|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
By Jennings Carmichael.
She was as wild as a young dingo, this bush child Larry. The name was an abbreviation of " Larrakin," which her father dubbed her before she could speak plainly. " Me's father's little lallakin," she used to say when asked her name by any of the station visitors. An only, motherless child, reared from babyhood by the most doting of fathers. Larry grew not as other girls. She rode, and swum, and pulled an oar like a boy. It was nothing for Larry to join the musters on their way to the yards, and chase the cattle over the moor, her eyes dancing with excitement, her unbound curling hair floating in the wind as she rode. Her own favourite hack she broke in herself, borrowing her father's hunting whip and an old skirt of the housekeeper's for the purpose. This old housekeeper, a tough bushwoman with an extraordinary capacity for work, had helped her master in the "bringing up of Miss Larry." Until the girl had outgrown short frocks Mrs. Tibby was considered a suitable and efficient chaperon ; but for the last two or three years Larry's education had been superintended and her "deportment" regulated by an elderly governess, a cousin of her father's. Between this lady and her charge an endless war waged, and not all Cousin Luscilla's discipline could curb the young savage, who was far more at home in a stockyard than a drawing room.
"You should have placed her under my careyjears ago, Cousin George!' Miss Luscilla would exclaim a dozen times a week. " I can't do anything with her now; you might as well try to train and civilise an emu." Then Cousin George would laugh and drink whisky, And swear roughly that" He loved the little devil as she was."
But Larry was destined to be tamed, and Pate stepped in at this juncture, effecting more by one lesson in nature's school of experience than Miss Luscilla could achieve in a life-time. When Mr. George Hartley received a note from the son of his old friend, Colonel Dennis, asking if he might come to the station tor a month's sport, he little guessed what a factor this young man would prove in the taming of his little hush shrew. Probably had he known he would have paused before writing the cordial note he did to young Basil Dennis.
"Come, and heartily welcome. Plenty of salmon and perch fishing—lake chocked with teal and pigeons, snipe everywhere. I can give you a devilish good mount, but bring your own water-dog." And so the day came when the guest whs expected. Larry was not particularly interested, except pugnaciously, in Mr. Basil Dennis. She had already been warned and advised and generally lectured by Cousin Luscilla as to her behaviour during his stay, and had inwardly resolved to shock him as otten and as violently bb possible.
Certainly would see very little of him, as she had a colt to break in on the sly, which would take up a great deal of her time. Larry was making toffy in the kitchen with Mrs. TibBy and Hermione when the buggy drove up with the stranger. " Hermione " was the name ot Larry's pet foal, rescued from the aide of a dead mother when she was only a few days old. This was over tnree months ago, and the creature had
lanky and leggy as only a foal can do.
and was as tame and affectionate as a mongrel
" The young gentleman's come, Miss Larry!" cried Mrs. Tibby, running to a window that commanded a view of the drive. " Such a stack of luggage as he's got, a suit for every hour I'll lie bound now! But the toffy was at a critical stage, and both Larry and the foal were too deeply interested to leave it. " It's boiled enough now, Tibby dear! Clear out, young Daddy Long-legs, or you'll get your nose burnt and Larry swung the pot off the fire, and chased her pet from the kitchen amid a deafening clatter of clumsy hoofs on the bricked floor. Larry had just poured out her toffy to cool when her father's stentorian bawl came from the main house, " Larry ! We're in the dining-room! Come and be introduced to Mr. Dennis!" By the time the sentence was finished the burly squatter appeared at the hall door op posite, and captured the young toffy-cook by the ear, as she was about to make her escape. " What in the devil have been doing with your face? It's as red as a
"O dad! let go my earl I've been making toffy, and it's lovely."
' Well, go and fetch some for Mr.
Faith, I sha'n't, then !" cried the girl with asperity. As she made this rude speech Mr. Dennis came through the door, and had evidently overheard their conversation. Cousin Luscilla followed behind, horror written on her chaste features, and despair settling in her
" Please give me some toffy, Miss Hartley! pleaded Mr. Dennis, in a slow, drawling voice, and holding out his hand with a smile. " If I have one weakness it is home-made toffy."
