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VVA [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED,] W) FL YN 0' THE HILL M or, THE LITTLE WHITE WITCH M till By MADGE BARLOW, IV/ M Author of "Crag Cormac, "The Cairn of the Badger," &c. ?\ CHAPTER X. (Continued). "Had a jolly holiday?" the man with the crooked mouth asked. And Eric told him jolly wasn't the proper descriptive term; but his forced smile and expression of strain and weariness convinced Dorn that the gentleman steward had been on a very wild ran-dan indeed. "It was rather a bore, having to come back," he resumed, desiring to wound the silent girl, whose flush had faded to a marble whiteness. "I should scarcely have done so had not duty called. At any rate, I fancied it did. I think I was mistaken. My notions of duty aren't high-flown. They are of the practical, common-sense class." To Flyn and Dorn it was apparent that he talked at her. She winced and shrank. How plainly he was giving her to under- stand that he felt under no obligation to renew his old impassioned vows! Did he imagine she was without feeling, bold and hardened, the adventuress Culsheen dubbed her? In Heaven's name, what had altered him? Could it be that Salvia's estimate of him was the true one? No, no, a thousand times. And yet, if seeing her with Dorn were responsible for his wildly cynical face and barbed taunts, he was acting as no sane man should. He hadn't given her a chance to explain, hadn't looked at or directly spoken to her. The cruelty of it broke her heart. She had much ado to keep from bursting into tears and crying to him: Not you, too, Andy! I can bear every gibe but yours, every averted glance. Why are you unkind?" Dorn saved her by his calm common- places. "Miss Macarn, and I were walking as far as the stile," he said, deviating from truth. "It was there I met Mr. Bamfylde, Flyn, and we struck up acquaintance, and had an informal conversation." She twisted her fingers, and her eyes sought Eric's pathetically, in a timid, wist- ful fashion, as if asking how far that meet- ing was to blame for the unhappiness of this. He stared across her head, and laughed in a mirthless manner. "Quite an informal conversation," he said. "Well, I'm pleased to renew the acquaintance, and I mustn't detain you and Miss Macara. I'm on my way to the flag-pole and-I hope- tea. Good evening." He added as an after- thought, And good luck, Dorn." "Curse women!" he ground between his teeth. "From peeress to peasant they are all alike." In the flag's vicinity he found the younger Mallards, Mickey, the Misses Joyce-Duffy, their brother Gerald, and Sylvia stooping over a fire of chips, unaware of his nearness till Anne Joyce-Duffy dragged him triumph- antly to her, when her ladyship's com- plexion assumed a livid tint, and she made a spasmodic clutch at her side, as heroines of the drama do in moments of sudden ishock. "So like you, to give us no warning," she said, assuming a ghastly playfulness. Get- ting rid of Anne on a trivial pretext, she hissed in his ear: "What is the meaning of this? You re- ceived my telegram ten days ago. I have been on tenter-hooks awaiting an answer or —Andy." "I got no telegram. I was at South- bourne." The livid tint deepened. My lady seemed about to faint. "For God's sake go!" she moaned. "Horace is here." "Why should I go?" he demanded, though the blood receded to his heart. "Why? Because I wrote lies, I've told lies. 1 said Andy was visiting you and Gid, and nobody has dropped the slightest word that could rouse his suspicion, but they may do it at any time unless Andy is primed and sent to Paradise Hill. Then I could manage to smooth matters for him, so that Horace should leave satisfied, hearing nothing. I lie awake brooding and planning how to hoodwink him. Oh, the cur, the mean cur! to take me by surprise." A sob broke from her.. "It's a horrible mess," she moanod a ain. "If he sees you, and knows you've been here instead of Andy, he'll be a raging maniac. He'll think it was arranged be- tween you and me. He'll be worse than he was on that other occasion; his hallucina- tions have taken firmer hold on him. The very mention of your name is to him ae a red rag to a bull." "Lord Darkington shall be cured of hio hallucinations," grimly. "You will face him? You will bring ruin on me in the presence of these smirking idiots?" she almost screamed. "I would disabuse Darkington's mind of a wrong and wicked misconception, harmful to you, harmful to me. A thorough clearing of the air will benefit us all." Then meet him privately." Privately or publicly, as he chooses." "In mercy to me, go," she pleaded. And by going tacitly admit that there if something to hide. No. I'll stand my ground. I can't produce Andy. Explana- tions must come sooner or later. They may as well come now. If Darkington prefers an audience he has one to hand. Remember the simple truth simply told never yet brought anybody to confusion. I wish," he con- anybody I had laid that to heart a couple oJ clude d months earlier. Where is your husband?" He and Percy Joyce-Duffy hare gone tc the Lodge. They