|Newspaper Title||Southern Argus (Port Elliot, SA : 1866 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Kennises|
( Written expressly for the Sovtlurn Argv* )
By Godfrey Egremont.
[Author's rights reserved. ]
Chapter III. f Continued from our last 1
The attorney saw that she avoided him, saw that he was unwelcome, knew his presence was loathsome to her, felt that she scorned his efforts to please, detested the sound of hit* voice, sj.urned all attempts to become friendlier. Yet, these things known, and reluctantly ad mitted, his love grew flay after day, hour after hour, unquenchable, absorb
ing, drowning reason, filling his mind. Finding its pleasure in wild hopes which strove to rise above present sight and knowledge, to moments when, utterly changed, her responding love should compensate for pain and cruel torment. How many nights had he passed in silent vigils outside her bed room window, watched her dainty shadow come and go upon the blind, listened to sweet snatches of songs from her innocent lips, seen the light suddenly vanish, and known that her prayers went heavenward for his rival, the wretch, the bully, who not content with humiliating him before his fellows had robbed him of his love, the only thing worth living for, the only thing denied him. Then he would rush away gnashing hiB teeth, rage, despair, revenge in his soul, then stop to turn with knitted brow and eyes a-flame to that window, alternately beseeching and cursing the guiltless girl who dreamt of another, in frenzied tones, that seemed like the wail of some lost spirit. Next day, when he chanced to see her, how little did she deem this man's passion had burnt into his being, that the pale emotionless countenance, the softly modulated voice, the well-turned phrase, the faultless dress, were matters thrust aside at night when her shadow on the blind moved him to maniacal delirium, and resumed in the morning when day light and business found him carefully prepared for ever-ceasing toil. Though nothing threatened to hinder his projects, and all the ends of the threads seemed in his hands, the re membrance that Miss Martha Mayrick might depart to another world, and leave Harry Eennis a rich man, when ever it arose, disturbed him terribly. This bare supposition, Aunt Martha's death, was a fell, mental torture. It would haunt him. It would sometimes shake his fixed resolres. Better have spared every effort, better have left the Captain alone, he argued, if this were to happen. He could only allow the idea to weary his brain till it dismissed itself into the impalpable region of thought, to start up again suddenly and ply a taskmaster's goad. It was a frightful phantom hovering between him and the accomplishment of his designs. He could not banish the accursed pos sibility, but strove to forget — cheated himself to believe Aunt Martha would not die till her death was of no impor tance whatever. About six months after Harry's de parture, an official notification reached the local postmaster to the effect that Mr. Harry Kennis requested said post master to forward all letters addressed care of Captain Kennis, or otherwise, intended for him, to Squanton Post office, Victoria. The postmaster gave this address to the Captain, the Cap tain's solicitor, and a few others who communicated the intelligence with vivacious additions wherever gossips assembled, till report avouched that Harry Eennis having fled to Squanton, had married the landlady of an inn there, and was rapidly amassing a for tune in the liquor business. English letters, of course, arrived monthly, a fact which possessed little interest for Kennistonians. The Cap tain had outlived most of his relatives, Harry's aunt being the only person now who could claim any kinship or even acquaintance with him. That good old soul never wrote letters, if possible. Her eyesight was weak, and correspon ence a formidable task. Captain Ken nis' s business did not extend beyond Adelaide, where merchants bought his wool, hides, &c, and salesmen his fat cattle and sheep. He found shipping charges heavy, brokerage and com mission high, the worry great, and extra profit proportionably small, hence London account-sales were things where with he had no concern, because quite content to leave export operations in other hands. Mr. John Cremer strolled carelessly into the Captain's office on a certain English mail-morning, and not finding the proprietor there, took a seat and waited. Our squatter invariably visited stockyards and sheeppens directly after breakfast, so that anyone knowing his habits was not likely to seek him on general business before noon. It seemed curious that, so well-known to him now as were the Captain's ways, the attorney should come a full half-hour before the time mentioned. There he was, how ever, and in a great hurry for somebody else to appear or remain absent. An exception mail-morning it seemed, for the postmaster's boy rode up to the office door yelling ' Post,' and handed three letters to the legal gentleman who stepped out and received them. T.vo were local tatters, but the third, bulkier in every way, carried London postage stamps on its bluck edged envelope. Mr. Cremer was not recovering from that fashionable, complaint curtly repre sented t y the initials ' D.T.,' nor knew anything- of pal^y, yet shivering for Jhree or four minutes as if suffering from both. At first he placed the letters on the desk, resuming his seat apparent Iv deep in thought. Then he roue, as though
