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Chapter NumberPART II. I
Chapter Url
Full Date1893-02-18
Page Number8
Word Count2721
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)
Trove TitleUnder the Great Seal
article text

£alc5 and gkMt&

ISOV F1BST rUBUSBED.] under thegreat seal, A KOVEL,

BIT JOSEPH HATTOX. Author of ' Qytie,' ' By Order of the Czar,' 41 John Needham'e Doable,' 'Cruel Lon don,** &c

[all eights reserved.) PART IL Chapter L— Ghosts of Heabx's Delight.

For twenty years Alan Keith disappears from view among the surf-swept reefs of Bahama's thousand islands. As his gaunt figure lades out in the mists of that mocking sunshine which found him alone, the one living remnant of the St. Dennis, there arises w the natural coarse of this romance, the lithe young figure of David bis eon. It looms up clean cut against the grey horizon of an fcrtgliBh champaign country borderinc on the sea.

They might be limned as human types of Hope and Despair, this father and this son Away beyond the Spanish main Abut. Keith, galled with manacles of body and soul, tried to give to that of Hannah his wife a companion vision of David their worse than orphaned sou. That he could never do so encouraged him to believe the boy was living. It almost made him think that the deserted offspring was nappy. Otherwise he surely would have been able to summons him to the darkness of faisceU. Such is the love of man, tliat Alan, all sin stained and half crazy -frith fasting and con finement, was able to win the sweet companionship of F^nn*** from the Elysian fields. For years, in his iiwagiTiat^n-tl hardly a day had passed when she had not glided through the massive walk of bis prison to ait by hjg side and talk to him of their happy days. They had often spoken of little David, speculating upon what might' be his fortunes. Strange, too, that thepatnetic ghost of Hannah Flymptonhad no spiritual tidings of their son. This again argned for bis life and happiness. Dead he would assuredly have joined her with the saints. Unhappy, die would have had a mission to him of comfort and consolation. The gaolers heard their familiar prisoner in bis neglected den talking as was his wont with unseen visitors. The mad 'Kngliwhwr*' was indeed very mad since be no longer complained of his lot, do longer craved for food, bat took the stuff they gave him with a grateful smile. One day they would relieve bim of bis chains and unbar his door. Bat would it be death or human freedom that would make the award of liberty ? And whatcouldao broken witted a creature do for himself in the strange world anon which liberty would thrust him ! It would surely be best for bim that be should die. Yet Alan in his blackest despair saw glimpses of a star whin in cr pfyr off through the darkness. Happily for David's peace of mind his father was dead to him, though the heroic story of bis life, as be had heard it from Sally Mnmford, and read of it in documents signed by David Plympton, liveH continually in bid fancy. To have known the truth about the prisoner of Tarifa would have bees a heavy burden for the generous hearted and romantic lad to carry. He loved the memory of hie father, could see him in his fancy sitting in the porch of the great house with his mother, could see him in command of his avenging ship, fighting for the freedom of his fellows, and paying the glorious penalty of bis courage and devotion. Whether he had any suspicion ot the truth or not, David's father was to the sou a hero whose memory was worthy of reverence and veneration. Mtss Mauiford liked nothing better than to tell David stories of Alan Keith's famous deeds, his kindness to her and his devotion to his wife. Miss Mnmford was an old maid for David's sake. She looked the character of a cheery spinster to the life. Her trim little home in a corner of one of the Yarmouth Rows, with bright brass knocker and white lace curtains was not less neat than herself. It was a picturesque bouse, its windows full of flowers, the Court or Row, in which it was the principal dwelling, white with limewash, its pavements red with, freshly -washed bricks. Hartley's Row at this point branched off into a small court, with three or four quaint bouses, that might have suggested to the traveller a stray bit of Venice, an unlooked for incident in some straggling bit of street abutting on a lra1*^ retrial. Indeed, to this day there are by-ways in Yarmouth that might be by-ways of the city in the sea, when the sun. shines oad soft aba&v«s lall irom window pediments and overhanging gables in well-kept rows that run off quiet and still from busy thoroughfares. Bnt Miss Mnmford was more of a Dutch woman than a Venetian in the matter of cleanliness. Her bouse, with its immediate approaches, was constantly vasbed and brushed np. The windowpanes shone, the doorstep was as white as tbe blinds, the rery atmosphere of tbe place was immaculate. Miss Miunford and her neighbour, Mildred Hope, in Hartley's Ron1, were the centre of a clean and Oodlv influence- Miss Mumford was only fiftv, after all the years that had passed over ' Heart's Content and Heart's Delight, with wreck and ruin, with sun and storm. Here she lived once more in the country of her fathers, and, though a spinster, was sHil a mother to David Keith, beloved by the gracious lad, and respected by #11 tneir neighboara. She had had a hard time of it when, the new settlement at Heart's Content was broken np. Before the arrest of Plympton and the others tbe Master had been able to place in her hand sufficient moneys for her own and David's

