Chapter 143007102

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143007102
Full Date1879-05-03
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count1400
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)
Trove TitleRia. A West Australian Story
article text

'RIA.

A WEST AUSTRALIAN STORY.

BT SELBUKNRIGG.

CHAPTER I.

41 He'll be dead soon, raissi'9 ; what are we -going to do with 'im ?" The speaker, a short, stout, common-looking young fellow, was holding down on the bed the body of a man passing through his last agony-a fearful agony it had been for the young wife to witness, who was thus addressed. She was .wiping his distorted face with a damp cloth . her wide-opened eyes were fixed on him in terror, and every breath she drew was a sort of sobbing moan of fear and horror.

" What are we to do with 'im?" the young man repeated. " They'll want a cor'ner's inquest, and if we have to wait till the doctor gets out Here it'll be onpleasant. Better fetch

him in to town !"

" Oh, we'll take him in. We'll take him in!" she said. " We'll bury him in a Chris tian place,"

" Well, then, you hold on here," said lie : " he'll not be struggling any more, I'm think ing, an' I'll get up the horses. We must get off at once, soon as the poor chap's right dead."

The young wife was left alone with the body of her husband. His eyes were closed; at intervals long laboured gasps for breatii still stirred him, becoming fainter and more intermittent. She took his hand and called him by his name, but he had done with things of earth, and hearing had quite passed away. She held a cup against his lips, and tried to raise his head, to see if hecould swallowany thing, but there was no swallowing more for him, and feeling all the misery of her help lessness, she sat down sobbing on the bed beside him. And then her baby woke and cried, and she had to go into the next room to qniet it and make its food; and while the food was making she kept coming back to look and see if he was still the same. And then, when she had fed the child, she brought it in, hushing it mechanically in her arms, and found its father dead.

There was no mistaking now, Bhe and the baby were left alone. And she stood beside the bed, too miserable and bewildered for more tears, rocking her body to and fro to keep her baby still. What she had lived through with this man, what she had had of joy and pain with him, passed through her mind; she thought of the time two years ago when he was courting her-this dead dis figured body-then a fine strong man, and how she had taken him to please her father, and how on the whole he had not been bad to her, though he was not the one she wanted ; and then her father's death, now a year past, and the change in her lot which that had made, and the trouble she had known since then, when the love of drink had gained upon her hasband, and brought him to this pass-dead, in his strong early manhood. And then she thought about her fnture with the farm, and all the work that she must now see to herself, and how she must keep things together for her boy; and it Beemed to her that her pathway was very hard in life-end yet it looked so bright to ier at one time.

Bat then the man came in, and she told him Jim was dead, and he said, when he had looked at him, " Missis, we most be starting off at onst, after we've put him straight."

So they took off the soiled clothes in which he lay, and dressed him clean and neat, and Sullivan fetched np the cart before the door, and pnt a mattrass in it to lay him down

upon.

He was a heavy man to carry, a six-footer, broad, and big, and bony; but between them (Sullivan at his head and the woman at his feet) they got him out and laid him in the cart. They sent a native to his father's place, to tell him Jim was dead, and they were going in with him to town, and he must meet them at Baylup, the half-way camping place, by breakfast-time next morning. And then the poor stunned girl collected the few things she wanted for her baby and herself, and locked up the house, and gave the key to an old native woman who would stop and mind the place-and so they started on their wretched journey through the night.

The road was rough and rutty, full of roots and crowns, and in the darkness Sullivan could not steer the cart so well, and Maria, sitting np in it alongside her dead husband, took his head upon her lap to ease the jolts; and so they journeyed on, over the ironstone hills, where the mahogany thickets and growth of saplings envelope4 them in blackness; and through sandy plains, paBt swamps and water-flats, where the wind blew cold and damp, and the stars shone down upon them ; and on and on in slow mo notonous progress tillalSep fast closed Maria's eyelids, and she forgot her trouble in her slumber, and did not wake before they reached the camping-place at early dawn.

His father and his mother were there be fore them ; they had travelled foster in their little spring-cart than Maria had, and the ' distance of their place from Baylup was not so great as it was from hen. And as the cart came up, bearing the widow and the dead body of their son, they, stood oat in the road way watching it-the father mute and stupid from the suddenness of the blow, from a ..sort of consciousness -that some unusual de meanour was, expected of him; and the ..mother, loud in her cries and lamentations oyer the untimely, end of her firstborn. And Afaria had to: tell them the whole story, how ,Jipi had been into town with a . load of hay, and how he had brought out a gallon, and 'thank it on the road, as she supposed from seeing an empty case and. broken bottles in ' the cart when he came hojne ; and how when! the horses brought the cart up to the yard :)a?( pight.J.im was lyingdead drank upon it,:

and seemed to have had a fall and hurt him eelf,for har had braises on ids cheBt, and Anns, ? Sand 'Iowa; and then when they had ipjfehrain.and laid him down upon the bed; ' how fie took awful fits and struggled so Sul-!

Jmna&dehe could scarcely holdhim down,1 >A£ajhow at last he had suddenly grown quiet . ^nd dittt And Sullivan had said that they ninnst fafra hifln in, for the Government would want a cor'net'sinquesfc. .

?. She Mid ful 'this in a wearied stony way,L ,<And<the m0fher. g0t ap into the cart besidei

iu& jmd she turned down the rag to letthei .old woman see her bay. In strange contrast

Q*-£he wifofe etillnfeM and. the /mother's Qffmartiftnt 80 they eat (dose together, hold-; np between them hiahead and shoulders, kjngat tum who had been so near to both M £hem. ;:To sthe wife there was little plea1

"fTii and M*ch<w>uble/

but still he was her husband-to the mother he hud been her pride, her joy, tbougli nearly her disgrace, when five-and-twenty years ago a timely marriage with old Pitman had saved her when she was with child of him. But what she had gone through on bis account had made him dearer to her than the rest, bom afterwards ; and when he had grown up strong, and big, and hearty, she thought that none of the boys about were like her Jim, despite the radicaluess of his ways -such a grand figure of a man, so brave and bonny. And she had jchietly brought about bis marriage with Maria, who was an heiress in those ports, by reason of her father's farm and run, and the few head of stock, and she an only daughter.

Meanwhile Sullivan had told the old man more that was only suited to his ears of what he thought had happened before Jim got home, and then they boiled the tea, and called the women down to breakfast.