|Newspaper Title||Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||A Real Old-Time Christmas|
'a Real ©Id-Time Christmas.
By JOHN STRANGE WINTER, Author of ' Booties' Baby,' ' Beautiful Jim,' ' Heart and Sword,' &c, &c.
!i CHAPTER I.
'ihe Red Horse were, just home from India, that is to say, they toad been lying in Danfopd Barracks for about five weeks, and, it mudt be confessed, tlhey were one and all feeling the cold horribly. l-V-r m tiny a month before leaving tflie shores of the winning East behind tOiem, they had pitied, as only exiles can pine, for their own native land. ' By Jove, when I itOiink of the rot I fa?ard prated about the joys ^1 living in
India, before I came ou't here,' quoth one intelligent young gen Woman to a select group of ])is conn. -riles one night ?when a rumor had crept Hi rough th? station lib at it was quits wit'hin the bounds of possibility that the lied Horse might Tie passed over for home orders this autumn. ' I rail only wonder whether those who prated were ? fc-lie bigger fools or liars. For niv part, I would rather live in one room in flip worst found barracks in Ireland than in tlie most gorgco-us bungalow that is to be found in etl -tSie length and bread tlh ol Inda.' ' Jt's a beastly shame to keep us with out our definite orders, anyway,' remarked another, who w.is not prepared to be quite eo sweeping in his condemnation of India and everything in it. 'I've liad an uncoin. mon pood time iiiy-:olf out liere, lali-ing it ell round, but 1 diall be cevilish glad to Boe tliicj o-Id country again, that's a cer tain tv.' '1',-uHy forgets,' laughed /mother voice from the depths of a huge chair. 'I ,say, you fellows, doesn't he remind you of the LUli chap in the song— 7'iu-y siy there's Thread and work for all, Am:] the fun shines alivavs tlicre ; i H-n l'l! r,;.t TorsPt -M Iiv'.and, 'H'i'Il- si*? ('.voiily liir.Lfi less fjir. As Vac strains of Hammond's rollicking iroice died anvny, the man who had spoken first broke in. 'Yes, by Jove, 1 nvas given an idea that I was ci.miiig out to a life of elegani ease with a good bit of sj)ort thrown in, with tigers -as common as rats and pig 6'tieking to be had every day if one ?wanted it. But the real thing, with its BeadLJy energetic commanding oflieers, %vli.) want to pjet another year of com mand, and by Jove, do it oult of the body and bones o'± their unfortunate officers, e?peoial]y_ subalterns, is a very different Biatjtcr. That yowl Hammond ' treated us -U- just new is right enough in one way, there's bread and work for all, especially work. And the sun shines always there. . . . ]-y Jove, yes, it iocs, tli« old brute enii ? ''Oh, stop that,' shouted out half a doy.'.-u Jn«ity_ voices. 'Nobody -wants to tear you. ^ incent. when you've got a growling fit. on. Why do you want to 5-e raxirlling at everything as you do ?' 'Oh, I'm so sick of 'nils prison,' repliod Tincont witih a laugh, as he hid 'his face in B ]''.?-.-- b'j.iker I'ov.-ever, as after events showed, the powri-s (hat be did not wish to keep the [Red Horse a season longer in the East ft'li.-in was i heir due. In course of time (he regimenr received its route, duly embarked on board of the C'aliope, and sailed away for t'lie shores of old England. Mheii- first (]uarters were at Danford. LPf.nv Danfoni is not a very favorite station for cavalry regiments, for it is an cxtreme iy (Mill i'l,«e, and is, moreover, almost en tirely given up to the great manufactories vouch pMidnce mosl uninteresting nrticles of commerce. Of society, as the icrm is user! -in ordinary by nicn who go into cavalry regiments, there is absolutely none, and iiiinL'cilicr, a deadlier spot is 'hardly to be iniind in tlie whole of the three king doms. At any other time than that which fiir.modiately follows upon a return from a tdcondi.' in the shining East, tlie lied Horse ?would probably have bittcrlv bewailed tthe hardness of the fate which had sent itliem to wgelate at such a place as Dan foi'd; biiu it was the same with them as .willi i.ll the rest of the world, and cir riuiist.imcs altered cases to such an extent tli.U they did not grumble at Dan ford or anything in it for quite a month after they tni.