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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSunrise - Chapter 45. Southward
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Sunrise - Chapter 45. Southward Post by :codebluenj Category :Long Stories Author :William Black Date :May 2012 Read :2525

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Sunrise - Chapter 45. Southward

CHAPTER XLV. SOUTHWARD

After so much violent emotion the rapid and eager preparations for travel proved a useful distraction. There was no time to lose; and Natalie very speedily found that it was she herself who must undertake the duties of a courier, her mother being far too anxious and alarmed. Once or twice, indeed, the girl, regarding the worn, sad face, almost repented of having accepted that impulsive offer, and would have proposed to start alone. But she knew that, left in solitude, the poor distressed mother would only torture herself with imaginary fears. As for herself, she had no fear; her heart was too full to have any room for fear. And yet her hand trembled a little as she sat down to write these two messages of farewell. The first ran thus:

"My Father,--To-day, for the first time, I have heard my mother's story from herself. I have looked into her eyes; I know she speaks the truth. You will not wonder then that I leave your house--that I go with her; there must be some one to try to console her for all she has suffered, and I am her daughter. I thank you for many years of kindness, and pray God to bless you.

Natalie."

The next was easier to write.

"Dearest,--My mother and I leave England to-night. Do not ask why we go, or why I have not sent for you to come and say good-bye. We shall be away perhaps only a few days; in any case you must not go until we return. Do not forget that I must see you again."

Natalie."

She felt happier when she had written these two notes. She rose from the table and went over to her mother.

"Now, mother, tell me how much money you have," she said, with a highly practical air. "What, have I startled you, poor little mother? I believe your head is full of all kinds of strange forebodings; and yet they used to say that the Berezolyis were all of them very courageous."

"Natalushka, you do not know what danger you are rushing into," the mother said, absently.

"I again ask you, mother, a simple question: how much money have you?"

"I? I have thirty pounds or thereabout, Natalie; that is my capital, as it were; but next month my cousins will send me--"

"Never mind about next month, mother dear. You must let me rob you of all your thirty pounds; and, just to make sure, I will go and borrow ten pounds more from Madame Potecki. Madame is not so very poor; she has savings; she would give me every farthing if I asked her. And do you think, little mother, if we come back successful--do you think there will be a great difficulty about paying back the loan to Madame Potecki?"

She was quite gay, to give her mother courage; and she refused to leave her alone, a prey to these gloomy forebodings. She carried her off with her in the cab to Curzon Street, and left her in the cab while she entered the house with Anneli. Anneli cried a little when she was receiving her mistress's last instructions.

"Am I never to see you again, Fraulein?" she sobbed. "Are you never coming back to the house any more?"

"Of course you will see me again, you foolish girl, even if I do not come back here. Now you will be careful, Anneli, to have the wine a little warmed before dinner, and see that your master's slippers are in the study by the fire; and the coffee--you must make the coffee yourself, Anneli--"

"Oh yes, indeed, Fraulein, I will make the coffee," said Anneli, with a fresh flowing of tears. "But--but may not I go with you, Fraulein?--if you are not coming back here any more, why may I not go with you? I am not anxious for wages, Fraulein--I do not want any wages at all; but if you will take me with you--"

"Now, do not be foolish, Anneli. Have you not a whole house to look after? There, take these keys; you will have to show that you can be a good house-mistress, and sensible, and not childish."

At the door she shook hands with the sobbing maid, and bade her a cheerful good-bye. Then she got into the cab and drove away to Madame Potecki's lodgings. Finally, by dexterous management, she succeeded in getting her mother and herself to Charing Cross Station in time to catch the afternoon express to Dover.

It is probable that, now the first excitement of setting out was over, and the two women-folk left to themselves in the solitude of a compartment, Natalie might have begun to reflect with some tremor of the heart on the very vagueness of the task she had undertaken. But she was not permitted to do so. The necessity of driving away her mother's forebodings prevented her indulging in any of her own. She was forced to be careless, cheerful, matter-of-fact.

"Natalushka," the mother said, holding her daughter's hand, "you have been brought up in ignorance. You know only the romantic, the beautiful side of what is going on; you do not know what these men are ready to do--what has been done--to secure the success of their schemes. And for you, a girl, to interfere, it is madness, Natalushka. They will laugh at you, perhaps; perhaps it may be worse; they may resent your interference, and ask who has betrayed their secrets."

"Are they so very terrible, then?" said the girl, with a smile, "when Lord Evelyn--ah, you do not know him yet, mother; but he is as gentle as a woman--when he is their friend; and when Mr. Brand is full of admiration for what they are doing; and when Calabressa--Now, mother, is Calabressa likely to harm any one? And it was Calabressa himself who said to me, 'Little daughter, if ever you are in great trouble, go to Naples. You will find friends there.' No, mother, it is no use your trying to frighten me. No; let us talk about something sensible; for example, which way is the wind?"

"How can I tell, Natalushka?"

The girl laughed--rather a forced laugh, perhaps; she could not altogether shake off the consciousness of the peril that surrounded her lover.

