Harriett Jay.

The dark colleen: a love story online

. (page 26 of 33)
Online LibraryHarriett JayThe dark colleen: a love story → online text (page 26 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

made. And since it was clear the girl would not go peace-
ably, why other means must be adopted. She had profited
nothing by his forbearance, she should be spared no

" Cease crying and listen to me 1 " he said, at last,
angrily assuming by instinct that superior tone of voice
which a civilized being might be supposed to adopt to one
of inferior race. " I have told you my thoughts, that is
past, you stay not here any longer, — so you go peaceably
or go by force." '

Wearily Morna rose to her feet and looked in his face.
If it came to a question of power, she knew that the victory
would be on her side. He had married her, and she could
if she wished force him to acknowledge her his wife. But
now that his love was gone so hopelessly, the sacred tid
which bound them together was but a mockery, a farce —
which if held to would bring her nought but sorrow and
degradation. Something of this Morna felt while looking
into the man's cold eyes.

The next moment she wearily turned away.

Digitized by LjOOQIC


Sure I do not wish to stay," she said quietly,
" since — "


" Since you do not care for me any more."

Pah! the days of sentiment were gone for Captain
Bisson. He shrugged his shoulders and laughed that soft
silvery laugh of his. Then taking some gold coins and
notes from his pocket he turned towards her.

" You will be sensible, and go quietly ; that is good,
and you will profit much. There is a ship will leave
Hantour for Ireland to-morrow, I have ascertain that ; I
will see you safe on board, so that you go not wrong ; this
is for you — it will make you richer t.han any girl on that
island — take it, and I pay your fare with more."

He almost smiled, and reaching forth his hands, held
the money towards her ; but Morna gazing into his eyes,
silently pushed the hand impatiently from her, and passed
for ever out of his sight.



WHAT followed seemed like a dream. Only vaguely
Morna remembered walking swiftly through the
quiet streets of Bernise, along the dusty road which she
had travelled scarce twenty-four hours before, while the
gray dawn fell coldly upon her, and the few passers-by
gazed at her again with the same curious looks. Then all
became darkened and confused. Now she was wandering
in the streets c^f a great city ; then she was on a steamer
far out at sea, answering all questions with " Ireland "^ and
" home ; " gazing wildly at the faces which flashed before
her, listening dreamily to the hum of voices, the gentle
washing of the sea. When at length the trance wore away
and her understanding grew clearer, she found herself
standing in a strange town amidst a crowd of people who
spoke the English tongue.

On one side of her stretched' the sea, bordered by great

Digitized by VjOOQIC;


coal-wharves and quays ; on the other populous streets and
dingy slums. Where the town was situated, or what it was
called, Morna could not tell ; she only saw from the
number of ships in the harbor that it was a great seaport.
Why she had been landed there she scarcely knew, since
the vessel which had brought her had steamed away on,
and was making its way to sea. Still feeling half stupefied,
she sat down upon a rough wooden seat erected on the
quay, and looked at the, crowd around her.

The people were all too busily engaged to notice her,
and those who did happen to cast their eyes her way,
doubtless deemed her a beggar ; but by and by, when the
steamers had all left the quay, the traffic was over, and the
crowd began to disperse, she found that several men
paused in passing her and looked curiously in her face.
Seeing this, she rose and walked away.

Up in the town the people thronged just as they did in
the busy streets of Hantour, but few of them noticed her
now. Mingling amidst the densest of the crowd, she
slowly travelled on. Night was fast approaching. Already
the street lamps were being lit, and the shops illuminated,
but still the crowd was great, and Morna, helpless and
outcast, wandered on ; past the grandly-lighted shops,
until she came to a quiet street where the houses were a
good deal smaller, the people more ragged and dirty, and
then she sat down on a doorstep to rest.

For her feet were very sore, her limbs ached, and she
felt sick and weary and afraid. Here there were few folk
passing, and none to notice her. and so resting her head
against the doorpost she wearily closed her eyes. She had
not sat long, and was still quite conscious, when she heard
a voice addressing her, not in strange foreign accents, but
in the English which she knew so well ; and opening her
eyes she saw standing before her, in the full light of the
street-lamp, the figure of a woman.

