|Chapter Number||PART IV. III|
|Chapter Title||HARRY BARKSTEAD'S LATEST CONQUEST.|
|Newspaper Title||The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)|
|Trove Title||Under the Great Seal|
?f atos and gkthht*.
? '£SOV F1B6T PITBUsnED.] UNDER THE GREAT SEAL, A NOVEL,
BY JOSEPH HATTON. Antbor of ' Clytie,' ' By Order of tkc Car,' 'John Needhiui's Double,' 'Crael Lon don,' tc
[all eights resisted.] PART IV. Chapter ILL — Habkv* Bark-stead's Latest CoSyrEST.
The boors were weeks, the weeks years to Mildred Hope and StiUy Mutnford sinceDavid m no longer at Hartley's Bow, mud was to be wen no more bounding across tlie dnnes lo
Webb's cottage, or poshing off the Swallow on trips to the Flying Send, or on Afternoon sails with the smack -owner's daughter. They talked of no one else these two women, except when Mildred felt bound to remember her missionary duties. She found &illy more than usually sympathetic towards women whoae husbands -were away at sea. No tale of sorrow went to Hartley's Row without relief. Sally said whatever she did she did it because she was sure it would please David. Mildred npbraided bersett in her own room and nnon her knees for thinking so much of David; and yet the more she tried to pat his ont of ber thoughts the more he would obtrude. This wu even so when she was at prayers. Once afae liad done penance in a long fast and an increased prison duly on account of a' transient feeling of jealousy against Ehntra Webb. She found the face of David Keith coming between her and the Church, thoughts* of him taking place of holy reflections. She took long walks where lie bad walked, en eourujed pforJr to talk of him, even allowed Miss Mumford to continue speaking of tlie wish that David bad chosen her for his wife instttd of Elraira. Mildred Hope was in love with David ; ahe would not have admitted it even to Sally ; nor -would ahe have denied it, being charged with it. She admitted it in her prayers, and asked forforgivenesd ; for waaahc not wedded to doty, to the service of the Lord V Had she not bound herself to be one of His shepherds, to watch over His Socks, to visit the sick and needy, to give up her life to His mission ? In her inost intense rcliooiia moo Is Mildred felt as keenly the tin she believed she was committing as any nnn might have felt nnder similar cueffinstaners. ' And yet her love bad sweet, dreamy moment* in which she hmlt castles in the sonny air of the dunes, with hitter moments to follow when the winds blew from the North and scattered them uitli tlie spume of the sea and the red leaves of the Poor little Mildred Hop: '.— why will women think tiiey are strong enough to make vows and take np duties in opposition to mpolsej of (he heirt they have never felt, and nnder the influences of which tliey may fall at any ttioe. Mildred could not know her destiny may more than any other woman. She had no right lo cast ber horoscope and act npon ber own views of the future. It had all been mapped out for ber no doubt long ?before sue had any i3eas of her own. She ?could be charitable and religions, she could visit the fatherless and the widows without vowing a herself or to Hekvcn that she ?would do nothing else. Nor was all this benevolent activity and self-sacrifice incom fiatible with falling in love, nor with marriage ; and yet Mildred went about as if she Sad committed a secret crime ; a sacrilege. Sally Mnmford had sleepless nights wben ever.tbe wind blew more =ban ordinarily, and in all Jier moods that touched David's welfare the blamed Etm-ra Webb. David would not have gone to sea if it bad not been to get money for her. She had bewitched him. i he lad cared nothing for money until he knew tier. Latterly he had thooght of nothing else but making £lmira a lady, buying her thii and the other, talked of a yacht to sail with her into foreign ports ; wondered if he would liave money enough to bny a house in London. She admitttd, of course, that David thought of her too, and often said bis dear mother Sally should have a line house in Yarmouth market place, with as many servants as Mr. Petherick, and nothing to do ; and, as Miss Mnmfonl pot it, was generally off his head about money, and all because Elmira was a vain lass and wanted gtw-gaws and fine chutes ; and to live abore her station, and so Autumn was pasting into winter ani while Mildred and Sally were hungering tor news ?of the Morning .Star, and Sally was criticising ?Eknira's conduct, they had anddenly to face a ?wreck ashore that seemed almost as pitiable a ?one as if David's ship had gone down. Miffi Mumford, in the first rush of feeling, exclaimed, ' I knew it uould come to ill, our David has had a narrow escape ',' and then she wept to think of the blow it would be to Zaccheus Webb, the shuck to David. Mildred had brought the news. She had been