Chapter 52512480

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Chapter NumberIII.-(Continued).
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52512480
Full Date1896-06-27
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count2585
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

ClIAlTKK III.-(Continuai).

" Why did you play us I Iiis n ick !" repealed Captain Goodman.

" Indeed, indeed, it was Anita !" and to her own shanie and tho captain's dismay Ann broke down in a storm of anbbiug. It ucedeil some minutes, a glass ol water, and pitying Pattings on her shoulder by thc eaiituit), before tile false bride could statmnerforth the whole talc, which sim gave without Ihc least gloss or attempt ul concealment.

For a few moments (they seemed hours to Nan) Captaiu Goodiuun sat and considered. Then he hurst oui into otic of the jolliest infectious laughe, that over nmg thrungli a room, echoing from the ceiling anti four

walls.

" What a handful of a girl. My old friend Eduardo has a lucky escape. But hies« my soul! What about you, my poor child? . . . Now see here, the passage is paid, aud your heavy luggage, or hers, or whoevcr's you like io call it, is on board by this time, and well, I have promised to br.ngyou out, or her out, or whoever on earth wau married by proxy, at all events. I am fairly mixed, that is certain ; and the purser wants me, and the directors are coming on board immediately, and I must bc there to receive them. My dear girl, thc long and short of the matter ia this-you had better sail with me, lo-morrow, and there will bc lots of time on board to talk tho matter over. Don Edoardo has u right to be considered, most of all, and ought lo hear thc story from your own lips. Yes, yes! No doubt he will be jolly glad to be rid of the Utile miux, and 1 will staud hy you and bring you back to England safely. That I promise -if you want to come."

Captain Goodman's eyes twinkled like Anita's. He plainly thought it wa« a capital opening for a pretty but Impecunious maiden.

Nan felt like a straw drifting down a stream; but made a last effort to cling to shore. Putting on her hat and jacket she hurried lo catch a train which abe knew would be start- ing in half au hour, aud look a ticket for the couutry station nearest to her aunt's home, some twenty miles distant.

There she got out, and prepared to walk along tho road that she had BO ofteu trod with reluctant steps from childhood.

It was depreasingly ugly, and lcd to a gloomy teacaddy of a cot tage, set in a damp vegetable garden beside the road.

Already, in ber mind's eye Nan saw two miles away, and loathed this sparrow's nest thc more as her hastening footsteps ap-

proached.

Truly it was more a homing instinct like that of u pigeon or cat, rather than a result of ber reasoning f iculties, which now made Ann Montague hasten as if for refuge to ber aunt's

house.

All the way down in thu train, and now when plodding along through thc mud the frightened girl could not rightly ne said to thiuk. Her brain was too tiled with its use- less effort» all through the limn.s of the past night ; aud like a jaded horse, could hardly be Bugged by the will tn any fresh effort,

" And if I thought for a week, it would be no good," said Auu aloud lo the black .wintry

hedges on either hand.

No good because she felt herself like a feather, blown about by winda from every quarter ; by Anita's capriue aud velfchuess ; by thu captain's udiice. In this plight Ann Montague imagined herself, us .other* have doue IJI tore her, the sport aud. plaything of thc blind goddess of fortune. Again, if it were true that one's life was really mapped by destiny, could alic alte-- hers ? She ctiuld only strive to know whether Providence, or w*s il fate.elie ought to say, really dill mean her to walk in a certain road ; if so, she must submit. Fate might show its meaning by closing the gates to all other |>atbs. Now, how to put the iutcnliun of this mysterious power to the

tesl?

" I will see if Aunt Barbara warne me to stay," repealed Ann to herself. " She is my only living relation, and has a right lo my devotion. 1'oor lonely soul, if she died iu my abbeuee, wilb no one to nurse her, or see ber but ¡eil ! Yes, whatever Captain tiootlmaii may >ay, I will no: go abroad if she w idles me '.o stay and t .ke care of her." (It must be confessed that, taking care of Aunt Barbara through that lady's Imf-- was even a innre ap- palling prospect than thc former one of seeing her decently buried. But Ann would have recoiled with righteous horror had anyone told her this was bow she inwardly fell.)

