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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 93, 29 April 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
A MIDNIGHT VISITOR.
“ Oh, that’s it, is it ?” I muttered gruffly, “a new dodge;” and my friend must have heard the rattling of a few coppers, for he exclaimed — “ No, sir, not that —not that. lam no beggar. Listen, I have money.” And true enough I heard the clinking of what sounded like three or four half-crowns in a person’s hand. “ I want help, for lam hunted from place to jilace, and all for patriotism. ” “ Whew !” I whistled ; “ the mystery thickens,” and I felt my wife clutching my shoulder tightly as she came forward and leaned out.
“If you have the feeling of a man for a fellow-creature, give me shelter for the night, and a crust of bread, and I will bless you ; my wife and little ones shall pray for you, and thank the generous man who protected the hunted fugitive.” That last bit did it; my wife enlisted upon his side in a moment. Wife and children to pray for me, and so on ; she was taken in directly. “ Oh, Edward,” she whispered, “it is one of those poor misguided Fenians,” and she leaned further out of the window, so that the visitor could just see her. “ There is a heavy price set uxjoii my head,” whispered the voice, “ and even now the bloodhounds of the law are upon my track. Let me not ask in vain. But for the sake of those at home, I would not keep up the struggle, for I am faint and weak and unmanned,” and there came up something uncommonly like a sob. “ Oh, Edward,” whispered my wife, “ pray help the x>oor creature.” • ! All very line,” I whispered again ; “ but if his story is true, he has broken the laws ; and why should I mix myself up by sheltering one of the mad-brained party 1 And besides, who’s going to let a stranger in at this time of night 1 How do I know that he is not a thief ? ”
“ Edward ” exclaimed my wife indignantly, “ for shame. Suppose you were in the same position ? ” and then a great deal more passed between myself and my master, terminating in another parley out of the window.
“ Well,” I said, “ What do you wish me to do ? ”
“ Only to give me rest for a night, sir,” whispered the voice—“concealment till some time on the morrow, for I am tracked ; ” and I could not help noticing the peculiar Irish-Araerican nasal twang with which he spoke ; and, besides, that sounded American, “ tracked. ” “ But are you alone ? ” I said. “ Quite, on my honor,” whispered the man.
“But really, you know,” I said, “it don’t seem reasonable for me to admit you, a stranger, in the middle of the night. Perhaps you are armed.” “Yes, yes,” whisjiered the voice earnestly. “ I am armed, I have a revolver ; but I am willing to put my trust in you in every way, if you will not betray ine.
"If I wanted to betray you,” I said, “ I should shout for the police ; ” and then, leaving the window for a moment, I thought to myself, “I’ll test you, now, my fine fellow.” On the landing was a small closet devoted to my foibles, and in a few seconds I returned with my brass multiplying winch, and silk twist with which I had landed more than one pike during my fishing expeditions ; and then, throwing down a few yards, 1 said—“it is not likely that I can admit an armed man ; so if you are what you profess to be, fasten yonr pistol to that line, and let me draw it up.” The line was caught in a moment, and thenlfeft a few jerks, followed by the voice whispering, ‘‘ Be careful, for it is loaded,” when I drew up and held in my hand what felt in the dark like a revolver.
Well, that seemed conclusive enough ; so, closing the window, my wife and I descended to the drawing-room, where by the light I could see that I had hold of a rusty-looking pistol, capped, and, I presumed, loaded ; but to make sure, I tested it with the ramrod, and then removed a cap, to see if I coidd detect the powder in the nipple. All right, loaded, not a doubt of it. And now, feeling prepared in case of wrong, and pretty well satisfied as to my visitor’s character, I drew up the blind, and opened the French window. Of course I knew how wrong it was, but really, when a poor hunted wretch appealed to you for help, who could think of betraying him ? The very thought of it seemed repugnant; and then I hesitated, for this might be Colonel Kelly himself, for whose capture three hundred poudds were offered.
