|Chapter Title||BRYAN MEETS HIS BIG BLACK DIFFICULTY.|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Half Round the World to Find a Husband. A Comedy of Errors|
CHAPTER XXXIII.-BHVAN MEETS HIS BIO
BIM OK DIFFICULT!.
A scene of Jamaican tropical beauty met Ann's eyes as she rose next morning, light hearted as a lark. In spite of the noines of frogs and field crickets, she had slept well through the night, under her mosquito curtains. Thc air was cool after thc lute rain, and th ; Bowers in the garden were ruis I ing their heads, brighter for their late drench 1 ing. A small humming bird, much smaller
than her bird frieuds in Chili, was swinging on a spray close to Ann's open window. It had a I white breast and brilliant green buck, aud a
confident air as who should say " I um pro- tected by the British Government. You dare not hurt me." A little way off Bryan was lounging enjoying a moruiug smoke uuder a large cotton tree, of which the hospitable trunk offered lodging to a variety of aloes, bright corraliucs that flung their blossoms high up among its leaves, and all manner of other parasites. Hurrying her dressing, Nan soon tripped out and joined him.
"You are a good boy to be waiting herc already for mc, was her morning greeting, lier face wreathed with smiles. Then in
happy coaxing, " Kow let us have our talk, will you ? No time like the present."
" You are so late my dear girl. It is nearly eight o'clock and I have been up since five, before sunrise. It's much tho bosl pluu ont here, but I am starving by now," was Bryan's evasive unswer, in a glum tone, fling- ing away a half-smoked elgar. " You don t want to spoil my breakfast «Jo you ? Let mc have something first to eat, then on my honour I will tell you all."
The last words fell heavily from his lips, like so nittuy drops of load. Ann's spirits were somewhat dashed : then she revived, telling herself uftcr all she had at last brought him to the point. Who could holp looking on tho bright sido of things on such a sunny
Breakfast was already laid iu a stone ball which was the diuing room on tho ground floor. It was entered by a door between thc horse- shoe steps, and its cool darkness within wat appreciated by the mosquitoes, no less than human beings. A buggy, still half-piled with luggage, stood waiting outside on the gravel, tho boras steaming and tired. Evidentl) some new guest had arrived. Ann, leading thc way with light steps reconnoitered tb< shadowed interior, careful to avoid any un promising neighbour. There sat a portlj
form with ita broad back turned to her that seemed strangely familiar. It wore a' bonnet slightly awry, with the strings thrown baok for air ; a pair of glovss rolled into a ball lay among the breakfast dishes, and down the skirt of the black gown tbere showed a well known, white streak, A pair nf black Hebus straight as rushes, w oaring fashionable cotton gow IIB, hovered in attendance round the guest. The' coffee-coloured landlady sat opposite, deep in conversation. Evidently tue new- comer was a person of importance. And indeed noxt moment she raised b r voice in a tone of unmistakable authority. "(iivcinu some more fried mud fish, please."
" Dear Mrs, Murphy, I am so glad to see you again," cried Ann in a happy voice, going
" Uh, what dearie ?" Mrs. Murphy rasped her chuir backwards ou the stone flooring, pat- ing her knees with fal hands lo express her own reciprucil surprise. Hut this mutual satis- faction did not laBt loug. At that moment a little girl with kinky golden hair, who had trotted out of one of the bedrooms opening from the dining hall, raised her voice in shrill accents that arrested thc attention of all.
" Papaw, for sure !" and withdrawing her foreünger from her mouth she pointed it at the porch. There stood Bryan, his stalwart figure like that of man suddunly turned to stone. Mrs. Murphy sprang to her feet with such vehemence that upsettiug her cane chair she smashed the top mil ou thc stones. In
a scream that echoed from tho ratters and
pointing a fat hand shaking with conjugal wrath ut thc shame-stricken culp:it, she uttered wrathfully.
" Nicholas I"
Then, oh, then, thc deserted wife, the excellent Mrs. Murphy, might be said to break seven glass vials of wrath successively on the luckless Patrick's head, pouring them out over his person ; auger, contempt, re- proach, bitter sarcasm, and their fellows. The lidlt-afTrigiited landlady and maids listeued with titillating ears. Anu would have escaped but that the wrathful spouse aud her husband filled the doorway.
*' There, there ! That will ^o my girl," apo- logised Byran, twisting sud wriggling like u fawning dog that shrinks from a whipping. " Don't jaw like this before other people-it's u family afluir, you know-private. Ila, lia ! Come, Mai ia, herc I'm back, as you see. If you can't give me more of a welcome than this, why I may as well be oil again. The steamer goes to England to-morrow, and my kit is not unpacked.
"Indeed ! snorted Mrs. Murphy ; "indeed 1 Oh, ye», very fine." The snorts were decreas- ing in volume, like a train easing and stopping. " Von have the money, I suppose, to pay for your pussagc."
"And she "-looking after Ann, who just theu seeing her opportunity pasBed by in dignity, »iib ber head very high. "And she?"
Ann Btood still.
" We came back tc Panama together; only shipboard acquaintances, you Ttnow," ex- plained Bryan, hurriedly, under his breath. " Don't try to drag strangers into any little difference between UB, Maria. It is bad form-very bad form."
Ann moved haughtily into the outer porch. There Bryan caught her up in a few hurried strides. " Li-ten Ann ! Miss Montague 1" he breathed, with shame-stricken eyes. " You kuow I meant to tell you all this morning. You will do me that justice."
