Chapter 3045640

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Chapter NumberPART IV. IX.
Chapter TitleTHE WATCHMAN'S LANTERN.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3045640
Full Date1893-02-25
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count3050
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954)
Trove TitleUnder the Great Seal
article text

OUR NOVEL.

tNOW PIBST PUBLISHED.]

UNDER THE GREAT SEAL: * A NOVEL,

BT

JOSEPH HATTOW,

Ar

'!' Author of " Clytie," " By Obdbr or tub '?'! Otk&" "John Needham's Double,"

"Cbubl London," Ac

PART IV.

CHAPTER IX.

The Watchman's Lantern.

^ . Harry Barkstead lay dead in the club ;:'? room of the Posting House.

f At one end of the room two pillars, re ; presenting two orders of architecture,

stood for masonic symbols.

W ??''????It was the room in which a body of '? ' Freemasons met once a month to perform v; ,their mysteries.

¿Once & year the county hall was held r^. there. Elmira Webb had stood outside ||; thePosting House te see the fine ladies ;/ go in. She was herself a fine lady now, ^... the? .belle of a winter resort under the £< Jtoij»*skies of Italy.

V There was bo other room, thought the \ landlord, so fitting for the body to rest in '"/.' as the dim old club room. It would be \',\ : convenient for the jury to view the corpse < and handy for the undertaker, opening as %.v it did directly upon the courtyard.__

« ::.; All'the" other rooms were more or less f ; engaged. The club room would not be I fe »wuired until New Tear.

!'¡,' It did not matter to Harry Barkstead

>. where his body might be lodged upon this | r occasion, though in his life he was fastid Wv ions, not to say luxurious, in his tastes.

!' In due course the hotel went to reat. IfpTarmouth closed its eyes.

tv- ';. The only wakeful person seemed to be I the watchman, who, a lantern in one/hand [^ and a stick in the other, left his box at P' long intervals and announced the hour and yv tne state of the weather.

Iv ; "Twelvo o'clock, and a snowy morn j^ ing !" was heard that night by many un ffcnánállyV sleepless burgesses, but it made l^1. no impression upon Harry Barkstead ; "B''; nor, indeed, was David .Keith conscious iot:;:of the watchman's cry. One lay dead,and, ^'according to the latest accounts in bar- lil parlour and tap-room and around every ^ wintor's fire thereabouts, David Keith ^?was^dying. ' -

|vs o It was not so, however. David,between ij' white sheets, watched by loving eyes, |., tended by the best medical skill, lay un ^conscious in his own comfortable bedroom feiúHartley's Row. Ii was a truckle bed, 14 with white dimity curtains drawn at the l^head of it to shield the sleeper's face jjf^'-frora. the firelight and the candle that. ¡3g¥'stood in a long round tin box with holes És,At the side, through which the light flick leered in a furtive sick-room kind of §£;fashion. ' '- v

Miv^-Over the mantle there were three sil

;§$houette portraits, one of David, one of ||{Sally, and one of Elmira Webb. Sally i|íhkd not dared to take the latter' down, pi ejren when the news came to her of the ¡|¿ flight of David's sweetheart with his ||^ trusted friend. She had determined that pi1 when David came back he should come to &. his own neat and daintly kept little room. ipThere were his hanging bookshelf, where fffhe;kept volumes for which there was no ||; plaice downstairs, his oak chest containing ^v8ea;8bells, pebbles, a few old knives, a |M; dagger, a flint pistol, a bit of the wreck of

|; a.ship lost off the North Dunes, and other [Cij curiosities. In the closet, still hung the Ill-jacket he had worn on his expeditions in pythe Swallow.

