|Chapter Title||A YOUNGER BROTHERS OPINIONS.|
|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||Miles Dunlop's Mistake|
A YOUNGER BROTHERS OPINIONS.
" Trifles Iignt m sir
Are, to the jealous, confirmations strong As proofs of ho'.y writ."—Ctuello.
The diningroom at the Lonsdale was a long room, hang round with festoons of green staff. Down the middle ran the largest table, and a dozen or so of smaller ones were at each side. All were now crowded with people, and it seemed to the last comer that there was really no place for him. The landlord was carving at a side table.
" You'll find a seat at-the other end," he said, nodding his head, "down there by the window."
Miles still looked doubtfully down the room when Tom Nairn came rush ing in and fell against bim in bis headlong career.
" Oh, crnmbs!" he said, not one bit abashed, " ain't 1 glad to catch you. You come along and sit at our table. There's heaps of room, and if the old girl pitches into me for being late, you can say it wsb your fault, yon know."
Dunlop accepted the invitation and followed his young friend. The thought of how Dearlie had said it made her shudder to look at him aent the blood
to his face as he approached. The smiling welcome he received half |
reassured him ; and then, again, as he took the vacant seat beside her he was horribly conscious that it was on her left, and that therefore the seamed and scarred side of bis iace was presented folly to her view.
" So sorry to be late, aunt," said Master Tom glibly, plunging into apologies at once; "but it wasn't my fault, it was Mr. Dunlop kept me. Yes, Moses," to the grey-suited waiter, "you can send me up a flathead, and I'll have eggs and bacon and a small chop to follow. Mind they're hot,
Miss Popharn received Dunlop graciously enough, and introduced him to a handsome girl who sat opposite.
"My niece Helen, Mr. Dunlop," she said.
Helen Nairn just raised her eyes. They were glorious dark eyes, and she, Dnnlop mentally thought, was the handsomest woman he had seen for many a long day, the greatest contrast possible to the fair-haired sister beside him. Dearlie was pretty with the preltineas that comes with youth,
with golden hair, dark-blue eyes, and a bright pink-and-white complexion, j but her sister, who was at least fire or six years older, put her completely in j the Bhade, and made her girlish prettiness seem poor and insignificant beside , faer dark regal beanty. He could not imagine her playing Indians on the beach for the amusement of faer younger brothers and sisters, and appearing before a stranger drenched and dripping and minus boots and stockings; and yet somehow he did not think she could he so lovable and sweet,
She looked at him as shftlrks introduced, took in his scarred face at one glance, then dropped her ejres again and calmlr went on with her tea. She was a yonng lady who was accustomed to homage from men, and was evidently not going ont of her way to he entertaining now. Dearlie, on the contrary, busy as she was attending to the wantB of her younger brothers and witters, still fotind time to bestow a thought on the man beside her.-:
"Do have some flathead, Mr. Dunlop," she recommended. " It really Isn't half bad. What Is it, Katie dear r to the little dark-eyed girl of six who aat beside her. " Oh! the honey. Well, pet, It's all gone; but never sund, I'll ask Annie for soma more."
V Arthur andP^ankie ate itall np, greedy thinga/' pouted Katie.
* Katherine P said Miss Popbam'e stem voice, interrupting her conversa tion vrith Dunlop to reproach fast little nelce Katherine.
"Hush, dear, hash," said Dearlie soothingly," there's plenty more. VV shouldn't they eat it if they like ? You shall have some more."
" Dearlie," said Helen, speaking tor the first time, "you spoil those children."
" No 1 don't," said Dearlie brightly. " Come, now, Mr. Danlop. you, shall be judge. I only like them to have as much honey as they want. It's wild honey, you know, and tastes of the ti-tree, and it's so nice. I like it myself."
"Mr. Dunlop," said Helen, taming to hitu, "mast find it rather a nuisance assisting at a nursery tea. I can't thiuk why on earth they don't have a children's table here."
" Nut at all, not at all," protested Miles. " I don't mind it in the least; I rather like it in fact. If you had as many solitary meals as lyou would too,
" I cin't imagine myself ever Ukinj this Pandemonium ; I pat up with it,' said Helen resignedly, while Dearlie asked sympathetically—
" Do you have lonely meals, Mr. Dunlop? Oh ! I'm so sorry for you. I never had a meal by myself yet, and I hope I never shall. It must be
"Never mind, Miss Dearlie," said Miles, turning to her. "Never fear. I don't suppose you'll ever be left alone in the world."
" Not while we're a'l alive," Baid Tom, his mouth full of eggs and bacon. " But stop, I don't know ; I'm hanged if I'll have you to live with me if you're an old maid, Dearlie. O-oh ! and I won't have you at all if you kick me in that way."
