|Chapter Number||XIII (CONTINUED)|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Society, Friendship and Love|
" Beside himself -with rage, he made a plunge at Dunstan, caught him by collar, and before the boy could recover from his
astonishment at this prompt action,; soundly boxed, both his ears.''-CHAPTER XIII. ¡
"SOCIETY, FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE '
''Exactly so," said Tom Grimleigh. "Our Count, in fact, the genuine Count, had also with him a young valet, who has since figured among us as Count Andrew. Count Czarnasehek, it appears, died somewhere in America. ^ I believe there is no suspicion of foul play ; but the secretary and valet concealed the fact of his death, contrived to bury him quietly, took possession of his papers and money, and started on a lecturing tour through the United States and the colonies. I do not know how the suspicions of the Count's friends in Hungary were aroused ; for it appears that the secretary, who is an accomplished imitator of handwriting, regularly wrote to them ; but at any rate his sister, who is also his heir, took alarm, and sent a clever London detective on the supposed count's track. This man soon unearthed the mystery, and followed in the wake of our two friends, until (as we have seen) he caught them at the door of the Oddfellows' Hall. That is the whole story. I am afraid no charitable suppositions will stand against it. "
" 1 wonder what the real Count was like ?" said Mrs.
"A very handsome fellow, according to the detective, who has a photograph with him, much more gentlemanlike than his secretary. Our friend's appearance was always against him," and Mr. Tom Grimleigh drew himself up with;an air of perfect satisfaction at his own appearance, which was only a second edition of his elder brother's-six feet of
height, well shaped, aquiline features, and properly droop-, ing reddish moustache.
"I wish we had known the real Count," said Mrs.
Broadhurst ; "he must have been charming, like the Polish . Count Larynski in that delightful French story-you re- member it, Margaret?"
" Yes, aunt Dora ; but in the story the impostor has the advantage of being outwardly as charming as the real hero, and charming is scarcely descriptive of the sham Count Czarnasehek."
"Oh, you see alibis imperfections noiv. do you ?" said Mrs. Broadhurst, with a half malicious laugh, which made her niece colour indignantly.
" Dora, do not behave like a fool," said her husband in a low tone.
" Come, Maurice," he went on to Mr. Gower, who was leaning in a forlorn attitude against a door, " you and my niece are both fond of chess ; suppose you have a game. I am curious to know which of you is the better player."
A protest rose to Mrs. Broadhursts lips, and Dorothea, who was playing spellicans in a^corner with Walter Grim
leigh, looked up quickly with, a certain compression of her lips and a sparkle in her dark eyes, which showed her not altogether indifferent to Maurice's proceedings. But the manner in which he obeyed Mr. Broadhursts summons, the sort of reluctance with which he came forward, and his evident constraint in speaking to Margaret, set the minds of mother and daughter at rest, and they allowed the game to begin without opposition.
Maurice scarcely opened his lips, and avoided meeting Margaret's eyes. She thought he was sulking with her, and recalled her uncle's warning with an incredulous smile. She was also a little astonished that her uncle should think them equally matched as chess players, for Maurice's whole game was a succession of blunders.
" Are we playing to lose, Maurice ?" she said ; " or is the game such a bore to you that you cannot take the trouble to play as though you knew something more than the
" I beg your pardon," he said, with a slight start. " I know I am very stupid to-night, but if you have patience to try again, I may manage to do better."
"He is worrying himself about Dorothea," thought Margaret, pityingly ; "and really her conduct is extraordi- nary. But I suppose I do not understand lovers. Have you forgiven me for my rude remarks the other day ?" she said. "Mind, I do not retract anything I said then."
'5 You never say anything that is not good and kind, and true-like yourself," he answered, and Margaret, was fain to ask no more questions, and to go on with the game.
Everything went on smoothly; there was a little music and a little conversation, and everyone was outwardly amiable, until it occurred to Dunce to interrupt his tutor's flirtation with Miss Grimleigh.
Mr. Fitzalan grew angry, and a dispute arose, which was peremptorily silenced by Mr. Broadhurst, who threatened his son with a sound thrashing if there was any more dis-
turbance that evening.
