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3?? -? I (YJ [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ] r1 S n-y'YT? 0' THE? Hl[u?lla ?x or, THE LITTLE WHITE WITCH M 101 By MADGE BARLOW, M /?\ Author of Crag Cormac," "The Cairn of the Badger," &c. /?\ I CHAPTER I. I HOW ALL THE TROUBLE BEGAN. I If Andy Bamfylde hadn't risked his life to save an unknown woman from being trampled to death by a pair of runaway horses hitched to a furniture van this tale of the love of Flyn o' the Hill would not be the tale it is, a record of the passion and the foolishness of love. It was a far cry from Andy sprawling in a Wliitechapel gutter, and Andy unconscious in a hospital ward, to Flyn in Culsheen at the back of Beyond, which lies somewhere on the western rim of Erin. But Fate, to whom distances are as Lothing, took this accident of the streets and made it the starting-point of a series of accidents seriously affecting the peace and happiness of Flyn, whose sur- name was Macara. There was no card on his person, no mark on his frayed linen. They did not know what to call him till he opened his eyes in hospital and called himself John Salter, that name being as good as another for public purposes. His native modesty shrank from contemplation of the newspaper paragraph headed "Heroic Rescue." And besides, "he did not wish his titled cousin to hear of it, for that exalted personage, and Sylvia, his wife, were Andy's pet aversions. The exalted one would be sure to blame him, and perhaps come fussing and fuming about his bed and bewailing the singular inopportune- ness of the occurrence. Lord Horace Dark-. ingtnn and he agreed best when farthest apart. lie awoke with hazy memories of a large crowd, somebody slobbering orer him, shrill f.alk of the ambulance, a glimpse of a stretcher, and a big policeman who handled him gently before he was wafted into ob- livion. As soon as lie could collect his thoughts he asked to be told the truth con- cerning his injuries, and Nure Dora Bland held his hand and obliged him, seeing that lie was not one to swallow soothing lies. His hurt, she said, was internal. An operation might benefit him or might not. At any rate, it offered a fighting ehsnce, and the other way lay death. Andy bade her send at Ol1C to an address in a fashionable quarter and inform a certain Eric Cheveral that a person named John Salter was in parlous case and wished earnestly to speak to him. Cheveral and Bamfylde were staunch com- rades who had raced together along the rose- strewn paths which tempt the feet of idle youth. They had "gone wild/' as their rela- tives phrased it, been continually out of pocket, always in scrapes laughable enough to outsiders but abhorrent to those who had to pay the piper. Their escapades, in short, were natural to young blood allowed to "gang its ain gait" without the wholesome and corrective dis- cipline of hard work. And^i"relatives cast him off, Eric's followed suit, but in the latter instance the casting off was merely force of habit, and when their tempers cooled they received him back to favour. The only one of whom Eric stocd in awe was Uncle Gideon, proudest Cheveral of them allT" a childless widower, gouty, irascible, dicta- torial, inclined to treat his heir as though he were still a child in the nursery. Andy looked forward to no fat heritage. Lorcl Darkington, the head of his house, having a yotmg and dashing wife, hoped to carry on the succession in the direct line, nor did the passing of the unfruitful years damp that ardent hope. At the time of the street accident Eric and his other self had newly returned from South I Africa, where their crazy idea of successfully running an ostrich farm had fizzled out in- gloriously. They brought homo as the result of twelve months' adventure empty pockets, a fund of animal health, a complexion like a Ka llir's owned by Andy, a beard of tawny gold owned by Eric, of which he was mightily vain. On landing in England and reviewing their position they decided that Uncle Gid and Cousin Horace should be ap- proached separately aud asked to put their unwanted and untinanced kin in the way of earning aij honest living and being a burden to nobody. b Eric's uncle promptly showed him the door, because beards were an abomination to old Gid, and Eric flatly refused to shave when offered fourpcnce and the adqress of the nearest barber. On such slight rocks did their friendship split. Andy's cousin. Horace, was on impe- cunious peer, and his wife the rather fast and extravagant daughter of an acute at- torney. Rumour said he married her in can- cellation of a debt, but rumour lied. He married for love, and was quickly dis- illusioned. Horace's scheming brain nursed a plan into which Andy fitted. As a last favour he promised to get him the stewardship of Flyn Macara's Irish property, Paradise Hill, on condition that Andy, in turn, did him a ser- vice. On learning the nature of the service Andy hemmed and halved till it was pointed out to him that beggars cannot be choosers, when he pulled a wry face and muttered that he would see what he could do. Re- member," said his lordship, "it's a sure tliiug, and if you pull it off and are faithful I'll treat you handsomely." He added craftily. Sylvia doesn't believe