|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||Ria. A West Australian Story|
The years went by, and developed Geordie into a long, lanky boy, 16 years old, while'Ria was a fresh, bright, well-grown girl, three years his junior.
They did not meet so often now, though 'Ria still shepherded in summer time, tor Geordie's flock was bigger than it used to be, and he now took a pride in it, and did it better justice, and so it was only every now and then that he could come to Long-point.
But once or twice a week they met. They i did not play so much as formerly, the ahep- j herd life was making Geordie lazy: and after he had, tramped about the hills, he thought his long legs wanted rest at camping time. And he would lie down at full length beside Maria, and talk tp her about himself, about the life he led, and how he would not stand it, and what a shame it was to keep him grovelling after Bheep this way, and doing nothing that could help him on m life; ana how be meant to cut and run as soon as he could gpt a chance to sell his pony, and his dog, and gun, and scrape together, a few pounds to make a start. .Ana 'Ria pitied bim, and was Very angry with his father and bis brothers,. and -comforted him, saying
that he soon would be a big strong man, and : then he could do what he liked. And Geordie one day said, " Now, look here, 'Ria, you and
roe have been gopd mates for long, since you ! were a tiny ran, and' once I' get away from here I'll be hanged if I don t marry youJ" | And this ,had been- Maria's hope, from that day until now. .
Truth compels to.say that the relations be- ? tween the boy and girl had a good deal ; changed their nature in the course of years, : and thiat Geordie's dawning manhood had somewhat marred their innocence. 'Ria w^s too fon4 of bim, and (too ignorant to oppose bis doing what be-liked. She had baa no careful (bringing tip; to make her what you
call rigtyt-jnindecL But still she did not like
the new state of things as she had the old, and she often cried about it, till Geordie laughed a way her tears. And well it was for her that his father Bent him oil' about this time to another station further up the country.
Four years passed away before they met again-as man and woman. Geordie'a loti^ limbs were well tilled out; bo had grown to his full six feet, and broadened, and a soft brown curly beard shaded his cheek. Ami he was very handsome-and knew it, too as be came riding down to see Maria, dressed in his clean tight-fitting cords and blue serge coat, full of the sensation he was going to make upon the little 'liia of his shepherding days. But when he saw her he forgot him self. She was a full-developed, handsome woman, her father's right hand uow, her mother having died ; and her face he thought so pleasant, and so fair, and so merry, and so kind ; and when he swung off froui his horse and kissed her, she blushed so rosily-that blush gave Geordie quite a new sensation. And then she gently freed herself and led him in, and made him tea, and gave him cake, fresh butter, and good things-she knew just what be liked-and then, when he bad eaten, they began to talk, and told all that bad hap pened to them since they last had met.
Geordie told how he and his brother Ted were starting on their own hook now, to take a farm up in the lake country, 30 miles away. They had some cattle, and Geordie would look after them while TeJdie worked the farm. He did not know how it would pay, but it would be a jollier kind of life than the knocking about for other people's profit he had had till now. And the home-place would be kept up rightand comfortable, for Ted was going to marry ; " but by Jove, Maria, if he^l seen you before he got his girl I bet she'd have stood but a poor chance," said Geordie, laughing. But that laugh and speech startled poor 'Ilia with a sudden pain. Was it not he who was to marry her-he who had promised that he would, only four years ago, when they were last together? And now he laughed about the attraction she would have for Ted, as if he did not mind at all, and had forgotten all about what she had always treasured in her heart as a great good from God to her to
And then he asked her, what about her sweethearts? And she burst into tears ; she could not help it, and, sobbing, said, " Geordie, you know I never had a sweet heart in the world but you!"
" Oh, oh ! 'Ria-and Jim Pitman; don't you
he cramming yarns, you little witch ; I've I heard all about Jim and you."
" If you've heard anything about him and me, you've heard what isn't true," said 'Ria passionately, lifting her tear-stained face ; " he's been about the place, of course, and father wanted me to have him, but you know why I couldn't, Geordie."
"/know, why should I ? He's a jolly fellow, j Jim ; if I were you I'd take him, 'Ria."
Maria's tears stopped flowing, and her face I grew white. She answered not a word. What
could she Bay? This was her playmate of i days gone by-her boy lover, and her pro ! mised husband, the idol of her heart, and I soul, and body, counselling her with careless
laugh and jest to give herself to a Jim Pit
Site remind him of his promise ?-Never J If he could forget, if four years had wrought this change, that she was now to him as any other woman-let it be so. Her joy in life was gone. Had not the thought of him, and of the time when they should be again to gether, made; the earth bright, and all things pleasant ? And now-the sun might shine, the earth bring forth fair fruits, all nature smile-what did she care ! It was all black ness, void, and misery, now Geordie did not
But Geordie did-only he did not want to marry her. Not care for her ! By George ! he'd never cared so much for her before. Was he not twenty-one ? Was not this splendid woman something more in his man's eyes than the girl-playmate had been in the boy's ? But 'Ria had forgotten the difference in their stations. His father was a gentleman, and by virtue of that fact he was received in circles where she could not follow. If he married her, he could not raise her; it was but his father's name that kept him up, aud she would pull him down.
