|Newspaper Title||Goulburn Herald (NSW : 1881 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||The Harrow Bushrangers|
HARROW BUSIIRANiGERS. ]:r DAVID G. TALI. CIIAPI'ITER I. Tune afternoon was shedding rosy beams through the kitchen windows of a farmhouse situated in one of the prettiest spots of the western district of Victoria. The slanting rays fell on the trim, orderly appointments of the place, making them look trimmer and more orderly still, and darted across the brick floor iii a vain endeavour to peep into the lihugo cupboard that stood facing the window. Such a bright-looking place was this kitchen, with its rows; of shining plates and saucers, its more shining tin dishes, and its occasional pieces of brassware more shining than all, that the slant ing sun winked quite roguishly as it peooped boldly in, and seemed anxious to lend its aid to heighten the geneoral brightness. So nice and pleasant was it that a pretty girl, standing at the kitchen dresser rolling out paste, was quite in aceoordance with the surroundings, and added an agreeable finishing touch to the picture. She was rather tall, with a good honest face and a good honest pair of brown eyes, and a good straight looking, active figure. As she rolled out the paste in front of her, she kept up a low humming, and appeared to take no notice whatever of a young man who was seated near her by the side of the dresser. Appeared, be cause if the truth were known, she did now and again cast a furtive glance at him; though every time ahlo did so she hummed louder than ever. He was not a bad-looking young man to glance at, either; perhaps a trifle too broad, perhaps a trifle too short, and even perhaps a trifle too bushy an to hair and whiskers ; but on the whole decidedly a good-looking young fellow after a hearty farmer like way. But there hlie sat rapping his boot impatiently with a hunting crop lihe hold in his hand, glancing half angrily, half-imploringly at the busy worker at the dresser. Whatever had been the subject of their conversation ihe reverted to it again after a lengthened pause. " And so you won't say yea or nay, Kato ?" lie said petulantly. "You're too impatient, Rob," re turned the girl, avoiding any more direct answer. " It's all to be done in a minute according to you. Marry in haste and repent at leisure, I say. You're over young to be a married man." "Over young I How can you say that ? You know I'll be twenty-three in four months' time, and as to being impatient, well, I've known you ever sines I was old enough to know any thing, and I don't know if that's being impatient." " Why, ilob, what a lot of knows I" exclaimed the girl with ai laugh. "Yes; that's it. You are always ready enough to make ful of me. But when I ask you to give me a pro mise, you won't do that. I must say, Kate, you are treating me very badly, seeing how we've boon together ever sines we were children." The girl shot one of those sharp glances at himn, and continued knead ing and patting the roll of paste with greater industry than ever. "I don't know why you talk like that," she said. " 1 like you very much (pat.) and l'm sure I'm always telling everybody so (pat). But you want me to bo in sluch a burry, Rob, and make promises before I k1ow my own mind (pal." The dexterity with which she kneaded tio dugh nid the industry with which she rolled it, were aston ishing. The young maui watched her for some time before replying, and when he did so, it was in tones of greater discontent thaln ever. " It's no use my arguing with you," he said lugubriously; '.' you always got the better of sue there. But hero I come honest and straightforward, and ask you to be my wifo, and all the the answer I can got is that I must wait." "And so you must, IRob." The dancing sunbeams played mer rily on the girl and made her look so pretty that the young follow, aggra vated as he was, could not help showing his admiration. Ho sat gazing at her comely face, quito absorbed for the moment ; but then hei returned to his grievance with his former air of in jured sensibility. " Of course I know what makes you talk like that, Kate," ho said. "Ever since young Fisher's been hero from Melbourne you'vo been quite different 'with me. Before he came everything was right, and I'm sure you and I were that aflectionate all the neighbours thought it was arranged between us." ".Thank them for nothing, then." "But now it's quite different," con tinued the young man, more lugu briously than over. " Just because he's a squatter's son and we're only farmers he thinks he can do anything. He comes riding over hero making love to you-" "Now, that's not true, Itob," she interposed, " and you know it isn't." "I don't know anything