Chapter 52444110

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Chapter NumberPART IV. III
Chapter TitleHARRY BA[]KSTEAD'S LATEST CONQUEST.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52444110
Full Date1893-04-29
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count4488
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleUnder the Great Seal
article text

TALES AND SKETCHES.

[SOW FIRST PUBUsnED.]

UNDERTHEGREAT SEAL,

A NOVEL,

UV JOSEPH HATTON.

Author of " Clytie," " By Order of tho Czar,"

"John Needham's Double," "Cruel Lon- don," &e.

[AlX niOHTS KESERVED.]

PART IV.

ClIAlTEK III.-HAHUV HABKSTEAD'IÍ LATEST

CONQUEST.

The boura were weeks, the week» years to Mildred Hope and Sally Mumford since Duvid wuB no longer at Hartley's Row, and waB to bc seen no more bounding across thc dunes to Webb's cottage, or pushing off thc Swallow on trips to the Flying Scud, or on afternoon sails with the smack owner's daughter.

They talked of no one else these two women, except when Mildred felt bound to remember her missionary duties. She found Sally more than usually sympathetic towards women whose husbands were away at sea. No tole of sorrow went to Hartley's Row without relief. Sally said whatever she did she did it because she was sure it would please David.

Mildred upbraided herself in her own room and nnon her knees for thinking so much of David : and yet thc more sile tried to put him out of her thoughts thc more he would obtrude. This was even so when she was at prayers. Once she had done penance in a long fast and an increased prison duty on account of a transient feeling of jealousy against Elmira Webb. She found the face of David Keith coming between her and the Church, thoughts of him taking place of holy reflections. She took long walks whore ho had walked, en- couraged people to talk of him, even allowed Miss Mumford to continue speaking of the wish that David had chosen her for his wife instead of Elmira.

Mildred Hope was in love with David ; she would not have admitted it even to Sally ; nor would she have denied it, being charged with it. She admitted it in her prayers, and asked for forgiveness ; for was she not wedded to duty, to the service of the Lord Î Had Bhe not bound herself to be one of HÍB shepherds, to watch over HÍB flocks, to visit the sick and needy, to give up her life to His mission ?

lu her most intense religious moods Mildred felt aa keenly thc sin she believed she was committing ss any nun might have felt under similar circumstances. And yet her love had sweet, dreamy moments in which she built castles in thc simny air of the dunes, with hitter moments to follow when the «iudsblew from the North mid scattered them with the

spume of thc sea and thc red leaves of the

autumn.

Poor little Mildred Hope .'-why will women think they are strong enough to make vows and take up duties iu ppposition to impulses of the lieu t they bave.nevcr felt, and under thc influences of which they may fall at any time. Mildred could not know lier destiny any more than any other woman. She had no right to cast her horoscope and act upon ber awn views of the future. It had all been mapped out for her no doubt long before she had any ideas of her own. She could be charitable and religious, Bhe could

visit the fatherless and the widows without vowing to herself or to Heaven that she would do nothing else. Nor wes all this benevolent activity and self-sacrifice incom- patible willi falling in love, nor with marriage ; and yet Mildred went about us if she had committed a secret crime ; a sacrilege.

Sally Mumford had sleepless nights when- ever the wind blew more dian ordinarily, aud

in all her moods that touched David's welfare she blamed Elmira Webb. David would not have gone to sea if it had not been to get money for her. She had bewitched him. The lad cared nothing for money until he knew her. Latterly he had thought of nothing else but making Elmira a lady, buying her this and thc other, talked of a yacht to sail with her into foreign ports ; wondered if he would have money enough to buy a house in London. She admitted, of course, that David thought of her too, and often said his dear mother Sally should have a fine house in Yarmouth market place, with os many sen-ants as Mr. Petherick, and nothing to do ; and, as Miss Mumford put it, was generally off his head about money, and all because Elmira was a vain lass and wanted gew-gaws sud ' fine clothes ; and to live above her station, and so

on.

Autumn was passing into winter and while Mildred and .Sally were hungering for news of thc Morniug Star, and Sally was criticising Elmira's conduct, they had suddenly to face a wreck ashore that seemed almost as pitiable a one us if David's ship had gone down; Miss Mumford, in the first rush of feeling, exclaimed, " I knew it would come to ill, our David has had a narrow escape !" and then she wept to thiuk of the blow it would be to Zacchvus Webb, thc shock to David. Mildred had brought the news. She had been to Caistcr twice without being able to make anyone hear at the cottage, and on the third summons she had seen Mrs. Charity Dene bat it will be best to tell the story as it occurred ; it follows in a natural sequence, thc previous chapter wherein Harry Barkstead gave Elmira David's message, and his own.

