|Chapter Title||- XII, XIII Dolph Gets a Promise From Will|
|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.
. . .. .jHAPTER XII.— (Gontinuod.)
She movod excitedly about the small House until the Dempscy's carriage called for her. Dolph placeU'lieif wrap's tdndorly aboufc'her,followeilher into ttio road, arid with a feeling of reluctance Oiiva hnrint.fi Mra. chai'le. This ball
and its fashionable attendants seemed somehow to
open a gulf between" liis' sister aiid liis old staid 8olf. " Oh ! Mr. Mcldruni. What a shame you cannot accompany us. Shall we sec you later on ? I hone ' .so, jf only to help mc keep these giddy young folks in ordor. Mr. Dempsey would not promise to come until hear midnight. And Will — woll 1 ho is the worst of the lot." They all laughed merrily, and with the echo of their laughter in his cars lie entered the silent house. . There somehow his thoughts wanderca back wards over fcho chief events of his life, lake a mental panorama they spread themselves before bis vision. The first picture of his boyhood, and tlid gloomy shadow it cast over his life. The -first time he had seen his mother stupefied with drink,. and to shield her had told his first lie . St her bidding. lie could recall the look that tame across his father's face when ho listened to the too transparent falsehood. Nita was just Walking then, aiid liis father had taken up the toddliug child and hidden his stricken face on the baby's : shoulder. Then came the birth of thd idiot lad, whose deformity awakened such un natural hato in the heart of his proud, foolish mother. Ho saw again his father bond over the 6od, and utter gentle words of sympathy and hope, though now he- knew, in his manhood's knowledge, that his mother's weakness was the child s birth- . tight.- ' / Hp recalled it all, the intervals of peace, that i cast faint light over the gloomy picture. "Aud," ho murmured as he sat with eyes fixed, " and strained'with the might of his bitter thoughts, ! theologians tell us that an allwise God has the lives of men; in His hand, and yet such a man ended his life through another's brutality, whoso crimi nality has never brought him to justice, and still possesses the caro- of tho self-samo God that watched ovor but did not save his victim." ; It was close on midnight when the knocker on the street door resounded through tho silent house. „ Half expecting to find some messenger from „ Nita ho opened it. Before the light from tho lamp ho carried could- revcal the faco of his visitor ho heard Sydenham's well-known voice. " Is it you, Dolph, lad?" . i " "Dolph needed small preparation for tho captain s !- news. The cold fear that clutched his heart made his voico almost inaudible as he murmured, "Are you alone, 'Captain Sydenham ?" " Yes, quite alone. Are you in solitude, too ? "YeB, Nita lms gono out." ' I dm glad of that, for my news would be bettor Imparted to you alone." „ : ' " Coiiio into my den, then. Is anyone ill! " Sydenham' niado no reply, but followed Dolph ' and seated -himself in the chair ho placed .for him . hefdre'he sDpke.'; , " I foari lie said in a reproachful voice, I did " » great wrong whiV I married your mother— alio cannot forgot her former married life— and— and Dolph, lad, she has taken to drink. "I feared as much," said Dolph, liopelossly, "when I saw you." ; " Why !" risked Sydenham, in surprise. ' % . " My dear sir," said Dolph in respectful timidity, " had you mentioned before contruct- in"' it", your "projected marriage with my . mother I should havodoho my best to' prevent it, ': by .tolling yoii my thother is n confirmed— is a p'ol-iodical drunkard." .... . , -A look of amazement in which joy. was not ab sent swept across Sydenham's face. Dolph could ' hot understand it, A man married unknowingly to li drunkard might talk, blame, expostulate, ex cuse, reproach ; but to see the slightest ray of joy in the circuinstaiico was lieyoiul comprehension. " She did not show it," lie said quietly, and then .with a little relieved sigh added, " I am thankful lor one. thing. I have nothing to do with her pre sent condition. I thank God for that." . " What do. you intend doing? asked Dolph. " I do not know-, lnd. I feared the cause was regret over ber mbrriuge, but since it is habitual I can 'only bear it',.iind endeavour to wean her from it. She is very dear to me — my