Dunce sat kicking his heels in sullen silence, revolving plans of vengeance, until a brilliant thought occurred to him. He bided his time, and preseutly, when there was perfect silence in the room, he called out to Maurice at the opposite end, " I say, Maurice, can a fellow always be put in quod if he takes another fellow's name ?"
" I do not suppose so," said Maurice, " unless he takes something else more valuable."
"Then, if I did not like the name of Broadhurst, and chose to call myself Gower, you could not do anything to
' By E. A. B.
. "I beg you will not try it; I should not care to be credited with all your misconduct. And, Dunce, if you want to talk, suppose you come over here, I do not care to
bawl across the room."
Dunce glanced at his father, who was for the moment occupied in fastening a restive shutter on the verandah, and seeing himself in no danger, went on, " Well, but look here, suppose a fellow had a beast of a name-Higgs, or Snooks, or Touks, could he change it if he liked for Grimleigh, or
Gower, or Fitzalan ? '
" We ought to be highly flattered by your selecting our names as specimens of what is pleasant to the ear," remarked Walter Grimleigh ; and Maurice whispered to Margaret, " What is the boy driving at ?"
" Do stop him," she said, her face white with fear, as Dunce repeated, " What do you think, Maurice ?"
" I think that little boys should be seen and not heard. We have listened to enough of your nonsense, Dunstan ; come over here, and-. " He stopped abruptly, for he had just caught sight of the tutor, whose face was a picture of alarm, rage, and confusion. Mr. Fitzalan's face was red, his eyes glared like those of an angry ape, he sat fidgetting on his chair and kept opening his mouth as though he were about to speak. "What is the matter?" began Maurice; but a slight touch from Margaret stopped him.
"Hullo, Fitzalan ! what's the matter with you?" called
out Walter Grimleigh, and all eyes were turned on the un-
Beside himself with rage, he made a plunge at Dunstan, caught him by the collar, and, before the boy could recover from his astonishment at this prompt action, soundly boxed both his ears. .Dunce immediately set up a howl and flew at the tutor, but Mr. Broadhurst came to the rescue.
. "What do yon mean, sir, by upsetting us all in this way ?" he said, with an indignation that was possibly not at all meant for his son. " Do you suppose you are in a bear-garden ? Apologise for your impertinence at once, and
then be off to bed."
" What impertinence ?" said Dunce ; and Mr. Broadhurst was rather at a loss for an answer. 4 ' You evidently meant some impertinence," he began, but Dunce cut him short with a noise between a howl and a grunt.
"I didn't. I only asked if a fellow whose name was Snooks or Tonks, might call himself Gower or Fitzalan. What impertinence is there in that, I should like to know ? Why should not Maurice box my ears ?" \
"I should have great satisfaction in doing HO," said
Maurice aside to Margaret, but she did not answer ; she r
was nervously watching the scene, and wished herself a hundred miles away.
The tutor made an effort to recover himself. He began to think that the boy's remark might possibly have been made by chance. "I-T-I think-1-must bave been under some mistake, Mr. Broadhurst." he stammered ; "the fact is, Dunstan is so generally troublesome and impertinent that T naturally always expect him to be so-"
"It's a lie!" cried Dunce, allowing his-rage to get the better of his prudence. "And you know your name is Tonks ; Charley Powell's got a friend who knew you when you were a Christy minstrel ; 1 saw it in a letter to Mar- garet. Didn't I, Meg?"
