Chapter 59577625

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Chapter NumberXIV
Chapter TitleTHE FLIGHT FROM THE PALACE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59577625
Full Date1880-11-06
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count2031
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)
Trove TitleThe King of No-Land
article text

CHAPTER XIV. THE FLIGHT FROM THE PALACE. It was said afterwards that -for-a hundred years such a storm had not been experienced in No-land as that which broke over the country on the night of the abdication of, the_ King. The wild winds shrieked through the forests, uprooting the trees, and sway ing them as though they were blades of grass; the rain came down with the force of a deluge, and rivers rushed thrbnough the street? ; the thunder shook strong buildings to their foundations, and many persons were struck dead by lightning. The pious wept and prayed, believing that the last day had come; the souls of men whose days had been evilly spent fainted within them, and the sinners trembled and repented and made vows. While Iris, sitting up in her lowly cottage, listened to the wind, and prayed that no harm would befall her friends, her sisters, Lucerne, and Daisy, were sound asleep, and our Iris was working after midnight by the light of one candle, putting a stitch here and a stitch there in their humble clothing. A tender little mother was our small maiden, working with cheer fulness and patience and love. The storm had overtaken Sassafras in the woods. His own fault, chiefly, that he was there when it broke, for he ha'. dallied with the time. He had carefully planned all the details of his flight, but what was to follow he had left to chance. Only when he had thrown away the key of his private lodge, and had plunged into the forest, did he begin to think of what should be his next steps. To go to Bluebell's cottage at such a time of the night was impossible ; and when his thoughts reverted to Coltsfoot as a refuge, he was dismayed by the reflection that his strange and unexpected appearance, taken in conjunction with the flight of the King, might engender suspicions in Coltsfoot's mind. It was a wild and improbable contingency to fear, but conscience magnified it, and made it reasonable and probable to the thinker. Well did he know that, in such an event, all hope of a happy and peaceful life with the beloved of his heart would be utterly and completely destroyed. The risk, therefore, was too great to run. Where should he hide? Where should he find a refuge ? He sat himself down to think, but his mind was in a whirl, and he wearily raised his hand to his aching head. He was tired and faint and hungry; scarcely an ounce of food had passed his lips that day; he had been too overwrought and excited to give a thought to material things. His nerves had been strung to a dangerous tension during the last few weeks, and un consciously he had overtaxed his strength, physically and mentally. This had not made? it elf apparent during the fever of events- through which he had passed ; but now that he had, as it were, flung his past life behind him, nevermore, as he vowel and resolved, to be resumed, now that he was relieved, of the exquisite torture which his heart and soul had suffered for so long a time, his strength gave way. A sudden weakness fell upon him ; an aching weariness oppressed him. He found him-elf listening, with listle=s curiosity, to the sounds in the air which portended the approach of the storm. A vacant smile carne to his lips as he heard the first low growling of the thunder. The trees sighed and bent ; he heard the sighs, aunI he connected the sounds with such thoughts as were uppermost in his mind, shaping them into words, and singing them in a vacant manner, and yet in rhythm with the murmur of the tree.. He saw them bend, and they assumed the forms of the persons with whom he had come into contact--of the unfortunate man who had attempted his life-of court parasites bowing and bending before him-of Old Humanity -of a vast concourse of people surging this way and that. Iris crept softly to the bed where Lucerne and Daisy were sleeping, and kissed them both, the tenderest caress being given to Daisy, who, as the youngest, most needed her care. A perfect little Daisy indeed, bright, fresh, and smiling in her sleep. Her little fingers closed upon Iris's hand as this guardian angel of the lowly dwel ling leant over her and caressed her closed and clasped with eloquent af fection. With a bright smile upon her dear and patient face, the little woman tenderly placed Daisy's arm beneath the clothes, and tucked up both the children to the very creases of their necks,- so that not a gap was left for the cold air to creep through. Then she went back to her work, and re sumed her stitching. The first distinct peal of thunder broke over the. woods. Sassafras laughed aloud. He had removed his cap from his feivereed head. The fir?t few heavy drops of rain fell. He raised his - hand to his forehead,- antd felt the rairidrops, wonderingly.'' A flash of lightning darted into the erth: and in the aidden blaze ofblight hesaw strange faces appear and :'disappeai? and tihena white form which his fancy imagined into Bluebe!l He started to his feet, and strove to trace the se quence of events which hiad ledlhim into these daik wvidls4 into this nidhtal chios. Memory :returned jt him gradlually, .and tehen :heknew, byV the burni,,g of his fle-hb, by he .ternembling tf his-li ibs, hv the dreadful" sickiiecs in his heart, thai he was ill and weak, and thait it behoved him to-find a