Larry's fire-burnt face grew redder; an angry sparkle came into her eyes. " I only made it for myself and the foal," she said with a tone that made hpr father explode with laughter, to the dite chagrin of Miss Luscilla. As if asserting her part in Larry's excuse llermione came clattering down the verandah from the kitchen, a long-drawn-out strand of sticky Stuff hanging to her thievish jaws. While Mrs. Tibbv had gone to the store-room the foal had resolved to sample the tooth some sweet on her own account, the unexpected burning of her nose causing her to betray herself to her mistress. Amid the laughter of the two men Larry bundled her pet to the pump—fortunately close by—and began to cool the smarting nose by a plentiful deluge of cold water. After this sooth ing application Hermione was driven to the back premises, and Mr. Hartley took his guest for a stroll until lunch. They carried their guns with them, and Larry heard them popping over the moor as she sat in a tree out of sight of the house, in an unusual attitude of contemplation. It was singular, but the the child could not get a certain pair ot lazy grey eyes out of her mind. They seemed to haunt her—indolent, smiling eyes witli a bantering humour in their depths.
" I almost wish I'd given him some toffy,
she said to herself, running her bare brown fingers through her curly head. " I wonder it he thinks me an awful little beast!"
Basil Dennis was a ladies' man in the deadliest sense of the phrase. He was tender towards all womankind, just as Bome men instinctively pat the heads of even strange dogs because they are partial to the species ; and, as a natural consequence, most dogs, in return, wag their tails, and lick the hand that
caresses them. Basil Dennis was accustomed to subjugate the softer sex, and he accomplished this with a charm that made the amusement almost pardonable. His heart—never, at any time, an over-large one—was very rarely involved in the process, any more than the average dog-lover takes a serious attitude towards the animal he caresses and feeds. Dennis was betrothed to the only woman he ever enduringly liked— a fair, regal girl, with an irreproachable name and a satisfactory banking account. The marriage was not to take place for another year, during which interval the young lady was paying a visit to some friends in England.
From the moment Basil had caught sight of Larry's saucy red lace, us she stood tgnominiously held by the ear by her father, she so interested him. Here was obviously a new order of womanhood altogether different from the tail-wagging, hand-licking, dog-like type of which he was so weary. The snarl in her boyish eyes when she refused him toffy was infinitely more captivating to this woman-spoilt young man than the softest of glances. He would have other sport at Hartley Woods than fishing and shooting, and his imagmings as to the pos sibility of putting in a month at the station wholly vanished.
For the first day or two Larry managed to avoid him pretty successfully. She was away before breakfast, ostensibly for a morning walk, but really to break in the colt. Mrs. Tibby gave her coffee and scones in the kitchen before Cousin Luscilla's eyes were open. By the time Larry came home Dennis was away with ltia gun, not returning until the late dinner. Sport was good in those pungent, lake-pierced woods and reedy moors, and, for the first few days, he revelled in the game like a true sportsman. Then lie fell to wondering whether Miss Larry really devoted those early mornings to the alleged " long walks." He suspected a human goal at the end of them, some shock-headed selector's son, maybe, with a long, furrow-dodging stride and big buck teeth. He met one such on the journey up. So sharpened became Mr. Dennis s curiosity by the fourth morning that he resolved to follow her. So he rose early, and armed with a gun for the sake of appear ances, stole out into the garden. He saw Miss Larry go into the kitchen, emerging in about five minutes with a huge scone, which she was devouring with a young and healthy appetite. The foal, of course, was at her heels, munching a'so. She stood with an arm round her pet, despatching her breakfast thoughtfully. To the man hidden behind the shrubs Larry made an altogether charming
picture. A black poppied hat was set at
the back ot her head; her well-washed holland dress was open at the throat, revealing a circle of skin ridiculously white against the burnt throat and ruddy, tanned complexion. Her face was unusually soft in expression, and an introspective smile came and went in her eyes. She was thinking what a march she was stealing on Cousin Luscilla and Dad. The colt was taming splendidly. She would ride him home from the yard one day bare-backed, and astound them
Before starting her walk she chased the foal through the kitchen and shut the outer door on its aggrieved face. Hermions's rentonstrative whinnies were piteous until Mrs. Tibby consoled her with a boiled turnip.
