|Newspaper Title||The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||Miss Roberts's Lovers: An Australian Story|
MISS ROBERTS'S LOVERS: AN AUSTRALIAN STORY.
AUTHOR OF "A KARRADINDY IDYLL."
CHAPTER III. Although no more passed directly between Candy Bob, and the dressmaker on the subject mentioned in the last chapter, it was tacitly understood that the arrangement as suggested should be carried into effect in a somewhat modified form. It was through Mrs. Rattray's intervention that this took place at all, for at first Miss Roberts steadily refused to allow herself to be indebted to either Candy Bob or Purdy Jack. However, it was decided that those gentlemen should make any immediate payments that were necessary, to be refunded to them out of any money she might get from the company. For three days nothing more was heard of the subject. The wrist during that time was progressing favourably, and the owner of it had quite got over the feverish state into which the shock and pain had plunged her, and had in that respect become quite herself again. When Candy Bob returned from his down trip, one of his first duties was to present himself at the little sittingroom verandah to report progress. He had seen the district manager, he said, Mr. Croxton, and had told him the whole affair, and explained how it occurred. Mr. Croxton was satisfied it was no fault of his "and," said Candy Bob. with a pardonable glow of pro- fessional pride, "he said he knew me too well to think it was caused by any carelessness or neglect of duty on my part. But he said, miss, that the matter lay outside his province, and he could only advise in the matter. 'I suppose the lady will lay claim to a considerable sum, and it is a matter for the managing directors to consider,' he said. 'Of course she can summon the company for damages ; but what I would advise is that she makes out a written statement of the affair, stipulating what sum she considers she has a right to ask for the expense she has been under and loss of time. If she will do that, and send it to me, I'll lay it before the managing directors at their next meeting, and I have no doubt they will carefully consider her claim. I can do nothing myself, you know; but I think the lady will find that way much more satisfactory in the end than going to the worry and expenses of law.' And so," concluded Candy Bob, "that's what I recommend, miss ; I think it's the
best plan." There was a certain amount of hesitancy about Candy Bob's narrative that struck his hearers — Mrs. Rattray being also present— as peculiar, but which passed off without further notice at the time. " I took the liberty, miss," he said with some confusion, as he was taking his leave, " of getting you a book or two in the town, knowing it must be very tiresome for you being shut up all day. I hope you'll find them interesting. Good evening, miss." " Oh ! thank you very much, indeed," she replied with a pleased smile. "It was very kind of you to think of me. Bleak House and Nicholas Nickleby. Oh ! I am so fond of Dickens, and I haven't read either of them. Thank you very much indeed." " I'm glad you like them, " he said simply. "They are favourites of mine. Good evening." "Good evening, and thanks once again," she replied, stretch- ing out her hand cordially. If ever Candy Bob's tanned complexion was guilty of a blush, it certainly was when he took the little white hand in his broad palm and shook it with gentle respect. The next day was the one on which Mr. Purdy Jack generally made one of his bi-weekly journeys into Karradindy with a light cargo of butter and eggs for the store and hotel. Punctual to his usual time he made his appearance; driving a springcart with a very fat and shiny horse in the shafts. He was evidently got up for the occasion. A light tweed coat and waistcoat and a pair of clean cord trousers encased his person, which was further embellished by a huge brass watch chain depending from his button hole. His face showed shiny symptoms of having received a plentiful application of soap, and his straggling whiskers were carefully combed into place. Driving into the store-yard, he left the cart and the shiny horse there, and, after transacting what business he had, returned to take a bulky package from under the seat of the vehicle, and then made his way with a self-satisfied air to the dressmaker's quarters. Miss Roberts was sitting in an easy-chair on the verandah, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. This was the first time she had quitted the little sittingroom, and she felt quite buoyant and gay in the fresh healthful air, following with much interest the adventures of Nicholas Nickleby and his sister Kate. As Purdy Jack advanced, her eye fell with an amused glance upon his somewhat ungainly figure.
" Good mornin', mu'um,' he said, in no wise bashfully, raising his hat with uncouth gallantry. "Good morning, Mr. Heeley," she answered. The owner of the best s'lection goin' broke into a grin at the unusual salutation. " O' course," he said in an amiable growl, "Why not? Mr. Heeley, o' course," and grinned more than ever in an outburst of pardonable pride, "Glad to see you lookin' so much better," he observed with much cordiality. "Gettin' over it like, eh?" "Yes, thank you," she answered. "I'm very much better indeed." In appreciation of this, Mr. Purdy Jack grinned more than ever, and chuckled in gruff satisfaction. " I heerd," he said, "as how Candy Bob had been a bringin' you some books, so I thought I'd put some in the cart, an' bring 'em along. Them's 'em. They belonged to my old father. I brought 'em from the s'lection. It's the best one goin'," he whispered in a confidential aside ; but bursting into a roar before he finished, "an' I'se got close up 300 sheep an' 25 head prime milkers on it." It took him some time to get over the paroxysm of mirth this fact threw him into. When he had recovered he resumed-— "There's plenty more books, so when you've read this lot I'll bring you some more. I dunno' much about 'em, but I expec's they're good, 'cos they were my father's." "Indeed, you are very kind, Mr. Heeley," answered the dress- maker, with an amused smile, " and I'm very much obliged to you." "They're pretty good, I believe," pursued Purdy Jack, much gratified, reading the titles with some little natural difficulty. "This 'ere's the ' Aus-Australian Farmer's Guide,' an' here's a hist'ry, but it ain't' all here, that's the wurst of it. But any way, I expec' what there is, is good readin'. Then this one's called 'Skience and Religion,' an' this 'er's a' rithmetic book. I think . they're all pretty good." Miss Roberts, who had evidently a keen relish for the ludicrous, could hardly refrain from laughter. Her eyes gleamed quite mischievously as she answered, "I'm sure I shall enjoy them very much, Mr. Heeley, and derive a great deal of benefit from them." " O' course, o' course," he answered; then seeing an amused smile on his companion's face, in a natural, spirit of sympathy he burst into a roar of laughter, and looked so comical that the little dressmaker could not help joining in. When he had recovered from this attack, which took some considerable time, the want of further topics of conversation warned him that it was time to depart. He muttered something about it being "about time to trot," and commenced tugging vigorously at the brass watch chain. His efforts were for some time in vain. The watch was so
IN HIS ANXIETY TO GIVE ENCOURAGEMENT HE CARESSED THE LADY'S HAND MORE THAN EVER. — CHAP. IV.
