|Newspaper Title||Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)|
|Trove Title||The Best Christmas Box|
i .?, CHAPTER III. ,
" Now, my dear children, my-story-is ended," said Mr. Harle ; " and I want you to try,and guess who the poor woman is, for I have not told you where she lives ?"
" Well, Auntie," said the eldest, boy, " I have been almost bursting to ask if it really could be you." . . , 1 '
"Oh.- i. believe: it is," said Mary, the eldest girl, for in one instance the father called his wife Marion, and the little' girl's name was Minnie. ; , i.
"Tour name is Marion, Auntie, and here is Minnie, and you aro living in the suburbs of Melbourne. 1 It must be you, and, in-, deed, Auntie, I am truly sorry to learn that you have had such a dreadful time all these years." ?'
A third one exclaimed, " I see now, Aunt, why you are Bad on Christmas Day above all other days." ? -, -
"Yes, my dear," said Mrsi;Harle, "1 am that woman, and this day brings such .sad memories to me, yet I wait for its coming with feverish anxiety, hoping it will bring home my dear boy, though it seems like hoping against hope. Another Christmas is-nearly gone now, and no sign of., my Prank yet. Oh God ! whnt shall I dream to-night?" -. ????..?!
" Auntie," interrupted a little one (from the corner, who was a great believer, in the Christmas stocking, " perhaps : when ? Santa Claus tried to shove bim in your, slocking,
it wns not big enough, ho might have had to take him away again, and just left you
that nice fan and book marker.
All the others (Mrs. Harle and1 Minnie included) ' were laughing: heartily at the little girl's idea of Santa Claus trying , to stuff Frank into the leg of a stocking, when ha, ha, ha, was' heard on, the verandah, which surprised them.
' The door was instantly opened from out- side, aud a, strange'man stepped into , the room,- at the 'sight of whose face Mrs.; Harle fainted away. Minnie prevented her from falling; tho stranger also' grasped ? her,1 call- ing for water. . ??>.< ..'. ¡ /,,',>' ,*
The.little girl of the' stocking now 'spoke up again,,,','G-o away, you bad man,, and don't frighten Auntie" ¡:,, . i ???
' The oldest boy banded Minnie the water, which she applied to Mrs. Karie's temples and wrists, while . he turned 1 and faced the Btranger, demanding what bis busines .was, adding, if .you knew all our < poor Aunt has suffered; you'would not.harm her.
i , ' " Ah 1" said the stranger, " who ¡would
injure: her af ter listening to her tale of woe, as I have done? Be calm, children,'lisbali i not harm your aunt ; her trouble is about i ended ,\ for when she comes out of this faint¡ i she,- shall < behold ' her own dear son, . over I whom she has yearned so.long."' 1 ; .
i Minnie looked up wonderingly and asked,
"are you really her; little Frank that'was stolen ?" . '.
/ i " Yes mías,", he said, smiling.. " I am her little Prank grown to a . big: Prank ; I have travelled miles this weary "day to!see'her, and could not have come two hours sooner, if to save my life, for it is scarcely forty-eight hours since I knew who I was, or that my mother lived."1 .... % ¡ri..- »...
I -While he thus spake, Mrs. Harle opened
her eyes, looking rouud her.for; a moment,1 she . stretched out, her, hands, exclaiming, "Prank,; my darling,,is it. you, or am I dreaming again?"' < .
He embraced her, crying, it ' is I, dear mother, no dream, bat your own lost boy returned to you. I have craved .many years for this momeut of bliss. I remembered my darling mother, though I know not ber name, or if she were living or dead.
Mrs. Harle turned to Minnie, who, in ber modesty had moved towards the window, " Minnie, this is my son of whom you have heard so much. Prank, do you remember tho baby we found long ago ? This is her, grown to a fine young lady, ns you see. Minnie coloured slightly ns hor mother prnisod her, while Prank advanced and shook her warmly by tho hand, saying, I am pleased to greet my sister, though I remember her only as a dream. Turning then to the children, he said, mother, these ¡
are my cousins, I presume, for they all call you Aunt ?"
