|Chapter Title||-XXI, XXII Agnes! I am Ill, XXIII "Only Common Assault, Your Worship"|
|Newspaper Title||The Australian Star|
|Trove Title||Dolph Meldrum's Wooing|
DOLPH MELDRUM’S WOOING.
An Australian Story.
By Mrs. BALDWIN HODGE.
ALL EIGHTS RESERVED..
CHAPTER XXI.-(Continucd). ,, ,
Nifca remembered his affliction, saiu not-mmr, bucgavo him a quick Hashing glance that spoke moro cloquontly than words. To' Lena she ex pressed all tho vexation and disappointment she could not lot full on Dolph'a oars. uIkno\v," sho said iii hor "happy relentless
way, "that she's at it again, iist as avou a» u x wore with hor. It'll kill her yet. Do yon know I fool &8hamod at times to think my children will call her gVAiulmothor." 41 But— interrupted Lena in her gentle tones. 44 I know," sho went on quickly, .barely heeding tho interruption, "yon, like Dolph, pity her, ana bo forth. Why, I am quito auro if oyer lie comes across the wretch that killed poor father ho 11 luia something in him to call forth pity, if only his innate wickoilnoss." 44 I do not think so. Sometimes I wish I coiua bclicvo so. Ho is ho fearfully hard on that un known creature I feaf ho will lot nothing stautl between, him ami punishment wheu tho tuno comes, if it over should, and they stand iaco to face. Ho told mo only yestorday that but for Ins strength giving way as it did ho would have killed that man. Do you know I sometimuB tear that he only fancies tlio confession ho makes so much oi. Anyway, as it stands it is useless as a means of -lawful punishment. It would bo woreo— but no. Dolph is not of that disiHisition. Sho shivered eVtfcWilyi'-tuidNita 'noticed' 'tho tremor. . - 44 Talk" film out of it Lena. Tlioro is quito enough disgrace, in tho family with that woman. 44 Nita," asked Lena, gravely, 4 is Mrs. byrton- ham vour own mother, or was she only, your father's wife?" Nita flushed. 41 My mothor," she said, in lowered tnnos. . 44 1 know, dear," said Lcnu softly. 4 i'tm nob. a good speaker, but X am a lair readci% I pity a drunkard, because I lirnily believe the disappoint ment and low spirits many of us skuko oil by having wordv warfare with thoso about us cause iiiany of .different temperament to seek stimu- lunts." Nita shook her hoiul decidedly. 44 You have novel' lived with a drunkard. I have," she said. Lona made no reply. , 44 If alio flow to drink when things troubled hor I should not complain. Why, through all the trouble of father's death she never touched it. Not until Sydenham spoiled her by giving into hor whimsical ways. Worries drive them to drink., I'lunsorq 'drives thorn to drink. Success drives them to' it. Failure drives them to it: so does sorrow. ln fact, whoncvor thoy feel that way tlioy have somo causo for it. lt'B nil nonsense say- iiic they can't heli it. Thoy don't try.1 44 Neitlier you nor I have been tempted that way, so we cannot judge, and I, although as you truth fully assort, have never lived with one, still I be lieve a drunkard is often tho -creature of circum stance, or horcdity, and more to bo pitied than blamed." 44 Perhaps," said Niln, "If you over see a drunkard suffering a recovery you will change your mind." . i ' r 44 That, I believe, is such a pitiablo sight that A think it would increase my pity." # , » Straugo to say "Lena's dissension from Nita s opinion only increased tho lattor'a love for nor. ' On the hll-importutifc day Nita was the first to greet the wife-cxpuctant. Sho went to licr witli lior baby 'in her amis. . 44 Kiss your now auntio— your only one pot, and toll her how you wish her lots of luck, she said, and then aftor baby's visit had been duly appro elated by tho 44 now and only auntie, ho was seated on tho iug whilo his mothor'spoko her con- grutulatibUH. 