A little old woman, small and shrunken, almost in
rags ; but on her head she wore a muslin cap black with
dirt and age. A strange smile flitted over her features as
she fixed her eyes on Morna. When she saw herself
observed, the smile on her face deepened, she stepped
forward and said in a low husky voice,

Digitized by LjOOQIC



. " Pardon if I disturb you, but I was passing by when I
saw you, and if you don't move from there, you will be
locked in jail."

" For why ? " asked Morna, rising from the ground.

" Because you are sleeping in the street, and that is not

Then glancing at Morna's quaintly cut dress she

" You come from Normandy ? "

" Froni HsLntour,*' returned Morna, ignorant of the
districts, knowing nothing of the geographical situation of,
the place whence §he had come.

" I know it well," exclaimed the old woman puckering
up her face and rubbing her bony hands. ** Five-and-
twenty years ago I saw it, but nev^r since. And you," she
added quickly, glancing keenly into Morna's face, " where
are you gomg, if one may ask t "

*' I am going to my home," said Morna, quietly, " to
Eagle Island."

" But you seem weary, and want rest. Where will you
sleep to-night?"

" That I do not know. I have no place, and I know
of none."

The old woman eyed her keenly. Merciful powers,
what a simpleton to be cast adrift in a world like this !
Coming nearer the old woman laid her hand on the girl's

" My child," she said, " you do wrong to wander here
alone, for there are many wicked people about, and it is
dangerous, you may fall into bad hands ; but I will give
you the shelter of my roof, if you like."

" You ? " asked Morna, opening her eyes. Had she
been on Eagle Island she would have expressed no sur-
prise, but she had learned that in civilized regions such
offers were not so generally made.

" Assuredly," returned the hag, puckering up her fea-
tures again, " since you come from France, why not, for I
love French people ; and you, my child, with that pretty
face of yours, sure you will get into trouble if you remain in
the streets at night. I am now on my way home, and can-
not linger. Will you come ? "

Digitized by LjOOQIC


Morna, believing that the offer sprung, from genuine
kindness of heart, readily consented. What else could she
do ? To her, this old woman with her shrivelled face and
bony hands was as good as another, since she knew no
one ; besides, though she was old and shrivelled she had a
kind heart. Quite unsuspicious, Morna followed her away.
Through the streets, past dark alleys and dimly lit slums,
until they came to a lane where the air felt close and con-
taminated, where women clothed in filthy rags stood lean-
ing against the doorposts, and half-drunken sailors bandied
their coarse jokes, passing in at the doors and reeling down
the street. And hurrying along, following her guide,
Morna saw it all, still unsuspicious. Many on Eagle
Island dwelt in poorer huts than these, and dwelt in purity
and goodness — the poor were honored in her eyes, the
lowest slums of a town no less than her own home.

Presently they paused before a little low dwelling with
a thatched roof. The door was partly open, and the old
woman pushing it wide, hurriedly thrust Morna in, closing
and bolting it behind her.

" Sure it is a poor place enough," she said, " but better
than the street, my child."

The room was of tolerable size, but meagrely furnished.
Two candles guttered on the mantle-piece, casting a dim
flickering light. On a table fiet in the middle of the room
stood several glasses, one or two jugs of beer, and a bottle
of spirits ; and around the table sat several men, evidently
sailors, playing cards and smoking, while another lay snor-
ing on the hearth. Morna looked at them and at the
spirits, thinking,

"It is a shebeen house, where the sailors come to

And she began to wish that she had got some other
lodging, for she did not like the look on the men's faces as
they turned their eyes upon her. She had heard Barron
tell of places where they stole folks' money, and sometimes
took their lives. Could this be a place like that, — the old
woman to bring in the victims, the men to rob ? But again
she inwardly laughed at her fear. It was only a feverish
fancy ; sure she had nothing to lose, and as to killing her
t — ^why what advantage could they reap by that ? Still she

Digitized by LjOOQIC



would rather be out in the streets, she thought, or on the
fresh cool mountains of Eagle Island, than breathing this
atmosphere of whiskey and smoke.

But she was very tired, and soon her weariness over-
came all her misgivings. She sat down on the seat indi-
cated by her guide, drank the milk which was given to her,
and eat the bread ; then folding her hands wearily upon
her knees, she sat silent. The men at the table played
on, and drank th^ir draughts of spirits, taking no heed of
her, but from the dark corner where she crouched the old
woman eyed her keenly. Presently attracted by the glit-
tering eyes, Morna rose from her seat and drew near.

