|Chapter Title||JOHN BROWN HIMSELF AGAIN &C.|
|Newspaper Title||Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton, NSW : 1859 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||John Brown and His Dog Faithful|
HIS DOG FAITHFUL
REV. E.W. HOLDEN
LAWRENCE, CLARENCE RIVER, N. S. W.
Let us take a look at Lyndhurst Handslip as he sits cross-legged on a low, easy chair, with an unlighted cigar stump between his pearly, white tiger teeth, looking up at the ceiling as if in deep thought.
His cogitations were of deep villainy, and not the meditations of the king warrior Robert Bruce, as he watched the working of the spider and drew valuable lessons therefrom.
" I am sick of this one-horse existence," Lyndhurst ejaculated, "a kind of tread-mill life—vita brevis. Yes, I must make the most of it—tempasfugit. Something must be done to further my project. Rather good of old Pandora's relict that idea of hers, when she sought a private interview of me in my office. Ha, ha, ha, to tell me I walked in my sleep. How her shrivelled apple wizzen face puckered up when I informed her she was mistaken—that I was no somnambulist, that I had no recollection of the evening she mentioned. The fool then took out of her reticle or reticule three books on somnambulism, and said she had purchased ten other works by differ- ent authors on the same subject. Would I read them ? She had written to England for more, and had consulted »ix doctors on the same subject. The old crone is fit for the stocks, or Bedlam. How eloquently she expatiated on the subject of feet- warmers, cosey suppers, shirt buttons. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. Of course, I could not see it. No, no, widow Pandora, you don't tether me to your apron strings by the hymeneal altar. No running in double harness for me, non libet. I am glad Miss B———has insured her house heavily in the Scottish Imperial Fire Insurance Company ; I don't wish her to suffer loss through that hell of a girl. The breeze is fine to-night for the work—the barome- ter indicates more wind. Good for you Æolus, to aid me. Thou three goddesses of vengence—Alecto, Megara, and Sisiphone, throw in your power ; then Vulcan will have done his work ere Aurora kisses the eastern hills. Go, Iris, and summon the gods to my aid. Yes, it is Sunday evening ! What of that ; all will be at church. Farewell, escritoire. Enough of words, let me proceed to deeds. Necessitas non habet legem."
With this last ejaculation, Lyndhurst threw away the stump of the unlighted cigar, and went out, muffled up to the eyes.
His steps were directed to Montague Academy.
As Lyndhurst hastened along the almost deserted streets, the most of the city folks having entered the different pieces of worship—some to count their beads, recite their prayers; others to play the Pharisee in some conspicuous, prominent place in God's sanctuary ; some smiting on their breast, as the tax-gatherer of old, mumuring in deep, earnest language, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" a widow praying for her fatherless children, or a way- ward son ; an only sister calling upon the Father of Mercies to shield her sailor brother during the storm at sea ; a Magdalene, bent with broken heart, at the foot of the cross of Christ, suing, entreating for pardon of the past, mid grace and strength for the future ; a little bright-eyed girl, unknown, unrecog- nised, unheard, unseen by any of the cushioned pewed or ostentatiously decked, but known, recog- nised, heard, seen by God, sighing weeping out her prayers, she having that very day by a fatal epidemic lost her mother and father, leaving her alone, uncared for on earth, but watched and guarded by the Great and Holy Being—Love. On earth, the freezing blast of death and loneliness ; in heaven, a flame of fire of love, that the young orphan felt, as she knelt on the bare, hard floor of the temple
As Lyndhurst Handslip, the barrister, the educated man, the son of good and pious parents, the only brother of an upright merchant, the uncle of a noble girl—our Hebe—as he hastened along, with craft and cunning raging in his heart—hastened along by ways of unfrequented thoroughfares, bent on his diabolical work, his incendiary mission, as if he were a door keeper of hell, or mephistopheles himself—he, Lynd- hurst of infernal make, yet in human garb, mutter- ing as he hied along :
" At nine o'clock I am due at the conversazione at
Madame De Stael's ; but I will be able to manage it. All is prepared—apply the match, return, chango dress, take part in the conversazione as the work is going on. I will build my future case and comfort on the ashes of this night's work. Fugit hora.
With these last words, Lyndhurst at once quick- ened his pace, replying to the voice of the inner master of the inner man—his conscience—that would tell him of his guilt.
He tried to give that voice a soporific by these
" Why should not I have enough to live on ? It would have come to me, if this chit of a girl had not been born. She can well do without it, for John Brown will see she does not want. He will provide for his protégé. Why should I be the protomartyr
in this matter ?"
Lyndhurst's reasoning ran much in the same groove as Judas Iscariot, who tried to quieten conscience as he hastened along from the upper chamber to receive
the £3 15s—the price of a slave—for his betrayal of
Judas tried to hush the pricking of conscience by saying :
" He would deliver Himself, yea, hasten to deliver Himself the King of Israel, and at once set up His Kingdom—crush the Roman power, making Jeru- salem and its people the centre—acme of all nations."
His (Judas) act quickened the consummation of Christ's aim. We too often labour to cheat ourselves in much the same manner, so as to lend the will of omnipotence to our own carnal designs.
Satan is a liar, so are we too frequently, when we reply to conscience by subterfuges. Conscience warns us as a friend before it punishes us as a judge.
The Ladies' seminary—Montague House—was a spacious wooden building.
On this Sunday evening all its inmates were at church but an Irish girl—a kind of chamber maid, just out of her teens.
Lyndhurst, as he moved along, like a snake in the grass—along the fence that enclosed the Academy, saw this embroyo flirt speaking and ogling over the front garden railings with her fast young man.
The barrister, unseen, doubled back and skirted the side fence till he reached the back gate, and finding it locked he climbed over ; then, dodging about under the shade of the trees, he reached the back door of the house, which he found partly open. He made his way at once to the kitchen, where he found a bright fire burning. Pulling a glowing log close to the side of the wall of the kitchen, which was lined with calico and paper, he poured from a bottle he had brought some spirits of turps on the log of wood— the burning end of the wood resting on the glowing embers, and the other end lapping the lining of the kitchen. The flame of the turps quickly ran along the log.
Immediately this took place Lyndhurst was gone, and Montague House was enveloped in flames.
The arch-fiend Lyndhurst muttered, as he hied along to his hotel,—
" That kitchen fire served my purpose well ; much better than the other plan I thought of carrying out.
There will be an inquiry—an inquest, but the burning log will be the explanation. The girl will be dismissed for carelessness and gadding about, and the verdict of the jury—accidental fire. The insur- ance office will be victimised to a pretty tune. But what care I ? Yes, I shall be called upon by Miss B——— , to watch the case on her behalf ; so I will make a few notes out of the conflagration. Yes, I will watch the case with interest. My first duty will be to go over the burnt ruins, and see what damage the fire has done ; what property lost. Hebe will suffer, but I care not if the escritoire is reduced to ashes in the flames. Now, I must away, as soon as I change my garb, for Madame De Stael's conversazione.