-irc'hed in and took possession of its cavalry barracks. It was surprising to what an extent the regimen I, to a man, seemed to feel the cold. For one ihing the- had been for tlie past it'll reo yeu'-s in a very hot station, and the cii.ingi- of quarters had come rather late fin the season. Then, too, Dan ford iras noteil^ as being one of the coldest places in tolie United Kingdom, and Dan ford --avalry /fo.irracks enjoyed the reputation of being damp. lie that as it may, the Red Horse ?were simply shrivelled up with the cold winch w.is unusually severe, and by the ?brine that Christmas was as near as two (diiys several ol the officers were within Bi1 nee of being on Che sick list. ' What a dog-hole this is,'' remarked 'Vin-reni, a couple of diiy.s nefore Christmas (to Il.uninonM and Berkeley. ' Who but toiie W'ar O/lice would 'have pitched upon Buch a -ipot as this in which to dump down a thousand men fur 'tlie express purpose of (n.ikin-j; thi'm miserable '''' 'YVIrit was that 1 heard yon declaiming jn.= t before we got our route?' asked Hani Bnond. Then quoted— ''I would rather J ii.o in one rno-n in ihe worst-found barracks in Ireland than in the most gorgeous bun galow that is fo be found in all the length and breadth of India.' Vincent laughed. 'Oh. yes, I did hate India, mi -mistake about it, but my haired of India d;ues not make me contented with the oMier end of (lie earth. And this is r (!oi-l-fi-rarollcn hole, and there is no denv ang it. Uesides. look at the weather— did yon. pv.'-r see such weather in vour life?'' ''Weli. yes, I have,' replied Hammond, iv-iih ?becomine gravity. 'It's what they call a good old-fashioned Christmas, with all the iiarrar-k square looking like an exa'ifl-erated. Christinas r;ird, and everyone stamping their feet and trying to make bcl'pve that it is healthy.' ''Henstly, T vail it,' said Vincent crossly. 'You ought to -appreciate it,' remarked Hammond mild'ly. ''It's enough of a con trast to the gorgeous East, which you [hated with such intensity.' 'I don't mind it,' declared Vincent, 'only — only — ' Hammond laughed outright. 'Yes, my dear chap, I understand. You needed no Buch fearful contrast, eh?' 'I wonder,' said Hammond, reflectively, Ifco Berkeley when Vincent had betaken himself, still prumbling. away, 'I -wonder what it -was that curdled the milk of Obumnn kindness in poor old Vincent?' 'Was he ever any different?' said ?Berkeley. 'He's always been the same sort of fault-finding chnp ever since I have known him.' 'Yes, vou've oniv kno-vm him since you joined the Red Horse. I was at Marl Iborough and then at Sandhurst with him, and he is as different to what he was then as chalk is different to cheese. I suppose there is a woman at the bottoTii of it. Anyway, the change had come upon him during the time that he spent in the
Cuirassiers and before he joined us. Nowa days lie makes me think of the -pessimist f frog.' 'tVTiat did Tie' do?' enquired Berkeley, as 'he struck another light. ? 'There were two ifrogs,' replied Ham mond; ''which one day .lumped through a pantry window and 'landed in a large bowl of milk. One was an optimist frog and the other was a pessimist frog. 'Ob, oh, I shall drown, J shall drown/ cried the pessimist frog. TvTot at all,' cried the optimist frog, 'the maid is sure to come in the moi-mng, and she will take us out of this. Paddle on, paddle on.' i can c paddle on,' returned the pessimist frog, 'I tell you T shall be drowned, I shall be drowned.' And in the morning, wlien the dairymaid came to her work; she found the 'pessimist frog lying dead at the bot tom of the bowl of milk, while tue opti mist frog was gaily sailing around on a pat of butter of. his own making.' ' Very good, yes, awfully good,' laufrlind the other, 'and you're right, it is like poor old Vincent. I shall tall him the pessi mist frog from t'his moment.' Vincent meantime, had gone off to his own quarters, and was thinking ruefully of h'ow he would g.-t down into the wretchedly unan.terestine town, there to buy certain seasonable presents ivhie.h were always due from (him in certain quar ters al this -time of 'the year. The time was between three and four in the after noon, the -1mv was, even for th? time of year, very -dark and lowering, a fine drizzle of something uliat was neither rain nor snow nor sleet was steadily ftdiinff, 41he biiara-ek square was like gk^s. and fche skies gave no prospect of the smallest im provement for days t-o cim?. A greater contrast to what the Red i t-o-rFe had left iveJhin'd in India could 'hardly Suave been found, and much as Vincent had Hinted and detested ths Orient, he or-u!d not go quite so far as to sav (hat itliis was t'he kind of thing that he lilted. ' Oh well, there's no particular liurrv,' he muttered, as he turned from tile window. ' T'll have another pipe, anyway.' lie sat hinipelf down in his favorite arm chair which stood invitintrly near t-o the fire, and filled his pipa. His thougiits, us he sat there watching the rings of blue .