Chapter 142927127

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Chapter Number
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142927127
Full Date1910-06-11
Page Number51
Corrections1
Word Count4342
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2019-01-17
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleThe Corrigaun
article text

THE STORYTELLER.

THE CORRIGAUN.

By M. FORREST.

iV,„ f10P of her xru of mountain mlat,

°A'„d the 'h«pe of her «u a tota* to dream, ' j' licr* were the «P» no man bad kist,

And her eyes vera mooniliine upon a abeam,

, A?°,l curly danced from day-drop to morn.

^Ihc fairing and the lonely thorn!"

The lit" wflB fo0te^ wltt buny4 P»ne/ • uts which lowered 80ft. above the nndar ®ia . 'There were trails -of dew-sodden fllwerW creeper and. poison , bush, wild J^pherry and graceful tree-fern, a harvest Jfrecklcss sowing, and over it all the bunya

?BC8 with their crowns to the sty and [heir feet in the inoss beds.''

Tears a go these self-same trees had seen

the gathering of the naked blacks from far

at the time when the nuts were

and

ripe. What corroborees bad beea held under those glossy, prickly, green branches,

what orgies of feasting, what strange wild jnan anties. But now the iron-roofed town ships were dotted on the wide , plains, the smoke of a railway engine blurred across ibe treeless expanse, the aboriginal tribes bad dwindled to a few drunken scarecrows, banging about the environments of the miniature cities in ragged moleBkins and cast-off coat. White man's vices and white man's rum had played their part, and Ibere were no more festivals of a very ihird "Twelfth moon" among the echoing bills. But the mountains retained their pristine beauty. There were timber getters on the slopes, and the buzz of a sawmill near the chute, but sLill Mount Jloberlaiul reared Jbis bare head to the moon silver, and still the winds rustled at night amid the high crests of the pines. Tonight a full-moOn softened the outlines of the rugged ranges; and made the plain below a great white sea.

To the man who had climbed to the rise of the highest point, preferring to smoke a pipe in company with the stars rather than io join the noiey game of poker in the head Eiirveyor'p camp below, there were mysteri ous and infinite possibilities about the bush and the moonshine on the empty ridge of the mountain. Irish by birth, his mind was full of the quaint superstitions that breed among the bogs of .his native land. He would scarcely have been surprised if that dump of grass had resolved itself into a group of sheogues dancing in the moon waves, or if that one stunted bush—weary from many winds and fierce rain storms, that ilooded the plains below—had been a monumental thorn past which the wailing banshee would presently sweep her straight aDd streaming hair. The corrigaun, too. that witch maiden, so slender, fair, ana young by night, who became a woman by day, a woman old and wrinkled and "past desire," surely this was,the very spot for tbe corrigaun to practice her black magic, drinking of the crystal cup that, makes men more than mortal for one delirious hour, but holds a pitiless death in the lees.

He shook the ashes out of his pipe, poked p the stem with a wiBn of grass to get rid i the nicotine, and refilled it with the mild tobacco he favoured . . . Yes . . . this was just the place for fairies . . , and then he began to think of the dark-haired girl who vras waiting in tbe old bouse, whose ill re paired walls showed the difficulty of collect ing rente in that parish, waiting amongst the scent of the .crankecran and the haw thorn buds. - ,

It was a stoneless hill, smooth and slip

tacry withgrasa, n the eune -with scarcely]

& sound but ihe nwtle pf feminine garments:

(towards the summit, rente and fair, and |

hlrMK^ •« *LJ—- AV ' "

.J ~ ~ sssa^iauiip. 1«UIC fUtQ MIT.

dressed in something that clung toberper-1

—uinii ciung touer per

fectly-modelled figure, hair piled on her head, uncovered to the sweet night-wincL blowing from God's own doorway. She did not see him, so still he sat, a» die shaded

her eyes from the white moonrays and

looked BCrOBH the nlniri SI," « 15 4+1..

across the plain. She gave a little

satisfied sigh, and then, far down among | the moth-like tents, someone began to play i the concertina, In the dear mountain air I

* * *

. ^ —v.mmw, ,ui tuis ucar mouDiWD Bir

the musio echoed hack from many s silent peak, and slowly she began, to sway to the rhythmn of the waits the m»een player .gave; slowly, backwards and forwards, in

a quaint, improvised dance, quite uncon

CAimia *k- J 1 *

.r.»,Mv%> xwwvc* l^UlbC UUVUlf

scioua of the watcher, rigid by the grass clumps, and the ridge hollow. Her golden hair slipped down about her shoulders, her

little . feet twinkled under her «hn»-f I clumps, and

hair slipped 4 — little feet twinkled under her short

skirts. . »

Then Bhe stopped, out of breath, fanning

herself with her handkerchief. ' CM what

. >t -i—

s «dief," she said.

