|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||Miles Dunlop's Mistake|
" THE coildden's PICNIC."
" Pleasant u the light of the morning when the tun rue lb, eren as a morning without clouds."—2 Stm, '
With the perversily common to the Australian climate, the next day dawned hot and still, a bright son, a cloudless sky, and a sea like glass, pro claiming a midsummer day, and at breakfast that morning the yonng Nairns reminded their aont once mere ot the promised expedition to the wreck of the Cheviot, andsuggeated that this was a fit and proper day for it to be
Miles Dunlop. seatedat the breakfast with them, aided and abetted, and soon the whole family were deep in discussion over the list of eatables and drinkables that iwere to be taken.
" We'll walk of coarse," said Dearlie. "The tide '11 be right out I know, and we can walk along the beach for about fonr miles, and then there is really only a narrow strip of land between the bay and the wreck. The Doctor told me last night that just there. It isn't ten minutes' walk
" fiat it'll be about five mites," said Helen. " And there's coming back again, I think I'll etay at home. I'd be tired to death."
" Oh Lord, yes," said Tom. " You'd much better. I know what yon are »hen you're tired, and find your boots full of sand. You're a handful, yon are. Yon just stay at borne, and superintend the masher's love-making."
" Tom 1" said Helen severely, while Dearlie laughed.
'' It's too bad of yon, Tom/' she said. Yon make that man's life a burden to him. I'm sue H be knew me he'd come and return me devouteBt thanks on his bended knees tor taking you away for a whole day."
'1 Exactly—on his knees," said Tom, " that's the attitude he most affects. I caught him atit again yesterday. His girl—his own particular girl—was Bitting on a rock When that gaby came along. Down on his knees be plopped, put his head in her lap, and said—Oh some rot or other, I didn't notice what I w^ beUud the rock looking out for him, so I just let out a yell, and my wo^^ji^lpiljjr lunbjp,"
"Thomas," said Miss Popbam severely, "you really use shocking language, and your conduct is most improper."
"Well now, aunt," said Tom aggrieved, "that's just what I say about
them. Their conduct is really most improper, spooning on the beach in that way, and I do everything in my power to correct them. I'm sure I can't do more. As for language, you just ought to have heard him. He jnmped up, shook the sand off his pants, shook his fist at me, and shouted,
I'll hair murder you, you young blackguard, when I catch you.' What do yon think of that now ? Nice language, eh ?
"Tom,"eaid Dearlie, "it was quite excusable. You really oughtn't to behave like that Seriously, I think it is very wrong."
" Oh yes. of course, I dareBny, you've a iellow feeling for them. I suppose you and Charlie Dalrymple cany on in exactly the same way. Don't let me catch you at it, though, that's all."
" I—I—I,"stammered Dearlie, crimson to the roots of her hair. "Tom, how dare you? How dare you say. such a stupid, such a wicked thing?" and Miles heard her stamp her little foot on the uncarpeted floor.
Miss Popham came to the rescue.
" Thomas," she said, " hold your tongue. If you can't let your Eisfer atone you mny spend the day in yonr own room. Keziah, don't be so ridiculous. 1 here's nothing to cry about," for Dearlie was furtively endeavouring to get rid of a tear which she hoped no one had noticed. " You can't expect the hoy
to be blind." •
" But—but—there's nothing to see," said Dearlie with an effort to keep her voice steady that brought the tears into her eyes again.
"A" right, dear," eaid Tom consolingly. " You're not a bad old thine, ond I don't want to tease you. But I s:iy now, let's start as soon as we can. Who's coming? Are you, aunt?"
..." my (iear) no. It's too far for me. There'll be Keziah and you ond Winifred, and the two little boys, that'll be all. Katherine had better stay
with me. She really is too small to go."
"Yes, and Mr. Dun lop—you'll come, won't you? Yon said you would last nighf, you know."
Miles paused before answering. He wondered if this pretty girl beside him were really so taken up with young Dalrymple as her brother seemed to
think. If she were—
And as he hesitated, Dearlie thinking he did not like to come on Tom's invitation alone, raised her face shyly, and said,
" Do come. If you don't despise a children's picnic, that is."
" Despise it ? Oh no, I'll be delighted if only you'll have me." Hut Mis9 Popham looked doubtful.
" Well really," she began, " I only meant it for a family picnic, but "
" But you'll let me go to take care of them," said Dunlop boldly. " There are all the provisions to carry, and they'll be too much for Mibb Dearlie and
the younger ones."
She hardly liked it, be saw, but the day was hot. She was not inclined to go herself, and so at last Tom wrung a halt reluctant invitation for his friend, an invitation which Miles accepted, and called himself a fool lor his
" We'll start at once," Baid Tom. But the impedimenta for even so small and unassuming a picnic took some time getting together, and it was 10 o'clock beiore they were'fairly on their way.
