Chapter 61305611

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Chapter NumberVII
Chapter TitleTHE BRIGAND'S CAMP.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61305611
Full Date1899-12-12
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count2011
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleClarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)
Trove TitleFrom Convict to Countess
article text

CHAPTER VII.

THE BRIGAND'S CAMP.

After a time the shots which rang ' from below ceased, aud the two Bri- ' gauds covering the rear came np. ' They reported that a party had fol- lowed them for some distance, but that not liking the business they had given

it up, and one of thom relieved Cuinillo ( of the woman for a while. They went on still ascending till they reached a small stream which crossed the track, then the chief called a halt and told his man to lay his burden down, and ho filled his hat with wator aud dashed it in her face again and again until at last she gasped and opened her eyes and sat up. In a little while she re- membered how she came to bo in her unhappy condition, and her terror returned. She besought the chief in very moving terms to set her at liberty, and with tears and cries begged him to have mercy upon her.

" Well," said the chief at length, cut- ting a supple wand and trimming it, " How can you expect me," and ho eyed ,the woman with a smile, " How can you expect me to part with you without a

ransom."

His smile excitod the woman-still more she wrung her hands. " Oh, you will ask more than wo can pay, and then you will punish me for it."

" Nay," said the Brigand, " Why should we hurt you if it is your mis- fortune and not your fault." The girl made no reply, she only moaned to

herself.

" Can you not pay ? " he said, peel- ing his wand.

.' Yes," said thc girl, in a faint voice, " If you demand a reasonable sum,

but indeed we aro not rich."

"Oh, as to that," tho Brigand.re- joined, " Look at the fineness of your torn chimisetto, and tho silver buckles on your shoes, and the softness of your

hands. You have not worked in tho

vineyard or trampled the grapes, I can swear. So I must ask your friends for a fair thing." N

" If my friends pny you a fair thing will you give me fair usuge Cumillo ? "

Ho Went on speaking inking no notice of her request. " I shall want something for the extra work and trouble you have given, you will pay for that of course ? and also for making mo carry you up the mountain- on my shoulder, so that we havo been obliged to stay hore and rest. Indeed you owe us a good deal for all our work and

care."

" Yes, Cumillo, you are mocking mo, you are making excuses to demand more than we can pay."

" In that ease," said tho chief, " You must be . made to pay. If your friends do not pay, you shall pay for yourself (the girl turned pale.) Ran- som or no ransom there is always a warm welcome at the camp for a hand- some woman, but we can settle these matters later on. Now we must move,. and remember," he said (as the girl got upon her feet), " I have had as much trouble as I mean to take with you."

Ho looped a thin cord round tho woman's neck, and held the end in his hand. " Now march." AB she lin-

gered gazing wistfully down the track they had ascended, he gave her a sharp

- cut across her uncovered shoulders

which made , her cry out and walk rapidly up the traok. "Ah," he said, "With a little persuasion like that you will climb the mountain as nimbly as any of us."

Bric had no difficulty in following the conversation, and he' concluded they had fallen in with a polite villain. Still it seemed a matter of. ransom after all. He felt somewhat re-assured on ' this matter-inasmuch that his letters of credit on his Bankers at Borne would ensure his and Jim's'

liberty. He did not feel so sure about the girl, she was in a more dangerous position, aud he could see she felt it.

The track wound deeper and deeper into tho heart of the mountains, and Erie studied the hills and peaks in- tently as they skirted by them.

At last a figure from an overhanging rook challenged them amidst the gathering darkness. A pass word was given and they walked across à narrow neck of rock, some 12 yards long by 8 feet wide, with a sheer drop on each side of four or five hundred feet, then through a portal hewn in tho solid rock, and out on to a level court yard, about 100 yards across, backed at tho far side by a lofty conical hill, running down on all three sides into vast gorges with perpendicular walls.

In front of the hill appeared two circular openings, some 15 yards apart,

which looked like the entrance to two

caves, which indeed they were. A fire burned against the rocky wall of

the mountains around which wore

standing or seated the remainder of the band, and they came forward and greoted thoir leader with evident satis-

faction. Bric looked at them with

great curiosity, but the young woman shrank back, and the chief let her hal- ter go as if the prisoners -were now quite safo. Eric, seeing that the

wrecked and torn condition of tho

girl's clothing gavo her a good deal of shame and anxiety, took off his own jacket and told tho poor creaturo to slip it on, which she did. Erio but- toned ,it up on her, and taking her

hand ho led hor across the level ground, and together with Jim tho three tired prisoners seated themselves Bide by sido on the grass against tho rocky wall, and waited as patiently os might be what should befall them

further.