Before the words were well out of Dunstan's mouth he found himself outside the drawing-room door, and on bis way to his father's study. At the end of five minutes he retired growling and sobbing to bed, and Mr Broadhurst threw himself on a sofa, with the exhaustion natural to an indolent, easy-going man, who, for once in a way, has been forced to act with energy. " Bother the boys !" he said to himself, "they must go to a boarding-school, and the sooner we get rid of that idiot of a tutor the better. What does it matter to me whether his name is Tonks or Fitzalan ? Shall I go back to the drawing-room and see this business . out ? No ; let the women settle it ; they are far more com-
petent than I am. I hope they will not attack poor Mar- garet ; but she is quite able to defend herself, and I have really done penance enough for one evening." Thus dis- missing the matter from his mind, Mr. Broadhurst languidly extended his arm to reach a volume of his favourite author, and his enjoyment of it was none the less keen for this slight
Meanwhile an unpleasant scene was occurring in the drawing-room. The moment the door closed npon Mr. Broadhurst and Duncan, Mrs. Broadhurst turned upon Margaret with a sharp, "Perhaps you will be good enough to explain this ; Dunstan says he had his information from you. "
"He says he read it in a letter, which is perfectly true," answered Margaret, whose courage always rose to the occasion, and who was now as calm as she had been dis- turbed a few minutes before. Her aunt, Mrs. and Miss Grituleigh, and the tutor, all stood glaring at her as though she were the culprit, and Dorothea crossed over to her mother ; Walter and Tom Grimleigh took a neutral position, but Maurice remained by Margaret's side, and so they stood like two unequal armies ready for an encounter.
"I had a letter from Charley Powell this morning," Mar- garet went on, " in which hé speaks of a certain friend with whom he is very intimate, and he says that this friend knew Mr. Fitzalan at a time when he called himself Mr. Tonks, and belonged to a company of strolling actors who were engaged to perform at Bundeland Hall, while this friend of Charley's was there on a visit. That is the story ; and I may be allowed to say that I did not feel in the least degree interested by it, and that I should certainly not have thought it worth repeating. Unfortunately Dunce came to me in garden this morning while uncle Charles was talking to uncle Dunstan ; he managed to steal behind me when I was sitting, reading the letter ; he must have seen something in , it which aroused his curiosity, and I refused to let him read
it. I suppose he watched his opportunity and took it out of my pocket. I did not know before that I had lost it."
" T owe it to myself to explain to you all the circumstances which this young lady has discovered and recorded," said the tutor, looking as impertinently as he dare at Margaret, affectionately at Miss Grimleigh, and with an air of depre- cation at the others. "Under the pressure of pecuniary misfortune I did indeed at one time join a company of pro- fessional actors-I think. I mentioned the circumstance to you before, Mrs. Broadhurst-."
"To be sure you did, in speaking of your friend, Mr. Lorraine," put in that lady..
." Unwilling to drag my own name on to the stage I adopted another ; most actors, I believe, seek to improve npon their family name ; I was contented to choose a more humble one, and called myself Tonks. We went, as Miss Latimer has informed you, to Bundeland Hall. We were acting at a small town near there, and Lady Vavasour was seized with a desire to get up theatricals at her own house. She was kind to us all: she knew that amongst us there was more than one gentleman who had been driven to the stage by poverty, or perhaps 'a touch of divine fire,' as the poet says. To me she was most kind; and, having ascer- tained my proper name, she rarely called me by anything else. In fact she treated me in all respects as a guest in the house, and encouraged me to look upon her as a friend. I shall always retain a pleasant recollection of Lady Adela Vavasour' and of many of the guests whom I met in her house. May I ask the name of Mr. Charles Powell's friend,
Miss Latimer ?"
?. ?"Mr. 'Fotheringham," said Margaret, shortly. ?
"I have a slight recollection of someone of that name; I believe he was a god-son of Lady Adela, and had expecta- tions from her ; but I may be wrong. I hopé I have quite satisfied your curiosity, Miss Latimer ?" with a decided
"I have never felt any," said Margaret; and the tufcoi answered by a second sneer more decided than the first.
