|Newspaper Title||Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)|
|Trove Title||Who Was the Thief? A Story Founded on Fact|
WE left Cælia in tears; let us hope,how- ever, that we have not wasted much sym- pathy. Cælia was not made of the stuff which gives way to grief for an indefinite period nor that breaks its heart for the loss of a lover, more especially when she knew that she could fill up the vacancy in her affections at any time. True, she liked Peter Bell as much as any young woman of an intensely selfish nature and very moderate brain capacity could like anybody but her- self; but her liking had its origin not in
admiration for the mental endowments of Peter, not his manner, nor his character ; none of these had in any way assisted Peter in his conquest of the Burrenjoey beauty, who had succumbed to the attractions of his
" heavenly legs."
The nether extremities of the manly young cockie were the arms—excuse the paradox— by the aid of which he had stormed the hitherto impregnable citadel at Cælia's icy heart. These shapely limbs, clad in Bedford cord inexpressibles and irreproachable Wel- lingtons, had proved too much for Cælia. She saw, admired, and loved and wished, not like Desdemona that " heaven had made her a man," but that heaven had made Peter a policeman, in which case the irresistible
fascinations of the irreproachable legs would have had more frequent opportunities for displaying their perfections.
She shed a few tears, however, and then, having washed all trace of them away, went to a mirror and proceeded to comb her golden tresses. While engaged in this occu-
pation she made up her mind that Peter did take that five pound note, and that it was very mean of him to do so, and that she would give him up. But what did annoy her was the fact that her rival, Lizzy Mars- den, whom she mentally stigmatised as a " black-eyed cat,'' would rejoice at the break- ing off of her marriage with Peter.
Everyone at Barrenjoey knew that Lizzy Marsden was in love with Peter, and many indeed, wondered why he did not return her affection. He had always been a friend of Lizzie's mother, and had, in accordance with social usage in the domain of cockydom, frequently escorted Lizzie to balls, picnics and other amusements. In fact, Lizzie, who was a warm-hearted soulful little woman,
worth half a dozen of the fair haired belle,
had learned to regard Peter, as her private property. The local gossips had made up their minds that it would be a match, and a good one, when our hero upset all calcula- tions by proposing to and becoming the
accepted lover of Cælia Hawkins.
Cælia knew that Lizzie loved Peter; that even if he were sent to prison she would believe in his innocence and marry him when he came out; and the thought that he would go to her in his trouble, after receiving dis- missal from herself, gave her far more trouble than the loss of a lover did. I hate the cat," she said to herself in a genuine feminine way, and she meant it, for between the two women there existed a natural an- tagonism, which ran like a silent but deep stream between an egotistic and selfish char-
acter on the one hand and a generous and impulsive nature on the other.
Cælia had just given the last finishing touch to her hair when Peter arrived. She went out to meet him, and he sprang forward to embrace her, but she drew back haughtily——
"None of that please," she said, "have you seen father ?"
He looked at her in wonder. " What's the
matter, Cælia ?'' he said; "you look as cross as an old hen who has lost her chickens."
"Do I? Perhaps I have reason," she replied. ''Have you seen father? I ask you
"I saw him on the road, about a mile away."
" Did he not say anything to you ? Did he not forbid you to come here?" she asked.
"No ; what do you mean ? I hadn't many words with him. I told him I had this invite to the picnic, and asked, if you were at home. He said you were, and I cleared for here as fast as Dolly could carry me," and he looked as astonished as a man well could look.
"Now, Peter," said the lady, " when you wrote your letter in that room there was a five pound note on the table——"
" I know there was, I saw it. An old dirty blue back. I wondered, why you left it lying about," he said, frankly.
" Well, Peter, when father went for the money this morning it was gone, and as you were the only person in the room, why, father says——"
"By heaven," roared the young man, "does
he think I took the blessed note ?"
" He says appearances are against you, and
until you can clear yourself you must come
here no more."
Peter was overcome by his emotion. He shook all over, and his breath came and went in gasps. For a time he could not speak. When he could do so, he said,
" And you, Cælia, can you believe me cap- able of such an infamous crime ?"
" The money was there," she said, after a considerable pause.
"The money was there," he echoed. Of course it was, I saw it."
" And it is gone," she said, as coolly as a sergeant on parade.
"Oh, Cælia, do not torture me ; say you believe me guiltless on this detestable
She made no reply, and he continued,
" If you do not say you think me innocent I will leave the country and never return. I could never hold up my head in a land where, the woman I loved cast me off as a thief.''
" You had better wait and see father," she said, turning to leave the room ; " I am not
going to talk any more on the subject."
He looked at her now with flaming eyes. "By the Lord, Cælia, you will some day be sorry for this. You know that I would scorn to touch that money. I would sooner sink to be a dummy, a low, paltry, miserable, dummy, and loaf out an existence on another man's villany, than take a shilling that did not belong to me. Good-bye, and may God
He left the house and rode slowly home-
wards. Hawkins, who was coming along the road, saw him, and turned into tho bush to avoid a meeting. Peter noticed the action, and guessed the motive which prompted it. " It's' just as well," he thought, " for if the old man told me I was a thief his gray hairs would scarcely protect him from me now."