Chapter 139145684

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Chapter NumberVII
Chapter TitlePOOR DEARLIE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139145684
Full Date1889-12-21
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count4786
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleMiles Dunlop's Mistake
article text

Chapter VII.

POOR DEARLIE,

"To die and part

Is a less evil: but to pirt and live,

There—there's the torment."—Lansdownb.

Next morning Dearlie rose up with a vaguely unhappy feeling, a feeling which ehe half hoped breakfast time would disperse. Surely, she thought, she would see Miles Dunlop at breakfast, and he would take that opportunity to explain his conduct of the night before. So she went down early, and with half-suppressed eagerness began attending to the wants of the children who accompanied ber. Every time the door opened her heart beat till it was almost pain to her, but as time passed and she found that he did not come a dull weary pain took the place of the former excitement, and Bhe found herself able to answer calmly enough when Tom, his mouth full of toast and honey, commented on Dunlop's absence.

"He is tired alter our long walk yesterday, I expect," she said.

" And the dance last night alter it," said Miss Popham. " Kezinh, t/oti look rather tired. There are black rings round your eyes. I was afraid it would be too rnucb for you."

" Crumbs 1" said Tom, " Duulop wasn't at the dance. It was too frivolous for a solemn stick like him, you bet. I saw liim marching away as if old Nick was after him at a very early stage of the proceedings. He spent the eveniug on the pier, and never came in tiil daylight this morning. Nice dissipated old beggar, ain't he?"

" How do you knowasked Dearlie.

" Moses over there told me. lie said he thought he waB drunk he was so cross, but I don't believe Here ! Crumbs ! I say, Ann, just you drop that honey. We don't often get a nice thing in this blessed pub, hut wheD we do we're going to stick to it, you bet"

"Thomas f began Miss Popham warningly.

"Hang it all, Aunt. Then just you tell her to drop the honey. We can eat all that here, audshe can get some more for the other table."

Dearlie smiled a little sadly over ber brother's eagerness for the honey. It was not so very long ago that such trifles had made up the Bum of her existence, but now—well, now, she simply thought she would give all she bad and a great deal more besides just to find herself and Miles Dunlop on (be same footing as they had been yesterday afternoon. What was the matter? What could have happened ? She put the question to herself over and over again without being able to find a satisfactory answer ; and she lingered over her breakfast as long as she could in the hope that Dunlop might make his appearance even at the eleventh hour.

"Cow's tail ! oh cow's tail said Arthur in derision, as Dearlie still toyed with a piece of bread and boney; and Miss Popham complained—

"Really, Keziah, you are a most unnecessary length of time over your breakfast this morning, and there are those ciothes the children wore yesterday to be seen to. I suppose you don't expect me to do it ?''

"No, of course not. Pit see to them, Auntie," said Dearlie, rising wearily •nd going upstairs. If Miles Dunlop were going to desert her site miglrt as well brush dirty clothes as do anything else. At any other time the array of damp sandy coats and knickerbockers would have appalled her, but now she went steadily through with her work, ending up by visiting Tom's room and calmly confiscating all the clothes she could lay her hands on, and though they seriouely interfered with her own comfort—taking up more apace in her room than she could well spare out of the somewhat cramped accommodation provided by a seaside hotel—she decided it was quite neces sary to keep them under her own eye.

Helen came in. and laughed at ber siBter for her petty economies, but Dearlie only sighed.

" You don't understand, Nell," she said. "Tom is so dreadfully extrava gant He never thinks. If I only leave him the clothes he has on, he must wear them as long as they hold together decently.''

" Well," said llelen, looking contemptuously at two pairs of trousers which Dearlie had sponged and bmahe I, and hung over the end of her bed to dry, where they lent a decidedly fishy flavour to the atmosphere. "Well I never should hare thought those relics worth saving. Look at this," putting her fingers through a rent in the knee. "Pah, they make the room unbearable."