In the meantime Mr. Dennis followed Miss Larry. It would not have been easy to act the spy had the girl been less absorbed in the object of her walk. For the paddock was wide and open, with not even a tussock to hide behind. But Larry aped on, never once turning, and taking the fences by the way
like a greyhound. At Inst a stockyard appeared, sheltered from wind and sun by a group of gums and wattles. In the circular yard, reserved for the breaking-in of the young horses, stood Larry's precious colt. A horseman was just riding away.
" Many thanks, good old Browne,"shouted the girl as she ran up. The man, an old stockman, who knew her from babyhood, touched his straw hat as he called out, " Have a care, -Miss Larry, and take her easy." Deeply mystified, Dennis hid be hind a post and waited for developments. Larry climbed a wattle close by and unearthed from its hollow an old hunting-whip and skirt. These she carried into the yard, where the colt was prancing, a tough halter round his neck, such a wild-eyed, sleek coated creature, with the legs of a racer. Larry carefully possessed herself of an end of the rope, deftly flung on the skirt, drawing it with a noose round his neck, and then the fun began. Round went the horse, and Hick went the whip. Larry's eyes grew bright., her rosy lace grew rosier, she seemed radiant with enthusiasm and delight. At this juncture Mr. Dennis walked out, and took a seat on the fence. She hardly glanced at him, and proceeded with her work as if he were one of the posts. It was a novel tableau, and as charming as it was novel. As her figure swayed and changed with the colt's paces its youthful grace and vigour were displayed to perfection. There was a dominant beauty even in the tense little hands and rough-shod,firmly-planted feet. Basil Dennis's indolent eyes grewlivelier.and, for a moment, he quite forgot a certain fair-haired lady some ten thousand miles away.
"Come!" he called at last, after he had watched the pair for ten minutes. "Give
the poor little beast a rest and yourself
To his surprise shp let the creature slow down, and, when he stood at lait, quivering and wide-eyed in the dust, Larry crossed to the fence, climbed it, and took a seat by his
I* Don't tell Dad and Cousin Luscilla," she said, looking at him with eyes not unlike the colt's. " I was told never to breat-in again, ami—and I just wanted to."
" I suppose your cousin dops not think horse-breaking a very ladv-like accomplish ment ?" he remarked, hardening his voice, for the the little sinner's lace was perilously
Larry thought she detected a rebuke in his tone. " I suppose you are shocked too?" she said curtly. " Cousin Luscilla warned me I should horrify vou."
" I certainly never saw a young lady at this sort of recreation before," lie answered with
" How did you get here?" Larry demanded suddenly, a dawning light in her eyes. " Did you sneak after me ?"
" Yes, 1 sneaked."
" Well, I consider that far more vulgar than breaking-in horses," she snapped in triumph, giving her hat a tilt and baring her bonny, curly head.
" Why is there lesB harm in sneaking alter ahorse than after a woman?" asked Basil, lazily moving himself a little nearer to her
on the fence.
" The horse is mine—belongs to me," said Larry, vaguely, trying to define the moral ditferenoe in their respective peccadilloes.
" Ah, of course. It would be all right if you belonged tome?" This speech, spoken in his drawling, caressing voice, somehow set Larry's young blood tingling. A wave of co'our swept over her face, leaving her pale
" Well, I'm going on with my work ! she
cried, slipping from the fence. " You had better clear off to breakfast, and please don't tell. Browne never goes back on his word ; he runs him in for me every morning , or I could not manage."
L«rry spoke a little incoherently, as Basil held her irresolute gaze with his own. "I don't want breakfast now." he said, leaping down with a smile that set Larry trembling again. " Don't be so unfriendly to a fellow !'
" I'm not unfriendly," said Larry—a hesitating sweetness in her voice—and then she looked at him, first as a child looks at a chum, and then as a woman looks at a man. Deeply her face crimsoned under the softness ot his eyes; her lips parted, her breath came quickly.
" I wish you would go home !" she cried, pettishly, a sudden reaction shaking her from head to foot. "Why did you follow me? I—I think I hate you !"
