Chapter 63337564

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Chapter NumberIII (cont.)
Chapter Url
Full Date1877-02-02
Page Number1
Word Count4919
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitlePortland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953)
Trove TitleChristmas at Thompson Hall
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THE . NOVEIST, CHRISTMAS AT THOMP SON HALL. l"' narn-or, '-no r'tOLWiE., (Fromi the Sjydney tfeail.) Continued. S. Ar Cnsrrn III. M1s ItROWN ATTEMUPT TO 80AI?t. But the: storming and the raging ,.: had. notreaohed. her yet, and now it wanted but a quarter to 6; In three quarte'?s '' hour they would be in that demi-omnibus whioh they had ordered for, themselves, and in half-an. bohir afte*V that they would be flying towards Thompson Hall. Then shelo allowed herself, to think of those coming comforts--of those comforts so awnet. if only thev'would comel That very day now presenit wu m?. w.? the 24th 'December, and on that' very evening ihe would be sitting in Christ mas joy among all her uncles and cousins, holding her now brother-in-law affhetionately by tle hand. Oh, what a chainge' from' Pandemonium to Paridise; from that wretched room from that miserable house in which there was such ample cause for fear, to all the domestic Christmas bliss of the home of the Thompsons ! She- re solved that.she would not, at any rate, be deterred by any light opposition on : the :part of her husband, 'It wants just a quarter. to 6,' shite said, putting er liand steadily" upon his shoulder, ' nd I'll got a cup of chocolate for you, so that you may get up comfortably.'" 'I1've been ' thinking about it,' he said, rubbing his eyes with the back of sis lhands. 'It will be so much better to go over by the mail train to-night. We should be in time for Christmas just the same.' ' That will not .do t all,' she an swered, enerNetlic llv'. 'Come. Charles, Ar,-....,,an trounte do not disappoint ' It is such a horrid grind.' 'Think what I have gone through -what I have done for you!' In twelve hours we shall bi there among them all. You won't be so liltle like a man' asnot to go now.' ' He'threw hlmself back upon the bed,'and tried to'readjuat the' clothes round his neck. SNo,' Chariles, no,' sihe continued, Snot if I know it. Take your choco late and get up. There is not a mo ment to be lost.' With that she laid 'her hand upon his shoulder, and made him clearly understand that he wbuld not be allowed to take further rest in that bed. Grumbling, sulky, coughing con tinually, and declaring that life under such oircumstances was not worth having; he did at last get up and dress himself, When once she know that be was obeying her sithe became again tender to him; and certainly took much more than her own share of the trouble of the proceedings. Long before the time' was up she' was ready, and the porter had been summbned td take the luggage downstairs. When 'the man came she' was rejoiced to seo that 'it was hot he whlohldsheo had met imong the passages during' her nocturnal rambles. lie shouldered the box, and 'told them that they would ond coffee and bread and butter in 'the' small dalle..-manger below. 'I told yoen that it wonsh, ho so when you would boil that stuff,' said the ungratefuil ano, who ihad tevertho less swallowed the hot chocolate wheu it was given to him. 'They followed their luggage down into the hall; but as she went, at every 'step, the lady looked atlnd hter', Sheo

dreaded the sight of that porter of the night; she feared lest some potential authority of the hotel should come to her and ask her some horrid question; but bf'all her fears her greatest fear ase"ihat there should arise before her an apparition of that face which she had seen recumbent on its pillow. As they passed the door of the great salon, 1M1. mrown looked in. '.Why, there it is still' saidiho. 