Chapter 71283438

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71283438
Full Date1898-02-19
Page Number8
Corrections0
Word Count2561
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleTwo Old Fogies
article text

CHAPTER II. ~

Thia waa the first disappointment. And the sad. Cup Day, taking its color from the general aspect of public affairs, seemed to have set the key for all the November holidays. -. On the 5th lt rained again, and «harder than before. There should have been an eclipse of the moon on Friday night, and the astronomers had their turn, of frustrated hopes, for no moon could show itself through such density of oloud. On Saturday it poured so continuously as to preclude the possibly-of bonfires burning, as it was thuoght, though boys might be expected to try to light thom. Mr. Paine got forward with his aermon, and aunt was all day putting her head out of doora to see how the sky looked, but at 7 o'clock lt was dripping still, and they had to rceign themselves to fate. Aunt knew she would not -be allowed to go out in the-rain;.and. was not to foolish as to propose lt. Eve, also, was ordered by her father to remain at home. Only Alan, who was a young man -and could do as he liked, shook himself into his caped ulster, set a flannel cap on . the.."bâck of his curly head, and marched off to

the parsonage. - . -,

"I came, sir^'. he said at the study door, "to say that aunt and Eve are very sorry, but lt was too wet for "them io come out to-night." -

"Yes,** said Mr, Paine, *'f waitafraid so. Well,

we muât hope for better luck next week. There ^ would .be nothing to see, I suppose. Bonfires willi never'burn after being soaked like this."

"I don't know," said Allan; "I expect they'll pour .buckets of- kerosene over them. Trust the boys not to be done, when they've set their minds on having* them."

"But it's too wet to go out to them. The parents

would not allow lt."

"It ls not as bad as it was. I think it ie holding up. More like a Scotch mist than actual rain. You can hear them letting off their crackers. I'm sure, if lt doesn't actually pour in sheets, they will have the bonfires somehow. Shall'we just take a run up

the tower and look?"

This was not the same thing to Mr. Paine as escorting a party which included aunt, and he .begged to be excused. "But you go, if you like, my boy," he said hospitably. "You know the way. Anna'will give you a lantern."

"And would-would Miss Paine-:-?"

"You can ask her. I don't suppose she would, on such a night; but you can see what she says. You will exouse me now; I am rather occupied. Saturday is any busy night, you know."

He retired within his sanctum, and shut the door. Anna, he knew, would do all that was right in the .entertainment of the young man. He never thought of her aa needing a chaperon or parental protection of any kind. She never thought of it either, young and pretty as she was.

?She waa sitting in the dining-room, delicately darning a rent In her father's cassock. He had torn lt on a nail last Sunday, and said nothing to her about it until Sunday had nearly come again-tfor which she had severely reprimanded , him. She thought it another proof that the forget

fulness off old age.wiae creeping on.- But he had not forgotten; he had merely put off telling her to the last moment, because he was afraid of what she would say. When Alan Ransome return ed from his mission to the study door, she snipped the silk thread, folded uip the garment, tucked all (her implements into her neat work-basket, and gave herself up to a girl's enjoyments.

"Well," she said, with a welcome smile, "you have not persuaded him to do anything so foolish?"

"No," said Adan, sitting dorwn comfortably and spreading his arms on the table. ".But he said I might go u»p, and that you would give me_a

lantern."

"Certainly. But are you really so set on seeing a bonfire ? Not that there will be any to night-"

"There will," he interposed. "Disten! it has left

off raining."

He held up his hand, and they listened, looking into each other's eyes. It did not seem to be rain ing now, but they could hardly have heard rain, in any case, for the constant popping of Chinese

crackers in the street.

"Are you really so keen to see a boy's boniflro that you would toil up those ladders In the dark and .wet alone-" -

"Not alone," he again interrupted. "I'll go If you'll go; If not, I shall stop down, oí course."

".And do you think I am going to be so silly?"

"I don't see anything silly about it. It is, not raining. * They are sure to light up. And the ef fect will be very pretty seen from there."

