|Chapter Number||3. III|
|Chapter Title||AMONGST OLD FRIENDS.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||Whatsoever a Man Soweth|
WHATSOEEVR A MAN SOWETH.
BOOK III. — THE REAPING OF THE HARVEST. CHAPTER I. CHAPTER II. AMONGST OLD FEISXDS.
The Reece Meadowsere wtio entered the house of the AusDiQb thatnight was different in many respects from the m-.n whose acquaintance >« made in the earlier pages ot this story. His form was still erect; his features as retined, and his strong individuality as pronounced as formerly. Bat the dark hair was plentifully besprinkled with grey. There were lines of oare and sadness about the mouth, and the strangely handsome face wore an habitual expression of weariness and melancholy. The imiKe which Bertie's imagination had conjured up bore a striking resemblance to the original, save for the hair, which w»s cut shore and worn in the same style as that of ordinary mortals. As for MisB Rose, she quickly acknowledged that her idea of air. Me&dowsere had proved altogether a mistaken one, and was vary thankful that suoh was the case. When ileadowscre rose from his bed of sickness some time after the death of Mrs. tttorahill all ambition seemed to have gone out of him. He cared not whel her he lived or died—life seemed but a long, dreary road, stretching far into the dim and impreneSr&bte future. It was not so much the knowledge that he had lost for ever the woman he had loved whioh crushed him low, but rather the anguish of remorse he experienced at the thought that be was in some measure responsible for Hilda's death. This tbought he could not shake off. By night and by day it haunted bis mind, and whichever way he turned he found no peace. He reproached and despised himselt, but self-reproach couid not undo the errors for which he was now suffering the penalty. The weeks rolled on, yet there oame no change. .Vleadowuere was experiencing in his soul the torments of hell; a gloom dark as the blackness of night was round about him, and often he cried aloud in his heart that the punishment laid upon him was greater than he oould bear. But man caa suffer much and still live. Heavy indeed must be the grief that time oannot soften, and though Reece Meadowsere carried with him to the grave the memory of his ein aud what he imagined to be its consequences, his life was not blasted nor his happiness totally destroyed. He lived on, and gradually, chiefly owing to Margaret's ministrations, the broken threads of everyday existence were reunited, and the old habits of thought and feeling once more resumed. And now Meadowsere left the colony, and went to England, where he remained for several years. He threw himself heart and soul into his literary work, and his.eSorts were abundantly rewarded. All that the world had to give it gave freely. Name, success, honour, praise, and wealth were his; though he coveted them not. Rather did he shrink from the fulsome flattery heaped upon him, and in the privacy of bis study, seek for the peace of soul <yhioh was nst to be found amidst the pleasures and excitement of Society. We need not, however, dwell upon this period of Meadowsere's life. It is enough to say that his fame as an author was established and that his career was pure and blameless. He had his dark hours, as must men have; and how dark and bitter they were he alone knew. His hatred of sin remained unchanged; but his own weakness in the time of temptation bad rendered him more tolerant towards the shortoomicgs of others. The friends he made were few, and love of a woman had never again gained possession of his heart; but the sad and needy who crossed his path had good cause to remember his ever-ready sympathy. He lived for others more than for himself, and by so doine succeeded in occasionally forcetsing hi3 own troubles ; though at times the memory of that one time of weakness loomed up clear and distinct from the background of the past. At length a time came when Meadowsere experienced an intense longing to return onoe more to that far-off land in whioh Margaret, at his request, still kept on the old home he loved so well. He knew also that the good, faithful servant, who had nursed him as a child, and to whom he owed eo much, was fretting at his long absence, and fearful lest ehe should go down to the dark grave, and see no more on earth "her boy." The letters she wrote to him, ill-spelt though they were, breathed of the devotion with which she regarded him, and often he could see on the paper the traces of her tears. Perhaps ehe would imagine that he cared no longer for her; that be had fotgotten the patient woman who had devoted her life to his service. This should not bo, and his rps.nl once tormea, w»b buuu acted upuu. Without delay he returned to Australia. It would have beea strange indeed if Meadowsere, after having earned an honoured name in the literary world, bad not been received with open arms in the land which had given him birth. Those