Chapter 195881738

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Chapter NumberX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195881738
Full Date1886-11-12
Page Number1
Corrections0
Word Count4022
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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

BoMfst.

DORA DUNBAR. m mmkim story.

BY "MOHA"

CHAPTER X.—(Continued.)

"Spare me." in mock entreaty. "Wl:at of the heart' full of rebellious woe ?' Simply your fertile imagination at work ?" "< Too innooent for coquetry, Too fond for idle scorning—' Don't you think that quotation fits me to a nicety, Mr. Fowler?" " I'm doubtful. To pes3 on, I see you are not going to answer my last question. Where are the violets and maiden-hair ?" For answer I silently open my iccket. " Hump—' 'Tie but a little faded flower,' " he hums with a keen glance, whioh I meet stonily and so thwart. " I begin to think you ere a thorough coquette, Miss Danbar." "And I begin to have a poor opinion of your discerning powers, Mr. Fowler. My worst enemy couldn't call me a coquette— there is only one thing I deBpise more, and that's a male flirt." A constrained silence following, I glanoe up, and to my surprise find Mm red and confused-looking. " > Foil many a shaft at random sent, Finds mark its archer little meant,' " I quote malioiously, "Does the cap fit Mr. Fowler ?"

" What iB your opinion ?" "Yon certainly looked guilty." "Appearances are deceitful, Miss Dunbar." "True—you shall have the benefit of the doubt." " I breathe freely again," sighing hugely; then, in a surprised tone, "whom have we here?" "Mr. CottonI" I ejaculate in delight, hastening forth to meet him as, in company with Nance and Gilbert, he approaches us. " Did you drop from the clouds ?" Z ask as ; we shake hands. " No, from a much humbler height, only off Tornado," with a backward glanoe at the noble animal he is leading. " We found him at the crossing, * wandering woful wan, like one forlorn, or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love,' which was it Cotton?'? asks Mr. Alexander, banteringly. " The last, 1 ' he laughs, " don't I look as if concealment were preying on my damask cheeks?" " Concealment must find you a tough BUbject," smiles Nance, glancing at the stalwart figure and slightly bronzed face before ns. - "I got a budget from S—," he explains, as we all saunter back towards'the house, " and I knew my townswoman here would he pleased to be posted up in the sayings and doings of its good people, so I obeyed Mr. Arcroft'e injunction to look on Sunnyeide as Liberty Hall, and that accounts for my taking you by storm." " Yoc are more than welcome, Mr. Cotton," Mrs. Arcroft assure him, as he repeat? his explanation to her, "I wish you would make yourself less a stranger than you do. You have only been out twice since Miss Dunbar came with us." " It's a fact, Cotton," strikes in her husband," and it's real mean of you not to come oftener when yours is the only home face in the district this poor little chick," patting my cheek, "has the chanoe of seeing. Ife not my fault, Dot," he continues deprecatingly, "he's each a stranger,Tm tired of asking him down, in grate that he is." " I plead guilty" puts in the ingrate, " but I'll _try to atone in the future for past remissness," looking so handsome in his well-feigned humility that Norton Fowler shrinks into insignificance beside him, and suggests the thought that my giant admirer, skilfully used, would make a capital weapon in the war I mean to carry into the enemy's camp. Consequently,it is with pleasure rather than pain, to my discredit be it said, that I discover ere long that there is a decided coolness between the two. CHAPTER " Now, Mr. Cotton," I exclaimj as having recruited the inner man, we. return to the drawing-room,a large and recently refurnished apartment adjoining the cosy parlor I like so much better," you belong, to me for a few minutes till you unfold the contents of your budget," and I offer him half my lounge. "That's right, Dot," approves Mrs. Arcroft, " don't let him go till he delivers the minutest item. Mr. Fowler, I want your opinion on some engravings I got last week," carrying him off to the other end of the room—an indifierent critio I fear she finds him, judging from the frequent glances in our direction, I gleefully take note of through my drooping lashes. To a casual observer, though, I am deep in Mr. Cotton's account of S—'s sayings and doings, which, of course, I find really interesting. It is a Iongstory, too,—so long that it takes nearly an hour to recount, and, by the time he gets to the end of it, Norton Fowler has got to the end of his small stock of patience, and, to my surprise, I hear him asking Mr. Axoroft to order his hone. " Moonshine, manl" the latter retorts, "you'renot going to-night."