The man started to his feet, clapped his brown hands together. "Brava! lae corri gaun heraelf!" he said.

She wheeled, startled, then sank on the grass in a fit of uncontrolled laughter.

Surely this is no mortal woman—he amused himself ?yrith the conceit. An or dinary woman would have been covered with confusion, and either alarmed or angry at the unexpected discovery of a male audi ence, but she was neither spirit of night nor moonlight—she laughed—and her laughter was one of the most bewitching things

about her.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "I should have let you know I was here, but really," emboldened by her unconcern, "I thought you were a fairy!"

"I often wish I was," she said, "So that I could make myself invisible, and no one

could find me when I did not want to be found. It's truly awful to be in the eyes of the public all the time!"

"Even on a hilltop?"

"Ah, you're merely hn accident—an acci dent without a concealed camera or a 'So ciety-gossip' note-book! Probably you are some vizard creature who sits darkling in a cavern, planning how to make real silver from moonshine, and real gold from the star rays?"

"Fairy gold!" he said. "Which turns.to dead leaves and Scraps of slate and pibble in our hands by day! Many a man spends his life thus, you know!"

"And all women," She sat on the turf and bit a spear of dry grass which she had plucked, contemplating him with eves wide and straightforward as a boy's, "Hark, the music again!" she cried. It came moaning through the tree-tops, "The Heart Bowed Down." "It's quite a mistake to say music is the food of love," slie added; "it creates a hunger for it; that is all."

There was no coquetry in her words. She slated what to her seemed an indisputable J

faet.

lie showed the diffidence of a_ naturally deep-feeling man at the introduction of such a subject, and answered prosaically, holding

up_his pi^ie, "May I smoke?"

She nodded

"The moonlight always makes me wan der," she said.

"Have you wandered far afield to-night?' She looked mischievous. "Oh, only from the borders of fairyland I am a

naughty fav, you know who is never! allowed quite inside the gate,, and has to

wait on the border. . . . till such a nay as her sins being purged from her, she can return to her own again."

"You are the corrigaun," he said, "I knew it directly you began to dance."

''But to look on and speak with the corrigaun is death," she mocked. "Can you raise a counter spell, 0! Wizard!"

He waved bis pipe, "Tobacco, per chance?"

"Yes, smoke away the evil influence. But this is only to-night; what of to morrow. 0! alchemist?"

"I don't think the morrow ever matters, as long as the night is here!"

A sort of excitement, pleasurable, yet agitating shook him, he vowed she was un doubtedly a witch.

Below stretched miles upon miles of grassy ' level country: outside the ridges, where tbe 1 pines held their own; and, beyond, the spur of .migbty hills. Below people were sleeping, or eating, or burning the midnight oil over rows of stupid, reeling figures; be low men sweated, or slept, stupidly—brute rest following brute labour; below was ti e common-place—common-place loving, com monplace marrying, eomnioncplace giving of life—but here, on the hill-top was fairy

land. ...

The wind brought a whiff of p'ne sweet ness, and a hint of almond-smelling wild flowers from the underbrush. . . within the blur of trees they knew the silver of a mighty 'waterfall gleamed, where rotting trunks were golden and rose with clinging ficus, where olive, dark creepers swung into space. . . where wild birds nested, where lithe, shining serpent-bedies slid in and out by rock and fern. . . In the camps below the surveyors' men quarrelled over cards, or swapped yarns of "doubtful ve racity. and. farther, was the weatherboard cottage, with Gieguaiding-uifiiiYiia. peaks where the Governor and his daughter were

incognito, for a night or two. seeing the

1 I 1 V»o»t f kniiorkf

scenery and enjoying ylrnt they, thought

THow°lf^^viiy wniftd afi'tnTeee' things of

the world of men, to the man with only heaven above him and moonlight about him, and the stars! how they sparkled in the cloudless Bhy, paling before the, rapturous squander of moon splendour, but neverthe less radiant in their jewelled pallor, strewn along the skies, . .

t The corrigaun was gathering up her hair, sighing over the hair-pins that strewed the scene of her revelling, here and there she traced one gilt fork in the grass. He poc keted his'pipe and moved over to her.

"Looking for fairy gold?" he asked.