who knew him were proud ot their acquaintanceship, and of those who did not many desired to secure an introduction as speedily as possible. Receptions were arranged in his honour, and invitations to balls aud dinners passed in upon him thick and fast. Robert SlcTinny, who had taken to sheepfarining and was d-ing well, came to Melbourne, accompanied by his wife, on purpose to greet his old friend. Ree^e was glad to see them both, and could not but cougratulate tham upon the evident happiness which had resulted from their marriage. There was now no ti-aco of sadobss in Mrs. Mo Liuny'e face. Sbu looked well, aud as though she had not a care ia the world. Barney, too, had changed (or the better in every way. They had two children, including the little one they had adopted. Iteo'je was not at all surprised to find that Ethel Silvermede also had changed her name during his absence; but oertainly it did seem to him that from Silvertoede to Jones was a far ory indeed. However, the worthy captain, thougabisheadmijfhtbeatrifie weak, wasrifiht at heart, and Ethel was apparently satisfied with her choice, and did not even regret the change of name. He was not the husband Reece would have chosen tor her, but in such matters young ladies generally prefer to please themselves, and Meadowsere had no oause to feel aegrieved. Indeed, a more intimate knowledge of their family relationships led him to the conclusion that Ethel could not have done better. They appeared iu all respects a model aud happy couple. Of the welcome Reece received from Margaret it is hardly necessary to speak. The faithful Eervant was overjoyed at his return, and with tears in her eyes folded him in her arms as though he were but the ohild she had nursed yyars ago. And Reece felt no annoyance at being thus embraced by one who had be'in but his mother's maid. To him she had long ago ceased to be a servant. She was moro to him than a friend, for he regarded her as one who had iu many ways taken the place of his dead mother. And this he knew was how his mother had wishsd it to be. Reece now began to realize that at length he really was at home again. Nothing seemed changed in the old house ; all was as he bad left it. Ei-en tho mastiff, Carlo, aged though he was, had not altered m the least, and after the first mad outburst of delight at his master's return followed him about in the same steady, devoted way as of yore, until Meadowsere almost bug&n to imagine that the years of his atuence w^re but n dream and not n reality. This feeling lasted but a short time, however. The great number of invitations which ho w»s continually receiving, and t,ha perflistent efforts made by parsons with whom he was out slightly acquainted to entic9 him to their house and in a manner exhibit him as a frieud of the family, were qu te sulScient to impress upou his mind the great change that had taken plaoe in his worldly position aud prospects. Nor was he at> all pleased at the attention shown him. He desired to be left in pssoe; to live bis own qi::ot life in the way chat best suited his inclinations. Buti this society did not seem inclined to allow him to do. Even in his own home he was not secure froui intrusion. Visitors dropped in at all hours, aud upou the uiost absurd jjretexts, aud as a rule they were net <>f the moat desirable kind. This, however, was soon remedied, as Reece refused admittance *o all save his most intimate friends. The showerof letters and invitation-, howevtr, Ciintinu^d unabated, and for fear of giving offence M«artowsere answered many of former, and acneptc3 even those of the latter which he othnrwiso would hav.-> refused. It w&u when her.rtily wisliiner himsslf away from Melbourne that Meadowsere received a letter from Robert Auntie which offered a way of an.l at the same t:mt> Rave promise of affiirdine him great pleasure. The letter was short, but th^re was no doubt of its sincerity, and the writer, after oonnratulatine R-ece upon the success he had at.taiued in his profession, concluded with the hope that he would soon find an opportunity of visiting Warrydong, where he was a»Eured of a hearty welcome. Tnis letter set Meadowsere thinking. Deep down in his heart thfre dwelt the memory of his 6ret visit to Warrydong, though at the time he was but a child. He had gone thers with hi* father and mother, who had both known Edwnrd Austin, the then owner of the station, in their younger days. The solitude of the plaes, the miles of flat and to him uninhabited country, hau made a strong im pression upon the childish taind of little Reece, which even time had not been able to effaoe. At first he was almost afraid to leave the hous9; but his fear wore off, and with Robert Austin for his guide ana companion he spent the greater part of every day ic the open air. Robert waa then about twenty veari of ajfe, and Reec» Eve, but despite this great difference between them they beaime fast friends and had always remained so.
