|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||Found Out|
BY THE ATJTHOR OF "COMIN' THBO' THE EYE."
The love that I hae chosen,
I'll therewith be content,
Tho saut sea shall he frozen,
Before that I repent. . . .
Eepent it shall I never, until the day I dee.
The windows of Mailinger Towers struck oe north, south, east and west, bright Bbafts of Ugh which announced to all whom it might conceri that its master was at homo, and about to hoi one of those elegant revels with which he oeea sionally delighted the county. One room alone h all the vast pile throw out no beams upon th darkness^ nor did it boast any light within, sav what was furnished by some pallid moonbeam that struggled through the upper part of a win dow from which the shutter had rotted, and BI made partly visible the desolation of a spot tha seemed to be alike shunned by the eye and fool
An indescribable sense of rust and disuse wa; in the air, unutterably bleak and forlorn lookec the long vista of polished boards upon which nc scrap of furniture rested, no sign of human occu- pation or life showed, offering a startling contrast to the lofty walls that were peopled, and pano- plied, and most richly set forth by the dead. Foi here were whole groups of arms and armour, varying in age from the stone period with its simple knife, axe, and arrow fashioned out of flint, d^wn to those equally simple but more deadly weapons with which science enables man the more readily to slay his brother. Here were no dummies, no show-pieces bought for their curiosity and beauty; each portion of armour had been worn, each arm had been used, and a virtuoso would have spent years in the due appreciation of a collection that one man of taste, alone had gathered together, and another man of genius had
If a Bpy could have cut off his feet, and got a. fellow spy to hook him to the wall, thén there would be no reason why half a hundred men should not look out upon the ; deserted chamber, and overhear any ghostly secrets that might be flitting abroad ; but as it was; no living thing bigger than a rat could have hid itself in the room, or been for a second concealed from any
one who entered.
Flint, bronze, iron and steel-beautiful wer the effects produced by the arrangement; eacl sheaf of weapons with its appropriate suit o armour below,-however rude and faulty in somi instances ; but reaching its maximum of perfec tion in the cuirass of a Roman, so exquisitely moulded to the form that when represented ii sculpture, it is hardly possible to distinguish ii from the nude figure.
Here the > moonlight touched an Assyrian'i shield, and. justaucorps, there an axe-head that thrust by a Gaul into the cleft branch of a grow ing tree, became so firmly a part of ;the bough that flint and wood were welded together, into i weapon with which he might defy his enemies yonder one saw those Grecian arms with whost aim and clamor Homer had filled the earth ; not a nation was left unrepresented, not a missih discovered from former ages was absent from this room, the richest in historic wealth, as it was the most shunned, of the whole house. And so it happened that miracles of industry, beauty, and splendid memories of by-gone heroes/ rusted unnoticed, and all the art of the man who had grouped them was lost; and this because a trivial thing enough had happened here twenty years ago-the death of. a man by his own hand.
Be sure, that from beneath many a strangely fashioned helm the. spirit of a brave man looked out and despised him as he fell, though his near- est and dearest may have wept over him as bit- terly as if he had been carried home from a battle in which he had lost himelf only to secure victory to his cause.
v- Ay, hore a coward had slain himself, and tinder such circumstances that perhaps he would have done worse for himself and his, had he left the room alive.- Only from that day forth the fencing roora was closed, and none were known to cross its threshold save the master of tho house, who came now and again to, practise alone that rapier play in . which he had been engaged with his friend, when that friend had slipped the button from his foil, and turning it against his :, own
The master of the house was an adept in the UBe of arms, and to this extraordinary proficiency might be due the ease, grace and elegance of aU his movements, and that look, and gesture of vi- gorous-alertness which the constant use of the foil and broadsword invariably bestow; but of late years he had somewhat neglected the prac- tice, and had not in fact entered this room for many, months. -
Bût what is that faint sound yonder hut the click of a closing panel ? And is there not a pre- sence, a step, a flutter as of movement in the de- serted place? What is this tall shape, that shrouded in black steals from the shadow of the wall into the moonbeams, and trembling, palpi- tating,, gazes fearfully around as if in search of it knows ¿not,whom, in horror of it knows not what 1 It shrinks as it reaches the centre of the room, and looks down as if in search of the blood- stain it knows to be there, then lifts its hand in an attitude of listening to the ghostly tapping of a branch outside the window, then glances over its shoulders to where-see, is not that a rat steal- ing towards her ?
P6r .it is a woman, and with a stifled cry, she stoops, and with one bare arm sweeps her drape- ries clear of the floor, then retreats backwards to the wall, where beneath a magnificent Mascarón
sword that seems in the very act of descending |
on her head, she cowers and listens with her whole soul! But there was only the tap, tap of the bough on the pane, the scurrying of invisible
* The copyright oí " Found Out" has been purcbaBed by the proprietors of tho "Town and Country Journal," for exclusive publication.
armies of rats behind the wainscot, the play < the moonbeams on dinted sword, and battere shield, on helmets that gasped, grinned, sh owe here a dolphin's head outline, and there a pig snout, anon a pot-de-fer worn by one of Loui XIV.'s soldiers, and now a Russian's, misshape with a face of à gargoyle, and seeming to watc with a malevolent leer the shrinking girl whos eyes it had caught. And she was a-cold, a-cold the very love-warnith within was failing her, an the courage that had brought her hither seeme* I to be superhuman now that in chill blood sh
reflected upon it, knowing that any moment th panel might unclose and admit her father.
But whence came this icy stream of wind tha she suddenly felt play over her, and who was thi having entered by the window, closed it, an< replaced the shutters, then came swiftly'? np th< room, holding out impatient arms into which th< girl ran as for very life ?
