Chapter 139145689

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Chapter NumberIX
Chapter TitleMILES DUNLOP'S LETTER.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139145689
Full Date1889-12-21
Page Number7
Corrections0
Word Count3935
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleMiles Dunlop's Mistake
article text

CllAFTEB IX.

liLLES DUSLOE'S LKTTEU.

1 Henceforth, how tnucfa of the full heart must Ij6

A sealed book, at whose contents we treiuole, A still voice mutters 'mid our misery,

3.1) e worst to hoar, because it most dissemble.

| we imyoi nave oceu :• — I " Tom, Tom, where are yon, Tom f"

"Sweetest beloved, here am I."

"Don'r, Tom, let me alone. My dress is clean, and yon needn't crumple

it" *

" Was it cross, then, because its lover had deserted it for its handsome sister ? Poor 'ittle sing."

"You're a positive nnisance, and I won't give you your parcel unless you behave. Behave now. The tea bell '11 ring iu a minute, and then you won't

have time to look at it before tea."

"A parcel for me! Crikey Bill, you're joking. Where did it come

from!"'

"It came by post this afternoon. There's a letter too. I don't know who they're from. Til read your letter for you."

"No, by Jingo you shan't! Here, hand it over. Why, it might be from my best girl. How do you know i"

Tom cut the string of his parcel and disclosed to Dearlie's eyes half u dozen deep-sea fishing lines, with weights, ready for use, and three dozen fish-hooka of assorted sizes. m

" Jimini 1 fixings, ain't he a tramp. It'a from Mr. Dunlop. He eaid he'd send the line, only I thought he'd forgot He's been gone over a week,

hasn't be ?"

" Only six days," eaid Dearlie, with a sigh. It seemed more like 6tx years

to her.

"Anyhow, better late than never. Now, I wonder what be says in bis letter. What a fist he does write, to be sure. 'Dear Tom, I—I—.' Oh, 1 say, dear, this is awfol. Such a scrawl, I'd he ashamed of it He ought to go to school again. Wouldn't I just like to see old Phillips get on to

him."

" Ingratitude thy name is —No, Tom, don't, please don't; my arm is black where you pinched me yesterday. Let me see if I can make out the

letter."

Tom banded it over without a word, little guessing the thrill the touch of that paper sent through his sister's veins.

"Well, what does he say!" heaeked, carelessly, taming over the lines and beginning to sort the books ont into little packets according to size. They were alone in the big room, which was known aa the ladies' drawing room, and Dearlie, seating herselt on the table, began to read the latter.

"Bella Vista. Parliament-place, Melbourne, Dec. 13.

"My dear Tom,—I hope yon trill not think I have forgotten my promise to yon, but tbe fishing lineB they hud at Swanston's did not seem to me very good.. They explained there had been a great run oh lines this season, and as they expected a fresh stock out by the mail, 1 thought you would not mind' waiting. I send you half a dozen, and then you can supply your brothers and sisters, if you wiBh. „ .

"Town is dreadfully hot and stuffy, end I oiten thihk of the pleasant day irith you all down by that little bay where the poor old Cheviot has lett bwboncw." (So did the reader, very very often indeed, only she did not dare akyjrtx It seemed to her the very refinement of cruelty to remind her.of it, bnt ehe read on calmly.) " I intend to start for Fort Albert to-day to try if that is a little cooler. My friend, Mr. Grant, who has persuaded me to accompany him, tells me it is a delightful spot, a regular Eden, with what Edith lacked, a sea beach; but bis partner declares that is all a delusion aod am)Bre,andPort Albert is bare mud flats pure and simple. To-night will show. ~ Anyhow, ft can't he more uncomfortable than ' Marvellous Mel bourne.' I faopeyon will catchrpleoty offish; and if there is any thingelae I cando for yon; just write and let me know. Address here, as I have-left orders lor my letters to beaent on; not that I am likely to be troubled with manr, heisra fonsly man. and a stranger in a sfrange land. .

