|Chapter Title||Going to Meg's.|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||More about Misrule|
MORE ABOUT MISRULE.
CHAPTER I.-"Going to Meg's."
By ETHEL TURNER.
There was the freshness, of early winter in the air. The river leaped and laughed in its old brown rocky bed, the autumn rains had washed the summer brown from the grassed
banks and coloured them so sweetly green you would have thought that Spring herself had passed over them with twinkling feet. Even the gum trees could not quite make up their minds as to the season. There stood a group with trunks so richly red and brown, that to a boat shooting round the river bend all the landscape directly in front seemed suffused with the royal autumn tints. But here a tongue of land that ran out into the water was thick with young wattle bursting into leaves of spring-like greenness. And if the eye looked ahead, far, far up the river, where Misrule's paddocks ran down wild- haired to the waters, the tree-trunks there, as if to accentuate the irresolute note of Nature, gleamed white as silver. Down in the tumble-down boatshed at the edge of the poppy paddock Bunty was drying out the boat, and patting in the gay red cushions. He was working not cheerfully but of necessity. It was Saturday afternoon, and after the early dinner customary to that day of the week, he had said he was going down to Meg's, and went off whistling across the grass. Peter came bursting down after him. " Wait for me, wait for me—I'm coming too," he shouted. Bunty was standing up in the boat and pushing off, but at the shout he steadied the little craft a second. " Jump, then," he called out, and Peter leaped wildly after him, and landed in a pool in the bottom of the boat. Why didn't you bale her out ?" the small youth said, his spirits a trifle saddened at the sight of his wet boots and the splashes on the clean cuffs of his sailor blouse; " aren't you going to ? There's a bucket of water there at least." You let it alone and it'll let you alone," quoth Bunty laconically. " Stick your feet on the seat or sit on them or something, if they get in your road." Over the grass came yet another flying figure —eager little Essie, 5 now, with browny-gold curls streaming out behind her, and scarlet on her cheeks and sparkles in her round brown eyes. " Stop, stop." she shouted, " you're to stop— do you hear! Stop at once—Nellie says." "Oh, hang," said Bunty, "now what's to pay?" "We can't come back," shouted Peter; "go away—go home at once, Essie, we can't take you, the boat's as wet as sop." But Essie continued to shout and gesticulate so energetically that Bunty took an unwilling back-stroke or two. Nellie wanted to come—that was the sub- stance of the message—Nellie herself intended to go down to Meg's this afternoon, and Bunty would please to see the boat was dry and fit to go in. So Bunty came back and tied the boat up again, not over cheerfully, and baled out the water with an ox-tongue tin, and mopped the seats dry, " Cut up to the house and get a rug, Jumbo," he said, " and the cushions are in the coach- house; I put them there because the shed leaks." Peter went off to obey the mandate, and Essie insisted upon helping to bale out. She got a rusty pannikin from the picnic-hamper and baled vigoronsly, spilling the water naturally down the front of her muslin pinafore, Then Poppet appeared—Poppet at 12, grown strangely, almost painfully, like Judy, bright little eager-eyed Judy, on who?e far-off, quiet grave the suns had shone and the grey rains fallen for more than eight long years. And last of all came Neil—Nell just 19, Nell in a dress of deep heliotrope shade, with a black velvet picture hat setting off her fresh young beauty. But now what was to be done? The big boat was up, high and dry, waiting for repairs. This little dinghy Bunty had prepared was meant for two, but would hold three at a pinch. And five of them were there insisting that they must go! " Essie and Peter must stay," Nellie said decisively. "Essie went yesterday with Esther, so there is no need for her to go again, and Peter can go one day next week—now stay like good chickens and play together nicely. Martha is going to make scones and ginger bread, and you could help her. "I don't want to make scones and ginger bread," said Essie, "I want to go and see Meg," She jumped as she spoke, and Bunty, standing in the boat, had to catch her. "Don't be naughty, Essie," said Nell. " Look, your pinafore is all wet, and Peter's boots are wet— neither of you could come like that. Be good and run back with Peter. Put her out again, Bunty." The little witch clung to Bunty. " Dear Bunty, kind Bunty, I can go, can't I ? I want to oar—nobody lets me go in boats, nobody lets me oar." The tears welled up. She wouldn't make any difference in the weight, Nell," said Bunty, vanquished; " she's only a feather." "Only a fefer," Essie repeated, looking agitatedly at Nell. " And then poor old Jumbo would be left alone," Nell said ; " you wouldn't be so selfish, would you, Essie ?" Essie was torn with conflicting emotions there was Peter standing desolate on the bank, but on the other hand just across the river and down a little way was Meg. " Oh," she said, and burst into tears, " I do want to yock the little baby again." "But you were rocking him yesterday, Esther said so," said Nellie; "Meg let you have him for a long time." The sole right of serial publication in Queensland has been seoured by the proprie- tors of the " Queenslander,"
