|Chapter Number||XIV. (Continued.)|
|Newspaper Title||The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)|
|Trove Title||Half Round the World to Find a Husband. A Comedy of Errors|
©afc* attd Jtotite
Half Bound tie World to KM a Husband. A COMEDY OF ERRORS.
By MAY CROMMEUN. Author of ?? Bay Bouald,' 'A Jewel of a CM,'' Goblin Gold.' ' Dead Men'. Dollars,' ?' Mr. «nd Ma Herries,' tc
(COPTBIGHT.) CRirtKB HV. (Coatijised.)
Bnt the poor mother', eyes were atl east met with genuine tears, as «he effusively begged Ann for some news of her erring 'Dearest Anita ! Pedro will not allow me to talk about her, yoo know, Ines, he mm .angry ; bot »fter »U she is my chM, and it is dreadful to think of her being Hurried to a .stranger, and that we ahall never Me her any
Whereupon she cried, dabbing her eye. with » highly scented handkerchief, and was only ?comforted on Ann', explicit descriptions of ?WeeUt's personal appearance and Anitas devotion to her young hnsband. Which indeed was a delicate subject over which Ann ?was obliged to skate as it on thin ice, tor W) Hips wen eontemptoonsly parsed, and ahe sat fcv uknn and unsympathetic. 'Somehow I am afraid Ihat Anita has not SOt akappy future before her,' burstont Ann In girXah confidence when they two had left the house. ' Oh I please don't say ? serve her rigkt,' 'or »I« »U 1 emii not helP b?ng very fond of her. Yoo see, at school the other eirli langhed at her careless habits, and many atunelier desk would hare been untidy or ahe late for lessons but for me. Then once I began to take her pare against the rest, naturally I had to .tick to it.' ?? I see,' assented Ines shrewdly. ?? They declared that I bef.iended her more out of obstinacy than from real liking. Poor Anita. How she did hate a cold-water As they settled again into their hired glass ?cocbe, and the driver started Ms three horses ?with load wbip^raeks. Ufa resumed the :same subject that was plainly on her mind. 'We have bad a great escape if Anita la ?addicted to untidiness. My brother Edoardo -dislikes it ray much, but oddly, though quite 'twiidi, he ea-i be more indulgent than Bex, \who simply cannot bear it- Bis wife rather ?rexed him by Luin^a, though of course he was very fond of her.' ' Is that why he hu never married once r asked Ann, artlessly. There was a moment's pause. Without towing exactly why the speaker grew on coMlbrtable. ' *ell,yes, answered 'Ines, dryly, 'he was very melancholy after her death ; his_ nature is so deep. Besides he has given Op his whole mind and soul to working for the welfare an i future of his country ; he has had- no leisure JO seek out the society of Rtrls. I do not think ?my nephew is a man who would fall violently in love with any woman ; Chili is his passion ! But he can be affectionate, even devoted in his duties towards his family, and we are proud So 'saying her eyes rested on Ann's face with a scrutinising glance, which that maiden'smi ,d instantly resented as odd, that is uncalled for. A sudden flush leapt to the girl's cherks dying them with a warm wave, all the warmer thai she was furiously angry with herseli for blushing. What had moved her to such idiotic utterly uncalled for emo tion : except, indeed, that Ines seemed to think ahe took undue interest in Don Rex 'My proposed stepson ; it seems quie in delicate. What a horrid creature she must 4hink me,' was the girl's agonised feeling. If Ines had thought ao, apparently she -changed her mind, Ann's thoughts being ao -easy to read ; and she soon became quite ?affectionate again towards her young friend. -Ouly when her nephew came near the latter, '-her aunt fluttered amund them, bo to speak, ? often intervening without seeming to do so. rShe played duenna, indeed, ao airily that the ?girl lei*, rather than knew, herself the object tmV&tdtieitude that if officious, was yet mater
nal. At dinner time some guests were generally invited 3 later on neighbours dropped in to btniards from the neigtabouriog/rfllas. Indeed, as her old hose never scrupltd to ssy before Ann's face, with his usual breezy candour. 'The young men keep thronging to this house in a never ending troop, once they hear . of the new pretty girl who haa arrived. Ob ! it U quite an event, 1 assure yoo.' Girls, too, called in eager groups, some . quite English, others half Chilian, attracted .out of curiosity to see their new rival'a pretty tface and smart dresser, the fame of both of -which was quickly noiaed abroad aniong the mrroanding bills ; and many who called at Brat trou. cariosity, returned soon oat of friendly feeling. For Ann became qaickly popular here, as elsewhere, with her sex; beside*, hospitality is a chief virtue among the warm-hearted West-coasters. It was only in the evenings, before dinner, therefore, that Ann had a few minutes' opportunity of carry .ing ont her notable resolve to cooquer the .