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The Money Moon(Chapter22)

2006-08-28 23:18

  Chapter XXII. Coming events cast their shadows before

  "I s'pose they'll be marrying each other, one of these fine days!" said Small Porges as they crossed the meadow, side by side.

  "Yes, I expect so, Shipmate," nodded Bellew, "and may they live long, and die happy, say I."

  "Aye, aye, Captain,——an' Amen!" returned Small Porges.

  Now as they went, conversing of marriage, and ships, and the wonders, and marvels of foreign lands,——they met with Adam who stared up at the sky and muttered to himself, and frowned, and shook his head.

  "Good arternoon, Mr. Belloo sir,——an' Master Georgy!"

  "Well, Adam, how are the hops?"

  "'Ops sir,——there never was such 'ops,——no, not in all Kent, sir. All I'm wishin' is that they was all safe picked, an' gathered. W'ot do you make o' them clouds, sir,——over there,——jest over the p'int o' the oast-house?"

  Bellew turned, and cast a comprehensive, sailor-like glance in the direction indicated.

  "Rain, Adam, and wind,——and plenty of it!" said he.

  "Ah! so I think, sir,——driving storm, and thrashing tempest!"

  "Well, Adam?"

  "Well, sir,——p'raps you've never seen w'ot driving rain, an' raging wind, can do among the 'op-bines, sir. All I wish is that they 'ops was all safe picked an' gathered, sir!" And Adam strode off with his eye still turned heaven-ward, and shaking his head like some great bird of ill-omen.

  So the afternoon wore away to evening, and with evening, came Anthea; but a very grave-eyed, troubled Anthea, who sat at the tea-table silent, and preoccupied,——in so much, that Small Porges openly wondered, while Miss Priscilla watched over her, wistful, and tender.

  Thus, Tea, which was wont to be the merriest meal of the day, was but the pale ghost of what it should have been, despite Small Porges' flow of conversation, (when not impeded by bread and jam), and Bellew's tactful efforts. Now while he talked light-heartedly, keeping carefully to generalities, he noticed two things,——one was that Anthea made but a pretence at eating, and the second, that though she uttered a word, now and then, yet her eyes persistently avoided his.

  Thus, he, for one, was relieved when tea was over, and, as he rose from the table, he determined, despite the unpropitious look of things, to end the suspense, one way or another, and speak to Anthea just so soon as she should be alone.

  But here again he was balked and disappointed, for when Small Porges came to bid him good-night as usual, he learned that "Auntie Anthea" had already gone to bed.

  "She says it's a head-ache," said Small Porges, "but I 'specks it's the hops, really, you know."

  "The hops, my Porges?"

  "She's worrying about them,——she's 'fraid of a storm, like Adam is. An' when she worries,——I worry. Oh Uncle Porges!——if only my prayers can bring the Money Moon——soon, you know,——very soon! If they don't bring it in a day or two,——'fraid I shall wake up, one fine morning, an' find I've worried, an' worried myself into an old man."

  "Never fear, Shipmate!" said Bellew in his most nautical manner, "'all's well that ends well,'——a-low, and aloft all's a-taunto. So just take a turn at the lee braces, and keep your weather eye lifting, for you may be sure of this,——if the storm does come,——it will bring the Money Moon with it."

  Then, having bidden Small Porges a cheery "Good-night"——Bellew went out to walk among the roses. And, as he walked, he watched the flying wrack of clouds above his head, and listened to the wind that moaned in fitful gusts. Wherefore, having learned in his many travels to read, and interpret such natural signs and omens, he shook his head, and muttered to himself——even as Adam had done before him.

  Presently he wandered back into the house, and, filling his pipe, went to hold communion with his friend——the Cavalier.

  And thus it was that having ensconced himself in the great elbow-chair, and raised his eyes to the picture, he espied a letter tucked into the frame, thereof. Looking closer, he saw that it was directed to himself. He took it down, and, after a momentary hesitation, broke the seal, and read:

  Miss Devine presents her compliments to Mr. Bellew, and regrets to say that owing to unforeseen circumstances, she begs that he will provide himself with other quarters at the expiration of the month, being the Twenty-third inst.

  Bellew read the lines slowly, twice over, then, folding the note very carefully, put it into his pocket, and stood for a long time staring at nothing in particular. At length he lifted his head, and looked up into the smiling eyes of the Cavalier, above the mantel.

  "Sir," said he, very gravely, "it would almost seem that you were in the right of it,——that yours is the best method, after all!" Then he knocked the ashes from his pipe, and went, slowly, and heavily, up-stairs to bed.

  It was a long time before he fell asleep, but he did so at last, for Insomnia is a demon who rarely finds his way into Arcadia. But, all at once, he was awake again,——broad awake, and staring into the dark, for a thousand voices seemed to be screaming in his ears, and eager hands were shaking, and plucking at window and lattice. He started up, and then he knew that the storm was upon them, at last, in all its fury,——rain, and a mighty wind,——a howling raging tempest. Yes, a great, and mighty wind was abroad,——it shrieked under the eaves, it boomed and bellowed in the chimneys, and roared away to carry destruction among the distant woods; while the rain beat hissing against the window-panes.

  Surely in all its many years the old house of Dapplemere had seldom borne the brunt of such a storm, so wild,——so fierce, and pitiless!

  And, lying there upon his bed, listening to the uproar, and tumult, Bellew must needs think of her who had once said:

  "We are placing all our hopes, this year, upon the hops!"

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