" I am very weary," she said, " and if I might, I should
like to rest."

The woman rose nimbly to her feet, crossed the floor,
and inviting Morna to follow her, pushed open a door and
entered an inner room.

A little long room this was, shut off from the kitchen
by a wooden partition, and holding scarcely more than a
bed which stood in the corner. With many apologies for
the meagreness of the apartment, the old woman indicated
this as Morna's bedchamber, and setting down one of the
guttering candles upon a rickety table, bade her good-
night, and left her alone. The room was only thinly par-
titioned off, and the din of voices reached her still. She
closed the door, was about to fasten it, but found that
there was no lock ; it had evidently at some time or other
been removed. She examined the window*; it did not
open, but she saw that it looked out directly upon the
street : she could have stepped from the sill on to the
pavement. Had the window been made to open, Morna
would in all probability have made her exit again into the
streets and spent the night upon the cold hard stones,
rather than upon that bed ; for despite the polite attentions
of the old woman, she felt a vague distrust about the
place which she could not shake away, and weary as she
was she felt almost afraid to lie down and sleep. True,
she had no visible cause for fear ; but she dreaded the
thought of becoming unconscious, the idea of strange
forms stealing in and out of the room while she lay wrapt
in slumber. Ajain she examined the door ; if it would

Digitized by LjOOQIC


only lock she would feel more at ease ; but there was no
fastening, — so fain to rest content with the situation as it
was, she cast herself, dressed as she was, upon the bed,
and soon fell fast asleep.

About half an hour after Morna had retired to rest,
there came a soft tap at the kitchen-window, and on the
door being opened, there walked in a man, behind whom
the door was quickly dosed and bolted again. He pulled
off his cap, threw it aside, nodded grimly to those present,
Ht his pipe at one of the guttering candles, and sitting
down in the shadow, smoked quietly. Presently he raised
his head and looked at his hostess, who sat opposite
watching bim intently.

"You goi her, grandmfere, is it not.'" he asked at
length in low, guttural tones.

The old woman nodded her head, smiled slyly, and
jerked her thumb over her shoulder at the door of the
room where Morna lay at rest. For a few moments the
man smoked silently, then removing his pipe from his
lips, he muttered,

* Sacre, but I think it was her ghost since I left her at
the bottom of the sea. But de saints favor me and the
devil favor her, it would seem. Look you, she must have
as many lives as a cat. When I first caught sight of her
on the quay I was almost afraid, for I never thought to
see her again alive ! "

He sat muttering as he puffed at his pipe, and the old
woman eyed him. Presently she spoke,

* How long do you want me to keep her here ? " she

And the man replied,

" Two days, or three, perhaps. De * Hortense ' will
be unload then, and I can sail."

The old woman puckered up her face again.

" Three days ! " she repeated, meditatively ; "it will
be a hard matter, for though the girl is stupid, she is wilful
and anxious to be home."

The man laughed ; thrusting his hand into his pocket
he pulled forth some coins, and slipped them into the old
woman's hand.

" You would do dat and more for me, grandmfere, is it

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


not?** he asked. "The girl is hite, as you say, but you
are wise."

The hag laughed, greedily eyed the coins, and slipped
them Into her pocket.

Silence followed, broken at times by the half-drunken
voices of those at the table. The guttering candles flick-
ered down, the room grew chilly, but fresh fuel was heaped
into the grate, candles were replenished, and hot water
steamed upon the table. The pipe which the man was
smoking went out. He knocked the hot ashes upon the
hearth, and turning, joined those who sat at the table at

For many hours Morna slept heavily, but her sleep
was sorely troubled, for the strange misgiving and indef-
inite fears which had beset her ere she lay down upon
the bed were soon magnified into horrors of the blackest
kind. She seemed to pass through many impossible dan-
gers and terrible hair-breadth escapes, until at length a
horrible sound seemingly uttered close to her ears made
her start from the bed with a half- suppressed scream.
She had forgotten where she was, her senses were still
dulled with sleep, her brain still troubled with her dreams.
She was trembling in every limb, her heart was beating,
and a cold sweat was on her forehead. The room was
quite dark. The noise which had evidently awakened her
was still going on. She listened wildly. In the room
adjoining men were fighting, scuffling, and hissing out
words in the French and English tongues.

