Mabel Boyne.

That Australian family / by Mabel Boyne online

. (page 4 of 5)
Online LibraryMabel BoyneThat Australian family / by Mabel Boyne → online text (page 4 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

one I have chosen for my future wife."
And Madge was happy.

" And swift, and swift beyond conceiving,,

The splendour of the world goes round ;
Day s Eden-brightness still relieving
The awful nigh f s intense prof ound"



LITTLE Roy was dangerously ill. Mrs.
Horton knew it by the grave look upon Dr.
Vandberg's face, as lie stood at the bedside of
the little sufferer.

The girls knew it, as they hovered near the
door of the sick-room, with tear-stained
faces ; knew that the little fragile child, so
dear to them all, despite their increasing care,
had suddenly become worse, and even as they
stood, his wild cries of delirium burst upon

The doctor said it was a case of pneumonia

in its severest form, and that little Roy's



chances of recovery (with such a poor consti-
tution) were remote very remote, indeed.

A pallor overspread Mrs. Horton's face at
the words. A choking sensation prevented
reply, and with a moan of anguish she covered
her face with her hands.

For days there was no perceptible change in
the little patient.

" Mother, look at the spiders ! Look !
look ! Take them ! Can't you see ? coining
through the curtains !" he would cry in his
delirium; and his little thin fingers would
grasp at the bed-curtains, with such an air of
affright, that the curtains had to be removed.

The doctor still looked grave, and shook his

A look of abject despair now rested upon
Mrs. Horton's anxious face. The girls moved
noiselessly about the sick room, speaking in


liushed voices words of hope and comfort that
their very looks of fear and dread belied.

New Year's Kve came again. Geoffrey had
been home a week, and still little Roy grew
gradually worse.

They all listened and wondered wondered,
as peal after peal rang merrily from the
Church of St. John's, ushering in, with glad-
ness and joy the corning year that had just
dawned, what to them its advent would bring
forth ; wondered at the change that had taken
place in the great world ; when another year's
sorrows and troubles were left behind ; when
the departed year had added to the long list of
days and months that were to be recalled no

And they prayed that little Roy's life
should be spared ; that the echoes of gladness
and joy that rang out from every quarter of


the great city should also mean joy to them ;
that the dark cloud that had fallen upon their
home should soon be lifted.

For nearly three weeks little Roy's life
" hung in the balance," and then there came
a change for the better. Very slight it was,
indeed, the doctor said, but still enough to
strengthen the slight thread of hope that
recovery would eventuate.

At last came the day for Geoffrey's depar-
ture. His holidays had already been ex-
tended, and he could remain home no longer.
Little Roy was propped up with pillows when
he entered to say good-bye.

Against the doctor's orders, Geoffrey re-
mained longer than the allotted ten minutes.

"You're a nice old chap to get sick just


when I come home, and want you to take me
out fishing, and to the Cyclorama, and to the
Centennial Hall, to hear that grand organ
and everywhere !" Geoffrey exclaimed with a
forced air of gaiety, as he bent over and kissed
the little pale face buried amongst the pillows.
" Wait until you're better, and I come home at
Easter, then we will make up for it all, eh,
Roy ?"

" But when you come back I might be gone,
Geoff," came the faint reply.

" No you will not, Roy, mother will not
take you right away to Orange where Doctor
Vandberg says you must go, when you
get stronger until I come home at Easter ;
and then we can have some grand times

" Oh, but I didn't mean that, Geoff, I
might be gone to Heaven, you know, with


father. Do you remember the last time we
went to Rookwood how lovely the flowers had
grown on Father's grave ? And you know
that lovely patch of grass next to it ? that's
where I'd like to lay, Geoff, just beside father ;
but be sure and tell them to put me very close,
so as there will be room for mother, when God
sends for her.

" There, I have made you cry, and I didn't
want to, Geoff.

" That's why I wanted to tell you before
you go, because mother and Linda, and Madge
and Dot just cried something awful, you
know, when I tried to tell them."

" Darling Roy, you must not tell them ;
A^ou will get better, the doctor says you will ;
and I am sure that God wants you to get
strong and well. Now, do not talk any more,


or Doctor Vandberg will not let me come


And before Geoffrey crept slowly from the
darkened room, the little sufferer was asleep.

" Some truths are not by reason to be tried,
But we have sure experience for our guide"





THE brilliant sunshine of an Easter morning
stole upon the little scene.

