|Chapter Title||X Dolph Engages a Housekeeper, XI Nita's Friends|
|Newspaper Title||The Australian Star|
|Trove Title||Dolph Meldrum's Wooing|
DOLPH MELDRUM’S WOOING.
An Australian Story.
By Mrs. BALDWIN HODGE.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVE !).
CHAPTER X.— DOLPH . ENGAGES A HOUSE- ... , . keeper. .
4 k Wheh the cry for Nlta— not the old, oft times cross-grained Nlta, but tho Nita who understood him— weht out from Dolph's heart, it brought with It a new interest. In the new place where ' he nruBt iabotir. and live, could ho not build up
a home for himself, a homo that, devoid though it must he of the sweetest tie of love to bind its inmates closely, might yet be saved from utter loneliness and discomfort by the Bavins presence and skilful Angers cf Nit'a. Nita should find Independence in his home. She should be ruler and bousekeoper. This fresn thought filled him with hope, and life held an added interest in it. With it foremost in bis inltad ho paid tbo promised visit to hiB mother s home. Although ho had not hastenod his own meal, or walked quickly to Yettoe, they had only Just finished the grand repast Thomas bad pre pared for them. , , „ » ,««« That gentleman, who dearly cared for his J"®" . tor, did not know how to take the matter of nis marriage. It would do no good to threaten to consign him to the inercy or thriftless lianar maidens, since no manner of threats, or style or ' uttering tliera, could untio the knot that existed between his master, and this new mistress, whoso . presence he did not know whether to conciliate or treat with the contemptuous resentment he » would have treated her to had she been an un- ' .wanted fellow-servant of the weaker sex. . .Tho boys, too— would they make his position -more .b.earable, or utterly. Impossible? Thomas Was inclined to the latter way of thinking. : 'y .ChiuYren of any. sex wore always animals to do dreaded by right-thinking servants; and boys— ' 'Oh! Lop. . On the whole he was inclined to think njs' 'Balad-udys were over, and ho must either knuckle < und'eh to, and receive orders from, one of tho 'despised women folk, or else scok another situa- 1 tion. 'The only think left' to hope for was that . she .might bo a "drorlng-room lady," and not pne of those managing women, who ape always poking th'elr nose into unlooked for boles and corners of the kitchen, and think they know everything. AB for- the boys, Thomas could hope for nothing from that quarter, and doubted the possibility of ever overcoming the family obstacle. Dolph found Thomas iii tho kitchen, looking and feoling in better Bpirits than ho had done since the news of his master's change of living '' had reached him. . . He had come to tho conclusion that the missus was a "drorlng-room lady," and one never liokly to trouble tho kitchen regions, and the boys wero nice little tell'owB, and not too old by mauy to be entertained by the yarns of a fowof the ' dingers' that had imperilled tho life of Thomas rwhfe'n he'was younger. They wore already seated on a corner or tne kitchen table, much to the detriment of tne smart suits, listening in awestruck silence, and open-eyod wonder to tho relation of an encounter 4 of Thdmas with a bushranger far in the "ante rior," when Dolph entered the house by the back entrance. , . . , Dolph did not interrupt them by making his prescnco known, but made his way to tho best room of the house, from which camo a light, and where bo thought it most likely for Its mistress to establish herself. He was right. . But here bib absence was as littlo heeded as In thd kitchen. His motbor, half reclining In an easy chair, with her feet on a cushion, was . absorbing the attention of Sydenham, who sat In devoted attitude near her, holding ono of her hands. This fresh proof of his un-aeedod com pany chagrined Dolph, and ho was about to turn away when Sydenham detected his presence. "Come in!" ho cVied, with a little guilty start ; at the thought of tbo loverliko attitudo that must ' have caught tho visitor's oyes. "Corao in, my lad. It' was chilly. So Thomas built a fire in here for us — for your mother. Thomas has quite taken your mother's fancy, Dolph. She regards , him as a most delightful servant, don'.t you, my dear?" lt "Most decidedly I do. He is as good as three girls would be. Poor Nlta thougnt herself hard- worked In oilt- poor littlo cottage. What would ' she say to Yettoe?" murmured Mrs. Sydenham, drawing tho cushion nearer with her right foot, until Sydenham, noting tho movement, fixed It '"o'olph''feeUn