A TIGER LILY : A GOLDEN ROD.
CHAPTER 11.— Tough and Go. [continued. I ‘ Oh ! no, no ! do not say so', Miss Wainwrigbt,’ insisted Miss Lucy Hyndford, administering a sweeping negative to Lauderdale’s half-ironical objections. ‘ Don’t bring the man’s blood to our doors. We have not got brazen faces, and hearts of stone. However could she do it, sealing a man’s doom and sending him to despair, with a woman’s heart in her ? How I wish.she had/not got her abominable noisy boys into the concert-room at half-price on my benefit night! Oh, yonder he is,’ as they came in sight of a pedestrian—a man with a s ick or gun on his arm—before them ; ‘ the rejected suitor, that is a move correct name for him than 'he slighted swain, though it is not so touching ; but it may be quite as distressing in certain circumstances. He will not do any harm to himself with you looking on; men have always so much respect for their neighbors’ feelings. You have only to let him see you, and keep him in sight, you will easily overtake him, for he has slackened his speed already. He could never continue at the pace at which he was going when he passed me, as he is used up. And I observe you are a good walker. Good : bye, for the present, my dear Miss Wainwrighl.. Thank you, thank you very much indeed, for not compelling me to feel consenting to a man’s death, or else disappointing the public by failing to appear in my part in the concert, without the excuse of illness, and so risking the cancelling of my engagement, Which would be fatal to me as a business woman, if not as an artiste, otherwise I should not have failed you : I should have stood by you in this dreadfully interesting, distracting contretemps. But I am sure you understand it all, and I shall make all the haste I can, and relieve you as soon as possible.’ Miss Lucy Hyndford had as great a flow, once it was elicited, of half-educated, sentimental, silly, kind-hearted womanly words as Miss Clara Mortimer of bounding statements. When the prattle had died away with the retreating steps of the artiste, Lauderdale began to regard her own
dilemma, half comically, half irefully, somewhat as a man might have done. ‘ A fine commission ! The fortunehunting scapegrace has most probably come out to shoot pigeons and taken the wrong road. He may shoot me if I dog him ; but I need not pretend to nerves. Penniless debtor, disreputable bankrupt, coward fearing to face his claims, rather liking the sensation of frightening ignorant, simple, soft-hearted people oid of their wits with his antics, and the apprehension that he will have recourse to the last weak, unworthy subterfuge of blowing his brains out—if it has come to that, what use: or good will there be in preserving him ?’ The thread of Lauderdale’s hasty reflections was broken short by the action of the man preceding her by a few yards. All at onc.e he sank down in the close, stiff undergrowth of blaeberries among which Miss Lucy Hyndford had been ruralising, and raised his hand with the weapon which he ; held to hL head. Had he aimed stead'ly, had he fired without hesitation, the strength of Lauderdale s nerves would have been tried by, a dead or dying man, the image of Captain Featherstone, biting the dust, with a horrible ■flood staining his well-fitting.greymom-ing suit and delicate linen, while he had hot so many shillings in his pocket those forfeited—as to buy him a. pauper’s coffin. ' ‘ ' !,! ’ 1 ' ’ : 1
But this man had never steadily or acted without hesitation in his life, so that at a bound the firm, resolute woman was at his side arresting his intention, forcibly turning aside his ann, and dragging it down till the muzzle of the gun was pointed to the ground, which receives all injuries and keeps all secrets without retaliation and without betrayal. Lauderdale had not time to think of the policy of feigning not to apprehend his purpose, if such policy had been possible. ‘ What were you going to do, sir ? How could you be guilty of so great a sin and shame?’ she demanded sharply. She had mastered him for the moment, and he remained still, and only turned and stared at her in a stupefied way, as he had stared at Miss Hyndford. ‘ And what have you to do with it?; he muttered at last, in counter question. ‘I have nothing else left me to do.’
‘ls the world not wide enough to hold you ? Is there fiolhing else left you to do, save to come out and commit murder —spot the bonnie blooming heather with the hideous stain of your blood ?’ With that- the smothered-down, grown-over woman of Lauderdale broke forth unexpectedly and got the belter of her. She sat down, wrung her hands, and sobbed hard—as ihe bravest woman will sob in the grisly face of an execution, or at the sudden revelation of a shocking accident; for the wrong and the suffering of others, ' Lauderdale could not have done a belter thing to recall and get the better of the reprobate. He had been a man who might have caused angels to weep for his irretrievable ruin, but he had been always ludicrously overcome by the' tears of .women and children, any time he had encountered them in his life. He . was a. poor, despicable weakling of a fallen gentleman. ‘ Don’.t cry, I beg, I implore you, don’t cry; I shan’t harm you.’ She laughed a little hysterical laugh at the absurdity of the assurance, which frightened him still more ; and the man who had been on his knees to p’unge darkly i into eternity, flung down Ws gun, and remained kneeling, laboring to soothe . the excited humop of a homely, fetderly woman, who was a stranger to him. ; “I shan’t harm myself, then, before you, to hurt' ybuP feelings ; never think it. Do come round and compose yourself, I beseech you, like a good soul. Let me see you home, I think I know the way; you are the photographic arlist’s sister. lam so sorry for having frightened you in this lonely place. Upon my honor I had no idea that there was anybody, especially any woman, behind me.’
