Chapter 135840344

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Chapter NumberLXXXVIII.
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1891-09-25
Page Number2
Word Count2670
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleNewcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954)
Trove TitleMinnigrey: A Romance
article text MTlINGREY. CHAPTER LXXXV III. Guilt for a while may triumph--virtue sink Beneath the arts of cruelty and hate. Justice at last, like the bright sun, shell break MWajestic forth, the shield of innocence, the guard of truth.--Tna WITSZes. The low, marshy tract of land lying between the New Out and the bunks of the Thames was, at the period of our story, comparatively uninhabited. Numerous streets have since sprung up, and the waste has been trans formed into a populous, thriving neighbourhood. A few narrow lanes ind dirty courts abutting on the New Cut, with a soli tary house here and there between them and what is now called the York-road, were the only signs of population. The land was chiefly occupied as brickfields or timber stores, which were nightly haunted by as desperate a set of wretches as ever set the police at defiance or outraged the laws of civilised society. By the time Waller reached the shore, all trace of the crew and their prisoner had disappeared. True, the boat remained, drawn up upon the bank of the river; but that indicated nothing. The young man cast a hope. less gaze around him, as he stood with the water dripping from his clothes, poor M1lingo looking up into his face with mute intelligence, and whining piteously: Fortunately for the swimmer, the night was a warm one.' 'Come, Mingo, he said, patting the animal on the head, "it will never do for us to stand idly here, while your master's life, perhaps, is in danger. The chase promises to be a long one, but we will unearth the rascals at last.' Ihe dog seemed to'understand him, for he bounded forward, sniffing on the ground, and occasionally uttering a faint growl, which broke into a dismal howl--when after winding over the uneven, swampy land, through brickfields and broken ruts- it came to a shallow pond of stagnant water, formed by the fcotid drainage of the place. The animal refused to proceed further. Waller trembled in every limb. He had hesrd that blood could alone arrest the instinct of the hound. 'Heaven!' he exclaimed, 'the ruffians have murdered him !' Without a moment's hesitation he waded into the pool, and carefully examined the bottom, expecting every moment that his hands would come in contact with the body of his friend. 'It is not there,' he said, with a sigh or relief; 'I must seek him further.' Mingo, however, refused to follow him; and Weller was at a loss to comprehend the obstinacy of the dog. Stooping down to pat him, he perceived upon the light, clayey soil a dark stain, which he had not pre viously noticed. He placed his hand on it--it felt warm. When he held it up to the light of the moon, he saw that it was stained with blood. It was evident that there had been a struggle, and a severe one; for Gus, if once he got his hands at liberty, was not the man to permit himself to be dragged by his captors unresist ingly to the shambles. WVailer guessed in an instant what had taken .place. His friend had been wounded, and the rufflaus compelled to carry him from the spot. Eagerly but uselessly did he search for traces of their footsteps, to follow up their track. They had been obliterated in the sloppy, marshy soil as soon as made. Day had dawned when, spiritless and disappointed, he abandoned the search. On his way towards Westminster Bridge he discovered a light in the window of a low public-bouse, situ ated near the water's edge. Making towards the place, he entered the tap. room, in which a fire was already lit, and found himself in company with about a dozen rough.loeking creatures -bargemen, sailors, and watermen, who were taking their morning draught. All eyes in an instant were fixed upon him.' He was without a hat, paleand haggard-his damp clothes, soiled and torn, clinging to his youthful figure;. but, wretched as he looked, the im press of the gentleman remained-not even esch a night as he had endured could obliterate that. 'You seem to have had a rough cruise, sir?' observed a waterman. 'I have, indeed,' replied the young man. The observation caused a halfshark, half sailor looking man, who, however, was respectably clad, to laugh-not an honestly open laugh, or even a vulgar one, but one of those chuckles by which successful cunning annorrices its triumph. Waller eyed him closely, and thought he had never seen' a more forbidding countenance. ,Calling for a glass of brandy and water, he seated himself near the fire, and without appearing to pay the least attention, listened to the conversation of the party. 'And so, Joe,' said the man who had addressed the young lieutenant, ;you are about to start to America, eh ?' 