After thjs first visit Meadowsere went many times to Warrydong, sometimes accompanied by bis parents and occasionally alone. Later on Edward AuBtin died. His wife had died several years before, so that Robert, being the only ohild, succeeded to the property, and his marriage followed in due course. Meadowsere's visits after that were rare, though he could hardly explain why. As Minnie had said, he was last at Warrydong about ten years ago, but he and Austin had met at intervals in the city, and their meetings were equally pleasant to both. Ic did nor take Reeoe long to make up his mind whether he would aocept Mr. Austin s invitation, and in a very few weeks he started on his journey, and, as we have seen, arrived safely at Warrydong. He found thing* had ohanged there, as all thines change. The family had increased; those whom he had known as children were now tall, self-possessed young ladies, who appeared to him as total strangers. Tha very hou-e itself was different—so different that he hardly recognised it, for the old dwelling was almost hidden by the additions whioh had been bnilt on to it. Robert Austin was still the Robert Austin of the past, however, and Meadowsere's eyes met many old familiar landmarks as he left the house early on the morninu after his arrival, intending to take a long, brisk walk before brc-akfast. He had not eat olear of the <rarden. however, when he came unon Miss Melville, who was busily engaged picking flowers for the t.ible. "Good morning, Miss Melville! You are an early riser, I see." " Eirly I" she exclaimed, with a light blush. "Oh ! I have been up some time." "Indeed! Then I am not the first?" "Well, hardly," and she looked up at him smilingly. "We are country people, you must remember." "And as I am fresh from the city I, of oourse, am not supposed to know the meaning o' early rising ?" "I did not say that," exclaimed Miss Melville. "You would have pretty well hit the mark if you had, Misa Melville," said Reece Roodhumoredly. " Bus. really, this morning I flattered myself that I would surprise you all, and sit down to breakfast after a thr- e or four mile walk with the appetite of a boundary rider, for I believe such men are said to be capable of eating a very hearty meal." Miss Melville laughed; a low, musical lau2rh it was, and Meadowsere's quick, sensitive ear was at once alive to its sweetness. He was always peculiarly susceptible to sounds, and even as a child, when irritable and fretful, his mother's clear, gentle voice had never failed to soothe him. Musio also influenced tr.ra strongly, and by itB means he had often been able to chase away the gloomy thoughts which in his dark moments troubled him. It was natura', therefore, that hearing so sweet and rare a voice be ehould glance at the possessor of it with more than ordinary interest. On the previous evening he had seen little of Mist Melville, and but a few conventional commonplaces had been exchanged between them. Now, as he notsd the pale, intellectual face, with its dearly cut features ; the dark, deep, and tender eyeB, which at first smilingly met his own, and then were drouped to the flowers the governess held in her hand, Meadotrsere was struck, as Mr. Austin had been, with the great charm of manner and the air of sincerity and purity which seemed to surround the quiet woman before him. Then, as his gaze took in the stately figure, nobly formed, and plainly but tastefully dressed, he thought that, though he had seen many more faultlessly lovely women in the world, ho had never yetmetonesograoefu! and 60 attractive. "But her ohann^will wear off on acquaintance," he said to himself ; for he had seen much of life, and was inclined to be rather pessimistio. " I am afraid that you will find it a diffioult matter to walk four miles before breakfast, Mr. Meadowsere; that is, if you wish to sit down with the rest." " You are very hard on me, Miss Melville, and appear to have a poor opinion indeed of my powers as a pedestrian." "Why do you say that? Because I think it impossible for you to walk four miles in less than a quarter of an hour !" " But it iB not yet 7 o'olock, Miss Melville." " No ; it wants ten minutes: but, in winter, seven is the breakfast-hour at Warrydong, Mr. Meadowcere." "Seven—breakfast at seven in winter! And what about the summer, MisB Melville?" Miss Melville emilsd. "Half-past six is the hour then. Doss that alarm you, Mr. Meadowsere?" Well—no; but it surprised me for the moment. Now that I come to think of it, however, I remember that these hours used to be in force years ago. I was younger then, and perhaps did not oonsider them unreasonable. " " Do you now?" "_Not for the oountry." he said smiling. difficulty in conforming to the general custom of Warrydong. Miss Melviile." " Good morning, Mr. Meadowsere!" came