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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesChinkie's Flat - Chapter 11. A Change Of Plans
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Chinkie's Flat - Chapter 11. A Change Of Plans Post by :gravesl22 Category :Long Stories Author :Louis Becke Date :May 2012 Read :1718

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Chinkie's Flat - Chapter 11. A Change Of Plans

CHAPTER XI. A CHANGE OF PLANS

Myra and Sheila, both early risers, were dressed and awaiting Grainger on the verandah when he came out of his room at seven o'clock, and they at once descended the steep Melton Hill to the beach. The morning was delightfully fresh and cool, and the smooth waters of Cleveland Bay were rippling gently to a fresh southerly breeze. Eastward, and seven miles away, the lofty green hills and darker-hued valleys of Magnetic Island stood clearly out in the bright sunlight, and further to the north Great Palm Island loomed purple-grey against the horizon. Overhead was a sky of clear blue, flecked here and there by a few fleecy clouds, and below, on the landward side, a long, long curve of yellow beach trending from a small rocky and tree-clad point on the south to the full-bosomed and majestic sweep of Cape Halifax to the north.

"What a lovely day!" exclaimed Sheila as Grainger, as soon as they had descended the hill and stepped on the firm yellow sand, led them to a clump of black, shining rocks. "I wish I were a girl of twelve, so that I could paddle about in the water."

"There is nothing to stop you doing that at Minerva Downs, Miss Cardan," said Grainger with a smile. "There is a lovely fresh-water lagoon there, with a dear sandy bottom, and the Farrow children--big and little--spend a good deal of their time there bathing and fishing." Then, as the girls seated themselves, he at once plunged into the subject uppermost in his mind.

"Myra, the news that came through last night has put me in a bit of a quandary, both as regards you and Miss Carolan. Now tell me, would you mind very much if I left you to-day and returned to Chinkie's Flat?"

"No, indeed, Ted. Surely I would not be so selfish as to interfere with your business arrangements!"

"That's a good little girl. I did want to stay in Townsville for a week or two after you had left, then I could have taken Miss Carolan as far as Chinkie's Flat on her way to Minerva Downs. But I can do something better, as far as she is concerned. You will only be here for a week, and you can suffer the Trappeme people for that time. Mallard"--and he smiled--"will no doubt try to make the time pass pleasantly for you."

"Don't be so silly, Ted. Get to the point about Miss Carolan. When is she leaving?"

"To-day--if you will, Miss Carolan--with me. The Warden and his troopers are leaving at noon for the new rush; and Charteris, when I explained things to him (I saw him last night at Mallard's office) said he will be very pleased if we will come with him. Will it be too much of a rush for you?"

"Oh no, Mr. Grainger! But I have no horse," and then, as she thought of leaving her newly-found girl friend so soon, she looked a little miserable, and her hand stole into Myra's.

"Oh, that's all right," said Grainger cheerfully. "I've two for you--Myra's, and one Charteris is lending me for you. Can you ride hard and fast? Charteris is a terror of a man for pushing along to a new rush."

"I won't make him feel cross, I assure you, Mr. Grainger."

"Then it's decided." (Sheila well knew that whether | she had or had not decided, he had; yet though dimly resentful, she was quite content when she looked into his quiet grey eyes.) "You see, Miss Carolan, it's quite likely I may be able to go all the way with you to Minerva Downs, and therefore we ought not to miss travelling with the Commissioner as far as he goes. Sub-Inspector Lamington, of the Native Police, is also coming with us. He's off on a wild goose--or rather, a wild nigger--chase after Sandy and Daylight and their myall friends. If, when we get to Chinkie's Flat, I find that I _must go with Charteris to the new rush, your friend Dick Scott and my own trusty black boy Jacky will take you on to Minerva Downs. You can travel with Lamington and his troopers part of the way after you leave Chinkie's. Take some light luggage on a pack-horse--the rest, I am sorry to say, will have to come on from here by bullock team. But it is not unlikely that I may be able to take you all the way."

"I am very, very grateful to you, Mr. Grainger," said Sheila. "I fear I am going to prove a great encumbrance to you."

"Oh, Ted is a dear old brother!" said Myra, patting his brown, sun-tanned hand affectionately.

After a walk along the beach as far as the small, rocky point, they returned to breakfast, and great was Mrs. Trappeme's astonishment when Grainger informed her that he was leaving in a few hours.

"Not for long, I trust?" she said graciously, bearing in mind that he had told her he might remain for a week or two after Myra had left.

"I do not think I shall be in Townsville again for some months," he replied, as he handed her fourteen guineas. "This is for the week for my sister and for me."

