Chapter 139145693

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Chapter NumberX
Chapter Url
Full Date1889-12-21
Page Number8
Word Count4031
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleMiles Dunlop's Mistake
article text

Pdaptwh v.


' That Iom la common would not make

Mv own less bitter, rather more:

Too common ! Merer morning wore To evening but some heart did break."

10 evening uui» »u

—•*' Id HemorUm."

MileB Dunlop found Melbourne hot, dusty, and uncomfortable. The few people he did know had gone away for the holidays. He had nothing to do, no way to occupy himself, and he longed with a longing be found hard to conquer to go back to Portsea, and to see Dearlie Nairn once again, if only for a moment He had nothing to do, for though be had proposed to buy a partnership in that well known firm of solicitors, Grant, Allen, and Grant, the preliminaries were not yet concluded, and he did not intend to enter on his new duties till the second week of the new year. Indeed, as he strolled listlessly up Collins-street a day or two after his arrival in town, he was debating within himBelf as to whether he should not see Grant, junior, tell him be had changed his mind, and atart for Queensland forthwith. There was nothing t<*keep him in Melbourne. He felt utterly dispirited and dnll—dull and hopeless—perhaps a change of scene might help him to forget—and then he half smiled to himself aB he remembered theold saying "about changing the place and keeping the pain." Yes. he doubted not the pain would be with him wherever he went- He wpb too old to shake off a thing like that .lightly as a hoy. He would stay where he was, and see it out, he decided as he paused opposite Mnllen's, and began mechanically reading the titles of the books in the windows. Prettily illustrated children's books stood temptingly open, and he reflected with a sigh that such thing's conid have ho interest for him. He might send some Christmas boxes to the young Nairns though. Presents of all kinds,he felt sure must be scarce with them, and he turned in, and was soon surrounded by so many books that choice be

came a matter of no small difficulty.

A friendly hand hit him on the Bhoulder, and a triendly voice Baid in his ear—

" Why, bless my soul, Dunlop, where did you spring from ? I pictured you recruiting by the sad sea wave, and here I find you in Mullen's buried in the True Story of Cock Fobin. How'a that? What baa driven you (o this mild and soothing form of literature, my friend ?"

"Why, Grant," said Dunlop, dropping the book ebame-facedly, "I didn't know you were in town either. Very pretty these children's books are nowadays, arn't they? I want to get some Christmas boxes for some youngsters of my acquaintance, and I'm blest if I know what children like. I'm com pletely befogged. Help me, there's a good fellow. You've half a dozen young shavers of your own,

haven't you ?"

Grant, who was junior partner in the firm of Grant, Allen, and Grant, and was a man Bligbtly younger

than Dunlop, laughed.

"Well, my quiver is pretty full," he 6aid, "so according to the Psalmist I ought to be blessed. Presents, by Jove, you will be a fairy godfather with a vengeance, and how old are these lucky

youngstere ?"

"I don't know. There's a boy about fourteen, and a girl of twelve, and two more Bmaller boys and

a mite of a girl."

" Bless my soul. Someone"else is blessed too. Well, I should think they were most of them too old for Cock Fobin. Give the big boy a hook of adventure. Pirates or red Indians with lots of the noble savage and plenty of fighting and bloodshed ; and the girl—oh give her the same She'll enjoy it far more than one of those sweetly correct books written solely for the perusal of young ladies. Give the two little boys knives or some sucli murderous instrument. The small child a doll. Chuck in plenty ot lollies for the general benefit, and your name will be blessed in IsraeL"

"Thanks, I'll follow your advice to the letter. Come and give me a helping band."

When the purchases were all made, carefully packed, and addressed, with strict orders that they were not to be forwarded till the day before Christmas, the two men strolled up to the Maison Doree for


"And how are you going to spend the holidays, old man ?" asked Grant, as they seated themselves at

a little table, and ordered their lunch.