°-m ok e curl gnacefu'ly uj) into the a!ir, w;re of Ifainmond. and of whpjt !lie had said. T'onr old Hammond, he was such a cheery, easy-going -ihap, he never wou'd be able to understand what it was ; at bad made !iis old Pnh oo-l follow -Jliange from a gay and ligiht-ihea.ited lad into a man to whom the darker side of 'life usually presented itsedf first. Well, well I, if she -had ber-n different he would have been different too. He was almost tempted do take the first ehanc? that caine to him. and tell Ham mond Oiuw and why he had (ihanged a-s he had done. He would understand then. How lie did hate Chri«lm-is time, to be sure. For it was at Christmas time just seven years atro that the great tragedy of his lire had been enacted and all the' joy and light and graciousness had pone out of his heart for ever. He had sworn on that, never-to-be forgotten day seven years ago that he would not lot his broken hopes influence his life one jot. lie had reso lutely cut himself off from his old regi ment, the dear old Cuirassiers, of whom he ?would always be one at heart, and had exchanged into the Red Horse, in -which be had never felt himself thoroughly at home, he had thrown himself into what ever might happen to be going on and had, hem' fairly well oft' to begin with and, for t'he latter part of his time among them, extremely well off. done the East from end ? to end. and he bad tried bard to be just j as he had been before. Well, he had sue- j ceedi'd only in a certain -degree, and he had | won for himself the reputation of being a ! somewhat disagreeable kind of Hiap who would always growj if a g.owl could by any ' chance be -possible. ' Then his thoughts drifted off to her, and of the first time thev had nW when he was . little more than a boy, ;i schoolboy proud j of bis first tail coat and fall hat. ';he ; was quite a schoolgirl, little Kitty Kil- j roy, the daintiest, wildest, sweetest little I maid to be found in all t.,e length and breadth of Comity Tipperary. He rempni bered ever so well bow she had put her horse at a fence that would have proved a facer to many a man keeping a dozen hun ters in the shires, and how she had hopped over it like a bird and with as little con cern. He recalled a dozen such incidents of which Oeorge Kilroy's little girl was un? heroine. And then there came to his mini the final scene of all, when she had told him that she was ennraged, she, the darling of his hear!, the pride of his life, the loved centre of all his day-dreams, and to the most shame'ess blackguard that ever dis graced the society of genl'^men. 'You enn't be going to marry O'Kullivan,' he cried, aghast ;i,t the news. 'Sir Georg.i would never allow such a thing.' 'He is delighted,' returned little Kitty proihptlv. 'And -what have you to say against Mr. O'fiullivan, pray?' 'Kitty,.'' said he wretchedly, ?let'tine the question of what he had or had not ,to say aliont O'fiullivan go by the wnll, 'you don't mean to say that you meant noth ing all this time.' 'How mcaiit?' she asked, with a blush ihal betrayed the guilt that was in her heart. 'Do you like him betici- than me?'' he dcn:and( il nii-erablv, — I think he is just si.Vndid.' quoth Kitty, on which Vini-ent di-uppod her hand ,-is if i't had been red-hot, and turned away wilhouf ;i word of farewell. He had never seen her since. Tt might seen as if be had dwelt too mufh on the memory of what might have been, but- it must not be forgotten -t lm-t it was no sud den love, born in a day and dead in the tragedy of n week. Not il all: for ibree loi'g years he had worshipped at Kitty Kilroy's shrine. and be had even spoken to old Sir George of his hopes, and had received from that improvident old gentleman a pros pective bh's'sinji, and wh.it had seemed like very sound advic1. 'You nuid. iv.i\[ till you are of age, my boy,' ihe had said. 