|Chapter Title||- XI, XII Nita's First Ball|
|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. . -1
CHAPTER , XL —(Continued.) .
No one exactly Know how tne envmDio tlon was attained, but she was certainly one of tho first magnitude stars of Gudgereo Gudgoree, and as she possessed comparatively few spttoful attributes, and bore the position In manner cre ditable to tho small town, no one inquired.
Her companions were younger mmes, ana iuw daughters of a.lcadlng citizen" living on the out-, skirts of 'the town in a place called Elstcrnwlck. Old Jack Dempsoy people were wont1 to coll him, but his lotters were Invariably addressed to lohn 'ijopipsey, Esq,, M.L.C., the somewhat loss honoured J.P. being sometimes added. HJs daughters— and they enter into this history .with more frequency than their respected and wealthy sire — were Isabella and Ida, line-looking typos of colonial girls. In tho space of a few minutes Dolph found himself Invited to accompany Nita to Elsternwick And Wooddah in a most friendly fashion. Tlio Dompsey, though they possessed nono of ihe innate scdateness that sat so well on Mrs. Shepperton, wore exceedingly likeable girls in their frank sincerity that attracted while It amused, Dolph put tbem .down as high-spirited,, good-hkturfed" girls/'Wilh no sham in their- com position, and ho placed them correctly. Ntta's refined; fair face never looked better than when placed In juxtaposition to those coarser stamp of beauties. They promised to call the following day and drive Nlta out to see "their mamma," for whoso absence they were profuso- in.. apologies. Nita's quiot dignity gave them an immeasuro- able idea of hor superiority, and they treated her, Accordingly. They sipped their tea, chatted and laughed a little-longer, and. took their leave, with every appearance of being cordially glad to make a now Acquaintance.. . , . , . : ; NltA thanked tbem prettily, and accepted their- friendship, with demure ' gratitude. She kept up, her dignified manner .until the click of ths gar- Ion gate sounded their departure from tho.house, them, she .threw herself into the small locker,,
ClUU 4»UJjU4.U "Oh, Dolph, how havo I managed It? Did I loolc morcr like a kitchen-maid than a hostoss? "No, you." acted, remarkably . well,'.' he said, glancing with brotherly pride at the trim figure, and bright face, crowned ..with , Its soft brown hV'Sh'r'Dbliih, wasn't It- lucky 'I'd only, just put on' 'this'' dress— a new one. Does it look well? Id bce'n-helpIn'g Jano fix that room all' tlio morn-. Ing. I am glad now I did so, for she would never havb ;eot drtsshd in time to bring in tea unlees. Sh'e "did If very well, too, considering it was the first-time." . ' . . "lioyc; did you .manage to keep your equlllc- rl'm?-" he'asked, ' ' . '.'Oh.-i just thought our father came to the colony a 'free man, and_ repute eays their grand father. hardly did so.". " J i "murmured Dolph, as he. left her to her' own deyices, and wfint to spend a quiet hour In company; with his books. Those silent friends that gitve. him llfo and. eustenanco whon"all olso had:failed had.fsilen ehoH of what he expected of them. ' ' And even those were prepaying for him a llttlo pain, unintentional, on their .part, ' but none. tho. less real. His increased salary and the diminished oxpon- . dltuye. on his mother's ' homo made him feel a CVpesu's, and he Indulged "himself In expensive'. bo6ks. ' . Both; he, and Nita had early formed tho habit of runnlng current accounts and .losing all . idea' of the' amount of their indebtedness. Tiic'Dempsey s, and a few others belonging to tholr particular set, .wero truo to their promise .to,, allow Nita'to como within this true fold em- blema'tic' of" refined respectability. Nita's natural sharpness stood her in good stead.' She soon became a favourite with, others of .her own age and sex, and no faslilonablo as semblage, wherein young folk were admitted was; over; -the. sgme . without her. 'She .was- eo cssen- tlajyi cy.glr('s girl, and with so .little of .epquotry, . or thought of. flirtation, or marriago. In hor; bright ydting' bead, 'that Bhe made fewer enemies than many another girl would have dono under the same .circumstances. .' , ' But going out meant spending money, 'and Nita withvno thought of saving under their, good clr- cumstancee became lax in her "management of the ''financial reins of tho household, not in tho small items — 'they were as rigidly controlled as heretofore, but a habit as of digging within a never falling mine, or drawing on an inexhaus- tablo 'bank, noarlv terminated tho peaceful exlB-
