|Chapter Title||- IV, V Sunday Afternoon, VI From the Newspaper|
|Newspaper Title||The Australian Star|
|Trove Title||Dolph Meldrum's Wooing|
DOLPH MELDRUM’S WOOING.
An Australian Story.
By Mrs. BALDWIN HODGE.
1 . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ' . ' / , ,
CHARTER IV.— Continued!
. 'An tlio . Cr.nop uttered, too, last word a slight . rustTo went through too building— a sense of ro ller, as It wore, tlmt the sermon were onilcil. While Dolph was t debating within 1 is ow n heart the possibility.1 of 1-nlth am 3 ,Fiat,..., they alone— as tho prcaohorjut It, p.. ml .ual ting
luo.qeeu.uuit carao irum uuam, j -- - j 30Ul a llfo 'eternal, tjio chink of falling eoln and tlio sing song voice of the preacher repeating too Lord loyeth the cheerful giver, etc., fell on nis A cynical, smllo.-', parted his Hps as ho placed his offering bestdo his mother's on tho salver, anti lio thought, "If faltli Is the essence of tho life lieio- aftor, gold- Is tlie essence of this ono. a3 the congregation moved slowly out ho mot A|h? p?accd'hcr gloved hand In -thing in the- shy- smllo and passing blush wltn which site, grcotod him Bent a throb of pleasure tWhon'tt?itbofi ki 'tho head Of the dinner table: carving thVjblnt of roast lieef' and sondng tho early potatoes and green peas, her f ac <1t.ed|1|" sweet Imagination between tho dishes and his y"I)olph 'never gave me any Gravy, " said Cob, turning poutlngly to. his mother, who: sat In lady like Inactivity, while Dolph and Nlla mlnlstproa 'Vouglve8 hlinsome, Nlta," she murmured gently. "It was a beautiful sermon, Nlta. >vis1i you lincl been thero to hear it. t "Then' you should have taken youi turn ; at cooking tho dinner, and I could have gone, "Dut 'there', chlldi" went on her mother ''You do not. appreciate a good sermon i In the , sen so that I do., -It was very soothing and soul satis fvlnR. Did you not think so, Doll/ 'Not to mo," said Dolph, who d Isll d "othl ipg more than being drawn !p a confah with one s shallow-minded as his mother. "Oh' Jack " cried Mrs. Meldrum impatiently, as she caught' the Child eating, with elbows ex- ?ouded. Do'eat properly. Put your-obowsto your Slile like a little gentleman, and Bobby, while I think of it, he sure and follow the rc- Eponses next Sunday. Dofora Nlta and Dolph word half your ago thoy could repeat them a 1. "What's the good? asked Dob. I say. a'-?' bo quick with tho pudding. It you were quick nt church, you're jolly slow at coolclns ; ."Here.'you come and help me then, you cheeky little thing,"- she cried, and Bobby with an eye to possible pickings, followed her. In the kitchen sat tho Idiot boy Fred, watting impatiently for Nlta to bring his meal to him. "I say, Nlla,"- said Bobby, "What a lark It would he to get Fred ready and take him to church next, Sunday. I reckon lie d say tlie re sponses quick .enough. Wouldn I you.Frcd . "Ugh,:.' grunted. Fred, whoso chief, If not only god, was his stomach. While tlie only dislike that disturbed, his 'stolid indifference to pooplo and things In general was ills dislike to hia things in general was his dislike to his mother. Ad jmiQbi,.a!j she liked to come Into contact with tbdi" deformed lad/so much dld-he.flislilco h away from tho sound of her voice. . CHAPTER- V.— SUNDAY AFTERNOON. After tho midday dinner Mrs. Moldrum re tired- to the verandah, and there Idled away tho afternoon over a noved that told the story of a woman, who in her youth had foolishly mar ried beneath her, and only, retrieved tho wrong step by. .re-marriage with a wealthy baronet af ter a few yearn of pitiful privation. . Nlta .washed the dinner crockery, and seeing Fred In comparative safety within the locked yard, prepared the two boys, and accompanied them to Sunday school, and sought . an hour's relaxation In teaching a class of little girls her- Gt?Dolph left the cottage before tho clock struck 2, and prepared to spend the afternoon over a book, read In the ppen air, and under the clear, bluo sky. Ho dearly loved to clear his brain by swift- walking in the quiet bush surrounding tho .town. There., was harmony In the wind, among tho gum trees, arid music In the -Bounds, of tiny twittering, birds, and beauty in God's handiwork everywhere, and for the time he revelled- In tho midst of It, and during the week tho memory