in a fresh girlish voice from behind him, and Reece turning was oonfronted by Mabel. "Good mo mine, Miss Mabel. Have you come to assist Miss Melviile to pluck the flowers? Iam afraid I have bsen interrupting her a little." "Not at all,"laughed Miss Melville. "Oh, it's easy enough to pick flowers and talk at the same time, but it's quite a different matter to keep up a conversation when you're hunting all over the place for eggs, like I've been doing." , "I hope you weresuocsssful in your search," said Reece, amused at Mabel's half-injured tone. "Well, E haven't done so badly. I found about a dozsn, but half of them are broken, worsa luck; and I haveapoilt a dreas." " How did you manage that, Mabel ?"asked Miss Melville. "Well, you S6e it was this way," began Mahel with a merry twink'e in her eyes, " I thought there was a nest on the top of the haystack, so I climbed up, and sure enough I got half a dozen eggs. In coming down, I—well —I didn't want to olimb, so I slid, and the ground was further away than I imagined ; the result bsing a sadden stoppage on my part and a breakage on the part of the eggs." "Under those circumstances it certainly would have been difficult to keep up a conversation," said Reece, after a hearty laugh. " But it appears to me," turning to Miss Melville, " the hens have acquired very early habits as well as the rest of the inhabitants of Warrvdone." "Howso, Mr. Meadowsere?" " When Miss Mabel is able to collect a dozen eggs before breakfast it shows that the hens must have been up very early." " But these 6£gs were not laid this morning," exclaimed Mabel. "They are yesterday's eggs ; only Master Bertie, who is of a dreamy disposition, hie mother says, forsrot to.oollect tbsm, the result being what I ha ,-e told you—the loss of six eggs and the rum of an old dress." " A terrible catalogue of accidents," Miss Melville6aid wich an amused smile. "But doubtless th6dross will wash." "Come here while I whisper a moment," said Mabel tragically. " Oce of the eggs was bad." " And yet they were only laid vesteiday," observed Reece in a sad tone. " Dear, dear ! j what a climate." j " Not ihis particular one, Mr. Meadowsere ; it must have been old, so in reality I only lost five. But, eood gracious! Lam forgat'ing myself. Did you sleep well, Mr. Meadowsere ?" The sudden oh an q a in Mabel's manner, and the tone of serious enquiry she adopted, together with thB look of motherly concern with which she regarded him, almost upset Reece's gravity, self-controlled though ho usually was. "Thank you, Miss Mabel," he answered. " I slept much better thon I uaual'y do." "Oh! I am glad of that. But were you warm enough 1" "Quite."' " Are you sure you would not like another blanket ?" Reece shock his head. "I was very comforts Die, thank you." "Do you know, Mr. Meadowsere, after I went to bed last cijht 1 said to myself, 'I wonder whether Mr. Mtudowsere has enough blanket3 on his bed.' I was almost ——" "Mabel, Mabel! you should not be so thoughtless,"exolaimed Miss Melville,looking paiued, but also, it must be confessed, a trifle amused; and Reece, who was beginning to fe«I somewhat astonished, and hnrilly knew what to make of his soliuitouH young questionsr, beiran to see that it would ba well in future not to treat h«r remarks too seriously. " A truce ! a truce, Miss Melville ; I won't Bay another word," cried Mabel ; and with a merry lausrh she rushed down the Kard^.ti path, and vanished inco the house jii<t as the breakfast bell raug out its inviting s-uminonH. " Mibel is very thoueht^ss, and says s. great many thint's thit would be belter left unpaid," explained ili-s M*lville, as with R-ece she slowly approached the house. "She is a good-heartod eirl Mioiiizh. an<i it is almost imnoMSibie to feel annoyed with her. When she crown older perhaps, and has a little more of the world, she may eooer duivn. In tha meantime, Mr. M«ad.>vr<ore. I hope you will make due allowance for her, forshe i~ still little more than a schoolgirl in spite of her think we shall get along famously," answered Reece. "although I must confess to never having made the acquaintance of any one like her before. Her ^questions just now fairly startled ma at first." "I hardly know what possessed her to ask thom, as the seldom makes her mother the eubjeot of a joke before strangers. Mrs. Austin is a lady, who, when she has visitors in the house, worries herself a great deal about their oomfort, and if the weather is at all cold, invariably questions them in f t p l l s w l