"Give my very kindest regards to your aunt,Hiss Dearlie, and tbe rest of

your people, and with kindest Christmas greetings for yon all.—I remain, 1 truly youra, " Miles Dunlop "

though. Hasn't be got a jaw just? It was civil though. I want heaps of tbines, but I suppose it wouldn't do to ask for them.eh?" - —

" Well, no, hardly; but you most write and tbtink him."

" What a blessed bore. Ob; all right There, there's the tea-bell going like mad, and tbis brutal booh in my coat"

'" Really, you should be careful, Tom; clothes don't grow on every bush. There's a hole now that 'II take me all tbe evening.tomead."

" Darn the thing, I wonder if yon think you look nice on the table there. [ can see black stockings np to the knee. And I suppose you know you're putting off you're wedding for a whole year I"

"Oh, am I?" said Dearlie, indifferently; "who told you that? Mrs. Crawford, I suopose. Well, I expect I'll be an old maid, so it won't make any difference."

"Yes, I suppose you will now Charlie Datrymple has chucked yon oyer. But it's rather a pity, too. Crumbs, fancy being like Aunt Pop. Come along now do, we'll get no tea."

That night Tom and all theyonnger members of the Nairn family felt it incumbent on them to go fishing, and Dearlie, of coarse, had to go too to take cope of them. Not that she minded much. The pier on a warm night wasabout as nice a place as there was in Portsea, and ahe telt she might as well be there as anywhere. All the world looked very black to her, poor child. In all the years that stretched ont before her sue could not see one gleam of happiness. : It was a calm still night, after a breathless day, tbe bay was still as glass, and the waves softly breaking on the sands and round the piles of the little pier made a pleasant mnrmur in her ears. The new mbon, setting slowly in the west, just made one lone streak of silver when its rays touched the water, but was not strong enough to dim in any way.the brieht little light of the lamp at tbe pier-head, while from the oppositesborea at QueenBciiff the lighthouse light flashed out its gaiding beacon across the sea. - Dearlie seated herself on the form nnder the lamp, and.the Nairn children, lines having beeh distributed by Tom, ranged themselves along the end of the pier, where their sister felt they were, in imminent danger ol toppling over and being drowned. She, would have liked to forbid them to sit there, but Miss Popham had decreed that with ordinary care it was-a safe and proper place, and there wbb no gainsaying that authority. The "ordinary care" Dearlie was supposed to provide. She only hoped she could. But every now and then a big leather-jacket was caught, or some of the-too numerous lines got' entangled, and she could not lielp fearing lest one of her small charges might topple over in the darkness and never be missed. There was no one else on the pier—no one tonotice the slender little figure with the pathetic droop in it that looked so mournful in the lamplight. Up in the pavilion at the Lonsdale there was another dance going on, but the children preferred fishing, and Dearlie, who felt she bad no heart for dancing and thoughtahe would never care tor it again, readily acceded to their request to come with them. So the pier was abandoned by everyone till abont nine o'clock, when a couple strolled down and with right coyal disregard for their clothes—an indifference Dearlie admired but could never hope to imitate—seated themselves on the pile of coalsaoks which still took up nearly half the pier. Dearlie knew who they Wert— knew all about them—and steadily kept her back to theta. Helen bad taken her advice, given after so many tears nearly a week ago, and bad taken it with the best results. Young Dairymple had finally been retuBed by Dearlie and had accepted his dismissal witb a smiling countenance, and now there was no doubt in anybody's mind—not even in sceptical Miss Popham's—as to which Miss Nairn he preferred. To-night, Dearlie thought,

should Bee matters settled.