wife." "And my mother," said Dolph softly.' "Thank you for your goodness to her. Ifeured the coming of this hour, and am glad it has found you able to bear the weight it brought." ,. Sydenham said nothing, but bending forward took his stepson's hand, and held it in a hearty Er"3\Vlmt has she done to deservothe love of two Buch true men as my. father and, yourself," said Doiph in a tremulous voice. Then 1m abruptly added tile question, " Are the boys well?" ' " Oh ! yes. They are five little fellows. I am very proud of. them, and so is their mother." "Was she drinking when yon left?" . Sydenham bowed a silent assent. ' I suppose you are aware of tho danger that threatens the victim of drink when the bout is ended ?" " I know, lad. But I could not write to you. I tried to do so, but somehow it appeared so brutal in black and white 1 could not do it. But I shall j-eturn' by the next coach, leaving at 2 this morn- ,U" You must have something to eat first-. I know the fare at our hotoU is not up to much." Dolph Bought Nita's pantry, and soon had food before liis guest, and tliey botli sat down and ate while discussing the various modes known to each of the treatment of the hereditary disease— as they pityingly put it— from whieli the woman dear to them suffered. It was after 1 when lie bado Sydenham faroweli, and was free to. Beck Nita in tho ballroom. Tho "dancet-a were'e'ongregated in the Oddfellows' Hill. A hail that did duty on Sunday, to hold tho re ligious services of a body of Independents, and "during tho week as lodge, concert, or dance room. The room wa3 a long, narrow one, its white washed walls were ou this occasion gorgeously decorated with numberless flags, foliage, and tho ' hall itself well lighted with kerosene lumps, under' which the ladies' dresses looked to good advant- . age, and to .Dplph'a unaccustomed eyes presented a scene of great splendour. Nita was dancing the last dance but one on the ' programme with Will Dcmpsey. . Ida Dempsey- noticed his entrance, and . came - towards-hiin. ... " You are late 1" sho said with a pleasing smile. ' " Yes. I was detained by a lato and unexpected
visitor. Ho left Gudgeroo Gudgareo Half an .hour ' aKOt and I wont'to sdo-liiiii off.". " As tho visitor'was only a gentleman, wo ' must' forgivo you, she said, with a coquettish glanca from her. bright byes: "Nita lms enjoyed herself. Slieliasdanccdevcry danco." _ Shoivdocs not appear tired yet;" .observed Dolph,,. as the mtisio ceased; arid' Will' escorted' Nita towards them.. Tlie young couple looked! , supremely self-satisfied; with every, appearance of having hurt a good timo of it. Wo — I'havd onjoyed mysolf immensely," sho Sai.. A breathlessly. " It has been delightful. 00 it sceiiis',' lie said; a smilo lighting up his grave face. Are you ready to leave?" Not yet;I havo promised Mr. Hull the last- dance. Bcsidos, I want you" to- see how well' I dance. I dance very well— don't I— Will ?" she said, with a little shy pause before she uttered the; name, and a glance from her brilliant'eyes that did' not escape Dolph's discernment. 'Divinely. . But remember if Hull docs not come, the. danco is mine. Bother 1 hero ho comes; tile conceited, scented fop, Here's Hart for- you,, too, Ida, I suppose.'., ! The girls, with a merry word to their rcspeotivo ' brothers, were borne away, and the young meu were left alone. Dal il! 113 k"" 'lftS kCC3n a successful one?" questioned ' . splendid one.- Everything lias gone ori' swimmingly without a single hitch. The best wo ovor hold." "I am glad- to-hear'it." Then tho talk languished. Dolph was no adept at small talk, and his companion was fitted for nothing else. W'1?'1, — wlien Miss Meldrttm returns wo Ihe, muter ; tho guv'rior did not peep in until 1, and left just before you got hero," said will, watching Nita and her dandified partner as tliey danced together. ' " ""ysslf, lie does not en tor into' tho enjoy ment of the tiling, said- Dolph, who held' rather si' high , opinion of Dempsey, senior, as a good- liatured, well-prinoiplea, but not too intellectual nan. : No. He likes it bit of life in' liis own house, . but lie never goes abroad;'1 ausworod Will, as the diuico oiidocl, und Nita's partner, with much core- mony, saw her safely across to her legal guardian. CHAPTER XIl'I. Dor.ru Gets a Promise Fnoar Will. . po following morning Nita was