"I want him again," wept Essie; "I want to stroke his little teenty feet." But clearly some one had to stay; Pip, who was an authority, had said the dinghy could not safely hold more than three. Bunty must go to " oar" them; Poppet must go, she had not been for a fortnight, having been shut in the house with a cough; and she herself, Nellie, oh she had countless things to consult Meg upon. Peter was making very little out- cry at being left; he had said at first disap- pointedly that he " wanted to see the kid," but now he stood on the hank quite resigned. " Put her out, Bunty," whispered Nell, and Bunty stepped on shore, his young sister cling- ing tightly to him. " Hang on to her, Jum," he said, and Peter manfully pulled at Essie's waist while his elder brother disentangled himself from her frantic hands. The next second Bunty was on board again, and the gay little 'Possum was twenty, yards away. "Go back to the house," cried Nellie, " run at once. Peter, take her back, I want to see you inside the white gate." For the first few yards Peter had to drag his sister, but after that he evidently told her something consoling, for her sobs ceased, and the boatload saw the little pair walk hand-in- hand up through the rank grass, and disappear within the wicket-gate. " What a good little fellow Peter is," Nell said admiringly, and spread the rug comfort- ably over her knees and Poppet's. " Now pull away, Bunty, it must be half-past 3. " I don't think much of you, Nell, dolling up like this," Bunty said, plying his oars a little viciously; "if I were Meg I wouldn't like it," " What nonsense you talk," Nell said indig- nantly; "Meg knows I have to get dresses sometimes, and I may as well get pretty ones. It wouldn't do her any good for me to get blacks or plain browns." " I don't care—it looks like showing off; you could go to her in an old one, and keep these flaring ones for rich people," persisted the boy. " I thought you needn't have come in your new hat," said Poppet; " Poor Meg, she hasn't had a new bat for a dreadful time." Nellie looked fit to cry. " I always like to ask Meg's opinion of my clothes," she said, "you know I wouldn't be so horrid, John. And it isn't a bit an expensive dress." " It oughtn't to be, it's so precious ugly," John said; " you've as much taste as Flib- berty-jibbert, Nell. There's your dress puce—" "Puce" cried Nellie ; "why it's the loveli- est shade of deep Parma violet!" " Pace," persisted Bunty; "and then you go and put red and purple all over your hat." "Shows how much you know of colours," said Nellie; " that velvet is a lovely shade, just the pinky tinge that helps to make up heliotrope; and the purple is just a richer tone than the dress—l selected them most care- fully, and I trimmed it myself." " I'll believe you," said Bunty, showing his teeth in a grin. "I suppose you put it in the bottom knob of the banisters and went upstairs and dropped the trimming down on it anyway." " Oh," said Nell, " I just dropped my bag of ribbons on it, and then stitched on all that clung to it. But it wants something else as a finish, an aigrette or something, that's why I wanted to consult Meg." ."Look here," said Bunty, "if you put another thing on it I'll give some kids a penny to throw bricks at it. Doesn't it look, Poppet, as if she'd put everything she's goton it?" But Poppet's eye was a feminine one. " I think it's lovely." she said ; " only I wish Meg had one too." An hour's row took them across a long slant to the other bank of the river. They tied the boat to a pile of the small rough wharf that was any one's property now a big important one had been built to meet the wants of this rapidly-growing suburb of Redbank. Down here, near the water, handsome houses nestled in extensive grounds, and the beautiful river frontage was held by the rich, as the bathing and boat houses all along testified. It was not there that the three stopped, they made their way up, up the River Hill to streets where quiet, modest cottages stood in small, neat allotments of land. One, a tiny pretty place, was running over with roses—they rioted over the fence, up the veranda pillars, peeped gaily into all windows. Poppet stopped one little second at its gate and sighed. "If only Megsie lived here," she said. They went on again—into the business street of the suburb now. It was a dusty, unbeautiful street, built upon thickly on either side. Not a peep of the laughing river could be seen from here, not a tree tossed its free branches in all the length of it, hardly a blade of grass dare show. The bank was here, the Post Office, the stucco Town Hall of the district, two or three grocers, bootmakers, drapers, all the shops a spreading civilisation brings. Half-way down it on one side a terrace stood a terrace of tall, narrow, commonplace, houses, and the middle one bore a brass plate, highly polished, with the name Dr. Courtney upon it. Bunty rang the bell, Poppet gazed expectantly at the ugly, maple-grained door in front of her, Nellie looked across the road with pained eyes—across to where the rival butchers of the district, separated only by the circulating library and a confectioner's, tried to cut each other's throats with the tickets on their mutton and beef. To eyes accustomed to the river's witcheries, the