|Chapter Title||MEG ON THE MOUNTAINS|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||More about Misrule|
MORE ABOUT MISRULE. *
CHAPTER XXII.—Meg on the Mountains.
By ETHEL TURNER.
Then was the western mail so much the heavier by reason of the letters going up to Meg's retreat and coming down. " Up among the clouds,
" 16th Nov. " Here we are," wrote Meg to Alan, " safely arrived and housed and rested. Laddie stood the journey well, though the train was packed; and he drank all his milk when we got here, and even made an attempt to gnaw one of his old favourite biscuits. May I let him eat them if he will ? And shall I give him the brown medicine ? " Dear one, I am ashamed of being a coward. I am 'twite good again. So much was granted to us at Heidelberg I meant never to grow dis- trustful again all my life. And now I know my tiny darling will grow better fast, and be our own saucy, jolly boy again in no time. And the months will pass, and I shall come back to my sweet, ugly little terrace home again, and we shall all live happily to the end of our days. "It is the living apart—you and I whom God joined together—that has to me such a terrifying aspect; that dulls my heart and makes me unwilling to know the date, and so remind myself how far off is the end of the summer. And yet how babyish that sounds. There is a woman here at the boarding-house, quite young yet, and her husband has been two years away in Western Australia ! There is a woman here, and her husband has gone to England. There are two or three women here come up for the whole season, and they say, as a matter of course, that they will not see their husbands for months. And none of them seem to think themselves very 'lone lorne critters.' It won't do, will it, to say like Mrs. Gummidge,' It is worse for me than any of you, I feel it more. ?' " But, ah, Laddie, Laddie, there never were any two just as much to each other as we are; just as absolutely necessary to each other, were there? I might go without my lover a little time perhaps—only perhaps—but see, I have lost my chum to. If it were only my chum away—but to do without my brother also! And sister and mother yet again. And father of my tender like babe, and doctor to his poor little needs ! Did you know you were all of these things—all and more ? That is why I feel sure it is worse for me than for these other women, and that I do ' feel it more.' I know they have just got plain husbands. " Dear one, do write and promise me never to go out in the early morning, or when you come in tired—even to an urgent case—without coffee or something. If Lizzie is not up, you can make it in five minutes yourself on the gas-ring with coffee essence. Or make cocoa, it will be even better. I lie and worry over the thought of you rushing off, when you are tired out, to some horrid infectious case, or else coming back with a chill that will turn into pneumonia. Oh, why, why are you a doctor? Why aren't you a nice respectable grocer or draper, able to put up your shutters on the world at the end of a day, and sit by your fire for the evening, and loaf and invite your soul ? " I got the books and magazines safely—you made a lovely selection. " Boy in just waking, so I must take him up. I am sure there is more colour in his cheeks already. " Good-bye, my lover, my own husband, my dear, dear laddie. "Your very own " Wife." " Dearest Nell, "No, on no account—no, no, no—I am managing splendidly. All the same, thank father very, very much for offering to lend you to me. I quite realise the amount of domestic discomfort he was ready to expose himself to to part with you while Esther is still away. Of course I got away from the hotel as soon as possible it was three guineas a week! I am only paying twenty-five shillings where I am, and it is quite comfortable. You can guess the kind of place, for you have been up here— a weather-board cottage with an iron roof, and a garden with a few red dahlias and some cos- mea in it; the boarding-house keepers are far too busy to have a moment in the summer to think of gardens. I have a clean little bed- room, which is all I ask. "The dining-room—well, it is of the old familiar pattern in these parts, rejoicing in the class of decoration that I suppose came to fill up the gap when the early Victorian wax flowers and fruit under shades began to go out. One of those wonderful coloured-paper affairs hangs from the ceiling—rosettes and streamers, and so on; I've never been very clear whether these are meant as fly-traps, or mammoth shaving-balls, or lamp shades,—do yon know? Item, a vase of dyed Pampas grass; item, a pyramid of sea-eggs; item, two ornate clocks, stopped, of course; item, coloured glass vases, never filled with flowers; item, a cheap plaster figure of a fat girl on tip-toe, with the corner of her dress in her hand, and the word 'Spring' wickedly carved on it to account for her; item, wall-pockets made of perforated cardboard, and palm fans, also with pockets on them, empty of every- thing, of course, but dust; item, a jar covered with bits of broken china; item,' crazy patch- work' cushions. " The mantelpiece and fireplace are swathed and draped with an inconceivable number of yards of art muslin trimmed with irrelevant tassel fringes. "Oh, to be a new Savonarola, and with burning words persuade the owners of rooms like this to bring out all their fripperies and meaningless ornamentations, and cast them on a bonfire!—I am writing on and on, just for the urgent need of talking to some one. At the best of times I never make friends easily, and in my present mood I simply can't be interested in the other women here, or even
* The sole right of serial publication in Queensland has been secured by the pro- prietors of the "Queenslander."