'What?' said shel, trembling in `every limb. ,The mustard potl' SThey have put it in there since,' she exclaimed' energetically, in her despair. ' But never mind. The om nibus is here. Come away.' And she absolutely took him by the arm. But at that moment a door behind them opened, and Mrs. Brown heard herself called by her name. And there was the night.porter, with a handkerchief in his hand. But tile further doings. of that morning must be told in a further chapter. , : CHAPTER IV. ',- Ms8. BROWN DOES ESCAPE. It had been visible to Mrs. Brown ftom tie 'first moment of her arri."l on the ground flour sihaC 'euething was hbe, matter,' if we may be allowed to use spjch a phrase; and she felt all but convinced: that thills something had reference to her. She fancied that the people of tile hotel were looking at her as she swallowed, or tried to swallow, her coffee. When her husband was paying the bill there was something disagreeable in tile eye of the mail wlio' was taking thie money. Her sufferings were very great, and no one sympathised with her. Her husband was quiteat his ease, except that he was complaining of the cold. When she was anxious to get him out. into the" carriage, lie still stood there leisurely arranging shawl after shawl around his throat. *You can do that quite as well in the omnibus,' she had just said to hli- o.j:crossly, whle there appeared upon the scene through a sid, loor that very night porter whoma:she dreadel, with a soiled .porke.hiandkerehief in his hand. " Eves before the sound of her own same met her ears Mrs. Brown knew it all.. Sithe understood the full horror of hoer position from the man's hostile face, and from the little article which ite held in his hand. If duritng tile twaich ,''6f the night' she-. had' had money in her pooket, if site had made a friend of this greedy fellow by well timed liberality, all might have been so' different! 'But she reflected tliat she .had allowed hitq to go unfeed after all his trouble, and site knew that he was her enemy. It was the handkerchief that she feared. She thought that she'might have brazened out anything but that.. No one had seen her enter or leave that strange man's room. No one had seen her dip her hands in that jar. She had, no doubt, been found wandering aboue that house while the slumberer had been made to suffer so strangely, and there might have been suspicion and perhaps accusation. But she would have been ready with frequent pro testations to deny all charges made against her, and, though no one might have believed her, no one could have convicted her. Here, however, was evidence against which she would be unable to stand for a moment. At the first glance she acknowledged the po. tency of that damning morsel of linen. " During .11 the horrors of the night she had'never given a thought to the handkerchief, and yet she ought to have known nmat tenu un --- it would bring against her was palpable aau certain. Her name, ' M. Brown,' was plainly written on the corner. What a foul she had been not to have thought of this;! Had she but remembered the plain marking which she, as a careful, wall-condueted British matron had upon all her clothes, she would at any hazard have recovered the article, Oh, that she had waked the man, or bribed the porter, or even told her husband! But now she was, as it woere, friendless, without support, without a word that sheo could say In her own defence, convicted of having committed this assault upon a strange man as he slept in his own bedroom, and then of having left him! Thile thing must be explained by the truth; but how to explain such truth, how to tell such story in a way to satisfy in jured folk, and she with only barely time sufficient to catch the trainl Then It occurred to hier 6ili. they could have no legal right to stop her because the pocket-handkerchief had been found in a strange gentloman's bedroom. 'Yes, It is mine,' site said, turning to her husband, as the porter, with a loud voice, asked if she were not Madame Brown. 'Tako it, Charles, anti come on.' Mr. Brown naturally stood still In astonishment. lie dlid put out his hand, but the porter would not allow the evidence to pass so readily out of his custody. ' What does it all mean?' asked1 Mr. Brown. '* A gentleman has boen-oh-eh Something ehas boee done to a gentle. man in his bedroom,' said the clerk. 'Somnethlig done to a gontloman!' repeated Mr. Brown, SSomething very bad indeed,' said Ithle porter. 'Look here,' and lho showed tile condition of tile handkor chief. * Charlos, we shall lose the trail,' sEaid the iaffrighted wtife,