Everyone wanted to do something. Geoffrey
took little Roy's thin form in his strong arms
and gently carried him downstairs; Mrs.
Horton hurried after cushions ; the girls after
rugs and wraps ; and Miss Newcome had ex-
pressly ordered the neat brougham that stood
awaiting at the door. At last everything was
ready, and little Roy, carefully tucked in be-
tween his mother and Miss Newcome, was
whirled along Oxford Street towards Cen-
tennial Park, after many long weeks of


153 ii


The house was practically deserted. The
boarders, taking advantage of the few days
holiday, had organized a fishing party, and
journeyed to the Hawkesbury River ; the
Wenderoon's holidays ended a week ago, they
had returned to Buttabadong Station. Madge
and the Captain were invited to spend the day
with friends at Coogee, and Geoffrey had gone
into the City.

Linda and Dot were watering the great "tree
ferns " that were planted here and there on
the well-kept lawn.

They were anticipating a few hours
gardening, and were already both so intent
upon their work that they had not observed
the entry of a telegraph messenger, till he
held out an envelope addressed to Martha.
They both ran inside with the missive ; fearing
bad news for their faithful old servant.


" Come at once, your father has been thrown
and severely injured," were the words it con-

Amidst fears at her father's misfortune, and
regrets at having to leave the dinner uncooked,
Martha was ready in a few minutes to start
for Penrith.

" Mind you don't worry about us and the
dinner ! Martha. We'll manage capitally,"
was Dot's parting rejoinder from the balcony,
where she stood watching the hansom hurriedly
disappear round the corner and speed down
William Street, till it was no longer recog-
nizable among the mass of carriages, hansoms,
and omnibuses, that are generally to be seen
whirling to and from those aristocratic localities
Pott's Point, Double Bay, Elizabeth Bay,
and Darlinghurst Road.

Linda was already in the kitchen when Dot


went down, with a great white apron on,
looking more perplexed than elated at the
prospect of her first day's cooking.

"Dot, I'm just waiting for you. I see
Martha has left the vegetables ready what
do you say if we have a meat pie and some
sponge custard ? "

" But you know how Miss Newcome hates
that, Lin ! "

" Does she ? "

" Of course, it always gives her indigestion
for a week," she says. " We had better make
her favourite pudding ' Brown.' I've often
watched Martha. I'm sure I could make one."

" Very well. You make the pudding, and
I'll make the pie ; then we can have cold ham
as well. We must not forget beef-tea for
Roy ! "


"I think I'll have flaky pastry for the pie
it's so light and rich," Linda exclaimed, pro-
ceeding to work.

" Well, you had better go to the other table,
Lin, I want this."

" What for ? "

" The pudding, of course ! "

And as Linda glanced at the table, already
strewn with things from one end to the other,
she thought Dot was right.

For awhile the work proceeded in silence.
The day proved to be exceptionally hot;
and Dot had already become very flurried,
very hot and very exasperated at seeing the
bad effect the heat had upon her fringe.

As well as a range, a gas stove stood in one
corner of the kitchen.

This, Linda decided to use ; having a great
objection to becoming so red and so comical


looking as did Dot, with great black smudges
all over her pretty pink cheeks.

" Oh, this is something horrid ! I'm nearly
baked ! " Dot exclaimed, looking very irritable.

" I wish I could get my pastry in that
unenviable condition," Linda replied, not
quite so sanguine as to the success of their
first experience in cooking.

All too soon the time slipped by. One
o'clock came. Mrs. Horton, Miss Newcome,
and Roy returned, all surprised and sorry to
hear of Martha's hasty departure, and the
cause of it.

" Well I don't think we will mind a cold
luncheon to-day, girls, as there are such a few
of us," Mrs. Horton said, wondering what Dot
had been doing to get such great black spots
on her face.


" But, mother, we have been cooking all the
morning. We have a delicious pie, and
* Brown ' pudding, and beef-tea, but "

"But what, Dot?" her mother asked,
laughing in spite of herself.

" Only that I'm so very hot, and I don't
think that I'll go to the Technical College
next week after all ; cooking is so very horrid
in weather like this ! There's Linda calling
me, mother, so I suppose I must go," and Dot
laughed as she hurried off.

" Turn the gas right off, Lin, these plates
have blistered my fingers."

It was now half-past-one. Miss Newcome
came to the door looking very hungry and
very cross.

