|Chapter Number||BOOK II. I|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Dick Stalwart: An Oxonian|
Dick Stalwarts: an Oxonian.
BY AN O.C. (Written for the Queenslander.)
ANOTHER year has passed away; the scene again opens on the first Sunday of an October term. In the past year Dick had made for himself a great name. He had played for the
University at football, at racquets, and at cricket in succession, and had greatly distin guished himself, and contributed to the success of Oxford in all three. He was also a little more sociable than of yore; but he read harder than ever. While brooding over his romance with Lady Mary he had chained himself to his books, and the habit of assiduity had grown upon him. There was no more popular man in the college. On the first Sunday morning of that October term Dick was standing by the back gate of the college patting the Doctor's head, and talking to the college butler, a venerable gray-headed old man, who, according to tradition, had known better days. He certainly looked as if he had. The butler lived in a cottage at the back of the college, his wife acting as a sort of portress to the back entrance, where the coal carts came in and the college tradesmen called. Dogs not being allowed in college, Dick got the butler to take charge of his, as it was so handy. He could see them from his rooms, and the butler always let him through to visit them at any hour, for he was quite as much attached to the famous Mr. Stalwart as that hero's own dogs were. "Where's St. Bornard?" asked Dick, alluding to his other dog. "Oh! he's out in the country, sir. The Doctor he had a touch of mange, so I sent St. Bernard off to be out of the way." "Is he far off?" " No; only down at Medley, sir." " Can I see him if I go out there ?' "To be sure you can, sir. I'd go myself and fetch him over, only I've got ray work to attend to. He's kept by a widow (Mrs. Wood) and her daughter. They know to whom the dog belongs; and if you show them your card, sir, and Bay that I sent you, that will be quite sufficient." " I'll go at once," said Dick. " I won't waste time on routing up anyone to go with me; the Doctor '11 be company. Come along, you black rascal." "You can't mistake the house, sir; a large square red brick cottage, all overgrown with yellowish roses." The Doctor testified his delight by sundry gambols and caracoles as his master turned out into St. Giles's and, taking the road to the Upper River, crossed it and struck off to Medley. Medley is a quiet Oxfordshire village peeping out amidst lofty elm-trees, near the water-side. As in usual in Oxfordshire, the thatched roofs of the cottages were covered with a sheet of green moss. These, with a little old church clad with ivy and a clean little public-house with sanded floor, constituted the village. Dick had no difficulty in finding tho house — the best in the place except the vicarage—and advanced towards it. Ah he drew near the sweethrier-hedgo which shut it off from the road he paused, for he heard a sweet voice that he seemed to know say, "Down, Bernard, there's a pet!" He opened the wicket and entered the garden-plot in front of the house; there he saw one of the prettiest sights he had ever seen in his life. With two shapely white hands pressed on the head of hia magnificent St. Bernard to keep him from jumping tip and soiling her dainty white
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.dress, atood a girl, a year or two older perhaps 'than Lady Mary, and as like her as a sister. The same mouth, the same, short upper lip, the same dimples, the same eves, but a uttlc bluer, the same coloured hair, but a little darker in shade, the same round white throat, distin guished both; but this girl's features were a trifle more regular, and her complexion more dazzling. Her figure was as slender and elegant as Lady Mary's, and, added to this, she had one of those rare smiles which arc absolutely bewitching. She did not smile very often; but to win one of those smiles a man might be tempted to anything. She was smiling at the dog as she chid him. When she saw the stranger she left the dog, who recognised his master and flew to him. Dick addressed her. " This is Mrs. Wood's house?" " Yes," she said, preparing to beat a retreat. "My name is Stalwart; this is my dog: I've come out from Oxford to see him. Can I see his quarters?" " His kennel, do you mean V "Yes." " 111 show it to you. It used to be a sugar barrel, but he seems to like it very well," she said, leading the way to a small orchard about fifty yards down. "Go out, Doctor; come along, St. Bernard!" The huge brute was manifesting his pleasure at seeing njs master, from whom he had been separated for some time. He was a smooth St. Bernard, very large, with fine pads and a jet black muzzle. " Isn't he a jolly beast ?" asked Dick of his fair