Chapter 139145664

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Chapter NumberVI
Chapter Url
Full Date1889-12-21
Page Number5
Word Count3638
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleMiles Dunlop's Mistake
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Chapter VI.


<• Jealousy is cruel as the grave : ths ooalsthsreo! Me coals o! fire which hath amost

vehement flame."—Solomon.

Opposite the Lonsdale was an enclosed piece of land, where the scrub had been partially cleared, and occasional pine trees planted, and here was

built a large wooden pavilion with a floor laid for dancing. It somewhat resembled an overgrown sommer-house, for it was octagonal in shape, and the walls, in which there were three or four doors, or rather openings, for doors were only boarded to a height of six teet or so, the upper part being of trellis work, np which in the future it was hoped creepers would grow, though at present they were conspicuous by their absence.

On the evening of the day on which the young Nairns went for their pic nic, the people staying at the hotel had unanimously decided to have a dance, and the returning picnickers found the whole place in a bustle of excitement and preparation. At first Miss Popham had beld herself aloof. She did not like hotel dances She would not let her nieces go to dance with any one who might ask them, and the fiat had Bternly gone forth that they were not to approach the pavilion.

By-and-by, however, her views began to change. Mrs. Crawford, the jolly little wife of an up-country doctor, saw no reason why her dau hters Bhould not go, and she had even offered her own services as musician.

" My dear," she Baid, "let the girls come, snd the children too, for that matter. AH the people here are very decent, respectable folk. The people from the Quarantine Station are coming, to say nothing of Dr. O'Heaand that young fellow with them. What the King of Portsea approves muBt be right So let the girls come. They need only dance with ourjown set, and if you come yourself, you can look after them."

Helen came in at this stage, and rather to her aunt's astonishment, ex pressed an ardent desire to take part in the dance.

" Why, Helen," she said, " you—why I thought you were tired of going out I'm sure you made fuss enough about going to the Government-house ball, and said you'd never go to another."

It was rather Helen's way to make a fuss. She liked to be persuaded to take the thing she was longing for, and it was something new for her to be pleading. Bat there was no help for it this time.

Charlie Dalrymple was coming. See him she felt she mast

Ordinarily Dearlie would have asked for both of them, and then exerted all her powers of per suasion to make her sister see how much she would enjoy herself, but this evening there was no hope of that Dearlie was a little tired with her long walk, and bo calmly and contentedly happy—so certain her aunt must be right what ever her decision—that Helen could have shaken her, and finally went off and joined forces with Mrs. Crawford, who, greatly to her relief, ably

backed her.

" I can't see what you want to go for, Helen," said her aunt again; " I'm Bure you get plenty of dances."

" Oh, I'm sick of Melbourne dances, bat this is different Just a white morning frock and no bother about dressing. Besides, Dearlie doesn't get many dances. Poor Dearlie,-yon might let her have some fun."

Annt Pop began visibly to waver, and finally gave in altogether.

"Poor child," she said, "that's true enough ; and Charlie Dalrymple coming, too." Helen winced, but said nothing. " Naturally she wants to be there. Very well, Helen, yon may go if you wish. I wonder if Keziah's got a clean white dress."

Dearlie had a clean white dress, and when her sister told her that her aunt had relented, evinced considerable interest in getting it out and, in feminine parlance, "doing it up" with pink ribbons. Helen was ready first, and coming into the bedroom which Dearlie shared with her two younger Bisters flung herself down on the bed and criticised her Bister's toilet

"Well, really," she said, condescendingly, "you look very nice, dear. Who'd have thought pink would have suited a fair girl so well ? And now, who is all this splendour for? Charlie Dalrymple ? "

"Charlie Dalrymple? Why, Nell, he's your admirer !"

"Well, who's it for? Surely not 'that queer faced old buffer,' as Charlie calls your friend, Mr. Dunlop?"

"Nellie, Nellie," implored Dearlie, with a ring of pain she conld not control in her voice, " bow can you be so cruel ?"

" Then it is ' the qneer-faced old buffer,'" said Miss Nairn, triumphantly. "I wanted to be sure of that Come along, Dearlie," she added, more kindly, getting up and putting her hand through her sister's arm. "It's about time, I think, we went down. I see a mighty stream wending its way to the Pavilion. Come along and let's find auntie."

