|Chapter Number||PART II. V (Continued.)|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Under the Great Seal|
TALES AND SKETCHES.
[NOW FIRST TOBMSIIED.]
UNDER THEGREAT SEAL,
UV JOSEPH HATTON.
Author of " Clytie," " By Order of tho Czar,"
"John Needham's Double," "Cruel Lon- don," Sic
[ALL BIGUTS HESEBVED.]
CHAITKK V (Continued.)
Jilmiru went into lier bedroom and lighted j
two caudles in their old brass sconces on each side of tlic dressing-table. It was not dark. Thc sun had gone down, but thc twlight was radiant witli its afterglow. At the same time Elmira, after looking out for a moment upon tho garden where the two young men were hidden behind the oommandiug figure of t hc dusky Venus, drew the curtains over her window, and then she needed the candles. She looked at herself in thc mirror which they illuminated, and smiled ; pushed her rich brown hair from her forehead, aud then drew it back again ; stepped a few yards from thc glass so that she could see part of her dainty figure, and laughed again, not her regular rippling laugh, but one of approval.
" My face may lio a little red, but it is thc heat ; he need not have reminded me of it," she said. " It's very liol now."
She drew thc curtains and undid the hutch of the window to let in the evening air. Then elie put out her candles, drew thc curtains back, and opened both the lead-glazed wings of her lattice and looked out, drawing in a long breath.
" I declare I feel fuint, as thc town girlsBay,"
elie remarked. "Never know what it was before ; think I am bothered."
She saw thc lights of jships at sea. The sun liad left a red streak far beyond them.
Tho crescent moon attacked her. It was sharp sud bright now that the sun liad gane. It shone like burnished silver, and there were a few stars herc and there. They seemed to have a mist about them that made the moon look all the brighter. ,
" You look os if you were glad," she said, addressing the moon ; " they say you can see und hear what lovers do and think. Eh dear, but I wish I was free again ! What is u girl to do who has nobody to confide in? Sijuire Barkstead is very handsome ; well so is Du vid Keith-and there's no mistake about David, he loves mc true, for sure ! But I must go down ; they'll think I have been doing myself up and making myself fine all this time. Mira, dear, what's the matter with you ?"
She closed the wiudow. " I feel as if I was dreaming," she said. She relighted the candles and drew the white dimity curtains, their brass rings making a homely music, and she began to hum thc tuue of Cupid's Garden-.
Then shu took off her dresB and donned
another hardly less becoming though it was of cotton stuff, audhrowD ; itbadashortwaiatand short sleeves leaving Mira's arm bare. She
tied a blue ribbon round her neck and there
hung from it n tiny locket of yellow gold. It contained a lock of her mother's hau, and a faded rose-leaf from a rose that Harry Bark- stead bod sent her in a valentine, " grown for ber," as he said, "in the hot-house of his love." Did she know it was from Harry Barkstead ? Oh, yes, he had confessed it one day when he was complimenting her fattier on his roses. No, he had not confessed it right out, but when ZaccheuB was lighting his pipe he had hummed the words to a familiar tune, and when Zocchcus looked up to listen he had said Miss Webb ought to learn that song.
Harry was one of those daring wooers who mean nothing serious and whom solne women encourage to their cost.
As Elmira tripped down the darkened stair- way into the house-place, her father was beard in the hack regions of the cottage giving orders to Simeon, his mau-of-all work, and presently in be came, bringing with him whiffs of sea and land, a suggestion of fish und tobacco, and a generally breezy presence, as if a boat's crew had just lauded in the cottage precinta.
" Mira, my gal, there yer bel" he said, taking no notice of the others, " I thought I see yer as cammed across the meals, but it worn't, mek no doubt ; so there you be !"
He took her into his sea-jacketed arms and kissed her with a hearty smack, and then looked round about bim. " Why, Squire, this be good for sore eyes, and David the lawyer, welcum ; yer looks keinder kedgy, and that's how I'm feelin' mysen ; and I reckon we can all peck a bit ;"
"But first you will have a waeh, ch father?"
