Chapter 62144983

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Chapter NumberXIV.
Chapter TitleTEMPE HOUSE-MRS PANDORA AND THE BARRISTER TETE-A-TETE-MRS PSYCHE AND LITTLEHEART -HEBE'S LETTER TO L
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62144983
Full Date1884-09-27
Page Number6
Corrections2
Word Count2887
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-07-18
Newspaper TitleClarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton, NSW : 1859 - 1889)
Trove TitleJohn Brown and His Dog Faithful
article text

CHAPTER XIV.

TEMPE HOUSE—MRS PANDORA AND THE BARRISTER

TETE-A-TETE—MRS PSYCHE AND LITTLEHEART —HEBE'S LETTER TO LYNDHURST.

Morning room at "Tempo House," 11.30 a.m. Mrs Pandora sitting in her chair of state; the Egyptian

gods looking down, either as if they were protecting

her, or would have her offered up as a sacrifice to them.

The brown holland covers had been returned to

their office on the furniture, because S. Lyndhurst Handslip, Esq., B.A., had made no signs of becoming a boarder or figure head at "Tempe House." No white lilies stood on the oak table. No, the antique vase had been put back into its sepulchre, as a skele- ton of the past hope—as a sequence of the frigid action in the barrister of Lincoln's Inn not becoming a boarder. The blinds were drawn, shutting out old Sol, as if forbidding him to throw light on the past. The room wore a sombre look, as if it were a vault, where the ancestors of many generations were buried ; Mrs Fama Pandora looking, as she sat motionless, like the guardian spirit of the dead, dressed as she was in a kind of white wrapper, giving her a spirit- like, ethereal look.

Not even the buzzing of a blue-bottle was heard, or the movement of a rat, as if all the dead in the Sarcophagus were eaten, leaving the death scavengers nothing to do.

The folding doors creaked, leading to the dining room, for the oiled feather had not been applied to the hinges since the day of the Madeira. The cut glasses had been returned to the lender ; the silver or plated forks had been put to bed ; the delicate delf had given place to the willow pattern ; Cupid and Venus were covered with dust, until they became blind to each other's beauty—Fama and Lyndhurst.

Cold water took the place of Madeira, and boiled leg of mutton and capers the place of ducks and fowls. Lyndhurst, the author of the wreck of the ship " Tempe House," because he showed no sign of being the figure-head ; he had not called for a week.

A gentle knock at the door of the vault.

"Well, Anna Maria, what do you want?" spoke a hollow sepulchral voice, from the far corner of the

vault.

" Please ma'am, what am I to cook for the dinner to-day?"

" Boiled leg of mutton and capers ; warm up the cold cabbage and potatoes that were left from yester- day's dinner."

A ring of the entrance door bell.

" Who can that be ? It sounds like his ring. My hair in papers, and only a morning wrapper on ! Well,

it does not matter."

" How do you do, my dear Mrs Pandora ? You look like a seraph, sitting in this dark room.

A deeper gloom spread over the room as Lyndhurst closed the door.

" I thought you were ill, Mr Handslip ?"

" Ah ! yes. Yesterday I had a severe attack of bilious fever."

"Indeed, I would advise you to tone down your living ; that is my recipe for all my boarders."

" Any advice coming from your lips must be worth following. Is Mrs Psyche within ?"

" No, she has gone on a visit until to-morrow even- ing, or next day. She told me that as you were confined to your room—so the servant at the hotel told her—she would go to Geelong for a day or two ; but she must have changed her mind, tho' she said distinctly she was going for the sake of the sea air. I say, she must have changed her mind, for Mr Little- heart, at Cobb's office, saw her get into the Castle- maine coach."

" Are you quite sure, dear Mrs Pandora ?" said Lyndhurst, drawing his chair very close to that lady.

" Quite sure, for Mr Littleheart inquired at the booking office immediately the coach started. Mrs Handslip was the only lady passenger, and the clerk

told him she had booked for Castlemaine. I would not mention this, please, for I never repeat what my boarders tell me.

"So, so, Psyche," soliloquised the barrister, our movements seem to be in duplicate. My going yesterday, Psyche going to-day, will put Hebe more than ever on the qui vive. Hang the women ! In every case in court the damaging evidence comes from, or, through, the women. I am glad I called this morning to get this information ; it will help me to castle my king."

"No, dear Mrs Pandora, I never repeat what I hear ; especially when a lady like you is concerned." A pathetic sigh was the only reply, that seemed to waft and waft on the waves of the air, till it lighted on Lyndhurst, its intended resting place.

" I had better work this Mrs Pandora," thought Lyndhurst.

" Hem, hem ; dear Mrs Pandora, you don't seem well. There must be a balm in Gilead for your cure; a panacea for all ills , is to be found in congenial society. Allow me to invite myself to lunch to-day."

" No Madeira," self-communed Mrs Pandora.

