― 354 ―


The Hour Of Temptation.


As Isabel had predicted, ‘Noble’ did bay in a very tormenting way at the moon, and his deep-toned voice was the signal for several sharp and yelping animals, in all directions, and at great distances, to send their several answers, which from the rarity of the atmosphere, resounded clearly, and disagreeably broke on the stillness of the hour. Mrs. Lang turned and tossed, and wished the dogs—anywhere. It worried her. She arose and looked out of her window, lest any one should by chance be lurking about. Not a living thing could be seen, not a moving object of any kind as it seemed, for the slender leaves of the white cedar did not move. There was no air, all was still and bright. ‘But there are some clouds there. Perhaps they will gather in the moon's path and obscure her pitiless rays; then the dogs would rest, and let others sleep.’ As Mrs. Lang fancied, so it happened. The Queen of the Night passed behind a thick mass of clouds, from which there seemed no outlet, for they were gathering fast and forming into battle array, and darkness fell on the land about. ‘Noble’ retired to his bed of straw, and one after another, all the distant barks ceased. Sleep appeared to reign everywhere. Meanwhile the hitherto still leaves began to tremble, and a low sough was heard, as the rising wind caught itself among the intricacies of the forest. A change had come to the night; there was a breeze everywhere, though not a high wind. The one or two ardent lovers of sport, who had sacrificed their sleep for a ‘bang at the 'possums,’ hastened home to get what they could out of the remainder

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of the night. Yet, one figure might have been seen still. He carried no gun, and apparently it had been the charms of the scene alone which kept him so incessantly pacing about, now up and down the cedar avenue, then in a paddock which lay in front of the cottage, and commanded a view of the place. Now he paused, leaning on the fence, his head buried in his hands. Then again started up, and with rapid steps crossed over and stood facing the house. After which, with careful and silent footfall, he passed quite round it, gazing at each chamber-window as he went, which according to the custom of the place, were mostly unshaded by anything but the plants which half buried the whole building. It had been a close night, and one window had been left partly open. Now in the rising breeze this shook to and fro with a clatter. Dr. Mornay, for he it was, stopped before it and seemed to listen. All was still! Again went the casement, and he stretched out his hand and bent back a pretty stiff rose-branch to keep it steady. One moment more and he passed on—slowly—and with arms folded, seemingly without looking what direction he took, he reached the old dog's kennel and a horse-block. ‘Noble’ growled, but two words in a low clear voice, set his tail wagging and restored him to his slumbers. Dr. Mornay sat down on the block. It was nearly dark now, and his face must have been hidden, had any been there to see. But his gestures were remarkable, and after clasping, and almost wringing his hands, and throwing up his face to the now darkened sky, with some impulse of despairing entreaty, as it seemed, he uttered aloud, though his voice was broken, and so changed it could scarcely have been recognised,—'What is it ? presentiment! Yet why? The third time in my life—What can it be? Have I scoffed, and now am I to be convinced? Are these spirits?—It is rending, burning, torture!—Once more—yet once more, let me try.’ And he fell on his knees and made the sign of the cross. With bowed head, he seemed to pray with passionate urgency. A groan, half-suppressed, at times burst forth and broken words—'All—all—penances—denial—vigils—labours and toil!—Will nothing avail now? Not even my promised reward! Pish! what is it? What is it now I approach it?—Rotten;—dust and ashes! In a few months I should gain all. All! —honour—power. Is it some device of the enemy which has blinded my soul—my intellect! I—I—the stern—the rigid—who laughed at all—I, having battled through more than a score of years, the envy of all. Strong,—great in my self-possession, so that I could afford to approach the forbidden things! For me it had no charms. But now! Scourge—fasting—torture—where are ye? What am I?’—

Then, as if checking himself, and taking up his hat, which had fallen, he rose and walked to and fro—to and fro, with eyes bent on the ground.

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Again he stood still. ‘Why am I here? What cursed spell chains me to this place? Presentiment?—humbug! I don't, I wont believe in it. It is fever! I am ill. I exposed myself to her. Yet—I don't wish it undone—unsaid, No! it won me . . . . Ah, yes . . . . That was a glimpse of heaven. For what is heaven, but the height and crown of our happiness! Each soul must have its own heaven! I now begin to see what mine must be . . . Fables. What do we know?’—

Presently his foot struck against something, and a very slight ray of light served to show him a glitter on the ground. First his hand mechanically sought his breast, then quickly picked up a locket tied by a black ribbon, which he had dropped without being aware of it. He examined it as well as he could, and pressed it passionately to his lips.

