Nat Gould.

The runaways : a new and original story online

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him when he had to acknowledge that Eli Todd was the only person in the
village who was in ignorance of what concerned him most.

"Where's Janet? I must speak to her," said Ulick.

Eli called her, and she came slowly into the room, her face as pale as
death.

"Mr. Ulick wishes to speak to you. I'll leave you together, I want to
look at Blossom again."

What passed between them he never knew; what he did know was that next
morning Janet was gone.

As he sat crushed and stunned under the blow, there came a furious
knocking at the door, and Mrs. Marley called out in an agitated voice -

"It's the Squire, and isn't he in a rage!"

As Eli sat in his chair by the fire he again conjured up the picture of
Redmond Maynard striding furiously into the room, knocking the snow from
his boots with his hunting crop.

"Is my son here, or has he been here?" he asked, angrily.

"He was here last night," said Eli, in a hollow voice.

"And is he here still?"

"No."

"Where is he?"

"I don't know; he went away after - after - - "

"After what?" thundered the Squire.

"After he had seen Janet about something he wished to say to her," said
Eli, slowly.

"And where is the hussey; d - - n it, man, where is she?"

Eli strode up to him, and looking him full in the face, said -

"Not that word from you, Squire, take it back, take it back; she is my
child."

Redmond Maynard controlled his feelings.

"It is a hard word, Eli, I ought not to have used it. You have
sufficient to bear without that," he said.

"He knows," thought Eli. "How does he know?" and he looked at the
Squire, who could not fail to notice his surprise.

"May I speak with your daughter?" said the Squire; and from this Eli
knew there was some mystery he did not yet grasp.

"She is gone," he replied, in a low voice, for the first time
acknowledging the dreadful truth.

"Left your house!" exclaimed Redmond Maynard.

"Yes. I found her room empty this morning, but I have, so far, concealed
her flight from my housekeeper."

Redmond Maynard strode up and down the room, muttering threats and
imprecations.

"He has stolen her from you, Eli; but he shall pay for it dearly. He is
even a greater scoundrel than I accused him of being," said the Squire.

"Do you know who has tempted my daughter to leave me?" asked Eli,
placing his hand on the Squire's arm in his earnestness.

"Man, you must know," replied the Squire, amazed at his stupidity. "Have
you noticed nothing wrong with her during the past few weeks?"

"No, my Janet has always been the same to me until last night."

The Squire's rage against Ulick passed all bounds. He had accused him of
trifling with Janet's affections, and now, to crown his offence, the
graceless fellow had induced her to run away with him.

"My son came here last night," he said. "You left him alone with your
daughter, and it was no doubt during that time they planned to go away
together. He has taken her from you, Eli, and I hope he will make her an
honest woman. To think a son of mine should be such a scoundrel. Ulick,
whom I have loved beyond all others, it is too terrible."

At last Eli Todd understood. His daughter, the pride of his life, the
prettiest of all the village lasses, was a light o' love, and Ulick, his
favourite, to whom he would have entrusted her life, was accused of
betraying her. The shock of this discovery overwhelmed him, but he had
more faith in Ulick than his father had.

"If a man has tempted my daughter to leave my home and follow him, it is
not Mr. Ulick, Squire," said Eli, solemnly. "He'd never do it; he'd cut
off his right hand first. You wrong him, and you'll regret the day you
taxed him with such a charge."

Redmond Maynard wondered at the man's faith in his son. To his mind the
proof was clear as day, especially now Janet Todd had disappeared at the
same time as Ulick.

"Your feelings do you credit," he replied; "but the evidence is too
clear. You know as well as I that when people hear Ulick and Janet have
disappeared, they will say they went together. Can it be otherwise? They
have been great friends, constantly meeting, and have often been seen
alone together. My son has done you a great and grievous wrong, and I
must do all in my power to lessen the blow."

"I'll hear no words against Mr. Ulick, Squire. True, he came here last
night, but he left long before Janet could have gone. I will never
believe it of him. It was not his nature to do evil. He'll prove it some
day. As for my poor lass, God help her. She'll come back to me some day,
when her heart is sore and aching for her father's love. Whatever she
is, whatever she may have done, I will never refuse her the shelter of
my home and name. We don't know all, Squire; there may be something we
cannot understand, but which will be explained in the future. But Mr.
Ulick! Why, Squire, I'd as soon accuse myself of crime as him."

