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A Happy Endingj


[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] A Happy Ending j BY MRS. CAMPBELL PRAED, Author of As a Watch in the Night," Outlawimcl Lawmaker," Naclice," &c. "Yes, I suppose it must have a happy end- ing Miss Caroline Graffan, who was a writer of mildly sensational fiction, sighed as she re-scanned a letter addressed to her by tne editor of "Brinton's Weekly." She buttoned her cheap re;s<!y-made jacket in an absent- minded mann. and pinned a faded Tam-o'- Shanter down i pon her reddish locks, which had already hel.) and there a thread of grey. Taking up her well-worn woollen gloves and a stout note-book with a double-pointed pen- cil, she went forth to seek inspiration/by the eea. But first she tip-toed to the' ground I floor sitting-room, where an old lady lay asleep, and thence to the top of the basement stairs, where she called in a low, urgent tone: "Mrs. Bishop!" The landlady showed her ample form in the passage below. "Going a walk, Miss Callie?" she inquired in a friendly whisper and the little lady an- swered "Yes. I want to think out a story." "Another of 'em! Leonore's deep in :the last. Is it for Australia?" "No, for < Brinton's Weekly.' It's got to be a love stoi-y with a happy ending." "Lor', Sliss Callie, how you ever write love stories with no practice of your own Easses me. You ought to be enjoying a appy ending yourself by this time." Callie Graffan's sensitive face flushed. She answered with a touch of dignity, "Will you please go up if mother should ring? I shall be hack to tea." Across the square the quaint little figure went. The wind blew her reddish curls askew, tinged the tip of her small up-turned nose, and gave a watery look to her eyes. They were nice hazel eyes, fringed with thick brown lashes—the best feature in the thin face which Nature had meant to be piquant, nnd which had grown only pathetic. As she turned the corner, Callie encountered the landlady's daughter, absorbed in a pink journal. Leonore looked up. "I just 'ad to see how 'The Girl Who tiOved Him' is going on. Miss. It's beauti- ful. But you won't deprive her of 'im at the last? You'll give 'em a happy ending?" I Miss Callie nodded, but her smile was rather wistful. Leonore road with avidity all the stories that appeared under the pseudonym of "Lura Lynn," and was proud of the secret which she had conficle(I to her young man at the newspaper shop—that "Lura Lynn" was really Mrs. Bishop's lodger—the shabby little lady who kept a blind mother upon her lite- rary earnings, and whose stories even went as far afield as Australia. That, alas! was no proof of world-wide popularity, but was indirectly due to the fact that Callie's father had once held a cure in the Lura district in Leichardt's Land. She did not remember much about Australia, but it was to the breath of the Bush that Callie owed a certain human note in her otherwise commonplace productions. The ring of the pseudomyn she had chosen happened to strike the editor of "The Leichardt's Land Chronicle" one day ■while glancing. (through the pages of "Brin- ton's Weekly, and induced him to skim a story of hers which' otherwise he would have passed unnoticed. This led to Callie contri- buting most of the fiction required for the Chronicle," at a humble rate of payment. She eked out her hard-working existence at Weirgate, whcnce all the young men of her class went away to seek fortune and wives, and where no suitor ever came to woo. None at least had ever wooed Miss Callie, who was an old maid at thirty-two bravely facing de- stiny, but longing vaguely for romance that never was realised except on paper. "It Would be so much easier to write love stories," she thought; "if only I knew what it was to be loved Now she looked down the sunlit, shadow- flecked road which wound along the cliff. A row of pretentious villas bordered it, in the gardens of which bulbs were springing. The turf at the sides hs'd started into new green under the sharp March winds, and a lark rising as she passed soared to the blue sky, singing as though its throat would burst. He seems to have a happy story to tell," murmured Gallic. "I wish he would tell it to me. She turned aside into a shelter facing the sea, where at this hour she was generally sure of being alone. Here she began to jot down a few desultory notes for her work Some of the pages of her note-book, how. ever, being loose, fluttered out of her grasp, and the wind carried them to a little dis- tance. Callie was just about