Ann Montague was a deceptive young woman as to her face, which leil one to believe her resolute ; while ber large, well-developed figure and already line presence at first sight impressed bystanders into awaiting quit« respectfully her least utterance, us une . ol weight. Whereas, in truth, severn I of hu school-11111168, like chattering sparows around a young dove, knew much more of the «uric und oí llu-ir own small minds and lit I le wants. Gentle by nature, she had not yet leurtil tc decide for herself, and was Btill appalled al the thought of doing so. At this inomeiil Anr was like a child just released from Iradiiif strings, from whom ita caretakers have al withdrawn, leaving it to try aud run alone Uuahlii to see any friendly outstretched fiugei towards which to rush, she wanted to staue still, feeling a unit in the middle of th< round world. Hitherto she bad ulways beci ready to fallow the caiuuiaudilieuts of Ihost who were set over her.

"It is my duty to obey Aunt Barbara ; ii is right to do one's duty ; 1 will do whut i right." murmured Nannie, as she walked on feeling overwhelmed.

Now tho house came in sight, looking evei smaller and even moro unlovely than it

former inmate remembered it.

Unlatching the garden gate. Nan knocket at the door, not feeling enough at home ti walk straight in.

" Oh, it's you, M ¡BS Ann, is it ?" was thi greeting of the ancientmnid-of-all work, win lind known Nau from childhood, but ba' never been known to give lier or auyone elset smile or kindly word.

" Your a unt is io lier bedroom. She is no ill, but she has got a cold. Well, I need no show you upstairs, 1 suppose, i've got some ihiug else to do, and plenty cfit," with wbicl M'iry Anne disappeared into the kitchen banging the door behind her.

Knocking nt her aunt's door, A nu found th latter looking up with an alert air, Imviti;

overheard the late conversation.

Aunt Barbara was sitting on one side of i small fire, with a shawl over ber shoulders and a rug across her knees. She was not s much austere in face, as that she hail n nippei appearance. All thc kindly emotions sh might have felt in youth bad boen frost-hit lei one might say. Now elie held up a wuroin; forefinger.

" 1 am reading my morning psalms, en

can't be interrupted to speak to you till thc; are finished," was tho only greeting wltici Íiassed her lips, as Ann kissed lier relative'

inpassive cheek.

So for Boino minuto* the girl eat still on the odgo of a bedroom chair.

Il was fairly maddening I The train-tho only train to Liverpool would bo gone within an hour and a quarter, and, with panting breath, Ann reckoucd that it would take her over half-an-hour to walk back to the station. Surely Aunt liar hara might see that there was Kuiuetliiiig out of the. common amiss I II could not be sinful to finish ber psalms later, und listen now to the appeal for advice and help, to the cager words that were crowding to her niece's lips.

"I believe she is reading slower on pur- pose," N ni almost cried to herself, watching Aunt Barbara's lips makiug soundless words, and tho old lady's dull eyes travelling from right to left of thc printed page with

deliberate slowness.

The ronni was very cold, and Nan's feet were colder ; by tho time thc reader had finished the girl'a heart was thc coldest of thc three. At last tho hook closed with a snap, ami AutH Barbara turned rouud.

"I nm sitting in my bedroom because I haw a cold, anti needed a tiro to dress myself by. So, as two fires arc a waste, I would not have the sitting-room ono lighted," were her first words. It dished across Nan's mind that wore she staying in thc house, no fire would he lier p Ttinii on this winter's day,

" I never expected yon till to-tnorrow. I underitooti you were going to pay a visit to vour Chiliau friend in Liverpool," weut on Aunt Barbara, in an even voice, raising ber head deprecatingly, as Nan strove to in I or pose an explanation.

" Well, all I have to say is that now you arc coming to live with me you must go up- stairs imo Mary Ann's old attic, as she is very put out at having another person in thc house to wait upon ¡ so to pacify ber I have promised her the spare room opposite this, which you used to have as a child-but I but was only for ti short time during holidays. I can't lilford to part with Mary Ann."

This last was said with marked asperity.

" No, no ! Of course you can't, Aunt Barbara. No oue could expect it, I am sure

1 would not," stammered Nan, trying to laugh while feeling much inclined to erv. " Uni perhaps you can afford to part with

me ?"