Two years ago this scene took place between master and man, and Eli
still held firm in his belief in the stainless honour of Ulick Maynard.
No word had come from Janet during all that time. Where she was he knew
not, but he thought of her day and night, and as he went about his work
he offered up many a plea for her return.

"The Squire 'll be thinking of Ulick to-night," he muttered, as he rose
from his chair, went to the door, and looked out into the night.

Snow was still falling softly, and the moon bathed the landscape in
silvery splendour. As he looked, he heard the faint, dull sound of a
horse's hoofs on the snow, and the rumble of clogged wheels.

"Where can they be going from the house to-night?" he thought, and then
recognised Bob Heather, seated in "the tub," and almost smothered in
wraps.

"Hallo, Eli, that you? A nice job I've got, fetching Mrs. Courtly's
maid, and a heap of luggage, from Anselm a night like this."

"Going to Anselm!" exclaimed Eli. "What's up there?"

"Seems to me everything's up. Mr. Courtly's gone up to London on most
important business, and left Mrs. Courtly alone. He's always got
business in London. I'd know what it was if I was her. She came over to
see the Squire, and he's made her stop with him. I say, Eli, don't you
think she'd have been a lot better off if she'd married Mr. Ulick?"

"Mind your own business," growled Eli. "It don't concern you; and as to
what I think, I'll keep it to myself."

"It's two years since he left us, and the Squire's been thinking about
it all night. He's got a notion Mr. Ulick will come back at this time of
year."

"So he will, and I hope my lass will come too," said Eli.

"You still think they did not go away together?" asked Bob.

"I don't say that, but I'll swear Mr. Ulick never harmed a hair of her
head," said Eli.

"He's a rum 'un," thought Bob. "Why, everybody knows they ran off
together; that's what made the Squire so bitter."

"Have a glass of ale?" said Eli.

"Thanks, you keep a better tap than they have at Hazelwell."

"I drink it myself," said Eli, smiling, "and order it myself. I expect
it's not the Squire's fault if you don't get the best."

"No, it's not. Old Josh knows how many beans make five, and I'll bet he
charges top price for the stuff he gets in for us," said Bob.

Eli went indoors and came out with a foaming tankard of ale, which Bob
Heather made short work of.

"That will keep me warm," he said, with a sigh of satisfaction.

"You have plenty of rugs, are you afraid the luggage will catch cold?"
said Eli, slyly.

"Luggage be blowed," said Bob. "These things are for Mary; she'd never
forgive me if she caught a cold," and he shook the reins and proceeded
on his journey.




CHAPTER III.

RANDOM.


Squire Maynard remained in the dining-room throughout the night. Towards
morning he fell asleep in his arm-chair, Bersak watching on the rug at
his feet. It would have gone ill with the man who attempted to touch the
Squire with Bersak on guard. More than one poacher had felt the hound's
teeth in his calf, and howled for mercy, and been forgiven on account of
the punishment received.

Bersak once saved Ulick's life, or if not his life, at any rate rescued
him from being maimed.

A three-year-old bull attacked him, and there was no chance of escape.
The furious beast had Ulick at his feet, and was bellowing over him, as
a preliminary to goring him, when Bersak came to the rescue. The
wolf-hound tore across the field in a direct line for the bull, who,
seeing him, raised his head and bellowed forth defiance. On came Bersak,
and flew straight at the bull's throat. He tore him terribly, but the
animal could not rid himself of his fierce enemy. Never had bull such a
mauling, and when Ulick came to himself he saw the dog still dragging
his enemy down. It was a long struggle, but Bersak won, and the bull was
shot to end his misery.

Bersak's fame spread far and wide, and he had the honour of having
several attempts made upon his life by the bad characters in the
district.

So, while his master slept, Bersak kept watch; and when the door was
opened by Bob Heather in the morning a faint growl warned the intruder
that his master still slept. He closed the door and went quietly away,
thinking it was a blessing the Squire had not kept awake all night.

A faint light stole into the room as Redmond Maynard awoke, and at first
he looked round, hardly realising where he was. Then, as he thought over
the events of the previous day, he said to himself, "Not this year. I
must be patient; perhaps it will be in the next." Then he drew aside the
curtains and looked again upon the wintry scene. A good deal of snow had
fallen during the night, and the wind drifted it against the hedges and
the trunks of the huge oak trees. There was no sign of life until a hare
ran across the lawn into the garden, where there was a plentiful supply
of winter vegetables. Presently stealing along with his tail out, head
down, and glancing from side to side with a cunning look, came a fox.
He, too, crossed the lawn in the track of the hare, and the Squire
smiled as he watched him.