^ On the wall facing the foot of his bed 1,0 were florid and shining figures of various fei heroes -cut in relief from printed pictures p coloured in red and purple and green and ^p blue, and embossed with gold and silver pftinsel, giving the effect of splendid arm ffipuri' William the Conqueror with a pfjjowërful battle-axe on one hand was defy

were

_ ? v OflÖSRl*

ifÄobin Hood and " King DlckT^as Richi Ifiard'IIIwas invariably called by the gal tpant youth of Yarmouth in the heroic days pf David Keith.

||i ¡! The firelight played in a friendly way l^oUvíthose familiar objects, but David ^neither saw them nor it. By the fire, as || the watchman called the hour, sat a silent lf$£ure not unlike Don Quixote, grim.bony, ¡pfith. a long neck and rope-like sinews, ^bright deep eyes, a long face and a firm |*yefr generous month half hid in a strag S|gling moustache that was mixed up with ^his Mbeard, a curious, thoughtful, kindly, ipatráúge looking old man. He was taking

ihtia turn with the women who were nurs

|inVthe unconscious lad who lay calm and ^.tfli with his head bandaged and his lips Inmost as palo as his face.

l^iBati as you will see, David Keith, was

Cbetter off than Harry Barkstead. David paid'not know that he was better off. At

the time when the watchman cried the

hour he might have been as dead as Harry Barkstead so far as he knew ; but he was ¿much better off for all that.

4 Alan, his father, sat lovingly and ppatiently at his beck and call when he f should wake to consciousness. Moreover,

'Mehaâa nice fire in the room ; it was his

l^whjröomj'.the old familiar dumb things ihe had known in his boyish days were fjraiting ; for his recognition ; and' below lâtairs one of his nurses in particular was iyoung and loved him with the fervency fofa first love; while the other, who had I^bhmi io him as a mother, only wanted to Ile asked to lay down her life tor him to pprcheerfully.

p&Whtte Harry Barkstead waa abed in plus-boots, in a cold cheerless room, with ghostly memories of Freemasons who had rbeen torn limb from limb in olden days for broken vows, with ghostly memories Sf bygone feasts, with ghostly memories of dance and song and music from sweet lutes and all kinds of sad and happy liccurreu^ces ; no father sitting by, no ïfVeet greetings awaiting his return to öbnscionsness ; dead as any of the masons |f bid who had handed down the pass If ords from the days of Solomon.

||]Harry Barkstead may perhaps be said fcorhave been happy in one thing ; at least (lè§.knéw nothing of the junketings and fine doings of Lord Grennox and the ¡î&çly Webb away in the sunny climes

?¿ere such a night of snow and chill as

|lThe sole ^-V '. of publication in West Aus-

tralia has been purchased by the proprietors lithe West Australian.

IS

had fallen «pon Yarmouth waaknpossiblo; nor was he conB^oús'oi the better seorn witt which his father regarded his Ufo and death. What Harry Barkstead's spiritual experiences might be it is not worth while to speculate ; but his mortal body waa in a sorry state. ''"???

And outside these two rooms-the club roomtof the Posting House and the chamber in Hartley's Row-the snow fell in a steady downpour; There was no stars, no sky was to be seen; hardly a light was visible in Yarmouth, except the occasional flicker of the watchman'» lantern.

The snow fell all over the« land. It carne down in such heavy flakes that it even calmed the sea. All the world was hushed. The dunes were rounded hill- ocks. Never indeed were they anything else except when the9 wind sometimes

blew them into imitations of miniature

crags from which they soon fell again into their native shapes ; but on thisnight of the tragedy at the Posting House they were rounded with snow, the valleys themselves climbing into hillocks, the hillocks covering,every trace of rush and reed that had been browned by Autumn winds and torn by wintry gales.

Along the beach by Oaistor there was a light; in the look-out station, and your imagination might lead you to see the group of sturdy ' follows posted there, some lying prone on the benches; others sitting. up. and smoking 4heir pipes, all ready to go forth to the aid of any', ship that might be in distress. But who could go to the «d of 4hat human ship who hung out his light on the Yarmouth side of the look-out, Zaccbéùs Webb:with his light burning to welcome the prodigal daughter,_who without 4my thought- of him was walking on flowers and backing

in sunshine!

