|Chapter Title||- XIII, XIV Wedding Cards, XV Palmerston Revisited|
|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. -g
CHAPTER XIH. — (Continued. )
. (Bbuid ho, under any circumstances, unaer any code of social or nioral conditions, bo mado tuo equal of his victim ? .. According to his former reasoning ho must an- Mvcr " yes" ! But now lie must say . no. A
thousand times lio !" . Avhilb one man nouj feoia above the value of a fcUow-creaturo s lue» or WcUbcing, there could be but ono answer. Under tormcr thought tho murderer .Jjas irre- IpouBible, or nearly so, of his crimo. J. hat was committed owing to two causes, hither He mm boon brought up to beliovo that money was ittll in all in life, or.tlip crime snrang.froni want. v> im? a 8ecohdtiry?causc lay in tho unoUrbod «aua unr tutored condition of Ills life. The ego of his uu-turo had full sway, and sacrifice of life dim soul was the natural outcome. : Local equality, such as it was, oven iii tliis1 democratic country Avould become impossible. For, do tho best' a man conlu, the sins and woaknoas of his ancestors told on and against him in tlio raco for social jiresUgc. >> ouid it ever be otherwise? Was society or humanity to blame ? Then carno recollections of the idiot nature and human folly had made hi3 brother. He and the dead father catno like phantoms i" the night. Their presence seemed with liuu. no heard ngiiin his fatlicr's voice as ho hud heard it hundreds of times in the workshop una during the meal hour. He heard once moro tho bitterness ot tone iu his parent's usual kindly voice us ho gave expression ta. his, .opinion ; Tlie aristocrat a ldjo ami AViiitedmuded.. whose acres! stro'tch into miles; BCiuanderastliey will and re vol in profligacy, bccoinu no poorer. Our spiritual masters— whoso well fed aiicl wnrinly-chul bodies umko them look pleasantly ancl comfortably on life— preach humility and con tentment to thoso starving, shivering creatures tlicy are Christians enough to define from the pulpit-belovod brethren. These ailalrs areas tlicy should be, and for society's sako should auijcr no ilterulion. Yut is it right that ono man should livo on tho best of fooil ami wear the richest raiment, while Ida fellow would gladly keep body, mul soul together on the cfttstB that tall from the gourmand's tablet; Should we wonder ut tlio poor bocbining vicious unil discontented— one Hull surf, the other lmlf ct-iiiiliial. Tlio latter Half ailing tlio Vices of tlioir no-cullod superiors beiiig held up to tlio frirnici- as oxiiinples of wickodiicss. l,y and byo tilings will-right themselves, and (is tlio masses become more educated and learn to tliiuk for thenit selves, tliey will not starvo so quickly aud us u mutter of course: ' , ,. On tliat dny let Royalty and lords nnd kulies and the idle-Iiiuided look to thomselvos, for unless ediiealion prevents it it will end id bloousliod— au equality bred in bloodshed;" . . . Ho hud listened to similar: opinions given in dif ferent words and phrases, uttered sometiriics witli on oatli, from lips whose speech was touched with colonial twang, London cockneyisin, Irish brogue, or-iri broken eolbiiiai-linglisli by French or German tciiigiios. Eiliieation of the class from which lie (Dbliili) cnino broil discontent, arid " discontent would inevitably lead to strife. .. Arid strife when it came, what would it bring ? AVould .it level all classes, or would it sink lower the already hampered lower classes, Itiid teach timiri thoy never could und never wore intended to rise above the condition of serf ? TimrikGod! Men's brains and the ability to nse them could not fail to better their condition. Eveii during his short life he saw tho shadow of coming events; lie saw that everything was tend ing £o improve the miserable condition of the masses. Labour iu tiriie— riot probably iu his owii . .luvs— would come to bo looked- on as a pleasant and honoured virtue, riot a necessary ovil or some thing worse, merely bscauso it wns compulsory to work for life itself. Honest labour would reap a reward other than its own meagre wngo.