It was just before tho first snow fell upon tho eastern coast, making the dunes all white and smooth ; it was as if nature hod inter- vened to cover up the tell-tale, treacherous footsteps that marked thc flight of Elmira Wehl) ; for she had fled with Harry Barkstead,

and no one knew whither.

Zaccheus Webb was away at sea, detained by heavy gales. He had put into a distant port ; and Sir Anthony Barkstead's eon had made his latest conquest complete. Day after day he had lingered at the cottage, and had won over ns a confederate in hie suit of love Mrs. Charity Done, who had sat com- placently outside the parlour door to hear him play upon the spinet those old songs and quaint gavottes that were full of fascination under his pliaut fingers. He had invited Charity lo the finest wedding she would ever sec, aud so on ; getting possession of thc foolish housekeeper's sympathy aud good word : while Elmira drank in his pictures of the London world, saw herself os Lady Barkstead, and forgot her vows to David Keith, and even her duty to her doling father, as girls have often done before and will to thc end of time under thc spell of thc seducer's honeyed words and right gallant

promues.

But surely this pretty Elmira Webb was born to carry on the heritage of misery that rests with vanity and beauty 1 There is one thing in writing about women, in telling their stories, thc theme is ever new. No two women arc alike. Under certain given circumstances you can give a good guess at thc conduct of thc average mau, hut uot of the average woman. They love, hate, fear, marry or live single lives, but each with loudly different impulses, feelings, and in- fluences. Yon might think you knew Elmira Webb. Harry Barkstead was dead sure he knew her. Perhaps he did. Anyhow you and I would have thought her pride, her tact, and her commonsense would have sought protection in a wedding ring before she became the travelling companion of Harry Barkstead, to say nothing of dishonouring thc nanto aud breaking thc heart af her most kind, affec- tionate, und devoted futhcr.

Elmira was born without thc capacity tobe constant. Some men have not thc faculty of friendship. Hurry Barkstead was a senna' list. He was lcd by his passions, Elmira Webb by her vanity. But not by that alone. She rejoiced in her bcuuty. In an Eastern slave market she would have encouraged thc bidding. She had no conscience ; that is as far us one can judge by her conduct. Yet she »aver vexed her father, was cottrteotiB, hospitable, delighted in pleasing everybody, and waa quite a thrifty hand at housekeeping. What was wrong with her? who can tclll She liked David Keith, thought she loved him, while sh« laid her head on his knee ir i the Swallow that night, when he told hoi I he was going to Halifax ; but thc shadow o!

Harry Barkstead falling across lier vows, she rejoiced in the compétition for her love, and thought of the uninterrupted flirtation she might have with Harry while David waB away. A curious, contradictory, pretty, inconstant, merry, mischievous, provoking daughter of Kvc, this belle of the Eastern

coast.

Elmira, without indulging in any parti- cular inttospective reflections, did, in n way, argue with the situation.

David was so long away, and moreover Harry Barkstead was a gentleman ; and when his father died, as he could not fail to do in the course of Nature, not many years hence her lover-who had loved her all along from his first sight of her, so he said-would take possession of his estates und title ; and she would be a lady. How every marriageable girl throughout the country and fur away into Suffolk, and indeed even in London town itself, would be jealous of Lady Barkstead, and she would sweep past them in her brocaded silks and splash them with lier

chariot wheels.

It was true, she admitted to herself, that David loved ber, but how many more might have said the same bad she given them opportunity » Sho shut her chamber door and lighted ber candles, and though she ahivercd in the cold she studied her charms beforo her gluss and tried on her daintiest things ; and more especially noted thc Hash of the diamond cross that Harry liad given her.