of It! sweetened labour and purlllcd his life. Ono particular spot when the weather was unusually warm he chojo for his study, on ac- count of its beauty, socluslon and nearness to tho. town. Ho passed an hour there In dreamy thought, Agnes Holme, .1 fear, appearing in them more centrally than any of tho deeper .affairs he .took dellght in troubling himself over, when from the distance he hoard a shrill feminine scream. -He roso from his reclining position, and en deavoured to- see afar in the dlstanco the cause of the disturbance. At first his shortsighted eyes could detect nothing, but another scream, and he saw a figure resembling n windmill In mo tion, and a figure of a girl flying before It.' Even ho could sec the windmlll-Uke human figure was the Idiot Fred, but tho ono he.: was - pursuing he could not' .. d|stnguish._ Dolph. hastened for ward; "and the girl changing her route came to wards him, while Fred slackened speed, and fol lowed slowly, behind her, then to his surprise he found'that too pursued ono Was Agnes Holme. ,. .I-Ief face was white with terror, and sho was .trembling convulsively.' Poor Fred's friends pos sessed a' sort of shame' of his unfortunate condi tion, that they as. much as posslblo contrived to keen him. out of sight of stranger eyes. Ho, i however! wits mot' to be' depended on. Sometimes be was docilely , stupid, and.- would sit moodily for hours together," -at. another time ho would seem possessed of devilish restlessness, and no !pmoynt;qfr-supervJsion:.kept hlji' mischievous pro pensities controlled. This afternoon the devilish instinct prevailed, and Agnes Holme, walking a short distance from her home, came across bis ungainly- figure. At hor slight scream of tear ho began to follow her. Slid walked qulek'or; he (lid,':'the same, swaying sideways as. ho came "ri'oa'ror to her.' ' Then sho lost all command of Aersdlf, and ran Bhe knew or cared, not where, so long as she gained dlstanco from lilm, and ho put on his greatest speed, chuckling "Ugh, ugh," as . he went. Her joy at finding a friend In Dolph was expressed In hor. clinging fingers, and tlio det-gdr she believed threatened her broke down
.the barrior Dolph s snyness ma '»"r bctv/ocn them.- ' '"Dolph!"- 1 "Agnes!" ' ; ' . "Fred; 00 homo at once.' . "Oh! I, arif so frightened." . . "Come'; '.walk a few Btops further. I know a spot whero you may rost; and recover a little. Fred, go home." , , . But. Fred was not sufficiently, cowed yet to bend to obedience, and merely leered and saun tered a few steps! where, to Dolph's relief, he sat down, arid half-resting against a gaunt tree, feu into a heavy slumber. . , ' "Are you hotter now?" asked Dolph, looking down on hor as she sat on tho rocky lodge he had found for hor. . . Sho was a pretty girl, hardly yet nineteen, yet woll versed, llko many qulot home-trained girls are, In tho ways of llfo, In a manner that left Dolph Meldrum's .additional years of no advan tage to h-lni at nil. ' Sho was fair and sweot to tho ordinary .eyo," and to Dolph sho was an angel. Tlio nervous-red that replaced tho white fear- in her face' gave an air of childish beauty to the round and normally palo rose-tinted cheeks, and tlio roady toars waiting on tho slightest provo cation to .bo shed were very alluring lu tho bright brown eyes.- Yctv dimmed as tho.oyos woro by tears, thoy did not fall to seo the tenderness and love beaming fiom his eyes in that unguarded momont. Sho swallowed a llttlo sob by way of answor, and Dolpli, looking greatly troubled, knelt on tho young grass-covered ground before hor. "You ai'o not frightened now— indeed, you had nothing to fear heroro — ho 1b not uice to gaao upon, but ho is harmless." "But I— I—." and then the tears flowed freely amidst a fow painful nobs. "Agnes— don't! dont! — what can I get tor you? ' And then— how do such things happen, tho most unlikely ones of all— ho held her in his armo, and sho gradually grew calm within the embrace, and neither for tho moment felt tho strangeness of It all. _' It was hor words, however, brought tho affair to a climax. Perhaps that Intultlou that told her of his love, told her also Its story would not b'o unfolded without her help. "You must think I am foolish," she said shyly, half clinging with trembling hands to lilm, but lifting her dimmed