|Chapter Title||HUSBAND AND LOVER.|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Half Round the World to Find a Husband. A Comedy of Errors|
CHAPTER. XXXV.-HUSBAND AND LOVER,
How quiet it was on firm land : so steady under foot. No more wild noises overhead or around.
The morning was wintry, yet pleasant with bright sunshine, as Ann was carried northward in a third-class railway compartment. (The store in her purse had grown slender indeed hy now). After the voyage he face was pale, but wor? a faint smile ; that was gratitude for the feeling thal things were not now at their worst. Yes, after all, she was not ill, nor starving, nor shipwrecked ; she was young and had strength to work. To bc dependent upon Aunt Barbara would he to drink the dregs of humiliation. Who know what employment might not soon be found ? Mean- while our traveller gazed dreamily at the country, that was like a succession of tochs, mirroring the wintry landscape ; fer " the floods were oui." Whit a contrast to the arid lands and barren mountains of thc rainless Pacific coast ; to thc tropical loveliness of thc
Ann settled in her own mind that BIIC would not wire to Aunt Barbara, who declared that telegrams always meant ill news. " And I don t want her to say that of my home coming, although Indeed she very likely will." The solitary girl, therefore, decided she must sleep iu Liverpool this night. Silo only knew of one hotel, that where she had stayed on the uevcr to-be-forgotton night of her proxy wedding. I uckily they would know her, would think her respectable. So there she arrived ; was recognised, indeed, and surprised them by her modest request for a small room on' a higher floor than on lier hist visit. How strange it was before she fell UBluep, aching and weary, to think of thal last time, then to recall all the strange events which had crowded so thickly siuce upon each other's heels, that this year seemed more full of incidents than all her previous life.
Next morning, as Anu descended to break- fast, an obsequious waiter coughed and
"Mrs. Palmer, I think. You sailed with Captain Goodman, madam, last sprlug, I fancy. His ship is doc this morning, the ' Yarrow1 ; but you did not come by ber, I
How Ann's heart sprang up at thoughts of meeting ber good friend ; of nearing news ,of
«till Delta bat far-deaperones. Hardly wait- ! ing to drink a cup of toa, abe hastened to the, dooks, Joined tbs harrying steam of those going on board to greet their (rienda, was jostled by others hastening on atore, Dear old ship I Atm's heart watered, looking at tho massive sides, that not ao looa.ago had ploughed the bay near tl« seaside howe of her lost Cbilisn lover. Among tho orasrd stood thc captain's portly figure. Ria cheery voice rang out in in great surprise *t sight of Ann's faoe.
"You here? Blass my soul I Are you married-or what) baa brought you back ?"
" I am nnt-and a ship brought me back. But I tm so glad to see you again. How are t hey all in Chili J l)o Uli me ?"
Captain Goodman «nw holding I otb Ann's hands, giving them occasional shakes, and looking her Full iu the face. She coloured under hie gaze at her own last words.
" Look here, £ am muoh too busy for talk i'ustat this minute," said the skipper, good
lumouredly, "but if you wautnews of all our friends, and will do a real kindness, why, ju t go up to my oabin there and wait. I have a Chilian ou board, a great friend if the Palmers ; possibly yon may know him. You won't bo able at first to make much sense out of the poor fellow's English, perhaps. He is feeling lonely. Speak Spanish to him till I
Ann hesitated ; would have excused herself, but Captain Goodman called his boy and waved his hand in adieu, plunging down the stairway out of sight, as he reiterated. "Mind you wait till Iconic."
Sn, conducted to the captain's tiny cabin with its photographs, books, and little oma inents all fastoned securely ship shape, Ann sat on tho snfa feeling suddenly sad. The stranger could not tell all BIIC wished to ask about lier dear frieuda, and yet crumbs muy l>c a comfort when one is starving. Yes, yes! He could at least say whether lier fears were true ; whether Don Rex had married Sarita.
So thinking, ttie few minutes seemed hours before a firm titcp sounded outside. Somebody pushed past the ouruin before thc oabin
"StSor," began Ann.
But the polite Spanish phrase she was pre- pared lo utter died on her parled lips, as iuBlead she gave a sudden cry, ol sharp almost unbelieving joy.
" You 1 you 1"
Rex Palmer stood in tho doorway.
" Aún," he uttered, in a tone much lower than hers, yet still more astonished. Then as she rose in her surprise, the wau almost made a slep back ; lie turned pale. " Tell tue, are you married 7 Yon are here on your honey- moon 1 What, no?" (For Ann shook her head) " No ! In it possible you are free ! free !" And springiug forward, Rex grasped her haudn, and would have drawu her closer. |
Now Ann in her turn, drew back. " But you, you ! What briugs you here," she cried.
"Guess! Try to guess 1" Rex was smil- ing ; looking absurdly, ridiculously happy.
