|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||Ria. A West Australian Story|
Geordie was on his way to 'Ria when he
stumbled on Elizabeth Anne. He WAS going
with some diffidence. When he cooled down after; that last scene on her wedding-night, and thought of all that he had done and Bald, he felt psfeamed; he felt that he had been a brute, to make her trouble worse-a trouble he c6nld but own he had brought on-by his violence and his unjust reproaches. But though he, knew it,was unjust, he etill felt angry with lier, angry because he had
lost the game ;? angry and mortified beo^upe , she ljad repulsed his passion; angry because. he knew that she bad cause for strong complaint against himself. ' so ? he brooded onhw fancied wrongs through thoBg two years,1V, . . -
But wTieh Jim ditd and she was was free,
lie IhnI HrMful
slum III i >mo bank t<> him i</- m i 11. II'* It:'1' wimi tin Wiim:iii III? liltoil q" well !H 'llin, united t<> him It(iowItih Imin *<< " ''IImi'dlHli, mid Sd unpxnrtiiif!, siivinu all, nnd nMili'iit t" take BO little from lu'r lover -at jpa»t hi* lutoir Hint f«o site list-I dhvny* Iicrit with hint, eiitip they were Ivy itit'l !zirl(t>i;r(lirr.
Alul then lie fcnw ii" rlmnci* t'» p<'f » wife
tvlmfso hand ^v<tutil lirinc in'm hotter untrxi j than liera, BO lie felt noiioiotmly-miiultnl to | forgive liia wrongs, wipe <"it tlie piist two years, nnd make it up with her.
Still he lmil Biiliifient pri'le about linn not, to he too liiiBty, or show too trrriit an eager ness, null besides lie was not sure how she would look upon him sifter what had passed. But, 011 the whole, when he thought of what she had been to liim during those long early years, lie felt some conlidenec Unit she must have forgiven him ere now.
13ut when on liis way down lie stumbled 011 Elizabeth Anne, and the fun that lie had meant to have with her was stopped by lnid ing that she was 'Kin's kinswoman, lie thought he would find out from her how Ilia was disposed. , .
But when she told litrn, early in their talk, her yarn about the man, (jeordie was sud denly filled with rrifje, find indignation, and alarm, and forgetting all his pride and caution-with a wild determination to have it out and settle matters then and there ; and so he broke away to speed to her, in strong
Elizabeth Anne, with her poor cows and calves, was down at home in half an hour after Geordie left her, and rushing in the front room, found only Sullivan lying on the sofa, pale and sulky.
" Where is he gone ?" she cried.
" Where's who gone ?"' he grunted.
"That young chap inf the boots and
breeches, on a black horse."
" I haven't seen no horse, but young Ran some-Geordie they call him-was here just now a-wanting of the missis, an' a-cursing up an' down the place ; an' he's off up the Wash pool Creek to look i'or her."
"Oh lor! Oh lor!" exclaimed Elizabeth Anne ; " if that was not 'Ria's sweetheart afore she married Jim. Oh, I say, Sullivan, what a lark ! " and Elizabeth Anne ran out and danced and shrieked with glee, to think of the delightful mischief she had done.
Sullivan sat up, and glanced after her, as she went away. His pale face worked with rage and anguish, the sweat stood on his brow, and his breath came short and heavy in his strong excitement.
Was this intruder come to spoil his game, to rob him of his prize, to cheat him of the woman he was living, suffering for-to obtain with a hand's turn what he was toiling to get-to treat him like dirt beneath his feet? And with an intensity of rage he felt that a poor devil such as he had but a poor chance beside a swell like that ?
But !Ria must have seen his aim, and he swore that he would be no laughing-stock for her, and for her jackanapes. Him she should have, or no one else, so help him all the powers; he Bwore it with a fearful oath, and lay back panting on the couch.