‘Ah! is it an omen? To drop—to lose this! Ah, sister! ah, Isabella! my own Isabella—After our work is done, we are ‘to meet.’—She said so. So she prays in her humble home, in her pain—her love—her loneliness! I must not desert her. Her cries, would . . . . O my God! what is heaven? What is hell? O, Isabella! if we two had been but Protestants—Heretics . . . . Blasphemy! I see her as she raises her thin hand to stop me. I see her, hear her sigh. She prays—prays for me—the priest—the . . . She is a true child of the Church. Am I mad? No, no; not at all mad. Good Lord—this is a conflict with the devil! 'Tis he who has taken the form that intoxicates me—the very name which is itself a spell of fascination to me! Avaunt ye, Evil One! Pooh, I am doting. It is no spirit—it is myself. Why have I these feelings—these passions? What has a priest—a sacrificed man—to do with them? I deemed I had destroyed them, ruthlessly killed them, smothered them; and yet they live!’ Again he changed his tone to tremulous pleading. ‘O, Isabella of my soul—sister—is this your blessed warning? Do you speak to me in this? ‘Fly,’ I hear you say. ‘It is sin, deadly sin. It will cost you the toil, the work of your whole life—all your reward here—all your hope—all my hope hereafter.’ Isabel, I obey, I go! Good Lord! Blessed Virgin! O, all ye holy saints! Powers of heaven! angels of the Almighty! guard me now—thy long-time servant. My stripes, my fasts and vigils, my hard and lonely lot, let it all plead for me now. I go!’

He crossed his arms on his chest as he uttered the last words with a solemn gesture, and his voice rose. With it also rose a rushing sound—not however heeded by him at the moment, absorbed as he was in deathly conflict with his foe. Some time passed, and he was still walking, though with less hurried steps, and his arms still folded on his chest. Was it the wind making that swift, sharp rush? Clouds were hurrying here and there, and still the shrubs, trees, and grass swayed

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about, but in no very certain direction. It was growing gusty, and seemed undecided in which quarter it was to blow. All was still—buried in sleep. Nothing broke the silence but that singular low, ever increasing sound. The voices of his own heart, and its yet hard throbbings, prevented him from noting it. But by another sense, he was made aware of something unusual. He raised his head, and his delicately cut nostril worked. ‘Fire! fire! Some of those bush fires! But——’ again he sniffed and turned in the direction of the barn, which stood close by some uncleared bush; ‘this is coming near,—or is it the wind set in that way?’

There had been two or more of these bush fires going on in the neighbourhood for some days, as he knew. But now with all his usual keen senses awake and clear again, he felt in an instant this was not from the bush.

‘Ha!’ he exclaimed, turning to the cottage; ‘that's it,’ and with a few bounds as it seemed, he stood by the dwelling, within which Mrs. Lang, and three children, and two maids were sleeping. The whole building was of weather-board, and the roof made of shingles—all inflammable wood. But part of the building was a little detached, for having found it necessary to add two or three rooms, Mr. Lang had put up one of the moveable wooden houses then in vogue. It stood on low wheels or blocks, a little above the ground, and was connected with the main building by a covered way, only a few feet long. Unless passing on that side, it was difficult to see that it was a separate building, both being in the course of years, of one tint, and overgrown with plants. In this moveable house, familiarly called the ‘wooden box,’ Isabel had her sleeping-room, and her store. Here also in a small closet, slept one of the servants; the other remaining with the little children, whose room adjoined Mrs. Lang's. There were besides these, two other small sleeping-closets, called ‘verandah rooms,’ being enclosed off the deep, double verandah, and they served for a passing guest, or for the boys when at home.

