|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||The Little White Soul|
THE LITTLE WHITE SOUL.
'Young-Man-from-the-Country" was his nickname. Someone in a sportive mood had called him that, and the name had stuck. It suited him well, for he had such a vacuous look.
He was Jack Smith's black, and he was crouching over the fire at his master's selection, on Dingo Gully.
He had his eyes half shut, and he shivered as he pulled his threadbare coat up nearly to his ears, and dragged at the cuffs of the shrunken sleeves, for the wind blew sharply. He was cooking Jack Smith's dinner. Now and again he gave a twirl to the leg of mutton roasting before the brigalow fire; and after raking the ashes apart with his bare toes, to examine some potatoes that were baking in them, he took up a live coal to light his pipe, called three ugly yellow dogs to him, rolled himself up in his wretched Q.G. blanket, and lay down almost in the ashes. Such a battered old
face he had. It was seamed and scarred, and there was a large hole in his nostrils,
bored through them in his young days to
hold the small bone of a kangaroo's leg.
Suddenly, he raised himself on his elbow and listened. There was the low cry of a sick child coming from Jack Smith's hut. Sometimes there came a dull moan, sometimes a sharp, agonised scream, that died into a wail, and there was the almost ceaseless sound of a tired woman's voice sweetly crooning a song, and of weary dragging footsteps that paced up and down, up and down, on the earthen floor of the
The song stopped.
"Young-Man-from-the-Country," called the woman irom the hut.
"Yowi, Mithsis, yowi," and he went into the hut, where Stacia Smith was, bending over her sick baby.
"Piccaninny close up better? You gib it me lil while, eh, Mithsis." |
'No," no better-worse I'm afraid-much worse. I'll keep her, thank ye," she said, holding the child closely, "I'm not tired; she's no weight t' carry. Are ye mindin' th' Boss's bit o' dinner? He'll be riled en- tirely if ye go t' sleep an' spoil it on him."
'.fMe«imd-«aH^at pfeller tucker all right
-Baalflpoil«m,Mitbsifl,no fear." "Listen," said tbe woman as she moistened the baby's lips with water, "I think I hear wheels-go
see quick if 'tis th' Boss comin'-run now."
"Yowi, MithBis, Boss comin'-close up ' alonga slip-rails," said the black when be \
"Bring in th' Boss's dinner, then," said | the woman, wiping her eyes and faying to j fix her hair in an orderly manner with her j
disengaged hand-"hurry now, will ye?"
A moment later a stout thick-set man,' with small grey eyes, walked into the hut, j jingling his spurs. He threw his whip and j
hat on the table.
"Giv' a chap sometlun' feat, can't yer? Hallo, Stacia, how's th' youngster? Can't - yer put her down? It makes a feller feel miserable ter watch yer marctyin* up an' down like that. Here, y'old fool, smarten up an' bring in that tucker," he shoufe^p; the black, from the hut dooiv;. "Here's a, nice thing fer a man," he wcnt'on^-"been away fer two days workin' like a bloomin'
nigger, and comes back ter find no dinner" ready-a whiriin' kid an' a woman with her ] eyes lookin' like burnt holes in a blanket. What's up with yer?"
"I've been up with th' child two nights, I Jack; that's why, an' I've been cryin'
"Cryin'! what fer?" demanded he, look ing narrowly at her, as she handed him a billyoftea-"because th' kid's sick?" and he laughed coarsely in her face.
She did not answer, but took the child into an inner room till the man's appetite was satisfied.
When lie had finished, and had lit his pipe and smoked a little, Stacia came in and stood with her child in her arms behind his chair.
"Jack," said she, with a quiver in her voice,
"Yes," he replied surlily, stretching out his legs, and, putting his hands into his pockets, he narrowed his eyes till they looked like slits. "What's this yer cryin'! fer? Out with it now."
"I'm 'feared for the child, Jack."
"What rot," he growled, making a kick at the dog that lay at his feet. "I never | seen such a girl as y'are-always 'feared o'
somethin'." . I
"A bat flew into the 'ut last night, an
there was a windin'-sheet in th' candle last | night but one, an' Baldv th' dog there scratched a weeny hole tn' like of a grave in front o' the door, an' he's been howlin', howlin' that mournful, Jack-that's th' sign o' death t' some of us." She grasped the back of his chair till her knuckles
Jack Smith spat in the fire. "What's all these old grannies' yarns fer-out with it what d'ye want?" .