tightly jammed, in his pocket that it evidently required a consi- derable amount of strength to dislodge it. At last, in answer to a vigorous tug, it came out with a jerk — a huge old-fashioned silver timepiece. Purdy Jack regarded it lovingly, and giving it a preliminary shake, opened the case with a huge thumb and looked intently at it. But suddenly his face fell, and a look of distrust came over his features. He held it to his ear, shook his head dismally, and then shook the watch again pretty vigorously. Once more he applied it to his ear, but his face grew longer and longer. Taking the watch in one hand, he gave it two or three knocks against the palm of his other hand, and once again applied it to his ear. A smile, broadening to a grin, gradually stole over his face, and he indulged in a faint chuckle. "He won't mostly go now," he said, somewhat ruefully however, " without givin' him a shake first. It's six by him now, but the clock there's a half-past ten. I don't know what's come to old Jacob. I calls him Jacob, 'cos he belonged to my father, an' that was his name. He used to go first-rate, but now——" He applied old Jacob to his ear again, and a sad expression stole over his face. "Stopped again," he exclaimed parenthetically. Giving it another hearty shake, he listened once again. The cloud cleared off his face. " He's goin' all right," he exclaimed ; " he aint a bad watch, only he won't go without a shake now an' again. Why he's stopped agen !" A look of mingled pain and resignation was on his face as he slowly detached old Jacob from the chain, and held it solemnly over towards his amused companion. " I mostly axes people to see if they can doctor him," he said ; " perhaps you can do him some good?" "Oh! I don't know anything about a watch, Mr. Heeley," responded Miss Roberts. "I could not mend it," "P'raps you can tell what's the matter with him," he answered quite gravely. "Oh, no !" " P'raps you wouldn't mind tryin', mu'um," he said. " I mostly axes people." " But I've only one hand ! How can I?" "I'll open it for you," which ee did with a comical look of tenderness in his face. "There can't be much the matter with him," he continued regretfully, ''cos he'll go for a bit if you give him a shake." He urged his point so strenuously that his companion took the watch from his outstretched hand, and examined it with some show of attention, hardly able to keep from laughing outright at the absurdity of the situation. Now it was a fact that the dressmaker's knowledge of watches and their mechanism amounted to just nothing. Although, undoubtedly, watches form an important factor in our scheme of civilisation, they have not been thought of sufficient importance to have their anatomy considered and studied by the ordinary individual. And so, like most, the dressmaker laboured under a lamentable amount of ignorance in that branch of knowledge— indeed, so little did she know on the subject, she could hardly have told the difference between a lever and a Geneva watch. But a slight experience she had had some time ago flashed across her mind. It happened that she was the happy possessor, of a watch that some time ago had stopped, and which she had taken to the watchmaker's to be repaired. The damage was simple, and the watch had been set going as she waited. It had stopped merely on account of the minute hand having drooped a little, so dragging on the dial. The watchmaker had told her that this was very often the cause of watches stopping, and they merely required the hand to be raised a little, so as not to drag. Old Jacob was labouring under that slight irregularity, so that when Miss Roberts, almost at a venture, raised the minute hand by means of a needle, the watch began to tick vigorously, and when she handed it back to Mr. Purdy Jack it was in full swing. To say that gentleman smiled, or chuckled, or grinned, would only feebly convey an idea of the delight he experienced when he saw his cherished heirloom restored to its wonted regularity. "Old Jacob goin' all right without a shake," he roared in a wild burst of glee. "Most extraordin'ry ! Reg'ler beats me, it does ! Reg'ler!' and at each pause he burst into a fresh fit of laughter, and grew so red in the face and so breathless that his companion began to feel some slight alarm, as to the termination of the attack ; and even when he had come to, each time he cast down his eyes to take another glimpse at old Jacob, ticking loudly in his hand, he burst into a loud and startling guffaw. Indeed, in order to indulge in his delight more at his ease, he took a somewhat abrupt departure, and retired into the yard, where, with the watch at his ear, he burst into repeated roars of laughter, hitting himself mighty blows on the chest, and uttering panegyrics, first on old Jacob, then on the dressmaker, and not fully recovering until the shiny, horse, thinking it high time for returning, and doubtless tired of contemplating an apopletic- looking pig that was wallowing in front or him, made sundry hostile demonstrations with his hind legs at the front part of the springcart. And even as he jogged along on his way home, he kept murmuring to himself in tones of exquisite enjoyment— "Most extraordin'ry woman ! Made old Jacob go without a shake. Beats me, it does ! Most extraordin'ry !" and roared to his heart's content at the recollection.