|Chapter Title||I - INTRODUCTORY, II (not titled)|
|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.)
chapter i.— introductory.
in 1840 Palmoraton, like many other now-lra? portant island towns of New South Wales, was little more than a rough colonial uettlement, con taining, amid its bush - tmrj-oundingB, hardly more than a score of hastily-erected dwellings to hnttca Ita umnll iinnnlnllnn ,
But ten years loft the mark of hand anil bralu, and during the fifties (be foundation of many men's future were laid. In .tbo. titties the Jlrst jipst .and telegraph of fice was built; a diminutive building that give' Palmerstonlnna u pleasant Idea of tbelr own Im portance. Tlio Commercial Banking Company or Sydney plunted u branch of their business In a new substantial brick building. A syndi cate built- a lecture ball, 111 which tlio Metho dists hold thelv services, on Sunday, and divers secular entertainments were held on week-days. Two churches und double that number of'hotels sprang up as If by magic. Labour for the time named Its own wage, and tbo services of skilled mechanics were eagerly sought after. Tho next ten years were busy ones. In the sixties Palmerston began to take 011 airs— or its people did for It — arid to call Itself hlgbly re spectable. Another banking company establish ed a branch-in - temporary offices pending the erection of its truly inagulflcont premises. The Methodists moved from tbe Lecture Hall Into a chapel with a great -flourish o£ pruyer meetings aud Psalm-singing. Tho Episcopalians built a Sunday school, and the Roman Catholics a convent. Tho Presby- ler.fins built an unpretentious '.'chapel. A Public Library and School of ArliC'Was opened," and tho. local' newspaper published Its flrsf sheet of newsi The population .' doubled Itself, , and ' ' began' 'to talk of reaching the metropolis: by ' rail 'alter a single day's journey- In . Cobb and Co.'s coach- Gold was discovered In tho- surrounding ' dis trict,, and an Influx of diggers aud- attendant parasites Imade.PdlmUrsto'n . hum— to .use a .local phrase; Indicating prosperity — and money- flow ed like water. \ V ' : ' Helglio! for those , good old days, when . our grandslros as publicans, storekeepers, and gene ral purveyors to the pcoplo's ; needs, mado for tunes, and' thetbrlfty : of - their;, number Jay the foundation stone 'of ,' tbrilr. ' Uescondatl Is' . social standing, and .le(t ;ijeblnd them names; In pure gold,.;. aitd.; somo.fi.Blasl," squandered tholr gains and killed fitlipbr I(bdies In the squandering, loav- Bs'chlJtlvcnA'hepUago'Of prodigality and! In'.'thd Sb'yentlea, as the goid fever abated,' agrieuIturl8t8.'unj|'.pnstoi'allsts added' their- quota to .f'Ayt'Unro.of : tile town..- Farms 'In 'the near, and stations vlnt. the . fur-dlslant, kept the place in ;» ;Wrvatat (or'cngmHty. And as the pros- prete'qLrnuddfcnjy-achlevIng. golden fortunes be- BAWMbctety shaped- Itself Into "cllque- Isms, ,. and.- trIVlffl" distinctions grew -up between folks, whose beginnings, were mostly Identical. , settlers . wltose: fathers' names wore asso ciated— by the urorementloned tradesmen— with such opprobrious termB us "ticket of leave " good conduct men" and the like, began to take 011 themselves airs, by reason of land and stock accumulated by tbelr sires, and took for tbem- selves tho first pluce In local society, together with the bank managers, church dignitaries and professional men, with a fringe of lesser lights composed of rising professional and business men. that bad risen and wore now reclining, on: tbelr fat banking accounts. Tbo Becond set b: Palmerston society was com prised of smaller business men, not yet retired from business, local purveyors of some Btanding, with a sprinkling of tbe retired working classes. Under these two distinct Bets of the respectable portion of tbo town were two other sots, lower in the social scale. With these my present story has nothing to do. To this day those sots are as distinctly observed as in '09, although the town has evolved Into a city, and small sub urbs have added to the importance of tho elty It self. It was one evening in tbo enrly summer of ISO—, whilo tbe grass-covered plains surrounding tbe town were still clad In tholr pale coat of spring green, that Dolph Mcldrum was walking homo from Glynne Brao, where he had spent tho last few days In adding some conveniences to the newly constructed mansion of the Glynncs. He was a- young man, a little over twenty-two, long of limb, and almost destitute of more manly beauty. Ills brown-bearded face was smalt fea tured, and. like his figure, Us chief feature was its leanness a-nd length, tho grey eyes and honest expression only relieving It from absolute plain ness. His left hand supported tbe tools of Ills trade, iu a carpenter's basket, In his right he held an open hook, from which pages be read as be