of the kind. How am I to know that he doesn't, when he comes over here sa often and you go with him ? " The girl gave the pasta a final sturdy pat and turned her head away. "If you think that," she said, "you had better go." Aggrieved as ha was, flob was too honestly in love to be able to bear a quarrel. "I don't mean to offend you, Kate," eaid he, rising from his chair and laying his hand restrainingly on her shoulder; " I know you don't mean any harm in seeing him asd meeting him. It's only my loving you so much makes me think of it. Of course, hl's a better-educated man than I am, and a better-looking one by far ii rvery way. And his ftether owning the etation gives him position and wealth; but he doesn'si love you like I do, Ksi;', I'5 'sura oh that."' If voice and mA?einIllnt.r went for any thing there. wa: honissty expressed forsibly endigh inii tile yeilg nii. This girl seensed to thihik so, for else said-- f! Well, pcrh pvs yss're right, ] oba;
though as for Mr. Fisher's falling in love with ime, that's ridiculous. I-IHo's a pleassen acquaintance, nothing more. Hie lends me books and papers, and gives me flowers for the garden. But, there, I don't want to quarrol with you. Let's talk of something lseo." "No; I must go now," he an swered nomowlhat shortly. " I've to look after one of the plough horses. There's something wrong with him. Give me a kiss before I go, Kato ? " IIe slipped his arm round her waist, but she disengaged herself, and hit him a smart rap with this rolling-pin. "No, Rlob ; you hiss me too much. IRemember, we are not engaged after all-not properly." "And whose fault is that ? But that's just it. I think you must be getting tired of me. Everything I do's wrong now." He was making his way disconso lately out when she called him back. " Well, you needn't go off in such a huff," she said. " There, kiss min if you must." The young man drew her to him and impressed a kiss very lovingly on her full lips. "I do wish you'd be kindler to me, Kate," Ie said affectionately; " you don't know how fond I am of you." Whether the girl was really touched, or whether she wished to regain his goodwill, she certainly assumed a slight air of tenderness as ohe answered "I'm sure, Iob, I like you very much indeed; better than any young man I know. There, will that show it ?" and bending forward she hissed him lightly. More than one scoone similar to that which tools place in the kitchen had passed of late between the two young people. A month ago Kate Conroy and Rob Miscalister had beeoon on such affectionate, loverliko terms, that the whole of the Wannon district (in which they lived) had unanimously come to the conclusion that they had plighted their troth. And such an event, in the eyes of the district generally, was the very best thing for all concerned. The Conroys and the Macalisters had been friends and neighbours time out of mind. They held contiguous farms ; their families had booen brought up together ; the closest bonds of friendship and inter ost united them, That Kate Conroy should marry Rob Macalister, now that they had grown to man and woman's estate, seemed to be so com monly accepted as an incontrovertible fact that even the young people themselves had become imbued with the general conviction, and had al most unconsciously come to look upon themselves as destined for one another. In both cases, too, mutual affection had seemed to point the same way, and everything had promised well for Rob's wooing, when an element of discord appeared on the scoene in the person of Mr. Harry Fisher. This was the only son of the owner of the station on which wore situated thei farms belonging to the two families. A great man was Fisher senior, in the eyes of the district generally; whilst upon his only son and heir, Harry, was reflected a good deal of his father's lustre. Now it so happened that this young gentleman, returning to his father's station after a lengthened residence in Melbourne, had met Kate Conroy a month or so before this story opens, and, evidently struck by the girl's appearance, had ever since paid her a great deal of attention. To such an extent had this gone, indeed, that the gossips of the neighbourhood had ventured even to discuss the probabili ties pro and can of the young squatter asking for Kate asno his wife; whilst as to the girl's other lover, Rob Macalister, that worthy dated from the time of young Fishor's advent tihe first feel ings of jealousy he had experienced in his life. Affairs wore in this unsatisfactory state when the conversation just re corded took place. CHAPTER II. The Conroys' farm was one of the boest in the Wannon district. It was no poverty-stricken " selection " of 80 nacres, but a