talk to them much. They are all in the above- described dining-room, and three of them are doing shadow-work, pillow-shams and mats, and the other is reading aloud— ' Family Herald.' S0 I'm writing on the dressing-table by Boy's bedside, and I have no doubt whatever they are congratulating themselves that that silent, soar-tempered Mrs. Courtney has taken herself off to bed. And yet I'm lonely, horribly lonely and homesick- though you needn't tell Alan so. The night silences on the mountain are like no other silences I know. And I sit and sit, watching Baby sleeping, fancying he is looking paler and mere wasted; fancying, with a throbbing heart, that he is hardly breathing at all, that something has happened, till if a moth flutters in the room, or the window creaks, I could shriek aloud. " I had a long, bright letter from Esther yesterday; she says Yarrahappini is looking its loveliest, and they are all combining to spoil her; that she lies in one of the hammocks on the veranda nearly all day, and Peter and Essie vie with each other who shall go down the orchard most often and bring her the biggest peach or apricot, and that she has been forced, owing to the flesh being weak, albeit the spirit willing, to establish a bag, ostensibly for sewing, but really to surreptitiously receive these perpetual contributions of fruit which they aver will 'make you feel quite strong and well and want to jump about like us.' "I am very glad she is having such a rest: Nell, I often think we haven't half appreciated dear old Esther as we ought to have done. Just think of her as she was when she ' married us'—twenty, and hardly a wish denied her in all her life; she was the very apple of their eyes, you know; and then to take to a rampageous lot like we were ! Why there are times when I feel as if with my little house and one baby I have too much to do; and she had six of us—we were horrid little wretches too, I'm sure—and her own baby, and big Misrule and careless servants, and father, who is very much more 'difficult' than Alan ; and yet how bright and full of fun she has always been—always entering into all our games and our troubles as if she had been one of us. Since I have had my own little home, and the sweet privacy of life with just us two and the little third, I think I have realised that her lines were not cast in very pleasant places; and yet I've never heard her grumble once— have you? At least, just once. Do you remember years and years ago we had all been up to some mischief or other—l know Bunty had spoiled father's uniform, and Judy had done something or other with the scythe, and all the rest of us something equally bad? Father was frightfully angry I remember, and after he had gone shs just dropped down in the rocking-chair and burst out crying; and she sobbed, 'Seven of you and I'm only twenty, it is too bad—seven of you ! Oh dear, it is too bad !' "She has the sweetest, sunniest, loveliest nature of any woman I ever knew or heard of. "Well, no more of my scribble to night, dear girl. 'Mister Son' has opened his eyes, and yawned, and kicked all the clothes off, which is a signal that his bondslave is to set to work hard and prepare his last meal. By the way, could you spare me the little old Primus stove that used to stand in the second pantry ? I must be a fearful nuisance to these people, penetrating into their kitchen to boil the milk, and yet Boy must be fed punctually, and the spirit stove is so very slow. If you can unearth it—in my day Martha used it chiefly for keep- ing a plate of dinner warm for late-comers— pack it up and send at once. Bunty or Pip would take it to the station and book it to me. " Tell me all the home news, dearest, I do long so for post time. " Ever your sister, Meg." "Yarrahappini. " Dear old Meg (wrote Peter),— " I hope the nipper's getting on. I nearly shot a kangaroo yesterday, only Essie went and made a row. Girls are no good to take out hunting. I'll teach the nipper how to shoot and ride and do things—don't you let any one else teach him, 'cause I pick to. There's an old blackfellow here what smokes and smokes, and he tells me about all the bush- rangers what he's killed. He's killed thirty, that's a good lot, isn't it? When I'm as big as Pip I'm going to have a real repeating-rifle— this one grandpa lent me isn't much good—and I'm going to kill bushrangers all the time. I'm learning on rabbits, and I'll kill a good lot when Essie stops coming out with me. I'll make a rug of the skin for the nipper to crawl on. " Essie and me went up the hill on Sunday to see Judy. It makes you feel pretty bad to feel you were the one she saved, and if it hadn't been for you she could have been having fun and running about instead of lying lonely like that up there. I wish I could do some- thing for her. I did mend the white fence, and I swept up all the leaves, and weeded the grass, and gave her all the roses I could find in the garden, but that is nothing to what she did for me. " Yours truly, "Peter." "Redbank. " My Wife, my Darling, my own Darling,— "That is grand news about the boy. I felt certain the mountain air would set him right. Continue the medicine another week, and then I think yon can try him without it; and after this don't peptonise the food any longer. Kiss him for his daddie. The house looks very empty with his perambulator gone from the hall, and the cradle from the bed- room. I don't have to remove a rattle and a big shell, and some empty cotton-reels and a stuffed doll, from my chair now when I go to sit down. But I think I miss the wobbly duck the most—breakfast is indeed a desolate meal now there is no one in a high chair trying hard to give a dissipated india-rubber duck a drink out of my cup by dipping its head in. " Darling, you musn't trouble about me. I look after myself no end, and Poppet—why Poppet is better than forty aunts to me. I've never been the subject of such anxious care in all my life before. The door bell has hardly gone before she is in the room with a boiling- hot cup of coffee, and my leggings and um-