When Dr. Mornay reached the spot, he saw that it was Isabel's part that was on fire. As yet it had not touched the cottage. At once he perceived, by pulling down the tarpauling, which, well painted, served as cover to the connecting passage, there might be a possibility, if the wind was at all favourable, of saving the cottage. But it required hands, and to be done at once. Only Charlie Brand and a boy were within call. The man who helped and served as drayman lived in the township. Charlie's hut was some way off, and there was no way of giving him the alarm, for the bell which had been often talked of as very desirable, he knew was not yet even ordered. All this flashed across his mind in an

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instant. But the flames now seemed to wind and wrap themselves round that doomed wooden box. The smoke was suffocating. Yet no one stirred or gave signs of life. ‘Good God! they must be insensible! The smoke—’

Then he remembered his closing Isabel's casement, and he flew round to it, obliged to make a wide circuit, for red-hot pieces of wood and shingles were beginning to fall. And just then, with a sigh, low, but ominous, the wind swept through the cedars, and played in the swamp oaks, and then gave fresh impetus to the devouring flame, which shot up in awful beauty, like some savage beast licking its prey.

‘Isabel! Isabel!’

But to his wild appeal there was neither answer nor stir—not a sign of life. And the crackling, hissing flames raged wilder and madder than ever. Then, for a brief moment, arose one of those struggles when the light of the soul seems quenched, when right and wrong are inextricably blended, when reason has fled, and fierce passions rise up in fearful strength to contend with foregone habit. Habit alone and not principle taking the helm. Fortunate for the poor torn soul at such a time if the habit has hitherto been guided by principle!

‘She is insensible—she will die—perhaps she is dead. O, God! dead! Yet isn't this an answer to my wild prayer—to my sister's prayer? I can go. Who will know I was here? I should be saved from the sin—the disgrace. Am I cruel? Ah no, for life is but agony! Dead—she can no longer beguile me from my hardly earned honours. Dead—she will no longer mix herself up in my dreams with that other Isabel. I shall be free—free—and she, so pure, so good—she will be at rest!’

For an instant he turned away from the burning house—only for an instant. The whole instinct of the man revolted and rose up against such a decree.

‘Is it right, or is it wrong?’ he exclaimed in frantic agony. ‘I had vowed—resolved to give her up. God knows it! God heard it! Isn't it, then, sin to save her? Are not these flames sent in answer to my wild prayer—my former strict devotion—and for hers—my saintly sister's sake?—to take away and remove from my path this delusion of the enemy! She must die! Better for many such to perish, than for discredit to come on the Church—through one of God's chosen ministers too! I will have masses offered for her. To her I had exposed my weakness in a bitter moment. And she must therefore . . . What—die, die horribly? She—Isabel—to die such a cruel death, and I—a man—a brave, strong man, here, able to save her!’

In a moment the old force of habit came back in full sway. In another

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instant he was plunging through that sea of flame—that stifling smoke.

‘Isabel! Isabel!’

But there was no answer. He saw her and seized her, wrapping her in a large cloak which was hanging near the couch on which she lay, dressed. He carried her out. The flame had not yet reached the interior of her room, though the smoke was so thick as to make it hardly possible to breathe. He bore her on—fast—faster—never pausing or looking round. No sooner had he clasped her in his arms than all else was forgotten—all! He stopped at last at the end of a sloping paddock which ran round the farm, and was fenced off because it had been drilled for maize. A fallen tree lay along. On it he sank, and then, with panting breath, and wildly throbbing pulses, he gazed at her whom he carried. ‘Was she dead, after all?’ He laid her down gently and tenderly, taking off his own coat and covering her with it. He knew where some water was to be found, and quickly came back with his handkerchief dripping, which he applied to her forehead and hands. The quiet, and the clear pure air, soon revived the paralysed senses. There was a quiver in the eyelids—a slight movement of the hand. Then all was apparently locked in death again. Kneeling by her, bending over her, he uttered wild words. Now addressing her as a departed soul and praying to her as to some saint. Now speaking as to a living woman, entreating her compassion, urging her to arouse herself that they might go—fly together!—for that she had been given him this night as a prey—as his own. He told her there were other lands where they might go and live, out of reach even of the Church. There they would make their own heaven. Then, when the first strength and heat of this had exhausted itself, his voice sank into low, tender murmurs, and his tears dropped unheeded; while bitter sobs choked his whole frame. Incoherent as were his words, they had a wondrous pathos in them; they were so impassioned, yet so sad.