you will. She says you hfsve neither wit, brains, nor beauty, ind a baboon from the Zoo would serve my purpose equally badly." Your wife's generally nasty," drawled Andy, the spark in his eye assuring Horace that the gibe had put him on his mettle and made him dependable. "What if the Macara is obstinate and hold:, tight? he asked. In that case we share and share alike. I'U fix it, never fear." Brisk correspondence between Darkington and Paradise Hill refilled in Andy" 's ap- pointment, and Flyn Macara wrote briefly to him, arranging the date of his arrival, and warning him that if he didn't arrive punctually he need not arrive at all. He voted the letter "a beastly stiff 'un," and lamented his destiny. Lying on his back, bemoaning the loss of his future bread and butter, a harum-scarum idea entered his head. Why shouldn't hi" brother castaway personate hiin and fill his place till he was able to relieve him and ]]is ]I(, wa-- ib-le to ?Ci??eve ii-in --nd The Darkingtons had gone abroad, the dis- agreeable employer didn't know Andrew Bamfylde, Eric would enjoy the frolic, and if he discovered Horace's fjeheme and cared to frustrate it, why he was welcome to do so, and it would be a joke to see Horace's phiz when he found cut. These musings were interrupted by the entrance of Cheveral, curious as to the strange John Salter's reason for sending for him. At sight of the figure in the narrow bed he uttered a dismayed exclamation, and Salter raised a warning finger. "Old chap." whispered Eric, what dees this mean? \Vhy are you here under an as- sumed name? What has happened? Andy told him. a(\ charged him to keep hip knowledge to himself. "It's like you," groaned Eric, "to smash yourself to pieces for the sake of somob^y who wouldn't be missed cut o/ the world. Was there nobody CIPS of account, on the spot to play the rescuer? Man, ting most of the hard luck, and it isn't fair to me." "I'm jolly glad you aren't in ny sliooe. 'Ric. I'd hate you to have a monopoly of iirsc Dora. T'hera she is, near the door. Ever see a face so piquant, eh? She's to be mine entirely till I'm cured or coffined, and I'm determined to survive the operation if nlv for the pleasure of being tended by her." "The operation'" Eric bleached. "Is it Sf) bad as that?" Bad could be worse. I mightn't have even the fighting chance." When they call it a fighting chance it's a mighty poor one," muttered Eric. "All the same, I've a conviction that rn pull through. I won't die in hospital, too tcan ending. No, I'll live, but it'il take time to set me on my legs again, and while I want you to trek to Ireland all.1 hold the stewardship in trust for me." 1- "You have nothing particular to do, and you may as well be Andy Bamfylde pro tern. John Salter lends you the name, he having no present use for it. Practice your blandishments en the Macara, pile on the soft sawder. You've a jewel of a, way with you, and it will stand us in good stead on the day of explanations and apologies." "Has Macara seen you?" Neither me, nor my photo, nor my handwriting. Horace managed the whole business, and I was engaged through him as a compliment to Sylvia, who knew the Macara in earlier years." "It's a fool notion, Andy." But with possibilities of fun for you. 'Ric, you must start .at once. That bossing Flyn commands me to be punctual on pain of losing the job, and if I lose it where shall I get another? Horace will be furious. I wish you'd oblige, old fellow." "Hasn't your cousin a shooting lodge in that neighbourhood? It would be fat in the fire if we met." "Sylvia's own daughter to the de'il, but you needn't fear they'll cross your path. Their latest domestic row was fierce, and after he'd got me the Paradise Hill vacancy he dragged her off to durance vile in a chalet in the Black Forest, where flirtations and bridge parties are unknown." "Let us hope they'll both remain in the chalet. I'm yours to dispose of. Banish me to Ireland. I'll not do you any dis- credit." Had he foreseen the troublous con- sequences of his action he would hardly have consented thus readily. Andy thanked him with relief and grati- tude, and silence fell upon them—a pregnant silence teeming with thoughts their heart;<; were too full totter. They avoided each other's eyes, and feigned interest in the ward. After a time Andy moved restlessly. "Perhaps I ought to tell you a secret. There's a girl in it—a girl over the water." "There's a girl in everything on this -,ver i?i iid the seet,et. blessed earth, sonny. Never mind the sccret. I'm fed up on girls, the kind that throw themselves at one's head and the kind that are thrown, like Gid's Clodagh Farrell. Is there an intermediate type, I wonder? "Of course there is. Nurse Dora belongs to it." "You're in love, I believe." "I think I am, 'Ric. She's a dear. We'll take her into our confidence, and she'll answer your letters for me, and wire you the result of the operation, and be in etery respect a valuable ally." "Then by all means in Nurse Dora." "She'll be as true as steel. Wish I wasn't such an ugly beggar." "I have hope of your cheating the entire college of surgeons when you rave in that fashion," laughed Eric. "Don't talk to tire yourself. Be sure I'll act my part to perfec- tion once you're through the operation