|Chapter Title||10. FATHER AND DAUGHTER.11. PRINCE. 12. WAS HE ALWAYS A CARPENTER ?|
|Newspaper Title||Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||Nancy. A Story of the Fifties|
|article text|| |
NANCY. A STORY OF THE FIFTIES.
BY GEORGE GORDON MoCRAE.
CHAPTER X. FATHER AND DAUGHTER.
Time rolled along "on" Borak much In the usual way. Men came and men went. Escorts passed and repassed. The American with the chisel beard driving the "down" coach always continued to fling over the Arnolds' paling, while at the top of his speed, a folded copy of the Muddy Gully Times
and the Borak Advertiser. This used to be picked up as often by Nancy as by her father. It was not much, truly, whether from a commercial or a literary point of view but it formed, for all that, one of the events of the week, and to have missed the paper in this latitude was to have lost a day. The round of weekly life - if one excepts the escort days, brightened by a vision of Max dashing past with his booming sabre at the "carry" - was now dull as ditch water for Nancy. In fact Borak without Max was as flat and insipid and dreary as it would have been to any town bred lady, or to any woman of fashion transplanted thither from Mayfair. Nancy's nature, however, was not of a morbid type, and also found relief in her garden and her bees beyond the ordinary household occupations; but for all this she had contracted a habit of sighing, and her various little employments were but mechanically carried out after the escort had passed. But as time wore on the anticipation of its rearrival brightened up the whole of the prospect, and when the oarts and tho troopers and the dashing young sergeant came thundering up the mountain road, it seemed for Nancy as if the sun was rising again on Borak, and the first time, too, for an entire week !" John Arnold, always kind, was never a very talkative man, but now, in those days succeeding the return of Max to duty, he was more reserved than ever, and appeared almost (at least Nancy fancied so, and women are noted for the shrewdness of their guesses) to avoid all reference to the one subject ever uppermost in her mind. Perhaps it may have been that John Arnold, philosopher-like, had formed the habit of looking on the dark side of the cloud with the idea rather than the hope of being agreeably disappointed should the bright or sun smitten side chance to present itself. So lt would have been but natural in him to avoid allusion to a topic possibly fated to bring grief or disappointment to the heart of his daughter ; but actuated by the best possible intentions as her father was, his mysterious airs and ways did not serve in any way to enhance her happiness. " Why do you always call ' somebody ' Mr. Gaythorn, father ?" It Is Nancy who, with a sense of something on her mind, is endeavouring in a favourable moment to load up to the fateful subjeot. Nature in one of her very calmest and most benignant moods, seems to breathe in confidence
as the sun in setting, kisses the shoulder of Mount Borak, whence stream down the long dark shadows projected from the trunks of the withered trees. The smoke from the huts and cottages struggles gently upwards through the golden haze ; blue as it crosses the belt of forest foliage, but turning to a rich brown as it mounts into the air. The drowsy " tintamarre " of the cicadas In the distant tree tops, suggestive of slumbers to come, falls soothingly on the ear ; nor is the evensong of a pair of laughing jackasses at a half mile range entirely devoid of a oertaln music of its own. The spell of the sunset hour is upon them as they pace the garden walks when the bees return from their wanderings, and while the odour of the parterre perfumes all the air. Nancy holds her father by the hand while he solemnly puffs away at his block pipe and remarks interjectionally upon the pumpkins and water melons. " But why do you always call 'somebody' Mr. Gaythorn, father ?" Two or three more pulls, and the blue smoke mounts heavenward to join tho smoke that went before - then John Arnold pulls himself together ; for his "girl" (as he always calls her), must have her answer. " Well ! because I think it's best so ; by and bye, if all goes well, perhaps we may drop it." " But it won't be Mr. Gaythorne, then, at all, dad ! you will promise to drop It, won't you, like the dear old man you are ?" Whether it was that Nancy in tone or in action had brought her dead mother forcibly before him, but his features relaxed, and for an answer he stoppod ; stooped and kissed her on the forehead. That Nancy had gained her point would have been evident to any onlooker, supposing such a person was in the garden, from her beaming and elated countenance, and the wondrous light that came into her large and lustrous eyes. " I want you always to think of him as ' Max,' just as I do. Then I shall be happy." This is Nancy in continuation, as, kissing the " old man " in her turn, she bounded into the house to see about supper. CHAPTER XI. " PRINCE. " The air in very bright and clear ; the sun well up in the perfect Australian sky. The bees hum contentedly over their honey-quest in the garden, and the birds chirp cheerily as they hop and whirr from twig to twig in the shrubbery. The atmosphere is redolent of lilac blossoms and the prolonged and regular "k'ssh" of John Arnold's jack plane falls constant and smooth upon the ear. Nancy, with a white handkerchief folded across from corner to corner, trained bonnet- wise over her bright young head, eagerly watches from behind the garden gate the only cloud visible ; but it is a dust cloud, through whose floating particles one can by this time discern the heads of men and of horses, and the beaming points of regulation sabres. When the escort (for it is the escort she sees travelling along rapidly under the canopy they havo created for themselves) is in and halted for a few minutes, a single figure, with a regular dragoon seat, and bestriding a perfect picture of a charger, comes cantering gaily up the hill ; a streak of silver lightning plays against the animal's near flank, where the bright scabbard struggles wildly to escape from the slings, and slaps backwards and forwards with the accelerated motion. Just time to disengage a foot from the stirrup and leap from the great demipique saddle with holsters and the big rolled up oloak strapped up in front. The horse was led inside the gate and Max and Nancy are once more together. Prince, who is a creature to be trusted, is left loose upon the grass under an old grey gum in the garden, where, as he switches off the flies with his whisking tail and rubs his long smooth nose keenly against his projected knee, snorts and stamps his feet alternately after the traditional fashion of