Linda, in her hurry, accidently turned the
gas the wrong way.


Dot drew back quickly, but not before the
fierce flame had caught the little curl papers
sticking out on her forehead.

Linda, to her horror, saw it, and tearing off
her apron covered Dot's burning hair.

" Oh, what a horrid fright I am, I know !
Linda, you mean thing ! Did'nt I ask you to
turn the horrid thing off? Look at me just
look ! and after promising to go to Bondi with
the Sedgwick's to-morrow ! "

" Of course I am very sorry, Dot, but it's
lucky you escaped with a burnt fringe. It
will soon grow again, dear."

" Grow ! I can feel it ; its sticking out in
bristles, like a porcupine. They say burnt
hair always does take twice as long to grow
and Geoffrey home, too!"

Linda was now quite red and flurried. The
door-bell had rung twice. Mrs. Horton was


upstairs with Roy ; Dot still fretting over
her grievance ; and Miss Newcome was on the
balcony, awaiting the ringing of the dinner-

There was nothing left for her to do but to
go to the door herself. The scarlet flush
grew deeper in her cheeks, as Geoffrey, fol-
lowed by a stranger, entered the hall.

" I have brought my friend to dinner,
Linda," Geoffrey said, as he introduced
her to the tall, good-looking stranger Mr.
Barraclough. Just then, to Linda's relief, her
mother appeared. Leaving her to welcome
Geoffrey's friend, and make explanations
about the dinner, she hurried back to the

u Oh, Dot, whatever shall we do ? We
never had such a dinner before ; and here's a
friend of Geoffrey's come home with him !"


" Well, there's the pie and ' Brown ' pudding,
besides the ham."

" Yes, there's the pie if it's right."

" Well, what's wrong with it? I've covered
it all over with a tablecloth, and the pastry is
as soft as butter."

" Covered it over ! Whatever did you do
that for ? It will be doughy, I know, and
after after all my trouble to have the paste
flaky ! "

But Dot was too much engrossed with the
sauce for her ' Brown ' pudding to offer any

At last everything was ready, and the meal

Linda hoped that the ham Geoffrey had
started to carve was for the stranger, but it
proved to be for Miss Newcome and his
mother. She watched Geoffrey, as he again


carved more of the ham, and a sigh of relief
escaped her as he handed it to his friend.

" I will try some of your pie, Linda,"
Geoffrey exclaimed, as he started to help him-
self, and pressed his friend to have some also.

Linda's face suddenly became very red.

" What sort of a pie do you call this, Lin ?'>
Geoffrey laughed, good-humouredly. " You've
forgotten the gravy it's all stuck to the
bottom !" but, on a pretence of bringing in
the pudding, Linda had hurried away.

" Oh, Dot, I forgot to put in the gravy
the meat is all dry, and stuck to the dish."

" Never mind, they'll know you are a
novice, Lin ; the pudding is ready, and will
make up for it. It's just like Geoff to bring
home a swell when we're all in such a horrid
muddle as this 1"


" Don't you think it looks rather white,
Dot ?" Linda said, referring to the pudding.

" Yes, rather, but it's brown inside, you
know. For goodness sake take it, Lin, and
let us get this dreadful meal over."

Linda had taken the precaution to place
cheese and salad in front of Mr. Barraclough,
but he, with the others, awaited the arrival of
the pudding.

" Dot thought she would make one of
your favourites ' Brown ' " Linda said, as
she placed it on the dinner-waggon, addressing
Miss Newcome, whom she started to serve.

Fortunately, her back was turned to Mr.
Barraclough, and he did not observe the look
of confusion, mingled with disappointment
and dismay, that crept over her face.

She did not move until she had served off a
small portion for each, then handing it round


quickly to one after the other, fled back to the
kitchen. Dot had found an old piece of
looking-glass, and was ruefully surveying her
unfortunate fringe.

" Oh, whatever will he think of us, Dot?
it's white, and as heavy as lead. I declare I
will not go in again ! Miss Newcome sniffed,
and turned up her nose ; I saw Geoff stare as
I handed him his, and, before I could get out,
he said :

" I thought you called it ' Brown,' Lin ?
white pudding would be more appropriate,
but Dot must have forgotten to put in the
eggs," he chimed in, before I could add
baking-soda, and I never felt so ashamed in
my whole life.

Procrastination is the thief of time."