eyes to his anxious face. "No. I can understand your alnrm," lie replied with a smllo that "made her believo he was the heat, the bravest, arid tho kindest in the world, and m&do hor yearn to hear that ho reciprocated In part at least tho feeling. "I do not mind, sinco you saved me," Bho said, as though lio had rescued her from a hundred wild brutes. "I have given you a tcrrlblo lot ot trouble." "Trouble!" he echoed. Save for your terror it has been- tho happiest In my life. I care tor you so dooply.that it is heaven to' servo you." . '.Ho spoke. e.o, i quietly, that, the sincerity, of his words' touched licr as no passionate out: buret coiild have done. The boyish offer made with petulant protestations of lovo by : George Ccbb had ploased hor Vanity. It was delightful to reject his offer, but It was heaven' to listen to Dolph's "Care for you so dqeeply." Sho hid lior head, and bogan to cry again. "I am a greater dolt than that Jdiot to trouble you over such things— things you havo never oven given thought to." Innocent, maybe, as tho world has It, but not so Ignorant as ho supposed, too— and I at tach no blame to any in stating tho fact — love she lmd certainly thought and heard of, though but as a step to marriago, which was In her and her guardian's imagination the crown of a woman's existence. She still wept. "I have been a fool," ho cried, with such self-reproach that sho lifted her face. "Havo you?"sho said, demurely. "I llko fools — sometimes." Then they laughed, and a light came Into his face .that rendered plainness of features of small account. "Do you know?" he askod, looking at hor, and then he stopped. "Do you know-7" she oehoetl. "I have no right to say anything — you know, I lovo you as a loyal subject does his queen — and that Is all." ho said respectfully. ' "Not,", sho whispered, "if the queen returns— tho compliment," "Agnes,", ho said, speaking carnostly, In strange contrast to her" light tones. "Do you know all your words Imply?" "I think I do," sho said, softly. "It means, I think, you — the best man— In tho world.'."1 .. "Then1' you are willing' to "marry— mo?" ! "I suppose so— hut Dolph; mother arid Auntie vi'lii' think it an awful- match." ' "I supposo so, And you refused Cobb?" ho askod. . ' Her faco llusliod a deep dull red, that had pain In It...- '- "They do not know," sho said, "and thoy must . riot know of you — yet awhilo. Thoy will bo. so vexed." > . . v- "It sounds moan — rather.'" "It cannot b'o helped," -she said, with a little nervous laugh, In which tears had a part; "You are going to ery again?"" "No— oiily you . must' think' I am deceitful— apd there's no help for it. If inothor and auntie guossod at it I should— never — — ." "You are tho sweetest little creature on earth— antl I know " (He did not know, and It required . a llttlo consoienee-drug to allow him to use her silence in the matter to beneflt himself.) "you are only keeping sllonce to win .them to your way of thinking." "I am afraid -they will - always dislike tho idea, but time may 'alter things. Anyway, thoy must not suspect anything now — you will not let them, will you, Dolph? I could not bear— It — now I know— you — llko mo." Naturally sho had her way. Had It been a thousand times moro difficult to accomplish it would havo been tho same thing. "I haye something to thank Fred tor. then after all." ho said. ' ' "Oh, Is he not horrid? I had forgotten all about him. AVliat shall wo do? If you walk .with mo somebody will bo sure to see us, and I nin frightened to walk alone. Oh, Dolph, It seems as though I cared for you, and you for
mo all our lives, I am happy, and yot .so— so — sorry." "Why sorry?" "Oh, for a— lot of things. Ytiu are not rich onough to ploaso auutlo, and mother ." "If I please you," lie said,- gravoly, speaking morq sedately than he lmd spoken yot, "I am satisfied. Cannot you try to bo so loo?" "You are not angry, are you?" she said, softly. In those early days appreciation was to hor tho breath of llfo, and lack of It' eventually sapped all good out of her oxlstorice,' but that was In her later life. "Angry!" ho echoed, smiling,' and then her' pouting faco was closo, and shy Dolph pressed his- first lover's kiss on it. "Oh I" sho said, with- drooping, lioad. "I must go. Thoy will miss mo, rind then there'll ho