substantial holding of some thousand odd. Old Conroy had taken up the usual area in the first instance, but had gradually added to it by purchase, until now hie was the owner of a paying, well-conducted, comfortable holding. The homestead comprised a substantial brick cottage, stables, and outhouses ; and the laud was so good that it kept three sheop to the nore the whole year round. A few days subsequent to the open ing of our story Mrs. Couroy and her daughter wsre in the dairy occupied with the feminine task of butter. making. "Here, Kate," said her mother, "slim this dish of milk for me. , must see after the scones for supper; they'll be getting ovnr-baked." "Very well, mother," said her daughter, dutifully. " By the way," interjected Mrs. Conroy, stopping as she went out-" I haven't seen Rob lately. You haven't quarrelled, have you ?" " Oh, no; what makes you think that ?" " Well, his keeping away of late. I don't think you'rs treating him well, Kate." " Not treuting him well I How can you say that, mother ?" Mrs. Conroy was a hamlo, active looking woman, well in the prime of ihfe, and looking exactly what she was -a sensible, thrifty body, c good housewife, and an afl'ctionate mother. "I know what young men are," elhe said, regarding her daughter reprovingly. " They don't like to be encouraged one momuent and held off thc next." " I'm sure I'm not holding IRob off," answered Kate impatiently. "Perhaps not ; hsut-don't suppose he likes Mr. Fisher coming here so often. It isn't right, either. It cant lead to acything, and you'll have Bob that jeclous h,'ll be keeping away al together." The young girl smiled to herself in a way that argued a considerable amount of vanity in her disposition. A. bright tin dish hanging on the wall olpposits to her reflected her pretty
face and trim figure, and as she glanced at it sho could not help a 1 second smile of feminine vanity. " Oh, no, mother, he won't keep away," she said. " He's hero often t enough, goodness knows." f Her mother intercepted the look, and answered with more reproof in her voice than she had before used. " Well, all I can say is that I don't approve of this sudden friendship with young Fisher. Rob's a good honest young fellow, and one that'd make a lit husband for any young girl. It isn't right of you to keep him off and on as you are doing. They didn't use to do it in my time, and I don't like to see a daughter of mine acting in that way. A sure husband is better than an unsafe friend, that's my motto, and you ought to have enough sense to.know it. Take my advice, Kate, for I've had more experience in these things than you, and when Rob comes again meet him half-way and take him when he offers." And with these parting words of advice Mrs. Conroy shook her head reprovingly a her pretty daughter and trotted out tof the kitchen. f That her mother's injunctions were not over and above palatable to Mis tress Kate was pretty evident, for when she was left alone a look of im patience came into her face, and she toesed her head angrily. " Bother Rob 1" she exclaimed, " I hear so much about him I get quite sick of it. As if there was any harm in having a friend like Mr. Fisher. He is ever so much nicer than Rob, and talks beautifully ; be sides, he lends me books. I expect I shall have to marry Rob some day; but I'm not going to be tied down yet," she continued in the same wilful way. " What's the use of being pretty if you have to close your eyes to every young man who pays you a little attention. I'm not going to be rude to Mr. Fisher for any one." And the young girl having finished her skimming, tidied the place up with greater signs of impatience than ever, glanced atherself again in the bright tin dish, and finally made her way out. Perhaps she knew that the young equatter was likely to be in the neighbourhood, perhaps it was oven a regular appointment; but whatever way it was, she put on her hat, and tripped straight out on the track that led to the river. She was walking slowly along when the sound of hoofs in the distance caused her to look up. It was young Fisher, surrounded by a whole army of dogs. He was rather a good-looking young follow-good-looking after a somewhat effeminate fashion. He was tall and thin, and not particularly graceful. His face was pale, and to any one lees unsophisticated than the farmer's daughter would have demon strated the fact that its owner was recovering from the effects of recent dissipation. However, as he rode up with olinking bit and jingling stirrups he certainly looked handsome enough, for his face was flushed with exercise, and a pleasant smile of greeting lighted up his face. " Hallo, Kate I " he cried, jumping from his horse amidst a paroxysm