|Chapter Title||THE LAST RIDE TOGETHER.|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Half Round the World to Find a Husband. A Comedy of Errors|
TALES AND SKETCHES.
Half Round the World to Find a
A COMEDY OF ERRORS.
By MAY CROMMHLIN,
Author of " Bay Ronald," " A Jewel of a Girl," " Goblin Gold," " Dead Uen'i Dollars," " Ur. and Mri. Horries," &c.
CAIIPTER XXV.-THE LAST HIDE TO
" 1 have bera thinking you would like a last ride before you leave nu," aaid the younger Palmer to Ann, one morning. " You have not been along thc right aide of thc bay yet, aa far BB Cochoa Cove. And coming borne we can have a canter inland over the downs by Reflaca. "
Ann expressed her gratitude for his kind thought ; and felt more than abe said. But that evening Rex returned from town with a disappointed air. He had done his bcBt, yet it was difficult to get up us pleasant a party BB he would have wished. '1'ruc, three engaged couples were comjug, no others, however,
" Even Sarita lias cried off, though I con- sidered her a certainty, she ia so foud of you. And (smiling) wheu J asked Val Brown, he looked furious. He certainly is young, or he would not be so stupid. But there I I cannot get any pleasant companion (or you."
" You arc not coming yourself ?" Ann hazarded, ever ao timidly.
" I ! Of course I am. But-I did not flatter myself you would find three devoted couple» and only me sufficiently agreeable society."
" We have ridden together before now, and I enjoyed it. "
Why did Rix flash BUCII a keen, quick glance, searching thc givl'b face? And turned bot and cold. Could lie-dreadful thought I -suspect her of being forward, unmaidenly ; above all, after he had lately clearly shown that lie meant their relations to be strictly friendly, aud nothing more? Nothing more -any more. But apparently h. r fears were foolish, for next moment Rex remarked, in a cheerful, practical tone,
" Il is very kind of you to say so. And in any case you like a gallop. So we will go."
Next day, therefore, after the noontide breakfast, they set forth, jogging down to thc pretty suburb called the Vineyard by the Sea, where the rest of the party met them, riding in properly engaged twos and twos. Nan
almost felt as if- Yet no 1 It was a
nollow mockery to imagine how it might he if sheand Don Rex were ou the same happy terms as those others. The kindly tones ol' his voice dispelled the momentary dream, as a fresh breite does a morning mist.
As they rode for two miles under the high coast cliffs Rex Palmer pointed ont thc wide stretch of loose sands, called talmas, Ij'fnir between them and thesoa. Herelt isa favourite employment of the couutry folk to come and dig for buccanneers' hidden treasure-after any dream signifying good luck. At the baBes of the rocks they rode by fresh-dug holes.
These same rocks reddened with the small
coral blossoms of wild fuchsia and cistuB. The sharp ue- die cries of the humming birds made the bushes alive with sound.
" They will be netting soon, and then all these waste Bands arc a gl.rious purple with wild flowers, like a regal mantle," remarked the Chili m »quire.
" Oh, I wish I could see the spring here. Ines says Chili is a perfect paradise then," sighed Ann.
" Look out now," was her companion's only reply. " We muBt ride Indian file up that narrow path through the rocks where they jut into the sea. 'Diere are «unie pack-mules coming. Don't let them strike you ; they are dangerous if cirryiog zinc Sheet« or rails." But thc airing of dubious-eyed beasts scrambled und rushed safely past, following the bell of their leader, styled the "god- mother." At. some distance behind appe,red their drivers, happy-go-lucky fellows, laugh ingandahouting. Butatthesightof Palmerthey rode by with courteous obeisances so deep that Ann asked who they were.
"1 have not an idea, though I know most of the people hereabouts. We own the country inland for some miles, so it is one's duty to be friendly. But more folk know Tom Fool, you
"1 know you are considered a very dis- tinguished man, and that these ignorant yokels know it, too," returned Aun hotly. Il quiet made hor blood boil to hear Don Rex disparaged, even by himself.
I he latter touched liss horse with his spurs so sharply that bo was beßide his warm pu rt isac next moment. Her hero looked at the latter with an indulgent smile.
" Little friend, it does mc good to hear you Bpeak so kindly. And lam grateful ; more so than you know."
There was a scramble ou the uarrow path that was only of loose earth and stones fallen from thc cliff, und sloping into thc deep, tumbling sea, below. Rex's horse hud almost loBt fooling -. would have done so, but that his native breeding taught him to cling with the tenacity of a mule.
At ber caretaku's request Ann rode on, feel- ing, though a bold horsewoman, slightly frightened as her steed sank fetlock deep, ia the scree. To the right rOBc grand, rocks over- head ; some boulders, veritable loggen-stones, that a touch seemed likely to dislodge. Beneath, thc waves were rolling in, clear green, crested with foam. A lovely sight, trudy, but if one slipped
*' Don't look too much at tho sos ; and leave your horse to himself," called Rex's cheeriug
By way of change, Ann presently looked rouud at him, and io so doing grazed her horse's hind quarters ever so lightly w th thc end of her whip. It instantly kicked.
" My God !" uttered Rex, in a tone ol agony. Then next moment, BB Ann sat fear- less and erect in her Baddie, " that brute bas s bad stable-trick. I would not have allowed you to ride him, had I remembered it."