! 'What the mischief does it all mean?' demanoded the husband. 'Did Madame go into.the. gentle. man's room?' asked the clerk, rTheu there was an awful silence, and all eyes were fixed upon the lady. ' What does it all mean?' demanded the husband, ' Did you go into any body's room?' ' I did,' said Mrs. Brown with much dignity, looking round upon her enomles ao . °°' a. nay Will IOOK upon the hounds which are attacking him. ' Give me the handkerohief.' But the night porter quickly put it' behind Iis back, C'harles, we can not allow ourselves to be delayed. You shall write a letter to the keeper! of the hotel, explaining it all.' Then she essayed to swim out, through the front door, into the courtyard in which' the vehicle was waiting for .them. But three or four men and women interposed themselves, and even her husband did not seem quite ready to continue his journey. ' To-night is Christmas Eve,' said Mrs. Brown; 'and we shall not be at Thompson Hail! Think of my sister!' 'Why did you go into the man's bedronm, my dear?' whispered Mri Brown in Englislt. But the porter' heard the whi.po.' and understood the language; the porter who had not been 'tipped.' ' Ye'es;-vy? asked the porter. ' It was a mistake, Charles; there is not a moment to lose. .I can explain it all to you in the carriage.' Then the clerk suggested that Madame had better postpone .her journey a little. The gentleman upstairs had certainly been very badly treated, and had demanded to know why such an out rage had been perpetrated. The clerk said that he (lid not wish to send for the police -- here Mrs. Brown gasped terribly and threw herself on her husband's shoulder-but he did not think lihe could allow the party'to go .till thie gentleman upstairs had received some satisfaction. It had now become clearly impossible thlat the journey could be made by the early train.' Even Mrs. Brown gave it up herself, and demanded of her husbasid that site should be taken back to her bedroom. 'But what is to be said to the gectloman?' asked tihe porter.. Of course it was impossible that Mrs Brown should be made 'to tell her story there in the presence of them all. The clerk, when he found he had suc ceeded in preventing her from leaving the house, was satisfied with a promise from Mr. Brown that he would inquire from his wife what were these mysteri. ous circumstances, and would then come down to the office and give some explanation. If it were necessary, he would see the strange gentleman whom he now ascertained to be a certain Mr. Jones returning from the east of England. IIoe learned also that this Mr. Jones had been most anxious to travel by that very morning train which tte and his wife had intended to use-that Mr. Jones had been most particular in giving his orders ac cordingly,but that at the last moment heto had declared himself to be unable even to dress himself, because of the injury which had been done him during the night; Whlen Mr. Brown heard this from the clerk just before hi was allowed to take his wife upstairs, while silo was sitting on a sofa In a corner with her face hidden, a look of awful gloom came over his own countenance. What could it be that his wife lhad done to the man of so terrible a nature? 'You had better come up with me,' lie said to her with marital severity, and the poor cowed woman wow. walsl t a*i* namely as might have done some patient Grizel. ziot a word was spoken till they were in thebo room and the door was locked. 'Now;" said hlie, ' what does it all mean ?' It was not till nearly two hours had passed that Mr. Brown came down tlhe stairs very slowly-turning it all over in his mind. He had now gradually heard the absolute and exact truth, and had very gradually learned to believe it. It was first necessary that he should understand that his wife had told him many fibs during tihe night, but, as she constantly alleged to him when ho complained of her conduct in this re spect, they had all heen told on hiis be half. Had she not struggled. 'to get the mustard for his comfort, and when sho had auorn thle prizo hadl sihe not hurried to ppUt it on-as site nast ronuy thought-his throat? And though she had fibbed to him afterwards, had sihe not done so in order that lie might not be troubled? ' You are not angry with me because I was in that man's roots?' sihe asked, looking full into his eyes, but not quite without a sob, 'He paused a momontt, and then odeclared, with sometllhing of a true husband's confidence in Iis tone, that he was not in the least angry with her on that account. Then site kissed him, and bade him remember that, after all, no one could really injure them. ' What harm lhas been done, Charles? Tise gentleman won't dio because le l has hpd a mustard plaster on hIis throat. Tie worst is about Unolo Jolhn andu dear Jano. T'sey do think so mucht of Chriatmas Eve at Thlomnpson ilal' Mr. Brown, when hlo again. foundu lhimoself in thle clerk's oflico, requested that his card might be token up to MIr. Jqnes. Mr. Jones had sentu dow his own canrd, whlich was handed io Mr. Brown : * Mr. Brnarby Jones,' ' Andt how was it all, sir?' askedl tlhe clerk,lim a whisper--a whisper which had at