drawn by some irresistible impulse, took the London letter in his hand, scanned the address closely, shook it, held it against the light, and tried whether the winga of the envelope could be lifted. They obstinately refused to move, though skilfully prised with a keen pen knife, being gummed down in a thoroughly spfe manner. He shook the etter anew ; certainly there was another letter inclosed. He looked diligently at the address, clearly a legal hand, his experience avcuehed. He sat down to consider, the letter in his hand this time. What could it be ? What could j this double letter be ? What were the news it brought ? Had cross-erained i fortune decided that his game had been i played for nothing? That blackedge was no hieroglyph, pshaw ! old women are tough as leather, knowing all the while he must be face to face with the phantom at last. Despite his mobile villainy, despite toil and spiritual agony, was it so ? If Harry were now entitled to riches, could he not still be kept out of the way, ay, put out of the way alto gether. Decide ! decide ! what is to be done ? He shall never have her, never, never. Better take it, the old fool would never know. If it is not the letter, what can be easier than to re place it, and find it accidently poked away among the papers afterwards ? And if it is, why — footsteps drawing nigh interrupted the dumb monologue. He thrust the letter hurredly into a breast pocket, called up his blandest smile, and with placid brow turned pleasantly to greet Captain Eennis, who advanced, saying, ? What, Cremer ? so early ? Well, nothing like taking the enemy by the forelock,'eh, my boy ?' ? Ah, yes. How are you this morn ing ? Lost that gouty twinge ? I thought I'd just come to tell you that Williams has put in an appearance.' ' Hang him for an obstinate fellow. He has no defence, yet the law allows him to worry me like this. Ah, no English letter, two others — hum, hum,' opening and reading them. ' By jove, Cremer, I'm getting rude in my old days, pray excuse me/ ' Don't mention it, I beg,' entreats Mr. Cremer, made slightly uncomfort able by the mention of English letters. ' It keeps one in suspense to leave a letter, particularly a business letter, lying unopened. Finish them, I can wait.' ' Thank you ; you're a good fellow ; hum, hum. Damn it ; there's a notice for travelling sheep from Morris's over seer. They'll eat every bit of feed left on the place. Williams writes me himself. You may as well answer that. Say I'm quite agreeable to settle out of court.' ? Qaite impossible. I'm afraid to do so. Things have gone too far,' and the lawyer shook his head decidedly. Business of various kinds occupied them for some time, after which Mr. John Cremer, withstanding an invitation to lunch walked quietly back to the township, told his clerks he should be engaged for the remainder of the day, and entering his private office locked and bolted the door. With trembling fingers he drew out the ietter, damped the letter patiently till the gum wac moistened, and he was enabledj.to raise the flap in such a way that, if expedient, it might be refastentd, yet excite no suspicion. He unfolded the first sheet, almost ripping it asunder in his feverous baste, and read what he had feared to read, what he had yearned, and raved, and sworn should never come to pass. These were the words : — * Lincoln's Inn Fields, ? London, 16th Dec. 18 — : ' Captain Kennis, * Sir — We beg to announce that Miss Martha Mayrick departed this life on the 2nd ult., leaving her real and personal estate absolutely to Mr. Harry Eennis, who is made sole executor and legatee. ? We have addressed you in the matter pursuant to the wishes of the deceased lady, who believed that you would be cognisant of the whereabouts of Mr. Harry Kennis. ? Will you, therefore, be good enough to forward enclosed communication to him with all possible speed, and oblige ? -Your obedient servants, ' Bratnfield, Modley, & Bramfield, * Solicitors to the estate.' The enclosed communication was' directed, * Harry Eennis, Esquire,' with spaee left underneath,., to _ write jany address. Mr. John Cremer's ashen face re mained bent over that paper, as though its rounded letters and plain signature were basilisks' eyes. The afternooiijpas sed onward, and gradually waned. His clerks left, locking the outside door, well used to their master's fashion of sitting immersed in business late into the night ; of coming and going when less ambitions men had dismissed all worries of the day. Still he sat there, thinking and thinking how the good fortune fallen to Harry Kennis might be robbed of the sting which it bore for himself and rendered ungladsome to its recipient. A glorious sunset, rich in purple and gold, aDd grays — splendid with the promise of a diviner magnificence to dawn where the sun shall not set — faded slowly — slowlier — till the advancing darkness blotted its bright tints and left nothing but sombre night overhead. What further passed through the lawyer's mind, while gathering shadows vanished amid surrounding gloom, and he forced his crafty brain toward break ing a way through the wall of fate, inav never be known. He left his chair at last to light a lamp, for the way had been made and a resolve taken. Hours flew by and found him at ihe desk working out the plan. Success seemed to depend greatly on much imi
tation of a rough note written to him by Captain Kennis a week previously. Time it took, and care, and patience ; for midnight had gone when, softly as a thief, he stood outside the post-office, and dropped two letters into the box, each bearing the address — 4 H. Kennis, Esquire, * Post-office, ' Squanton, * Victoria.' To be continued in'our next.