Charles Garvice.

Love, the tyrant, or, Where her heart led online

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Love, the Tyrant

Or, Where Her Heart Led



"With All Her Heart," "Marcia Drayton," "At Love's
Cost," "Just a Girl," etc.



Copyright 1900



IN the intense stillness and clearness of the Australian
night there was something weird and strangely oppressive;
and a young man who stood at the door of a shepherd's hut
vaich stood in a small clearing, looked round and shuddered
slightly as if the solitude might be peopled by ghosts.

He was pale and thin, with that red look about the eyes
which fever paints so skilfully ; and as he leant against the
door he listened with the eagerness afad impatience which re-
vealed themselves in the twitch of his thin, parched lips. At
his feet a dog lay curled up as if asleep, but his eyes were
open, for, like the man, he was listening, and when his master
said: "Arthur's late, Bob, isn't* he?" the dog wagged his
tail as if he understood: which it's even money he did.

The young man went in presently and stirred the fire under
the rough kettle, lit the tafluw candle, though the moon was
shining brightly through the window, then dropped, rather
than threw himself, beside tha fire, and sighed wearily. Not-
withstanding the heat, he shivered now and again as if with
cold, and once he wiped the chilly dampness from his fore-
head with the sleeve of his coat. Half an hour passed and he
had fallen into a fitful doze, when he heard the sound of a
horse; the dog heard it, to j, and sprang up with a bark of

The young fellow rose, staggering slightly, and made his
way to the door. As he did so, a horseman rode into the
clearing, dropped from the saddle, spoke to the dog, that
leapt caressingly upon him, and said, cheeringly:

" Back at last, old man. How goes it?"

"Oh, so so," replied the other. "I thought you were
never coming that something had happened. Look sharp
and come in, Arthur."

Arthur Burtcn nodded, led his horse round to a shed at


6 ftJVE, THE

the back of the hut, rubbed the animal down swiftly tout with
the loving touch of a man who loves his horse, gave it a
double feed, and then went into the hut. Jack Gordon was
bending over the fire, but he rose as his chum entered, and
held out his hand with a smile on his fevered face. Arthur
took the thin, hot hand, and pressed it; and as they stood,
*he contrast between them was marked and painful; the one
was so gaunt and thin and wasted, the other so magnificent a
specimen of English manhood. He stood a good six feet; hia
chest was broad, his limbs finely moulded, and as hard as
iron and as supple as steel; there was not an ounce of fat
upon him; it was all sinew and muscle. There was strength
not only in his form but in the handsome face, tanned by sun
and rain; in the dark eyes, shining like agates in the fire-
light, and the short curls of the chestnut hair that grew in
waves on the forehead which the wide hat had kept white.

" You're not so well to-night, Jack," he said, as he flung
his hat in a corner and took off his coat. " Why don't you
lie down and rest? You promised me you would."

Jack laughed rather shamefacedly.

" I tried it, but it wouldn't wash. For the first time in my
life 1 got the blues being alone, and was as full of fancies as a
woman. I imagined all sorts of things had happened to you.
Last night I heard footsteps and voices in the gulch, or fan-
cied I did; which is all the same, for it kept me awake. It's
the fever, I suppose."

Arthur Burton nodded.

" Must have been, for I saw nothing of them, though I
heard at the store that a gang had been seen in the neigh-
bourhood; but that was days ago and they must have passed
on; anyway, it's not likely they will happen on us; we're too
far off the track. Now, you just leave that kettle alone and
lie down. I'll get the tea; I've been sitting in the saddle so
long that I'm hankering for domestic duties. 1 got some
quinine at the store, and you'll have a dose before we go any

He opened the little white packet as if the powder were
gold-dust and, indeed, it was more precious than gold-dust
and himself tilted it on to his chum's tongue.

Jack looked up at the strong, handsome face with a wistful

" Arthur, old man," he said, with that quaver in his voice
of which every man is ashamed, " you've been a true, good
chum to me. Ever since we met there, at Wallv Ford, six
mouths ago, you've stood by me, shoulder to shoulder, like


Hkt a brother. You've stood this peevish temper of mint
md all my tantrums, and never offered to kick me."

" Which I shall promptly do now, my good Jack, if you
don't shut up."

" You've shared you last crust with me like the coves in a
novel, and now you ride a matter of a hundred and fifty miles
to get me quinine and pretend you went because you were
dying to see a newspaper you who never cared for it when
we came across one."

