|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||The Story of Mary Strange|
THE STORY OF MARY STRANGE.
THE heat of the day was almost over, and the shadows of the tall trees were growing longer and longer in the wood. . Its pretty feathered inhabitants were cluster- ing together with 3leepy little chirrups, broken by the lowing ol' the cattle as they filed up in their slow, clumsy way from the rich pastures. The heavy perfume of the new-mown clover filled the air, mingling with all the other sweet scents
and sounds of summer.
By the doorstep of the old farmhouse stood a stalwart young fellow, watching, with a pleased look upon his face, two girlish figures sauntering through the shady lane, its hedges, laden with white, perfumed hawthorn blossoms, making a fitting frame for the picture they presented. The taller, and seemingly elder, of the two laid her soft cheek on the fair, fluffy hair that touched her shoulder, and twined her arm about the slender form beside her and as their advancing footsteps hroughl them closer to him, their voices fell quite distinctly on the watcher's ear.
' I am very glad indeed, for your sake Bessie,' said the sweet, low voice of Marj Strange. ' This money will enable you te help your dear mother, and all the litth ones. How happy it must have made yow aunt to think of the good she was doin<
The face that turned towards the speakei was a very bright and merry one, and tb.< voice that answered was just as tuneful ai the questioner's.
' You dear, charitable old pet. How car you say such good things about the crosi old dame, when she only just left me he: money by accident, because she wai annoyed with her nephew ? But he die not want it, and I do, very much,' sin added, seriously. « So I am glad she lei it to me. But look, Mar}- ! ' catching sight of the figure now advancing towardi them ; ' there is Tom.'
As the young fellow bared, his handsome curly head, and greeted the two girls, i close observer might have noticed the blusl deepen on the pretty cheeks of Bessii Bare, and perhaps a quicker flutter of th< iaces at her throat j but in the calm fae of her companion, although the newcome scanned it searchingly, there was no toucl of unusual colour. On the contrary", i seemed a trifle pale.
'You are tired to-night, Mary,'he said ' this heat is very trying for you, and yoi are not careful enough of yourself. I ac siire you work too hard.'
'No,' she answered, with that winniuj smile of hers that lent suelv-a charm, t her grave face, it was so rare and sweel ' I must work you know,' but as thougl she wished to change the subject, ( yoi
have aot congratulated Bessie on her great good fortune. Is it that you have not
yet heard ?'
He turned to Bessie th«n, ' And what have you been doing, Miss Mischief, that Daine Fortune should bestow her fickle smile on you, and was the smile worth having when it came ? ' .
'Don't you underrate my value, sir,' she retorted ! ' Were it not for my gratuitous service, our mutual friend,' indicating Mary with a theatrical wave of the hand, * would still be in that hot, stuffy school- room. She is a slave to those children. I took a class myself this afternoon, and by a stupendous effort, succeeded in keeping them quiet, but that is all I can vouch for. My head is aching, and I am longing for the strawberries and tea Mary-promised as a reward for my self-denial. But as for the aforesaid Dame Fortune, she has smiled so broadly that I can no longer recognise her face. My aunt has left me about a thousand pounds, and I thank you
in anticipation for your kiud congratula-
'Which you have most sincerely,' was tbe quiet rejoinder, ' to be followed bj ?tho much wished for tea. Do you noi
expect your father home to-night?' h.< said to Mary as they crossed the threshold
of her home.
' I think he is within,' she answered, ' '. have lingered later than usual. Ah ! ' a they entered the homely parlour, ' he ha not yet returned, I wonder what can hav kept him so late. Come, help me, Bessie
and we will have supper ready before h
Tom Fenton stood in the doorway un de the heavy honeysuckle boughs, lazil watching the two girlish forms movin , about the darkening room, spreading th
simple table with sweet home-mad dainties. Then, their task completed, the came and stood beside him to wait for M: Strange. The twilight deepened, slowl . in the wide sky the brilliant afterglow c
the sunset faded, and the warm eart breathed forth new and sweeter odours t greet the pale stars just glimmering i tue heavens. The sound of a heavy foo fall broke the silence, followed by tb sharp click of the gate-latch, and Bess: sped down tho dusky pathway to mei her uncle. Mary made a movement 1 follow, but a detaining hand was lai
upon her arm.
' Don't go, Mary, wait until they con up.' ? .'.../;"
' I wonder what has kept father so lat< she said hurriedly, stooping to pluck white carnation that tilled the night a with its perfume ; ' he is generally hon
so much earlier.'
' You are anxious about him to-nigl Mary,' and his voice softened as he bei
towards her ; ' do you know,' imprisoning the hand that held the flower, < how gladly I would shield you from ali trouble, all anxiety-how dearly I love you, my dar- ling, my darling? Mary do you love
He gathered her close in his strong arms, for one short moment heT dark head touched his shoulder, and her blushing face was covered with his kisses. Freeing herself abruptly, she sped away as her cousin and her father came towards them.
The shaded lamp diffused a warm, red glow over the cosy sitting room-through the open window floated the fragrant summer air, as the fanner and his guests gathered 'round the tea-table. 'But where's my lassie ? ' he asked of the neat handmaiden ; ' tell her we are waiting for her, please.'
AB. he spoke, she entered by the open doorway, and going straight up to him, laid her fresh, young lips on his lined forehead. His stern face relaxed a little at sight of his daughter, and his greeting was very tender.
' But what kept you so late ? ' she asked him in that soft voice of hers, which was
such music to her father's ears.
* Oh, some business at Briarwood,' he answered, trying to speak lightly, but her loving eyes did not fail to notice the look of care that swept across his brow.
* Of course, men always plead business when they are late ! Now, was it not a gossip with old Mrs. Weld, uncle ? ' sug- gested Bessie, in her saucy way.
'No!' broke in Tom, 'it is only the women who gossip ; we men are never guilty of such an iniquity.'
Bessie accepted the challenge, and a merry war of words ensued between the two, to which the farmer listened in an abstracted way, and Mary joined. . half shyly, as it were. There was a glad,
new light in her soft brown eyes, which made them pretty to see, but they were not lifted to where that white carnation gleamed on its dark background, only the mantling colour in her cheeks grew more vivid whenever Tom spoke to her ; ano Bessie chattered on gaily to hide thai strange, new pain which gathered athel heart as she watched them. So the even- ing wore on, the old clock on the mante now and then breaking its regular tick tick, to chime out the passing hours, anc darkness had fallen deeply outside ere th< friends parted, with no, thought of í i coming trouble, no shadow to, mar thi heart's glad peace.