Would that right the world's inequality i ivouiu duo recognition uf labour mean social and moral— for tliey must go lmtiil-iu-liuud in friendly fushion — equality? For instance— Could Ho l-ccoeniso his father's murderer as. his - moral equal? His idiot brother his intellectual equal ? 'ot- that young bush ignoramus Rita cm- ployod as houcoliolil help his social equal ? Was it duo to inequality of birth, trniuing, or simply to cgutisin thiit made him liolcl hiihself superior to tlioni, while liolilinfe himself the eqrial of btliSfsHi'imfri' the world' called his superiors ? Was bo at heart ail 'aristocrat; a doBpicablo being, refusing to all men their birthright, and holding woinriii inforior to her inate ? This last quostion was easier answered, for as yot lie lmd never' mot the woman .ho could call his equal mentally. His inothor aud Nitu wore tlio only women lie 'Could assume knowledge of, anil . Agnes— by reason of his love only. She whom— blameworthy anil iaitliless thoiieli she was — lio loved, riot for what she was but for that whieli lib .. believed lior to bo. Hovearnotl, while he reared, to tricot, her. In Ilia Cooler, most hoptful moments, he blamed Ills own conduct iri not breiikliig through the silcnefc she had placed on him before interfer ence became too late. How different life might hnvo been ? Her presence anil Her love might have bcon antidote to the consuming vengeance that supped bis life's good. For no retributive justice mated out to his murderer could briiig back tho life of tlio man lie loved. No vbngeaiico could undo the iiasi ; though through all utid about all tlio affairs of bis daily life lio looked forward to no other end than 'tho meeting fnco to face that un known murderer. 'CHARTER, XIV. WEbbisti Oakds. William Dempsoy Nita — ='. ' Tile course of truo love ruri ' 'witli . nriwhnted riiootiinkss. Lover's quarrels of little depth und siiort standing alone rritfled theoalm surface of the '"Aya'ais betrothal before marriage was the only restriction. . « ... -.Mrs. Syiienlinm, in reply to Delphi 'brief men tion of the coiitoinnliited'iriarriagq, .wrote .whole, pages . of -congratulations, thnriknic-. JJqlpli . in 6XIUH80 as tlio saviour -of tlio fiunily s ; fortune. 'First; her owii mUvriiiyo'iiitlirectly m'ougut about, through him ; secomlly, ihnt.of her.ilcur. tlaiihter Nita. which she fondly uiul nffeeUoinitely hoped »vould prove us foliuitious us her own, UiUlcrsucU cood circuinstunees she felt Dolpha uiu, on his brotlioru' belmlf, .would not bo cdUodibr. - - .. Tlio lettfcr set Doliih's thoughts busy, and Nita s ionutio talking. 44 Thankiim you for her husband. I. wonder sho docs not tlmnk you, or believe you callable of prompting the mail who took iioor father's Ufe with- Intent to rcliere her of the bur den of his poverty mid huinblo life. ? « Dolpli made no reply. Nitu's tyords held much truth in them. The .sense of. pleasurable jiriuo that permeated the whole letter mado lam ponder over the aspect presented to the femiuiue mind hy marriage. , , , „ . Was his mother's idea, abnormal, or did all women look on marriage as desirable, whoever the partner miuht be? . - ' ... . . His mother had not inquired the character of tho man that had chosen her daughter, only ex pressed gladness tliat sho had been fortunate to he chosen by a husband. Did all women believe mar- riu ;'i a desirable state provided tho suitor, had luffi -iont of this world's commodities to keep her in ud good or better couditiou than she had been uceustomed to ? llis mother's views on the subject partly Bcttled tho nuahns of misgiving he felt ut thought of tho contract. He told himself tho pair were perhaps weak and headstrong, but couples ai weak had lived happily together where love, wus tho binder. He came to look on tho match hs a desirable one. The young fellow's amiability and uuiforin cheer- fuiuess soon won his liking. . \ Tfhe twelve months' betrothal passed in arrang ing for the future. Tlie young fellow was to go cm a station sonic miles from Bathurst. Not as owner, but manager under hire of his father For this he was to receive a good salarj', and the hope at the expiry of five years of becomig un conditional owner, should his conduct dtid manage ment prove wnpthy the gift. - The manner of going, and the conditional tfs