" Then we should have fallen out, senor,' said Ann willi a new sauciness and sparkling eyes. She was so happy at being on close] terms with her lately clouded sun-god. "j love Regalon'a paces. Poor fellow, no donbi Borne lad has hurt him behind, and he does no forget it."
Hut uow they had come iuto a little cove where dowu on the dark-blue rocks and whiti
sands thc rest of the party were alrcid; await inc them, having dismounted. Thc! they all sunned themselves like lizards, ati sondwitches, chatted, and
And in Ann's case, longed to remount tha thc sweet, intercourse of two might begii again, even though it only incant hurrict words while dutering over the sands, o warning calls along thc precipitous puth Did Rex feel tho same? Impossible ; ho wa BO collected, BO generally courteous ; bu surely he looked Budtienly melancholy Somo of thc others bade him cheer up. Wo lie meditutiug a government intimation to Sa Isidor, tlic rainmaker, that no more wc feast-days would bc endured, or his image would bo flogged or ducked-as hud happeuc before ? asked u wag.
" No," smiled Palmer ; " he waa busy wit a scheme for catching and making use of th condors of Cordilleras to draw flyin
Thun th y act off on homeward ; an presently turning ¡uland, all raced for som two miles over the turfy downs studded wit native thorn-trees. Scattering in twos, th party lost eight of each other among th hollows filled with resinous shrubs and cactu plants. Many of these latter looked ss i burnt by shepherds' fires, for tho groun biiuDath their charred stems was scorcher! Rex, pointing out this to his fair fellow-ridei remarked be had often seen tho stem smouldering for days without visible cans« Was it spoutaneouB combustion ? " Qule
All at ance, emerging an a grassy bluff, lot the bay of Valparaiso Tay below like a gre.
mirror. And fur awy, by the southern head- land, crept a dark speck on thc waters.
"Nee: Yonder is tho mail steamer coming in. That ia your ship that starts in two days," called Don Rex, as Ann was riding
before him down a narrow track.
" How can you 1" cried Ann, In reproach. She turned-she forgot Rogalon's trick, and leant her band on his back behind tho Baddie.
Next instant Palmer smothered an exclama- tion. He had received a kick on thc leg ; und Ann's voice gave a second far sharper cry of
contrition and horror.
It was a nasty blow. Striving to speak without betraying his real Buffcrine. Rex re- assured Nan's even more poignant pain of mind. There wat no harm done, bnt he sup- posed they had best go home. What a pity the rest were out of sight ; her ride would be spoiled.
Sn they jogged down Bteep paths, forded a river, and slowly approached thc Foxes' Dell. Nan supprossed the agonised apologies BIIC was burning to offer the victim of her care- lessness ; seeing by his pale face he was not well inclined for talk. At the quinta door, alie Bprang down first, and' hitching up her horse, entreated anxiously
.' Lean on my shoulder, please ; you must not stand ou that foot." Hu could not-yet Rex shot au uneasy glauce at the windows. No ono wai: there ; the house waB empty for
Doubtless, the sufferer tried to lean lightly, yet tito arm passed round Ann's neck pressed it. close. So she felt in secret thrills of glad, shamed emotion. Aa Rex reached a sofa, and with a sigh thal might have been relief withdrew Iiis touch lingeringly, he glanced in gratitude ul his helper.
"Why, Anni What is this? You arc crying 1 Child, tell me I"
Ann would have es aped, but a detaining grasp held her fast. She averted her head a moment or so ; then, drawn as by a magnet, turned. The eyes in which Don Rex gazed ardently were swimming in tears, yet grew sweet with a strange light as his own burnt
" Ann I You love me !" he cried.
The words were uttered with such frenzied
joy as never again she should hear on earth. Then, scorning pain. Rex sprung up-would have caught her to his brest-but Ann pushed
" Do not touch me. I ought not-I have no right to love yon. Forget it."
In the silence which followed, the man could be heard breathing hard.
" Before ever I saw you, I was engaged to another. That is what I wanted to explain some time ego. Now you know."
" My God I"-Rex sank back on thc sofa ; stunned by the unexpected news. He covered
"Forgive me. Indeed I could not help loving you, but I tried to avoid you," implored Ann, dropping on her knees at his
" I know. But Ann,my sweet, need this sacrifice be T You love me : I adore you ! Surely you aro bound to me first I"
" No, no 1 Do not tempt me." moaned the
gir> " How can you break my troth. He
told rae it would break his heart if I did not come to him. You are the mau of untarnished honour. Can you asked met In time. I I may learn to forget you."
"he broke down sobbing, and as she knelt
her sobs »ere buried in Rex's shoulder. His
arm now supported her faint form. After a lime Ann heard the man speaking. His voice was very sad yet resolute, like ono who puts away of free will the thought of the earthly
" You have told mc not to tempt you, so I dare not. It will be a coward s action I Yes, Ann, think well-If you believe it right, then go, and God bless you. But, at least, kiss me once for the love, we bear each other."
A few seconds of silence that were aa drops of agony. Then the girl's voice answered :
Their lipa met in a long, despairing kiss. Such au oue us those only give who know it
is the last.