|Chapter Title||IN "THE OLD DOG."|
|Newspaper Title||The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)|
|Trove Title||A Drama in the Dark: A Tale of Two Christmas Eves|
A DRAMA IN THE DARK:
A TALK OF TWO CHRISTMAS EVES.
J. MOXK FOSTER.
CnAiTXR L— 3b.' 'Tue Old Dog.™
It was a ratlicr chilly night in November. The first snowfall of tbe winter had come, and tlie little morning village of Pemberley was swathed io white. The snow had ceased to fall an hour ago ; the stars were glittering clearly now in the dark heavens, aud a keen frost had sot in. Although it was between nine and ten o'clock the village showed no tigns of retiring to rest. The place iu fact was wcarincE its busiest appearance. On any other night of the seven, the shops would have been closed, the streets deserted, and only a few toilers would have been discovered in one or other of the three ale-houses which stood one on each of the three sides of the mtpaved village
But it was Saturday night ; the pitmen employed at the surroundm' mines bad re and they were now dropping some portion of their hard -won earnings in the tills of the local publicans, while their wives and daughters flitted to and fro about the snow* covered village doing their weekly shopping. Before the front door of The Old Do-— the leading hostel in Pcwberley — two men, evi dently miners, were standing. Said, one to the other— ' Hello, Dick, are you going to have a drink ? Come iu, man oQ-t of the cold and - let's hear a song !' *'I thought of fioiug home, Torn, and doing a bit of readincr. but — '
'Come and have a drink first. Dick, hast seen her?*' '?Seen her I Who?' 'The new- lass that plaj*s piano. She's the prettiest lass you ever set two eves on.' ' Let's have a look at her.' Without another word Dick Johnson followed his friend into the Old l-og, and they passed into the Urge singing-room, together, and calling for two glasses of ale, they dropped into the first vacant seats they could find. The long, low room was filled from end to
end witn pitmen and tbeir wives ; young miners and their sweethearts ; factory lasses, who worked in the adjacent town, and tbeir swains. A loud conversational rattle filled the place, and a mist of tobacco smoke was constantly rising towards the dark ceiling. Soon after the two friends entered, the piano 'struck up ' the murmur of voices died down, and then a clear yoong voice, of some sweetness and power, sans— -not one of the
ribald and suggestive ditties so frequently heard in ' free and easies ' — bnt a simple old English baDad. The finger was the young girl who sat at the piano — the new Lies, as Tom Jones had called her. When the song was elided a burst of applause filled the room— while die song proceeded and after it was finished even, Dick Johnson's eyes seldom left the sincer's face. In trnth she was very comely to look upon. In age she appeared about twenty. She was rather short in figure, bnt generously moulded ; her arras swelled from her white hands anil slender wrists in voluptuous linp^ ? her bust 'was a flowing one. He face was a short oval, with full red lips, slightly aquiline nose, and large grey eyes. Her hair was a tawny yellow ; it iras bunched up in a great knob at the back, and a mo*=t luxuriant crop of crisp cnrls clustered over her wide low brow and about her cans.
