Chapter 21625637

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberIII
Chapter TitleA Doctrine of Colour.
Chapter Url
Full Date1902-07-05
Page Number17
Word Count3951
Last Corrected2010-07-28
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleMore about Misrule
article text



CHAPTER III.—A Doctrine of Colour.


"Well, and if none of these good things came, What did the failure prove?" Something seemed sticking in Nell's

throat this afternoon as she looked round the brave little home Meg had already con- trived, and noticed the lack of even the most ordinary necessities. The front up- stairs room was half drawing-room, half study. " You see people may call," Meg said gravely, " so I have had to sacrifice some conveniences to convenances. I could have had it shabbier and more comfortable if I had been certain no one would come." "It looks very comfortable." Nellie faltered, and fell to praising some book- shelves Alan had made. The velvet carpet of the first drawing- room was only a memory now ; this floor was merely painted a dull shade of green, and varnished, as Meg had often seen the floors in Denmark and Germany. A rug or two took off the chilly effect. There were a few comfortable rattan chairs, a little table or two, and the furnishings of the room were books and photographs and some of Misrule's royalty of flowers. In the bedrooms it was the same ; of ordinary furniture there was absolutely nothing but the bedsteads. Packing-cases, concealed beneath pretty frilled covers, answered the purposes of dressing-tables, washstands, clothes-cupboards. The dining-room was in the basement, so cheerless a place on first view that even Meg's spirits had received a check. But that floor she painted dull red, and put some bold gleams of colour about, and with a picture or two, a bowl of warm-coloured chrysanthemums, photographs, and odd- ments, the effect was no longer depressing. " Colour is so much, isn't it ?" she said, noting Nellie's eye that only looked at the things it might approve of, and seemed not to see the spaces where furniture should be. " And the drabber life pro- mises to be the more we want of it. I'm sure our mutton-chops taste better with those bits of red and gold and blue to catch our eyes when we look up from our plates. " "I'm quite sure they do," Nell said. " I think it was sweet of you to think of it, Meg. Some girls would have been so miserable at seeing all their pretty things sold, they would not have troubled like you have done." " Oh," said Meg, " that sort of thing has become quite a creed with me. Some day I shall go into the highways—meaning by that all the most depressing, wretched, little streets I can find—and preach a doc- trine of colour to the women and girls." " They would only apply it to their hats," said Pip, who had just come in and bestowed a greeting kiss on the top of Meg's fair head. " Poor things," Meg said ; " I never condemn the most dreadful hats I see on public holidays. I always feel there must be such a terrible amount of gray and drab in the background of the picture to have induced the little burst of brilliance. But I should tackle the middle-aged wo- men chiefly with my colour scheme, and the young mothers—more especially the young mothers." " I'll come with you and preach some saving clauses about cleanliness," laughed Pip. " Your women would run riot, carried away by your ideas, and rush home and hang red art muslin over the dirty patches on the wall that need a scrubbing-brush more than anything." 'Well, perhaps, I'll take you with me,"   Meg said : " there might be that danger. I do know I'd rather bring brightness and cleanliness into the dun-coloured homes of our own country, than undertake the most promising mission to the heathen Chinese." Pip pushed a chair forward. "Up you get," he said ; " the orator is worthy of his stump. I suppose the infant is the cause of all this eloquence ?"   Meg laughed and sat down comfortably on the proffered stump. " Forgive me," she said ; " yes, I suppose it is Baby. Some way when you have children you get a feel- ing of an odd sort of responsibility for the poor old world. What have you got there Youth ?"   Pip was taking the wrappings off a brightly-coloured picture-book, a Noah's Ark, and a little horse on wheels. " For the kid." he said ; " I saw them in a window as I came along, and thought the little chap could amuse himself with them when you were busy." A tear sprang to Meg's eye, though her mouth worked with a laugh. Pip was serving his articles in a solicitor's office, and had the smallest of salaries in the meantime, yet he had never yet paid her a visit without bringing "something for the kid." His first gift, sent when perhaps the child was six weeks old, was a box of soldiers and a tin train. " But you dear, ridiculous old fellow," Meg said, "Little Boy could as easily play with the moon as these things. You mustn't waste your money on him till he is older and gets a spine and thumbs. He can't even pick anything up yet." " Oh." said Pip, " you give him the chance. I bet you he'll start to pull the horse about as soon as he sees it, and stand the animals in twos. Well, I'll go down and have a smoke with Alan, I told him I'd be back in a second." But before he could turn away the door opened, and there entered two dripping, wet atoms, Peter, with Essie held by the hand, and Alan behind. "What on earth!" began Meg, with startled eyes. Peter and Essie only looked at each other and giggled. " Peter !" cried Meg. "Essie! What Is the matter, what have you been doing ?" " Peter !" cried Nellie. " Essie ! Oh, I will never trust you again, never." The sole right of serial publication in   Queensland has been secured by the pro- prietors of the, " Queenslander."      

