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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 90, 22 April 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DOCTOR’S STORY,
Here the old man’s voice faltered, and in a sadder tone he went on—- “ For years we had been together, and when he died I lost the only being I cared for in the world. Since that day I have been a lonely miserable man, Drink, drink alone, has been my refuge. In drink I see the glitter of the yellow gold, that I have not dared to go and look for. For drink would I sell my soul itself ay, and what is more, my buried treasure too. See there, see there ! ” he cried, in a tone of triumph, as with a last effort he sprang up and pointed to the still waters of the bay, now illumined by the last golden rays of the setting sun. “ ’Tis there it lies ; I can watch the gold as it gleams and glitters over the sea, even now. ’Tis mine—mine, I say. Too late—too late ! ” he whispered* sinking back into a state of insensibility. All was quiet for some minutes. At length the old man recovered his consciousness, and in a voice hardly audible, said—- “ Doctor, in a few moments I shall be a dead man—and the money, take it every dollar. You will find it buried deep in the sand. See there —the plan is in that box.' Hush, hush ! ” and pointed to a key hanging up, which his visitor at once put in his pocket as he heard footsteps ascending the stairs. It was the individual whom he had met on entering the house, and the doctor admitted him to the room.
The old sailor was now speechless ; he feebly pointed first to the medical man and then to the box in the comer, and closed his eyes. It was soon clear that life was gone. The doctor, seeing that nothing more could be done, gave a handful of dollars to the owner of the house and returned home, taking care to remove the old chest at the same time. When opened, he found that it contained, in addition to some articles of clothing and trinkets of little value, a crumpled and stained paper, on which had been rudely drawn a map of the Cocos Islands, and a description, in many parts illegible, of the place where the booty had been deposited. The doctor, who was by no means a weathy man, was overjoyed at the mere prospect of obtaining possession of so much wealth, and made up his mind at once to organise an expedition to the spot where it lay concealed. After spending nearly all his money in making preparations, he started for Panama with a party of natives. The object of the expedition was kept a profound secret. On reaching the island, which, from the plan in his possession the doctor had no difficulty in identifying, he at once commenced operations. The document, from age, discoloration, and the imperfect nature of so much of the description as was legible, afforded, unfortunately, but a very uncertain clue to the treasure. The south-west corner was described with the utmost precision, also the distance from the beach, and the depth at which the money was to be found, but beyond these particulars the paper contained no intelligible information. For ten long days and nights, allowing barely sufficient time for rest and refreshment, did the men dig away, the doctor being all the while, as he himself described it, in a fever of excitement, wholly unable to sleep, and watching with breathless anxiety every spadeful of sand that his dusky companions dug from the soil. At each stroke of the spade he listened eagerly for any sound that might indicate the discovery of what he sought but in vain.
At the expiration of this time, the supply of provisions ran short, and it became evident to the doctor that he must abandon the enterprise, at all events for a time. "Worn out with fatigue and exhaustion, and crushed by the weight of his disappointment, he was compelled to put back to Panama. It was long before^ he recovered his health and strength sufficiently to be able to resume his ordinary practice. With returning health, however, came renewed hope, and when last heard of, the indefatigable man confident of success, was getting together the necessary funds for another expedition. CONCLUDED.
PAGANINI'S OLD SABOT.
About tho close of the month of September, in the year 1832, all the artistic •world of Paris was shocked by a most distressing report. From mouth to mouth, and from house to house, the ill tidings travelled and nowhere were they related but with the profoundest regret. A morning paper announced that Nicolo Paganini, the finest violinist the world had ever seen, had been taken suddenly and seriously ill at the conclusion of one of the concerts of which this great star was the sole attraction. Both amateurs and artists at first were ill inclined to put much faith in the paragraph, consoling themselves with the reflection, that with great men such reports are frequently exaaggerated and sometimes entirely erroneous. Unfortunately the report was only too true. Paganini had been “ burning the candle at both ends.” An intermittent fever, such as often attacks overworked men of slender constitution, had got the great artist in its grasp, and gave occasion for serious uneasiness on the part of his medical attendants. Paganini, whoso emaciated condition was proverbial, only seemed to live by mere accident, and now there was some anxiety lest his frail and nervous frame should give way under the fierce attack of fever.