In that company she seemed strangely out of place. Between her and every other woman present there was a wide gulf. She was so handsome and refined— they were only the wives and daughters of rough pitmen. How had she drifted thither? From what place had she come in order to fill the position of instrumentalist and. singer in a common village free and easy ? Dick Johnson did not -init The Old Dog when liis glass of ale was done Again and again it was re-filled, and again and again be had drifted nearer the siugcr when a vacant seat offered itself. ' Who is she, Tom *' Dick had asked. ** They call her Cissy Scott.' Dick replied, slowly and thoughtfully. 'She is that,' his friend responded, *' and Jim Barry seems to think so as vdL Look how he's talking to her. M But Dick did not need to be told *!»??= He had watched Barry for &ome time, and be hated the huge, uncouth pitman who so openly paid his rude compliments to the fair pianist. Chapteb II. — A Quahho. and a Blow. November liad passed away, and Deceirber had come, and, in a week or so, Christmas tide would l-e nsbered in. Cissy Scott was still at The Old Dog, sing ing nightly and. accompanying herself to the delight of the many villagers who repaired to the hostel to see and liear her. Not a few of the young miners haul lost their hearts to the fair stranger, but of all admirers only two seemed to find the least fftrour at her hands. These were Jim Barry and Dick Johnson. The former was a great handsome, hrcad ehouldercl fi-llow. who worked aljout half his
tfme in the mines und spent the major portions of his nights poaching. He was a man of dissolute habits, strong plosions, and he liad rather unenviable reputation iii the village. physically, than his rivaL He was a sober, bard-working young chap, with some ambi tion, and, as he had an abundance of intelli gence and much kuowlcdgc of pit-craft, he was expecting to become the inana.n'cr of a collier)' some day. These two bad set to work in earnest to win Cissy Scott, and the village was watching the love contest with some eagerness. For a tiroe, the fair lass liad not looked npou Barry with the most favour, for the big fellow was very comely and could utter soft things glibly enough. Hut the lass was no fool, and wlicn &he discovered what an idle and disreputable man her wooer was *.he cut him, and the better man bad become her favourite An.l then .Tim liarryi friends hul clizK.il him unmercifully, and the tA±ul hud cursed Iiis rival and sworn to break his neck when ever they crossed one another When be saw that Barry was in disfavour with the fair one, Dick Johnson made all the running and bp«jke out liku the etrdightfor He told the biuger thai he loved her— tliat wife. Anil he spoked warmly- of his savings, which would eiutlfli; thtrni to fact up house keeping forthwith ; and of bib prospects, which would one day place her in the position one so fair as she was bad a ri^ht to look for ward to. ' But you know uotliing about un_-,'' the
1 girl had replied, touched by the man's honesty ' and. d.t;votiau. | ** I want to kcow nothing, ' lie had [answered, btnrdily'. ** I Weyou Cissy. That I ?* But what will the villagers tliink of yon if voo many a wtte from the boards 1 I bare [heard the women speak of me when they ! thought I could not hear them ; and they believe me to be anything but an honest ' The women are fools ! w he cried, indig nantly ' What do I care what they say of either you or nie? WOI you be my wife?' he asked a^ain. '? I will if you wish it after I have told yon alL' ** I wioh to hear nothing — well, if you in sist, I will hear.' She told him the story of her life. It was a common one. She had been a barmaid in Manchester when she discovered that she had a voice. A gentleman had induced her to try the music halls ; she did so, with only mode
rate success. She had fallen, and her be trayer had abandoned her. The chQd was dead, and after ber illness she had taken the first place that came in her way. That was alL This did not lessen Dick Johnson's love for the unfortunate cirl — it seemed bet to in
crease it at the time, and he again offered her his hand and heart. His offer was ultimately accepted. All thia took place one Sunday night when the lovers were out together. Beside an old stile, in the snow covered fields outside the village, they had stood and conversed ; and when they had plighted their troth they turned to walk home together. Suddenly a giant's form confronted them. It was Jim Bdrry- He had followed the
sweethearts ; had hidden himself Death an adjacenf hedgerow, beard the girl's con fession, and the talk of an immediate wed ding. Then the incensed brute had called the woman »n.niR3 ? *' street-walker ' being one of the words he used ; lie had jeered bis rival as a lo\e-sick fool who was willing to take another's leavings. Then ensued a quarrel, a fight, and the weaker man was sent crashing and bleeding half senseless in the snow. The frightened to the spot ; the men were kept apart, and the next day the affair was the talk of the whole neighbourhood. Everybody expected that Dick Johnson would invoke the aid of the law against hie
brutal assauant. He would nave done bo had not his sweetheart and promised wife. Cissy iscott, prevailed upon him to let the matter drop. To please her Dick had done so ; but he often assured his friends and those of Harry that if the poacher ever laid l*anfl*t on him again there would be murder done.