to Caiater twice without being able to make anyone hear at the cottage, and ou the third summons she had seen Mrs. Charity Dene — bat it will be brat to tell the story as it occurred ; it follows in a natural sequence, the previous chapter wherein Harry Barkstead gave Elmira David's message, and his own. It was just before the first snou* fell npon the eastern coast, making the dunes all white and smooth ; it was as if nature had inter vened to cover np the tell-udc, treacherous footsteps that marked the Sight of Elmira ~Weub ; forahe had fled with Harry liarkstead. «nd no one knew whither. Zacchens Webb was away at sea, detained :by heavy gales. He had pnt into a distant iPOrt ; and Sir Anthony Barkstead's son had .made his latest conqneat complete. Day .after day lie had lingered at the cottage, and
had won over as a confederate in bu suit of love Mrs. Charily Dene, who bad sat com placently outside the parlour , door to bear him play upon tbc spinet those old songs and qnaint gavottes that were fall *6f fascination under bis pliant fingers. He had invited Charity to the finest wedding she would ever see, and so on ; getting possession of the foolish housekeeper's sympathy and good word ; while -Blmira drank in his pictnres of the London world, saw herself as Lady Barkstead, and forgot her. vows to David Keith, and even her duty to ber doting father, as girls have often done before and will to the end of rime neder the spell of the seducer's honeyed ? words and right gallant promises. But surely this pretty Elmira, Webb was born to carry on tlie heritage of misery that rests with vanity and beauty ! There is one thing in writing about women, in telling their stories, the Ibeme is ever new. No two women are alike. Under certain given circumstances you can give a good guess at rbe conduct of the average man, but not of the average woman. They love, hate, fear, marry or live single lives, but eacb with totally different impulses, -feelings, and in fluences. Yon might think you knew Khnira Webb. Harry Barkstead was dead sure he knew her. Perhaps he did. Anyhow you and I wonld hare thought her pride, ber tact, and her commonsense . would have sought protection in a wedding ring before she became the travelling companion of Harry Barkstead, to say nothing of dishonouring the name and breaking the heart of ber most kind, affec tionate, and devoted father. Elmira was born without the capacity to be constant. . Some men have cot the faculty of friendship. Harry Barkstead was a senualut He was ledly his passions, Ebnira iVebb by her vanity. But not by that alone, She rejoiced in her beauty. ~ in an Eastern slave market ahe would have encouraged the bidding.- -She had no conscience; that is as Gar as one can judge by her conduct. Yet she never vexed her father, was courteous, hospitable, delighted in pleasing everybody, ?fed was quite a thrifty hand at housekeeping. What was wrong with her? who can tell? Rbe liked David Keith, thought ahe loved him, while she laid her head on his knee in the Swallow that night, when he told her ho was going to Halifax ; but the shadow of Harry Barkstead falling across her vowfl, she rejoiced in the competition for her love, and thought of the uninterrupted flirtation the nrght have with Harry while David was away. . A enrious, contradictory, pretty, inconstant, merry, mischievous, provoking daughter of Ere, this belle of the Eastern coast. , Ehnira, without indulging* in any parti cular inttospective reflections, did, in a way, argue with 4be situatiou. David was so long away, and moreover Harry Barkstead was a gentleman ; and when his father died, as he could not fail to do in tlie course of Nature, not many years hence her lover — who had loved her all alone from his first sight of her, so he said— would take pnession of his estates and title; and she wonld be a lady. How every marriageable girl thronghont the country and far away into Suffolk, and indeed even in London town itaelf, wonld be jealous of Lady Barkstead, and she would sweep past them in her brocaded silks and splash them with her chariot wheels. It was true, ahe admitted to herself, that David loved her, but how many more might have saul . the same had .she given them oppartnhiiY ? She shut her chamber door- and lighted her randies, and though she1 shivered in Ihe cold she studied her charms before her glass and tried on her daintiest things ; and more especially noted the flash of the diamond cross that Harry bad given ber. It was a subtle thing to think of, by way of gift,' a holy cross set in stones that caught all the radiance of the suu and stars, and seemed, even to Ebnira, to give her eyes an added radiance. Oh, die admired IterBelf, tliifi rustic beauty, this fisherman's daughter ! She could ape the fine lady in her very talk ; and sbe sang tlie