Chapter 138621477

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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138621477
Full Date1891-12-19
Page Number7
Corrections0
Word Count3273
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleThe Charm That Works
article text

Chapter XT.

Jenny was having an idyllic time at Wandooyamba. . Mis. 0*§i\hatfc i&p not the woman to do things by halves, and, having undertaken^ jfestore the girl to health, she set about the task with her native wisdom and capability. Kew milk in the morning; broth at eleven o'clock; drives be

nina Harrys wild teams, which never made her afraid ; rides on a quiet pony with him and little Hal; rambles in the wooded hills about the house —the lone bush that she loved, but had never had her fill of; these things, in conjunction with a kindness from all around her that never allowed her to feel like an outsider, promptly brought a glow to the magnolia-petal whiteness of the little face, and a clear" light to the eyes that had been so

dull and tired.

She was so perfectly well-mannered and well-bred, and she looked so pretty in her neat gowns—particularly when she wore the black silk that had been cut low and frilled with lace for the evening, showing her deli cately-curved and fine-skinned throat—that neither hbst nor hostess felt any incongruity in her position as their social equal and the equal of their friends. If they remembered the tea-room, they remembered also the father who had been an Eton boy; but toon they forgot all about her ante cedents and belongings, and esteemed her wholly on her own merits. They wished they Could have kept her altogether, as housekeeper, or companion, or governess to. the children (two sturdy boys, who loved her with all the sincerity of their discriminating little hearts), because she was so gentle, and so useful, and never in anybody's way.

She was never in anybody's way, and yet she was always at hand if there was anything to be done tfaat nobody else was ready to do. Until she had left the house, no one realised the amount of unostentatious service that she represented. She made toys for the boys; she made sailor suits for them (though nobody had wanted her to do that); she arranged the flowers;

she sewed and cut the" weekly papers"; dhe marked handkerchiefs; she made' the tea; she took the chffdren for wdks, and kept them good by telling Stories to them—a great refiefto the house when school-time was over and the govwneaB had gone away! *

' ** She's just my right hand," Maty Bald to her husband one day; "andl don't know what I shall do without fab when the time comes to send to hone. It's like having a younger sister to stay with one."

"Itis/SaidMnOxenham, who had jmst found hisfavonrite driving gloves, of which several fingers and thumbs had opened, mended so neatly that they were ws good as ever.

Nevertheless, neither of them had any idea of making an actual younger sister of Jenny Liddon, and when Tony's letter arrived there was consterna-'

tion over its contents.

"Now isn't that just loo had?" Jdary^cried.aashedashed it on the table, and;

stamped her foot with vexation (Jenny beine in the schoolroom with the] boys). " When I wanted him to oome; he wouldn't; and, now I don't want] Jnm, he starts off, withoutgivingme any warning; in this way ! Oh, itteallyj is too ptofOkiog of ^bn J To-ntorr^r—that's this very night, lea th&nl IS hdinra from now—hewiU be here, Bfeny. And that girl in the house!*» 'j

" "Itte awkward,!' said ILarry.-ptckingwpthe letter and perush^ it for him-' self. "A fetching little thing like her, and a handsome, fast fellow like him, both under the same roof "

"Ohi.it must not be." Mrs. Oxenh&m declared, impetuously. "It must be prev ented at all costs. I havp a (tody to Jenny as well as to my brother. I only hope and trust he doesn't know she is here—I asked them not to men tion it, and you see he says nothing about her; but, whether or no, I am not gpingjp let either of |hem ma|%|^^ themselves, if J can help it" ^

*• You can't verywefliell him bottocalaet my dear."

*' I know I can% Jtesides, t^at «%nld onjy make liim the more deter:

mined."

"Nor yet pack Miss Liddon home, after asking her to stay over ChriBtmas —like a schoolgirl expelled for misconduct" ! - "1 know that too. Tmast sctoto'uad plot to deceive them, like the bad women in novels ; only they do it to harm people, while I shall do it for their good.,, Goaway, Harry, and let methibt"

He west amy, nnd was uncomfortable till lunch time, when ehe met him with acalni face and a telegram in her hand, which she asked him to despatch to the township for her. \

I have put him off , till tomorrow," she said* " Kou can tell him the;

hoeMg were lame, or

, llr. Osenliam, who had moves of buggy horses, all Jumping outof their eldns with the exhilat&tiOp of their spring coats and renewed constitutions, mldshe must tlunkbfudmethingthat Tony would be more likely to believe than that. And she said, " Oh, leave it to me !" And he.replied that he would do so withthevery greatest pleasure.

