|Chapter Title||- XXVI, then XXVIII The Parson Intervenes (XXVII published out of sequence)|
|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. ' i '
CHAPTER XXV.— (Continuod.)
" Not for tnvBelf. Rut it troubles you. "Mo? Ob.'jiot at all. If you choose to write or rceeive letters from tlioso sort of women it is your affair, not mine."' ' ' " Rut 1 ," lie begun hesitatingly. . ' ' "I have no rlesira 16 hca'r'morc. alto interrupted
coldly. , Site waBiiotu woman given to reproaches and ' tears. She was slow to think evil and slow to "liinv.o brought it on myself," she tolil herself. " I should have knowp better," and -with tliat she strove by telling herself tliat inost men wore wrong-doers to ease the jealousy anil pain of her own torture. ' Tito following day sho tyns still col<( ip her attitude towards him. At ntiiidajr, when hp returned )iontu, site was unchanged. Slio was so rarely out of temper, and her manner of show ing hor disapproval so different from Nttas flash ing gleams of anger, tliat lie felt wounded ovor her injustice, us he termed it. She was ill the vpraii- dnli, iu tlie sheltered corner she aallcd her own. On (lis approuch she rose to cntor tho house, and po do so hull to pats liim clqscly. " Lena, you married me knowing tlio story of my life— you should not blame mo now,' lie cricil. . and held her, nnd looked uurnestly in tlie cold jirbud face and eyes as lie (lid so. She tried to free hersulf, but lie hold iter firmly, and she stood facing him coldly— _ ' ' "You Khali Bpeuk!" ho cried. "Toll mo my fault. I aip to blame that Lhoro should bo a shameful episode in my life — that yon Imva for given ; but this latter trouble I cannot help. " That is your affair, not mine," she retorted coldly. ... "i should not say that were the positions re versed," lie said, gently. . ' " That is probable," nho said, proudly, butavort-- ing her eyes. "Had it been so you would never have married mo. Men nover forgive those things although wo women often foolishly do." ''Oltl" ho ariad, and with tho exclamation lot hor free. _ . She camp l|ersolf to bring him to the meal. Her ptood had softened— that was inevitable, for she 'was never angry lopg— but he was tho aggrieved oho now. At life entranqo to tho sitting-room sho turned to" liitii." " "How often lins she written to you— since our miUTiitgel mean 'r' she crioil impulsively, .but in lowered voice, fearing a servant's presence. " How often ?" lie echoed. " Never before. How powhl I ?" . " "Well?. Please, sir, let. us make it up. I am tired of. quarrelling. After lunch wo.' can talk' it 'over," tih') said, with a little hysterical laugh. " Lot.juntili wait. You havo not. been tlie sumo bright-faced woman since tlie burning of that . effigy. Talk to mo— nag at me— its you will, hut t)o not l'umlor mo miserable by that dreadful jirotul demeanour you delight to put 011 when I dinphmsu you." .. . Site reddened, nnd recalled tho habit of Bllllti- ' peas tliat shadowed her vuulh. " I havo been jeulous. Sit down, and lot mo confess while I am contrite nnd sorry— so jealous 'that naver in my life wits I so near okaying pas-, Eton's dictato. 1' wonder I ilitl not tell .my father 'my suspicions uud evil thought's. You can im- itghte tho consequences in his present frame of iniiid." "What aronseil yottr jonlottsy?"- ho asked, plen- Bautly surprised to foul liar love for him strong enough to create the lower passion. "Not tiiut letter?" She hid her fnco in his arm, "and whisporcd, I foolishly thought it one of many others. A single one aeeiileutally loft in my way." "Olt I" lie said, nn oxelatnation ho uttered in much the same tone twice within tho hour. She lifted her face aiqiualim.