|Chapter Title||7. ADDIO. 8. AMICUS CERTUS.|
|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 VII. ADDIO.
In the garden behind, and not far from the bee hives at the end of the long wall, stands a summer house overgrown with passion flower and convolvulus - a pretty octagonal structure In rustic wood work, with seats set against the
latticed walls, and a central supporting pole springing from the middle of a circular table. It is into this arbor that Max follows Nancy, who carries a flower pot containing some plant supposed to be unusually delicate or precious. Not for the first time is it that one of those verdure clad garden shelters has witnessed a treaty binding on the generations of the future, and this particular arbor had been destined (who shall attempt to deny it?) from the beginning of time to attest silently to a life long compact between two certain ardent young souls we read of. " There is no disguising the fact - (thus Max, leading off) - " I have to start tomorrow and get into the saddle again directly, and you and I shall not see each other again for months,
except when I pass and repass with my troop, and then only with a glance over the shoulder. It is hard, terribly hard, Nancy ; but we can write sometimes." " Indeed, I am not so sure of that either ; but I will tell you of it again. Surely, Max ! you cannot be forever bumping along on that hard high saddle with the heavy sword always in your hand. You must give it up ; it would really please dad so much - and me, too ; and then some day, when your rich uncle makes you his heir in earnest, you need not ride over these dusty and dangerous roads any more. I do so wish you never had to - only-- " " Only what, Nance ?" " Only that else I had never seen you. Only that if you had not turned escort officer we would have never met at all. But when I hear the horses' feet and the rumble of the escort waggon and the clank and clatter of the troop, a new life seems to open up before me. The yellow burnt up flat and the withered gum trees are no longer sad. I am another girl altogether. My heart goes out - right out - to you, but it faints and dies away again in my breast once
you are past, and there is only a little dust cloud left floating on the air after you have turned the corner and seem lost forever." " Oh, Nance, if I had only but known the half of this we should have had an empty saddle in the troop long ago ; but a man must live, yon know, and keep himself straight and respectable." " Yes, of course that - father often admires the way you stick to it - but, Max, I do wish your uncle would make haste. He need not give you everything all at once, you know, but, still, he might help you just a little to begin with. Indeed, if he does not I have a dread, I cannot tell you how deep a dread it is, of something happening that may part us altogether. You know, Max, I don't care for money, never did ; I don't want to be a grand lady, I could' be a gentleman's wife without that. I would love to be poor along with you, and I would never be too proud to work to help you." " Heaven, forbid, both ways," crled Max, reddening and giving a fiercely nervous twirl to one of the ends of his moustache. " Who is it that my little girl suspects, or what ?" " I don't suspect anybody, dear ! but I know my father's world better than you can. It is because he loves me so much, and leans on me so now mother is gone, that he cannot bear me to stay away even for a single night at any of the neighbours' picnics. And I know from what he has hinted that, if you are to be always with the escort or in the force, he wouidn't hear anything further about it, and I feel certain he will break the engagoment off for us. Unless, as he says, I am properly provided for and protected. Now, don't think ill of him for this, and remember, it Is what father says, and not what I say." " He doesn't want you to go home. Why can you not stop out here ?" " As for me, father says I am not meant far a grand lady, and that I shall be far happier out here. This idea I cannot bear, the idea of his living and dying all alone. Now, I am telling you all, so that you may know how to meet father. Only, Max dear, don't lose your temper with him if he ' flies out,' as he might. Try for my sake to take it quietly." " Stupid, that I am !" exclaimed Max, "I should have thought all this out long ago." So saying with a perplexed air, he twisted his moustache as if he could wring some fresh idea out from the very end of it. " The proper thing to be done is to put off at first and so gain time. You don't know perhnps,