The luncheon bell rang, and Jeuny came into the pleasant diningroom, with the children clingin? to her. She put them in high chairs on either rifle of her jdooe at fie hBilfcf and tied on their Kbs,' and cut up their raest mutton add poiato.llilm the little mother that tier lover dreamed

oi» '

•' l\1»y do youbother about those brats, Miss Liddon, while the nurse spends all her time flirting over the back fence?" their father said, in a gay but compunctious tone. And he helped her to mayonnaise, and to her gpnoini r;"p tonnal arria water and to salt and to anything be could lay his hands on ; for he feared they were going to treat her badly, and he wanted to put in all the good treatment that he could beforehand.

His wife regarded the girl with infinite kindness, but 110 compunction whatertr^-for shewvas a^woma^ and not a man. 5- ^ 3

" Jiiiny, flear,"«die said, "dOyoujjhink you would enjoy ajJittfa drivf:

tliisalterno^? ftiWSfi^lhiiii™djpo hot" _ ^ ' M, Ai'tojl

" ribouM,gnaWy," J&ny ffoifeif the b1ow Jtj I enjoy everything—whlfcer oulwtoors or in—whateverlfiime tot."

" Mp, too," clamoured little Hal. " Let me go too, mother! Then I can tell Miss Liddea aome more j" • — j- ^ -• *•

: With the explosion of itoffne*pe€todbomb,->JihA toto®*

Jenny's face, and, because she knew she was blushing, it deepened^ to-to? hue of a peony. Anthony hadnot been oaifled to: the latefly 5*^°^ ftfnoe her arrival, except to and bythis tertildstofato yevWSaMPfasd

afraid to interfere with the march of events by any nllmnon IP ^ letters, Sothat Jenny bdievedhim to be.still; upoa tW *e**

nobody knew how she thought about him*vA ?<•? - ? ?. * ' ,s

Mrs. Oxenham flashed one lightning jglanoe at ber gucat, ftt»»ei*areiy helped her little son to gravy. f It isn't Unple Tdiyfctoap, m "W™; it is Mr. DatuitV' she said. "And what do know JMMP** f®®

monkey?' ...... ?' -y

She looked at her husband, end he knew she looked at hiavthoughhe was eating industriously, with his eyes upon hia plate* . • ;Jm

" I shan't be able to take you this afternoon, Mary," he mumbled, wam his mouth full, visibly shrinking. "I Bbail be baftf.?

" We shall not want you, dear," she calmly answered him. Btuhnan can drive as. I am going to the township to: do a little shoppmg tor Christmas. And, Jenny, we will call on your aunt at. the bank j it will ha

a good opportunity." - ;

Jenny's aunt, her mother's sister, chanced to !ive in the town flufh -ssi the Oxenhams' post-town and their rail way terminus. If either atnt, unol^ nor cousins had communicated with the Liddojus nince; the tea-rpo® was instituted, and had intended never again to doao; but when thef discovered that the arch-offender against the tin-potprufe pf toe Rogerson" was a guest at Wandooyamba, the great house of. the district, whiph had never con ferred such a distinctiofl-upon torn, their attitude towards this kinswoman changed completely. Theyrushedtocallupon her, apd to clasp her in their arms, and to beg that she would go and see them While *he tvas to nean1 Their call had not yet been returned, andthctoHtetto®. hadrbenn dime-: garded, because lbs. Oxenham had looked a Jhttte ooldly upon, the con nection, and Jenny had preferred her friend to her relations; butnowMary considered that the time had,come to attend to. them.- , !? We vrill go aadaee your aunt and cousins," she said cheerfully. " They must wonder what has become of you." *.

And Jenny thonght it was bo good of her to trouble , about people she didn't care for, tor the sake of a guest who was of no account, and thanked

her gratefully.

\T2iey set oat immediately after luncheon. They had six miles to go, njostly np bill, and the light breeze was behind them, carrying the dust of Ifit December into their necks and eats. Mrs. Oxenham beguiled the way Avith prattle about Mr. Daunt's yachting party, and the beautiful lady Louisa who held her brother in bonds; and Jenny looked mmoyingiy pate and tired when they arrived.