-approval of her one persistent critic Then the children gathering roand their fath.ee with caresses, would repeat all their ?dear Anita, as they insisted on calling her, ihad taught them that moroiog. Often Doo Bex gravely thanked Nan for her kindness to Ibis ' dear children,' with a long intent glance ?accompanying the words. ? ' He is thinking of their mother. What a ?good man he seems, and very jast. If he dis approves of me in the end I shall believe he is right. Perhaps after all he only disapproves ?of his father', late intentions,' oar heroine ?reflected, ' and once be sees I do not share 4hcm he wiil respect me.' The respect of
Don Bex seemed, indeed, what more people than one thought having. One evening, when they had gone early to the billiard room, Don' Rex began to leach hU guest billiards, being himself a fine player. Bat this was only when by themselves : foron the arrival of neighbours he instantly with drew from her side, and became at once the second host, his father's right hand ; taking more mipa. indeed, than Don Edoardo, to see the amusement of every one, especially those who might be otherwise neglected. 'How do you like Bex Palmer, Miss Montague?' asked a nice English boy fresh from Winchester. ' A«fuIIy grave isn't he! We call him Don Penseroso: I should think you don't get much talk out of him, but he is a fine fellow all the same, and will be a great man in this country some day; perhaps President, who knows!' Said several girls gathered like a cluster of pigeons to gossip on the bench under the big »ldo tree, out of sight of their mothers 00 the verandah. ' Do tell us how yon get on with the son of the house J He is so dis tinguished, isn't he, but a trifle alarming?' ?? Eor my part,' cried one, ' I would rather
marry his father of the two men. They say that Ines never aUowed the old Don to look nut for a second wife all these years. But she has relaxed her vigilance since she has had Don Bex to guard also. Now is your chance [or the father, Miss'Montague,' and a chorus of girlish laughter startled the humming-birds that were quarrelling overhead, among tbe golden blossoms of an arbutilon. Ann laughed aloud like the rest; laughed, too, in her heart to think bow near they all were to the troth. And just then the girlish council was broken ap by a group of men strolling dowo from the hou* led by Don Bex. Next moment Ann felt his eyes turned on herself watching— always watching. 'I wonder what you were a'l langbing about just now,' he asked brightly in his courteous voice that was vibrant with ^Ann fJt inclined to doubt that it could be '? Oh ! nothing that would interest you, so grave a signor, always engaged in your lolirics and frontier questions/' she prettislily replied, half vexed without reason to show. Don Bex smiled at her childishness. 'My politics and frontier questions,' he repeated with a delightful laugh. '-So yon think j can have no room in jiy mind for other and more agreeable subjects. But you are quite mistaken, I assure you.' Why was he always weighing her every word when she spoke T Ann almost indig nantly asked herself (she would have liked to ask him had Bbe dared). The annoying thing was that bis grave attention could not be re sented. If her step-son bad made him-elf her judge in her own mind, he was a good man and would be just, even chivalrous. Yet Ann felt convinced be wss terribly fastidious, and this made her diffident and doubtful of her powers of pleading. It was the latter end of April, and all the English colony wss agog with excitement ?bout their approaching holiday on May Day It was explained to Ann that the Valparaiso Paperebase Club would bold one of their big meets that morning. ' Ton se»,' said Ann's boyish admirer, before mentioned, ' all of us griugoes, that ia English or German, you know, are in business here of some kind or other, and our noses are kept much closer to the grindstone than in old England. We begin work at nine, Btrike off at six, and get no yearly holidays except the big Spanish feast days, when all of&ces are closed. Three days at Easter, and a week on the famous 18ih of September— that's Liber ation Day. Haven't you heard about our paperchasee V' ' Why. of course.' Ann bad beard from her old host himself, who was as earer as a boy 00 the enbject. ' Ah, yes ! Old John Edward made his money in business first, before he married a rich Chilian lady, so he sympathises with all of ns ; but I did not koow his Mn was too great a swell to care,' grumbled the boy. Upon this several bystanders expressed rebuke. Sorely young Edoardo Palmer was as forward a rider as anyone ; as good a fellow as ever breathed. 'I know he is. It was the finest sight I