"Not hate, Larry, surely?" Basil gently queried, bending his head for a second as if the lifted tace drew him. Then he straightened himself with a re-adjusting shake that was noth physical and moral, and cleared his throat in an ordinary sort of way. "Yes, I think I'll go home to breakfast as you wisely suggest. Don't overtire yourself, little one, and I—I promise not to ' split.' "
In another moment he was gone. Then, somehow, the colt's 1 -sson was not continued successfully. His girlish trainer seemed lost in thought, and in a very lew minut-s the breakina-in was over for that morning. Larry set the animal free and started homewards. Never went the little feet more laggardly, never was the rosy-brown face so thoughtful. The child-woman was experiencing an agitation , complex in its minded pain and keen delight. She felt different, somehow, and
crossed the fences w;th decorous precision— an instinct of self-restraint that would have wanned the cockles of Miss Luscilla's much tried heart bad she only known it!
Dennis was perturbed—nay more, he was
even a little distressed. He had no wish to be a scoundrel, yet this wild hush child, with her awakening face and tell-tale eyes, allured him. He had only meant to give her the passing pat on the head which was his custom to bestow on the sex. He did not want to raise a storm of feeling he could not and should not by any possibility quell. For, though as much in love with this new face as he could well be, Dennis hal not the remotest intention of altering his Dlans for the future. His betrothed, with all her comfortable accessories, suit-d him, and he had no wish to turego either the one or the other, lie would go away and leave this wild youngster before further harm happened. Certainly the sport at Hartley Woods was superb, and he had hardly cast a rod yet. It was a deuced nuisance. No, he'd stay for another week, and keep as much out of danger ns possible. Everything went well for a few days, and then one evening one five minutes upset all Basils virtuous calculations. Larry had helped him to avoid her ever since that morning in the stockyard. She was as shy as un emu, and never even met his eyes without an impulsive blush and an inward tremor. Daring these days Larry grew quiet and subdued. Oous;n Luseilla had no longer to rebuke Iter lor whistling or tumbling with the foal about the house. She did not even require to he bullied into putt'ng on a prettier dress or keeping her hair tidy. Was Miss Luscilla's sowing bear ing a crop after all ? The soul of the elderly maiden rejoiced within her.
Vines heavy with white and black grapes grew on a trellis from the garden to the
orchard. Larry was down there one evening
giving Hermione a feed of grapes after the
spanking she had just received from Mrs.
Tibby for thieving. The foals bonne
bouche this time had been the apple pudding prepared for dinner. While standing in readiness to be carried to the diningroom Hermione had sampled it, and was found by the enraged housekeeper with her head
enveloped in boiled paste and apples and the
main pudding a hopeless wreck on the tray. Larry had rescued the delinquent with difficulty, and hurried her away to escape further onslaughts from Mrs. Tibhy's wooden ladle. Larry stayed down under the vines with her per, as she was likely to have a solitary evening. Her father was going to be busy with his accounts ; Mis3 Luscilla had promised to carry jelly and fruit to a sick farmer's wile; and Mr. Dennis had announced his intension during dinner of doing some moonlight fishing. Basil had beep quite honest in declaring his plan for the evening: but when his host and hostess disappeared he began to wonder what Miss Larry was doing with herselt. Had Dennis been a prudent young man he would have looked up his rod and ties, and proceeded to the river without furtner delay. However, Basils good resolutions were nearly a week old, and had not improved bykeeping. Perhaps the dear little girl was lonely—it would be almost rude, not to have a talk with her, any way, before, he went to the river. He would just see what she was doing with herself, and then go. Hermione's whinny for more grapes betrayed the whereabouts of her mistress. Dennis strode over tne grass, and soon reached the trellised walk. Larry was lounging on a garden seat, her small-bare arms turned back, her hamls clasped behind her head. She wore a childish-looking white gown, open at the throat, and two little white-slippered feet were stretched indolently over the path. Presently she turned her head and saw him. Then came the colour tide dyeing her face from brow to chin, Hee
saw the lovely young blush in spite of the
shadowy moonlight showered upon her head. Larry rose, a tenderness a story, in the surprised eyes of which she was entirely unconscious. Never looked girl more lovely or more alluring. Dennis became suddenly enervated—a desperate and irresistible longing icame over him to take that white child girl in his arms and cover her throat and face with kisses. Something of this impulse shone in his eyes, and Larry s cheeks grew pale. " I-I thought you were going fishing?' she said hurriedly.
