Chapter 52515543

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Chapter NumberXXVII
Chapter TitleTHE SHRIEK OF THE SIREN.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52515543
Full Date1896-09-19
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count4980
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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 Round the World to Find a

Husband. I A COMEDY OF ERRORS. I

By MAY CROMMELIN,

Author of " Hay Ronald," " A Jewel of a Girl," " Goblin Gold,"" Dead Men'e Dollarn," " Mr. and Mra. Herries," &e.

(OOPTRIOHT.)

CHAPTER X.XVII.-TnE SHRIEK OF THK

SIREN.

Twelve days it took to voyage up to Callao, And Callao being, as everyone ought to know, thc principal part in Puru, and the sea-gate to Lima, thc City oi Kings, lhere Patrick Bryan would come to meet his ocean sweolheart.

These were not days of interrupted steaming ahead. On the contrary, every day, either moruiug or evening, thc »hip neared some so called port ; often a mere iiandful of wooden houses scattered on a sandy beach, under almost inaccessible cliffs, " between tho devil and the deep ana," said thc captain. And each time, as the big ship swung round, its anchor rattling down, there followed the lung, Ktrong shriek of the siren, echoing either from sandy bluffs, or rocky mountuius rising slicer out of deep water, the ledges of their grey shoulders splashed white with guano patches. Then out would come a flotilla of boats ; the ageut, thc hurhour captain, and others bringing cargoes of mules, or cows, or sheep, and taking back green vegetables, fruit and provisions, whioh the vessel had brought up to these inhospitable shores from the temper-

ate south.

Ann was intereited in it all, though hating to see the p-<or cows dangling helplessly in mid-air, as they were ».ung on board by a rope fasteued rouud their horus to the pitiless long arm of thc winch.

- l)ay after day seemed alnuist alike, gliding by an unbrokeu ran^e of porphyritic cliffs, ranging from two or nearly four thousand feet in height, utterly arid. No rain ever falls, it is said, on these shores ; for the sea winds blowing Bteadily up and down the coast check the moistute from driftiug inland over the heights, wilde dreary pampas spread for leagues and leagues, here hilly, there the great plain of the nitrate fields.

And aa the big ship pushed ever onwards, some two mili s from the rock-bound shore, and the deep, grey water slid by, seemingly still, though the vessel ever gently dripped slow and deep io the constant long swell-us. she thus journeyed northward, Ann Montague possessed her soul in a calm, like unto peace. She was happier, indeed, than she had been far thc last month or more, It was the quiet which follows an inward battle, that struggle of soul, when the two selvüs within u-> fight a duel for mastery. Now it waa ended, honour and plighted troth had won the day against the human craviug for happiness. After such iuward fightings--doubts, longings, hopes, and fears-any decision is rest.

The very monotony of the seascape waB soothing, and Ann believed she liked it ; believed she waa deeply interested tn Mrs. Murphy's stories of Jamaica, of buccaneers, and negro risings, and plantation fires ; by whioh means abe sought to fan. tho ashes, nay, embers, of her attachment to Patrick Bryan into their first bright flame. At I »st, one afternoon, she hardly knew, how or why. Ann's heart rose to her lips and she in turn confided her story to Mt*- Murphy's greedily attentive ears 1 A queer confidant ! But poor Nan had begun to feel desperately like thc barber, that she must hide her head in some clump af rushes and shriek aloud her secret. Besides was not the good' woman, herself in trouble, most sympathetic, confiding to the uttermost? Alas 1 the result proved maddening 1 for hardly was the last syllable told when a sense of disappoi ntment stolbovcr the narrator. Oh, fool I Ann had, out of poor solitariness of mood, invited a stranger to

cross the threshold of the third court in her

temple of mind, its very holy of holies. Her Beeret was no longer her very own. And what was still more annoying, Mrs. Murphy discussed the matter in a common-sense voice of curiosity, showing real interest but asking uncomfortable questions.

" So you don t know where he lives exactly ; nor his family ; nor word ab >ut his fortune, dearie! That's a pity." Then, after some rumination. " Well be's very nioe, I don't doubt, but I am sorry for the other one."

