“One little girl at a time is enough for me to care for properly,” he said to me in the winning manner with which, and his wealth, unintentionally and unconsciously made slaughter among the hearts of the fair sex.
When Fortune Smiles
“Now, Harold, you have compelled Sybylla to come here, you must not let the time drag with her,” said Miss Beecham.
It was the second day after my arrival at Five-Bob. Lunch was over, and we had adjourned to the veranda. Miss Beecham. was busy at her work-table; I was ensconced on a mat on the floor reading a book; Harold was stretched in a squatter’s chair some distance away. His big brown hands were clasped behind his head, his chin rested on his broad chest, his eyes were closed, he occasionally thrust his lower lip forward and sent a puff of breath upwards to scatter the flies from his face; he looked a big monument of comfort, and answered his aunt’s remarks lazily:
“Yes, aunt, I’ll do my best;” and to me, “Miss Melvyn, while here, please bear in mind that it will be no end of pleasure to me to do anything for your enjoyment. Don’t fail to command me in any way.”
“Thank you, Mr Beecham. I will not fail to avail myself of your offer.”
“The absurdity of you two children addressing each other so formally,” said Miss Beecham. “Why, you are a sort of cousins almost, by right of old friendship between the families. You must call me aunt.”
After this Mr Beecham and I called each other nothing when in Miss Beecham’s hearing, but adhered to formality on other occasions.
Harold looked so comfortable and lazy that I longed to test how far he meant the offer he had made me.
“I’m just dying for a row on the river. Would you oblige me?” I said.
“Just look at the thermometer!” exclaimed Miss Augusta. “Wait till it gets cooler, child.”
“Oh, I love the heat!” I replied. “And I am sure it won’t hurt his lordship. He’s used to the sun, to judge from all appearances.”
“Yes, I don’t think it can destroy my complexion,” he said good-humouredly, rubbing his finger and thumb along his stubble-covered chin. The bushmen up-country shaved regularly every Sunday morning, but never during the week for anything less than a ball. They did this to obviate the blue—what they termed “scraped pig”—appearance of the faces of city men in the habit of using the razor daily, and to which they preferred the stubble of a seven-days’ beard. “I’ll take you to the river in half an hour,” he said, rising from his seat. “First I must stick on one of Warrigal’s shoes that he’s flung. I want him tomorrow, and must do it at once, as he always goes lame if ridden immediately after shoeing.”
“Shall I blow the bellows?” I volunteered.
“Oh no, thanks. I can manage myself. It would be better though if I had some one. But I can get one of the girls.”