"Oh, Jack, the rats !" "Oh, Kitty, you!"
They were warm now, and safe. " Invparadisec in one, another's arms," and then-for surely s young man is a fool who does not put his kisses first, and his words afterwards-he gave neithei himself nor her a chance of speech for a full' mi- nute, though of course it was the woman who re-
covered her voice first.
" This is very wrong, Jack !" she said, reproach- fully, hiding her head on his shoulder to avoid a new onslaught.
" Very," said Jack, " and as delicious as it's wrong. Oh, Kitty,. Kitty ! Dearest, sweetest, loveliest, truest, truest Kitty, to think that I have got you here in my arms, and that I have not seen you these two years, and that you love me, and by to-morrow-O ! was there ever such a lucky, miserable wretch on earth ?"
" Yes," she said, softly, " for I. am just such another. Even if you had not been going away to-morrow,. I could not meet you again as I am meeting you here to-night."
; " What ?" he said, then put her back, and fram- ing her face in his hands, turned it so as to face the moonlight. r^And have you made him a promise ?". - , , ,
' " When he brought me from school," she said, gently, "I promised him that I would' not write to you, or send you a message, or even speak to you, if by accident I met you outside Maliinger gates, and he said he would make it his business that I should not meet you inside them, and I am breaking the spirit of my agreement , by meeting you here to-night."
"So there was an agreement?" said Jack,
"Tes. That if J. made no attempt to see o: marry you, I should not on the other hand bi asked to marry any ono' else-without nv;
"And that no man living shall get/' said Jack fiercely. " But do you mean to say that we are t< go on dying of love for each other indefinitely ?"
" It is only for a year and a hal*," said Kitty a smile breaking;over all her face. "You woulc not leb me finish the story-my promises of gooc behaviour were only to last till I was twenty one ! And so you really think I am dying foi you, Jack ?" : ,
" If you are. not, you ought to be," he said giving her arm a little shake. "Just think oi what these two years have been for me, without c word or a sign from you, not even knowing youl whereabouts-or that fifty men might: not be as crazy to marry you as I am !"
" Oh !" said Kitty, with a rueful smile 5 " there were no men-only masters, you know, and in the holidays there were not even those-only father, who came : twice in every year to make sure that you had not found me out !"
" And he made all sure by swearing you to a promise," said Jack, bitterly ; " and he has his spies everywhere-that's why I asked you to.meet me here to-night, because there isn't a servant in the place that' dares put his head inside the door." -
" But he dares," said Kitty, with a glance of fear at the distance ; " and he said Jack, (and that is why I came-at least, partly) that if he caught you hero, he wouid treat you like any other burglar who came clandestinely about his
house !" ''
"Let him catch me first," said Jack, with vigour; then seeing how her head drooped, sud- denly snatched her in his strong young arms and so crushed her that she cried out, .
"Oh, Jack, Jack, my ball-dress !"
He put her down hastily ; he had seen only the black cloak, felt only the' nailk-white arms round his neck ; but now he found the moonlight insuf- ficient, and wondered that he could have satisfied himself with so pale a glimpse of her.
"Let me look at you," he, said, and struck a match and held it above her in the one han'', while with the other he unfastened her cloak; .master- fully, as any bridegroom -to whom has willingly come his bride. The clasps yielded, the cloak slipped down and lay in a heap, while out of it the girl shone like an angel in white, to which a hoar-frost of diamonds had clung as she descended to mother earth. The match went out, but the moonlight did our hero more lovely service surely as she stood silent before him, and he said slowly !
" You are altered, Kitty, and grown."
"Am I too tall,vJack ?" she said, looking up at him proudly, and thinking that never had girl so brave. a wooer as this blue-eyed, sunny-haired young soldier of six feet, for a Bight of whom her heart had ached BO bitterly during the past two
"Am I too tall, Kitty ?" he said, Catching that tender glow of love and pride in him, in her
" You-you are, Jack."
I "And you/' he said," oh, there is no name for | you, hut Kitty-just Kitty-and you shall be that to no other man living so long as I am above earth/' and he crushed her once more in an embrace that took her breath away, and in ats despair startled her with a foreboding of coming
"What is it, Jack?" she whispered. "We are true as death to one another-and the year and á 1half will soon be np-and if I can wait that little
time, cannot yow ?" ,
"You may have to wait too long," he said, "for we are ordered abroad on active service
I and every day expect to get orders to sail. 11 i was with the utmost difficulty I got here to-night -contriving the whole plan of seeing you on mj way-but I have seen you, Kitty, and come whal may, we have had this one halfhour together."
She shivered a little as if she felt the loss of her cloak, then slipped out of his arms to stoop and find it ; but her eyes were dim, and it was Jack's hand that drew it about her, slowly and grudg- ingly hiding from his eyes the exquisite shape that half a hundred men's eyes would be privi- leged to gaze on that night
As he fastened the clasps beneath her chin, their eyes met, and one gentle hand stole out and
rested like a snow-flake on his breast.
"Jack/* she said, "I could brave anything now that I have seen you, and if you do not come back I shall remember you."
And then she kissed him, for the first time per- haps in her life of her own free will, and moved as if to leave him. He could not stay her; he knew ' that those precious minutest, calculated by him like a miser, were up, and that if after the dressing-bell, an hour was her own, the ring- ing of the dinner one must smmmon her to the room which held, her father, possibly already suspicious of her absence.
" Good-bye, Jack !" "Good-bye."
Even the Russian helm seemed to grin with less malevolence as it looked down upon the kiss that might be the very last in which the two pairs of beautiful young lips would meet.