|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||Ria. A West Australian Story|
A "WEST AUSTRALIAN STORY.
One day Elizabeth Anne was ridiug up the river, driving the cows.
The water in the pool at home was brackish, and the cattle would not drink it, and up at Long-point was the big pool out of which, in former days, Geordie and 'Ilia used to haul the chelgies, that was fresh and goocL And up to the Long-point pool Elizabeth Anne was bound to drive the cattle every day.
This work was a great satisfaction to Elizabeth Anne. When mid-aftemoon came on she threw poor Jim's old saddle on the mare, and mounted straddle-legged, rounded the cattle up down in the paddock, and took them off.
Oncestarted, they did not need much driving, and Elizabeth Anne could take her pleasure. She galloped after kangaroos and rats; she yelled anasang; Bhe performed wild evolutions in the saddle; best of all, she liked to lie down at full length, her head over the old mare's tail and legs upon her neck, and then she cautiously would raise her feet, till the flat soles of them faced the blue sunny sky, and ?with them so she'd clap her heels together gleefully, and with a bound resume her straddle-legged position. This she called circus-riding; Sullivan had told her that they did like that. She tried to stand upon the saddle, but could not quite succeed, she always tumbled off: but she knelt upon it beautifully, and that was not far from the right thing. And often, when she was tired with her exertions at these clever tricks, she would tie up the mare and have a sleep, and, ?waking up near sundown, would gallop up to Long-point and fetch back the patient cowp. And then, when she got home, she had won derful, things to tell-of how they had split on her, ana some gone up the creek; and how it took hex all her time to fetch jthem back; and how Che calves were all that -wild, there was no doing nothing with them, and she wag nigh a breaking of her back, ana the mare's heart, a keeping of them all together, and a getting of them up aud down before the night-and such-like fictions.
But.on this day thstshf was going up it had been very hot, and Elizabeth Anne felt heated and uncomfortable, and thought that she would have a bath and cool herself up in the Lot^ppwtjpool. So ahe drove the cattle steadily, when sha got close up Bhe
gallopjpji 0B, 4n,fl ^ed the mare up to a tree.
The pool waa deep, and off the reed-grown, sandy pankaihe&ather stepped into 10ft. of water g ronty at the upper end, where the pool narrowed,. Jt was shallower, with rock and gravel, bottom, and . here the trees arched overhead, the bankaiaa and the flooded gams, and gave, cool ahade.
XHusabetb Anne, when she came up, tbonght'ljhai; before sbelmd her bath #he .wowa «fcej> In $uad juet see what the water
fell )il;i\ ,n"'! 1,11 'l:,l '""1 ''jirp-l lier loci. :111? I. t;iUuni up her pHlinvit*, stc|i|)fi| i;iui_'orly ti|inii tho roi-k<». The witter tills .on Unit, who r ii-iv! Jht iiotti icnt« Mill hijrbcr, nml wndod till her knees ivrro uiiilot u nter. nml Mumi turned round nml plmmfil .it Mipcowh and eitlveg tlmt had cdino down In drink.
The I'nor dull rrenturea were standing off, nii<l vnj-'tiel.v pming nt the etnmirc liirnre of their driver disturbing tlieit wnterinn plnco. Hut, liy and li.ve, n strawberry cnw « i(/i more spirit than the rest shook up her horns nml snorted, and stepped down nearer lo the water's edge. Ana then Elizabeth Anne yelled nut, ami brandished up her feet, and splashed the water, and the strawberry cow moved back, nnd shook her horns again. And then a little runty calf walked solemnly from the bank, nnd put its moist white mu/,?.le down to drink. I'.ut Elizabeth Anne scooped iij) the water with her hand, and threw it in its face, and shouted, and the runt.v calf ran bellowing to its mother. And so she laughed and teamed them, and kept them all at bay.