Dunlop started. He had been deep in thought, wondering if he might not send Dearlie a little present

if it would not, in fact, look strange if he did not

"The holidays," he repeated. " Oh, it's all holidays with toe just now, and I don't know what to do

with myself. I never was so sick of anything in my life. When yon came across me I was just medi tating whether I hadn't better pack up and clear oat for Queensland. They say it's the coming colony.'*

" Nonsense, man, Victoria is the place for you. Yon take my word for it. There's a grand time

coming for Melbourne next year."

" Is there?" said Miles indifferently. He.had jUBt decided he would send Miss Popbam, Helen Nairn, and Dearlie each a present, and was wondering what form they bad better take.

"Is there, man? Why, of course, there is. Can't you see for yourself what a prosperous people

we are. Look here, old man, I believe you're ill."

Miles thought a knitting basket would do for Miss Popham, a scent bottle for Helen, and what for Dearlie ? There were so many things he would like to give her. Grant repeated his remark as a question.

"Areyou ill?"

"Who? I? No, of course not. What made you think that ?" " You're so deuced glum."

Well, I'm a bit out of sorts, perhaps," assented Miles, his mind wavering between a fan and a volume of Tennyson, both of which he knew Dearlie wanted.

" Well, my dear fellow, if you haven't made any other arrangements for Christmas, come down to us. We have a cottage at Port Albert, aud my wife '11 be awfully pleased to see you. It's a quiet little place, but there's plenty of shooting and fishing, and the change 'ii do you good."

"Thank you," said Miles, finally deciding on the Tennyson, and much relieved thereby; "I'll come

with pleasure."

I m going down on the I4tb ; will you come with me ?"

I will, thankfully. It's exceedingly kind of you to aBk me. If you knew how I have got to hate the

8treeta of Melbourne."

You're out of sorts, man, but I really think Port Albert '11 set you up, it's so bracing."

It might have been bracing, but Dunlop found it decidedly dull. There were not two hundred people in the place all told, even including the summer visitora Ti-tree scrub was the sole vegetation, and dreary mud flats stretched out on every Bide, mud flats which steamed and sweltered under the sun's hot rays. There was nothing to shoot, apparently, but Bea-guiis, which, of coarse, were oat of the question, and though there might have been good fishing, indeed, he supposed there was, since his friend Grant went out every day, and boasted every night of the hauls he had made; fishing, more especially deep-sea fishing, bad never recommended itself to him. Mrs. Grant was a pretty, fair, little woman, who had married at 17 before her education was completed, and at 30 Miles found she had not an idea beyond her house and her children, and kindly and good as he acknowledged she was, grateful as he was for the hospitality which had included the lonely stranger in their Christmas festivities, he more than once asked himself why he had not chosen rather to spend his holidays alone. Mrs. Grant belonged to that Bomewhat numerous class of women who think a " change" is absolutely necessary to their well-being and that of their children. The change in the Grants' case consisted in moving from their comfortable town bouse to a seaside cottage, and "doing" with one servant. The children, untidy little ragamuffins, for their mother seemed to think anything good enough for the seaside, rufed the roast. No room was safe from their intrusion, no place, no person, no thing did they hold Bacred. They appeared at all meals, they partook of bread and jam at odd intervals, they wete sticky andfgreasy at all times, tbey submitted to no authority, were exceedingly rude when it Buited them so to be, and gave their opinion on all subjects with a freedom which #as satisfactory, inasmuch as it Bhowed a perfect confidence in its value, and a total absence of all fear. Miles presumed his future partner was happy. At any rate, he looked content, and. gave no sign by which an outsider might have guessed that this was not bis ideal of bliss. A day or two of it drove Miles wild with irritation. He took to strolling all day by the muddy, uninviting shore in order to escape for a brief space from the noisy, ill-regulated household, and in those lone and lonely walks realised more than ever that he hud indeed changed the place and kept the pain. Melbourne had been bad enough, but Port Albert was ten times worse. By force of contrast, he supposed, every bonr.of the day Mrs. Grant seemed to remind him of his lost love. She appeared in a cotton gown, soiled, and torn, and tumbled, and he immediately thought of Dearlie, fresh and sweet in her morning frock though be was very sure she bad not near so much money at her command as his hostess. That lady dismissed her offspring from the breakfast table with huge pieces of bread and jam still in their fingers, because Bbe wished to get breakfast over quickly ; and her guest's thoughts immediately flew back to the Portsea "breakfast table, where the elder sister exhorted her young charges to sit still till they bad done, and then carried them off to have their sticky fingers washed before anything or any person bad suffered from their contact. The Grant children were continually reminding.him that his face was hideously deformed, not from any ill-feeling on their part, but simply because they had never been taught that'other people's feelingB should be considered, aud, accordingly, were in the habit of commenting on their friend's personal appearance in a manner that was truly appalling. Dunlop remembered Tom's frank school-boy comments on his appearance,'but he remembered, too, that they had been alone, and that he, in bis sensitive desire to know what others thought, had half invited them. Nona of the other Nairn children had either said or done anything by which he might know they considered , him different from other people.. And yet Dearlie had said it made her shudder to look at his face. It was to her influence, he thought, he owed their forbearance. What influence