Nance, how long it takes to got word from 'home' - four months one way and from three to four the other - that stands for letter and reply, and then people don't always answer at once. But, leave it all to me. I'll write home this very night and tell my uncle exactly how we aro situated." " Tell him what ?" " Why ! teli him that I find myself anchored here stem and stern, with no thought or wish of getting away from Australia for years, that I came here after I sold out to gather gold, and that I have found n pearl ! Beyond all this, that if he will but wait a little, he shall find that he has an Australian niece, sweeter, fairer, dearer, better every way than all the women in our own country put together. He loves me not a Iittle, that old uncle of mine, so that I can readily ask him to let us have enough to help us along oomfortably where wo are." " Yes, Max, that sounds well, but never mind about singing my praises ; be plain spoken and straightforward with him. Tell him I am not a lady ; say that my father Is a carpenter and poor - not terribly poor, you know - but not like one of yourselves in any way, except perhaps that he loves books and talks well, and knows a lot besides about everything. Do you think, dear, that would make hirn hate us and try to lure you away home again and make you forget us, and marry you to a real lady of some grand family ?" " I really don't see why it should, little woman, and I shall take good care to let him know I am in earnest, and in no hurry for any thing save to win and to wear you. Trust me, darling, entirely." " As if I didn't, Max ! I do trust you with all my heart and soul, but I shall be anxious ( no one but myself could tell you how anxious ) till the answer comes, and I hope father will always be the same to you till then. Shall I say any thing to him tonight, or shall I leave It all to you and to time ?" " It seems," replied Max, sadly, "a terrible risk to run, for, by opening my mouth now, I may lose you altogether, but if I waited on I might still come to see you sometimes. Shall I speak to your father, Nance." " Yes, I think you might. He perhaps might like it better even than if it came from me. He
won't be either oross or rude to you, Max ; I promise you that beforehand." " Not rude ! I don't think that for a moment ; but, he might decide once and for all - and it would not surprise me in the least did be decide that we were not to meet again till I came with my uncle's letter in my hand." " He has a great regard for you, Max, and I know he would expect you to show a bold front. Try him, Max, and then I will follow it up as best I know how." CHAPTER VIII. AMICUS CERTUS. " Noo ye're jeest gaun till tell the uncle that ye're aboot gettin' mairit on the lassie? Atweel ! " he that maun tae Cupar, maun tan Cupar,' but it was the enck botel an' pen an' a bit paipcr ye were speirin after. I'll just een lay them a' oot tae ye on the table in Iess time nor ye'll say Jack Robinson." It is the "Oracle" that speaks, and the "Oracle" that figuratively 'lays the table,' which done he resumes his pipe and sits down on a short three-legged stool beside, the big bush chimney. " Noo ! I'll nae taak off it's interrup'in' ye ; but gin ye're one o' them like Boneyparty that can dictate to sax seckytairies at anes, or that taaks whiles as he scarts alang wi' his pen, we'll hae a bit crack by the wye." Max, who by this time had dated and headed his epistle and was on the point of plunging in medias res, nodded as he bent over the table to the effect that conversation would not make the slightest difference. " I've been thinkin', Mr. Max, that it makes but little odds whether ye write or no in this
laiter stage o' the world's hesstory." " Umph !" mumbled Max, " Of course the world grows none the younger but why you should be everlastingly preach the end of all things is more than I can make out. The world improves. It is a vastly better place for us than it was in Julius Csesar's time in Britain." "That, I'm free tae admit. ! We're owro ceeveeleezed, that's it ; that stans (ye ken) for a coming decadence, wi' a decline and fa',' like that o' the Asseerian or Romman Empire, an', when Bretton declines, it stands for this, that the world declines, an' the end name that far off neither. " Max, who was still scribbling, wore a somewhat confused expression of countenance, but he drove on bravely. " There are signs o' the times, sir, no to be contemmed, aividences o' that rank luxury in a' the depairtments o' life, such precisely as were witnessed afore the feenal collapse o' Imperial Rome. Borak, sir, is toppling' till her fa'. There's Wilson that bocht the corner blocks neist the Speecial Survey, no containt wi' the guid auld finishent plough wi' . tho wooden stilts, an' the
canty mowld boord, wi twa or threo -yocic ot decent oaxen, has gotten a bit machinery t wad doave ony Jioncst fairmer till .unncrstnan, .let alane use, wl' wheels till'b nn chains an what not. Ho'll bo for : gottin' . a steam engine neisb thing to work .it. r. Yon's the soicnoo . bogie ! . But,' ;'., sir, .tao- turn to tho unseemly luxurious element, ; I ana doon at the general atoro but yestreen a machine to baud a wumman's held. .No a halt, an' no a banuct, but jecst an assemblbgb- o things frac foroign pairt, robbens, lacc9, strong, gowdep an' gless beads ' an'- a bunohrcid chert is bawlanoin on a senglu wire; awsorne. to bobold ! lWao tao the wecmon,' .criod tho Prophet, that sow pellows until their airm'-holes 1' Hut what think yo wad thou Prophet line said had hc beon onnly brocht cheek by jowl wl' tho. machine in tho wundy o' tho