The mute trouble in the downcast face melted the last joint in Basil's moral vertebra. " Larry, do ;ou want me to go !
He had her in his arms as he put the passionate query, and, bending lower, deliberately laid bis lips on hers. It was no casual kiss, lightly given and lightly taken, but the long, ineffable touch that draws a pure woman's heart to her lips, setting it trembling and sensitive for ever. ' Larry, forgive me !" he cried, in swift contrition, as she clung to him with all the tenderness of
her stirring womanhood. " Forgive^ me,
child! I am a scoundrel and a brute.
" Ah don't!' she whispered, wincing in his arm's. " Don't talk so—I—I love you.'
Basil could cheerfully have kicked himself all over the station as he felt her heart beating against his breast.
Listen, Larry," he began, putting her gently from him with a desperate effort and gazing with genuine remorse into the little startied face. " I have, no right to treat you like this ; it is dishonourable, cruel!
" Why?" she asked, lilting her hands, and pushing the curly masses of hair from her
eyes Larry, I am the promised husband of
another woman whom I—I wish to marry.
Basil did not certainly take half measures in defining his position. Larry grew winte to the lips ; an agony of shame swept over her: she could not articulate for a few seconds. " And you dared, to kiss me!
she panted at last, rubbing her lips with her hand with a childish impulse that would have been laughable were it not so pathetic.
How—how could you insult me so? Her
fierce voice broke with a savage sob. l—l have a good mind to get you horse-whipped !
she cried clecching her brown fist and driving it against his breast, "—I wish I could die ! I hate you !"
Dennis bore her reproaches with a stoicism that added fire to her fury. I regret to say that this young man was heartily regretting his impulsive candour. It he had only held his longue this adorable young fury would be lying lame in his arms, and those soft, sweet, thrilling lips would burn again against his own. That ridiculous foal, with its uncouth Iegs and pot-bellied body seemed to suddenly pervade the scene, and irritated him beyond endurance. Larry crushed its head against her breast, and stroked the foolish nose with a trembling little band. " Are you ready to go to your fishing now .
she asked with a bitter smile, and a tone that pierced even Basil's imperturbability. "Larry he cried, recklessly holding out his arms. But the girl recoiled and warned him
off with the gesture of a queen. Go! she
cried with a passionate intensity, " and never dare speak to me again!" And Dennis, some what to his own surprise, on mature reflection
Then Larry had a very bad quarter of an hour with the foal for company, on whose shaggy back she wept such tears that her heart seemed bursting, and her whole being breaking up. " I could forgive anything if he hadn't kissed me!" she thought again and again ; that wonderful first love kiss seeming to brand and turn her very soul. I can never feel the same again. Never! never
Next mail Mr. Dennis received a letter that called him unexpectedly to town, To the last Larry preserved towards him an attitude of cold resentment, barely taking his hand in parting. He had dared to trick and fool her into a confession of love, betrothed to and caring for another woman. This Larry could never forgive, and never did even when alter years made her see his lapse in
fairer light. In spite of his wickedness Basil had refrained from making the hurt a
Larry"s"glimpse into the depths of human
consciousness so sobered her that in a few months she was considered sufficiently civilised to " come out in a Melbourne ball room, and two years later contrived to
a whole heart to another lover, in spite of the memorable kiss that changed her from child to woman. After the marriage of his daughter Mr. George Hartley was stricken with a sudd 'n wish to follow her example and as there was no eligible party handier
than Miss Luscilla, that frosty but kindly maiden was induced to act as bride on the occasion. Mrs. Tibby soon after married Browne, the stockman, whose wooing had her going on for some ten years. They look up a selection together, and did well. Larry s husband owns plenty of horses ; but in spite of this tact she persists in riding an od-grown, absurd little mare, very shaky in the knees, who answers to the ironic name of Her mione.