It was a subtle thing to think of, by way of gift, a holy cross set in stones that caught all thc radiance of the sun aud stars, and seemed, even to Elmira, to give her eyes an added radiance. Oh, she admired herself, tin's rustic beauty, this fisherman's daughter ! She could ape the fiuc lady in her very talk ; and she sang the Bong her father liked, und Mildred only chid half-heartedly. "It was Down in Cupid's Garden." David, she was sure, would make an exacting, jealous husband ; he had a masterful manner and he was over fond. Besides, what it hurry be was in to get her word when he knew he would be far away, as if he feared to trUBt her until he should return ! And who knew that he ever would retara Ï Harry had told her of their tiff, of David's boastful manner, of their walk to Yarmouth that night, and how David had triumphed over bis gentleman friend, for while Harry would not deign to let the lad feel his inferior position, yet their stations were far apart, and old Pethericks clerk should not have forgotten thal. Pride was a pood thing when lhere was something behind it, a name or money or family ; but who was David Keith? And what? With his common foster mother, as she called herself, and his nameless parentage Ï

Harry did not say these things spitefully, but rather in sorrow, as one who had tried Lo bc gracious, kind, aud true to a lad whom bc had liked for himself, apart from lib) common origin. 'When Elmira turned upon him and said her Btation was perhaps no better than David's, Harry said beauty was its own dower, its own name, its own rank and fortune. He mentioned lowly girls who had shared thc crowns of kings. His illustrations of the summits to which beauty had climbed took no note of happy marriages where beauty and its consort walked hand in haud, and on Sundays sat together in thc church; they were theatrical, thc tales of humble women winning titles and wealth, and full of bright and merry progresses through foreign lands, the Opera in Paris, thc carnival of Venice, the festivuls at Rome, and thc routs and balls

ol Loudon.

As Harry built up romance after romance for ber feminine edification, Elmira saw her- self with white shoulders and sweeping train, with hair that had been dressed by Parisian artists in thc mode, and she felt around her

neck threaded beads of pearls and diamonds. For a fisherman's daughter she hod a rare fancy and a lively imagination. Once she was launched in tliat blight happy world of wealth and show and music, of humble servitors aud gilded coaches, she felt that her fortune was made. She had always known that she was uever born for a humdrum wife

such as David Keith would assuredly desire with his psalm-singing housekeeper-foster mother, and her praying everlasting sighing littlo Hope at her elbon-, to take the very life and soul out of every harmless jest.

Mrs. Charity Dene for one whole day and night had a cull to a sick sister beyond Ormesby. Harry Tiirkstead filled her purse. She was very poor, and he was "such a gentleman !" Moreover, Elmira vowed she would not mind being left alone ; " indeed, dear Charity," she had said, " I shall like it very much. Mr. Barkstead will go home to thc hall ; of course, and even if he did not, what harm? I have assuredly given up all thoughts of David Keith, and Mr. Barkstead, as you say, is a gentleman."

Zaccbeus's man of all work was on board Thc Flying Scud. Elmira was thc gracious hostess of thc cottage. How could she drive Harry Barkstead away. Did ho not worship her ? -Then it was so strange and pleasant to he alone with your lover, secure from prying eyes, or the possibility of interfering comment. And Harry was so bright and merry, no natural,, so handy, so handsome, so dis- tinguished. He helped her to make the ten, and called it pic-nicking ;'ho built up the winter fire and called it fun. Elmira put on her best lilao gown, and brought out the old china service that had belonged to her grand-

mother.

It drove Harry wild to look upon her, so fresh and happy, with her baby-waist ed gown, her daik blue ribbous, her rich brown huir, her white teeth, aud her merry, tantalising laugh. He had no thought for the paBt or tho future. He seemed to live a century in these short hours. Elmira was thc conquest of his rarest arts, the pretty victim to his lure and bow. How well lie knew tho coquettish ways of the game, and flitting to und fro, the hopping from twig to twig, the twittering of song until tho trap fell and thc hunter had

secured his nrev.

"I've often taken a lionel ut housekeeping,'' he said.

" No, have yon ?" BIIO replied, surrendering some trifling domestic article tn be put away on shelves or in the shining comer cupboard.

" Oh yes, I love pic-nicking, and with such a partner," he went on, deftly helping her to clear thc table und make thc hearth tidy. "Oh, if you could only have seen Jack Hinton and me in thc Australian hueh !"

" Have you been in Australia, then ?" she

asked.

" Rather : I should think I have," said Harry. " Jack Hinton and I lived in a but awdy in Western Australia for over a month ; mudo our own beds, cooked our own food, brushed up our hearthstone : and Jack said I was thc best housekeeper he ever came across. Poor old Juck ! He is a peer of tho realm now, and has given up fun and pic-nicking."