And now she found a clear Hat stone where the water came to midway up her calves, and standing on this stone she danced a furious jig, such as she'd seen the men dance at the shearing time at home when they were drunk. Her garments she held tight about her waist, and throwing out her shapely limbs kicked up her toes in mockery at the frightened cows, and leapt and stepped it merrily, churning up the quiet water into frothy whiteness, ller curly hair hung down, her cheeks were reddened with a glow of pleasure, her merry mouth laughing with impish frolic, one white arm curved above her head-just like the men did-and all around her and overhead she splashed the water, and the spray flew up sparkling like diamonds in the tiny Hecks of sunlight that danced about, and shone through the breeze stirred leaf-masses overhead.
But all at once a man's laugh rang out merrily from the bank, and Elizabeth Anne in startled terror lost her footing, and plashed down sitting on the stone, breast high in the water.
The tumble hurt Elizabeth Anne, and made her yell, and the water she displaced and agi tated in her fall splashed into her eyes and mouth, and made her gape, and gasp, and Bhake her head, while she threw her arms out wildly to keep her balance, for her feet were off the ground, and beating on the sur face of the water. But when she was righted, and had wiped her eyes, she looked up to the bank and saw young Geordie Ransome-the cause of her discomfiture-sitting on the leaning trunk of an old paper-bark, making the woods ring with his boisterous laughter.
Elizabeth Anne now raised herself, and thought to run away, but her dripping gar ments clung treacherously to her lithe form. So she was ashamed and sat her down again with burning cheeks, while Geordie laughed still louder.
And now the cows and calves walked steadily down to drink, their mistress having ceased her troubling of the waters. And Elizabeth Anne put her brown lists into her eyes and cried.
"Good evening, miss," said Geordie, "I hope I see you welL Chosen a nice dry place to rest in, haven't you ?"
"Getout, you beast!" said she.
" It's you that should get out, miss-I'm not in. But I'll get in if you like," said he.
Now she howled loudly, and splashed the water at him, and screeched and cried, and called him all the bad names she could think of. Bat Geordie quietly took off his boots and socks, and began tucking up his breeches. Elizabeth Anne, when she saw this grew des perate, and, bounding up, rushed oat upon bank, the water streaming from her skirts on to her bare legs and feet, and the frightened cattle stampeding every way.
Geordie ranafter her, and caught her just as Bhe neared the mare.
" Now, missy, don't be frightened, and don't bite," he said; " I only want to be your sweetheart."
NowKlizabeth Anne had never had a sweet heart-what she told 'Kia was a pure inven tion, just for the sake of talking, and she suddenly bethought her that this was a new and most desirable experience she might make. So she stood still at once, and looked up at him, and thought him a most proper sweetheart for a girl to have. And then he asked her who she was, and she said she thought every one knew that-she was Eliza beth Anne Pitman, sister of Maria Pitman's husband, from Woodhill.
When Geordie heard that she had come from 'Ria, his face grew grave, and he let go her arm, and asked how 'ilia did.
4* Oh! she's nicely, thank you," said Eliza beth Anne.
" And how does she get on about the place now that poor Jim is dead ?"
" Oh! her and me, we gets on pretty well! We has our troubles-the cattle's very wild, and is always a-splitting about the country on us. And then the sheep is that contrary, they're a-losing theirseives on us every day, but we mostly gets them back. The paddock bothers us, but Maria's young man does the
" Who's her young man?" growled Geordie. " Oh ! that's a young chap called Sullivan, he's a line feller, and me and 'Ria likes him well enough, and now he's lying with a broken head and leer a-groaning terrible, an' she's a-nursing of him. But I know some thing, only you must not tell," and then she came up closer to him, parsing her month, and looking very cunning. " He wants to be her sweetheart, and when I tell her of it, she won't let on. Your widows is that close I"
As she said this, young Geordie griped her arm, and frowned down fiercely on ner, with clenched teeth.
" Owch!" screamed Elizabeth Anne, " what's that you're doing?"
Bat he never heard her; he dashed head long up the bank, sprang on his horse, and galloped down the river.
" Well, if tfuil'8 what you call sweetheart* ing!-well, I never!" Elizabeth Anne ex claimed. " It's more likej the contrairy thing."
And then she wrung out her skirts, got on the mare, and gathered up the cattle, and made them run as fast as the poor tottering things could go, sparred by a gnawing curiosity to follow Geordie with all possible haste, and find oat what was up.