“man, man, but you ought to just see her!” cried my chum jack, in a very ecstasy of descripTION. “she’s just about five feet two–i hate big girls–and dainty!” he made an expressive gesture with his hands and widened his eyes. “and her hands and feet!” he held out a mighty paw, “just lost in mine, just lost!” he exclaimed, in an awestruck tone.
“her feet?” i queried.
“don’t rot!” he exploded. “all the same, i’ll bet her two feet’d go on my palm comfortably. twos, i sh’d think. and her eyes, man; they’re–they’re–“
but he had to give it up.
“marvellous?” i suggested.
he shook his head wiht a sort of hopeless shake.
“no; ’tisn’t that,” he said, and made a further endeavour to explain. “they’re grey…”
“eat all the world up,” i interpolated softly.
but he went on, ignoring my suggestion:
“grey! never saw such a grey in all my life! honest! my god harry, the man she takes for her very own’ll have her for his very own, and don’t you make any mistake!” he paused and ruminated for a few moments, then abruptly:
“met her in bendigo six months back. shook hands with her right off, when we were introduced. no ceremony up there, y’know. saw her then for the first time, and forgot i had hold of her hand till she pulled it loose from mine. i guess i felt mighty awkward.” he was quiet for an instant, then he said: “never seen her from then until today, though i’ve thought of her heaps of times.”
“and now, she’s here in melbourne?” i remarked.
“staying right here with us in this hotel,” he amended. “i was as close to her as i am to you; but she didn’t notice me any more than if i’d been dirt. i gues she’s forgotten me.” again, he fell upon quietness, evidently thinking hard.
a few words of explanation here. jack venner and i were chums. we had chummed as boys at SCHOOL AND had since found no reason to be anything else. at the age of eighteen, i had gone into my father’s office, he being a country solicitor. my chum, who, though of good family, was without better prospects, had declared his intention of trying his lluck in the colonies; and this he had done so soon as his period of schooling had come to an end.
in this wise i had seen nothing of him for nigh on six years; then his uncle–whose affairs we managed–died, leaving the whole of his vast estates to him. and we at once advertised for the whereabouts of his nephew, but without success. because of this, it was decided that i should take a trip out to australia and prosecute inquiries. and this i did, with the result that, after many months of patient inquiring, i found my man away up in the back blocks.
we had come down to melbourne preparatory to taking the first BOAT HOME AND had settled ourselves in a hotel for the few days that remained to us on australian soil. then, in the evening, as i was attending to my correspondence, my chum had come bursting into my room to inform me that he had run up against the “grey-eyed girl.” that is what he called her; for as he had explained to me, when he was introduced to her, he had failed to catch her name and had not seen her since. and so here he was, pacing up and downthe room, raving about this girl and preventing me from getting on with my work.
“she’ll be at dinner,” he said presently. “you’ll be able to see her then.”
now, i had intended to have dinner brought up to my room, so that i could continue my work uninterrupted, and i ventured to hint that such had been my intention. but to this he would extend no hearing with the result that a little later, i found myself at a table nearly opposite a remarkably pretty girl, very dainty, and full of bright sayings and ways so that i quite endorsed my chum’s good taste.
in a little, she chanced to glance across the table and i saw her eyes, grey and clear–amazingly honest and beauTIFUL. i stared and was suddenly recalled to the rudeness of my stare by her sudden flush and look of cold displeasure. in the same moment, my chum kicked me sharply on the ankle, so that i knew i had witnessed my annihilation. presently, he dragged me out into the verandah and put his question to me:
“what am i to do?”
“What do you mean?” i asked, in turn.
“to get to kow her,” he explained. “she’s forgotten me dead. never noticed me once, though i sat blank opposite to her through the whole of dinner>”
“I’m sure i don’t know,” i answered. we won’t know a soul who could introduce you. and besides, i’m not at all sure that she is anxious for any fresh acquaintances.”
the latter part of this i added in a meaning voice, for the girl had seemed very well pleased to leave her entertaining in the hands of a tall, blond, rather fine-looking young man who had been her companion at dinner. at my suggestion, jack venner frowned fiercely and muttered something under his breath that sounded distinctly unamiable towards the person of the lady’s manly friend. and here for a time the manner dropped, for i had to go back to my work.