the manner Mahel adopted towards you. This, of course, Mabel knows well, and she probably felt a desire to forestall her mother, and give you the trouble of answering twioa over." " Oh ! that was it. But here we are, Miss Melville, and now, how am I to find th« breakfast-room ? The house has altered since I was at Wi-.rrydong last." " This wav, Mr. Meadowsere ;" and Reece, as he entered the room, found the whole family assembled, and was greeted by a parfe-jt chorus of " Good mornings." "I was thinking of go ng to your room, Reeoe, to see whether you were awake," said Mr. Austin. " I nave been in the garden for some little time, and did intend going for a walk, bnS Miss Melville soon put that notion oct ot my head, by informing me of the breakfast hour." "It is earlier perhaps than you hava, aeoustomed to breakfast, Mr. Meadowsere, but do not be afraid to come late when it suite ycu," Mrs. Austin said eagerly. " Thank you; out I think I oan manage it," answered Reece, wishing that he had said nothing about the matter. Graoe being said, the children set to with • will which gave little room for conversation, and Reece, who had grown accustomed to a breakfast partaken of in solitude, found himself growing interested in the proceedings. Soon, however, he became aware of being addressed oy Mrs. Austin, who sat at one end of the long table, her husband being at the other. " How did you sleep, Mr. Meadowsere?" Reece glanced at Mabel, who, however, continued buttering a pieoe of toast with the most perfect indifference. There was not tha vestige of a smile upon her faoe, and Meadowsere answered the question of his hostess with all the eravity that it deserved. But when Mrs. Austin went on to question him with regar-l to blankets, he stated desperately that "everythina ic his room was as h» liked it, and it would be impossible to make him more comfortable." After that no more was said, sad Reeoe beaan to feel at ease. He hated Riving trouble, and was beginning to think that the Austins considered bim a sort of invalid, which was not at all to his taste considering that be was a man somewhat over sir feet in height and by no means delicate. But now they began to treat him as an old friend of the family, rather than as a guest who must have the best of everything; and the meal being almost concluded, toneues were loosened, and a perfect buzz of conversation went on amongst the children, in which Reece vis forced to join, until very speedily he felt himself an the best of terms with everyone. CHAPTER IIL PUEASANT DATS AT WAEHYDOKO. Those were very pleasant days whioh Reece Meadowsere spent, at Warrydong. Aoous. tomed as he had been for so long to the noise and ceaseless excitement of oity life, and the conventionalities of fashionable sooiety, it waa a relief to find himself breathing the free, pure air of the oountry, far away from the flattery of make-believe admirers, and amongst suoh genuine, true-hearted people as the Austins. If be desired to be kept amused there wero the children, and at their head Mabel, the biggest of all. Never did he see her out of temper, not even when quarrelling with her sister Minnie, which, unfortunately, she did very often. But the spirit of mischief always gleamed in her eyes on such occasions, and it was easy to see that on her part at least the quarrel was but a mimio one. Smiling and thoughtleBs, but never knowingly nnkind, she flitted here and there, full to overflowing ot good-natured fun, the light and soul of she whole household. Occasionally her mood would change. She would go off by herself somewhere and remain invisible for several hours; but at suoh times it was generally safe to prophesy that her busy mind was at work planning and scheming in order to bring to a succesBful issne some practical joke of s mora than usually elaborate nature. Meadowsere often found himself the victim, but it was impossible to be angry with a girl who would merely laugh merrily in hie faoe. so hekepthis eyes and ears open and avoided many pitfalls. When, however, he " took the bait,"** Mabel termed it, he behaved like a " brick" (another of her expressions), and seldom indeed did Mrs. Austin get to hear of any of his adventures. If one had done so, it is possible that Miss Mabel's love of praotical joking would have received a severe shook. As it was, this young lady did many things whioh her mother never dreamed of. When a man, has reached suoh a stage that he cannot enjoy a little innocent, wholesome fun, he is in a bad way indeed. There u so much deception, with all its attendant bitterness, about us; so muoh sin, sorrow, and misery existing in the world, that joyous, light-hearted, lauehter-loving people are needed to keep the balance even. But to treat life all through as a huge joke; to imagine the world to have been oreated solely with a view of affording us amusement, is to go t ? m i l fihiw Hffthnl— were signs whioh pointed clearly to the fact hat she was beginning to realize the imortance and eoriousness of daily life, thongh et us hope she would never gain her knowedge at the expense of her