Her first impulse was to, rush out, but remembering
suddenly the scene of the night before, she paused. In a
flash it all returned to her, and trembling still more, she
crouched down again beside the bed. The sounds grew
louder and louder, the scuffling and cursing increased and
she listened fascinated. Something in those voices affected
her strangely — what was it } what could it be ? Quietly
she rose from the bed, crept across the floor, and gently
pushing the door ajar, looked through.

The kitchen was lit up, and a bright fire burned in the
grate, several chairs and stools lay overturned upon the
floor, andjn the middle of the room were two men strug-
gling, and tearing at each other like wild beasts. The old

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


woman, the one who had brought her there, clung, to the
arm of one, rattling on in English, and imploring the
lookers-on to prevent the strife. But they, grown reckless
with drink, stood grinning imbecilely at the pair. At
length, however, urged on by the old woman's entreaties,
they interfered, and tore the combatants asunder.

Trembling in every limb Morna watched ; but wheQ at
length the men were parted, she sighed relieved. There
they stood glaring furiously into each other's faces, the
one with his back turned to Morna hissing out curses
through his set teeth. Presently, when his rage had some-
what cooled, he shook himself free of his captors, and
turning round filled out and tossed off a glass of spirits.
As he did so his features were revealed to Morna, and she
stared in terror.

She had recognized the face of Nicole Louandre.



AS she recognized him, Morna crouched lower upon the
floor, trembling in every limb. What could it mean ?
Why was he here ? Had there been another trap to get
her, or was he as yet unaware of her presence ? A thou-
sand speculations filled her brain, only increasing her
horror. If she had got again into this man's power, there
was little hope left for her indeed. She knew him to be
quite pitiless, and worst of all, she felt that in his way he
loved her ; this thought only increased her physical repul-
sion. And, indeed, to-night he looked a figure likely to
awaken fear ^ and disgust in any being of the other sex. .
His clothes were torn in the struggle, his hair wild, and
one or two blood stains disfigured his face. His eyes were
wild, inflamed with drink, and through his set teeth he
still hissed curses at his foe.

As Morna looked at him, her soul sickened. If she
could only get away from the place, she thought, she
would sleep in the streets, she- would be locked' in 9 jaij.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC



sooner than incur the risk of falling again into this man's
hands. Why had she not crept into some lonely alley and
lain on the ground sooner than follow the woman as she
had done ? She had been unsuspicious and very weary,
but if she could only get away now, while they were all
drinking there, and hide herself in some secret place, until
she could sail away to her home !

She rose to her feet, softly closed the door, and trod
silently along the floor. Then she again examined the
window. If that would only open, she could slip out, and
so creep away. She could not see, for the room was so
dark ; but she felt all about the window. There was no
opening ; only one single frame glued all round and firmly
fixed. Even had she broken one of the panes, it would
have been all to no purpose ; she could not get out that
way. So again she turned away as she had done before,
quite disappointed and utterly afraid.

Suddenly she started. The sounds of struggling com-
menced again, then there was a crash upon the floor.
Footsteps came nearer and nearer to her door. . She stood
trembling violently, uncertain what to do. Instinctively
she cast herself upon the bed and closed her eyes. As
she did so there was a crash against the door of her room,
which almost yielded. The struggling ceased, then the
door was gently opened, and a figure came in bearing a
light. Morna felt that her heart was beating very hard,
but she kept her eyes closed. The figure approached and
bent above her quietly ; the next moment it moved away
again as gently as it had appeared. She opened her eyes,
but still kept her position on the bed, though all thoughts
of further rest were gone. She could not sleep again in
the place with that noise dinning in her ears, and the
thought of Louandre troubling her, so she lay quietly wait-
ing for dawn. She determined when the day came, to
leave the house and wait elsewhere, if she had to wait to
get a ship to take her home.

For after all, Louandre's appearance there might be
an accident, he might know nothing at all of her presence.
Since the house was a drinking house ahd a resort for
foreign sailors, it was free to him as to another.

