|Newspaper Title||Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951)|
|Trove Title||Two Christmas Eves; or, The Story of a Lost Pocket-Book|
Ten o'clock chimed as Nora folded up her
complete work, and prepared to bring it botne. i It was coarse work, badly paid for, but it meant life to her and her children. Work as hard as she might, from grey dawn till often times late into the night, she could not earn more than two shillings a day. All through this Christmas week she had stinted and saved, denying herself even a cup of tea that she might give her children a treat on Christmas Day. To-night she had ten shillings to draw, and her poor tired heart felt almost glad. She bundled up her work, put on her bonnet and threadbare waterproof cloak, but before she turned dowu the lamp she went softly over to the corner where her three beautiful boys slumbered as peacefully 011 their hard straw paliasse as do the children of the rich in their snowy-down covered cots, and, kneel ing down, gazed long and tearfully at the sweet unconscious faces. " Oh, it is shameful -shameful!" at length she exclaimed pas sionately. " Much as I love jou, my pre cious ones, I would rather gaze on your dear dead faces, and know that you were safe in heaven than see you growing up in poverty and ignorance-you whose lives have been so different! Oh, Dick-Dick, can God ever forgive gucb as you, whose talents are wasted, all swallowed up by the degrading vice of drink. But not to-night-not to-night must X think hardly of you, my husband. Dear Lord, of whose infinite, boundless love to morrow's festival assures us, lead him back to the right path !" Pressing a kiss on each little face she rose from her knees, and, taking up her work, went out locking the door be
" Going out, m'am," remarked Mrs. Reilly, lier landiadv, as Kora passed her at the street door, where that lady was airing herself, and wishing innumerable happy Christmases to her neighbours as they passed. " Yes, Mrs. Jteillv ; I shan't be very long, Fm bringing home some work, and I think I shall go as far as Moore-street for a few things for to
" Aixin' yer pardon, m'am, an' don't think as liow I'm takin' a liberty, but I made bould to get a bit of cake baked for the childer. !Lord, love 'em-betther liltle craythurs, Mrs. Macarthy, m'am, never supped sorrow." This to a neighbour who now came up wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, and smell ing strongly of peppermint. Ton are very kind," said Nora, " I'm sure the children will be pleased."
" Which she's a real lady," remarked Mrs. Beilly to her friend, as Xo<a proceeded on her way, " though she do work for her livin'. Seeps herself to herself-never makes nor meddles with nobody; an' pays her rint as reg'lar as reg'Ur, two sliillvn's a week . If she's a day after her tinie, in 6he*il come, and she'll sby,' Will it iU-eonvsinenee you, Mrs. Beilly, if I don't pay you till sich-an'-sich a day ?' Why didn't I offer to thrate her ? Lor help your sins, me poor woman, I'd as lief offer to thriite the Cardinr.l. so I would. Come you.'if] the corner. ?.Frs. McCarthy, m'am, an' te>e a Insle ov' something, I've a wather brash an'ft. gr::te weakness at me heart."
Nora delivered li -r bulky bundle of work, and instead of the len shillings due Vo her, received fifteen. "A little Christmas-box, just to help you over (his week," her em ployer good-naturedly told her. She left the shop radiant.; and prO'-eeHed along D'Olier etreet mentally laving out her money.
" I can get three stone of coal," she thought, " that will be sixprnce, and two nice fresh buns each for the darlings-one to eat,
and the other to 1 >ok at while (hey 3re eating. ' How pleased they will be to see a nice fi<e
burning when they open their eyes. I shan't ! go to bed at all. I shall buy two yards of flannel to make Willie a shirt, poor lamb, this
frosty weather is trying to him. Coals, buns, ! flannels, two and sixpence. I shall still have twelve and sixpence. To-morrow will be Saturday, then Sunday conies, and Monday will be a holidav, nobody will be buring meat. Yef, I'm sure I'll get a shin of beef for three
pence a pound to-nighi ; six pounds will be 1 only" Her calculations came to an , untimely end as she stooped to pick np a pocket-book, vvicli had fallen at her feet. Two gentlemen had come out of Burton Bindon's immediately in front of her-one of them must have dropped it. It was a plethoric, evidently a well to do pocket-book, and for a moment a temhle temptation assailed her. Good food, worm clothes, a comfortable lodging, for her children, all this the contents of that pocket-book would bring her. Hie blood surged to her heart, leaving her faint and sick. " Iiead us not into temptation," she breathed, and in another instant she was hurrying after the two retreating figures. She overtook them at the corner of the ?street, and breathlessly laid her hand on the arm of the gentlemau who had beeu nearest
" No, sweetheart, you've made a mistake," be said, "I'm a family man, but-Why what the deuce is the matter ?" Even in this un certain light of lamps and stars, lie could see the look of surprised, indignant scorn on the pale young face, the angry flash of the dark
" You liave made a mistake, sir," she said, in c<>ld, measured tones. '* I think you have lo«t something, and I hurried alter you to restore it; that is all. I did not expect to be
He put his hand hastily to his breast pocket.
