Chapter 61278975

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Chapter NumberXXIII
Chapter TitleBUDLEIGH.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61278975
Full Date1900-01-09
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count2234
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleClarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)
Trove TitleFrom Convict to Countess
article text

I

I CHAPTER XXIII.

BUDLEIGH. *4T^

"The wedding hells were ringing '*

as spectators hastened into Budleigh« A Town. Carriages came rolling in, and. great discussion was going on in, carriage and in street,Jtor the name» of the bride had not transpired, and: people were maddened accordingly.

" The Earl is most eccentric," said a fashionable dame. "I should not be at all surprised if it leaks out that there is madness in the family. They say, Amelia, that when he was abroad

he fell in love with some female

brigand, and that he was actually running away with her, but that her brother chased them on foot, and they

ran until the girl fainted, and the* . Earl and Jim-that is his horrid mani servant, you know-were so frightened that they left the girl lying on the road, and kept running until they got;

Baie away."

" I don't think you have the Btory exactly right, Letitia," said her com- panion. "I know for a fact that my version is a true one. v I had it from» Lady Peel, who had it from ; a.friendi who employs the late Countess' maid,. Julia I think her christian name ÍB; so there cannot be any mistake."* .

"The Earl ran off with the wife of . an Italian Prince, : and in order to

escape an infuriated husband. they " both took refuge with a bngjindjtàéf_.

who had. been a formei-lover of the

lady; If you will mateé enquiries yon will find I am. rights \ , .

'"How nice^ said r her friend.

""Well either'way the story is very - interesting! Tour friend might talk to Julia on the subject next time we cali. Servants alwayB know every- thing, you know." , Í

"And I maintain," said a loud dogmatic voice (it was the voice bf the miller), "that no fureigner had any rights to live over we. I said ta Jorge, ' Jarge,'I says, ' be we English,

or be we not? ' '"We be English,*" . said Jarge, not being a born fule. . Then said I, 'Jarge, if English is< good enough for we, why isn't English good enough for he?' And what do you think the fules says ? "Why, ha

ups and says 'You »Bk Jim Brown,. , he's come back, and* don't come' a-bothermg I.' I thumps um, well I did. Says I, ' If you mentions Jim'* name in thia mill,' 1 says, ' I'll break your ugly jaw.' . "Well,* Bays he ; he says, ' you'd better, break Jim's, jaw first,' he said. . He runnëd away from. I, he did, or I'd kicked 'im through the door, I'ud."

"You bant over""fond of Jim, Miller," said a.crony, bringing out a jug from-."The ArniB," and offering

the miller a drink..

"No, I bant," said the miller with

decision! . " He took. I foul and (

throwed I into the dam nigh on three -~JJB years ago, he did; but let me get my ^|

hands on him but once, ana I'll set him like a radish in the ground.. upsides down, I'ul."

" Hoy, Miller, there goes PaBson to the Church ; coom along, Miller t "Why there'B that Jim."

" "Which^where? " said the miller excitedly.

"There; done up like a Bwell, wi' a white flower in his button-hole, and! there goes Julia wi' her brother» before un in a white dress a' veil; them er getting married, Miller."

"Let I through!" cried the" un- happy miller. Dang my eyes if I don t spoil the wedding, for'll, I 'ul.'"

" Don't 'ee be a fule, Miller," cried his companions. "Don't'ee make a row on the Earl's wedding day, right, at the Church. Hold'im, lads." ?

And the miller was carried bodily into the_ Budleigh Arms andBOothed with potions of strong drink.

"Can you tell me," said an old maid to the senior Church warden,, "who the Earl is going to marry? It is BO distressing to be asked over and over again, and not be able to» jive any satisfactory reply."

I " Indeed, Miss Skinner, I cannot."' I the S.CW. replied with wounded

dignity. "It seems to me positively I blasphemous that a CounteBB of Bud-

leigh should be wedded in our Church

I and none of the Church wardens. ,. >

know her name or faith or nation."

" I heard coming down the street,"' - Y said Miss Skinner, " that the Earl was going to marry Julia, his mother's maid, and that she had just gone-, down to the Church, dressed in white for that purpose."

"As regarda to that," said the S.CW., with authority, " I can give it;

my unqualitive denial. Julia is afc . this moment being married to Jim Brown. The Earl's marriage is to» take place after. See; there are the newly-married couple waiting in the Church yard for their master's party."*

" But is it true that the Earl sent down for the family diamonds ? "

" He did, Miss Skinner. But there* goes the bells; the wedding party is. in sight from the tower." ,

A rush is made for the old Church

A cloud of dust is rolling away in the breeze. Carriages are sweeping up j postillions, horses, vehicles come swaying to the Church.

The Earl and his friend descend.

A ringing cheer for the Earl goes,

up, and then a breathless rush of ~,

expectation* for the bride, as Stampf ord >^C[ hands her out on the carpet at the^

Church steps. ' '

No forej&iwr' or half-caste Btands. there, butf a Bweet English Bose-a queenly woman-diamonds sparkling

on snow^ arms and neck and hair.

Continued;on Page 7.

j . Contin'ned from Page 6. ~ ' î'"

An unbroken silence,

j Miss Skinner's voice, shrill and j trembling witt excitement, alone

pierced the hush. ,

1 "Why, it's Alma Grevl" -, I A responsive gasp of* surprise, and j I the bridal party passed up the aisle to I

the communion rails. '

The Earl gave a paper to the waiting clergyman.

"Before you begin the marriage ceremony, oblige me by reading that document to the public."

Brook opened it.

" Do you insist upon it? "

"Ido."

" It is not necessary, Eric," said the bride elect, softly.

"It must be read," said the Earl firmly. " Justice demands it."