" Well, anyway, I've got one," said Arthur, and he took a
newspaper from his jacket hanging on a nail and chucked it
on the bed.

" But I don't think you'll have to put up with me long,
Arthur," said Jack Gordon, in the calm and quiet tone of the
man who hears the soft footsteps of Death approaching him.
" Laugh at me if you like, but I've a notion I'm going to
peter out before long."

Arthur winced and turned his head away that the sick man
might not see the spasms of grief which had passed over hia
face. t

" Not you, old man!" he said. " You're worth ten dead
men, and you and I will be making for Melbourne presently,
for that spree which we've been looking forward to so long c
What you really want is a darned good shaking, and I'd give
it to you if I weren't too tired. Here's your tea, and here's
some soft tommy I got at the stores; though it's a fulsome
compliment to call it soft, for it's as hard as a fossil; but you
can soak it in the tea, and it will be a change anyway."

" Arthur, you ought to have been a woman," said Jack, as
he took the cake. " You're as strong as a lion, and as hard
as nails, but you've got a heart as soft as putty, and it will
land you in trouble some day, if it hasn't done so already."

Burton's face reddened under its tan, and he laughed a soft,
curt laugh.

" Yes, some woman will get hold of that heart of yours,
Arthur, and wring it wring it hard and tight, if you don't
watch it. It's always chaps like you who fall victims to what
they call the ' gentle sex.' But I have no reason to complain;
that heart has stood me in good stead. How does it go?
4 The friend that sticketh closer than a brother;' that's the
sort you are, old man, and it was a lucky wind that drifted
me across your path."

" That'll do,* said Arthur; " you talk like a fellow in a
novelette. I've done precious little for you, not half what


yon would have done for me; and so there's au end of fe
l)ry up and go to sleep."

He drew a blanket over the shivering form, giving it a
friendly punch, by way of caress, then threw himself beside
the fire again and lit his pipe; but suddenly remembering that
the smoke sometimes made Jack cough, stealthily extin-
guished the tobacco with his finger and slipped the pipe into
his pocket. For a time he lay with his head upon his hand,
gazing sleepily at the fire and listening to the laboured breath-
ing of his chum. Then the fire got low, the air grew chilly,
and Burton, feeling cold after his ride, rose noiselessly and
put on his ccat.

As he thrust his hand in his pocket he felt the sharp edge
of a letter, and with an upward jerk of the head, as if he had
forgotten the thing, he took the letter out and looked at it.
The envelope was unbroken and was addressed to " Mr.
Arthur Burton, Wally Ford."

" The first letter I've had for nearly two years," he mut-
tered. " Wonder who it can be from? Somebody found ouh
my alias some dun, I expect: looks like a business letter.
What else should it be? No one belonging to me knows
where I am or the name I go by. Half a mind to pitch it in
the fire, for it's sure to be a worry. Better open it, perhaps."

With a shrug of the shoulders, with an absolute indiffer-
ence and absence of curiosity, he opened the envelope and
drew out the letter. It was written on the fine bank-note
paper used by first-class lawyers and business men; it bore a
neatly engraved heading " Floss & Floss, Solicitors " and
it ran thus:

" DEAR SIR, With great difficulty we have succeeded in
tracing you as far as Wall 7 Ford, to which place we address
this letter with your assumed name. We have to inform you
of the death of your uncle. Sir Richard Vancourt, which oc-
curred, on November the ninth last. You have succeeded to
the baronetcy in natural course. By a will, executed on his
death-bed, your uncle bequeathed you the estates and his
whole fortune. In the event of your death, everything goes
to a distant relation of Sir Richard's a young lady named
Esther Vancourt. We beg most earnestly that you will,
immediately on receipt of this letter, return to England, and
we anxiously await a telegram from you, as all attempts to
trace you from Wally Ford have failed. Your affairs most
Urgently need your presence here. We have the honour to
te, dear sir, Your obedient servants, FLOSS & FLOSS. "


Bnrton stared at the letter without moving a muscle; his
"head felt hot, his face grew red and white by turns. It was
hard to believe, even with the crisp paper between his fingers,
the legible writing before his eyes. His uncle was dead; he
was Sir John Vancourt, a baronet of the United Kingdom,
the owner of the vast fortune which his uncle had built up
hundred by hundred, thousand by thousand.

He could scarcely remember the old man, who had hated
him as a boy, had never given a thought to either the title or
the money. And now they were both his!