44 Oh I Lena. I pray you may never regret it. Wo arc a poor family. If tlioro is anything in licrodity I fear wo bring little as marriage dou or. Poor father was tho only good one amongst us, and poor Dolph, of course, and the boys I do not tiuuk arobad. "That leavoB just yoursolf and your ; mpluor that are very bad," laughed Lona, with a little sisterly push. .. . Nita joined 111 tho laugh against hersolf ' 44 Anyway," sho said, >4Ihopo thuro is nothing 111 horcdity:" — "Beiiove.me, dcar,"_said Lena, softly, Micro is very littlo in it. If thero were nqt one of us would bo in a position to preach to another." "Well, Lena 1 I am sure tlioro is not another woman in tho world good enough to be Dolph s wife; but you are almost too good for hmi. 1 do bono you will navor rcgrot it, with Iub deafness and fill. 44 I'll whisper you a secret, Nita ; but broathoit to 110 one. Tho knowledge— if you really mcati the kind words just said — may help to make you look inore kindly on his affliction. But for it I do not think I should have forgotten my own sorrow. It iB hard for him ; but for us—" 44 PU never complain about it," cried Nita, put ting her arms about her. 14 Yon havo had your sorrows and horno them bravely, and I, boeauso of ono, am always grumbling. I only hope your married life is as happy us mine. Tho host hus band in tho world—— ' 14 Now," said Lena with a drop blu9h, as though a girl in her teens ; 44 but not in a few hours time." . _ 44 Lona, if you were not to bo my sister-in-law 1 should positively liato you. You best mo in ovcry argument." Just then a gentle tap on tlio door— so different from Nitn's noisy entrance a few minutos before- interrupted them. Nita caught up hor baby, and when Mrs. Mal colm's meek ircblo askcu, 44 If you are awake, Lona, my dear, inavleomoin?" Sh&roplied wiihu inerry laugh, "Certainly ; sho will not belong to U9 much longer. Let us have her while sho does. The old lady camo in, looking timid and nervous, and a trifle, tearful. Her cap wns amoothly set on her wavy white hair as usual, tho tender smile played about the lips, but tho faded bluo eyes faltered as thoy vainly tried to look fearlessly ut tho two women. .... 44 If you do not mind," soul Nita, "Iwillleavo baby with his nurso and run down to Dolph's lodgings and see my brother for tho lust tiuio. After this ho will only bo the ucst husband m tho So the marringo made in "NVooma took place, and the contracting parties, like others, duMiot marry to livo happy ever after, but to begin a newer, completer life with tho trials and sorrows that must bo lived ero tho fullness of lifo is at tained. . CHAPTER XXII. ; v AONES ! I AM Iu . It was a strange honeymoon with no protly .ittlo quarrels, anil no pretty 44 making ups " to louder it entertaining. Many marriages owo their, 'ahhappinoes to too much expression of opinion on auo or other, or on both sides. Theirs owed it too little. Neither were given to make overtures of affection, or friendship, though each could respond Tho first few days woro spout in Sydney, and the first misunderstanding came through Dolph s disinclination for society. 44 You have no idea," lie said witbapottishnosa that camo to him with his loss of lioanng, 44 how stupid I feel when I see people around 1110 talking, but cannot hear thoir voices. I may grow use to it somo day, but not yet awhile. But do not let jno keep you from your friends." How small must bo his love when ho folt well enough to seek u private detective, to whom ho communicated the whole facts of tho murder, and subsequent mooting with tho supposed murderer, and yet to give hor pleasure would moot none of her friends. The dotoutivo, a stranger and a beginner—pro bably for those attributes waa sought by Mol- drum— promised to givo tho matter his wholo at tention, gladly promising to set at work at once. This accomplished, Dolph loss all iutcrcst in tho city. Lena, tired of their isolation from all familiar faces and places, was pleased to hour him express 11. wish to visit the Fish River Caves, taking tho Zig-zag on route. She Bocoudcd the wish, and as clearly us possible told him the pleasure slio anticipated from the proposed trip. , , t f Tho Jcnolau Caves, known then only as the Fish River Caves, woro not so often the rosorb - of tourists as they aro now, while cuough was known of their beauties to make the journey a delightful 0>Mr. Wilson, or as wo knew him best, "Jorry Wilson," was then, no now, thoir protector and tho visitors' guide. It gave Dolph no comfort to observe tho caretaker's affliction, hio cheerful face and voice, which it never affected an iota, was an additional grievance in his eyes, for if over bride groom we 10 peevish that man was Mcldrum. 