the same time something of authorita tive demand and something also of submissive respect. The clerk of courbe."was' anxious to know the mystery. it in hardly too nmuch to say that everyone in that vast hotel was by this time anxious to have the mystery unriavelled. But Mr. Brown would tell nothing to any one. 'It is merely a matter to be explained be twen' mn n, t. r i.i A rho card was taken upstairs, and Mle8o awhile he was tishered into Mr. Jones's room. It was, of course, that very 353 with which.the reader Is already acquainted. There was a fire burning, and the remains of Mr. Jones's break fast were'bn 'the table. He was sitting in his dressing-gown and slippers, with his shirt opein' in the front, and a silk handkerchief very loosely covering his throat. Mr. Brown, as he entered the room; of course looked with consider. able anxiety at the gentleman of whose condition he had heard so sad an anc couiiti'but he could only observe some 1 considerable stiffness of movement and demeanor as Mr. Jones turned his head' iiound to greet him. 'This has been a very disagreeable accident,'Mr. Jones,' said the? usband of the Indy. "Accident ! I don't know how it could have bein an accident. It has been a most-most-most-a mosi monstrous-er--er-I must say, inter- I ferenco with 'a gentileman's privacy, I and personal comfort.' 'Quite so, Mr. Jones, but-on the part of the lady, who is my wife - ' 'So I understand. I myself am aboult to" become'a married :man, and I can understand what your 'feelings must be. I wish to say as little as poskible" to hrirow thenm.' Here Mr. Brown bowed. 'But-there's the fact She did do it'. SShe 'tlioughtit was-me'!' 'What !' 'I give you my word as a gentlemmu, Mr. Jones. Wlhen she, was 'p?tilng that mesa p.r.* yru sue thought it was me I She did, indeed..' Mr. Jones looked at his new an quaintance and shook his. head. He did not think. it possible that any woman would make such a mistake as that. '-I had a very bad'sore throat,' con tinued Mr. Brown, 'and indeed you may perceive it still'-In saying this he perh'ape'aggravatdd' alittle':the sign of his distemper, 'and I asked: Mrs. Brown to,go down and get one".-just what she put on you.' 'I wish you'd had it,' said Mr; Jones, putting his hand up to his neck. 'I wish I had, for your sake as well as mine, and for hers, poor woman. ' I don't.know when she'll get over the shook.' 'I don't know when I shall. And it has stopped ine on my journey. I was to have been to.night, this very night, thiiOhristmasE?s, with the young lady I am 'engaged to marry.' Of course I couldn't travel. The' extent of the, injury- done no one can imagine at I present."' ' 'It has Ieen just'as bad to me, sir. ] We were to have been with our family this Christmas 'Eve. There were particular reasons-most particular. We were only hindered from going by hearing of your condition. ' Why did she come into my room at all? I can't understand that. ' A lady always knows her own room iit an hotel.' '353 - that's yours; 333 - that's ours.. Don't you see how easy it was? 1 She had list her way, and alhe was a I little afraid lest the thing should fall down.' 'I wish it had, with all my heart.'" 'That's how is rw,,. Now I'm sure, Mr. Jones, you'll' take a lady's apology. It was a most.unfortunate mistake-most unfortunate; butlwhat more can be said?' Mr. Jones gave himself up to reflection for a few moments before he replied to this. . He supposed that he was bound to bhlievo the story as far as it went. At any. rate, he did not know howbho could say that he did not believe it. It seemed to him to be almost incredible-especially incredible in regard to that personal mistake, for, except that'they both had long beards and brown beards, Mr. Jones thought that there was no point of resemblance between himself amnd Mr. Brown; but still, oven that, he felt, must' be accepted. But thou why had he been cift, deserteu, u **...,? . . torments? ' She found out her mis take at last I suppose?' he said. ' Oh, yes.' 'Why didn't site wake a follow, and take it offagain?' ' Ahl!' 'SiShe can't have cared very mucl for a man's comfort when she went away and loft him'like that.' 'Ah! there was the difficulty, Mr. Jonest.' ' Diutlinlity! Who wts it thait had done it? 'To come to me, in my bed. room, in tile middle oo the night, andi put that thing onl me, anslid then leave it there and say mnothing about it . It seems to me dlensced like a practical joke.' 'No, Mr. Jonesl' 'That's the way I look at it,' said Mr. Jones, plucking.up his courngo. ' There iln't a woman in all Eng land, or in alil France, less likely to do such a thing than my wife. She's as steady as a rook, Mlr. Jones, amd mlw'lild no tnor o into nnethier gentle. mans's bodl·om lu jo'e tianl--Oh