A THOUGHTFUL look settled upon Dot's face.
One of the windows at " Veldeen " commanded
an uninterrupted view of Woolloomooloo,
Rushcutters' Bay, and Pott's Point. It was
only a small space that divided the residents
of these localities, and yet how wide was the
gulf that divided them in their worldly sphere
of life ?

The shadows of night had fallen upon the
great and busy city. Thousands of lights
shimmered and glistened under the gathering

Dot contrasted the lives of the humble and
the rich, as she stood and watched the portly

169 12


gentlemen from the City whirl by in the
luxuriance and ease of their comfortable
carriages towards their elegant homes ; and
the foot-sore, weary pedestrian, dragging his
tired limbs from the scene of a hard day's toil,
to his humble abode .in one of the slums of
Woolloomooloo, bare of furniture, bare of com-
fort, and more often than not, bare of food.

" If I were only rich I would help them
all," Dot said slowly.

She felt in her pocket, produced two half-
crowns, and after a little hesitation hastily ran
downstairs. Martha and Tony were in the

The accident to Martha's father proved not
to be so serious as was anticipated, and she
had returned early the next morning.

Even Dot had joined in her laughter, as
Martha had listened to the recapitulation of
their previous day's trials.


Dot went straight to Tony now, and to his
astonishment, handed him the money.

" I have been thinking over it, Tony," she
said. " I heard you this morning telling
Martha about the blue paper and your dreams."

" Yes, Miss Dot, but dash it all, she won't
believe me ! "

" Well, I do, Tony, so I want to join you

" Take my advice and keep it in your pocket,
Miss Dot. I never did believe in that kind of
luck," Martha somewhat sharply interposed.

" But if I had not burnt my fringe I would
only have spent it to-day, Martha, so for once
in my life I am going to try my luck in
'Tattersall's Consultation ' on the ' Melbourne
Cup.' "

" And dash it all, Miss Dot, I believe we're
the winners. As I was telling Martha


yesterday, three times I've dreamt it. The
ticket was blue I'm blessed if I didn't draw
'Blue Boy ' and the jockey was blue."

" Blue, Tony ? "

" Yes, Miss, well not blue exactly, you
know, but striped with blue, and as I said to
Martha its a great ' cohincidence.' '

Dot laughed at Tony's enthusiasm as she
replied " that she hoped it would not only
prove a coincidence, but a reality."

A vision of the Doctor's bill that had arrived
that morning flashed across her mind. Olver
Merton still remained in England, and his
annual Christmas cheque to his sister had
long since been spent. Wine, jellies, and other
necessaries had to be bought for little Roy
during his long illness ; no expense had been


" Tony, send for it in the name of ' Nil
Desperandum,' " Dot suddenly exclaimed.

" It is my favourite motto. I'll write it
down to-morrow," as seeing Madge pass the
door, Dot hurried off to acquaint her with her

A puzzled expression stole over Tony's face.
"'Nil Desperado!' What does that mean,
Martha ? "

" I don't profess to know the ins and outs
of the dictionary," Martha replied shortly.
" Its a bit of one of them foreign languages I
should say."

" Well I know nil means nought, and dash
it all we don't want any blanks." Tony's
ruminations were just then interrupted by the
appearance of Miss Newcome with letters for
the post.


About an hour afterwards, Madge and
Captain Arthwaite appeared, attired for the

It was the night of the first appearance of
that talented actress and actor Mrs. Brown
Potter and Kyrle Bellew.

Great enthusiasm was manifested by the
Sydney public, and almost every seat at the
" Royal " had been booked beforehand.

Madge looked extremely well ; attired in a
soft white muslin gown, simple, but both
stylish and becoming in effect ; soft folds of
lace were gathered at her creamy throat, and
on the short sleeves that just reached the tops
of the long suede gloves that covered her
shapely arms.

A diamond star a present from the Captain
ornamented her rich golden hair, but the


chief charm of her dazzling beauty, lay in the
wistful expression of her large dreamy eyes.

" A handsome couple " was the remark from
more than one as the Captain proudly handed
Madge into the awaiting hansom, and together
they were driven away.

The world's a theatre, the earth a stage
Which God and Nature do with actors fill. :





LONG before they had taken their seats in the
dress-circle reserved by the Captain " stand-
ing room only " was announced to the
numbers who attempted to find seats in the
already crowded stalls.

