|Chapter Title||XX A Marriage Made in Wooma, XXI The Wedding|
|Newspaper Title||The Australian Star|
|Trove Title||Dolph Meldrum's Wooing|
DOLPH MELDRUM’S WOOING.
An Australian Story.
By Mrs. BALDWIN HODGE.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.!
CHAPTER XX. !' A- Mabbiaob Maps ik Wooma.
They stood together. The man who ayorrca in bittornoen that his wan but death i in life and tho woman who listened patiently to Ills plaint with that pity that is akin to lovo. . . It was M chimin's first day abroad, and tho
young widow was his escort, partly by unit oi cir cumstances and partly through Nitas manage ment, She had worked llai'd — after conning over si- lontly tho dosirability of it— to bring, about some thing closer tlinn more friendship botwocn tho two, and Hope whispered she was succeeding. Iler stay in Wooma was limited to the term of her brother's illness, and alio wished to bring mut ters to some sort of a climax before tlio term end- od. Her subjects were difficult ones to dcnl with. Though during tho weeks tho two were thrown so .much together alio lenrnod instiiictivoly that Dolpli possessed tlio power to revive in tlio widow's heart a second and lasting love. But Dolpli in full possession of all his faculties would ho hard to manage and mould to lior — Nita's— way of thinking, wliilo Dolpli, dcuf, becanio a wooden image, Clumsy and almost unmanageable in her bunds.' . She counted the ininntos as she surreptitiously watched them from the window with her young son in lior arms. She frowned, and muttered tho word " Dolt" us lie took with unstudied indifio- ronco the attention of tho handsome woman at his Bide. Tlion she sighed as alio remcmbored convorso between tiio two was impossible!. . "What has ho done," alio asked her baby, "to bo so aitlictcd ? It's all owing to his goodness ami his trusting nature. Otherwise she could novor liave foaled him twico. I liuto hot — hato her— tho horrid tiling. . If slio were lioro I'd tell her so. ' They turned their faces towards the house. T|ioy were strolling through tlio well-kept garden on tho left sido of the houso. Compared with the tall woll-bullt healthy woman at his sido his ap pearance was appalling, Tlio thin tiguro and nor mally lean fuco looked haggard and worn, and liono but a sister— or lover— could see itny beauty in tho large grey eyes sot so far back in tho sallow face. "It makes my heart ache, Willio," she whis pered, kissing her baby's soft chock. " I must writo and toll father all about it to-night. He miist spare ns longer, my pot." She urow away from the window— she did not wish him to see lior there— anil 'busied herself with her baby's ribbons and laces until they caino to hor. When they came Blie moved to meet tlicm, holding hor baby up for his relative's admiration. A weak sniila was the only token of it, and, with tear-filled eyoa that wero known only to Lena and herself, she wont out to givo her treasure to his hired nurse, saying apologetically, "Ho is such u good fellow ; I cannot liolp my tears. Dolpli, naturally unobservant, saw nothing. As Lena turned back to him, ready as ever to pro mote liis comfort, as though an old friend iitul not an almost stronger, it occurred to him— all hor . kindness. . . "Mrs, Edgaru," ho said ; "the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm and yourself amazes mc. I, a stranger, have done nothing to descrvo so much at your hands. I— I— " 'The words ciuno brokonly, and she, knowing words tvoro nothing to hint, and tlio break-down ol his composure, duo to physical and mental unrest, was inovittiblo, and a3 painful for lilni to know shn hchcUl it, as for her to behold it, site pattod his hand soothingly and left him. ; III tho doorway she mat Nitn. " Come with mo," she whispered. " Ho will be , boat alone in his trouble." Nitn, poor excited Nita.was in tears— stormy hystarical tears, that Lona know nothing of, hut pitied tlio weeper none tlio less bacauso of her ignorance. , .'She put hor arniB around liar auil they two clung together. " Oh ! " said Nitn, between her tears. . " If only ho had never roturnad to I'almorstou— and Been that woman." " JIu— sh," whispered Lona. " Wo douot know." " Hud lie mot some good woman hoforo— a woman liko you, who might have loved him and cared for him, Lena." The women, in twenty-eight days' frcindship, had come to "Nila"an and leurnod to lovo each other. " He is such a good fellow, so trusting, so unsolfioli, I would givo anything to seo him married to soino strong, good woman. Four follow ! nil hope of that is gone now ; his life is spoilt." And Lona, oil' guard because of lior companion's tears, sqid with a dark-Hushed cnuntcnanco that told tearful, quick-sighted Nita a welcome aecrot — " A woman who loved him and whom ho loved would not' lot his afiiiction part them." "Some women would," she replied. "But I would not let it separate mo if 1 loved a man — ovon if his kuowledge that it might do so kept him ailent. Dolpli would novor — Buttliere ! no woman is likely to fall in lovo with tho poor follow; ho is only a shadow of his formur self. Lona said nothing, but her hot cheoks as thoy touched hers gavo Nita hopes of brighter days, . Presently they separated. " You return to him," said tho widow. " I will boo if cook has anything ready for him." . At Nita's approach Meldruin looked up. Nitn, in hor usual open style, wont up to him nnd would liavo sheltered him in a sisterly 0111- Ijrnce, but lie would not have it. "It is time, Nita," ho said in a hoarse voice that lie meant to sound practical, " that we began to give over repining, and looked things in tho face. I cannot go on living hero with people that are nothing to mil. I must arrange my life as I must live it." Nitn took a small tablet — one of four Lona had got for tho uso of Malcolm, motlior and fatlior, Nitn' and herself — and wrote on it. " Tho doctor says your ense, is not hopoloss, al though somewhat peculiar." " " Hopeless enough to spoil my life." : " Not if you do not givo up liopo," sho wroto. "Hopo'l ' ho echoed harshly. "Where does Hope como in 7" " A good woman waits to mako you happy, and you aro too egotistical to look at her," bIio wroto. Wliilo he read slio watched his face. ,A frown gathered on it. "If you knew what I had lately gono through through my own folly, and my regret over my blindness, you would not mock mo." . " You wore blind to a coquotto's fickloness ; do Jiot be blind to a good woman's goodness— her life, liko yours, has neon broken," wrote Nita in hor quick, sprawly hand. Ho made no reply, and Nita loft Jiim to find I Lona, if possiblo, and work hor up to a dcsirablo 1
stato' of, mind to fit in if possible with Dolph's sol toned mood, Without intention she mud tho ypry .thing -her good judgment told her would bo wrong to say, but which luckily was tho means of furthering her wishes. ' " Oh I Lonu, Lena, ho is going away. Ho lovos you, und it rests only with you to mako him stay." " You should not spoak so to me," cumo tho cold words. " You havo spoiled ull — . I cannot go—, ion— . Pleuso: don't think of; it. My lovo for lilni mado mo foolish. Please do not add to my trouble by making him suffer. Forgot my hasty words.". _ . Lona kissed lior. gently, and "promised, as though an uttorauuc of euoh import could bo for gotten. : . Circumstances aidad Nita's efforts still further. Dolpli was seated looking gloomily before him when Lena fulfilled the errand on which 3I10 was intont when stoppod by Nita— that of bringing him some light broth. Sho touched him lightly— for ho know not of lior approach till then— and ho turned to her with a searching glanco that aftor Nita's words brought once more tho red blootl to lior face. " You aro, vory, kind. I am troubling you," ho said gently, in tones free from thu irritation that was apparent in tliom sinco his illness. She smiled, and hor face took yet doopcr shades of red. Had Nita boon watching their confusion sho would have lnuglied instead of telling baby Willio that " sho had spoilt it all." Ho.took the cup frotn hor bauds with anothor word of thanks, un'dsho stood near him. Hosippod slowly from its contents. " It is good;" I10 said. Again slio smiled. She. could do nothing else. Hor voico could not reach him, and slio could not fix lior mind on any words to writo on the tablet He noticed her imlcoision. Slio used lior tablet most of any, for she was a neat quick writer. " I havo boon talking to Nita," lie wont 011, " yourkiiulnes3, and that of Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm, hnB been of the greatest It is beyond mo to express the gratitude I feel for it, and I can never repay it, and I ahull never forgot it. I havo you to thank for my life, and now I am so far recovered I must relievo you of my presence. . You liuvo played - hospital nurse long enough." 'Try as alio miglitlior faco expressed tlio pain his wot'us gavo her. Slio know now the work had boon pleasure, mid not tedious toil. Slio took hor tablets to write. lior hands wore unsteady. That was hard enough, hut it was harder to know that ho saw it. Ho remembered Nita's words, and sho had novor forgotten them. "I think," ho said, "I will say something to you, and you may writo afterwards. You havo dono more lor me than assist 1110 physically ; you have saved me morally. 