"I told Lizzie to light the water-heater,"   Alan said, "Get their clothes off, Meg, and see what's happened when they've had a hot bath and a drink." The story, however, came out during the process. Bunty was building a canoe in the Mis- rule boatshed ; true, it was not by any means finished, and he would have thought twice before he had gone a hundred yards in it himself at its present stage, but in this craft the two children had actually voyaged across the river. The current had been favourable, and Peter had been able to make a certain amount of way with the short paddle, but the passage took some time. " We were as right as rain," said Peter, " and we'd got right up to that white wharf, the one before this one, and then what must that little idiot Essie do but tip out into the water." Essie buried her nose in Meg's shoulder. " I was just letting Mussie put her footies in the water, and I let go of her," she whispered. And the excuse had to be taken. "'Mussie" was a purple and pink cow, per- haps four inches long, that the child had kept and loved devotedly since she was 3. She took it to bed with her, it was in her pocket in school hours, it stood pati- ently beside her plate at every meal ; there had even been a Sunday when Nellie, look- ing up at church from her prayers to shake her head at Peter, who was giggling audi- bly, had been forced to smile herself, for there was Mussie on a spare hassock be- side little kneeling Essie, Mussie reared up in a devotional attitude, with his purple   head resting piously on an opened prayer- book. And Mussie being overboard, what wonder the distracted Essie leaned reck- lessly over the side, and finally " tipped out" ? Peter, a ridiculous object, with Baby's shawl around him, was having his head well scrubbed with a bath towel. "Of course I had to get in after the young idiot," he said, " You neederent," said Essie ; " I can swim's well as you." " Well, you squealed hard enough," Peter said. "My newest frock was getting wet," said Essie, with dignity. Peter giggled. "Wasn't it a lark with   the gentleman ?" he said. Essie giggled. "As if we'd get drownded when we was close to the wharf like that." It seemed a gentleman, who had been smoking in one of the gardens that ran down to the water, had heard Essie's first shriek, and and rushed headlong down to their assistance. When he arrived on the wharf, however, both the children had swum to the side, and he had nothing to do but give them a hand up. Their pre- sence of mind and excellent swimming im- pressed him, however ; when they refused to come up to the house and be dried, al- leging that they could run to their sister's as quickly, he put his hand in his pocket and brought out a sovereign for each of   them.                   "That's because you've learnt to swim," he said ; " you have really saved me a great deal of trouble. I should have felt obliged to jump in after you, and then rub you both to life again if you hadn't swum in so well." Nothing could show the children the wrongfulness of their act. They kept gaz- ing at their gold with lustrous eyes; in all their lives before they had never been presented with anything greater than half a-crown. " We can get our tricycles now," Peter chuckled, " and we've waited a simply aw- ful time for them." Essie's thoughts traversed back, too, over   the months they had longed ardently for these things.   " What a pity we never tipped over be- fore she said regretfully.    

CHAPTER IV.—Misrule on Wheels. Pip's was the first bicycle in the family, and Major Woolcot had never grudged the twenty pounds he paid for it. For as he grew to man's estate Pip seemed to forget the stable had been built and stocked expressly for his father's bene- fit. He had a genial way of saddling Ma- zeppa or Mopoke and going off for a long ride early on Sunday morning, returning at dinner-time, flushed with the exercise, and saying, " You really ought to have gone out, governor—it was a perfect morn- ing." " I should have gone," the Major would return coldly, " only you had taken Mo- poke." And the next week Pip would take Mazeppa, and then it would fall out that the Major had intended to use that steed. Moreover, all the time the boy was out the Major would fume and fret about the place. He knew how it would be—the young beggar would bring the poor brute home lame. He knew what it would be —Mopoke would be in a latber when she came back, and would get another chill. He knew what it would be—that boy would force Mazeppa at a fence he could not take, and would bring him back with broken knees. None of these things ever happened, but the Major was prepared for them every week, and Esther and the household were the suffer- ers for every ride. Then Alan invested in a bicycle for his rounds, being quite unable to keep a horse and buggy. And Andrew followed suit, and Pip learned to ride this machine and occa- sionally borrowed it. " By Jove," he said one day, when he and his father were looking at the horses, " Mopoke's eating her head off ; I'll have to take it out of her an Sunday." " Shes all right," said his father jealous- ly ; "I don't want her ridden to death. Work off your spirits on that bicycle you were trying the other day." " It's Andrew Courtney's," Pip said gloomily. " 'He's going off on a tour with, some other fellows. Lucky dog !" The Major looked at him narrowly. "You don't mean to tell me you'd rather ride a bicycle than a horse ?" he said. " Wouldn't I, though !" said Pip, who had been used to horses always, and was full of the newer craze. The Major could hardly credit his ears. " You mean to say if you had a bicycle of your own you wouldn't want to use my horses ?" he said,

