Read CHAPTER - III of In The Far North 1901 , free online book, by Louis Becke, on

Harrington followed him into an adjoining room, where, upon a wicker-work couch was reclining the figure of a young girl.  Standing beside her was the police-sergeant’s wife, who, as soon as the two men came in, quietly drew aside.

“Now, here I am back again, my dear child,” said the doctor good-humouredly, “and here is a very old friend of mine, Mr. Jack Harrington; and we have come to cheer you up and tell you that you have two or three good friends.  And we won’t let any women or parsons come to you and worry you, and tell you that you have been a wicked girl, and ought to have thrown yourself upon God’s mercy and all that sort of thing.  So just drink that coffee, and then by and by we will take you to some people I know well, and you shall come and tell us in a day or two how sorry you are for being so foolish.”

The girl’s dark hazel eyes looked steadily at them both; then she put out a thin white hand.

“You are very kind to me.  I know it was very wicked to try and kill myself, but I was so lonely, and... and I had not eaten anything since Wednesday... and I wanted to die.”  Then she covered her face and sobbed softly, whilst the doctor patted her on the shoulder and said ­

“Don’t worry, little girl; you are in good hands now.  Never mind Mrs. Thornton and her un-kindness.  You are better away from her ­isn’t she, Mr. Harrington?”

Mr. Harrington, knowing nothing about Mrs. Thornton, promptly said “Oh, most certainly,” and the girl’s eyes met his for a second, and a faint smile flushed upon her pale lips.  The tall, bearded, and brown-faced man’s face seemed so full of pity.

“Now you must go to sleep for an hour or two,” said the doctor imperatively; “so now then, little girl, ‘seepy-by, beddy-bo.’  That’s what my mother used to say to me.”

Harrington followed the doctor out into the sergeant’s room, where Inspector Walters, with his heels upon the table, was falling asleep.

“Sit down a moment, Mr. Harrington,” said Dr. Parsons, taking up a book which the sergeant had left upon the table; “this is a sad case.  Here is a girl, Nellie Alleyne, age 19, nursery governess to Mrs. Lavery-Thornton, of Waverly, jumped into the water off the Quay; rescued by Water-police Constables Casey and Boyce.”

Harrington nodded.

“This girl has told me her story.  She is alone and friendless in Sydney.  She came out to Australia when she was seventeen, got a billet with this Mrs. Lavery-Thornton ­who seems to be a perfect brute of a woman ­suffered a two years’ martyrdom, and then was dismissed from her situation with the large sum of twenty-two shillings in her pocket Tried to get another such position, but people wouldn’t take her without a recommendation from her last place.  The Thornton woman wouldn’t give her one; said she was too independent.  High-spirited girl with twenty-two shillings between her and starvation, wanders about from one registry office to another for a couple of weeks, living in a room in a Miller’s Point slum; money all gone; pestered by brutes in the usual way, jumps into the water to end her miseries.  Rough, isn’t it?”

Harrington nodded.  “Poor thing!  I should like you, Dr. Parsons, to ­to let her know that she has friends.  Will you let me help.  Fifty pounds or a hundred pounds won’t hurt me... and I’ve been stone-broke myself.  But a man can always peg along in the bush; and it’s an awful thing for a child like that to be adrift in a big city.”

The kind-hearted police doctor looked steadily into Harrington’s face for a moment, then he said quietly ­

“An awful thing indeed.  But there are some good men in the world, Mr. Harrington, who are able and willing to save pure souls from destruction.  You are one of them.  Tom Walters and myself are both hard-up devils ­we see a lot of misery, but can do nothing to alleviate it; a few shillings is all we can give.”

Harrington rose, and his sun-tanned face flushed as he drew out his cheque-book.  “I never try to shove myself in, in such matters as these, doctor, but I should feel pleased if you will let me help.”

Then he wrote out a cheque for fifty pounds, pushed it over to the doctor, said he thought it was getting late, and that he had better get back to his hotel.

Dr. Parsons gave the sleeping inspector a shake, and in a few words told him what Harrington had done.

“You’re a dashed fool, old man,” said Walters sleepily to Harrington; “most likely she’ll blue your fifty quid, and then blackmail ­”

The doctor’s hand descended upon the inspector’s shoulder.  “Shut up, you beastly old wretch ­do you think all women are alike.  Come, now, let us have another nip and get away.  Mr. Harrington is tired.  Sergeant!”

The sergeant came to the door.

“Thompson, take good care of that young lady.  We happen to know her.  If she awakes before eight o’clock in the morning, tell her that she is to stay with your wife till I come to see her at nine o’clock.  Any effects, sergeant?”