Jlow happy Nell was. How lucky. " Why, oh why," she asked herself, as every man or woman has asked at one period or other of their lives, "should she have the bitter, and Nell the sweetB of life—her heart's desire ? " Everything Helen had set her heart on since she was a little child she had got, and now she had the man she loved. She was different. Poor Dearlie! It seemed to her that for her to desire a thing was quite sufficient reason why it should be put out of her reach there and then. She remembered how the desire of her childhood had been a doll's house—not a magnificent one such as family tradition declared Helen had possessed, but a very ordinary doll's bouse, such as many of her schoolmates had, and to arrive at this Blie had begun saving up her pennies. Pence were scarce in the Nairn household even then, and they came to her few and far between. Still, she hoped and saved,denied herself many a childish treat, many a trifling pleasure, and when at last the requisite sum was hers—it was absurdly small—ahe found, alas, she was too old and cared for dolls and dolls' houses no longer. To-nijiht the memory of those vanished years came back to her more freshly than ever. She remembered the keenness of her disappointment when she realised that now that tier desire was within her grasp she cared tor it no longer—Bhe had put away childish thing*. With the money saved with so much difficulty she had bonght a little frock for the baby, thinking to please her mother, and her mother bad turned it over in her invalid way and had Baid—"Yes, it was very pretty and very good of Dearlie, but pink was such a delicate colour—it wasn't much good tor a baby in their bouse." She thought if Dearlie did not mind

she would give it to Aunt Jane. She was a rich woman and could afford for her baby to wear Buch things, and Dearlie had. never given her a present. This would be a nice one. And so the frock had gone to Aunt Jane's baby, who had frocks by the dozen, and the mother never guessed that that night her little daughter had cried into her pillow tears of vexation and dis appointment she could hardly have put into words.

Dearlie thought of that old-time disappointment to-night as she listened to the children squabbling under their breaths—Tom would allow no loud talking for fear of frightening the fish—to the murmur of the water among ibe piles, and the sounds of the waltz which floated down from the pavilion above. Was it typical of her life, she wondered. Should she always be wanting—ever wanting something, which when she attained she would value no longer. Ah, bat there was one thing she should value always—always. She should always love Miles Dunlop. He did not care for her, it was true, but she could not help that; she should always love him. She could not imagine herself even as an old woman, not loving him and valuing his love. When she was an old woman she would love him still; but, oh, her life would be so lonely, so terribly lonely—lonelier even than Aunt Popbam's, for she at least had the happiness of knowing bet love returned, while Bbe— Well, nobody loved her very much, 110b idy ever would, she supposed. Charlie Dalrymple had vowed last week there was no one like her in all the world, and yet now she knew he was saying the same things with still more fervour to Helen. And she was glad, very glad. She did not want him for herself, and she was pleased to have him for a brother-in-law if Helen wanted him. She only wished that they would think more kindly of her, confide in her, and allow her just an outside glimpse of their happiness. But they both looked askance at her and treated her coldly. That brief episode of Charlie's misplaced courtship seemed to be ever present in their minds. Neither could forgive Dearlie the part she had played, unwilling though it had been, and both avoided bet whenever they could. She did not want Dalrymple as a lover, 6be had never wanted him, but the sight of his devotion to her sister—the know ledge of how little he really cared for her—only added to her wretchedness. She was lonely, lonely; she was unattractive. Nobody loved her, no ons ; ever would love her, and as she looked at the long streak of light made by

the lamp on the water she wished with all her heart she were dead. And as she arrived at this exceedingly dismal conclusion little Katie, as a sort of commentary on her thoughts, dang herself against her kneee and burst into sobs. ,

" Oh o-ob, oo-ob, oo-ob, my big fisa has got hisself lost, an' I sail never be happy adain. O-o-oh."

"U'by. Katie, dear little one." Dearlie lifted her little sister on to bet knees. " What is tbe matter, pet ? "

Bat Katie, who was tired ana sleepy, sobbed on, and Tom remarked— " Shut up, you little fool. You'll frighten the fish."

"Nonsense, Tom; let's talk a little. You've got a whole pile them

What's the matter with Katie 1"

"Crumbs! such a Iusb about a fish." " Well, but where is tbe fish ? "

"Howdo I know? Down in the Rip by this time, I expect She only caught one, and then she got her line so messed up I had to take it away. Part of it's round tbe post now. She was watching the fish, and I s'poee he didn't like her company, and wrigcled himself back into the water again. I told her he would if she had him so near the edge. But he was only a little sprat any way."