Mrs. Brown-Potter had chosen " Camille "
for the opening night, and as the curtain fell
upon the first act, the enthusiasm evoked was
evidenced by the deafening applause that
immediately resounded from all parts of the
crowded theatre. Madge had recognised some
acquaintances ; she drew the Captain's attention
to a little party seated in one of the boxes.



"That is Lady Berkley, Raymond the tall
one in grey, and the two pretty girls in white
are her nieces."

" By Jove, what a likeness! Can't you see
it, Madge ? If Lady Berkley only wore that
hideous ruffle of Miss Newcome's, I would
take them to be twins."

Madge gave vent to a little burst of amuse-

" If ever I wish to invoke Lady Berkley's
ill-favour I will reiterate your opinion," she
laughed provokingly. For a few minutes the
Captain did not speak.

The curtain had risen upon the second act.
As the theatre again began to fill, his gaze
had wandered to the figures of two men, whose
eyes were riveted upon him. They were lean-
ing against the wall, near the left-hand corner
of the stage, on the ground-floor.


" Madge !"

She started, as the Captain pronounced her
name, struck by a peculiar intonation in his

As she turned to gaze into his face, she
noted the peculiar, uneasy expression of his
eyes, and the unnatural hue of his face, almost
as white as the handkerchief that he pressed
nervously to his forehead, endeavouring to
hide the great drops of perspiration that stood

u Raymond, what is the matter ? You are
ill !"

11 Do not be alarmed, Madge, it is nothing ;
I will be alright if I can get out into the air."

He spoke almost in a whisper, and Madge
noticed how clammy and cold was the hand
that touched hers, as he assisted her with her


They made their way hurriedly down the
stairs, the Captain acquiescing to Madge's
proposal that they should return home. Her
face was new almost as white as his own.

" Bet your life I'll do it for two * sovs.,' sir.
You'll be there in less than ten minutes !"

" Then drive for your life." The Captain
stepped into the hansom ; the horse pranced
and kicked, and then started off at a gallop.

A heavy thunderstorm had now set in.
The hansom dashed onward at a furious pace,
and Madge shrank back in fear, as great
flashes of lightning illuminated the blackness
of the night.

" Raymond, what has happened?"

The Captain noted the anxiety that the
tones of her voice betrayed, as he clasped her
hands in his.


" Madge, dearest Madge, forgive me !
Promise that you will forgive me. Remember,
when I am gone, that once you loved me
Great heavens ! loved me !''

Another great flash of lightning lit up the
sky, and clasped hand in hand, in that brief
interval, they gazed into each others eyes.

" Oh, Raymond, what do you mean ?
What mystery is this ? Do you think that
anything in the world would ever cause me to
love you less ?"

" You have not promised, Madge I have
risked all for your sake. Promise, dearest.
Let me believe, when I am far away, that you
were true to the last !"

" I promise. But, Raymond, you must,
surely, be getting that horrid fever again.
Oh, how you do frighten me! Why should
you go away ?"


" Great heavens, I must go ! Madge, I
cannot tell you why, but I must leave Sydney
to-night. It may be only for a while,
but "

The Captain's words died upon his lips.

There was a sudden jerk. Both fell for-
ward, and the next minute each realized that
their lives were in danger.

An exclamation of horror escaped the
Captain. He saw the driver of the hansom
thrown upon the footpath, and springing up,
endeavoured to catch the reins, but unsuccess-
fully, as the frightened horse made a desperate
plunge down Victoria Street, starting off in its
unchequered career.

" Madge, for God's sake, keep still !"

The next moment the Captain had sprung
to the ground, and with one frantic effort to
stop its mad pace, had rushed to the horse's

" For all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these : ' // might have been / ' ' '


185 13



ONLY that wild despairing cry only a few
moments of horrible suspense, and then all
was darkness and despair.

There was a sudden stoppage. The horse
stumbled, then fell. An exclamation of fear
and dread escaped Madge, as half-stupified she
called to the Captain.

Only a low moan echoed her cry of anguish.
The flickering light from a gas-lamp revealed
the hideous truth the crouched form and
ashen face of the Captain lying beneath the
glare, and the trembling, white-robed figure

kneeling beside him.



A hansom dashed up to the pavement, and
two men alighted.

1 2 4

Online LibraryMabel BoyneThat Australian family / by Mabel Boyne → online text (page 4 of 5)