1 really must," he protests "1 have an :<yssemeat with the Iiiilica overseer for to- 1 orro-s morning, that quite eEciped my Jitujory till now." "H-jl ho ! the' Iiillioja overseer, eh ? or its •siier, which?" cbuakleshishost, "sly dog, fouler, slydogl go in and win, though, old My—the "game's worth the candle. 'Faint neart never won fair lady,' you know." " Of conr'ssl understand to what you re fer; v he replies a little stiffly, "but anything of the sort is quite out of the question." " When shall we meet you again, Mr. Fowler 4 ?" asks Mrs. Arcroft, adroitly turning ihe subject. : " I hardly know, itrs. Arcroft, unless we meet at Mrs; Mehaffy's ball on Friday week." " Wo all hope to be there, but will you not pend next Sunday with us ?" " I shall be wearing out my weloome, I'm afraid, besides, I expect Mr. Bruoe up on Saturday, and must be at his disposal." " Then we shall see you at the ball, all being well." ' " I hope so," he says. " WelC if you will go, I must tell tbem l o bring your horse round," remarks Mr. Ircroft sauntering off, "Martha give him a •aack of something hot, while I'm about, he'll find it cold riding." Bat that he will not hear of, reluctantly sonsentiDg at last. to take a glass of wine only. " Am I to see you at the ball, Miss Dunbar?;' ho asks, crossing to my side, whereupon Mr. Cotton sails off and infiicts.himself spon Nance and Gilbert. i " I expect so, Mr Fowler—I'm looking forward to it," then softly ".why this sudden departure, I thought you meant to go in the morning." "There are limits to human endurance, Miss Dunbar, and especially narrow ones to mine. I begin to think Moore' Bummed your sexup right after all," biting his moustache eavagely. " Where has your gallantry gone, sir?" I laugh. That brown bear put it to flight, I think," with a scowl at Mr. Cotton's broad, unconscious back. , ;" That's just the name iny sisters and I kit oh for him,'.' I say, tranquilly, "doesn't it spit him well?" " Confound him!" is all lie mutters T in reply, as Mrs.Arcroft returns, followed by Ann bearing cake and wine. . Five minutes later he goes, in a decidedly evil temper. If I am any judge of human nature, atd one at least of the party is not sorry to see the laBt of him. '"Though lost to sight, to memory deur 1 —am I right?" Mr. Cotton asks, rejoining me. " What do you mean ?" is my curt query. "Need I explain?" he puts the question so jravely that I look op in astonishment to rad his face graver even than his tone. "Who appointed you my confessor, Mr. Cotton ?" 2 ask, disguising my surprise. , "My conscience,—it would not allow me to look tamely.on that good-looking scamp trifling with one I held so—in suoh esteem," suddenly, altering his sentence. "How dare you—" I cry but can get no further, my indignation ohokes me. " It's this truth," he earnestly assures, tne, "he means to marry the owner of Lillica you heard mentioned just now—a rich widow named Peyson, and he is Only flirting—" But I Will hear no more. " Stop," I flash out," I won't hear another word. I am able to take care of myself, and I didn't think you were one to speak ill of the absent. Why didn't you tell me this when he was here?" "Are you two quarrelling?" Nanoe calls /across the room, " Dot looks decidely pug-

