|Newspaper Title||Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Under the Southern Cross|
When Lorne waa eighteen her fondness for solitary rambles was greater than ever, but she had to seek farther afield for the dense shade her soul delighted tar Pioneers had followed in her father's foot- steps and had felled the gorgeous tropical scrubs that had awed, yet soothed Lorne's troubled spirit many and many a time. When the fields of waving maize or pad- docks of couch and clover vexed her, she would taka her hat and hurry away to some spot where never a rs y of euu had penetrated for a thousand years. j
One day when sitting on the bank of a j little scrub creek. She was startled by | the apparition of a man standiug a few yards from her, taking aim at a flock of wild duck as they floated slowly over the dead, calm, water.
Lorne made a slight. movement and exclaimed : " Don't shoot them !"
The stranger .instau tty lowered his gun with a look of irnost profound astonish
He was not very fanciful, but for a moment he doubted whether this rare looking maiden in her gown of green with a girdle of gold, were real,-or only the ghost of some forgotten goddess who bad been worshipped here with mystic rite, when the world was young.
Lorne spoke again :
" They - are such dear things, and I coaxed them to trust me ! It would be betrayal if I did not protect them !"
" I am very glad you spoke in time," said the stranger ; -'' but yon surprised mo so that the gun nearly went off by acci- dent !" and he took a step nearer.
A duck, alarmed by the intruder, sounded a slight note of warning to her ' sisters; then the whole flock rose as one,
and flew-following the winding creek until they found a more secluded resting place.
" I am sorry to have scared your pets away," smiled tho young fellow. " They were perfectly safe from me, but I sup- pose they did not know it."
"I think they mistrusted your dog," said Lorne, as a fine retriever bounded about, showing sigue of impatience and . disappointment.
She spoke gravely, looking into bis eyes in a way that gave Wm a curious sensation. He wondered what she would look like if she smiled. Those eyes were too serious, surely, for one of her tender
" Duke is disgusted'with me and wants me to follow them. Down, old ehap; down, I say !"
Duke looked at him for a moment, and then, with a long drawn sigh, lay down * and buried his nose between his paws,
watching his master intently all the time.
"He is very intelligent," said Lorne, with a slight smile.
"Intelligent P He knows as much as a professor ! laughed the other. " Yet he never ventures.to disobey. Tired, old man, eh P"
Duke sighed again, put one paw over his noBe and closed his eyes.
Lorne laughed outright and laid a caressing hand upon the woolly loins.
" I don't know much about dogs," said she. Bat he seems a nioe wise fellow that one could be fond of."
Basil Armitage noticed that the hand though brown, was smooth and shapely, s slight glow came into the pale cheeks when she laughed, but it quickly faded ; the mouth, a little wide, was most sweetly curved and the lips were ripe and full, Her uncovered hair was a luxuriant mass of sheeny brown, coiled loosely on the top of her head, with a hundred little ringi and wavelets running away from the broad forehead. But the soft brown eyef had a look of settled sadness that puzzled him. It waa not natural that one so young should wear that expression.
" He is recovering from the surprise of seeing you here," said Basil, " or he is toe tired to lie awake and wonder about you.'
Mr. Armitage said this with a fain! hope that she might ask him to sit dowi and rest ; but no thought of that kind
entered Lorne's mind.
"I come here almost every day," said »he, simply.
" Then you mast live near here P" he 4
"Not very near, about three miles away."
" And you come alone P" he asked, with increasing surprise.
" Alone P yes ! Who is there to come with me P" said she, wondering. " But of course you did not know that."
He sat down close to her and said :
" No, I cannot imagine why you should seek such a solitary place ; you surely
cannot live alone P"
" No, I live with my sister, Rosamond, and-my father-" she hesitated over the last word, and then went ou hurriedly.
" 1 do not remember when we came here first, I was a little baby; there was no* body living near us then,and I grew fonder of tue scrub and creeks than of anything else. That is why I came so far now ; men had been cutting them all down and making the place near my home hideous
" And they allow you to wander abont like this, exposed to every danger, for hours at a time ?" he asked incredulously.
