|Chapter Title||IX A Second Husband|
|Newspaper Title||The Australian Star|
|Trove Title||Dolph Meldrum's Wooing|
DOLPH MELDRUM’S WOOING.
An Australian Story.
By Mrs. BALDWIN HODGE.
all eights reserved.
! CHAPTER IX.rrA SECOND HUSBAND.
The clerk of tho potty : 4 Sessions at G.uugoreo Gudgeree was promoted, /and a fortnight after tho widow's departure for hbr homo Dolph re ceived notification of his appointment as clerk of the Gudgeree Gudgeree Petty Sessions. The ap-
p lull bill eilL bl) lUKU uuuui buiim weuaa A week or two after this unexpected news came . Sydenham surprised Dolph by asking "if' be could deliver any message to his friends at home, as he purposed visiting Palmorston." "No!" repllod Dolph, looking' the surprise ho felt. "But why on earth do you seek to spend a holiday there? It Is the dullest hole in tho col ony — to my thinking." Sydenham turned away, and any other than shortsighted Dolph would have suspoctod a mo tive In the visit. Once Indeed the thought of tho evident pleasure Sydenham had ovlnced In his mother's company did come back to I1I3 memory In connection with this proposed visit. But no mention of the trip to Palmeraton was mndo ngnin until Sydenham bade him a brief farewell. Dolph missed the kindly company of his friend and patron, and looked forward with some plea sure for news of his return. The first- news that came to him from that quarter was startling, and brought painful mis givings with It to Dolph. Only a brief line or two that, whllo It relieved In a manner a little of tho young follows .re sponsibility brought with It a corresponding amount of pain. They briefly announced his marrlago with the comely widow, with a slight apology for the se crecy maintained concerning It. "Your mother, lad, would not hear of mention ing tho subject to you, through fear, I think, that you would believe her marrlago disrespect ful towards your poor unfortunate father's mem ory; bnt, Dolph, she Is a young woman yet, with the greater part of her life beforo hor. You must not blame her for wishing to rendor It hap pier. Besides the boys who arc growing up would bo a heavy tax on your slender resources that will not be felt by me. I fear your sister does not take kindly to the .union, and borng a rather blgh- splrlted young lady, gave mo to understand that although she appreciates what slic Is pleased to term my friendship towards you all, objects en tirely -to' my assuming the relationship of a step-father, and refuses, in very plain language
indeed, to accept any favour from my hands. This rather annoys me, for although your dear' mother's \WIdowhood has been a brief one, it can not alter the palnfulness of that sad fact, if she remained a widow for ever, and hypacrltlaally assumed a lengthened grief it Is not In her nature to feel. Your sister — who, by the way, is an ex cellent housekeeper considering hor youth — has promised to arrange matters, and care for the children, whllo your mother and I venture on a quiet trip to Sydney. On our return to my old home I shall tell you more completely of our future plans. We shall have sufficient time for many long chats together in the home my .dear wife will make paradise for. mo before you eiiter on your neVduttosat Gudgeree Gudgeree." A little spidery P.S. was added .below tho Arm, scrupulously neat, handwriting of 'the new ly-wedded captain. "Dear Dolph, do not he hard on me for mar rying again. Do not grudge me a llttlo hnppinoss In marriage with a gentleman of far more gentle manly Instincts than your poor father was over ppssossed of. Ever your loving mother, Ada Sydenham." Nlta's letter that -arrived undior separate cover was longer, and contained nows more to the point. "Only nine months since poor father was so cruelly murdered and she Is married again. Any woman of ordinary decency would be ashamed of It all, but she Is -.not. I do not say anything against her now husband, he seems right enough as men go nowadays, hut I am not going to be treated like a daughter of his, nor treat him lllto a father, but the boys are taught already to call him 'father.' There Is another trou ble, I don't know whether they have told you of it, as they both appear to be writing to you before they go to Sydney. Poor Fred Is lost. He has been mlslng some dayB now. At first we never troubled about him, because he does wan der away when the restless fit takes him. Two days ago I saw the police, and. they took all par ticulars concerning him, but I don't believe 'they care a straw, just because tho poor fellow' was a little strange. Why should they care, !lidded'?Thoy get well paid for dolug nothing. ,:Mrs. Syden ham. iHere Dolph laughed outright. This In dignation was so characteristically expressive 'Of Nlta) "openly expressed hor satisfaction' at' his disappearance, because, forsooth. Captain Syden ham might look on h.lm in the light of a hideous encumbrance:' ' They want me to go and live with them, but rather than do that I'd marry the greatest drunkard or larrikin In Palmerston, or take in sewing, or go out scrubbing, or into service, or starve. Bob and Jack are delighted at the prospect of going away, and talk of nothing, else. Llttlo nuisances; I shall niisn them dread fully, I suppose. I am to take them. Into lodg ings so soon as I can get everyth!ng,:sli!p-shapo here to sell tho furnlturo by auctlpu. The house, Captain Sydenham says, shall be mine, to do us I like with It. The furniture 13 sold to prevont me living here. I know that 1b their dodge to get me away with them, but I won't. I say It, and I mean it. When you write you might ad vise the beBt means of getting a livelihood, and whether I had better sell the house. I think I had bettor do so, for there are a few debts owing. You know, of old how Mrs. Sydenham's whims always led' us Into debt. I did not like to, tell you before, but we drew tho last money out of tho bank a month ago, and since then we have lived on credit, waiting for money from you, so I think It will relievo us of a lot of bother to sell the house. I don't like the . Idea, because of poor father, but it'd bo better to do that than do as she has done by marrying again. However, wo can sell it any time. I feel right-down miser able, what with her meanness In getting married and saying nothing of it until too late to get you to stop It and poor Fred getting lost, and lots of other things. Dear Dolph, you're tho only comfort In the world I've got, although some times you are not as nice as you might be. Tak ing her part, and the like, when you know she's ub selfish as can be." Dolph had to read the uneven, scrawly letter once or twice before he fully mastered the sense of its contents, its Incoherent, jumbled scntonces, with Its vague threats and passionate outbursts of love and hate, were so like Nlta's modo of
