|Chapter Title||-XXV, XXVI Lena Thinks She Understands|
|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 XXV.— (Continued.) . .
Boxing Day dawned with mora prospects ot on joymonl for the niotlier. During the night- the lieat and dust winds culminated in a heavy tliun- doi'storin, and Boxing Day was cool and pleasant. .. Thorn was also cimueo of a rest, from labour.
(Jobb, sninrtly rigged in it new iiimmor sua. i forth early ill tho morn to attend a laco meeting 011 the Palmorston Course. With a smiling faeu and pleasant word ho left his family to their own devices. Tlieru was also enough food cooked lor the children's and lior own requirement, so her duties revolved Ihcmsolvcs into cleaning thpdust of the previous day, and attending to the children, and tho change from enervating heat to compara tive uoolness rendered them good-tampered and easy to manage. It was a glorious day of peaceful rest, with no presentiment of coming trouble to shadow it. Sho dosed and lounged about all day; . At evening sho gavo tho children their evening tnoal,- nml mado soma preparation for the arrival of Cobb, The meal was cleared away and tho children put to bod — first the babies, and later on the older ones. Then silo waited alono for her liusbaiid'o return. The elder ones, with instinctive pity for her .loneliness, hail yawningly asked her if Bho " would fuel lonely without lilom — if sho was quito sure 'she Would not inind i buy Mould go to bed, and she, calling a smile to bur face for the occasion, bade them go, although tho hours were longer with out theiV presence. . Sho sat till nearly midnight beneath tho shel tered verandah enjoying tho cool evening air, and watching with vague envy the troops of belated holiday-makers wending their way homewards in straggling groups, or couples. There wns a the atrical company playing in tho town, and tho gay laughter and the comments on tho porforinanco passed by the wanderers heightened the sense of fbhcliuess and p'resontiinent of coining evil within her. At length when tho streets were deserted she Wont to bod. She knew the moaning. . She lived through it all before. A night of drinking ending in days of drunkenness. Oil ! ho might have kept right nntil I was strong again," she lnur- tnnrcd, and then breathing a prayer, and receiving In return comfort, she foil asleep. The first streaks of tho summer dawn wore 'glimmering wlibn she again Wakened. Ho had not coiho home. , Sho went to her children's beds and icbvercd up their little limbs with the covering they during tho heat of tho night cast from them. She crept back to bed as tho scratch ing sound of tlio latchkey caught hor .ear, followed by the sounds of unstendy footstopB 011 tho stairs. With heart heating tuinnltuously sho mado a protenco of stooping. Sho nevor lost hor fear of nim in drink, lloforo her marringc she know puthing of tho world, nor of vice. Even now febo could liardly believe it possible a man could sink go low as this 0110 sho called husband hud dons. Oil 1 tho unwholesome, nauseating bittor- nana of thb draught tliat 'slie wholly, unprepared by cdAcation and training to cvon dream of, bad to quail to tliedregs. « » If her heart was heavy with disappointmontthat of the reveller was hardly less so, and he was without tho faith that gavo her such great com fort in her bitterest hour: lie had speculated rashly, and lost not only his own bnt tho trust monoy of another. This latter fact was the last straw", for ho preferred honesty to dishonesty, nnd it' painncl him when inclination led liim into paths
01- 1 lie latter — tnat woiguea mm uown. xne uay and the niglit had been spent. in ono reckless, mad endoavour to fight against fate. Half-maddeuod by drink and cxcitoment lio entered bis wife's p'rc'scilce filled solely with itn idea that had had itB birth when he perused tho brief par. relating to Dolph 'a unpopularity lit Wooma. Sno'feigncd sloop. His project ,was not to bo cast asido by trifles. " Walto up !" lib criod, with some amount of roughness in his tones that commanded hor obedi ence. " I want von to do something for me." "Leave-it until ffiorhing," she asked pleadingly, n-Kontle voice. Tho gentleness angered him, I11 his mood ho would lmvc preferred her refusal, and thus obtain first cause for cuinplnint against her. : " No I" dainc the stern Command. "It must bo dono now ; at once; do you hoar 1" " Very woll," sliu replied, and hastily put on a WttrHi wr'appdr. Sli'o did not wish the childrbn awakened. He drew a writing-table beside -hcty and placed a pen in her trembling iiands. " I want you to Wrlto to that lovor of yours, and ask him for soino money." " Oil I no," sho cried, appealing to him with hor eyes as with her words. "Don't stare at me llko a fool— many a man would liavo hud it out of hiin bofore. 