|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.] CHAPTER VIII.
"You will want a good rest, Miss Kenrick," said the King, "before you set off on your journey to the Star of Healing—that is to say if, as I believe will be the case, you decide to
go, and if, also, it proves that midnight to morrow will be the time at which you will have to begin your journey. So now, whilst Eric is getting things into trim for the final ob servation he and I are to take to-night, I will see you downstairs, if I may, and arrange for watchers to stay by Ken until you and he leave for the Star." With these words the King took Fran gently by the hand and led her out of the Observatory and down to the lowermost floor of the house where Ken was lying. Erica had cried herself to sleep, and her nurse was carrying her away to bed as Fran and the King reached the foot of the stairs. Mrs. Brightstone, pale and sorrowful, sat by Ken as he lay unconscious still, but breathing more quietly than before. The brown man sat cross- legged on the floor in the shadow of the palan quin which they had brought indoors, so that —as was their custom, learned in wild places— they might keep guard over it in turns during the time of sleep. Beneath, in the stillness, was heard the sentry's measured tread on the terraced rock by the gateway of the Crown, and from beyond there came at intervals the duller sound of a marching file. Soon the marching men drew nearer, and by-and-by a small party of soldiers arrived and stood by the door way. At a word from the King, Mrs. Brightstone and Fran went away together to their rooms to rest for the night, the Burmese taking their palanquin with them glided off to a great kitchen where for their comfort a huge fire had been lit, and the soldiers took up their places, two as watchers by Ken and the others as relief, resting the while till their turn should come. When the King had seen all thus settled he betook himself once more upstairs.
It was barely half-an-hour past midnight when the Astronomer and the King came down, hurrying, yet with noiseless tread, their faces conscious and pallid, but their eyes alight with joy. With a wave of his hand the King dis missed his soldiers, and the moment they were gone he wrapped up little Ken in one of the blankets, took him in his arms and hastened with him towards the summit of the Crown. Eric Brightstone, meanwhile, the platinum lens-box in his hands, knocked with it at Fran's door, aroused her from her sleep, and entreated her not to lose a single moment but to accom pany him at once, and Fran, who had lain down to rest without undressing and fallen asleep, instantly obeyed. "Shall you be able to follow me?" he said. "I cannot very well help you along without some risk of letting fall the lens." "Yes, I think so," replied Fran. "I know all the paths here very well." They set out together by the way the King had a few moments before taken, and in but little longer time than it takes to tell they all three stood on the summit of the peak by a flat circular rock known as "The Cushion of Mountain Crown". "It is to-night you have to go," said Eric Brightstone, "to-night, not to-morrow. So now there is no time to explain things to you, as we had hoped to do, to show you how safe you will be and how little there really is to fear. You will have to wear this," he con tinued, "going and coming. Let me fit it on for you, please." So saying the Astronomer opened out a jointed metal framework, which he took from the platinum box, and fitted it on Fran's head and shoulders. In the framework was a circular socket which came in front of Fran's face and rather close to it. Into this socket Eric Brightstone fitted his grandfather's wonderful lens. As soon as he had done so Fran saw that close beside her was part of one of the ellipse stairways that, as she knew, are the highroads betwixt star and star. Now that it was so near, she found it no longer seemed thread- like or of gossamer but of massive yet strangely flexible crystalline pearl. The ellipse frames, though of a substance that light shone through, were of girth immeasurable by the eye, and twisted cable fashion of uncountable strands. The stairs set between them, like the rungs of a ladder, one of which had already passed overhead, while another was slowly advancing from the abyss beneath the cliff to where she stood, were formed of twin triangles interlaced, the spaces filled with slighter but still sub stantial bars in forms like those of snow crystals. The Astronomer took her by both hands. "Mount, mount," he said; "step up on the Cushion; stand in the very centre—there where you see the rock cut in grooves that form a star!"
Breathless, and with beating heart Fran obeyed. As she did so the King advanced and placed Ken in her arms, drawing the blanket away as he did so, and flinging it on the ground, and then helping her to support the burden of the child's unconscious form. "He will not be heavy; you will feel him no weight at all," he said," once you are upon the stair." "Now—now!" said Eric and the King in a breath as the advancing stair approached towards the centre of the rock on which she stood. "They will meet you and care for you on the Star of Healing," said the King. "They will know you are coming the instant you set your foot on the stair. They will be watching you the whole of the way." As he spoke Fran stepped upon the moving crystal, little Ken clasped tight in her arms. "Good-bye," she said. "If there are any gifts to be found in the Star of Healing for the two most generous of mortal men I will do what may be done to bring them back for Eric Brightstone and my Lord the King." They heard her words, but Fran herself they saw no longer, for the crystal radiance of the stair upon which she stood was already merged in the brightness of the surrounding heaven. The wind of dawn began to flow about them pure and chill, and they left the Crown together and took their way homeward without a word. They had faith, measureless faith, in the Star of Healing, but for all their faith it would be hard to say which bore the heavier heart away with him from Mountain Crown, Eric Brightstone or the King. For, though in the excitement of the moment the thought had not occurred to them, no sooner had Fran dis appeared from view than the dreadful reflec tion seized upon them both with deadly grip: "We made an error of nearly four-and-twenty hours in reckoning the time of the stair's arrival on the world we know. What error may we have made with regard to its reaching the world we don't know. What if Fran Kenrick never gets to Astera-kesphoros after all?" [TO BE CONTINUED.]
Oar Nanango correspondent, writing on the 5th instant, states that so far the winter had not been much felt. The weather had been showery, and grass was fairly plentiful throughout the district, with stock in good condition. The early crop of maize is not abundant, but the late crop promises to be good. Arbor Day was celebrated on Friday last at the State school, when the children had a real good time. The town brass band discoursed music throughout the day. A largely-attended ball in aid of the school prize fund was held in the evening. Stock has moved a little more frequently of late; there are prospects of large lots coming through during the winter. There are a few more hands at the old alluvial diggings than usual. Mr. Parson's mill is kept going fairly well. A communication has been received from Professor Shelton, promising an early visit for the purpose of delivering a course of lectures. Land selection is going on with great spirit. Several large lots have lately been taken up at Jumna, Burrandowan run. Negotiations are In progress between Messrs. Gibson Bros, and the Railway Department (says the " Bundaberg Star") for the construction of a railway line to connect New Laidley with the present railway system, so as to have the cane grown by the farmers there conveyed by rail to Bingera for manu facture into sugar. The proposed line will be in length about seven or elghl miles, and it will very probably junction with the main line at or near Gin Gin. Mr. F. A. Blackman, honorary secre tary to the Stockbreeders' Association, has received the following; telegram from Mr. H. H. Edwards. Government Veterinary Surgeon, Perth:—"Splendid market for prime fat cattle. Consign Lowe, Clerk, and Co., Perth. Reliable agents. Sales average £12 to £14 per head. Heavy draught horses, £18 to £25."