ever saw, seeing him tackling the big bull at Vergara's last rodeo,' the boy replied. 'That's }ost why it riled me to think for a minnte he was not in with all of us, heart and aool. Be always was before they talked of running him as Minister for the Interior, and one valnes the countenance of a man like him, you know.' It wss now eagerly discussed whether Ann should venture to ride on the great feast day. Half a dozen ponies were placed at her dis posal by as many admirers ; for in this happy country every lad who only drew clerk's pay in a connting-bouee could well afford a nag. And a Chilian horse, if well-treated and fed must be bad inHeed not to be a fair mount. Had Miss M -ntague brought a habit ? Was she used to hunting at home ? 'No, indeed!' Ann's lips carved in amusement, thinking of Aunt Barbara and her own holidays in the smoky sitting-room. She only replied that in childhood her father used always to keep her a pony, and take her oat riding with himself. She did not add that be had been a well-known Master of Honnde. and that his pretty little daughter's miniature hunters had cost a small fortune ; nor that she still regretted those happy days, oh ! so bitterly. Not liking to accept without the permission of Aunt lines, her caretaker, Ann allowed the subject to drop. But that even ing it was renewed by Don Rex himself. ' The youog fellows are all lellinK me that you ought to ride on May day,' said he, kindly, at dinner. ' Only I sh-.uld not advise you to accept any of their horses without advice. I have ooe ot two on which a lady can safely be trusted, and I wilV gladly take care of you myself, if you wish to go.' His father and annt stared at him aghast. ' Bless my soul, Bex I' splattered the old
don in dismay. ' Do you think it is safe? Remember this young creature has not ridden since ahe wen: to school, and she under our care. Upon my word, it makes me qttite up set to think of it, for accidents so easily ''But Soldado is so Bafe, father ; he has never made a mistake yet, as you know, smiled the son, respectfully. ' Soldado ! Your best horse,' cned out Ines, with increasing dismay. ' My dear, turning to Ann, 'yin should be flittered, for that is a first prixe hunter. He has been imported from England, and cost a fortune. Only suppose if from inexperience anyttuog happened to him?' „ 'Oh, I .houid never forgive myself, answered Ann, promptly -, instantly longuig with all her hidden heart to ride Soldado. ' Thank you very much, senor, all the same. She did not like to use his pet nameof Rex, that had been playfully bestowed upon him by his mother in childhood as her king, the crown of her life. 'You can practice on Vulcan, my quiet hack, till next paperchase day, in a month or«o' added theold don. ' What is that yon
say. Rex? Sure to rain in June ; or if uot the ground is too hard to be safe going, well then, on May day next year. Thats a Sdayday next year, indeed ; where should she be then ? ''' wondered in her heart. CHAPTER XT.— A MiDKIOHT SBOCK. The following afternoon the young gover ness of the Palmer children had an interview with their father, which came about as follows On looking for Tony to hear him repeat a short punishment task, his voice answered de fiantly from' his father's sindy, ' AU right, will you come in, there isn't anybody here. I am hammering my walking stick handle, and it is most important.' Ann had seen him cat the sud stick yesterday in the dingle, and all this morning sharp Spanish altercations announced that be was boiling it in the kitchen, to Maclovia the cook's vexation, in order to curve its end. Never before had Ann entered the study, and it was with considerable curiosity that she now tripped over its threshold starting back instantly witn aery of, ' Antonio, you said there was no one here.' ' I count as no one,' said Don Bex, looking np from a desk crowded with pamphlets on agricultural finance, and the immigration re ports. ' And my sou means it in a flattering sense, namely that I do not interfere with either his work or play. What can he or I do for you.' Ann explained hesitatingly she had meant to take out the boy for a walk. ' He learned his English much better on the bill side.' *? Pray allow me to come too,' cried Don Rex, jumping op gaily. 