44 Shall I over come to feel this dreadful silence to bo as nothing," he said to Lena. "Youinavgot butter or recover sufficiently to hear as Mr. 'Wilson hoars," sho wrote. Ho gave a disdainful shrug. # 44 1 would rather bco you write your wordR than shout them through a hideous trumpet," ho said, tOotily. .She made no reply. Later on hor hopes of seeing lum put asuio rc
pining, and entor into tlio pleasure ot the trip, wore shattered. The beauty : natiiro's handiwork had wrought never raised his admiration. Ho grew one-sided in his ideas, nnd tlio otio-'sidedtiess was his deafness. Wlfutovor subject lie started to talk about always eudod in either open rebellious speech ugainst ins fate, or else n 10010 eloquent dismal silence. Oneo wlion tlioy wore in thoir guido's prosenco ho noticed tho look of pain, almost amounting to toarfulness, chat eamo over hor faeo at hor hus band's curt allusion to his loss of hearing. "'You navcr foar, ma'am," ho said cheerfully, in hie hearty voice ; "he'll be all right by-nnd-byo." Ho placed his trumpet to hio ear for hor reply. " Do you think so ! sho asked. " Speak louder." She repented tho question in a loudar key. " Quito certain," lie said, emphasising Ilia words with his hand. " You see," ho went 011 in softer voico, " lie frets about it. If tho Lord meant him always to bo so Ho would havo mndoliiin contented. I ain contented onough." It was pour reasoning, delivered and prompted by tho old inau'o kind heart to comfort her. And it did no. Again and again tlio kindly-moaut words camo to hor, each petulant outburst from bis lips brought. with it, for hor, hope, and not, us before, natural annoyance. Eagerly bIio sought to liltd some fresh beauty in the wonders 'surrounding 'ier- 'i'liat lior ontiiusmimi was genuine was told in licr expressive faco. i'or the time being alio was liflod out of lior own little troubles by tile awesome beau ties about her. Tlioy 111111I0 hor feel hor own tiniin- portiuit plnuo in nature's world ami tlio smuUnoss of the snot she occupied on it. It did her good, that feeling of humility, coming as it did ut a time, when humble piitieneo was most desirable. It kept lior from magnifying her own alliiirs. She oneo or twice found herself won dering what thoir life together would bo like when tlioy might rouverso freely, as in the early days of thoir acquaintance. She stopped, tho thought, a superstitious fear that slio 'might liopu too much and gain nothing,' making hor patiso. Mcldrum grow moro and moro restless, and tlio calm surroundings oach hour added to his rest lessness, insomnia adding to bis distress. His life . was one fretful complaint, alternating .with a sul len siieueo oven harder for his companion to tole rate. "I shall never get better." lie said one evening when the chill breath of night wits gathering about tlicni. "1 da not fuel well. I know I'm growing crotchety, but I cannot help it. 1 feci us though death would bring roliof. I am always in pain, a gradually increasing pain in my head, us though a tight bund of parchment were placed between my skull and brain that will, I foel sura, drive 1110 diBLruetod." Sho replied with agravo. pained, reproachful glnncc. Ho fond tho reproach, " I cannot help it. It is iiard for you to bo com- E oiled to listen to my complaints, but I cannot oin it." Tho following day he npponrcd still harassed and worried, ami tup, unhidden thought would haunt licr