Chapter 135871720

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1886-12-25
Page Number2
Word Count2170
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllawarra Mercury (Wollongong, NSW : 1856 - 1950)
Trove TitleA Christmas Story
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(By Curmudgeon.)


Tho wonkost point in my existence lias always been tho ladies! I was not well out. of tho throoB of the measlos until I was into tho meshop of lovo. With mo, alas 1 tho transit from tho ago of lollies to that of ladies was Bhort indeed. My frionds used to nourish tho fond hopo that I would per haps ono day mnko a great lawyer, but before I

was sixteen I had moro engagement') in lovo than I foar I ever possibly could in law. It would bo a difficult tusk for mo to count now tho numbor of times I havo been ' dosporatoly and hopolossiy in lovo.' Suffice to say that tho objects of my affection, physically speaking, ranged through fat and loan, tall and small, blonde, brunette, coquot, flirt and toaser. My affection for ono woman would not bo a day old until I would accidentally moot some little augol who was sure to bo tho ' prettiest, girl ovor I laid my oyos on.' Of course, I don't mean to say that my affoction was reciprocated ; far from it. In most eases thoy were in total ignoranco of my existence ; that made my affection all tho harder to boar. I cherished my secret love in tho hopo that one day tho fair one would become atvi ire of my constancy (for a few days), and siuilo upon my hopea. Fnto smiled upon them at last. We had a lot of young girls in our choir, and ono Sunday a dull day and a dull preacher. I felt so unutterably sad that I unconsciously hoaved a sigh as heavy as could be lifted by our steam winch. Prettj little Millio A ? was sitting right in front, and turned round with such a sympathetic look in her faco that I was a gone .man on tho spot.. Millie was strikingly handsoriio'j but, strange to say, tho fact novor struck ino beforo. If the

proaener only Knew how tervontly L prayed the next minuto that ho might bo afllictod with a sudden fit of lockjaw, or a thundering colic that would cut his ' pitch' short, I fear ho would not givo 5 to 4 on my chances of salvation. How I longed to spoak to Millio alone, and toll her how I loved her since the first day I saw her, and how I never loved, nor ovor would lovo, any one else but, her own dour self. Preaching, like Purgatory, must come to an end somotime, and at last I was alono with Millio. Wu want for a long walk to a secluded spot, and there I poured into her ear, in burning, passionate words, all I intendedtto toll hor and a groat deal moro which I now forget. Noxt week, with hor pa's consent, wo wore engaged. CHAPTER II. : A MARINE MONSTER. Another great stumbling-block in tho way of my getting on has been my extremo awkwardness or shyness. I might often havo made a good improssion, but my blundering stupidity always made a. fool of me. When I would meet Millio in the street my heart would seepi to stop, and I would be all confusion, and I used to make the moat awful mistakes, calling her Ettie. and Polly, and Petie, in fact I used to go over the whole calender of names of my former ' flames.' In earlier years this timidity caused great anxiety in my family ; my father, good man, judging as a man of the world would do, that I was born for tho church, maintained that a parson who can fill hisstomach withCougou at5 p.m., stroke alap dog, pitch to the old spinsters about cruelty to animals, and other highly interesting feminine accomplish ments, can rake in more filthy lucre than three disciples of Dr. Barry's robust Christianity. He used lo maintaiu that no man was a succoas in the Church but a fool, and of courso that was highly complimentary to me. Tho different estimates in which my ability was hold landed me whoro I ami without either a grey wig or a white choker. I only mention all this irrelevant matter in order that I may be the better understood. Christmas came round, and Millie and '! were to spend the festive season in Illawarra ; Ehe had an aunt, a widow, living with another sister, an old maid, irf a pleasantly 'situated spot- somo miles from Wollongong. I did not want to visit tho country at all, but she would havo it, and of course I dared not object. How perverse women are 1 It's all sunshine and honey when yon are courting and in doubt as to your fixity of tonure. When you are engaged there are entreaties that you will do so and so, which, with a few tears, settles it. When you aro married there is no settling at all

about it. It's all settled for ' you, and if you object, why, married men know the consequences. I suggestod wo should go overland, if wo went at all, and this was qnito enough to settle the fact that we should go by sea ; but I did not know as much then as I do now. Of n'l the terrors I ever ondured, sea-sicknecs is the worst. The thought of going to sea always makes mo long to be out of the way ou the arid plains of E«ypc. It's all very well for thoso who like it, but it don't agree with mo. Millie's father was a Custom House officer, having something to do with the sea, and Millie herself had a kind of taste that way ; she therefore insisted on my purchasing a light serge suit to travel in, with a slmrt j.icket, all of which details I religiously attendud t'. A cousin of Millie's, and son of our h-'S,'K-i to lie, who had just returned from a trip t' tli-- old country, was to accompany us, and he had tin- same style of suit. I can assure my rosd rs ihtt it was with many misgivings and a very heavy heart I started on that oventful journey. Beforo we reached Lime-street, the motion of the cab and the thought of breakers a-head mado me feel quite dizzy and squeamish. Millie saw my anxiety, and teased me the more by asking .Tack (hor cousin) ' Wore we going to havo some rough weather V' and expressing a hope that we would have ' a regular southerly buster, with some chopping seas or long swolls,' every word of which was equal to a forty-horse ematic from Dr. Lee. How we got on board I scarcely remember, only I know I made several fellow-passengers curse by tumbling ovor them iu my attempts to secure our luggage. Safely on board, I tried hard to keep up. Wo were gliding swiftly down Sydney harbor. Millie was very agreeable to Jack ; to me she was almost freezing. I tried to bravo it out, but it was no use ; I soon collapsed. I tried to get into a lonely place, but the ship was so crowded I got nowhere, and at last fell down and fed the fisho3 through the scupper. While I was lying there, I could hear Jack's leering remarks —

