Chapter 195881708

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Chapter NumberIX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195881708
Full Date1886-11-05
Page Number1
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Word Count3823
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitlePort Adelaide News and Lefevre's Peninsula Advertiser (SA : 1883 - 1897)
Trove TitleDora Dunbar. An Australian Story
article text

novelist.

"DORA DUNBAR." AN AUSTRALIAN STORY.

CHAPTER IX.—(Continued.)

BY BONA."

" My opinion is that yon are very provoking, Mies Dunbar." "Didn't I say opinions differed, izost people think me amiability itself/' I coolly rejoin. "They're nob keen observers," mischievously. " Thank yon, sir," with a sweeping bow. "For the last time, Miss Dunbar, will you promise?" " Not blindfold—cariosity does not enter eo largely into my composition." "Then I must defer my choice till you know me better and can trust me more." " You flatter yourself then that Mr. F. improves on acquaintance ?" " I flatter myself that those who know me well, know that my ••word is my bond,'" gravely; then, with a complete change of tone, "Do yon endorse the sentiments you quoted just now: men were deceivers ever?" "Do you dispute it?" "My question has prior claims." " Candidly then—I think it is true of the majority." ' " Be it mice to dispel your belief," he murmurs softly, bending his handsome head slightly towards us. " It's too deeply rooted," I reply carelessly,

though to my vexation his tender tones brings the hot blood to my face, " you'd need to combine the patience of Job and the strength of Hercules to succeed." " Love would lend both " he whispers audaciously. " Do you like Meore'a works Mr. Fowler ?" I inquire in my moBt matter-of-fact voice, taking a copy of them from the table, and calmly ignoring his last remark, a course of aotion that only makes him smile. " Some of them. Apropos of the subject in hand, how do you like the character he gives woman ?— ' Away, away ye're all the same, A jilting, fluttering, heartless lot.' " I prefer Scott's description— ' 0, woman, in our hours of ease, Uncertain, coy, and hard to please, When pain and anguish wring the brow A ministering angel thou'." "It's the truer of the two, I believe," he graciously admits, continuing. " By-the-by, Miss Dunbar, Mrs. Arcroft was telling me that you compose poetry—" »* Dabble in rhyme-stringing,- she should have said," I interrupt. " Will you let me judge of that 7 Yon are a contributor to the • Melbourne Journal,' I believe?" interrogatively " I have that honor." " In" my opinion, the appearance of your compositions in it is a criterion of their excellence," bo affirms flatteringly; and again I sweep him a low bow. " Query—they publish trash sometime?," I say. " Will you favor me by submitting some of your pieces to my criticism ?" " Not now—another time," I eay, hastily, hearing approaching voices. "You promise—if fortune doesn't favor me with an opportunity, will you send them tome?" " Yes," I promise rashly. "Thank you," as Nance and Mr. Alexander re-enter the room. " It's raininc away as well and heartily as ever it did," Mrs. Aroroft informs us from her post at the window, after luncheon. " You 'must make up your minds to spend the afternoon indoors, nnless you're rainproof, all of you." That we all find it easy to do, comfortably ensconced in the easy chairs dotted lavishly about the room, with books, talk aad music to beguile the time. As the afternoon deepens into dusk Nance and her future lord and master station themselves at the piano, and favor us with their favorites from Sankey's collection, nnder cover of which Mr. Arcroft snatches a snug "forty winks," while his wife steals off for a last look into the progress of culinary matter?. Mr. Fowler and I are sitting together on a couch at the end of the room opposite the _ piano, I have been Bhowing him the contents * of my album, and the home faces have conlured up a touch of home-sickness. With the book in my lap, I sit wondering what they are all doing, and longing to see them, when I am enddenly recalled to my whereabouts by finding myself drawn irresistibly to my companion's breast, hisiips at the same time meeting mine with silent passion. For a moment surprise holds me spellhound, then I wrench myself free, and, with swift, noiseless steps, hasten from the zoom to my own. Trembling from head to foot, hoi tears in any eyeB and anger in my heart, I pace to -and fro. Not for worlds would I let the Arcrofts know of it, but oh 1 even the chief's iron rule would be welcome now. " One of the • sweets of independence' you •courted bo much," whispers conscience. " He •wouldn't have dared to treat Nance so."