" We will go to the bank first," said the elder lady, "in the hope that Mrs. Rogerson will give ua a good cup of tea." And the coachman was ordered thither.

The maid who answered his ring at the private door announced that Mrs. Rogerson was in, and nshered the visitors upstairs into a ntiflmg drawing room—only used for the reception of callers and an occasional evening party. Here they sat for full ten minutes, fanning themselves with their handker chiefs, and looking round upon (he art muslin draperies, and be-ribboned tambourines, and Liberty-silk-swathed plates, and photographs, waiting for their hostess to appear. Mrs. Oxenham made no remarks upon what she saw, nor upon the rustlings and whisperings that she heard, because these people were Jenny's relatives; and Jenny took no notice of anything.

Her aunt came in, damp and flushed with heat and haste and the weight of a silk dress covered with beads. She was a great contrast to Mrs. Liddon, as she was well aware ; much more stylish in every way—much more on a level with this distinguished squatter's wife, Whom she gushed over effusively. ? .

" And you too, Jenny 1 "—kissing the girl, who offered her cheek and not her lips to the salute. " I really. thought you had gone home without coming to see us."

This was just what Jenny would have done, if left to her oWp devices, having no desire for intimacy with Aunt Emma or kef jfamllyafiiie* the' way they had treated her about the tea-room ; and she made no reply! " "

Mrs. Oxenham answered for her, however. " I should not have allowed that, yon may be sure. Aunts and cousins"—disregarding Jenny's protest ing eyes—" are more to one than strangers."

"Yes, Indeed," said Mrs. Rogerson. " Awll want to hear abo ut my poor sister—poor thing! When we were girls together, and papa aftd mamiMi giving us every luxury that money oonld buy, I little thought what she was to come to, Mrs. jDxenhnm. "And we believed she had nude a good marriage too. Your father, Jenny, was an Eton boy."

" I know" said blushing Jenny, who often wished devoutly that her father had gone to a state school.

" Mr. Liddon was a gentleman," said Mary, "and Iris daughter Calces after him. I'm sure I don't know what Mr. Oxenham and I will do without her when ahe leaves us. It is like having one of our own."

* Mrs. Rogerson gushed afresh—over her niece this time ; and two'Smart girl cousins came in and gushed with her. They sat on either side of Jenny and held her hands, until one of them (Joey's adored one} got np to mpke thg tea.:

I* Yes, .indeed ,* said Mrs. Rogerson. "She was always a favourite with us ; we ajtpvayB knew she was a lady born, in spite of her absurd notions about tearooms And so forth—which, I must confess, did make us a little angryvifh her. You would have felt it yourself, Mrs. Oxenham, now wouldrft you5? "Rut, after all, blood is blood, isn't it? You can't alter that. Our own grandfather was nephew to a baronet—Sir Timothy Smith. You may have heard of him ?"

Mrs. Oxenham said she did not remember to have done so—that perhaps he was before her time—and graciously took another cup of tea, which she

declared was delicious.

" And, now, when are you coming to us, Jenny?" Cousin Alice inquired, "Gouldat-you oome and spend the day to-iuorm»2 and couldn't you come, Mrs. Oxenham? Our tennis club is having a tomrSttment, and we are giving ateaon ihegroond-^ander nice Bhsdy teem, ybnlmow. It would be such an honour if you would come and look on" at us."

" I'm afraid I couldn't," said Mary, with a pretence of thinking it over. " But Jenny, if she likes—I could send her in."

"Oh, yes! And couldn't she spend afew djiys with> here? We have seen nothing other. We could (Srive her!

,mba-" ?' ?: . > g s l

This was what Mis. Oxenham had fished for, had roasted iitoartt in the sun for, and she roused herself to deal with the timely opportunity. She looked at Jenny, and Jenny looked back at her with eyes (hat said "no" so unmistakably is to suggest the thought that perhaps she knew of Anthony's -comings to the mind of (he suspicious woman. This made her resolute.

* What do you say, dear?" she ^Inquired genially; and in a-moment Jenny smdecstood that lier friend wished her to accept the invitation, and was wondering in a startled way whether she had outstayed her welcome at Wandooyamba. " Don't consider us—we must not be selffsh—and you will come back to us, of course. Dickson could drive yon over when he goes for the letters, and that would give you the afternoon to see the tournament"

There wa3 tiotlungto say but" tiiankyofl£ aft'tolnd, and Jenny said it witii good taste, determined to bring her! h^j^to |n end as soon as pos sible—hot to return to Wandooyamba; af|»f ieai|ng it, but to spend Christmas withher own too-long deserted family/-- Mkry had an inkling of what was going on in the girl's mind, but said to herself that it couldn't be

helped. Anthony must be saved at all huzardq.