' Never knew until yesterday, Millie, that you were engaged.' ' Oh, yes ; I have been engaged now over three months.' ' Well I hope you will be happy, but 'pon my word, I was so surprised.' ' Why so 1 ' ' Well, you see, you and I — some whisper ing followed that I didn't hear. ' Oh, but Jack, you do him an injustice, he may be a little bit foolish, aud sea-sick likely, but he is really a dear, loving, duck of a fellow ; so obedient; he anticipates all my wants. E wonder now is there any fear of a shark chopping oil' any of him through that hole 1' A hearty laugh was the only reply, and some what refreshed and thoroughly drenched by the flow of water, I tried to arise, and at last suc ceeded. It was then daylight, and wo wore just opposite Bulli. Millie had been afraid all night to go to tho saloon, but had just cone a minute boforo. Jack was sitting in the same, place still with nnovercoatover him. He smiled, asl thought, kindly aud looked about for a dry place (it hud boen raining), and at last turned up a box near him, pulled off the label, turned it upside down, and pronounced it a dry and comfortable seat. Although feeling pretty queer, I longed to be in Wollongong to get my feet under me, and circu lation into my body. We were not quite inside the lighthouse before I was uerving myself up for the landing. Jack went to fetch Millio, while the passengers were shaking themselves together. Ho first pointed out to mo his mother's trap on tho wharf to meet us, and aaked me to see thu things

brought on shoro. I had not boen half thron.,1, tho gangway whon a shout of laughter arose 3 turning round I saw Millio leaning on Jack's arm, with tho whole crow and passengers scream ing with laughtor at somothing I know not of ami whon I turned towards tho dock, those on shorn took up tho laugh. I could not mako it out but oti putting my hand behind, I found m'vaolf labollcd ou tho part nature intendod for sittinn accommodation, ° ' Glass, this side ur with oare.'

CHAPTER III. OTHER MISTAKES, AMD CONCLUSION. Dinnor was to be served at G.30. I was in bod all day. My appetite when I awoke a 5 p.m was painfully keon. I could oat a North Illawarra aldorman if ho woro washed and pooled and popporod with tho croinated dust of a Minintor. for Works. After all, I thought Jack was vty kind. Ho brought mo somo soda-and-whiskv and as I gradually got awake again I thought mv steamboat experience but a droam. Wu dressed for dinner with coromony becoming tho occasion and, to my chagrin, found Millio placcd noxt to Jack, while I was expected to do the amiable to Miss Anastasia. I daresay, in my eagerness to rnako myself agreeable, I blundorod in conversa tion into many admissions that I never afterwards romembored. Millie lonkod charming, and I longed for tho chance to kiss her and tell hor so but sho seemed to shun my glances, and ono thing was cortain — I could mako it out in thoir looks— ovory ono in tho house, from tho mistress to tho maid servant, was aware of my ridiculous escapado of tho night beforo. Jick and a foir ' other local celebrities ' lingered BO:iorig 'over tlioir cigars and wino that I thought I'd steel away un porceived and seo after my darling. The passago to tho drawing-room was lighted with two dull korosouo lamps in a chandelior, around which was entwined flowers nnd foliage as a substitute for tho mistletoo. Boforo I reached the light I saw a fairy-like form tripping towards me. I waited until she was uudor tho mistletoe, when I took hor in my arms, and imprinted a kiss on her lips which, in my conceit, I thought was as good as tho dessert ; at the samo time whispering, ' My darlinc. I have boen waiting nil th#- nvan!nn

? ? D, - ? - i'u-v»'g «»* vuu u veiling to tell you liow I love you, aud how distant you seem.' ' Oh, say that again. You know, my love, I am your darling, and always will bo ; but, really, you havo brokou my spectacles ! I lovo you as I novor thought I could lovo anyone but poor Toby, who is now over tho mange, thank goodnoaa, Will you always love mo as you do now, and givo 1 that hussy, Millio, up 1' ' Good heavens 1 Miss Anastasia I' ' Yes, my own darling.' Sho had scarcely uttered tho last horrible sounding expression whon Millio burst out in a loud laugh, and passed, apologising for disturbing us. * * * I need not attempt to describe my return from Illawarra to Sydney. For months afterwards I was quite silly, and when the postman would knock, bringing a loving letter from Anastasia, my first impulse would bo to jump out of tho window, amd my noxt to bury myself in the coal hole. She died two years ago, loving me to tho last ; but, alas 1 the only legacy sho oould leave was a lock of hor hair. Jack and Millio are married, and have a couple of little olive branches, and most unreservedly do I forgive them, and hopo that they will think of mo and Illawarra during the Merry Christmas.