Very hot and uninviting looked the white limestone road that stretched up the hill past Dr. O'Hea's and oh towards the Quarantine Station, and the ti-tree on either side was white with dust after the wind of yesterday. But the young Nairns heeded this but little, and raced in and out of the bushes in a way that threatened setions damage, as their sister reminded them more than once, to the eatables they carried. Dunlop and Dearlie walked along spberly enough, quite content with each other's society. Indeed the only pity was Miles could not know that it was. bis presence lent a charm for Dearlie to this impromptu picnic, even ;as it was for her sake that he had come, a fact which she was beginning more than half to suspect But it is not given us to read one another's thoughts, even the thoughts of thoBe we love best, and perhaps it is well that it is no, for for once that such a power would give pleasure, twenty times it would give pain. And so for want of this power, lor want of a little boldness and sell-confidence on his part Dunlop walked along beside his companion all unconscious that it was his presence gave gladness to her day—that the sun was not too hot—the road not too steep—the sand not too heavy—the way not too long—simply be cause he was beside her. To her girlish fancy he was a veritable hero of romance. The shot-marked face which he fancied she must needs shrink from called forth all her pity and tenderness. There is an element of protecting tenderness in all true women's love, and Dearlie, though she did not analyse her feelings for herself, loved the man beside her twenty times more because Bhe was so intensely sorry for hitn. The seventeen years that stretched between them, and that looked to him so terrible a gulf, were to her an added charm. This was no commonplace young man, who paid her foolish compliments, and showed ber he was thoroughly content with both himself and her. He was a man of the world, this stranger who had come into her life ; a man who had travelled far and wide, who had seen strange sights and strange peoples, whe had mixed with all sorts and conditions of men, who had, presumably, seen many fair women, and yet who seemed more than content to walk beside her, a simple Australian girl with no particular charm of face or manner to recommend her. Miles Dunlop paid ber no compliments, only the one great compliment which a girl values more than all, did men but know it—the compliment of talking to her earnestly and seriously as if Bhe were his equai in mind. Aud Dearlie did appreciate it; and as she listened and answered him, and sometimes halt shyly ventured on an opinion of her own, she thought that nowhere in all the wide world was there tliiB man's equal. Up till now not even to herself had she acknowledged she was in love, hardly even had she been aware of the fact, so gradually, so imperceptibly, had love grown out of the friendship that had sprung up from the very first between them ; but now—now, surely, she was not wrong in being so glad to be with him. Surely it was not wrong to love him, for Bureiy he loved her in his turn. She felt it in the touch of his hand, in the sound of bis voice, in the subtle deference and tenderness of his manner ; she felt it and waB supremely glad. He had spoken no word of love, it was true, but she wanted none for the present. She wanted to get accustomed to her new happinesB, and was utterly content
At the Quarantine Station they stopped and filled their billy with water from the well, tor, as everyone knows, water is scarce along the coast and they knew they could get no more unlees they walked right down to the fort at Point Nepean. Dismal and deserted looked the tall limestone quarantine buildings, and the children ran along the verandahs and peeped in ai the long, Btaring, blindless windows ana shouted at the top of their voices in order to have the pleasure of hearing the echo repeat their words.
" Well, upon my word," said Tom, it wouldn't be half bad to be in
there's the echo"—and he gave a loud "Whoop I" and listened as the hills llung the eound back again.
" Well, really, Tom}'.' said Dearlie, " I never beard of an echo as an attrac tion before, and to be cooped up in one of those desolate houses—oh! dear, 1 shouldn't like it, should you ?" turning to Dunlop.
"Well, I don't know. Under certain circumstances, you see, it mightn't be bad. It would depend on whom one's companions were. With some, now " And though he didn't complete the sentence, Dearlie felt that with him for a companion even a residence in the quarantine buildings would be bearable. At the door of the little telegraph office stood the telegraph operator, a young fellow who found time hang rather heavily on his hands, and was therefore very anxious that they should visit his little domicile and let bim make tbem some tea. He amused Dunlop by his very evident ad miration for Dearlie, but she crushed him promptly, cruelly deciding tbey bad no time, and so tbey went down the long uncomfortable flight of steps that led to the beach, and walked along the damp hard sand that the tide had laid bare. Past the cattle quarantine station, past the long pier that stretched out into the bay, round this point and that little inlet, they walked fill there seemed only one long stretch of sand between them and Point Nepean itself. Deepest, darkest blue was the sky; deepest, darkest blue the ses. The gale of yesterday had passed away, and the wavelets that broke in whitest foam at their feet were very baby waves, just imitating, on a small scale, the great " white horses " they could eee breaking m clouds of toam and spray out in the Bip.
•'Here's the path the soldiers made," said Tom at last, flinging himself down at the footot the cliff with a sigh, " and thank goodness. 1 m really
f1.! fPfi . "
"NonBente," said Dearlie. "I can't believe we've got here so qn«,CNo* Idotewy not,"growled Tom, "when you've only got yourself to carry. I guess Mr. Dunlop could tell a different tale. V hat a mean trick to let bim carry all your things. JuBt like a girl.
" Now, thats mean of you, Tom," protested Winny, to say it a like a girl. I've carried mine all the way."