awake early, uotivithstandiug-Dolph's precautious to keep the house quiet, and ensure her rest after her night's pleasure. She had been fortunate onougirto sccuro the ser vices ot a young girl at small wages a day or two before tlio ball. Dolph was busy helping the child —for alio wus little else — get the breakfast ready wnen sho onterod the room. I was showing Kitty how to mako tho'coffee and toast the bread. We tire managing very well," he said, holding aloft a toasting fork and u slice of whitey-brown bread. . - i . . " Very, well, indobd-l" she replied,' ironically.' Get your duster, ICittv ;. ace .these ashes'. Is the brenkfost-tublo set tidily? Give mo the bread,- Dolpli ; you are spoiling it. Tlio ball was lovelv-- I did enjoy myself." . 1 She talked lis she toasted the bread, shielding her face witii u newspaper. .Dolph sat near her klack-paintea American kitchen chair. Such fun, Dorph ! and such manners some of the gentry possess.- That old Miss Beldon set her «'1> at Captain Hall. You should havo seen her face. when he llirtcd with anyone else. That fop pish-young Bibbers wus there, and drank himself tipsy and went to sleep in the dressing-room. . Lintloek snubbed pretty little Miss Alcott. Did you see how nice Ida Dempsey looked? So neat and plain, vot so ladv- like ; juBt the sort of woman that would suit von for u wife, Dolph. You ought to marry her— I'm sure slie likes you. " And icavo you freo'f o wed her brother," said Dolpli, slowly. ' 0hv Dolph," she said, unshod tears taking the place of deiiance, "you are hot cruel enough to spoil my lite?" _ 1 am afraid I lack the necessary -firmness to provent you spoiling it. ; I must move the respon sibility to your mother. Tlmt reminds me. Syden ham .called here last night Perhaps you can imagine lus mission." The light faded from her eyes. " Oh, Dolph ; she's not at it again, is she?'' she asked. ( Her utterance recalled the horror -the words imjilied. He glanced lit tho drooping face and murmured unintelligontly. - , She, howevor. caught Ins meaning. . . _ "J ust as I felt so happy— the nasty, cruel crea ture. I wish she would.; driiik herself to death, i-hon— and only then— shall'-we know tho end of it nil. |VHuah, Nita, sliois our molhcr." p liee. "o6 remind mo . of that miserAbib fact/ sho interrupted angrily, Sho paused awhile, thou added breathlessly, Aud she is to say - when or whom T shall marry. Dolph said nothing, but inado preparations for leaving the room. . I am sorry for Sydenham," she said in concili atory tones, as he stood in the docrwny, He appeared quito heartbroken at first. He was labouring under tho impression that ho was the cause of her excess. "Poor fool," said Nita contemptuously. "Ho has a lot to learn. Imagine her with a conscience. Shu is made of badness." "Not quite, Nita," he replied gravolv. "There aro times when I pity her. Many mo'doru think ers are beginning to look on ineuriution as a di sease. yy.pi'cyontiblo onej thon," replied Nita with lofty disdain, "If tkoy never touched it— the nrst glass I mean— they could never crave for the second. In her case I am sure she felt no liking for it, until from pure ennui and idleness she took the first drop." «! sa Dolph, thoughtfully. tt-r a jWe. "» oamo the confident reply. iiivcrybody is not so soft us you. Any 'fraud1 can take you in. 1 bclievo if they found tho brute who murdered poor father you would find excuses for him. Maybo you'd find he came from criminal' antecedents." "Id feel no pity for him," said Dolph, with a savagencss of tone that made Nita look in his faco. bomething.in it completely diverted her thoughts from her mother. " I'd not feel that way about it if I wore you,"
sho said, nervously. He niado ho reply, but tho expression never changed. # # » On his return homo in tho evening Dolph found Will Dempsey waiting his arrival there. Dolph treated the young fellow coolly, and afior-a chill Good afternoon " he left him within the inhos- pitablo precincts of the little drawing-room, and walked through to his den, as though to defy the : young lover. Nita resented her brother's manner, and invited the visitor to stay to tho evening meal. He glad ly 'accepted. Dolph's indifierctoco to hiscdmpany piqued him, and made bin desire an interview .with him with more curncstncsn. Dolph, with his usual adaptability to ciicum- istanccs,. made