"That's so," said Lias, "fishin's not the cleanest trade, thot's mucks growd os well as kibbage now and agen, thank the Lord !"
As fie left the house-place his heavy boots clanked upon thc hara brick floor, and it seemed us if he filled the doorway. He was a big, burly, broad, nautical-looking man, a cross between coasting captain and beachman. Added to. thc wriukled weather-beaten face, something tho colour of the dunes with streaks of red in it, he had a bright grey eye, a cheer- ful, generous mouth and a frank, honest out- spoken manner ; he grew hie whiskers, like a stiff fringe round his face ; they joined his buahy dark hair that only bad a few gleams of white in it ; and he moved about with a cumbersome motion, something like a Dutch barge in shallow water.
Charity Dene had laid the cloth, and at thc fire, going solemnly round and round upon a primitive jack, was a great joint of beef, and beneath it was a batter pudding, into which thc gravy was dripping, making a rich, luscious covering of thc brown batter. Swing- ing over tlic fire, in an iron -pot were halt a peck of potatoes iu their skins, and in a smaller saucepan some fresh-shelled peas, grown in the straggling kitchen garden of the cottage.
David and Squire Barkstead sat near thc low bay window upon an old cushioned scat, their heads now and then coming in contact with a score or two of fnschia and geranium plants that filled all the lower panes with a wealth of blooms. Elmira followed her father, and by the time Mrs. Dene had served thc supper she returned with Lias spruced up in a black coat with pockets ut tho side, a light blue waistcoat and white stock, and in ordinary boots, now looking thc well-to-do
smack-owner to the life.
" YOU'D come forlitner," said Mn. Dene addressing David and thc Squire; "we'n cooked this to bc cawd for remainder the week, Mira, thowt it mought be hot for thc Muster and Meeter Keith like."
" I'm always fortunato, Mrs. Dene, when I come to tho Cottage," said Harry, placing a chair fer Elmira, in bis ready and courtly way, at least Elmira thought it was courtly, and she knew that Harry went into thc high- est society in London town.
"Thank you," she said, making a little curtsey, " but I am going to draw thc ale."
"No, Miss Mira, I'll do it, and thank ye,' said Charity ;" sit yo down, please, wi company."
Elmira accordingly took thc scat whicl Harry had placed for her by his side, auc David sat with Lias at the other end of tin table.
Before Charity came to tho Cottage, and sin hod been housekeeper and general servent then forover five years-the previous domestic hui sat down to table with Liar and Elmira, bu from thc first Mrs. Dene knew her place, am took pride in doing honour to her service as sin said, and loved to think of Elmira as he youngest mistress who was just us much i lady ns the finest in the land, " if lnruiu' am accomplishments counted." On this occasioi Charity was unusually formal, bunding rouni thc plates and filling un the tumblers witl quite an uir ; nnd Lias felt, as he told Klrniri afterwards, as if he was ' bevin' Iiis dinner a owd Norfolk Armson market-day, so slick am nimble did she fisherale for all ; it fairly be
him for sure."
After supper Harry led tito convcrsatioi into melodious grooves, talked of old song
and the concert that hud been given at Yar- mouth. Zacchcus Webb confessed that he gloried in thc old ballads, and nothiu' culd rack time go more cosy-liko and free than a good song, leastways when you'd gotten a spinnet in tho house and a gelas could play it
to a moral.
Elmira persisted flint lie bsd no car for music, and elie couldn't play thc Bpinnct more than a goose ; Mildred Hope, she said, knew that »oil enough, for Mildred had been try- ing to teach her this twelve tnoiitlis and could make nothing of it.
" Why, Mildred only told me one day last week that you were getting on fitoely," said David, " and I thought you sung 'that song about Thc Waterman, a week since this very evening, beautifully."
" Yes, you are very kind." said Elmira, " I know you did, but you would fay that if I didn't, just to pienso mc."