to dart in pur- suit when she became aware that the shelter had another occupant. A huge, long-limbed man in rough grey tweed lounged out from the other side. Callie glanced at him curi- ously. He was over six feet, and had the loose-jointed build of the backwoodsman. His skin was browned to a coppery hue, the dark beard slightly frosted at the sides. His fresh, strong look recalled to her dim memo- ries of men with stock-whips, clad in mole- skins. who used to ride up to her parson. I father's homestead. The stranger raised his cap, drawling in a distinctly Australian twang: "Wo-a there! I'll round 'em up and yard With a stride of his long legs he pinited the sheets by the point of his stick and handed them to her in clumsy fashion. Callie thanked him and sat down again, but he paused in a tentative way. "Excuse me," he remarked, "I'm a bit bushed. Not long home, you see. Are you a resident in this place—Miss." The last word appeared a kind of after- thought. Callie stopped fixing the errant sheets and looked, up dubiously. sheets and looked, up dubiously. The gentleman—for clearly he was a gen tleman, if an unpolished specimen—raised his cap and repeated his question, adding apologetically: "Out in 'Stralia, when a chap's off the track he don't wait to be intro- duced. I know," said Callie, with a comprehend- ing nod; "I've been in Australia." "That's first-rate." The giant seated him- self beside her with the air of having found a long lost brother. "Are you 'Stralian, Miss?" "Not really. My father was out there a few years, and I happened to be born in Lei- chardt's Land." "Wa-al,' na-ow! I'm from Leichardt's Land. Your father a squatter?" "No, a clergyman." The giant made a rueful grimace. "I don't take much stock in missionaries— the worse for me, perhaps. See here, Miss -ever been bushed in these parts?" "No," replied Callie, amused. "I've lived in Weirgate since I was ten years old— when we came to England. And. that's more than twenty years ago, f. ] He scrutinised ner witti some cars, f "It would be about that," he observed frankly; and poor Miss Graffan blushed j with such warmth at the remark that she began to look far less than her age. Bat the stranger seemed entirely unconscious of having erred. "Can you tell me," he went on, "whers- abonts to find a young lady I'm after?" "A young lady!" repeated Miss Graffan. "It's like this," and the giant leaned for- ward, ready on the instant to confide his difficulty. "I'm on her lay, but I've come to a dead end, and dunno where to dig. Her name is Lura Lynn." "Lura Lynn!" Callie stared at him with wondering eyes. "What do you know of Lura Lynn?" "Just what her writings have told me. I've read most of 'em in The Leichardt's Land Chronicle,' and they took my fancy. I looked up the editor and got him to give me all the information he would about the young lady, which only amounted to this—that slit- mailed him her stories from Weirgate. Evelt- read any of 'em?" Callie modestly confessed that she had. "I ain't what you'd call a booky chap," continued the stranger, "but it's my opinion that Lura Lynn's stories are as good as you'd get. Of course, I can see that she don't know much about Australia,, but jest you read 'em in the bticli o' nights., with the chance of a black's spear whizzing into camp —native dogs howling for all they're worth— with maybe a morepork or a curlew screech- ing-and only the clank of your horse's hobbles ne'er another white man within fifty miles—you know, Miss-well then, Lara Lynn's stories set a lonely chap thi: ring of what a comfort a nice woman would be ks him—a sweet-faced girl, soft and dainty, tk sort a man would like hie mother to have been, the sort that other fellows, wiea j they've luck, pick up over here for wives. That's what I've come for." The giant- thuicpsd a hairy fist upon his sinewy grey- clad knee. "I don't, mind telling you, Mist: j that's what I've come for." "That's "hat you've come for!