|Chapter Title||XVII Wooma|
|Newspaper Title||The Australian Star|
|Trove Title||Dolph Meldrum's Wooing|
DOLPH MELDRUM’S WOOING.
An Australian Story.
By Mrs. BALDWIN HODGE.
%' '# k 4 ;'v '''j & LL RIGHT RESERVED: . / t Vila .-«'f V> 'ii\ ". ' - f' ( .. A.!
f:4 V &f\ J,", ' iv-V V CHAPTER XVII. WOOMA.
Thus it was that she, a dcvotco of respectability anil conventionality, contemplated taking the step that would lead her forever from the. thres hold of respectability and ho, a believer in his own houcety, cheorfully and gratefully walked
the pnth that loads to dishonour. ' In those days the colonies heard no whispers of how marriugc might bo ulorifiod by violation of its vows. No liazy . conceptions of bettering man kind in gericrdt'uiiu individual in1 particular came to those two. She know her married life had beon one long surrender of every true instinct until it became possible to live under no circumstances better than slavcliko submission. That the only returns ior her pains were slights and insinuations that hurt more than blows. . . . . Thcrb had been hours' when she yearned bitterly for power of. retaliation. To bo able to return in kina his brutal, bestial words. Retaliation that would have carried truth in it. Her girlhood's .training unfitted her for tins. Gontlc, unrelining, submission to a husbands authority had been early taught her. . l)oinestih \drtueS in a wifo wcro above all other virtues. To be a sood .housekeeper, fulfil all social duties pertaining to her position, be submidsivo to her husbaud iu a genoral way while atteuding to his creature comforts, and add to these practi cal economy, and u wifo was a creature to be made much of, and respected among her sex. Relieving herself possessed of these virtues, sho resented, .in corresponding decree, any insinuation of shortcoming. Her. husband's return, in a bo muddled mental condition, after his wordy brawl with Mcldrum, to hurl at her the vilest of all epithets a man cau hurl at his wife, roused au iu ward lebelliou within her. Tearfully she reproached him, and endeavoured to conviiUfci him of her blainelessness. He '.possessed other worries, apart from his domestic arid -private business affairs, and his wife's conduct just then was a safety valve for his disappointment. ... " I'll go away," she oriedat length, "sua never, fiever como back again." How ho troated the threat, and .its effects, wo already know from her rocital to Dolph. Dolph's words of love were just then as balm to her wounded self-esteem— >as lioavculy intelligence and blissful light after iguoranee and darkness in a foreign land.
XUU . 1 . 1 V IIUIIICUU Jjiciumui ...... bofOre created her coml-ort were unthought. of aucl unroiiiemberedin tho glamour of his love aud though t for. bor. As for Mcldrum, modern, thinker ns lie looked onl himself, he could not view the violation of Go3'b aud man's decree without a tremor. The action, before undreamed of, lay so suddenly before him that though the very suddenness calmed him it brought Willi it a fceliug of rcjiug- tiaut Buorccy. This at first. .Later on, under tho glamour of solfish human lqihi,- lie told himselfanu her that'ho was. entitled,, to 'his happinesd. That her coining to him was , merely the indirect working of justice. ' Gradually tlie jjrospeot of joining his life to hers assumed less stupendous effects of ill. Ho passed over the period that must elapse, and thought only of tho time when Co Lb would inevitably claim his freedom. Afterwards all tho years that lay before thorn should bo Spent in regaining tho respect of their follows that in faking thoir happiness they hud forfeited. ' That long, long life of happiness that would bs too great without this contra weight of pain. The following day, ,iii(ordor to arrnugo his affairs at Gudgeree Gudgeree, it was uocessary he should leave Pulmerston. ; A huiriblo friond of both families — an old; imioeeiit creaturo who readily believed each, all and every varied statement told her— gave Agnes the sholter. of har cottage. She had 'boen twice married, " onco to a wretch of a man," she told Agues, " who made my life u misery," and afterwards to. " as good a husband as . evor breathed," the master of her present abodo. Her circumstances made it oasy and pleasant for hor ;to succour the