The Brigands sat round their camp

i fire, some twenty men, and the light flashed occasionally on the figure of a. sentinal posted high up over the rocky portal which alone appeared to give access to the. lair. They talked long, and their voices sometimes rose high and again sank to a murmur. Present- ly two of their number lighted a couple of torches, and the whole band trooped: over to where the prisoners were sit- ting, they held the flambeaux close to» the woman's face, " Une bella Signora,'* one or two voices cried, next they inspected Eric and his servant, " Eng lisse " they said, and returned to their

fire.

Presently the prisoners became aware of the smell of cooking and dimly discerned the men eating their supper, and then one of them came over to the prisoners. " The Chief's^ compliments," he said. ""Would you: prefer taking supper where you sit ?

" Si," said the girl. " We would," said Eric, " "With thanks to your Chief." The man returned and:

brought them soup, roast kid; ')rcad,. sour wine, and lïpe grapes. Eric persuaded his lady friend to take some1 soup and bread and some grapes, for the roast meat she had no appetite.

The band after supper appeared to» grow jovial. The fire was replenished,, and the men drank their wine, joked,, and sang. The fire glanced on their shining pistols and knives and showed the sparkle of their bold eyes;,

and the contour of their hardened faces. Eric nodded once or twice with«

sleep, and then awakened up with ai start, thinking for a moment that what he saw -was a picture or a dream.

At length tho Chief, accompanied by the torch bearers, approached tho cap- tives, and he told Eric and Jim to come and see tho place where they were going to sleep. They rose accordingly,, and as they did so, Eric felt the woman. Blip her hand into his and accompany them, he could feel the trembling and convulsive pressure of her fingers.

"Here," said the Chief, leading:, the little party into the cave on tbo right. " Hero you will sleep, the sand is dry and soft. Stick the torch» Pietro into the ground. Tho Signora! will come this way to her place o£

rest."

"No, no," said the lady, clinging; to Eric's arm, " I will not leave the Englishxnan. Ho is noble, he pitié» mc, ho is my friend. I will stay with)

him. He will not abuse a woman's* trust."

"Oh, no," said the Chief,. "Yous will be quite safe in your own place."

" I am afraid," she said, " Her ter tor beginning to overmaster her. " I\ will not leave tho Englishman, 1 shall ' scream myself to dqath if I an* taken away."

" Well," said Cumillo doubtfully to> Eric, " You may decide."

" Let her stay," said tho Earl,. " The poor thing is nearly wild witta fright, she will have a fit or some sick-

ness if she is left in the dark alone."

"Well," said the Chief laughing,. " Signora have your own way- I shall have ? to put something more on tc* your ransom, for indulging all your whims. I had better turn inn-keopess at once. I shall consent to youi sleeping with the two Englishmen.. The night is long, you had better make' friends-with'him and get him to pay your ransom. ? "

" Oh, Englishman," tho Signora said when tho Brigands had departed,, " I am so grateful to you for your courtesy to. an unfortunate, let me, L pray you, lie along tho wall, and lot; mo hold your hand, lost they steal mei awayin the night."

" They shall not," said Eric, " You can lie in the corner of the cave, and L and my man will sleep between you: and. danger. If it will comfort you-, you can, hold my hand, but-for thisi night at any rate you may sleep as safely as with your friends at home."

To be continued in Saturday's issue.

The Queen is very accessible while* in the Highlands, for Bhe mores about; among the old cronies, and chats away with her people in a free and easy style, which would greatly surprise'

her noble courtiers, who often have to>. be content with a gracious smile and a few kindly words. When she visits some of her old Highland friends she- la greeted with deep respect, it ÍB true,

but with a bluntness and frankness that often staggers her ladies-in waiting. It not frequently happens* that when her Majesty visits one of

her old friends the weather turns coldi

and stormy, and on such occasions, when the Queen prepares to depart, she will be {greeted, thus ''-Deed, mam, and you'll no gang awa* till ye tak' a cup of tea to warm ye against, the cold." Strange speech surely to tbe Sovereign of the mightiest Empire the world has ever seen ! Yet the

gracious lady bows and smiles, while the good-wife bustles about, preparing the humble refreshment for her Queen, and according a_ hospitality for the privilege of doing which many a. proud dame and noble lord would, willingly sacrifice a great deal of their

wealth. Little wonder that these

people are pestered by relic hunters who wish to acquire the cups fron* which the Queen has drank, or the chairs on which she sat 1

A lady teacher in one of the public schools, in trying to explain the mean- ing of|the word 1 slowly,' illustrated it by walking acroBS the floor. When she asked the class to tell how she walked, she nearly fainted when a boy at the foot of the claBB shouted ' Bow-legged, miss !'

A new and flourishing industry re- cently sprang into existence in Vic- toria in the shape of cat farming. The place ot operations ÍB situated at Ohristmas hills, and bears the title of ' Waratah Cattery. The object is ta. breed animals for their skins, retain- ing the finest of them for sale as pets