nacious." " Beminds me of your little terrier, Nance —much bark and little bite," says her «w> panion lazily. "Who's for church," asks Mr. Arcroft, popping his head in at the window. " Here's Mr. Gray, the presbyterian parson,^ Goming down the drive, and there's quite a crowd -in the dining-room." Twice a month the station people and neighbours gather in the said dining-room under Mr. Gray, an earnest and eloquent preacher, such as few of our country districts possess, and twice a month, without fail almost, Mr. Arcroft marshals his party in, go that his asking " who's for church," is a mere matter of form. Glancing round as we sit waiting for the service to begin, my eyes encounter the sauce-like fishy blue orbs of a verdant jouth in corduroys, seated near the door. Blushing " deeply, darkly, beautifully red," he hastily looks away, only to look baok a minute later, and, on again meeting my gaze, repeats his performance, to my amusement. Pointing him' out to Mrs. Arcroft afte service, I ask who lie is. "Tim Boland," she says laughing softly, I must congratulate you on your conquest. Dot, you evidently made a deep impression on poor Tim. We shall keep you among us yet, I forsee." '•Is he related to the B^wda near the school?" '•He's their eldest Bon—just back from South Australia—you'll see enough ofhitr going and coming, I guesB." Her prophecy is verified but too soon. The following morning, as I pass Boland's cottage, he is supporting the door post, and sheepishly wishes me good morning. During the afternoon, throned on a stump midway between his home and the school, he tortures an ancient concertina, whose groans blend maddeningly in their deaefning disco d with the children's voices, and half drown my own. In the midst of it all, to my mingled amusement and vexation, Nanoe rides round to give me a message, and her face is aglow with mischievous merriment when I appear. " Dot," she whispers chokingly, " if you don't suocumbto such a serenading,your heart must be adamant." "Isn't he an unmitigated ass?" I wrathfully interrogate. ." Give him my compliments as you pass, and aBk him to cut it short." "Not I,"'she laughs, "I hate spoiling sport,'' and she rides off, her rippling laughter ringing out provokingly. As I dismiss school the " serenade" ceases, only to be succeeded a moment later by a timid knocking at the door. " Come in," I call from my desk, thinking it one of the children, but no one enters, though the knocking is repeated. Impatiently 'jumping down from my high stool, I hurry to the door, and there discover my hero of the corduroys leaning limply against the wall. " Wood most done, Miss," he commences, with a glance at my scanty stock of that commodity. " Yes." I assent. " Do ycu cart wood ?" {ask, thinking he is perhaps courting an order. " No," he informs me, " but I'll bring you some." " Thank you," coldly " I ordered a load last week." " Did you?" in a disappointed tone, " who from; old MacCrae? hes awful dear. I'll bring you a load for nothing." " I can't countermand the order, thank you all the same. Good afternoon," and I go back to my desk, leaving him there limp and disgusted. For weeks Nance—the incorrigible tease— bring! up that luckless serenade at every turn, and her sister and brother-in-law enjoy it asmnoh as she does. Even at Mrs. Mehaffy s bail, as I sit with Mr. Cotton and "Only"—as Nance and I now call Mr. Fowler—on my left and right

respectively, Mr. Arcroft provokes my wrath, and their smiles, by his humorous accoutn of it.' Tue ball is held in the town hall, which is handsomely decorated with flags and evergreens ior the occasion. Our party is a little late, and the second dance, a achottische, is in full Bwing as we enter. Seating myself beside Mra. Arcroft, I prepare to take stock of the circling couples, when Mr. Cotton hurries up and bears me of! in the wake of Nance and her fiance, blissfully ignorant of Norton Fowler's frown behind him. Nance and I find seats together after the dance, and she and our attendant knights post me up in the personalties of our coguests. " Who is the lady in black lace and pink rosea opposite, Nance ?" I ask. "That," she answers slowly, "is Mrs. Peyson—your rival, Dot," in an undertone. At once I subjeot the wearer of thelaoe and loses to a close scrutiny. Delicately - cotnplexioned and auburnhaired, her face is, as Nancesaid, remarkably pretty,, but her stout, tightly laced form reminds me .of Vic's description of a similiar o n .®~" libe a bag of flour tied in the middle." With mental satisfaction, I recall my last peep in the glass at my slender,golden-headed self in the pretty, pale blue gown I had worn as Freddie's bridesmaid. Even as I do so I note Norton Fowler's appearance at her side, and the next moment he leads her to a place in the lanoers just forming. Then, on Mr Alexander's arm, I float off, and, by a happy coincidence, find myself directly my rival's vis-a-vit.. Despite her bully appearance, she dances with ease and elegance, I have to admit, but I soon forget my admiration of her terpsichorean powers in my amusement at the blushing bashfalness that sits so oddly upon " Certainly," I comment mentally, " Mr. Fowler may feel sure of his suit, he haB but ito propose/' Handsome and a trifle bored, ne looks indifference itself, standing beside her jazily silent; a striking contrast to my -laughing, talkative partner. Gilbert is in one of his happiest moods tosight, and his gaiety proves so infectious that I laugh and chat with a zest second only to -his own. ' The lights, the music, the flowers, the hum of voices and ripple of laughter, the flutter of fans and " shimmer of silks and laces," are eo new to me that I could fancy myself in fairjlsr-- and I thoroughly, heartily enjoy my st If. I have no lack of partners, and I am glad that such is the case, when at length Norton Fowler quits the widow's side and makes his way to mine. " A waltz—I haven't one left, I'm afraid." " My usual fortune I" he exclaims angrily. " May I see your programme, Miss Dunbar."' Mr. Cotton has it, I think," directing his gaze to the occupant of the seat on mv left. ' "Ah, how do, Cotton ?" he says, coldly, as he takes the little white and gold card from him; a Ealutationthe other as coldly acknow- " Only the • Caledonians' unclaimed," he grumbles "and it's making a toil of a pleasure dancing that; still • Half a loaf is better than no bread.' May I have it ?" ' Certainly," and he pencils his initials opposite it. Dropping into a chair beside me, the picture of discontent, he divides his time between replying in nnamiable monysyllables to my remarks, and glowering at Mr. Cotton. Suoh hard work do I find it to keep the ball of conversation rolling, that I welcome Mr.