"I want ye t' drive me an' th' child into th' township."
"I won't, then, that's flat."
"Do take me, Jack, for God's sake. Let me lake the little ereatureen to the doctor, Jatfk, won't ye? Oh, Jack, she's been that bad since ye left that I'd have been glad t' see th' little thing die in me arms, for I'd know then that the sufferin' body was -free from it's pain at last. Let me go with th' child to me mother. There's no one can soothe a sick baby like she can. An' th' child's not christened. If 'twas t' die 'twould turn to dust; 'twouldn't go t' Heaven. I know ye don't believe in no God nor nothin', Jack," she said, sobbing,
"Shut up," answered the man. Give us a rest. Lot o' good these cantin' parsons are, ain't they? They'll maul no youngster o' mine about, so don't you try that game on. I don't believe in it. Th kid's right enough. How d'yer think Fm goin' ter drive vou in? It's seventy-five mile ter th' township. It'll take us till to-morrow ter get there. There's been a lot o' rain-th' track's heavy now-an' there's another storm comin' up. Can't yer smell th' gid yah? Ain't that enough to tell you rain's coming? I won't take ye."
"Ye will take me.' said the woman in a burst of fury. She faced him defiantly, her eyes blazing-"If ye don't I'll ride in to th' township, carryin' th' child before me -an' make ye th' shame o' th' country side. Make up your mind. I'll start in five minutes. I'm not feared o' ye now-bully an' all as ye are, ye daren't stop me."
Jack Smith stared; she was a new crea
"Oh, all right; if yer must go, yer must. Yer a spitfire, too, an' no mistake. I'll yoke up now, an you get ready quick." He went scowling from tlie but.
The Youn^-Man-From-The-Country came hesitatingly into the hut.
"Take th' child a minute/' eaid the
The black took the child gently from the mother's arms, and fastened an old shawl about the little creature with a pin he kept-in his grizzled beard. Then he walked noiselessly up and down till the woman had flung on liat and jacket, xhen he put the child into her arms, and looked sorrowfully at her.
"Good by t* ye 'Young-Man-From-The Country,' " she said, and 6he ran to where the buggy was waiting, and climbed into
The " Young-Man-From-The-Country " smeared the tears from, his eyes with lean fingers, nodded his head, and went back to
. "D'ye hear that thunder? There's a storm comin' up. We'll catch it. It's thirty miles from here ter th' Buck-eye Gully mail stage, ail' .45 from there' ter tV town. Get up, yer brutes," he shouted to the horses. "Yer've got a cargo o' fools behind yer." The horses plunged otf through the box saplings, and the woman held the child to her breast in silence.
For miles neither husband nor wife spoke. The wind wlustled, and rain began to fall. The man pulled his coat "collar up; the woman took off her shabby jacket, and "trapped it round the child. The rain beat sharply in their faces, and the thunder rumbled all round, lightning flashes filled the sullen, grey sky. Soon ix>th man and
ertll'flrt fV»o elrin Tf wta <*Ai
WUlllau nvic ouautu iu vwt ontiu jlv «ao
ting dark, the road was a sheet of water, the horses went pliah-plash, plish-plash through it. Long-lef^ged curlews ran swiftly through the desolate dripping mulga trees, wailing dismally to cach other.
"Twenty mile on th' road," said the man jerkin* his head towardB a blazed tree. "Six5 ' my collar fer me* I feel as if a tap was run
uin' over me. - . Nice wet state you're in i are yer coldi"
"No, I'm all right," she said patiently.
Night came on. They drove on in BUence. 1 The child slept in the mother's arms. ,
'^There's a light movin''ahead; see it there in that sandalwood scrub on the left of us," 1 said the man. A woman carrying a lan
tern darted from a tent by the road.
"Hey! stop!" she shouted, asiibfe tan "to wards them. *'4re yer tj^doow& miater?" - "2ffo, goin'- ter th' drctor^wraelves, me
an' my wife: .our youngster's sick; -what'* up, missus?" He peered into her face
"My man's dyin'," she said, covering her eyes. "He was out fnllin' trees yesterday, got pinned by one, an' he's dyin* fast in the tent. I sent for the priest an' the doctor. I thought when I heard wheels it was them. Hurry the priest-there's no hope now-the
doctor will be too late."