snnny dispoition. On the other hand, Meadowsere waa a man ho had already become acquainted with ife in its many phases. He understood the weakness of human nature, and the depth* of degradation to which it was possible for one of God's creatures to sink. He knew what it wan to love, and to lose those whom he loved. He had tasted of the bitter fruits of jealonsy, and been plunged into the darkness of despair, whilst the hand of remorse bad tightened itl grip about his heart till he called alond in his agony. ' Yet he saw that there were others who suffered morn than he had ever done, and thiB humbled whilst it saddened him. Still he was not blind to a joke; the lesson of life had not crushed ont all power of enjoyment in the learning; he oould appreciate genuine fun, and at times laugh heartily with the r"st. But snoh moods with him were brief. Hi desired the companionship of the grave rather than of the eav, and in this rosnsct also his wishes coold be gratified Rt Warrydong. Robert Austin was a thoughtful, well-read man. Though not talkative, he oould discourse upon many subjects when he found a congenial companion, and Reeoe Meadowsere was a man after his own heart. The twa were friends, not merely in name but in reality, and both derived pleasure and benefit from their daily intercourse. They took long rides together aoross oountry, and Reeoe quickly became interested in the station work. The outdoor exercise appeared to agree with him ; his health and his spirits both improved, though he had hardly thought the former to be in need of improvement; and he began to imagine that oountry life was in many respects preferable to an existence spent in the city. On the other hand, Robert Austin waa intensely interested in Reece's descriptions of the places he bad visited ana the people he had met with. Then, again, Meadowsere held strong opinions with regard to social and moral subjects, the result being long and spiritedly conducted arguments between the two, which brought ont Austin's individuality in a marked degree, and showed that while usually a man of few words he was yet capable of offering a good defence when hii opinions were attacked. And if the truth be krown, Austin dearly loved an argument when no mean antagonist was pitted against bim; and certainly in R»ece Meadowsere he met a foeman worthy of his steel. Meadowsere was inclined to take a very gloomy view of things. The morals of sooiety were in his opinion bad, whilst hypocrisy, sin, and crime were rampant all the world over. AuBtin, however, thought' differently. The world was not so bad as it was paiuted, and there was good to be found in all men. It is more than probable that in *hs heat of argument both Austin and Meadowsere made assertions which were wide of the mark, but when all was over they laughed heartily at each other and were better friends than ever. There was one other at Warrydong to whom Reece, no matter what his mood might be, turned with a great deal of pleasure, and this was Miss Melville, the governess. The charm he hid first found in her oompany was nob dispelled. Nay; every day revealed some fresh train in her character whioh compelled his admiration and respect. There was abont her an ibs^nce of all falsa pride and artificiality. Gifted as ehe was, she seemed utterly ignorant of the attractions she possessed. Her one desire was to be worthy cf the t.-n%t reposed in her and to instil in o the minds of her pupils a IOFO of tho3e thi:i::s which go to make li. better and jjurer. Tli« sive«tne«s of her disposition was No unkind word to Reece r.'mo-t marvellous. Hvere-cap-d h'-r lips; no ill-natured look was ever •leef upon hor faoe. Yet she was not With the children, though tender and lrin'l. Hhe was firm when her authority waa rebelled aeainn f . (whioh happily was but pplrioinl. and her power, even over the wayward Mabel, waa o* srrong, if not stronger r,hau Mr. Austin's own. She reminded Reece of his mother, and was, it sei-med to him, % woman uosoilnd by oontaot with the world, a woman whom evil hid never touched ; one who would be faithful in friendship and in love ; faithful to what she thought to be good and true—even unto death. At Warrydong, too, love of solitude, Meadowsere's pet weakness, oould be gratified to the full. A room was set apart for his sole use, and here he was safe from intrusion Then again he bad but to leave the house and in a short time he oould ba out of eiirht of human habitation—alone with Nature Waa it any wonder that life under «uch conditions should appear doub!y pleasant to him ; and that he should shrink from the thought of r«- '^-T^ 1 0 the • dut,le » «*d responsibilities which his position in sooiety imposed upon him ? 1 he days passed swiftly at Warrydong, r.nd yet Reeoe Meadowsere fixed no time <«t his departure.