Arcroft'e addition to our number, though I wish he had left the serenade story at home. After all, we do not dance the Caledonians; instead, we sit it out in a fern-filled corner of tbe hall opposite the supper-room. I give myself con artmre to the task of dis pelling my companion's fit of the blues, and Bmile,, jest, rally, chide and sympathize by turns till I charm him out of it. "Miss Dunbar," he penitently declares at last, you make me feel ashamed of myself Bulky brute that I ami" "Nonpense," is my brisk retort, "you had a mood, that was all, and I daresay you began to feel hungry," mischievously, " men are always miserably cross about meal-time, are they not?" " So it is said," he laughs, "I hope, though, you will grant me an opportunity of proving thatl am not a slavish disciple of Epicurus by accepting my esoort to supper—it is announced, I see. My next neighbors at the table are Mrs. Peysoc a'd her escort.| Half-leluctantly, Mr. Fowler introduces us, but I gain little from the introduction, for the iair widow is very silent and distant—a fact that doee not impair my appetite or spirits in the least, though I am not sorry to find myself back amcng the ferns. ".What have I done that Mrs. Peyson should try to freeze me with her icy demeanour ?" I ask, looking innocently into the dusk gray eyes " meeting mine. They naslr >ngri!y as he replies: " Why ask me ? Am I supposed to be conversant with the why and wherefore of Mrs. Peyson's doings ?" : " You are evading my question by answer ing it Yankee fashion with another, Mr. Fowler." I persist aggravatingly. "Is it that I am monopolizing her—" With a muttered word or two that I am perhaps the better for not catching he interrupts me. "Who has been poisoning your mind— prejudicing you ag&inst me with that lying rumor ?" "What rumor?" " Good heaven's 1 no wonder you women drive men mad. Half an hour ago you sat beside me here almost angelia in your sympathy and Bmiles, and charmed the evil spirit out of me. Now, capricious and contradictory, you aggravate me to madness by your wdl-feigned innocence and ignorance." Conscience seconds all he says and renders me mute. " You should have been an actress, Miss Danbar," he continues bitterly. " I am one; you know what Shakespeare says: 'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.' What part do you play?" " Fortune's fool, I think," despondently. Come, you are going in for another' mood' and it's three parts my fault. How can I rout it ?" " By making me a promise." "WhatiBit?" "Not to believe the goBBip yon have heard." " Am I to believe nothing X hear ?" " Nothing that yon hear and only half that yon see. " It's not^n woman to do that." " Prove yourself ah exception.' " HI try to," I promise, as Mr. Cotton comes to claim the next dance. It is hard to do so, though, when I see him a minute later, all devotion at the widow's Bide. CHAPTER XII. The ball is a thing of the paet, but it is yet fresh in oar memories when the May rices begin to be talked of. They are on the 23rd and 24th, and, with the exception of myself, our party is present both days. The 24th bang Queen's birthday, is, of course, a holiday, and lam at liberty to join them.

