|Newspaper Title||The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||Miss Roberts's Lovers: An Australian Story|
CHAPTER VI. The next week came and went with the same regularity that had characterised every other period of seven days that had opened and closed over Karradindy. No strange freak of nature or untoward break in the usual monotonous round of daily change occurred ; and yet during those seven days the futures of the principal figures of our story were decided, and the slight interest that clings to them as movers in a little village comedy is dissipated, and, as far as this chronicle is concerned, the actors themselves as well as their actions sink into oblivion. It was the rapid approach of the time for the dressmaker's departure from Karradindy that brought things to a crisis. Dr. Waddlegrig paid a last visit during this memorable week, and pronounced the wrist fully knit. Splints and bandages were cast aside ; their use was gone. The limb required aid and support no longer, except such as was afforded by a sling from round the neck. This the doctor had recommended the convalescent to wear for a short time previous to discarding all artificial aid and support altogether ; and perhaps, taking all things into conside- ration, it was only natural that she should select the prettiest silk handkerchief out of her collection for the purpose. It was thus that Candy Bob found her when he happened to call on one of those missions, which with him were so frequent and evidently of much importance ; for, if he failed to gain an interview, it would make him quite gloomy for some time, and it is evident to anybody that this could not possibly have been the case, unless there was something very important in the matter. However, be that as it may, it has very little to do with the interview in question, though, in truth, the latter amply bears out the statement above, for something very important did happen— something very important indeed. "And so you have finished with splints and bandages and everything at last," said Candy Bob, continuing a conversation that had been kept up for about a quarter of an hour by both parties with some little constraint. " Yes ; quite finished now, I'm glad to say," she answered. " And you'll be leaving us altogether now, I suppose," he con- tinued, with a hasty glance at her, which, being intercepted, caused a faint blush to rise over her face. " The doctor told me to rest my arm for two or three days before trying to use it, and thought I'd better stay here over that time, so I shall just be able to go by Saturday's coach." Without doubt the dressmaker must have had an inconsistent mind, for whereas during the first stages of her misfortune she sighed and wept bitterly at the idea of being cut off from her daily work, now that she was about to go back and resume it, evidently the prospect didn't appear to her in the same brilliant light ; for, if it did, what was there to make her smile so forlornly and look so absently through the window. Candy Bob didn't seem to sympathise so heartily as he was wont to do, or if he did, he hardly gave it expression. Quite a solemn silence reigned in the little sittingroom for some time, till the dress- maker broke it by saying timidly — " Mr. Hathaway !" " Yes," answered that worthy. " I wish to say something to you before I go," she continued, a faint flush rising in her cheeks and a slight tremble in her voice. " I want you to tell me how much you and Mr. Heeley laid out for me. When I wanted to pay the doctor for his visits last time he came, he said he had been paid everything, and wouldn't take anything from me. You must have paid him, I know. I haven't mentioned the matter since you declined to let me know last time, but. now I am — am going away' (there was something more than a slight tremor in her voice at this point), "and I wish to know, because I will pay it." " I haven't any idea, Miss Roberts," he answered ; " I haven't really. Don't trouble yourself about the matter. Purdy Jack won't take a penny of that, I feel sure, and I needn't tell you that I won't." ''It's very wrong arid very unkind," she answered, the ready tears shining in her eyes. " You must look at it in this light," he continued quietly, that you have met with an accident, and are entitled to compen- sation. What's £50 to what you've undergone ? What we paid was only a trifle, and it's only just that we should pay for what we did. Don't say anything more about it, please." "And Mr. Heeley wanted to give me £50 more," she sobbed somewhat illogically, "and wouldn't take anything either." " What?" cried Candy Bob, " Purdy Jack been offering you £50! How was that, miss?" " He said you'd done so," she answered, with a smile at the recollection even in her present perplexity, " and he wanted to do so too. But, of course, I wouldn't accept it." "By the Lord !" exclaimed Candy Bob, with blunt candour, "Purdy Jack's a better man than I took him to be. He has a good heart has Jack. But it was better you didn't take the money." " Of course. There was no likelihood of my doing so. It's different taking it from the company." "Yes," he murmured somewhat abstractedly. Indeed, the information regarding his brother deputationist that he had just heard seemed to have quite a depressing effect on him. He sat there silent and with drawn brows for some time, evidently ill at ease. Perhaps he was wondering what the selector's offers might lead to, or where they would end— perhaps was thinking what Purdy Jack might do and say when he knew that the dressmaker was about to take her departure in a couple of days— perhaps, but after all it can only be a matter of conjec- ture what it was that made him sit there so silent and ill at ease for so long, and likewise what it was that caused a look of deter- mination and resolve slowly to take possession of his features. The dressmaker then looked up at her companion, surprised at his unusual silence. "Mr. Hathaway," she said, "you haven't answered my ques- tion yet. You must tell me before I go." " Eh !" he answered, more abstractedly than ever. Miss Roberts repeated her question, and it was at this juncture that Candy Bobs features assumed the determined look above referred to. He drew his chair close to her side before he answered. " You want me to take this money from you, Miss Roberts, do you ?"
