|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||Ria. A West Australian Story|
Maria had known much trouble since the time she married Jim to please her poor old father. Jim was a careless, lazy fellow
and fond of drink, and things would gone badly with the farm had it not been for her. She had worked and slaved to keep all
straight, and make up as far as a woman could for
But now that Jim had .died, and left hee l although the shock at first km gteat, and to* manner of hiB death had deeply wrought opoa her, still she oould butfeel'&eort ole&rrtwfaL relief; andr-as when die looked oat npon the bright early morning-a kind of exhi« iarating feeling would come her over now and then, the sense of freedom, and of truiUiti nera in her future and tec own watofc
She had lif*r bnby, that sh<? dearly loved, to Jill her heart, mid-- besides him-she liiul lier
Twelve years ago, when 'Ria, was a little girl of nine vears old, she had a playmate in a little boy of twelve, George Karisonie. In those days she used to mind her fathers Jlock of sheep-only a little lot-and in the line long summer days she used to wander up with them along the river hank, over the eteep grassy hills, spurs of the forest ridge above, and through the shady, moist, green bottoms, where little brooks purled gently on their way to the large river pools, and up to the " Long-point," the boundary of her father's run, and there would Geordie Ran some come to meet her, also with his flock of sheep. Geordie's father was an. English gentleman, and man of good position in the district; but he was poor, and the boys did all the work of the home place, and Geordie was the shepherd, and brought his sheep down this way many a day from the home stead, four miles up the river.
Geordie had no sisters; if he had, he might not have been so fond of a girl-playmate. But 'Ria, as he called her, was a necessary
part of his boy life. He was snubbed and bullied by his big brothers up at home, and had to play a very small and insignificant part in their republic, and it was delicious to him to find a human being in whose eyes he was a hero, to exchange the cutis, and kicks, and sneers of what to him were towering, big limbed, fearful monsters, before whom he trembled-and yet vaguely worshipped, as .wonderfully clever evil beings-for the un feigned admiration of a creature who saw in him the embodiment of greatness, strength, and wisdom. For Geordie was of vast im portance in 'Ria's eyes-he had 500 sheep; she had but 200. He had shoes and socks ; her little brown bare feet had to do their rough work unguarded by such luxuries. He had a fine big dog, that worked the sheep just like a mail: she had but a miserable half-bred puppy, that showed no dispositions but for hunting rats. He had a gun ; it's true it seldom would go ofl, but still it some times did, and then, if it contrived to kill a parrot or a cockatoo, her admiration knew no bounds, to think of the wonderful skill of Geordie ! And she'd make a lire on the spot, and then and there they'd cook the dainty rarity, and religiously they'd eat up every bit. She "had no gun, nor ever would, he said. And then he was a hoy-almost a man, she thought-of twelve years old, and strong ; she but a miserable little girl of nine.
And so their respective flocks of sheep sufiered much driving, 'liia's never would go fast enough, she thought, until they got to Long-point; and Geordie, once he was out of sight and sound of home, dogged his sheep down all the way. She was always there before him ; she had only two miles to go, and he had four; and she would sit upon a stone, patiently waiting, looking up the river, while her flock was feeding in the hollow at the back. And then, when she heard his sheep-bells coming, her little heart beat fast, and she would jump up and run towards him; and when he saw her coming he would call out " Hullo, 'Ria ! see me jump this log !" and would exhibit all his prowess in his feats of strength and skill, and his insatiable boy's vanity drank deep draughts of pleasure from her delighted admiration. And then they'd go down to the river, and iieh for chelgies for the dinner; and Geordie sometimes would get in and have a swim, while 'Ria sat and cried upon the bank, afraid that he would drown. And they were always making fires, to cook the chelgies, and to roast the rata that 'Ria's Bobsy caught, or the rare birds that Geordie shot. And Geordie would give her orders and commands in a }oud voice, like his brothers, and would call out, "Ha! spoony!" and "Go it, you little muff !" just like they did, when Bhe was awkward in obeying his behests. And then sometimes she cried, and Geordie would look at her quite scared, and wonder what the matter was. But when he tried to comfort her Bhe was soon better. And when, in the full swing of their delightful pleasures, they suddenly would think about the sheep, and looking up, ?would find them nearly boxed, 'Ria would run, crying aloud with fright, her little feet pit-patting on the stones and grass, to head back her flock; while Geordie swore at his, shouting out strange oaths he'd heard his brothers use, and calling to his dog, which made his sheep all rush together : ana 'Ria thought, what a fine thing it was to be a man and frighten sheep so easily.
And then when the sun was high above them and glowed fiercely, and the sheep sought the shelter of the trees, and clustered closely round them, in sweltering, panting mobs, with opened mouths and heaving sides-and it was too hot to play-Geordie and 'Ria would seek some shady spot, down by the river, so that they could get a drink when ever they were thirsty, and then they'd sit and talk. Geordie would tell about the sheep, and all their tricks, and how he served them ; and about the pony that was his, upon the run, and how he meant to catch it some day, and break it in; and how Charlie, his big brother, broke in a mare the other day, and shot her foal; and what his other brothers said when they beard the foal was shot; and .what big, clever fellows those same brothers ?were, and how much they weighed, and how much they could lift, and how they licked him, and knocked him aboat anyhow, and all for nothing; and, under promise of great secrecy, he told her all the things he did to
ay them out, because he could not hit them ack, being so little. And 'Ria listened breathlessly, with opened eyes, to think of such great daring. That he should venture so fearlessly, and run such risk, to give them something back, she thought quite glorious. And she also told about her home affairs, of the garden, And the fruit, and of the cows and calves, and what her mother said, and what her father. And then, when it was very hot, they would lie down and have a sleep, while the sheep camped; but sometimes, when the flies were very bad, it was only Geordie got his rest, for he would order 'Ria to keep toem off, and she would sit beside him, with a bunch of feather-grass, and fan him as he lay.