i was awakened that nigiht from my first doze by a hand vigorously shaking me and at that, i sat up and demanded whether the place was afire. jack’s voice answered me, assuring me that all was right, but that he had thought of a wasy in which he might become reaquainted with the girl with the grey eyes. at that, i told him he was a confounded ass to come waking me at midnight, to tell me of some fool scheme which, from past experience of john’s plans, i knew would be absolutely lacking in reason and the rudiments of common sense. and all this it old him with some vigor, for i had worked hard all the evening since dinner, and was dog-tired.
then i turned over on my side, pulled the clothes ovr my yead, and refused to hear another word; so that in a minute he left me, going away in a sort of sullen rage, for which i did not altogether blame him. yet i knew taht if once i allowed him to commencce talking, he would keep it up through the whole night, so that i was not filled with any very deep feeling of compunction.
in the morning, jack treated me in what is known as a “distant” fashion, for which i thought him rather a fool. during the day, he left me pretty much to myself for which, to be truthful, i was not altogether displeased, althoug, perhaps just a trifle annoyed, for i had a mint of work which needed my attention. that night, jack did not come near me; but the next morning i met him at breakfast and found him in a more reasonable mood, though obviously occupied in his mind with some matter.
“what about miss grey eyes?” i asked, after some preliminaRY talk.
he shook his head.
“she’ always with that red-haired fool, confound him!” he burst forth. “i’ll show him that…” he began to say further, but pulled himself up.
“what?” i asked, frankly curious. but he shook his head.
“i’ve an idea,” he said, “but you’ll only throw cold water on it. all the same, i’ll bet that i get to know her within the next twenty-four hours.”
“better tell me your plan,” i suggested half jestingly. “you’ll be getting yourself into some scrape. you’re not going to run off with her by force?” i asked, for i knew something of the direct character of my chum and the question held in it a pinch of the salt of seriousness.
“no,” he said slowly and in a voice that suggested that the idea was not displeasing to him,”i’m not going to run away with her.”
and that was all i could get out of him.
that evening, as i was hard at work in my room, he burst in upon me in his characteristic, brusque manner.
“well?” i queried, looking up at him.
“i’ve introduced myself to her,” he said, and waited for me to question him.
“tell me?” i prompted.
“paid some larrikins to bail ’em up, so’s to give me the chance of playing ”ere the conquiring ‘ero comes;’ but it went a bit flat, i must own,” he concluded.
“yest,” i said, and waited.
“you see, my men collared ’em down by the swamp. i’d followed at a reasonable distance, so as to be ready to march on when the band struck up; but the first thing i knew there was a flash, bang, bang, and the crowd of them were running like sheep with the red-haired chap blazing hot and strong after ’em.”
at that i laughed heartily, my chum joining in somewhat disconsolately.
“and so it’s the other man who’s the hero,” i remarked.
jack nodded, lookiNG rueful.
“i did the best i could under the circs,” he explained. “ran up at a great pelt and asked what was wrong, and cold i be of any assitance, and all that sort of thing; but the red-haired chap said they’d driven ’em off quicker’n they’d want to come back, he guessed. and so there was nothing to do but receive their thanks, which i did gracefully enough, and then walked back here wiht the two fo them. however, i’ve got to speech with them, and that’s something; though one of the larrys has been sent up by the others to say that they hadn’t bargained to be shot at, and the result is i’ll have to tip up pretty handsomely.”
the next day jack spent in hunting round after the grey-eyed girl, and in making himself as useful and agreeable as possible. that night, he told me he had invited them for a sail in his yacht on the following day.
“but you haven’t got a yacht,” i protested.
“haven’t i? he said. “i bought one today, after getting her to promise. i paid fifty down, and i’m to pay the other hundred tomorrow.”
“but–but–“i said, and halted.
“it’s alright old man,” he replied. “i’m making the running and i’ll cut that red-haired chap out, or else drown him. did you ever know me not get my way, when i set on a thing?”
“this is different,” i answered.”if the girl’s really fond of the other chap, all the yachts and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be of any use to help you get your way.”