" What other t" asked Ann, firing up, a traitor's blush dying the smooth velvet other

cheeks.

" Why him who mme on board, dearie, with the old gentleman and the handsome lady, to see you off. I was near you both at the time. My 1 how he looked at you ; aa if he would have liked to clip you up io his arms, and take you back in the boat and keep you for good and alL"

"Not Vid you really think that?" faltered Ann in a low voice, the words sweet to her ears BB lorbidden fruit to the lips.

" Think 1 No I didn't think, I was sure of it. And, what's more, I thought, dearie, you were fond of bim, too. "

Not a word came in reply. Ann felt she could not bs hypocrite enough to deny the truth, which even a careless stranger had read in ber face. After a brooding silence once more the pondérons person spoke. (Mrs. Murphy »as one of those people one would always a call a person.)

" Sometimes a young girl thinks she is in love with the first nice man Bhe meetB, but she is only io love with love. It'«-natural to like being admired, and to hear sweet things for the first time and to be kissed."

"He never did kiss me," flashed ont her victim, indignantly.

Well, when he does you will know for certain how you feel towards him," said the mentor, Bagely. " I know I didn't want to have nothing to do with my Nicholas till he took me io his arm. And then I couldn't hold out any longer. Show me your man's photograph, like a dear. I am sure you have got it in your pocket, haven't yon ?" This uttered in indiscreet Inquisitiveness.

Ann was glad she bad no likeness to show. A sculpture would as soon lift the cloth from the clay ideal and display the half finished

work ot a critic

" Well, I saw the other one, and he looked a real gentleman, a prince among men, every inch of him," sturdily declared Don Rex 8

staunch udmircr.

Ann cuuld have hugged her.

"So your Patrick baß black hair, grey eyes and a merry way with him, you Bay, went on the confidant* checking off these qualities on her fat fingers, " and he is tall and active and strong. Come I declare, my Nicholas used to

be like him."

Ann felt inclined to Blap her for a second, then burst out laughing gleefully. At that moment the voices of the Murphy children rose in loud wrangling. A cocoanut was the object of dispute, which the second lieutenant had bored for them. Little Nicholas was shaken with a frenzied sense of injustice because ClariBsa was draining an undue share of its native milk from tho brown goblet. Their nurse paused in her fine ladyieh stroll ; Bhe chanced to be near her mistress. Dropping some orange skin and pips on the deck, she slowly remarked, rolling her eyes towards the boy. " Him voice do favour him father, fee sure. Nicholas Murphy do roar like a bull

cow."

At that Ann laughed outright. What a delightful creature the roaring old Nicholas the runaway husband must bc. She took the small boy io her arms-indeed he was a general pot on hoard-consoling him till his wailing ended sobbingly, half buried in her shoulder, half ended ina custardapple. When he wriggled out of her arms, to seek thc society of half a dozen black Bailors in the main hatch below ; for ho dearly admiring an loved circlet the more the better.

Ann watched the monkey, who WBB never toning, Billia minute always laughing, twist- ing looking over his shoulder with affected shy- ness, or nattering Bturdily away. Hts little wiles and pranks had a curious attraction for her. Decidedly Don Rex waa right wheo

he privately thought Ann had a strong

maternal instinct.

Another day Mrs. Murphy, with lazy warmth, invited Ann to pay her a visit in Jamaica " ll you have no other frieuds you I could be married from my house," quoth she.

Ann shuddered, be thinking herself how Patrick Rryau would stare at the suggestion and scorn the disparity of station between herself and this excellent quadroon friend. And so she gently raised objections, veiling the refusal in vague words. Nothing was definitely settled ; ' he' might after all be ret urning to England.

Well for her, in view of after events, that she did so ; because-But that will bc told

tater ou iu tills story.

Thus it came to pasB that Ann, in the great

stillness which bad come over both ber mind

and body, told herself that having had a chance of the greatest happiness life can give, she was of free witl accepting the second beat. Hut then, so many of UB must. So she was glad to divert her thought with each new im- pression thc west coast had lo offer. And thc Hritiah captain enjoyed apinniug yarna to please his beautiful passenger ; such as every-

one hears who sails those seas.