the best of it, and; treated the guest with politonosa, if not actual kindliness. I After tho meal Will followed him into the vor- landah, and, with little preamble, said he had asked .Nita to marry him. | "How' old arc you?" asked Jolph, "coldly; | " Two»and-twcnty," came tho hesitating reply. I " Your own master, then?" said Dolph, drily. " Yes/Mio said, brightcniiiK, considerably. . , " Do you know Nita's age ?5> " Nearly eighteen." . "13ar8cveii months," said Dolph, .drily. ",Wbllf considering you are botli of such mature age— I suppose your parents approve your choice'?"' t 14 1 don't know. I thought it best to speak to ,you first." j ;; . ; 44 Well, if they consont I do likewise. That is fnironoiigh." 14 Yces. But anyway Nita has given- mo her (promise. I intend to work for her if niy fatlior jcannot sec his way clear to help nie." r . 44 When wo know his opinion we can talk about iib,? said Dolph, iily. ,t Tho genuine distress in tho young mari's-' faco' Softened him. j " Never despair. You are young— the whcile of your life lies before you— . ; " Thank you, Meldrum," cried the young fellow. :grasi»ing jii8 hands, "you cannot Imagine blow I lovo her." Dolphsmilcd. :r. ; ; Twant a word with you on anothor poinfrt" he .6aid, 4 us between friends— as between nion--I\ do not wish you to make a habit of. visiting Nitiu dur- ' ;ing my absence. Her- position for a young girlfisaii . umi8Ual bno, you understand?" .. ' . ' . CJ. ... . V;44 1 do," suid Will,. with a; flush, . 4 4 I s h o u 1 (i.LaV o thought of it before.. You. aro very good to spoalc sb.'quietly you might have blackguarded me. I'll go .now, at once.?. . , 7. 17'-. j "4< You'can stay a fow minutes, if .you havo ahy- .thihg to say to Nita in the slmpe of TarewoDi' " Thiinks: Mcldrnm. It vnn dr. nn-.'niinrM '«Wnii1i?
like to tell tier tho liopo you liavo qiven me;" : But the -four minutes deputed for the leavc- :takiii|! lengthened into half an hour,, and' Dolph half regretted tho invitation lie hua'gireh, until 'Nita's licet feet brought her to his- sido after' lior (lover's departure. ' . ; " Dolph, you dearest of brothcrs,"sho oried„pnt- ' ting her arms about his' lioek. . "Yon imvanmdo me so happy— and I'll nevor do anytliing— never .gut married without your permission if I wait a wholo lifetime for it. Ho jiattod the Hot eliooks. I "I will not ask you to wait for' .that" beyond ton years," lie said, soberly. "By that' time you will .still bp young enough t'o start life- — " Ton years 1" slie.eolioed. ' That's a lifetime." "A very short one. It's over 'three' years elites father's death, and although tliey. have been' sor rowful ones, thoy'aro not long to recall."' " Poor father I " I hint forgotten him, sineo tho ball," she said sadly, "auU' mother— but I hate her. 1 1 ' „ "Steady, Nita."' "Ida. 1 need not mince' matters, and only for you ." . r , i "Nevermind. Remember, if 'ypu:cdro for me, lot i tho subject bo too sad to mention it often:", - "I shall think all the more," she said sulleiily; j "I doubt it. Talking magnifies' troubles." Sho uiiido no reply. Ho looked: ilplaud saw tho shadow in h'or eyes, and pitied her. Ho smiled, a minute later, when ho heard lior singing. softly as slio went through' tho houso. Sho pushed the door ajur, and uttered, a gentlo "Goad night," aud ho felt utterly alone in the silent House;. He sat oii until nearly midnight, until the kero sene" in the small'lamp burned low. . For days— even before Sydenham's visit— he was aware' of a 'growing' feeling at work within him.. A'feelingakin to, yet certainly -not, •discon tentment.: Ha felt dissatisfied with' his life. His old philosophy availed him nothing— nay, rather i the old way or reasmiing confronted him- -'at every ! turn of his maturer life; He -had seeii. moro of i human life, and its problems wore harder of solu- i tiou than. ever. In liis youthful' manhood' he had ( lieard hiuuli of crime, but crime and: criminal wore i nheorreotod in' liis mind.. The crime' lay beyond . tho motive, and' the crim'ihivl had beefi farremovea from him. ' AVithall his hatredahdabhorrohee of his mother's i weakness- ho had never in his wildest moments ' called- it : sin) perhaps ho " told himself his-- love ; blin'ded him. But- did- the same hand thdt crdiited .the .victim, give breath. also. to : his father's vniur- derer? ! ' . (to be continued.) .