"Why, mother, you are a pretty courier! You are about to cross the Channel, and you do not know which way the wind is, or whether the sea is rough, or anything. Now I will tell you; it is I who am the courier. The wind is northeast; the sea was quite smooth yesterday evening; I think we shall have a comfortable passage. And do you know why I have brought you away by this train? Don't you know that I shall get you down to Dover in time to give you something nice for dinner; then, if the sea is quite smooth, we go on board before the people come; then we cross over to Calais and go to a hotel there; then you get a good, long, sound sleep, you little mother, and the next day--that is to-morrow--about noon, I think, we go easily on to Paris. What do you think of that, now?"

"Whatever you do will be right, Natalushka; you know I have never before had a daughter to look after me."

Natalie's programme was fulfilled to the letter, and with good fortune. They dined in the hotel, had some tea, and then went down through the dark clear night to the packet. The sea was like a mill-pond; there was just sufficient motion of the water to make the reflections of the stars quiver in the dark. The two women sat together on deck; and as the steamer gradually took them away from the lights of the English coast, Natalie sung to her mother, in a low voice, some verses of an old Magyar song, which were scarcely audible amidst the rush of water and the throbbing of the paddles.

Next day the long and tedious railway journey began; and here again Natalie acted as the most indefatigable and accomplished of couriers.

"How do you manage it, Natalushka?" said the mother, as she got into the _coupe_, to this tall and handsome young lady who was standing outside, and on whom everybody seemed to wait. "You get everything you want, and without trouble."

"It is only practice, with a little patience," she said, simply, as she opened her flask of white-rose scent and handed it up to her mother.

Necessarily, it was rail all the way for these two travellers. Not for them the joyous assembling on the Mediterranean shore, where Nice lies basking in the sun like a pink surf thrown up by the waves. Not for them the packing of the great carriage, and the swinging away of the four horses with their jingling bells, and the slow climbing of the Cornice, the road twisting up the face of the gray mountains, through perpetual lemon-groves, with far below the ribbed blue sea. Not for them the leisurely trotting all day long through the luxuriant beauty of the Riviera--the sun hot on the ruddy cliffs of granite, and on the terraces of figs and vines and spreading palms; nor the rattling through the narrow streets of the old walled towns, with the scarlet-capped men and swarthy-visaged women shrinking into the door-ways as the horses clatter by; nor the quiet evenings in the hotel garden, with the moon rising over the murmuring sea, and the air sweet with the perfumes of the south. No. They climbed a mountain, it is true, but it was behind an engine; they beheld the Mont Cenis snows, but it was from the window of a railway-carriage. Then they passed through the black, resounding tunnel, with, after a time, its sudden glares of light; finally the world seemed to open around them; they looked down upon Italy.

"Many a one has died for you, and been glad," said the girl, almost to herself, as she gazed abroad on the great valleys, with here and there a peak crowned with a castle or a convent, with the vine-terraced hills showing now and again a few white dots of houses, and beyond and above all these the far blue mountains, with their sharp line of snow.

Then they descended, and passed through the luxuriant yellow plains--the sunset blazing on the rows of willows and on the square farm-houses with their gaudy picture over the arched gateway; while always in the background rose the dark masses of the mountains, solemn and distant, beyond the golden glow of the fields. They reached Turin at dusk, both of them very tired.

So far scarcely anything had been said about the object of their journey, though they could have talked in safety even in railway-carriages, as they spoke to each other in Magyar. But Natalie refused to listen to any dissuading counsel; when her mother began, she would say, "Dear little mother, will you have some white rose for your forehead and your fingers?"

From Turin they had to start again early in the morning. They had by this time grown quite accustomed to the plod, plodding of the train; it seemed almost one of the normal and necessary conditions of life. They went down by Genoa, Spezia, Pisa, Sienna, and Rome, making the shortest possible pauses.

One night the windows of a sitting-room in a hotel at the western end of Naples were opened, and a young girl stepped out on to the high balcony, a light shawl thrown over her head and shoulders. It was a beautiful night; the air sweet and still; the moonlight shining over the scarcely stirring waters of the bay. Before her rose the vast bulk of the Castello dell' Ovo, a huge mass of black shadow against the silvery sea and the lambent sky: then far away throbbed the dull orange lights of the city; and beyond these, again, Vesuvius towered into the clear darkness, with a line of sharp, intense crimson marking its summit. Through the perfect silence she could hear the sound of the oars of a boat, itself unseen; and over the whispering waters came some faint and distant refrain, "_Addio! addio!_" At length even these sounds ceased, and she was alone in the still, murmuring beautiful night.

She looked across to the great city. Who were her unknown friends there? What mighty power was she about to invoke on the morrow? There was no need for her to consult the card that Calabressa had given her; again and again, in the night-time, when her mother lay asleep, she had studied it, and wondered whether it would prove the talisman the giver had called it. She looked at this great city beside the sea, and only knew that it was beautiful in the moonlight; she had no fear of anything that it contained. And then she thought of another city, far away in the colder north, and she wondered if a certain window were open there, overlooking the river and the gas-lamp and the bridges, and whether there was one there thinking of her. Could not the night-wind carry the speech and desire of her heart?--"Good-night, good-night.... Love knows no fear.... Not yet is our life forever broken for us."

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