Chapter 139145665

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter TitleA DELICATE OPERATION.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139145665
Full Date1889-12-21
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count3601
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleMiles Dunlop's Mistake
article text

Chapter V.

A DELICATE OPERATION.

" There's many a slip 'twist the cup and the lip."—Old Proverb.

They had been so engrossed in their own conversation that they bad paid no heed to the four younger ones, who had strolled off over the seaweed covered rocks, and were r enrolling in the holes for reels of cotton and snch

like relics of the ill-fated Cheviot. The holes were deep—seme of them deeper than they looked, bnt they had a great fascination for the children, who, with a long pole, stirred up the seaweed that grew in them and searched beneath it '.Vinny admired immensely the pretty sea-gardens with their sandy bottoms and crystal clear water, in which the seaweed—pink and coral and cream and red and all shades of green—showed off to each advantage ; but the boys had not as yet cultivated a taste for the beautifnl, and stirred up the pretty sea-gardens without compunction.

" Oh, crumbs I say Win," said Tom, moving aside a long feathery branch with his pole, " there's a little bottie down there. Hold on to this, and I'll

have it in a jiff."

Winny took the pole, and Tom lay flat on his face on the rock and stretched his arm down into the water, regardless ot the fact that his shirt Bleeve was getting abominably wet; bis coat be bad long ago discarded, and left behind in Dearlie's charge, lie stretched as far as he could, bnt still the little bottle was just beyond his reach.

" Very near that time, Tom," said Arthur. " Lean over a bit more, and Frank an' I'll hang on to your legs."

" Don't yon do anything of the sort," ordered Tom. "Stick the pole in again, Win ; a little more out There ; jam him against that limpet; he'll hold on like grim death, and I can hang on to the pole with one hand."

Winny did as she was told, and Tom leant over still more and groped for the coveted prize. Whether that limpet resented his house being made a stay of will never be known, for in the disaster which followed be was utterly demolished ; bat certain it is the limpet gave way, the pole slipped on to him and crushed him, and Tom, without any warning, lost his balance and fell head over heels into the still quiet pool. Winny shrieked in terror, and her younger brothers, seeing she was frightened, howled at the top ol their voices—a howl whicn broke in on' their elders' conversation and filled Dearlie's heart with a horrible dread. She gathered up her skirts and flew down across the slippery rocks, pausing not a moment to choose her path ; hut Dunlop was quicker, and when Bbe arrived, breathless and pant:ng, he was just hauling out Tom, gasping and Bpluttering, and dripping like a

drowned rat.

" The confounded hole was deeper than I thought," he gasped. " 1 thought I was done for."

" You really ought to be careful," said Miles, reprovingly. " You frightened your siBters. There, Miss Dearlie, don't look so terrified ; he's all right, and a ducking won't harm him on a hot day like this."

" It's spoilt bis trousers though, I think," said Winny, who thoroughly appreciated the family economies.

" Oh, that doesn't matter," said Dearlie; " luckily they're old and Tom hitched up his dipping garments and looked down at them as if he were

somewhat doubtful of their identity."

" Why, Tom," said Dearlie, " why, Tom . Ob, Tom, you don't mean to say you've got your best trousers on."

Tom muttered something sulkily between his teeth about his not having another decent pair to wear.

" Oh. dear," remonstrated Dearlie, "how unkind you are; as if any sort of clothes weren't good enough to tumble into the sea in. I'm afraid you'll have to go shabby now for the rest ot the summer."

Miles was surprised to find Dearlie taking Iter brother's escapade so mnch to heart, and she, perhaps, read his thoughts. " I told yon we were horribly poor," ehe said, as they went slowly back to luncheon, "and yon see now how unromantic it is when poverty comes to be applied. The worst of it is, mother's sure to think it's my fault. ' Why can't yon look after them ?' she'll say. She never seems to know that Tom ipill consider himself a man, and sits on me if I interfere. Don't langh at my small troubles if you can help it Here we are, and the billy boiling, too. Give me that packet, please, and I'll show you how to make billy tea."

It was a merry little luncheon party, and when the tea w&a all drank Winny and the boys produced their pocket-handkerchiefs full of the big warreners that abound on the coast, and proceeded to boil them in a biliyiul of salt water. Miles could not be persuaded to touch the slimy, green, uninviting-looking snails, that were withdrawn from their domiciles by the aid of Dearlie's hat-pine, and eagerly devoured by the young

Nairns.