Ob, what a .relief it would ba to shut myself in and " have it out" in a good cry; bnt that would arouee suspicion, seeing that I had been in good spirits all the afternoon. Even now the dinner-bell is ringing, warning me to compose myself with ali_ dispatch. * Bathing my eyes in cold water, and smoothing my ruffled locks, I summon my pride to my aid, and a few minutes later join the rest at the dinner-table, laughing and talking with an almost feverish gaiety, in my dread of appearing absent or disturbed. Only once, though, do I,even indirectly, address myself to Mr. Fowler, who sits opposite me. In the course of conversation, fashion is one of the subjects touched upon " One of the most absurd vagaries it seems to me is ' banged' hair as it is called," he says stealing a glance at the fringe of yellow floss half-veiling my forehead. " It adds nothing of beauty to a low brow, and robs a high one of its intelligence, I think," he concludes, laughingly. "I'll set G masculines the good example of giving those who wear it the cold shoulder —sever acquaintanceship with them." " What demand the fringe will be in among C—— young ladies when your intention becomes known, Mr. Fowler, and how cheaply bought, even at the sacrifice of their silken locks, they will consider their happy release," I exclaim, with such caustic emphasis that he ooloru angrily, though he forces himself to jain in the general laugb. "By Gjorge! that's a hard rap, old fellow," cries Mr. Alexander, enjoying it hugely. " A Riland for your Oliver, Mr. Fowler," chimes in Nance. " It's a case of Greek meeting Greek—your crossing swords with Miss Danbar, 1 think," coming to his relief. "A sort of' now, gallant Saxon, hold thine own,'" laughs Mr. Arcroft. " So I perceive," he rejoins curtly, " sarcasm is decidedly your strong point, Miss Dunbar, I would that you had a foeman worthy of your steel." Only the most common-place remarks, and as few of them as politeness will permit, do we exchange during the rest of the evening, but the following morning, on entering the parlor, I find him in sole possession of it, and he at once begins an elaborate apology, which J- remorsele&sy cut short. "Ng" apology can atone for the cowardly advat≥ you took of my unprotected position," I indignantly tell him, hardening my hears against hi3 humble pleading and eloquent eyes. " Will you—can you never forgive me?—I was mad I think," he implores ; but I only shake my head, I cannot trust myself to speak, and it is with deep, if silent, gratitude I hail Nance's entrance. When shaking hands on their departure, immediately after breakfast, he contrives to murmur, unheard by the rest, a final fervent " forgive me," supplementing it with a speaking glacca, but I am adamant. "Miss Dunbar," he eays, audibly, as they mount, " am I to have that poetry you promised mo 5" " I'm not in the habit of breaking my promises, Mf. Fowler," I Bay stiffly. "I shall expect it, then," are his last words, "What poefry doss he mean, Dot?" asks ance, as we stand watching them out of ight. " Some of mine; Mrs. Arcroft told him about t, I believe." " Which piece will you show him ?" " I don'4 know," carelessly. " L?t me choose." " If you like you can, I don't care." " Then * Farewell' shall be one piece, and : My dream' another—" " Thrae pieces will be enough," I put n. «' Ail right—will«Beth' do for the third ?"