For it was evident from Dearlie'a face that she, with a vivid recollection that their aunt at the head of the table was still an unappropriated blessing had endeavoured to bring that fact forcibly to her youthful brother's mind by an application of that neat little foot Dunlop had so much admired earlier
in the evening.
"Thomas,"said Miss Popham severely, "there are many more unhappy women in this world than old maids. You don't know what you are talking about."
" I suppose it is most women's own choice if they don't marry," said Dun lop thoughtfully, pouring oil on the troubled waters, "It will certainly be
" Well, yee, I suppose it will," said Tom, the irrepressible. " Why, Charlie Dalr.vmple'a coming next week, eh Dear? Oh, crumbs ! you needn't
kick a fellow so."
Poor Dearlie Hushed crimson, and Dunlop sighed to himself as he thought —" Ah, yes, she was sure to have a lover."
Miss Popham, however, promptly took Mr. Tom in hand.
" Thomas," she said, "you are becoming exceedingly vulgar. You have no right to mention your sister's name in connection with that of any gentleman."
" Why not?" asked Tom as if in search of information.
"Why not?" repeated his aunt, in dignified tones. "Why not? Be cause, Thomas, as 1 have just told you, it is not seemly or becoming."
"But, good Lord, aunt," persisted Tom ; "it's only Charlie Dalrymple. Why he's a regular tame cat about the place. Governor said so himself one day. You see," he added, turning to Dunlop with the evident desire of im parting information to his friend, " he used to be Nell's admirer, but she was so blessed high and haughty with the beggar, be turned over to Dearlie, didn't be. Dear? Oh, he's awfullv gone; giVe me a sov last time he
?arlie likes him too, I know, for all she's so coy about it. Yes, saw me; and Dearlie
Dearlie, I give my consent and my blessing. I bet you'll be Mrs. Dalrymple some time next year. Crumbs, I say ! you're kicked me so you've raised a braise on my shin."
Dearlie was hot all over now, and looked so uncomfortable that Miss Pop ham in pity for her confusion made another effort to stem Tom's ill-timed confidences.
" Thomas," she said, "since you are not gentleman enough to sit quiet, as I desire, you had better leave the room."
" But I haven't finished my tea. Oh, I say, aunt, that's too bad. I'll be as mum as a mouse, but I guess it'll be Blow if I don't talk, and I wanted to entertain Mr. Dunlop."
"Hold your tongue," said Miss Popham sharply, anl Tom, seeing she was really in earnest, subsided, and turned his whole attention to his tea, merely winking at Dunlop now and then, as a sign of the confidence and friendship
that existed between them.
As he had opined, it was rather slow when his tongue ceased. The chil dren chattered softly to each other, over-awed by their aunt's stern face. Helen went calmly on with her tea, it was not her business to make things straight; Dearlie, contused, uncomfortable, and wildly angry with Tom, felt that if she spoke she should burst out crying, and disgrace herself before them all; and Dunlop, seeing her confusion with ah aching pain at Lis heart, took it as a sign she returned her young lover's affection, and man of the world though he was, could not think of one single commonplace remark wherewith to lannch the conversation into 6&fer channels once more. He had another cup of tea, and helped himself to another piece of toast, which he with elaborate care spread with marmalade, though be had not the re motest intention of eating it, and just as the silence was becoming unbear able, unconscious Winnie came to the rescue.
"Aunt," she Baid, "when Charlie Dalrymple comes down he's going to take us to the wreck of the Cheviot 1 wish he'd come soon."
" I'm sure there's no need to wait for Charlie Dalrymple," said Dearlie sharply, so sharply that Danlop turned to her in surprise. " I should hope we could get there without hi* help. Can't we go to-morrow, aunt, or the next day ? The tide 'II euit The landlord said so, and we might walk along the beach. It's not quite five miles, and it would be nice to walk, wouldn't it, Mr. Danlop ?" she said, turning her blushing face to him. " I hope you'll come too. but perhaps you're like Helen, and despiee a nursery picnic."
Poor Dunlop, that sweet face tempted him sorely. He thought what a fool he was, what an utter fool. What chance had he'against the young fellow whom she evidently expected so eagerly, and yet, like the foolish moth that flutters round the candle to its own destruction, he accepted her iuvitation gladly.
" Of course, MiBS Dearlie, I'll be only too delighted. To-morrow I should think would do splendidly. Will you allow us to arrange a picnic for then, Miss Popham?"
Tom was gesticulating wildly his entire approval of the proposed scheme, bnt fear of his aunt kept his tongue quiet, and she answered thought fully.
" Well, yes, we might go if the children wish it I'm sure it's very good of ysu to interest yourself in them, Mr. Dunlop. Bnt as tor walking, ICpziah, I don't know about that The eand is heavy, and it's a long way.