young wife. Igiiornht of Agnca'a and Moldrnm's intentions sho openly lamented the bad habits tho Cobbs had formed. Habits- the young wife believed known to herself alone. : " You did a very wiso thing, my doar," sho said, when alouo with her in the room given up for Iter habitation. "He'll ho sorry enough when lie's .vomo to his sonsc3 for what he's done. Then, my dear, you must got the. upper hand, and nmka him koop teetotaller. It's tho only way. Oh 1 I often Ithinksof tho dreadful lifo my first led me. Only (for tho good, God abovo I'd never have borne it. (Trust Hun, my dear. , He's your best friend." Then the old woman, after putting a few ques tions regarding hor comfort, loft hor. Slowly sho thought- that other women had had roubles similar to hors, and had lived them down. :Thon she contrasted tho lifo of daily tyranny she (had loft with tho life sho would livo with a man of Aloldrum's calibre. Tho thought of hor hus band's deceit goaded hor into reeklossnoss. Tlie morniug found her ill. Dolph, visiting her eariy, was inclined to fuss over her. 1 must leave this evening," he said. " JIalio your preparations and como with inc." " No," she said, lotting him hold the hands ho bad grasped oil meeting lior. " Let mo stay hore faloue.for a day or two. Tho rest will do me good, ,and you can arrange your affairs hotter without me. When— you are— settled— — .-" "You will come," ho added for hor. " Yes," came tho whispered reply. Then she told him of the bitterness she had known during her married life. Tho indiguity she bad suffered in return for iter many acts of unsel fishness. AU ' except the suspected infidelity. How tho tiny lucidcnts spread thomsolves out. She remembered hor children, and. qpokc of them tearfully, wondering wliou she coula have, pos- lession of thorn. They touched lightly on their: future togothor, but tlie necessary pain forbade anything more than s brief mention of what he at least looked on as perfect lifo. Two evenings later. she eat as a honoured guest it a function hastily got up for tho purpose of
bidding him farewell. A day later still ho left tho place whoro ho had spent the brightost and happiest hours of his life. Leaving it left almost as grcut.a mark on his life as tlie evcut of his fathers murder had done, " # . W ooma is . some huddred miles away from Sydney. So many in faot as to be almost on tbo borders of another colony. It is tho centre of a wealthy squatting district. Then it was a six days' journey north of Fal- mcrston, and now when the journey is- accom plished partly by rail tho journey to M'oonm is not Uono under three days' constant travelling. Communication is equally slow. News can reach any neighbouring colony in one fourtii the timo it takes to reaeli Wooma. Under tho circumstances that its police magis trate intended beginning his lifo there, there wore td vantages to him to bo derived from these disad vantages. ' As tho hours went bjr under tho tedium of tho journey, and each one increased the distanco be tween him and Palmcrstou, Mcldrum found him self regarding Ihe.ovents of tlie- past week as of a dream. A very pleasant one. Anticipation of its realisation turned him giddy. All the innocent past of his life, it seemed, hud gono for ever. Ho contemplated taking, or rather forcing out of lifo whatever happinoss ho could. Until compelled ho would acttlie life of an honest man, and livo ono of selfish pleasure. - Wlion public opinion— according to Wooma— bade hini give up his position lie would do so, hut not until. Lifo at VYpoma; was now to hiin. Tho miles of bush that surrounded tlio town was a revelation-
even to him. Tho, novelty of frco lifo about him wns delightful. . Amid such surrouuejiiigs -he, thought it. should not bo lmrd' to livb'cvcn if its inhabitants frowned. In a growing tdwii like this it would bo given doubtlessly to euorgy and labour to gain just reward. Should all elso fail ho could sottlo on somo of tlie vast acres about him, and neither frown nor seorufui word could interfere bstwoon Agnes and himself and prosperity, The pleasure of -his -arrival at Wooma was heightened by expectation of a letter from Agnes. It awaited him. Not a long' one. Merely a few lines written a few days utter his departure. Yet it pleased. him, his fir3t love letter, as