“WELL, my boy,” he replied, with an air of tremendous assurance, “you wait and see.”
three days passed, and on each one of them my chum took the grey-eyed girl and “the red-haired chap”–as he would persist in calling her friend–out in his newly acquired yacht. yet, at the end of the third day, as he informed me in a somewhat disconsolate manner, he was unable to say conscientiously that he had made any visible prOGRESS in the lady’s affections; whereat i laughed out loud and long, and begged him, at least to try and remember that he couldn’t very well expect to cut out “the other man” and win the grey-eyed girl’s affections all within a few hours after making her acquaintance.
yet, for all my assurance, i could see that my chum was revolving some matter in his mind, which i doubted not was some plan whereby his end might be the more immediately achieved. that i was right the next day proved, for he came into the hotel all dripping with SEAWATER AND followed by the grey-eyed girl and her friend, all in equally disconsolate state.
when my chum had changed, i got from him some of the details, and found that he had deliberately capsized the yacht in a squall, intending to take his chance to pose as the lady’s rescuer; but, as fate would have it, he got tangled in the wet sail and would proably have been drowned had it not been for the other man, who, having first assisted the girl to a place of sasfety astride the keel of the boat, had gone to his assistance and rescued him, practically at the last gasp. yet such is human nature in love that my ungrateful chum actually curse his savior for a ‘red-haired devil.”
the following day came the climax. my chum, meeting the other man ouside, had with intentioal brutality offered to pay him for “service rendered” in freeing him from beneath the ail. this the other man haughtily refused to discuss, but my chum pressing it, he grew angry and soona fter that–my chum having chosen to offer his undesired gold at a place where they were quite to themselves–the two of them were plying vigorous fists. here, asit proved, my chum came out top man, and presently, having come more to possession of his senses, was tending the needs of his less fortunate preserver.
for the next THREE- OR FOUR-DAYS jack kept to his room, for he had come off by no means free of damage in the fight, and he had little wish for his desired lady-love to see him all be-battered as he was, his nose puffy and his left eye encircled with blue and purple tings. at last, however, he was once more presentable, and made his appearance next morning at breakfast. the grey-eyed girl was opposite to him, as usual, and then it struck me, by the brightness OF those same eyes and the expression of her face, that my chum was in for a bad time when she should have him alone. nor was i mistaken.
so as soon as breakfast was over, she left her man friend, and came right across to us. me she ignored; but, bowing slightly to my chum, se requesTED him, speaking in a very quiet voice, to escort her out on to the verandah. the rest i must give as my chum told it to me an hour or two later, in the privacy of my room.
“well, she gave me jip,”he began, in answer to the question in my eyes. “just socked it into me for all she was worth, and i’m hanged if i didn’t love her better for her temper–she looked like a little angel. and she calmed down after a bit, and gave me a chance to speak, and i told her straight that i was confoundedly sorry and ashamed of myself; and then i said right out that i loved her, and that i would never have been such a cad if it hadn’t been that i was so confoundedly jealous of the other chap that i couldn’t bear the sight of him. at that, i expected her to give me the go-by; but she didn’t, only an awfully queer look came into her face, and, somehow, you know, she didn’t seem hafl so angry with me after that, though she was still very much on her high horse. before she sent me away, i asked her if there was any chance for me, and whether she really loved the other chap; and she said how dare i, and that she loved him very much, and that i wasn’t to dare ever speak to her again in that fashion. and that’s all.”
from week to week my chum delayed our departure, for he was, as he himself put it, “dead set on winning.” and gradually, it must be said, the little grey-eyed girl ceased to keep him coldly at a distance; though it was plain to me taht my chum had never a chance, for the other man was constantly with her, and seemed to be more in her favor than ever. then one day, after we had been in melbourne something over six weeks, my chum came bursting into my room.
“i’ve won!” he exclaimed, and thumped the table with one great fist. “bless her! i’ll marry her this week, if she’ll only be sensible!”
“but the other man?” i exclaimed, confounded, for i had seen her kiss him but the previous day.
my chum sat down, then he said, speaking with great solemnity:
“He’s her brother.”
“O-h-h!” is aid, and began to see things in their true light.
“and the little begger kept it back ever since our row; and left me to go on believing that he was her sweetheart. it only came out by chance today, and i tackled her right off, and she caved in, and promised never to do it again. wasn’t that like her?”
“you ought to know,” i replied.
and directly afterwards that self-willed man went away to arrange the date.