" Well, I dunno 'bout that," said Zacchcus, " but, my eyes, I reckon you'd be hard to beut at Cupid's (Jardell, and I Buys that a-knowiii' it this forty year and, as Justice Barkstead ml say, that s evidence."
" Won't you oblige us, Miss Webb ?" said Harry.
" Why, you sec, parlour's locked up, hasn't been open this three days, didn't mean to open it till Sunday, when wc expect thc Prison Vistor to come and join UB in a hymn."
" Indeed. I wish I might have thc honour of being present," said Harry.
" Don't sneer," Baid Elmira, quickly, " you needn't, for it's lovely to hear Mildred Hope sing, and if you could bear her tune her voice to a song you wouldn't forget il in a hurry 'Home Sweet Home,' for example."
" My dear Miss Webb, I did not intend to sneer : I am sure I beg the little prison visitor's pardon."
"And on her behalf I accept your apology," said David, laughing; "she is a'tfclgnbour of mine, you know ; Miss Mumford is a friend of
"She's very fond of you," said Elmira, with her rippliug laugh."
"All thc girls ore fond of David," said Harry.
" That's a good un," remarked Zacchcus, as he filled his pipe, " that's a good un for you, Master Keith, what do you Bay to that?"
"I feel honoured, of course," said David, slightly embarrassed ; it's a compliment to have thc good opinion of the girls.
" That's true," said the smart-owner ; " I was never agen um in my time, and 1 knaws one as is worth her weight in gold, doan't I, Mira, my gel ?"
"Yes, father, dear; anyhow, she knows that you arc worth your weight in thc finest gold that was ever smelted."
" Very well, then, sing us Cunid's Garding and play it on thut there spinnet, and we'll all join chorus, eh, Master Keith ?"
" Yes," said David.
"Shall I light the candles," asked Mrs. Dene, who bad been taking in thc conversation as she had taken off the cloth and removed thc supper tilings. '
" Yes," Baid Elmira ; and presently they all adjourned to the little parlour, all except Zacchcus, who said he'd sit u'ear by os he moughtuttck pipe in thor, not as he wanted, lcifer he'd sit by and when chorus come he'd reckon to mek bimsen hoard ; and sure enough
Elmira sung in a mirthful pleasant fashion, with a nice appreciation of the words, and for so brief a studentship, with a fair aptitude in thc way of accompaniment. There was a smell of old lavender and country fustiness in the room that seemed to go well with the music Thc pictures on thc walls hud their frames bound round with tissue paper. There were ustrcs on the mantel-shelf that jingled to the vibrations of thc spinnet. Mrs. Dene'and Elmira's father remained just outside the door,
Zacchcus in his arm chair which Mrs. Dene
had wheeled up for him, Mrs. Dene with her arniB beneath her apron, and her mouth open with curiosity and pleasure.
When Elmira had sung her little song and Zaccheus and the rest had joined in the chorus and afterwards loudly applauded the performer. Harry Barkstead sat down and astonished thc company with a dreamy kind of waltz that seemed to set their feet agoing, and os if by way of bedevilment then gave them "Thc Manchester Angel" with all thc pathos of which the refrain is capable, and
somehow Elmira felt that when in the minor
key bc dwelt upon the words " There lives the girl for rae, he had her in his mind ; indeed, he looked at her when bc had finished ; she felt as if his eyes went through her.
"Is that a challenge to Mildred Hope?" David asked, not willing that the impression Harry had created should remain without some kind of protest
"If you like," said Harry, laughing, "I did not know that the prison visitor sang it, or I would not have been so bold."
"Tell ycr it's not same thing os prison visitir sings, her'n is 'Home Sweet Home," and if she d tuned it off she'd a. med a hymn ou it. Eh, Maria ?"
"Yes," said Elmira, "will you not sing another, Mr. Barkstead? And you play so well I'm quite ashamed that I played at all."
" You need not bc, Elmira, ¡ said David, promptly.