He was no longer a wanderer on the face of the earth,
literally earning his bread by the sweat f his brow, carrying
his life in his hand, and heedless whether he dropped it by the
way or not, but a man of rank, with a place and position
waiting for him in dear old England, that little island which
you only begin to love when you are exiled from it. He was
the owner of Vanjourt Towers he had only the dimmest
recollection of it; of a rambling, Norman-looking place, with
a couple of half-ruined towers and a dry moat in which the
grass was always green and where the sunlight rarely played.
He knew that the house was magnificent, that two genera-
tions of Vancourts had spent inauy thousands upon it, but the
chief point of his remembrance were the old towers and the
moat, the peacocks on the terrace, and the swans on the lake
in the park.

And it was all his! Hard to realise, as he lay there in the
Australian wilds, in the rough hut, with the barest necessaries
of life, with a few shillings in his pocket, and his wardrobe
consisting of the riding-suit he wore. He scarcely knew
whether to be glad or sorry; it had come so suddenly. And
yet he ought to be glad, very glad, for he had had a devil of
a hard time of it. Cattle-running, sheep- washing, gold-dig-
ging, read very prettily and poetically in novels, but they are
hard, cruelly hard work, as many a young Englishman knows
to his cost; and Arthur Burton had faced perils and priva-
tions which would have bowled him over long ago but for his
great strength and the Vancourt constitution, which had
enabled his race to go the pace in all kinds of ways with im-

Yes, he would go at once and take up his title and inherit*
ance. Then he remembered his sick chum lying on the bed.
No; he couldn't go at once. He wouldn't leave Jack if the
throne of England were waiting for him; he would wait until
his chum was better, and strong enough to travel, and he
would take Jack to Vancourt Towers, and they would have


the highest of high times together, just as they had had thft
roughest of the rough. He wouldn't desert his friead:
Jack wasn't going to die; that was all nonsense; men always
got down on their luck when the fever was in them. He
wouldn't say anything about the change in his fortunes until
Jack was better, and then they'd be ofi to dear old England,
side by side, comrades still.

The sick man moved and moaned uneasily, and Arthur
rose and went to him.

" Had a nice old snooze, old man?"

" Yes," said Jack. " First rate, if it hadn't been for the
dreams. I thought I was a boy again, playing with my sister.
I never told you about her, Arthur I've never told you any-
thing about myself. It isn't a pleasant story." His white
face flushed and his eyes fell. " Somehow, to-night I feel I
should like to. I mightn't have another chance."

" Don't worry about it unless you like, old man," said
Arthur. " We all have our little stories. Why the devil
should we be here in this God-forsaken place if we hadn't?"

" My father was a parson," said Jack in a low voice, and
turning his head away on the rough pillow. " He died and
left my sister she is younger than I am to my care. There
wasn't much money, and I I spent it. I got up to Lon-
don You can guess the rest. When the smash came I
bolted, and left her in the charge of a maiden aunt, a good
sort of woman, who, thank God, will have taken care of her.
They think me dead, for I was reported killed in the Branch
Valley affair; and I didn't contradict the report, for it seemed
to me better just then that I should be dead than alive. I
disgraced them and myself, and betrayed the trust my father
had_left me. Nice kind of brother! Poor little girl! I hope
she -Is happy! I'm sure she has forgiven me. Arthur, if
anything should happen to me, when you go back to the old
country I want you to look my sister up and tell her what
chums we were, and what a friend you've been to me. I
want you to give an eye to her and see that she's all right.
Observe my colossal selfishness: I'm not satisfied with all
you've done for me, but I must worry you about my sister!
feut I know you'd do it, old man. You're the strong kind of
chap that weak men like myself always prey upon. You'll
do it, Arthur?"

" Of course I will," said Arthur.

His eyes closed as if the talk had tired him, and he slept
for a few minutes; then woke with a shudder and complained
of the cold. Arthur took off. his coat and insisted upon pot*


ting it on his sick chum Jack's was a much thinner one and
in rags and Jack got up and lay beside the fire, which
Arthur stirred into a blaze. He made a cushion of the other
coat, but Jack was restless and could not lie still.

" Do you think I only fancied that I heard voices in the
valley, Arthur?" he asked. " If 1 hadn't had the fever on
me I could have sworn there were men down there."

"Only your fancy, I think, old man; at any rate, they
wouldn't be rangers, for the police are in the neighbourhood
and the scoundrels would have cleared out."

Jack nodded.