*' Aly God, I've lost my pocket-book !" he ex claimed. There WHS no mistaking the genuineness of hi« alaim, nor the equally ex pressive interjection of his friend.
" I see that I am right," Tfora said. " Here is your pocket-book, sir. I am glad to restore it to you ; and-pardon me, let this be a warning to you. not in future to insult a. gentlewoman, te.-ause she happen to be | oor, find obliged to walk iu the streets night ?without protection-t>ool night." She turned awav, lea vi 112 him absolutely speech less. He, Hubert OsWiie, ur.tU r and states man, though he was-found himself, he afterwards confessed to his wife, nowhere before the ju^fc indigent ion of a woman. Here his friend came 'o the rescue. '-Madam," be said detaining her. " this is a mat to of business. Mv friend Mr. Osborne, sold some prouerty to-day in the County Mayo, previous to his takinga pluci' in Dublin. H-' w^s too late to bunk his money, and foolishly .parried such a sum about with him ; be lo-<!.. fW fuuud, fiud restored. You have
acknowledged yoarself poor; you must accept j some thank offering. Were you the richest j
lady in Ireland, yoa would not refuse same |
acknowledgment of my friend's gratitude in j
the shape of a bracelet or eoiue gim-cracfc, that ladies set store by. I, Mr. Osborne's solicitor, Torn Cease, at year service, apologize in bis name. The fact is we had been dining, and the oysters I suppose got into his head. Will vou kindly give me your address, and X will do myself*the honor of calling on you in a day
> "No" interrupted Hubert Osborne de
cisively. "This matter must be settled at once. Forgive my impertinence," he en treated, turning to Nora. "Believe me, I never willingly insulted a female in my life ; 1 but, »b Mr. Dease eaye, we had been dining, 1 and 1 fotgotcnyaeif. We are stopping at ! the Gresham, vay wife and I. I* it asking j too much if I beg of you to come there ? My wife trill eay what I mean better than I can."
"I will go," Nora said, for my darlings' sake was her thought. " I dare not throw such a chance away."
Arrived atthe Greshatn, they weresho wn into adrawingroom, wherecurled up on a sofa, drawn close to the fireplace, was a lady. At the open ing of the door she rose on her elbow, and gazed sleepily at the intruders.
" Is it you, Hugh ?" she asked. " I thought you were never coming. What on earth has kept you so iong 9"
" You seem to have been enduring my absence in an uncommonly comfortable man ner, little woman," he answered ; " but come, waken up ; I've brought a lady to see us who has done mo an incalculable service. Get up and welcome her."
Thus admonished, Dolly-as her husband called her-arose and came forward, but stop ped short and rubbed her eyes.
"Am I still dreaming?" she asked. "Nora! surelv you are Nora Fielding; P *
" Mary ! dear, dear Mary!" cried Nora, and in another instant she was sobbing on Dolly's breiist, Dolly crying for company.
Hubert and Tom Dease looked on, comical I astonishment depicted on their faces, j
When calm was restored explanations fol- j lowed. . j
Nova and Dolly had been fast friends in childhood. Together they rambled through »he meadows, gathering daises for chains together had received their first eomnjuniGn together wandered through the dreamland of first love. Nora had been one of Dolly's numerous bridesmaids, but that via1 ten ytars before, and in the middle aged, bearded man she did not recognise the handsome young lover of Dolly's youth.
Shortlv after Dolly's marriage bet* busband had been returned the successful Liberal candidate for Mayo county, and they had principally resided in England. Hugh Osborne was an acknowledged light, in the House. Bn oratory lit »p dark corner®, and dragged buried grievances into the clear lightof day. Indeed, he was acknow ledged to be a benefactor to his country. Jfora sometimes heard of him through the jjewspopers, but for three years the quondam friends had quite lost sight of each other. " Hark! eleven o'clock," cried Nora presently when wonder and Questions had alike ex hausted themselves. " I must hurry back ; my three children are quite alone-locked up in a little room ; think of that, Dolly."