companion, as they went to the kennel. " Yes, she roplied, " I've fallen in love with him." "Well, I'm not going to deprive you of him just yet, unless Mrs. Wood is tired of keeping him.'' " I look after him, not mamma." "You are Miss Wood, then?" She nodded. " Have you ever seen him perform ?" " No; Mr. Parker (the S. Cuthbert's butler) has tried to make him sometimes, but he says that he won't perform for anyone but his mas ter." " Should you like to see him ?" " So much." " St. Bernard, come here," said Dick, nulling out a biscuit from his pocket, and breaking off a piece. He threw it on the ground under the dog's nose. " Trust!" The dog looked the other way. "Paid for!" It was snapped up in an instant. " Kiss me." The dog gravely and slowly put his paws on his master's shoul ders, licked his right cheek, and sat down again. "'Take my arm, holding out his arm. The dog put both forepaws on it, and went for a walk with higmaster on his hind legs. " Shut the gate." The dqg shut it. " Fermez;" he coiled himself against the gate, so that no one could open it. Further operations were inter rupted by the apparition of the Doctor making a flying leap over the palings ; he was imme diately ordered out again. The girl thanked him with a smile of evident pleasure, and said, " If you're from Mr. Parker, sir, my mother would like you to come in and sit down before you start back." The "sir" grated harshly on his ear, coining from such a beautiful creature. Her likeness to Lady Mary was growing upon him. He ac cepted at once, and the dog followed him in and Bat down beside her. Mrs. Wood was a very handsome matron, dressed in widow's weeds, bearing a slight resemblance to her daughter, .though not very strong. She had the manners of a lady, and a very taking open face. When phe heard who Dick was, she said, ' " Eveleen, dear, oiler the gentleman a drink pf milk. We have famous milk here, Mr. Stal wart." Dick could not refuse it from such fair hands, and drank a glass, which one may be sure met with its due meed of praise. Meanwhile, he took stock of the room. There was a double miniature frame containing a picture of Mrs. Wood on one side—the other was pasted over. There were a few photographs, neatly framed j a few books, including Scott, Moore, Byron, fend one or two other of the more popular poets, a Pilgrim's Progress, a Robinson Crusoe, and a Spectator. " Have you read all those, Miss Wood?" asked Dick. " Yes, nearly; I'm very fond of reading." " Do you see many books out here?" "None but these, and any that Mr. Parker may bring out from time to time." "Shall I bring you out one or two of my books on loan, when I come out next to see the dog?" She looked at her mother. '' It would be such a treat to her if you would, Mr. Stalwart; but don't trouble, Mr. Parker will bring them out if you give them to him." r<Oh, I'll bring them. Good bye, Mrs. Wood." He tendered her his hand. She took it. He bowed to her daughter, asked her to hold St. Bernard in until he was well away, and set off home. "That's a gentleman," said Mrs. Wood. " On a can trust him, Eveleen." Chapter 11. The next Wednesday afternoon Eveleen Wood was again in the garden picking some flowers, when a horseman, in a fawn-coloured covert coat with capacious pockets, rode up to the hedge and lifted his hat. She recognised their visitor of the previous Sunday and wished him " Good afternoon." " I have brought you a couple of books," he said, producing a volume of Tennyson from one pocket aud a one-volume edition of Esmond from the other. "How is St. Bernard ? I don't think I need be under any apprehensions while he is under your care. Good-bye." Then he cantered down the lane. Eveleen carried in her prizes cxultingly, and set to work at once to read Esmond, nor did she desist except for meals, sleep, and her daily duties, until she had finished it. It was the first really good novel she had read, and she was fascinated with it. Dick went up many points in her esti mation. It was so good of him to ride out on purpose to bring her books—just for that, and go straight back again. She began to look for ward to next Sunday in hopes that he would pay St. Bernard another visit. So he did, and brought Westward Ho with him. She greeted him with one of her brightest smiles, showed the extra care she had bestowed on St. Bernai'd during the week", and rhapsodised over Esmond. He handed Westward Ho to her. " Here's another historical novel," he said; "it hasn't such an interesting heroine, but a woman will excuse that." " You don't know what a treat books are to me." " I will bring you some regularly; just let