The Pavilion was lighted with oil lamps and candles. All Portsea seemed to have assembled there, while even the fisher folk hung over the fence of the enclosure and peeped oat from among the scrub. The night was clear, star light, hot, and stilL The waters of the bay washing upon the sandy beach made but a gentle

sighing sonnd, while over the hills behind came

iL. J— tk. iL. —

iuc uccp luauuK ui iuc aiui uu vuc uixau ucav;u>

"Listen to the sound of the sea, Auntie,"said Dearlie. "How plainly we can hear U to-night, and yet it is so still. There's not a breath of


"That's jnst the reason why, Hiss Dearlie,"said Miles Dnnlop'd voice at her side. " Have yon been to the back beach by night ? No ? Well, we must take yon some evening. Yon ought to see it by moonlight Yon'd like it, I'm sure. It most be splendid. And now, are yon going to give me a dance ? How many may I have?"

Dearlie looked np shyly. It was a pity that the starlight was not bright enough to ahow bim the ahy happiness in her blue eyes, which would surely have set all doubts in his mind at rest for ever. As it was be could only hear her answer, and even then, if love had not closed bis ears, be must have heard the gladness in her voice—

" Indeed, you shall have aa many sa you please."

" This one?" said Charlie Dalrymple, interrupting. Dearlie felt she could have borne with equanimity his removal to another sphere if only it oould have been accomplished there and then. " This one is mine. You know you promised me at the Doctor's Isst night if they got up a dance here that I should have the first waits."

" But this isn't the first," protested Dearlie, feebly. " Tbere've been two dances already."

" I've only just come, and yon've only jnst come, so it's our first. Come, Dearlie ; you're not going to throw me over, surely."

Dearlie ati|l seemed reluctant* and if only Dunlop had given her the faintest sign that be wanted bershe would have danced with him gladly and not given another thought to jroung Dalrymple, but he did not Alfea'dy the demon jealousy," which Solomon of old declared is cruel as the grave, was tugging at his heart strings and whispering in . his ear, telling him that this man had youth, wealth, good looks—everything, in fact, that tnakei| nfe worth living. If was only natural that a girl should prefer to dance with him. Had she not'made arrangements to that effect the night before? All bar. gentle tenderness of the afternoon.wae forgotten ;or but remembered to add intensity to the bitterness with which he said—

" Indeed, Miss Nairn, I have no wish to stand in the way. I quite admit the prior claim," and he said it bo coldly that Dearlie felt without under standing that something had gone wrong; some dark- shadow had clouded the sunshine of her happiness. Dalrymple kept urging her to begin, but she paused another moment, making one more effort to bring things back to their original footing. She could not, Bhe felt, leave Dunlop with those cold tones ringing in her ears.

"But our dances," she faltered, growing hot all over, as she felt Bhe might be offering herself to a man who wanted none of her. "Our dances. There—there are no programmes, you know."

Dunlop had been deaf to the ring of gladness in her voice when she offered him as many dances as he pleased, but he failed not to notice the constraint —constraint caused by his own manner, and he thought—

" Does she want to get out of that offer? Well, I will not bind her." So

he answered—

"I will come for my dance later on, if you will let me," and with that Dearlie had to be content, for someone inside struck up a waltz, end Dalrymple carried off his unwilling partner.

Helen stood by, a much-chagrined spectator of the little scene. It was a new experience for her to find Dearlie preferred before her, but she, like the proverbial looker-on, saw exactly how the land lay, and determined, quite as much for her own sake as for his, to show Dunlop what a mistake he was making. She fully expected, now that Dearlie was gone, that he would come over and ask her to dance. But, to her vexation, he did no each thing. Apparently oblivious of her very existence, he turned his back on her and, leaning against the side of the pavilion, seemed buried in bis

own thoughts.

" Well," said Miss Nairn to herself, not best pleased, " this is certainly qnite a new experience. Now, shall I speak to this fool or shall I go in to

Auntie? "

She paused a moment, and as Bhe hesitated a young fellow appeared in the doorway and saw her.

" Miss Nairn," he said. " Miss Nairn, by jove I am in luck if you'll give

me this dance."

" With pleasure," she said, taking his arm and going inside, and Dunlop

lost hia chance of happiness for that night, as we all lose chances, simply by perversely taming away, though they be just within our grasp. Scarcely bad Dearlie left him when his mood changed.