" What do you mean, Anni Have you got. a place as governess, or any other Bituatiou? Do not keep mo waiting. I hate these school girl ways of maki .g mysteries and coming suddenly at inconvenient seasons."

" 1 beg your pardon, Aunt Balbara, indeed ; bul I am asked to go to South America by my (rbnd Anita MacTugue, to stay with her friends ; und the ship sails to-morrow ; and my train to Liverpool goes in three-quarters of an hour from llic station here. So I have run down to ask if you will al low. me to go to Chili."

" What on earth do they want with you out there? Howlong >-hall you slay?" rapped out the old lady, without the least sign nf disappointment or surprise on her expression- less visage

" I c%u't say how long 1 may bc expected tu stay. . . . Anita says I um sure to get m-married," blurted out Nan, red as a rose.

" H'm ! Well, I think you had better go. Yes, I should c rtainly advise you to go . by all means, and stay as loug us you can."

" Mary Ann ?"

Miss Montague rapped thc floor with thc poker, und the kitchen being underneath, ber domestic presently, appeared, having ap- parently toiled up the short staircase.

" Mary Ann, Miss Ann Montague ¡B not coining to stay to-day. She is not coming back here at all-at least for a long time. "

" That's good news anyway," muttered thc vinegar faced old woman, who stood io thc half open door, wiping her hands.

" Miss Ann must go back to catch the next train ; it would not do for her to miss it," went on the old lady with uuusual briskness in ber voice, "so you might leave her in the dining-room what was left of the rabbit I had yesterday for dinner."

" There's none left. I had it for supper myself. There is only your dinner cooking, and it is not conked yet. She can have some bread and cheese, and there is some cold bacon. "

" Mary Ann might beat it, and make a rasher and eggs, only she is so cross," muttered A ut Barbara, showing slight vexation as her domestic's retreating footsteps sounded down the stairs, with thc flap, flap, of a shoe dowit at heel. Then louder, "I am sorry you will fare badly Ann, but I can't help it. In olden days, before your'fathcr lost hu fortune and my little money nearly all went in the taine crash. I would have given you a better lunch. Well, well ! I am not blaming him. poor man. Perhaps it was ordered by Pro-

vidence."

Now, Nan's father bad been a very rich tuan till within a few weeks of his death, brought about by a brokeu heart at the sudden

business reverses which overwhelmed bim.

Till she was twelve years old Nan's own re- collection were those of a luxurious house, of line rooms and fine frocks ; of many servants, curriages and horses.

With the elasticity of youth, the girl did not so much regrec her own reverses, except when Aunt Barbara harped upon the subj ct declariug that she did not blame her bro.her,

but «lill

" She knows it was not his fault," resented the dead nub's daughter hotly in ber heart.

"Aunt Barbara's money was mode out of thc busiucss, as his was ; why should ahe not suffer in its downfall as he did ? After all she enjoyed being rich for over fifty years, which is u longer good time to look back on than I may ever have."

lu making this reflection. Nan quite forgot

thal «he herself had a future to look forward to, with all HB bright possibilities, ¡"he only foresaw herself os growing old joyously, passing dull patient yearB in the cottage attic and tho sitting-room, thatouly possessed one armchair

-her ttuut'a.

Aud even now this poor haven of a home was denied the orphan. She felt herself driven forth BB t ue alone in a boat, her face set lo tlic wide ocean.

" You uro sure you do not want me to slay; that you won't miss me?" were Nan's lust words, uttered with an appealing Bound, and u pathetic wistfulness of gaze, lost upon her aunt, who was taking up the stitches in her knitting.

" Certainly not," returned tho latter. " I am not used to having visitors in the house, you know ; indeed, it rather put me out, and Mary Ann too."

With which farewell in her ears, Ann walked ouce more back along the fiat straight road to thc train.

She wu« crying u little, and by way of making her feel more miserable, a shower mingled its drops with the February wind now blowing over thc open land. Ann had never felt more desolate und orphaned in her life. The world seemed all rain, und wind, and winter cold around her now and in the future.

"I don't much care what happens me, and nobody i lse cares, that's certain," she thought to herself, not bitterly, but as a sad fact that had got to bc endured, und BO, like one puBhed fjrwurd by Fate, Nan returned to her hotel tit Liverpool.