THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
A NARROW ESCAPE. chapter ii —continued. For an instant he made as if he would have gone away, satisfied with this answer: it seemed to stun him. Then he broke into a last appeal—“ Oh ! Ettie, hear me ! I can give you love and wealth and may be honor. Yonder is my ship, my own, manned with a crew devoted to me. Come with me, Ettie, we will fly to brighter scenes than this dull coast. Change will wean you from Stanton, and in my love you shall forget that your word was ever given rashly to a boor. ” While he spoke, his eyes fixed on hers, he had drawn nearer, and now clasped her hands with a grip like that of a drowning man. She struggled with him in vain—fear and anger mastering her voice so that for a moment she could not speak. At last she cried—---Richard Eller ton, you are still the coward and savage that you ever were. You play the tyrant with a woman. If a man were here, you dare not face him. Let me go, or I call for help. George ! George ! help ! help !” The rocks resounded with her despairing cry. Ellerton threw one arm around her, and placed his hand upon her mouth—- “ I’ll stop your crying, mistress Ettie,” he said with suppressed fury. “ You are in my power, beyond the reach of help.” As he spoke, he dragged the wretched girl towards the shore, plainly making for the boat she had seen lying on the beach. With the energy of despair she struggled to get free, and momentarily succeeded in displacing his hand from her mouth — “Richard! Richard!” she pleaded, oh ! Richard, by your old love for me, let me go. For your father’s sake ; for the sake of your own good name ? ” “ It is too late, mistress,” he answered, with a brutal laugh. “ I was willing once to await on your pleasure, to abide by your sentence, whether it might lead to happiness or banishment; but now I will and do.” Thus saying, he dragged her still further towards the boat, despite her frantic struggles, and renewed cries for help. At these Richard laughed bitterly. “’Tis of no use, mistress,” he said “ no one can hear you. Only my own men are within call. In a few minutes we shall be on board ship, and then up anchor, and away for ever with pretty Ettie Stanton, the rover’s plaything ! Ha! struggling again ; the bird will break its wings against the bars. Well, then, we must call for a net, and shut the poor thing up ! ” He lifted a silver whistle to his lips, but before there was time to blow' a note, a piercing scream from Ettie arrested Elletton’s attention, and the next moment there descended upon his head a blow that stretched him senseless on the sands. In an instant Ettie rescued and happy, was in the arms of George Thursfield ! A few words suffice for explanations on both sides. Ettie told her lover how she had come to look for him, had met with Ellerton, and had nearly been carried off to a captivity worse than death. George, on his part, told how he had come along the road on the landward side of the cliffs, had heard the cries of a woman, had ridden to the summit, and seeing the struggle below, had left his horse, and scrambled down a rocky path, unconscious all the tir ic that he was hastening to the rescue of his affianced. This he discovered only when close to the villain ; and then, springing forward at a bound, he struck Ellerton to the earth with a single blow. At first Thursfield fancied he had killed the villain ; but presently Ellerton showing signs of returning life, and fumbling in his bosom, as if to find a weapon, George set foot upon him, and then searching the prostrate ruffian, took from him a brace of pistols, and the whistle hanging round his neck. Then, stumbling to his feet, but staggering like a drunken man, Ellerton, with curses and cries of vengeance, made at the other, as if to take him by the throat. But Thursfield, putting him easily aside, held him with an iron grip, saying—- “ Hound ! back to your ship, or I give you to the officers of justice. For the sake of her good name”—pointing to Ettie—“ and for your father’s sake I give you an hour. If by that time your sails whiten this coast, a king’s ship shall be in chase. Go, scoundrel, and never show your evil face again. ” With a threatening gesture, but without a word, Richard Ellerton slunk away towards the shore. They saw him stagger across the sands, crawl into the boat, and put out to sea. Then lifting Ettie in his arms—she trembling and fainting with alternate joy and terror—George Thursfield bore his precious burden on the way to Stanton Holm. CHAPTER IH —DARKENING CLOUDS. Within the hour specified by George Thursfield the ill-omened vessel which brought Richard Ellerton to Stanton Bay had disappeared, leaving no trace behind. George experienced a deep feeling of relief as he looked from the summit of the cliffs across the unruffled waters of the bay, upon which no sail—not even of the tiniest fishing boat—was