them accumulate when you've done with them until I send somebody to fetch them." It was the afternoon when he came, and he lingered in the orchard talking and fondling St. Bernard until it was about half-past 4. "Will you come in and have some tea with us before you go ?" she said. Dick followed her in rather diffidently, but received such a warm welcome from Mrs. Wood that he felt quite at home. There was honey comb on the table made by their own bees, and Devonshire cream made by the hands of Eveleen; the butter, also her handiwork, was delicious, and the bread white and sweet. Further, Eveleen was bent on his enjoying himself. When he went away, just in time for hall, he felt happier than he had felt since that ? afternoon at Richmond Hall when he had his final parting from Lady Mary. They had met once or twice since in a crowd; had shaken hands with a tell-tale pressure; had smiled in an assembly when no one was looking; but they had had no more t£te-h-t6ten or confidences. This girl was undeniably more beautiful than Lady Mary, and she did not seem ill-disposed to the fine young Oxonian. He was beginning to care for her. He never missed coming to their cottage of a Sunday; gradually he came once or twice in a week besides. At length his visits became almost daily. At the public house in the village, of the vicar, of Parker, he inquired what they knew about Mrs. Wood. Parker was not communicative, and the vicar and the villagers knew no more about her than that she was a widow, and apparently better off than her neighbours, although she never claimed a higher position for Eveleen than they claimed for their daughters. She was very much liked in the village, for she was very charitable, very courteous, and not in the least exclusive. The villagers always talked of her and to her as a lady, and the village swains felt that Eveleen was too far above them to court or sport with. At present she had seen no more of the world than a wild flower; and therefore it was small wonder if she felt attracted towards Dick—always an idol of the fair sex. Every morning she fulfilled her daily task, and then put on some dainty dress, de signed and made by her own hands, and sat with a beating heart until he came. Then they would go into the orchard and lounge on the seat, or up into the loft where her sewing machine was, and talk; or she would work whilst he read to her. The loft contained many books he had brought out to her, a number of them with her name on the title page " from R. S." This went on, until one day he looked into her brave eyes, and asked her if she loved him. The answer was a firm " Yes;" and then he asked her to marry him. She told him to ask her mother; and he went at once. Her mother looked at him sternly and searchingly. " No," she said at last. "You're incapable of falsehood and dishonour. I know that by your face. But first listen to me. What should you do if you heard something ill about that girl, some disgraceful injury of which she had been the victim ?" " I should love her all the same, and still desire to make her my wife." " I believe you would, but listen to me. More than twenty years ago I was a simple village S'rl, living in one of these hamlets just outside xford. One day I was walking along the lane when there came riding by, just as you often do, a handsome young nobleman from Christ Church. He addressca me just as you addressed my girl; he paid his addresses to me just as you have paid your addresses to my girl, for I have been watching you, but I trusted you. He married me, and I bore him a daughter. Then he proved to me that the marriage was no mar riage, and married again. He is alive now, so is his lady. My child was, therefore, aJrastard. Eveleen was not born in wedlock." " What do I care ?" cried Dick warmly. " Again I ask your leave to marry your daugh ter. 55 " And you swear that you will act honour ably by her?" "I swear." "Then take her with my blessing." "I shall not be able to marry for a year or two," said Dick, "as I have a year more before I take my degree, and I want to go in for a fellowship after that, and fellowships are not tenable after marriage." " Never mind; Eveleen will not object to biding her time." When Dick told her that her mother had consented, Eveleen was beside herself with delight, and alternately submitted to his caresses and shook them off in the archest way. "And I'll tell you what, Eve," said he, "if there is a frost at the end of term, I'll stay up and take you out skating." " But I don't know how," she objected. "I'll teach you." At this era of their lives, if he had offered to teach her how to drink hemlock she would have learnt. Chapter 111. Thus the term wore away. Dick still per sisted in going through the course of reading which inspired his history tutor with such despair. Literature, books of architecture and archeology, old ballads, guide books, and county histories, absorbed most of what his tutor assured him was priceless time. His attendance at the football field was less regular, although he never failed to play in a University or