‘ Why should you do it at all ?’ asked Lauderdale, With asperity, turning upon him, and charging at him with all her might, her short-sighted eyes blazing at him under their frowning brows. ‘To kill yourself is an abominable crime against your fellow-creatures as well as against God. Every man, woman, and child has a human right, not only to interfere and prevent the wicked deed, but to challenge and upbraid you for its cruel licentiousness.’ ‘ I assure: you I did not see it in that light,’ protested Mr Hopkins, by comparison meek and crestfallen, lifting his hat to give himself air and a moment’s breathing space, as he found himself driven to the wall, beaten and badgered by another woman. .‘I really thought I had nothing else to do. I can tell you, what with the heat of the weather, the darkness before’me, and what I remembered of any ghostly counsel, or any friend who was ever kind to me—whom I ever heeded or credited, it was not very pleasant work.’ ‘ Nothing else to do but slay yourself, really !’ repeated Lauderdale with imperious irony.
‘ slaying is one thing, and starving another,’ explained Mr Hopkins, rising to his feet, and kicking away the gun, but speaking with growing sullenness. ‘ And, by Jove, starving is not the worst; no, nor begging, nor stealing, neither; but to be workedU’ke a back, and treated like a dog, taunted and cast off after all;’ his wan face grew cadaverous, and hequiveredand ground his teeth with' mingled rage-aind desperation.
‘Why should you starve or lead a dog’s lot ? you are a man, capable, ab'ebodied, even highly educated as men count; in your prime—as to yea's.’ She added the three last words in a lower key, for she was forced to own that the hand which had thrown down the gun and was raising the hat again, shook like an aspen, and the whole man’s figure was scorched, blasted, cowering, as if. si a In the form of a simoon had passed overit, and withered it to the root. She wrs forced to see it and own it, while she haled the spectacle. It was little to say her flesh crept at it: it all but set her off again, strong, wise, virtuous woman, fellowartist of Gregory Wainwright, crying bitterly in another paroxysm of pain and indignation. ‘ How much belter off are you than I who am a woman, — not young, or beautiful, or a genius, or rich—anything but any of these ; wiih Gregory, to be sure, but who may marry and leave me any day; yet I do not fret, or rise up in defiance of my Maker, but manage to keep myself in bread and water and something more, and to use and enjoy life.’
‘lt is little a woman knows of it. I suppose you have not got a mill-slone of debt, which has been accumulating steadily, the only steady thing about you since you were a confoundedly neglected, misguided, witless lad, and is hanging round your neck, ready to drown you any moment—well, it does not signify when.’ He said it vaporingly and sneeringly. And there was the free, peaceful moor around them. ■The brooding, blessing of the fruitful heat was ripening the very heather bells and the wild, berries. The young grouse, which Miss Lucy Hyndford had not taken into consideration when she said that there was no living thing there for him to kill save himself—with the 12th of August still in the future, and the warrant for their killing not gone out —were forgeUing each alien-pre* sence; And rising, with a cheery crow and clap of rapid wings, from theT close covert.
* I have not a penny of debt save such as I can pay,’ answered the honest woman severely; ‘ but if I had, in place of seeking to die and escape it, I should guard every channel of life jealously, till ; I could go away, make money, fulfil
no man anything to love one another.’ He stated at her, shrugging his bowed shoulders, and grimacing with his haggard face, before lie replied: * I believe some women are of a poetic temperament, though I have not come across many of-them; and it may be easy to dream of paying debt, but I could no more make money than I could fly. I
wish I could do either the one or the other. It would be extremely conbeing put out of his lodging, yherc there are no* ihobL and sleep in, according, to the meat actor’s . dodge. To be' frank since 4 we have comeso'oddly ttffilose and it does not matter who that the whole aflmr is Iso nearly! dolxe
with, I never was any good.. /I think 1/ might not have gone so faSt dad cer/_ tainly to the bad, or come to such out- . and-out grief, if-1 haid not bcert jraih: : y 1 bered with the educaiibn 'you' mentioned, and if my ihews and sinews had got a chance among the mol)-of. WOtfc* if ing men, if I had been a soldier or & sailor; not that !am much of^a man, and I grant yp.u it is hard Ip believe,, r without the proof, ; Standing to be shot may even be more difficuh than drawing the trigger for one’s otfm business, and the enemy may ?be mure energetic and irresistible than Miss— , Miss, the 'photographic ariistV sister.’ 1 ' ’ Never mind,- that ,1 was bred r tlye, bar, without any taste or capacity.; fojh the law, or for anything else that I can think: of, unless, by alVUhe world; fOT your line of photography,, in which 1 once' came it strong for'a little white? ' merely* for my 1 o#ri amusement; _ df I *z course, was, inadmissible. I never got a brief save*one or ram, and mever did the! name of ‘iflybfid * when I got So much. <hty lather—l - am not. going to ill of the, otyl, gentleman at this time of the day; ‘buf, A poor old fellow, he first dipped me in his own mess, and then, as .my.mother was dead and gone, gave me' up, dis-.r , gusted at the consequences of his work-> My sister Jane—poor dear Janey—the only human being who was notrtoo wise and . nice todhe /for* tnfe for my own sake, who had set. her heart ,qn getting nie on rty pdlling me S through, died—l aifi thankful for it-r- : , before I had done Her simple business, and broken her, fond, fopljsh heart; and a she devil polished me off.’ 1 . (To he
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A TIGER LILY : A GOLDEN ROD., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 309, 2 April 1881
A TIGER LILY : A GOLDEN ROD. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 309, 2 April 1881
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