Maurice stamped his feet, and muttered something thal sounded suspiciously like an oath, while he looked at Doro thea and his mother as though asking them to interfere änc protect Margaret. But they had evidently no intention o; doing so, and it was Mr. Walter Grimleigh who came to hei
"Look here, Fitzalan," he said, ''do not behave like Í cad because you are in a rage, and do not sneer, it is awfully bad form. Miss Latimer has already told you that she feelf no curiosity about your past history, and it is quite cleai that this disclosure has been forced upon her by the impu ,. dence of that prying little imp, Dunstan. You ought to b<
grateful to her, by the way, for giving you an opportunity of explaining a story which would have sounded bad if r - had leaked out by chance. And now, I suppose, we may
consider the matter dropped?" He went up to Dorothea said something to her in a low tone, and the two went on ti the verandah together ; Maurice scarcely noticed their dis
" Dear Miss Broadhurst," said Walter, when they wer outside, "do you not think it is in very bad taste oi Fitzalan's part to try and stir up a quarrel between yoursel and your cousin ? I would not give him the satisfaction o thinking he has succeeded, if I were you."
"But do you not think he had some provocation?" sug
"I cannot see it," said Walter. " He should have bee too glad of an opportunity for setting himself right in th .eyes of us all. That is the' natural way of looking at it but his conduct would lead one to imagine that there ma be some truth in young Powell's story. I consider that h rhas treated your mother with disrespect, and he is naturall
therefore lowered ia ray opinion. But why need we spend our time in discussing anything so uninteresting? Do you forget that you promised to show me the white passion flower by moonlight ?"
"We will go and look nt it now, if you like," said Doro- thea, tripping lightly down the verandah steps and into the garden, whence he followed her.
As for Maurice, he remained by Margaret's side.'
" Really, Miss'Latimer, your correspondence with "your cousin must be of a most interesting kind'. Does he often favour you with these stories ?" said Miss Grimleigh.
"With what stories?" enquired Margaret, quietly. "I do not understand you. "
" It is a most unusual thing for confins of opposite sex to correspond at all," said Mrs. Grimleigh, severely. " May I
ask if Mr.. Powell is aware of the matter ?"
" I believe my uncle is perfectly satisfied with my con- duct ; but it will be easy for you to ascertain," she answered, , for her patience was not proof against this aristocratic in-
"We are not given, MissLatimer, to meddling in matters that do not concern us," said Miss Grimleigh. " We leave
. that to others'." . -, ?
A'slight smile crossed Margaret's face, but she made rio answer. " I think, aunt'Dora, I will say good-night, -it- is quite time that I went home."
"I should think common decency would prompt you to make an apology before .you go," cried Miss Grimleigh, furious that she could not drive Margaret to any display of emotion. "Of course, Mr. Fitzalan, you know we believe you, even should Miss Latimer receive any more private communications, to be revealed by a series of still more
"By Jove! Mabel, that is a little too bad," cried her brother Tom ; and Maurice, with a look of indignation at the whole party, and one of utter loathing at the tutor, said in a clear ringing voice, - " I hope, Miss Latimer, you will allow me the honour of taking you home, as Mr. Powell is not here to protect you.'
Margaret looked at him gratefully, but Mrs. Grimleigh seemed scandalised by the proposal, and Mrs-. Broadhurst said sharply, "I will send a servant with Miss Latimer."
She rang the bell as she spoke, and coldly extended the tips of her fingers to her niece ; the other ladies did not even acknowledge the bow in which Margaret included the whole company. Maurice opened the door for her and fol- lowed.her into the hall. "I am coming with you," he said.
"I ask, as a particular favour, not to do so," she said. " You hear that I am to be allowed a servant, and, and do you not see that---I do not want to give these people the slightest justification for this conduct." She coloured a little as she spoke, but looked him straight in the face and held out her hand. "Good-bye," she said, " and thank you for defending me ; I hope it will do you no harm."
" It is not likely to do me any harm that I shall care about," he said, scornfully. " Must I really not walk home with you ? I do' not like the idea of letting you go in this way ; and what will Mr. Powell say ? Besides, I want to come with you."
Still she refused, and he was obliged to let her go under the guardianship of the footman, whilst he walked home in the opposite direction in a state of dire disgust with every- thing and everybody.
The next morning he received a note from Dorothea : " If you are tired of sulking with me, come and spend this morn- ing with us. Your affectionate, Dorothea."
He smiled a rather cynical smile, put the note in his pocket, and went to Oaklands a little before lunch time.