such a fuss." "But — when shall I seo you again?" Sho looked frlghtenod. "Oh! don't ask me. Agre may go before I am out alono again. If mothor and auntlo know It now they'd preach a sermon a yard long." "So after all tills kind talk I am only to he happier for your sweet words, and not seo mora" of you. I am afraid I shall break through the provlsoos you have made and clianco what 'auntlo and mother' say." "Oh, Dolph, promise— promise that you won't." sho said, tho cornera of hor pretty little weak- mouth drooping, "I. suppose I must," ho said. "I rely on, you finding some way of exchanging a word." "You are conceited," she cried, archly. . . "1 foel proud— too proud almost to bo my Old -humble self again," ho said fondly. "Oh,;I must go. Goodbyo. Will. you ltaep closely to lilm, and seo ho does not come near me; good-bye.". . Ho repeated tho word softly with her, and. a! llttlo. caressing press of flngors, and- she flitted away. . ' That evening ho had the happiness of sitting beneath tho same roof with her during tho bvon-' log: Borvlco, and watching from, a dlstanco. the! hat that covered the soft- brown hair; but 'beyond; ri brief glonco as sho demuroly bowod to him- he .did. not see hor .faco. .' a < ..A ; ,bHAPTER\yi.--FRt>Mr THE NEWSEAFEfl.' ; j A'fpw'days lute? Dolph Moldrum sat ""Mjsiirojy. ! bating his oyonlng .meal. Ho was later than usy'ul. - Tho other members of tlio house had 'taken .ten ' oarltcr, so It bapponed that ho ate .alone. . Nlta was. seated. Idly near tho window, waltlqg to clear tho remnants of the meal from the tablo.. But he ate slowly, tor spread before him was a copy of the "Australian Star" published the previous evening In Sydney, and urrlvlng In Palmorston In tlmo for that day's delivery. Brother and sister sat In sllenco for some time until n smothered "Oh, my God " came from Dolph's Hps. Nlta turned towards him. His face was ashen, nnd tho newspaper rustled between ',h|B trembling hands. "Oh, Dolph, what Is tho mattor? ; Aro you 111?" "Look," he said, pointing with a shaking Anger at a paragraph In tho paper. Sho read over his shoulder:— "SUSPECTED MURDER NEAR HILL END. "THE BODY OF THE "VICTIM BURNT.. "STRANGE DISCOVERY OF THE MURDER. "HILL END, This Day. "In tho scrub th|s afternoon, about half way bo- twbon Sofala and Hill End, tho remains of a man were found, alrilbst entirely consumed by flro. Traces of human blood somo dlstanco from the ashes lead to tho suspicion that a most foul murder lias boon perpetrated. On Saturday tv;p mon, supposed to be the murderer and his victim, both carrying swngs, wore scon together about a mile from tho spot. The swag carried by tho victim has not boen found, and tho only means at prosont known likely to lead to the ldontlfl.ea- . tlon -of either men Is an empty moroco purse ; of old-fashioned make, with the name 'Mordaunt' In gilt lettors on tho inside. This name is un- ' doubtodly that of ono of tho men. The police nro busy making Inquiries, and something inore definite will probably shortly bo known." "Oh, Dolph, It cannot ho father: "Perhaps somoone, robbed him of mother'B purse! — Oh, how dreadful." ' Nlta was whlto now, and a3 tromulous as Dolph,. but she kept'her woman's wits clear, and began to think directly. — "There- has been no word from aim slrico .he loft," said Dolph. ... . "But perhaps Bho waited until ho was setr tlod. Anyway, who would murder—oh', how dreadful 1— him ? 'He would ' never, quarrel- wltli anyone — and— and— ohl Dolph.IL cannot be triie." "Wo must find a moans of knowing some how. Can wo tolograph? No! that will ' not do. Wo have nothing to go' on. We do not oven know that he reached his destination." "It 'Is not true— It cannot bo true;", said Nlta, and then the morolful- tears camo.' Dolph let hor ciy .for a time, arid thon ho said, tenderly; :- "Nlta? You will bo brave. Hope for. the boat, and ' keep 'mother In lgttor'anoo, If pos sible, until Ave know- — — .?' ' "! ..' ,' "After 'all our goldon droams,'' mdaitod-lNlta. t'Oli, Dolph, -end this uncertainty— And out at onco — all we can. He may bo allve"and woll. Let us think — tho best plan "Will be," added Dolph, quietly, as sho pausr ed, tearfully, "for me to go. If father has been robbed only he will, need money. At any rate I will inquire It. tho police .hero know any thing, and