|Chapter Title||A MIDNIGHT SHOCK.|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Half Round the World to Find a Husband. A Comedy of Errors|
CiiAi'TivK XV.-A MIDNIGHT SHOOK.
Tile following afternoon the young gover- ness of the Palmer children hud au interview with I heir father, which came about us follows On looking fur Tony to hear 11im repeat a 6hort punishment task, his voice answered de- fiantly from his father's study, " All right, will you came in, there isn't anybody here. I am hammering my walking stick handle, and it is most important."
Ann had seen him cut thc said stick yesterday in the dingle, and all this morning sharp Spanish altercations announced that hu was boiling il iu the kitchen, to Maclovia the cook's vexation, in order lo curve its cud. Never before had Aim entered thc study, and it was with considerable curiosity that Bbc now tripped over its threshold starting back instantly witn a cry of, " Antonio, you
6aid lhere was no one here."
'' i count us uu one," said Don Hex, looking up from a desk crowded with pamphlets on agricultural finance, aud the immigration re- ports. " And my sou means it in a fluttering sense, namely that I do not interfere with cither his work or play. What can he or I do for you."
Ann explained hesitatingly she had meant to luke out I he boy for a walk. " He learned his English much netter on thc hillside."
" Pray allow mc lo come loo," cried Don Rex, jumping up gaily. " My English ic growing un i iquatcd. ItisBoine years, alus,sincc
i was ul school."
As they started forth, Rosita rushed ofter them, In r bonnie face glowing willi eagerness. " Lei me conic tuo !" she pleaded " Tony and I want to find u huinmiitg-bii'd's uust of last year ; und Pupa, you may talk to Miss Ann
till wc come back."
It was a typical winter's day with thc brilliant sun but sharp wind. Leaving thc farmgutowilliovorhung with mimosas the path dipped into the valley, whtre boldotruesspread glossy dark foliage, whitened by chuter» oi strong scented flowers. Lower down bluegum trees shot up lank and ragged uhovu tangles oi black berry bramhlcsand geraniums. Don Rex explained thc lal ter were not indigenous us Ann supposed, hut throve soluxuriumly, that they must bc often cut down, up-rooted, and even burnt us unxiuus weeds ; und that the black- berries,though a native fruit,ure oddly enough not cuten by the Chilian peasants. It was a prêt ty scene as they si ood on a rough wooden bridge spanning thc mountain brook ; thu same which wound through all thc Dell of thc Foxes. Around spread Ihiekctsof scrub filling thc ravine, into which they dived with bent heads by a path under wild bamboos. Tho childreusoon disappeared, their voices sounded from Boincwherc in the dingle ; and light branches that whipped Ann's face were held aside by Don Rex himself, iusload of Tony who was usually her devoted squire. Once or twice escaping twigs caught her straw hat, needing his apparently clumsy fingers in extrication ; when he apologised for his tardiness, hot li laughed amt grewfrionds. Underfoot, thc fallen leaflets made a pale carpet, not unlike matting, and everywhere sprouted young maldon hair feras, with which Ann filled her hands. Emerging into tho hot sunshine of the bare gulley, a brace of par
tridge started under their feet, and a sausal or thrush was singing ou a spray. But n other insect life arrested their attention, no even a snake, of which iu summer lhere wer hut hamless many, so Don Hex remarked, H and Ann wcredcepintulk, quite like old friend
The children became a talisman lo banish he shyness,uashc told «iibpleasuteiusointorustei a listener of their jokes and ways at lessons and (in all gund failli) gave her opinions up i their characters, good qualities and rospccliv failings. Ann possessed Ihe maternal ms iuc strongly, thnughl Don Rex, as he listened will gravity ¡iud expressed defetence lo her judy meut which was lite most fluttering uuctiui
he could have laid to her soul.
" It is surprising timi you (tko such au in teresl in children although au only child your self, ns you tell mr. And it is rurc to lind
young girl who would uot be impatient wit!
three such urchins us minc. 'Devils o
children,' us their old .Spanish nurse calls theil meaning uo bunn." (It is u common express ion).
''But they ure the very nicest children
have ever met," cried Ann, heartily. Afte all, why should she not praise her owl proposed step grandchildren to their father although she shrunk when with old Kdoardi from seeming to take iou great un inicrcst it any nf his possessions. Rex l'aimer adored hil chidreti; he was gladdened, grateful.
