|Chapter Title||NINA LOST|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||Farmer Mack|
CHIIAPTER V.-NINA LOST. To snatch a little refreshment and set off to join the searchers was their first mutual impulse, and ere long they were once again in the huge thickly timbered forest. After a while they met some of their juvenile guests who were making their way in threes and fours through the scrub. From them they learned particulars. How that the little girl,all unknown to her mother, must have tried to follow Farmer Mack, for whom it has been mentioned she had conceived a great fancy; soon after he had in company with Mr Melrose left for the far run. The surmise arose from the fact that she had been heard to say in injured tones that 'Mack' had fordotten her and was going away. Her sun-bonnet and strongest shoes were missing, as were also a little sun shade and a tiny handbag which Nina was wont, in all the pride of posses sion, to display to the other children whenever she went out walking. It was late that night when they all returned from what had proved to be a fruitless errand, tired, faint with hunger and weariness, and in no slight alarm as to the safety of the lost child. Guida Melrose had been one of the most active in the search, and when obliged from fatigue and w;ant of nourishment to return home, she came out of the forest torn and dirty looking, but supporting with her arm the half frantic mother of Nina. She had lost all self control, and would have rushed back to continue the search, had not strong hands been laid upon her, and forced her to accom pany the others to the house. It was ten o'clock then, and it was unanimously decided that, owing to the pitchy darkness of the sultry summer night,the wisest course would be to rest for a few hours and set out again at daybreak. But despite the advice and persuasions of her friends, Nina's mother could not rest, and well nigh drove everyone to distraction by wandering through the corridors, and pacing up and down the passages, till the early dawn broke. By that time everyone was up again, and after a hasty breakfast n d a short consulta tion as to which party should take certain directions, they started off. One lot consisting of Farmer Mack, Mr Melrose, two of the servant women and ore or two boys, had but just reached the outskirts of the forest, when they were surprised and startled to see the figure of a boy issue from a thicket. His clothes were ragged, his bands and face scratched and bleeding, and he swayed' from side to side as though he would fall. In his hand he carried something which proved to be a little shoe all rubbed and jagged looking, and bear ing a cut on one side. When they reached the boy, they saw that it was Dickson, the boy who had planned the practical joke, in which the ghost figured so promnitleatly.
'I've done my best sir,' he faltered to Mr Melrose, and then his gaze wandered to Farmer Mack, and then he dropped insensible, and lay a queer looking heap upon the long dry grass, yellow now in the early morning sun shine. They raised him up gently and carried him into the house, and then whet, he had recovered conscious ness, and uad taken a little food and a drink, he told them that he had walked t on and on the whole night long, some times falling over logs and into holes, or getting caught in brambles, and all it seemed to no purpose. Once he r had stepped into a rabbit burrow and f had been thrown violently to the ground, and then his hand had come in contact with something lying there, a and it proved to be one of Nina's t shoes. I-e lingered near this spot a long time calling to her at intervals, but could hear nothing, and then wandering on found himself within sight of the homestead just as daylight broke. At the conclusion of his story they left him in the care of the old house keeper, and again set off for the forest. Ere long Dickson fill into a troubled sleep and dreamed that Nina was asleep, and was lying in a hollow logt on the edge of a small rock-lined gully. She had lost both shoes and her little stockings were full of holes, but in her hand she still tightly clasped the remains of her little blue sunshade -that sunshade of which she had been so. proud. It was all so real that Dickson started up in his sleep to go and find her, and only awoke when he reached the garden, now bathed in brilliant sunshine. He rubbed his eyes and stared confusedly about, then made his way to the stables, and, saddling a horse, set oilf to find Mr Melrose. I-He would knew if there were such a place as the gully he had seen in his dream, and if so where to find it. So he urged the horse into a smart canter, but it was an hour or two before he found the master of the Wee Wan Station. The latter listened gravely as Dickson related his dream, and described the gully, the log, and the little figure within it, and then he said 'It sounds like the Maiden's Tribute as we call a gully about five miles, from here, owing to the quantity of the maiden hair fern which grows in it. I ell you what Dickson my boy ; you. give me your horse and I'll ride o ver Oh, confound it! I won't know the spot when I see it-you must come too -Darkie will have to carry us both.. You put your arms round nmy waist and off we go.' Quickly they rode to the Maiden's Tribute, but it was some little time before Dickson could find the spot he had seen in his dream. At last, however, he noted something familiar in the surroundiugs, and then presently cried aloud 'Look ! look ! there is the hollow log, and see, is not there something white just at the opening.' In a moment they had both dis mounted, and were running down the slope which led to the gully. Yes, there was the hollow log, and there on its very edge a piece of a white pina fore. They stooped down, they knocked their heads together in their eagerness to look in. And what did they see? a pair of little grimy feet peeping through very holey stockings. With a cry that well nigh reached the Heavens, Dickson threw his cap into the air, and jumped several feet from the ground, but his companion, though deeply moved, only put his hand on the grimy little feet. 'Nina,' he called softly, ' wake up, dear. Breakfast's ready.' This he had to repeat many times before the child stirred. Then she began to sob dismally, and feet foremost to come out of the log. Once out, she sat down on the ground, a very miserable looking little figure indeed with her dirty tear-stained face, unkempt hair, torn clothes, and shoeless feet, but in one hand she still clasped the remains of her prized sunshade. Dickson was so overcome with joy that he became hysterical, and began to sob like a girl, whereupon Mr Mel rose requested him somewhat sharply ,not to be a fool. (To be continuet.)