|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||A Dreadful Pickle|
A Dreadful Fickle.
We left our little pickle in terrible straits, indeed, last time. Helpless, bound hand and foot, lying on the floor of a wretched little house, miles away from her own beautiful little home-a nice plight, indeed, for a young lady of Midge Lau rayne's position to be in, and a nice state of mind, indeed, for her parents to endure had they known. But fortunately for t íeir peace they were ignorant of it, and thought their darling was safe in her own rooms. Mrs. Laurayne had left . her in her brother's care at the sta-
tion, and had passed the night at Hurstville without any misgivings as to her safety. Frank had not returned from tennis till late at night, when he had let himself in and gone up to bed, never dreaming but that Midge was asleep in hers. Madame had, indeed, questioned the coachman, as she knew Mrs. Laurayne had had no intention of taking the child with her, but on hearing the man's report she had thought that her pupil had over-ruled her mother's objections and accompanied her at the last moment. Satisfied in her own mind, she settled down to a quiet e\eaing's read, a luxury her restless charge did not often permit ; and Mr. Laurayne, on asking, as was his wont, for his little daughter in the evening, was told she had gone with her mother.
So while Midge, lying in her misery far away at Botany was imagining the whole household scattered far and wide seeking her, and picturing vividly their terrible distress, everything was going on as quietly and serenely as if no such little disturber of the peace had existed.
When Midge awoke from her long swoon she felt the cool night air blowing around her, and to her amazement, on looking up, saw instead of the dirty room hung with clothes, a clear moonlit sky with its thousands of pale bright stars, and
the familiar Southern Cross above her. She still felt she must be in some terrible nightmare that she could not shake off ; surely she was not herself, surely it could not be Hildegarde Laurayne, with maids, foot mer, carriages at her beck and call, who was sitting here ragged, barefoot, and homeless in the middle of the night.
" No, I'm having a dream, I suppose," she said quite calmly, and sitting upright on the doorstep where she had found her- self, 4< Well, I hope it will go soon, I've pinched myself and I can't wake up, the bed's very hard, too, I'll call Jane to shake it up." Jane, her maid, always slept in a little room opening out of her own, that she might be able to attend to her young mistreiCj r.nd Midge almost fancied she could see the half-open door and hear the girl's regular breathing.
" Jane," she called softly," Jane." There was the sound of approaching footsteps, and she bent forward expectantly. " Jane, I'm so cold, tuck me up, please," she cried again piteously, stretching out her little arms into the night air. But it was not Jane's familiar figure standing there, it was a policeman, and he had turned bid bull's eye lantern full on to the doorstep, and was gazing curiously ut the white-faced, shivering little morsel of humanity sitting there and calling so pitifully for Jane. The glare of
the lantern quite woke her up, the events of the evening came into her mind with a terrible rush of recollection, and she felt a shuddering thankfulness that she was free, though she could not remember how she had been brought from that horrible
" Well," said the policeman at last, " well young 'un this woi't do, you didn't ought ter be in the streets at night, you know." He was a kind-hearted man, with children of his own, and something in Midge's grey, frightened eyes, touched him. «* Haven't you no home, is yer mother drunk and turned ye out ?"
The idea of her lady-mother being drunk appealed almost irresistibly to Midge's risible faculties, and she laughed a faint little laugh, feeling at the same time a tired wonder at herself for being able to laugh at such a time.
" I'm a lady," she said at last, in a tired little voice ; " take me home, please. My father is a gentleman ; you shall be well paid."
" A lady, eh ?" echoed the policeman, with a smile. It seemed strangely comic to him this forlorn-looking, ragged child, sitting there and telling him so gravely she was a lady.
" Come now, little one " he said, not un* kindly, " if you've stolen anything, or done something wrong, you'd better go home. They'll forgive yer if yer tell them yer sorry."
" O dear, you're very stupid," said Midge wearily, and standing up with a little im- patient movement ; " don't I tell you I am a lady, and they've stolen from me. My father is Mr. Laurayne, and they've got my clothes, and I was visiting the poor ; these aren't mr clothes, and, oh, do,-do take me home," and the poor tired child stopped suddenly, and burst into a fit of
" Look here, my little gal, you must come along with me," the man said, " its 2 o'clock in the morning, and whoever and whatever you be I can't leave my beat ; here's the station house close by j I'll leave yer till mornin', and then we'll send you home j p'raps they won't beat yer muoh."
Midge glanced at her bare feet and old dress, »nd seemed to recognise the utter impossibility of convincing the man that she was not one of the street arabs. Too utterly weary and exhausted to argue further she walked by the man's side in silence, his big rough hand grasping her little white arm, and helping her along.
"Just as if I had been taken up for stealing and given into charge," she thought, with a dreamy, curious sense of the unfitness of the thing ! " it's very funny, very funny."
" Here we are," said the man, breaking the silence, and stopping at a gate over which hung a lamp. " In hore, little n'n, this way."
" Is it prison ?" said Midge faintly.
.« Well, it is the lockup, sartingly," said the man, with a smile, " but we'll let you out right enough to-morrow." :
Unable to resist, Midge followed him into a little bare room he unlocked. There was a narrow pallet bed in a corner and a co unie of blankets, and, glad to lie down anywhere, the child crept into bed, and pulled the covering over herself. With a kind " good night" the man locked the door behind him, and went back to his lonely beat, and in five minutes Midge was in as sound and deep a sleep as she ever had been in her dainty soft bed at home.
(TO BK CONTINUED.)