|Newspaper Title||Queenscliff Sentinel, Drysdale, ... (Vic. : 1882 - 1884)|
|Trove Title||Dark Days: A Story of Light|
DARK DAYS. -
A STORY or LIGHT. BY G. MvWyLEt FINN
CHAPTrsa I. RATEVER is the old fellow going to do ?" "Let's go on the pier and see." The scene was 'a fishing-village on the rocky coast of Corn. wall, the time about ten o'clock on one of those delicious Au. gust mornings when the sun is veiled by a thin gauze of mist,
and the sea is dappled with delicate grey tints, that give it the appearance of some of the freshly-dug ores of the neighboring land, silvery and glossed with iridescent reflections. A dozen or so of brown-sailed luggers lay in the tiny harbor, half round which a solid granite pier curved like a protecting arm to save them from the onslaught of the waves. On the cobble-stones and rounded shingle below the cliff, filmy brown nets were laid out to dry; and on the cliff, leaning against its posts and iron rail, were a score or so of blue-jerseyed fishermen, watching, like the two speakers, the movements of a tall, grey, military-looking man, who had carried a couple of boxes and what appeared to be an easel to the end of the little pier, followed by a troupe of boys. As the two friends walked slowly down the steps towards the harbor, the grey military-looking man took off his cap, from which hung the folds of a puggree, and evidently said something to the boys, who kept standing dangerously near the edge of the pier, which was totally unprotected, and washed by the deep water all around. "Artist irying for a good bit to paint," said the first speaker. "No, Fred. Photographer for a golden crown." The two friends, fresh from London's hot pavement, had only arrived at Trereene the night before, having learned that it was a thoroughly out-of-the-way place, where they could idle away three week's holiday, enjoy ing the sea-breeze and breathing health at everyinspiration, without, as Richard Barry said, being bothered with brass bands, annoyed by niggers, and fidgeted by fashion able cads. Trereene so fully realised their expectations, that Richard Barry had come out from the little inn where they had found clean rustic lodgings in his slippers, and Fred Lusmore, fully-fledged barrister from Gray's Inn, without collar or tie. They sauntered down to the pier, drawing in long breaths of the iodine-laden air, thoroughly enjoying the peaceful calm of the quiet place. " Sea-side visitors, Dick, even here," said the barrister ; and he nodded towards where another elderly gentleman, in a straw hat, and puggree, was' helping a couple of young ladies over the rocks close to the water's edge. '"Plenty of room for us, old fellow," was the reply;, and they sauntered on along the pier. .Now, look here, my lad, if you slip off there, you will certainly be drowned." The boy addressed, a brown bare-legged urchin, shifted his position to one-far:more dangerous, while his companions scuffled about; hung together, and whispered among themselves. The elderly gentleman looked up With a humorous expression of vexation upon his sun-browned face. " I hoped we had left all the boys in London," said the visitor addressed as Dick, "but I see you have a few here.'" "Few, sir? They abound. They swarm everywhere. If I go right away. among the rocks they follow me; and I've found it so wherever I've been. They were a nuisance at Delhi; they nearly drove me mad in Ceylon; and wherever I went, from Malacca to Penany, or from Signapore to Siam, there they were, the young dogs, and without 'a rag of.cotton amongst a mob." "You have travelled, then ?" "Well, yes; I had thirty: years in the East, and the number of plates the young dogs spoiled, and the .bottles they upset, would have worried a saint." " "You' practise photography then ?" said Lushmore. "My hobby, sir; my hobby. Iwas in the Engineers, and we used it a good deal out yonder. When I came home sick with the remains of jungle-fever, I had a great deal of leisure, and it offered itself as an amuse ment; then I found the new processes and inventions so fascinating that it became my great resource ; and here I am, ready' to get an instantaneous view of that lovely effect yonder, with the smoke of the steamer, the foam of the water from its screw, and the soft dappled damascene of the sea, and here are these young dogs-There, I knew it 1 Helphe I !help I" " For just then, in a bit of a scuffle for place, one of the urchins was elbowed off the pier, and went down into the deep water with a tremendous splash. His companions shouted, there was