"Truly, no indeed ; it is I who should feel .ashamed," said Harry, " but somehow when songs ure going I am like Captain Webb, I
must chime in." '
"That's rcight, Squire, that's so," said Zaccheus, " now't like a good song."
The Squire was at length tempted to sing ono more song and Zaccheus said it was too doleful for anything, like song old cow died of lodging on cold ground indeed, should think that was place for such like, and tho old fisherman laughed heartily as bc pressed a glass of spirits on his guests, Bpirits as had never known derelict hand of Sizeman on it, and yet had come from over tho water. The young Squire undertook to join the old man in a glass and Zaccheus hoped os Harry's lodging nor hisu for that matter ud ever be on that there, cold ground.
David hoped before he parted with Elmira
on this eventful night to nave had a word or two with her father, but he found no oppor- tunity ; inBtcad of unburdening his mind und explaining his plans to Zaccheus ho made a confidante of Harry. He could hardly help
When they were fairly on thc highroad tramping to Yarmouth, Harry again referred
to David's impulsive reference to his happiness
as well as his health, und David out with it, his unexpected fortune, his proposal to Elmira, lier acceptance of his unworthy hand, and his vague but glorious schemes of a future that might lead him anywhere. He intimated that he might take a long spell of travel, even have a yacht of his own, and a crew with a long gun und a masked battery in a case of need ;
for David had rend of pirates, and beside peace was hardly restored between England and her many enemies, and who knew that an adventurous yacht away down in the Mediterranean or in thc Pacific might not he signalled by sonic daring cruiser.
If David talked a little wildly it was because Harry encouraged him and for thc reason that David was very happy, pulsating with romance, und proud as if lie had captured a lovely princess from some pirates lair. Harry envied the lad his high spirits, his hopeful nature, his purpose in life ; and furthermore,
he thought lie had never seen Elmira look so bewitching as on that night, nor could ho make any mistake, he thought, about the significant pressure of thc hand she gave him in response to his own, after David had, as he thought, said good night to her in a particularly ostentatious manner, even kissing ker, he believed, while Harry turned to say good- night to Lias. Hitherto hu had patronised David, whose acquaintance he had made originally through Petherick sud a letter of introduction from David's London trustee ; lint to night David seemed to patronise him.
Moreover, David strode along the highway with a swing that irritated Harry, who was not in that kind of mood. The sedgy dikes fairly danced past them as they pounded along, for Harry did not care to lag though be felt
like it. To everybody they met David wished a cheery good night, and was self-assertive Harry felt, in every possible way that might
Í'&r upon thc young country gentleman wit!
ie Oxford education and his stud at Melton the more so that hitherto David had scemcc to ocoopt Harry's friendship as an honour ai well aa a pleasure. This was true enough, foi
there was as a rule a modest diffidence ii David's manner, and ho was really fond o Harry, admired him for his knowledge of tl» world, his athletic powers, and his fine natural manners. Rut on this night David was walk' ing on air. He had won thc girl of his heart. She had said yes to his momentous question, and he expected Harry RarkBtead, his friend, und once in a way Ids companion, to rejoice with him, to clap him on the back, as it were, and shake handB with him, to tell him he was to be envied, and so on ; and it was only when they steamed into town hot, not to say pant- ing, that David felt somehow that Harry did not quite feel the pleasure he affected when at last he Baid, " Well, old chap. I must con- gratulate you, and wish you all thc happiness you can desire,"
It was coldly offered, and before David could reply Harry said, " Come in to thc Royul and join me in a stirrup-cup, I see my groom waiting for mc, it's a glorious night for a
"No, thank you, Harry, not to-night, I shall bc waited for also, and I am rather
" Late," said Harry, " it is only liulf post
" That's late for Miss Mumford, and I want to have a chat with her before elie goes
" Well, good-night then," said Harry ; and so tbey parted, eacli thinking of Elmira Webb ; David not for a moment suspecting thc selfish jealousy that had taken possession of the sensual soul of .Sir Anthony Barkstead'* un- scrupulous eon.