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IOUR SHORT STOlW. , ■■iniji


I OUR SHORT STOlW. ■■i niji ELIJAH HOUST,j ODDITY. A TRAGIC TALE. When old Houst, of the Thistle Farm. disd after a short illness, Riliham folk began to con- jecture violently about the consequences to Mary atone. There were just the two of them left in the old homestead on the hill slope, with the dreary tuft of live wind-bent firs on the summit above: Elijah Houst, the twenty-seven-year-old son of old Houst, and Mary Stone, aged nineteen. Of course, something would have to happen. All Riliham agreed on that point. But as to the nature of this something opinion differed greatly. Elijah was an odd young man. Never drank a drop of beer, or so much as read a paper, except the market page, which was torn off and given to him by Lobos, the innkeeper, more for the weekly joke's sake than anything else. He was a Heavenly Brother, too-that is, he had taken up these four years with the new religious sect of Cranstead, which had expected a second coming every Christ- mas Day since it had been a sect, bat gave plausible reasons for its annual disappointment. A young man of vast physical:strength, few words, and'no ordinary Rillham weaknesses. Old Houst had not time to say much before he died. It was the first and last illness of, xiis life, and the surprise of it carried him off. So the doctor seemed to infer. "Never knew such a case," the doctor said. There's Richard Basken with one foot in the grave these ten years. He'd have dragged through a worse extra than this of Houst's and Houst himsilf, with the machinery of a colossus, crumples up like a sfceet of tissue paper in a fire! Dr. Farwell, like the rest of the parish, wondered about Mary Stone; mentioned it to his wife, in- deed who sympathised, but drew a line when her husband suggested that Mary would make a capital cook for them. I like the girl, James," she said, but I don't think it would work. She's too independent, ancl-" And too pretty!" laughed the doctor. Quite right. My subconsciousness says the same thing. But I'm sure I don't know what's to become of her, with a dumb fanatic like Elijah Houst: How- ever, it's none of my affair. I've enough to do physicking the parisfe, without bothering about folk's happiness." Riliham shared the doctor's views. But the very week after his father's death Elijah Houst spoke out. No word of commonplace love passed from Elijah Houst's lips before the wedding, which took place in due time, a little to the amusement of Riliham, but on the whole to its satisfaction. No one had any doubt about Mary's good qualities, and it was argued that now there would be some chance of Elijah Houst getting moulded into the conventional ideal of a Rillham man. If Mary could not do that for him, he was lost in- deed. Mary seemed happy. She was generally to be found singing about the old farmhouse when Elijah was out among the barley and the cattle and when Elijah was with her, her tenderness and love for him were as plain to see as the preposter- ous shadows on her husband's otherwise handsome face. Some ventured cautiously to compassionate her about the dulness of her life, with such a mysterious booby for a companion. But they did not do it a second time. For Mary was spirited as we!! as winsome, and though few things could make her angry, this was one of them. A year passed, and once again the Heavenly Brotherhood had put off the Millennium, with characteristic resignation to the celestial will. But Elijah was not among these resigned members. His gloom grew after this last disappointment. Mary did all she could to assuage his discontent, which seemed so unaccountable to her. She opened her heart to no one on the subject except the doctor, who felt like laughing outright, but restrained himself for the sake of the girl and the blithe little baby which was now an added joy to her. Give him time, my dear," he said, and he'll grow out of such foolishness." And though Mary never called it foolishness to Elijah, she agreed with Dr. Farwell that it was absurd to long for the end of the world that should put a summary end to the life of this new little Elijah who had but just begun. Matters were thus at Thistle Farm (a name of contumely in the past) when a stalwart stranger came to liillham and bought a small residential property contiguous to the farm. It was an estate of some ten acres only, but with a new villa residence facing the south. Rillham was famous for ita fine air. This stalwart stranger, who called himself Mr. Hacon Swayne, gave out that he had come to Rillham for his health. He had been a good deal abroad, and had damaged his constitu- tion. Even before Mary Houst had seen him, the good doctor volunteered a word about Mr. Swayne. I've no right to air my notions, myfdear," he said to her in his fatherly way, "but mind this new comer. I don't like him. He's a lin,r, for one thing; and I think he's an adventurer for some at present unknown purpose of his own. You're too pretty to have a neighbour of that kind, and— don't say I haven't warned you, my dear!" Mary smiled him to scorn, of course but that very afternoon Elijah brought Mr. Swayne to the old farm, and asked her to give him a cup of tea. That was how the acquaintanceship began- casually enough, to all appearances. < Mr. Swayne was tall, broad, and brown, with a large precise