a sluggish movement amongst the fishernien high above them on the cliff, and some of them might have arrived in time to save the boy, but it was doubtful, for a strong ebb was running; and he, eitherfrom ignorance orfear, could hardly swim a stroke.' Richard Barry gave one glance around for a 'boat, but there was none handy, and with. out a moment's hesitation he took a header from the pier of some ten feet into the pure ' deep water, rose after forming a curve, swam to the boy, and then round the head of the little pier to some steps, up which he carried the boy, who was roaring lustily. It was an heroic act, but a simple feat that any swinim mer could have accomplished; and as soon as Richard Barry had set dowi' his noisy charge, he and his 'fTriehd began laughing. heartily. "Nonsense, my dear sir, nonsense I" "My good sir, I say it was a very gallant act, for without you that boy's life would have been lost;" and the photographer grasped Barry's wet 'hand and shook it heartily, as he stood there in his Slippers forming the centre ofa poolr of water. " Hallo, Tom! anything wrong 1" shouted ;somebbdy. "No, all right now, Jack. Boy fell off thepier. This gentleman saved him," said the photographer, with military sharpness. "Mnore's the pity,"said the new comer, as Barry and Lusmlore glanced from the Speaiker, who .was similarly dressed arid bore no slightresemblance to their new acquaintance, and let their eyes rest upon the two ladies, his young comnpanions, both of whom looked pale and agitated. "Don't say that, Jaclk; a boy's a boy. My dears, visitoirs from London; gentlemen, my daughter-my niece--my brother, Cap tain:Sanctuary." ' Fred Lusmore thought of his collar and tie lying upon his dressing table, as he raised his hat and bowed politely; while Richard Barry stooid ih his pool, looking, as Fred afterwards told him,: like a drowned rat. The lialeness departed from the ladies'faces as they returriei the salutes, 'and Richard Barry saw a peculiar twinkle in the eyes of one of them, 'a rather 'horti, bright little
thing, as if she were fighting down a desire to laugh, but his unpleasant predicament was ended by their first acquaintance clap ping him' heartily on the shoulder. "Don't stand upon ceremony, but run back, my dear sir, and change your clothes. Let's see; your staying at Mrs. Bradley's. I heard'last night. My brother brought in the news. Capital woman. Get dry flannels on directly, or it my strike into your con founded bones-No, no, I mean damp strikes into mine. Hat-ah ! there it goes, a hundred yards away. I'll send a hoat after it and have it brought. Now do, pray, my dear sir, go and change your things. You're looking blue already. Oh ! here s Basman; don't stop to be introduced. There's my place, up there on the cliff. Drop in by and-bye and see us." As he talked on, he hurried his wet ac quaintance away along the pier, Fred Lusmore bowing to the ladies and following his friend, passing a dark gook-looking man of seven or eight and twenty, in straw hat and yachting serge suit. The latter said something as the old gentleman and Barry passed, and then fixing his-glass in his eye, Iremained staring after them. "As Lusmore came up, he stared at him." " Fellah had ducking ?" he said. "Yes, fellah had ducking," replied Lus more shortly, and walked on. "How I do hate that style of fellow i" he muttered as he overtook Barry and his new friend, who parted from them at the inn, and repeated his request that they would call. As Barry came down he found his friend just commencing a cross-examination of the landlady-a dark, rosy-faced woman, the wife of a merchant-captain, who attended to the little inn while her'husband was carry ing cargoes of pilchards to Eastern ports., "Major Sanctuary, eh ?" "Yes, sir, and a very nice gentleman too, much nicer than his brother the captain, though he is not at all a bad kind of gentle man, only he will. talk as if he lived on sting ing-nettles instead of good wholesome lettuce and such like." ' ' Lusmore had begun with a leading ques. tion or two, and found afterwards that he only need sit still, for the buxom lady was ready to flow on with all she knew right to the end. e ".In the army sir. Not now, sir; ,least wise they was. - Poor gentlemen, they had both left their ladies at Cawnpore, and were away with their regiments, and when they got back-Ah, sir I I can't bear to think of it. Fortunately though,' poor ladies, their little girls were over here at Bath, which is a town in Somersetshire, sir, being educated at an