of barking on the part of his dogs. "Here I am again, you see. Your devoted slave as usual." A slight blush mantled the girl's heoeks. "You mustn't talk like that," she said. "What; has the love-sick Rob been making woful plaint ?" hlie said lightly. " Come, Kate, don't be foolish. Let's walk on. You're not so chained, are you, but that you can exchange a word or two with your other male friends ?" "I should think not indeed." " Then come along, and I'll show you what a nice book I've brought you. Do you know," hlie continued in the same light way that lie had used in speaking to her before, "do you know, hate, I am getting awfully fond of you ? The more I seo of you the more I'm sure that I'm very mush in love-" "Now, Mr. Fisher, I won't liston if you talk like that," she answered, with a bright blush. "You don't mean it, and I don't believe it." " By Jove, but don't I I" " Well, if you do or do not, it isn't right, and so you mustn't. If you go on like that I shall turn straight back," she continued, seeing he was about to protest further. "All right, Kate; don't be offended. And, above all, don't deprive me of the light of your pretty face. Here's this book I've brought you, 'His Natural Life,' by Marous Clarke. I'm sure you'll like it. It's the finest book of its kind I've over road." From what passed between these two foolish young people it will be eson that the lovesick Rob had very just grounds for jealousy, but cer tainly none at all for suspicion or mistrust. Kate was a sensible enough girl in a way. Vain and fond or admiration else was undoubtedly, but she took good eare that her love of admiration should not carry her too far. It was such a very flattering thing for a mere farmer's daughter, as she was, to be sought after by one in young Fisher's position that she could not resist the temptation of accepting his attentions. But so far they had been harmless enough, and to the girl's unsophisticated mind bore no very weighty application. She ad mired him, and liked hisi.half-playful, half-satirical manner much more than Rob's cincompromieing straightfor wardness. She was too simple to find it out herself, but the real sase was that tli young man was some thing quite different from what she had come in contact with among her other friends, and the novelty of his conversation and manner tended to exercise a temporary fascination over her. The lightnese and familiarity with which he treated her did not affect her with any sense of inferiority, as might be supposed. She was so used to the good-natured familiarity that exists ganerally among buch people that his manner towards her did not strike her in any way as peculiar or off handed. Foolish Kate I If she had been as
sensible as shel was pretty she must t have known that this philandering I could lead to no good result. Young squatters nowadays are not accus tomed to throw themselves away on I farmers' daughters, even though they may be pretty and even charming. Foolish young rustic beauty! If I some vague thoughts did now and again pass through l1er mind as to how pleasant it would be to reign sno mistress at Ellerlie they were such silly inconsequential thoughts that even if she entertained them she could only be too conscious herself of how little chance there was of their reali sation. CIHAPTER IIIn. The interview, such as it was, was over, and the young squatter was riding slowly homewards surrounded by his following of dogs, when Rob Macalister appeared suddenly in the middle of the track and called him by name. There wore some signs of discomposure about the young man, but not sufficient to attract attention, so that Harry Fisher stopped his horse without further thought. They were well known to one another, and-with such exceptions as their different positions rendered necessary - even friends. If the young squatter, fresh from his inter view with the girl whom he knew was as good as promised to Rob, felt any compunction, he certainly did not show it in any way, but hold out his band and shook the other's cordially, as he said " Hallo, Rob I Is that you 2" "Yes, Harry; if you're not in any particular hurry I should like to speak to you for five minutes," answered Kate's lover. "Fire away then, old man," re turned the other lightly, " or I shall be late for dinner." He leant over his horse's neck, looking down at his companion; and Rob, pulling the animal's mane in some embarrassment, gazed up at its rider in a way that showed mingled perturbation and distress. "I want to speak to you about Kate," he commenced hesitatingly. "You know we've been as good as engaged for years--she and I. We were brought up together as chil dren, and there are very few days we haven't been