|Chapter Title||THE LETTER.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||Breelong Dora|
We left John Rodgera, having just decided that there was nothing for it bat to open the dreaded J. P. letter himself.
Ah, there he sets soliloquising again, "From old Btraughan," said he. " Well, he at any rate muBt be mad to address a letter to me like that. Thonght he had more sense, and he a Sootohman, too. What's this about Jim Warland? That blackguard coming to Bree long. I thought he knew better than that; but there, I must get my specs and wade through it I suppose. Jerry, you thief, where are my glasses!" "Sure, sir," said Jerry,
ooming in from his kitchon, "ain't they on ; your head, just right forninet ye!" "Ah, so they are. Ponto, why did you not tell me, yon old fool t Well, let's see what this idiot Straughen has to nay."
" Ah, Jaek! the very man," said he, ae he heard hie foster son's footstep on the veran dah. " Here's a letter come about two hours ago from Old Strauzhan. It's marked 'urgent,' and addressed ' Esquire and J.P.' I suppose I ought to have opened it long ago, but I assure you, my boy, I could not. John Hodgers is not a coward, but something tells me that letter oontains bad news. I was just making a start at it as yon oame in, so sit down, lad, and read it to me." This Jaokdid,
and here are the contents:—
" Tullawong Station, May 2,1866.
" Dear Rodgera—X have what I fear will be bad news for yon."
* We presume Jerry meant references.
" There, Jaok," interrupted the old man, "did I not tell you that m J.P. letter never
oontained good news? Don't thinklll hear any more, butatill perhaps you had bettorgoon." " I hear that Jim Warland. aaaieted fay two other men whoee names I do not know, baa been up to hie old game again, and baa ' lifted' about 200 bead of fine young cattle off Nardoo Station to a pieoeof oountry he baa taken up out baok. I bear also that it ia bia intention this week to pay Breelong homestead a visit (I got this from one of my men), not, of course, to rob your house of plate or money, for we all know you have none, but to"
" Here, Jaok, again interrupted his father, " that's too rough; I won't stand it, not even from an old friend likeSttaughan; here put the wretohed thing in the fire and be done with it."
"Hardly" said Jaok. "We may as well find out what it is they do want. Let's read it through. "But to"(oontinued Jaok,read ing) " try and indues your daughter Dora to marry him; and he says that if it cannot be done fair and square he and his mates will carry her off by main force.
"I thought it only right, as your oldest friend out here, to let you know at com and put you on your guard. I would oome and see you but cannot, as I am still oonfised to
my room suffering from the spill I reoeived at the late master. Hope all will be well. Tours faithfully—"Jambs Stuacghan."
Jack paused. He expected an outburst, and he got it. Up jumped Mr. Rodgers. [ He stamped, he swore, he fumed (Pon to knew
there must be eomething wrong, for he made a sudden dart into Jerry's domain). He called Warland all the sooundrels heoould think of. At last, simply exhausted, he sank down into his chair and covered hie faoe with his hands. Recovering himself as with an effort, he onoe more spoke. "Jack,"said he, "I don't often call God to witness; but what I say now it that sooner than I would see this—my darling girl the wife of that aroh fiend Warland—I would take my rifle and ehoot her."
As he said this he oait hiB eyes opto the place where his favourite weapon was always kept. For a moment he seemed almost bereft of speech, then suddenly jumping up, literally screamed, "Oh Jack, Jack, what have we done? Even in protecting our dear one fire arms will be neoessary, and the rifle, the only reliable weapon we have, ia not here, that fool Pearson must have left it at Ohowilla the last time we were out there. That letter wat written the day before yesterday, and these murdering thieves may be here at any moment. Jaok we must have that rifle before the sun sets on Breelong to-night."
Poor old man, it was really pitiful to see him, he hardly knew what he was saying. It was yet early, only just dinner-time, in faot it was this meal that had caused Jack's return, and Dora herself would soon be in. Ohowilla was nine miles away, so, as Jaok said, "there would be plenty of time to get the gun before sunset." Presently a voice was beard in the verandah, which both knew to be Dora's. She was singing some old sohoolday soDg, and was apparently as happy as a ohild. Little did she know, poor girl, what terrible fate threatened her. She came at once in re sponse to her father's call, and eaw at a glance, as she entered the room, that some thing was wrong. "Oh, father! Ob, Jaokl" said she, "what is the matter, is it anything very bad ?" Mr. Rodgers oould hardly speak. At last, gathering sufficient energy, he said, "Yes, Dora, my girl, something very terrible is goiDg to happen—that is provided we can not prevent it."
Dora was now perhaps for the first time in her life thoroughly frightened.
Turning round so that he had his baok to Jaok, and taoing his daughter, he said, " Dora, did you ever during the time he was in my employ give Jim Warland any encou ragement—enough to give him the right to come to me aud demand you as his wife; I want a straight answer, my daughter, for a lot—yes, a terrible lot—depends on what you Bay." Poor girl, she was to be pitied.
Throwing her arms around her father's neck, she burst into tears. "Father, dear father, whatever made you think so little of your daughter. I don't think I ever spoke a civil word to the man, and as to being his wife—well, if you told me I must marry him I would do it, but the moment the words were said that made me his wife your daughter
would put an end to her life; aye, even if it ' were before the Churoh altar. Jim Warland, father; oh ! 'tis dreadful."
When she had calmed down a little Mr.
Rodgers put the terrible letter in her hand, which with difficulty she read. As she finished her faoe seemed to brighten np a little. "It's not quite as bad as I expeoted, father, but bad enough." Then turning from the sentimental to the practionl quietly asked, " How ore we off for firearms? loan UB© a revolver and would die first sooner than I would trust my life in such a man's bands. You and Jack are too dear to me. Persuaded to go I never will be, and if I am taken by force it will not be without a terrible struggle. Yes, father, I nan shoot, and straight, too. How about firearms, Jack ?"
"Well," said ber father, "this was only what I expected from my daughter. Of fire arms there -are two revolvers, the duck gun, Jerry's old gun, and my rifle, but, sad to say. this latter is out at Ohowilla; and just as you oame in I was tolling jack be must go ont for it and return before snndown. So as soon as you have bad a bit of dinner, nay boy, you had better start; and while there, if possible, look up old Coppo; and, as you will have no time to lose, you had better take Fleetwing. I reckon Dora will lend her to you."
" All right, dad," responded Jaok. "Ill start at onoe; and while Dora pnts out dinner you had better take a note of tbese strangers, and advise their owners. There is a brown bullock, branded JRon the "
"Ob, bother the strangers."interjected the old man, "they oan wait. Leave your book, and I will see to it."
"No," said Jack. "As you say, they can wait. Ineverleavemybook,forldonotknowthe moment I may want it." Jnst before starting be saw Dora alone, and for the first time she did not refuse to allow him a lover's privilege —a good-by kiss. " Dora, dear," said he, " as you love your poor old father, do not for one moment think of leaving the honse, for if that fiend incarnate were to meet you on the run what might happen makes my blood rnn cold to think. Good-by, dear. _ God keep and pro teat you, and if Fleetwing does not belie her name I shall be baok with you under two hours. But he was not.