song her lather liked, and Mildred only chid lialf-hearledly. ' It was Down in Cupid e Harden.' Pariil, she wan sure, would make an exacting, jealous husband ; he had a masterful manner and he was over fond. Besides, what a hurry he was in to get her word when l-e knew he would be far away, as if he feared to trust her until he should return '. And who knew that he ever would return? Harry had told her of theu tiff, of David's boastful manner, of their walk to Yarmouth that night, and how David had triumphed over bb gentleman friend, for while Barry wonld not deign to le. the lad feel his inferior position, yet their stations were far apart, and old Petherick's clerk should not have torgotten that. Pride was a good thing when there was something behind tt, a name or money or family ; but who was David Keith ? And what ? With his common foster mother, as she called herself, and his nameless parentage ? Harry did not say these things spitefully, but rather in sorrow, as one who had tried to be gracions, kind, and true to a lad whom he had liked for himoelf, apart from his common origin. When Ehnira turned upon him and said her station was perhaps no better than David's, Harry said beauty was its own dower, its own name, its own rank and fortune. He mentioned loivly girls who had shared the crowns of kings. His illustrations of the summits to which beauty had climbed took no note of happy marriages where beauty and its consort walked hand in hand, and ou SundayB sat together in the church; they were theatrical, tlie tales -st humble women wiuning titles and wealth, and full of bright and merry progresses through foreign lands, the Opera in Paris, the carnival of Venice, the festivals at Koine, and the routs and balls of London. As Harry built up romance after romance for her femiuine edification, Kitnira saw her self with while shoulders and sweeping train, with hair that had1 been drvssnl by Parisian
arti-its in the mode, and die felt around her neck threaded beads of pearls and diamonds. For a 6sherman's daughter she had a rare fancy and a lively irongiuation. -J»»e ahe was launched in that bright happy world of wealtn and show and rauac, «f humble servitors and gilded coaches;, she felt tfcat'her fortune wss made. She uai always lunwn that she was never born for a humdrum wife such a* David Keith would assuredly -desire with his psalm-singing housekeeperfoster mother, and her praying everlasting sighing little Hope at her elbow, to take Ihe very life and soul out of every harmless 'jest '-' Mra. Charity Dene for one whole day and night lad a call to a sick- sister beyond Onnesby. Harry Birkstean filled bet purse. She was very poor, and he was 'such a eendeman!' Moreover, Elmira vowed she would not mind being left alone; 'indeed, dear Charity,' she had said, 'I ehaU like it very much. Mr. Barkstead will go home to tbe hall; of course, and even if he .ltd not, what harm? I have assuredly given np all thoughts of David Keilh, and Mr. Barkstead, as you say, is a gentleman.' ZaccLeus's man of all work was on board The Hying Scad. Emk* wax «* paaous hostess of the cottage. How could she drive Harry Barkstead away. Did he not worship her? Then it. tras*o strange .and pleasant :to be alone m-ith your lover, secure from prying eyes, or the possibXt/ of interfering comment. And Harry was so bright -and merry, so natnral,, so handy, so handsome, so dis tinguished. He helped ber to make the tea, and called it picnicking; be built up the winter fire and called it fan. Elmira pat ou her best lilac gowo, and brought ont the old China service that had belonged to her grand mother. It drove Harry wild to look npon her, so fresh and happy, with her bahy-waisted gawn, her daik hue libbons, her rich brawn hair, her white teeth, and her merry, tantalising laugh. He had no thought for the past or the future. He seemed to live a century in these short boors. Ehnira. was the conquest of his rarest arts, the pretty victim to his lure and bow. How well lie knew tbe coooettish ways of the game, and flitting to and fro, the hopping from twig to twig, the wittering of song until the trap fell and tbe hunter had secured his prey. 44 I've often taken a hand at housekeeping,'' he said. .. '? No, have you ?' she replied, surrendering some trifling domestii: article lo he put away on shelves or in the shining comer cupboard. ' Oh yes, I love pic-nicking, and with such a partner,' he went on, deftly helping -her to clear tbe table and make the hearth tidy. 44 Ob, if you 4***«1'1 only have seen Jack yT«'*'' and me in the Australian bosh i' 44 Have you been in Australia, thenfjshe asked. 