- echoed Callie bewilderedly. The giant gave a sheepish laugh. "Ay I I've come to marry Lura Lynn—if she'll have me. I've come fourteen thousand miles on the chance." Miss Graffan drew in her breath sharply. "But you don't really know wlia-t .site's like!" "Don't'I!" the stranger laughed agnin, this time with more assurance. "I know she's the girl for me, if she'll only take me on. I can guess pretty much what she's like from her stories, and I've made a picture of her in my mind. She's handsome, of course --and young. Spruce, well set-up,, tall, a good figure, showing off her frocks—I lil,- to see women prink, and I'll make it easy for her. I'll dress her up to the nines.. But she must be a smart girl and know how to get round me—all chaps enjoy being wheedled when it's nicely done-a 'cute, elever girl, clean-shaped to her finger-tips. That's Lura Lynn according to my notions. You're ac- quainted with her, I take it?" "Ye—es," faltered Callie, startled into candour. "Well, you shan't tell me if I'm right about her. I'll find out for myself. AIr I ask is—where can I meet her?" Callie's eyes were fixed on the keaving sea. Wild thoughts surged in her meagre bosom. Her starved heart thrilled to -,Is strange romance. She longed to land liar- self to the joy of it^—-even for an hour. When ■ the man found out that she was Lura LYIlJ he would be bitterly disappointed, of course but she shrank from telling him. She wanted to snatch at the vicarious satisfaction this poor little passing experience might afford her. She fancied that it would not be quite so difficult afterwards to grind out love, stories. "Are you serious in what you say?" she breathed slowly. "Just about," he answered bluntly. "Fir,: here to ask that girl if she'll come along with me and go shares in my show." "And what is your shov:?" inquired Miss Graffan, putting on her tuiy touch of dignity. "Two thoucand square miles of grazing country and ten thousand head oj cattle a £ say, two-pun-ten a head all round, and. fire thousand for horses and plant. lot it up, Miss. That's my show. But first we'll ltav,- as big a spree as she dear-old ple-.ses—globe trot or take our time in this country. It'« good enough for me. All I w,d is-in ivife Callie gazed thirstily at the grey sea. The thought of what a wide, ha^'py fate here :night have been were she herself only different, brought a rush of tears to h-.r eyes. Bending down to hide them, she noticed her old serge skirt,, her slia.).,y gloves, her worn, opossum-skin tippet. bhe hated them ail, I she was ashamed of them all—the more so because, rough though the man seemed, she saw that he was very well tailored. At that moment he pulled out of an enormous pocket-book a. card: which he handed her. It had never occurred to her to doubt him, bat the ring of his voice was convincing. 0 H That's my name," he said, James Bostock-and my address. The Lura's my district, you know. Our Agent-General and the Directors of The Leichardt's Land Bank are my references. I'm putting up at the hotel yonder. Now will you give me the ad- it dress of Miss Lura Lynn?" Callie had been considering rapidly and had made up her mind. She spoke with a sympathetic smile. I can't do that without Miss Lynn's per- mission, but as she's a friend of mine I eon 11 tell her anything you wish. She's away just now." The giant's face fell. Then he responded cheerfully, Right--o t I only want to act on the :quare. Look here let you and me be iums. Miss Grafi >n," put in Callie. Let's be chums, Miss Graffan, if yeall lonour me. You'd make a very good mate. You're the sort that understands a chap's riind." Callie flushed deeply. Looking closely at her, James Bostock discovered that she had very pretty eyes." The game's up to you, he said, only recollect I'll be there when my turn comes. Meanwhile I'll lie low till you "tell me she's back. But mum's the work to her. I can do my own courting." So I should imagine, smiled Callie, flushing more deeply than ever as he bent c.ver her. "But please don't say anything about Miss Lynu to anyone else. I"m sure she wouldn't like it." No need—now I've told you. Reckon I was in luck when I stumbled on this shanty. What! Going already?" he ex- claimed disappointedly as Callie rose. Can't I vralkwith you?" "If you like," said Callie, rather breath- lessly, "I must get home to tea. My mother and I live close by, in Henrietta-square. Mother's Wind, or I'm sure she'd be pleased to see anyone from Leichardt's Land," added Callie, in a most demure manner. -OC"O_ Let me come and yarn to her a bit. rrn I no end of a hand at yarning. And I can I make first-class tea—and toast. You try me, | said the giant so persuasively that Miss 1 Graffan tucked her note-book and hei t scruples out of sight. t H Very well, you may come. But not a I word about Lura LYHn-mind t I 1: It was Leor-.ore who betrayed the secret í fortnight later. She was engugc-d in animatec t conversation with her young man at the j newspaper-shop early one si'tv.Jioon v.,«i James Bostock locked in, bent on purcha^m. | the last number of Brinton's Weekly-" | Leonore had a copy outspread on th< | 1 counter before