Stacia bent over to speak to the woman, but she had flitted off through the trees, and they drove on-on for many miles. It was now, far into the nigbt. The child wo Ice with a cry of pain that stabbed the mother's heart like a knife.
"Did yc hear a sound?" Baid Stacia. "I thought I heard a shout. Pull up, we might easily miss the doctor; there's a turn-off
"I heard nothin'; you're only fancyin'/'
answered the husband.
"Hush! Now dy'e hear? There's a horse man coming I'm sure of it."
"Hallo! hallo!" shouted a voice; "how's
the track ahead?"
ivA vivid flash of lightning showed them a horseman clad in glistening oilskins, reined
up by their buggy.
"Any creeks runnin'? I'm pilotin' the priest and doctor to a chap further along. They've never been this road before. Is
it aJl right?"
Jack Smith nodded.
"Right!" shouted the man, with his band to his mouth, and advancing wheels were
Stacia bent over the child. The little face was working convulsively, the tiny body was twitching, the mouth looked distorted with pain, ana at every flash of the light
ning sne saw it and shuddered. The buggy. was coming nearer. Jack Smith pulled up a little off the road and turned to speak to his wife. He cursed aloud when he found she had left the buggy.
She was battling against the wind and rain as she hurried on to meet the advancing vehicle. Her husband, shouted after her;
she didn't heed.
"Stop! stop!" she -cried. > The buggy stopped. Sne ran; to the side panting.
' One of ye is a priest T I've a child here not christened-its dyin'. Quick, Father, baptise it an' hurry, hurry, for there's a
Soor dyin' man wants you, further along,
ut for the love o' God christen mv little
child first, an' save th' little soul."
"To be sure, my child," the priest said, as he leapt from the buggy, seized a bag, and opened it. "What name, my child,
"The godmother and godfather?"
"Myself and ye, Father. Will ye stand?"
"To be sure."
! The priest's hand shook as he bared his head, and placed a stole over his shoulders. His lips murmured rapidly some Latin words. The rain beat down, and the light ning flashed, and showed the black trunks of the pine trees, that looked to the mother i in her anguish like coffins. The priest
j blessed the child.
I "'Tis done," said he, kindly. "The child : is baptised. Now show tte little one to i the doctor. God may spare her to you for : many a year. God grant it."
! The doctor leant over the side of the i huggy, lit a match, and looked at the child. | and shook his head.
j "Huriy back to your buggy, and drive , to the mail stage; it's only a mile further. Give hot baths to the child-only thing ? save it. The child is bad, very bad. I
) would go back with you, but must go on; ; j^fgent case-man dying. Good night. ' i otand dear of the horses," and the doctor I ^ UP his horses.
I. The woman hastened back to her own 1 huggy, and climbed in. :
"Drive on, drive on quickly," she said,
her heart beating. t
Her husband questioned her angrily.
" hat the devil business had she to get
out of the buggy, and clear away from him Z | like that? *
She didn t pay heed. She was bendinjr over, noting the little face at every flash
of "gaining. She held the child closely to *
u i. Ahere was a strange, bluish shade about the eyes, mouth, and nose. The
to struggle; a quiver ran «* through the tiny body. The mother bent
vr vps, touched those of the 4 « relaxed, a broad shimmer °u ij g came in the sky-the little
child was still. Stacia closely looked, felt , * its heart, thai she under cover of the rue
busied herself for an instant with the tiny * hands, then she lifted the curtain of the bueejv high for a few seconds.
.Now, then, what are yer doin'? Don't j yer think we're gettin' enough rain as it
11' J ^ " 1 ¥nowr what you're thinkin' v bout. Bouncin' out o' th' buggy like yer I ^'"rtfout a word. Lot yer care 'bout th'
child. I don't know what I was thinkin' * bout ter start on this trip. A man's a fool **' ter get married, an' saddle himself with a i4 wife an' chilu an* "- # i-v^ke woman laid her hand on his arm.
Her hps trembled. #
"Ye have no child."
"What? What d'ye mean?" said he.
aghast and going white to the lips. "Go3 n the? ' you dont mean that
Th child died comin' through th' pines -when I lifted th' curtain that time," said th.er^°S?,an'.«ryin« J»fe**psly. "It-it-"
Yes. said the man,-- arm round her. "Poor little woman Oh.
Staci^n ft (la&ned hrute-to yer)
'It was "to let th'liithi white soul find
its way t God. *