Chapter 52512250

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleA MIDNIGHT PLOT.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52512250
Full Date1896-06-20
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count2509
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleHalf Round the World to Find a Husband. A Comedy of Errors
article text

TALES AND SKETCHES.

Half Bound the World to Find a

Husband.

A COMEDY OF ERRORS.

By MAY CROMMELIN,

Author of " Bay Ronald," " A Ju«-el of a Girl," "Goblin Gold," "Doad Men's Dollars," " Mr. and Mrs. Herries," &c.

(COl'VRiailT.)

GiiAPTCR I.-A MIDNIGHT 1'I.OT.

One night towards thc end of Jauuury twi girls «vero seated iu a hare chilly room, crouch ing over the embers of a dyiug lire, liotl were of thc BHIIIO age, obout eighteen year old ; und each, though without any relation ship, hore a striking resemblance to the other Roth damsels had dark wavy hair and dari eyes; they were large of build and liad tin fresh red and white colours of a spring posy One had clasped her arms round her knees her head bowed in a tragic attitude. Tl» other lay stretched tu a classical but comfort able position on thc hearth rug, alternately trying to warm lier chilled hands and stifling yawus. Presently thc first girl threw up iiei

head and uttered :

"I don't believe there-is ti moro miserable creature alive than I am."

She was a plump beauty with a face mad< for mirth, and eyes as bright as black dia

monds.

"You may thiuk so, but I know I air feeling more wretched," echoed her companior. emphatically. This one's eyes were like black suns, und her face was sensativcly moulded tc express many emotions. At this moment a smile curved thc Cupid's how of her cherry lips that quivered notwithstanding, as if a sot) might follow.

" Ann 1"

" Anita ! !"

The first girl spoke with u soft Spanish accent; for though of Scotch ancestry, she was foreign by birth. But the other echoed with the faintest broguo imaginable, which some people thought delightful ; and she, though Irish fay birth, hid the look of a daughter of Castile.

"What can bc worse than to be parting

from one's lover-from the man I adore with all my soul V cried Anita.

" It is a great thing to have a lover at all. Now I may never get the chance of one."

" But to marry an old man 1 At my age to be tied to him for life. Ugh I the beast 1 Beauty and thc Beast ! You at IcaBt will have your liberty."

" I don't know. Annt Barbara is a stern old spinster, not at all likely to give liberty to any one under her roof, especially when I am dependent upon her generosity for every crust

I swallow."

" Oh I to think I must sall in three days

out there."

Anita Beized the poker, and made a vicious dab at the atlas on the wall, somewhere about the shank of the leg of mutton, illustrating

South America.

" And that all that will be foaming and seething between me and my best friend." Ann gave a twirl to the globe, her hand out- lining half of its surface, the Atlantic Ocean downwards to tho Southern New World, with a gesture of dismay.

"Oh, Ann I"

"Oh, Anita 11"

"O-o-o n-oh !" They flung their aims round each other's necks, and burst out crying in this sisterly embrace.

" Well, that does one good at all events," said Ann, presently, breaking in and wiping her eyes, ufter the enjoyment of her woe.

" I U'n BO hungry ! What wretched suppers those old mistresses do give us, now that school is broken up. Miss Wise should be ashamed of her meanness," grumbled Anita.

"Come, weare guests, remember, and one should not look a gift horse in the mouth. After all, as Miss Wise poor soul, has influenza, she can't be expected to eeo after the house- keeping ; ami Miss Ward ÍB so blind the cook might give her lard for butter," put in Ann, deprecatingly. Then with a. reflective air, "Certainly o x cutlets were about the sise of commas this evening. I felt like eating a punctuation lesson. I say. Anita, has it ever struck you why they put little frills of white paper on the ends of the cutlets? It must have been from an old custom of taking them in one's fingers to pick them. I guessed that to night, when I wanted to suck my bone, to get the very last off it."

" Why, of courue 1 That is how one ought to eat chicken bones," replied Anita, uh ently, Bearchiug in thu depths of a saliu bag, apparently containing embroidery. From this she produced two jam puffs and some chocolate cakes, which both girls proceeded to munch as slowly us possible, with an instinct that the feast would seem the more satisfying.

" Then it is so hard that the ship leaves this week, and not one of the girls will he back to sec tue married."