"You are having a rest, my friend," he said; "but I think you would
prefer the hounds at your heels, and an open country before you, in
preference to all the snow. No hunting for weeks, that is what it looks
like. Deuce take Warren, I wonder why he always goes to town when there
is an excuse handy. Was I right in advising Irene to marry him. I think
so, I hope so; but yet I doubt. He is good-looking, has money, a fine
estate adjoining mine, bears a good character, as young men go, and yet
there is something wanting about him. He must love Irene, no one could
help it, but he has no business to leave her alone to her own devices.
She is young, has no children yet, nothing to occupy her mind; no, it is
not fair to her. In a hunting country like this the free-and-easy
intercourse at the meets sometimes leads to danger. Nothing is meant at
first, but gradually acquaintance ripens into intimacy, and one cannot
well decline to put up a fellow sportsman, even if one's husband be
absent. Irene is to be trusted, I know, but she is remarkably handsome,
and her good nature is apt to carry her too far in her efforts to
please. If only Ulick had - but there, he didn't, so what is the use of
thinking about it. Stupid fellow, not to see his way clear, and then to
disgrace our name beyond all redemption. I wonder where he is, and where
she is?" He stopped soliloquising, and went to the bath-room, from
whence, in about half-an-hour, he emerged refreshed and in a more
amiable frame of mind. In the breakfast-room he found Irene.

She came forward smiling, and kissed him.

"There, was not that nice? You do not deserve it though, for you sat up
all night."

"Who has been telling tales?" he asked.

"Bersak."

He laughed as be said, "And, pray, how is Bersak to be held
responsible?"

"He took me into the dining-room, and I followed him to your chair. He
stood looking at it so comically that I had to laugh. He said as plainly
as though he had spoken, 'That's where he sat all night, and I watched
him. No fear of anyone touching him with me on guard.'"

"Wonderful," laughed the Squire. "Irene, with Bersak as your instructor
and guide, you would quickly find out all my secrets."

"I did not know you had any."

"They are not very terrible, but I possess a few; I must be in the
fashion," he said.

"I have no secrets from Warren. I tell him everything."

"I wonder if he tells you everything," thought Redmond Maynard, and said
aloud, "That's right, my dear, never have any secrets from your
husband."

She poured out his coffee for him, and handed it herself. She tempted
him with a dainty portion of pigeon pie, and then insisted upon some
anchovy paste.

"I'll tell you what it is, Irene; I have not made such a good breakfast
for many a day. Your presence is appetising."

She was pleased to hear him talk in this strain, more like his old self.
Somehow, she did not miss Warren; she hardly gave him a thought. As for
Anselm Manor, she much preferred Hazelwell, as it was more like home.

At the Manor she often felt nervous and depressed when alone, peopling
the old place with the figures of clean-shaven monks in long brown
gowns, pacing up and down the corridors, Bible in hand or telling their
beads, and thinking of things earthly while engaged spiritually.

Anselm Manor, in the centuries gone by, had been a monastery, and it was
an ancestor of Warren Courtly who founded it. Harry the Eighth upset
many monkish arrangements, but, strange to say, he allowed Anselm to
exist. The much-married monarch never even visited the place on a monk
hunt, although it contained much valuable plate, and the eighth Henry
had a penchant for other people's property.

In Anselm Manor Irene had come across an old deed, or she fancied it a
deed. It looked dirty and musty, and smelt abominably enough to be such
a document, which, after much labour in deciphering, she found was a
gift in perpetuity from Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, to one
Anselm Courtly, of the monastery and all the lands belonging to it.

She thought it highly probable that the King had secured the said
Anselm's good offices, at a price, when some of his numerous matrimonial
troubles arose.

Irene thought the Manor a fine old place, but she preferred to see its
rooms filled with scarlet coats to imaginary monkish habits. It was to
get rid of morbid fancies she walked over to Hazelwell when her husband
took his departure for London. They got on well together, seldom
quarrelled, although there was very little genuine love on her side.

About six months after Ulick Maynard left Hazelwell, Warren Courtly
proposed to Irene. She declined the offer, but subsequently, acting
mainly on her guardian's advice, she accepted him, and they were married
the same year.