gs in regard to Nlta as his truest ' friend were too recently Implanted In him to al-f low her to bo slightingly alluded to, so ho began to speak at once of his hopes concerning her. Mrs. Sydenham listened languidly. When he : finished tho story of his plans for luturo comfort, she roused heraelf, and turning, to Sydonham said. , i, "I "wander we did not think or such a satis- ' factory arrangement boforo. With Nitao somo- .t wfaat highflowu Ideas it will bo 'plans for her. Don't you think so, W ilfrqd . The gentle intonation of tho unaccustomed Christian name caused the heart of one man to ' Ihrob with a new pleasure, and that of tho other " lb pulsato with resentment. To the ono it meant a life s fulfilment, to tne other it appeared as cruel as tho singing of paens over a scarcely chilled corse. "I think it will give mutual pleasure and bene fit/' returned Sydenham, leaning towards his wife. "Your daughter is an excellent house keeper, and my friend." Here ne paused, and 'tbo hot blood mantled Dolph's cheek, as he ' feared the words 'My son' were to be added. "Dolph Is a steady, good follow, worthy her ser- i vices. Nothing my dear could bo more appro- priate— and' If they should need — a trifle— a little assistance In furnishing— we, my dear, will glad- ly help them, will we not? That 1b, If you take k aottago, Dolph lad, in preference to apart- moots." "'Just as you wish," murmured the lady gently. ' "I must ask Nita's advice first," replied Dolph. "My own Idea was to sell the cottage In Pal- ' morston, and furnish with tho proceeds. I think, as you approve of tho plan, I will write ' Nlta at once." He took out his watch. "If you do not mind I will return home, and write while I feel in the humour." They uttered feeble protestations at the short- " toss of his visit, but candid as Sydenham nor- .'mally was, on this occasion ho rather prevarl- '' bated for hospitality's sake. With even less pleasure than he loft It did ' Dolph return to his lodgings. He disliked Syden ham for tempting his mother to forgctfulness ' and Inconstancy, and ho blamed her for yielding ''to 'the temptation, and accepting the alluring hller of competence, love and a home. But above all he despised himself. His mother had completely excluded all mention of their past ' life, no reference had been made to the lost Idiot, nor so far as ho knew any great exertion made to find the whereabouts of the wanderer. The only mention made In reference to Nita was . tho Blighting one made when mentioning tho smallness of the house she had complalnlngly kept in ordor, and ho tacitly allowed these sins Of omission and commission to go on without an . effort to prevent their course, or check thlcr pro- gross. » ' Whether this tactful silence was not more, praiseworthy than interference that would only ' ,tlr up strife ho did not pause to question. He Only knew that affairs were not laid according
to tho approval of his conscionco, and ho had novor endeavoured to put them right. Dolph folt himself rather- anxiously waiting a reply from Nita, he folt something of the shine lutorost lh her answer as the 'suitdr must have pone who simply asked his misthoss to marry hlra. Ho wondered whether I10 would bo lucky enough to faro as the suitor, end receive it "Yes, sir! and thank you." fob tho trouble ho had un dergone to prefer the query? Nita's reply was neither so concise, nor as straight to tho point. . "If Dolph really wished her to come and keep house for him. If ho thought she, would help, and not encumber him. If I10 would not prefer going to lodgiilgs instead cf the expense of tak- Ing n house. If"— the fourth if certainly Im plied a. willingness to accept his offer, "ho had really made up his mind sho believed tho Idea of selling the cottage and furnishing with the proceeds, an excellent one, and she would see about carrying it Unto offeot at once." This letter with its many "its" necessitated nnothor lettor to ratify the arrangement and tho final plans being carried out. tl10 last of his stay in Sofala I10 Buddenly resolved to pay Palihcrston a living visit that should be tho means of settling their affairs there. Nlta had found a purchaser for tho cottage at a fair price, and was busy during tlie Intervening time In making preparations for their now home. Never did maiden give ro„„t.hoUfiIlt,. to ker woddlng trousseau than did Nita to her purchasing and stitching of needful napery. and linen for their small estab lishment. She absolutely refused to pay a visit to Yot- too boforo Bottling down In Gudgeree Gudgeroo although an Invitation was sent for her to do bo from her stopfather as well as from her mother and the boys. fnnd that tho sorrowful months stiper- wdth It cr a death- bringing as it did tajwtlonal care and responsibility bad changed tho comely young girl into a very comely young woman. the shade of sad ness that still shadowed hor lustrous eyes, lont u-ith her youth!"1""033 b'n , "Oh. Dolph!" she erlbd, as sho lifted her faeo see von ah»taSl Jare®?