'And ihe Wttle girl must be free, free as air. She is very young yet. She may change her mind.' And she had changed her mind, and here was he sitting in his quarters in Danford Barracks, a lonely dis-appahi'ted man of nearly eight-and-twe-nsty, from Whom the romance of life had gone for ever. Well, it was foolish work grizzling over broken hopes and the unattainable. He wo-uld sit there thinking no longer. CHAPTER IT. The clock of the guardroom struck as Vincent passed througih the barrack gaites. He turned instinctively 'to look at the time. By Jove,' his thoughts ran, 'I must have sat there for over an hour. What an ass I am. Not tihat I would have been any better off out here. If anything, I fancy it is scarcely as bad as it was.' The weatSier was, hgwever, quite liad enougih, and the piercing wind whistled through and through Vincent's heavy coat, chilling him to tihe very bones. He strode, along with !iis collar up and his hands we!!: thrust down into, tlie depths of his pockety ?''**? ?: ' '''?} '..'? - v- ;''
and presently got into the sheHer of the houses with winch tue town proper beganj where he was a little less the* butt of the wind and t3ie still falling sleet' than he -had been before. He found Danford .a most disappointing place to shop in, and with, difficulty made his various purchases. Hav ing, howevsr, accomplished his object he turned into the ckib, in which, somehow or other, 'neither lie nor any of ther regi ment seemed to fee! at home, and ordered himself a cup of coffee and a brandy. And having partaken of this, and glanced at one or two of die day's papers, he turned up his collar .again and passed out inLo the dreary night. He had just got clear of the main streets when his attention was arrested by the Bound of a child's weeping. Now al though ho had outlived the romance of his 1i:'e, Derrick Vincent was not a hard man. : but one to whom children and dogs took as naturally as the flowers turn to the sun, and when he heard this small child's bit ter wail, lip stopped dhort an!d listened. ?;Oh, what s'all 1 do? What s'all I do?'' the little voice wailed. ' Vincent turned shaiply round. 'Hullo, litile maid, what is the matter ?' Yho weeping ceased instantly, and the little figure by the dark w.il1 seemed to huddle still nearer to the scanty shelter it afforded. Vincent laid a hand upon the small shoulder. ' What's the trouble ?' he asked. ' I've lost -my money,'' the child re plied ; then broke into sobs again. 'Oh, what s'all I do ?' ' Where did you lose it ?' he asked. 'Just here, just here. It was all my Mummy had. Oih, what s'all I. do ?' ' Will your mother be very angry ?'' he asked, wondering if it was fmir or re gret 1h.it caused surh biaer grief as this. ' No, not iinrn- but jt was all she had,' the little soul replied, 'and I've looked— and looked — and looked, but I can't find it, nowhere at all.' ' How much was it ?' 'A whole half-sovereign,' she returned. '?My Mummy said 1 was too small to go, and 'I should lose it. and 1 said I could, for she is ill and mayn't go out, and— and 1 held it so tight in. my hand, and it's gone, it's gone, and she'll never be able to trust me any more.' A fresh burst of grief ^betokened how sore tlitl shame was and Vincent hastened to administer comfort of a solid kind. 'There, now,' he said kindlly, 'you miii-lnU cry, for it was an accident, and ai-ciclents will' happen you know, even in the besit regulated families. I'll give you another halt sovereign and you shall get the things you wanted and not a soul will be any the wiser. How will .Chat do?' 'But — but — 1 don't think my Mummy would ldt ane take it,'said the child hesi tatingly. 'I really don't think as she is ill, and as it was her last half-sovereign, that it ?would be very wicked if you were to say nothing about it,' said Vincent judicially. 'No, I don't really. See, here it is. Now had I not better spe thait you 'et your things this time? Where were yougoine?' 'Just round tfhe corn-er, she replied; Her teal's were dried now, and a sweet wet faee and a pair of dark-set blue eyes were up lifted to this big wonderful mail, who had foi-nd eudli a simple way of healing her grief. 'AH right, I'll go and see that you get tihivwjjh,' he said. He was as good as his word, and went with -hnr to a provision shop where lie was mightily a.mused to sef how wisely she made her nurohases. And then when she emerged, lie asked her a question. 