'dear no no! 'You're going to' be' a married man yourself.' 'Unless all this makes a difference,' said Mr. Jones, almost in tears. ', I had sworn that I would'be with' her this Christmas Eve.' 'Oh Mr. 'Jones, I cannot believe that will interfere with your liappiness. How could you' think that yousr life, as is to be, would do such' a thing as th14ti ? ioý& ' . . . ' . anyway.' 'How can you tell rhat' accident might happen to any one?'. 'She'd have wakened the man then afterwards.' ' I'm' sure' she' would. She would never have, left hii 'to suffer in that way. Her heart is too soft. Why' didnu't she 'send you to wake' me, and explain it all. That's what my Jane' would have done;' and I should have gone and wakened him. But the whole thing is impossible,' he said,' shaking' his head as he remem bored that' he and his Janie were' not In a condition as yet to undergo any such mutual trouble. - At last Mr. Jones was brought to acknowledge that nothing more could be done. The lady' had sent her 'apology, and told her story, and he must bear the tronble ~and ,inconvenience 'to 'which she had subjected him. Hestill, however had his own 'opinion about her conduct generally, n'aid could not be brought to give.any sign of amity. ' He simply bowed when Mr. Brown was hoping to induce him to shake hands, and sent no word of 'pardon to the great offender. The .matter however, was` so far concluded that there was no further questioen of police interference, nor any doubt: but that' the 'lady' with" her husband was' to be allowed to' leave Paris by the night train. The nature of the accident probably became known to all.' 'Mr. 'Brown was interrogated by many, and 'though' he professed to declare than he would .au?oiWr no questions, 'nevertheless, he. found it better to tell the clerk soniething of the truth than' to allow the matter to be shrouded in mystery. 'It ins to be feared 'that Mr., Joies, who 'did not once show himself through the day; but who employed the hours in endeavoiuring 'to absuage' the injury done him, still 'lived in' the conviction that the lady' had 'played'a 'practical joke on him.' But the subject of such a joke never talks' about it; and Mr. Jones. could suibt hbA indhined' to speak even by the friendly adheronce of the night porter. Mrs. Brown also clung' to the seclusion of her own bedroom, never once stirring.from it till the time came in which she was to be taken down to the omnibus. Upstairs 'she ate her meals,' and upstairs' she 'passed her time in packing 'ard unpacking, and in requesting that telegrams .might 'be sent repeatedly' to Thompson Hall. In the course of the day two eu'ch tele. grams were sent, in the lItter of which he 'Thompoon 'family wnr' a ;asurredO that the Browns would arrive, probably in time for breakfast 'on Christmas Day, certainly 'in time "for church. She asked more than onca tenderly after' Mr. Jones's welfare, but could obtain'no information.' '' He was very cross, and, that's all I know: about it,' said Mrs. Brown.' Then she 'made a remark as to the gentleman's Christian name, which appeared -on the card as SBarnaby.' 'My 'sister's' husband's name will be Burnaby,' she said. 'And this man's Christian name is Barnaby; tlhat's all the difference,' said her husband, with ill-timedljoualarity. We all know how people under a cloud are apt to fail in asserting their personal dignity; 'On the former day a separate vehicle had been ordered by Mr. Blruow to take himseol ansu his wife to the station, but now, after his misfortunes, lie contented himself with such provision as the people: at the hotel might make for him. At the appointed hour he brought his wife down, thickly veiled. There were many strangers as she passed through the hall, ready to look at tile lady who had done that wonderful thing in-the dead of the night, but none could see a feature of her face as' leo 'stopped across the hall, and was hurried into the omnibus. And there were many eyes also on Mr. Jones, who thillowod her very quickly, for hie also, in spite of his sufferings, was leaving 'Parlis on the evening in order that he might be with liis English' friends on Christmas orowd, assumed an air of gieat dignity, to which, perhaps, something was added by his ondeavours, as lie walked, to saveo Ilis poor throat from irritation. He, too, got into