" Yes—or stay" a sudden thought striking me, " let me choose the third." " Certainly—when will you send them 1" " Not till the end of the week." " Why not before?" " Wiir. ma, die re, and see." " Waiting and I don't agree," " Try lofor onee." "Haw long?" " Till to-morrow night." " Ah well, that'* not so bad, and if I must I must." CHAPTER X. " What are you writing, Doll ?" asks Nance, as, on entering our room the following evening about duBk, she finds me scribbling at a great rate. " You'll ruin your eyes." " I have finished now. There—what do you think of it ?" handing her what I have written. "What is it?"' " The third piece for Mr. Fowler." " Oh—let me read it 1 Is it a new piece?" ' Yea. Raad it out, I want to hear hov t Founds." And in her low, sweet voice she reada: Only a winter's evening, Whcee hours too swiftly sped; Only a pair of dusk gray eyes, Whose glance a volume said: Only a few " sweet nothings," Whispered in accents low, Only a Lesrt at parting Full of rebellious woe. Only a few dead violets, Some withered maiden hair, But never to miser dearer Was gold or jewel rare I Only a kiss—one only, And in a moment past; But its ecstatic rapture Will for a life-time last 1 Only a girl in the gloaming Battling away tbe pain, Those only know who loving, Find they have loved in vain; Only an evening pastime, Perchance it was to thee; Eat oh! how sweet, how precious, Its memory is to me I " Well, do you like it ?" I ask abruptly. " Like it ? O Dot, it is beautiful 1" ciies Nance, in an Arabella-Gushington manner; " but he'll think you are awfully in love with him," " Then he'll think exactly what I want him to think." I say, shortly. " Dot ?" in an astonished tone, " I mean it, Nance." " Why do you want him to think that ?"' " Rsvenge is Bweet — • an eye for an eye—'" " Don't hurl proverbs at me. Dot, especially such heathenish ones. What do ysn mean ?" she interrupts impatiently. " To make a long story short then—mind this is strictly sub rosa, Nance—Mr Fowler did me the honor,' with fine scorn, "of paying me certain lover-like attentions on Sunday, which I received coldly at the time, but which, on second thoughts, I mean to encourage." " Dot I" severely. " Nance 1" mimicking her. " How can you encourage him ? I'm sure you don't love him ?" "Far from it 1" I laugh, bitterly, "all the same, J mean to make him lore me," coolly. "Why?" -

"That I may have the pleasure o- triumphing over and humiliating him as h- humiliated me," I answer, my face b:iriving. *• Il'a playing with edged tools, dentr; don's have anything to do with him." advise 4 Nance, 1 He's not worthy yenr second thought; let him go. I often wish my sister and her husband would make him less welcome ; but they are such good easy-going sonle, that they find it hard to see evil in others. Besides they rather felt for hit when he came to Fernlea first—a tctestranger in a strange land—and did their best to make it less lonely for him. Mirth* was as good as a mother to him; but I never liked him, he's not a good man I'm eure. I they only knew, though, he had failed in politeness to you—" *' Tliey don't know—they must never know. Nanca I" I break in excitedly. " They wou'o naturally ihink I was to blame too. It was only yesterday Mrs. Arcroft was saying that a girl who had proper self-respect had a trusty shield against insult." " Not always, Dot. They knGw you teo well to think ill of you," she assure* me soothingly. " Only you mu3t give up your intention of entering the lists with th< widow." " Net till I fulfil it," I reply doggedly, "for every pang of mortification he made me suffer ho shall suffer double." " Weighed in tbe balance with her wealth you'll bs found wanting in his estimation, Dot." " We shall ec-e," then drawing her before the glass," tell me—can I hold my own with her in looks ?' I ask surveying the reflection it returns. "Eisily," smiles Nance. "You should have been a Corsxan, you little piec9 of malignity." Then, tapping the manuscript in her hand, "this is to go then?" " Decidedly—the more of it he believes the belter." " Where are the violets and maiden hair ?" the asks. " Here," opening my large silver locket apd displaying a tiny knot of both, " he dropped them on the rug, and I picked them up whet: he had gone. Seeing them treasured so tenderly, he'll never dream my first impulse was to trample them underfoot." " You little spitfire 1 Why hoard them op?" " You are dense to-night, my d£ar. Don't you see what a capital link the5'll mako in the chains I mean to bind him with." " And what about this, Dot, * Oniy a kiss,' you don't bestow your favors lightly I know." With scarlet cheeks, I give her a brief account of the osculation referred to. " I am surprised," is all she says,"" he is so t gentlemanly generally. However," with a mischievous glance, " I suppose the temptation to 4 waste his whole heart in one kiss upon those perfect lips' proved too much for him, poor fellow I"—a supposition I treat with silent contempt. " It's playing with fire, Dot," Bhe resumes, ftfter a brief silence, " trifling with Norton Fowler. I hope you won't get your fingers burned." " If I do I shall endure the pain with such Spartan fortitude that not even you shall know I suffer." Nance shakes her head. " I wish I could persuade you to abandon the idea." " It's only wasting words to try." " Then I must resign myself to the inevitable, and watch the development of the drama." " Mind, it's strictly between ourselves, Nance." " I understand," and that ends th®. conversation. On Friday the Sunny side mail-boy cirries in to C a letter addressed to " Norton Fowler, Esq., Fernlea," which Saturday's coach, we reckon, will take on to its destination ; but we reckon without our host, for on Saturday afternoon Mr. Arcroft visits C