safely." "But—but you can't wait, and the Irish train service isn't exactly O.K. Allowances have to be made for travelling emergencies, and-" "Must I go immediately?" asked Eric aghast. "FlvlI Macara's orders leave 116 no option. You must." They averted their faces, ashamed of a sudden wave of emotion which engulfed ] them without warning. I "Depend on me to do my best, said Eric, f gulping a lump that rose in his throat. "Itn write to John Salter, and you'll reply by proxy, and Heaven grant you may soon join me to help wind up our little comedy—sort of tragi-comedy, isn't it? Your pretty nurse is approaching—the signal for in-a to make myself scarce, I suppose." "Yes. We have to say good-bye here and now. "It's the toughest thing ever imposed upon me. Andy." "But you'll tackle it, 'Ric. Shake, matey, and luck .attend you." Their lia.ids met in a close, affectionate grip. Dora Bland came to the bedside, and her tact and sunshiny words eased the wrench for them. A minute later Eric was in the street, feeling dazed by the rapidity with which the episode had begun and ended. Andy emerged from a horror of loneliness to find Dora Bland still at his pillow. "I've tricked old 'Ric." he said weakly; "but I'm not sorry. He'd have gone pre- judiced against the Macara, and it's bad to .cara, it's bid to start with a prejudice. I want to tell you a tale of woe. nurse, and when I've finished youTI say if you think I'm to blame for hiding sometlijng from 'Ric. Sit in his chair, and you'll hold my hand, maybe. I've just become conscious of a—a sort of all- overishness." CHAPTER II.. I THE MAN WITH THE CROOKED I'Ol'T; I Dumped on the platform or a country station seven miles away from the village of Culslieen, Eric looked around for a jarvey, and saw none. On top of his baggage the solitary porter reclined and sucked a strnw while awaiting suggestions as to its disposal. Being questioned, the porter said that the only side-car which plied for hire was owned and driven by Paddy Power, familiarly called Tatthcrs; but Tatthers had brown- kiltie's. and couldn't put a leg under him, and the gentleman would have to hoof it to Paradise, or remain where he was. Leaving his luggage with the Job's comforter, Eric took a stick out of a strapped bundle and prepared to "hoof it." Night gloomed upon the land, but the skhad a premise of stars, and by-and-by there would be light. The wildness of the landscape did not appal one who had seen teo many of eatth's wild spots to marvel at a corner of Con- naught yet its all-pervading melancholy made itself felt, and he wondered if Horace's object in consigning Andy to such a quarter was to tempt him to commit suicide. Staring from right to left, and into the indistinct distance, Eric cheerfully cursed my Lord Darkington. He walked briskly, whistling and nourish- ing his staff, serene as a who recks not of troublesome relations, slack pockets, and perils lurking in his path. But the slightest recollection of Andy had a sobering effect, against which his innate happy optimism was not oof, though he tried un- easily to assure himself For two-thirds of the long road he met nobody. Then a fork confronted him, Un- decided which road to travel, he awaited the near approach of another pedestrian bearing down upon him from the opposite direction, a short, thick-set man, wearing clerical garb and uncle ric-al muddy gaiters, and whose countenance was round and humorous. "First turn on the road to your left, said he, in response to a courteous query. "Mount the ditch and you'll see Paradise 3Til 1 chim- neys quite plainly." Eric mounted the ditch and saw the chim- neys. Do I pass through the village of Cul- sheen? he asked. "No, Culsheen lies behind There are no houses between you and the Hill, but be- yond it lie Lord Darkington's shooElIg lodge, Doctor Mallard's residence, Tallyho, which belongs to the Joyce-Duffy family, and vari- ous smaller demesnes scattered here *and there. You'll have heard of Mallard, f).D.?" "Who hasn't?" murmured Eric, agreeably ready to say what was expected of him. Is the learned Doctor a bachelor? he added. "A widower Is sir. His spinster sister keeps house for him and is very hospitable." Any fimily? "Two daughters, Miss Cathy (he blushed) and Miss Ella." You, I presume, art the rector of the parish "Oh no, merelv the curate, Michael Keenc. Doctor Mallard is in charge, but "—naively —" hi* scientific pursuits debar him from netive duty except when the bishop is a?cut. I suppose you know Flyn U?cara, Mr. Keene? Queer sort, I believe." Mr. Keene grew 6o rosv. awd his kak bristUi so alarmingly that Eric hastened t. I say he meant no offence, earning the retort, that of course he mightn't be personally responsible for his bad manners, but the query was offensive. Having rebuked him the curate allowed his indignation to sub- side, and smiled again. By the way," ventured Eric in chastened accents, did you say the Misses Mallard were beautiful? I didn't, but Miss Cathy is—is——" Michael Keene took off his hat and paused as though at a loss for words, his eyes upon the stars. Don't speak," Cheveral implored. "That mute eloquence is a perfect answer. Good- night, and God bless you." The curate gazed after him resentfully, conscious of being fascinated against