Zacchèus Webb had heard nothing as yet of the death. of Harry Barkstead. Curiously enough1 he -iiid^never once thought of him. -From, the moment that he kneW.his daughter had left Caistor, no

-thought but of her entered intohis mind. | He blamed no one, desired-no vengeance, ' did hot dream of following his. child, he was stunned with a great blowi and iio I

sat' down to wait for Elniira's return.

" She'll come hum," he said, "Elmira will,

all in good time ; she'll come hum.'' . i

Andthe watchman at: tíñeértaiflu inter vals went forth from his shelter, muffled in acdmforter, «den vrithcapes,1 with his; slouched hat pulled down over his eats, and proclaimed the flight of time.

CHAPTER X.

"THROUGH THE VALLEY."

The deep unredeemed shadov58 of the night thatjay so heavy; on the,,town do- minated to a great extent the ¿morning and evening of the next day. . Nature seemed to: be in sympathy withrthe glooftf of the story that was being told, not now; in Yarmouth only, but with variations along the coast; for ill news travels apace, even with snow and darkness against it.

Yarmouth paused in the ¿midst of her 'preparations for Christmas to listón to the details of the fight and to speculate upon the consequences thereof to David"

Keith. Shop windows in course of decor« ation with festive fruits and toys were left half finished. The show interposed, however, with the characteristic embel- lishment of white drift, and here and there- the window panes' were fosted with strange designs.

The jwaits_ postponed their. rehearsals, for the time being, and the street hawk- ers laid aside their.sheets of carols in hopes- of being provided with -more attractive verses descriptive of the. tragedy of the Posting House.

In the general details of the story! wherever it was told, the figure of Alan Keith loomed np strangely and weird.

It was related how David's father hail suddenly appeared on the scene,a foreign looking stranger in foreign clothes, tall and gaunt-like, some queer mariner who'd sailed the world round and round, to come at last to the east coast to find his; lad in trouble and to stand by his side1 perhaps in death. They were >by no means without imagination; these Eastern folk, and they could not get away; from the unaccustomed spectacle of this picturesque and unusual old man.

: The: beadle was bray Summoning the jurymen to sit upon the body. Sir Anthony Barkstead had listened to the ac- count of the witnesses who would be call- ed at the inquest, and all Yarmouth ¡was agreed that since Barkstead struck the first blow, and that a murderous one, David Keith hadonly acted in self-defence, and could not, therefore, be answerable for the death of his opponent. Mr.

Petherick had endorsed this view:; but, one of the egotists of the Norfolk-smoke room declared, without fear of-contra- diction, that a man who took the life of another was guilty of manslaughter, even if that other was a highway-man;', ? ?..

Meanwhile David Keith lay unconscious of alLthat was going on around him, in the neat and trim little bedroom thai had been daily aired and tidied in the hope, of his return. No amount of doubt, no rumour of storm and stress, no story of «rales or shipwreck had influenced Sally Mumford in her preparations for the dear lad's home coming. Her heart misgave, her, but she strenuously battled with her fears, while there was fife there was hope, and come when he might, ?; his room should( be as ready for him~as~her ;wel-~ come."

It was not deemed wise for more than one person at a time to be in the sick room, seeing that pure air was helpful to the patient, so the doctor said. Miss Mumford, Mildred Hope, and Alan Keith therefore took it in turns to watch by the patient's side and carry out the doctor's

instructions.

Alan Keith, who had been at first re- garded as somewhat eccentric, turned ont to be a very wise, careful old man, gentle as a woman, and just as wise in the art of nursing. They grew to love him devotedly, both Sally and Mildred, so even tempered was he, so religious, so practical too, and so reconciled to the will of Heaven. They could not see into the man's heart, or they would have found it full of unorthodox approval of David's slaying of the man who had betrayed hin friendship ; but Alan's head came to the aid of his heart and he assumed a policy of gentleness, contending that his boy had no vengeful feeling, that he would have been satisfied with Barkstead's ex- planation if the young squire had vouch- safed him one, but since instead of that Barkstead had made a murderous assult upon him what was he to do but defend himself. Old Petherick had given Alan this judicial hint, telling him that David's safety, if ho recovered, would lie in the

absence of premeditation,, and happily there was no evideuce-of; any threat, and he had no-wesponnipm nlmrwhjeli he en i countered Barkstead. At the same time the law. was very jealous of the taking of life, and it would need all the evidence and iflunence that could be obtained in the lad's favour to save him after he re covered, a» they all believed! aad hoped he

would.