"Englishmen are so fastidious," laughed Dearlie. "You thought yon couldn't drink hilly tea, and yet you liked it after all. I suppose you never went to such a rough-and-tumble picnic before."

"1 never enjoyed myself more," he said, earnestly, "never," and he saw her fair face flush at the implied compliment,

The children wandered off again and resnmed their researches among the rocks and pools, sometimes up to their waists in water, for the tide was rapidly coming in, and soon the wreck of the Cheviot was only visible every now and again amidst the clonds of white spray that enveloped it Donlop found a comfortable shady spot beneath a rock for Dearlie, where Bhe could survey nearly all the beacb, and could keep on eye on her young charges, and then flung himself down on the sand beBide her.

" May I lie betel" he asked.

"Why, of course," she answered, " but don't you want to Bmoke f* ; » " No, not know. I'd rather talk to you."

" But you can talk to me and smoke, too. I don't mind."

"lam content more than content I shall just lie here and looka| yom*

Oearlie Bmiled, well pleased, and spread out her pink cotton skirts.

" Your hair will get full of sand," she said ; ' take my jacket, unless you prefer that towel Tom brought. 1 don't think it's very wet now."

"Tom's towel versus your pretty jacket. Come now, Miss Dearlie, how do you think there could be any choice ?" said he, accepting the invitation

with alacrity.

"Ob, dear!" she said, "I wonder if I oughtn't to have asked you. I suppose an English girl wouldn't. However, it's much more comfortable, isn't it; and as I'm not English, you must make up your mind to put up with my eccentricities, and talk to me, and entertain me ?"

"Eccentricities," he murmured; "do you know how charming your eccentricities are?" and he just touched lightly the little hands.that lay

'

[ DRIPPING LIKE A DROWNED RAT.—Chap. V.

spread in ber lap. Sorely he was tempted, as he looked up at the fair face - beneath the big shady hat, to put bis fate to the touch, and Bettle the vexed question once for all. But then she was so young and fair, he felt old and worn beside her. He had so little to offer, and suppose—suppose she should say " no." and then their present friendly intercourse, which had been to him bo sweet and pleasant a thing, would be utterly Bpoiled. Ho, he dared not risk it, and he sighed so heavily that Deariie looked down and aaked him what was the matter.

" Nothing, nothing. I sighed over the general unsatisfactoriness of life, 1 suppose."

"I'm sorry you find it unsatisfactory," she said. "You seem to me to have had such nice times. You don't know how I like hearing you talk about all the places you have seen. It's ever bo much better than a

book."

It was a doubtful sort of compliment, Dunlop thonght, half sadly, but he felt she did not mean it in that way, and exerted himself to entertain her, not that it required much exertion, for Deariie listened with such wrapt attention to whatever he said, and he found such pleasure in talking to her and watching ber, that the shadows grew long and the tide had quite covered the platform of rock before either of them thought of anything beyond their two selves. It suddenly dawned on Deariie that she did not hear the children's voices, and that she had not beard them for some

time.

" Oh !" she said, " Mr. Dunlop, I quite forget the children. I hope they're

in no mischief. I must go and look." And as he half reluctantly moved { his head Bhe rose to her feet and shook the sand out of ber skirts.

"I'll go round the point and see if they're there," she said, moving off, a little surprised that he did not offer to accompany her. But as he did not, she went by herself, and rounding a cliff there came upon ber brothers and BiBter, very wet, and supremely happy, busily engaged in building a bonfire of wreck-wood against the face of the rock.

"We're shipwrecked mariners," called out Tom, who had comfortably forgotten the incident of bis trousers, and was now piling planks together as if his life did in reality depend upon it " We're shipwrecked mariners, and we can't find a drop of water on these coasts, though there's rasbings of shell-fish. See that cutter over there ? We're making a smoke to attract her attention."

' And if she comes to your aid she'll be dashed to pieces in the breakers,"

said'Dearlie.

"Oh, no, they'll heave to and send off a boat, and if it can't get in we'll be able to swim out to it, or perhaps they'll heave us a rope. There must be Bome way, you know."

Deariie agreed, but declared she thought it was time these^ shipwrecked sailors began to think of wending their way homewards.

*'Oh I no, no," chorused the young Nairns ; " we haven't made a smoke yet Don't be in such a hurry, Deariie. Goodness knows when we'll be here again."