" Tes, ' she said, " they are the children ot my brother and sister ; we have them here every Christmas."
Frank greeted them all, kissing the brave little girl who ordered him as a bad man to go away, after having made fun of bim being put in a stocking. Mrs. Harle then began to question him as to where he had been, and how he was stolen.
" Mother," said Frank, " it is such a long story, and I am dreadfully hungry ; have yon eaten all the good things of the season ? Suffice it for the present to know that I am home never to leave you again."
? .'" Of course," she said, "In my ioy I had
forgotten to inquire ofter your appetite."
' Minnie hastened and prepared a good meal -for him, to which Frank did ample justice ; the children were put to bed, and Mrs. Harle cried and laughed in turns, telling him of all ber dreams about him, while he merely ate and listened, casting some admiring'glances at Minnie.' ,
' "When the three were quietly! seated again, Mrs. Harle said, "Now, Frank, I must know all before' I go to bed this night."1 ' : """" ."? ? ? '" '
.".Well, mother, I think the best woy to make a long story short will be to read to you a confession I have here (pulling a paper from his pocket) from the woman who kidnapped me, and who died in, the Narracoorte hospital just two days ago.''' ., i * A woman I" exclaimed Mrs. Harle ; " I dreamed it was, bat np one believed me." ,
Frank read in clear tones the confession,
which waa taken down in writing - by the matron- before the.. woman's - death but which ia too long to give in:extenso. Her. name - was Miss Pry, but she had for the last twenty-four years, as Mrs. Holt, widow,
She had hoped to marry Ambrose Harle,: and being disappointed vowed she would have revenge. Changing her . name,' she engaged as general servant with a-Mrs. Irving, on a station some forty miles from the Harles. "When there a few, years she was; severely reprimanded one day by Mrs. Irving in the presence of visitors. This made her very angry, and: she again vowed abe would hare reronge. Being trusted occasionally to; walk out with' their young infant daughter' (Grace),'she one day con- trived to place it in care of an old woman who was returning from a journey, and had still twenty miles tb go to where she lived. Mrs. Holt (as' she was then known) told the old woman it waa her own child, and She would ? come for it in two weeks time, she went . home then'and raised the alarm that the dingoes had taken .'the .babe while she climbed a steep . place to gather1 some berries. : The parents were terribly upset over it,- they had the surrounding places scoured in search of it, but only found the shawl that it was wrapped - in,, which the woman had artfully left a good way off to deceive them. , : They eave it un as a hone
less case,. believing, the woman to be quite true,' but dismissing, her for carelessness.' Shortly after this she left the child on the doorstep of the Harle residence, requesting them not to ; advertise it, so it j .was never found : out.. Í In.- ? a month's time, as,, we already know,- Prank; was stolen; To' do this she had dressed in male attire, which She afterwards changed, also . changing Frank's clothes for those of a female, thus escaping detection.' She made a ' clear statement of all she had done, , and where she travelled, which was nearly all. over Australia. .'The strangest of all is, that it .quite; >-corresponded : with Mrs.,, Ha'rle's
dreams. The ; woman told ; them Frank's, father was dead, and Grace's parents also;1 for she always got' news .from Bellfast., She believed--. .-Frank's mother lived there yet. After t'Miss Fry. had ; passed i away Frank arranged for her ' burial,' and ? made ; all haste for Bellfast, there to1 find that his mother had left four years ago.. However, going to the post office, he procured her address, and took train to Melbourne, arriving at his mother's,'.house just in time to hear, her sad story-, for he could not resist the temptation of.eaves dropping.i ,-... ':. . '?.:! ; r .ir ' 1 ?'When'Frank finished reading there were many questions to be asked and:' answered on both sides,,and then all retired .to rest, i