-ly to- his. " Forgivo mo !" she said, softly. " I am tired of this quarrelling " "So am I." lie said, quietly. "Wo may as well have litngh. Anil the curtain of misunderstanding and bud tempor that separates so many lives again divided theirs. . . .That, afternoon Lotia vocoivcd a visit from the parson. : Hp was iil at oaso. His gpod-nntnred, boyish: looking fnco was 'troubled, notwithstanding his efforts to hido it. They tulkcil of many tilings, tho weather, tho times, tho health of their friends,, and then al ter a little hesitation ho took a news paper from his pocket, the "Australian Star," de livered that day in Woonm. Ho did not open it at once, but held it in his right hand resting on his knee. He cleared Ilia voico with a slight norvous cough, nnd began to spcitk. " " Thoro aro h fow comments on our townsfolks pleasantries tho other evening iu tho Sydnoy papoi'B," ho said. "You hnv'o the paper with yon ?" sho asked. " Yes. Yesterduy's ' Star.' Only a short para: graph, but not u nice one." " Will you show it to mo ?" she asked. Ho held tho paper towards her, first opening it, and indicating the passage. _ It wus a brief ilein of news telegraphed from Woonia : — " Tho towns-' folk hero burned an effigy of the police magistrate ion Tuesday to slmw their disapproval of a recent magisterial decision of his." !" Lena's face became darker liued as oho returned tho papor to tlie Parson. "It is only tho truth;" she said, with a little forced Binile. ' " If their disapproval ended there it would bo fetter; hut it does not; thoy aro banding them- Bolvos together to get him removed ; a pity after so phort a term." " I should not caro in tho least," sho said, firm- jy, hut with a visible effort, " if it wero unde served." " I havo cotno to you, Mrs. Moldrtim," tho par son said, earnestly, its lie passed over Iter remark, " on the principle tliat foruwurncd is forearmed. Meldrttm may hud means of preventing any fur ther troublo. ' You will, I ant sure, pardon my in terference.'' ' " Tliuttk you kindly for it," she murmured earnestly, witli it pathetic glance that recalled to jtim the days of her earlytrouble. , " Lepa," said Dolplt tho samo ovoning, speaking suddenly after a pause, "I cannot make out why she wrote that loiter." " Unless sho has managed to got into debt— the lettor infers as much— unknown to. her husband, and thinks you will holp her." " Sho was neilhor fond of dress nor finery. Sho was always simply dressed." " Yet possibly sho was extravagant iu her sitn- jilicityi" said Leua doubtfully. "Mqu can hardly " Perhaps not. Sho is easily load. Sho may have drifted into debt on Iter own acco rut. I would rather think it her husband's." Leua said nothing for a time. Tile:;, after a brief silence she spoke U9 though without ; ansu. " Y on were talking of a holiday. I think you gould obtain one now. If so, could wo not both yiait Palmerstou. I should much like to sco your old home." It was a strong remark, mado wi tit no thought f having the wish fulfilled. Trutjh to teli, tite euton of jealousy had entered her life on receipt of Agues' letter, ami refused to ba exorcised. While she, witli all his faults, loved her husband, Sbe was far ftom sure of his love fiw her, or that his earlv love wits dead. A half-formed wish that she might see them together and judge for herself gave birth to the words. He did not falter, or do any of tltoso convicting things men do when caught mint rates iu, a net for their feet. He looked itlnio it pleased, for the indifference created by her d Islrust in hint f'.ve him qn uneasy feeling that lie who had so eat a cause' for gratitude had mad e her unbappy. hey had married prosily, with none of those little jealousies and sweetnesses tlmr cements the after life of married people. He beiieved himself indifferent to her, with a rival iu hier dead bus- tcinn She believed hint a man to whom love
came hut once in life, and site beinelf had come fnto his life too late to benefit by his Bteadfast- Bess. . Neither of them was incliueu to be loquacious fr petulant. Speech might have br oken down the rniaunderata tiding between tliem. ' '.' I think I might very well be spared just now?" lie replied, " and nothing would pi ease me better Chan to see the old place with you." '.'Well, let us go— and you can judge if— if — that — Mrs. Cobb— is a case of real distress — ." " Why, Lena !" he cried, with a. laugh— a merry one that shone in his eyes, and sounded brightly in his voice — " yon are jealous."