'And wlipj-e do you live, little one ?' 'At No. 11, O-aborne-terraee,' was the rwlv. 'Oh. do you?' Tile terrace in question was a raw of small unimportant houses running off the main road a little further fmm the town than the harra-1c.-. 'Well. 1 have to nearly pas= O.Jborne-terrnee, po I -will go v.-jth vnu and see that you come to no harm,' be said. The .-hiM gave a little gasp. _ 'Oh, I am so frighted -to go along alone,' she said, 'and it was twire daylight whpn I came out. I t'ink my Mummy will be frighted a'hmit me.' 'All right: then come along anel^ let us get home as soon as we can.' said Vincent, who was himself fairly chilled by this time, and he had seen that the child was wet through when she had been in the better light of the shop. So the big young man, who had for years persistently growled at evPrvthing and al most at everybody, and the frail little blue-eyed child went along the slippery road together. Tt was excessively dark, and the frozen rain beat mercilessly upon thc-mboth. Little one, I think I had better cirrv you,' said Vincent at la=t, for the child seemed to 'be alilo to make no pro gress against the fury of thp elements. She stopped at once and held up Tit arivs. 'My poor feet are frozed,' she said, with a so:li, 'and my mummy will be so friehted about me.' The soldier gathered her in his arms and strode along at a grnat rate. He could feel that she was shiverine and soaked th rough and through, and she cuddled up .i-'.rainst him as if she had found a rpfuce from a 'hard battle. 'Put your arm around my neck,' he said, 'I can carry you ever so much easier so.' The child obeved, but rven th^n- it was no such very ln'Vit task Uv.it he had taken upon himself, for what, with the -driving sleet, the dangerous nature of the footpath, and the weight of the child all clogged by her wet garments and her basket, he had all that he couM -do to got along. Still he was sfrons and young, and he strode manfully along. WpinK as much as he could under the shelter of the various houses and garden walls that they passed. And. at last, they turned the corner of Osbornp-tTrace. only there to find that the wind had changed, and that they were even more cruelly exposed to the driving sleet than they had been before. 'Is this the house?' Vincent askrtl. 'No. not that one, the next one,' the chiKi rcniied. As Vincent strode up to the door it was flung open and a loud, but not unkindly, voice called out, 'Ts that -ou. little Missy? Why, wherever 'ave ver 'been? Yer Ma is wejl'-nigh ±rnntic about you, and nought would ferve 'er but she must go tearing down the town to try and find yer. Surely yer must 'ave. met 'er; she's not been gone ten minutes.' irl ne child burst out crying piteously. 'Oh, Mrs. Mitchell, my Mummy, my Mummy, and her cough so bad; what s'all Ido?'' 'Why, my dear, lelt me get yer wet things oif yor as soon 'as I can,' the woman replied. 'Why, ye' re just soaked through and tihrougli. Wherever 'ave yer been all bhis long while, and 'ow came this good gentleman to be a -carrying of yer 'ome?' 'Well, simply because I saw that she was dead beat, and couldn't get Ihome by herself,' said Vincent, iii a tone which be tokened a certain amount of severity. 'Tin's is no day for a child to be out on; it's not fit for a dog.' 'Aye, siri, . well may you, say that/' Mrs. JMJtchell exclaimed. 'And if I could have f&Mked the child shouldn't 'ave been out, :i«hat?6 certain. But -her poor ma is that
ill witih browntitus she'll -get 'er death to night, *m!esB i'jn very, inueii -mistook.' 'Oh, I did not mean to say anything of fensive,' said Vincent, who began to feel' that lines were rather hard For tihis family. 'Look here, I'll go back and meet^the child's mother.' How shall I know her?' 'Which she is in mdder's weeds, poor thing,' said Mrs. Mitehell, 'and -carries an umbrella witli a white 'andle, one poor Mitchell, dead and gone these five years, give me on my forty -'ighth birthday.' 'I'll find her,' said Vincent, departing hastily, and bolted out into tlie night, quite forgetting to ask even the good lady's na.me. As he. turned tlie top of the terrace into the main road a grim sense of ajnusement overcame him. 