"No. hairpins. See if you can find them.'1

Presently, they were both on their knees, searching, and enough were reco vered to hold her hair in loose fashion about her winsome face. He .noticed that her hands were ringless, that she wore no jewel lery, except an opal brooch at her neck, •which flashed, like the evil eye in "Grimm's Fairy Tales," when she moved. He thought that she was very tiny . . . that he could easily have carried-her like a baby, and barely felt her weight, that her small lilly petal of a hand would fee quite lost in his . . be wondered why be had ever admired big

women. <

"There's no doubt you are the corrigaun!" he ejaculated, involuntarily. !

"Then by day I should become old and withered, should I not?—(you see I am up in Irish folk-lore too)—but I assure you l

don't!"

"That doesn't matter, for I shall never see you but in the moonlight!" he laughed. "You will vanish with the dawn wind, and the first bird-call. I could not imagine you

jgoing jbome to a breakfast of eggs and

'Or, steak and onions, say!" 6he laughed back, and her mouth was a scarlet tempta

tion.

Oh, no! The corrigaun never eats; she lakes her entire sustenance from the crystal

cup!

'Alas, I have no crystal cup!" she pouted, twisting a ribbon that hung from her waist, in petulant fingers.

"I think I see it in your eyes," be said.

The music had died down in the camp .be low. The faint glow of the ruddy ruin which had been a roaring galley fire an hour or 60 ago was like a dragon's eye in the heart of the forest. The moon waned; the stare redoubled their brilliancy. Erie night sounds came from the sighing trees. Then it was so still that one could almost imagine one heard the far off .pla6h of the

ever restless waterfall.

The ruan was chilled in every limb. It was cold in these altitudes during the small hours. He did not know how long he had sat ^ there, with his pipe out, and the dew soaking the grass about" him. She had flitted suddenly like Cinderella, warning him not to follow. Flitted jis a corrigaun would flit from her dead lover's arms . . . but lie was not dead . . . oil! no! hot life sang about his heart though his limbs were cold . . .

13ut something else was dead . . . dead

for evermore.

He had drank of tlie cryslal cup ... he had seen the tiling beyond mere love of boy and girl sv. eethearls. .

He had forgotten the dark-haired girl in j

Ireland.

"I wonder who she was!" Day-break and a twinge of rheumatism, and the sun slip ping round the fly of his tent woke him from a heavy sleep to this insistent query.

"I wonder who.she was?"

Last night it had sufficed to call her the corrigaun .and yield to her witchery. To day was a different matter. To-day the dreamer was a practical man. He found it very necessary for his peace of mind to know who she was.

Yet he could hardly question the other chaps. Question might inspire curiosity . . .

especially in Banks, the chain man, the. man with the foul tongue, and the avowed experience of women of the lees-respected class. No. Banks, with his ferret eyes and inquisitive nose, muet not have it whispered to nim that the assistant surveyor had been enquiring if there was & woman in the neighbourhood.

Bit* of a girl she was! and yet, not quite a girl.

lie stood stupidly, half-shaved, half clothed in the doorway, his chin dripping soap, his eyes fixed on his little pocket mirror, while the cook beat furiously on a kerosene tin to summon all hands to break

"Frobisher's been star-gazing so long, he] can't get out of the habit," jeered Banks j covertly.

"I never saw such bits of feet in my life . . . and what a hand!" sighed Fro bisher to the tent pole.

The path wound' down among trunks of ]

silk-leaved Kirton woods and juts of sting ing bush, carefully avoided by the horses; in many places the way was partially blocked by fallen trees, made beautiful in decay by the filigree of termites and the ]

'sponges ofgaudy fund. Therewwr « s#eet, . cool, earthy smell, the scent of tree-houses where the sun has not dried away the rich decompositions of leaf and twig. Now and then in the open spaces-a flicker of scarlet wings or of brignt-green breast showed where the parrots fed, and here in a little glade, some rose-bosomed galahs strutted importantly, scarcely bothering to make "wide the distance between themselves and the mounted party—the Governor and cor

tege, making for the plains. j

As the road began to 'descend towards the chute, and the horses halting on the edge of the drop set their forefeet together,

the riders sitting further back in their sad-, djes. and some question arising as to the ad-' visability of dismounting, a girl in the centre of the group, assiduously attended by a heavy man in riding boots of English make, ana carrying a bunting crop, lifted, her veil, reined ner horse, ana looked back. The sun made little pools of liquid gold be twixt the black bough shadows; there arose the twitter of happy birds, far awav the crash of a tree the surveyors were felling on the hillside, and a merry ring of axes.