pouco tlinl after all their inarriago was a mis take, that tlio union that promised comfort to him and content to lior was ail uncomforlublo bondage to both. Sho wns no companion to him, und no ulfordad her nono of tho intclloctuul companion ship she expected. Undor his dismal attitude slio soon grow tired of their stay at tho Fish River, whilo eho disliked tho idea of returning to Wooina under such disappointing conditions. Wheu a few days later thoy, 011 thoir rolurn journey, reached Oboron tlioy carried with them very little prospect ofliiinpiiioss. Throughout tlio short journey ho had been miserably. sullen whilo drowsily wakeful and despondent. Almost immediately after their arrival at Oboron I10 throw himBolf impationtly on a bod in tho room sot- apart for them in tho hotel. "You liava somo dinner, Lena, I am too done up to cat anything, und will try to sleep a littlo. Yon will not miss 1110 very much, I am rather poor company." By way of reply slio pressed his long fingers with hor soft onos. Ho retumod the pressure grate fully. ... . ' "Goon, dear. I shall be better alone," ho re peated gently. When she returned again ho wns asleop. Slio sat near and watched him as ho slept. Tho drawn features, wrinkled brow, and troubled expression, appealed to hor, und slic forgavo him tho pctulunco of the last woek. Sho sat thus far an hour, brooding over post troublos and present worries, and a great longing came ovor lior to fool alio wns lis dour to lior hus band us lie was to tier. Ho had soon hccomo tlio central figure of lior life, but hotv bIio affected his lifo sho could not tell. He stirred uneasily ill iiis sloop, mid tlion, half awake, put out his hands towards hor with a ges ture of pain. " Agnes, I am ill 1" Tlio heart of tho listener derived small comfort from tlio fact that ho uttered the words 111 a half- stooping state. Tho oivuor of tlio name had no right to linuiit his memory oithor sleeping or waking. When fully awakened ho appenrcd to hnva lost thought of his droam words. In truth, tlio mo- luory of Ins old love hail not haunted his droains, but rutlier the faeo of Ills watching wifu had re called tlio swoethcart of Iiis youth. Had tho wife been told this lnatter-of-fact truth, much as slio might wisli to do so, her jealous heart would not' admit it us truth, but as a talo told by deceitful hope. "Lena! This buzzing r.oise means somothing. Either I am threatened with illncBS— or re covery." Slio made no reply, save by n slight bond of lior head. Tlio gentle hand pressure alio tendered generally as sympathy was not given. A woman, bo slio ever so loving, feeling herself slighted, can not proffer even so milch as her sympathy im- asked, much lens so if a latent sullomiess lies dor mant in her disposition. Tho following morning ho still looked harassed nnd weary. Tito old look of cheerful unconcern and good-natured tolcranco that had rendored his plain-featured faco a striking oiic was gone, ami the 0110 of Boilish frotfuhicss that took its place was a miserable substitute. They hail ntado arrangements. tho previous night for resuming their journey in tlio morning, but in tlio morning lie expressed a wisli to stay in Oberon another day. "I should lilto to stay hero to-day, and resmno our journey to-morrow. Ho you object, Lona ?" Slio nodded a denial. Years and years after, whan tho day was a marked 0110 in tlio dim vista of tlio past, slio re called it as tho longest and di'ourio3t in her life. And she a month-old wife 1 That night ho slept heavily, as though nature woro endeavouring to mnko up for former sloop- lossnosB. In tho morning lie dressed liko a mail, half dnzod. Ho was slow and heavy ovor it until lio had nearly finished ; then ho uttorod a sharp, low cry. ' He heard distinctly tho sound of a distant bul lock boll. ' ' .. Lena, who had risen early toniako'arrangamonts for tlio jouriioy, returned to tho room to find him a changed man. C "Speak to 1110 ! Lena." " Oh ! Holjih, is it possible?" I11 her exultation her voico was hilt a whisper. Ho saw . licr lips move, hut heard no words, and turned away to hide iiis disappointment. Hor jealous resentment vanished for tho. time, sho put out liar had to touch him. ' " My poor husband," Sho oriod. " Thank heaven I I hear . .your voice at last- such deal- wordB." ' CHAPTER XXIII. " Only Common Assaui.t, Youit Wonsuir." One summer morning, a fow years later, tho usuul number of loitorors were gathered in tlio ainail. plain brick building known as the Wooma courtl'.uusu. It hud ulways a fair attouduueo of tlio idlo ones of tlio toivu as spectators. Tho police magistrate took iiis scat on tho bench as tlia clock struck tlio hour of 10. "He's always punctual!" remarked one police man to nuolhor. "Not liko poor Joliuny, liurryt scurrying into tlio courtroom us though rushing to catch tlio train at 11 or thereabouts. Poor Johnny ! I'm afraid it was hard work for him to koop straight long enough to sit on tho bench. But lio waBii't a bud sort, take him altogether." Johnny wus tho formal- P.M., now deceased. Ho had been nicknamed Johnny 011 account of his dapper appearance when in public, and his reputed fondness for stimulants, Into hours und ladios. Ho had boon a general favourite, fond of a glass, and ashatnad to take it- with 110 one. Tlio constablo made brief reply before ottonding his duties. Ho was the court usher. A dilapidated-looking woman was brought in to answer tlio charge of drunkenness, ohsceno lan guage, rosistin;: the police, witli dainngo to tho constable's uniform, nnd a few othor cliargos. " A daisy, sho is," iiitii'inurod one court idler to another, as slio looked around the court with a deprecatory smirk 011 licr lips. " And doesn't slio look 0110." "Pluso, J'cr Wuslitip," said tho lady at court. " It wasn't 1110 oivn fault at all. It ivuz tlio an. nivcrsary of my old man's ccat i, and I took tlio
teeniest drop to keep it up and cheer mo. Plaso;' yer VVushup, ho wuz kilt by tlio blacks in Queens land ton years agono— and me a widdy ever since." Her hair was grey, her tones insincere, her faeo nnd figure inclined to jiodginess, and her whole ap pearance far from reassuring ; yet sho recalled tlio days when another — Iter very opposite— being " at it asuin," meant tho troublo of Ills lifo. IIo had pitied his mother because ho bclicvod'hor weak. Would I10 allow the woman before him the saina privilege, a woman in nothing, save in iuimo, a creature that had fallen as low as mortal could fall. Save for the circumstances— ill lnarriagol with two nolilo minded long-nufi'ci'ing limn— his mother, loo, might reach tlio depths. 1 ' . Slio took advantage of liis brief siicnco.' ' i "Make it light, yer Wtisluip, and .Qor';Ar-| mighty '11 repay you. A ptidi- widdy woman- -who the police does nothing but hound down—: — " - ' "Three months without tlio op— " begnn the inagist rate, hut the lady completely drowned tho remainder. of. his remarks by lior appeals to tlio bench. " Oh, yer Wushup, not without tho option. ' I11 : all ino days I'vo never been so treated, without tlio i option. Oh, tho disgrace, yor Wushup ; I'll novor ho able to look my friends ill tho iacg after this.' Without tlio—"' I " Constable, remove your prisoner !" And she was removed heaping during her removal alt man- , nor of invectives 011 tho magistrate's' head, after-j imting hor disparaging remarks on him with abnsa : of tho polico. Next came a trembling drunkard not many; yonra over 30, avidontiy oil tho verge of dolirium i tremens, lio was remanded for mudical troutinoht. ; Then followed a man in custody to answer a chargo of assault. Idlers woro moro interested in this than in tjhu preceding clinrgca. Ho was a littlo mail under tlio medium height,, witli swarthy skin and dark gipsy ayes that had a- trick of twinkling furtively. He gavo ono'of tlicso, furth'o twinkles at Lho bench, and thou stood with' avortcd oyes. ' (TO BE CONTINUE!). 1