Clambering up thc grassy shoulder of a hill und stopping ut the lop to breathe and udmit'i the Hoc sea view below lhe table bud, Am turning to her companion almost si ai led ii lier surprise. He did uol seem thc same mai she knew ; alert, willi shining eyes am happy face, thc grave politician siciued ti have left hin outer self down yonder in tin green fissures oi the Zurras. And herc wa the real man i>y her side- lie Kex helmed b; bi- f.inily 'ind Ultimate friends. No longe critic bul -yes, surely a friend.
Fur away in thc offing spread thc trail ot ( steamer's smoke. "That rciniuds mc tha you likcto learn trails of ourChilUn peasantry I liuve noticed," said nts smiling. "Then is a Btory of how the sound of thc siren wai first heard in thc buy herc. It waa some ycart ago, when a French ironclad came ginpini ber way in at night during a fog. The sci can of (ho foghorn echoed over these hills, am; . he poor Vulparaiaiaiis were panic stricken believing that thc devil hud got loose, and wai roaring at I hem. Por nights afterwards lin people in thc hovels und thc ranchos of tilt suburbs, and all up these ravines, shut theil doors fast at night, us thc rumour ran thal Salan was driving in u chariot of fire round ihe hill lops."
Then us Ann laughed he went on describ- ing thc simplicity of the poor country folk mingled with shrewdness, derived from tucit Indian ancestry. HÍB father was wont tc declare that when thc first train ever started om from Valparaiso station some itausos or peusanis on horseback were BSCII galloping alongside thc eugine for u fen- yards trying tu lasso thc wheels, a feat which these gcutry hoped would bc a good joke to astonish the foreigner and check his new carriage. " Un- fortunately history doesn't give the result," went on thc narrator, laughing, " but 1 can tell you of my own knowledge that at a country station near .my estate some farmer fellows lode up while thc train was waiting. They bad some dogs with them, and wishing to stop for a drink they coolly lied up ihe poor crcatureu to the wheels of thc lust carriage. Whether this was for apathy or a careless belief that thc I rain was a fixture I canuot guess. Anyhow, off went thc train, and at the next elution dog, strings and hair were remarked with surprise as covering the wheels of thc hindmost truck."
" What amusing people 1 I like what you tell me of them. They seem so Irish and in- consistent," laughed Auu, "and I like this landscape too, like a tumbled sea of red earth waves, with a dark green foam of brushwood on their crests. Still what a pity there are so few trees herc Only that one palm-tree yonder, like a solitary sign-post. "
" Wo have grund woods down in thc south, you must know, and more trees than herc in thc plain of Santiago, where my own home lies, ' assented her companion. "But thut palm is thc last of a grove ; its fellows w-crc all killed a generation ago by tuppiug for palm honey, such us you thought delicious willi pan- cakes at lunch yesterday."
" What you were listening ? I thought you were rcudiug tho newspaper," interpolated Ann, with sudden surprise. But her com- panion took nu notice of this interruption, except by a fuint flickering smile.
" That palm," he went on, "is supposed by tradition to point out Jesuits' hiddeu tieasurc. When thc Order was expelled from Chili at the beginning of ? Iiis century, only three days' grace was allowed lo the Jesuits. So while travelling from Santiuga in haste to the sea coast, and crossing these dells of broken ground aud brushwood, it is said they took the opportunity to bury Ibuir silver and money, hoping lo return some day. Often riding our here on carly mornings 1 have seen men skulking uway-treasure seekers who were digging in the night. Once us a boy, at a picnic near this very place, I spied a cross rudely carved en a rock, aud ran back to tell tho rest of my discovery. There is a legend that a large treasure lies hurried near, marked by a great stone. ¿so I soon had au eager following, but, alas, 1 had forgotten to take right, bearings of the spot, and although wc searched long thut cross never could bc fouud again. My mother who had a tinge of super- stition, believed thenceforth that I was marked out by fate to find great luck in life. Do you thiuk so, Ann ?-surely I may call you hy your name when my luther
does sound thc children."
They two were standing by a rough kind of Btile, where thc path entered thc enclosure of a rancho, and stopping short Don licx took Ann's hand as if to help her over, but held it fast. . Ann looked al him, and her breath came short. Perhaps it was surprise that kept her from withdrawing her fingers from his clasp, for his eyes were eager with a light she had only seen before iu those of one oilier man-of Patrick Bryan.
Both drew a long breath in the silence that fell upon ilicm, and
And then the children caine running up bear- ing u small trophyof withered grass, lilied with wool, that had once been the happy home, of a tiny green bird-mother, and her small long beaked babes, Fond as Rex was of his children, he now showed unusual gaiety and interest in their prattle, and Ann, too, suddenly shared thc general eagerness re- markably. Hardly another word was exchanged between t he mau and girl as they went home, with Rositu between them, hang on an arm of each, while Tony, behind kept hutting his father and sister playfully with bia head at unexpected momcuts, and was only restrained from favouring Ann with similar familiarities by his father's strict injunction.