'My English is growinganiiquated. It is some years, alas, since 1 was at schooL' As they started forth, Rodta rushed after them, her bonnie face glowing with eagerness. ' Let me come too ?' she pleaded 'Tony and I want to find a humming-bird's nest of last year ; and Papa, you may talk to Miss Ann till we come back.' It was a typical winter's day with the brilliant sun bat sharp wind. Leaving the faring* tewithovernong with mimosas the path dipped into tbe valley, where boldotreeaspread glossy dark foliage, whitened by clmters of strong scented flowers. Lower down blue gum trees shot up lank and ragged above tangles of blackberry bramblesandgerauinnis. Don Bex explained the latter were not indigenous as Ann supposed, but throve so luxuriantly, that they muat be often cut duwn, up-rooted, and even burnt as noxious weeds ; and that the black berries, though a native fruit, are oddly enough not eaten by the Chilian peasants. It w*s a pretty scene as they stood on a roogb woodeo bridge spanning the mountain brook ; the same which wound through all the Dell of the Foxes. Aroundspread thicketsof scrubfilling the ravine, into which they dived with bent heads by a path under wild bamboos. The childrensoon disappeared, their voices sounded from somewhere in the dingle ; and light branches that- whipped Ann's face were held aside by Don Bex himself, instead of I'ony who was usually her devoted sqoire. Once or twice escaping twigs caught her struw hat. needing his appu-ently clumsy
fingers in extrication ; when he apologised for his tardiness, both laughed and grew friends Underfoot, I he fallen leaflets made a pale carpet, uot unlike matting, and everywhere sprouted yonne maiden hair ferns, with which Ann filled her handa. Emerging Into the hot sunshine of the bare gulley, a brace of par tridge statted under their feet, aod a sausale or thrush was singing on a apray. Bat no other iusect life arrested their attention, not even a snake, of which in summer there were bnthamlessmaoy, so Don Bex remarked. He and Ann weredeepin tslk, quite like old friends The children became a talisman to banish her shyness, asshe told with pleasure in sointerested a listener of their jokes and ways at lessons, and (in all good faith) gave her 'opinions upnn their characters, good qualities and respective faPings. Ann possessed the msternsl ;nsrinct strongly, thought Don Rex, as he listened with gravity and expressed deference to her judg ment which was the most nattering unction he could have laid to her soul. ' It is surprising that you t%ke such an in terest in children although an only child your self, as you tell me. And it is rare to find a young girl who would not be impatient with three such urchins as mine. ' Devils of children.' as their old Spanish nnrse calls them meaning no harm.' (It is a common express ion). *? But they are the very nicest children I have ever met.' cried Ann, heartily. After all, why should she not praise her owo proposed step grandchildren to their father ; although she shrank when with old Edoardo from seeming to take *oo great an interest in any of big possessions. Bex Palmer adored bis chidren; he was gladdened, grateful. Clambering up the grassy shoulder of a hill, and stopping at the top to breathe and admire the fine sea view below the table land, Ann
turning to her companion almost started in. her surprise. He did not seem the same man she knew ; alert, with shining eyes and happy face, the grave politician seemed to lave left his outer self down yonder in U» green fissures of the Zorraa. And here was tbe real man by her side — -he Bex beloved by hi. family ind intimate friends. No longer critic but— yes, surely a friend. Far away in the offing spread tbe trail oi a steamer's smoke. ' That reminds me that you like to learn traits of our Chilian peasantry, I have noticed,' said nex smiling. ' There ' is a story of bow the sound of the siren was firat beard in the bay here. It was some years ago, when a French ironclad came groping her way in at nightduriogafog. Tbeecream of the fogh'-rn echoed over these hills, and the poor Valparaisians were panic stricken, believing that the devil had got loose, aod was roaring at them. For nights afterwards the people in the hovels and the ranches of the suburbs, and all up these ravines, shut their doors fast at night, as tbe rumour ran that Satan was driving in a chariot of fire ronnd the hill tons.'