The doctors put their heads together, and unanimously prescribed perfect rest and wholesome and strengthening diet. On the following day to that on which the newspaper paragraph appeared, Paga nini was installed as an inmate of a celebrated private hospital in the outskirts of Paris. At the time of which we are speaking this Villa Lutaetiana, as the place was called, had a certain reputation for being frequented by patients of distinction. To the principal house of the establishment, which was a roomy and most convenient one, was attatched a charming garden looking over a pleasant and well-wooded park. One of the principal features of this establishment was to give every patient his entire liberty. Each inmate lived there as he liked, dining either in his own apartments or in the large hall. When the evening came those who were fond of conversation or a game of cards betook themselves to the public drawing-room ; there was the garden and a romantic avenue for those who wished to get as much fresh air as they could; while, of course, for those who enjoyed perfect quiet and a cosy perusal of the latest romance, no better place could be found than their own private apartments. Paganini was notably a man who loved shutting himself up, and being of a particularly nervous disposition, was glad to get away to his own room, and to be free from the chattering and buzz of conversation which was of course inseparable from the public salons. But this isolation of his was not appreciate by the majority of the guests. They had got a great lion among them, and no doubt wished to make the mosc of him. The charitable remarks made about the unfortunate fellow behind his back were as amusing as they were contemptible. There were four or five old ladies at the establishment who were particularly noted for picking the poor man’s character to pieces “Have yon seen this great genius, my dears?” one would say. “If you have
not, I am sure it is not spoil a very great loss. He a perfect bear.- He never takes any notice of anybody, or exchanges a syllable with a soul. ‘When he does appear among us he sits in the remotest corner of the room, or away in the most secluded part of the garden, and never fails to creep away if by chance anyone approaches him. If these are manners, I don’t think so very much of them.” “ Oh, but you don’t know,” another would remark, “there’s a mysterious story about him ? They say that he leads a most melancholy and distressing life. Some love affair, you know, which no one dares allude to.”
“ Ah, but that has really nothing to do with it,” a third would chime in. “ Paganini is a miser. It’s an undoubted fact. There is no secret whatever about it. Don’t you remember that concert that was given the other day for the poor creatures that were turned out of house and home by the inundations ? Well, he refused to have anything to do with it, and they say it was because he makes a rule never to play for charities. Not like the majority of professional people, is it? But, after all, only look at the man’s face. What more could you expect ?” These charming little ebullitions of feminine caprice, based literally upon nothing, were duly committed to memory, and innocently and artlessly committed to Paganini. Who could have been his informant ? Well, we shall see that by-and-by. Paganini, notwithstanding what he heard, never in the slightest degree altered his mode of living at the Villa Lutredana. He lived entirely to himself, walked alone among the trees of the avenue and in the park, content with the pleasure of reading and re-reading a packet of old letters, which packet was day by day increased. There was one kind friend at least who did not forget the poor sick man.
With the aid of much sleep, and the benefits of this quiet and regular life, Paganini little by little gained back his health and strength. It is not correct to assert that his life was quite a lonely one. There was one bright ray of sunshine which lighted the almost dreamy darkness of each day Paganini spent in the villa. The artist had one friend, and one friend only, in the household —Louisetie.
“Who is Louisette?” may well be asked. The answer can soon be given. Louisette was a sparkling, pretty little damsel, fair-haired and silver-voiced, whose duty it was to attend to the patients. Paganini’s quick eye soon detected her, and he made a special request that Louisette might be his sole attendant. Louisette was devoted to her distinguished master, and Paganini took an extraordinary interest in Louisette. Every morning, when sire arranged his breakfast, sire amused him with her imitations of the peculiarities of various people in the villa, and detailed to his intense satisfaction all the ordinary gossip of the place. All the smiles which lighted up Paganini’s face during his banishment were flung there by Louisette. [to BE CONTINUED. 1
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 90, 22 April 1880
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