- "" Is llke old «MOS to Pal mora toifsol'l agMn 7" Slad t0 Set IOOt 0n c'i'J c?lln.ot B?y 'bnf I am particularly glad," he said, diyly. 1 do not hold myself Indebted to Falmorston in any way." ,, '3777biit we lived here as children, and one (Vm loves onc-s birthplace." iP'ii. som,f peoPle aro unnatural, and I am one 01 tnora. ,Ib5?lkl5 now towards the house whore Nita had sojourned as nurse-friend. Sho had so much news to toil hint of the changes h!« f Wfi,m0 D fad wrought in Palmoraton busy waY homo her touguo was kept Amid this talk of changes tho names of his old love and her husband wero mentioned They wero passing a pretentious red brlok house, and Nita pointed It out as being inhabited by the Cobbs. It had previously boon the real- dc-nce of Cobb, senior. "That is whore Georgo Cobb lives. Old Cobb has bought Glynno Brao, and tho old folks are living there, ' she said. "George is torribly haughty slnco he succeeded to tho old man's business, and' some say he has grown fond of fast company. If so, I am sorry for his wife. She always was a poor spiritless thing, and now she Is m-oro lifeless than ever. I met hor In tho street one day, and she stoppod me to tell ma In her quick, nervous way how sorry sho was for our trouble." Dolph made no reply. "I forgot," said Nita, "that Palmerston gossip does not interest you. Shall you call and soo George Cobb whilo hero?" "I think not;'.' I10 said quickly, whllo a tight gasp that camo from the disappointed hopes- lie had held long ago caught his heart. Wo must leave for Gudgbreo to-morrow evening, nnd I have much to do bofore then. I must make a few inquiries Into Fred's disappearance." Nita sighed, and the brightness faded from her face. "This timo last year, slib said, dolofully, "Wo wero liglithoartod and happy, and had no idea Bhe would over touch it again— and now her fa ther is gone, and poor miserable Fred.", "Thore still remains much to feel gratified for." "Yes, Indeed," sa.ld Nlta, scornfully, while her oyos flashed spitefully, and her cheeks flushed to a deop crimson, "that sho has sonso to feol no regret for her past, and take tho good things bf- fored her. Oh, yes, I am gratoful enough— to bo rid of her." . "Nlta, you forgot yourself," said Dolph, gontiv, The gontlenoss in his voico recalled the voice of her dead father, and when she replied it was In a broken voice. "I must say all I think, and I think sho is tho moEt selfish woman on tho faeo or the earth." "There aro none qf -ub created with too small an amount of self— do not let us judge our fol lows by our measure." Nlta, whose emotions camo and went lightly, said nothing for a time, and the two wero near their oid home whon sho said, "Let us look through the empty rooms — I have tho keys. We may novor see them again." Tiiey went, through the low gateway, through the desolate rooms of tho house, Into the back verandah and into tho kitchen, Nita's tongno expressing rogrot at every vacant spot hor eyo rested on. » Her brother noted It all in silence, not cvon re plying to Nita's quick speech. "I wish," sho said, abruptly, "that I was like you, Dolph! Nothing troubles you. No. mat ter what happens you havo always tho samo un feeling, carelessly-cheerful way of taking things." He smiled It was not wbrtti whilo teliiig her tho remem brances this visit brought to' him. The kitchen door — of which workmanship his father' had been so proud— was tho first door Dolph had hung. upon its hinges, and the first important piece ot work his youthful hands had wrought. Tho palisading round tho back verandah had been a task, performed by love during lolsuro hours. The small room at the rear of the kit chen had been planned by Nlta and put to gether by his hands for the comfort of tho Idiot. There was the half-completed trelliswork from which he had. been called by the news of his father's murder. Each nail driven into placo re minded him of his dream of rove, and brought the sweet faeo of Agnes Holmo before him. How could be tell Nlta that his sllcnco Im plied the broken strings of bis life and love. That not