" Where's that paper you bought?" he asked, presently.

Arthur took it from the bed, and, unfolding it, handed it,
and while Jack was reading it, made some more tea. Sud-
denly an exclamation from Jack caused him to look round.

Jack had sprung to his feet and was staring at the paper,
which he was clutching with shaking hands. His face was
crimson, his lips trembling, and Arthur thinking that he was
geized with the delirium of the fever, went to him quickly and
put an arm round him,

" What's the matter, old man; feeling bad?"

" Bad! I must be going mad. Feel my pulse, Arthur!"
He thrust one hand out. " Is it fever; am I off my head?
Tell me tell me quick, for God's sake!"

" You're all right," said Arthur, soothingly. " Keep your
hair on, old chap. What ails you?"

Jack struck the paper with his shaking finger.

" Here's something about my sister, Arthur; the girl I've
just been telling you about! it's like a dream, a miracle.
Here's her name, plain enough; and a story about her that's
too wonderful to be true! It says here! you read it your-
self, for I can't see the words, there's a mist before my eyes.
Read it out loud, and, for God's sake, be quick or I shall go
mad! There it is; there there!"

He thrust the paper into Arthur's hands and pointed to the
paragraph, and Arthur read it aloud:

" * Berkshire has sustained a severe loss in the death of Sir
Richard Vancourt of Vancourt Towers. He was pre-eminent
as a landlord and a magistrate, and will ever be remembered
by the poor as their benefactor and friend. The baronetcy
descends to Mr. John Vancourt, and to this nephew the late
Sir Richard has left his immense fortune; but, as is well
known, the young man left England for Australia some years
ago, and ia supposed to have died there. If this should], un-


fortunately, be the case, all Sir Richard's wealth goes to a
distant relation, a young lady named Esther Vancourt. Dili-
gent enquiries after Sir John, the present baronet, having
proved futile, Miss Esther Vancourt is, so to speak, in pos-
session of the property. While deploring the death of the
young baronet if dead he be we offer our respectful con-
gratulations to the young lady who is presumptive mistress of
Vancourt Towers.' '

Arthur neither started noa uttered a word, but just looked
straight before him with eyes that saw the printed lines on the
opposite wall. This chum of his, then, was a sort of cousin,
the little sister Jack had consigned to Arthur's care was the
girl who would have inherited Sir Richard's money if he,
Arthur, had not been alive! For a moment he wished that
he was dead. A cry from Jack roused him from his stupor.
The sick man was sitting on the bed, clutching at the edge of
it as if for support. An expression of amazement, of joy,
was on his face; he was trembling violently.

" It's true, Arthur; you read it yourself, and you're sane
enough! My little Esther! God bless her! Rich! Oh,
Arthur, old man, if you knew how hard and bitter a time she
must have had! She must have had to work for her living,
must have had to suffer and put up with all sorts of slights
and hardships. You know what a girl has to endure in Eng-
land when she is poor and friendless. The thought of it has
kept me awake many and manv a night, and made life a hell
for me. And now she's rich! You think it's true, don't
you; the fellow isn't lying?" he broke off, eagerly.

" No, no; it's all right," said Arthur, with a calmness
which surprised himself. " So your name is Vancourt?"

Jack nodded.

" Yes," he said, hoarsely, weakness setting in after the ex-
citement. " It's a good old name. The Sir Richard that
died and left his money to Esther was a kind of cousin of
mine. I never saw him or any of his people; we were too
poor and proud to claim his acquaintance, and I don't know
now he came to remember Esther's existence. But I'm grate-
ful to him, for he's mads it easy for me to hand in my
checks. I shall die as happy as a bird, now that I know my
little girl is safe; for to be rich in England is to be sate.
Arthur," he added, with a hoarse laugh.

Arthur was silent for a moment, then he said, gravely:

" But the nephew, the present baronet, may be alire, old


Jack started and looked at him almost angrily.

" What do you mean?" he demanded, excitedly. " Of
course he's dead! Doesn't the paper say so? Wouldn't he
have heard of his luck and gone hounding over to England to
claim the money and title long ago? I'm certain he's dead!"
He wiped the sweat from his brow. " Oh, it would be too
cruel to have him turn up and rob Esther. She's a girl, and
alone in the world for lam dying and shall never go back
to her and she wants the money. It's her due, it's been left
to her it would be cruel, cruel! What do you mean by say-
ing he's alive?"

