Chapter 159557064

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleLASSIE'S FIND.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article159557064
Full Date1890-12-27
Page Number42
Corrections0
Word Count2205
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleCooee! A Christmas Tale
article text

THE STORY-TELLER.

COOEE!

A CHRISTMAS TALE.

CHAPTER L lassie's find.

Such a lovely September day—a fresh breeze, a blue sky with one or two fleecy white clouds sailing across it, and that sweet spring feeling in the air that makes us long to be out of doors

—perhaps it is the breath of the spring flowers ] colling to mortals to come to them, and again I from their pure fresh brightness rest and treat- i ing from life's cares, and hope and strength to goon working. One heart at least had re sponded to the summons, not that its owner had any work to speak of, or any cares at all. A fair young girl as bright andffresh as the day itself—she seemed a very embodiment of spring as she strolled along the hillside, stopping now and then to pick a flower or watch the magpies i circling overhead. Her complexion had that

wild rose hue so seldom seen in this dry

climate, her eyes were grey, soft, and kind, yet with a gleam of mischief in them, as if some roguish thought were hiding there, her hair, though it might have been called golden, had none of gold's hard cold glitter, it was such sunny hair, soft, and bright, and waving, and though tucked away under a garden hat it revelled and peeped out in wee soft curls on

neck and brow.

Shewas enjoymgthedayproperly, strolling in this direction or m that, or standing still, as fancy prompted, now looking upwards towards the hilltop, now down into the valley below her, ail misty white with the early fruit blossom. She had come out to gather butter cup, for even such an aimless seeming walk as this should haveanobject, and a basket already half full of those cherry blossoms liung on her arm. Her companion—a handsome collie with expressive eyes and a highly emotional nature —aid not take things so quietly, though before everything a cattle dog she had taken up

rabbiting as an amusement, and pursued it i

with the recklesB energy of an amateur, aud i

though she seldom caugnt anything, she was

excited about each hunt as if the preceding ]

ones had been successful, and derived much enjoyment from her sport, though she did little harm to bunny. Now and then she would stay by her mistress for a few minutes, poking

about in the fern with her nose for invisible if not imaginary lizards, but soon she would dash wildly off after a rabbit or a hare, which often esc&iied by squatting in the fern till she dashed past and then cantering complacently off in another direction, leaving their baffled and excited enemy to mourn their loss and the mutabilityof canine hopes.

Maty Grant, for that was the name of our spring maiden, was carefully disentangling some long sprays of delicate clematis when the dog came rushing hack breathless with excitement, and tried by divers canine wiles to attract her attention.

"Down, Lassie, down!" said her mistress at first; hut Lassie, not to be denied, kept touching her with her sharp tan muzzle, and

even laid an imploring paw upon her arm.

"Why, Lassie, what is it?" said Mary

Grant at last.

Lassie looked up into her mistress's face with brown beseoahing eyes that all but spoke.

" Poor old dog! Did the rabbit pop into its hole, then, just when you thought you had got

it? Well, it's very sod; but it's the way of ] the world, my dear."

Lassie solemnly wagged the lost three inches of her tail, and continued her imploring gaze.

"What! More serious? Is it a possum in a log, then; and must I help you to get it out? Very well."

Lassie, seeing that her mistress was about to follow her, dashed off for a few yards and waited there. Seeing, that her mistress really was coming, she started up the valley.

- On and on Lassie led her mistress, the way growing steeper and rougher at every step, till at last Alary decided not to go any further, and was just on the point of turning when she heard a faint call. She paused to listen, and it came again,, a faint, low '' Cooee."

Following the dog which had. rushed back for her, she hurried on till rounding a bend in the creek, she saw that Lassie had at last come

to a holt and was watching something in the ] bracken. The gully was very, narrow just

here, the hills rising almost precipitiously on : either side of the creek, an old road skirted the bill on one side, but it had been long disused, and each winter bits of it crumbled. and slipped away with the rain. There had been a new fall lately. Mary noticed as she oame up signs of struggling too, and the fern all torn and trampled. All! there was the cause of it all; a handsome black horse lying dead in the creek.

It was not this, however, that .Lassie was' watching, hut something in the fern close by; something, ah yes, a man, the luckless rider of the horse.

A pale set face witbdark eyes, stern -with ? pain, that was what Mary saw. Yet even as she hurried . forward ^she noticed the tender grass of the fern round him, the sweet bird notes and the whispering ripple of the creek, all so mockingly peaceful with the inconsequent perception of details one has at such times.

"Oh, you are hurt!" she cried, "what can I do for you?"

"Water, please," he said in a faint voice,

"water."

What could she bring it in; she could find nothing that would serve her purpose, and at last tried mailing a cup with her bands. They were not very large to begin with, and the water ran away very fast, but she managed to convey a few drops to bis parched lips, and

wetting her handkerchief she bathed his fore head tiil he seemed a little revived.

"Areyou much hurt?" she ventured to ask, at last.

" Leg broken, I think," he said. " How did you come here V"

" Trying a short out in the dusk, road gave way, and down we came. Prince is done for, poor fellow," with a regretful glanoe at the dead 'horsei, "and I rather thought I was toe for a while."

"In the dusk!" repeated Mary; "have you been here all night ?"

"Yes,"

" How dreadful 1 oh, how dreadful! How could you bear it ?"