That afternoon the native women had come in to say that they had lost some lambs. Sullivan was sick, and Elizabeth Anne away, up with the cows ; so 'Ria said that she would go and find them, up in the Washpool Creek, when they were lambed, and for which they mostly made when they were lost. And Sullivan had told Geordie that she had gone up there, and to the Washpool Creek he followed her. He went down by the river pool, and across the black charred ground, the track of the late fire,;and over a low, rough hammock, powdered "with white quartz gravel, and so down into the long crass of the Washpool Valley. The spread ing thick leaf-masses of the redgums shut out the sinking sunlight, and had preserved the grasses fresher than on the wider river Hats. The soft rounded slopes were painted in pale greens and browny greys, with splashes of warmer yellow where the silver grass had found a lodging, while close in along the creek, beside the running water, were borders of deeper, brighter hues, a groundwork of rich green grass, and a mass of tangled loveliness above, clusters of golden wattle-bloom, thick patches of ground runner of a vivid blue, showers of crimson creeper flowers, and giant fern fonds shading every little sparkling pool.
Geordie cantered fuming up the bank until he came to a long eloping grassy ridge, round which the brooklet wouud. The ridge face nearest him lay in deep shadow, but the rays of the sinking sun just touched the crest with a streak of golden colour, and beyond was the hazy grey-blue of the distant hills at the creek's head.
Out on the ridge-crest, in the mellow sun light, Geordie now saw the small, grey, curly bodies of five little lambs, followed by the darker, bony outline of a mother ewe, and rising up behind them, from the other side, first the white sunshade, theu the black folds of 'Jiia's dress, and the bright blue of the toddling child's figure at her side, standing out against the glowing orange of the western sky.
Geordie, now that he saw 'Ria coming,
Eeaceful and quiet, driving the sheep before
er, felt his blustering mood grow fainter.
What was he to reproach her with? What was he to say, now his angry haste had brought him face to face with her? How was he to use the yarn that impish girl had
told him in accusation ? And if it waa not true, how would he look? And if it was, what right had he to interfere, except that in his own intention Bhe was his ; but what had (hat to do with her? 'Ria was free to do whatever she might please, without his sanction. And so he felt abashed, and angry with himself, and her, and everything; and he got off his horse, and Btood aside, waiting and watching as she came.
The little group of woman, child, and sheep had left the sunlit space above and entered the deep gloom of the ridge side. 'Ria had taken up her boy, leBt he should fall on the steep slope, and with him in her arms was manceuvring behind the stupid, wilful lambs, to get them back on to the cattle path that tan along the creek, which she thought
they would then follow up, and she would I have less trouble. At last she got them on ! to it, and they sat off bleating towards the
house, the miserable old ewe in front, with I the anxious lambs in taiL
And now she gathered up her skirts, and
settled the child more comfortably on her ! arm,i to fellow after thpm. But suddenly she stopped,and gave a little startled scream, for there, jn front of her, stood her old lover, Geonus&ansome!
Geptftijp Jooked at her, all his wrath gone,
in anatrnous, deprecating kind.of way, aahe ; nervpuawj held out his hand, and said,
'Ria wm ptill more nervous than himself ; Bhe hastily set down the child, and gave her trenwlififf'bmtL tohiawith a little ^quivering smity. so they stood, face to. face once more, 40f the first time since, that stormy night two years and more ago. , .
They spoke not, bat they .looked at. one anotper. Geordie, seeing how pale and thin she was, felt sorry father,, whep. he , thought, of all the trouble she must have known to.
iiller hor pn loiti'li it! ,'t ..-luirt (rtno. Ami ho, flic thmiuht that ho wns handsomer than evohonly there \vns a more teat leas ami h\=F) jfMpiis )d(i)c about (lie eyes, and work lind Poincwlint roughened hint.