If I had had a doubt before of my visitor’s being a genuine case, it left me as I opened the window, and stood with presented pistol while he came in; a handsome, pale, bearded fellow, just in accordance with the descriptions I had read of Kelly ; while his first act was to listen for a moment at the window, close it hastily, and then run to my wife, and kiss her hand.
“ For the sake of my wife and children,’’ he said, “save me.” “ Why,” I exclaimed, “ you 'must be ” “ Hush ! ” he whispered, turning to me with a faint smile ; “ mention no names, for your conscience’ sake. There is a heavy reward offered for my apprehension, but I feel sure you would not wish to gain it ? ” “ Oh, no, oh, no ! ” exclaimed my wife, who was affected even to tears, while really the poor fellow’s state appeared pitiable : worn, jaded, and hunted-look-iug, he seemed to start at every sound, while his eyes wandered restlessly from side to side, as if seeing danger. Wo gave him some wine, which he drank with avidity while some cold chicken and brtad seemed to be quite devoured ; though he apologised again and again in the most gentlemanly way for his intrusion. “I have been to anxious and hardpressed even to cat,” he said, “ for days past. Every exit seems watched, and how to take a passage I hhrdly know. Money I am pretty well provided with ; and now, if I could only once get clear, though my heart might still with my cause, I would run no more risks, for the of those at home.
1 forbore to question him, thinking the less 1 knew the better ; while from similar feelings, no doubt, the poor fellow said little except upon different subjects, until he seemed to be unable to hold up, but kept on dozing off to sleep, and starting up. i cannot help ir, ’ he said at last; “for two nights I have not closed my eyes. If lam taken lam taken, for nature will hold out no more,” and he sank back in his chair.
“Lie on the sofa,” avid my wife gently; and he rose with a grateful smile and lay down, while she arranged the pillows for his head.
“You will not play the part of Jael,” he said, “and treat me as she did Sisera ? ”
“No, indeed,” exclaimed my wife, smiling, while he kissed her hand again, too tenderly, I thought, and she blushed. She sticks out to the present moment tl at she did not ; but I’m sure she did, and I didn’t like it a bit. Why couldn't he have said “ Thank you,” without kissing hands ? He had only to have done it once more, and, Fenian or no Fenian, 1 should have turned informer. Fh e minutes after he was breathing heavily, in the deep, heavy sleep of a man utterly worn out; and after a whispered consultation, w'o agreed to leave him
where lie was, locking tlio drawing-room' dour fur our own protection, of course, and so that the housemaid should not come iu and see him in the morning. “I moan to take your revolver,” I said, aloud ; but there came no answer, and—accidentally, of course—l kicked over the poker, which rattled loudly in the fender, when our visitor started up. “ Oh Edward 1 ” exclaimed my wife. “ Wo shall lock you in,” I said, as I turned down the gas a little way, and I shall take your revolver away, but wo mean no treachery.” “ I am weak, faint and utterly worn out,” he replied, in his slightly American intonation. “lam in your hands, and if you betray me, the curse of my wife and children will cling to you. But there,” he said hastily, “ I do not doubt you ; the sight of your dear lady’s candid face would give mo faith.” We left him and retired to bed, after carefully locking the drawing-room and passage doors ; and in spite of the adventure, I slept pretty soundly, though I must own to having been rather gruff when wo wont np-stairs, and not quite satisfied. But I remember no more till I was in the midst of a dream, wherein half a score of police v.'ere breaking into my drawing-room with sledge-hammers, to get at the Fenian ; while all the time it was not the police but the Fenians t.iemselves breaking upon the police van, and I could not make out how it was till I woke to find that it was neither, but the housemaid Jane hammering at our bedroom door, because she could get neither into dining-room nor drawing-room. ’ Of course, there was nothing for it but ’ to get up and go down, which I did, feeling very tired and cross at being roused' ' out of bed soon after six ; while my -wife must hurry up too, and somehow she 1 managed to be down as soon as I did ; though I never knew her to be dressed so ’ quickly before. However, I must say , that I was not surprised to find the poor : fellow gone, and the Erench window lott just ajar. “ [to be continued.]
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 93, 29 April 1880
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