Dolly's lip quivered, and her blue eyes overflowed afresh. " Your troubles are nearly over my darling. I hope and believe your husband will get well, and get good. We will all lav siege to the hospital to-morrow, and carry him off. Now come and eee my babv." When baby had been quite sufficient ly admired, good nights were said, and when Nora entered the oab. which was in waiting, she could hardly find room to sit down. Parrels, large and small, surrounded her.
" Good night, Nora, I know I may call you Nora," Hubert said, pressing something into her hand at parting. " That's tor the hoy's ;
a little Christmas present, and don't do any , shopping to night. I think you'll find all that the youngsters require in the hamper on the top."
A cab laden with luggage was not an ordinary sight at Mrs. Rielly's door, but wi.eii Nora emerged from it and proceeded to gather round her belongings, Mrs. Rielly, whose repeated journeys "round the corner" had rendered maudlin, shed copious tears.
" Which I knowed as how you'd fall on yer feet, m'am," she declared ; " you was too good a payin' of yer rent to rowl in the gutter. I'll
carry "em up, m'am," which, with Nora's j assistance, she managed to do, the while j breathing very hard, and clutching convulsively i
at the bannisters.
Nora vouchsafed no explanation. " Bring me up four stone of coal, Mrs. Reilly," she said, "I shall light a fire now." When that lady had departed on her errand Nora threw herself beside her still sleeping children, and t'ie prayers that went up from her grateful heart must surely have been accepted.
Mrs. Reilly returned with the coal, and, burning with curiosity, insisted on lighting the fire herself. It took a long time to accomplish. Never was such an ill conditioned fire, but at last it blazed ?joyously, and she had no excuse to remain longer.
Tjpft to herself Nora opened the envelope which Hubert had put into her hand at part ing. It contained ten fen pound notes.
The hampers were stuffed with good things. 'Even a suow-white table-cloth had not bepn forgotten. Nora looked out ihree stockings, and proceeded to fill them and hang them on tlie chimney-piece. Tired out, but. hopeful and happv, she then lay down beside her boys. As she laid her head on the hard,comfortless bolster the jov-bells burst forth, and to their music she fell asleep. When next, she opened her eyes-Harry, Willie, and Dick, were busily
engaged emptying the stockings. " Good > Santa Claus, " little Dick was saying, " he's brought me a apple and a orange, and-Oh, look, boys-a box full of-just fast 'em aren't 'em nice. Dat's cos I was good yester day, an didn't torment mamma, when she wor busy. " Nora lay listening to their inno cent prattle, more pleased than they at their pleasure. Then, when they saw Jhat mother
was awake, they all ran to her. to show her j the good things Santa Claus had brought.. I
It was a happy breakfast. The children enjoying without stint the delicious ham and e.ges-the tea and toast to which they had
long been strangers.
At the visiting hour Richard's longing was rewarded-his wife and children came to see him, and, when they parted, only for a few days, till Nora would obtain nice lodging", peace and joy filled each heart. Nora fe't
assured that her husband's promises might now be relied on, and that the future years might hold within t.beir keeping the realization of all her girlhood's dreams.
A decade has rolled into t.h* great ocean of the past, since that fro-ty Christmas Eve when we first met Nora Fielding.
She has developed from i delicate-looking
young woman into a com el v matron.
" Four decades o'er his life had passed, and
l»ct her lovelv still."
Looking at her, as she site in the ruddy glow of tb© yule log fire, waiting for the return of bushnnd and son. She is in gala costume and well does the black velvet and
filmv lace become her sweet, grave beauty. Presently there is a trundling of gravel, and a vigorous pull at the hall door bell. She starts from her leverie as Harry, now a tall, handsome youth, hursts into the room, fol lowed by hi« father. ** Are we verv lnt-e, mother dear?" he cries, kissing her. " Whv you are dressed. I shan't be two minutes," and he d»rts out of tb«> room. This evening
they all diue at. Jfr. Osborne's, as they have j
done on every Christmas Eve since that ? memorable one len years nfo. I
Dolly is as pretty and lovelv as ever, and ! hpp yet wluui is tp see licr fifteen-year-old
girl and handsome Harry Fielding flirting ?with each other, as become their age.
Sichard Fielding has kept the promise made on his boepitsl bed. He has won the noblest Tictory a man can win - the victory over himself. Verily, " He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ralsth his spirit than he that taketh a city."