Chapter 162317601

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1896-05-30
Page Number38
Word Count2506
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Fly
article text



Author of "Mehalah," "John Herring," &c.


I filial! never forget that week of misery and ; despair when my father died. He was clerk oh one of the railways, and in receipt'of a modest salary of a hundred and fifty pounds. It sufficed for my motherland me. I was the eldest cliild, a daughter, and there was my brother, a baby.

My father was a sanguine man. Ha. was regular and punctual, conscientious and steady, and hoped, was convinced, that he would be advanced by the Company. He had a good bit of rituning about, up and-down the line, and sometimes very harassing work, work that kept him to his desk for loug hours. But lie liked it, took interest in it, aud threw him self into the work of his Company with a sort of esprit de corps which was somewhat touch ing and also somewhat amusing. If he was loyal to his Queen, he was equally loyal to his Company,

Some peculiarly hard work came on about Christmas time, and the weather, after having been unusually mild, veered about into being unusually severe. The office was heated, perhaps too much, perhaps it was not pro perly ventilated; anyhow, my father, after having been in it many hours, was suddenly required to be on the platform in a cutting wiud, with the .mercury below" zero. The result was manifest a day -later. He com plained of not feeling well, but as there was so much business to attend to he persisted on going to the office. When he returned it was to be put to bed—he had inflammation of the lungs, and in two days was dead. The effect on us—my mother and me—was stun ning. She was rather frail, had been so Bince my brother's birth, and never had a very good spirit. When the funeral was over very little money remained to us, and what to do for the future we did not know, My mother sat by the fire aud wept, and when I asked her what was to be done her answer was, "My dear Jane, do not ask me; .1 really don't


I enquired of her whether my father had any income beyond his salary. She replied, ".Really and truly, Jane, I know nothing about money matters; you must not ask me."

This was awkward, as there was no one else to ask. I enquired of her whether we should have to give up our house, and if so, when the noticesliould besentin to the landlord. "Jane," answered my mother ; "I have not the

smallest idea in the world."

I was then aged seventeen, and I found that everything devolved on my shoulders. It had been so during my father's brief illness. I had nursed him, sent for the doctor, given him his medicine, made biin his mustard poultices. When he,was dead, all also had devolved on me. My mother, as she frequently informed me, was a bundle of nerveB and nothing else, just as the post said of the nightingale when served up for his dinner, " All, song and no thing else." Each object in the world has his or her special calling; the vocation of the nightingale is to sing, my mother's was to bo a bundle of nerves; Happily, mine is to be active and industrious. 1 may havesentiment in me; I think I have, inherited from my mother; but circumstances have been against its development. Possibly, in the course of this story, the reader may perceive that, practical as I may be, I also have nerves aud poetry in me, that is to say sentiment. What was to lie dono? Again 1 appealed to my mother. " Why, really—I have ngt an idea,

in my head," and upon my word I believe she

spolce the truth. 1 he Company behaved very well. My mother, as widow," was allowed a cer tain sum, not enough to support her and us,but enough to materially assist us in the struggle for existence. But then how to struggle, my dear mother, as a bundle of nerves, had no notion. #

So everything came on me. I calculated aud considered and took advice, but found that the latter was not of much use—as friends

fought shy of us, thinking they might bo asked to help and maintain us, and the advice that they tendered was chiefly self-interested— to get us away from whore we were as quickly as possible.

Putting two and two together I resolved to remain where we were, and to help out our minute income by taking in lodgers, and we were happy enough to secure as our first lodger Mr. Wiggles, yic clerk appointed in my

father's room.

son, amiable and intelligent. He was not beautiful, and his legs were rather peculiar, the shinbonos curving inwards. But what can you expect of a man whoso name is Wiggles? Surely not the aspect of a god. He was amiable, somewhat commonplace in his ideas, but you cannot expect the character of a Viking in a man called Wiggles, can you? The place where we were, was by the seaside, and was of importance, because it had two seasons, a_winter and an autumn one. It was mild in winter and sheltered from cast winds, consequently invalids came there from Novem ber to May; and there were fine sands and a good sea stretch, therefore visitors came at the time where schools break up, and tho London season ends, for six weeks of bathing, and Ijoating and dabbling, and sand-eastle build ing, and shrimping, and—because of the Downs —of golfing. We had a honso much larger than we required because of this. We calcu lated on getting some harvest out of the visitors, by letting our extra parlour and bed room. I moan extra supplemental to the room occupied by Wiggles. He had his meals with us. We did fairly well the first year.

