|Newspaper Title||Traralgon Record (Traralgon, Vic. : 1886 - 1932)|
|Trove Title||A Christmas Wedding. A Story for Our Girls|
CHAPTER IV. About a week after the trial, poor Jack 1 Sprattle had met with a severe accident. lie had been thrown from his horse and had broken his leg. Two swagmen who had found him unconscious had conveyed him.to the hospital, and there he had since remained. The leg was mending, but it was a work of time, for the fracture had been compound and Jack's restle-sness had made matters worse. He had found the time very irksome, and though at first people had gone frequently to see him, as the novelty wore off they had tired of the long up-hill walk to the hospital; so poor Jack was left very much to himself. To 4 make matters worse he was unable to read, I for, just as he was beginning to feel well enough to amuse himself, his eyes were attacked by blight. Leo had esen and spoken to so few people lately that he had not heard of Jack's last misfortune, when one day he met Mrs Rivers, and she stopped for a moment to address him. Her manner was nervous, as it .always was on the rare occasions they now came across one an other. Leosometimes wondered that she made no allusion to the fact that he had been unjustly condemned, for she of all people must know that he was innocent. He thought pityingly and perhaps a little contemptuously of her weakness. "Do you ever go to see Mr Sprattle P" she asked him. " No," said Leo, rather bitterly, :' he might not care for the honour." " Indeed it would be a Christian charity," she answered, "for the poor fellow is nearly blind with blight, and hardly any one goes near him. Some are afraid, some are too lazy. The nurse told me just now that he is fretting himself into a fever. You knowbhenevercould bearto be alone, and now that he cannot read or do anything; he is wretched. It is really. pitiable. Andrew won't let me go often;' he is frightened of blight. He would not let me go at all, were he not more afraid of what people would say if we quite neglected his reader." Really-shocked by this, Leo started off without delay to visit the .unfortunate young man. Arrived at the hospital he found him, as Mrs Rivers had described, a truly pitiable object. Leo was excellent in a sick room. Poor Jack, whose lips had not curved themselves to a smile for over a month, was soon in fits of laughter over some'of Mrs Bellew's eccentricities. And then, after an hour's pleasant conversation, fearing the patient might become feverish if over-excited, Leo read aloud. His voice was musical and his book well-chosen, and Jack found the afternoon pass quickly. Mr Wylde left about six o'clock, pro mising to be there again the next day, as he was, and for many subsequent days and nights too if Jack was restless or in pain. The first strawberries of Woodside and the richest cream found their way to Jack, and many a long ride did Leo take in search of some rare moth or bird, for Jack was rather an enthusiastic naturalist. At last he was well enough to be up, and one day he surprised Leo by telling him that he had decided to go to America. He had an uncle away out West, the owner of a cattle ranche. Some years ago he had offered Jack a home and employment, and had given him a half promise of making him his heir. Jack had at that time re fused the offer, but his uncle had again written for him to go. and he had made up his mind to leave Melbourne in a fort night. After Jack's departure time hung heavily on the hands of Mr Wylde. There were great preparations for a Christmas concert going on, and he was not asked to take part. However, Mrs Rivers and even her un musical husband saw that the whole thing would be an utter failure without the aid of Mr Wylde. Mr Frank Hodges bad taken the part of conductor, but was quitd incompetent to beat time or to manage the quarrelsome choir. So in disgust he threw down his baton and refused to have anything to do with the affair. In despair, old Mr Rivers pocketed hia
pride and cast himself on Leo's mercy. At first Mr Wylde was inclined to refuse his aid, but the old gentleman implored abjectly, and Leo gave way and promised to be at the evening's rehearsal. At half-past seven, the hour appointed, Leo appeared at the Mechanics', where the practice was to be held. The stage was full, and as he walked up to take his place as conductor he was met by cold and hostile looks. Mrs Rivers and Sissie were late, and Mr Rivers was not to be present, sod that the situation was rather trying till Gladys stepped forward and said brightly: "Oh, Mr Wylde, I was at the Parsonage just before tea and Mrs Rivers was afraid she would be a little late to-night." And then she added with a happy thought, " She asked me to make an alto copy of 'Sweet and Low,' but it is not very clear .and I can't manage it. Perhaps as we are waiting you would not mind showing me what it should be." They went to the piano together, and in n few moments were deeply engaged in making a rough copy in pencil. & murmur of angry voices reached them. :Tow disgraceful to have asked him." "I shli not sing." "Nor I." Presently Gladys said softly, "You look : f you had heard good news, Mr Wylde." So I have," he answered. "My money . ters are arranging themselves much er than I ever expected they would. deide need not go afto-".--'.d ...r,,' - gh I have lost '?.e upon very com S-lt then the door flew open, and Mrs ir -s, flushed and excited, followed by $?, who was beaming, and Mr Rivers, rr: g his hands, entered the hall like a a vhirlrind. " ýr Wylde-Andrew, Andrew, let me ,il him. Mr Wylde, how terribly you : -: b hen wronged I" " My dear," said her husband, "on such an o ?insion as this it were more fitting that I should explain publicly.", Every ear was listening eagerly, and r.;-, than one began to think that they had mowle a terrible mistake in cutting SMr .ioa W?ylde. " TI mystery of the lost notes is now ex.h.lii'fd," began Mr Rivers, pompously, hLu. 3:..; Rivers broke in excitedly; " It was Mr Sprattle who took them. Tihe poor :'ellow was in difficulties, but it sa4lS dre:adf. of him to allow Mr Wylde to be acc,'s.d-and then Mr Wylde was so ihbl? anuid .i . d when he was in the hospi td that io Sprattle could not bear to keep dilent, about it any more. So he has gone to America and has written a confession to Mr Rivers and another to Mr Hodges." She paused for breath, and everyone crowded a .and Leo apologising, and rongratuhiti.g him, and trying to explain sway their past rudeness. But too late did their repentance come; Leo only lunged to be away from the chattering crowd. He wondered how he could ever have doubted Kathleen, and would gladly have pleaded for her forgiveness were it not that he knew she would be so terribly hurt to hear of his suspicion. " Mrs Rivers, please put off the practice," he asked presently; then turning to Gladys be whispered, " Let me take you home," and so cleverly did they manage it that in ten minutes they had slipped away and were walking together down the silent streets. Gladys was very quiet. Indeed, neither of them spoke, till as they neared the house Leo said, " Don't let us go in yet," and he turned down a quiet lane leading towards the creek. There on the bridge they paused, and in the silence watched the little babbling stream till-Gladys never knew how it happened-she was in his arms and he was raining passionate kisses on her cheek and brow and lips.