1 , " No, no." , I'-Do as I bid yoit— or — " True to hor nature, alio allowed tli'o stronger will to prevail, und trusted that if she obeyed some thing might prevont it reaching Moldrum. Sho must uso stratngom to prevent it boing posted. So dho' wrote at his bidding. At his bidding -also sho sealed the envelope ana stamped it. " Now, I'll post it at once and come back and hnve a sleep— If I can slcup with all tbis worry on my brain." " You sloop now, and I'll post it first tiling m the morning. . . ; . You will, will you?" Never mind, thank yon; I'll do it, and seo it well dono." The few days following she know-no poaao. At night sho could not sleep for tho dreadful thing she had done, and for what Dblph would think of her ? Thcso thoughts, with hor impending physical trouble, ended in illness. When tho now year wiis UBhcred in the now-horn bubo lay iload, and its mother's life was gradually following it._ She was calmer than she had been -for dhys, a calmness born of approaching dissolution. Neighbours— tho relative and parent from whoso home sho married— had left I'alnierston years bofore. Hor mother had been sent for, and it was to licr tho pitiful cries of her delirium lind been addressed. " I must seo Dolpli Meldrum— Dolph Moldrum. Send and toll Nita. I must seo Nita, or Dolph Meldrum," she cried, mixing past and present to gether, utid speaking us though us near to each other as in the past. " Yes, dear ! Have patience. I'll send round for Mr. Meldrum this evening. Only keep quiet." " Quiot— qtiiot— I liavo so much to do. I cannot Sloop until I liavo seen Dolph Moldrum." " All right, dear, by-and-bye." The reply seemed to soothe hor, and she turned lior head ou-tiie pillow. Tho white-haired mother, fearing almost to draw breath, thought her sleep ing and lifted her. eyes gratefully heavenwards. Presently sho glanced Bearchingly into tho loved faoe; tho features were sullonly Hot and the oyes wide open. " Have yon not slept she whispered. . " No," cumo the sulleii reply. " I will not sloop till Dolph or Nita Meidrum como to inc." "But tlioy are so far away; they cannot como for days. Sloop first, und be strong to see thorn when thoy como." " I will not sloop tiil they como," sho replied, sullenly. They could not porsuado her to cat, and the fits of sullonncBS gavo way at times to thoso of activo delirium. Tho presence of her husband intensified ' those latter. Her porvorted imagination believed
him to bo -Satan, and as such she bade him go from her. She raved of Fred, tho lost idiot boy, and screamed aloud her horror of his father's mur derer. Then siio wont through a confidential ciiat about her botrothal. Sliu wns yet unmarried. " I don't care over and above for Georgo," sho said in 1 that low, uncanny whisper affected at times by tho menially deranged, " hut anything is bettor than - being an old maid. I could not boar that." : The mother shivered as she listenod. Sho hud been trained— an to believe tho sumo— that any marriagu was bettor than noiio at all. Even now sho could believe nothing clso. Then sho cried aloud for tho Meldrums, and when exhaustion cumo it wns accompanied by sul- lean ess. Willi tho last hour of tho old year alio dozed, tho clash of tho church boils arid the discordant noises tliat announced the New Year aruusod lior. Her eyes fell first on Iter mother's gcutlo face, and a glorious sniilo parted hor lips. " I liavo boon dreaming dreadful things. Thoy took years to drains, hut you are here, and thov aro false. " Oh I the awfulucss of it. I dreamed I was married to a cruel man and I ran away from him. " Oh ! It was dreadful— dreadful, and, doubtfully, " it was all a dream." Tho white-haired mother patted her with her soft, wrinkled hand. " (Jot bettor, dearie— drink this," and tho nurse stood in the background while tho pationt took her first, voluntary drink. , Then sho dozed, and favourable symptoms sot iu.