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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesChinkie's Flat - Chapter 8. Myra And Sheila
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Chinkie's Flat - Chapter 8. Myra And Sheila Post by :gravesl22 Category :Long Stories Author :Louis Becke Date :May 2012 Read :1754

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Chinkie's Flat - Chapter 8. Myra And Sheila


There was nothing mysterious about Sheila Carolan; her story was a very simple one. Her parents were both dead, and she had no relatives, with the exception of an aunt, and with her she had lived for the last five years. The two, however, did not agree very well, and Sheila being of a very independent spirit, and possessing a few hundred pounds of her own, frankly told her relative that she intended to make her own way in the world. There was living in North Queensland a former great friend of her mother's--a Mrs. Farrow, whose husband was the owner of a large cattle station near Dalrymple--and to her she wrote asking her if she could help her to obtain a situation as a governess. Six weeks later she received a warmly worded and almost affectionate letter.

"My dear Sheila,--Why did you not write to me long, long
ago, and tell me that you and your Aunt Margaret did not get
on well together! I remember as a girl that she was somewhat
'crotchetty.' I am not going to write you a long letter. _I
want you to come to us_. Be my children's governess--and I
really do want a governess for them--but remember that you
are coming to your mother's friend and schoolmate, and that
although you will receive L100 a year--if that is too little
let us agree for L160--it does not mean that you will be
anything else to me but the daughter of your dear mother.
Now I must tell you that Minerva Downs is a difficult place
to reach, and that you will have to ride all the way from
Townsville--250 miles--but that will be nothing to an
Australian-born girl 'wid Oirish blood in her.' When you get
to Townsville call on Mr. Mallard, the editor of the
_Champion_, who is a friend of ours (I've written him), and
he will 'pass' you on to another friend of ours, a Mr.
Grainger, who lives at a mining town called Chinkie's Flat,
ninety miles from here, and Mr. Grainger (don't lose your
heart to him, and defraud my children of their governess)
will 'pass' you on with the mailman for Minerva Downs. The
enclosed will perhaps be useful (it is half a year's salary
you advance), and my husband and _all my large and furious
family of rough boys and rougher girls will be delighted to
see you.

"Very sincerely yours, my dear Sheila,

"Noba Fabbow."

With the letter was enclosed a cheque for L50 on a Sydney bank.

As the girl descended Melton Hill into hot, dusty, and noisy Flinders Street, she smiled to herself as she thought how very much she had stimulated the curiosity of Mrs. Trappeme--to whom she had, almost unconsciously, taken an instinctive dislike.

As she entered the crowded vestibule of the Royal Hotel, a group of men--diggers, sugar planters, storekeepers, bankers, ship captains, and policemen, who were all laughing hilariously at some story which was being told by one of their number--at once made a lane for her to approach the office, for ladies--especially young and pretty ladies--were few in comparison to the men in North Queensland in those days, and a murmured whisper of admiration was quite audible to her as she made her inquiry of the clerk.

"No; Mr. Mallard is with Mr. and, Miss Grainger at the 'Queen's.' He left here a few minutes ago."

"May I show you the way, miss?" said a huge bearded man, who, booted and spurred, took off his hat to her in an awkward manner. "I'm Dick Scott, one of Mr. Grainger's men."

"Thank you," replied Sheila, "it is very kind of you," and, escorted by the burly digger, she went out into the street again.

"Are you Miss Caroline, ma'am?" said her guide to her respectfully, as he tried to shorten his lengthy strides.

"Yes, my name is Carolan," she replied, trying to hide a smile.

"Thought so, ma'am. I heerd the boss a-tellin' Miss Grainger as you would be a-comin' to Chinkie's on yer way up ter Minervy Downs. Here's the 'Queen's,' miss, an' there's the boss and his sister and Mr. Mallard on the verandah there havin' a cooler," and then, to her amusement and Grainger's astonishment, Mr. Dick Scott introduced her.

"This is Miss Caroline, boss. I picked her up at the 'Royal,'" and then, without another word, he marched off again with a proud consciousness of having "done the perlite thing."

"I am Sheila Carolan, Mr. Grainger. I was at the 'Royal 'asking for Mr. Mallard when Mr. Scott kindly brought me here."

"I am delighted to meet you, Miss Carolan," said Grainger, who had risen and extended his hand. "I had not the slightest idea you had arrived." And then he introduced her to his sister and Mallard.

"Now, Miss Carolan, please let me give you a glass of this--it is simply lovely and cold," said Myra, pouring some champagne into a glass with some crashed ice in it. "My brother is the proad possessor of a big but rapidly diminishing lump of ice, which was sent to him by the captain of the _Corea just now."

"Thank you, Miss Grainger. I really am very thirsty. I have had quite a lot of walking about to-day. I have a letter to you, Mr. Mallard, from Mrs. Farrow," and she handed the missive to him.

"I am so very sorry I did not know of your arrival, Miss Carolan," said Mallard. "I would have met you on board, but, as a matter of fact, I did not expect you in the _Corea_, as she is a very slow boat."

"I was anxious to get to Mrs. Farrow," Sheila explained, "and so took the first steamer."

"Where are you staying, Miss Carolan?" asked Myra.

"Oh, I've been very fortunate. I have actually secured a room at 'Magnetic Villa,' on Melton Hill; in fact I went there just after you had left."

Myra clapped her hands with delight. "Oh, how lovely! I shall be there for a week, and my brother and Mr. Mallard are staying there as well."