So she lay speculating while the night wore wearily

Digitized by LjOOQIC



away. The noise of the voices in the adjoining room
grew fainter and fainter,^ and finally ceased ; the darkness
parsing away gave place to dawn.

, Now Morna saw that the hut in which she had spent
the night was a dirty hovel, poorer than the poorest on
Eagle Island ; an unwholesome place, smelling strongly of
town smoke, stale tobacco, and foul drink.

When the day had quite broken, and the faint sunrise
lit up the street, she was still unrefreshed, but so far as it
was possible she made her toilet, shook out the dust from
her clothes, smoothed out the folds of her dress, • and
bound up her hair in the thick braids which she had worn
on Eagle Island, and , upon which Captain Bisson's blue
eyes had once rested so admiringly. When this was com-
plete, she gently pushed open the door of the room and
passed through. • The kitchen was empty, but there was
in the air a heavy smell of stale tobacco-smoke and
whiskey. On the table stood several empty glasses, hot*
ties and jugs ; black clay pipes and cold tobacco ashes
were scattered around.

Morna went to the door. She had no tht^ught of de-
parting without a word to the old woman who had brought
hier there, but she wished to step into the street to get a
breath of fresh air. The door was locked and the key re-
moved. Morna looked troubled ; what could this mean,
unless they meant to keep her a prisoner ? She went to
the window, it did not open ; turning to go to the door
again, she was met face to face with her hostess.

The old woman wore upon her face the same sly,
searching grin as she had done on the night before, when
she had spoken to Morna in the street, and she rubbed
her hands together as if she were warming them.

" Ah, my child, you are early ! " she said. " You slept
well, I hope ? "

Morna nodded. She decided to say nothing of Lou-
andre least her fears might be incorrect, and so involve
her in an otherwise avoidable danger. ,•
^ "I was very weary," she said quietly, ** and soon fell
asleep; but I rose early because I am anxious to get
home ! "

The old woman glanced at her keenly.

Digitized by VjOOQIC



"Ah, there is plenty of time," she said. "You must
rest content, for you can't go to-day."

Morna raised her brows in wonder, but her heart sank,
and the old fear of the night came upon her again.

" Why not ? " she replied quickly.

" Because there is no ship to take you. Eagle Island,
you see, is a strange wild place, and fe,w go there."

Morna did not reply. What could she say or do.
' Knowing nothing of geography she could not contradict ;
although she felt that the old woman was not exactly
speaking the truth, or acting honestly. So instead of ap-
pearing suspicious of. anything wrong, she merely turned
away with a half sigh which she could not suppress, and
the old woman watching her keenly smiled approval.

But a few hours later when the breakfast was done,
and strangers began to drop in for their morning glass,
Morna, wko had been furtively watchihg each face, again
rose and prepared to depart. Not stealthily, for going to
the old woman she thanked her and held forth her hand.

The old hag smiled again, and edged over towards the

" It is nonsense, my child,* she said, " to think of go-
ing, since I tell you there is no ship, and you are strange
and know nothing of the ways of this town. You would
fall in with wicked people, and get into trouble — ^worse
trouble a hundred times than resting ip this poor hut ! "

Mr na listened uneasily. The woman was perhaps
kind, and she ungrateful, yet the thought that at any mo-
ment Louandre might reappear and find her, weighed
heavily upon her, and she wished to get safely away from
the place. Had she been able to tell the old woman her
true reason for wishing to depart at once, she would have
been glad ; but this she feared to do, for how did she
know that the woman was not a friend, perhaps a relative
of Louandre's, and ready to betray her into his hands ?
She stood hesitating, then she said quietly,

" It is not because I wish to leave yoit that I am anx-
ious to go, for you have been very kind ; but it is two years
since I left my home, and sure I am wearying to return."

" Of course, but where is the use ? " said the old
woman, edging still nearer to the door, "sure you cannot

Digitized by LjOOQIC


swim there, and at present there is no other way. Don*t
you know it is a long way off, right at the other side of
Ireland, and then out across the sea ? "

Still Morna pleaded.

"If I might go and learn when a ship would sail, I
could rest satisfied."

" Nonsense, child ! Have I not told you t Since you

Online LibraryHarriett JayThe dark colleen: a love story → online text (page 26 of 33)