all regular "troopers." He knows his way about, and like all old campaigners, forages as he goes along, but from the intelligent glance of his large brown eye rolled back occasionally to be sure that his master is all right, it would almost seem as though he realised the fact that Max, like himself, was "in clover," and very much so. The sympathy of Prince with his master was indisputable, and no better proof could be desired than his apparent delight at being caressed by Nancy, who was also very
much en rapport with Max. Prince helped conversation a good deal, on the same principle that a small kitten or a puppy assists conversations of a similar character ; only, of course, being a nobler animal, in a nobler way ; besides, be it remarked, the sheltering and arching neck of Prince afforded Max a golden opportunity ( not likely to be neglected ) of saluting his fiancé, more majorum - and perhaps not the first oharger's neck and crest that performed a similar service for a son of Mars under similar difficulties. The "k'ssh" of the jack plane dying away, Max and Nancy "stood to their arms " to receive John Arnold, who came swinging up the garden walk with his right hand extended in a token of absoiute welcome. " What news, Mister Max ?" " Well !" said Nancy to herself, with a decided moue', " Mister Max is better than no Max at all ; besides, dad was always shy about making a beginning with anybody." " They are going to shift me, I hear ; and if it is true, then goodbye to the escort service, which I have come to like. I am, it is whispered, to 'have charge ;' but after all, there is more of the policeman about it and less of the dragoon than at present, and I shall be a good 30 miles farther north of Borak, and instead of passing every week, I shall only be able to escape at intervals to come over to Borak - but then what is 30 miles ? Why, at 30 miles in these out of the world parts, people count for neighbours. Next week I expect it will be Forth who will take the escort. A fine fellow and a handsome one, so Nance, beware !" CHAPTER XII. WAS HE ALWAYS A CARPENTER ? " Christmas is coming and so is our letter ; it won't be so very long, you know, to wait for neither, and then !" Tims says Max as ho lends out Prince to the front. " And mind you write from the new station and tell me everything the letter says as soon as you get it." This, as we may readily guess for ourselves, is Nancy, who, woman like, is apt to have the Inst word. , Prince, impatient to be off, curvets and dances about joyously, while Max, sitting him with all the " abandon " of a light cavalry man, edges him up towards the gate for one more farewell. John Arnold, who has hitherto kept in the baokground, here marches up behind Nancy, and, laying one hand affectionately on her shoulder, waves an adieu with the other to the tall, upright figure in the saddle in front of them, and now urging on Prince to a steady trot. " What are you thinking of, father ?" " Of that one touch of nature, Nance, which makes the whole world akin. She was your very image, Nance, and at your very time of life, too, when I parted from her just like this — the Iast time before our marriage - therefore, my little girl will not be surprised to know that I can put myself in her Max's place at last."
Nancy's heart was far too full for words, but John Arnold knew from the pressure of her hand upon his arm all she felt. They walked back together towards the house, but turned down the long path leading into the orchard. It was some time before either spoke, but the silence this time was broken by Nancy. " You loved mother ever so much then." " Could not tell you how much. And she ? Yes ! And yet I never was the handsome fellow to look at that your Max is, and I never wore a uniform of any sort or description in all my days. When people really love eaoh other they don't think too muoh of flne clothes or appearance. Yet If I had come to your mother on a grand oharger, with sword and belt and spurs on, and that gay, careless air that everywhere marks the soldier, I am not sure but that she might have felt another sort of enthusiasm for me altogether, and I might, you know, have worn the Queen's cloth just the same as any other man. " " So you might, father, and why didn't you ? But, you were not always a carpenter, father, were you ?" " Why do you ask such a strange question, Nance ? You never remembered me anything else." " I know I never did, but I have often thought about it for all that," " Thought what, Nance ?'' " That you only made yourself a carpenter after you came out to Austialia here." " I was always a pretty fair carpenter, even in England." " Yes, but you did not call yourself one then, did you ?" " If I had it would have been vanity on my part, for I had never been so much as apprenticed." " Then you did make yourself one after you came to Borak ?" ' " Yes, now you have hit the nail properly on the head this time. In Australia people have to turn their hands to anything and to everything. I was always from the very flrst fond of construction and carpentry, which I took up originally by way of amusement, and it became my living in the end. It bought us this piece of ground, it put that old grey roof over our heads, and it continues to pay for ail we cat and drink, and wear, and puts money into the bank as well ; so you see we owe a lot to tho old box of tools in the workshop over there and --" " To the strong arms and the clever contriving head of --" " Nancy ! don't flatter, you never learned that from me, nor from your mother, either." " No ! but you ought to have been a gentieman, with a flne house and servants of your own." " Happier as I am, my dear ; but my father was one for all that. I am a carpenter. Now, you will see how it is that I am not sorry to have Max to be your husband one day. Max is a gentleman born and bred, you will understand each other, and it is a great joy to me to think that my little girl is not for any, not even for the very best, of our young men of Borak. To Be Continued.