walked. Now and then ho lifted his head as though to lubale tho pure evening air, while Ills eyes glanced over tho vast expanso ot grcon- covcred plains about him, whose beauty was en hanced by tho distant dark blue mountains and tlie pluk-tlnted, palelbluc of tho sky, that had its glory reflected In the sllvory, thread-like stream that trickled slowly ovor tbo granlte'rocks. He walked on for sonic distance In solitude, until a deep "coo-co" broke the stillness of tho hush, llo lifted his eyes, short-sighted ones, that show ed hint Indistinctly the figure of someone up- prouchlng him 011 horseback. Mo slackened his puce, and closing Ills book walked leisurely to wards tbo breaker of Ills solitude. "Ah!" erlcd the horseman, as ho drew near; "I knew those legs could never belong 10 any but you!" What a fine specimen' 6f-A"Co!bnlal',liatlvc ytju would make, Meldrum, If you woro fleshier." "Flesh, old chap." snld Mcldrum, slowly, "monns weight, and weight might prove on Impe diment. But what brings you this way?" "1 thought you were still nt work at Glynno Brao, ami I was on my way there to seo you. when your lanky logs caught my .oycs. Lucky I dbl. for you would never huve noticed me." Mcltlmm laughed, us ho Inevitably did, at Cobb's personalities. "1 liovov see far ahead of mo," lie said, dryly. Cobb smoothed Ids soft, short whiskers with a soft, caressing white band. Like hl9 face, its chief points were .clearness of skin' plumpness mid nicety, of shape. A contrast in every respect to Ills tail Joan companion. Mcldrum lacked con fidence lit himself mid Cobb 'possessed att unitizing amount of It. Ho trusted to hlB own abilities, aijd to nothing else. 1 . I.t was tills- lack of confidence, ' together with the 'idea that- sclf-sacriflce must benefit others, that led Meldrum yenrs before to .give up mora congenial, work 'and to cast In' hin lot Wltli lils father and become a mechanic' under his tuition. It. was while following the, more genteel em ployment his friendship 'began with Cobb. His mother, . who looked 011 .all physical labour as something degrading, complained loudly of his. foolish decision. Before hor ma.rrlngo she lied Imd no connection with, it,' and loudly lnmantcd hor son following tlio calling of his father. "Dolph has brains," she said indignantly. "It Is a shamo to put him to anything so- menial as carpenter's work." . "He, like me. my dear, ''will use his hands for money, and Ills 'brains for recreation.' He, also, llko mo,; will bo bolter for it than if he wasted Ills tlmo and patience over a' lot' of. dirty children, In somo. bush school, ,.milos- -away from every body," was hcr husbaiid's.mird'reply. : She Intended, her son to bo a schoolmaster. It was tbe most gonteel calling . within her ,'ineans. Great was her disappointment- over her son's in gratitude. lis she chose to -call it, when;' ho ex pressed a reqolvd to go, no. further! after, (he. pre liminaries had all been' gone through. - I ; "Take my word for lt; ydu'li be sorry- enough yot," sbo snUl, sharply.,: And for tlio few en suing days they ivein "sorry: enough," for she made the affair excuse for a brief holiday, of which more later on: ' The two men walked on together; M'eldntm; na-- turally reticent und sympathetic, was just sucl: a listener as pleased his companion. "I wanted to see you," cald Cobb, as he walked, lending his horse by the rein, thrown lightly over his loft arm. ' "Yes?" questioned Dolph. i "Tho pater's got tlie Idea In his head that I should go bomb to England on u trip.;', Dolph's Interest beenme Intense. "> "Lucky boy.. You remember at school' you were the lucky one, and It has stuck to you." . "But, I object." l; ''Object?" "Yes! Object. And, ot course, there's a lady in It" Meldrum fixed his grey eyes earnestly on tho good-looking face. "What next?" lie cried. "Ami why not?" Many 'men are married at my age." "Married, rather." "Oil! if yon are going on like that I've done. I came here to get your advice, I "' "Oil!" said Meldrum, gravely. "If you are really serious, I'm attention. Who's the