sheelte w h ould, e.directhis steps ? ""1 f 1 ..His mind wan 6M7 again: Dark shapes and forms -melted into one another, 'meited sulddenly -'in the picturedof: a' chutchyard, with three small fiddlers playing over a grave. This picture came to him in another vivid flash of lightning ; and, impelled partly by delirium, partly by reason, which was struggling vainly to regain its sway, he' walked mechanically to wards the house in which his young friends lived. The rain beat down upon him; he -did -ndt know that he had dropped his cap, and he raised his hand and placed it, as he thought, upon his still uncovered head ; the lightning played about him ; the thunder whirled in his mind. Still he struggled on, directing his steps aright. .But his" progress was slow; he had to feel his way, and it is doubtful whether he would not have been compelled to give up the attempt in 'despair had he been quite seinsible 'and responsibly con scious. - - Iris, having completed her work, put away her needle and thread, and carefully folding up the clothes, placed them aside. -Then she undressed, and knelt to her prayers, and crept into bed next to Daisy, who in her sleep nestled close to her sister-mother. The cottage was in darkness. 'How cold it must be outside,' thought Iris, 'and how nice and warm here ! I hope it will be fine to-morrow.' The last thought that dwelt in her mind, before she fell asleep, was the comfort able one that the water-butts would be quite filled in the morning. The wind shrieked and moaned without, now lashed into agony, now exhausted by pain. It bore presently upon its wings sighs and moans of human suffering. A lull in the storm took place. Iris was not, like her sisters, a sound and deep sleeper; she had too many cares. Generally in the middle of night she awoke, and thought of things, reckoning up mentallyihow much money they had, and scheming and planning. She woke on this night, and as she lay thinking, a groan fell upon her ears-fell heedlessly and without meaning at first, for she was not fully conscious; but when it was repeatel, she sat up in bed quickly, and li-tened, not sure even then that it was not a trick of her fancy. Again she heard the sound of suffering. What should she do? The question was asked and answered in a breath. Our little maid did not know what fear was ; she knew what suffering was, for she had nursed her mother through a long sickness ; she had been acquainted with it from her earliest years. Up she rose bravely, and went to the door. She heard the groans plainly now, and unconnected words in which her own naume, and the names of Daisy and Lucerne, occurred. She lit the candle, and after assuring herself that Daisy and Lucerne were still sleeping, she opened the street door softly. 'Who is there?' she asked. A moan answered her. The wind rushed in, and extinguished the light. Iris shivered with cold. Her warm bare feet were chilled when she ad vanced upon the door-step She stretched out her hand, and felt about in the darkness. It came to a human face, and a hot hand strove to grasp hers feebly. 'Who is it?' asked the little maid, with a palpitating heart. 'Who are you ?' In the unintelligible words that followed she recognised the voice of the friend they all loved so we-l, nadl with a man's strength she helped the sufferer into the house, he crawling after her, animated only by the instinct that to lie where he had falien was certain death. She closed the street doer ehen lie was safely inside, and re-lit the candle. Then she saw that it was indeed her friend, and with compassionate cries she krielt by hi= side, and raised his head upon her lap. He was wet to the skin, and the water was oizing away all around him. She questioned him. anol wild words answereld hl-r; but he opened his eyes, and for a moment they rested ieunderly u:,on her free ; then he re lapsed int, delirium. iH:ow she gai ed the wisidoi that guided her actions HIeaven only knows; but she saw that he was ter; ibly ill, and thrat not a mo. ment w is to be lost. At this moment Lucerne awoke, and called out to know wiat was the matter. Iris bade her to get up immediately, and Lucerne obeyed her. When she came to the side of Sassafras, and recognised him, she began to cry. 'You musn't cry, you musn't cry !' exclaimed Iris, in an agitated tone. 'Light the fire, quick ! Put the kettle on. He is very ill, and we must nurse him.' All this time her hands were busy removing his wet clothes ; h:.ppily f.r her andl for himselfa lucid interval came to him. 'Do you know me? do you know me ?' inquired Iris, almost desparing, for she was not strong eno:igh to perform the duties required of her. 'Yes, you are Iris, and that is Lucerne there, lighting the fire. Dear children I dear children 1' 'Then quick! undre-s yourself and get into bed.' Swiftly she took Daisy in her armĀ·, out of the warm bed in which they had been lyi.g, anid with ttheir clothes she made a nest for the little one before the fire, and placed her comfort ably there. Daisy did not awake; nothing disturbed that little creature in the night. By that time Sassafras was in the warm bed, and presently Iris was by his side with a cup of hot rten, which he drank gratefully. He i.as still lucid. Indeed, he kept himself so by a strong effort of will; he had something to say before he would allow thd fever to master him again; he h.elt the delirium away fiercely. -y ?(To be continued). County Cork has been proclaimed a disturbed district. STwo mqn, named - respectively George Taylor aged 35, living off Wellington-street, Collingwobd. and Patrielk'Hinies,32, residing in Little Smith-street; Collingwood, were treated at the Hospital (bat ??t<admitteJ} .on Thursdy, for se?alp woid-. ?ntsed by a blast at the GaCs Works, RichmonJ. The men were eetting the blast-, and were nnable to get ont of the w~iay beforelit vwent of V- --. ;, t