|Newspaper Title||The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946)|
|Trove Title||Ria. A West Australian Story|
A WEST AUSTRALIAN STORY.
aii was still aoout tne House, on wtiicti cue nioou shone down, and 'ltia was sitting in deep thought alone, in the front room. Her hands were folded upon her lap, and her eyes cast down- A smile would break out now and again upon her face, and linger there, while her sott grey eyes grew moist and bright, and thenthesmile wouldsoftly die away again, and she would sigh and sink once more into grave pensiveness. Her sweet face Hushed and paled as the thoughts came over her, and those full red lips of hers, now parted, and now firmly pressed, and now again trembling and twitching nervously, took on such mani fold meaning, you could see her woman's heart was working passionately-love, hope, joy, Borrow, fear, were struggling in her breast; but love kept up the mastery !
The little lamp upon the cupboard burned low and dim, and through the opened door the pale light of the moon shone in, and blended with its softened yellow haze; and gentle breathings of the cool night air swept softly through the heated room, while the tick-tick of the wooden clock upon the mantel shelf struck sharp and clear on the oppressive silence. No other sound was heard save the gentle breathing of the boy, asleep in his little cot beside his mother, as she sat and thought and dreamed of her past and future
But suddenly she started up; she heard a sound of shuffling feet outside tlie door. Who could it be at this late hour of the night ? A shadow filled the doorway, and a man came fumbling in.
"Sullivan !" said 'Iliasomewhat anxiously. " I thought you were asleep in your own place to-night. Do you want anything ? "
Sullivan came slowly up and stood before her, leaning upon the table at her .side. Sullivan-his disordered hair bound round with a white cloth, his eyes bloodshot and .wild, face pale and damp, and all the comeli ness gone from it, working with passion and excitement. He glanced at her awhile, and then he said, with grating, trembling voice, "Missisi what is this you're doing?" She answered not, she was too frightened, but eat quite still.
" What is this, I say, you're up to with that man-that Geordie Raiisomehe said again in louder tones.
" Nothing," she answered tremblingly. " What have you got to do with it, Sullivan?"
"Nothing! You lie !" he shouted. "You mean to marry him ! But, by God in heaven above, you sha'n't!"
He paused, and for a moment nothing could be heard but the quick excited breath ing of the man and woman, staring at one another with fixed eyes.
Then he began again more quietly, but working tip ere long into a howl of passion -" You know I've not been serving you as most men would. You've known' well what I meant while I've been slaving for you all this time. You've smiled at me, and you've talked fair. You've been a-kidding of me on. you black-hearted, fair-faced, false-tonguea woman, you! And now you think to cheat me, to throw me over, do you? By God, I'll let you know that I'll not stand humbug from the likes of you! Do you think I've worked for nothing at it, day and night, to please you? Do you think this goes for nothing, missis?" he shouted, plucking the bandage from his head, and dashing it upon the ground before her. " This blood-let that I got a-bothering after you, a-slaving for your favours, which you led me on to hope. Now, look you here," he yelled, shaking his clenched fist in her face, and quivering with rage, "you just throw up your game, and if you play me false I'll work hot mischief upon the place, I warn you!".
His shouts woke up the boy, and he began to cry, and this gave 'Ria courage. She snatched him up, and, clasping him close to her, standing up bravely before her maddened would-be lover, she pointed to the door, and told him to be off, and not to let her see his face upon the place Again. After such words to her it was no place for him to stop, where she was mistress, She scorned his lies, and be might go and tell them somewhere else.
Sullivan ' laughed, ? a harsh and grating laugh-, and seised her firmly by the wrist, ana with his other hand pulled up his trousers, and showed the' bandaged wound . upon his leg. you; forgotten this," he sneered, "yda*ender-heartedwoman'' For whom aid 1 ' *ell-nigh: killed, and who Vina bfeeh a-nureing of me while it suited her, and A-pretendifig she WBre sorry, and were kind. andHOW's $b)g td kiok me oat like a, mail# dog, *c&a&e the jdotft want me any roores'MUn' fclis got ^othefc inpngrel cur she want*to>tt She dtfn'fcjfchink*he dog could bit*-«h« "didn't, eh f bfc ^reat oo viciously, and abflUnrbeY, while 'Ria stru^led. terri Med, i* itM-bcrano.} but fcabeld&erwito an
iron crip, mid Mb face (lushed crimson, and lie shouted with hoarse vehemence, " l'ut
down the boy!" . , . ,
Poor M\ia screamed iiioiul in agonising
dread, and a shrill yell of wild defiance | answered her from out the bedroom doorway, where stood Elizabeth Anne in her white night-dress. She seized nil iron bucket full of water tlmt was standing in the room, and, rushing up, she hurled it at the man with nil lier strength, and felled hiui to the ground, deluded and stunned. Then she and 'Kia hastily sought refuge within the bedroom, 11 nd locked the door.
Maria sat down shaking on the bed, while Elizabeth Anne applied her ear to the keyhole and listened. She heard low groans and muttered curses, and before long Sulli van got up and crawled away.
" You've brought this on yourself, Maria," said Elizabeth Anne. " When you saw what the beast was up to, you should have sacked him. Long ago I told you."
'Kia said nothing, but she Bat up all that night, too frightened and excited to liud sleep until the daylight dawned, when she sank back exhausted on the bed, just as Elizabeth Anne got up.
The girl peered cautiously about, but saw 110 sign of Sullivan. She ventured then to take a look througii the slab-work of the shed into the lean-to where he slept, llis bunk was empty; and so, waxing bold, she went right in, and found his things were gone-his rug and clothes and all Ins traps-and he was nowhere to be found. The man had left the place.