a good woman had, what power—and then, as he|went on',burning fresh incense at Dearlie's shrine, be reflected he was hardly polite to hia hostess. She was good, too, he supposed. Of coarse she was. There was certainly nothing bad about her. She was very fair to look upon. Nothing conld exceed her kindness to him, and yet before the week was oat she had goaded him to Buch a pitch of desperation that he wonld have given anything to get away. It took him all bis time to hide this desire from bis host, and he buoyed himself up with the hope that he might manufacture an excuse which should let him get away after Christmas. Before that he knew there was no hope. He had made so few friends in the colony, that a letter which might possibly be construed into a hasty summons to town was out of the question ; therefore, he had made up his mind to bear it as best be could, when his host unexpectedly came to his aid.

"I don't think yon are much better, Dunlop," he said one morning at breakfast "1 thought the sea air wonld have set you up."

"Sea air won't cure Mr. Dunlop's face," said Georgie, a cheeky boy of 12, the eldest hope of the


" 1 can't imagine, Grant, why yoa think me ill."

" Weil you are a very different fellow from what you were when first I knew you." "Naturally. I was only a boy then. It's over twenty years, remember."

"God bless my sonl, is it, really ? Well, but somehow you are different from what you were when

first yon came to Melbourne."

" Ma says," etrnck in George, who had been listening intently, " you're in love ; and of. course the girl won't.have you cos of your scars."

The shaft struck right home, and Miles was so staggered that at first he could find no words to carry

on the conversation.

Grant seemed to wake up to the fact that his son was exceedingly rude, and ordered sternly—

" Leave the room, Georgie," an order which that yonng gentleman deferred obeying till some more

convenient date.

"Oh ! Mr. Dunlop, Georgie makes a mistake," murmured Mrs. Grant, abashed. "You needn't be angry with the poor thing, Dick, and spoil his holidays. He didn't mean to he rude, and if you're cross

he'll get to hate you."

Grant tamed impatiently from his wife and son, and said again to Dunlop— " Well; what is the matter with you ?"

Miles wished to Heaven they would not discuss him thus publicly.

" It's very good of you, Grant," he answered irritably, " to worry about me, but I'm perfectly well.- A little out of sorts, perhaps. I never could stand the heat, bat otherwise I'm all right. Not even in love, bb Mrs. Grant suggests."

" I did not That was all Georgie's fancy."

" 'Twisn't. You did say so, ma," remarked Georgie, not to be suppressed, and Miles felt his fingers itching to box his ears. His parents, however, did not seem to think that the remark called for cor* rection, and Grant went on—

"You ought to come out fishing with me. A blow would do you good."