" I'll hang them out on the back verandah as soon as people are fairly out of the way, but for tne present they must just stop here. As for relics, well they're ail Tom il have this summer, so he'll have to make the best of them."

"Ob, Dearlie, Dearlie. I wouldn't be you for all the world

" You were born with a silver spoon in your moutb, or better still, a fairy godmother. I wasn't, but I can't help that. Cume along, and let's go for our bathe."

Helen, who was a splendid swimmer, disported herself far out of her depth as if to the manner born, while Dearlie. who kept close to the ruined fence, and dared not venture in beyond ber waist, prophesied sharks and jeliy fish, and felt her heart come into her mouth every time a wave hid her sister from her sight.

Then, too, Winnie and Katie, far from sympathising with ber terror, scorned it as only children can scorn, and dearly longed to emulate their elder sister's prowess. It took poor Dearlie all her time to preyent these bold little maidens from going out of their depth. She knew she could not rescue them if they did, she very much douoted Helen's powers of doing bo, and so she sternly discouraged all feats, and generally succeeded in Bpoiling the children's fun quite as much as they spoiled hers. To-day somehow, probably because she was out of spirits, they seemed specially troublesome, and at last Winnie in open defiance of all authority, jumped into the hole the water bad w.orn round one of the posts. Tne waters closed over her bead tor a moment, and in her terror she clutched at the first thing that came to hand, and cut herself rather badly with the black mussels that clustered round the wood. There was little or no danger, but Dearlie, rushing tober assistance, , let go of Katie for a moment, and tue next saw that adventurous little damsel turned over and over by the Btrong current. She caught her as she passed, and then insisted on their both coming out. Usually it took twenty minutes or so to persuade them to leave the element they loved, but to-day Dearlie was glad to see they i were both a little frightened, and the sight of Helen, already half-dressed I standing in the door of the bathing-house, decided them, and they followed her meekly enough. Winnie of course coutd look after herself, but Katie. She, still in her wet bathing-gown, had to dry and dres*. Helen as usual was half contemptuous, half pitying, but sue never offered to help her

Bister.

" Oh, Dearlie," she said again, " I wouldn't be you for all the world.

"So you remarked once before I think—Katie do stand still. How can I tie your petticoat it you jump about like that. But after all, Nell, it's only by the merest chance you haven't to live the same life I do."

" I'd never have done it. never. l\l marry anybody rather." ! "Anybody hasn't asked me," said Dearlie, putting the finishing touches to Katie's toilet, and beginning on her own, while Helen sat herself down on the doorstep in the brilliant sunlight, and looked down towards the

pier.

"I'll serve as a warning signal to all-comers to keep away while you dress, Dear," ehe said. "Come now, children, you've finished, be off with jroa, and take those wet bathing-gowns and towels up to the hotel."

They obeyed very reluctantly. They did not quite relish being ordered •way by their elder sister, but she waited until tbey were gone, and then began again.

" Tiresome brats 1" she said. *' I would do anything to get rid of the charge of them if I badu't—but, Dearlie, hasn't anyone ever asked you to marry him f'

" No—yes—that is no.

"What on earth do you mean by that Not the right person, I suppose. Come now, you wouldn't say 'No' to that Mr. Dunlop if he asked you, spite of bis face." - .

Dearlie flushed rosy red, and shook all her damp hair over her face while the hand that wielded the brash trembled a little, but she made no

answer.

" Yon foolish child," said Miss Nairn. " Don't you think he's in love with

you. You might as well tell me. I'm not going to proclaim it from the house-tops."

" I—I—oh, Nell, bunt out Dearlie, thinking what a relief it wonld be if She could only gain some wisdom from this worldly wise sister. " I fancied perhaps—bqt last nigbt he never came near me."

r " Hell, foplisb child, be never came neat anybody else, did be? He wbb jealous of Charlie Dalrymple, that's all. And yon, by way of improving shatters, daiioed with Charlie all the evening. Now, yon may be very-certain someone will be load enough to tell him that Indeed, I have yery little doubt Tom is imparting the precious information at this very moment, with all those little additions and exaggerations which form such a marked and charming trsit ln our dear brother's character."