I do not think so," sho replied, coldly, and as sho turned away tho light in his eves died out. " " Wo will go then; That is decided." As she spake, half turning in the doorway to do so, a feeling of petty triumph elated hor. CHAPTER XXVIIL The Parson Intervenes. Lena returned to their rooms at tho hotel in a norvous stato of mind. The uontrast between the Agnes of her imagination and the real Agnus sotuo- how hurt hor. A woman domesticated, and us puro in heart and mind as herself she found hor. A frivolous-niiudod, thoughtless, vicious creature slio imagined her, a ereuluru unfit to toucii the hem of her own garment. Anil why ? Rccnttsu sho had almost committed a griovcus wrong, or wrong that would harm hor own life most of any. Ami sho waa dying— a mother of young children. For a time it seemed as though the world must stand still, that from awe of the grim reaper workers should roBt idle — but it wont on tho same, Tho same loiterers liiigorud in the streots, tho same men hung about tho hotel voramluhs, as much lirc-oeeupicd with their own affairs as before sho learned that life was not exautly as she thought it. " No'vor again will I shun as uttorly unclean a sister woman weaker than myself. I havo been mistaken in my judgment. That woman with nil her fetich-liko worship of social codes almost foil. Ant I so perfect that I can from a pedestal of viri.ua judge lior?" she thought us sha pressed her hands tightly together, before bIic entered the room in which sho expected Dolplt waited her re- Ltll'll. The first thing that touohed him most was hor agitation nnd tho suspicion of repressed weeping tiiut hung about her, Tho first thing he noticed was the disappearance of the normal healthy colouring of hor face. Hor face was colourloss, and the features slightly sot with pain. " Yon are' tired, Lena 1" he asked as he sprang up to meet her. Site smiled. Lena was givou to Biniling. not tho everlasting smirk tliat some people affect, believing it smiling, but a slight dimpling of tho cheeks und a brightness of tho eyes that turned u charm to Itor somewliat coldly-cut features, "1 am tired— and— so miserable. Dolph ! sho is dying. Nothing can save her. Oil, witcre is Goil's judgment that we hear so much about, to tuko hor mill leave six little children motherless ? It is cruel— uruol— cruel I" "Lena! You are unstrung, or you would never 'talk so." lie was something of an agnostic himself, anil slightly nrottil 'of it, but Lena's faith was, in his sight, u henittiful thing llutt increased his great ruvoraut love of her to somo extent, uud it gave him a' rudo shock to hear Iter question the wisdom of God. Shu stood erect boforo hint, in thp sumo atti tude she lnul stood utter. the discovery of Agues' letter. "Why should I not say so? You havo often tried to oonvinco tne of tho folly of belief. For oucu I' am convinced. That woman, under differ ent conditions, would he a happy mother to-duy, but the knowlcdgo of her secret Bin is killing her. Thoy may call it what they like, but it is nothing else. Tho sin of uttering falso vows is nothing in her sight, but tho other— tlie houest impulse of hor life— is killing hor." "She is uitturully weak -minded, I think, "he said gently, und his cool, calm words calmed hor. " Yes," she roplied, in a softer, more subdued touo. " perhaps so. I suppose while we live — under any conditions the weak ones will go to the ground. Still deulli is a hard tiling." " It is," ho said gravely, und slio knew his thoughts were of tho unavenged death of the hale old nutti; " Olt, Dolph !" she crioil at length, " I havo bocn moulding imaginary troubles for myself, and there aro so many real ones around me. Almost my iirst thought this evening was envy of her past beauty. Her face is fair enough to turn any man's hcntl." ' ''It may be, but I wonder now what I saw in it, or why I should havo nursed tho sentimental feeling I had for bar as love. Why, Leua? Tho feeling for you would give mo strength for any thing. It takos mo front myself. Your presence scouts ncar'tnu even when you nre far away. But for that early disappointment I should never have known the completeness of life ; with anotltar woman than you as wifo it would bo hut half a lifo.'' " And all those years you never mentioned your liking for me— you wero an uusatisfaclory lover, and save that ymt are easy to get on with would he an unsatisiaetory husband." "Actions speak louder than words," lie said apologetically. " I have always told you I wus a poor speaker." ' \ " Any other man would haye said, ' Lena ! I lovo you, and— — '" " Aro my rivals so numerous," he whispered with a laugh. Then lie drew iier closely to him. " Lena, I love you I Lena, I love you I Leua, I lovo you !" She drew his fnco to moot hers, and with her lips stopped tho fond, foolish talk. " Yon are too old for that," she said. " An old married man should have moro sense." Thou these two married people, who had never been lovers, were as foolishly fond in their talk as though iq their early youth they were stricken with lovo's fever. Ail the foolish fears that he was indifferent to tho love site bore him she tola to him. All his hopelessness of ever gaining a tithe of tho love she had given tho husbuud of her youth ho told Iter. " Yet we havo not paraded our former attach ments before one another. I loved— as a girl loves— my dead husband ; but before I could lovo hi pi as I may yon, when wo grow old