lady?" "I thought you guqssod It long ago. Surely! you must have seen my lovo for Agnes Holme?" Moldrum gave a start and again glanced search- ingly in Cobb's face. "I never suspected It," lie said, with a hesi tancy that amounted almost to a stammer. "1 exonerate you from blame," said , Cobb, llglltly, "you are tho most short-sighted fellow —In overy rospect. You will never make a do of It in tho world unless you grow sharper— and I am sure you've done growing, old chap." "Anyway, I liavo sight enough left to know If you aro' wlso you will soe a little more of life before settling down— you are too liarum scarum for marrlugo yot." Cobb gave a low whistle. "And lot. another .follow step In. while . I see lite. Not If I know, it." . "Well,, you aslted' my advice; I give itrri! say you aro foolish to thlnlf of marriage .You want quietening down first." '' V "I am only a few years younger than you, and yot you deem yourself old'eriough to preach pru- d'eueti to mo; It's your douced. jealousy, because no girl will! look at you— you with yoiir-No! Meldrum, I- don't mean that exactly— imBr-but — " Meldrum looked unconcernedly 1 ut" Cobb. .The handsome faiie was worthy . cdncolt, he 'thought. Noltbor toll nor care had left iis: Iriipresr on' the smooth well-cut features.' He was nearly ari tall u3 -Mcldrum,' but his broad shoulders itnd easy bearing made this advantageous. , . Almost without hlB will his thoughts found words. "I do not know whleh I envy most — your love —or your wealth."
Cobb opened his eyes and gave vent to Ills surprise. ' ".You— why I thought your philosophy kept you. oloar of sentiment, that dry as .dust science held more attractions for you than women; and | as for money, I thought you desplBed It as filthy lucre, -..unworthy a thought in your superior mind." . "Nolo the difterenco between your, life and mlno," said Meldrum, thoughtfully, passing oyer- the satire discernible In tbe other's tones. "You have had the best education money could .buy. I all that was necessary to help mo on In life." "A lot of good It has done mo,'" Interrupted Cobb, with a laugh. - "The books you threw asldoas useless 'were as gold : to me. Then you are about to travel, : you .will' see peoplo and' things I dteam of, hut can nevor'hopo to come across." . " "Ah! now yo.q lire talking. I understand you now... Seeing life is a tangible good, and' a plea-, saiit.ono into tho bargain, but why any sensible mau.noeds 'to trouble his brain over So-called culture 1 or education is a puzzler to me.' If ho lias to. gain a livelihood through bis brains alone, well, and good, but those circumstanced like you and 1 are. fools to waste life over problems that, afford no' good If solved. You with your trado neod nothing beyond: the bare mdlmotits, and I sball stop Into my father's business, and need little: more than you. So you seo. noither yoii: lior -I'.need anything beyond- what will serve us ln' o'ur business:'.': - "You mny not, but I: do," said Dolph Bhortly. "What for?" To make you discontented with tbe state It lias pleased God to place you?" asked Cobb, mockingly. ' - "Hnrdly," was tho quiet reply." Taken at Us . value my life Is as truly good as though born a Royal Prince. . I know that .Its true etlmate taken universally is loss — far less than -a gralu 'of ''finest saml, yet small as that life is. Its minuteness Is weighed with feeling, and I feel there- Is something wrong when yoti enter lire free, fully equipped for tho Journey, and I enter It ' handicapped ' by lack of wealth, and — and — . What have you .done, that you possess all these advantages, and! I nothing?" . "Ask me something easy," laughed Cobb, as Mcldrum paused lu Ills passionate outburst. For some tlmo tlio men walked on In silence. ' Doth seemed preoccupied by thought. -It was 'Meldrum. however, wlio broke the silence, In his 'qiilok libpe'thdus way.;,' , "'' "I can .never hopo tp rlso above medfocrltyi-If I am industrious, and careful — almost to penurl- ousdcss, I'may put myself beyond want lu my old ago. This . with core and luck I may attain, but lot' me marry a woman thriftless and careless, and woe , to tny hopes of aver becoming Indoperi- dorit of toll. , What it life! What privileges! That I. should. have enough to eat, and clothes to wear, viltile the earth, teoras with plenty that I may not !, touch, And nature holds bqautlos that 'I may not- 'see because, forsooth, I must toll from merit- till ev'o to gain Industry's