There was too little light to see it, though there were the first faint indications of a cloudy dawn, but on her face there arose a flush, even while she lay so motionless. At last, at some pause he made, she sighed and moved.

‘Where am I? Is it a dream?’ she said, wildly and trembling very much; ‘I was dreaming of Dr. Mornay,’ and she again closed her eyes.

‘Were you? You are cold! O, let me wrap you up and carry you on—on—’ and he strove to raise her. ‘Isabel! Isabel!’

‘Dr. Mornay'—she was now completely conscious. ‘Where am I? Take me back directly.’

‘Back! where? No—we must go on—onwards, not back! never back! I will carry you.’

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‘Tell me what it means! Do you hear?’ and she raised herself into a sitting position, and spoke with sternness, though her voice was stifled, and she felt so ill she could hardly pronounce a syllable.

‘The fire! Didn't you know? There was fire. God sent it! Jehovah!—for the sacrifice! But I saved you. The house is burnt down. Nothing remains by this time. You and I are saved, and we only. How could I help it? I couldn't let you die—perish! How could I? Now let us go on—on, far, far onwards. It is cold here.’

Isabel looked keenly round her, noting every bush and tree. She was one of those whose senses are seldom confused, but are ready and clear for any emergency.

‘O, Dr. Mornay! You wont, you can't deceive me! I trust you. You are a man of stern principles—a man——. But how ill I feel! For the sake of God—of your own soul—take me back, or——Is it really burnt? are they hurt? Leave me here—call some one—call Charlie Brand here!’ She spoke with increasing terror and urgency.

‘My soul! my soul! what of it? It is you I ask—of you I demand—what is to come to my soul? Honour, glory, power—all was mine,—but for you! You are mine now—wholly mine, given to me this night—a brand from the burning!’note

‘Do as I say,’ she cried, interrupting him, firmly, for she believed him to be mad. ‘If not, I shall walk home as I can.’

Just then a dog came up with his nose to the ground; he gave a sharp bark or two, and ran off again, then came back, and on the slope of the ground which rose suddenly near them, a figure loomed large and dark against the pale grey sky.

‘Thank God!’ breathed out Isabel, faintly, and sinking back in the reaction of joy at this most opportune relief. For it was stout Charlie himself, who was searching about in a state of mind bordering on frenzy at finding Miss Isabel missing.

‘Carry me home, Charlie—quick! Home!’

‘Ay, ay, and here ye be? My—and this gent too! What, then, it's you has been and pulled her out of that blaze, and a credit to ye it is. But how you comed to hear it down away there, and not a soul had glimpse of the truth nigh the very place, passes me.’

‘I was taking a stroll, as I am fond of doing on such a bright night. I saw—happily I saw the fire, and was enabled to—to—’

‘Ay, ye've saved her; a good deed, too. Couldn't afford to part with her, no ways. Good fruit is scarce!’ Charlie said, and in a moment he had lifted Isabel in his arms, winding the cloak round her skilfully. He pointed with his foot to the coat, half kicking it. ‘That's yourn! Best put

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it on! A chill will bring the rheumatics after a sweat.’ It was always observed that when most excited in feeling, Charlie subsided into his roughest dialect. As he was going, he half turned to say, ‘Missis will be going down 'pon her knees, I guess, to ye for this turn. Mortal bad just now, not knowing where her was,’ nodding towards Isabel. ‘Began to think ‘most she must be gone up straight in a chariot of fire!note Couldn't see not a morsel of her, not even a heap of ashes like.’ With that he set himself to walk straight on.

A low, stifled moan reached Isabel as she had closed her eyes, feeling faintish, yet indescribably content to be in Charlie's safe keeping.

‘Stay, Charlie! He saved me from a dreadful fate. Is he hurt? Ask—wait! Father Mornay!’

He came to her side directly, but his eyes were bent on the ground.

‘Thank you, thank you,’ she said. ‘God will bless you for saving me.’

She held out her hand. She never afterwards forgot the burning touch of his as he took it and pressed it to his lips. It seemed to her as if it had left a scorching mark behind, and the sound of his voice was unnatural. It was more like a hollow rattle as he tried to utter something and could not,—probably ‘Good-bye.’