officers' daughters' bloarding-school. They went out to Penang and Singapore to join their pas afterwards, and four years ago, sir, they came and" settled down here, at Cliff Cottage. The major 'has never been well long at a time, for he has fits of jungley fever now and then; and they say his brother, the captain, has bad health, too, sir; but between you and me, sir, I think it's mostly temper. They officers out in Indy do eat such hot things, pickles, and curries, and capsy cums, sir, that they and the hot weather spoils their health." " The major photographs," said Barry, striking in. " Law, air I I didn'thear you come down in those soft shoes; do let me mix you something to keep you from catching cold. Yes, sir, all day long, and the captain gardens up at the cottage there. They've got the loveliest greenhouse there, full of flowers, grown from seeds they brought over from foreign lands. Did you see the young ladies ?" " Oh, yes, we saw the young ladies," said Lusmore. "Are they-er-we met a dark gentleman dressed like a sailor." "Oh, that is Mr. Basman, sir. Yes, I think so."" One of them, sir. Sometimes we think it's Miss May, and sometimes we think it's Miss Dinah. He's dow~ here a deal, sir. Comes from London, he does. A very kind gentleman, they say he is, and the major thinks a deal of' him, but the men down here think he's orty." "Oh, they think he's ' orty,' do they ?" said Lusmore. "Yes, sir, they do. They say, you see, sir, that a man's only a man whether you dress him fine or only in tarpaulins, and that a real kentleman, such as the major or the captain, never seems orty at all. And now, sir, what time would you like dinner 1" "Two ?" said Barry. "Yes, two, Mrs. Bradly; and mind this, we've come down to Cornwall to live on fish and cream, so don't you ever come and say there are none to be had." "I 'm sure I' do my best, gentlemen, to make you comfortable," said the landlady, curtseying, as her visitors made a fresh start out to breathe the sea-air. ChaPTER II. The two friends waited two days before making a movement towards accepting the warm invitation they had received, and then their laggard steps were hastened by meet-. ing the major upon the cliff. .' Good morn ing I" he said, with a quite a military salute. " I was in agony all day.yesterday, for fear you should call. Had:one 'of my. fits on, gentlemen; remains of my fever. Liver, I suppose. The paradise of .a place looked a desert, and the world something to get out of as soon as possible.. Ah, how I envy you. young fellows your health and strength 1" " Which we ran down here to touch up," said Lusmore. ,,"Touch up l" said Captain, Sanctuary, whom they suddenly came upon, spyglass in hand, seated in a niche of a granite. cliff. "What do you boys know of ill-healthj? Idle excuse to get away from town for a holiday. Old story. Told it myself at school.. "Please, lsir, I've got such a bad headache, may I go home?" "Brother Jack, gentlemen, is one of the best-hearted misanthropes in the woild,"' said the major. "Rubbish I Misanthrope ' As to the world, it's hollow-humbug. I'm glad to get out of it. We did get as far out of it as we could without going into the sea-eh, Tom ?? "My brother, gentlemen, has an idea in his head that I ought to have been Com. niander-in-Chief of :Her Majesty's.Forces, instead of a poor half-pay major." "You've been disgracefully treated, Tom, and you know it." "Nonesense, Jack I I'vegot all Ideserved. How could a broken old fellow like I am ever do much good? The crueltyhas been in letting you go unrewarded, after all your faithful services and wounds." "Hang'it, Tom! if you can't talk com mon sense before strangers, I must go ;" and shutting the telescope up with a clang, just as if he were sheathing a sword, he marched off without look or salute. The major smiled.' - "That's how brother Jack and I quarrel, gentlemen," he said. "He cuts me, and I cut him, and we come to high words about the rewiards we ought to have had, and then, puff! it's all over, and we go to our hobbies. I was just.looking round to see if it was worth while to bring out the camera, but there is too much sunshine, and I am glad I met you, gentlemen. Come along'up to the house." : Richard Barry looked at Fred Lushmore, and his eyes said plainly enough, "This is
