Chapter 81618997

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter TitleSTRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81618997
Full Date1897-10-27
Page Number27
Corrections0
Word Count1955
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld. : 1892 - 1905)
Trove TitleThe Mystery of Sea-Towers
article text

CHAPTER IV.

STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND

The further investigations which Miss BpHarityne made that morning in company with her maids and cokch- : man were not at ail satisfactory.

She was herself upset and nervous, ? and everything seemed top>e at cposs purposes. The fact was ^that the es tablishment generally wais suffering from a complaint common to newly

arrived English people In: ^ustx-alial -, ^Miss Ballantyne - and - her ; English servants were only four days off: the' steamer, and yet everyone of them was homesick. \ '

The eoachman's wife, -who was also laundress to the household, had been crying in the laundry for quite half an

hour. She felt 'lonesome and miser able" she said, at the thought that she was all'them mil"es from dear old Eng land. She knew she would never, see Bristol any more, nor her sister Bar bara, nor tier toother .Ben, as lived in Sight of the Wrekin in Shropshire She would not have let her William come ont to such an upside-down, Vlie convict country, let alone have cpmo with J^im, If Mrs. Brotherton, the mis tresses aunt, hadn't bothered her into it Why could not Miss Ball&ntyne haw brought her maid, andgot other ser vants in Australia, without bringing

all belonging to giem.

said coachman who stood by, a big meek-faced man, with mouse-coloured hair and blue eyts, and brawny limbs, a man that could do anything with a horse, but nothing with a woman.

- "Yes, William, you may well stand there shamed At your heartless con duct in bringing a good wife to such a murderous country as this," sobbed tlie petulant woman.

William muttered something -about big wages and a good youiig mistress, but immediately regretted his hardi hood in making such reference to things which at oi?ce furnished his wife with matter for further lamenta tion and upbraiding.

"Its the big wa£es that brought you out here then is it; a^d little do you care about me, if you can get money and victuals, and clothes, and plenty of them. Perhaps you thought I'd die, and then you could pick up with one of them forward young wenches that nodded their 'Leads, and kissed their hands, to you as soon as we put foot in Melbourne. But I won't die William! What a daft fool' like you would do without a poor patient downtrodden woman to look after him, I don't know."

William was about to reply with as much asperity as was possible to his placid nature, when he heard iiis name called by the cook, and glad to get away he hurried down the pass age, which led from the comfortable laundry into the kitchen, which was somewhat inconveniently situated at the south end of the house.

It was Polly Cornstalk, the cook, a plump, rosy-cheeked, Tasmanian w oman, that called him. She had been engaged the previous day by Miss Baliantyne at a Melbourne regis

try office, and was as mueh Austra lian as the rest of the household were English. She was a stout little wo man, although her name was Corn stalk, and she squared around upon the big coachman when he hove in sight, as though about to give him a bit of her

mind, for she was im*er the Impres

sion that his wife's tears had resulted from her husband's bad treatment of

her.

"Billy Hardbake" she said, "that Ayrshire cow has just lifted the rail and walked into the stable to sg.y good morning to the carriage horses.". ; "Good Heaven!" shouted William, turning to rush out, "she'll gore them, or, get kicked."

"No she won't," said Polly, "t put "her out before I toxd you; but look here Billy,1 doa't you thiak that a Lug man like you ought to be "kicked for abusing his wife."

"It'ts, a lie" . said William, bluntly. . "Oh >yeSj of * course it is," said Polly, with ? m sneer, "and I didn't hear. her crying just now, the " poor thing. . You'Englishmen are all alike, and-1 wouldn't marry one of yOu if 3 on were hanging in diamonds; but do get-out 'of the kitchen and let uae get the mistress's breakfast; you had better go back and bully your wife." With this malicious fling, she slamm ed the kitchen door in his face.

William felt himself to be a. much illused and misunderstood man. but

there was no help for ft, and iie went out sulkily to Ms work in the coach-, house "and .stables. Wliat could one man do who had to dance attendance on four women. .He'd give Miss Bgtl lantyne a month's notice^ and take Sarah straight back to England-and he probably would have doiie if

Beatrice Baliantyne had beeiTa man; but he did nothing of the sort, for she was a woHia%

. After the household had breakfast ed, William was wmrooned by 1U» m&traprt*} fcyiug % 8Qww&iY&' a»a

assist Lucy, and Kate, the housemaid, in making a few changes in the ar rangement of the furniture. Several rooms were pretty closely scrutinized, and a few slight alterations made, un til at last they reached the chamber where Beatrice had met with her most alarming adventure the previous

night.

"Measure the matnelpiece across," said the young lady to William,. "I want to buy a walnut over mantel in Melbourne to match the rest of the furniture." '

She shuddered when she saw; him stand fair upon the hearth, and in voluntarily stepped further back to ward where Lucy and the housemaid watched the proceedings. "Suppose the fireplace should give way- under his weight, and here should be a re petition of the startling scene of the previous evening?" *

But William was thinking of his wife, and mentally "cursed' the cook, against whom he had taken a strong dislike, and jit never occurred to; him that his young mistress was a bit strange and flurried in her questions and "general demeanor.

