|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Astera-kesphoros; The Star of Healing|
Astera-kesphoros; The Star of Healing. BY MARY HANNAY FOOTT.
[WRITTEN FOR THE QUEENSLANDER.]
For a moment or two everybody stood as if frozen with horror at the tidings of the dreadful thing which had befallen. The King was the first to recover himself so far as to
think of what should be done. "Give your bearers a cup of wine apiece, Mrs. Brightstone," he said. "They are pant ing from the hill, and it will not be lost time if they have a minute or so to drink it. Then send some one with them in the palanquin to fetch a doctor from the barracks. They will have him here sooner than he could come any other way. See here, my men," he continued, turning to the Burmese and handing the head bearer a number of gold double-guinea pieces with a sign that it was to be divided among them, "step along quick, then plenty more." The brown men bowed to the ground with glistening eyes and gleaming teeth disclosed in a wide, sudden smile, and Mrs. Brightstone went into the house to order them the cups of wine. "Take me to Ken, Erica! Take me to my poor little dear Ken!" exclaimed Fran, at last finding her voice. "Oh, what will Mollie say? It is all my fault, and she trusted me with her boy!" "You must not go with Erica," said the King. "Her father and I will go. We shall want you to see that there is plenty of hot water here when we get back—" "I will go!" said Fran. "He is our boy, not yours!" "—And blankets and things ready down stairs," said the King. "I must go!" said Fran. "— And to keep Mrs. Brightstone from coming. She is very frail." "Do let me go," said Fran, trembling all over and beginning to cry. "A shock would kill her," said the King; "and we shall have to send Erica back as soon as she has shown us the place, so her nurse must follow us." "I will stay," said Fran. "Be very, very, very careful of him when you are carrying him. Promise me that you will." "Indeed we will," replied the King. "Now, Erica," he said, taking hold of the little girl's hand, "show us the way." The astronomer went with them, and after a good deal of hard work in the way of climbing over rocks and uprooted trees they reached the place whence Ken had fallen. Then the King waved his hand to Erica's nurse, who was toiling after them, to hasten to where they were. When she had done so and had taken Erica away the King began to make ready to go down the face of the rock. "Let me go down for the boy," said the astronomer, preparing himself likewise, "he lost his life in saving my child." "You have not been about the rock since we were boys together, Eric," said the King as he kicked off his boots and flung hat, coat, waist coat, and shirt to the four winds, "you would lose your foothold and be killed." "Neither have you been here yourself," said the astronomer, untying his second shoe. "I have done plenty of mountaineering for all that," replied the King, "in other countries where nobody knew me, whenever I have had a holiday. Here goes!" and so saying he caught hold of the main stem of one of the trailing llanos that grew amid the brush wood and disappeared over the brink of the cliff. The astronomer advanced towards the edge and saw the great plain far beneath, and mid way down the face of the steep a jutting ledge thickly overgrown with low bushes. He was not able to look down for more than a moment, and when he had done so he turned away sick and giddy, and throwing himself on the ground he shed bitter tears for brave little Ken. By-and-by—Eric did not know how long he had lain there waiting and watching for them—the King came back again up the face of the cliff with Ken strapped firmly to him, but pallid, cold, and unconscious. Eric helped the King to carry him to the Observatory. The doctor, brought by the swift brown men, was already awaiting them; the hot water was ready, and the blankets were spread. They laid Ken on the bed prepared for him. In a short time they knew the worst. The bushes on the ledge had broken his fall, and there was no hurt that was to be seen. But one small link in the chain of the spine, close to the head, seemed to be broken, and, whether the fall had in any way harmed the skull or not, the shock of it seemed to have dulled the brain.
"He may live for years," said the doctor, "or he may die at anytime. One of my soldiers is ill, I must be off to attend to him. I can do no more for this poor little fellow here than I could do for the dead." As the brown men bore the doctor away again to the barracks the little group at the Observatory stood sad and dismayed around Ken as he lay with open unseeing eyes, his cheeks pale, and a dark flush on his brow, breathing in short strange gasps. At last the astronomer spoke, addressing his few words to Fran. "Miss Kenrick," he said, "if you have courage there is still hope." "Hope?" said Fran in a tremulous voice. "Certainly, I believe," said the King, "if the thing Eric Brightstone has in his mind to offer you is what I suppose." "It is the chance I brought my wife home for, King," he said, "across the sea." "I thought so!" exclaimed the King. "It is an amazing sacrifice, but you could do no less." "Oh no," said Mrs. Brightstone, "he saved our darling's life. l am more than happy that he should have it instead of me." Fran as they spoke in turn had so far followed their thoughts that she knew there was something offered her for Ken which was to have been given to Erica's mother. "If it is to have a more expensive dootor," she said, "and you meant to have him for Mrs. Brightstone, and are thinking of having him for Ken instead, I will make lace till I am blind to pay you back the money. I would not take it for my own sake, much as I love him, but for his mother's—my poor Mollie's— I will not refuse." "It is not money," said the King gently, "which my dear friends here are desirous to forego so that the brave little boy there may have it instead. It is life. But it rests with you or some one else to secure the gift for him by your own bravery." "I will stay by little Ken," said Mrs. Brightstone, "while you go upstairs with the King and Eric, and hear what they have to tell you."Then the King and the astronomer and Fran mounted the steep stairs to the Observatory together, and Eric Brightstone once more brought out his grandfather's lens from its platinum box and fitted it, and swung the great telescope into place, and bade Fran look through it as before. Afterwards they told her of the Star of Healing. [TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK.]