"Are- you married? Are you on your honeymoon? Is Sarita-"
" Nonsense, my net. I have brought over Tony, with Sarita's boy, and another young rascal of the same age, to putjthem to school ; and what rows they have made on board 1" Then laying bis bands softly on Ann's shoulders, Bex looked her full in the eyes long. " How covld you think I Was likely to marry Sarita. No ; but it is true that I consider myself betrothed, under the most solemn promises to another woman. And unless she disavows those she haB made lo me j
-unless she, Ann, breaks them, I hold them ' sacredly binding on myself. Why do you look eo pale, little one? Do you not, loo, feel in your own soul bound by that proxy marriage ceremony, through which you went
last year ?"
" You think me married !.
You believe I really -should think myself married tc your father." Ann was pale indeed, white to the lips. Her eyes gazed full of unspoken misery io the man's face above hers. She was trembling like an aspen leaf under his touch ; alie stood like a victim awaiting her doom from his lips.
Rex grasped her atmoBt roughly by both arms, holding her, indeed, from falling. He stared as if doubting his eyes and ears.
" To my father I What mad idea fe this," be cried amazed. "If you were going to marry anyone, it was me."
"To you! Anita told me she was to marry old Don Edoardo. They all-Captain Good- man, every one, only spoke of Don Edoardo .Oh I What does it mean ? My head is dizzy."
" It means that Anita meant me as your husband, my love, my queen I It menus that you made so extraordinary a mistake, my foolish pet, that no one dreamt of such a thing and so you were never enlightened. 0, Ann I -Ann !-Ann ! " Hex had caught Nan close in her arms, straining her to bie heart, "My child ! No wonder your poor little conscience wss troubled, when you were with us, and how harshly, how unchivalrously wc must all have seemed in your eyes to act. Yet you were so sweet to us, Ann, so forgiving and so generous, although believing we would sacri- fice your youth to old age ; although I must have appeared as if trying to supplant my own father. You are an angel I"
Whereupon Ann could not answer, for her lover, her really betrothed husband, sealed her lips fast in a long-drawn passionate kiss. It was a thousand times sweeter to the
woman because more gladdening than the last, and first, frenzied kiss, in which their souls had mingled once before, only to part. Now, blessed thought I be was hers ; she was his. This man against whom she leaut close was henceforth through life her lord and master. And, as she looked up at his noble head, Ann's Ímises thrilled with pride no less than adoring ove. As for Don Edoardo, if he felt that, de- spairing passion reaches a higher pitch of eustacy than the heaven of bewildering happi- ness in which he seemed to float till his choice would have undoubtedly been the latter emotion of the two.
Ann was at last trying to explain in broken sentences how the mystification had first arisen, and never been dispelled in her mind when a shout was heard outside, and Master Tony raced into thc cabin, Singing his anns round Ann's ucck, and pushing away hiB father with indignant protest.
"Ann-Anita 1 This is jolly I Why are you kissing her, father ? She would much rather kies mc than you. The captain said you were here, and told me to wait, because you wer e perhaps talking business together. But 1 knew you would be glad to see mc, so I
" I um glad, Tony ; very glad," and Ann in turn hugged the bny.
"So am I," laughed Don Edoardo, to call him at last by his rightful name, looking down fondly on them both.
So after all Ann did not pay her respect to Aunt Barbara in thc solitary and friendless manner she had anticipated : that of a poor relation going to beg a lodging.
The samo ufternoon saw our heroine driving along the flat wintry road she had BO well known and hated : but now no longer alone, for her affianced husband eal by her side.
"And so you really thought that Sarita and I might get married," he was Baying; "0, .Ann-how I keep repeating your name, my sweet-were, your eyes bliuded? Why, all the time she was over bead and ears in love with somebody else 1 Can't you guess his name ? Somebody who cared for you."
" For me ? But there was only Yal Brown ! Why aro yuu smiling ? O, ' Rex I-Im- possible !"
" A fact, dear. They are married by now, and, don't be vexed ; but he says he never really loved anyone before. He had t ho grave impudence to tell me so."
How both the happy pair laughed ! Then they came in Bight of thc tea-caddy oottage.
It was a rosy, ecstatic Ann Montague to whom Mary Ann oponed the door with grudging surprise, which changed to some- thing like a sour'emile as that thin-faced Abigail surveyed 'Edward Palmer's goodly figure.
AB usual Aunt Barbara was sitting over the fire wrapped in a shawl. Like mistress, like maid ; ber evident start ot unwelcome astonishment changed to prim assurances that sbe had " expected as much. " (This meant a
oephew-in-law). "And all I can toy, my dear, la, you went half round the world for a husband, eo DOW you hare got Mm, I hope you'll be happy."
''I trust to, too," said both Don Eáoarío
and Ann's voiras in unison.