‘Poor man! Don't lose sight of him, Charlie!’

‘Ay, ay! Has done a good turn this here night.’ Charlie strode on. ‘Queer thing, that fire. Only just saved. Moveable house gone, every atom of it. Flames caught the cottage just a little and blackened it, but thanks be, the wind went down, and by tearing away the tarpauling, all was saved.’

‘Any one hurt?’ Isabel asked.

‘Yourself and him yonder. No other. All asleep—had to scream and cry like mad.’

‘But Susan—she slept near me; has anyone thought?’

‘She took care of herself, it seems. Susan didn't fancy the baying of old Noble,’ said Charlie, chuckling at the idea; ‘and on the sly went and took up with Bridget; slept like a top all through, till I threw a pail of water over her to sarve her out.’

‘Why?’ asked Isabel, amused in spite of herself.

‘Because of her not being in the fire, where she ought to have been, aside o' you.’

There was silence then, for Isabel was shivering and feeling ill. Besides which, a terrible fear and perplexing doubt lay heavily on her. It was still all confused—all a dream! To fall asleep with such a scheme, and to wake feeling so stupified, finding herself there, and with him alone, and then those words—those words! Could she ever cease to hear

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them, to feel them, worse than fire flames? He must have been mad, insane. Perhaps from over-excitement or excess of fasting or work; he was subject to attacks of illness; and once had a brain fever. O that she might never see him again! That he might never, never guess that, though unable to move or give signs of life, she had heard, and having heard, wished to swoon really, or even to die, rather than face him again!

Mrs. Lang, having been long since fully roused, received her daughter with hysteric weeping; praising the bravery of her deliverer; blessing and thanking him, and wishing he had come to be cared for; of course he was hurt, too. But it was evident that Isabel needed real care now, and by Charlie's advice, he was allowed to send a messenger for a doctor who lived only ten miles off, and she was meanwhile laid on her mother's bed and left quiet. What a day it was! The alarm given, people from all parts, within a circuit of some twenty miles, crowded to express sympathy and offer help. There was a constant examining of the wreck of the ‘wooden box;’ there were reiterated explanations and questionings as to the probable origin of the fire, and as to its being discovered. Charlie Brand, it seemed, usually awoke once towards morning, and sometimes being anxiously inclined, peeped out to take a survey of his premises. He said, the first thing he saw was a red light over the house. In another moment he was dressed, and, followed by his dog, striding across the paddock. He found the place all but consumed; the last wall fell in with a crash as he came up. He rushed in to see if any one was among the rubbish, and hallooed as, he said, he had never done since he was a boy. His screams had the effect of awaking Mrs. Lang, and then the two maid-servants. But where was Isabel? The suspense, till ‘Noble’ scented her out, had been frightful. Charlie said, ‘I didn't feel so bad and all-over like, when I thought I was to hang.’ Then came the question, But how did Dr. Mornay know of the fire, and knowing it, why had he not raised an alarm? He was not present to explain, so a variety of solutions of the mystery of his conduct were brought forward. Isabel's own version was, that he was so excited and upset, that having rushed in and saved her, he lost all further presence of mind, and as she had been in a swoon, perhaps he dared not leave her. She urged the propriety of some one going to his house to inquire after him. He was certainly very ill, and most likely was hurt, and he ought to be well cared for. Mrs. Lang set off towards evening, herself to inquire and to pour out her thanks. Having sent off the little girls with a kind neighbour, and leaving Isabel asleep under the influence of a soothing draught, the doctor ordering perfect repose and silence for her, Mrs. Lang, after indulging in a fit of weeping and wishing for Kate to talk to, bethought herself of Dr.

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Mornay, and gladly undertook the mission. But her long walk (long for her) was thrown away, except as to filling up some time. The servant, a stupid half-deaf man, said, ‘His Reverence had not been at home since the previous evening. He had not returned at night, but that was not out of the common for him, nor had he been nigh the place for the day.’

‘But surely you ought to search, inquire. He was helping at our fire, and he was probably hurt. Have you taken any steps?’