When 'Kia woke again and heard that lie was gone she felt a great relief, but later in the day they found that Sullivan had left his swag with the natives at the tittle-house,
and had said that he would fetch it by and | bye. So then they thought he must be skulk ing somewhere round about, and 'Kia said she would not stop another night upon the place alone-she would send up for Ueordie.
So they sent a native up the river to ask him to come down.
Soon after dark he came, and they told him how Sullivan had given 'Kia cheek and been abusive, and how she had given him the sack, and how they thought that he was hidden somewhere about the place, and had got frightened and sent for him, because they didn't feel safe at night.
Geordie, not knowing what they knew, laughed at their fears, but he was glad enough to stay with them, and offered to come down there every night until the time when he should come for good and all, and he coun selled 'Kia to make it short and spare his horseflesh. But 'Kia could not take things merrily. Sullivan's threats and the terror 6he had suffered had weakened her and made her wretched. She wondered if he really meant what he had said ; she feared he iid, and she endured a misery of apprehen sion. And when Geordie asked her later in the evening to come outside with him, and have a chat alone in the cool night air, she hesitated, and would not have gone but that she feared Geordie might be vexed, and Bhe felt she could not tell hiui all and make him understand.
They went outside together and sauntered down towards the garden ; and Geordie said he wanted to talk to her about their marriage, 60 they stopped beside the garden fence, and Kia sat down on the bank, while Geordie leaned upon the rails beside her.
The night was cool and calm. Behind the distant misty hills, up the wide river valley, the lemon-coloured moon was rising, and all around her a soft bright haze of tender yellow green Bhone forth, paling on the outer ring, till it melted in the dark grey-blue of the sky. The upper valley lay bathed in shilling light, and the bold serrated outliues of the nearer hills stood out in black relief against the misty brightness, while long shadows from the trees beyond the paddock stretched their distorted shapes across the cleariug, and for the moment cast deep gloom upon the garden and the house.
'Kia sat listening to Geordie while he told her all about his plans, and asked her to decide about their wedding. And then she told him what she felt about her boy, and how she must do her duty to him, and that she thought before they married it would be well to see the lawyers, and get some papers made out about the place, so that in case she died he might have his share secured. She had been thinking of it, and 8he felt that this she ought to do.
But Geordie said this was all nonsense: did she think she could not trust him to see the boy got all his rights ? If she got messing with the lawyers, she'd see the place would be so fixed up, that neither the boy nor anybody else would prolit by it; that was all humbug about settlements, and she'd better give it up.
But 'Kia was quite firm. She felt that this was her duty to her boy aud her dead husband. But her heart feared to anger Geordie ; she could not bear now, so near her goal, to vex him, and she got up and came close to him, and put her hand upon his shoulder, looking up at him lovingly, and pleading with him to see things as she did. And the moon rose up above the trees, and shone upon her bright pure face, and lighted up her tender glistening eyes, and glorified her with its radiance. Geordie was startled and softened by the beauty of her that the moon brought forth, and he yielded to his better nature and his love, and told her she should have her way. And then he took her in his arms, and pressed her to him. But as she turned her smiling face aside, and laid her head upon his breast, she saw, in the deep shadow of the house, a blacker object close against the wall, and in front of it a long bright glittering line.
With a wild cry she threw both arms round Geordie's neck and clasped him tight, while a loud report broke suddenly the stillness of the nignt, and its echoes rolled and thundered up the valley, breaking afresh in all the gorges and ravines, and travelling on till the distant, soft, faint wave sounds were lost in the far off hazy hills.
When the last lingering murmur had passed away, 'Kia lay dead in Geordie's arms.
Elizabeth Anne rushed out, and came down to the garden inanuwer to his calls, and set up a wild yell of grief and rage when she had seen, which was taken up and echoed shrilly by the frightened blacks up at the tittle, houses, while they brandished high their flaming sticks round the red glow of the fires.
They brought her in and laid her down, and when they found that life had gone, Geordie upstarted with a furious o^th, calling down vengeance on this doer of this fearful crime.
He Btarfced back in horror when he saw the
man. before him-^ulli van-standing in the. dim Slight, at the bottom of the couch, gazing intently at Jus victim, leaning on the muzzle, ofthegdn.' . .
His pale' f&cd, beneath the soiled white ban4age, 1 loQked ghastly , and horrible in its expression of frenzied mute despair. He was Mill as death; his protruded eyeswere fixed on 'Rift's face; his lips were parted ana drattn from the set teeth, through (which his long-drawn breath came hissing,
Geordie now bounded forward to seise the
murderer, but the man looked up, nnd in stantly the shining barrel was pointed at his
" Tliat sliot was meant for you" lie said, in hoarse excitcd tones, "ami not for lu r! Stand back ! There's another shot left yet for you-or me!'"
Seeing himself helpless in the madman's power, Geordie stood still, while Elizabeth Anne clung to him, in terror lest a second tragedy Bhould happen.
Sullivan turned again, and gave one last long look at the dead woman lying there before him ; and then, without a word, he passed outside into the bright calm moon light, and, opening the garden gate, followed the little path that led down to the pool.
Geordie, with trembling hands and wild white face, took down Jims gun and Jo.vded it, and roughly tried to free himself from Elizabeth Anne's despairing clasp, when suddenly another loud report rolled up the river valley and died away.
They buried her in the garden beneath the banlcsia tree, at rest from all her trouble her love, her hope, her joy, her sorrow at an end; and bitter tears of grief fell from her lover's eyes as he stood at the well-known spot beside the grave of the woman who from childhood up had loved him so-who had suffered, Lived, and died for him.
Where the trade runs steeply up the scrubby range above the river, and a bare sandy patch lies at the foot of the smooth granite rocks, they buried Sullivan.