'Ay,' replied the fel'ow, gruffly; 'I am tired of the old country. Plenty of money to be made there.' ' And so there is here,' dbserved the waterman; ' at least, you ought not to complain. *, Tei days ago you were as ragged as the mainsheet after an en gagement-now you are' rigged .out like an admiral.' The party to whome the obser-vation was ma'de evidently felt annoyed. Be detected the eye of Waller fixed.upon him, and it seemed to add to his ill hamour. '1J11 luck can't last..for ever,' he said ; 'bad one day, better fortune the next. We have done the revenue this time.' ' Only a smuggler,' thought the lis. tener, with a sigh of disappointment. The. man rose to leave the room after ostentatiously pulling out a hand ful of gold and silver to pay his reckoning with. The fool thought the display would be taken as evidence of his respectability. It only confirmed Waller's opinion that he was a knave. One by one the men dropped off to their various employments till the lieutenant and the waterman were left alone. ' Who is that person you spoke to just now?' demanded the former. 'A queer sort of a fellow enough,' replied the man ; 'not that I have any right to speak ill of him. Perhaps after all he is no worse than his neighbours.' 'A smuggler !' observed Waller. 'Bo he says,' answered the man. Says !' repeated the querist. 'Maybe he is, maybe he is not. All I says is that I never knew him to smuggle, and I have been upon the Thames, man and boy, these thirty years. You are young and maybe won't feel offended at a little bit of advice .'.. ' Notin the least, my itiend.' ''Ddn't loet Je hear,' continded the waterman, sinking his voice-to a whisper, ' that you have been asking. any questions about him.' ' W~hy not ?' 'Nothing--only he mayn't like it that's all; but 1 beg pardon,' added the waterman, glancing at his dress, which certainlv was anything but favourable to the lieutenant's respecta bility, ' perhaps you and Joe ate not such great strangers after all.' 'Why should you think that?' eagerly demanded Waller. 'Nothing, only you both seem to have been tarred with the same brush.' ' I do not understand you.' 'Very likely,' replied the water man. The young sailor was shrewd be yond his years. He saw that the only chance of obtaining the confidence of the speaker was to convince him of his real position in life. Have you a boat, my friend ?' he in quired. 'How do you suppose I live?' re plied the waterman. A'I ain't no smuggler !' WValler finally agreed with the man to row him to the "Westminster side of the water. Once landed, he induced him by the promise of a guinea not only to call a coach but to accompany hint to the house of General Talh:.t, who had not retired to rest when they arrived. His kind-hearted wife had remained to watch by the side of Minnie. 'Thank Heaven, my dear boy!' ex claimed Talbot, with more warmth than he usually expressed, 'that you are safe i' A few words explained to thegeneral all that had'taken place. "Right,'. he said. 'You did rightto bring him here.' The waterman began to apologise for the liberty he had taken in addressing ! the young gentleman so freely. 'MIy good fellow,' replied Waller, 'no offence; and to prove it, on one conditiou I will make the guinea I have promised you five.' :"aIam sure they will be mine, then,'. observed the nian'i 'if the condition is. an honest one.' Both the general and the lieutenant smiled. 'What did you mean,' inquired the latter, '-by observing that the person you call Joe and myself both seemed to have been tarred with the same brush"?' The poor fellow scratched his head and again professed that he meant no harm. 'That is not an answer to my question,' impatiently observed Waller. 'Well, then, your honour, this morning, about an hour before I met your honour at the-you know, your honour---' He paused and looked at the general. 'At the public-house,', said the lieutenant. ' Go on.' 'I met Joe. His clothes were covered with the same colcured mud as yours. I knew him to be a quarrel some sort of a chap, and thought that you might have had a bit of a tussle together.' - The two gentlemen exchanged glances, and after a few whispered words requested the boatman to be seated. A long conversation ensued, and when the honest fellow left the house there was one friend the more on the track of the enemies of poor G us. . ... • * - CHAPTER LXXXIX. 'General Talbot was one of those de. termined men whom 'no diffioulty can dishearten or dangers appal. The longer he pondered over in his mind the various circumstances attending the disappearance of our hero, the more he felt assured that his life had not been attempted. Such compli cated arrangements and so many per sons would not have been employed had murder been intended. A shot from an air-gun or a rifle would have answered the purpose much better. 'No,' he said, when talking over the affair with Waller, 'The object of his'enemies is to sequester him from, lest he should interfere with their plans. Ours mnuts be to find •him.' . The youn? I?u'tenant was of the same opinion, and they both agreed to devote themselves to the. under. taking. Time will show whether they suc ceeded.or'aot. The generars first visit was to the& mansion of Sir John de Grey. He found the baronet overwhelmed with grief. 