security against want. By his ad rice she had followed him to London, and bad taken a lodging there not far from the prison where he was confined. PlympUm's durance was not of long continuance He had influential friends at Court. His etory was honestly told by one who knew it welL The time was favourable for his cause. He was honourably acquitted of the charges brought against him, and received a certain compensation for the loss of his property, which he duly settled in trust for David Keith. This secured to the boy an education and a. small income for life. With the moneys of which Miss Mumford was already possessed, the two were able to live in comparative affluence in Hartley^ Row at If at this moment it seems odd to speak of Sally as Miss, you would be satisfied if yon could have seen her in her prim blick silk with white fichu and apron, a pair of gold spectacles on her nose, and her grey hair dressed in two bunches of carls about ber thoughtful pleasant face. She looked older than she was, on account of the troubles she had seen, and the responsibilities that Providence had placed upon her *' unbeknown and unexpected. ' Fortunately, as well for PJympton's com panions us himself, they were supported in their defence by ardent petitions for their release. Even St. John's joined in the prayers of the last of the men and women of Heart's Delight and Heart's Content. Furthermore, the prisoners came before the Council by way of preliminary inquiry, at the moment vrben the new Governor, Admiral Sir Richard Godwin Keats was on the point of sailing with instructions for the more en lightened government of Kewfonndland, that had been inspired by recent events in that un happy colony backed by something like a revolt of the merchants at St. John's. As evidence of this refractory spirit, Six John, Duckworth had felt called upon to report the case of a merchant there, who had thought proper to dispense with the Governor's leave, and had violently attempted to build a house, which, in a daring letter to the Sheriff, be had avowed his intention of letting as a dwelling house. This attempt, moreover, was not that of an individual, but was instigated and supported by a company of merchants and settlers, who had raised a- fond, ' the real object of which,' declared the Governor ' was to oppose the government, and estab lish the right of property 1IP°n a qoiet possession of twenty years.7* This was no farther back than tbe early years of the present century. In April, 1813, the new Governor was authorised to make many changes, one or two of which may be men tioned. Tbe publicans of St, John's, in con sideration of their license to sell ardent spirits, had to act as constables ; they were now to be relieved of this particular duty and taxed for their privileges, the money thus obtained being set apart to create a civic arm for tbe proper preservation of peace and order. G cants of land at an annual quit rent, for tbe purposes of cultivation were sanctioned, bnt with severe restrictions as to renewal of leases ; the memorial of certain Admirals, a rigorous continuation of the enforced return of seamen after the close of each fishing season as heretofore, or for the right to seize them and bring them on board His Majesty's ships was disregarded ; and farther evidence was not wanting on all .bands, for endorse ment of tbe faith that- had made A?an Keith bstinate in his bopes of a free Newfoundland, with rights to dig and delve and make the bud blossom as the rose. Such was the generaos mood of the Govern ment, when David Plympton and bis fellows stood for judgment, and the magnanimity of the time has burdened the shoulders of Her Majesty's Ministers in our own day, and hampered the natural progress of tbe en franchised island. Although France had been the disturber of the peace of Europe, and her ruler was chiefly indebted to England for his throne, Great Britain, utterly disregarding the petitions of Newfoundland and her own colonial and naval interests, and withont any reason whatever, unless it was in the way of still discrediting and crippling the native settlers, voluntarily engaged to restore to the French, the colonies, fisheries, factories, and establishments of every kind which they had possessed in 1792, on the seas and on the continent of America. It might be doubtful whether after all Newfoundland had been successful as a training ground for the British navy, but it is the settled and expressed opinion of specialists that except for the generous concessions of England, as regards Newfoundland, France might to-day be almost without a navy. So liberal also were the privileges cod ceded to America that in a shoit time the incentive thus given to foreign competition was soon the cause of serious embarrassment to the colonists- Daly impressed with the impor tance of Hie fisheries, both the French and Americans at once established a system of liounties for their encouragement, and at the same time secured for their otto fishermen a monopoly of their markets by a proliibitory duty on the import of foreign fisli- This literally broke the financial backs of a vast majority of the Newfoundland merchants and fishermen. It was as if Government relenting of her tardy acts of justice turned ouce more to rend the unhappy colony. The price of fish fell from forty-five shillings per quintal to t welre . Many large niercan tile fi rms became bankrupt- Others realised their property and retired from the conntry. No less than nine httudred cases Arising ont of the general failure came before the civil courts. Bills to the value of a million sterling were dishonoured. The entire colony vras at a standstill for work, and tbe modest savings of the industrious classes -were steep t away. The Government had to send aid to the starving people, and did so with no unstinting hand. The innate pluck o? tbe colonists, the recuperative power of the English people eventually utilised tbe new and beneficent laws of local and Imperial government ; but to this day die magnanimity of the Jwrae