" Oh, yes !" she answered hesitatingly, she hardly knew why. "Well, miss," he said stoutly, evading the point no longer, " I shall have to take you as well, if I do. " "Oh!" exclaimed the dressmaker, very faintly indeed. " If you'll marry me," he pursued simply (having once broken the ice he found it quite easy to go on), " I'll make you as good a husband as I can. I love you very much— I do indeed." At this point, finding no opposition, he took her hand in his. " You haven't known me long," he continued cheerfully, "and I haven't known you long ; but if you can trust yourself to me, I'll show you I know how to prize it." Candy Bob was very eloquent indeed, but he was unfortunately brought to an untimely stoppage, for the dressmaker was dissolved in tears. " You're s-s-saying it out of p-pity," she sobbed. "Pity?" he answered quickly, looking tenderly in her tear- stained face. " What for ? No ; if you think you can be happy with me, I can only be proud and honoured. Perhaps I am not very polished or fine-mannered ———" "You are very, very, go-od," sobbed his companion, faintly certainly, but with some show of ardour. "Then why not say ' Yes ?" he answered simply. "I d-don't like to," sobbed the foolish lady; " I'm such a p-p-poor thing." Such absurd objections and such half-hearted refusals as these could not naturally hold ground against the steady persistency of Candy Bob. That gentleman was not as a rule a highly demon- strative person, but on this occasion he shone in quite a new character. Not only as suitor, but likewise as sympathiser, consoler, and mentor. In these different phases, which, there is some show of reason in suspecting, occasioned him a vast amount of satisfaction in assuming, he was quite successful, in none more so than in that of lover and suitor. For not only did
he succeed in drying the lady s tears, and prove to her that there was an adequate want of cause for more — not only did he restore her to cheerfulness and; even gaiety — and not only did he suc- cessfully combat her absurd objections, but before he took his departure he had actually gained a promise from her to link her fate with his, and had sealed and ratified it in the manner usual with people in their condition. So it was ! The poor little dressmaker had at last found a champion to protect her from the blows and buffets of the world. There was a wonderful sense of security in the thought. Candy Bob's strong person to interpose between her and the rough handling of life — Candy Bob's strong hand and good right arm to guide and ward off adverse influences — Candy Bob's big kindly heart to lean upon, to find shelter in always. After her lonely, almost friendless, life among s'trangers, living away from relatives, seeing them but at long intervals, the dressmaker acknowledged in a burst of thankful tears the happiness that had come to her, and her simple heart went out in a flood of gratitude and thankful affection to her stalwart lover. It was perhaps somewhat unfortunate for Purdy Jack that he was not upon the scene of action — if the dressmaker's sanctum can be so called — until late. The news of her pending departure brought him in post-haste sometime after his fortunate fellow deputationist had gained such satisfactory avowals from the lady. Purdy Jack was in a state of great excitement and perturbation, so much so that his usual grin was in a great measure discarded. " I brought you that little matter o' money agen, miss," he said, " hearin' you were goin' away, and thinkin' you might think better of it now." There was quite a new look about the dressmaker that puzzled the poor fellow not a little, slight observer as he was of such things ; but nobody could help noticing the unaccustomed colour that dyed her cheeks, the bright light in her eyes, and the smile of happiness that played on her face. "Why, Mr. Heeley," she cried quite gaily, " how silly of you to bring it again. You know I don't want the money, and can't take it. Pray put it in your pocket again." The disappointed selector, with a rueful look at his companion, took up the bag which he had laid upon the table, and slowly replaced it in his pocket. " Taint nothin' to me," he observed ; "money ain't no objec'." " Well, I'm glad to hear it, Mr. Heeley, but you know I can't take it." "Well, miss," he said gruffly, after clearing his throat violently for upwards of five minutes, hiding his face behind his hat for considerable periods, turning crimson, and exhibiting other slight symptoms of embarrassment, " if you won't have that, perhaps you wouldn't have me neither." " I don't understand what you mean," she said innocently. Mr. John Heeley, driven to explain himself more fully, looked doubtfully round as though seeking for the easiest and most expeditious mode of escape ; but gathering fresh courage from the fact that the door was shut and he was seated at the other end of the room, he contented himself with merely hiding in ambush, behind his hat, and from that post of vantage observed — " P'raps you wouldn't care to marry me, supposin' I asked. 