" Dear little girl," he thought. " Dear tittle girl. Why, after all, how could Bhe have done otherwise, and surely, surely she cared for him. How sweet, how tender she had been that very afternoon. The sweetest woman in the world. And if he had'Only pressed it, would she not have danced with him rather than with young Dalrymple? Would she not rather have danced with him? Had she not always been sweet and winsome ever since

he had known her ?"

The waltz inside went steadily on, an appropriate accompaniment to bis thoughts. Clear young voices took up the refrain, and it rose and fell on

the summer night air.

" Tell ber I love her so—I love her so."

"My darling," said Dunlop to himself, "and so I will tell you myself bftore I am half an hour older. I'll go tor you as soon as ever this dance is


He had just decided to go inside so as to be ready to intercept Dearlie and her partner, when the sound of her name arrested his attention. He had been conscious of a murmur of voices close beBide him all along, but had been too occupied with bis own thoughts to notice what was being Baid. Now, however, he realised the voices belonged to Miss Popham and Mrs. Crawford, who were seated on the benqh that ran round the inside of the building. Only the boards of the wall separated them from bim, and the open trellis work above made every word of their conversation as distinct as if addressed to him personally. For a moment he hesitated about playing eavesdropper, and then laughed at his punctiliousness. They knew as well as be did that every word they said must be distinctly audible outside and the conversation he had overheard was certainly of a most trivial nature.

They were discussing the relative merits of Miss Popham's two nieces, and Dnnlop, amused and interested, decided to si&y where he was.

" Miss Nairn is certainly very handsome," said Tllrs. Crawford—very -few oi Helen's feminine acquaintances ever called tier by her Christian name

—" but to my mind there ie something ten times more lovable in Dearlie. What a winsome girlish face it is >"

" Right you are. You're a brick, Mrs. Crawford," thought their nnseen

auditor. '

. " Pooh 1" said Miss Popham. " Keziah's is just a girlish prettiness—lov able and Bweet. Well, yes, so she is ; but there is nothing else in her face, while Helen is really handsome, and will be handsome at 70. She looks like a queen, and wsb born to rule."

" H'm, but then you see one or two queens are quite enough in the world at a time, and the majority of folks don't want one of those who were born to rule on the premises. No, give me Dearlie. But why do you always call

her Keziah?"

" Because it's her name, and I hate those foolish nursery nicknames. It her parents don't think Keziah good enough, why did they call her so. Dearlie, indeed ! The foolishness of the name makes me croes whenever I

think of it."

" Well, now ; and I just think it suits her splendidly. She's a dear little thing; just the sort of wife I'd choose if I were a man."

"I think I may tell you in confidence someone has already chosen her." "Who? That one-eyed Mr. Dnnlop."

The listener outside gave such a perceptible start that the frail wall shook but the two women paid no attention.

"Mr. Dnnlop," said Miss Popham, in crnelly clear tones. "No, of course not. Why, he must be forty at least; old enough to be her father "—the listener thought bitterly of the proverb that applied so well to himself— " and just look at his face 1"

" One side's very good-looking—extremely handsome I may say," put in good-natured Mrs. Crawford.

"Yes, but the other. Why, a girl could never bear to sit opposite that for the rest of her life. And he knows it, too. Of course he knows it I'm convinced he has never dreamt of Dearlie. He likes her in a fatherly way, as is only natural. Nothing more."

" But—but—the Montgomerya were telling me," said Mrs. Crawford, loth to give np her idea, "that they thought Dearlie quite smitten when she was

with them."

'What otter nonsense n eonle do talk. It iust

goes to show they don't understand Dearlie. She's a soft-hearted little thing, and I expect believes Mr. Danlop feels his misfortune keenly, so probably goes much further than she other wise would to show her sorrow and sympathy, but—love him—tut, tut. Well, people are foolish. She looks on him as an elderly friend—thinks of him as years older than himself—looks on him as a father, in fact."

" Well, who do you mean, then?" asked Mrs. Crawford, regardless of grammar.

" Why, Charlie Dalrymple, of course. Anyone can see he's over head and ears in love with her. Just look at them now."

There was a momentary pause, while Mrs. Crawford evidently singled out that particular couple from among the rest of the dancers. Then she spoke again.