Government to a beaten foe at the expense of the colony, is an ever growing seed of trouble and danger. It was Vucky all the same, as I have said, for Plympton and the rest that their revolt, so-called, had to be considered when the Government was in a forgiving and a generous mood. Plympton was released and to some extent compensated, the others were per mitted to take service in Bis Majesty s Beet, in which capacity they disappear from these ^Letter Bentz, wbo sailed into port with the triumphant St. George, was rewarded for his patriotic services with an official position on the Governor's staff. Cowardice and cunning had come ont successfully in his case ; and be had the satisfaction of bestowing an official snub upon Master David Plympton, whose business brought the two together, Plympton as a suppliant, Lester Bentz as an officer of antbority in the colonial department. Tbe Admiral or the St, George had to report the complete annihilation of the St Dennis, which had been used by Alan Keith for piratical purposes. It was debated whether Keith and his men should be proclaimed malefactors ; bat a super-sensible member of the Council of the Admiralty urged that they wasted time in discussing dead men. More over, there had been something gallant in -the way in which Keitii had captured the brigsatine from the King's enemy ; and it was plain that he had been driven to revolt and madness by the overstrained authority of Ristack and the other fishing Admirals, who had used their powers for their individual advantages; Keith and his fellows being dead—victims to their temerity in fighting an English ship— there let them rest. And this in effect was the verdict of the Conn, which was too busy with thousand living questions to do wore at the moment than advance the promotion of the comm&adex tX. the St. George, and authorise the speedy distribution of whatever prize money belonged to his ship. Lester Beurz had said something about the possibility of bidden treasures that might be found in the locality of Keith's hiding place ; but he was vague and hypothetical in his suggestions, and the Admiral of the St. George declared 'fore gad' that any man was welcome to whatever they might dig out of the Godforsaken coasts and creeks about Demon's Bock. Plympton having arranged with one of tbe trustees of David and Miss Mumfordfoc their removal to Yarmouth, where be bad legal and other associations, went back to Newfoundland, and busied himself there for some tune, more especially in the northern territory of Labra dor. Within a year or two he died, and was buried by the side of his daughter Hannah. The settlers had cleared the forest there abouts and made a cemetery of the sacred spot. Tbe graveyard took in tlie tree under which the dog Sampson was bnried ; and upon the shadowing trunk of the tamaerack a plate had been let in bearing Sampson's name, with a brief reference to the manner of the dog's heroic death. And so the years passed away, and the buried treasure of Wilderness Creek reared its triple-beaded lie among the graves of tbe dead and gone, -and took upon its stony front the same tokens of Time and Weather that marked the true mementoes. In winter these silent sentinels of the Cave of Demon's Bock were white with snow and frost, ghosts of the icy Wilderness. Summer found them green and grey with moss and lichen. In latter years an occasional traveller, pioneer of trade and commerce, missionary of civilisation, prospector of metals, and hidden stores of earth and sea, would cross himself or doff bis cap, at sight of the litUe cemetery with its three cairns that stood higher thko the rest, as Fate might have designed for a landmark in the ma*es of this strange event ful history, their mystic shadows creeping outside the stormy portals of Kasqnappc and the Demon's ridge to light upon tbe fortunes of David Keith, the deserted sou of Alan, and others within tbe orbit of his influence for good or evil on the Eastern coast of England.