Then as Ann laughed he went on descriu ing the simplicity of the poor country folk mingled with shrewdness, derived from taeir Indian ancestry. His father was wont to declare that when the first train ever started out from Valparaiso station some hausos or peasants on horseback were saen galloping alongside the engine for a few yards tzying to lasso tbe wheels, a feat which these gentry hoped would be a good joke to astonish tbo foreigner and check his new carriage. ' Un fortunately history doesn't give the result,' went on the narrator, laughing, 'but lean tell you of my own knowledge that at a country station near my estate some farmer fellows rode np while the train was waiting. They had some dogs with them, and wishing to stop for a drink they coolly tied up tbe poor creatures to the wheels of the last carriage. Whether this was for apathy or a careless belief that the train was a fixture I cannot guess. Anyhow, off went the train, and at the next station dog, strings and hair were remarked with surprise as covering the wheels of the hindmost truck.' ' What amusing people ! I l'ke what yon tell me of tas. They seem so Irish and in consistent,'' laughed Ann, 'and I like this landscape too, like a tumbled sea of red earth waves, with a dark green foam of brushwood on their crests. Still what a pity there are so few trees here. Only that one palm-tree yonder, like a solitary sign-post.' ' We have grand woods down in the south, you must know, and more trees than here in tbe plain of Santiago, where my own home lies, assented her companion. 'But that palm is the last of a grove ; its fellows were all killed a generation ago by tapping for palm honey, soch as you thought delicious with pan cakes at lunch yesterday.' ' What you were listening * I thought you were reading- the newspaper,' interpolated Ann, with sadden surprise. But her com panion took no notice of this interruption, except by a faint flickering smile. ' That palm,' he went on, 'is supposed by tradition to point out Jesuits' hidden treasure. When 'he Order was expelled from Chili at the beginning of this cenuiry. only three days', grace was al.owed to tbe Jesuits. So while travelling from Sautiaga in haste to the sea coast, and crossing tnese dells of broken ground and brushwood, it is said they took the opportunity to bury their silver and money, hoping to return some day. Often riding out here on early mornings I have seen men skulking away — treasure seekers who were d gging iu the uighu Once as a boy, at a picnic near this very place, I spied a cross rudely carved i-n a rock, and ran back to tell the rest of my discovery. There is a legend that a large treasure lies burned ntar, marked by a great stone. fro I soon had an eauei following, but, alas, I had forgotten to take right bearings of the spot, and although we searched long that cross uever could be found again. My mother who had a tinge of super stition, believed thenceforth that I was marked ont by fate to find great luck in life. Do you think so, Ann ? — surely I may call you by your name when my father does so and the children.'