visible. Still, he could not repress a sense of apprehension. The danger to Ettie had been so recent and so terrible that the dread of it still hung upon his mind. Knowing the character of Richard Ellerton, he feared the possibility of some renewed outrage or attempt at abduction. Upon questioning Ettie, her lover found that alarms of the like nature had taken possession of her mind. These were deepened by the rumors which began to spread about Stanton, that mysterious figures had been seen in the dusky evening amongst the rocks near Saint Bridget’s Cave, and that signals were made from shore to sea, and from sea to shore. This led to the revival of old stories about smugglers and their haunts and people in general sought no further solution. But strive as she might, Ettie could not divest her mind of the idea that these reported movements had something to do with Richard Ellerton and his designs; and once or twice she fancied that she saw Ellerton himself lurking on the hill paths near Stanton Holm. So, to quiet her alarms, George Thursfield proposed to hasten thffir marriage, to let Thursfield Farm and Stanton Holm, and go for a time either abroad or into some inland city, where protection might be obtained against any possible designs on Ellerton’s part. To further this arrangement it was settled that the marriage should take place by license instead of in the old-fashioned way by banns; and the date for the sacred rite was fixed within ten days of Ettie’s rescue in the bay. This change of plan seemed to restore firmness to Ettie’s mind ; and, indeed, George himself was reassured by it, for although he did not share her fears |to the full extent, yet he was anxious to bring her under his own immediate protection. The lovers were confirmed in this decision by an occurrence which caused them no little uneasiness. The rumours that smugglers had reappeared at &tanton soon became known along the coast, and caused an unusual stir amongst the preventive men, who had a station a few miles distant. With these rumours there also got into circulation distorted versions of the attack upon Ettie Stanton, and her opportune deliverance, for though both George and Ettie had striven to keep the occurrence secret, a few broken hints, escaping one or other of them, had enabled the servants to patch together Btories far beyond even the truth. The
first evidence that such rumours were abroad was given by tire appearer.ee of a coast-guardsman to make inquiries about the reputed smugglers; and with him came a Mr. Thompson, the excise officer of the district who announced his intention of staying for a timo at Stanton, to keep watch. His presence scarcely suited George’s arrangements. Therefore, with a view of preventing idle gossip, he thought it better to take the exciseman into his own keeping. So Mr. Thompson was invited to make Thursfield his residence ; and George took care to accompany him in his rambles along the coast. Nothing, however, was discovered. The dills were thoroughly searched, the caves explored, every possible hiding-place examined ; but no trace of smugglers could be found. At last, having exhausted all
moans of inquiry, Thompson became convinced that he had been allured by a false alarm ; and acting on this conviction, he prepared to leave Stanton. George, who had taken a liking for the man, urged him to wait a day or two longer, to be present at the wedding. Thompson, however, had conceived the notion that his host knew something im re of the smugglers than he chose to tell; and he therefore resolved to make a private examination of the coast, without Thursfield’s presence. So, appointing a coast-guardsman to meet him a few miles out of the village, he set off in the evening, with the avowed intention of spending the night at the nearest preventive station. George went with him along the cliffs, and there, at a path leading down to the main road inland, they parted. For a little while, George lingered on the cliffs, watching the retreating figure of the exciseman, till the latter disappeared behind a projecting rock, round which the pathway turned. Then Thursfield pursued his way homewards, thinking of Ettie, and still, in spite of himself, troubled with the evil image of Richard Ellcrton, which came like a black shadow across his mind. Once he paused, thinking he heard a cry amongst the rocks below'. He looked keenly round, but he could see nothing. Evening was fading into twilight—it was hardly possible to distinguish between the grey of sea and sky, while around and below, deep gloomy shadows were fast settling upon the cliffs and obscuring the broken rocks at their base.
[to be continued.]
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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 117, 24 June 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 117, 24 June 1880
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