and brings back with him Mr."Fowler and the letter too, as I soon learn. In his long overcoat and soft hat, with the flush of exercise on his face, and a glitter of raindrops all about him, he looks really handsome, as Mr. Arcroft nshers him into tbe parlor where I am sitting in solitary state. "Eh, Dot, is that you?" cries our cheery host—I am " Dot" to them all now. " See how good I am to you. Nance is sure to be spooning round with Alexander to-morrow, so I brought Fowler home to amnse you. Look after him a minute till I find Mirtha, and get her to take him off your hands," and he is off. No sooner does he disappear than my companion dons an air of profound humility and asks softly, "Am I forgiven?" " Forgiven but not forgotten," I murmur in my- sweetest tones—allowing him to retain a moment or so longer than usual tbe hand I offer him in greeting. " Nothing like striking the iron while it is hot," I say to myself. He does net wax ecstatically thaskfal as I half expected him to, but regards me with a steady, semi-surprised gaze that slightly disconcerts me. "Have yon solved the problem?" I ask at length. "A penny for your thoughts." " I was wondering what this new mood of yours memt," he replies candidly. I left you on Monday morning, hard as a rock and cold as ice, and to-night I find you warmed and melted into a dangerous sweetness." " You forgot your favorite Byron's opinion of women"— Fondly we hope 'twill last for aye, Wnen, lo 1 she changeB in a day; This record will for ever stand, " Woman 1 thy vows are traced in sand." It should have prepared you for feminine changeability." " Tne explanation doesn't satisfy me." "Are ycu good at reading riddles, Mr, Fowler I" "Fairly." " Then this one will amuse yon in your leisure moments." "Will yon not read it for me? Bs generous, and save me the misery of suspense." " No," emphatically. " I bow to your decision uncomplainingly, in grstitude for your gracious pardon jast granted," he begins grandiloquently, when I stop him. f • " That's enough, Mr. Fowler. * Lst f.le dead past bury its dead.' Here's Mrs. Aroroft to take you oil my hands at last." " Arc you g'a'd to get rid of me, then ?" with a reproachful glacce. " Need jou ask ?" I murmur; then assuming a commonplace air, " you will be glad to get rid of that wet coat though—it must be quite a weight." "Yes, indeed," chimes in Mrs. Arcroft, shaking hands with him, " so go at once and get it off, your room is ready for you—the one you had last—so you won't want a guide." " Nance, Nanee," I cry two minutes later, rushing in upon her in the midst of the careful toilette she is making for the benefit of her betrothed, who is expected momentarily— "He's here." " Wfio, Gilbert ?" Gilbert is her fiance. " No, Mr. Fowler." " Rs&lly ? Did Edgar bring him ?" "Yes." " Poor fellow 1 ' Where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise,' if he only knew." The sound of a horse's hoofs on the carriage drive without banished me and my plot from her mind. t "Will I du, Dot?" she asks turning herself about for my inspection.