1Iinnie's life had been declared by her physician to be in imminent danger. The shock of the preceding night had brought on a violent fever, nrd the distracted father bitterly re proached himself with being the cause. Before the dread of losing his newly. discovered treasure every other con sideration vanished, and at that mo ment he would willingly have sacrificed his prejudices and ambi tious views to have restored his suffar ing child to health. 'I shall lose her,' he said, as he wrung the band of his visitor; ' lose her by my own folly, at the very mo. ment when I had obtained the, means of proving to the world that she was mine. Fortune has shown me a glimpse of happiness, only to render the misery and disappointment more poignant. You have heard the intel ligence ?' he added. Talbot replied only by a lo~k of in terrogation. ' Her unnatural aunt,' continued the speaker, 'is dead.' •'Dead!' repeated the general, in a tone:of surprise. 'It is only two days since I encountered her in the park, looking as proud and beautiful as ever. 'Her evil passions have destroyed her,' repeated the baronet. 'Lady Blanche was discovered dead in her dressing-room at an early hour this morning, holding a bouquet of jonquils in her hand. Is is not an hour since I received the intelligence. My lawyer, Rushbrook, advises me to proceed at once to Dingley and take possession of Ihe place in my daughter's name, but I cannot leave her at such a momeit. Perish the lands,' he added, 'sel pre serve my child.' 'What say the physicians ?' inquired 'his visitor anxiously. ' They. tell me she has reneived a shock which medicine cannot reach ?' 'I understand,' observed the general, gravely; 'a shock: which has fallen both upon her heart and brain. I am not surprised at it. I witnessed, while in Portugal, the devoted love between Minnie and my young friend Colonel Mhanton. Believe me, Sir John, it is no light passion, but one of those deep feelings so twined around the heart that if you uproot the one you destroy the other.' 'What would you have mo do?' hopelessly demanded the baronet. 'Does not your heart tell you?' re plied Talbot. 'I dare not trust it.' 'And yet,' continued his visitor,' it seldom leads us into error, for its im pulses are those of nature. Were the object of your daughter's choice a man of doubtful character-unworthy of her, dissipated, vile and dishonoured I should say better mourn over her grave lhan see her uniteat to nuch a being. On the contrary, Gus is all that can command the love, of woman or the respect of man.' 'By Hteavens! were he hero to claim her, he should not ask her hand in vain. The ambitious projects I had formed for her happiness, the prejudice of birth-pride-resentment--alt give way at the thought of my poor girl's danger. Find him, General Talbot restore him to us-and I will bless you.", 'Is this' serious?' demanded his visitor, gravely. .' Sjrionus!' repeated Sir John de Grey; biurstiie into a passionate flood of tears. 'You forget that 1 am'a father,: or you would not ask that question.' Talbot grasped him warmly by the hand. He was a man of few words naturally inclined to the prejudices of his caste-and fully appreciated the sacrifice which his parental affection had wrung from the heart of the baronet. 'We will find him,' he said, 'if living, or avenge him if dead. Let me but obtain one clue to this dark trans action,' he added, sternly, 'and his enemies shall answer to me for this outrage. I'll hunt them through the world. I must to Chelsea and see his guardian.. He, perhaps, may possess the means of placing me on their track. Something whispers me that the death of Lady Blanche will not be without its influence upon the happi ness of your daughter and her lover.' Before leaving the house, Talbot ac companied her father to the chamber of the suffering Minnie. From the moment when the unhappy girl beheld Gus, as she thought, in the hands of his assassins, one fixed idea had taken possession of her brain. She feared he was dead. The only word which the agonised entreaties of her father to answer him, or the tender endear ments of Lady Jane, who, like a ministering angel, had watched all night by her side, could draw from her was the name of her lover. To all their questions she only answered : 'Gus! Gus!' Although the raging fever was both in her heart and brain, her cheek was pale as the pillow on which her aching head reclined. She knew no one. Her bloodshot eyes, nnmoistened by a tear, wandered incessantly, without fixing themselves on any distinct object even for an instant. Once, and only once, did she seem to recollect herself. It was when she heard the jingling of Tal hot's spurs as he approached the door of her chamber. At the sound she half leaped from her couch, and had not her affectionate friend re strained her by throwing her arms around her, would have rushed to meet him, repeating, with a look of. mingled insanity and delight, hebr only cry of ' Gus! Gus!' (Xlo e cohtinued.).. •........ ......... ...?.,;. "