thousand greens of the trees, and the free skies round Misrule, the view of hanging carcasses and fly-spotted walls came unpleasently. A very young maid came to the door, but her cap and apron left nothing to be desired. She beamed at the three, and they passed into the narrow hall. At the sound of their voices Alan came out of his empty consulting-room. He looked ten years older than the day, three years ago, when he led Meg lightheartedly from a rose-strewn altar, in front of Nellie, Poppet, Essie, and his own little sister all in fluttering bridesmaid's array. His face was sharper, thinner than the boy Alan's had been, and the always resolute mouth-lines were more pronounced. But the eyes looked out at you quite cheerfully. " That you, young ones ?" he said, pleasure on his face. "I'm glad you've come, it'll do Meg good to see you. Go straight up—she's trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear as usual—you can hear her hammer." Nellie looked round.
" You are much straighter than I expected you would be," she said; "you know Poppet and l have not seen the house yet, though you have been here a fortnight." " Ten days," he said. "'Does it strike you as a very wretched hole?" His eyes looked round anxiously. " Oh," Nell faltered, "it—it might be worse, Alan." " Meg doesn't care a dump, I bet," Bunty said with a gruffness that betrayed his sym- pathy. Poppet rubbed her cheek against Alan's arm. "She won't care where she is now she's got little Baby," she said. The anxiety died out of the young doctor's face, and he went back to the work he was do- ing in the consulting-room quite cheerfully. Upstairs the three rushed, and found Meg mounted on steps, putting up curtains of a sunshiny yellow. She sprang down with a .glad little cry when the door opened. "Oh, I am glad," she said; "Nell, I thought you never were coming—Poppet, you darling—oh, more than one kiss, I haven't seen you for ages; Bunty, I've wanted you a dozen times since last you came—that shelf came down, we couldn't have put strong enough supports, and I have been dying to get on with the other dressing-table." Bunty took off his coat in a most business- like fashion, and rolled up his sleeves. "But where's the nipper?" he said; "we'll just have a look at him before we start." They trooped into an adjacent bedroom, and found Meg's baby on the bed waving its aim- less little legs and arms in the air. "Why, he's awake, the darling, darling," said Nellie, and stooped over him to gather him up in her arms, the new look of tenderness making her face exquisite to see. Poppet was caressing the warm, wee feet from which she had pulled the boots, putting her finger to be grasped by the fluttering, tiny hand, stroking the downy head. "Why," she said, "oh, Meg, I'm sure his eyelashes have grown. Did you cut them? Florrie at our school—you know Florrie, with lovely goldy curls and long eyelashes—well, she said the reason her lashes are so long her mother cut them when she was a baby." " But they are as long as they can be with out cutting," Meg said proudly. "Mrs. Lind- say said, Nell, she never saw such long black lashes on so young a child. When I was on the boat yesterday there were quite six babies there, and not one of them had such lovely ones as Little Boy." "And I'm sure they hadn't such sweet little mouths," Poppet said stoutly. " No, truly they hadn't," Meg said eagerly, " they just seemed to have plain, ordinary lips —none of them had a tiny little red bud of a mouth like Baby's." " Had they more hair ?" said Poppet anx- iously. "Yes, one or two had," Meg admitted; "you see, I am not blinded, though I am a mother. I remember, Nell, I was a little dis- appointed that Baby hadn't a lot of golden curls when he came. But now I wouldn't change for world's, they couldn't be half so sweet as this soft, brown, downy silk, could they?" and she put her lips down on the dear little head. " Those babies on the boat who had a lot looked so ordinary. And I must say Little Boy's complexion put all of them in the shade; they were pasty-looking babies, and Boy was so rosy and fresh and smiling every one was looking at him." " Hello, Currant-Eye," said Bunty. " Hi, there, look at me—hi, hi, over here, you little donkey, you." He was waving his arms wildly and contorting his face, and now stooping be- low the bed foot, and now springing up. Little Boy continued to gaze calmly and serenely up at the top of the bed. " Oh, he doesn't quite understand that sort of thing, Bunty," Meg said apologetically. " Why, Meg," said Poppet indignantly," you have no eyes—he smiled distinctly. Do it again, Bunty. Bunty contorted his body violently again, and said "Hi, there," and "Hullo," and " Here we are again." And Baby, gazing about the room, blinked a moment, and shut and opened his hungry little mouth. " There," said Poppet triumphantly, " didn't I tell you—the darlingest little smile, wasn't it, Nell?" "It certainly was," Nell said; "he really is astonishingly knowing for two months, Meg." " Yes, I'm afraid he is," Meg said anxiously, " sometimes it frightens me a little; my book says babies with too active brains do not thrive as well as duller children. Please don't do it again, Bunty. And I think I'll put him to sleep if you'll all go out for a few minutes; this is too much excitement for him." They all went obediently into the next room to wait her leisure.