That there was no denying, so after a parting injunction not to set the scrub on fire their sister left them with a promise that she would wait half qn hour more.

On her return she was surprised to find Dunlop seated exactly as she had left him, with his handkerchief up to his face.

"Why, Mr. Dunlop," she said, "what's the matter?"

"The matter," he laughed, still with his face covered. "Oh 1 I've got some sand in my eye, and it's a little painful. That's all. You see, having only one makes it awkward."

" Oh dear I and I did it, I know I did, when I jumped up in such a hurry and Bhook my dress just now. Mr. Dunlop, I am so sorry. What can I do to help yon ?"

"Nothing but lend your hand to lead the blind man bome."

" Don't," she said ; " don't talk like that Does it hurt much ? I know it does. Don't rub it; don't rub it You're only making matters worse. Shut your eyes and let the tears wash it away."

"I've tried that," said' Miles dismally, "and it's no good. It seemB absurd to make a fuss about such a trifle, but really, MiBS Deariie, what shall I do ? It's an awful predicament"

"A trifle do yon call it? I don't And it's very painful, I know. Salt water wouldn't hurt it, would it ? I'll fill the billy, and we must try and

wash it out"

But no amount of water seemed to have any effect on that obstinate grain of sand. Miles buried his face in his handkerchief, wringing wet now, and sighed dolefully; and Deariie, in despair, put. her hand lightly on his shoulder by way of consoling him.

• " You must let me try now," she said. "I can turn back the lid, I think, and take it out with the.,corner of my pocket handkerchief. Lift up your . lace and let metry.","

" I've tried that."

"No, you didn't. You only pulled one eyelid over the other, and that's evidently no good. You're worse than one of the children. Be good, now,

and let me try."

A long course of experiencedn a household where the mother was too delicate to attend to childish ailments, and consequently all the domestic surgery and troubles incident thereto fell on her daughter's youthful shoulders, had taught Dearlie to use her fingers deftly and skilfully ; and as Dunlop still demurred, she put her hand under his chin and gently turned

his face up to hers.

"You muBt let me," she said. "Your eye is getting quite inflamed. There, now, don't shrink away; it won't take a minute." And she turned up his eyelid and drew the corner of her handkerchief, tightly screwed up into a point, across his eyeball.

"There, there," she said triumphantly, as he covered his face again, " now it'll be all right. See, the sand's on my handkerchief, and a big bit too. Did I hurt you very much? I hope not I couldn't help hurting a little, and it was all my fault at first I am so sorry."

It was delightful to have her bending over him ; delightful to feel her cool finger-lips on his face. It made the blood go racing through his veins, and his heart beat till he almost fancied she must hear it

"Are you sure it's all right?" Bhe asked a little anxiously, as he made no

answer.

He stooped and caught her hand, and raised her long slim fingers to his

lips.

"Clever little girl, dear little girl. Where did these soft little hands learn to be so skilful ?" Then, as he felt her band tremble in his, he clasped it

closer for a moment and added—

"I hope you didn't mind very much stooping over such a hideous

face."

"I—I—oh ! Mr. Dunlop." There were tears in Dearlie's voice, and he :eit her soft baud drawn gently—he had almost thought tenderly—down ais scarred face. " If you knew, if you ouly knew, how sorry I am."

He put his hand out and touched her dress as she stood close beside

him.

"My darling, my darling," he said, scarcely above a whisper, and yet Bhe heard him ; " is it possible that "

How is it that young brothers aDd Bisters have such an unconscionable way of appearing just when they are least wanted ? All the long afternoon the young Nairns had kept religiously away, and nothing had passed that all the world might not have seen and heard ; but now, when Dunlop would have given almost anything for just another five minutes with Dearlie alone here they came racing round the corner, shouting at the top of their

voices.

"Ahoy ! ahoy ! Dearlie ahoy!" yelled Tom, like a young demon Miles thought. " The cutter saw us, and is coming in like blazes."

Dearlie drew her hand away, and Dunlop sat upright promptly.

"We're all saved," went on Tom, unconscious of the anathemas that were being hurled at his devoted head. " We're all saved, and Hallo !

iVhai's the matter?"

"Nothing much," said Dunlop, rising. "I got some sand in my eye, and rour sister has been taking it out for me."

"Oh ! Dearlie's awfully good at that," said Winnie, hanging affectionately on her sister's arm. "Did she do it well, Mr. Dunlop? Why, look how pour hand's shaking. What's the matter, Dear?"