" Not I," said Pip, scenting a victory he had never thought of fighting for. "If I could have afforded a bike when Andrew got his, Mopoke wouldn't have feltt my weight all these Sundays that she has   done."   " How much are these bicycles ?" said the Major cautiously. Pip flicked at a fly that was haunting Mazeppa's nose. " Andy gave twenty-five pounds for his," he said; "but that's rather stiff. Alan's was twelve pounds, but   his tires were a good way from new. Still, it's easy to pick up a good second- hand one if you know your way about." The Major rubbed Mopoke's pleasant nose thoughtfully. Of late the worry he had felt about Pip riding his horses had almost determined him to buy him a mount of his own. He would never realise that this son of his was grown up and beyond his schoolboy tricks ; indeed, he never got over an uneasy feeling that, if left un- watched, his eldest son might "shy a cricket ball" and lame a horse, as Bunty had done on one memorable occasion. He had even, with an eye to providing the boy with something that would keep him off the backs of Mopoke and Mazeppa, looked at a horse a brother officer wanted to sell for twenty pounds. But then the stables would need enlarging, and the feed bill was already a very serious one. Pip's bicycle enthusiasm seemed a marvellous solving of the problem. " Are you sure you wouldn't get tired of it in a week, and want to go bock to the horses ?" he said. He had a curious con- tempt and distrust for bicycles himself. " Tired of it !" said Pip. " You just try me." So the Major handed over a cheque for twenty pounds, and Pip haunted all the bicycle shops in town, and brought home piles of catalogues, and was heard to speak of nothing for a fortnight but gears and sprockets and tires, free-wheels, and chain-   less machines. Finally a selection was   made ; a glittering Swallow came home to Misrule, and one person in the world was perfectly happy. Then Bunty caught the fever.   Pip was not particularly selfish, but it was too severe a strain on his patience to, see a young brother clumsily handling his tenderly-cared-for machine, and making   wild essays to ride it round the paths. High words were heard several times between them, Pip having discovered al- most invisible scratches on the enamel or the nickel, and Bunty contending that they were far more likely caused by Pip, who; had ridden it forty miles the day before, than he, Bunty, who had merely taken a   turn round the lawn. " And smashed into a fence once and a tree twice on the way," Pip would say: scathingly. " Look at the handle-bars ; they're twisted, I'm certain."   One morning as his father was just rid-   ing off to barracks, Bunty touched his el-   bow and presented a sheet of paper. On it was a column of careful figures. The first entry had to do with the enormous and ex- tortionate charge of the quarterly boat   ticket, and the additional tram fares neces- sitated by the distance between Misrule and the college where Bunty was supposed to be preparing for the University. The document, to be precise, ran as fol- lows :— Moneys obtained by extortion from Major Wool- cot for the school travelling of his son John : To one quarter's boat ticket by the slow old river tub, which wastes no end of valuable time that should be given to Euelid and the classics ....................................£1 19s. 6d. (And it'll be more soon, for I can't get a school ticket when I start to the University.) To one quarter's tram tickets ......... 13s. 0d. (And this may be much more any day, for the tram is so crowded I always have to hang on to the platform, and so make you run the risk of paying a doctor's bill for me.)     Total drain for the quarter on Major Woolcot's pocket, exclusive of risks............. £2 12s. 0d. .Or for five years the enormous mini of £52 0s 0d. AGAINST THIS Set the following facts:— Down at Hewett's the bicycle mender's there's   a first-rate little machine going for the ridiculous sum of £9 0s. 0d. Thus in five years, after the one outlay, the sum left over in Major Woolcot's pocket for in- vestment at 7 per cent (if he can get it) will be ............£43 0s. 0d. ADVANTAGES. Splendid, healthy exercise every day, instead of being mewed up in a dirty old boat and a stuffy tram.   N.B.—(Giles, our drill sergeant, says I need more exercise.) Machine always at hand if you want a message taken into Sydney, or Esther needs anything in a hurry from the grocer's, or the children are taken dangerously ill in the night. The document departed in its last line from its business-like character. It said, " Go on, pater," and the very black writing of the three words gave them such an urgent look that the Major " went on." Bunty, coming home for tea that same evening, found on his plate an envelope in his father's writing. He tore it open, trembling, and a cheque for nine pounds burnt his hand and made his head swim. On the envelope flap was written, " With thanks for your unusual and considerate interest in my expendi- ture.—J. Woolcot. P.S.—Get Pip or some one to go and have a look at it." Pip went, distrustful of such a price. But saw, and was conquered. " A remark- ably good little machine for the money, and very little used," was his verdict, and Bunty tossed on his narrow bed all night, and could hardly wait for Saturday's dawn to come and let him free to rush down to the shop, cheque, in hand, and wrest the machine from the man's posses- sion. Martha gave him a plate of porridge and some toast in the kitchen, seeing he would not hear of waiting until orthodox break- fast time. " But look you here," she said, " and be warned in time—if you go and take my tea- towels and glass-cloths to clean the nasty, dirty thing like Mr. Philip does, I'll smash it with the axe, or my name's not Martha Tomlinson." (Poor Martha, it was, alas, that name still ; Malcolm, in honest desire to alter it, had even gone off to Western Australia to see what might be done there, but fate was against him, and he was back in Syd- ney again waiting with Micawber-like cheerfulness for something to turn up.) Bunty was quite willing to promise. " Anything will do for me," Tie said, " your afternoon aprons, or a nice soft blouse — I'm not particular, bless your soul !"