CHAPTER ll.—The Clouds that Came. Sail on nor fear to breast the sea, Our hearts, our hopes are all with thee. Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o'er our fears Are all with thee—are all with thee. This house in Burton's-terrace had only seen ten days of Meg's married life. The first year of it had been passed in as lovely a home as ever bride need wish to be taken to. The young couple began on six hundred and fifty pounds a year—Alan's private income of three hundred, and three hundred and fifty from his position in a hospital. That pleasant sum gave them a delightful home in the married quarters at the hospital, three well-trained servants who made the domestic wheels run with a smoothness very soothing to Meg after the jars and creak- ing of Misrule's wheels, pretty frocks, artistic furniture, plenty of margin for holiday trips, and the amusements that so pleasantly sprinkle the even road of life. To go to " Meg's" had been the happiest of excursions to one and all at Misrule. Major Woolcot himself—the lapse of years had at last brought him his advancement— had enjoyed the well-cooked dainty dinners of Meg's excellent cook after the haphazard arrangements at Misrule, Alan's good cigars, the pleasant company the young couple gathered around them. And Esther liked to go, though once or twice she had looked wist- ful. This bride was beginning her life on ways mach softer to the tread than she, just as
young, had done. There were no six harum- scarum children here to take to, no battered furniture, no wild grounds where the weeds grew, on ?an unblushing equality withe the flowers. " you are a very lucky girl, Meg dear," s he said when first she saw the beautiful home., And Nellie, beauty loving Nellie, it was deep happiness for her to to bang the much banged front door of Misrule behind her and go off, bag in hand, for a week in that dainty home. To be wakened at half-past 7—6 was Misrules usual hour—by a smiling maid with a silver tray and cup of chocolate; to breakfast at luxurious half-past 8 in the cosy breakfast room; to go shopping with Meg—to the best shops, and come back laden with delicious trifles Meg had bought for her—a novel hat pin, a purse, a lace scarf, a photograph-frame or such. To help Meg with a lunch party—perhaps a Violet Lunch—and mass the delicate flowers and arrange the violet ribbons, and help paint violets on the menu cards, and touch all that might be touched with the sweet colour. To go calling in the afternoon, or stay at home and be called upon. To "dress for dinner," a pleasant vanity very dear to Nell' s heart, and afterwards to be borne off by sister and brother-in-law, who well knew her tastes, to dress circle seats at the most fashionable piece then running. But " an end had come of pleasant places." Six months after the marriage the failure of a mine that had seemed safer than any bank had suddenly deprived the young doctor of his private income of three hundred, and at the same time stricken so severe a blow at his father's—old Mr. Courtney's—fortune, as to make it impossible for him to receive any help from that quarter. Still, three hundred and fifty was quite enough to live upon. Meg curtailed her ex- penses, kept only a cook and laundress and one young housemaid, gave up the pretty pony and governess-cart that Alan had bought her, and still found life flowed along a smooth and merry stream. But then there gathered up on that early marriage sky storm-clouds, black as they had never thought to see. Serious eye-trouble threatened Alan; more than one oculist friend had looked very grave after examining him. He struggled on from month to month, re- fusing to believe anything serious could be the matter ; the trouble would yield to mild treat- ment, he persisted. But every month saw the difficulty increase, his eyes began to blur and fail him at moments critical to his patients. There came a day when, his scalpel at work over a delicate operation, he had almost gone a hairbreadth out of his course and lost the life they were trusting him to patch up. Then he went home and stared this blank ruin that threatened his life squarely in the face, Meg's hand in his. After the first dark hour passed it was Meg that made the move. They would go to Germany, she said. There were men there who often performed the one operation that the oculists here were agreed upon might be successful in this case, though few of them seemed to care or dare to venture to do the thing themselves. The hospital appointment was given up, the pretty home sold, money borrowed, and the young couple fared forth to wrest from the wiser Old World what the New One could not give them. Letters came to Misrule from an