her, and she was warmly d:« cussing the progress of affairs of the heart ii. the case of "T'iio Girl Wiio Loved Iliia" a. cussing the progress of affairs of the heart ii. the case oi "lúJ Girl Wiio Loved Iliia" ¡ compared with those of the writer, CDmmen ing on these last with considerable shrew, siess. James Do: tock heard enough of hm remarks to send hem speeding up the stree,. He took the road along the cliff and soo ached the shelter where he knew that ai this hour he should find Callie Graffan 'There she was in the place win:re he first seen her—'her two-pointed pencil in her hand, but she v/as not writing. Her gazc; <■ grown subdued and tender, wandercii dreamily over the sparkling sea. The spring sunshine was reflected in her face. There had been some attempt at smartening up the old serge coat and skirt. She wore a new Tarn 0' Shanter, a fresh lace sc..rf, and a knot of violets in her breast. Bostock' quick comprehensive eyes took in every line of her is he approached. He was thinking. how different she was from his preconceived « notion of Lura Lyiin. She heard him coming and the loveliost wave of colour rose and spread over her thin cheeks. Then, as she lifted her face, a scared look came into her h eyes, for there was something in his that | alarmed her. | She closed her note-book carefully, placing | the pencil inside the rubber band. "There's no use in your doing that," he cried harshly. "I know all about your scribbling." He bore down upon her, his great arms swinging, his coppery features tense; his honest eyes seeming to shoot lances at her. You've deceived me horribly," he be- gan. Callie went very pale, for now she knew that he knew. Then her little form braced Itself. She laid the note-book on the seat be- side her. So the end had come! She had meant to meet this moment with dignity, but she could only answer in a broken, girlish way: Yes, I have, I know. And so would you, if you'd been i^e." "Oh! 1 would—would I? And please— why?" said he. He was close to the bench now and stood looking down at her fierce, in- sistent, and yet oddly triumphant. A long sobbing, breath came up from the bottom of Callie's surcharged heart. She made a strenuous effort to control her trem- bling lips. Why she cried, passionately. Be- cause I'd written plenty of love-stories, but never lived one. And I wanted to know ex- actly how you felt about me—ihc me that you thought I was. I knew that you'd find out the truth soon enough, but I couldn't bear to disillusion you. I—oh!" she struck her hands vehemently together. "I've had so little in my life. Don't grudge me this one fortnight." Her voiue dropped. T started from under the thick brown 'h.hps and trayelled rapidly down the sjupII cj a sed face. Vity kept the big man siient. tie sat down be- side her awkwardly, but she would not look at him. Her haars ere clenched. The small, thin shoulders heaved. With the tip d ins large finger he ven- ture d to raise one of those irrepres-'ihle curls that stuck out under the, Tam o' Shanter. Oh-! yoa poor lit t;l 3 thing! You poor little d reaming' desolate thing! Do you know? I think you've got the cunning? >t hair I ever set. eyes on and the sweetest, dearest little face. "Want to know how I fcév Well, I feel as if I've no use at all left for that Lura Lynn—not the one I fancied—that is, if Caiiia Graffan. will take a rough Bush chap on. Ain't half goad enough for her, thoucrh. But say, Callie, dariin'—will you go shares im that show of mine, and let's have a real good time together. She turned swiftly now and looked up at fcim, startled beyond words, wildly incredu- lous, but thrilling joy. Her amazed cry was stifled in his breast as he wrapped his long arms round her. at Lura Lvnn would never have worked out," he said consolingly. "She was a deal too fine. An old Bushwhacker like me wants a chum—a mate—just what you'll be, Callie." j Half an hour later a small flushed person emerged fron the shelter of those strong arms and made a sudden dash at the neg- lected note-book .and pencil. Na-ow—na-ow, you've done enough o' that," he cried. "We're not going to""waste any more time over other folks' love-stories, Going to live our own. remember. Come along right home and tell your mammy she's got to think about shifting camp." Oh! wait one moment, James—just one I moment. Let me get a note—or two—before the feeling goes." I "What feeling?" he asked, puzzled. ¡ "Oh, I didn't tell you. I couldn't get this | story right. But now I know Oh! James, life's just beautiful if one can have a happy ending.