together some part of it. Both our parents want to see us mar ried, and we're going to be directly Kate can make up her mind to it." " Very interesting indeed," inter posed the young squatter drily. "But why do you tell me this 2" Rob's hand on the horse's mane tightened ever so little, but he answered quietly. "Well, it's this way, Harry. Ever since you've boon hero I must confess Kate has been quite changed. I'm not saying anything you don't know or anything that's not pretty well known among all the farmers hereabouts. Of course a young man in my position ain't to be compared to one like you in the way of pleasing and such like. But I will say this I don't think it's fair to come between two people who are as good noas given to one another, whatever they may be." "I don't understand you," returned the young squatter haughtily. " Well, I don't want to say any thing I may be sorry for afterwards," returned Bob, with less and less signs of embarrassment; " but Kate and I are as good as promised to one another, and I won't stand by and nee another man come and try to separate us." " Well, what's that to me 2" "It ain't much I know. Look here, Harry, if I thought you meant anything serious towards Kate I wouldn't say a word to anybody-least of all to you. I'd be content to stand aside and lot him win as could. But I know you're only amusing yourself and mean nothing; and I say it's too bad to make trouble by leading a girl's thoughts astray like that. It's nothing to you, but it's a great deal to me and to her." The young man was earnest in what he said, however ineptly he put it. That was plain enough. It was not the pleasantest of tasks to have to ask the clemency of a rival, all the time tacitly acknowledging his success, and Rob showed by his manner that it was unpalatable enough. But he got through the task in a manly, straight forward fashion that did not stoop to tihe slightest evasion. Such ans it was it raised a feeling of anger on the part of Harry Fisher. To be taken to task in that way by one beneath him-by a common young follow he secretly despised-was not at all consonant with his dignity. "My good follow," he answered haughtily, "you are talking to me in a way I don't like at all. I don't choose to explain my actions to any one-least of all to you. Let me pass." But Rob showed no signs of comply ing with this request. His eyes gleamed somewhat angrily, but he only answered quietly as usual " That's not fair to me, Harry. I put it to your sense of honour if it is. All I Want to show you is that itisn't a fair thing to abuse your position and try to come between Kate and me. If you're a gentleman you'll promise to give hsr up." "How dare you talk to me like that, Robin Macalistor 2" he answorod with an angry flush. " Let go my horse this moment." " Will you promise 2" retorted Rob, now thoroughly angry likewise. " I'll promise nothing." "Then, by heavens, I'll pull you from your horse and make you." Thoroughly enraged, he made a clutch at the young squatter, who clapped his spurs into .his horse's sides and tried to ride him down. But Rob's bands elutched the reins in a firm grip, and prevented the animal doing anything but making a wild plunge. Then Fisher endeavoured to make the horse rear and strike his assailant with his fore-feet. But the young farmer's muscles were like iron, and after a series of mad plunges horse and rider were brought up once again standing. "Coma off, you coward," panted Rob, "and stand up like a man. If yeou take my girl from me, I'll make you fight for it." Now it was more than whispered
throughout the Waunon that Harry Fisher was not gifted with any very great superfluity of personal courage. lie had beeoon known to turn tail at a post-and-rail fence on more than one occasion, and popular rumour went oven so far as to state that once he had actually run away when an on raged shearer, smarting under a sense of unjustifiable dismissal, had raised his hand and struck Hlarry an open blow. Be that as it may, Rtob's energetic mode of procedure in the present instance certainly seemed to have the effect of frightening him, for he turned pale, and did not appear at all inclined to fall in with the other's proposal. "Look here, M1acalister," he said, sooing that his attempt to escape was completely frustrated. "I don't want to fight, and I don't intend to." "Will you promise what I ask you, then ?" returned Bob angrily. " No, I won't; but I'll-" " Then, by thunder I I'll have it out of you in some way." " If you do I'll put the dogs on to you. I will," exclaimed Fisher, now thoroughly alarmed. "Here I Lion I Jacko I Grace I At him, dogs I At him I" " You coward I" panted IRob. Two or three of the dogs jumped