"So Mrs. Lee Trappeme informed me," said Sheila with a bright smile.

Mallard--an irrepressible joker and mimic--at once threw back his head, crossed his hands over his chest, and bowed in such an exact imitation of Mrs. Trappeme that a burst of laughter followed.

"Now you two boys can run away and play marbles for a while, as Miss Carolan and I want to have a little talk before we go to the 'refined family circle' for dinner," said Myra to her brother. "It is now six o'clock; our luggage has gone up, and so, if you will come back for us in half an hour, we will let you escort us there--to the envy of all the male population of this horrid, dusty, noisy town."

"Very well," said Grainger with a laugh, "Mallard and I will contrive to exist until then," and the two men went off into the billiard-room.

"Now, Miss Carolan," said the lively Myra, as she opened the door of the sitting-room and carried in the table on which were the glasses, champagne bottle, and ice, "we'll put these inside first. The sight of that ice will make every man who may happen to see it and who knows Ted come and introduce himself to me. Oh, this is a very funny country! I'm afraid it rather shocked you to see me drinking champagne on an hotel verandah in full view of passers-by. But, really, the whole town is excited--it has gold-fever on the brain--and then all the men are so nice, although their free and easy ways used to astonish me considerably at first. But diggers especially are such manly men---you know what I mean."

"Oh, quite. I know I shall like North Queensland. There were quite a number of diggers on board the _Carea_, and one night we held a concert in the saloon and I sang 'The Kerry Dance'--I'm an Irishwoman--and next morning a big man named O'Hagan, one of the steerage passengers, came up and asked me if I would 'moind acceptin' a wee bit av a stone,' and he handed me a lovely specimen of quartz with quite two ounces of gold in it. He told me he had found it on the Shotover River, in New Zealand. I didn't know what to say or do at first, and then he paid me such a compliment that I fairly tingled all over with vanity. 'Sure an' ye'll take the wee bit av a stone from me, miss,' he said. 'I'm a Kerry man meself, an' when I heard yez singin' "The Kerry Dance," meself and half a dozen more men from the oold sod felt that if ye were a man we'd have carried yez around the deck in a chair."

"How nice of him!" said Myra; "but they are all like that. Nearly every one of my brother's men at Chinkie's Flat gave me something in the way of gold specimens when I left there."

"Then," resumed Sheila, "in the afternoon _all the steerage passengers sent me and the captain what they call a 'round robin,' and asked if he would let them have a concert in the steerage, and if I would sing. And we did have it--on the deck--and I had to sing that particular song _three times."

"I wish I had been there! Do you know, Miss Carolan, that that big man who brought you here--Dick Scott--rough and uneducated as he is, is a gentleman. On our way down from Chinkie's Flat we had to swim our horses across the Ross River, which was in flood. When we reached the other side I was, of course, wet through, and my hair had come down, and I looked like a half-drowned cat, I suppose. There is a public-house on this side of the Ross, and we went there at once to change our clothes, which were in canvas saddle bags on a pack-horse, and came over dry. The public-house was full of people, among whom were three commercial travellers, who were doing what is called 'painting the place red'--they were all half-intoxicated. As I came in wet and dripping they leered at me, and one of them said, 'Look at the sweet little ducky--poor little darling--with her pitty ickle facey-wacey all wet and coldy-woldy.' Ted was not near me at the time, but Scott heard, and ten minutes later, as I was changing my clothes, I heard a dreadful noise, and the most _awful language, and then a lot of cheering. I dressed as quickly as possible and went out into the dining-room, and there on the floor were the three commercial travellers. Their faces looked simply dreadful, smothered in blood, and I felt quite sick. At the other end of the room were a lot of men, miners and stockmen, who were surrounding Dick Scott, slapping him on the back, and imploring him to drink with them. It seems that as soon as I had gone to my room to change, the valiant Dick had told them that the 'drummers' had insulted Mr. Grainger's sister, and in a few minutes the room was cleared and a ring formed, and Dick actually did what the landlord termed 'smashed up the whole three in five minutes.'"

"I'm sure I shall like Mr. Dick Scott," said Sheila. "I had to try hard and not laugh when he pointed to you, and said in his big, deep voice, 'There they are, having a "cooler"'--I thought at first he meant you were cooling yourselves."

"Any drink is called a 'cooler,' "explained Myra; "but, oh dear, how I do chatter! The fact is, I'm so wildly excited, and want to talk so much that I can't talk fast enough. But I _must first of all tell you this--I'm really most sincerely glad to meet you, for I feel as if I knew you well. Mrs. Farrow--I spent a week at Minerva Downs--told me you were coming, and that she was longing to see you. I am sure you will be very, very happy with her. She is the most lovable, sweet woman in the world, and when she spoke of your mother her eyes filled with tears. And the children are simply _splendid_. I suppose I am unduly fond of them because they made so much of me, and think that my brother is the finest rider in the world--'and he is that, indade'--isn't that Irish?"

"Yes," said Sheila smilingly, "that is Irish; and I am sure I shall be very happy there."

Myra Grainger, who was certainly, as she had said, wildly excited, suddenly moved her chair close to that on which Sheila sat.

"Miss Carolan, I'm sure that you and I will always be great 'chums'--as they say here in North Queensland--and I'm just dying to tell you of something. Within this last hour I have become engaged to Mr. Mallard! Even Ted doesn't know it yet. Oh, I have heaps and heaps of things to tell you. Can't we have a real, nice long talk to-night?"

"Indeed we can," said Sheila, looking into the girl's bright, happy face.

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