about futuro mastership hardly pleased tlio. young fellow. Working for reward was not to liiB taste. Bub Nita was obtainable .under no' other circum stances, and tho 41 ifs" were smiled upon. ' Nita, on her part, unwittingly kept lihn to the mark hy her absolute confidence in his ability The 44 ifs " were 110 obstacles lo her happiness. She believed in him, and dreamed of a glorious future. Dreams and bcliof being fully coulided to him be- cnino tho strength of his curly struggle. Looking forwurd to the lite of a salaried mana ger's wife, sho practised economy iu the household to benefit Dolpli, und leave him free from debt-, and with ith'e thought of economy in her future homo. Tho results were pleasing. Tlie second year's expenditure loft something from each month's salary to nay off the previous year's deficiency. BTo her delight sho gave up her talk of lovo free from liuuiilialini; debt. The wedding, at lior ef.hibst request, was o quiet niio. Sho hogged Dolpli not to let lior luocllor know tho dato of the ceremony until it was an event of the past. . " I could not bonr tlio thought, let alono the reality, of tier presence, il'orliaps drunk," alio said, sharply replying to Dolph's brief expostulation. . "What. will Dompssy think of her absence?" he asked gravely. " 1'vo explained it rill to him. Ho knows every thing," sho roplied crossly. "You never mentioned, her— Besides, we.ilo not know that she lids bu'en tlrinking lately." " No; hilt I.give a good guess. Anyway, I have no intention of beginning Ufa by hidiiig anything." ' He sighed. " Surely," she went oh, impatiently tapping tier plate with her aggspooii. The confab took place iiornss tlio brciikfust table. "Surely," she re peated, " you are iiot.plit'orit at my speaking— mentioning tho disgraceful fuot of owning a— drunken parent." " Nita !" said Dolph slinriily. She glanced at him— a lri-ief seafoliiiig glnnco tlirit took iii every: lino of his closely compressed lips; Something iri : its compression brought an apolojiy to her tongue; " I am sbrry, Dolpli— if— if— yoii think I speak harshly ; but at times I feel besidb niysclf| when reineinberiiig— the blil iiiiscrV. I fool like dlsbwii- iiig hoi-— like oleiiising myself frdilt dirt whon-.I blame her." . '» . "Talking never cleaned aiiything," ho said griivoly, " arid tliis dirt tvii shrill lievcr live doti-ii." Nita lifted lior uliin. Her oyes groir'dciirint. " I don't know,'.' she ririiil; "I cannot soo tliat because she is what she is wo aro any worse for it." . . ' " -Neither do I. But the fact remains that ive are," ho l-Oiiliod gloomily. . Nita sttiduotiiing for ri. time. . .. . "Thank Hon von !" sho sighed at last. "She's married. I often wonder what it would havo boeri like if priori old Syd'onhriiti liild hot tukori a fancy to hiir. What a lifri.it would be. Hbtl in it cot tage, ivith starvation rations. " Hrisli ! Nita. Itonifeniberi you aro about to assume a woman's responsibilities. You must have a wotnrin's wiedoiii; arid it wise woriiaii carries u eiiiitlous tongric." "If a cautious tongue moans speaking slyly for the sako of board and lodging- — " "That is what inarriugo often means," began Dolph. . "It'll not mean that in my case. Nothing shrill make me u liiir," sho said, slowly. "Had father bcoii iirnier ho might have lirid a hotter unite." - " Nita," lie said; quietly, " Have you thought of tho life ours hud 'been hud lie bcioii o' passionate mail ? You havo not forgotten that riiglit ho struck lior after upbraiding hbr for tho misery she brought iuto his life?" : ..... "No," sho replied; . coldly. . I have- not forgotten it. I can; see the frightened children now; and pool- father's faoenftor he struck