Sometimes they quarrelled, bat not often. 'Ria would stand much from Geordie. One
day, as they, were sitting under some bushes by the wjiter, eating their; food, and waiting till the jsheep drew off, Geordie suddenly burst out laughing, and then said-"I say, 'Ria, d'yousknow what Charlie calls you ' carrots? 'capse your hair's so red. I say, ain't your hair just like a native's with his wilgee on!"
'Ria stopped eating, and put. down her
bread -which Bobsy seised at once-and her breath ^ame quickly, and her tittle bosom heayed-as -Geofdie vent on laughing at his jolu*-fcnd |the 'little iipa,:began to quiver, ar^ ihe lieatS wiip fall, which, when Geordie saw, he, «aid, "N^ver rmind^ Ria, don't youi fre a iopl, cry; jqvl tsan't help it if yon're wwy." <? t- .??? '- < .;r f
When he said tfii% she looked athim, and the great,/«pbB r heaypd. w,. ftpd then. *he walked awAfrtfndcnwr; holding her little ragged skirt pp to Mr lace, ana drove her sheep doyni JawBiQa home, ana would not hear whep Geofflie wiled her back, dot went
straight oil, an«l when sJic was out of hearing of him, howled loud as if her heart would break, and fur 0110 week she did not go near Long-point.
ller little soul was sorely troubled by the dreadful thought- that Geordie called her ugly. She did not care for ugly folks herself, and she felt clearly now that Geordie could not love her. She always thought that he was wondrously beautiful, just like the pic tures of the angels in the book the parson brought her when he came his rounds. She had not often seen herself; the looking-glass at home was high above her reach; but now she looked eagerly in the little pools, and when the moving surface distorted her re llection, she howled and cried again, and said that it was true what Geordie said, and thought that she was a poor wretched little child, whom nobody could care about.
And, oh ! how miserable it was to be witli ( out her playmate, to wander about the bush,
so lonely, and so sad, thinking of what he was doing, wondering if he missed her ; but no, she felt he could not miss her, if he thought her ugly, and did not care for her. She did not understand that Geordie, being a boy, wanted her with him, not because he liked her, but to amuse himself.
But as the long dreary days wore on, she wanted so to see him, and she drove her little tlock towards Long-point, and camped a
j little way below, and hoped, and hoped that
he would come.
And one day, as she was sitting mournfully beside the track, a black boy came insight, riding down the river ; and when he saw her | he came grinning up, and said he had a
paper-talk from Master George, and gave her ! a yellow, greasy bit of paper, and then rode
I Poor 'Ria's little body could scarcely hold
her heart, it bounded so. It was her first letter, and from Geordie; he had not for gotten her, he wanted her ! Eagerly she ran into a little stinkwood thicket with her treasure, and sat down in this secret place, to try and read it. She slipped the paper out of the old bit of string that tied it, and inside
"Murier.-wy dont you cum bak. im tuired playing by myself, ef you dont cum il cum an lik you. Dont be a fule, Murier.
" G. RAXSOM."
'Ria was no scholar ; she had never had the chance of going to school, but her father had taught her a bit, of winter nights at home. Handwriting generally was quite beyond her, but Geordie's was large and sprawling,and she spelt out c-u-in two or three times upon the paper, and 'Ria knew that that spelt come-that Geordie wanted her.
How early the next morning she took out her ilock, and how she yelled and danced about on her bare little toes as she hoorooshed on her lazy sheep in the well-known direction. But when she came near Long-point she pat tered on ahead to look, and saw that Geordie had not come; and then she sat down in her old place to wait for him. longing with all her little soul for his appearance. But when she heard his bells, she hastily got upand ran back to her sheep and sat down behind a tree, and picked some grass to plait; she did not want that he should see her eagerness, and while her pulse was throbbing she as sumed an air of perfect carelessness. Geordie came on and saw her sheep, and then he called out, " 'Ria! 'Ria! Where are you hiding to ? Come here at once !" bnt she sat quite. still. At last a bark of Bobsy's be trayed her hiding-place, and he came tearing
'? By George, Mariar, I've a great mind to thrash you," he exclaimed. " How dare you keep me waiting when I called. Now, you just tell me what you've been about this jolly time that I've been waiting for you every day, and you didn't come."
" I didn't know you wanted me," poor 'Ria whimpered.
"You didn't know ! What did you think I was going to plaF at, all alone ? Now you dry up and come on here, and don't you let me catch you at these games again."
Crying made Geordie angry, and 'Ria hastily dried up her tears. She wanted so to kiss him, but then was afraid, and felt how very silly she must be, but as Geordie always said,
it was because she was a girl; so she stifled i her small sorrow ; and in her joy to be again with Geordie, she soon forgot it, and was romp
ing with him noisily. When they were tired ' they lay down to sleep, and Geordie let her ' 1 sleep this time; but suddenly they were
awakened from their slumber by a dreadful | noise-the crack of a Btock-whip above
their heads. Over them was a great black horse's head, snorting hot vapour down upon them, and on the horse was Geordie's great big brother Charlie, in a towering rage. Get up, you little cuss!" he yelled to Geordie, " and mind your sheep." And Geordie in great terror started up and ran away. And then he shouted out to 'Ria, " Now, you be off! and don't you show your red wig any more these parts!" And he flicked her little leg, and made it bleed, and poor 'Ria howled with pain, but she howled still louder when she heard young Geordie's yells as Charlie galloped after him to touch him up. And she went sorrowfully home.
And after that Geordie did not come down so often as be used, but when he did, 'Ria was there to meet him.