" First-rate," I truthfully assure tier, surveying the slender figure in its wine-colored gown, with deep creamy lace at the throat and wriete. "How do I look?" I ask in my turn. " Very niec," 6he says, and the mirror says the same in its reflection of my black-robed figure and yellow hair, I am glad GO see. The evening passes pleasantly but uneventfully, the rain falling monotonously ail the time. " The clerk of the weather is no friend of yours," says Nance,to our visitors as we separate at bed-timo. " Listen to the rain." " It is coming down," assents Mr. Fowler, "Let ns hops it will be fine to-morrow." The hope is realized. The morrow is all that could be described, fair, fresh and balmy. The morning we spend rambling along the river that separates Sunnyeide from the next run. Nance and Gilbert leading the way,with Mr, Fowler and my fair self following at a respectable distance. " I must thank you, Miss Dunbar, for the poetry you sent me—'' he begins. " You got it then ?" I put in carelessly. "Yes. I called at the office before the Fernlea bag was made np and got my share of its contents. Your contributions thereto gave me eFpeci&l pleasure, I need hardly say." " What do you think of it? Which piece do you like best ? s: is my blunt query. "I like them all,but thepieca headed'Osly' interested me most, as I daresay you meant it to. From the other pieces I should gather that you have had a wide experience in loving and parting," looking me steadily in the eyes. "I can't compliment you on your penetration—both pieces are purely imaginary." " I can hardly credit it. « My dream ' I like very much, it has the ring of true poetry about it, but' Farewell' as a merely imaginary composition puzzles me. I felt certain there was a history, and a very sad ona too, attaahed to it. You must have a fertile izaagi: a' : on ?" " Fairly so." I rejoin, " but a wretched memory." " There then, I have the advantage of you, mine is excellent. To prove it, I only read you ' Farewell,' through two or . three times, and I know it by heart." " Hearing is believing in thiiiifjfcs," I say incredulously, "Lai me hear you repeat it." Softly, but with a feeling that surprises me, he dees so. Esndered with the expression he puts into them, I am quite -preua cf sr.y poetastical effort?. Farewell—we ccuid not E&y it, vs, Upon that dead March morn, Wden both our hearts were full of 1 ain— The pain of parting born— Last tssiful actions should belie The smiles cur Hps had worn. Farewell—the bitterness of death Was in the word, my own, When, with your last kiss on my lips I found myself alone; God only knows I reaped the haivest then Of all the ill I had sown 1 Farewell—I cannot eay the word, E'sn now with steady lips ; It breathes of severance from one Whose love knew no eclipse— Oi that dark hour when you and I " Behind us burned our ehips." Farewell—I will not say tbe word— Death-warrant of our past; My lips refuse its weight cf wee— Its anguish unsurpassed. Ah, no 1 though fate divide us here, Daath will unite at last. " Art convinced?" he inquired, with an abrupt change of tone and laughing glance, on finishing.

" Quite," I reply, falling in with his mood, " I'll get you to recite my rhyme?,Mr- Fowler, and the double result will be that we shall rise up one morning to find ourselves famous." "Thank you for the compliment implied,' with a profound bow ; compliments are poo 1 coin though, Miss Dunbar; you can pay in belter. " Well?" I interrogate briefly. " Explanations." " 01 whet?" " A few points in ' Only' I am a little h&z" on." "Proceed," I eay lightly, "give me No 1." " Which was the wintry evening referred to in the first line ?" " List Sanday's," I coolly rejoin. " And whose the ' dusk-grey eyes V " "Your own aesthetic orbs," with additions', coolness.... %: Tiiere's a little poetical licence about the" ' dusk-gray,' I must confess," I conclude maliciously—hia eyes being of a Dc-culiar greenish-pray. To be continued.