" Will you allow me ?" continued Lyndhurst.

" Yes, I thought you would become one of my boarders. I do so miss Mr. Pandora in the house," and down went the restless eyes.

Yes, the figure-head was missed at Tempe House, as a figure-head of a ship is missed, for old Pandora was as an ornament to the house, and nothing more.

" Why, I thought you were quite full by what Psyche told me ; every room occupied."

Mrs Handslip had said so ; she had her reasons for so saying.

" Strange," ejaculated Mrs Pandora. " When your sister-in-law paid me the three months board due some nineteen pounds ten—I casually broached the subject of your coming to Tempe House, and her instant reply was that you were too wedded to your club and ' liberty hall ' life. She remarked, further, that she had mentioned the matter to you, and your emphatic reply was, on no account."

Lyndhurst gave a suppressed whistle, and in a kind of musing way, said, Nineteen pounds ten shillings —leaving eighty pounds ten as a nest egg. Hang the

women !"

The restless eyes for a moment went to Lyndhurst's face, and with quick, hasty voice, Mrs Pandora said,

" Did you say ' hang the women ?' "

" Yes, the washerwomen, for as usual I find another button off my shirt."

" You should say undergarment, Sir."

" So be it ; and my socks are never mended." " Feet-warmers, please, Mr Handslip."

" Ah, my angel widow, you understand these things," endeavouring to take Mrs Pandora's hand, and imprint a kiss on her quivering lips.

" No, no, Mr Handslip, that act is not legal. Your only right to that is through the church."

" Did you serve the late happy Mr Pandora so ?"

" Yes, and he—poor George !—was most obedient, for he went at once to Dr. Commons (Doctors' Com- mons, in London) and bought the license."

The joke was too good to be lost on Lyndhurst, so with a suppressed chuckle, he said,

" What kind of person was this Dr. Commons ?" " Why, a little fat man ; so jolly."

" Ah," soliloquised the barrister, " I must not go ahead in that way, or else I shall be landed high and dry. Hang the women ! Turn which way I will, they dig their claws into me, and try to run me to earth ; Hebe the woman in miniature ; Psyche, the parriot in paint ; and now Fama would resit in the chair of matrimony. I must have no witnesses to our interviews, or else it will be all U.P. with me."

Lyndhurst continued, aloud, " Well, Mrs Pandora, come for a drive after lunch ; in the meantime I will take a turn in the garden."

He did so. Mrs Pandora rose. Up went the blind old Sol looked in ; light and sunshine once more in Mrs Pandora's best room. The auburn hair was loosed from its imprisonment; the slate silk dress, fitting like a glove, took the place of the wrapper ; strong scent (not Rimmel's) fell like a Scotch mist on the deep laced handkerchief ; and the servant girl went round the corner for some Madeira.

" Is that not Mr Littleheart, Mrs Pandora ? He looks very down in the mouth."

" Fretting for his lost love, I suppose." " Who may that be ?"

"Don't you know? That is good! Why, your

sister-in-law."

" Is the feeling mutual ?"

" Undoubtedly ; love certain love."

" That's the game, is it Psyche?" muttered the bar- rister. " I am learning something to-day of how you work. So, so, my painted Jezebel, lie to me about money; lie about your present visit ; lie about Mrs Pandora's house. You did not want me to watch or see your actions re Littleheart."

" Has Mrs Psyche any friends at Castlemaine, Mr Handslip?"

" Well, there is Hebe."

" Who is Hebe, may I ask ?"

" Don't you known of my niece Hebe—Psyche's step-duughter."

" Never heard she had a step-child ; I am aston- ished."

"You may well be, Mrs Pandora ; you see there are wheels within wheels."

"But why has not Psyche mentioned anything about this step child ? Is the girl at school ?"

" Woman, you know, dear, Mrs Pandora, is at all times an enigma—an enigmatical problem I cannot fathom. You ought to be able to read Psyche ; women can read their own sex quicker and truer than men. Yes, Hebe is at school."

" Had I known of this child, I would have asked her to spend the holidays with me; I do so love orphan children."

This was said with great warmth of feeling, for at heart Mrs Pandora was kind. She was at times silly, foolish, but not wilfully unkind.

" I am indeed glad to find you are so thoughtful, and an exception to your sex. With you, duplicity I hate ; it is foreign to my nature," said the snake in the grass to the mistress of Tempe House, giving an unnecessary cut to the horse with his whip.

Mrs Handslip has got money, left by her late

husband ?"

" Hang the women !" muttered Lyndhurst. " You are angling now ; it won't do to say too much to you. my pippin." Aloud : " Yes, Psyche has got money, I will drive you to your door, and return the trap."