thoe sasn omnibus, stumbling over tile feet of the enemy in the dark. At the station they got their tickets, one close after the other, and then were brought into each other's presence . in the waiting-room. I think it must be acknowledged that here Mr'. Jones was conscious, inot only of her preseirce, but of her conscious noss of his prtesence, and theat he asniumed 'nn attitudle as though lie should hiavo slid, 'Now do you think it possible for me to believe tl:hat you mistook tro for your rhusbrnd ? Slhe was perfectly quiet, but sat thlroughl that quarter of all hour with hier aicu continually veledl. Mr. Brown nmade somne luttlu overture of converittloln ro Mr.Jonres hIlt ~lr.Jones, thloughi ihe d ill mutter some reply, showed pilninly' enOurgli that lie had no desire for further intercourse. 'IThen cmine the icuustomild, staumlede, thisnuwl rushal,;

the' interndcido' struggle in,. which seats had to. be found. Seats. I thney, are regillarly 'found, 'even' by the most tardy, but it 'always appears that everiy British ftther and every British husband is actuated at these stormy moments by a conviction that unless he proved himself a very Hercules he and his daughter and his wife will be left desolate in Paris. Mr. Brown was quite Herculean, carrying t,,o besides the cloaks, the coats., the rugs, the sticks, and the umbrellas. But when he had gut himself and his wife well seated, with their faces to the engine, with a corner seat for her there was Mr. Jones immediately opposite to her. Mr. Jones, as soon as lie perceived the inconvenience of his position, made a scramble for another place, but he was too late. In that contiguity the journey as for as Calais had to be made. She, poor woman, never once took up her veil. There he sat, without closing an eye, stiff as a ramrod, sometimes showing by little uneasy gestures that the trouble at his neck was still there, but never speaking a word, and hardly moving a limb. Crossing from Calais to Dover the lady was, of course, separated from her victim. The passage waq very bad, and she more than once reminded her husband how well it would hlave been with them now liad they pursued their journey as she had . in tended-as though they had been detained in Paris by his fault i Mr. Jones, as he laid himself down on his back, gave himself up to wondering whether any man before him had ever been made subject to such"'absoluve injustice. Now and again he put his hand up to his' own beard, and began' to doubt whether it could have been moved, as it must have been move?;h witodiuiwaking him. What if choloro. form had been, used? Many such 5Uspluiu.s. his mind during 'the misery of that passage. They weie again' together in the same railway carriage from Dover to London. They had now got used to the close neighbourhood, 'and' knew how to endure each the presence of the other. But as yet Mr. Jones hal never seen'the lIdy's .fae. ': He'longed to know what were the 'features of the woman who had been so blind-if indeed that story were true.' 'Or if it were not true, of was the woman who would dare in the middle of the night" to'play siuch i tiiak nas that.. But still she kept her veil 'close over her face.... 'From" Cannon' street 'the B'rowns took their departure in a cab for the Liverpool street Station, whence. theyl would be conveyed by the 'Eastern Counties Railway to Stratford. Now at any rate their. troubles were over. They would be in amplle tim'e,'not only for Christmas' Day church, but for Christmas Day breakfast. 'It will be just the same as getting in there last .niyht,i' id" .. ?a,, as . ,~ iked across the phlitf6?'" to' place his wife in the carriage' for Stratford. Sihe entered it the 'frst, and as shlodid so I there she saw. Mr.. Jones seated in the corner! Hitherto she haid borne his presence well, she could not restrain herself fiom a little start and I a little scream. He bowed his head t very slightly, as though acknowledging 1 tlhi compliment, and then down she dropped her veil. When they arrived at Stratford, the journey being over in a quarter of anl hour, Jones was out of the carriage oeven' before' the Browns. 'There is Uncle John's carriage,' said Mrs. Brown, thinking tlhat now, at any rate, she would be able to free herself from the presence of this ter rible stranger. No doubt lie was 'a nainisomine Iunlat O ioOK at, but on no face so sternly hostile had sheo over before fixed her eyes. Sloe did not, perhaps, reflect that the owner of no other face had ever been so deeply in jured by herself. To be continued.