tlie blow. That night added years to Ills life. Poor father ! I wonder sho does not drink herself to death. But thoro; she's withotit foelihg." He libido no reply. Tliero rcmriinbil little good, arid maybe muoli liarni; iri iirieoveritig tlio dreary print..'- ... It was tlieir last talk togctlieb on the subject, Tho following ivoek Nita was riiarried.. Dolph werit into lodgings reeommended livMrs. Dcntp- sey. Fart, of- the futiiituro that filled tlioir small home want, to Nita's now. one. .Tlio remainder wont to render Dolph's apartments more comfort able. ' ' . \ !. , ' . . . ' HoriieliUc: they would rici-er be. Ho.riiissod Nita's bright presence rit every turid; Hoi- hiisCy tcnibcr, quick tongue and merry laugh hud bright- enecl tile little cottngo for him. Her independent, titlkativo ivny of louking . after bin needs llerise(l liitii hotter tliriii tlie .methodical paiiistakirig man; ner of his quiet landlady. CHAPTER XV. ' PAlmehstos Revisited. . . Nita had beeri iliai-ried a year itiid a month when Dolpli rccciv-ad iieu-s of' the birth of an' angolieally beautiful hoy-cliild. . The marriage of Nita took her nlinost out of his life; The birth of. hoi- child completely did so. Gradually -in lior shortening and fewer letters' did her diminishing interest m his life show itself. Even her husband was placed lower iri iter esteem iu consequence of this licit- to Nita's love. This tho young father, Dolph judged, by his proud let ters, -was. porfeutly resigued to, iri turn Offering his lovo at- the shrine ot lite new-comer. Shortly after this news came his interest in his old life beL-ame revived. The inori-orv of the idiot lad lmd almost faded from him wlieii u friendly, constable from I'almorstori wrote him that tho re mains of a youth luul been fouiid in a dense scrub ii tow iliilos east of Piiiiuorston. It is tlie side issues, and not the main stream of life itself, that often affects our lives for good -or ill. Dolph Meldruni, with no inoi-o thought than taking a heedful holiday, applied for his first leave of absence from the Civil Service and ob tained it. Thnt it would affect the whole current of his life, aud connect tlie almost forgotten past with his present aud future ho never dreamed. Ho telegraphed at oiiee His w-isli to, see tho, re: . mains, and, if those of tho idiot, to give tkcm; : decent buria). Ho trod tho once frimiliriri road as in a dream. .Tho place had altered, arid presented a more ; prosperous iippeataribe. / Still inuuy'of the , old lauilniarks wore there. 'The house where so riiany happy; as well .as do-, spoudcrit, hours of his childhood und youtli had been spent. Its. present tenants were neglectful of its few points of beauty. A broken- window-' pane replaced by a sheet of browu paper, behind which hung dingy white curtains. The once spot less verandah steps— how often lmd Nita " rounded " on him for stepping with muddy boots on the white freestone— were grey, and unelcriiied. Tho geraniums in the tho old green-painted tins looked stunted atul miserable through lack of care, Further on there were buildings going up. Once ho st ood looking at a strange carpenter busy uniting flooring-boards to the joists in the partly- erected building, whilo the bricklayers ut the rear of the building made music with brick and trowel. A shingler was busy nailing shingles to tho roof of the liouso. "Seem busy, mato !" he said, addressing tho carpenter. " Whoso house is this ?" Tlie man looked up at tlio familiar greeting. He expected to find a fellow-workman in shirt sleeves, and looked lu's surprise at the individual in black coat ami unsoiled attire. " Old man Cobb's. He wants to get into it by end of the mouth, and it isn't nigh finished yot." "A pretty fair house," said Dolph, placing his hand on the tools he felt a strong longing to wield. "Aye," replied thn mail, shortly. Dolph's black coat put liiin out the realm of tha working, inuu. He was riot wanted in it. The feeling of loneliness— a " no-one tc-Iova-ine" degree of loneliness— came over Dolph as ho walked towards tho police barracks. The feeliug had often cuinc over liiin since Nita's marriuge. I-Io walked on thoughtfully, hardly heeding the