reward." "Cobb listened with head slightly-bowed. A cyni cal. smile piayed round his lips; "1 am glad to see you, Sir Philosopher, glvo way. to the blues In. this fashion, I believe you al together too clever to growl as other-folks do." . ,'T know as well as you' the folly of striking a stone wall— yet' It appears hard that men are' born alike. with the' same Impulses, appetites and passions If one has every whim satisfied— nuy. anticipated, while another starves for the vory necessaries of life. For instance, at'' Glynne, Brae I saw much of Mrs. Glynne — a vulgar womiui; with no merit save ' her monoy to .commend her to the world. Luckily for h'or and her family alio noods no. other. Money, provided oub' has riot Bollod tho Lands by heaven-given, toil to gain it, Is tho talisman that, opens the door that shuts out. life arid comfort from the Anoneyless." - ' Cobb's thoughts were far away. It was seldom lio followed MeidRim iu Ills expounded ideas, ol life's unfairness.' \ . "Meldrum," He f lid;. when Dolph at last paused. "I' am going tqj ask you a favour," "A favour of- me — I have many to bestow," he' fieplted Ironically. - "This ono you can readily confer—. . , I want you to pave the way for me with Agnes Holme," Mcldrum looked up. The .dreamy look had van ished; In Its place a half hunted, half defiant, ex pression came. A look that did not escape Cobb's quick eyes. It revealed, to him a secret, but halt hidden from 'him before, that the main source of Dolpli's outbursts of passion at life, and Its un- cvonnoss, was love, and at tbo distance, money and circumstance, liad placed between .him and happiness.. There were women as beautiful, and as richly endowed. In every respect as Agnes Holme, yet these two men. so extremely unlike each other chose tills woman as the sun of their existence, And Dolph! OstrlcVlIke, hiding his love, thought It unknown' to others. "You will do this much for- me?'- repeated George. "Most certainly I shall not,", said Moldrum, with a firmness of tone and manner that the other
uin not givo linn oreait 01 possessing. "I should have thought a fellow like you would have been glad ot any clmnae of love-making; If only..by proxy," said Cobb, hiding behind a sneer his real jealousy. "I do not wish to quarrel with' you," said Dolph quietly, and he lengthened his footsteps and the distance between them. Never were men more unlike each other in temperament. To one tho glory of the dying day gaye a deep delight, as deep as life Itself; to the other, ' 'it was; nothing more than the ending ot other similar ilaya of tbo early summer. To one, life held us. much of the Ideal as the real. To the other, life was very real indeed, and the good things it produced, the only things worth troubling to gain. To one, mankind as a whole was a book of never-ending Interest and love — not sensual love, nor the narrow one-sided lovo of slngle-frlendedness, but the' love that embraces tlio whole of mankind — was the keynote of life. To the other, life wis ou a very small scale in deed, and self might easily, take with blm tbe place of life. To one, tbe welfare of a man's own life was as nothing compared to tlio welfare or mankind as a wkole.To tho other it mattered not what he- came of al others If his own life remained Intact. One was passionate, but' tlio passion of his na ture was tempered by unselfishness. His early life bad taught him many a lesson in solf-rc- prei'slon. The other was passionate, but early training had taught him to Indulge, rather than restrain, his love of life, and life's good things. Life to lilm was as a luscious fruit; to be eaten, and tho kernel or seed— that to Meldrum was tho es- senco of life— a thing ot no value, and as such cast aside. The ono had every confidence In his fellow creature, arid believed crime was the legitimate offspring of poverty and want. The other trust ed no one and disliked 110 man becauso he proved himself a well-informed rogue. Meldrum he looked on as a fool. And fools we all know ore tho rightful prey of rogues. Yet the ono had lived a dreary uphill life, with many a step made backwards by disappointed hopes. Hopes that had no right of existence. The other lived from birth In a world of fulfilled desires. Others lived for hlin, not he for them. And the girl thoy. loved was a pretty creature, whoso beauty at this time wan her cblof merit. A creature fitted only as wife to a man who would prove her master. . (TO BE CONTINUED.)