Redmond Maynard watched her moving about the room, and noticed how
daintily she rearranged the various ornaments and chairs.

"There," she said, "that looks much better."

"I agree with you," he replied. "You have the artistic temperament
strongly developed. By the way, have you done much painting during the
past few months?"

"Yes, I have painted several pictures, but three out of every four I
destroyed."

"They did not come up to your expectations?"

"No, and I do not care to keep inferior work. I think I have painted one
that will please you."

"What is it - the subject?"

"A new departure for me. I have painted Random; I mean to give it you if
you will accept it."

"That is good of you. I shall be delighted. Random shall have a
prominent place in my study."

Random was a bright bay horse Redmond Maynard had given Irene on her
marriage. He was a splendid hunter, either for lady or gentleman, and
before Ulick left the horse had been his favourite.

Irene had been given the pick of the Hazelwell stable, and she selected
Random because he had been Ulick's horse, and she thought, perhaps, his
father would sell him now he was gone.

Random was duly sent over to Anselm Manor, and Irene vowed she would not
part with him until Ulick came home, when she would hand him back to his
rightful owner. She had ridden the horse in many a fast burst across
country, and he carried her well. He was a safe, fearless jumper, and
Irene was a splendid rider. When she appeared at a meet on Random, Sam
Lane, the huntsman, thought, "We're in for it to-day; it will take the
best of us all our time to keep up with Mrs. Courtly on Random." His
surmise generally turned out correct, and on more than one occasion he
and Irene were the only two in at the death. Many attempts had been made
by sporting millionaires, American and otherwise, to secure Random, and
a big figure would have been given for him, but Irene laughed at their
offers, and said a shipload of gold would not buy him.

Random was sometimes the cause of dispute between Irene and her husband.
Warren Courtly was ridiculously jealous of the horse. He would have
scouted the idea that this feeling was engendered because Random had
been Ulick Maynard's favourite horse, and yet Irene knew such to be the
case. On more than one occasion he had suggested Random should be sold,
or the Squire persuaded to make an exchange for him. His excuse was that
the horse was not safe for a lady to ride, too much of a puller, and so
on. Irene remained firm, and declined to entertain any ideas suggesting
a parting with her favourite.

"You seem to care more for the horse than you do for me," he said,
angrily.

She laughed, and said he must have a very poor opinion of himself if he
thought she preferred Random.

"Mr. Maynard was kind enough to give him to me, and I mean to keep him.
Don't let us quarrel about such a trifle. You would not like it if I
asked you to give up your favourite hunter for a mere whim of mine."

"Has Warren become reconciled to Random?" asked the Squire. "I cannot
understand his antipathy to the horse. Of course, he is anxious you
should not run into danger, but Random is a very safe horse to ride - a
more perfect fencer I have seldom seen."

"Warren has his likes and dislikes, and when he makes up his mind he
seldom gives in. Random seems to have been his pet aversion ever since
you gave him to me, and I do not think even now he would be at all sorry
if he met with an accident, provided I came off scot free," laughed
Irene.

"It is ridiculous. I begin to think I urged you to marry a monument of
selfishness; I hope you will forgive me."

"You require no forgiveness. You provided me with a suitable husband and
a good home. Warren is kind to me, and I have everything my own way. He
is not a demonstrative man, but I feel sure he loves me, and he is not
responsible for his restless disposition - that is inherited."

"And do you love him, Irene?" he asked.

She momentarily hesitated, and then said -

"Yes, I love him. We seem to understand each other now, although at
first there was some restraint between us. I think we are quite as happy
as the majority of married couples."

He was only half satisfied with her answer, but did not pursue the
subject further.

"Is the painting of Random finished?" he asked.

"Yes, but not framed."

"May I send Bob over for it?"

"I will ride over myself if you will give me a mount," she said.

"The roads are very bad, will it be safe?"

"The horse can be 'roughed,' and I shall enjoy a ride in the keen
morning air, it will brace me up."

"Very well, Irene. I will order Rupert to be saddled, he is the safest
conveyance you can have in this weather."




CHAPTER IV.

IRENE'S PAINTING.


Irene mounted Rupert, and the Squire stood on the steps in front of the
hall-door admiring the picture. The horse was a dark brown, nearly
black, and stood out prominently against the snowy background. It was a
sharp, crisp morning, the atmosphere clear, with a touch of frost in the
air, and the sun shone brightly, the snow quivering in the light,
glittering like myriads of crystals.