College match. Medley took up so many of his afternoons now that his occasional absence was almost enforced. Men noticed that he was relapsing into his old ways again. Meanwhile he and Eveleen were enjoying golden days. All day long he hungered after ncr smiles, and she spent much of iier day in gazing up the lane towards Oxford. At last the end of term came, and with it a good hard frost. Still very few of the men stayed up, and Dick determined upon taking Evelecn out on the ice with him at the risk of discovery by his friends. So one day, after several clays' absence, he strolled out to Medley with two pairs of skates, one pair of them " oights" and one "tens anda-half." He found Kveleen in, who at once came up and kissed him. " How good of you to come, Dick, and what jolly little skates ! I wonder if they'll fit (turn ing up the sole of her small shapely foot in a tightly-fitting lacod boot) ? Yes, exactly. Oh ! Dick, you arc a brick, but you arc a bad boy to go squandering your money as you do. Do you know what arrived for me the day before yesterday ?" Dick pretended that he did not. She dis appenrcei for a few minutes, and then came back looking absolutely lovely in a sealskin jacket and hat, with a muff to match. " These must have cost you I don't know how many pounds, Dick." " Nevermind, darling, they set off your beauty
to a T. and I can easily knock off a hunter next term. " What, for me ? Oh ! Dick, that's too bad of you." They crossed the Upper River and came to the Port Meadow, whore there was a stretch of ice several miles on end. Dick hired a chair from a rough, and knelt down and strapped on her skates very carefully (he thought wooden ones better than " acmes" for a beginner), and then fastened on his own, which were secured with a spring. Dick was a very good skater and Eveleen proved a wonderfully apt pupil, as she was plucky and struck out boldly when she was told, and long before the frost broke up aho could skate very fairly. In the aftornoon, before she went home to Medley she would go and have tea with him in the lodgings he had token for the vacation and the following term, for he had made up his mind not to reside in college any. more. After tea he took her to have dancing lessons, at which also she evinced some promise, and then he drove her home. What distinguished her dancing as well as her skating was the extreme grace and tine modu lations of her movements. In dancing, when she had once learned the merely mechanical part, Dick would dance with her while the dancing master watched her steps and corrected her from time to time. It was naturally a great advantage for her to have a good partner to learn with, and he was an admirable dancer. And of course it afforded him exquisite pleasure to feel her supple body in his arms and to be rewarded for his exertions with those smiles that were meat and drink to him. These were happy days. They had not been many times together to the ice before they attracted notice. Stalwart was much too great a celebrity in the university not to l>e well known, and her extreme beauty and the evident pleasure she took in his atten tions could not be hoped to escape comment. She always dressed extremely well, and tho splendid furs that Dick had given her made her costume actually handsome. No one knew who she was or where she lived. Yet she was with him on some portion of the ice every day —now down at Botlcy, now on the Port Meadow, and now away towards Ifflcy, the other side of the fevy. One day when tho daughters of the master of S. Cuthbert's were on the same piece of ice, on Dick's coming up to accost them and offer to take them round, they tried to'sound him. " What an extremely beautiful girl it is that you are always skating with, Mr. Stalwart!" "Yes, isn't she? and she's as pleasant as she is pretty." " Does she live in Oxford ?" "No, she's a friend of mine." " Is she staying with you ?" " No, she's staying with her mother; is your mother quite well ?" and thus the conversation ended. A few days before Christmas the frost broke up. Dick went out to Medley on the excuse of taking her skates home. Mrs. Wood was out. " Well Eveleen," he began, " I'm off home to-morrow. I'm sorry that I can't take you with me, but I know that the governor wouldn't hear of it. The only effect of my making the request would be that he would rack heaven and earth to break off the match, or throw every possible obstacle in the way of it." "I know it," she said bravely, "I quite appreciate all you are sacrificing for me, Dick. I ought to sacrifice myself and break off the match, but I love you too much." "You know I didn't mean that, Eve." " Of course I knew you didn't," she replied, clinging to him. " I know that you would be incapable of such a speech. I understand tho situation perfectly ; our engagement is ' under the rose. Well Dick, old