"What—where—Nell... ...

"Now. don't get excited," said the elder rid calmly. " Just listen to toe.

- w —'our battered lover and bur adored and valned brother—have

the beach for some considerable time. Now our adorable _ _j persecute the masher,-2 presume. Thank heaven the i taking him in hand.. Yfeejy.fthzwhing fill d° bin* ail the

" l shoitld jifve piade it ft little longer. Npw the

e^y au. ilofit^ssiiqg pot on the aadf^wavei, thlnJdngprdbably

i l«t loYe, D6tft te'SBFT,De«tte"—lor tfafttyoong lady was Stamping

her foot with vexation at her stater's tone—' but be thankful you have a sensible sister, and take her advice. Go down now, and speak to him. Tell him you bated dancing with Charlie, but had no other choice since he never came near you. Tell him the exact truth, mind, and insist on telling him. Never mind how stiff and cold he is. Now go. No, never mind your hair. Y ou look

pretty witU it streaming down your shoulders. I shall go back through the scrub. Good luck go with you, my dear," and Helen rose, and, patting Dearlie on the shoulder, stepped out through a hole in the side of the bath

ing-house farthest from where Dunlop sat

"Nell," said Dearlie piteously, but Miss Nairn was already half-way up the sand hill, a moment more and she was lost to sight in the scrub.

Dearlie stood hesitating. A shyness she could not account lor had seized upon her, and ardently as she had been longing for the last twelve hours to see Dunlop, now that the chance bad come she almost felt inclined to slip away and follow her sister. But if she did, she jkuew she would only repent half an hour afterwards ; so, talcing her courage in both hands, sue came out of the bathing-house, and half gladly, half reluctantly, walked slowly acroB9 the sands to where Dunlop sat staring out seawards.

And if she could only have known his thoughts, she would have been still more reluctant, or, perhaps, would not have come at all, for lom, having visited the fishing boats which had just come in, and secured from the good-natured fishermen an unlimited supply of squid for bait, had joined Dunlop, whom he found moodily strolling along the beach, and favoured him with his views on things in general, and the dance of the night before in particular.

Miles, with his head full of the girl he had made up lus mmd he had lost forever, could not resist asking how the dance had gone off, and how his, Tom's, sisters had enjoyed it.

"Crumbs ! 'said Tom, making use of his favourite aspiration with fervour, " it was grand ; and didn't Dearlie enjoy it ? You can just bet she did. She danced all night long with Charlie Dalrymple. Look here, do you think he s

good-looking ?" . .

Dunlop murmured something which might mean anything, but which

Tom chose to take for assent.

" Do you now ? Well, I don't. I never could stand those pink-and white, baby-faced chaps myself. And he's not a bit of good at lootball— never was—a regular softy 1 call him, hut Dearlie thinks he's awfully good looking. I heard her tell Nell so one day ever so long ugo."

Tom did not add, as he might have done, that Dalrymple, in those days, was deeply in love with his eldest sister, and that Dearlie, moved to com passion by ins woe begone countenance, had been eloquently pleading his cause, and had brought forward all the arguments she could think of in his favour. Dunlop thought, with a sigh, it was very probable, and only natural, she should admire hitn, though he himself rather agreed with the chatterbox beside bim, and Tom, all unconscious of the pain he was inflicting, and the reckless way in which he was scattering Deatlie's most treasured hopes, went calmly on.

"You know, I think they're engaged."

Dunlop took no notice of this information, so Tom repeated it, till he

asked dully—

"Who?"