Enviously I watoh them off the first iay, ere I reluctantly wend my way to the ichool. * " Never mind, Dot," cries ''Nance, " to morrow will soon come, and you must m&ke 4 day of it; and I'll bring you home all tbe :;ows to-night." Then, with a orackof the whip, and plunge of the ponies, they are off. In my impatience the day passes slowly, but at length, just after dark, I hear the sound .-•£ wheels, and hurry out to tbe verandah. " Is that you, Dot ?" calls Nance. " Yes. How did you get on 1" "Famously, only we are tired to death almost." " Did Lone Heart win ?" Lone Heart is one of the station horses. " Not she," laughs Mr. Arcroft, " she drove all the other horses in as usual." "And Gilderoy?" " Fell at the first hurdle, and let Gilbert's Sir Patrick win the race," "Gilderoy knew how to get into my ^ood graces," says Nance, " Come on, Dot, and I'll give you all the news while I'm getting rid of my war paint," leading the way to her room. " Who was there, Nance?" "Everyone, I think,bttt yourself and Mr. Fowler." "Wasn't he there?" " No, to the widow's disgust, and the surprise of everyone else." "What kept him away, I wonder?" I ask, pleased, I hardly know why, to hear of his absence. " Can't say, unless he heard Miss Dunbar was not going." " Nonsense Nance. Was Mr. Cotton there?" " He was. I told him to look out for you to-morrow." " And Mrs. Mehaffy ?" "Yes, in all the glory of psacock-blu9 brocbk" " What did the widow wear ?" " Blactf satin, with pink roses in her bonnet—she's pink-rose mad I think, I never see her without them." " There's method in her madness, for they suit her admirably." " They do," says Nance, meditatively. " Do you know, Dot, I felt quite tame—-dowdy almost—in my brown," with an unsatisfied glance at the pretty costume of velvet and silk Bhe had just discarded. " You didn't look it, Nance, I'm enre." ''Perhaps not. I shall wear my green to-morrow, I think. What have you decided on ?" " It didn't take me long to make up my mind—thanks to my slender stock. I'm going to wear my black." " It'll look very nice." And so it does, with the addition of a little cobwebby lace to its well-worn corded silk and cashmere, and a knot of yellow roses nestling therein. Early as we are, the stand is crowded when we enter it the following day. Mr. Cotton spies us at once, and pilots us to ee&tB at the right hand side, whence we have an excellent view both of the course and the carriage-paddock. Turning a careless glanoe on the latter, my attention is taken by the occupants of a buggy just entering—Mr. Fowler and Mrs, Peyson. Springing to the ground, he gracefully assists her down, then escortB her to the stand, to a seat directly in front of as. " Believe only half that I see," I mutter to myself, noticing his bent, handsome head, and low, seemingly, tender tones. "The hall's quite enough in this case." Glancing round, be sees us at onoe, and his dark face flushes hotly as he greets us—

the tips of my fingers being all that he getp. A swift semi-inquiring, semi-reproaohful glance my coolness elicits I stonily ignore', and, therefore, devote my attention to Mr. Cotton. - " Now for the event of the day. Don't you faint, Dot, if you see some summersaults," advises Nanoe, as we settle ourselves for a good view of the steeplechase coming off. , "I'm not given to fainting," I remind her. "What are Gilbert's colors again, Nance?" " Blue with white spots. See, there's Sir Patrick, the third horse from us—Mat O'Brien's riding him. Doesn't he look splendid?" * Mat O'Brien ?" I ask mischievously. You tease," smiles^arice. "Look,here comes Gilderoy with a jockey in pale blue. I'd like to Bee him win, and yet I would't like Sir Patrick to be beaten." " It lies between the two then you think?" puts in ;Mr. Fowler, who is standing near us. I feel morally sure that it does," she hs. Ah, they're off — no, a false start." They are off now, a splendid start, by Jove I" cries Mr. Cotton, as, what is to me an indistinct mass of glossy bodies and glowing colors, ehootB naet. (/Jo he cnntinve.d/)