"Thank you," said the lady, with a dignified bow--for she felt a little resentful at his not telling her more. Then she said with a sweet smile, "We will take good care of Miss Grainger. Either my daughters or I will be delighted to see her safely on board the steamer."

"Thank you; but Mr. Mallard will do that."

"Oh, indeed!" said the lady, with unmistakable disappointment in her voice, and then Grainger, without saying a word about Sheila, went to his room to pack, and talk to Mallard, who had not yet risen.

"I wonder if Mr. Mallard is leaving too now that his friend is going," anxiously said Juliette a few minutes later.

"If he does I shall insist upon having the ful six guineas," remarked her mother angrily. "No, on second thoughts I won't _ask for it. Whether he leaves or not, I may find him very useful. I quite mean to ask him to every day publish a 'list of guests at "Magnetic Villa."'"

"Miss Carolan wud like to see yez, mum, if ye are dishengaged," said Mary, entering the room.

Sheila was in the drawing-room, and thither Mrs. Trappeme sailed.

"I shall be leaving Townsville to-day, I find," she said politely. "Would it be inconvenient for you to have my luggage sent to Hanran & Co., who will store it for me until I need it?"

Mrs. Trappeme's curiosity was intense, but she remembered Mrs. Wooler's experience of the previous evening--and feared. And then she had had the girl's money in advance.

"Oh, I am so sorry you are going," she said, with a would-be motherly smile. "Of course I will send it anywhere you wish--but why not leave it here in my care?" And then she could not resist asking one question: "Are you going to Minerva Downs, Miss Carolan, may I ask?"

"Yes; I am going there."

"What a dreadfully long journey for you! Does it not alarm you? And you are surely not travelling alone?"

"Oh, no; I am fortunate in having quite a large escort. Will you send the luggage down as soon as possible, Mrs. Trappeme?"

"Certainly," replied the lady--this time with a stiff bow; for she was now inwardly raging at not having learnt more. Then she went off to tell Juliette this new development.

At ten o'clock, after Mallard had breakfasted, he and Grainger (the latter bidding Mrs. and the Misses Trappeme a polite goodbye) went away, and shortly after Dick Scott appeared, leading a pack-horse. He took off the empty bags, and marched up to the front door.

"Mr. Grainger has sent these to Miss Caroline, miss," he said to Lilla Trappeme, "and will you please ask her to put her things into 'em and I'll wait?"

Myra helped Sheila pack some clothing, rugs, &c, into the bags, and Mary took them out to the burly Dick.

"By jingo! you're the finest woman I've seen here yet," said he affably to the blushing Mary. "Now, will you tell Miss Caroline and Miss Grainger that I'll be up with the horses in half an hour? Goodbye, bright eyes."

He returned within the time, riding his own horse and leading two others.

"Sidesaddles," said Juliette to her mother as they watched through the dining-room windows the big digger dismount and hang the horses' reins over the front gate.

As he strode across the lawn, they heard Mary's voice in the hall. It sounded as if she were half crying.

"Goodbye, miss, and Hivin's blessin' on ye; and may God sind ye a good husband."

A moment or two later she entered, wiping her eyes. "The ladies are goin', and wish to spake to yez," she said.

Mrs. Trappeme and her daughters rose, as Myra and Sheila, clad in their neatly-fitting habits, came into the room.

"I am going to accompany Miss Carolan and my brother for a few miles, Mrs. Trappeme, so I shall not be here for lunch," said Myra.

"Oh, indeed," said Mrs. Trappeme faintly; and then, with a pleasant smile from Myra, and a coldly polite bow from Sheila, they were gone.

Scott swung them up into their saddles, and in another minute they were descending the hill.

Mother and daughter looked at each other.

"So she's going with Mr. Grainger," said Juliette, with an unpleasant twitch of her thin lips; "the--the little _cat! I'd like to see her fall off!"

"Never mind her--she's gone now--and I have had six guineas from her," remarked her amiable mamma. "Now, if you are coming into Flinders Street with me, make haste, and don't sit grizzling."

Poor Juliette! Poor Mrs. Lee-Trappeme! When they descended the hill and emerged out into Flinders Street, they found the side-path crowded with people, who were all gazing into the great yard of the Queen's Hotel, from which was emerging a cavalcade. First came four people--the white-bearded Charteris with Myra, and Grainger with Sheila; after them a sergeant and six white police, and ten Native Police with carbines on thighs, and then Dick Scott and dark-faced Inspector Lamington; behind followed a troop of spare horses.

As they swung through the gates, the crowd cheered as Charteris gave the word, and the whole party went off at a sharp canter down the long, winding street.

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