" Why, Dearlie and Dalrymple, of course.. In fact, I'm sure they are ; only I expect they want to keep it a secret till he's seen the gov. I heard him sar to Dearlie last night, "l'hen we won't consider it really settled till the end of the week,' and what else can that mean except that they're engaged. I guess I'd have heard more only Charlie saw me; and, oh crumbs ! wasn't he in a way ! Guess he thought I'd seen 'em spooning, only I didn't."

"Tom," said Dunlop, feeling he must say something, "don't you think it's rather mean to play the eavesdropper."

"Oh crumbs! that wasn't eavesdropping. I got tired of dancing; it's beastly slow, I think, and when I came out of the pavilion I saw two people in the scrnb. How was I to know who they were ? 1 thought it was the uiasher and his girl, and I crept up softly to give 'em a yell, as per usual. I was only waiting till it 'ad come in opportunely, when I trod on a stick. The blessed thing gave a loud crack, and CbRrlie was round on me like a shot. 1 only knew then it was Charlie. Crimini, wasn't he scotty ! Just look at this bruiseand Tom turned up his coat-.sleeve and tenderly inspected a blue mark on his arm.

" It served you right, Tom," said Dunlop, uneympathiBingly; " I hope it will be a lesson to you. i—why, bless my soul, what's that slimy stuff in your pocket ?"

" This," said Tom, forgetting his wounds, and taking a white, flabby sub stance, that emitted a strong fishy odour, out of his pocket, where it tay alongside his pocket-handkerchief and a rosy apple he had sneaked off the dinner table for future use ; "oh, this is squid, for bait, and grand bait it is too. It I only had my line now. That young beggar, Arthur, I have a jolly good mind to skin him alive."

"Don't be so bloodthirsty; and, as for the line, I'm going up to town to-day, and I'll send you a new one."

"Crumbs ! you are a brick. But what are you going away for?" asked Tom, all unconscious that his inform uion had finally dashed Duntop's last remaining hopes, and made him more firmly resolved than ever to leave Portsea that veiy day.

Business," he answered shortly, but he might just as well have told the truth and said " love," for Tom paid no attention. His eyes were Gxed on a young couple who were Btrolling along, deep in conversation, and totally unaware of his unwelcome proximity.

" Crumbs ! I say, if that ain't the masher and his girl, and with their backs to us too. What luck. Now you'll see them jump."

"Tom," remonstrated Miles; but Tom was off, and creeping up softly behind, gave a hideous war-whoop, which made the girl cry out and cling to her companion. Tom Nairn gave a gleeful chuckle, and prepared tobolt, but the man was too quick for him, and Miles Dunlop, with an inwaid glow of satisfaction, saw his young friend grasped firmly by the collar, while the despised masher laid a stout cane about his shoulders. When he was released he did not return to be congratulated on the success of his joke, and Miles sat down and stared out to sea, pondering hopelessly on what lie bad just heard, and thinking it only confirmed Miss Popham's words of the night before. Yes, he thought, he would go; lie would go away at once. He bad packed his portmanteau and ordered the trap that morning, and nothing should induce him to linger now. He hoped, lie prayed she might be happy, but he felt he could not bear to look upon that happiness —at least, not yet. Perhaps, by-and by, when time had dulled the keenness of his pain—and he sighed a heavy sigh, and raising his head, saw the girl who was filling all his thoughts coming towards him. He rose to his feet to meet her. Very pretty he thought she looked in the bright morning sunlight, with her fair hair, in which the sunshine brought out gleams of gold, streaming over her shoulders. The excitement of meeting him had deepened the colour in her cheekB and set a bright light in her blue eyes, but she had schooled herself well, and holding out her ungloved hand, greeted him calmly, too calmly indeed; so calmly that her voice Bounded cold in bis ears, the freedom and eweet friendliness of yesterday wen gone, and how was he to know that her heart was besting wildly under her blue gingham frock, and that it took all her strength to keep a quiver out of her

voice.

As it was, he, too, greeted her calmly enongh.

