|Chapter Title||CHRISTMAS EVE AND THE END OF THE STORY.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Cooee! A Christmas Tale|
CHRISTMAS EVE AND THE END OF THE STORY.
It was Christmas Eve once more, and the usual pleasant stir and bustle was going on in every home. The very same children were parading the streets with the same pleasurable excitement which the very same toys would have failed to raise on any other day. Jimmy ? was not satisfied'with a ? trumpet any longer, he flourished a hat instead; little Polly,, the baby, was promoted from a rattle to her first doll; and Joe had transferred his young affec tions from the balloon man to the lolly shop— they were a year older, that was all.
In a small unpretentious house, out of the general stir, a troop of children, all very much of an age, were having their share in the joys and anticipations of the time; they wereorphans, but they did not seem to mind it much. The Home, bright and pleasant as it always was, was made brighter than ever by fresh texts and tasteful decorations put up by some lady visitors. There was to be a "tree to-night" the children informed each other, and alto gether they were on tip-toe with delighted excitement. In her little sitting-room the Matron was resting, for' a temporary substi tute had been found in the shape of a strong, motherly body, quite equal to the work. "Why, ma'am, its just a holiday to
me," she said, "so you just try to liave i nice doze before I bring in your tea, and then you will be able to come in and see the tree when it is lighted; the children, poor thiiigs, would miss ' Mothor,' I am. sure. ' Mother' tried to sloep, hut the effort was rendered use less by the fact that some hind but thoughtless friend had" stood" tin trumpets all round, and she eooh gave up the attempt in despair.
"No, no," she said, when the substitute would have silenced them; "no, no, let them be happy to-day at lCast; they will have efiough sod days and to Spare in their lives, poor things. I do not need to sleep; I will just rest qnietly for a while and be quite fresh.''
The Matron, or we may as well say Mrs. Grant at once, for she it was, lay back think ing. The past year had left its mark upon her face; it was thinner, older, with a weary look about tbe patient mouth, but a sweet face still, "Just the face to tell one's troubles to," peojile said, and bo it was. She had troubles enough of her own just now, poor soul, but she bore them bravely, striving not to be anxious about the future, though that was hard, for this
last attack of illness had convinced her that she was no longer strong enough for her present post.
"I must have faith," Bhe said; "Why should I fear, even for Mary. * The widow and the fatherless,' there are so many promises
There was a tap at the door, and Dr. Brown
was shown in.
"Resting?" he said, in his old cheery way. "That's good; that's very good. We'll soon have you well again, I see."
"I ain so glad that you have come," she said ; " I wanted to speak to you about several things."
"Well, that's fortunate, very fortunate," he said. " I thought I would just look in in passing."
Which was scarcely the truth, as he had had to come some distance out of his way.
"Well, now, what is it ?" he asked, putting on an elaborate air of having nothing to do.
First of all to thank you. Very- well, if you don't like me to say it 1 will not, but you can't help luy thinking it all the same. Well, I have thought for some time that I ought to give up this post; now I am sure of it.. Yob, my kind friend, quite sure. I am not strong enough. I am not firm enough; the older boys are getting beyond me."
"But with Mrs. Jones's help——"
"No, I cannot take money tor doing nothing. I cannot honestly take a situation that requires much strength, even if another wore to be
found. What I wanted to ask you was—do you know of any place where I could ,'liva cheaply ? Could I get into the cottage homes! for instance ? If I were sure of a home I could earn something by-sewing, I am sure."
The little doctor rose and stood before her, a troubled and almost deprecatory expression on
his kind face.
"Why will you not let me help you,.Mrs. Grant? Am I never to be forgiven for my presumptuous folly ?" • :'.r -
"Don'tcall it that,"she answered, gently, "it was a mistake, but you meant it kindly." .
"I was a fool, an impetuoue, selfish old fool!" bo said hotly. " 1 must have been mad. I teat mad with thinking of that dastardly young scoundrel! that " Words failed him, and ho was silent a moment.
" I wanted to offer her a home," he went on. "I wanted to take care of her, and that eeemed the simplest way. I would not have asked her to care for me—but then, I was an old fool, a . presumptuous old fool!"
"Not selfish—never selfish,''Mrs. Grant said, softly.
"Yes, selfish, selfish, and such a fool! For I love her, I - have loved rlmr for a long time now. There—what do you think of that? I loved a young girl once, but she - died. That was many, many years ago. I was a student then, little more than a boy, and I had never spoken of love to her, but' somehow I never cared to marry. As your Mary grew up I liked to watch her, she reminded me of Alice. Then by degrees I got to care for her for her own sake. I thought it did not matter, and she would never know. But when that young scamp deserted her juBt when she needed
help I lost my head and asked her to bem^.l
wife. I did not want her to love me.
didn't expect it. To be allowed to take care of her, and shield her from every trouble, just .to brighten her life for a little while, and feel that 1 was of use to her; that was all I wanted, but—I was a presumptuous old fool, and well punished for my folly."
" But then! - he said, suddenly catching sight of Mrs. Grant's pained face, " then, don't trouble about a havering old idiot like me; let's talk about your plans. Not a word about what I've said, though, not a word. Some folks think I liave my witR about me yet, and we need not undeceive them, you know. Now for your plans " >
But those plans were destined never to be made, for just then there came a loud knock at the door.
"More presents," guessed oue small orphau. " 'Mother puddin'," guessed another.
"No," said a third, better informed; "a lady and gentleman to see ' Mother.' Such a tall gentleman, and such a pretty lady !"
Such a meeting too, and such explanations I And such an evening as the children had over their Christmas-tree, even though Dr. Brown, generally the heart and soql of everything, was called away on urgent business.
No pen, not a feather from an eagle's wing, much less the prosaic steel nib in actual use, could do them justice, nor describe bow, when the children were in. bed, and silence reigned at last, those three drew close together and talked on far into tbe night, Hugh telling his story, and how he had got a billet on the run, where he was now Manager, and his mining shares, instead of being a dead Iosb, had turned out a good investment after all, 60 that, although by no means rich, he was yet in a position to marry. What more is there to tell?
There is a happy home at Ooringa now,
sie—who ha "
where Lassie—who had meanwhile been taken care of by a friend—submits to having her ears tweaked and rumpled by several small Beresfords—she even permits them to pull her plumy tail, but strictly, draws the line at being ridden, on—that is the department of a very old, very fat white horse, who idles away his time in a paddock near the house—no other than Rocket, who was. bought by Hugh as an " osteriogical specimen," so he said, but soon lost all claim to tbat title.
Next to father, mother, and grandmamma the -Bcresford children love a certain Uncle Brown, who does his best to spoil them when ever they are in town, hut does not often go up to Ooringa.