te'n'co' at 'Gudgereo Gudgeree. The first quarter's accounts were not all rendered at the end of the term, but tradesmen very carefully rendered an account of all debts owing the socond Quarter, Ind their caro In doing caused a look of blank istonishment to c'ohle over tho talkative Nlta, ind a frown to settle on Dolph's brow. Application 'to - the accounts made matters yorse. Items that looked bad enough singly vhen added to the whole presented an alarming irray of figures to the . owners of empty cot ters.-" 'Outgoings were £60 In excess of incomings. ;Nita ' looked gliim when Dolph announced the deplorable fact. . ' "Fifty pounds short," she echoed, dolefully. ' J'What an ' awfiil amount — and you get a big palary, too.", ' ' ; '"Big according to our 'old style of managing, iiut "small' under present arrangements. Wo have, been living rather expenstvely," said Dolph,' moodily. "I never thought of being careful — ;we seemed.- to have so much, to spend,"' said Nlta,- 'solemnly: "Well," said Dolph, sagely, "I never spent much — except on books." "They take money," said Nita, gloomily: "But; what are'ive to (lo? There's over twenty pounds- owing Ruddock the grocer, and ever so much to. tho butcher, and baker, and tho milkman; who'd' ever dream a few pence each ' day could mako such a large total — we can never make, It up out of your salary next quarter. - Oh! Dolph, I've boon acting the lady, and ruining- you." "Not so bad sb that, Nita. We must live very economically now, and I will go myself and pay a little on some of the longest owing ac counts, and see if they will wait for tho rest. ' To these two, with all their youthful honesty unstained, it seemed a terrible thing this In debtedness they could not hope to pay, and, like tho simple, honest souls they were, went frankly and acknowledged the Improbability of doing so, and selflessly set about endeavouring to eco nomise until good times and freedom came again. Nita went to work cheerfully and hopefully re constructing the financial working of the house. Her first act was to cut down the wages paid hor young help, who thereupon asked permission to visit hor mother, and then forgot to return to her hired service. "After all my teaching and kindness to her," said Nlta, recounting for Dolph's benefit the un gratefulness of the truant damsel. "Heaven only --knows where I shall get another one; and when I do I Bkall be compelled to teach 'her everything." "Why," said Dolph, raising his' eyebrows, "I thought the girl that has just gono was the most careless girl you could possibly have got hold of. I believe you have said so." "Dolph," sho said, not taking tho light rebuko. tonderly, "If you aro not satisfied with my ma nagement I'll go. I know you think I run you Into debt." "I know you manage very well. Nor am- I
the only one acquainted with .the fact; others, hotlce your capabilities in that direction — Will Dompsey, In fact." . 1 "Well, I'm su'ro," cried .Nita, .indignantly; but the colour mounted' her; cheeks, -. not altogether an angry colour.- Tboy wore yet seated at tho toa-lable. Nlta' had prolonged tho meal by read ing little paragraphs from, a letter she had lliat day recoived from. a girl friend In' Palmerston.. This correspondent was !U hppbaranco the only existing vlink betwoen their new life and Pal- jnqrston. ' But tho unhappy lovo of bis llfo would always conhoot -Dolph's interest with tho older Inland town.,,. , . . . . This letter. contained tho noWB of tho blrth'of George Cobb's first child, and somehow there stolo Into Dolph'B mind tho thoiight of a lost happi ness. Had lie been less, jealous and friendlier to wards his successful rival... ho might havo found a ghmmfr of happiness from this great blo'sslng that notv bound the two lives. 1
Njta was folding,, the eplstlo when Isabel and Ida Dempsoy entered tbo house with that free dom' of manner that had becomo customary to them. They were brimful of news. "Ohl Nlta," cried Isabel gushingly, greeting her friend, "v.-» are going to liavo a ball— Ida and I found out all about It. Our Will and Allck Dixon, with ono of- two others, are getting up .a ball. Won't It ,bo delightful, after all the tame tea meetings" and social gatherings we've had." Nlta, who hid never danced a stop In her life, was Inwardly doubtful, so far as she was con- corned, whether the affair wuu delightful, but sho never Hgave expression to her opinion and Ignorance. "I never dance,'.' Bhe cald regretfully. "Ohl- but you. must now. Mr. Meldrum,- you will persuade her. You dance, do you not?"; said Ida, with a flash from hor dark eyes at Dolph, Nlta privately held that Ida was more than half In love with tho staid Dolph, and thought such a match eminently suitable from every point of view, "I? Oh, no!" said Dolph drily, "I never at-, tempted a dance !n my life." ' . > ; "But you will now," said Ida coquettlshly,: an air that suited well her qtquant features. "If I aBk ycu, You really must. I am going to wear pink, .Isabel blue, and Nita, as a debutante, must wear white. You will feel qui to proud of your sister." 'Doubtless," said Dolph, looking with frater nal interest on tho three smiling faces around him. "But I am much afraid my ignorance of colours will prevent my fully admiring blue.or green However," ho added, as the .smllds grow a- shade Iosb sunny, "I am sure you wilt mako a lovely trio, whatever colour you choose." i;bb rdPislhfpsnsdukgmd'Ba slirdl shrdl shrddl Tho girls langhed merrily, Ida's faco. flushing' as Dolph's oyes rested ou her well-favoured fea-- turos. "I am afraid," said Nlta dubiously. with a dip-: appointed air, as she remembered the state! of. tho homo market, and at tho samo time hearing .In mind tho fact that Will Dempsoy's .position!