It wm nealing the dinner-hour, and Mrs. Austin had twice cone to the garden pate, ted shading her eyes with her hand gazed far ftoross the paddocks, hoping to catoh a glim of her husband, who oupht ere this to be retaming from the distant township of Golonia. They kept old-fa«hiot>ed hours at Warrydong —breakfast at 7, lunoheon a few hours later, dinner at t, snd tea in the evening. In addition to these meals Mise Mabel had instituted a praotice of interviewing the oook in the kitchen at a certain hour every afternoon, when she and those who cared to join her par took of tea and hot oake or scones. Reece re . garded this as a very excellent) institution, and frequently availed himself of the opportunity of improving his acquaintance with the cook, who was in all respects a very estimabl individual and a master of his art. When Mrs. Austin for the third time returned to the house without having seen any signs of ber husband the children were just leaving the schoolroom, where thov had been engaged with their governess for the greater part of the morning. Miss Melville fixedher own houra for lessons, and was very striot to Bee that they were taken advantage of. , f a t h e r ie late, children, and we •hall not wait for him, or the dinner will be spelled. Run away and tidy yourselves at onoe. Mrs. Austin spoke as though slightly irritated, and the ohildren made off with Alacrity. "I expect Mr. Austin hes been delayed?" suggested Miss Melvilie, who was passing to her room. " Very likely. Never get married, Miss Melville; it is a great worry to keep the dinner hot for a husband ; at least, such a husband as mine, who is always behind time." She looked up at a photo of Robert Austin as she spoke with a glance that belied her expression of disoontent, and Mis* Melville smiled. "Mr. Austin has so many things to think of that he has no room in bis mind for small matters, or what ho considers to be small matters, Mrs. Austin " _ " If he would only think less and eat more it would be a good deal batter for him," sighed Mrs. Austin. " But do you know what baa become of Mabel?" " I saw her a moment ago from the schoolroom window." " What was she doing? Up to some mischief, I'll be bound.'' "She appeared to be enjoying herself," said Miss Melville vagoelv. She felt no desire to explain that Mabel had been careering wildly round a small paddock on the back of a pony without saddle or bridle, and fortunately she was saved the tronble of all explanation, for Mabel herself entered the room with a bound. " Dinner time, mother?" "Yes; very nearly. But you don't intend to come to the table in that state, I hope "i" " Well—I suppose I hed better straighten my head gear a bit; it feels a little shaky. Can I go to your room. Miss Melville?" "Certainly not," exclaimed her mother. "Haven't you a room of your own, child? Whatever are you thinking of ?" "My room belongs to her ladyship," said Mabel with a grimace. She shared a bedroom with her elder -sister, and at times found it rather trying owing to the difference of their dispositions. " You had better allow her to come with me, Mrs. Austin," suggested Miss Melville good-naturedly. " I will see that she makes herself a little more presentable." Mrs. Austin, with a nod of acquiesonnce, bustled off to attend to ber duties ; and arm in arm Mabel and the governess strolled to the latter's room. " Do you know," said Mabel, confidentially, as soon as they were alone in the bedroom, "mydresB is in a fearful Btate at the baok, only the good old mater was too flurriedto notioe it. I knew that if I went to my room, though, Minnie would be prying abont, and I don't feel inclined to stand her leotures; I might lose my temper. Just cast yonr eye over this ?" and wheeling round, she took her skirt in one hand, and spreading it out exhibited a sight that would have caused her mother to raise her hands in horror. Even Miss Melville, acoustomed as she was to see Mabel in many sorry plights, was considerably astonished, and for a moment stood speechless, " It looke a bit bad, doesn't it ?" said Mabel gravely. Miss Melville felt inclined to laugh, but this would never do, she thought. " It is, indeed, disgraceful, Mabel. How oame you to get in this state?" " Well—you see—it was this way. I saw Bertie's pony doing nothing, so I decided to have a ride. He has a beautifully flatback, almost iike a table, so it is quite easy to stick on, and off we went in great style. I didn't have any bridle, and when the pony had got up full steam he shot through a gate leading into theatable. My skirt caugot in the gate,