“Yes, sir,” and the sergeant took out his note-book, “seven pawn tickets, five pennies, and a New Testament with ‘Nellie Alleyne’ written inside.”

“Here, give me those tickets, I’ll take care of them; and Thompson, if the newspaper fellows come here to-night, say that the young lady fell over the wharf accidentally, and has gone home to her friends.  See?”

“I see, sir,” said Thompson, as the good-hearted doctor slipped half a sovereign into his hand.

Then the three men stepped out into the street and strolled up to the Royal Hotel, and sat down in the smoking-room, which was filled with a noisy crowd, some of whom soon saw Walters and called him away, leaving the doctor and Harrington by themselves.

“Better take this back, Mr. Harrington,” and Dr. Parsons handed him his cheque.  “Two or three pounds will be quite enough for the poor girl.”

“Not I,” said Harrington with a smile, “fifty pounds won’t ruin me, as I said ­and it may mean a lot to her, poor child.  And I feel glad that I can help some one... some one who is all right, you know.  Now I must be off.  Good night, doctor.”

Parsons looked at the tall manly figure as he pushed his way through the noisy crowd in the smoking-room, and then at the cheque in his hand.  “Well, there’s a good fellow.  Single man, I’ll bet; else he wouldn’t be so good to a poor little devil of a stranded girl.  Didn’t even ask her name.  May the Lord send him a good wife.”

The Lord did not send Harrington a good wife; for the very next day he called upon Mrs. Lyndon, and Mrs. Lyndon took good care that he should be left alone with Myra; and Myra smiled so sweetly at him, when with outstretched hands she came into the drawing-room, that he fatuously believed she loved him.  And she of course, when he asked her to be his wife, hid her face on his shoulder, and said she could not understand why he could love her.  Why, she was quite an old maid!  Amy and Gwen were ever so much prettier than she, and she was sure that both Gwen and Amy, even though they were now both married, would feel jealous when they knew that big, handsome Jack Harrington had asked her to be his wife; and so on and so forth, as only the skilled woman of thirty, whose hopes of marriage are slipping by, knows how to talk and lie to an “eligible” man unused to women’s ways.  And Harrington kissed Myra’s somewhat thin lips, and said ­and believed ­that he was the happiest man in Australia.  Then Mrs. Lyndon came in, and, in the manner of mothers who are bursting with joy at getting rid of a daughter whose matrimonial prospects are looking gloomy, metaphorically fell upon Harrington’s neck and wept down his back, and said he was robbing her of her dearest treasure, &c., &c.  Harrington, knowing nothing of conventional women’s ways, believed her, and married, for him, the most unsuitable woman in the world.

A week or so after his marriage he received a letter from Dr. Parsons enclosing the cheque he had given him for Nellie Alleyne: ­

“Dear Harrington, ­Girl won’t take the cheque.  Has a billet ­cashier in a restaurant.  Says she is writing to you.  She’s true gold.  You ought to marry her and take her away with you to your outlandish parts.  Would ask her to marry me ­if I could keep her; but she wouldn’t have me whilst you are about.  Always glad to see you at my diggings; whisky and soda and such, and a hearty welcome.”

And by the same post came a letter from the girl herself ­a letter that, simply worded as it was, sent an honest glow through his heart: ­

“Dear Mr. Harrington, ­I shall never, never forget your kindness to me; as long as I live I shall never forget Dr. Parsons tells me that you live in Queensland ­more than a thousand miles from Sydney, and that you are going away soon.  Please will you let me call on you before you go away?  I shall be so unhappy if I do not see you again, because in a letter I cannot tell you how I thank you, how deeply grateful I am to you for your goodness and generosity to me.  “Yours very sincerely,

     “Helen Alleyne.”

Harrington showed the letter to Myra, who bubbled over with pretty expressions of sympathy and wrote and asked her to call.  Nellie did call, and the result of her visit was that when Harrington took his newly married wife to Tinandra Downs, she went with her as companion.  And from the day that she entered the door of his house, Helen Alleyne had proved herself to be, as Dr. Parsons had said, “true gold.”  As the first bright years of prosperity vanished, and the drought and financial worries all but crushed Harrington under the weight of his misfortunes, and his complaining, irritable wife rendered his existence at home almost unbearable, her brave spirit kept his from sinking under the incessant strain of his anxieties.  Mrs. Harrington, after her third child was born, had given up even the semblance of attending to the children, and left them to Nellie and the servants.  She was doing quite enough, she once told her husband bitterly, in staying with him at such a horrible place in such a horrible country.  But she nevertheless always went away to the sea-coast during the hottest months, and succeeded in having a considerable amount of enjoyment, leaving the children and Jack and Miss Alleyne to swelter through the summer at Tinandra Downs as best they could.