ae I go I'll conBldor what , best to do! But, Nlta, try and keep mothor from sue: p'ectlng the worst. She must not read that paragraph." : On tho road to tho police barracks ho met George Cobb, whoso, quick eyos soon detected tho ' anxiety apparent in his appearanco, and Dolph, only, too glad to give vent to his fearri, related the matter to him. . Qobb's sympathies were enlisted at onco. At that moment ho would at great sacrifice to himself have dono much to help his friend, lie explained, "gostOtrnB.o7 'Slbllteo — pdrl Ho expressed his sympathy, and willingness to thelp In words. ; "I am awfully sorry tor you, and nny.thlng I can do will bo a pleasure to me If it reduces your anxiety. Pardon the rudoness, old chap, but Is money of any use to you? I know, y.ou have had a llttlo trouble lately.!'- Tho kind words and their evident Sincerity touched his heart. ''Many; thanks, Cobb, but ae' yet you canno help me. Later on I may be gilnd of your .as sistance, hut just now there remains nothing for mo to do but And put If our fears havo foundation. If I can find out nothing satisfac tory here I will go to Hill End." . So learned nothing further than tho victim: of tho murder had not been identified nor the murderer discovered, and the speediest way to allay anxiety would ho to go to the spot. Cobb accompanied him on the. dismal orrand.and walked with him to the entranoo of the house, but did not enter It. Dolph's sole thought now became to help Ills mother In Ignorance of his fears.. He Instinctively felt that her unroprcssod emotion would hamper his actions, and dull bis brain, and somehow he felt as though bis father's life depended on his conduct thou As though it was not to decldo the certainty of llfo or death, but to prevent death. Nitri mot him with white but calm face, and her eyes eagerly sought his faco for signs of hope, but none woro there. 1 "Nits," called the mother's voice, as they stood a momont In whispered consultation before entering the house. "It Is tlmo thooo boys wore In bed; and thoro's Fred running Into nil sorts of mischief; nnd you know, I want to get this needle work finished." "I'm coming," she said, quickly, and the ab sence of Impatience In her speech would haye : aroused tho curiosity of any but her mother! wboso own business and affairs generally sufficed to fill her. own tlmo and mind. "Oh, Dolph," ".said Nlta, throwing ' herself .lute i her brother's strong arms, "11 it is true, I shall dio, for I advised him to go. Oh, I cannot bear it. It Is not true! It cannot be. Such a death, and away from us all, for whom- ho has dono so muoh and borno so much, to help. Oh, if I could only hoar Ills footstep now, and hear his volco chiding us for our folly In believing him dead!" And thon tears' ehooked hor Incoherent whlspor, "You are too ready to believe the worst,' Said Dolph, although a weight hung In his Own breast; and told him there was llttlo to hope tor, "Dry your eyes, ,01s, and go to tho boys. I know It is , hard to porform such matter-rot-foot work, but It will -holp you, and I will inalio arrangements to got away at once. I will go on' horaebaok ff I can got there no other way. I'll go now, and spe If a coach leaves to-mprro.w. Bo bravo, Ciss. Think of our trouble. If mother onco suspects any thing. She will bo'hardcBt of a(l to manago." ; Then Nlta dried hor eyes, nnd sought tho be.- latod boys, and put them to bed with such qulot Indifference to their noisy unrobing' that they- gradually became quiet, arid crept Into, bed as though tho shadow of coming trouble had conic across their young, llvos. "I'm tired, Jack — aren't you?" asked Bob, with ono arm. and log In the 'bed, and tho other hang: log by tho bedside, as: he watched Nlta's qulot faco as Bho buttonpd Bobby's night robe, ' "Just a bit.' Are you tired, 'Ita?" But Nlta did not reply, only hid her faco" In. tho hoy's shouider and wot It with hor tears. Jack was out of bod lu a minute and by hor side. . "I sny, Nlta, what's up? You can take the" randlo-awny .it you liko.i We'll go to sleep In- ' the dark,, if -you. like. Won't wo, J5ob?" Bob nodded his head.. Much as ho- pitied Nlta , ho could not make up his mind to glyo vel'bal as sent to. going .to sloop in the dark. That was their pet aversion, particularly Bobby's,-. (TO BE CONTINUED.)