"I have not your passion for bonfires. I dis approve of them." --

"I know. 'It's just the artistic effect. You catt imagine., they are the beacons those old Scotch fellows used to burn to suimimon the elana to war. Do come! You'promised that you would on Sun

day." .

"Yea, if fine. Aüd when I thought we were go

ing to (be a party."

"you and I are party enough. Your father, told me I might ask you."

The dolor rose in her pretty face. She got up, and went out to look at the might. Alan promptly Hollowed her.

^ "it is pich-dark," she said falteringly.

"All the better," he declared. "They will show! up splendidly. Far better than if lt were clear."

".It does seem so Idiotic," she continued, laugh ing. (But there was indecision in her voice, ancl he felt his point was gained.

"Go and wrap yourself up and get the lantern," he urged. "¡M you don't like to olinnb the towera we can just have a look from the church gates."

Still protesting, she fetched a cloak and hat, "and procured a lantern from the kitchen. The maid- . of-all-work was out for the evening, like all bush town maids on iJhis day of the week, when shops' closed at ten instead of at six, and a faint flavor of Continental boulevard mode'the lighted pavements attractive, even* in -wet weather; so there was no one to spy and 'make remarks upon the young lady's proceedings. It is needless to say that she would have indignantly scouted the idea of doing any thing, at any time, that the whole world might not see and know of; but we all have our weak moments, and the uriaoknofwttedged feeling that ehe was taking rather an extreme liberty with conscience and tha-convenances caused Anna Paine to respect her father's judgment and prerogatives a little more than usual, ©he was glad that he had told Alan to ask her to go with him, and that he saw no harm in her doing so.

Of course they did not stop at the church gate.

A glow in the distant darkness showed that one 1 'bonfire, at least, had been started successifuMyg

by kerosene or otherwise; «nd Alai believed it was the one that he hat built, and Insisted that they must go up th« tower to'prove it, Ann« said, "Oh;'-well, Just HOT a moment;" and the sudden thumping ot her heart seemed to presage the fate that she'thereby rashly

Invited. . >.< :

. The key^. was in the vestry door-"as usual!" - Anna Interjected-and they let themselves into the

church, the intense silence of which was almot audible. It war?, by the way, a superior church for a bush town; large and strong," built of the white granite that formed the-hill-on which it stood and the wooded ranges that surrounded it. The tall, square, battlemented tower was a particularly rare distinction, of which the parish was very proud. It had three storeys, the middle one being the bell chamber; and on the leaded roof stood a tall flag staff, from which the" Royal Sianard flew on Queen's Birthdays and other, national occasions. The ascent was made by very long and extremely shaky ladders, which, however, were guaranteed to bear.

At the bottom- of the lowest of these, in the porch behind the great west door, .Alan halted.

"I will go first and open the trap," he 6aid. "Stay here WU I get up. Don't start till I am off the ladder, and can hang down the lantern fot you to see by. Are you sure you don't feel ner vous?" His tone was very tender.

"Not a bit," ehe replied; "I have been up too

often to feel nervous." .

But ©till her hands trembled as ehe grasped the rungs, one after another, and elowly hoisted herself af ter'bim towards0 the equare hole overhead. *

\ His eager, handsome face overhung the hole, and

his arms were outstretched to receive her as soon as her hat was on a level with it. -The "trial to women's nerves was at these points, -because the ladders stood against the wall, and one' had to .clamber sideways over a little chasm to reach , the .floor; and be was resolved to take every oiré of her.

"Don't bother," che cried, hurriedly scrambling to her feet; "I am used to it. I don't wan't help. It's your poor aunt whom we shall have to look after, if she is really determined to come up on Wednesday."

"She is quite determined," said Alan. "You would think she was a girl looking forward to a ball, the way she is counting on it. Poor old

thing!"

He lowered the cover over the trap door, and they ascended the second ladder, past the beam that supported the bell, which projected ruther dangerou sly. "Mind the beam! Mind the beam!" he kept call ing out, until the little figure had pas-ed it, and was near him once more. Then be dashed aside the lantern, and was in time to half lift-her from

the ladder to the floor.