Two mile from Caldera they passed a rock

where the s s. Atacama was wrecked a few

years ago. There waa no time to lower a boat in thc eight or t^n minutes before she swiftly sank ; yet one hundred souls were saved alive, they hardly knew how, floating ashore on wreckage. And one passenger-alt au the coast will know Iiis name-look at the shore some two miles distant, then at his bride. As the waters swirled over their heads, he struck out with her to swim to land. It was a long effort, but he was a strong man, aud set bis teeth. At last he touched thc beach, Think of his triumph. He lifted t he girl in his arms, spoke to her, cheered her, but-she was dead I As the ship want downe spar must have struck her head, a fit.il blow ; and all the time he was swimming, it was a corpse he risked his

own life to save.

"Oh, what a stunning blow at the very height of his joy !" cried Ann pityingly. " lt

must have drive him almost mad."

" Yes, they say be went ' loco,' " returned the captain, tupping his forehead significantly "It was ten ye»rs ago, aud mercifully lie is dead. Take a sailor's experience, Miss Montague, that swiming is of little or no use at sea. Best go quietly. Wc once lost the fluent Bwiinmer I ever knew off Cape Horn. He fell overboard in the dark, and I can hear Iiis Bhrieks still, calling after us. Searched for him and at thc risk of seven men's Uvea lowered a boat ; but we never found him."

Soon at Antofagasta there were tales to tell of the famous silver mine, the Huanchaca, up yonder on the heights. And down by the shore, the tall chimney of the silvery foundry was seen puffing away, night and day ; week in, week out.

"lt would cost too much to let the fires die out even on feast-daya or Sundays."

Ann learnt how deeply attached ore not only the natives, to the lonely townlets on these desolate shores, but even English strangers

drifted hither.

The captain pointed out to her thc wooden dwelling of one merchant, who, after forty years of exile, went back to Europe ; but he could only stand the change six weeks. The coast was his home, said he, and he returned thither to die-in due time.

Then followed the joke, of how the intensly dry air of this coast ia so healthy that, at another spot where the townsfolk made a cemetry with great pride, no one could be found to occupy it. At last they sent down south, and bribed a supposed dying beach- comber to come up from hospital, and be buded with honours. When lo and behold I he recovered.

At Tooopillo where the great mountains shelved at a sharp anglo ioto the deep ocean, the Bkipper pointed out the mouth of a copper mine up yonder, which made the fortune of two British brothers. They hrought out some Cornish miners to show the natives how to work. Hut it did not answer, seeing that on the first day, when some hundred of feet underground, the Cornish lads heard a strange roar, at which the walls and floor of their black prison shook. The experience of Paul and Silas was a trifle to compare with it Every man clambered out up to the surface, as fast os he wai able ; when they heard it was -only an earthquake.

" Let us go home by the next ship. This is too near a certain hot place for us. they said and grimly departed. At whioh the despised natives scornfully smiled.

But this was naught compared with the stories of tidal waves that have swept away Iquique ; that moat important town on the coast, after Valparaiso. One earthquake in '68 caused a frightful fire in tbs wooden built town, from tho oil lamps being all upset ; but of this the inhabitants had warning, and fled to the hills with safety, for the sea receded to a great extent before gathering itself into the terrible wave which followed.

" How do people go on living in so danger'

oua a placet Are they not nervous every minute of the day ?" exclaimed Ann, naturally enough.

" Let us ask these residents," proposed the captain, for some stray English merchants had come on board, bound for Peru, making the next diys more pleasant for Ann on deck and at meal times. The newcomers grimly smiled, shrugging their shoulders.

" Money is to be made,11 was the curt reply.

rio day succeeded day on the Pacific waters, and the barron ranges of mountains, sandy coves, hamlets where the water is mostly dis- tilled from the sea, porta where it is fetched from inland for some eighty miles in pipes. There was little variety, save that here the sea lions might be seen basking thick npon the rocks, and yonder, the pelicans sat on reefs in melancholy rowB. How they hung their heads, first on one side, then the other, as though their huge beaks were too heavy, and gave them a crick in the neck. And a big seal would reach ita brown body half ont of the water, and gr n at the drooping-headed birds, like King David's dog.