brella and mackintosh, if it is at all like rain. ' Yes, you must put them on—for Meg's sake, ' she says, and I give you my word I've worn the blessed things twice when there was no need, just to set her mind at rest. We have sur- prisingly nice things to eat—does the little witch cook them herself? Or is Lizzie in a conspiracy to ' tempt my appetite' ?—they both only giggle when I inquire. The only thing that troubles me is I don't like the child to worry herself so; she ought to be out of doors playing about, instead of sitting deep in Mrs. Beeton, or hovering about to see if the waiting room is guiltless of dust, or feeling my singlets when they come from the wash to see if they are aired, and looking preternaturally grave and responsible all the time. Write to her and tell her not to make such a little Martha of herself; she won't listen to me. "Do you know it is to Bunty I owe the fact that the Saville cheques come to me instead of Harnett. Of course I didn't learn this from the boy—it's not his way to talk, is it ?—but Poppet had gathered it from him, and she told me as a secret the other night. When Nellie sent him for a doctor the day Enid was burnt he got his bicycle and started off for Harnett; and then Poppet says he thought I ' ought to have a show,' and he also felt sure 'that fellow Harnett' wouldn't do her any good. So to make up for going the extra mile to me while she was waiting, the lad nearly killed himself, he rode so hard. 'Rode like mad up the Red Hill,' Poppet said—' and you know how it makes your heart beat even to go slowly— and then tore down the other side so hard he couldn't have stopped for long enough even if he'd wanted. And he knocked a boy down—it didn't hurt him—and nearly ran over a dog; and a p'leeceman ran after him, but he got to you as quickly as any one else could have got to that horrid Dr. Harnett, who gets all the people.' I remember now how he fell down in the hall frightfully done up, and how a constable came after him and wanted to take his name, but went off satisfied when he heard how urgent the case was. Wasn't it decent of the lad ? I shan't soon forgot it. "By the way, I hope young Nell knows what she is doing. Or does a woman ever quite know ? Twynam haunts Misrule; I have found him two or three nights just walking up and down outside the gate—as once I walked. If I go there to tea, I find him there—Nell generally says, as excuse, they simply had to ask him as he stayed so long in the afternoon. If Nell goes to town, he goes to town too. I hope the child is not playing with him—he is one of the decentest fellows I know ; yet he is not the kind of man I ever, thought would attract her. " Saville's cheque for this quarter came yesterday, fifty pounds. It seems a good deal of money, but I have the consciousness that I do honestly earn it; I give the child a couple of hours every day. And I am more than pleased with her; she surpasses my most sanguine hope. In another year or two she would have caught quite up to other girls of her age, and there won't be a whit of difference between them. Indeed, now that it is clear and well, it seems to me a particularly strong, eager little mind the child has ; she may make a clever woman yet. Poor Saville's delight in her is quite touching. "I shall hand the fifty pounds straight over to your father—that chips off still another piece of our millstone, darling; I wonder what we shall feel like when we are swimming with out it—ready to play water leap-frog, I imagine. "Perhaps at the end of next month I shall ran up to you for the Sunday. " Oh, Girlie, Girlie, it will out. The place is like a world with the sun gone out. I miss you inexpressibly every moment I am in the house; and when I am out I have all the time the dull sense hanging over me that you are not there—that when I go back and open the door I shall find that all the place is dark, ' And all the chambers emptied of delight.' " And yet the separation has done one thing —made me realise how intensely and entirely I love you. When you were close at hand, and there was Little Boy with us wanting our incessant care, there seemed no time, no place, to stand back and look at love as a thing apart; I just knew you were very, very dear, and very necessary to me. But this absence has stirred all the old, deep feelings I used to have for you when you were sweet Meg at Misrule, and the sound of your voice, or the gleam of your white dress in the old garden made my heart throb with a feeling that was almost pain. "My Meg, my bride, my wife, good-night! " 'The Lord watch between thee and me While we are absent from one another. "Alan" (To be continued.)