Surely, thought Ann that night, when uloiic, it was all surely a mistake ; her own fancy had conjured up Ihnv look on ber younger host's fuco, which iu turn evoked the memory of another man. Dear, handsome Patrick Bryan 1 No, she had not forgotton him in the very least ; only iho days were so bright und full of vuried iulerust each half-hour here; there was uo time fur love dreams except late. Then tired out with fresh air and exercise, Ann was always terribly and healthily sleepy. Poor fellow! she would think of him now, forgetting those horrid hot days when jealousy hail burnt like a coal of fire in her heart, ouly iced ut times by freezing contempt for her recreant lover's apparent desertion. H'ig ho ! Abseuce makes the heart grow fonder, philosophised this daniBcl, with the frank candour towards her other self she made a point of humour ; fonder because, being absent, Bryan could no longer fret her silly mind by small vexations, slights, or funded lapses in good taste when compared with such ideal men as Lord Thanet, or, ,"0r with whom ! Nobody !" Whereupou Ann crossly turned on her pillow and fell fast asleep ; dreaming she was ou hoard tho " Yarrow."
Whir-r-r-r-r-r ! They weregetting upstcam ¡ the cargo was tumbling down into the hold, sailors shouting, and BITCW throbbing ....
Aun started up in tho darkness to hear a knocking at the side door in her room, which was seldom UBcd, opening on a email staircase
that lcd to tho garleo, while DOB Rex's voice was calling her nama in excited yet subdued tones. " Ann, Ann. Come out, come out !"
Springing out of bcd drunk with sleep and bewilderment, Kan groped forwurd in thc darkness towards thu opposite door, away from the midnight visitant by frightened unreason- ing instinct. S.i knocking against an obstacle, she fell head aud urins imo thc recesses of her largest trunk. She bad been searching vainly therein last night for a pct neck lie to wear next day at thc paporcbasc, and so left thc lid open hy oversight,
"Miaow! Fizz-hiiz !" There folio» td a stifled shriek, a 'spilling of feline auger, as Dinah leapl like a hairy bomb shell from a happy luir on Ann's heat ball dress. At Ihe doulilc cry followed thc crash ol u lock. Don Hex putting his shoulder against Ibu garden door, hurst in. and next iusiaut caught .wm's white ligure in his arms, cluspiug her passion- ately to his breast. "Are you hurt? Speak quick !" Hui even us he himself spoke h ? hail caught her up ami was carrying her down stairs with a strength and haste that «ere irresistible, although she struggled against his
" Let me go ! How dare you !"
At thai Mumien I u rumbling, like thc passing of an underground train, shook thc staircase under them, airesiing her outcry, while a chorus of féminine shrieks hounded from thc gani cn.
Next minute they Btood outside in the close stillness of ihe garden, under the starless sky. As Ilex put down his burden some yards fi om tho house, illili holding her tightly, very tightly in Iii < artus, while her hare feet touched the gravel, did her cirs dream thal, he mur- mured " Sale, darling ; thank God !"
ll. had bren an earthquake, und the second was thc sharpest shock known for some years. So much Ann learnt from the confused ex-
clamations of a huddled group of shivering household inmates olosc by. Some minutes ol intense suspense followed ; not u sound ! Theu frightened birds' notes sounded, cue herc ami one there, thc crouching dogs whimpered anti Ann Montague began tu laugh hysterically. " Is that all ? What a funny experience 1" f
" Funny ! That's what strangers say the first time, but wait till you ern my agc, my dear, and perhaps yen will bc more like me."
Old Mr.Tulmer meant that he was quaking in his carpet s ippers, and the most comical drapery imaginable of a bright striped blanket held willi both hands round his portly person, Ulai was clsd in a night garment. The idea of resembling him so tickled thc hearer, thal Ann cowering close to Inès and
thc children to hide brr own slender form
laug'ied silently in au agony of mirth; shared by Rosita, who hugged her tight with spasmodic outbursts nf giggling.
How was it that Don Hex looked, well just right. In thc gloom his figure showed statuesque as he knelt by a stone basin of water. IV hy did he not appear ridiculous, though he was striking matches, and holdiug them mysteriously -over the Burface of the
" Nul u quiver now, the earth has ceased shaking. Let us all go iu doors, or 6ome of you will catch your deaths of cold." The words were a cotninaud unconsciously issued to »ll. Then taking -up the baby and Rosita, in his arms, Hex himself led thc way indoon-, somewhat reluctantly followed by thc still
(Tb br continued.)