at the young farmer, their owner en couraging them to the utmost by hise voice, It was rather a hazardous position for Rob, for the dogs-big, gaunt kangaroo-hounds-were savage enough to have eaten him almost. Quick as thought he seized a heavy piece of wood that lay at his feet, and sweeping it round his head knocked one of the dogs completely over. But directly he took his hand away from the bridle of the young squatter's horse that discreet gentleman clapped spurs into the animal's sides, and was off like a shot. The dogs kept barking and jumping round Rob for a brief space; but one or two more blows with the heavy billet of wood cooled their ardour, and after a slight further demonstration they limped off after their chicken-hearted master. And so Rob was left in the middle of the track like a modern Ajax. His coat was torn, his heart was sore, and as he wended his way slowly home wards he muttered vows of dire and speedy vengeance. etAprTER Iv. After that rencontre between the young men things could hardly be said to be on a pleasant basis at all. Whether it was that he wished to re pay Rob in kind for the fright he had given him, or whether it was from other feelings than revenge, Mr. Harry Fisher pursued Kate Conroy with more ardour than ever. He tookl very good cars to keep out of the young farmer's way, and Rob being continually employed, this was not a difficult .thing to do. It came out, too, that he had com plained to Kate herself about the way Rob had tried to intimidate him. Doubtless he gave his own version of the affair, for the immediate conse quence of his telling her was that she treated the poor young farmer with more coldness than ever. Be marked was this that Rob taxed her with it one afternoon. " Well, and you deserve it," an sweredback thefoolish girl, hotly. "Do you fancy it's manly to stop a gentle man on the high road, and swear at him, and want to pull him from his horse ? " "I didn't swear at him," said poor Rob, " and I only stopped him to speak to him." " And what business have you to take on yourself to talk about me? " she retorted. " I'm not bound to any one yet, mind that. And do you think because I have a friend who pays me a little attention that you are to go and insult him openly ? If you think so you are very much mistaken, and Iwon't have any such low goings on." "Then he's beeoon whining to you, has he ? " asked Rob disdainfully. " Never mind, if he has or hasn't. That doesn't concern you. I won't have you setting up as though you were the only man I have a right to speak to. You can attend to your own business, and leave mine alone.' He was thoroughly angry, that was very plain. But if she had cause for complaint so had Rob. Ridiculously in love as he was, and used to give way to her on every point, even his patience had it limits. It was too much to have that cowardly young Fisher cast in his tooth that way; he could'nt stand that. "Very well Kate," he said deter minedly. " If that's the way you talk to me we'd better part. I'm only making myself a brute, and it's plain you don't care for me any longer. If you're so taken with your new friend, just because he's a squatter, that you can play fast and loose with a man who has loved you true ever since you were a slip of a girl, I've nothing more to say. I won't trouble you any more my girl. Good afternoon." It was so novel for him to talk in that determined self-contained way that the girl looked at him in surprise. She didn't want him to go, oh no. After all however silly and jealous he was, he was the IRob she had known and played with and liked for so many years. " Why, IRob," she said hastily, a little frightened as lie turned away, "you're not so silly as to be offended, are you ? You know I like you very much. If you go away like that I' shall think it's you who want to quarrel." She knew her power over him. He couldnt resist her pleading looks, her pretty face, her outstretched hand. Right as he know himself to be, he was only a soft-hearted young fellow, very much in love, and very yielding I in everything. He did go back, and I very readily to, and furthermore he slipped his arm round her waist, and i oven kissed her full red lips. " You talk about Mr. Fisher," she said archly, "but you're far worse. He I never ventures to put his arm round my waist, and as for kissing me, he never dreams of taking such a I liberty." " I should think not, indeed," rcs uponded Rob, in the seventh heaven of delight. " I should -like to catch I him at it, that's all,"
"Then, if I allow you that privi lego you ought to know how to appro ciate it." SI do," he ansuwered, boaring out the asosertion in the best way pon sibloe by kissing her again. (To be conciuded.)