" Do you mean he isa lord !" asked Elmira.. " Yes, a real live lord," said Harry.

" That's greater than a baronet, is it not ?" she remarked, folding up the table cloth and putting it in the press.

" Yes, but there arc rich lords und poor, my dear, justas there ure rich baronets and poor ones, and unfortunately Lord Surbiton is poor. It's a miserable business to bc poor,

Elmira, isn't it?"

" I suppose it is," she said, " not that I have any knowledge of what it is ; that is, what they call poor at Caistcr and Yar-

mouth."

"No¡ thutiswhat I meant," said Harry, detecting thc little glance of pride that Elmira turned upon him, " I mean compared with having servants and carriages and diamonds, and being able to do what you like and when you like, just us you will, my darling, when wc drive about tho world together and show it what beauty is, and that there is another Helen worth thc Biege of another Troy."

" Helen !" said Elmira.

"She was a famous beauty in the yeats that are gone, hundreds of years ago, and the greatest and bravest men fought for her just as I would tight all thc world for you.

Elmira."

Then they sat upon the old oak scat in the ingle nook und Harry told her far more wonderful stories than that of Helen of Troy ; for they were of current interest, belonged to , the time and its ambitions, and they for

shadowed many and new delights for Elmira. He also spoke of their marriage. That would come all in good time. Not at present, he said, of coarse. There was no beating about the bush as to that. Harry was a bold wooer, i He pressed his arm about the girl's waist as I he went on, and she looked into thc fire and listened. To marr}' at present would ruin bim. She did not desire that, of course, love in a cottage was all very Hue for fools ; but they knew better than that. His futlier was

a martinet and had his views ; but, happily, j if the worst came to thc worst, he could not I cut him out of the Ormcsby estate ; that was his rieht. After all. that was onlv a vcryl

amall tithe of hia inheritance.

"Your father would think you lowered yourself, I suppose, hy marrying me," said Elmira, with a flush of pride.

" He has great ideas about blood and pedi- gree, and that kind of thing."

" Well, so have I," said Elmira ; " we como of an old stock, and-"

" My darling," Baid Harry, taking her into his arms, "you are lovely-beauty is blood, hoauty is pedigree, beauty mles the world ; you are fit for nn empress; yon are my empress, my own !"

Elmira struggled a little to free herself from Harry's warm embrace, but, as I Baid before, he was a bold wooer, and there were flicker- ing shadows on thc wall, and thc fire was in gentle competition with the twilight, which

should most or least illuminate the room.

"There, let me bo now, dear," she said, straightening her rumpled hair ; " you are really too bad."

'. Forgive me, sweet," bc said. " Why did selfish meddling fools make ceremonies and forms? 1 lovo you, you love me, is not that enough, you do love me, do you not Ï"

She was standing by thc tire, leaning against an arm of the settle.

'? Yes, I do, Harry, but-"

" But is thc plague, the kill-joy of youth, I want you to trust me, Elmira, I swear to you by all that is good and true, I will never leave you, never be unkind to you, give you all you can desire, never lose a chance what- ever it cost to make yon happy."

Then suddenly turning his face away he said, " As I live that sneakiug little prison visitor has just opened the garden gate. Quick, fasten the door !"

He hurried her into thc passage, thc key was inside the door ; he locked it and took out the key.

"There," he said ina whisper, "let her knock until her ann aches-there ÍB no one at home."

He stoic his arm about ber and drew her gently aside in the shadow where they could not be seen or heard ; and the next moment I there was a knock at thc door u quiet, invit- ing, apologetic kind of knock. It received no reply. Again Mildred tapped the door with the handle of her umbrella. Harry laughed quietly and kissed his unresisting companion.

The situation amused him. Perhaps Mildred,

had come with news of David. So much the better that sho should not hear it. Bap-rap rap on the door. Barry made it thc signal to again embrace his pretty hostess. She dared not push him inside for fear of making a noise. Once more Mildred rupped and then all was silence. She had evidently gone away.

"It is unkind to let her go," whispered Elmira, "she has to walk all the way back to Yarmouth, and might have liked a cup of

tea."

"Shall I go and call her?" he asked pretend- ing much alacrity to do so if she wished.

"No, no,"said Elmira, detaining him.

"Ah, then you do love me !" he exclaimed. " My sweet, my Elmira 1"

Thc twilight deepened into night.

The firelight reddened the walls of the old living-room of Webb's cottage.