At last, one morning, the ship glided past a Bandy, sunny valley, breaking the coast line of cliffs. To Ann's surprise, the quarter- master aought her with the captain's compli- ments, and would she kindly come on to tho bridge for a mb abe. So the bar wes lifted, separating this hallowed end of the deck from that given up to the passengers. Passing the officers' cabins, and chart-room, Ann found the captain awaiting her in what was com- paratively a secluded spot. Only the steers- man was near, busied with the wheel.

"What have you got to show mel" Bbs asked, cheerfully.

Then she perceived with surprise that thc good sailor began stammering nervously, as he held a small object in his brown palm.

" 1 have Bomcthing here I am to give you. That is, a certain friend of yours ooinmissioned me to do this day, and off this very part of the

coaBL"

" What joke is this !" Non was smiling.

" No joke, Miss Montague, but a memento of Chili, I faticy. It is from Don Edoardo young Palmer, I mean."

"Ahl" Ann's face changed, every nerve in her being felt alive, and she took the small sealed packet offered her with faltering, almost reverent, fingers. The captain saw as much, and turned brusquely to the rail.

" See yonder I" said he, pointing towards thc land, fiat fixing bis eyes there, lest honest fellow-he should read more than his companion should wish written in her face. " That is the CanieroneB Valley, the boundary between Chili and Peru, though it is still a kind of debatable ground. Tbe day you oame on board, before we sailed, he asked me to give you this keepsake when we saw the last of Chili. He sent you a message that he trusted you would have a kind farewell fer his native land, and would wear his gift in days to come with a thought sometimos for himself. Yes, those were his very words. I havo repeated them to myself once or twice since to make sure.".

"Thank yon." Ann said no more. The oaptain moved away to the further side of the wheel, staring at a frigate hawk through his glasses with much attention.

Feeling in a dream, Nan opened the case,

[ look out a lovely pearl and diamond ring,

slipped it slowly on ber finger. For a miu or two BIIB contemplated the glittering ge then her eyes fixed themselves on the rceed coast; they tilled wit li a few big tears t slowly fell.

The captain had chosen, with kind ft thought, perhaps, the only spot on bo where she could be perfectly safe fr intrusion or iuquitiiivc observation.

And so they sailed up northward still, f thc giant bluffs of Arioa and the umpeaka dreariness of Moliendo, set in its sand-dui thc ship rocking all one night, and next < in a terrible swell. Treacherous Pacific I ] a ripple showed on ita oily surface, yet slow heaves were mighty and deep. Fide were set ou the tables, there were smashes oroukery, of flower pots crashing from nidi while now and again sounded the alampe, of frightened hurses aft. The decks w almost deserted, for all the Peruvian ladi sud most ol the men, were ill in tlu-ir bert But the chief disaster happened in thc st

small hours.

It was about two in the morning when A was awakened by loud screams from M Murphy's adjoining cabin, which roused eve one down that side of the ship. Out popí inquisitive heads, white figures shot* through door cracks ; and ab ,ve lite habel inquiries rose the Jamaican lady's voice

shrill shrieks.

" Thief 1 thief I He's got my petticoat.

Who I How should I know ? An ann ati through the window."

It required all thc soothing powers a and skill of the officer on watch to discutan] har wrathful wulla tho tauts of thia miling burglary. Sleeping willi the electric light " for company," and.ber shutter down, I: unbolted, Mrs. Murphy had roused lo se< brawny hand and arm thrust through t window, clutching au under petticoat wiü bidden pocket, in which she kept a certi sum of money.

" Only the Chilian notes, thauk Providonc though it is too soon for thanks, " she moan rocking herself to and fro un the cab threshold. " I keep the.gold in another, a the silver-Dear Lord I what ani I sayin

However could the horrid fellow Bee 1 hi anything tu that pocket, unless he was spy ii through the shutter while I counted II money? .... I was out of bed in trice, and down tbe deck in my bare fet But all I heard was someone tunning awi softly in the darkness. Ab I if I'd caug him, I'd have settled him." Her black ey flashed, her stout arm was uplifted. WI would have guessed thiageuerally iuert fems form hid such possibilities of wrath ?