his will by a winning personality. He upbraided himself, standing in a sloppy puddle. Micke"y" he said sternly, you're growing gabby. Much refreshed, Eric plodded on, and at the turn he rested with one foot on a meadow stile while he lit a cigar in shelter of the hodge. As he struck a match he heard furious footsteps splashing among the ruts of the hilly road above him, and a rumble of oaths which ceased abruptly when the swearer saw him and halted to inspect him. The tints of this man were bold and vivid, red of his skin, white of his teeth, over-ripe crimson of the full mouth lifted corner-wise to show the teeth as if it were cut crookedly in the dark. His fashionable clothes defied criticism, and he smelt of brandy. "'I'm sitting on the stile, Ma-ary," he sim- pered, sticking his thumbs into his waistcoat pockets, and planting his legs wide apart. Condemn and perish you! If you must haunt stiles at night why not sing or shout to let people know you're alive and no ghost? I shouldn't have a chance of making my- self audible when you are about." I don't always curse my foes aloud as I was doing just now, but I've had provoca- tion. I've suffered a lot, and to-night cap- ped all. It was terrific, stunning. I got blind, blazing drunk to kill the sting, and I can't kill it. It gnaws, and gnaws, and gnaws till I have to rave or go crazy." He clenched his hands, raised them above his head, and dashed them down vehemently. His black eyes were like smouldering fires. Eric noticed a crape band on his rakishly tilted hat. The outburst had a calming effect. He shed maudlin tears. You're off the track for Culsheen," he remarked. I'm not going to Culsheen. Moving up the road." You're not Darkington, because I've seen him. And you're not one of Mallard's visit- ing crew. Who the dickens are you? "Is that any business of yours?" Strictly speaking, it isn't, but I'm inquis- itive." He rucked his brows and scanned the ciuiet smoker earnestly. Of a sudden he slapped his thigh and swayed forward, im- perilling his balance. By Gad! I have it. You are Flyn Macara's latest." Eric neither assented nor denied. The latest, and I'll wager the worst. A Eprig of nobility who has coma a cropper and finds it convenient to retire to the wilderness for a season. I object to the arrangement. You're too picturesque and ornamental to have hanging around and doing me out of my rights. I'll make your job too hot to hold you. Mind me, sirrah, Flyn may rule Paradise Hill and you, but I rule Flyn." "Your remarks are very amusing. Hope you'll often give the Hill a look in." "It doesn't pay to cheek me," cried the man with the crooked mouth. "If you stay you'll learn that, but you won't stay. You'll trip where your predecessors tripped, and get your walking papers same as they did, three of 'em in a twelvemonth. I dOTI,'t ex- pect to see you next time I call." "Then you'll be disagreeably surprised," said Eric. "I've an amazing faculty for sticking like a limpit." He rose and resumed his journey. The man pursued him and clutched his coat. "Turn while you are able," he panted. He was really very drunk. "Would YOU have the little white witch steal the heart out of your body, suck it dry, and fling it back in your face? That has been done to mine. I have no heart left. She has it, and when I beg her to give me hers she will not listen. They are pitiless, the white witches." Eric thought him mad as well as tipsy. He shook him off, and left him standing motionless and staring-eyed. At last he reached his destination, a square-built house crowning a shadowy height, approached by a privet-bordered path so steep and narrow that he said they must needs love the Macara consumedly who would climb it for the pleasure of beholding him. Gnarled ivy covered the house front. Its windows were unlit. Of its surroundings lie saw only a blur of meadow land on his left, a dimmer blur of towering rock behind it, and on his right a glimmer of flowers like tall, pale lilies in a garden. The air was faint with the aromatic odour of wet sv.eetbrier. Lifting the knocker, he rapped loudly till he heard cautious movements in the hall and two voices conversing in under- tones, a basso profundo and a treble. "He's come back," said the treble. "He won't come back to-night," replied the basso. "He's had a lesson." To which the treble rejoined, "I tell you he's come back." Cheveral guessed that they spoke of the man with the crooked mouth. "Who's there?" cried both in unisonu "The new steward," bawled Eric. "You're not expected till to-morrow." "Am I to sit on the doorstep meanwhile?" "You could sleep for a night in the village." "I will not." "Do," said the troble. "There's a sweet gentleman." "And the steward's cottage will be readv in the morning," added the basso. If you've walked seven miles another mile won't kill you." Inl a temper Eric recommenced his assault on the fcnocker, as a result of which the door hurriedly opened an inch or two, and he squeezed in sideways. They were respect- able old servants, evidently husband and wife. Stung to rebellion by the tongue of his bettef half, Albert Jaffe snatched a lamp off a bronze pedestal and marched towards the dining-room. (To be Continued).



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