'The knowledge of niv fathor's murderer and another mado mo doubt afl mon. You liavo saved ino j not that it matters much. I shall make vory little difference to tho world one way or tho other — r" Sho touehoiUiis linnd, and with u slight move- ' maul signalled liirn her intention to writo. "If you appreciate the littlo common kindness wo have done yon, do not look at the black side of tho picture." : Her hand trembled nervously ns she held tho .tablet to him, nnd a dolicious feeling that aftor all Nitn might be right, and a good, noblo-mindod woman eared for him and his wrecked life. "I am a growler, but," pathetically, " liavo T uotcauso?" Sho' took her tablet again. Her hands, wero steadier this.' time. " Thorc is hope in yonr case. You mny oxpoot good hows shortly. You uro to liuvo leavo of ab sence, for how long father will inquire this after noon ; it is a secret yet." Ill spite of his bettor judgment, in spite of thoso fears that assailed hini, his spirit rose. He looked again at her with that deep searching glanco. Again she blushed and trembled. Again he no- .liced it." " Mrs. Edgars," ho said softly, " I am selfish in taking up your time. I must go from here, or I shall ho more selfish. Still, I shall say what I havo 110 right to say." Nita's words ciiho back to his hearer's memory : " It only rests with you." She put her soft liiuid on his— nnd how do snob things happen ? Who can remember tho little words that load to an ordinary, betrothal, least of all to 0:10 in which 0110 of the parties is deaf? By-aiut-byo ho held lior from him, and looked into her steady eyes. " Do you know, Lona, I am free from sin, and boar u good name through force of oircumstanco only. But that anothor, nmn's wife wus too weak to cumo to 1,10 1 should not bo hero " She placod her hand over his mouth and wroto : " Nitn. and I learnod of tlmt during yonr doli- rium. It was nil u foolish woman's fault." "Not quite. Sho quarrelled with bor husband, and I, instoad of endeavouring to make pcaco, widened tho breach and tempted lior to come to mo." , Sho wrote: "Lot us be silent on the Bubject after this. It .was merely a domestic dispute, in which you wore most hurt." " Willingly," ho said. " And now I liavo added to my othor folly by getting another woman to fetlor lior life with my own useless and. It savours too much of a lovo story to speak of my tin- worthiness, but, Lena, before I accept the sacri fice you must think it over, and consult your fatlior and mother. Besides which there remains ynt tho murderer of my futhor to bo brought to juBtico." " If I am willing to mako tiie sacrifice (under lined)," slio wroto, " you aro ungracious to accopt it conditionally." Sho gavo it with a littlo look of triumph that brought forth a reply that ended it all, and to Nita's surprised delight when she mot them agaiu in tho ovoning her brother had tho part of an ac cepted lover assigned him, with tlio pleased ap proval of the widow's relatives, who appeared 110 way. displeased at tho arrungemont ontored in by the patient and his nurse during their absonco in the afternoon. CHAPTER XXI. The Wedding. It is hardly likely any reader will fool grntitudo for any prolongod nocount of Moldrum'a second lovo all'inr. It would savour slightly of dnlucss, for his affliction made anything like perfect com munion difficult betweon tliom. It effectively re moved all that the preliminary of marriage makes so pleasing to a boholdor. 'That woro bad onougli, but tho 'consciousness of it made him silent— al most sullen— that another tliim jj,ona Edgars
would have withdrawn from a contract in which sho seemingly gave all and received nothing. Everything was quickly arranged. Nita pressed hard for tho marriage to take place before she went buck to her " Will." Dolph saw in tlio brief journey away from Wooma moans of putting into force his attempt at discovering the mnrdorer, nnd in his quiet way added, his word to Nita's weighty arguments. Tho old people, seeing in tho marriage a revival of their duuglitor's youth, woro happily disposed to hasten that happiness. It gave them pleasure to see tho lifo they feared blighted until its end seek thus early to resume another. Dolph's quiet, unuffcclcd manner suited the old folks' ideas of what a young man should bo. It gavo additional happiness that their beloved child's choice should have fulloii 011.0110 so suitable. Neither had heard of tho littlo opisodo at Pal- mcrslon. But for the two mo3t conccmod — and Lena— it might never have occurred ao far ns re membrance of it wont. That roinombranca chafed Dolpli. It recalled to him the depths to which I10 might have fallen but for a woman's weakness and indecision. Dolph hud written to his mother of his projected union. I11 reply lie received congratula tions from Sydenham, and Lena 11 warm welcome in his mother's most offusivo stylo' and neatost handwriting. Each promised tlieir presence at tho quiet wod- ding. But' throe days previously Dolph received a few lines from Sydenham expressing regret through his wife's illness at being unnblo to bo present. Nita was indignant when sho read through tlio short loiter Dolph gavo hor. " 'Tlio horrid thing," sliu cried, forgetful ot the /net her words could not roach him, "she's at it again." Dolph, watching lior, saw hor indignant, flushed cuuiitenanco, und guessed her words. " Wo do not know," I10 murmured. (to be continued.)