promised to rejoin us at tea. Have you considered that Horace may want to fight a duel, to maim or kill you? My fists are at his service. Perhaps he and I would be none the worse of a little blood-letting." "I always said you were disgustingly pri- mitive under the veneer," she flung at him, her eyes blazing in her ashen face, her limbs trembling in an agony of fear for her- self. The scattered units gathered at the clatter of cups, one or two of Flyn's Nobodies timidly apprehensive of the Joyce-Duffy element, Mickey, and a member of the Tally- ho school for scandal who attended functionr at which her superiors could not be present, in order to report. Sylvia's stiff lips could scarcely frame a reply to the woman's pur- ring remarks on the non-appearance of dear Lord Darkington. Mr. Dorn and Miss Macara cught to be fined for lateness," tittered Cathy, drawing general attention to the pair walking up the whin field, silently and apart, Dorn solemn to the verge of tears, she militant of expres- sion and bearing. Slipping into a vacant place opposite Eric, Flvn threw a glance of invitation at Dorn, whose incredulous de- tight as he squeezed in beside her amused young Gerald. Looks as if they had been rowing, and ghe'd decided to kiss and be friends," he said in an undertone to his neighbour, Cheveral.. It's generally believed he's the mysterious man Culsheen has raved about. At any rate the Mater says Lady D. is doing her best to get them married, and it would be a Chris- tian act-sort of set that affair right, don'cher know, or as right as it can be now." "What affair?" Eric had an unchristian longing to make young Gerald bleed copi- ously at the nose. Oh, don't be a mug," was the graceful reply. You're no more in the dark than the rest of us. Lady D. told the Mater you'd cried off in that quarter on account of it, and she didn't want Horace to hear you had. Harriet and Anne wouldn't have been allowed to attend this show only Lady D. said she'd keep them near her all the time, sweet innocents, and the Mater don't like to offend her." Erjc's reckless spirit seemed to have en- tered into Flyn. She began to flirt, to bandy jests, to focus the interest of every man except one upon her sparkling self; and the more that one frowned the louder became her voice and her laugh. It gave her unholy joy to wound him and watch the contraction of his brows, the compressed mouth, the low- ering countenance; and her revenge would have been complete could she have read his inmost thoughts when young Gerald mur- mured, Frisky little piece, by Jove. Must cultivate her, strictly on the quiet, don'cher know. She was not quite responsible at the time. < She, had counted the hours till his return, dreamt of it, built glorious hopes on it, and his unjust treatment maddened her. Sylvia surveyed the noisy crowd as if they were strange creatures disporting in a men- agerie. She was still ghastly, only saved from collapse by a spark of fatalism. If the thunderbolt were doomed to fall it would fall. If it were not, some supernatural power would keep Horace from the whin field. Tea over, the women drew away and left Flyn the centre of a circle of men enchanted to find good game" in the hitherto prim little Macara. They asked permission to smoke, and had begun ere permission was given. Gerald, close to her elbow, prof- fered 'his cigarette case, and she puffed daintily, her cheeks pink as her dress, the silvery ripple of her talk unceasing. "Do give us a rest, Flym," said neglected Cathy acidly. "Harriet's going to sing The Cuckoo's Call,' those lovely verses by Lachlan Maclean Watt. She has wedded them to an old Irish air with a croon in it, and a lilt like the sough of the sea. Mr. Dorn, make Flyn be quiet if you can." "The poem, dear people," she continued, "is founded on a superstition that you'll go it journey in the direction in which you are looking when first you hear the cuckoo. I heard him last May when gazing pensively towards what cook calls the cemingtery. She smiled in Mickey's blanched face. "G'wan, Harriet," she said flippantly. Miss Joyce-Duffy complied. She had a Kinging voice of plaintive beauty. "There's a long good-bye for you and me, And a long good-bye for all: For I stood yestreen above the sea, And I heard the cuckoo's call. And the shadows crept across the deep, The waves were hushed and still, And we looked where the loved ones lie asleep, In the graveyard on the hill. Oh, my heart grew like a house of dreams Where mournful echoes dwell. And a thought came o'er the hills and streams That words can never tell." v Eric's eyes strayed to Flyn, but hers were downcast, and the half-smoked cigarette had dropped from her fingers. Im the pose of the small, curled-up figure was a sugges- tion of forlornness. "Oh, the long road's waiting you and me, The long road waits us all, For we stood yestreen above the sea, And heard the cuckoo's call." "We'll be hearing the dinner-bell if we don't march," said Sylvia, boisterously shattering the spell that bound the listener's. "Let's be off. Hurry, you girls. How slow you are!" They scrambled to their