"I told you I wanted no help," she protested, shaking out her skirts. But she said it with a friendly laugh, and her face, gleaming for a moment in the little haze of lantern light, was lovely with girlish blushes.

Again he made the trap-door safe, and they as cended the third ladder, which came out upon the roof. This time he set the lantern upon the edgb of the opening, and when he came up he seized her in both arms, and dragging her and himself to their feet together, stood on the leads, and held her to his breast, and kissed her face and hair under her

hat brim.

She uttered a cry of consternation-. "Oh! oh! was this what you enticed me up for? Oh, Mr. Ransome, don't-you"forget yourself--"

'.'But you don't mind-you do care for me," h*. .murmured, continuing to kdes her with all the ardor, of a lover-in his'yeara. "I know it-rand-you are not angry with me; really-not really,- Arina-? I couldn't help it-it had to come some time. Well, I won't tease you, if^ you'd rather not. Let us look at the bonfires. ""Yes, there they are^-two . of them-and that biggest one is mine. At least, I' .helped some little fellows to build it."

They stood, silent and trembling, in an embrasure of the granite battlements, and looked out upoit: the world. It was one limitless-sea of gloom, save where the street lamps and the torches of the Salvation Army defined the broken outlines of the town below them, and where the bonfires blazed upon the black hills that ringed them around. One of the fires soon went out; the other lasted longer, and made a brave show to the end.

"That's mine," said Alan.

But it was useless to pretend to be interested in trifles of that sort now. They were two young things, as nature made them, and it was all dark night around, and they were absolutely alone in it. Lovers never could have found a place better fitted for love-making than the top of that church tower, with the three trap-doors shut down. Before thej knew lt they were leaning against each other, like two chocks of corn in a summer field. And Alan asked his companion whether she loved him, and she confessed frankly that «he did.

"But dear," she said solemnly, "I am very sorry that this has happened. I have been hoping-pray ing-that you might not come to care too much for

me." .

'Oh, Anna! Why?" Her head waa resting on his shoulder, and his moustache upon her lips, so he could not understand lt. "Because, Alan, I can never * marry you."

"Oh, why?" he cried again. "Not Just yet, per haps, until I have begun to make a living-"

"Never!" she reiterated, in a tragic voice. And she stood away from him, and leaned upon the breast-high parapet of stone, which was wet with

unheeded rain.

"That'B nonsense,V said Alan Ransome. .'No," che said; "it is duty."

How should lt be duty, he wanted to know.. Tor his part, he couldn't for the life of him see it.

"I wlili never leave my father, Alan. «He is get !ting inflnm, and he has no one but ane to take care oi him. While he lives I must not think of making a home for myself."

"But, dearest, others girls «Io it. Every day they do. It is what fathers expect."

"Other girls may foe selfish, tout you would not ?wish me to be so, Alan."

"At any rate, he won't live for ever. He is get ting old, as you say.**

"People sometimes live to be eighty and ninety, and so may he. We will not count on his death, please, dear."

"No, of course not. Still-well, we need not toother about the future yet-one never knoiws what ?may tura up. Let us be happy in the present,

?darlimg," drawing her again into his young arms.

"But if I let you be-happy in the present," she «rged, "I shall be laying up unhappiness for you in the future. No, Alan, I will sot drag you into a long engagement, that might last till I ama an old maid-as old as your aunt. You shaul be free to marry and to live your life. I aim not free. I aim dedicated to my father as long as he lives. You must give <me up, dear.1' lAnd here she sobbed a little, and kissed him.

"I won't give you up," said the "boy tempestu - .ously.

"You must, darling. .You shall not sacrifice yourself for me." '

"I tell you I won't/' said Alan.

Then Mie cruel rain, cairne down, and they had to go down too. At every trapdoor they stopped to hug and kiss each other, to say that they must part, and to deelare they could not. On the hench In the porch, at the foot,-of the last ladder, , they sat down to -repeat the process. They "^did so again in a pew in church, and'once more in the vestry. There they did- indeed - part" for the mo ment, for they could not bear to re-enter the-house together,- as if nothing had happened. -