though its receiver had been agirl in her teens. Nothing waskhowh at.Wooina of tho new police mngistrato save his name. It rested with himself and his work to gain favour, or tho reverse! . , Sydenham, as an old colonial, had in the various stages of liis lil'o bocomo nequaintod with many of Wooina's leading inon. To theso he introduced Mcldrum. i i Many of them never entered into Dolph's life. One family did. .That of Edward Malcolm. A man' who had grown with Wooma, -whoso'. reminiscence's were largely coloured scenes of Wooma ns wild bush, lime demarcation was with . him represented by that period when eortain of nature's blemishes or bounties wero removed from her Taco. Of course, such a liiuti at the beginning possessed empty pockets, and a vast amuuut of unexpended energy, Of course, again, his pockets woro filled, and some of the energy laid out in shape of vast acres, . for Malcolm, like miuiy. of liis compeers, had early learned, that if ho' would become wealthy he must find other financial sources to flow into liis posses sion thuu that of handing goods over the rough counters— he was a goneral storekeeper when Wooina was very, vory young— or exchanging his necessary commodities— kept as liis business ox- tended in a collection of sheds adjoining tho storo — for coin of tho rbulm. Whon popular opinion loudly applauded tho' labour and thought 'expanded on his business as the sole cause of his ubility to build now premises, ho kept silent, but know lie owed it to othor sources besides. And when earlyin lifo lie retired into tlio life of a country gentleman, it was land bought for a .mere Bone that addod anmiallv In hl.q'nnrfftnl-nnrl
allowed him to- livo— his tastes wore simple— in : luxury. It seamed, as liis wifo proudly said, as though ' alj ho touched turned to gold." It was as much to spend a passing hour as . with any kindly thought thut-Maleolm met tho coach on its urrival at Wooma, by wliioh it was'possiblo Mcldrum would arrive. . Cramped somewhat with tlio unaccustomed jour ney, and wi th-brain somewhat linzy after the early oxcitement, and subsequent tedium, Dolph felt as much plonsuro as his physical, eonditiou allowed .him to. find a mun willing to hocomc his friend" awaiting him. " You must/be our now P.M.," said Maloolm. 'as his alert eyesight beheld him alight. "I've for gotten your name already. Mino is Malcolm — Edward Malcolm." ' . "Mine is Mcldrum." "Ay, ay; of courso. Augustus Moldrum." " Adolphns." " Oh ! oh 1 so it is. Not much difference. Tired after your journey. Nice, ain't it I- Lot mo see. You como from Wagga Wsgga." " Gudgeree Gudgeree." "Ay! ay! wrong again. Well I never did trouble myself much about names. Well, well; lee mo see, Gudgeree Gudgeree is about seventv miles from Palmerston. Palmerston istwo hundred and seventy odd miles from hero ; a 3tiffish jour ney over a rough road. You'd bettor oome with me. Lcavo your baggage here. The Missus and Lena don't expect me to ask you up,' but thoy'li be glad to see a fresh face." "But I- " , . "Never mind, come along- — " " If you cau recommend me a good place-—-" "Ay ! ay ) a dozen afterwards. Coiiie with me first ; just in time for dinner. No fashionable hour for us but a good ono o'clock moal." - " You are vory kind, but " \ "Bosh I bosli 1 Vory selfish rather. Nothing I liko bettor than a jolly good talk. Jump up. Joo's got tlio trap waiting, and wo'll be off in the twink-- ling of an eye." "You nro- — " - — _ " Nothing of tlio sort— nothing of tho sort. I'll givo you a dinner and recommend you a houBe to stay, and you'll toll mo all the latest news. Picked , up a bit, I reckon, along the road." » « It was a glimpse of peaceful home life unliko any Dnlph had over seen before; The wife and daughter of hiB host wero waiting his arrival in tho dining-room of tho well-built unpretentious house whou he noisily made his appearance. . f Hi, hi. Mother, are you there?" " Yes, ,my dear. It is already .five past one. What has kept you ?" " Met the coach from Millawarra, and brought you a visitor — our now P.M. Aren't you proud that he conies here first of all ?" . This conversation was carried on while Malcolm walked through tlie hall, und his wife remained in the dining-room. Dolph felt tlie little flutter of oxcitemont that pervaded her evon