and down I came a regular cropper in a pool of water, with a portion of the skirt loft hanging on the gate. Hicka picked me up, and told me I had better go in and have a wash. He then handed me the piece of stuff wbioh had been torn off ®ny dreas, saying tLi. it wouldn't do to leave :t where it was, as the horses might shy at it. Oh 1 I felt so mad— could have kicked him—but—bat I didn't; and, now, what is to be done?" " You must go and change." "Not much; not while Minnie is in the room. Oan't you fix it up somehow antil after dinner, Miss Melville?" asked Mabel plaintively. " I will try," was the oho6rful answer. "But there is the bell; we haven't much time." What with a little sponging here, a vigorous brushing there, and a few rapid stitohes, the dilapidated appearance of the skirt was considerably altered. In the meantime Mabel had rearranged her hair, and now began to think that it would be safe to venture into the dining-room. But Miss Melville had a few words to say first,and began gravely—"It is not my place to find fault with yon, Mabel; but has it never struck you, dear, that you are no longer a child ? These escapades are unworthy of yon, and though we all admire your generous nature and envy you your high spiritB, we should like to see you less thought less'and more gentle in your ways. Then, again, it is wronging your mother to hide from her the things that you do ; and before we go into dinner I with voa to promise me that she will hear from your lips the history of this morning's proceedings." "I will tell her everything if you wish it,' answered Mabel with a kiss. "But it won't be neoessary to tell Minnie, too, will it ?" - "No," said Miss Melville, simply. She conld not trust herself to say more. Mabel's entreating tone almost upset Let gravity. That meal was a quiet one. Mabel took her place at the table without a word, which was unusual, as she generally had too much t say. Reece wished to know whether ahe wa unwell, but received a very unsatisfaotory answer. It was not that Mabel's conscience was troubling her, but rather a fear lest Minnie should observe the state of her dress and make mention of it in her usual sarcastic manner that kept her silent. Fortunately, however, Mr. Austin's timely arrival shortly after dinner began put an end to her suspense. Every one was anxious to hear the latest news at Colonia, and as Mr. Austin had also brought from tbe township post-office a number of letters whioh had lain there some days Mabel felt that she was comparatively safe; and in this she proved oorrect. The meal ooncluded, Mr. Austin and Reece adjourned to another room for a cbat and smoke. The children with their governess returned to work, whilst Miss Austin retired to lie down and rest. Mabel, with great solemnity, sought an interview with her mother, confessed, vowed to be more oare'ul in future, and was forgiven. 'Thus ended her last ride without a saddle; but it was long before Hicks the gardener ceased to remind her of it. Later on in the afternoon Reece wnnt out for a long walk clone. In returning he met Mi«B Melville, who was also out walking, accompanied by two of the ohildren. Some child ren are always in the way, but these two wandered off together, leaving their elders to their own devices; and Reeoe inwardly decided that the Austin chil-iren were remarkably intelligent. That walk was but oue oF many, yet Reece remembered them all. The short winter afternoons, the gradual approach of evening, and tbe falling of the dark shadows upon the stiil waters which lay in long stretches about them, could never bo forgotten BO long as life lasted. A man—a woman—and solitude. There could tra but one ending w u .en man and woman were as they were.