Chapter 143007492

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Chapter NumberVI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article143007492
Full Date1879-05-17
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count1981
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.

BY SELBOBNRIGG.

CHAPTER VI.

The arrangements for 'Ria'a marrriage were soon made. Jim was all eagerness to enter upon the enjoyment of the good things it would bring him, to exchange the scrambling hard life of liis over-crowded home for the plenty, and the comfort, and the pleasures which were hers to give.

Her father, also, growing old and. feeble, was impatient for the time when he could pass the labour and the toil of looking after farm and stock on to the younger shoulders

of his son-in-law.

And to 'Ria-sooner or later, it was all the

same.

And so the wedding day was fixed, just one month from that night when Bhe had said good-bye to Geordie under the bauksias, by the river pool.

The house was filled with neighbours and with friends; the parson from the township had blessed their union; the eating and the drinking had begun; the old homestead rang with mirth and laughter, with shout, and song, and jest; all hearts were merry, and all eyes were bright-save only 'Ria's.

She was in the kitchen, busy with the pots and pans; she said that they must just sit up without her-Bhe could not leave the things to cook themselves. And so she kept apart, during that riotous afternoon, with an old neighbour woman to help her do the work; and often, as she laboured, providing for the appetites of the noisy band that was gorging and drinking in her honour, the tears fell down her heated face, and Bhe thought what this day might have been' had things otherwise turned out But now she had taken Jim, she would be a good wife to him and do her duty, and by and bye perhapB she would feel less about that other love that she must now root out-her only love-for Jim was but-her husband: and when she thought of that she shuddered and grew pale.

While the rioting; was at its height Jim came in to her with staggering gait and bloodshot eyes, and took hex by the aim to drag her in and make her share their mirth; ana she resisted him, and begged that he would let her go. But, with a drunken laugh, he clasped her round the waist, and tried to force her out. 'Ria was nervous and excited, and could not keep from crying, and when he saw her tears he left her with a curse, and went away. And when she had sat down again to calm herself and wipe her eyes the old woman who was with her handed her a packet which had fallen on the floor out of Jim's pocket. Her name was on the cover; she opened it, and this was what she read:

" Dear 'Ria,-You need not have been in such a hurry. You must have known'I was in joke when I told y^u you'd better take Jiui Pitman. I've thought about it since, and if

you'll have me, say the word. Throw old ? Jim over, that's not difficult, and write back by the bearer to say when I may come. Yours ttffedionately, " G, RANSOMS."

The hand that held the letter trembled so that sho could scarcely see the words-she let it drop upon her lap-her head fell down against the dresser at fier side, and she sighed forth a long, low moan of anguish, and was

still,

' " Oh dearie me! what is thematter ? " cried the old woman, hastening np, and throwing w&ter in her face. *'She. shou^ lure gone .into the parlour, and sot We stopped in this hot place, and so Itelled her; ajiil now it's took her suddent, but 111 get a drop of brandy, and she'll soon be light" >

Wearily 'Ria opened her eyes again, she heeded not the yrovam, she otuy felt that she

uliou!<1 lik^ Jo <1ip{ Mils nddrd misery wn» l',n great. ,

I*tit Iter father cnllfid out for niot(* lieer; she must ofi the inorlcitte fjfiif'Hps (»I her wedding (lay, nnil without (litwhinn do her pnH. 80 phe got up, mid with ft nnd ntid wenripd gesture iinsscd hor lisuirt n< rns« her eyes; nnd there in the doorway she saw (lie native who liftd brought, ilin IpUpt find given it <0 Jim, waiting to go Iwek with his answer. She went to a tittle cupboard, nnd took out n met.r lien nnd an old ink-bottle, nnd on n bit of paper traced the words-" Too late;

I'm mnrried.-JtiA."

She folded up the paper, nnd L'ftve it to the black, put Geordie's letter in the bosom of her frock, and went back to her work without

a word.

Night was come, and the wedding guests had all gone home. And 'Ria hnd put tilings straight about the place, and settled her old father, who was shaky from the drink and the excitement; nnd then she tremblingly went into the front room, where Jim was lying on the sofa.

She went up softly, and stood beside him. leaning againBt the table at her back, and looking down upon him. He was fast asleep ^dead drunk. His handsome, rough, brown face waa flushed and moist; his head thrown back, supported by one brawny arm ; while the great carcase of him stretched across the sofa, and his legs dangled to the ground, and deep, strong breathing swelled his chest.

This was her husband-and her wedding night.

But 'ltia felt a great thankfulness that Jim was drunk, and thought that Heaven had been merciful in this. Then she took out the little note that was hidden in her bosom, and looked at it again, and smoothed it tenderly upon her knee, and looked down drearily, thinking of what she had lost. No tears came to her; her face was calm, and white, and stony, though a sad smile came over it now and then, when she thought about old times, and the joys and sorrows of her childhood, when she was a bare-footed little shepherd lass, and Geordie's slave and playmate, and knew not of the troubles that ner womanhood would bring.