route lie took. As ho drew near the house Nita had pointed out ns the residence of George Cobb lie looked at it attentively, 'i'lio only tender passion his life had known was not yet dead. Thoughts of the woman ho loved came to Him,, made tenderer, doubtless, by the previous feeling rif solitariness. Had time und worldly prosperity denlt gently with her ? Did memory ever so seldom provide a link between present and pnst ? Ho dwelt fondly over tlie thought; while he (liil not need to be told that domestic ties aud interests would probably completely wipe out any lingering meitiory of maiilou folly. Notwithstanding his fuiicied intellectual superiority, ha told himself 110 woman lfvod'who could feel mare than a slight passing interest iu his life. Even his family uere gathering about them fresh interests entirely apart from liiin. Melancholy was paving a path for him his better seif would have l-evoltod at 111 brighter moments. " Oo tan't 'kip. Oo's too big." The little baby voice reached him simultaneously witli an. insecure footing beneath him. The little one's skipping ropo was about his foot. He looked at the child. A pretty little tiling in soiled pinafore, and with a hat hungirig off ruffled He smiled at the contemptuous curl of hor young
mouth as b|io repeated, '' Oo tan't 'kip. Verlio can. Thee I , Action following words she began to skip, asking the stranger to '"i'liee." Tho skipping was short, for slic tripped, ami foil, before ho uttered tho ad miring word already on Ills tongue. Sho was 011 her foot again without assistance, when a spot of blood on. her pinafore, soon fol lowed by larger stains, alarmed her. Her nose was bleeding, and tho know-lodge brought greater fear. Sho screamed ; her shrill, young voice alive with alarm. Dolph took his pockel-hund- kurcliief, and oudciivnred to pacify bar, but tho Btaihcil pinafore kept alive hor fears. The child screamed for "Muvverl Muvvorl" The mother heard the cry, und Dolph looked on tho fnco of his old love. ' . More matronly, more subdued, and older, but more beautiful 111 tho young man's sight than for merly, for tho piquancy of girlish conceit liitd j vanished, leaving instead the lialf-siuldciieil expres sion of a woman tliat had battled with lifo, and lost strength and will-power during the warfare. " Agnes 1" ha cried, forgetting the. barrior, that lay between tliem. Ho only remembered their last mooting, "Agnes, "ho repeated, and his grey eyes kindled, with tlio revived lovo of his youth. "Dolph— Mr. Meldruin— 1—1." .His cyos grew almost (lull again. . ... " Yes 1 yes," lio replied bitterly, "Pardon mo— I had forgotten— it is is tho first time— sines— ." His voice ceased. She. understood — tho unvalued wife knew the greatness of love that might have been hers. Sho made no reply. Ho, like mnliy nnothor of good intent, said the first tiling 011 his mind, and tho Inst thing he should have said. lie spoke harshly— bitter reproach in his tones. . "I forgot. Somehow I forgot tho lapse of .years. Youri appearance recalled tho girl- whom I ollea believed in."
- Sho wait of all women loast. likely to bear- un merited rcprnuch in silence. Nature intended her to be applauded at every action of her life, i . - As with him, past and future werd merged irito the prasent moment. Sho did 110't solely, dcscrvo his rcproarili. .Thoughtless as to result, she made a lame endeavour to right horsolf. ; . "Dolph !" sho cried, " you wrong I110." " Her voice was vibrant with emotions revived by tlio. memory of her eventless girlhood." "How ? ho inquired, briefly. . His oyos'looteiii tlio plain '.morning attire of the. domestiiaited 1 upm:ui. ! Tlio . Iiollanil cooking nproii witli iis'liib - aiid Wide skirt covcriug the neat dark dross., Tlie soft brown hair, with its crinkled waves, brushed away from tho smooth tinlined forehead. 1 .Plead ing brown eyes, and a slightly fretful inotilh of red lips half revsiiling white porfcotly-set teeth. Dark, . beautifully-chiselled eyebrows giving the billy touch of charaetor to tho fair features. . , (TO BE CONTINUED.) .