Borak Geucral Store down bye, my mannie." " H'm, yes," interjeots Max purely out of politeness, " but look here old man, I shall be putting down something about the Assyrian Empire here if I don't take care, or some quotation from the old testament, but never mind, it doesn't matter a fig since I have to write it all over again, anyhow, and then, you know, I can score out everything that doesn't belong to it, along with the blunders." " I'm rale soary. sir, I'll jest haud my peace and hae a bit smokk whilo ye continny; but, ye'll mind, sir, we'll tak up the subject jeest whaur we drop it it, that's to say at the Prophet." With an amused smile at the " Oracle's" pertinacity, Max drove on again, and this time to far better purpose, Mr. Thomson the while evolving from between his lips vast wreaths of smoke whioh curled upwards towards the blackened rafters and ridge pole of the bark roof. Max rattled along, wrote, rewrote and attempted corrections. . . . Envelopes were not "on" Borak in those days ; but the letter, written on square large blue paper, was soon folded into the orthodox shape ( letter and cover in one ) and ready (presumably ready) for submission to Nancy before posting. " Now, Mr. Thomson,"exclaimed Max, crushing up his first attempt in the hollow of his strong right hand, previous to pitching it into the empty fireplace and applying a match to it, " That's settled." " A weel consedderat letter I hae nae doot, but eh, man, ye scribble gey an fast, as ef yo'd been bred a writer till her Majesty's signet, and no a sojer. Ye'll be for gaun oot the noo an
it's no Jock Tamsen 'll stop ye. I wuss ye joy, an that ye may mailt the heart o' the uncle like waax, an mowld it till yer wull like the potter's vaissel. But when it's a' aff yor mind an ye come back again till a plpe an a glass whisky tody, we'll cen reshoom oor tank on the Deoline an Fa' o' Borak." CHAPTER IX. SUBMITTED FOR APPROVAL. " And you've told your uncle that I'm not a lady !" " Not a fiddlestick ! Nance, I've told him nothing of the sort. How could you even expect me to write such rubbish ?" " Show me then what you really have said. You know we must have no secrets from one another." So saying she pulled the letter out of Max's pocket, but not until after some little affectation of resistance on his part. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * That what Nancy read was neither displeasing nor uncomplimentary was evident from the rising colour on her oheek and the gentle light in her eyes ; but there was quite beyond this a look of perplexity and puzzledom proper to one reading an enigma. " What is this about Borak toppling to its fall, and this other sentence, 'She is all that I have painted her, and more ; her bonnet is ornamented with feathers and beads, and a bunch of cherries suspended from a single wire.' " " What !" exclaimed Max, blushing all over in his turn - " Why I I thought I had scored out all that nonsense before I copied it out fair." " Scored it out ? But how did you ever come to write it in at all ? Your uncle will think I am some mad creature you have picked up ? Really, if I did not know you, I should think you had gone perfectly crazy yourself." " Or," interrupted Max, " that I had had more than was good for me before I sat down to write ?" " Well, it does look very strange, and it's so unlike yourself." " Ah ! you don't recognise the solemn style of our friend Mr. Thomson. He was talking and talking and talking very earnestly and steadily while I was engaged upon the letter, and as you may see now all that part of the letter which is
not mine is honest John Thimson's. It serves me right, too, beoause I was conceited enough to imagine that I could both listen to his learned lecture and write my letter at one and the same time. And now the murder is out give me the letter to take to my room, and I'll hunt John Thomson out of it wherever I find him, and, mind you, write it all over again, except where I score the lines through. All the rest is beautiful and true——" " Only you flatter my picture too much." " Never !" cries Max, "I have hardly done you justice, and," he added, with a connoisseur- like turn of the head, " I think I ought to be a good judge by this time ; trust me for that." " If you had only shown this letter - as it is - to father, instead of to me, what would he ever have thought ?" " Well, I can't tell you. He might have both thought and said that letter writing was the last thing in the world in which the police excelled." " He might have thought and said more than that, and asked whether the letter had not been written after supper." " And natural enough too, if he had ; but as you are not really in earnest, I shall not punish you this time, you young gipsy !" * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The letter was rewritten, this time with correctness, and Naney approved it, though still protestingly. " I do wish you hadn't made me so good and so beautiful and so lovable, for I feel certain your uncle. will be all the more disappointed when he sees me, if ever he does." To Be Continued.