‘Hurt—no! His Reverence was ever very independent. Here to-day, to-morrow gone! He didn't like to be asked too much for. No doubt he was about his work somewhere, perhaps in Sydney, perhaps after some sick and sorrowing soul. He'd turn up, not a doubt. No fear!’

Mrs. Lang was indignant, and failing in stirring this man's fears or anxiety, she went to the Parsonage and opened her budget of news and her troubles to Mr. Sands, a stout, round-about, suave little man, yet ‘with a little pepper in his composition, too,’ as he always asserted, rubbing his round, fat hands as he spoke, and winding up with a low, but very hearty laugh.

He turned most things into a joke, till it came to some certain point, and then at a knot or some unseen hitch in the smooth running of the thread, he would suddenly ruffle his feathers like a turkey-cock, his face growing a bright ruby red even to his bald pate, and his hitherto smooth speech turned into sputtering and stammering. He was not married, but said to be engaged. He was rather popular, and preached ‘clever’ sermons; and had quite a curiously neat garden in which he dug and watered, and, as he said, ‘took all his recreation.’

To him Mrs. Lang imparted her anxiety about Dr. Mornay.

‘Certainly! Very handsome of you, my dear madam. I always make a point of bowing and being on the best of terms with the Catholic priest and the Presbyterian minister. Beyond that I don't pretend to go. Ah!—very heroic—quite romantic. And how came he so opportunely on the spot? Ah!—fond of moonlight; superior man! I understand likely to receive very high honours—very high indeed—that is, in the Roman Church. My brains! what a delusion it is. Can you conceive such benighted ignorance, Mrs. Lang? But unhappily such a man, such an intellect as Dr. Mornay's does not—can not, in point of fact—receive it. No! Then what does it end in? Ah, that's it—that's exactly the very point! My dear madam, I can prove . . . .’

‘But if he has fainted in the bush, after saving my child! It is horrid to think of!’ Mrs. Lang said, trying to bring him to the point.

‘Very—O, very horrid indeed! Only you see—really I don't wish to hurt your feelings—but he is a very dangerous man—insidious! Indeed

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he is; and as one of my parishioners, one of my fold—allow me to suggest, it is at least a bad example. I see you are harping on probable danger of another kind to himself. Now, I don't apprehend any. He is the most ‘whimmy’ man ever known. His servant is right. We shall hear of him in some freaky way soon. But, O! of course, anything to oblige. Yes, if such be your wish, madam, I'll send men at once.’

And under a doubtful sense of overwhelming politeness, Mrs. Lang left, still very much at sea as to Mr. Sands' real meaning.

She found Isabel much worse, in high fever, as it seemed, and delirious. This called out long dormant, but not actually forgotten or lost powers. Mrs. Lang was once more the active, light-handed ‘Kitty’ of whom her husband had been proud to talk. She watched her child, and forgot her own fatigue in the keen sense of anxiety which came over her, lest this prop, this dutiful ‘helping’ child should be taken from her.

Relief came just as it was very sorely needed; Isabel still seriously ill, and Mrs. Lang beginning to give way. Mr. Jolly and his son rode up about the time for the early dinner. Joyfully did Mrs. Lang go out to meet them.

‘What brought you just as I wanted you?’ she asked.

‘Ill news travels fast,’ Mr. Jolly said. ‘Now, what can we do? Mrs. Jolly bade me bring you, every one of you, back. Bless your soul! she is turning out every room at this moment. Such a contriver as she is! Room and to spare for all. No denial. Well, well; as soon as darling Issy can be moved I mean, of course! I'll have every one of ye! Where are the chicks? Gone! Where's Kate—Miss Lang? The deuce! In Sydney now, and Issy ill and her mamma tired out? That wont do. No, no! Kate aint the girl I take her for if she isn't wanting to be here. Can't she come?’

‘Let me—can't I go with a message?’ Tom ventured to say, colouring up. ‘O, father, if we had but brought the gig now!’

‘As to that, it can be fetched, boy.’

‘On no account,’ said Mrs. Lang. ‘At least for Kate. Couldn't think of it. No, no. It is necessary now, in our altered position, as I always say, to be doubly particular. And, excuse me, for a lady to travel in a gig with a young man is—is——’

‘But the old one, madam; any harm in me, now?’