"Onq can hardly see Mount Moberland from here/' she said, wistfully. I

"Great Scott! Just as well; the scare you gave us all slipping away like—like a wood nymph, and disappearing in the jungle—j wonder you were not afraid of snakes, or scrub ticks—nearly as bad—weally." j

"0! not a wood nymph—nothing so harm- j less." She spoke gravely. "A corrigaun, j sav!" !

And what the deuce is that?"

The advance guard were already slipping and stumbling down the chute. She waved her hand to the woods—to the towering peak—to the merry axe voices.

"I should not expect you to know what a corrigaun is," she said quietly.

An outsider had won. There was joy amongst those of the spectators who had done likewise, especially marked upon cer tain Hebraic countenances. The bushman in front of the grand stand, the bushman with the restless eyes, always seeking amongst the crowd for something lie could not find, was of the winners, ahd lie walked to the totalisator to collect his spoil, with an indifference unassumed. Yesterday he had come from the bush, where he was now in charge of a camp, on a short holiday, and sought in the city some substitute for the faiiy gold he had lost on a hilltop a year

ago.

This was the last race, and people were beginning to move — the smart ones towards evil-smelling and noisy motor-cars, the less smart towards the clean, cool trams. The glass enclosed, vice-regal car drew up snorting at the gates of the saddling-pad dock, and a party of ladies and gentlemen came down from the grand stand, and made towards it. The bushman stood aside with

a cursory glance at the fine old head that governed a somewhat difficult State so diplomatically, and then his eyes found what they sought.

She was holding a dainty pearl-grey skirt away from the smallest "bit of a foot" he had ever Been, also clad in pearl-grey, with an alluring buckle. She was looking into the face of the heavy man with the military walk, whom report eaid.Bhe was going to marry—the aide-de-camp, and the Eon of an old friend of His Excellency's—her eyes met

the bushman's with an indifferent stare. The lace veiling hanging between her small face and the warm afternoon 6un hid the flash of recognition, if there was any, in her clear eyes. . . but there probably was not.

. . hillsides and moonshine are very far from the city, and the manners enjoined by etiquette. . . She passed over the grass and out to the car.

"Who is sbe?"the bushman turned sharply

to a perfect stranger, and indicated the re treading figure.

The man, who was stout and red-faced, with the good-natured-looking mouth which utters slanders so good-temperedly, took a fat cigar from between his small, -white

teeth.

"Miss Crays-Deshon, the Governor's only daughter. .". and the biggest flirt in the

city!"

"0! no!" said the bushman under his breath, to the joy of the red-faced person, who thought he had been drinking. 'That's the corrigaun, sure."

He had not looked into the crystal enp for nothing. He now looked into other cups, and the strength of his manhood spent itself in folly. He lost the fairy , folk as men do who keep late hours in stifling rooms, and never look star wards. And when day dawned after the night revels he loathed nimself with a great loathing. For the heart of him was clean with a boy's

cleanness.

In the grey morning he rested his aching head against the iron balcony railing of the hotel, that faced the dewy freshness of the public gardens, and the road winding to Government-house, and his hands and heart seemed full of the scraps of grey elate, dead leaves, and pebbles that, overnight, he had mistaken for fairy gold.

He had been a fool ... he would go back to the bush . . . thrust the abominations of late hours and rapid living from him . . . go back to the hush, and strive not to drawn the memory of the corrigaun this way. Forget if he could, sweat the mad ness out of himself with -the ring of-the axe on hardwood, (hough he could sit no more in leafy solitudes conjuring up a vision of fair hair and dancing feet . . . Governor's daughters are for military-looking/aide-de camps . . . corrigauns are not good for any man . . . and so farewell! Then, very wisely,

he made for the shower-bath.

The train carrying him north would not leave till night, he wearied of the asphalt and the queens of it, and the sun on shop windows, and the senseless bustle of the street, with a sick-souled weariness. He took train to "one of the suburbs whore a

fine wj^ bridj:e?P|t'P3a«l^he'river, and sat on a JnUnahkBmokingv He was interested in the eofripeetiftg br the. bridge, soccasiph; ally, hi looked/at thd'piorhmg paper- which he carried, occasionally he swore softly; there are a lot of words in the survey camp, but he had no thought of fairies, -even when he noticed the dainty pinks and saffrons of the blossom on.the Jantarna .bushes, the dapple of light and shade on the clean cropped grass, the satin smoothness of the gum nolea. A lizard crept out to sun itself, and watched'him with glinting eyes, a dis consolate. crow cawed fin a wlion-houghed, quandong tree, a motor-ear hooted down the ;toad with a blur of heads tied up in dark

mmmmmrn ? -

' veils, a spectacled chaffeur, and a trail of, dust.. Presently there was stirring in ths lantarna bushes, and she stood beside him, .looking enquiringly at the road.