And then he was so young; he wanted so to have his fling, and take his fill of pleasure. All this wide world of plain and forest, range and creek, and stock and farm, was such a thing of joy to him ; he never saw the loneliness or the monotony of the life ; exist ence in itself was to him ecstasy, and pleasure madness. All day long he galloped, and he whistled, and he sang, and laughed at everything; trouble drew from him but a passing curse; he did not understand it yet, and from flower and weed alike he drew some honey.
But underneath this boisterous exuberance of his young manhood there lay the ground line of his character, which the realities of life would Boon bring out-strong selfishness. His youth might burn for 'Kia, but his selfishness badfe him loudly have a care. " Don't you be the fool to marry her," it said. " Look at your brother Charlie, with four squalling children on his hands, and he not 26; and his hair beginning to turn grey, and BO glum, and stupid, you'd think the fellow was a patriarch! When you marry, your life's ease iB of the past, my lad 1"
And BO unreasonable it was of 'Ria to re member the absurdities of a spoony boy; he thought she would have had more sense. Of course he recollected all about it: be krjew the meaning of her tears, and said what he had done on purpofte. That time fohr yean ago, what he had said, what he had done, sometimes stirred him somewhat uneasily; and he thought, in saying what he did, Maria would have sense enough to take the cue. But when he saw her evident real pain, and her distress, and had to face the chilling silence lof her wounded pride, the lad, who was wltbal good-natured, felt vexed and sorry, and he tried to talk cheerfully of other things,; and bo bring back her smiles; but it would &ot do, Bhe could hot speak about in different things, she could but feel Heir misery.
The aun had aet, and night was coming on. so he iaid that he must go,, and got up. ana Btood looking fti her. Why did she spoil his pleasure with her woe? He did not wonder that Boe loved him, he thought it was but
natural] that thfe poor girl should, and it was pleasing ]to his vanity to know he was so loved; put he thought she should not worry him, and annoy him in this way, causing him to feel uncomfortable about hiBaoinga. But then, again, thoughts of old times with her came to him.and of how good, and patient, and loving she 'Jirtd'alwayB been . and he felt sorry f^r 'her,' 'thfct he could not keep that boy pnomise.he had made. But love.'if ehe would have it without that, "he T^aS fe^dy enongh to give. " And he went upt6!her,and whispered - careBslngfe/^" 'Bia, come do#ri with wie. as far *8 thtt teardeh eatfe, I' want, to speak to ?ou." And 'they 'walked dowh in the twilight there toggthfet.
Undek the banksi& Jjre^ beside the pool they stood, to^ . Opbraie .tpdc both hands of her.in ^is, an^lgaze# domain her fpee, yrith
his black eyes all aflame. She looked up at him wistfully, with o. little patient smile part ing her trembling lipB-the lirst kiud word from him had driven out her pride, and only left her sorrow*-and when he drew her closer to him, and clasped her in his artns, and did not withstand liim,or hinder his caresses, but closed her eyes «s he kiBsed her face and hnir, and felt that this was her good-bye to
But presently Blie freed herself, and sprang aside, and with face all crimsoned she tola him lie had better go, and would not let him touch her, or take hold of het again, but with her hand upon his arm, gently, but firmly, she held him back. " Geordie," Bhe said, " don't make it worse; it's bad enough for
me now as it is."
"Oh, well," he answered, baflled and irritated, " 1 thought you cared for me a little bit, if only for old times' sake, 'Ria; but now I see you don't, so I'll be off." And lie unhitched his horse and mounted, but, turning, he saw her seated oil the ground where he had left her, and her face was covered with her hands, and she was sobbing
uietly. And then Geordie'e heart smote him, and he rode up to her, and leauing down, said, " 'Ilia, what you want.can't be, you should not be so foolish as to think of ?what I said when I was but a Billy hoy-it's no use crying, it will all come right."
" Oh yes, I daresay it will all couie right," f-be answered drearily.
"Now, don't send a fellow off in the blue dumps like this ; get up and kiss me, 'Ria, and say good-bye." She rose and held her face up to him, and let himkisa her, and said good-bye quite quietly as he rode away.
And that night, when her father again spoke to her of Jiru, she told him it was all the same to her, and if he wished it, she would