I don't think I'd like
t°And Deftrliefth'nkinfi'of'he'new aweeth.ppinesa tbatWM juat da»ni»g
for ber, answered most truthfully—
|| QJ. | II
Ten minutes' walk over the steep ridge that divides the shoreB of Port Phillip from those of Bass Straits brought them to thehttle rock-bound bay where, on that stormy night not three months before, a good ship bad wane to her destruction and so many souls had perished. I lie steep stern focka stretohed out their arms on either side, and right away from the beach stretched a long shelving platform of rock left bare by the ebbing tide and covered only by the long slippery green seaweed, liigbt at the end of this platform, separated only by a narrow strip of deep water, which however, was not apparent to the onlookers from the cliffs above, was all that remained of tbe good ship Cheviot Only her wheel and part of her hull red now with ruBt, remained, looking pitiful and forlorn in the hriJht sunlight while right up to the foot of the cliff the beach was Btrewn wit n wreckage.' Everything that could by any possibility be counted of use had long beo been taken away, but even now the sands were covered with snlintered wood aud broken iron, broken cabin fittings, bags of chaff and mildewed flour, and other odds and ends piled high one on top of the 0tThe rhildren cave a shriek of delight as they scrambled down tbe hill « A wi«t a M for exploration ! What wonderful strange treasures Sht not the sea have calt SK them I Even Dearlie, filled with a little
aA« 5 & &
billy at The wreck wood burned with a clear blue flame, and Dearlie looked thoughtfully into it as she caretuliy balanced the quart pot on the stonf piece of wood Miles bad placed there for that purpose.
"How blue it bnrnBJ"she said. " I suppose its because the wood has been in the Bea so long. How cruel of us it seems to be enjoying ourselves here: and yet I do feel so happy. It seems like a dream that those peoph* should have died here. Oh, dear, I'm afraid I'm very bard-hearted."
" Not at all," said Duntop. Why shonld you grieve for them, poor beggars. They are better dead—some of them. The world is full of such pitiful stories. We can't stop to grieve over them all. I think, Miss Dearlie, you will find your own troubles enough to bear."
" Mine," she laughed, "mine. Oh, mine are very little troubles indeed," and at that moment she did feel they were but a feather weight. " But tell. me," she wertt on, "do you think the world is sad? Do yon really, and 1 have been trying so bard all my life to think it is a happy world."
"Iam very sorry you should have bad to try. I hoped yon had no
"Well, neither I have," she said, busily unpacking the luncheon basket, and laying out cherries and apricots, cakes and sandwiches, beneath the Bhade of a rock, at a convenient distance from the fire. " I don't suppose you'd even call them troubles at all. Only we're so poor, you see. I don't know how it is other doctors make a lot of money, but father doean't seem to. And mother is so delicate. It doesn't seem nice of me to grumble, does it. But there are auch a lot of us, and clothes and schooling cost so much, and it's so hard to make both ends meet. Why, the butcher's bill alone —it's enough to turn my hair grey. You don't know the delight of getting
away from it for a whole month;" and Dearlie, feeling that half her tronbles were gone in the telling, smiled np happily into the kindly face bending over
" Poor little girl," he said, "poor little girl; but how about your sister? She doesn't look as it site knew mach about poverty."
" Well, no," said Dearlie, " because you see she doesn't. She has always lived with Aunt Pop ever eince she was a little girl. Aunt Pop'e rich, yon know. At least, she's got £1,000 a year, and that's a lot for two women. She's going to leave it all to Helen, too."
" That's rather hard on the rest of you."
" Oh, no, not at all. I think she's right. It wouldn't be worth dividing amongst us; and Nell's her god-child, you Bee, and she's very fond of her. Father says Aunt Pop was every bit as good-looking as Helen when she was young. You wouldn't think it now. would you? "
" Well, ves, I should. She's a very handsome old lady. Perhaps a little hard and stern-looking."
""She is a little hard on u3 sometimes, I think ; but there, it's very wrong of me to criticise. She's very kind and good. Every year she brings us down to the seaside for a month's holiday, and you can't think how we look forward to it and enjoy it This year, I think," she added, looking up half Bhyly in his face, " it will be nicer than ever."
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask if he had anything to do with her pleasure, but the thought of Charlie Dalrymple and Tom's conversation of the morning restrained him, and again he told himself he was an old fool. This bright-eyed girl, who was chatting away to him so confidentially, only did so because she thought him a middle-aged mau. It was young Dalrymple's presence mode it " nicer than ever " for her. Half awkwardiy he answered her.
"Nicer than ever," he repeated. "How's that? Are the butcher's bills worse this year than usual ?"
" Not much, I think. Only we are all growing older, and everything costs more—clothes especially. Do yon know," sinking her voice to an awe struck whisper, "I often think I'm very wicked, but I really can't help feeling thankful sometimes that all of us didn't grow up. There were two babies died between Nell and uie, and two between me and Tom, and another after Winny. Poor mother; the teare come into her eyes when she thinks of them. She Beems to want those dead babies ever so much more ihan she wants the rest of ub : but I must be keard-bearted, I'm afraid, for I always think whatever should I do if there were eleven of us instead of
" Poor little girl," said Miles again. " I know it must be hard work." But Dearlie was struck with Bud len compunction.
" How horrid I am; how horrid. Indeed, I am very happy. I was only thinking this morning I was one of the happiest girls in the world."