i verbal expression, that ho felt' as" though ho ;had-' just, left her uneasy presbneo. These lfettors brought with their arrival food for most conflicting thought. This marrlago of his mother's was a relief fiunnclully, for under present circumstances keeping two homes on his slender Income was hnposlble. Had his mother been as careful and as afraid of debt as Nlta It might havo been easier, but she was not. Again, did It behove him as an honest man to inform Captain Sydenham of the weak points in the life . of the woman ho had taken as w!fo, or, now the bargain was mado boyon cancellation, and the habit In abeyance for some time — utmost a year —would It be wisest not to interfere. Then came the question of tho lost idiot, and Nlta's Indepen dent livelihood, that she, at all events, v/ould have to give a trial, before she would wlllugly submit to bo Independent on the Interloping step father. At length news of the coming an lval of the newly-wed couple and the two boys reached him. Meanwhile, Nlta, having no means' at hand of becoming Independent, and neither Dolph nor her friends having profitable advice on tho subject to offer, was satisfied to enter, in the character of visitor and companion, to ah old lady, who had been a great friend of her fa ther's during his lifetime. Dolph went to the public house where the ooach stopped to meet the arrivals. Weddings to him wcro strange affairs, and he knew nothing of ordinary rules concerning the arrival ot the newly-wed to their homos. "Will you come with me and have some dinner or will you go at once to Yettoe?" he asked his mothor. All tho trammels of widowhood she was robed In when he saw her last wero replaced by a fashionable travelling droBB of some deep slate-grey material that became ber well and suitably under tho autumn sky aud Its sombre- tlnted foliage. At her throat and in her close- fltttng straw bonnet was a gleam of deep red and orange that relieved the lack of colour- In her I. SJ'oenham looked, every inch of his tall, straight figure the happy brldogrom, and Dolph acknowledged, half with shame, since the nd- mlssion savoured of treachery to his father's SSJ th,t tbey were a handsome, well-matched paid. Bobbie and Jack were array- mothermaDDOr bccomine tJlG boc1b1 riBe of their
«t t ', K not- Sydenham, courteously. JJok: " my?" to order Thomas ,to 'have ready a substantial meal for us all. You will come with us:" Again loyalty to that father's memory was In S » forbade him accept that Invitation. Not ' ho replied, quietly. "I do am — come some other time." 'But Dolph, dear?" whispered his mother In all humility of mannor and tone, "you will ?.Lcay „your ro30ntmont so for as to estrange yourself from us. That would mar tho — the hap — the comfort that has como to me " "I'm not resentful," said- Dolph, a touch of sullonness perceptible in his tones he could- not ' prevent. v a ?anner, ho \as between the proverbial detil and .the deep blue sea, for ho could show his displeasure at his mother's inconstancy only by showing a like amount towards the man he respected and esteemed, and whom he did not blamo nt all. Bobble and Jack wero held silent by the novelty of the journey until they noticed the Blight constraint 'between their mothor and brother. 1 'h sayk you've grown," said Bobble, looking Dolph up and -down. "At least your moustache has." Thoy alt joined in a laugh at Bobble's expense, who, with his travelling suit, had put on somo lino airs. . . , , . .;Z,U';'Sbe' 7Itb a ,Utl air of 'not being trifled with, if he hasn't grown I never knew he was so big bofore." . Sydenham placed his hand on the boy's caD an air of pride visible In his gesture. - 'Anyway Dolph," said he, "no matter what Bob says, he intends a compliment. You mu3t take it as such." After this slight diversion his mother renewed the attack of Invitation. "It will be much pleasanter. for me if you will dtno at Yottoe. You had bettor eome, Dolph." . , 3"".''" saId Dolph, shortly. "You. Cap- Sydenham, will, I feel sure, ;excuse my pre sence. I do not feel up to it." ''eortaMy, my lad," ho replied, with a feeble . attempt :at appearing gonial. "Suppose we split the difference, my dear," turning to his bride, and Dolph, comes over to Y'ettoe -after he has dined? Wo must decide quickly, for our trap Is waiting to drive us across." Will you do that,. Dolph ?'.' 'sho asked,flxlng the strings of her bonnet. _ "Yes Captain Sydenham, After you have dined I may walk over," ho said, and then after ho had seen them comfortably seated In tho trap, and watched thorn depart, ho went In to the solitary meal prepared for his benefit. Ho know now the friendship ' between Syden ham.- and himself would become- strained under ?,fu'n,P?ion of relationship. That was a.pago fir his life s history, like that of his earlj'.love that had been read, and must henceforth bo oast amongst broken records that had lost their origi nal sw-oetness and interest. Then he turned hl3 ' thoughts to Nita. She was all now that remained to him unsullied by tho tarnishing Influence that had touched all nearest aiid dearest to him dur ing tho past twelve months. Sho could understand tho feelings of disap pointment, the sense of miserable loneliness, among a multitude of surroundings. She could understand, and sho alone! All. else were as strangers and aliens to him. (to ijk continued.)