" Except nie," interposed Anita, with slight reprnoch.

" Oh, von dear thing, of course. Yes, it was sweet of you lo come back from staying with Molly HayeB (though she's stuck up since sile got the prize for good conduct last term ; not that I wanted it !) But you are such a darling, Anita, you always do just as I

want."

Ann smothered a sigh. She was a homeless orphan during her teens, for her aunt's house had been only a domestic prison, with after- noon exercise allowed along two fist roads between lonely wide fields. So during many past holidays it was a deliverance from resigned /lead when some school friend invited her to spend the whole vacation, which nearly always happened, for Ann MoniHgnc was a general favorite. This was Ann's last term at school, indeed only for her own entreaties Bhe uould have been takes away sooner hy her guardians. Now the fiat had gone forth t hat she was to live henceforth with her unmarried aunt, an only relation. This evil day was deferred awhile by thc visit to Molly Hayes, and it would have been pro- longed but that Aun returned to school at Liverpool, on a few days' visit, to help Anita with her wedding outfit and be her bridesmaid. Thc latter spent her holidays somewhat drearily as guest of the Misses Ward and Wise, pricipats of a well-known young ladies' seminary. She was not popular enough to be

invited home by her schoolmates.

" How can you like that Chilian girl. She's BO sly, always making eyes at those young men cramming for the army at Captain Pass niore'B," remarked Molly, primly, and she has such a vulgar name, too, Anita Mac Tague."

"Ibelieve ber family is considered very good out there and thc name ÍB pronounced soft Mactahway," Ann gently observed.

"Oh ! Nan, you are always finding excuses for everybody. Why, she must be descended from Borne Irish or Scotch mechanic, or shepherd, or a run-away sailor, who drifted

out there."

" I am Irish myself, at least my father was, and I love Irish people," cried Ann Montague gaily.

Both speakers were right. Anita's origin was aa Molly supposed, and her social position such as Nan stated. Many soldiers

of fortune took themselves and their swords to South America after Waterloo days when no more fighting was likely in Europe but luck might be in store for them in the Spanish colonies overseas which were struggl- ing for independence. Also various British mechanics, emigrating to Chili, "the England of South America," won their fortunes and wives af blue blood, thanks to their iudustry and good qualities, and have fouuded families, notable for energy and wealth in thc

laud.

" It seems a queer affair, my dear, " said Mrs. Hayes, with an air of doubting the pro- priety of t he whole business. And very un English. Your friend ÍB to be married by {?roxy, it appears, to an old husband abc

las never seen. Poor girl ! What a

sacrifico !"

"It is a family arrangement, whloh is not unusual, I faolieve, I have never heard Anita complain, and ' she wu engaged nearly »ll

lest term," Nan replied, with her usual liking to make tho best of things. (It was only on returning from Bayes Hall that the good natured girl learnt with dismay her friend's secret clandestine love affair, with ono of Captain PaBsmoro's young men.)

" What can you expect when I was left all alone by my own Belf, and nobody else, these long days!" Anita indignantly explained, with a lively gesture of hands and shoulders, as who should say she was not to blame.

And now the proxy wedding was to take place to morrow evening. Anita's father had written directions that Iiis daughter was to sail by thc next steamer, the " Yarrow," leaving Liverpool in (our days' tims. I

The Captain, who was commodore of thc

well-known line of Pacific steamers, was to act as the bride's guardian, being an old friend of thc M acTuguc family. He had hie in- structions to see Anita legally married-by proxy, end to bring her out, passage paid ; and Captain Goodman, as Anita well knew, would fulfil what he had undertaken. It was a terrible complication.

" What would you do in my place, now Î" burst out Anita, desperately, gulpiog dowu thc lost half of a jam tart. The action seemed unromantic, bu t her mauner was deadly

earnest.

" I think," began Nan, very seriously, speaking slow, " I do think that I should try to do my duty by my husband, if I were going out instead of you. One might grow contented in time, you know ; and possibly I i Dan Edoardo would bc very kind. Old |

husbands generally arc, they say. Then his children might be good friends. Come, how old are they ?"