'Batber; I should think I have,' said Harry. ' Jack Hinton and I lived in » hut away in Western Australia for over a month ; made our own beds, cooked our own food, brushed np our hearthstone : and Jack said i was the best housekeeper he ever came across; Poor old Jack ! He is a peer of. the realm' now, and has given np fun and ptc-uicking.' *4 Do you meanhe isa lord !' asked Klinim. 44 Yes, a real live lord,' said Harry. 44 That's greater than a baronet, is it not ?' she remarked, folding up the table doth and potting it in the press. ' Yes, but there are rich lords and poor, my dear, just as there are rich baronets and poor ones, and unfortunately Lord Snrbiton is poor. It's a miserable business to be poor, Blmira, isn't tt 1' ?'I suppose it is,' she said, 'not that I have any knowledge of what it is ; that is, what they call poor at Caister and Yar mouth.' 'No; that is what I meant,' said Harry, detecting the little glance of pride that Elmira turned npon him, 4i I mean compared with having servants and carriages and diamonds, and being able to do what you like and when you like, just as you will, my darling, when we drive about the world together and show it what beauty ia, and that there is another Helen worth tlie siege of another Troy.' 44 Helen !' said Ebnira. 41 She was a. famous beauty in the years that are gone, hundreds of years ago, and the greatest and bravest men fought for her — just as I would tight all tbe world for you, Klmira.' Then they sat upon the old oak seat in the ingle nook and Harry told her- far more wonderful stories than thar of Helen of Troy ; for they were of current interest, belonged lo the time and its ambitions, and they for. Bhadowed many and new delights for Eimira. He also spoke of their marriage. That would come all in good time. Not at present, he said, of coarse There was no beating about the bush as to that. Harry « as a bold wooer. He pressed Ins arm *bout the girl's waist as he wentflo, and ebe looked into the lire and listened. To juarry at present would ruin him. -Sue did not dcaire that, of course, love in a cottage was all very fine for fools; but they knew better than that His father wu a martinet jad had hi; views ; but, happily, if the worst came to the worst, he could not cut him out of the Onncaby estate ; that was his right. After all, that was only a very small tithe of his inheritance. 'Your father would think you lowered yourself, I suppose, by marrying me,' said Elmira, with a flush of pride. 'He has great ideas about blood and pedi gree, and that kind of thing.' 'Well, so have L.' said ftlmira; 'wecome of an old stock, and — ' 44 My darling,' said Harry, taking her into lib arms, 'you are lovely -beanty is blood, beauty is pedigree, beauty rules the world ; you are fit for an anprens : you arc my empress, my own !' Ktuiira struggled a little to free herself from Harry a warm embrace, but, a- I said before, he was a bold wooer, and there were flicker ing shadows on the wall, and the fire was in gentle competition wiih the twfflght, which should most or least illumiuate the room.
'There, let me be now, dear,' she said, straightening her rumpled hair; you are *^f oSwe^e. sweet,' he said. ' M'hy did selfish meddling fools make ceremonies and fZ? Uteve you, ^m. love me, is not that enough, yon doT»ve sne/do you not ? SEJ 4ix itaaaingTiy the fire, leaning against an arm of the settle. ? - ? 4-YesJ Ido.Barrr, bat — *-?'- i - ? ' But is the plague, the kill-joy of youth, I want you to trust me, Elmira, Isweartoyou by all lhat ia sood and true, I will never leave yon. never fee nnkiud to you, give you SyouS. desire, never io~ adumce what ever it cost to make you happy.' Then .cddcnly; tmaing nis face away he said 'Asl live that sneaking little prison visitor has just opened the garden gate. Quick, fasten the door!' He hurried her into the passage, the key was inside Hie door; he locked itsnrt took out the key. 'There,' he said in a whisper,- 'let her knock until her arm aclies— there is no one »t He stole his arm about her and drew her gently aside in the shadow wbtre lh-v could not be seen or heard ; and the next moment there was a knock at the door a quiet, invit ing, apologeHcldndof*nuet, *t received no reply. Again Mildred tapped 'fte Moor with ?aehsudleof her umbrella. Harry laughed 1'he situation amused him. Peniaps Mildred had come with liens of David. So much the better that she should not hear it. Baprap ran on the door. ?darrymadcittliemgiuJto again embrace his pretty hostess. She dared oot pnshhiin inside for fear of makings noise. Once more Mildred rapped and then all was silence. Sbe had evidently gone away. ' It is unkind to let her go, whispered Ehnira, 'she has to walk all the way back lo Yarmouth, and might have liked a cup of 'Shall I go andcallJier;*' he asked preteuil ing much alacrity to do ao if sbe wished. ' No, no, ' said Klmira, detaining him. . - 'Ah, then you do love me !' lie exclaiinnl. 