She was immensely kind to-Jenny when the pair were again upon the

road.

" They seemed to want you so much, darling, and I thought your mother would wish you to show them some attention," she said. " But goodness kn|4v$ what Harry and l vriH dowithqg* yonJ JW* shaft be quite UflfcM

the^hildjmt too,j||yon 1 S -ZjxM

" Ohftio i YouMenot ite of%e

Jenny bad bat one portmanteau with her, and Into

JUer belqpgings before starting off next day. Mr. Oxenham^at tia#a fieb'

igjh-toljmggy with .his own. hands, *ad,beM?j!*6

. —- —

sponsible lot bet departure, bewailed it loudly—which seemed to do him

good.

" I call it too bad of you—downright mean, I call it—to run a wax- from us like this, Miss Liddon," he said to her again and again, to the unconcealed

irritation of his wife.

" You go on, Harry, as if she were leaving us for ever. We haven't seen the lost of her yet—not by a long way, have we, dear ?'

The parting guest was sped with warmest kisses and handclasps, and bidden vaguely to come back again soon. But as she stood up to wave her handkerchief to the children from the middle of the home paddock, look ing back upon the great, rambling house, where she had had such a good time, she said to herself that she should go back po more. If matters had turned out differently, she would have called her conviction of that moment

a presentiment.

Aunt Km ma and cousins Clementine and Alice received her cordially, and at once began to pelt her with questions concerning the Qxenham house hold, and as to what she knew of the Chnrchills in town. Uncle John, the hank manager, lunching with his family, asked about Joey, and the state of the restaurant business, and other practical matters. In the after noon she helped to carry cakes and cream jugs to the tennis-ground,and was there introduced to the rank and fashion of the town, not as " My cousin, who keeps tlie tea-room in Little Collins-street," but as, " My cousin, who is staying with Mrs. Oxenhata at Wandooyamba," and she sat under a tree and watched the players, and talked when she was obliged to talk, and, when she wasn't, thought her own thoughts, which were chiefly concerned in de vising some way of getting home immediately.

The tennis-tea was followed by tea at the bank, composed of the remains of the former, witli cold meat and eggs ; and by-and-by the moon got np, and it was proposed that the young people shoald have & walk to enjoy the pleasant night. A bank-clerk and a bachelor lawyer, who had " dropped in," attached themselves to Clem and Alice, and Mrs. Rogerson and her niece soberly chaperoned the part}-, and talked family affairs together;

- The night train from Melbourne came in at 10 o'clock, and the little town ship loved'to catch it in the act AH townships which have a train do. It is a never-failing joy to them. And. finding themselves in the neighbour hood of the station at about 9.35, the Rogeison girls exclaimed with one voice, " Let's stay and see the train come in."

The motion was carried unanimously, and for half an hour they loitered up ami down the platform, looking into the vagueness of the moonlit night, and bilking and laughing nit her loudly; all but Jenny, who, though she was so much less genteel than these relations, did not think it good manners to make a noise. And so it came to pass that she presently Baw a buggy dash into the station-yard, and recognised it as the one that had brought her in in the morning.

" That's to meet somebody," said Clem to Alice, with intense curiosity. "Jenny, wiio's expected at Wandooyamba to-night J"

"Nobody, that I know of," said Jenny. "They are alway's sending for

parcels and tilings."

The train signalled from a distance, hummed through the still night, and clattered up to the platform, watched intently by all the eyes available. It was not the great express, but a local off-shoot from it, and the passengers it disgorged at this point were not very numerous. The first to tumble out was a big man with a red heard.

" Oil! Oh! OH! It's Mrs. Oxenham's brother! It's Mr. Anthony Churchill« He hasn't been here for ages—they said he was in England. Oh, isn't he handsome ! Oh, I wonder if he will come to the town at all ? Oh, Jenny,

just see what you have missed V

Jenny drew back into the dim crowd, on which he cast no glance as he strode to the buggy, calling to a porter to bring his things. She said nothing, but she thought—it wasa thought that stung like fire—"Now X know why I have been sent away from Wandooyamba."