" 'Twos my big fie*," remarked Katie, sitting up indignant

" Oh, all right smarty. Well, he's cone now, and you won't ever see bim

again."

"Tom, how unkind you are," said Dearlie, hastening to comfort the little damsel, who was on the brink of tears again. " Don't cry, pet; don't cry. Poor old fish ; he heard his children down below calling out for their supper, and he had to go to them, hadn't he? Poor old fish."

"Poor old fiss," echoed Katie, mncb cheered by this view of the matter, "and I sail tatcb him adain to-morrow." Whereupon Dearlie felt ber moral lesBon had not been crowned witb success.

"How many have you got, Tom? "she asked, feeling it was really time she put aside her gloomy thoughts and took an interest in passing events.

"Fifteen. Not so bad, is it? It's an awfal pity they're only leather jackets, and not much good."

" If they're skinned they're as nice aa flounders, they say."

" Well, we'll skin some, and then perhaps the cook '11 fry some for breakfast. Win, you'll help me, there's a good old girl, and tbe little Johnnies'd better roll up some of the lines, or they'll be getting lost D'ye hear, Frank; There's one hitched round the post at the end there; begin on that-"

"I say, Dear, when I write to Mr. Dunlop I'll tell him the lines are grand. 1 wish we had a boat, though. If he was here he'd hire one and tokens out. I wish he was." , ? -

He couldn't wish it as much as Dearlie did, but she said nothing, and merely asked—

" When do you think you'll write ?" . ?

" Ob, to-morrow, I s'poBe. Crumbs.! isu't it a nuisance? I dunno what to say, - . .

" Thank him for his present, and say , oh, say you miss him, and

wish he'd come back again."

"Humpb, much he'll care about that I'll have to ssy Charlie Dsl rymple's chucked you over, and gone in for Helen instead. My word," said Tom, pattsingin his labours, and raising a fishy knifein the air. * Ain't be gone in heavily. Why, he's got his arm round her wfelat now. Oh Lord, what next, I wonder." And Tom pmeed up his mouth end got ready For theYeU with wbieh be was atcMtomed to scare the masher.

" No:_Ttnn; lro, don't. Leave thto in peace. There, they rfe going home now- Don't tell anyone you saw them,"

" I a'pose they're engaged."

"Well, I shouldn't wonder ; bnt do hold yonr tongne about it Yon know yon talk too much."

" Well, perhaps I do sometimes," said Tom, actually acknowledging a fault, and thereby almost taking his sister's breath away. " But how'd it matter if I said she was engaged and she wasn't ?"

' Ob, Tom, it would matter a great deal."

" But how? 1 thought you were engaged to him yourself, and I don't really see it made much

difference."

'Well, no, as it was only you," said Dearlie, with true sisterly contempt for a younger brother's opinion. " No one else would have been snch a fool."

But the contempt stung Tom to retaliation.

"Ob, crumbs ! was it only me then, smarty? Mr. Dnnlop thought so, too."

"Tom, Tom"—that young gentleman felt with satisfaction his chance shot had hit the mark— " Tom, Tom," then with conviction, "you told him so. Ob, how could you be so cruei?"

Tom began to think be had gone a little too far, for there were tears in Dearlie's voice, so he answered sulkily—

" Well, and what if 1 did? Everybody thought the same. I'm sure Annt Pop did." "When did you tell him?" asked Dearlie, ignoring his excuses.

"The day he went away. We were on the beach together, and we talked about you. He won't tell anybody, though, so you needn't be so ecotty about it."

" I'm not scotty."

" Yes, you are—cross as two sticks."

"Well, no one likes to be misrepresented."

"Who's misrepresenting you? What can it matter if Mr. Dunlop does think you're engaged to Charlie. I b'lieve yon want to marry him yourself. Ugh ! And yon said his face was so awful you

couldn't bear to look at it."