'Upon my sou];' he said to himself, 'I have let myse-f in for the maddest wild goose chase that ever fell in my way be fore. Here am I tearing along to find a perfectly unknown wcman, with no better clue to her identity than that she is in Svidder's weeds' nnd that she carries 'an unibrella wilh a white 'andle.' and al! the rest of it. H'm, it's a devilish good thing that none of Ulie fellows have seen me. for I sbouM never hear the last of it 'f Ihrv did.' However, he pressed fonvaid. and kept a keen look-out on both sides of the road, twice crossing over when he caught a souiid of footsteps, which he fancied micht prove to be those of the lady in widow's weeds. Tt was not until he had reached alninst t'he spmt where he had first picked up the child that he mot any one at all answering to Mn?. Mitchell's de scription. 'Excuse me,' he began, 'but do you live in OsTjorne-terrace, and are yon ? ?' 'Looking for a liUle girl,' she broke in 'hastily. 'Yes, yes, can you tell me where she is?' 'T have taken her home,' sard Vincent; 'she is ouite safe.' And then as the sickly sfle-am from an adiacent lamp fell upon the woman's face, he uttered an einc nation of surprise, and cried, 'My God, K-ii't.v, is it you?' - For a moment she stood staring wi'M1y at h;-n throuch the driving snow, for the sleet had ceased by this time and t'he snow was falling, now softlv, now whirling nVirnr ^ frosts sllf-h as fnlfiNpii the promise of n real old -fashioned Christmas. 'Is it you. Derrick?' she said Indistinctlv, and then reeled, just missinor the hand he put out to save her. and falling to tlie ground in a senseless heap. CHAPTER ITT. Derrick Vincent's first sensation was one of the most dire consternation. Here, his though Is ran, wias a pvpf-tv kettle of fish 'that his old T-ove, Kitty Kilroy, daughter of a Iwronet and widow of a man of enormous -wealth, should be lyinir senseless at his fpet on such a night and in such circumstances. He had no over whorining feelings of joy or of pleasure in thus meeting 'her ; it seemed, indeed, to him as if she was soincone whom he 'had known ihut verv slicbtly a very Ions time apo. and, moreover, a someone who was quite impersonal to hiim. I't was, of course, only for n single monnen't that he RtVwVd there, just the time 'that passed be tween t'he woman's 'fall and the first in stinc-'t of jriving succor to one in misfor tunp. Then he bent down and raised her in his arms. But what was he bo do with her ? Phe was a dead weieht even thoueti she was so slight and frail, and he could not possibly walk the distance, nearly a mile, which lay between where they were and Osiwrne-terrace. Of course, t'here whs no suc;h thing as a cab to be seen, for the went her wa.s so bad that even the (-airmen had deserted their po^ts and had given up work for the rest of thp dsiv. Pt.ay. was not ttiat a sound of wheels ? He put ihe unconsv-ious woman down gently on the path aiain and stPDPed out into the road, ^etenninpd even if it should pro -re to be a private carriage to entreat the coachman or t.he owner, as rti-e case misrh't be, o lend him a hand for the love of fr-nd and Ihc savins of a life. It was a cab. ' Hi !' cried Vincent in a stentorian voice. 'Can't take a fare, sir,' replied the driver. 'My h-o-rse 'asn't been roughed, an'd the risk's too great to co on the road again.' 'I'll give you a sovereign if you'll take me as f?r as Osborne-tprrace,' swi'd Vin cent, 'I'M walk wifch the horse, but there's a lady here w'ho has collapsed from the. cold, and 1 must cet her home somehow.' 'Oh. well, if it's a case of that kind,' said the caWhy, gettins down from his porch.' 'I am not a brute or unreasonable. I'll' take you. sir. Shall I help you to get the lady in?' 'I can manage best alone, I think, said Vincent. 'lx-ok here, cabman, you're a good fellow; I'm immensely obliged to you.' He ra'sed the still insensible woman in his amis, and with a little manoeuvring got her comfortably settled in the cab. 'Von'd best cet in. sir,' said the ca.bman. 'xTo, no, I'll walk.' replied Vincent. 'It'll be awkward if the ladv comes to snd has no one to speak to.' sugKested the other. 'As I inust walk with the horse, vou may as well get inside.' So Vincent got into the cab and they hwan a very slow progress in the direc tion of Os-horne-terra'ce. For some time the child's mother did not move; then the jo] tine of the clumsy vehicle 'brought her to herself aaain. and she. after opening her eves, a fact of which Vincent was in (1-e -darkness, quite unconscious, tried to sit ur-. 