"Of course it shakes, you gawk," said Tom, "when you bang yourself on ber like that. Ten stone's no joke to lug about. Now, you'll have to have four eye tied up. At least, that's what Dearlie did to me last week."

Dearlie was half afraid to speak. Dunlop's tender words bad so stirred her she almost fancied her thoughts must be written on her face, and trembled at opening her lips lest her voice should betray her. But it had to be done, bo she answered Tom's last remark.

" Yes, indeed ; Tom's quite right. Your eye is too much inflamed to hear the bright sunlight You must let me tie thiB over it" And she took the pink silk scarf from her neck and began folding it into a bandage.

THEY WERE STANDING ALONE AT THE EAll END OF THE VERANDAH."—Chap. IL

> But," he protested, " I shan't be able to aee. What shall I dor

<0h ! yes yon will, a little, under the bandage ; and—and " she heeitated, and then went on bravely—" You muBt not despise my arm. I'll

take care of you going home."

Despise it," he began, as she put the handkerchief over his eyes, and with hands that he felt trembled, tied it there, but the presence of her young brothers and sisters restrained him, and dearly as he loved her, ardently as he mightdeaire their absence, he knew that his opportunity was gone for the present, and could only hope that in their close proximity on the road home he might have another chance. In reality he found, now that the bright sunlight wae Bhut out, that he could aee quite well, but not for worlds would he have owned such a thing. The delight of having Dearlie'slittle hand on his arm, of hearing her soft voice direct and guide him, was not to be so lightly foregone. So he sat still while the others collected their luncheon baskets and the various odds and ends which the children con sidered they really needed as mementoes of their visit to the wreck, and taking up a basket as his share of the load, quietly drew Dearlie'e arm through his as of right, and announc^L that he was quite ready to start. But the stars in their courses fought against birn that day. It was flood-tide now and ail thought of going back by the way they came was out of the question Of necessity they had to take the road through the scrub, a mere track winding its way at the bottom of the gullies, ankle deep in heavy black sand The thick ecrub, which was high over their headB, formed an im penetrable barrier through which not the faintest breath of wind forced its way The heat, therefore, was fairly stifling, and the younger members of the party, tired already with their long day's play, were cross and fretful, and by no means relished the thought of the long walk still before them. Arthur and Frank inatead of running on ahead, as they had done in the morning, fought fiercely for the right to hold their sister's hand, and keptse close beside her. Dunlop soon found to his mortification that all chance of private conversation waa gone. He had to content himself with pressing the ungloved band,which lay so contentedly on his arm against his side when ever the opportunity offered, and since it sent a thrill through his veins to see the sweet, shy look in her eyes, and the bright colour that flushed her cheeks, he found the opportunity occurred pretty often. About half-way a break in the hills let in the cool sea-breeze, and so tbey rested there for a quarter of an hoar, flinging themselves down on the black sand, utterly re gardless now of clothes, though careful Dearlie did murmur with a sigh that if the water hadn't quite spoiled Tom's trousers, she was pretty sure the black Band would finish them off entirely ; but the young gentleman merely exhorted his sister "to shut np, and let those blessed panto alone. It was bad enough to be wet and sandy and uncomfortable without having her nagging at a fellow," and began a frantic search through the basket he

carried.

' What are yon looking for. Tom ?" asked Dearlie anxiously. " I hops to goodness we haven't left anything behind."

" It my line—my new fishing line. Arthur," with sudden remembrance, I left it by that big hole where we aaw the crayfish and I told you to bring it along. What did you do with it?"

• i J don't know, Tom," faltered the child

'You young beggar," cried Tom, in what he felt was righteous wrath, seizing his brother's arm. " If you left it there, I'U-l'll-why that line cost two shillings, I'll bet, without the sinker.'

Arthur fully realising the situation, for shillings were not over plentiful in the Nairn family, began to sob, and started, tired as he was, to go back for

it

Dunlop stopped him.

" Why, my lad," he said kindly, " it wouldn't be any good. The water's six feet deep over those rocks by now. Never mind, don't cry, and I'll give

Tom another."

" Well, you are a trump," cried Tom, and Arthur wiped away biB tears on

the spot

" Arthur, Bay, 'Thank you," said Dearlie. "And now I think we had better go on again. We're sure to be late as it is.