"Tom, I didn't."

" Ob, didn't you ? Well, I told him you did, then."

"I—I—hate yon, Tom." And Tom thought be heard something suspiciously like a sob, and asked in injured tones—

" Well, if it wasn't you, who was it, then ? "

No answer.

"Who was it?" ; ? "How—how should I know."

"Jt was NelL I remember now." " She—she didn't know him."

"She saw him in the street one day, and came back and gave iu heropinion. Well, I knew it was one of you."

Dearlie made no comment. The thing was done, and there was no good quarrelling about it She sat silent a little, and then, as Tom, with a deep sigh, rose from bis kneeB and announced the com pletion of his unsavoury labours, she said—

"It's time we went in. Katie's nearly asleep. Come along Winnie; come boys."

As they strolled back slowly, for Katie was tired, Tom pondered over Dearlie's unaccountable emotion. " Look here," he burst out at last, " if yon didn't want Dunlop to think you were engaged to Charlie, why didn't you tell him you weren't yourself ? 1 saw you talking to him for ever so long that morning."

Helen's advice in other words, but Dearlie was irritated beyond bearing now.

"Hold your tongue, Tom " she said sharply. "I'm sick of your foolish talk."

"Shut up yourself, crosspatch," responded her brother, marching ahead. " Catch me doing anything for you again."

That night, when her younger sisters were safe in bed and asleep, Dearlie, looking out of her window on to the quiet bay, pondered over Tom's revelation. Might—Could Helen possibly be right? Had be cared for her and gone away becanse he was jealous of Charlie Dalrymple; because, as she now-knew be thought her engaged to him. But no, she dared hardly hope snch a thing could have befen possible; one word would have set all right—only one little question, and he bad not asked that question. If Nell's theory bad been right; if it bad only. ' To think how near she had been to happiness and missed it—missed it for ever; and Dearlie hardly knew which pain was the worst to bear. Whether it was better to think he had gone because be did not love her or because he did. Anyhow he was gone, and she never dared hope even for a moment to see him again. No, he was gone, she felt—gone forever. And.she drew from her pocket bis letter to Tom, and re-read it by the light of the candle, which glittered in the sea breeze. " Hewas not lik'ely'to be troubled with many letter/3," he wrote, " being a lonely man and a stranger in a strange land." That was a strange thing to write to a boy. Had he meant it for her eyes, she wondered. But that could not' make any difference. She couldn't write to him. " A lonely'man," howpathetic it sounded. r She knew ifehad few friends, kne* be was morbidly sensitive on the score of bis scarred face, and no w Tom, with cruel schoolboy

carelessness, hadmade him think that she too shrank from him on that account,. She who-would have - liked nothing better than to hide that scarred face on her breast, and loved him all the better and more tenderly for it For Dearlie eras a true wopnan, end there is something maternal in every .jtru$ woman's love. Sorrow and sickness and pain but bind her more closely, and when a man might shrink away

• V, Tr h,ad reallL?id thftt> he nevftr coul(* have thou^ht 13 nil n hopelesB muddle, very hopeless, and ehe begin to take , n woman fi„d3 but another opportunity for showing the length and the depth

in horror, and be excused, „pemed to Dearlie that Tom's confidences to Dunlop, bis mistaken

and the breadth of her love f H Tom •*»"« .w i..

confidences, were the unkindest cut ot aU.

she was in love with him. Any 10 ^ be by puzzling over it He was a lonely man, down her hair wearily. 1 e ^ ghe c£)al(j not write hllBt but—bnt—it flashed he would get no letters. he w ^ ^ cbri8tma9 cat)j. Surely he could not think any on her all of a eudden-tnigii ^ . th5ng lt meant so little, or it might mean so bmcb. harm of a Christmas card, it was Sorrento to-morrow, and buy one, and, Ye, 8he would send Quickly, wound up her Busy Bee clock, blew «tr«„X.'n5 'nip. Jo. .W toide W,»nl,. loo, .i,„ tat "tap