Helen will be tired."
Danlop looked at Helen's magnificent physique, compared it mentally with that of the slight girl beside him, and eertainly sympathised with the contemptuous " Pooh " with which she greeted .her aunt's remark.
" It's the horses I think about," she said ; "those poor homes. Auntie, you know, you said only this afternoon you'd never ride behind those poor creatures again. What thev feed them on I can't imagine."
" Shavings," said Tom, " shavings and seaweed. There now, aunt, don't yon be scotty. I've finished my tea, and 1 s'pose alt the rest of you have too. Let's go down on the pier, or I say—oh crumbs! I lorgot—the doctor's come
"Has be?" asked Miss Poph&m indifferently, brushing a crumb from the front of her dress, as she prepared to leave the table.
" Yes, he has. I forgot to tell yon before. I saw him this morning, and be said be hoped we'd come up to-nigbt He Bent bis love to Dearlie, and to tell her be can't live without a eight of her for another day."
" Very touching, I'm sure," laughed Dearlie.
" Yes, isn't it. And he's got a new store, an American thing, he wants to sfaow yon. Won't you go, aunt ?"
I won't go," protested Helen. "The old wretch always wants to flirt
"Stop at home, then, crosepatch," suggested Tom. "But I tell you he
? Itm Tlairlis luti*r ti»n vnn fVimp. nnnf vnti'll fro tliia eveniiur. vnn t vnn '
likes Dearlie better than you. Come, aunt, you'll go this evening, won t you !
I told him very likely you would."
" Oh, very well," assented Mies Popham, "but I shan't take any children. We must wait till they're in bed."
"Good for you," said Tom, *' children ate better at home. They'll only be in our way."
'And pray, Thomas," said hie aunt, " who invited you?"
' Well, the doctor did, for one." said Tom, with a calm conviction of his own importance that nothing conid shake " He's got a new deep-sea line for me, and, besides, you surely don't think me a child?"
Miss Popbam laughed.
" Ob, dear no, certainly not. Come by all means, The doctor will very likely wish to consult you about some difficult cases, is in urgent need of yonr advice most probably."
" You needn't laugh. Aunt," remarked Tom; " I know I'll be welcome."
" I wish," murmured Miles Dunlop in Dearlie's ear, as they strolled on to the verandah together, "I wish . What wouldn't I give tor that boy's assurance. He knows that his presence will bring its own welcome with it."
Dearlie looked upon his-face and Bmiled.
"It's only cheek," she said; "just schoolboy cheek. Tom thinks be knows everything, whereas, as a rate, he's very wide of the mark indeed." *And the last remark was so emphatic Dunlop began wondering whether ifcould possibly haveany reference to Tom's assertions at tea. And whllehe Was trying to summon courage to frame some question, the answer to which might set bis jealous doubts at test Dearlie broke the silence by an invitation, and the opportunity was lost.
" Will yon come to Wbtriiy with us to-night?" she asked, half shyly, he though^ and be saw by the fading light that the colour had rushed to her
"I'd like to" be *&id, emphatically; "I'd like to, but I don't know the doctor. I don t even know bu name."
It's Dr. O'Hea," she Mid. "Surely you know him. He's the great specialist, eye doctor, or ear doctor. Which is it?" *"
"Oh, the great aurisk Yes, I have met him, but I don't suppose he would remember me, and my acquaintance would nardly justify me in going
to bis bouse."
"Come with us," she asked, softly; " do come. I may take whom I please,
Sbe hesitated, and stammered. They were standing alone at the far end of the verandah, a good twenty feet from the rest of the boarders, who were crowded together watching the lights of an incoming steamer, and their isolation, and the fast-falling shadows of the night, gave him a courage be would otherwise bave lacked.
''?hd, and." he repeated, sinking bis voice to a whisper, while hie heart
beat, and he forget for a moment Tom's talk about Charlie Dalrympie, " would you like to take me ?" ,.
i.you know I ehe began, in the same tones, when her sisters voice,
measured and slow, interrupted them.
^Dearlie " ahe aaid, "aunt'a calling rou. It a time Katie went to bed, you know.' Oh, Mr. Dunlop, I didn't aee you, but aunt hopea you'll come WVe«VVi«ry"ftnd diaappointed, what could he say. He would have given worlds to bear Dearlie finiah that sentence, ond yet, such are the uaaaea of society, there only remained for him to turn to Heleu Nairn and accept with
ft9™I,sl»all be delighted," he said; and as they all three walked up the ^randnh Laether he told himself he had spent ten minutes in a foors baradiae and found himeelf miking commonplaces to Misa Nairn, w.bile Dearlie, 'he realised once more, was walking silently on hia right.