moustache, and an extremely resolute pair of eyes which he could do much with. Some five years Elijah's senior, no more. This first visit to Thistle Farm was about stock. He wanted a milking cow, poultry, &e. Would Elijah give him the great benefit of his experience in helping him to his requirements ? Elijah consented willingly enough. The two men discussed their business, and Mary gave Mr. Swayne his tea. He admired the baby, was very civil, and hoped they would see more of each other in the future. They did see more. Instinctively Mary didiked Mr. Swayne, but she had no handle of complaint against him. He was always courteous, and never what Rillham termed free. His visits to the farm were business calls. His own time was devoted to hunting, shooting, and what he called his chemical hobby. He had fitted up a laboratory in his house, and raised the most 'orrible smells you ever heard tell of." Such was one of the servants' report of them. He even managed to interest Elijah Houst in his experiments, which he sttid had special value for an agriculturist. Elijah, tvho never gave his social 11 hours to the village, seemed fascinated by Mr. Swayne's theories, or whatever they were. A month passed, and Mary marked a change in her husband. He had tired fits, sickness, and was mysteriously thinning. Though he would not ac- knowledge it, Mary was in no doubt. She coaxed Dr. Farwell to come and look at him surreptitiously, and the doctor, too, perceived it. He tried to get Elijah to answer questions about his health, but that was wasted energy. I'm as well as a man has the right to be on this doomed planet, sir," he said. I've never took physic, and I never will contradio' the heavenly will by doin' it, happen what may." After this, Dr. Farwell was more interested in the Thistle Farm household than ever. He had the baby as a pretext for daily visits. But to all his inquiries Mary had the same kind of reply-" He's worse!" or He's wasting before my eyes, doctor!" For a fortnight he was bewildered, Then all at once he put his finger on the mystery, plump. Mary had told him about her husband's extra- ordinary thirst of late. He's always at the water jug. And it's the same when he's with Mr. Swayne in his workshop. He says Mr. Swayne says he never met such a chap for drinking—innocent water drinking!" The doctor's eyes flashed, and that afternoon he drove to the red villa of Rillham's latest inhabitant, and asked to see Mr. Swayne. He's not at home, doctor!" said the girl hesita- tingly. "You mean he's not at home to me. my dear P" said the doctor eagerly. "Please, sir--—" I But Dr. Farweil pushed her gently aside, and 'I walked straight into the house, with righteous pride and indignation on his honest face. He found Mr. Swayne smoking a pensive cigar in his dining-room. I The duel between them was short, sharp, and indecisive. An unexpressed antipathy WAS already between them. It ripened all at once to strong enmity. "I've taken the liberty of intruding to ask you what you arc doing to my friend Elijah Houst, Mr. Swayne," said the doctor, pointblanfe, having shut the door behind him. I:J Mr. Swayne's stare of surprise gave place to a look which the doctor will never forget. "Are you out of your senses, sir?" asked Mr. Swayne, with a gasp. I trust not. Indeed, I'm sure not. But-I, too, am a student of chemistry, Mr. Swayr.a, and-" The visit then ended. Mr. Swayne rushed upon the doctor, and, in spite of the other's protests, hustled him out &f the house by main force. Stand- ing on his doorstep, with the doctor rearranging his coat below, he delivered himself of his final charge. The next time you dare to favour me with your insults, I'll break your neck for you, Dr. Far- well Thank you," said the doctor, and the door was banged upon him. He meant to have returned to Thistle Farm, and talked with all the seriousness imaginable to Elijah Houst there and then, but he had a critical case three miles out, and he didn't suppose an hour or two would matter. But, in fact, that hour or two mattered very much. Oh, doctor, thank God you've come!" said Mary, when at five o'clock he turned up. He's so much worse Elijah Houst was sitting, pallid and almost breathless, with staring eyes. He tried to make light of his condition, but soon gave it up. And now the doctor was sure of things. He ascertained that Elijah had again been in Mr. Swayne's labora- tory, with his usual thirst, and had quenched it in the usual way. "Put him to bed," he said, and I'll be back within an hour." That hour sufficed to get a warrant for Mr. Swayne's arrest. The doctor gave it to the con- stable to execute, and sped to the farm with a stomach pump. it Riliham had its fill of excitement that evening. Towards six o'clock Mr. Swayne's housemaid rushed into the village with flying hair. Mr. Lobbs, of the inn, was the first living soul she saw, and she went at him at his door as if he were a magnet. Oh, Mr. Lobb," she cried. there's murder up at the house. He's shot Mr. Evans, the p'liceman, and Mr. Evans has shot him! the house is swimmin' in blood, and Hannah's out of her senses, and the dogs are all barkin' and-" Whereupon Mr. Lobbs bade her give her tongue a rest, and come in and sit down. Then the story was reeled forth all over again, more intelligibly; and shortly afterwards Mr. Lobb himself, Sir Grey stone Champton, the magistrate