ma.do lt compulsory for him to bo present,' and dance tho greater part of tho night, "I cannot , dance." "Bother!", cried Ida quickly, "but never mind, . Isabol and I will soon teach you, and I reckon - yotl'll dance better than many of tho girls .pro- sent, or tholr partners either." ' . i "But— I have no girl," objected Nlta. - "Never mind, lot the house go— and. you will not mind going without dinner until the.balMs' over, will; you, Mr. Meldrum?" asked Isabel : with a llttlo sly glanqe from her oyes. ' "By all .moans. If the hall comes off to-mor row?". 'To-morrow! Why It's not until the middle of , next month," said Isabol with a little pout. "And iim I to live all that time without food—." ho began ruefully. , .. '"Oh! she can get you something," Interrupted Ida.- " .; . "When she's not learning dancing/' interjected Isabel. . "Oh! bo long.a3 'something'' is forthcoming I must be satisfied," ho said, Btandlbg up. "I will leave you to chat it- over." Then he wont to. the rooms' which he. learned to;love, because, there he1 was freo to- think, free to .dream, and . free to ' plan means whereby lie was to satisfy; the craving he had to mete out justice to his father's slayer. i CHAPTER XII. ' Nita's Fikst Ball. ; _'The seclusion; and quietude of bis sniall room Aid'not bring theqjlttco with it lie Had anticipated. Thoughts of the projected ball would; intrude -themselves.' Hp heard, the- doorbell licrtild the' arrival of another visitor, and later recogiiiscd the' visitor's voice as belonging to Will Deinnsey.' As lie listened to the deep buss voice mingling With" the laughing treble of the girl's a fooling of doubt oppressed aim. Doubt, that he was a trustworthy guardian fop supli a girl as Nitu, and fitted to hiivo reposed in hint the "care of- such an; buo. ;Ho; had jested' ivith Nita concerning the young follqiv, but tlio ' jest .' hud earnest. in it. and it loft, liim uneasy. -He 'had ' dallied 'over the j affair of Sydenham's marriago, aild liO'fearctl, doing tile same .now with much drend of consequences, should ho precipitate . matters, or hurry into earnest a light flirtation. . . Not tliut tho young fellow lmd vices he did; not approve of, nor that, ho disliked him. It was rather otherwise, ho lilted the young fellow. It was the possibility of; a nearer, relationship that alarmed him. " .> . - , .
He could never, with wisdom, consent to givo Nita's happiness into .the heedless hands of the young fellow; 'A brainless, frivolous, good hearted young follow, whose good qualities, abet ted by his Very, apparent weakness, would doubt less' work his , ruin, and one whom Nita could lead as -easily as a babe. And what an unre liable leader She would bo. Excitable, and as easily swayod.as the youth himself, they were cer tainly not the pair to be trusted-to float alouo on' tho troublous ocean of marriod life. And there were difficulties nearer that Pon- - fronted the situation unpleasantly. If the union with a penniless girl of no social standing failed — ttB it undoubtedly would— to please bis relatives, coiild he, whqse chief ambition in life was to cxcei . in cricket or croquet, be expected to gain a-liveli- : hood for wifo aud family ? He sighed as ho thought : of tltcso clouds that presaged worries,' and remem bering tho closer worry— the needful ball dross — turned to hi books- ' The time Bped on to the week of tho ball. Nita spent many hours brooding over, tlio inattor of licr dress. Sho did not desire to get deeper into debt, and she could not get it without doing so. Sho .thought, at first. of spending a very few shillings on ' it, untiMhe Dompsex-girls eonssultod her, oh the patterns submitted for their own robes. Tlio ex- pcusivg.shiihmeriiig material and the plates de noting the, intricate, style of their make up troubled hor. The! ; homo robe of cheap white mnterinl she liail at first thought of seemed out of ' plaCo in juxtaposition to the.costly silk. Though sho barely acknowledged it to herself, n desire to look well in Will Dompsey's eyes was of for greater importance than even the reduction of their indebtedness to the local tradesmen. Sho put all thought of the cheap tarlatan and muslin aside and chose a fair priced white silk and luce trimmings. Then she doubted her own ability to put it together in stylo worthy the occasion, and gave it into tho hands of us good n inodisto us tho town boasted, hoping by early rising, and care ful management, to impinge without hired