"And just let me see you setting your greasy oil-can down on my clean dresser like Mr. Philip did—just let me see it, that's all," cautioned Martha.   "Just, let me see you using my bottle of oil for your old salad dressing, that's all," said Bunty. "And boiling his dirty old keroseny,   chain in the little milk-saucepan, the new   enamel double saucepan. 'An' it'll wash, keep your hair on,'sez he. And didn't     I srub and scour with sandstone and oar- bolic for a week, and then the first time I put the milk in again didu't the master tear and rage round the table and ask had I emptied a lamp over the porridge ? An' isn't it standing there in the scullery still no good to no one?"   " That's a throw in, " said Bunty. " I shall want something to boil my chain in." Then Poppet came bursting in, strug- gling with the buttoning behind of her clean holland frock as she came. Of course she was to go with Bunty to "help choose," but equally of course he had ap- propriated first bath and she had been un- able to catch up till now. " Late as usual." he said, buttering him- self a fresh slice of toast ; " never saw such things as girls. Here, come here, what are you trying to do—does it go in this button ? Well, stand still. There, see what you've made me do now." He had reached carelessly over the table to get at the buttoning, and his cup of cocoa went to make a flood on the clean kitchen table. Martha, always somewhat     "Surly through getting up early !   And tempers are short in the morning,"   came down upon them heavily. " Two breakfasts being got ready, one in the nursery and one in the breakfast-room, and here two of you come worriting me for another. No, you can just clear out of this, Miss Poppet ; I'm not going to have you dirtying up my table, you can just wait till the proper time." " Oh, Martha, dear Martha —just a scrap of porridge—I must go with Bunty," en- treated Poppet. " Not a scrap," said Martha ; " serve you both just right to have to wait—look at that table." Bridget, filling the hot-water cans, prof- fered consolation. "Why the shop won't be open, Master John," she said. " Why can't you both wait and have your breakfastses comfortable and go off quietly after ?" "And let another fellow get there first, and take my machine ! I see myself," said   Bunty. " Once people get a scent of what a bargain it is the traffic will be stopped   with every one rushing to buy it." " Faith, it's my experience there's a-   ways a better bargain still round the cor-   ner," said Bridget, departing with her cans,   for Pip's voice could be heard from the   stairtop demanding his shaving-water. " What's Malcolm doing down at the stables as early as this ?" said Bunty. "Malcolm !" cried the amazed Martha.   " Why he was to have gone to that new place this morning—what can it mean ?" She put down the bacon she was cutting; and knife in hand stalked off to demand of   her lover why he was missing another chance. "Here, you'll have to look sharp—where's a plate ?" said Bunty. "Is that enough or can you eat more." " Heaps," said Poppet, and seized the plateful of porridge he had ladled from the saucepan on the stove, poured milk upon it, and swallowed it in choking haste. "Take a drink." Bunty proffered an enamelled mug, and Poppet drank a scald- ing mouthful or two. "We can eat our toast as we go—come on ; we'd better cut at once, here she is coming back and she'll   want to throw the saucepans at us." (To be continued.)