I I always to find you on hillsides?"

she said.

.The dream was a reality, the vision of nights of tossing' wakefulness, the back ground to days of steady toil. ... He had found her, and he told himself fiercely it had been well if he had never done so.

She smiled engagingly up.

"Don t ask me how I discovered you— witches have ways—j~" Then, seeing how serious he was, sne nonchalantly raised a bit of lantarna flower she held to her lips, pursed her mouth, frowned, flung the flower

away.

"Cross—because I did not speak to you at the races?" she asked, bluntly. ''My dear wizard that was society — a hundred eyes on the Governor's daughter," pouting again. "Paragraphs in the society papers —b-r-r-r-h—how I hate it! If it wasn't for occasional dashes incognito into fairy land and elsewhere, I should have been maa. or married, long ago! Don't look shocked! You re .every bit as bad! Papa is just the same, though he is spoken of aB his Wise Excellency—die likes political influence and all that, but his spirit Tongs to pirouette in fairy circles with the best! But, of course, his sense of honour and the fitness of things forbids it; he has his position to consider;- and then mamma—mamma is the very epitopic~vf^opriety. Thank good ness one/Of always wants to do

the corrfcrUftngJ^^eipj^pretend to! Papa blames ri^/of^urs&.'pqMhat doesn't mat ter a bilfbtefctfygfe he sympathises at heart!"

"ButJhmV oivtszth dufcywu get here—you seem ciWun tock&e rny--bbteith away?'

"Only yoto^rcid^^ofJtifMsupernatura!. I saw yoiMpm^he ro4d. TWtar is in there with a dii^rdftsdntitwi W£pfis probably consoling hh^lf*J>y.IXmtJjfeie with the chaffeur . . . na^'^masrigr man, but she is always in hopfefedjjjj^^m will- be left a timely widower ... a girl doesn't let any. chances slip now-a-davs, she says, men are so scarce . . . especially good chaffeurs. I am picking wild-flowers . . . dear me! I wish there was anything but lantarna to pick ... it has such a nasty smell!"

He could ngt help smiling at her . . . be sides . . . and oh! her little feet in little white shoes to match her frock!

"I've a jolly good mind to pick you up and carry you away with me . . . and hang the Governor . . . and the aide-de-camps! so spoke the eyes, but his lips only,

"I never expected to see you again."

"Done with pixies . . . have you? But I have not done with wizards! Come . . i everyone who passes can see this slope from the road —" It was like her to 6tep swiftly into the scrub tangle, climb to the low. swinging branch of a tree, and laugh at him between the leaves.

High in the topmost bough, a severe beaked kookaburra watched with suspicion the tall man who stood among the nut grass and the tree roots, looking eagerly up, the small, frail, golden-haired woman, who looked whimsically down.

A hundred yards awav above the road the maid laughed affectedly at the chaffeur's witticisms. She was a thorough Eve. and knew the way to a man's heart. Wives seldom laugh at their husband's jokes. Perhaps that is the real cause of so many unhapy marriages. Half an hour later both the hits of hands were in the bushman's, and the clear, boyish eyes met his own bravely.

"There will be an awful row," she said. "Even though papa secretly condones. . . I found out who you were, and all about you long ago about the cutting off of the entail and the old castle, and the rea sons why you came out I know so many men, I can always find out things!

so I have all your credentials now! Mamma has set her heart on the aide. . . .

you know .... he's so stupid they thinlt

he is sure to make a good husband. .... and so heavy that he. would make up for my want of" ballast. . . , and it's such a mistake for you. . . . though I nearly had to propose myself. . "

"A mistake!" his brown face was very close to hers. "A mistake? Why we can make any amount of fairy gold and moon shine silver now!"

"But a corrigaun grows old and evil and wizened when once the sun of every-dav life shines upon her they are only loved while thev are unattainable. . . . untouched . . . .unheld . . . dancing in the moon light."

He turned her face to a sun-slant, which" cut like a broadsword through the trees. His answer was brief but characteristic of a race which ever breeds ardent lovers.

"I think I will risk that!"