"Danger? there is no danger!" she replied, with a great surprise in her inno- cent young face. " Rosamond allows it because she knows I like it."
" And, your father P"
She did not speak for a moment, then she said quietly, with a little shake of her
" My father does not care." Basil was wild with himself for his curiosity.
" Forgive mo for being so rude," said be, quickly. " I don't know what I could have been thinking of to question you like
Lorne looked at him kindly and smiled
a little at his distress.
" I did not think you rude ; it was quite right that you should ask if you wanted to know ; I should, I think"
"Then I suppose you don't want to know anything about me," said he, in a disappointed tone, "or you would have
"I know all about you," and Lorne sighed slightly.
" Tou astonish me more than ever !
Would you mind telling me- what you baye heard P"
" Oh, I have not heard anything, but I know you live io a great city, I don't know where, but there are hundreds and thousands ot' people for ever hurrying by, and yon can see all the great pictures, and read all the new books, whenever yon like. And when ynn grow tired of that kind of life you go ont into the country to shoot pigeons and ducks! Tou see I know all about you, and-and-I suppose you can't mean to be cruel ; but if you loved them as well as I do you would be horrified at the thought of crushing their
" I had no idea you were so much in earnest about it," said Basil. " You make me feel like a criminal when you talk like
" You see," she proceeded, and she seemed to be pleading with him. " It is so altogether dreadful to kill a bird ! A human being is different, he can reason and understand, and sometimes he does not greatly care to live. But a bird ! His life isa constant joy. You destroy it and it is gene for ever-so they say, though I can't beliero it ! But his mate calls and cries and calls, and there ia no one to answer her or to make her under- stand!"
Lorne was very earnest, almost im- passioned, and her face was paler than
" Yon have a tender heart," said Mr. Armitage, gently. " I think you could easily make me promiso never to shoot a bird again."
" No, no ! Don't promise anything yet; only think a little. It is thoughtlessness that makes men cruel, and habit, I sup- pose."
"You are a little bit cruel now," said Basil, "but I am certain you do not mean to be. I wish you would let me promise. You would never have to complain again."
"Some other day, when I know yon better, perhaps," she answered, slowly. " At present I don't know what your pro-
mise is worth."
Had anyone else said such a thing, Basil would have taken it as an implied insult, hut it was not possible to be angry with this girl, who-all unspoiled by the world-said exactly what she meant. Then the words : " When I know yon better!" What a vista they seemed to i open for him of sweet communion in the days to come !
"Are you hungry P" she asked, presently, in quite a different tone. " I have some bread and butter here, and tomatoes."
" And do you think I would deprive yon of your lunch P You have formed a very poor opinion of me, I am afraid."
" I was only going to offer you half," said she, smiling, as she drew out a small luncheon basket that was concealed under a cluster of ferns. " I shall be offended if you ref use."
" In that case I am not likely to say no," , said Basil, accepting the food that-she ! offered him.
Lorne looked at him as he broke «
I tomato offthe spray and thought how good
heliad been to give np bis day's shooting and in wanting to promise. A great strong man like that must grow terribly hungry, she thought She nibbled st a tomato, but did not touch the bread and butter.
" Ton are not eating anything," said Basil, suddenly.
" I am not hungry now," she answered, truthfully enough, for the wiall that he should enjoy it all had trfkeu away her desire for food.
" Then neither am I." said he laughing, as he leaned back and clasped hts hands behind his head. " Do you think I don't know you are sparing it all for me P But I shall not touch a morsel unless you begin at once I"
" But I mean it, really !" said she, flushing a little. " I have lost my appe- tite, and you must be very huugry, and you have been so good." *
"I have been so good P IP Then what may I say about yon ?"
"Oh, don't say auythicg about mo, please," she answered, sadly enough. " I used to try to be good-for years and years ; but I have given it np now, I simply drift !"
(To be continued.)