Elmira closed thc shutters. Harry said there was no need to light thc lamp.

Justabovc the shutters, where the woodwark left a pane visible, a star shone through. The hum of the sea could be heard without.

It was a lovely, starlight night. Alan Keith sighing to his sou said it was always

to-morrow. Rut to-morrow does come to ?nany. It comes to the bankrupt; it comes to the condemned criminal ; it came to Elmira Webb ; it had come before to Harry Bark- stead ; but this was Elmira's most memorable morrow, and it came in with a watery sun ; it carno with a sighing of the sea ; it came with shuddering winds across thc dunes.

It was a cold morning, yet thc sun was shining upon the cottage. It had been noticed by ono or two passers by, friends of the Webbs, that the shutters were not down at tau o'clock.

Soon after that hour, a mau's hand cau- tiously pushed open the lattice of Elmira's window, and Harry Barkstead looked out. Thc hollyhocks by the garden scat were drooping, Ibo nasturtiums were black with frost, shadows were flitting over the sea, the clouds were darkening, thc sunshine was

fitful.

The blinds being drawn the window was closed. Thc same cautious hand that opened the chamber lattice now undid thc shutters of

thc house place und let in the daylight upon a fire that was still burning. Harry stirred it. He was in his shirtsleeves. He looked round

for the kettle, went into thc backyard, filled it and nung it upon thc bar over thc fire. Very prosaic and common all this after the sunset , the twilight, thc flickering shadows on the wall, the romance of tim night before ; Crime, villainy, deceit, profligacy, have all

their mean common sides.

Elmira now peered ut thc morning from her window, and saw the same scene that Harry had contemplated, but with different eyes und different thoughts. She began say- ing good-bye to it ; she knew she was looking upon it for thc last time for many years, per- haps for ever. Thc sentiment touched her for a moment, and she felt a pang of remorse when she thought of her father. She was veiy quiet, moved about the room with a sense of whispering. While Bbc dressed she laid aside certain things of apparel for (»eking.

Harry had roughed it many a time on hunt- ing expeditions, and he had lived under cun vus, but he felt thc vulgarity of this morning's

pic-uic. He washed at thc pump in the yard, made his toilette generally under miserable conditions, found himself actually tidying thc room, pushing the grey ashes nuder thc fire grate, and brushing some crumbs from thc kitchen table. He had thc heart td wish him- self at Ormesby Hall or in his saug rooms in town. Then he wished he could recall yester- day, and was sorry for ali that had happened, not for Elhiira's sake, but os thc profligate surfeits with possession. .

Then he heard Elmira descending thc stairs. Ho stepped aside, uud went for hts coat. When ho relurncd she was feeding a robin that was perched upon thc window sill. She might have been thc veriest saint, to look upon-and oh, thc pity of it ! There was un expression of melancholy in her dark blue eyes. Her brown hair was gathered up at tho back of her small head. .She wore a light print drcsB, with short sleeves, and belted in nt thc waist. A simple brooch fastened thc I dress at her neck. .She was unusually pale, ' but her lips were red, and they seemed to pout with a half-grieved waywardness that was tenderly expressive, inviting sympathy.

Harry took both her hands in his and kissed her white forehead, with an incon- gruous air of respect and reverence.

"Good morning," she said, "the robins are coming, it will soou be winter."

A few light particles of snow fell as she spoke.

" Wo will go where the sun shines always,"" Harry, " und where the robins arc nightin- gales."

" But first to London, you said T " Yes, dear, to London lirst.''

Elmira began to move about tho room and busy herself with her domestic work. Mrs. Charity Dene being ont of thu way, Harry saw Elmira in au entirely new light. She went about her work in u simple graceful way, a little self-conscious, but as ono who brought an artistic charm even into thc commonplace business of preparing breakfast. Harry tried to help her, fetching and carrying in a useless way, and ¡¡nally sitting in a corner of thc inglenook and admiring his little wife, as ho called her, adding, "For you ure, dear, just

as surely os if we had pledged ourselves to each other ia church or okapel"

After breakfast the walked across the dunes, away from beaten tracks, and oil day long the

snow fell at intervals between bursts of sun-

shine. At sunset Harry Barkstead's mah arrived with a light cart and carried away Elmira's trunks ; and during the night, tbe snow hushing the tread of their horses' hoofs, Harry and Elmira poBlcd to London.

(Tole, continued.)