feet, laughinrgly protesting. "We won't stop to pack. Mrs. Jaffe will collect the debris. Cathy, you are dawdling on purpose to annoy me, and I'll carry you to the road by main force." Her feverish haste impressed them as oddly as her pre- vious icy immobility. A shrill whistle arrested their flight. The", 'glanced backward. b. "Lord Darkington and Percy are coming," lisped Sister Anne. lisp"eWd e'll wait for them," said Harriet de- cisivelv. Sylvia stood like an image of stone, I CHAPTER XI. I DRA WN BATTLE. I "Bamfylde!" cried Percy, eldest and best of the Joyce-Duffys. "By all that's wonder- ful! We had just begun to discuss you. Put on a spurt, Darkington. Andy's arrived. I say, don't you see your cousin?" He scanned Horace in bewilderment. The picnicking party stared at him, and at Eric, feeling the atmosphere electrically charged. Horace seemed dumbfounded. His sallow skin had a purple tinge, his eye a cruel, siiiaky glitter. Fascinated by it, Sister Anne- bent forward, and even in the stress of his pent emotions Horace observed that Anne was plump and fair. "Dash it!" ejaculated Percy. "If one's own eousin-" "Eh?" the query was curt, sharp as a pistol shot. "One's own cousin," repeated Percy dog- gedly. "You —he Bounders and forgets what he was about to say—"You're making us dashed uncomfortable." "Pardon," sneered Horace. "I am natur- ally thunderstruck, my cousin has altered so much. Shouldn't have known him as my cousin if you hadn't addressed him as Bamfylde, and—er—gone surety for him. Fact, Percy." While he spoke his gaze shifted from the tall figure leaning on a stick and nonchalantly awaiting developments, to the cringing form of his wife. Sylvia hence- forth would be the captured ihouse, he the victorious cat whose play would put her to exquisite torture. The impostor, too, re- farded her pitilessly. Gerald had destroyed is last remnant, of compassion. Horace's thoughts were busy. He didn't care to provoke open hostilities with that stick in the impostor's hands, and that cold, inscrutable smile on his mouth. A cunning idea had entered his mind, and he needed time to mature it. "If we are all going home, Sylvia, why don't we proceed?" he said in the* suave tone she dreaded, because he never assumed it except when planning her undoing or some- one else's. He waved them onward. Cheveral looked his contemptuous surprise. "Funk," he muttered. "The beggar is con- "The be g c??ar is. con- vinced of my villainy, and he funks. Heavens! What a craven In this he did my lord injustice. "I must have a consultation with you at once on urgent personal matters," he said, intercepting Darkington. "Can't," snapped the ether. "Stand out of the way." I said must, was the tranquil re- joinder. The snaky glitter in my lord's eyes grew more baleful. "I will speak to you to morrow and not before." "I prefer to-night. Could you screw up courage for to-night? "I shall prove to you that I am not defi- cient in courage. It is mine to arrange when and where." Sounds like a challenge to a duel," smiled Eric. "Aye," pondered his foe. "A duel of wits." The rest had moved on, leaving them iso- lated. Horace noticed Sister Anne lagging in the rear of the procession, and furtively licked his lips. "Pray don't let me detain you, he jeered. "Lady Darkington walks alone. Then you'll be anxious to catch up to her, said Eric, stepping aside. Horace dropped his mask of caution. TMi make you smart," he said, chokingly. I 11 put a spoke in your wheel, my fine fellow. He danced among the whins. "I'll pay you out for this, you and your knavish uncle, who doesn't think me good enough to associate with because I havent the shekels.' "Wrong," corrected Eric. "Because the founder of the Darkington house was a cheesemonger. Rather snobbish of the old gentleman-but there you are." Horace gave vent to an epithet unprint- able, and the next instant picked himself gingerly out of a mass of stinging prickles into which he had been violently propelled by an aristocratic boot. by 11 Mark you," he cried, shaking a trembling fist, it's war to the knife now. I'll hound you and that, scoundrel, Andy, to death." "Me, by all means, if you can," replied a sobered Eric. But Andy is beyond your reach. He is dead." My lord temporarily forgot the prickles, and lurched a pace or two nearer, his jaw hanging slack. He died—was one of the victims of the fire in the Southbourne Institute" the speaker's breath came quickly—"You may have seen the name John Salter in the papers." -t. "What of it?" John Salter was Andy." "And how might that be?" "He was severely injured saving a poor woman from being pulped beneath the wheels of a street wagon a few days be- fore he was due to arrive at Paradise Hill. They took him to hospital. He had to undergo a serious operation, and to keep the affair secret he passed under the name of John Salter, and sent me here in his stead to hold the fort for him till he recovered. He survived the operation, gained strength, and was drafted to the Convalescent Home. He was there when the fire occurred, and- my God I can't discuss it." You'll have to. So Andy roasted alive. I