'Cos if you would, you know, there's the s'lection, an' close up 300 sheep an' 25 head prime milkers, as you might 'ave. And supposin' you cared, me askin' you now, they'd all be yourn as well as mine. What d'ye say, miss ?" This declaration was not brought out without a vast amount of hesitation, and a certain wistfulness apparent all through. It surprised the dressmaker without doubt, for she cried with a kind of gasp— "Marry you, Mr. Heeley! Why, I'm going to marry Candy ,Bob!" The manner in which Purdy Jack received this announcement, startling as it was, and crushing as it did all hopes he may have entertained, is a lasting lesson to all unsuccessful lovers. If his example were followed in similar cases, there would be very many less cases of unhappiness and misery caused by the frosts of blighted affection. His face first assumed an expression of incredulity and dismay, but gradually the severity of its lines unbent, and, pausing to take a good breath, he burst into one of the most terrific roars of laughter possible to conceive, thumping himself violently in the chest, rolling about in his chair, stamping his feet, and exhibiting other vigorous signs of enjoyment. " Candy. Bob!" he chuckled in the midst of the paroxysm. " Candy Bob ! He was first. Reg'ler cut me out. Chipped in fus an' collared the pool." At each pause he burst into afresh roar until he was perfectly exhausted, and could only sit and wipe his eyes with his coat sleeve. When, some time after, he took his departure, Miss Roberts felt quite relieved, for though he recovered his equanimity somewhat and congratulated her gruffly, and didn't seem to feel the least disappointment, every few minutes or so he would burst into unrestrained laughter, extremely disconcerting and even alarming to his companion, and make some such audible remark — "Reg'ler beat ! Cut me out straight ! Candy Bob's pretty smart ; he is !" and finish up with another violent exhibition of his appreciation of these facts. Fashion in Karradindy didn't lend towards long engagements. People were simple enough there to think that when they had contracted to marry they might as well be married without unnecessary delay. So one short week after Candy Bob and th dressmaker first came to a mutual understanding they visited together the nearest town where a clergyman resided— no less than Narraby, in which place Dr. Waddlegrig's household gods flourished— and were made man and wife. As they were starting out in the buggy for the purpose men- tioned, a slight incident took place which is worthy of record. Purdy Jack, riding the shiny horse devoted in ordinary to the springcart, trotted up to the side of the vehicle in which the smiling dressmaker was sitting, and without a word of welcome, without "by your leave or with your leave," he placed in her lap a huge nosegay, together with a small paper parcel, and then rode rapidly off. On opening the parcel there was disclosed a cheque-book, a statement. and a letter. The statement was headed "County , Bank—In account with Henrietta Roberts, and to the credit of the said Henrietta Roberts was an entry of £50, while to the debit
was the sum of 2s. 6d. for a cheque-book. The letter which accompanied it, written in the most uncouth handwriting and liberally spotted with blots, was as follows: — " TO MISS HENRY HETTY ROBERTS BEFORE SHE GETS MARRIED. Deer Mam,— I send you that little thing we wos torkin' about as a maridge present, hoopin you will like it. Give my respecs to Candy ; and am yure old frend, "JOHN HEELEY. " P.B. — I has the best s'lection goin', and close up three hun sheep and twenty-fiv hed prime milkers, and makes a power of muney sherin times. Muney a.int no objec." Shortly after his marriage, Candy Bob, in con- sideration of his past services, and likewise in consequence of his being a married man, was, by the good offices of Mr. Croxton, promoted from being an ordinary driver to a more important post. There was a local sub-managership, which only a man practically acquainted with horses and the general working of the coaching system can fill, the duties being the supervision of certain lines, the buying of horses, and general over- seering of the practical working of the coaches. This promotion necessitated a change to a more important centre, than Karradindy, and Mr. and Mrs. Hathaway at this present moment are highly respected residents of Narraby. Some time has now elapsed since they were married, and Candy Bob (his wife always calls him "Candy" in private) is very fond of telling how he first made his good lady's acquaintance, and he relates the incident as if the peculiar con- duct of the baldfaced filly and the skewbald cob on that memorable occasion was the best thing that ever happened for him in his life, which, after all, I really and truly think it was.