" Oh, any agc 1 Why, think, he is quite old himself," pouted Anita, "I wish with ail my heart you were in my place. You ore BO

docile and sweet and reasonable-"

She broko off suddenly, and a wicked flash leapt into her eyes. "Ahl I have au idea

"Young ladies, it is nearly midnight. I must requoBt you to go to your beds." The figuro of Miss Ward, thc elderly school- mistress, stood at thc door, peeriog short- sightedly through her glasses. " Good-night, MÍSB MacTegue," ae Ann rose with her British law-abiding instinct. " Good-night, Mies Montague," as Anita, gracefully stifling a yawn, followed, The old lady h id mistaken the two girl-.

" Splendid 1" breathed Auita, excitedly, outside in thc dark corridor, clapping Nun first on one shoulder, then on the other, as she rapturously kissed her. "She carries out my idea-glorious !"

The next winter's morning, »a it was still dark, Nan lay dreaming that Anita, her friend, was still patting her on the shoulder, when she awoke to find herself being thumped.

" Ob, Nan, wake up, do wake up !"

Anita was shivering hy thc bedside, »Tapped in a shawl, her black hair hanging down in a long plait. " How sound voil sleep. I have not had a wink all night. Oh, such a wonderful plan came into uiy head with a flash last night. Listen." Then! she began tn talk rapidly, cuddling for warmth against

the bedside.

" What? You want nie to get married in- stead of you ?" exclaimed Nan aghast, sitting bolt upright.

" Only by proxy ; only as a prctcuce, you know : not really," pleaded Anita, implor -ng'y, in hurried accents. " Oh, my dear, dear, dear, listen ! No one will know the difference between us, we are so alike. Only reflect what it means to me-deliverance from that old tyrant-freedom-love. Darling little Nan, Nauicita, save your unhappy

friend."

But Nuu was inflexible ; ehe would not stoop to fraud, undanargumentbegau,lasting till the housemaid appeared with hot water.

Some two hours later Anita, red eyed, re- turned to the charge. "A letter has been given to me by the charwoman. He is going to shoot himself to-morrow night. Nan, how can you bc so cruel. Ob, my handsome lover,

he ia eo fair 1"

Aun privately thought the youth like a canary, for he was yellow-headed and callow.

" Why get married at all ?" she cried despair- ingly. "Only say you wou't. That is all."

"Aud be locked up on bread and water these three days, by Mies Ward, and taken home in the 'Yarrow' by Captain Goodman, like a prisoner. Then my father will force obedience or send me into a convent. Thank you for your kind help," retorted Anita in passionate scorn. *

"Then run away with Mr. Finn," pro- posed Ann, though terrified at her own daring.

"That is very line to say when I do not have a chance of seeing my Weellie, thu last week, since the old cat's began to suspectus."

This was strictly true, and made the second

horn of the dilemma.

" Oh, if I got through the ceremony, 1 am married, and it would bc a sin td break it," reiterated Anita, passionately. " But if you only prebend to make a wriggle for your name, and wear my thick lace shawl as a veil, it wilt be only a Bbarn and hurt nobody, not even Don Edoardo, for if I do have to marry him, I will give him such a time of it "-(this viciously). " And then my room is engaged at tho hotel by Captain Goodman, while you, as my bridesmaid, are to stay that night and take caro of me. Next morning we are both free ; and we have lett school. ' Then I shall have some hours to myself, and mean to marry Weellie, and ho and I will both tell the Captain, just before the ship sails. He won't have time to scold us, and you will have gone back to your aunt by train. Oh, it ls all so beautiful, and to think that you are the one ftereon who wants to spoil it, and ruin all our

ives. 0-o- oJ-oh ! Nan, there is still time, you can't refuse me. "

Anita's prophetic soul wae right. Nan still held out for some time, but the garrison was growing feeble ; its provisions of good precepts running short. An hour later, terribed by a fresh report of Weenie's freney, conveyed over the garden wall in a letter inside a potato, also by an hysteric attack, in which Anita showed the whites of her eyes, and lay for dead, the righteous maiden yielded. Whereupon Anita recovered with surprising rapidity, and danced some steps of a foreign j'g

" I thought you would do it," she observed complacently. "lean so always get every- body to do whatever I want."

This was slightly aggravating. Nobody likes to be considered dough, eveu when kneaded by friendly fingers; however, Nan was in for it, and so submitted with ss good a grace as possible.