"It's very kind of you, Grant, but—well, really, you know, I can't fish." " Come for a sail, then. There's a nice breeze to-day."

"Thank you. It would be very nice, but don't let me interfere with your fishing."

"I wasn't going to fish to-day. The children are wild to go for a sail. So if you'll come and help us we'll be delighted."

Miles had not bargained for the company of the small fry, but was obliged to feign a pleasure he did not feel, and a6ked, by way of saying something, "Do you ever sail round the Promontory?"

" No; that wonld be dangerous. The seas there are the worst on the coast, and my boat is too small."

"Yes; I suppose it would be risky, bnt that old Bkipper Mackenzie was great on the grandeur of the scenery about Wilson's Promontory. He wanted to know if I wouldn't come with him the next time he

came to Melbourne."

"Well, why don't yon?" It'll be anew experience if you don't mind roughing it Mac's a decent old chap, and the Two Brothers is reckoned the fastest schooner on the coast."

" Oh ! I'd like it well enough. But Heaven knows when these schooners sail." "The Two Brothers will sail directly after the New Year."

"The New Year ! Ob, Lord! You'll be sick of me long before then." " Nonsense, man. You won't dream of leaving us before, I hope."

"You are very kind," murmured Miles, wondering how on earth he was to get away. No reasonable excuse offered itself. He was most unwilling to offend his kindly host, who had been hia school chum at Rngby, and so before he rose from the table he found he had promised, mnch to his own chagrin, to stay till the Two Brothers took in her cargo of produce and set sail for Melbourne.

That evening he went down on the little pier and interviewed Mackenzie, skipper and owner of the Two Brothers, and after he bad taken his passage found greatly to his relief that he hoped to sail oil the 24th. He went back and informed Grant, feeling horribly guilty as he reflected with what gladness he hailed the fact that only two more days remained to be got through. Mrs. Grant thought her husband's friend nicer than ever, and was greatly concerned at his going away " in a wretched uncomfortable fishing-boar, and so soon, too." Miles listened to her regrets at bis sudden departure, and inwardly prayed that nothing might occur to put it off. He watched the wind with a new-born eagerness, and felt

t i)Hi a wswwind would plunge him into the depths of despair. But Saturday nv mine, tne 24th December, dawned bright and hot, with a gentle breeze from tne east, cad Milea packed hiB traps and felt happier than he bad done since tie lelt Portsea. lie was just drawing together the last strap when GeorgieGrant burst into the room, as usual dispensing with the merely formal ceremony of knocking.

" Here's two letters lor you, just come," he said. " Ma says they're from girls."

" Thank you, my boy. You needn't wait." And Georgie left the room reluctantly. i

Miles took up his letters. They were both directed in unknown hands, and he turned them over curiously before opening tbem.

"From Portsea, by Jove !" And bis heart beat high, though he could hardly have said himself what he hoped for. " Well, this is only a card, at any rate. Who sends me cards, 1 wonder*;"

It was only a little picture of a rocky coast with the sea heating up against

it. It had reminded Deailieof the back beach and of London-bridge, and i

she had sent it, half hoping, perhaps, it would remind him of the same place. !

It would not do to he sentimental, she thought, 60 she had chosen one without any printed words attached, and on the back she bad written—

" 1 hope you will have every happiness in the coming year," and 6igned her name, " Dearlie Nairn."

Miles smiled a little bitterly.

"Dear little girl," be thought, "she meant it kindly, no doubt, but she must know only too well there can he no happiness for me without her. Or, perhaps, she meant it in a daughterly way." And he llupg poor Dearlie's innocent card down on the table angrily. " Now, who is the other

From ?"

Opening the envelope a somewhat grubby sheet of paper fell out, written til over in a round school-hoy hand—

" Lonsdale Hotel, Portsea, December 15.