‘No, of course,’ Mrs. Lang said, with a bow to Mr. Jolly. ‘You really—if you would be so kind as to bring up our dear girl, I know she will be delighted to come. Her heart is so soft and tender. She pines away, poor darling! All her spirits gone—her pretty colour faded.’

Here Tom shuffled his feet very impatiently. Mrs. Lang looked at him in surprise, and then resumed her speech.

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‘I am not sure,—but before this sudden and awful disaster (the fire, I mean) Dr. Mornay had been so good as to promise me to see my Katie. And he is so remarkably clever, I am sure he would find or invent some way of bringing her to me at once. That is, supposing his servant is right, and the Doctor is in Sydney. Very mysterious isn't it, Mr. Jolly?’ she added, with a sudden change of tone.

‘What, ma'am—the Doctor going to Sydney?’

‘Yes. I mean his part in our adventure altogether. His saving Issy, and then disappearing. No one can even guess where he is. He appeared quite suddenly as the fire broke out, and then disappeared. But priests—Catholic priests—are, I believe, always mysterious.’

‘Do you mean that fellow, I beg pardon, that gentleman who was trying to get up a church and what not, our way?’ said Mr. Jolly. ‘Ay, ay; a very clever chap I have heard he is. The Pope's right hand—something very high and powerful in disguise, they say. Sent out here for some political purpose, as well as the strengthening their party. Well, now, you do as you think proper, of course; but for my Amelia, now, I'd sooner trust her to a young fellow like Tom there, though he might, whether he meant it or no, make a little love to her, than have her argued into believing black is white by a man of that stamp.’

‘Now I think of it, Mr. Jolly, if I write to Kate, Mr. Merryman is coming in a day or so to his place near this township. He will be too happy to oblige us, I know, and will give Kate a seat in his carriage—a very comfortable one.’

Mrs. Lang had thrown some of her old attempted dignity into her manner. Again she was Mrs. Lang of Langville. Mr. Jolly fell to using his great big purple pocket-handkerchief and clearing his throat.

‘Then let me,’ Tom said, nervously; ‘may I take your letter to Miss Lang? I could go to Mr. Merryman for her, and act as messenger, you see, and anything in fact—and—and I have some business to do in Sydney—eh, father?’

So this matter was arranged thus. Tom was to carry the note, and to give Kate all the help he could, which he took as a high honour, and on his suggestion being received, he took courage, so as to talk, and make some very pertinent remarks as to the fire and its consequences.

Mr. Jolly, finding there was really nothing for him to do, said he should return to his wife, and with many repeated, hearty offers of help, he took leave. First, however, holding a consultation with Charlie Brand about the replacing the lost rooms; the result of which was that, under the said chief's directions, a new building was very soon being erected. When Mrs. Lang hoped he was not running up bills, and so on, he

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nodded and grinned, and assured her ‘that there bush, coupled with good will, had the wherewithal to build houses enough for a town as big as Sydney itself!’

Before Isabel was recovered, a neat weather-board building was ‘looking up,’ and to watch the progress of it became a source of amusement to her, as she reclined near her mother's window.

After some little delay and difficulty, Kate arrived, but with Tom as her escort after all. Mr. Merryman was not going to leave Sydney for another fortnight, so Tom, finding that Kate's anxiety to go home was great, took on himself to hire a gig, his own horse being quiet in harness; and with more pride and pleasure than he cared to show, he drove Miss Lang home, without an accident or adventure of any kind.

Isabel was fairly surprised, as a blooming, elegantly dressed person came rustling into her room. Was this the pining, injured Kate? Sydney seemed to have done more than Westbrooke; they had no such blooming specimens here. Mrs. Lang's pride and joy were great, and Isabel had not the heart to give the prudent warning which rose to her lips, when she saw the preparations her mother was making to celebrate this event. Kate's return was to be a fête, and Mrs. Lang's notions were more consistent with Langville style than Westbrooke. After a little, she gave up the notion of a large dinner-party, because Issy was not well enough. But Mr. Sands was invited, Tom pressed to remain, and a note despatched to Dr. Mornay. But still the deaf man shook his head, and said ‘his Reverence had not returned, but he was about his work somewhere, no doubt! He was used to go away quietly like this; no fear, no fear at all!’