before sho canio forward to woleome'hiin. Like her husband sho had every appearanco of gentle breeding written in her face. Liko liiin tlio > early days when they " rouglusd it " together left no mark upon hor. Without those early days they would have boon a pair of quiet, olu-fuahioiseYl folks, prim and Btaid, to whom church attepidanco each Sabbath was tho beginning and end oS a quiet, uneventful week. Those early days gave a piquancy to their character that otherwise would bo lost. "lain vory glad to soo you," she said slowly, with a little bend of hor grey-streaked head, and black lace cap with its dainty edging of white lace. "You have had a long journey. Ed — Mr. Malcolm will show yon a room, will you, deer? I'll just tell cook to deiay dinner ton minutes." " Ay, ay. Come along, Mcldrum ; make yourself at home — many's tlio timo poor old Sydenham had
a meal with us. Why ! Mother, will you boliovo it— it was our magistrate's mother poor old Syddy married." "Oh! my," cried tho old lady, evidently giving moro thought to tho prospective moal than to her visitor's privato affairs. Over tho hospitable tablo Meldruin madc-tbo. acquaintance of the othor member oi tho Malcolm household. She .was tho only child. A woman about twenty- live, Of gracious .manners and pleasing appear ance. From her father she inherited a pair of clear intelligent grey eyes and wavy browu hair. A complexion healthy, neither ruddy lior palo. From her mother camo a stately bead, and tho' bearing of a queen, gracious and unconscious, lint over present. Perfectly formed features and- shapely hands and feat. In repose,' tlicso woro tho chiof characteristics1.' of her appearance. When animated sho resem bled the broiize-skiiiiied, )iieasant-faccd father most. Sho had been married early, but tho pro-i miso of a happy lifo was tragically terminated by . one of those futoful accidents of tlio bush that; has mndo many a mother and wifo look on "tho- land " with as much bitterness as lior equally un-' fortunato sister has on tho ocoan. Duting one of lior rare visits to Sydney sho and her fatlior became acquainted— through a friend — with a young Englishman named Edgars— a new : chum possessed of modorato meaiiB ; ono desirous of settling in tho douse country, and . making theroby a fortune. Lena Malcolm, with -tho daring and lovo of nd'vcnturc that scorns typical of a pure colouial girl, became enamoured of liis plans. He, in turn, fell deeply iu lovo with her protty face aud pleasing manners, - Beloro sho left Sydney, lie— this modo of -probe dure delighted tlio girl — told Malcolm of his- feel ings, and asked permission to address hisdaugliter; . Lena proudly nccepteil lior English lover, nud with mutual prido a few months later at Wooma they tool; upon thorn matrimony's responsibility. 'Still proud and hopeful, tho young wifo accom panied her husband to the solitary spot doBtiiicd to bcconia'their lioirte. - : . ' After two years, whilo tho placo was yet Slowly, changing its natural aspect, Lena Edgars returned to Wooma. -At Tcrragrnmbn they were fifteoii miles on one sido away from neighbours by the, nearest route, oil the other twenty. Dearly as they would liko their child to draw its first breath on its father's soil, it could not bo thought of. So sho returned to Wooma. Two months afterwards a babe drew breath, and died; and before the -intelligence readied Terra-, gramba its owner iviis on his way to Wooma. Such a weary, melancholy journey, roudarcd barely endurable by tho physical ngopy It involved. Eight days previously his unaccustomed hands had, while wielding a bushmau's adze, cut his leg. (to be continued.)
Tiio Indies' . committee of tho Woollahra dnneo, in aid of St. Josoph's Church, .-met at tho Presby tery on Wcdnosday morning. Mrs. Gorbor, in (tho-. absence of Mrs. Prcndergast, presided. Among those present wero : Hon. treasurers,' Mrs. A, Capo- and Mrs. Laidley Mort; 'lion, sees.. Miss Clraimins,' and Miss Lawlor ; Mosdamos S. Hughes,' J. 'Mar , loney, . P. O'Neil, |Misscs Gerber and -Bergeii.r It . was decided to accept the tender .of My.;. Hardy for tlio music, and that of Mr. SaunderS'" for tho catering. Steady progress is being made' in, , tho sale of tickets, ami tho success usually attend-' ing tho Woolluhra donee is anticipated. < '