" Poor Mrs. Murphy 1" commented the pi songes next morning, agreeing among thci selves that if she ever caught her Nicholas, si would make a finer example ol him than an one heretofore thought. Never indeed il Mrs. Murphy get her money back; thouj the captain did his best to have tbs ship ai sailors searched. " Possibly," sighed 1 " the booty is stowed away cunningly anion

the coala.

All next day the defected wife sat "ou ll boil," so to speak ; her righteous auger read to overflow when they should touch Calls next morning. For ber Nicholas might t there-having searched for him vainly hither! chances she believed were increaaiug in he

favour.

" And then 1 oh then I" she snorted.

Anu held somewhat aloof from her brow friend under these circumstances, being lil« wise preoccupied. She kept asking hersell " What shall I feel like to-morrow V

Next day it was drizzling with rain from fjrey sky, as the steamer lay to off a grce and-spit, covered with low houses. Dow went the ship's ladder, and down went Mri Murphy, the first to tumble into the neares shore boat, almost knocking over the thin ship's officer in her baste.

Ann meanwhile dressed herself in he Sunday hat and skirt, and her prettiest piol skirt (it was one that Bryan once admired] The sens« of being well dressed always mad Nan feel that she loved ber neighbour ; it prc doced a sense of peace akin to piety. Ii dignified isolation she now leant for half ai hour over the ship's side, watching the ebor boats come and go ; first, with auxious eyes then in disappointment, anger, resignation The half hour became an hour ! an hour and i half; and she, almost last« was left on th deserted upper deok.

Suddenly a step sounded behind, a waru breath smelling of whisky fanned ber cheek while two hands pressed with heavy familiarity on the girl's shoulders, and down her shapely

baok.

" How dare you ?" Nan faced round witt flaming eyes, ready to strike some unknowi cad. Then her cheek blanched, and

" You !" she uttered, her hands fallinf limply at her side. The man beside ber wai Patrick Bryan.

Patrick Bryan indeed-but with i

difference.

CHAPTER XXVIII.-THE LA>D OP THE

SON.

" Well, my girl I It is jolly meeting liki this, eh ? I was not sore to the last wnethet you would really come."

" Not eure ? But I had promisod. Did yoi aot think I would keep ray word ?" Ann'« beautiful brown eyes, with different, and still greater surprise, stared wide at Bryan.

The man was changed, strangely changed, in dress, appearance, and manner. His face was reddened, and surely coarsened ic features. He wore the same dark blue suit, that had looked so fresh and' well cut, on board thc " Yarrow," now stained and dusty ; his collar was frayed ; his tie an orange silk wisp. A sense of humiliation and disappoint- ment sickened Ann's soul, BO thar for a moment or two she felt faint, and was glad tc sit down, trembling, on a benoh.

" A trifle upset, eb?" said Bryan, scrutin- ising ber face closely, as if surprised in his turn. " Let me fetch you a cocktail from the bar. I have just been having one myself, with the first officer, to pull me together before serving you. Ha 1 ba I"

"I thoughtyou were neverooming. Every- one else has left the ship ages ago.

Ann could not help tho reproach rising to her lips, any more than tears to her eyes. It seemed so bitter, after her great sacrifice for Patrick Bryan's sake, that be should be neglectful. And this their first meeting, too, after mont hs of being parted.

" I know it, Ann. Don't be bard on me. The fact is, I overslept myself this morning, Ann. We bsd rather a wet night at the English Club. You know my lazy habits of old, don't yon, Ann ?"

The reiterated sound of her name jarred on tho girl's fastidious ear. It was uttered with every-day familiarity, too ; how different from the tender, chivalrous tones in which another used to utter the same monosyllable, no matter how often in the day he might addresi

her.

"Come, cheer up. You'll be feeling all right presently." Bryan again laid his hand on her shoulder, a caress which Ann did not feel she ought lo resent, for they were alone on deck, and waB he not engaged to her?

" Tell me what sort of a time you have had on board, while 1 have a bit of a Binokc. Thcu I'll take you on shore to have a look

round."