boy, I hope that you'll enjoy yourself; don't forget to drink my health in silence on Christmas Day. We'll drink yours in that champagne you were wasteful enough to send us yesterday. But, unless you particularly wish it, I must not bo idle any more, as I have a dress to finish." Accordingly she sat down at her sewing machine, chattering volubly the while, and every now and then looking up with a bright smile in answer to some remark or compliment of his. He thought he had never seen her look so engaging and graceful before, and watched every motion with the greedy eye of a lover. At last he looked at his watch and said, "Now then, Eveleen, let the machine alone for a little while; I must be off in half-an-hour or I shall be late for my dinner." ' Her face grew grave. " Won't you stay and have tea with us your hist night, Dick?" " I've all my packing to do, and I am going away by the first train to-morrow morning." However he did stay, and stayed, and stayed, and it wasn't much l>efore midnight when he started back to Oxford. Before he left he led Eveleen into another room, and clasped a massive gold bracelet on her wrist. " My Christmas present to you," h« said. She lifted her sweet rod lips for a kiss, and thanked him, but said she could never wear it until they were married, as it was unbefitting to her present station. It was late ere he screwed up his courage to bid her farewell; so he had to set off home wards as fast as he could, and to sit up all night, packing part of the time, and moralising over Evclccn the vest; for, :is his train started soon after 7, he could not trust himself in bed lest he should oversleep himself. He started for the station in good time. There a grand surprise awaited him. Ho thought he recognised a certain sealskin. He was not mistaken. It was Eveleen, lovely with excitement and a slump walk in the bleak morning air. " I thought I'd conic to see you off," she said. " I didn't expect to meet many spies at such an early hour." Nor did she, for there was no other first-class passenger in the train. She had brought with her a beautifully-knitted silk purse, on which she had been unable to lay her hands the night before when he had given her tho bracelet. "Carry your spare .sovereigns in this, Master Dick, instead of loose in your pockets. 1 made it myself on purpose for you." " I never used a purse in my life, but I'll begin now," w;is his reply, ns he pocketed bi:< treasure. "At any rate I'll ill ways carry it about my person." The engine whistled. Two big tours trickled down two pretty checks, there was a gulp in a manly throat, and they parted. (Mfattkr IV. When Dick got homo 110 found himself in great request. Tlio Richmond Hall ponds woro frown over, and Lady Mary hail gone away cm purpose that Dick, whom sin- kii<'\\ to lie i>\ treinely fond of skating, might not be embar rassed in ln's enjoyment of them. Knowing his fondnossfor skating, everybody was wonder ing why he had not returned homo before, but
he satisfactorily explained his absence by say ing that ho had been moving all his things into loggings, although of course he did not men tion that Ins reason for moving from college rooms to lodgings was to facilitate his inter course with Evoleen Wood. Garsington, who was not much of an adept at skatin<r, and con sequently not an enthusiast, was deploring that Dick had not been there for the brief spell of hunting which they had enjoyed during the thaw. Mary Stalwart had l>een regretting his absence, because she had been for a long time looking forward to his coming home to take her about, and enliven the house a little. It was very seldom that any sounds unbecoming to the repose of the sleeping abbots wore heard in the hall of St. Mary's Abbey. At last Dick came, his conduct displaying a strange blending of pre-occupation and animal spirits. One may be sure that he said nothing to his father about bis engagement. Old Mr. Stalwart could never be described as a genial or good-tempered man, and, if there were two points on which he was unusually touchy, they were family pride and Dick's marriage. Nothing would have pleased him so much as a marriage between Dick and Lady Mary, who was of a noble family, and a neighbouring heiress. Failing her. he had made up his mind that Dick should marry some other titled heiress. Nor was his ambition unreasonable. Dick had every quality that could endear a man to the fair sex; he was possessed of abilities sufficient to ensure his success in life, and ho ?was heir to a rent-roll which few commoners in Yorkshire, or even in England, could throw into the shade. He expected Dick to do great things. When Dick did come home, he at once plunged into the vortex of sports and amusements. He might have to go up Oxford soon after Christmas, lie said, to begin reading hard for his degree, as "ho was in in June. Home