Moondyne/Koro and Tapairu
"Now," said Mr. Wyville, communing with himself, as he walked from Draper's house, and entered his cab at the end of Horton-street," the elements are moving. May good influences direct them."
At his own house, he dismissed the cab, and, entering, with unusual gravity greeted Mr. Hamerton, who was awaiting him.
"You said in your note that you had an important business communication to make to me," said Hamerton, without appearing to notice Wyville's mental disturbance.
Mr. Wyville did not answer, but paced the room to and fro slowly, sunk in deep thought, his arms crossed on his breast.
"These results may follow," he said at length, evidently thinking aloud; but there is need of an intelligence to make them inevitable. "Mr. Hamerton," he said, stopping before his friend, and fixing his eyes upon him, "I have a trust to offer you that involves a heavy responsibility. Will you undertake it, for my sake, and, in case of what may come, carry out my desire to the letter?"
"If it be in my power, I will. If it he beyond me, I will do my best to the end," answered Hamerton.
"Yes, I am sure of it. I am very grateful." Mr. Wyville took his hand, and pressed it warmly, with still the same grave look. He then went to a small but massive iron safe in the room, opened it, and from a drawer took two large sealed packets.
"Here," he said, "are two envelopes that contain all my wishes and all my power. They are mine, so long as I am alive, with freedom to control my actions. Please remember well my words. In case of my death or disappearance, or another event to impede my action for those who depend on me, these packets belong to you, to open, and read."
"Have you written full instructions therein, which I am to follow?" I asked Hamerton.
"No, I will not instruct you, because I trust you as I would my own soul. You will understand, when you have read and you will act for the best. Do you promise me this?"
"I do, most solemnly; but, Mr. Wyville, suppose I should be unable—suppose I should die before your trust were carried out—is there anyone else to whom I may transfer the duty?"
"Yes; to Sheridan."
Mr. Wyville locked the safe, and handed the key to Hamerton.
"I shall send the safe to the yacht before we sail," he said.
"Now let us inform the children."
Mr. Wyville struck a bell, and Ngarra-jil silently entered.
A word in his own language from his master sent him out as quickly. In a few minutes, Mr. Wyville and Mr. Hamerton went up stairs and entered a large and richly draped room, in which the entire furniture consisted of low and soft divans, lounges, cushions, and furs, the effect of which was very extraordinary, but very beautiful. The room seemed to have no occupant, as the gentlemen walked its length towards a deep bay window.
"We—are—here!" said a low voice, in distinctly measured syllables, as a diffident child might slowly strike three notes of an air, and then there were two laughs, as clear and joyous as the sound of silver bells, and the light sound of hand-clapping.
The gentlemen, smiling, turned to the draped recess, and there, half shaded by the curtains, peeped the dark, laughing faces of the Australian sisters, Koro and Tapairu, the grandchildren of Te-mana-roa, the King of the Vasse.
That Mr. Hamerton had become familiar to the girls was evident from their natural and unrestrained conduct.
A residence of several years in a northern climate had arrested in the sisters the immature development so common in warm countries. They had matured slowly; and while preserving all that was charming and natural of their woodland graces, the restraint of another and a gentler mode of life covered them like a delicate robe. They were so outlandish and beautiful, in their strange and beautiful room, that they might be mistaken for rare bronzes, were it not for their flashing eyes and curving lips.
As they sat in the curtained recess, greeting the gentlemen with a joyous laugh, there entered the room a very old Australian woman, followed by two young men, bearing trays with several dishes. These were set down on a low square divan. The old woman removed the covers, and with quick, short words directed the black men to place cushions around the divan.
The sisters, Koro and Tapairu, came from their seclusion, speaking in their own rapid tongue both to the old woman and to Mr. Wyville. They took each a corner of the divan, seating themselves on the cushions placed on the floor, Mr. Wyville and Hamerton taking the opposite corners.
The food, to which each helped himself, was a savory meal of boiled rice, yams, and rich stews, of which the Australians are very fond; and, following these dishes, a varied supply of delicious fruit, among which were mangoes, guavas, and the ambrosial mungyte or honey-stalk of West Australia.
The conversation during the meal was wholly in the language of the sisters, so that Mr. Hamerton remained silent. Koro and Tapairu had evidently been studying English; but they could by no means converse in the strange tongue.
As if instinctively aware that something unforeseen was about to happen, Tapairu, the younger but braver of the sisters, had asked Mr. Wyville to speak.
"You are soon to leave this cold country," he said, in their tongue, looking from sister to sister; "and return to your own beautiful Vasse."
The girls answered, as if they were a single thing of nature, by a silent and inquiring look. It was hard to read either pleasure or pain in their faces, or anything but surprise; yet a close observer would have discerned a subtending line akin to doubt or fear.
"Are you not glad?" asked Mr. Wyville, with a smile of astonishment at their silence.
"Yes," they softly answered, in one breath, after a pause, but not joyously. "Yes; we shall see the good Te-mana-roa, and we shall find the emus' nests on the mountain. We are very glad."
The old woman, who had remained in the room, chuckled audibly, and, when the others looked round at her, laughed outright in uncontrollable joy at the thought of returning to her beloved life of freedom in the forest. More rapidly than a skilled musician could evoke notes, she ran from treble to bass in voluble gratitude and benediction. Then she slid off to carry the joyous word to the other dusky members of this extraordinary household.
"You will be happy in your old home in the yacht," continued Mr. Wyville; "and this friend, my brother and yours, will take you in his care till we see Te-mana-roa, and the Vasse."
As Mr. Wyville spoke, the hidden fear became plain in Tapairu's face. She looked only at Mr. Wyville, her large deer-like eyes slowly filling with tears. Her sister, too, was distressed, but in a lesser degree; and her eyes, instead of being fixed on Mr. Wyville, passed on to Hamerton, and rested.
"You are not coming with us to the Vasse!" at length said Tapairu, in a slow, monotonous voice. "You will remain here."
"No, I, too, shall go, and even before you. But we voyage on different ships."
"Why does not your brother and ours go on the other ship, and let you come with us?"
Mr. Wyville looked troubled at the reception of his news by the sisters. As Tapairu spoke, in the last question, his face became exceedingly grave, as if he could never again smile. The sisters saw the shadow, and were troubled also. Mr. Wyville, without looking at them, spoke—
"Children, you should trust that I will do what is best; and I know the world better than you. Tapairu, I am acting wisely. Koro I am sure of your confidence at least."
Before the words had died, Koro, with swimming eyes, had risen and taken Mr. Wyville's hand, which she kissed and placed upon her head. The act was full of affection and faith.
Tapairu, on whom the reproof had fallen like a blow, sat just as before, only the light had faded from her eyes, and her bosom heaved visibly. Her sister went and sat beside her, throwing her arms round her, as to give comfort. Tapairu allowed the embrace, but did not move a muscle of face or body.
Mr. Wyville rose and walked to the window, glanced out for a moment, then, turning, looked at the sisters. He approached and laid his band with inexpressible gentleness on Tapairu's head, as he had done on Koro's. The proud but sensitive nature yielded at the touch, and with one quick look of sorrow and appeal, she buried her face in her sister's bosom, and sobbed unrestrainedly.
The old woman, who had re-entered, began an excited and guttural remonstrance against this unreasoning grief. Mr. Wyville chose this moment to depart. He knew that the brief season of cloud would soon pass, and let the sun shine again; that the reflection following petulance is often the purer for the previous error.