Thankful to hide her inner sense of smarting disappointment, Nan obeyed. And instead of the lovers' confidences interchanged, thc happy silences only broken br utterances of joy, which she had dreamed o'when picturing this meeting long ago. -Ah, long ago, when sailing round the Straits-here, iii five minutes after their first hand-clasp, Ann was describ- ing with forced gaiety the humours of thc

voyage.

"And then, there ÍB a Mrs. Murphy to tell you about. Thunder and lightening, as I called her; but," confidentially, "I have only told that, to the captain, for elie is a dear good

soul,"

"Mrs. Murphy! Who is she? Where does ahe come from ? Why do you call her thunder and lightning?" Bryan was busy filling bis pipe.

" Why, Because she is so large, and dressed i in black, looming like a thunder cloud. Then

she always shows a streak of white down the j

back of her skirt, the lightning flash, we call it," prattled Ano, answering hit last qosition first. " And abe comet from Jamaica, your own part of the world. Not that I suppose you would know ber. SI» is on a hunt after her runaway husband. What are you duing ?"

Bryan just thea dropped his pipe, and tried to pick it up with unsteady fingers. Had he ! -agaiu ll«) horrid thought Bashed over Ann's mind-had he taken too much spirits t Alas 1 be implied as much himself.

" You'll forgive me, I know," he muttered, rather thickly, " but that last nip of whisky was rather strong, and what with this con- founded sun-phew I HI go to the side here, and try to cool my head a bit."

He stepped forward to the rail, and, lifting his hat, lei the faint sea breeze stir the thick, damp locks which Ann had once, secretly, so admired. Ten minutes passed, during which Ann's feeling, like sensitive harpstriogs, quivered in dibcord with a aeuse of degrada- tion, fui ur» trouble, and loss of respect for the man she had chosen to be the lord for her future life. In a flash she understood what many women have to endure through long years, yoked to an iuferior mate; then a divine balm of pity oozed from the wounds her lover had inflicted on her soul. For- getting disgust, Nan was grieved he should have sunk in her esteem ; in that of others ; nay, his owu. No doubt wheu away from the influence of friends, he had happened among low boon companions ; aud with bis open, im- pressionable nature, the result was not surpris- ing. If he could be kept Blraiuht, it would be a noble, womanly task to undertake.

Then huck came Bryan lo tho side of Iiis siv.-otlieart, with a forced smile.

" I have been thinking what is best for you, darling. You. must hurry up and leave the ship. It won't take long to pack your things, eh ?" Then iu answer to the girl's surprised remonstrances, almost consterna- tion. " The fact is, I haven't told you yet, but my business here is not quite finished. And of course I am net going to let you go on by yourself. Bather not." HÍB eyes lit up with an eager glance of open admiration, which in any other man but her betrothed Aun would have holly resented as insolent.

" Yes, yes, we'll go on by another ship ; perhaps thc very next; that will depend upon how lung my cash holds out. Our friends Thanet and Billy Wool are here. They are not going on by th¡8 old tub any more than we aro. We'll all go together, eh ? Ah!-you

rise to that bait."

For at the mention of her trusted friends, Ann's face changed,, and rebellion' died out within her, though some doubt remained.

Briefly, by turns authoritative and coaxing; Bryan urged her to deas ho wished. In a few days at most, bis business, which was important, would be set to rights. Surely

sbe did not wish to travel without bim?

This with eager eyes burning into hers, sad an arm that tried to steal round Nan's waist.

"Come, it will be all.right."

Ann would be put up at a hotel in Lima ; see the sights. Bryan, would take the bert

care of her.

" Dash, it ali ! After coming so far for my sake, you won't throw me over now, little girl, will you T That would be rather too much of a sell, darling, wouldu't it ? You'll trust yourself to rae Ann, won't yon ?"

" Why of course I do trust you." The words oame slowly from the girl'alips. She was bewildered,

Tben: Bryan begged har to bustle up and only now toke- on. shone what was most necessary. Tbs, steamer would not leave bafore three days';. Ann could return for the rest ol her luggage.

(To be conlinmd.)