At 12.30 that night, Psyche returned very unex- pectedly to Mrs Pandora. They kissed each other and went to bed. Outwardly purred, like two cats seeking repose with velvety paws ; inwardly, like two of the feline tribe, on the roof of a house at midnight —flashing eyes, backs up, and helm straight for an encounter, especially on Psyche's part, for she saw Lyndhurst's walking stick in the hall, left there by mistake as he went for the drive ; so he need not have begged Mrs Pandora not to mention to Psyche he had been to Tempe House.

Duplicity generally leaves a trail of slime. We see it in the case of Psyche and Lyndhurst, in their double-dealing one towards the other, us set forth in the above actions. Never were truer words spoken than the warning, " Be sure thy sin will find thee out."

Next morning Lyndhurst called at Tempe House for his stick, not wishing to leave that tell-tale in the hall. Mrs Handslip handed the cane to Lynd- hurst as he entered the front door, to Lyndhurst's

astonishment.

" Why I dear Psyche, I thought you were at Gee- long?" Said with a sardonic grin.

" Why, Lyndhurst ! I thought you were too ill to move the day before yesterday ?" With a smile of a

veritable siren.

" Quid pro quo" muttered the barrister.

" Check-mate," soliloquised the widow. She then went on, " I hope you enjoyed your drive yesterday ; a drive after an illness is a good tonic for a heated thwarted brain. Ha, ha, ha, don't kill the hen that lays the golden egg, Lyndhurst."

" You speak in parables, Psyche."

" Only in parables to those who won't understand." "I saw you going by Cobb's to Castlemaine, Psyche."

" Did you ?" jerked Mrs Handslip, pressing her lips together. " Playing private detective ; diamond cut diamond? Hebe told me all about your visit. Cheer up, the El Dorado will turn up yet. Shake the tree well—you know what I mean—and the golden fruit may fall."

"I had important business at Castlemaine, Psyche." " So had I, Lyndhurst, and I was more successful than you ; a mother can do more than an uncle"

" There is no mischief that a woman is not at the bottom of it."

"You are cynical, Lyndhurst. To be on a par with you, I will say,—women are thorns in a law- yer's side."

" Hang you women !"

" Yes, I know lawyers would gladly play Calcrafts with the rope."

Lyndhurst took out his watch. " You must excuse me, Psyche, I have an engagement. I must not keep you from Mr Littleheart, for he looked very disconso- late yesterday. Tat, tat," and Lyndhurst was off, not waiting for a reply. " Take that," he muttered, as he hurried away.

Psyche was not prepared for this parting sally. She showed her anger by stamping her foot, and hissing through her clenched teeth, "That cat has betrayed me during their tete à tete yesterday. Silence is golden at present."

Mrs Psyche Handslip went to her room to think. After a time she came to the following conclusion: "Lyndhurst did not see me on the coach ; he only returned by the night coach, so would not be at the office so early. So he lies. Who did see me ? Not Fama, I know. Must be Littleheart ! he can give the solution ; I will try him," and down to the sit- ting-room she went.

"Good morning, Mr Littleheart. Reading the papers as usual ; I suppose the ladies' column ? Births, deaths, and marriages ! Ha, ha, ha. By the bye, my brother-in-law was asking about you the other day ; perhaps you have seen him since ?" Said with a bewitching smile.

" No, I have not seen him to speak to since the first day he lunched here."

Psyche gave a satisfied smile.

" I am very cross with you ; you might have come yesterday morning and spoken to me at the coach office. I was piqued about it. I suppose some other lady was in the question ; such is life," with a sigh. " I am a good mind to send you to Coventry for it."

" If I had thought you wished me to speak, I should have done so with pleasure, my dear Mrs Handslip."

"Two tricks," murmured Mrs Psyche; "What fools men are in the hands of a woman." Aloud :

"You must remember in future to act more le

debonair. But I have this satisfaction ! I was told you looked very disconsolate all day, and could only ease your mind by telling Mrs Pandora of my cold drive. You naughty man, you suffered for your neglect."

" Mrs Pandora should not have told you what I

said : she has added to it."

" Three by honours !" soliloquised the widow. " Mrs Pandora did not tell me, so it is no use taxing her with it. What say you for a game of chess?"

At chess they went, trying, during the game to

fathom each other's financial state.

Lyndhurst soliloquised, too, " Hebe never told Psyche what passed at our interview. No ! I won't believe it ; but I will test the truth at once."

Lyndhurst wrote to Hebe an affectionate letter, saying how grieved he was to learn that Hebe had repeated to her step-mother everything that had passed, and that Psyche openly boasted of her power over Hebe.

The brunette's reply was brief and to the point.

"Dear uncle,—It is against my nature to forget what is due to my relatives in their absence. I refused positively to tell step-mother what passed during your call ; I refused to allow her to speak against you. You may show her this note, if you

like. One word more. Now step-mamma has so spoken, she made a request ; I refused. What that request was I will not say ; she can tell you.—

Your sorrowful neice,

HEBE."

" I thought so," said Lyndhurst. Such is the result of duplicity.