" Don't excite yourself," said Arthur, soothingly. " I
only said he might be: I daresay he's as dead as a herring,
and for your sake and your sister's, old man, I hope he is.
But don't you talk about dying; this good news is just what
you wanted to shake you up. You lie down again; and,
whatever you do, keep your hair on."

He gently forced Jack on to the bed and covered him up
with a rug.

" Give me the paper," said the sick man, brokenly; and
he clutched it and tried to read the paragraph, repeating lines
here and there and murmuring every now and then:

"Esther! Little Esther rich! Oh, thank God! God
bless my little Esther!"

Arthur went and stood in front of the fire, his hands thrust
in his breeches pockets, his head bent, his handsome face
grave and troubled. How could he tell his chum that Sir
John Vancourt was alive, that he was the missing baronet,
and that he was going to deprive the little sister of her
wealth? He couldn't.

The sick man's muttering ceased, an intense silence fell
upon the hut, broken only by the breathing of Bob, who had
been rushing around, sharing in the excitement, but had now
coiled himself up beside the fire, close to his master's feet.

Suddenly the dog raised his head and emitted a low growl.
Arthur started from his reverie and listened, and his ears,
almost as sharp as Bob's, heard the sound of footsteps outside
the door. He sprang on tiptoe to the bed: Jack was sleeping
heavily, the sleep of exhaustion. Arthur caught up his rifle,
felt the revolver in his belt, and stood in front of the heavily
bolted door, waiting.

Presently the dog gave a loud bark. Jack sat up in bed,
and a voice outside called out:

" Hallo, in there!"

" HaUol" responded Arthur. " Witt's tfaoaP*


" A traveller let me in, mate!" came the voice.

Arthur drew his revolver and slowly unbolted the door. A
man wearing a mask sprang in with pointed revolver.

" Hands up!" he cried. " We don't want no bloodshed!"

Arthur fired promptly; but prompt as he had been, the
bushranger had ducked and the bullet passed over his head.
The next moment three other men flung themselves upon
Arthur; he fired twice before the revolver was knocked out of
his hand, and he struggled and fought like an Englishman;
but it was four against one, and he was at last forced against
the wall^ his arms bound behind his back and his feet securely

Jack had sprung from the bed, but before he could seize
his revolver, he was struck backwards by a blow from the
butt end of a rifle and lay panting and helpless.

" Now, bail up!" said the man who had first entered.
" Where do you keep the stuff? We know you've got some;
own up, or we'll shoot you like a dog."

Arthur smiled.

" Shoot away!" he said.

The bushranger lifted his revolver, but one of his compan-
ions stopped him.

" Hold hard; give him time. He looks a sensible sort of
chap. Come now, mate!" addressing Arthur. " Just tell
us where the swag is, and give us a drink, and we're off as
peaceable as lambs."

" Go or stay, it's all one to me," said Arthur. " I don't
help you to a penny."

The leader of the gang swore a terrible oath.

" Let me finish him!" he cried. " We can search for the
stuff afterwards."

Arthur looked towards the panting figure lying across the

" Stop!" he said. " My chum there is in a bad way;
you've knocked him senseless; it may kill him; give him a
drink of water and pull him round."

One of the men picked up a pan of water and was advanc-
ing to the bed, but the ringleader stopped him.

" Hold on there!" he said. Then he smiled sardonically at
Arthur. " Look here, mate; tell us where the stuff is and

we'll help your chum: play the d d obstinate mule, and

I'llput a bullet in him before your eyes."

He pointed his revolver significantly at Jack.

Arthur went white to the very lips, and his dark eyes burnt


like two spots of fire; then he said in a low voice, but with
perfect calm:

" Don't lire. You'll find the little we possess in a canvas
bag, under that barrel of mealies."

Two of the men sprang to the spot indicated and dug up
the bag with their knives, the third the man with the pan-
nikin in his hands went to Jack, and poured some water
down his throat and over his head. The ringleader still stood
in front of Arthur, eyeing him vindictively; for the scorn on
Arthur's white face cut like a lash. The two men with the
bag came forward.

" Better be off now," said one; " there's nothing more, I

" Search their pockets," said the ringleader. " Here, 1*11
go over this man's."

He went up to Arthur to search him; but Arthur had
managed, with extreme difficulty and indescribable pain, to
release one arm, and he struck the ranger a blow which sent

Online LibraryCharles GarviceLove, the tyrant, or, Where her heart led → online text (page 1 of 33)