an original family ;" and Lusmore returned the glance with one that said, " Quite right, it is;" and then they followed the rixajor along the cliff, while he stopped from time to time and pointed out the best sea-views, chatting away volubly thewhile. ' "That's a fine bit," he said. "You can see the' Gull Rock well. I've gbt photo graphs of all these, indoors. There now, stand there, both of you. That's quite safe if you don't try to jump off,'and I won't push you over. There you are now. Watch that great wave slowly rolling in like a long hill of water; here it comes, faster and faster. There it is, turned into a breaker; and those cascades of water are 'washing the rock below quite smooth,-as they have gone on washing it for thousands of years. How far down is that?" "Sixty feet," cried Luamore. "Ah, quite eighty," said Barry. "Two hundred and eleven, my dear sirs,' measured by me with a conger-line 'and-a plummet. These heights,:in the presence of so much that is great, are deceptive. Fine sea-view, isn't it ? One step and you would .be out ofEngland.", :; " Out of the world, Ihould say," said Barry. S"Right, my dear sir,.you would.: Out-of. the-way place for a couple of old soldiers to come to, eh? Fact is, we can't' afford Lon don and society, so we come down here. Rent's cheap, living ditto, and brother Jack and I can indulge in our hobbies," and'growl at the world. Now, turn through this gap, up these steps, and. here we are. Ah ! there's Jack gardening, and the girls are at work." They climbed up some rough granite steps, passed between some natural pillars of rock, and'found themselves directly after in front of a very' charming cottage, built in a sheltered nook facing the sea. "It was'pro tected on three sides from the winds, and the rugged natural terrace 'on which it had been erected had been turned; with' admirable taste, into a rookery upon an extended scale. There were no prim, straight walks; and well-shaped flower-beds, but the nooks and corners had been filled with rich soil, flowers and ferns planted, -and every level spot carpeted with velvet turf. In.one corner was a conservatory, put were it would catch the full glow. of 9the southern sun, and in endless places advantage had been taken of. the ruggedness of the place to forminverdant nooks. "All. brother Jack's work,". said the major, noting the 'admiring 'glances of the friends. "Couldn't do that in a garden round London, forty feet by twenty, eh?
"Fred Lusmore thought of his collar and tie as he bowed politely" (See tale, "Dark Days ").
There's Jack going to put on his coat again just as he had taken it off." In effect the captain disappeared behind a piece of fern-hung granite, but his absence was hardly needed, for the ladies rose from where they were at work and came forward. " Charming !" said Lusmore that evening, as they sauntered back in the moonlight to the inn. "I never spent :so pleasant an evening in my life. That quiet, tall girl, May Sanctuary, is my very ideal of a sweet women, so natural, so full of repose. And as for the other, she is ;a regular witch. She's as merry as a cricket." "Are cricket's merry ?" said Barry, quietly. "Don't know ; never was on a cricket's visiting list;, but one ;iinist have smiles. Why, Dick, what- a tquiet old fellow you are I I should have thought you would have liked a couple of girls like those; they are so fresh and unartificial.'. "I did like them," said Barry quietly. "You don't wrin't a man toijtnip about and shout because he is pleased, do you ?" "Not I, but you seemed what we Lin. colnshire folk call clunch. You were dull and heavy and distant all the evening." "It was from'quiet enjoyment then." " Ah ! that's right. I say what a capital pair of old chaps they are ! Who'd have thought of meeting such men down here?" "And such women !" " Murder ! you oughtn't to talk of such a pair of sylphs as women." "There I differ from you," said Barry smiling. " Woman is the grandest title you can give to one of the other sex. A woman ! What is greater, more beautiful than a true woman ?" "Hark at him I" said Lusmore, addres sing nobody. - "He is getting up a lecture. But I say, Dick, where's t'other !" " ' Where's t'other?' What do you mean ?" "I'd forgot all about him-the dark gentleman in the yachting serge, who is sup posed to be engaged to one of the young ladies. Hang the fellow ! I'd made up my mind to fall in love, and I can't do that, of course, until I know which one is free." "Yes; I had forgotten the dark gentle man," said Barry. " However, he could be spared." "Perhaps he is off yathbting," said Lus. more, as they turned into their rooms. " If he is, may he take it into his head to sail on all round the world, for he would be decidedly de trop here." " Perhaps that would be his sentiment with regard to .us." (To becontinued.)