The inquest was adjourned from day to day, until such time as David could make his deposition, for Petherick contended that his deposition should be taken, his t policy being to regard David as the ag I greyed person in the "case, although the

ether was dead. Magisterial opinion was rather for looking upon David as a person resting under a grave ¿har£e;'ahd there- fore not to be interrogated^ and-such I police authority as existed-* outside the

borough watchman held Sally Mumford's

house under surveillance.

Mildred Hope found time, between the intervals of nursing to attend to her duties of charity. Wherever she went she had good - words for -David^rsndjshé asked many of her humblest dependents to pray for him. Mildred plodged through the snow to the TöU-ttouse gaol and rejad to the prisoners, went to Sunday, school,^

visited the sick, and seemed to be endow- ed with freshI energies and ..power; Whether he lived or died she had the pri- vilege of smoothenipg David's piUow.and the only time since the,'moment when 'ató fell into the arms of ,hi4J^tb|er^jth>t ^érh^çt _ i seemed to; knofr any pn^jhe^aa looked at

her and touched herhand.-. She lored him, and' now that he was sick and in trouble she had ventured te^confess her love, not to any human being, but in her prayers to God. ;c'^|ldr^¡ai^tt0t, regard prayer in the common-place :ortWdox : fashion of "Ashland ye shall receive,'* but as a duty ; not in the way of petition so much as for strength to do what was right, and as a vow to hold by ; <the expression of a wish that Heaven might think well to grant.

She bs4 been accustomed for years to I speak on her, kneesoiaU that she wished and- desired, of allrthat she felt that, it was worthy to feel; and never until the. bond between * Elmira and ' David; was broken

had she- confeased^ven-^herself, that

she loved David Keith ; indeed, when she had been conscious of it, she had rather regarded it as a sin, and shV repressed it, i lifor were not his word and his heart given L,toElàiraWei)bP

It is true she had listened to Sally Mumford,!« when>David's foster-mother, had declared she would like to have,. seen her engaged to David. She had striven, however, to discburagen repetitions of Sally's opinions and desires in that diree* ;tion. But no#ralthough-David might be drifting out with the tide to that last 'harbour; sne^wa^ Conscious^ of a mjsteri !ous joy : she dared to love him ; she ¡dared to say soin her prayers ; she dared jto lay bare her heart and pray that it might not beajvicked thing to do.

It was Mildred who-had .received Sir Anthony Barkstead when he had called to inquire after.David's condition. Sir Anthony'was pale,, and he spoke low and porrowfully ¿but.hesaid to Mildred,whom ¡he knew as the prison visitor, and with ¡whose good work he was well acquainted, that he, wished it to be understood that he did not blame David for what had hap- pened., The .law, of course, would take its course, and it was not for him to sug- gest what that course might be ; bat it was his wish, when the lad .was well enough to be spoken to concerning what had hap- pened, that he should be told how Harry Parkstead'sfather exonerated and forgave him. .. . ! The law did take its .course. First there was the inquest, adjourned until David Keith should be out of danger. The body having been sufficiently viewed; by members, of the quest,: Sir Anthony took it home to Ormesby Hall, where the poor, harmless mortal thing was washed and laid out where itsmother had reposed in the first days of her long sleep. And presently the stern, hard look of the mis- guided heir to an honoured name and a fine-estate, relaxed, and Sir Anthony saw in- the softened features, 'the face of his son as he had known it in its innocence, and before the funeral bell began to toll he was reconciled, to the. dead image of f the son he had loveland there were tears

in his eyes and his heart heaved as he fol- lowed it to the grave.

\ " But.I mustdo my duty to that other one," he said, sitting down by his lonely! hearth when the day was over.

f (To be continued on Wednesday.)