you've taken earn to kill.' 'Kill !' ho repeated ; 'it must have boeu pre cious delicate, if it couldn't htaud tlio uuaweriug of oue question. Look hero, Eve, when I told you I had given you my hoart aud every grain of love in it, I only spoke the truth ; but, unless you can give me yours an whole aud aa entire w» I have given miue, 'fore God I'd rather jump oti' yonder rock than face tho uiiaery that would come upon us both, i know what 'tits to sea another take what Bhould be yours—to nee another given what you are craving for. The torture of that past is dead and gone, but the devil it bred in me lives still, and woe betide the man or woman who rouses it.' Instinctively Eve shrank back; the look of pent-up passion frightened her, aud made her whole body shiver. ' 1 here, there, don't alarm yourself,' said Adam, passing his hand over bin forehead, as if to brush away the traces which this outburst had occasioned ; ' I don't want to frighten you, all I want to know is—cau you give uiu the lovo I ask of you ?' ' I couldn't bear to bo uuspected,' faltered Isvo. ' Then act so that you would bo abovesuspiciou.' 'With a person alwayß on the watch looking out for this and that, so that you would be afraid to speak or open your mouth, I don't see how oue could possibly be happy,' said Eve. ' All you did, all you said, might be taken wrongly, and when you were moat innocent you might Im thought most guilty. No ; I don't think I could Btand that, Adam.' 'Very well,' he said coldly ; 'if you feel your love is too weak to bear that—and a great deal more than that—you are very wise tn withold it from me ; those who have much to give require much in return.' ' Oh, I dou't think I liavou't th»t in mo whii-'.i would inaku my lovo equal youio ajiy day,' hhiil Eve, nettled, at the doubt which Adam had flung
at her. 'If I gave any one my heart, I should give it all; but when Ido that I hope it will be to somebody who won't doubt me and suspect me.' ' Then I'd advise you not to give them cause to,' said Adam. ' And I'd advise you to keep your cautions for those that need them,' replied Eve, rising from where she had been Bitting, and turning her face in the direction of home. ' Oh, you needn't fear being troubled by any more I shall s&y,' said Adam ; ' I'm only sorry that I've been led to Bay what I have.' ' Pray don't let that trouble you ; auoh things, with me, go in at one ear and out at the other.' ' In that case I won't waste any more words,' said Adam; ' bo, if you can keep your tongue still, you needn't fear being obliged to listen to anything I shall say.' Eve gave a little scornful inclination of her head, in token of the accepted silence between them, and in Bilence the two commenced their walk, and took their way towards home. [TO BE CONTINUED.]