from lack of feeling, but because tho instru ment must give forth discordancy not harmony, that ho must cease to bring forth sound from Its broken depths. "You aro a Bpokoswoman for both, Nlta," ho said, dryly. She lookod earnestly In his face, and for tho first time saw the clouds behind tho brightness In his eyes, and the tightly-drawn features of his thin face. "Oh. Dolph," she said. In a frightened voice. "I did not know. Shall we ever forget It all — and his cruel death?" "Somo day," he said, with tightening lips, "when I find his murderer." "Shall we ever find him?" "I shall not rest until I do. I live for no other purpose." ... - This visit and the ono to the police the fol lowing day completely obliterated anything time may have done to Soften. the thoughts: of bring-, lng to justice .his father's murderer. And . with this idea paramount, ho made his home in Gud geree Gudgeree CHAPTER XI.— NITA'S FRIENDS. With tha. oxooption of the disturbing thoughts
of revenge, tho first fow months of their resi dence at Gudgerco Gudgeroo wero the moBt peace ful ones of Dolph Moldrum's life. Tho calm that is ofton prelusive of tho greater storms of aftor life woro his portion thon. Nlta', whoso Ideas of economy held good whon 011 a small scalo In tbo minor Items of housokoeplng expenditure, became clnted at the Idea of spending a largo sum in furnishing their now abode. This alio did on hor own responsibility and ab solutely without control, for Dolph had an Into1 lorant dislike to shopping under any gulso. In an amazing short time she had tho cottago In a state of complete 'order that filled hor hoart with a most justifiable pride. The 3mall cottagq In less than a fortnight was, transferred from a bare building Into a mo3t de lightfully cosy homo that hocamo tho central lu torost I11 Nita's life. Dolph taking a soooiid plaoe .in hor affections. Tlioiro was an ldenl homo-lifo in theso days, and Its working would havo boon a study for many of tlio matrons of tills period, who find tho bonds of domesticity too tightly drawn to please tholr dovoloplng Ideas or freedom. Dolph had his books and his own room fitted up by Nita's careful hands, wherein no one — oxcopt Nlta at stated lntorvuls to straighten and tldyt- was allowed to set foot, or disturb Its' rightful occupnnt. Nlta lind unlimited credit and tlio'linndtlng of tho household money, nnd with the servlcos of a small handmaiden was ns proud and more Joyous than any Royal Queon of hor small dominion. Gudgoroo Gudgoreo was Palmoraton 011 a minor scale. Socially there woro as many sots, and much of tho same stnmp. For the first woolc or two the brother and ulster lived to thbmselvos, with no thought of calling, nor vlslthlg, nor ot rccolvliig visitors or callers. Their life In Palmoraton did not prepare them for tholr life at Gudgeroo Gudgeree, whore, as strangers in a fair position I11 life, with nothing known against thbm, pooplo w e'rp willing to allow them as Buck to cuter tho somewhat Uciltod circlo of eligible acquaintances In a placo whero compahlonslilp meant everything. It did not occur to Dolph tlmt tho friendship of Sydouhatn would moan more than niako It easier and riiore comfortable for Ulm I11 peiTornianoo of his duties, nor that It could benefit Nlta In any way. Ono riftornoon, oh reaching tho oottiigo after, his day's duties woro over, I10 waB sinprlaod to find the pretty littlo room that opened off the creeper-: covered verandah filled w,itli ladies, or fillod, ac cording to his Idea, for thoro wero but thrbb ladles nnd Nita. Nlta, with the utmost snug frotd, was hiisy dis pensing afternon too. Sho Introduced him to tho ladles as "my bro ther Dolph," with an assumption of woll-brod In difference, although tho flush on her cicar cheek and the flash of her brilliant eyes told of butidued cxcitemont. Ho felt Inwardly amused at Nita's pobitloh as hostess to tho fine ladlos before him, and Won dered at the Innate tact that allowed her to play the part to perfection. The laities lio found — not from Nita's Incoher ent introduction, but from tho subsequent chat ter — wero Mrs. Shopportou, of Wooddak, wifo of a retired squatter. She was a stoutly-built Wbll- prosorvod woman of fifty, whoso youthful attrac tions, must have boen abovo the average, Sho was credited with having been fortunate enough to secure three successive husbands. Her ilrEt died leaving her a youthful widow fairly well provided for. From her second she procured a divorce, and being still a young woman married her third husband. (to he continued.)