who bad signed the warrant for Mr. Swayne's arrest, and two others went in a body to the red villa, and found that matters were pretty much as the girl had said. Mr. Swayne was dead. Evans was not, how- ever, and he was able to splutter forth his joy that he had managed to wrest the revolver from Mr. Swayne's hand and retaliate in time, even after he had been hit. This was Rillham's sensation of the evening. That other mystery of Elijah's poisoning was by Mary's earnest pleading kept a secret. The doctor was satisfied about the poisoning. He said it was antimony, which told Mary nothing and Elijah rather less. Elijah, indeed, was insistent in his weakness about one thing only—that a leading member of the Heavenly Brotherhood should oome to see him, and, to oblige him, Mary wrote to Mr. Patrick Semple, of Cranstead, who arrived the next day a well-fed, shiny-faced man, with -a curious jargon of speech and a steady smile. And now tremendous news was sprung upon Mary. Among Mr. Swayne's effects was found a will, dated three years back, in which Isaiah Stone left all his lands, shares, and mines in South Strath, Western Australia, to his daughter Mary. The will was witnessed by Mr. Swayne himself, who signed as a solicitor of South Strath. There were other documents indicating that Mary's father had died within the last six months, and that he was worth several hundred thousand pounds indicat- ing also that he had lived a rough life since leaving England, and had thought it best not to trouble his daughter with any report about him until he was no more. The facts themselves were speedily confirmed by telegraphic communication with an Adelaide bank also mentioned in these precious documents. Elijah, slowly improving now, was staggered by this weight of blessing's. He was more staggered still by Mr. Patrick Semple's profound interest in them. Mr. Semple began early to urge him to use his influence with Mary to procure thousands of pounds by-and-by for the building of a Heavenly Brotherhood Temple. Elijah promised nothing, but thought a great deal. 1(- ? There was still something to be explained, and it took Dr. Farwell all his time to get at a solution of the poisoning of Mary's husband. He made it out that Mr. Swayne meant, first of all, to kill Elijah Houst, and then, as artfully as such an accomplished rascal could, woo Elijah's widow and wed her; or if not wed, try to bargain with her about her father's estate. But, of course, this was pure guess-work, though plausible. The one clear and crowning comfort to Mary in this gush of gold was the result it had upon Elijah. It gave him a new brain. Mr. Semple was sent back to Cranstead with scant cere- mony, and Elijah became a commonplace church- goer. And, as a commonplace Christian, Elijah was not above letting his deep love for his wife declare itself thenceforward in commonplace ways. A FAMOUS STREET.—At first sight it seems j somewhat strange that a Cabinet Minister, without a Department, should be given an official residence but if an American—expecting a commanding house for the First Lord of the Treasury—should wander up that famous cul de sac, Downing-street, and pausing near the archway leading to the { Foreign Office quadrangle, should glance up at the insignificant villa-like residence opposite, he might pardonably think that the point did not matter. Mr. Balfour has an official residence at No. 10; the Chancellor of the Exchequer has his next door. To be generous, both command respect on account of their old associations, a quality which English- | men are supposed to honour. No. 10 was given by George II. to Sir Robert Walpole, First Lord of the Treasury of that period, and henceforward his successors in the office have dwelt therein. Until recent years the Cabinet Councils were invariably held in the principal room of this somewhat ram- j shackle house (says the "Penny Magazine"). But j. there is nothing very inspiring in the Cabinet room, if we except an old gilt State chair or throne j. placed at the head of the table-a chair in which Lord North, Pitt, Grey, Palmerston, Beaconsfield, j and Gladstone have all presided over the delibera- tions which have shaped the national legislation, and have determined questions of peace and war. At the same time, it is a handsome, well-lighted j apartment, separated from the smaller rooms by folding doors; the walls are lined with bookshelves < containing State papers, and the long table in the centre is covered with unpretentious green cloth, How many rising statesmen have not had the ab- | sorbing ambition to sit at it ? The other rooms at No. 10, over which Miss Balfour, the sister of the House of Commons Leader, is the present mistress, are quaint and comfortable; from the } front windows a distinctly limited view is obtained } of the somewhat sombre Foreign Office architec- j ture, but from the back windows a charming vista is secured over St. James's Park. The Chancellor's ( abode next door is comparatively similar in design but it lacks most of those historic associations which give its neighbour the impress of imperish- able fame. Their occupants adopt very similar | actions in reaching the House of Commons-they usually cover the distance on foot, passing through g the quadrangle of the Foreign Offlce, down Charles- street, and so into New Palace Yard; thence to [ their private rooms.