" Wretch 1" Aun's whale spirit gathered itself into a quintessence of scorn, to fling him that one word of execration. She turned on her heel and walked unsteadily up the brick steps.
Anita, who had been peeping ronnd the corner, a most elicited eaves-dropper to the late scene, linked her arm in that of her friend with a squeeze of support. " Send breakfast upstairs at once to my room," she ordered, in contemptuous tones. " We wish to have ours in private."
An hour later, she persuaded Ann to look out of the window. " They are driving away, dear ; they are going to the station. Evidently she is taking her Nicholas home to St. Anne s without loss of time. Yon may as well see
the last of thc villain."
" Yes ? There he goes," observed Ann, in haughty bitterness, carefully hiding herself behind the wooden shutters, and watching a family buggy, well laden, drive out of the gate. " There goes Mr. Patrick Bryan, with his big difficulty sitting beside bim, and his two little difficulties in front. Will he look round ? No-Yes " for Bryan, allis Nicholas Murphy, shot one lost disappointed glance at the green shutters, as the carriage turned into the high road, beating him away to his
"Oil ! it is all nonsence and quite stuff, to talk about going back to England to-morrow," expostulated Anita, after outpouring affection- ate condolences on her friend, whose postrate figure only faintly indicated the utter collapse of Ann's miud ; the crumbled ruin of her cotta^e-in-the-air abode of a patient wife and reformed liutband. Nan's trust in human nu i ure was cruelly shaken; belief in her own discrimination of character bid ita face.
" Listen, Ann 1 I consider myself your good genius. You should have married Don Edoardo, as I advised you. Now I must think what next is best to be done ; for yon cannot think for yourself, my poor Ann ; yon think too much for other people, that's it. .Yes, yes 1 I have it," clapping her hands gleefully, " you must stay with us here all the winter. All the unmarried officers
will fall iu love with you, and you will marry, let mc see-there ie the Major, or Captain Jonas."
" Indeed, I cannot !" Ann roused herself on ber elbow with a spark of reviving energy. Anita had already prattled in artless con- fidence, revealing her own and Weellie's slender stock of worldly gear. True, being blest with a large amount of the last gift in Pandora's box, they both managed to live simultaneously in luxurious castles with mutual satisfaction and congratulations on their joint luck.
" No, no ! I must go back. Thc story might get about here, and i should be laughed at-or pitied."
Thc room was darkened as usual at noon-
day, its green shutters being closed ; yet a
dark flush could be seen on Ann's cheeks. She was hot all over, although lying on u loug cane sofa, with a leather bolster, right under the open window, through which the day breeze, called " the Doctor " blew in Btrong, if warm, gusts. Ann was reckless of two moMjuioes that were trumpeting overhead. What mattered her looks now ; What mattered anything ? " Besides I can bc of no use to you, dear Anita," she ended weakly.
" Oh, yes ! you could, by and by," said Anita, laughing and blushing ; then solemnly. " And if I died next spring, dear Ann, I have been thinking, I should like Wccllie to marry you. Ves, really ; I should prefer you UB my successor better than anyone 1 know."
" You ure very kind to say so, dear," returned Ann in a most dubious tone of voice. It would be too ungracious to decline what Anita plainly thought a magnificent offer. " But, iudeed, I could never fill your place."
" So Wecllie said when I told him of my idea last night," oijscrved Anita, with artless satisfaction. " He said that you were an in- different likeness of mo iu his eyes, and that for IIÍB part he did not know how other people could think you handsomer." Evidently, Anita had quite forgotten that in former school days, she herself had more admired lier friend's beauty than her own, or else she only remembered it as a fit of mistaken generosity on her part.
"What strikes me as strange," thus Ann mused aloud presently, " is that you ran away and married without your parents' consent, which is generally considered wrong ; yet here you aro, quito happy. While I, on the other hand, tried to do right- what I thought at least was my duty, and I am very fairly miserable. Heigh-ho ! Is virtue tts own
" I don't at all agree that we did wrong," said Mrs. Finn, sententiously. " Weefiio always says that we followed the dictates of our hearts, which is the very highest human duty. He has such a beautiful way of ex- plaining things."
Ann stifled a giggle ia the leather bolster.
During a sleepy paule which followed, she reflected that much of the difference which existed between their present respective situa- tions, arose from their own different tempera- ments. Now she, Ann, would certainly be a little unhappy in Anita's place ; would grieve with her mother'« grief, at her father's anger, at exile from her old home, brothers and sisters, and the friends in Chili she would probably never see more. No such weak regrets, no useless repinings troubled Anita's soul. On thc contrary
" I will tell you a secret," confided the latter lady, rousing np. "There ia a very good
chauce that tho General here will make
Woellie his aide-de-camp, and that will be thanks to mo," (in a tone of pride). " He is suoli a funny, pompous little man ; very fat, with a red face, and big white moustaches But he admires pretty women, and ho says I sm a pretty woman. It isn't quite settled, but Wecllie thinks it will come all right, and CSIIB me his lucky star. Then wc can either afford a cottage of our own, or thu General will give us rooms in the house. He has a big pen out in tho country, and then you will come and stay with us dear ; that is settled. 1 will fit you up a sweet little room with wbiU>-no, let mn seo, pink curtains."
"Anita, you are a dear creature," cried Ann, laughing and crying. " Yes, that will bc a bright dream for the future. But now, indeed, 1 must go."
To be conJudrd ned week. |