Rupert pawed the gravel in his eagerness to be going, and the Squire
remarked, as he shook hands with Irene -

"You must come back as soon as you can. If you find the picture too
cumbersome to carry leave it and we will send Bob for it."

"I can strap it on my back, I have a case made for the purpose. I often
ride out with my sketching materials strapped on. You would take me for
a tramp if you saw me walking about in my artist's costume," said Irene,
laughing.

"A remarkably pretty tramp," said the Squire.

"Thanks, I will turn that compliment over in my mind as I ride to the
Manor; it will be pleasant company for me."

Rupert set off at a brisk trot. He was at all times a sure-footed horse,
and being roughed he had no difficulty in keeping his feet.

Irene's colour rose as the sharp breeze fanned her cheeks, and she was
thoroughly enjoying her ride.

She went past the stud farm, and came across Eli Todd, who had been
going his rounds.

Next to his runaway daughter, Janet, Eli Todd was devoted to Irene. He
had known her from a child, had taught her to ride, and was proud of her
accomplishment. He stood admiring her as she rode up.

"Good-morning, Eli; how are all your pets? I expect this weather does
not suit some of them, but, of course, you have no foals yet?" said
Irene.

"Everything is going on well," he replied; "but I am a bit anxious about
old Honeysuckle."

"She must be getting on for twenty?" said Irene.

"Not far off that, Mrs. Courtly; in fact, I feel sure she is twenty,
only it would not do to tell the Squire so, because he vows she is only
eighteen, he won't hear of her being more," replied Eli, smiling.

"There is not much difference between eighteen and twenty; but why are
you anxious about Honeysuckle, is there anything seriously amiss with
her? I am going through Helton, and can ask Bard to call."

James Bard was the well-known county vet., and he lived at the little
village of Helton, giving as his reason, "I prefer Helton; if I had my
residence in the county town, people would be always demanding my
services for all kinds of frivolous cases; it is a far way to Helton,
and when they take the trouble to come for me I know the case is worth
going to."

"No, thank you," replied Eli. "It is not necessary for Jim Bard to be
called in, and I hope it will not be."

"Then what is it?" asked Irene.

"The old mare is very heavy in foal, and I'm mightily afraid the
youngster will come into the world before the first of January, and
there's no need to tell you that would be a misfortune," replied Eli.

"If he was born on December 31st it would mean he would be a year old on
January 1st," said Irene, smiling.

"That's just it, and look what a disadvantage he would be at all his
life. I may be wrong, but I assure you I am having a very anxious time."

"Have you told Mr. Maynard?"

"No, and please say nothing about it to him. He would only worry, and be
constantly backwards and forwards between the house and the stables. You
know how fond he is of the old mare."

"Honeysuckle is one of his great favourites, and no wonder; it is a good
many years since she won the Oaks and the St. Leger for him. That is a
fine painting he has of her in his study. I am afraid my poor effort
will look very paltry beside it."

"Have you taken to painting horses?" asked Eli. He believed Irene
capable of doing almost anything she put her hand to.

"I have tried to paint Random, and I am riding over to the Manor for the
painting, as the Squire is anxious to see it."

"He'll make a grand picture; he's a fine subject to work on. There are
not many hunters like him in the county. He was Mr. Ulick's favourite,
and I was precious glad when you got him, for I was very much afraid the
Squire would have sold him."

"You were very fond of Ulick, were you not, Eli?" she asked, in a soft
tone of voice.

"To my mind there's not a man round these parts to compare with him."

"And you do not believe he ran away with Janet?"

"He never did that, I'll swear. You know he was not a man of that sort."

"Suspicion was, and still is, strong against him," she said.

"You cannot judge a man on suspicion, and in your heart you do not
believe him guilty," he said.

"How can I believe otherwise? Who else could have done it?"

"I wish I could find out," he answered, vehemently. "I will some day,
and then - - "

"What then?"

"Something will happen. When I stand face to face with the man who stole
my girl, he'll have to look to himself," said Eli, sternly.

"Do you think Janet will ever come back?" she asked.

"Yes, as sure as I believe Mr. Ulick will."


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Online LibraryNat GouldThe runaways : a new and original story → online text (page 2 of 12)