had fewer attractions now that it was separated from Lady Mary, and he knew that a fond heart was anxiously awaiting him at Oxford. Old Mi*. Stalwart, not knowing of their com pact, could never understand why Dick invari ably pleaded a previous engagement whenever he wrote to toll him that Lady Mary was coming for a stay at the Abbey. Dick fulfilled his contract loyally, and he felt it easier to do bo now ; in fact it would have burdened his mind to be in the presence of his former love •when he was plighted to-another. He felt that there was now a double gulf between him and liady Mary. Therefore he went back to Oxford, and while, for the sake of appearances, he wrote from time to time and deplored his enforced absence from home, he indulged in a delirium of happiness in the company of Evcleen Wood. When he left home, as soon .is he reached the station, he sent her a telegram announcing his prospective arrival, and when he got to his lodgings ho found afternoon tea ready, and Eveleen ready to preside. The lovers' meeting can be imagined, as also can Evelccn's confusion when the lodg ings-servant entered without knocking and found her on Dick's knee. The frost was still continuing, so they found plenty of occupation and amusement. Eveleen •was now a really elegant skater, and she had already made considerable progress in dancing. At the same time, during the few weeks that Dick had been absent, her mind had made con siderable strides ; for he had given her the run of his books, and scribbled down a list of what he thought she bad better read, and she had worked hard at them. She was bent on acquir ing all the accomplishments ho would have found in a wife had he selected one in his own rank of life. There had always been an old piano in her mother's cottage ; not, a very bril liant one, it is true, but on it she had attained some proficiency. Her versatility and anxiety to improve herself could not but afford Dick the highest satisfaction. At last term time came. One day when, in performance of a promise, she came into Dick s rooms to have tea with him, she found a stranger there—a gentleman Dick had determined to make a confidant. " Eveleen," said he, " this is Lord Garsing ton, of whom you have so often heard." Garsington, as a rule, hated ladies; nothing was so embarrassing to him as their society; but no one could be proof against the charms of the beautiful and engaging girl who now stood before him. Besides, lie felt that, she being in a station so uuich lower in the social scale than his own, it would be unchivalrous to a degree of him not to make her feel completely at home. Furthermore, he felt distinctly at tracted towards her. His bearing was there fore unusually cordial for him. Indeed, Dick was quite surprised. Eveleen was evidently very much gratified at her reception, and the afternoon passed <>lf most happily. Garsington begged Dick to bring her in to lunch at his lodgings in King Edward-street on the follow ing day. Eveleen accepted, on condition that no one else came. When there she looked at a coloured picture of Lady Mary (whom Hick had naturally not mentioned to her) with great ad miration, which she invited him to share. Dick did not feel particularly at his ease when she detected Giirsin.iton in giving him a sly wink. Neither said anything. [TO UK COXTIXUKD.J
Tin: Sydncyitos aro not as apprehensive of the designs of Russia (says " Atticus" in the Mel bourne Li'ailer) as aro the good j)eople of Mel bourne. Tlio excellent reason is that they aro not so defenceless. The bay is hotter provided with guns and forts than Port Phillip, and the harbour is scarcely ever without the presence of a man-of-war. On the occasion of my visit the Nelson, which is powerful enough to blow half-a.-d07.0n such ships as the Afrika clean out of the water, in addition to the Emerald and the Cormorant, was at anchor in Farm (Jove. Butth<-.vo was a very strong feeling that the recent visit, of the Russian squadron was for no other prirposo than to spy out the weakness of the lan. I. One thing w.-is very significant. The oxem-si ;»n overland to Sydney of the Ki^sian Atluiii-.tJ wn.i -.aid to 1»- in order to visit Lord Augusvns | j( )fins, whom he had known inti mately at St. Petersburg; hut ] have the very best authority for saying that, the Muscovite never \»tiil. near tlie (iovcruor at all ujion that occ:isi(in. and that tin- only ollicial person whom lie did see was (lie Russian i-onsul. From all that lean hear the three Governors, Lord An»;iislus Loftus, Lord Nornianbv, and Sir William .lervois, seem to have kept, 'out of the wa.v of Admiral Aslanbegoff as much as it was poT<ihle for them to do; and jierhaps they veie \cry wise. In matters 01 diplomacy, which U, nftei- all, only a polite phrase for the perversion of the truth, an English gcutlcmau is no match for a Russian.