They loolted.at one annthfcr with a Rort of phy ntid troubled smile tipon their faces, their hands still lightly clasped. 'Ria was won dering if nor time of joy had really come; find Ueordie, Softened by the sight of the jmle face of his old love, was wishing that lie know what she thought of him now, and whether she would have him if he asked. l!ia wag the first to speak, and overcome her trouble ; she fold him about her worry with (he sheen, nnd how there were 50 lost from out the Hook, and how she had ag yet got back but those miserable six ; the man was sick, and she had nobody to look for them,
Geordie listened to her, and did not speak, ns she went on talking nervously and fust; but all at once he drew her to him with a sudden gtaep, and held her tightly, looking down at her with a flushed, quivering face, and said in a rapid eager way, " 'Hia! I'll find your sheep 1 I'll find your sheep for ever, if you'll let me; you know well what 1 mean ! Now, will you, 'Ilia7 Come, tell
There was something of the old masterful manner of his boyhood in the last words, and he grasped her arm so tight he almost hurt her. But she could not speak, the tears were coming fast; and he thought that she was angry, and let her go, and she sat down beBide him on a log, and cried and cried most heartily, with a hard-earned enjoyment. " Oh, Geordie!" she sobbed out at last, "I am so glad. I thought that you were never coming
So Bhe was waiting for him! She loved him still! She had forgotten all her wrongs ! And Geordie for one short minute thought he was a brute, and was not worthy of her. But his great satisfaction with his good luck, and his gratified man's vanity, overpowered every other feeling; and being now perfectly good humoured and self-satished, he lifted 'Ria up and kissed her, and swung her laughing on his saddle, and gave her up the boy, and asked if she had forgotten all about the lambs, that had gone on ahead. And she said, as she wiped up her tears, "Oh ! bother take the lambs," she did not care; tliey'$ find
them somewhere on the road.
So he walked along beside her down the creek, with his long arm round her, saying he was frightened she would fall off the man's saddle travelling this rough path, for the mare stumbled m the darkening twilight. And now it was Geordie's turn to talk, and he laughed and chatted gaily as they went; and when they came to the white quartz ridge, above the river valley, they found the ewe and lambs on an old camp beside the track. And Geordie said he'd fetch them home, if 'Ilia would go on and get the sapper ready. So he set to work to do the job, cursing and swearing at their contrary ways and horrible pigheadedness, until they came in sound of their mothers bleating, up at home, and so made straight their paths.
When Geordie reached Woodhill, it was almost night. Elizabeth Anne was setting out the table, and when he came inside she stopped and stared at him, and laughed. She had already teased and questioned 'Ria, and found out pretty near the truth, and then she mischievously had told the tale to Sullivan. And now Bhe said, " Well! you're a pretty sweetheart! When are you coming sweetliearting along with me again ?" Geordie reddened, and laughed, and Sullivan, with a groan of pain and rage, rose up, and crept out, down along the yard, and into the low lean to place beside the shed, where he had slept before his hurt, and laid him down upon his wretched bunk. And there he tossed about in suffering and anger, muttering hoarsely to himself, and in low growling tones, telling his troubles and wrongs to the inanimate sticks and slabs around him.
They did not think of Sullivan inside, they had forgotten all about him, they did not even notice ne had gone. Geordie was in boisterous spirits, rattling away to 'Ria and joking with Elizabeth Anne, and 'Ria was sitting at the table, subdued and quiet, but happier than she had been for years. She felt no trouble, no misgivings about what was to come. She cast aside her reasoning prudence-she knew his faults, his selfish ness-she knew that she would have to be his slave, and sacrifice herself in everything to him ; but such sacrifice would be no hardship to her. She loved him-not only as a woman does her lover, but as a mother does her son -the more for all the suffering he had given her, the more for all that Bhe had done and would have to do for him.
Elizabeth Anne was somewhat disappointed with their ways. She was a young thing was Elizabeth Anne, and had not much experience. She had thought she would have found out in her own person what the men did in their spooning, when Geordie had caught her up at Long-point; but that satisfaction, to her regret, had been denied her, and now she thought she would at any rate learn some thing as a looker-on. But Geordie and 'Ria did not spoon at all, and talked but of indif ferent things, and Elizabeth Anne kept won dering when they would begin; and every now and then she would get up ana iran away and leave them to themselves, and then come back on tip-toe behind the door, and take a look in through the crack, but to no purpose, and then she felt indignant ana much aggrieved. But later on she had some con solation, when Geordie -went away, and 'Ria and he had said their good-bye. alone together as they thought, beneath the banskia trees beside the river, where they had said good-bye before ; for Elizabeth Anne, unseen in the deep shadow of the garden fence, watched all that passed, and was more satisfied.