In a loud voice the Rev. Brook read:- .

" I, Dowager Countess of Budleigh, being of sound mind, and of my own free will, inaketh oath and sayeth :

" 1. That Alma Grey, formerly em- ployed by me a6 Governess, is innocent of. the crime alleged against her, to wit, of the theft of a bracelet and piece of lace.

" 2. That the said bracelet and lace were placed by me. personally in the

trunk. x

. " 3. To the intent that the marriage contemplated by my son with her might be broken off and rendered impossible.

" And God_ have mercy on my soul.

" DOWAGER COUNTESS BUDLEIGH.

"Witnesses: J. Brook, J.P.; C. Stampford, J.P."

AB the clergyman finished reading, questions, answers, exclamations, words of surprise, [wonder, and pity Bwelled up and filled the Church.

- 5'Silence !" said, the clergyman sternly. "Eemember you are in the

House of God."

And in silence the ceremony pro- ceeded. The words of the service

-floated down the large old Church in

broken sentences.

"Enc, wilt thou take this womaa for thy wedded wife ? "

"I will." '

"Alma,-wilt thou have this man?"

"I will:" .

" With thiB ring I thee wed---." " "Sign here."

Then the bells clashed, the organ peeled, and the Earl brought out his

Countess to the world. Ko silent reception for Alma now-an electric shock, - the touch of nature, had reached the hearts of all. '

She appealed to them with her whole personality ; she captured their admiration, their pity, their sense of justice, their loyalty. \ I Whatever the world might say, Alma was Queen of Budleigh. The Earl was forgotten.

Another cheer for the Countess, and another.

" Let our people have a look at you, Alma," said the Earl, smiling on the bride, and the carriage stood still.

..,"1 said," cried a voice on the out- skirts f of. the crowd (it was the voice bf: the^miller),"' " I said to Jargethis morning, if English is good enough for he,*íEnglÍ8h is good enough for we. He; don't want no foreigners, says I. ' No more 'ee don't,' Jarge ups and says. Says I, ' Jarge, give me English as like to Miss Alma Grey as they make 'um,' I says. Did I say that, Jarge or did I not? .". And I Eays before this company, says I, * If any man says a word against our Countess -Miss Alma Grey^that was-dang my eyes, but Til dround 'um in the mill dam.' I will, and that's all about it."

" Drive on to the Castle," said thc

Earl.

And there was feasting in Budleigl Halls and in Budleigh Park. Who

ever would was welcome. The Earl's words came true. Alma heard manj a voice congratulate her husband foi winning such a bride, and his kindrec greeted her warmly.

" Eric has done wisely and well t< make you his Countess," said a wis< aid dowager, a friend of the family. " ííow, my dear, with you on his arm he may go whither he will. Without you he could hardly have faced society. Some men might have done so ; he simply could not. Now all is well; you have saved the position, and Eric has vindicated his truth and honour."

And so all was well. The guests atc of the fat and drank of the strong perhaps more than was strictlj necessary ; but they did it as English- men do, to show approval and good fellowship.

Alma went leaning on herhusband'i arin from group to group, and spoke a few kindly words to each and thanki for their reception of her to her home And so light began to fade ant eveniug drew on.

"Eric," she said, "it has been i trying day."

" Well, Alma, we are going awai now for peace and rest. You hav< had to consider others, not yourself I would haTe given you a quic wedding, but I could not. Tin carriage waits. Come, my love; m]

own at last."

Next morning the Earl raised him self on his elbow, and looked at hi channing bride. She was sleeping He glanced at his watch-the hou was late. He rose, and quietly pro ceeded to dress. When his toilet wa finished, he sat down and contemplatei the lovely girl he had won. Thei Alma began to throw her arms abou and pant.

" Spare me, I cannot bear it," sh

cried in a stilled voice.

" Oh, oh ! you strike me so brutall] Jeffrey !

" Oh, mercy, I am a woman !

" Save me from him, he is cuttin me to pieces !" **

And she sprang into a sittin posture and clutched her husband.

"You won't let him hurt me, Eri< will you ? "

Eric soothed her.

"It was a bad dream, Eric."

Her husband waited till sbe was fully awake and calm.

"JNow, dearest, tell me what it

means ? "

" I will, husband, but hold me still in your arms.

"Eric, I was flogged publicly-at the triangles-uncovered like Mrs. Munroe. I could not tell you till you were my husband. A jealous woman

caused it toj be done."

Eric gave a groan, then a bitter | imprecation burst from him.

"2so, Eric, no," laying her hand on his mouth. " Tou must not curse the j dead. She was your mother, Eric. I may not do it ; you axe doubly bound

to abstain."

Eric looked at her, and the fire died put of his eyes. He stroked her hair.

" My poor wife," he said.

"No, Eric, your happy wife; your proud wife. Oh, it is not so bad; there are. a few scars, most of them low down, but my court dress caa be made higher at the back." _

"Don't~10ór¿ so lad, dear. It is ! uothing dreadful. I will show them , to you when the honeymoon is over. I I count it nothing."

I " Ah, dearest," said Eric, " you have

got over the shock ; I was not prepared ¡for this." -

I,_ "Xever mind, husband, you see me I happy, rejoicing. I will cheer you up

and make you forget it in my love. ! You smile ; that is right, that is right,

Eric.

' " Now those dangers and trials are past, ! look back at the wonderful way Providence has led me to you, ¡and my happiness is so great, BO I intense, that my probation seems only io have been for a moment, and my trials were trifles. " Love has made I them so short and light. .

I " You smile again. Ah, don't laugh I at me, Eric. Excuse my rhapsodies

for remember dear I am but a few hours a bride.

I "I have come from the condition I of a convict to that of a Countess." ¡ . - THE END.