knew he'd come to a bad end. But where are your proofs?" Proofs! I haven't any. The nurse who had charge of his case was in our confidence, and she perished with him." "What about his clothes? Were they in- itialled? His card-case? The contents of his pockets?" "We had newly landed from South Africa. Our clothes-well, you can guess the style respectable tramps affect. Andy didn't trouble to mark his cheap store shirt, and his pocket a contained only a florin and a printed cotton handkerchief." Absolutely nothing by which he could be identified," said Horace, as if talking to himself. Nothing." The gravity of the situation dawned upon Eric-the extreme gravity of his position. I forget the particulars. Was there a body?" "No. A number were charred beyond re- cognition—blackened bones, a pile of them. I John Salter and the nurse were of that number." Horace gloated over the sick face of the man who had kicked him. "And you can't prove your cock-and-bull story? You'll have to prove it. Will any- body accept your word for it?" The word of a Cheveral-" Bah! In a court of law Jimmie Jones's would carry as much weight." Do you insinuate that I may be called upon to answer in a court of law for Andy's death? Horace retreated, so swift and threaten- ing was the alert turn of Eric's head. For his remarkable disappearance off the face of the earth you might, and a stiff J'ob you'd find it. To which hospital was he taken? Can you tell the nurse's name? The names of the medical staff? Eric readily complied. Doubtless the staff will be able to estab- lish that a certain John Salter was treated and operated upon, and afterwards burnt to death; but who will establish that Salter and Andy Bamfylde were one and the same? Eric conquered a dull sinking of the heart, and calmly replied: "I, on my sworn oath, on my honour as a Cheveral." y sworn oath, on mv honour as a Let us hope it will suffice." Darking- ton realised that with Andy dead his sole chance of wresting the Hill and its possible mineral wealth from Miss Macara had vanished, and he bit his nails to the quick. Still, he could exact vengeance on the living, and out of that vengeance another chance might spring. The cunning idea" previously referred to could be reshaped, modified to suit contingencies. His resource- ful intellect set to work again, spinning treacherous webs for the entrapping of those who had offended against him. "You ought to follow your wife and her friends. I've had my say to-night after all, you see. "Yes," replied Horace, "but mine's pending, and yours won't be a patch on it. I've got you in the hollow of my hand." Plunging through the thick of the whins to catch up to the others, he wished he had not so openly put Eric on his guard. And Eric, on the lonely heights, remained oblivious, of time's passing till the moon arose and silvered the valley below him. His mind was in a whirl. Andy had gone for ever. Flyn was lost to him, Darkingtpn his bitter enemy sworn to bring about his des- truction. Gid would turn against him, too. The foundations of his careless, easeful life seemed to split beneath his feet with jar and shock. He felt that he stood upon the brink of an abyss into which he dared not look. < "Get ready to go into residence at the Lodge immediately." Sylvia heard the command in silent terror. Horace had not uttered a syllable anent the presence of Cheveral, their solitary inter- view, the discovery of her treacherous lying, and she was afraid. The strangeness of his attitude alarmed her more than his former blustering rages and wild fits of ungovern- able passioo. It held a deeper menace. "I—I should hate that stuffy little box," she faltered. "And my maid would despise the accommodation." "Your maid is on holiday. We have no room for her. Be your own hairdresser and tire-woman as you have been at the Hill. The caretaker's wife will clean and cook." "I cannot go there," she shuddered. "It's Hobson's choice," he replied. "What alternative have you? I've shut the London house and paid off the servants. I have told Miss Macara we are most grateful for her hospitality and will not encroach on it any longer. Can you afford to disobev me an.l live elsewhere? Who will be your "banker? The loathing in his eyes as he thus ques- tioned her struck panic to her soul. It was the slow growth of years gathering fcrce to rise in all its strength and crush her. At last he loathed the childless wife whose con- duct had made havoc of his domestic peace, whose debts and follies were a back-breaking burden. He viewed with abhorrence her lanky masculinity, her thin olive face, her wide and boyish mouth, the black hail braided in a flat coronet above her brow. While they stayed as guests of Flyn he could not wring from her the explanations he must have. She would raise an outcry, appeal to Flyn, to anybody likely to con- demn him and pity her. At the Lodge none would interfere when the marital thumb- screws were anplied. (To be Continued.)




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-_-_-.. THE POULTRY YARD (flj…

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