Wiggles seemed settled in with us for good and all. I believe he rather fancied me, and only held back from proposing because, for one thing, I was so young, and for the other, he was aware that if he took mo he took over along with mo Herbert, my little brother, and that bundle of nerves, my dear mother.

Ho was not a passionate character, not a man of tnmultuousemotion—yon could scarcely expect that of a man called Wiggles.

If Wiggles loved ine there was nothing vol oanicin the soulof the man; his affection rather resembled a bubbling cauldron over a cottage fire. No lava-like outbursts, no roaring flame,

buc a little mild fizz. There was this in it—it went on for moro than a twelvemonth — it never grew less, it never waxed more.

Wiggles \va« not a being to occupy one's entire horizon, to overarch one's sky, to bo a perpetual-feast for one's soul; he was by no

means an ideal; Wwto--Ifelt-^« makeshift. Ifnonoblar, Apollo-liko man were to lie found, well, one mightln the end put up with Wig gles. Whea l thought thifi over, this was the conduskm I came to.

? As a dutiful daughter, on the approach of Valentine'fl.Day, leonsulted mymother. I said to her,* Darling xaother.Ibelieve that Wiggles, casts a favouring eye on me, arid 1 should not beat all surprised if at the approachin g festival

of lovers he should declare himself."

, " My dear Jane, I had not the smallest idea ?of this." -

"I have, mother. I see the proposal -in his soul; it stands in his eye, it quivers on Mb hps. Supposing he does propose—what shall I do, moflier."

"Lawk! Jane—howcanl tell?"

"Bat what did you do on a similar occa sion?" . '

_" I have not the remotest idea."

"And what would bo your wishes, mother?"

" There, Jane, I have no notion."

St. Valentine's Day passed, and Wiggles did not propose, but he nearly did. He looked at me with languishing eye; he sidled his ohair beside mine, and he sighed, and then re collected himself, and went to the piano, and sang "Beautiful star that shines so bright."

An event occurred which somewhat disturbed the tenor of our lives and, threatened to

materially alter the current of my life.

We got a lodger for a season. A young man, an invalid. Indeed, lie arrived in a bath chair, and had to be carried, or rather helped, upstairs to Ms room. He could walk, but with difficulty, aud a very little effort produced in him extreme exhaustion. He was very hand some, with dark hair and large dark eyes, and a slight dark moustache. His name was Adolplius Vere de Vere, and ho wore a laige gold ring with armorial bearings cut on the


I felt v/lien De Vera came into our spare roots" that Wiggles henceforth would be no where. He passed beyond my sphere—was swept out of it as the boy in Struwelpetor who walked out in a high wind with a gingham um brella. That boy was carried by a blast beyond the clouds, out of the reach of the eye, swept into space. So was Wiggles. I thought only of Adolphus Vere de Vere.

Everv dav our new lodsrer asked to be

wheeled out, and my little brother was able to roll him along in his bath chair. Often, also, at his express desire, I attended him on these wheelB out. I found him most intelligent, most interested in everything that conconied the neighbourhood; he asked a thousand ques tions, all of which I answered to the best of my ability.

When wo passed the Castle he enquired who lived thfere, and I informed him it was then the property of the Smiths, the Fits Auberon Smiths, I meant. The family was very well off; Mr. Fitz Auberon Smith was said to have fifteen thousand a year. They were going to have a dinner party that even ing, the daughter was engaged to be married, the neighbourhood had been invited to dinner, and there was to be a little dance after wards.