" Good morning, Miss Dearlie," he said, "I'm clad to see you looking so fresh and bright. Have yon come from your bathe ? Well, and how did the dance go off last night t"

Poor Dearlie. She would like to have crept away and had a good cry all by herself. Helen's exhortation of ten minutes ago came into her mind, only to be dismiseed ae useless. He didn't care for her. He didn't even care whom she danced with. What was the good of explaining when he had even forgotten' his promise to dance with her ? She pauBed a moment, and then answered bravely—

" It went off very well, 1 think; but I— You forgot to come for-yonr

dance."

" Did I ? How rnde of me. But I knew you were better engaged than in dancing with an old fogey like me."

" Indeed, indeed, no—"

"Indeed, indeed, yes. My dear child. She looked on him oea father. He snid to himself fiercely he would be as a lather to her. " My dear child, my dancing days lie a long way behind me, so once I saw you fairly enjoying yourself I went for a walk instead."

"He never cared," thought Dearlie again, bitterly. "Nell was wrong, "and she said aloud—

" Hope you enjoyed it Tom saye you were on the pier."

"Tom is ubiquitous," he said, thinking of that young gentleman's account of bis evening's performance. " Yes, 1 was on the pier. The nights here are bo still and soft and so altogether delightful 1 am quite sorry to be going awny."

"Going away. Oh, surely, I hope you are not going away." Dearlie felt it was the last straw. The tears rushed to her eyes, and the whole land scape swam before her in one blnrred mass—yellow sand and dark green ti-tree and the bright blue sea dancing and glimmering in the sunlight " You won't go away."

He was too absorbed iu hie own trouble to notice her emotion, and with out looking at her answered—

"Why, yes, I must The trap, as they call it, is to be ready for me at 12. I—I have changed my mind abont settling in Melbourne, Every one telle me Queensland is the coming colony, so I have decided to go there. I only came down to say good-bye to you," be added, mendaciously, for the Queensland scheme had but that moment been born, "ani must go back at once, for if I'm to start next month you may imagine there's a good deal to be done."

Queensland! If be bod said Spitsbergen or equatorial Africa he could not have seemed to be potting her farther away from bim. and she only prayed she might not eternally jliagraoe herself by bucetinginto a storm of passionate tears.

" Oh, don't go." she said again. " Why most you go?" and there was a pitiful tremor in her voice, which even he noticed and set -down at once, with a man's usual perversity, to the wrong cause.

"Sweet little woman," he thought, "She is so happy herself she can't help be|ng sorry Tor my lonely Jot," whereas it was over her own loneliness Dearlie whs grieving.

They had been strolling slowly along the sands, and now arrived at the roadway which led up to she hotel Before turning and leaving Hue abetter ofAheaorpb, Miles pgnaed a moment. . ? ,

"I most go," he said f "I must. Indeed. 1 can't stay here. Surely

yonjjcnow^ that, l eant tell yon the reason, but yon most have

And Dearlie, in her girlish feaoanoe oi the world, at once lamped to itbe

awful conclusion thatbc must have seen how very "wwh in love mjih 1- "* she was, and was going away to avoid her. In conteouenca rlu more shamefaced and wretched than ever, and was utterly unable to anlot

a word. * - upeas

"Dear little girl," went on Miles, dreamily, half to himself. takin® unresisting hand, and holding it in both his own. "Dearlie bearhe

have always been ao good to me, so kind to me, men others have shrunk away you have always been kind. How can I ever thank you!"

There was tenderness enough now in his voice if she would onlr hav» heard it, but Dearlie, her mind full of the awful thought that he was Imv ing her, conld not see that one word from her wonldhave kept him at her

aide. > . ?