" My Dear Mr. Dunlop,—Thank you so much for the lines. They are Stunning. We went out FiBhing last night of the pere (can't spell it), an caught fifteen leather-jackets. I wish you was here, and then if you'd take us out in a boat we might get flathead. 1 went with Black Jo yesterday in his boat down to Xepean it waB grand he let me Sail it. Dearlie said 1 wasn't to say that about you taking us in a boat, so perhaps you hadn't better tell her. She was mad when I said I told you that about your face snaking ber shudder. She eaye she never said it at all, it was Nell an she cried, like Anything. At Least I think she did. It was dark and I couldn't see. Ckpriie Dalrymple chucked her up after all. He's gone clean back to Nell, and I believe there engaged. Their was a row in the bar last night Moses has got "

Here Mr. Toin's effusion stopped abruptly, and another hand—a good, firm, strong woman's hand—had finished:—

"This letter will never reach you unless some kindly individual comes to the rescue. It lias been lying about for the last week, and though I have beard Dearlie exhort Tom several times to finish it, his energies Beem to have been exhausted by the first page. Having taken the liberty of reading it, I have come to the conclusion that a few explanatory words from me will not be amiss—in fact, I think they are rather necessary. I don't remember making any rude remarks about your personal appearance. If I did, I am sorry ; hut of one thing I am very sure, and that is. Dearlie never did. I expect that astute young brother of mine was about right in aaying she 'cried like anything' when Bbe thought you could believe that of her. As for that other remarkable communication about 'Charlie Dalrymple having chucked her up after ail,' I must confess I hardly understand it. I may tell you, though, that for once in his life Mr. Torn is right, though his com munication was somewhat premature. 1 an engaged to Mr. Dalrymple, but we only told the rest of the world last night. I don't suppose I should have told yen now, only Tom appears to have been pouring confidences into your ears, and ) know nothing would make my sister more angry than to know that her name had been coupled with Mr. Dairy tuple's. Neither of them ever dreamt of such a thing. I should think you must find Melbourne very hot. You ought to come hack here. The weather has been just delightful. I must apologise for the dirty paper; it is Tom's fault. I ouly meant to put explanatory notes to his epistle, and they have Etretchedout into quite a long letter.

" With the beet of good wishes for Christmas and the New Year, I am, yours sincerely.

" 22nd December." " Helen Nairn.

"She needn't have apologised," thought Miles; "it is the most welcome letter 1 ever received in my life," and he put the grimy pages that brought him such life and hope to his lips. He picked up the card be had flaug aside and studied it carefully. "My darling," he said, aloud ; "did she think it would remind me ot Portsea? I must go back at once."

Then us be remembered Miss Popham's overheard remarks he doubted •gain for a moment, but only for a moment

" Pooh ! What a fool I have been ! I ought to have remembered before that listeners never hear any good of themselves. I'll go back at once and try my lack like a man. What if I am middle-aged and ugly, and not ov £ rich, if site likes me ? She cried, did she ? My darling; God bless ber 3" and Miles whistled a cheery tune to himself as he put the finishing touches to his preparations for departure, and came out of the bedroom with so radiant a countenance that Grant looked up in astonishment, and


"Hallo, Dunlop 1 what's happened? You're as skittish as a two year-old."

"Oh, nothing; at least— Well, I have heard some very good news, and I want to get up to town at once. When does the coach start? "

"It went at eight o'clock this morning, my friend, so you'll have to con tent your soul in peace till Monday."

"Confound it! just my luck."

" Why not stick to the 'Two Brothers'? The wind is fair and she'll pro bably be in by Monday night."

"Do you think they'd drop me at QueensclifT?" Miles didn't like to say Portsea. It seemed to him Grant would have guessed at once if he had.

"Yes, of course; a very good idea.. Yon can get the train there and save beating np the bay. Well, we shall miss you, but if you must go, Djnlop, I think it's time you started."