'Don't worry.' said he. easPv, 'vou're all right, and the child is quite safe at home. We shall lie thorp, too in a few minutes. I was lucky m bem^ able to eet a cab on such a night as this.' P-bo tri-cd to say stump-thing, but the effort was too much, and slhe sank back again, only a strangled couffb now and then prov ing to Vincent that she had not once more relapsed into insensibility. Then they turned the corner of Osbornc-terr.ie.e and a minute or two later drew up at the door of No. 11. Vincent got out and went straight to the door of the bouse. 'Get blip door open,' he Rand to Mrs. Mitchell. ' I'll carry her in— «he is completely clone up.' He stayed for a moment to cat tlie money from his pocket with which to re deem 'his promise -to the cabman, and he selected yet anotiher coin, yellow and .shin ing like the first. ' Here take this before I 'go,' he said, when he reached the cab aa-ain. ' And my bpst Uianks to you. Here's va trifle extra, just to reward you for your humanity.' Then he till mist his Oipwd and shoulders into tihe cab, and bade the riliiid's mother trust herself to him. In less time than it takes me to write this, he had -carried her into the house and had put her down in the big arm-dhair which stood beiore the fire. 'If you' will take mv advice,' 'he said, ' you will get Mrs. O'SuMivanto bed at . o-nce end give her something to drink.' ' Poor dear,' sniffed iJie 'landlady, ' but I doubt oliis, night's work will ? f 'Can I carry her into the bedroohji?' be asked, wishing to stop the torrent of -Jhe srood soul's remarks. ' ' Yes, il! you'd be that kind. sir. You IDJJ^IMAl*
see, I am thait ./dpless Tm just about gtfod for nobhing, or .I'd 'never have. Jet the poor lamb go out toy 'eraelf tihis' bitter afternoon- tlhat I wouldn't. Tihis way, sir.' ' V . ?????? ? . He lifted tihe figure naf his old love in his anna and carried her. wihitker the old wo man led ibhe ?'way/ 'Sat '«r '«re in. Miis ohair,/ sir, and ^'51 \'a.ve 'er.iUjiiigs off^f 'er and into 'er bed in a jiffy,1' Mrs. Mitchell said, pointing to a capacdoue chair wSiic-h stood 'beside tihe bed. * He did her bidding, ana ^ien, tending down, eaid in quiet level tones to Mrs. O'Sullivan, ' I will leave you now, Kitty, but I will come back and see how y-iu are getting on to-niorrow. Good niplht.' Her lips moved, and he 'bent still lower to cateh her words. 'God bless you,' she Whispered, and then a dhoking couarh once more out her words short and seemed t-o rend her frail bodv almost t9 pieces. \ incent went out of the room, beckoning wie old woman to follow him. ' Look here,' 'he said, ' you had better get someone in to help you. I think she is going to be very ill.' J' I'l1,f1'°,l'1,re bwt l (!ln fflr 'er,' replied Mrs. MiWieill, 'but as for getting 'dp in it means Tiioney ? ' More slie could finish the sentence, Vincent had thnist his hand into his poc ket. See here,' he said. ' bhi's is all I have with me to-night. Take it and do tihe best you can, and I wffl bring vou some more to-morrow. Don't spare 'ex pense. It is imperative tohat the mother ot so young a child shall be saved at anv cost. ' Sir,' said Mrs. Mitchell, ' you're a gentleman, .]f ever one trod the earth (-od reward you according to your deserts which are all for good this nio-ht The dear lamb told me what vou'd done for er, and when tihe poor dear in there knows ? ' 'Oblige me by not saying a single word, said he, ' I particularly beg tdiat you will keep my secret between us two. 1 will come again to-morrow.' The next moment he had descended the n,a'ir,ow ,stairs. and with a word to the child, who was sitting in the chair by the lire, where Mrs. Mitchell had placed her after changing her clothes, he had opened the outer door and had passed into the night. Mrs. Mitchell stood on the land ing staring hard at the money in her hand Nie was too thoroughly bewildered by the strange events of thfe past hour to count it but she saw by the light from the bed room that there were several pieces of gold among the silver. 'An'd little Missie said she 'ad never seen 'im before,' she muttered. 