help, and yet havo tho leisure ihut alia folt to be com patible with her social position, and by this mode save sufficient to pay tho dressmaker for Iter ser vices. the only drawback to her contemplated pleasure. Nor was the matter of hor own porsonal adornment Dolpii possessed ho dress coat, and sho avus at sea how to broach the deficiency to liim. For many days the mutter' troubled her, until she felt it could not possibly, bo put oil' longer, uud, much as alio disliked it, sho must mention tho dress coat to her brother. "Of course, your brother will go," questioned Ida, with a little effort at appearing indifferent to her answer. "Oli 1 I think so, she replied, and inwardly re solved to be backward no longer, but directly Dolph returned home to Bottle the mutter with bin). , . , . Tho opportunity camo that evening over their usual place for conversation— the dining-table. " Dolph," she said, "you must have a dress coat ;
you cannot possibly go without one. "Tlieu," he replied steadily, "I must remain at home." „ . ; , " But— — " begun with a downcast expres sion on her face. . "Don't bo silly, Nita," ho said, looking in her pretty face. " You -know I cannot afford it just now. In debt, and no prospect " "Oil! I know that, Dolph," she said, coaxingly coming close to hint, and running her fingers with n slow, caressing movement through his hair. He smiled at her touch. This tendency to coax anil fuss over him was a now trait in hor'disposition, us though gratitudo or regret were assailing her. " But, for once — and, besides, if you get ona uow you will always have it." ' , , " When I say no, I generally mean it," ho said dryly, " and I simply cannot buy such nonsense, and have no intention whatever of wearing ono at any time." . - "You might do a little for mo, Dolph. I always—" ' ' , "I know Nita. You liavo always boon a good littlo sistor to me. Even in the old days, when getting my meals ready entailed extra work, they wcre-alwavs ready, for while you grumbled you wofked. 1 have become eo used .to you, Nita ; if you' were—" ' , "And, Dolph, liow.good havo' yonbeon to mo? alio said gratefully. ''Mirny brothers would havo married and loft their sisters to work for them- " It is not my fault I am unmarried," he said quickly, a touch of bittorncss in. bis voice, as though she had unwittingly stirred up blttor re- flections.
Nita glanced up quickly in surprise, arid read from his face his love secret. : " Why," sho naked, " you never liked anyono well enough to nmiry hor, did you ?." " Perhaps ' lovo ' and not 'like' would bo tho post suitable word," he began sadly ; ,thcn, as if l(er sympathy irritated him, ho added, "Never mind. Lot us livo in the .present— wo are very comfortable, you nnd I, Lot its tall: of this won- dorful-ball— a regular Cinderella affair for- you— but mind you must find no prince, for I cannot part -tvitli my houaekcepor.for a long, long time." " But tile coat, Dolph 1" sho whispered. - " Never mind that, unnecessary article. You can go with tho Dcnipseys. I will drop in late, or porhaps early iu the morning. I shall want no, coat for that." ' - : . " Yes," said Nita, hesitatingly. would rather go with you." " By the bye, Nita," said.Dolph, thoughtfully, as though the idea came as an after-thought. " Don't givo young Dompsey too much enconragoment.'.' " Encouragement 1 I am sure I givo him none., At times I nin barely' civil to liim," alio said,, with' flashing eyes.- , «. "A. word to tho wiso," said Dolph, gently. " Have you learned how to dance,?" < . ; .- "'.Yes! Isabel says I dance better tlianmany girls— and iufiiiitoly better than most men. Will Deinpsoy says I dance beautifully." . " If hq is satisfied I suppose 'I need bo," said Dolph, ironically. . " With no small amount of anxiety Bite donned tho ball-dress, which was h truly beautiful affair, both' in stylo and texture. ' ' " ; The tall slim. figure .robed in' it looked so grace fully girlish, with the baro arms and. soft white shoulders, surmounted by tho bright faco with its soft brown hair. Her eyes revealed the delight she found in tho reflected imago' of dress and wearer na she hastened to Dolph- to exhibit tho. beauty of tho womlorful dress. " If evory other woman present looks but half as . well as you do, Nita, it. wilj be d btilliant affair,"; said Dolph kindly, inwardly 'quailing at tlio . thought tlint. Nita in her ball-dress would prove ; too much for tbo ardont . Will. ' ' (TO.IIE CO.NTIX'UF.D.) !: , '