" Well, it does look like it, I must confess; bat to tell you the truth I have always thought him her Bister's lover. I'm sure lost winter all Melbourne thought so.

"Yes," assented Miss Popham, half reluc tantly. " He was very much in love with Helen, but that's nothing. Lots of young fellows are that. Naturally enough Helen didn't care for him ; but with Keziah it is different She is not so accustomed to admiration and attention, and I am sure she loves him, though, of course as she's known him all her life, I shouldn't be sur prised if Bhe hardly realised it herself yet

" Then I suppose we shall hear of the engage ment in a day or two."

" Yes, I expect so, or I should not speak so freely. But, of course, this is in confidence. You will not repeat it. I want "

But Dunlop felt he bad had enough. Not for one moment did it occur to him to doubt the truth of what he had heard. Miss Popham must know he felt—must be pretty certain, or she never would have spoken bo confidently ; and he walked away with a dull, heavy weariness at his heart that he could hardly explain to himself. Down on to the beach he wandered, and up and down the little pier, almost deserted now, he marched, forgetting his engagement with Dearlie Nairn. He remembered it at length, and laughed bitterly. What did it matter? What could it matter ? She had her young lover. She would never miss him. He wsb old, like a father to her Miss Popham had said ; and though he had told himself the same thing a dozen times over, he knew now that he had not believed it He never understood clearly how high bis hopes had been till he realised they were blighted for ever. He was no boy, to love and get over it and forget He was not young. He had loved other women and forgotten them, but this he felt instinctively was different This pretty bright-faced girl had crept into his heart before he realised the gulf that lay between them, and even if he might not have her no other woman might fill her place. Happy 1 Ah 1 he would have made her ten times happier than that young cub she bad chosen. But still, since he was her choice he would endeavour to think well of him. Butthe

Bight of those two happy together would be more, he felt, than he could bear, and he would go to-morrow. He would see her once again, and wish her every happiness, and then he would go back to Melbourne and forget his misery, if he could, in his work. There was only work to look forward to in his life now, he thought—only his work. Up and down the little pier be marched —up and down—draining a bitter cup to the very dregs, and paying attention to no one. The half-dozen small boys who sat on the pier-head fishing for the leather-jackets that were attracted by the bright light of the pier-lamp gathered up their lineB and their spoils and went home to bed. The last couple who had preferred the quiet ot the shore to the music and the dancing above had gone. The piano stopped, and all grew quiet and still; yet he kept up his monotonous walk, and took no heed of the time. The night wore on, but still wrapped in his own sad thoughts he marched up and down, up and down. Black Joe and German Charlie, the fishermen, came down and began to prepare their boats and nets for the morning's fishing, and stared in wonder at this stranger who was ont when he might be comfortably in his bed, but he paid no beed to their cheery greeting, and only paused when Black Joe, curious and bolder than his companion, stood right in front of him and asked for a match. Mechanically Dunlop searched his pockets, and at last found one, and as he did so his fingers touched the soft silken scarf Dearlie had bound round his eyes only that afternoon, Gould it be only that afternoon, he wondered ? It seemed ages ago, and he drew it out, and for one moment hesitated as to whether he should fling it into the sea. Then he remembered she had given it him in all tenderness and kindness. If he had been a fool she was hardly to be blamed for it. And as he thought of how gently she had drawn her hand across his scarred face he laid the soft silken thing pgainst bis cheek and turned towards the hotel at last. When he arrived there it wsb bolted and barred against him. With infinite difficulty he succeeded in rousing out the waiter.

"It's near morning," he observed in injured tones ; and Dnnlop, looking round, saw the first faint streakB in the east that heralded the coming day

Then he entered, and, declining the proffered candle, groped his way to his own room, stumbling by the .way over some brooms, a backet, and all the

hoarders' boots, which apparently had been left as a man-trap at the top of the stairs. He made aq exclamation, not lond bnt deep, for let a man's Borrow be ever so great he will yet find that the minor ills and everyday aggravations of life haveetill power to trouble and annoy him. And Dearlie Nairn, lying wide awake in her room opposite, sorrowing over her spoiled evening, striving vainly to think what could nave gone amiss, heard him and wondered if this belated wanderer could possibly be the man she had waited for so anxiously all the evening. But he could not know that That is this way of the world ; and he went to bed for the abort remaining portion of the night, more firmly resolved than ever to leave Portaea next