'Well, if it don't beat all understanding.' Meantime, Vincent, witfh his heart beat ing hard and his head on fire, was battling his way up the narrow road, and so went across to the barracks. Once in the safe shelter of his own rooms he had time bo think quietly over vflmt had hampened to him since he had left them that afternoon. He tossed his things to one side and sat down in the big e'hair to try to realise the truth of all that he had learned. So she was a widow, a poor widow, and O'Sulli van was dead, was — but t)here, he would not say that even to himself. And that dear little child, with Tier deep blue eyes, was 'here. He cou?'d still feel the pres sure of the confiding arm about his throat, could sftill hear the plaintive musi cal distressed voice, with its pathetic, ' What s'all I do ? What s'all I do ?'* And i't was her ?ehii'd, and he had been thinking hardly of her only that after noon. Pt was plain that she ?was in for a bad thing in the way of illness, even in the lit't'ie one escaped scot - free. Well, he must see her through it, if only for the sake of his little friend Who had confided her trouble to him. Of Kitty, as his old love, he never thought. He had forgotten t'he past excepting as a claim upon the present and tne thought he kad of her was only as of a woman in sore trouble and ? aetu'al want. Poor little Kitty 1 He was very quiet at mess that night, very much mflined to let the tide of con versation pass by him', and he slipped off. ? early, and had another big think before he 'turned in for the night. And the fol lowing day, as soon as he could get a.way out of barracks, he went round to Os borae-terra'oe that he might satisfy him self as to how she was getting on. The face ?' with which Mrs. Mitchell met him was. answer enough. 'Nay, sir, bift she's very, very ill,' she said, gravely. 'I've done my best so fan-, poor dear, for I've a ten dp'r 'eart for them as is in trouble, and Mrs. O'Rullivan was never born to be in a pl.icp like mine; of that I'm pertain.' 'Well, she -wasn't.' said Vincent. 'But after all, if one's ill aad in trouble, it is bo'tber to be 'with' those that are kind than in a grander place among those who are less so.' 'Vou knew 'er?' sTie asked. 'Y©ai« and years ago, but I did not know th'at she was in Danford,' he re plied. 'Nor did T know wiiose child the little one was when I brought her Ihome here. By 'the way, how is slie?' 'Very little the worse, sir,' Mrs. Mit ohell replied. 'Hood. Then Mrs.— Mitchell, yes, then Mr.q. 'Mitchell, you will^see Uiat MrsI O'SuYlivan has everything she can pos sibly need; get in a first-class nurse, have the best doctor, and everything to give her strenet.'h. And whatever monev is wan'ted T will supply. You and I quite under stand «wh other, eh?' 'Lord, sir,' oried Mrs. Mitchell, with a tautrh. 'It. ud be a boru fool as couldn't understand you.' So several days went by. The -weather got from bad to worse until the roads were almost impassable, and Danford Bar racks were in part snowed un. Yet not a single one of the officers of the Red Horse heard so much as one grumbling word pass the lins of tlipir comrade. Derrick Vincent. 'T can't think what has come over Vincent,' snid Hammond to two or three of his brother officers. 'I believe something is going to happen to him. He's as mild as new milk these last few days.' And when one thinks how he swore at Danford and everything in it,' laughed another man. 'and how he cussed Christ mas, and the weather, and the regiment, and all the rest.' 'Mark my words. Vincent is a changed mah,' said a third one solemnly. They say that many a. true word is spoken in jest. Vincent was a changed man, and at tihat very moment was just following Mrs. Mitchell up the narrow stairs to see Mrs. OJSullivan for the first time since he had rescued Her from the Rpverity of a real old-fashioned Christmas. He found her fitting up in a big chair, her 6ligl.it form wrapped in a -warm red dres sing-gown, -whic'h\ though he did not know it, had actually been bought with hia money. She received him -with a flush on her Wan face end a shrinking air which was quite new to 'him. And Tie, as eoon as bhe door had closed behind Mrs. Mitchell,, who 'had cleverly whisked the nurse' a^as . with her, he just stepped up to her aha slipped down -on his knees beside her. 'Oh, my poor darling,' Tvas all tihat bs ?: -'?-..- QT^r*
said, 'my poor little love.' And pr- with out another word the time of Kitty Kil roy's tribulation hnd come to an end, and the little child with the dark-set blue eyes had found a father in her chance friend picked up in the storm of a real oM fashioned Christmas.