'My sweet, my Elmira!' Tlie twilight deepened into night. The firelight reddened the walls of theoM tiring-room of Webb's cottage. Elinira closed the shntlers. Harry said there was no need to light the lamp. Jon* shore tfieuhuttrrs, wherethewoodworfe left a pane riioUr, a «M- stone through. Tlie bum of the «a could be heard without. It was a lovely, starlight night. Alan Keith sighing to lus son said it was always to-morrow. But to-morrow does come to many. It comes to die bankrupt; it comes to the condemned criminal; it came to JOmim Webb ; it bad come before to Barry Bark stead ; but this was Ebnira's most memorable morrow, and it came in with a watery sun : it came with a wglring of the «ea ; it came with shuddering winds across the dunes. It was a cold morning, yet the sun was shining upon tbe cottage. It bad been noticed by one or two passers by, friends of tlie Webbs, that the, shutters were Dot down at ten o'clock. Soon after that hour, a man's hand cau tiously poshed open the lattice of Khnuu'x window, and Harry Barkstead looked ont. Tbe hollyhocks by the gaiden scat were droopine, tbe nasturtiums were black with frost, shadows were flitting over the sea^ the clouds were J«Awiiig, the sunshine wad 6tful. The blinds being drawn the window was dosed. The same cautious hand that opened tbe chamber lattice now undid the shutters of the house place and let in the daylight nnoo a fire that wisstill burning. Harry stirred it Beu-aiinhisshtrtdeeves. He looked .round lor tbe kettle, went into the backyard,, filled it and nnng it upon the bar over the fire. Very prosaic and common all this after the sunset, the twilight* the flickering shadows on tlie waB, the romance of the night before ; Crime, villainy, deceit, profligacy, have all their mean common sides. Ehuira now peered at the morning from her window, and saw the same scene that Harry had contemplated, but with diflereut eyes and different thoughts. Sue began say iug good-bye to it ; she knew she was looking upon it for the last time for many yean, per haps for ever. The sentiment touched her for a moment, and she felt a pang of remorse when she thought of ber father. She was very quiet, moved about the room with a sense of wiiupering. 'While she dressed abe laid aside certain things of apparel for packing. Harry had roughed it many a time on bunt ing expeditions, and he had lived under cau vss, but he felt the vulgarity of this morning's pic-nic He washed at the pump in tbe yard, made his toilette generally under miserable conditions, found himself actually tidying Ihe room, pnghiug the grey aaucs under tbe fire grate, and brushiug some crumbs from the kitchen table. He had the heart u- wish him self at Onnesby Hall or to his sun&ropnu in - town. TbcoSe wished be »old reSjlVe*ler «l»y, and was sorry for all that ha'd happened, not for Elmira's sake, but as the profligate surfeits with possession. Then he heard Ehnira descending the stairs. He stepped asjde, and went for Ira coal. When lie returned she was feeding a robin that was perched npon the window rilL She might have been the veriest saint, 'to took upon— and oh, the pity of it ! There was an expression of melancholy in her dark Mue eyes. Her brown hair was cathcred np at t he lock of her small bead. She wore u light print dress, with short sleeves, and belteilin at the waift. A «imple lirooeh fastened Ihe dress at her neck. She was unusually pal,', but her lip* were red, and they seemed to pout with a lialf-grieved waywardness that vraa tenderly expressive, inviting sympathy. Harry took both her lands in his and - kissed her white forehead, with it incou ^onsairofrapect-ahiireverttice. -' 'Good morning,' ahe B&id, 'tbe ivlrins are coining, it will soon he winter.'
A few light particles pf wow fell as sliej spoke. ? . . : ** We will go where the imn ahinra alyraya, Bray, 'and where the robins are nightin gales. - .' But Srat to London, you aaid?' '? Yea, dear, to London first' Elminliegan to move about the room and boar henelf with her domestic work. lira. Chaiity Dene bring out of the way, Harry saw Elmira in an entirely new light. She went *boot her work in a simple graceful way, a little seU-eonaoona, l-ot as one who brought u utbdecbam even into (lie comcxmpUce business of preparing breakfast. Harry tried to help her, fetching and carrying in a useless way, and finally Bitting is a comer of the inrienookand admiring huHtde wife, as be called her, adding, 'For yon are, dear, just aa surely aa if we had pledged oundves to each otter in church or chapeL' After breakfut the walked acroBthedanea, away from beaten tracks, aodaUday-loqgthe snow (eUatintenrab between faorata of sun ahine. At aonset Harry Barkstead'a man arrived with a light cart and carried away Ehnira'x trunks; and during the night, the ?now hrahing the treed of U*ar nonet' boob, Harry mod Elmira posted to London. (TvUcotinutd.)