inexpensive pension in a suburb out of Heidelberg. The great doctors gave little hope; even they shrank from the exceeding risk of the great operation, from which one rose either com- pletely blind or with full vision. Alan, left alone, they said, would at all events be able to keep some dim sort of sight for the rest of his life. The months went on, and the shadows felt heavier and heavier; Meg's letters to Misrule grew thinner every mail—her heavy pen re- fused to fill the pages. Then came a postscript to one; a new doctor had been found, full of enthusiasm or the oper- ation ; she, Meg, trembled now at the thought of it, but Alan was full of eagerness. A week went past, and another half-sheet came. The operation was to be performed in three days. Under the far skies where the Southern Cross looked down Misrule walked about, and ate and worked with thoughts and hearts away all the time across the cruel thousands of miles. " Meg, Meg—oh, don't let it be ; God, don't let it be," came bursting softly from Poppet's wet pillow in the little pink and white peaceful bedroom that had been Meg's all her girlhood. And Nellie, moving away in the darkness, had looked up from the window at the same quiet stars that had seen so often Meg's happy eyes upraised to them, and had whispered pass- ionately, " Oh, help her, help her—look where she is now, and help her!" There were no other letters for two mails, and Misrule's heart, quickened before by the immediate anxiety, began to beat heavily, wearily again. Then a blotted, wild line or two telling of success, success beyond even the enthusiastic doctor's expectation. And Misrule flung up its cap, and danced and shouted, and found its river lovely once again, and its skies and stars more glorious than ever, and its world full of kind- hes?. "Let's let the dogs out," cried Peter, and rushed off to the stables. "Let's have a picnic in the boats," said Poppet. The months danced along now, both in the old world and the new. Time had to be given for the restored eyes to get back their tone again, but who minded anything now ? Meg and Alan laughed and frolicked about in sober Germany for all the world like children out of school. Life that has escaped tragedy by a hairbreadth becomes for the time a picnic. Back they came at last to their own land, and Misrule had work to keep itself from plunging in the harbour and swimming out to meet the unemotional ship, instead of waiting decorously on the wharf. The pair were absolutely ruined financially; the hospital appointment had long since passed into other hand, and none other was vacant: they were six hundred pounds in debt, for the travelling and such doctoring had been ruinous! there was a baby of nine weeks to tie Meg's hands.
Bat they only laaghed at things like then, now that thagveat cloads were gone. 11 As long M I ran Bee what I'm fighting," Mid Alan, as he got into harness again, " I rather enjoy the feeling of having to hit oat. Only I'd like things to have been soft for you." "As long aa you can see what you're fighting," said Meg stoutly, '• 1 don't care a ?trawif things are hard as nailf-iao long asj we ran keep a soft cushion for baby." . Bat it hart Misrule and the Oourtneys, and' the old friends of the family, to see them •teuggliog. Many advised that they should go ?till deeper into debt, and start straight away In a good house, entertain, and live generally 111 the style one expects from a successful «ootor. • But that terrible six-hundred pound debt Mds them shrink from more; four Jwndred aid Mr. Courtney had lent, and was in some what straitened circumstances for want of it; two hundred Major Wooloot had advanced, and would be very glad to have back again in in those ever-gaping coffers of his. There coald be no question, therefore, of toying a practice; the little mousy in hand, apart from the hoped-for-tees, would have to ace them over more than one cold year perhaps. Bat in that untempting honse in that long monotonous terraoe at Bedbank a doctor—of a kind—had long lived, and though to had sold his praotiee when h« left, and &c Jtayer had set up in a handsome hoosa on the fcisjlii of the hUI, stiU. some one starting in the«ame plaoa might gather perhaps a trifle of from the association. , They toaghf nothing bat the absolutely moasnarj articles of furniture for the rooms— jnstaome plain equipments for In* consulting• room, and chairs, tables and beds tor thsar «• There's the first note of the hatUe," AJm laid, when, the second day after their arrival, (he clang of tools reached them to tell that the Wghtly-polUhed brass-plate was being fastened to the front door. "Hasn't it got a triumphant sound?? Meg answered. (To be continued.)