At the other side of the pier three fishermen were hauling in their lnii» net with many " Yo'a" and " Yo, heave ho's." The persecuted masher aud the girl he waa engaged to, both in spotless white, were seated snuclv together in a little nook among the rocks, oblivions of all sublunary mattes and their persecutor, Tom, together with all the boya and girls of Porteea! were eagerly watching the fishermen and awaiting anxiously the spoils of the sea that would fall to their share—bright coloured seaweed and Shells spotted toadfish, and puffy sea porcupines and leather-jackets, gleaming with all the bright colours of the rainbow. Dearlie watched the scene miserably, and wondered should she ever—ever be able to take an interest in such things again. Miles, seeing that no one was likely to notice them held her hand fast in his, wondering to find it so coldL '

" Dear little girl," he thought, "she has guessed and is sorry for me."

Ttien he went on aloud—

"I am not blind, dear, and of course I've seen what's been going on." Dearlie wished she could die then and there. To think that sue should have been so barefaced, so unmaidenly that he had actually seen her love when she had only been conscious of it herself the day before. " 1 hope your life will be a very happy one," he went on. " If I could make it so it should. 1'in sure you know that, my little girl, my little Dearlie," and Miles tried to persuade himself he felt very fatherly indeed.

Dearlie murmured " Yes," hardly above her breath, and tried to draw her hand away, but be held it cloae.

"And you'll let me know when you are going to me married!"

Dearlie thought this the unkindest cut of all. Surely when he knew she was in love with him lie must know she wouldn't want to marry anybody else in the world, and so she made no answer, but Dnnlop was far too agitated himself now to notice that. Her close proximity tempted Jiim terribly. The wind blew her long fair hair across his shoulder and into his face, her hand trembled in his, and he felt he must go if he would not lling all other considerations to the wind and, spite of the bond that bound her to auother mail, take her in hia arms and implore her to pity liini for his loneliness—to do more than pity him, to love him &b he loved her. With a mighty effort he restrained himself, and then, stooping, put his hot lips to her little cold hand.

"Good-bye, my dnrling, good-bye," he whispered so that she could not bear him. "God bless my darling; God keep her."

Dearlie submitted quietly. She did not understand why, when he waa leaving her for ever, be should take the opportunity of making himself doubly dear to her.

" He is cruel," she thought, blaming him lor the first time. " He is very cruel." And yet, when he raised bis face and she saw with wonder how white and drawn he looked she thought him ill, and was filled with au overwhelming pity.

"1 think I had better go," he said, hoarsely.

Dearlie bowed her head. She dared not trust herself to speak, and they turned into the roadway together. Dearlie waa thinking—"Not five minutes now, not five minutes and he will be gone forever," hut she could not think of anything to say. Her world seemed just as hopeless and dark as ever his did, if he could only have known it; but he did not, and they walked on in dead silence side by side.

"Only three minutes—only two," thought Dearlie, taking in the Bunny scene around her. They faced the hotel now, and she saw the waggonette at the door, into which were being lifted by the Jew factotum travelling bags she recognised as Dunlop'u. They reached the steps of the verandah, and climbed them slowly.

"Only one more minute—and now it has come." She could scarcely repress a sob as Dunlop Btopped in the doorway and took her liand once more in bis. For a moment they stood silent; then he pressed it so tightly she could almost have cried out with the pain.

" It has'come at last," he said, eciioing her own thoughts, and so miserable wa9 she the significance of iiis words never struck her. " Good-bye, dear little girl; good-bye."

He dropped her hand, raised his own a moment and just touched her bright hair, and then, turning, ran down the steps again. The Hebrew waiter—Moses, as Tom called him—stood right in front of him with out stretched hand, aud be tossed him half-a-crown as he got into the waggonette.

" Heady, eir," said the driver, and they were off. Dearlie heard the Bound of the horse's hoofs and the clatter of the wheel* on the hard limestone road. She could not see, for her eyes were dimmed with tears, and then, for once in her life, utterly regardless of her duties ob guardian to her younger brothers and sisters, rushed upstairs to her own room, and, locking the door, flung herselt on to the bed, aud cried as she had never cried in her life before—as if her heart would break.