"Take up the hearthrug William,"

she said. *

- The coachman quietly obeyed, won dering to himself the while what his . wife and the cook might jiist then be r saying about him.

"What a fine piece of tesselated tile work this is" shie said; after hav ing contemplated it for fully a minute. ? "Don't go away Lucy, and you stop too, Kate," she called out, as the girls, thinking they were not further want ed, were moving off into the next

room. ? -

"Can I he ;doing anything, Miss,"

said Kate.

"Yes-No-," said Beatrice a bit confused. You. had better remain, I may want you:"

She was scrutinizing the tesselated square, on which William still stood, with the keenest attention. Only for Lucy's having told her about her dream she would - have made ' him stamp upon it to see if it was firm, or sounded hollow. There was a line all around, where a different coloured tile formed a kind of - border; but nothing could be seen which suggest, ed an opening. She had thought of hav fnjg: the whole thing Screwed up, if, a» shfe had expected, she had found a wooden framework around the hearth stone; but the tile work extended right out to the largie carpet, and on a portion of this .being lifted it-was found that the flooring of the room was of concrete. TMs indeed was a - peculiarity of all that portion of the

mansion.

Beatrice took the wondering1 set vanfcs ffoin one room to another, and lifted carpets and linoleum, only to find that the whole of them were floored with cement. There- was ran where a nook or cranny to give the slightest indication' of what there. . might be below. ^

It was the same outside* great flag Ktones of hard and close texture, ever}* . where met the eye. -

Beatrice gave up the investigation with feelings of keen disappointment, and ordered an early lunch ; and the carriage to-t»e ready immediately af terward, and "dismissing her attend ants she sauntered down the steep de >eline which led Into the miniature val

ley at the north end of the house, to which reference has already been made There were stone steps, here and there, to break the steepness of the descent.

Looking more closely at one of them she saw, that It was cat out of the f<m matipn of the hill itself. The rock was & a ..it flwUeS

- - uponBeatrice th^tt it was limestone. -

5 "Sea Cliff Towers Is built Tipon a

great Mil of limestone," she. said at 'y^r:-Iast^.lo^'l»«self. "Andali thefloors at

this endare eitlierstone or concrete??. she continued. r"- ,

- For a long time she stood .near the

waterfall, looking up: through -the

trees, at themassive stoneterrace, and

toT^r above Her. She was evidently

" thinking something out, and at last

turned herhead aioUnd/to where in . '. thedistaneethe Pacific Oeean-streteh

ed its great waters towardthe: east. ? A great steamer waspassihg, bound

north,and^he6eai^iyheededit.

- '^should notfe^

arenatural eavesunder this end of . the house j tfa e whole hill is one mass - of limestone," shewMspered to her

self. But her heart sank within her-as she climbedup that steep ascent. ~

"E'ancy living by oneselfiU such a. dreadful place, with some mysterious V person, who may he your enfemy,under

the floor, and having access to the : lionse-to murder one, perhaps.,r She

shuddered, and felt her. teeth chatter ing together, notwithstanding the bright warm morning sunshine. How she regretted that she had no brother or other male relative to tell her trou ble to. She felt more averse than ever ; to letting the servants know any

thing about it.

"Lucy," she said, on re-entering the house, "I don't care for that room. My uncle, I believe, used to sleep in ft; move all my things out and we will . lodS- It up, and I will take the room 'on

the ocean side of the house, and you can tiring your things into the dressing room and sleep there for a few nights until I re-arrange matters."

Lucy made the alterations, nothing loath, for she felt by her mistress's] : manner that something had either hap

pened, or had come to Iter knowledge about the rooms, which was of an un pleasant character. '

Lunch no sooner over than Wil , - Hani brought the carriage around, and

Beatrice started for the city in soli tary state. She would have taken Xucy ' with her . for company, but . wanted to be alone to think. She dar

ed not come back to that place again without-a man, if not two, fear person al protection. ^Ihe would have to hire* a gardener; but she could not very well put him to «leep in i:he house.

The carriage rolled along the long smooth suburban roads and then over the well-paved city streets, & Beatrice had not yet decided what to say to her lawyer. Suddenly a luminous thought

flashed into her mind. Her business was in the hands of the "youngest mem ber of the firm of Bluntly, 'Blackham and Dorset, the eminent solicitors of Collins Street. Mr. Dorset was a clev er lawyer, .well connected and gentle manly-and a bachelor. She would tell him nothing about what she had seen, but on some . pretext, bring him back -with her in the carriage, and keep him all night and put him to sleep in the haunted chamber-and await develop ments;. '-"V- ? *

It was u bold scheme, but we must

leave it to be.seen later on how it far- - ' ed and whether the woman was a matchtortbteAawyer.: