|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||A Real Old-Time Christmas|
Derrick Vincent's first sf libation was one of tte most dire consternation. Here, his thoughts ran, was & pretty kettle of fish, that his old love, Kitty Kilroy, daughter of a baronet, and the widow of a man of enormous wealth, should be lying sense less at his feet on such a night and in such cir cumstances. He had no overwhelming feeling.3 of joy or cf pleaisure in thus meeting her; it seemed, indeed, to him as if she was someone whom he had known but very slightly a very long time ago, and, moreover, a someone who waa quite impersonal to him. It was, of ccurs?, only for a single moment that he stood there, just the tims that passed between tha woman's fall and the first instinct of giving suc cour to one In misfortune. Thea ha bent down, and rallied her In his arms. But what wes he to do with her? Sh? was a dead weight even th;ugb she was so slight and frail, and he could not pccslbly walk the distance, nearly a mile, which lay be tween where they were and Osborne Terrace. Of course, there was no euoh tíx'.r.g as a oab to b? s-©n, for the weather was so bad that even the cabmen had deserted their pests and had given up work fer the ravt of the day.. Stay, waa not that a s und of wheals? He put the unoomstfoua woman down gently on the path again, and stepped out into the read, determined even if it should prove ta be a private carriage to entreat i.he coachman or the ownrr, as the case might be, to lend him a hand for the love of God and the saving of a life. It vva.3 a cab. "HI!" oriel Vucent, in a stentorian
"Can't take a fare, sir," replied the driver. "My boma 'osn't been roughed, and tba risk's too' great to go on the read again."
"I'll give you a sovereign if you'll ta.ke me as far as C»borne Terrace," said Vincent. "I'll walk with the horse, but there's a lady here who has collapsed from the cold, and I must get her
"Oh, well, if it's a case of that kind," said the cabby, getting down from his perch, "I'm not a brute or unreasonable. I'll take you, sir. Shall I help you to get the lady in ?"
"I can manage best alone, I think," said Vin cent. "Look here, cabman, you're a good fel low;. I'm immensely obliged to you?'
He raised the still insensible woman tn his
arms, and with a little manoeuvring got her comfortably settled in the cab. "You'd best get . in, slr," said the cabman.
"No, .no; I'll walk,' replied Vincent.
"It'll be awkward if the lady comes lo and has no one to speak to," suggested the other. "As I must walk with the horse, you may as well get
So Vincent got into the ca.b a.nd they began a very slow progress in the direction of Osborne Terrace. For some time the child's mother did not move; then the jolting of the clumsy vehicle brought her to herself again, and she, after open ing her eyes, a fact of which Vincent was in the darkness quite unconscious, tried to sit up. "Don't worry," said he, easily, "you're all right, and the child is quite safe at home. We shall be there too in à few minutes. I was lucky in being able to get a cab on such a night as this."
She tried to say something, but the effort was too much, and she sank back again, ouly a stran gled cough now and then proving to Vincent that she had not once more relapsed into insensibility. Then they turned the corner of Osborne Terrace, and a minute or two later drew up at the door of No. ll. Vincent erot out and went straight to the door of the house. "Get the door open," he said to Mrs. Mitchell. "I'll carry her in-she is completely done up." He stayed far a minute to get the money from his pocket with which to re deem his promise to the cabman, and he selected yet another coin, yellow and shining like the first. "Here, take this before I go," he said, when he reached the cab again. "And my best thanks to you. Here's a trifle extra, just to reward you for your humanity."
Then he thrust his head and shoulders into the cab and bade the child's mother trust herself to him. . In less time than it takes me to write this he had carried her into the house and had put her down in the Dig armchair which stood be fore the fire. "If you will take my advice," he said, "you will get Mrs. O'Sullivan to bed at once and give her something to drink."
"Poor dear," sniffed the landlady, 'but I doubt this night's work will-"
"Can I carry her into the bedroom?" he asked, wishing to stem the torrent of the good soul's re
"Yes, if you'd be that kind, sir. You see, I am
that hipless I'm just about good for nothing, or
I'd never have let the poor lamb go out by 'erself this bitter afternoon, that I wouldn't. This way, sir."
He lifted the figure of his old love in his arms and carried her whither the old woman led the way. "Set 'er 'ere in this chair, sir, and I'll 'ave .'er things off of 'er and into 'er bed in a jiffy,'? Mrs. Mitchell said, pointing to a capacious
chair which stood beside the bed.
He did her bidding; and then, bending, down, said in quiet level tones to Mrs. O'Sullivan, "I will leave you now, Kitty, but I will come back and see how you are getting on to-morrow. Good-night."
Her lips moved, and he bent sitill lower to catch her words. "God bless you," she whispered, and then a choking cough once more cult her words short, and seemed to rend her frail body almost ito
pieces. Vincent went out of the room, beckoning
the old woman to follow him.
"Look here," he said, "you had better get some one in to help you. I think she is going to be very
.'I'll do the best I can for 'er," replied Mrs. Mi/tchell, "but as for getting 'elp, it means money-" '.
Before she could finish the sentence, Vincent had , thrust his hand into his pocket. "See here," he said, "this is all I have with me to-night. Take it and do the best you can ¿ and I will bring you some more to-morrow.. Don't spare expense. It is, im peraitive that the mother of so young a child, shall be saved at any cost."
"Sir," said Mrs. Mitchell, "you're a gentleman,
if ever one trod ithe earth. God reward you ac-, cording to your deserts, which are all for good this night. The dear lamb told me what you'd done for 'er and when the poor dear in there knows-"
"Oblige me by not saying a single word," said he. "1 particularly beg ithatt you will keep my secret between us two. I will come again to-morrow."
The next moment he had descended the narrow , stairs, and with a word to the child, who was sit ting in the chair by the-Aire, where Mrs. Mitchell had placed her, after changing her clothes, he had opened the outer door and had passed into Ithe night. Mrs. Mitchell sltood on the landing staring hard at the money in her hand. She was too thoroughly bewildered by the strange events of the past hour to count it, but she saw by the light from the bedroom that there were several pieces of gold among the silver. "And little missie said she 'ad never sesra 'im before," she muttered. "Well,'if-it don't beat all understanding."
Meantime, Vincent, with his heart beating hard and his head on fire, wasi battling his way up the narrow road, and so went across (to the barracks. Once in the safe shelter of his own rooms he had time to think quietly over what had happened to him since ' he had left them that afternoon. He tossed his things to one side, and sat down in Ithe big chair to try and realise the truth of all that he had learned. So she was a widow, a poor widow, and O'Sullivan was dead, was-but there, he wouild nat say that even to himself. And that dear little child, with her deep blue eyes, was hers. He could still feel the pressure of the confiding arm about hts throat; could still hear the plaintive musical distressed voice, with its pathetic, "Whait s'all I do? What s'all I do?" And it was her
child, and he had been thinking hardly of her only
It was plain that she was in for a-bad thing in the way of illnesses, even if the little one escaped scot-free. Well, he must see her through it, it only for the sake of this little friend who had con fided her trouble to him. Of Kitty, as his old love, he never thought, he had forgotten the past except ing as a claim upon/ the present, and the thought he had of her wa3 only as of a woman in sore trouble and actual want. Poor little Kitty!
He was very quiet at mess that night, very much Inclined to let the tide of conversation pass by him, and he slipped off early and had another big think before he turned in for the night. And the following day, as soon as he could get away out of barracks, he went round to Osborne Terrace that he might satisfy himself as to how she was getting on. The face with which Mrs. Mitchell
met him was answer enough. "Nay, sir, but she's very, very ill," she said, gravely. "I've done my bnal so far, peor dear, for I've a tender 'eart for them as is in trouble, and Mrs. O'Sullivan was never born to be in a place like mine, of that I'm
rwell, ehe wasn't," said Vincent. "But, after all, if one's ill and in trouble, it is .better to be with those that are kind than in a grander place among those who are less so."
"Ycu know'er?'! she asked.
. VYeafs and years ago, but I did not know that she was in Danford," ho replied. "Nor did I know" whose child the little one was when 1 brought her home here. By the way, how ls
"Very little the v.-erse, sir," Mrs. Mitchell re
plied. ? ? ,-? .
"Gocd. Then Mrs.-Mitchell, yes, then Mrs. Mit chell, you will see that Mrs. O'Sullivan has every thing she can possibly need; get in a first-class nurse, have the best doctor, and everything to give her strength. And whatever money is want ed, I will supply. You and I quite understand each other, eh?"
"Lrrd, sir," cried iMrs. Mitchell, with a lauga,
"lt ud be a bern foci as couldn't understand you." .
So several days went by. The weather got fr m bad to worse until the roads were almost impassàble, and Danford Barracks were- in part snowed up. Yet not a single one of the officers of the Red Hrrse heard so much as one grumbling word pass the lips of their comrade, Derrick VlD cont. "I can't think what bas come over Vincent," said Hammond to two or three pf his brother offi ceiß. "I believe something is going to happen to him. He's as mild as new milk these last few days."
"And when one thinks how he swore at Dan ton! and everything in it," laughed another man, "and how he cussed Christmas, and the weather, and the regiment, and all the rest."
"Mark my words. Vincent Is a changed man," said u third one solemnly.
They say that many:a true word is spoken in jest. Vincent was a changed man, and at that very moment was just following Mrs. Mit chell up the narrow stairs to see Mrs. O'Sullivan f(.r the first time since he had rescued her from the severity of a real old-fashioned Christmas. ITe found her sitting up in a big chair, her slight forra wrapped in a warm red dressing-gown which, though he did not know it, had actually been bought with his money. She received him with a flush on her wan face, and a shrinking air whioh w is quite new to him. And he, as soon as the door closed behind Mrs. Mitchell, who had cleverly whisked the nurse away with her, he just stepped up to her, and slipped down on his knees beside her, "Oh, my poor darling!" was all that he said, "my poor little love." And so without another wcrd, the time of Kitty Kilroy's tribulation had come to an end, and the little child with the dark set : blue eyes had . found a father in her chance friend picked, up in the storm of a real old-fas hioned Christmas.
First Tom-Cat: "How did you feel when the brick struck you?" Second Tom-Cat: "Say! My past eight lives rose up before me in" a second!"