"Had to," be answered, grimly. "It was'nt exactly jolly, lying here in the cold star light, hearing that poor brute, moan his'life away; but," looking up into .the sweet eyes that were, looking down at hiin all dim with pity, " but it's not so bad as yon think—not now. A fellow gets used to anything, you know, and lots of fellows have had worse tbingBto bear—it's not unbearable," he said, trying to force a smile to the white, drawn lips that sorely belied his words.

Mary was kneeling beside him now, gently raising his bead from the hard ground, she 'placed beneath it a soft wrap she had been -carrying.

"There," she said, "Ican do no more good here; I will run for help; it shall not be long in coming," and she \vas soon lost to sight 'down the valley.

It"was not long, though it seemed so to the srifferer, before the promised help arrived, and ?the journey down the valley, which, in spite of

every possible care was intensely painful,

began. He could recall little about it save a j succession of agonizing jolts lost at last in mer cilui oblivion and an awakening in a dainty room, with a sweet motherly face bending over

him that reminded him of that other face he had seen so lately, and which had seemed to tim so like on angel's.

" Well," said the cheerful little doctor when

at last the leg was set, "now that you are j comfortable"—-his patient gave a dissentient groan—"now that you are quite comfortable," repeated the littleman, not to be contradicted, "is there anything I can do for you? Any mes

sage or telegram to your friends, for instanoe ?" ;

"No," said the patient, "unless you drop a ' line to my landlady ana tell her I shan't be back for a while."

"Allright| give me the address, and-er?"

he said when it was riven—

" Oh, my name ? Hugh Beresford."

"Hugh Beresford," repeated Mrs. Grant, when the doctor had gone. "Hugh Beres ford ! I should know that name, and your faoe, too, is strangely familiar. Have you any

relations in this colony ?" \

"No," said Hugh; "and no very near ones anywhere. I am singularly alone in the

world." |

"Andyet." persisted Mrs. Grant, "I know ] your face. It reminds me what was your mother's maiden name ?"

"Leigh," he answered, wondering at her earnestness."

"Leigh! Kate Leigh?" she asked again.

"Yes," he said, "my mother's name was Leigh."'

"Ah, she was my dearest friend; we were at school together, and were almost like sistera to each other. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding, but when she went to New South

Wales and I got married we seemed to drift ] apart. We kept up a correspondence for some j years, but troubles came, and I feared my 1 doleful letters would not suit ber bright life, so it dropped."

"So you are Kate's son," she went on after a pause, "the bonny boy she wrote so proudly of. Did Bhe never epeak to you of me?"

" I do not remember, I was such a little chap when she died you see, not six. I re member her though, her face and her voice. I fancied' I heard it last-night as I layout

there under the'stars. I must have been half | delirious, I suppose."

"My poor boy!—my poor boy!" said Mrs. Grant, stroking jback the dark hair; " but, there, I am forgetting all. the doctor's orders and talking you into a fever."

And from that time forward Mrs. Grant nursed bim as tenderly as half a dozen mothers rolled into one.

Meanwhile Dr. Brown on his way down the garden came upon Mary unsuccessfully trying to seem busy with her flowers.

" Is it over ?" she asked timidly..

" Oh, yes; but it was a nasty break, though what nerve that fellow has !"

" Would it hurt so very much ?"

"Hurt?—of course it hurt. The pain must

have been acute, but he scaroely winced. He's I the pluckiest Halloa !" He broke off

just in time to savo Mary from subsiding j into a' rosebush and placing her on a neigh- ' bouring seat.

" Now, what did you do that for?" he asked

severely when a moment later she opened her |

eyes.

"I beg your pardon," she said contritely. " I never fainted in my life before; but I can not bear to think of any one suffering, and all the way home I kspt thinking how long the time must seem to one in pain.'r

" You ran, I suppose ?"

" Every step of the way—I did indeed!"

"I.thoughtas much! Now, young woman, you are over-tired, and over-excited, and you will just go in and lie down, and read traots."

He led her into the cool pretty drawing room, and in spite of her protestations that she was quite well, and that there was nothing at all the matter with her, he saw her cosily ensconced on the sofa, and then went prowling aboutl the room for a book.

" Mr. Oliphant," he muttered to himself,— "too much feeling, Christie Murray—too inter

esting, Mrs. Alexander, yes—Her Dearest Foe I —h'm-ab—too.appropriate—fellow breaks his ?

leg, is brought in on a shutter, and marries the | heroine, won't do. All!" Pouncing upon a paper-covered volume with a' startling picture on the back—the only startling thing about the book as it happened. " Ah, the very thing; seen a review of it, said to be even slower than the general run. There—" to Mary, "read

that, my dear, no skipping, mind; read straight j ou. Now I must be going, I can't stay a ! minute longer. Good bye!" And he was

gone.

The book was dull enough in all conscience, but somehow it did not exercise the soporific influence the little doctor had expected, for though Mary honestly tried to read she could not fix her attention upon it, nor feel any very deep interest in the adventures of this hero. A fair young man who was perpetually getting into a great state of mind about. nothing iu

{lartioular, and whose eyes " of heaven's own

lue" were always gleaming, flashing, blazing,

melting, or beaming with intense emotion except where his finely chiselled features ex pressed calm disdain, so insensibly she fell to thinking of the daTk eyes, and strong brave face she had seen so lately, and weaving fancies about them, and if sho made their owner out rather a hero, was it to be wondered

at?