together, our lives must lmvo been drawn together by years of lifo lived together.. Love may easily take root, but a love tliat attains deep and lasting root must necessarily be of slaw growth." " I think so,1' ho said, with that gravity that would huveboon liuniour in auotiier man. Sunday morning in Wooma. The small edifice in which tho Episcopalians of Wooma worshipped was well filled. Tho parson was in the pulpit. He undertook tho whole service. It was rarely other wise. Onco or twice in the year a big gun, as the Bishop of the dioceso, or a visiting clergyman en route for some interior towdship, preached the sermon, and filled to overflowing tho church with a gaudily-dressed crowd, tiie greatest lady beiug usually dressed in up-to-date style, her followers in styles more or less behind :ho times. The parson had cause to bo pioud of his Congre gation. His iloek respected ar.d loved hiin in such degree that his very apparent youth harmed him not, nor lowered him iu their estimation. The church prospered under his hands, r.nd tlioso that hcl|ied it to prosperity gavo him tlie praise and grudged it not. " It Mas custoinary-when he ascended the pulpit, before he began the first' lesson, for him to glance over the church. That glance seemed to take' in every detail of those present, qud the kindliness in it to thank t hem for their coming. It rep&ycd those that had occasion to exercise self-denial, or crucify fleshly instincts to get there. That particular Sunday qioruing he glanced around as usual, and his quick eyes detected a stranger. None other than tho object of Mel- drum's injustice. With a quick thought that Pro-, vidence liail thrown this man in his way, he re solved to make use, if possible, of his powers of rhetoric to right wrong. Through tlie lessons and servico that preceded tho sermon the idea grew. People said ho never preached with moro eloquence or less trouble- Truth to teli, he merely preached at one man. Hct preached of sin, and not of sin alone, but crime, the crime that hurts another, and none knows how far the hurt may travel. Then he drew an appalling picture of the wrong-doer's conscience, and the great- day of judgment, when, stripped of all that hides sin and crime from view, the ..reat
wrong-doer stands before his God. All this was had enough for tlie stranger, but the crime could yet be hidden, and judgment day was yet a day iu the far off misty future, but the everlasting pun ishment — the parson had never before, or has he since, preached helifire, but on that memorable day lie could not picture the flames lurid enough — was something to tremble over. From his infancy
ho trembled, and shuddered over tho in lablo punishment in store for hitn. Tho lorn., .is of hell were familiar by rcputo to him, but tho droad of their danger never strengthened his weak ilbsli.: Tliat uhvays faltered when strength woro needed inoBt, when lompliiUou assailed all thought 'of that terrible hereafter ittdeil into nothingness. Tho liaison's quick eye detccted'tlio niorbld in terest his now listonor paid, and put an extra touch tn the picturo. " Confess," lie cried, "confess your sins Whilo you have yet time. Confess your, misdoing, and cast your anchor on the shore of Faith whilo thero, is time ; cry for salvation, nnd bo plucked ns'a brand from tlio burning. Soma of you . have sins of greater or lesser degree that ramble' in yotir. doif-: sciouce at night, thoy corne as hideous ghoits' to haunt your ilrcttms. Throughout tlio dny they stand at your olbow ready to pmmco on your few moments of peace. Life becomes one lung agony; of travail and pain. In your remorse you cry out; for oblivion ; but the blissful draught of lothe is, not for yon, each hour increases romohibranec, .und; each hour is an eternity of anguish lived iu vain,' but unheard shreiks to blot out. tlie. terrible past., Y'ou ask impossibilitcs; and turn awtiy from tho; peuco offered you. Offered you by God through his! soil. Why do von delay? Dnos n miin when hun-i gry refuse wholesome food ? Docs tlio most stub-' born of animals refuse pure wator when' thirsty ?; Does a travel-worn sundowner rofuso t lie sholtcr! of a shod when footsore mid weary ? You would! pall either of them mad if they did— or something: worse, and you would bu justified in tlio asseri ioii. ; Will yon allow your moral madness to overcome yoii? Will you further intensify your sin by at. tempting to liido it longer. No. I give a hundred denials to the statement. You refuse longer to ho enmeshed in sin— rto wait in chains of) ovil the coining of the Evil Ono, who watches, and, watching, gloatH ovor your thraldom, God has hidden you oonio ! Christ has bidden yon come, and. coming, be freo from tho devilish chains tliat reiulor lile intolerable and the thought of deatli heavy with fear. Accept iris glorious invitation, anil oast your miserable infirmities cm Him. Ho knows tlio temptations you have fallen beneath. Ho knows your weakness, ami Ho fouls for your remorse : and now, oven now, His promise is for you, anil He himself is listening for, the words that toll Ifim you arc His forever anil anxious to partake of tlio banquet He has prepared in tho Home of Everlasting Peace." Tho preacher's heart beat violently, and while ho discoursed fur ther on tlie I'uaco that knows no end he uttered a grateful, silent prayer, tliat- he had keen God's in strument iu softunmg tlio hard heart. (to be continued.)