They two were standing by a rough kind of stile, where the path entered tbe enclosure of a rancho, and stopping short Don hex took Ann's hand as if to help her over, but held it fast. dnn looked at him, and her breath came short. Perhaps it was surprise that kept her trom wibhdiawing her fingers from his clasp, for his eyes were eager with a light she bad only seen before in those of one other man — nf Patrick Bryan. Both drew a lotg breath in the silence that fell upon them, and ? And then the children c&me running up besr ing a small trophyof withered grass, lined with wool, that had once been the nappy home, of a tiny green bird-mother, and her small long beaked babes. Fond as Bex was of his ? children, he now showed unusual gaiety and interest in their prattle, and Ann, too, suddenly shared the general eagerness re markably. Hardly another word was exchanged between fbe man and girl as they went home, with Bosita between ibem, hang on an arm of each, while Tony, behind kept butting bis father and sister playf ally witli his bead at unexpected momenta, and was only restrained from favouring Ann with similar familiarities by his father's strict injunction. Sorely, thought Ann tbatoight, wbenalooe, it was all surety a mistake ; her own fancy had conjured up that look on her younger bast's face, which in turn evoked the memory of another man. Dear, handsome Patrick Bryan ! No, she had not forgotten him in tfae very least ; only the days were ao bright and full of varied interest each half -hour here; there was no time for love dreams except late. Then tired oat with fresh air aod exercise, Ann was always terribly and healthily sleepy. Poor fellow - tshe would think of him nov, forgetting those horrid hot days when jealousy had burnt like a coal of fire in her heart, only iced at times by freezing contempt for bet
recreant lover's apparent desertion. H'ig- ho! Absence make* tin heart grow fonder, philosophised this damsel, vith the frank candour towards her other edf she made a point of humour; fonder because, being Absent, Bryan could no longer fret her ally mind by amall vexations, Blights, or fancied lapses in good taste when compared with each ideal men as Lord Thanet, or, 'Or with whom ! Nobody '?' Whereupon Ann crossly turned on her pllow and fell fist asleep; dreaming ahe -ra* on board the ' Yarrow.' Wbirrr-r-r-r-r ! Tnevweregetting up steam ; the cargo was tumbling down into the hold, sailors shooting, and screw throbbing .... Ann started up in the darkness to hear a knocking at the side door in her room, which was seldom used, opening on a small staircase that led to the garden, while Don Bex's voice was calling her name in excited yet subdued (ones. ' Ann, Ann. Come out, come out !' Springing out of bed drank with sleep and fcewuderment, Kan groped forward in the darfcaees towards the opposite door, away from the midnight visitant by frightened ooreason inginsluet. So knocking against an obstacle, she fell head and arms into the rece9ses of her largest trunk. She had been searching vainly therein last night for a pet neck tie to wear next day at the paperehase. and so left the lid
op» by oversight. ?' Miaow ! Blzz-bizz !' There followed a ctiflsd shriek, a spitting of feline anger as Dinah leapt like a hairy bomb shell from a hippy lair on Ann's best ball dress. At the double cry followed the crash oi a lock. Don Bex patting his ahonlder against the garden door, burst in, and next instant caught Ann's white figure in his arms, duping her passion ately to his breast. 'Are yon hart? Speak quick !' Bat even as be himself opoke he bod caught her up and was carrying her down stain wirh a strengrh and baste that were irresistible, although she straggled against his bresfct. ' Let me go I Bow dare you V At that momenta rambling, like the passing ef «a underground txain, shook the staircase under diem, arresting her ouccry, while & choral of feminine shrieks sounded from the garden. Next minute they stood ontside in the close atillneES of the garden, under the starless sky. As Bex pat down his burden some ydrds from the house, still holding her tightly, very tightly in hi* arms, while her bare feet t oachtd the gravel, did her ears dream that he mur mured ' Safe, darling ; thank God *' It had been an earthquake, and the second was the sharpest shock known for aotne years. So mach Ann learnt from the confused ex clamations of a huddled group of ehiveriog household inmates close by. Some minutes of intense suspense followed ; not a eouod ! Then frightened birds' notes sounded, one here and one there, the crouching dogs whimpered and Ann Montague began to laugh hvsiericallv. ' Is that all ? What a fanny
experience ln *' Fanny t That's what strangers Buy the first time, but wait till you are my age, my dear, and perhaps you will be more like me.' Old Mr. Palmer meant that he was quaking in his carpet s ippers, aud the most comical drapery imagine&ble of a bright striped blanket held with both hands roand his portly person, that was clad in a night garment. The idea of resembling him so tickled the hearer, that Ann cowering close to Ink* and the children to hide her own slender form laug ed silently in an agony of mirth; shared by Rosita, who hogged her tight with spasmodic outbursts of giggling. How was it tfa»t Don Bex looked, well just right. In the gloom his figure showed st&toesqoe as he knelt by a stone barin of water. Why did fae^not appear ridiculous, though he was striking matches, and boldiug them mysteriously over the surface of the fountain? ?* Not a quiver now, the earth has ceased shaking. Lei us all go in doors, or some of yon will catch your deaths of cold.' The wor Is were a command unconsciously issued to *1L Then taking up the baby and Rosita in bis arms, Rex himself led the way indoo *, lomewhat reluctantly followed by the still timid womankind. iToUeoaimaed.)