But Jim Btirred in his sleep, and groaned ; and 'Ria started, and woke again to the realities of her life. Henceforth she must blot out her love and live for duty. And her duty she would do ; she felt that that might be her comfort in her trouble.

So she tore np Geordie's letter, bit by bit, and threw it in the tire, and calmly watched it burn, till the last cinder of it had blackened and collapsed. And then she went back to her husband, took off his boots, and put his feet upon the couch, fetched out a pillow for his head, and covered him with a blanket, and settled him down straight and comfort able for the night.

When she had done all that she could for him she went into her room, and locked the door.

Another door in 'Ria's bedroom opened outside into the little thatched verandah, and through this she went to breathe the cool fresh air, sweet with the smell of wall (lowers and verbenas she had planted in her little garden. She let down ner long thick hair, and held it out, for the night wind to cool her throbbing, heated head: and looked up at the little stars, and thought how strong-hearted they must be to shine so brightly upon joy and woe alike, and wished Bhe could be with them, up in the pure sky, and as untroubled as they seemed to be. And so she sighed, and went inBide again to

rest.

'Ria had taken off her wedding-dress, and her Bhoes and stockings, and was standing all in white before the glass, with arms ana

Bhonlders bare, thoughtfully brushing out her long red hair, when a low knock sounded at the verandah door, and turning hastily round, she saw before her-Geordie I

With a faint cry she sank down on the bed, trembling and white, her staring eyes fixed on his face in terror. He stood still in the doorway, his hand upon the hasp, frown ing down at her silently.

" So this is the way you serve me, 'Rial" be said at last; " playing me false as soon as my back is turned. Did not you get my letter?"

She had but strength to answer tremblingly, " I did not get it till to-day."

" And if you did not, you might have had the decency to wait a little longer before you threw yourself into another fellow's arms straight out of mine !"

When 'Ria heard these words she rose np from the bed, her white boBom heaving, and her eyes flashing scorn at him. "Geordie, how dare you say those words to me!" she cried. "Have you so soon forgotten? When we were children both together, I waa fond of you with my whole heart; when we were girl and boy, you know best if I didn't love you; when yon were away those long, Ions years. I thonght of nobody but you, ana what you'd promised me, and counted up the days till you came back. When you came back, yon laughed at me, you tore my heart, yon told me to marry the man father was pressing on me; you told me I must not think about your promise-and you went away. And now I've done it, as if it was not hard enough, you come back on my wedding day, and say those words to me! Oh, man! when you threw me off, when I found that all my love from childhood up was spurned, and that you and me were to be nothing to each other-wbat did I care for more! They could do with me as they liked; and I just did what father wanted-what you told me

to;"

She faltered as she finished, and sank down upon the bed again, pressing her poor worn face against the pillows to still her sobs.

When Geordie heard those words-heard the confession of her love for him, and saw hear thus before htm, beautiful in the abandonment of her distress-he forgot his anger, and felt but the fierce power of his pusion, and a wild regret for what hia Bemahneea had lost.

But lost she should not be to him J She WQ8 his 'Ria, always had been bis! What oared he for the mocking rites that gave her toj another! She should not be another's!

he threw himself beside her. and tried' to raise her up,' and

vinaaa on her round white arm and her shoulder; and, drawing back the long thick Mir that hung disordered round her, poured rujssionate entreaties, and prayers for flight,, aqd words of love into her ear, pressing her clbB&r to bim.

jBut she rose and freed herself, and told him as calmly as she could that he must go, aild never try to see her any more. 11 Have msicy oh me, Geordie, and do this tot toy 81 k«," she copied.

She might as weU have&aked for mercy fr >m j&i^admML Tfaefory ofpas&ijx'and d< sire was nfiotohim,. .He seized" tor.Mafn,

.. hia eyes were Mi ,of Wa

;ia sank down, kt

dralrged hfewelf toWarl^thebeld, and clutt&&d

hwatightly, kneeling there beside it, beggUft

blm fo lenvfc her, nftd fltrnpttlititt to hold tin, tvbile lit) madly ttled to tftUfe net ttii ttttttitt. And she, with BtmlnlnR muicles, hfcld flftlifr en, nnd prnyfed of Jtim, tvith dt»8|inirltiR sobn ntnl cries, io Ifefttfe bet ftiitl begone. Ant! tit InM. etifacptl and baffled, be dashed out fignin into the flight, ('timing bet ntid liimaelf, ami nil things, m his wfntli.

And Jitn, flwnkiiiB with tbe noise, called <mt, and (lie poor ftunMn# oirl unlocked the dour, nnd be ettitabled into bed.