? Mr. Vere de Vere asked to have his bath chair wheeled up as near to the house as might be, I told him that undoubtedly we might go through the drive, as the party were out on a picnic at Beecher's Mouth Cave that day—and the gardener would not mind. He gladly acquiesced, and Herbert wheeled the poor in valid up the drive and along the lawn, where we spoke to the gardener, who showed us everything, and 1 believed received a tip of half a crown from Mr. De Vere. I said to the

gardener that I had taken the liberty, because the gentleman was a great sufferer, unable to walk, and was much interested in gardens, and indeed in everything. I had to point out to him the windows of the drawing-room, the dining-room, Mrs. Fitz Auberon's room and boudoir: indeed, all that I knew about the place. Then we retired, and lie expressed himself very finely to the gardener, and to me

lie was lavish in his thanks.

'•You see," said he, "a poor feeble creature liko myself has so few pleasures in life that little matters give mc greater delight than quite great ones would be to such as are in robust health."

" Have you been long ill?" I enquired.

" My complaint is chronic," he answered.

" You have not called in a doctor since you

have been with us," I said. "Our medical

attendant, Dr. Bush, is really an extraordinary

man, and he might be able to gi%-e you a valuable opinion,"

"Oh," he said with a sigh, " I have had the best advice, and all is in vain. I muBt wait and hope, but I must confess my hopes are small. What I really want is a sympathetic and tender nurse, cheerful, good-looking, com patible in tho matter of temper, and ready to abide by me as long as my frail life lasts." Then lie sighed, and looked at me with a mournful look in his beautiful eyes. I could have thrown myself at his head, or into his arms, with another word.

I was particularly cold and reserved to Wig gles at supper that evening. I felt that I had

but to wait and I would he Mrs. Vere do

Vere. Wiggles!—ugh! Wiggles! I could not help looking at the man. lie was plain, his hair was sandy, he had pale eycs; and his legs " were not shapely. His coat did not fit him, and he was baggy at the knees, and his right sleeve was glossy. Wiggles—ugh! Wig gles !

At supper. conversation turned on blue blood. Mr. Wiggles said he did not be lieve in it. Spectrum analysis, microscopic investigations, and chemical this and that—I forget the terms he used—had shown that all blood was much alike, aud that if there was any difference, it depended on the condition of the liver aud the digestive organs, and not on pedigree.

I was disgusted. I asked my mother whether she did not agree with me that you could always tell a man of aristocratic birth by his superior looks, dignity of carriage, straightness of limbs, by his nose, his eyes, his


*' I'm sure I don't know. I haven't a no tion," said my mother.

"Look," said I, "at our lodger, Who for t)ne moment could doubt that his ancestors came in with the Conqueror?"

So the matter dropped.

Our house was not .in a street; it stood by "itself on a down, and looked seaward.

Mr. Adolphus Vere do Vere said be would retire to rest very early that night, and begged to have his supper—or rather dinner— for he dined late—sewed at an early hour in his little parlour. After which he said he would go to bed, as his excursion in the bath chair that day and the strong sea breeze had exhausted him.

His wishes were complied with.

I could not help thinking that evening of the grand entertainment at the Castle, of the numbers of guests who would be there—of the dances, of the dresses, of tho jewels! Thiuk ing of these I dropped asleep.

Next day a most alarming rumour spread through the little place. The Castle had been entered, and Mrs, Fitz Auberon's jewels had been taken from her dressing-room during the dance or the dinner—jewels of incalculable value—all gone with the exception of what she had worn that evening.

The extraordinary gutter was how- her dressing-room had been entered, for it waa a room sitoatedhighujvand with a window in the sea-face of the house, without a fall pipe from thereof, trellis work, or jasyiaing whereby^ny one might ascend.' It was there fore ooncludedthat the thief was in the house at the time, and the servants were suspected, if not of actually taking the jewels at any

rate of collusion, .