Chapter 164370762

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Url
Full Date1871-04-01
Page Number155
Word Count1627
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)
Trove TitleTom Hellicar's Children
article text


Tom Hellicar's Children.

Bt L. C.

Chapter V.— Not Strictly Professional.

'When the -widow came to Mount Hellicar, the owner cf that estate had mentioned the circumstance to his ?wife, in a cursory way, as a piece of current gossip. That high-born lady making no comment, he in quired, snappishly, what she meant to do. ' I do, papa,' demanded she, in amaze. ' You know she has Tom Hellicar's daughter there.

x ou are well aware that my tune is more than oc cupied by the cares of my position.' «' Then you do not intend to see the child. 7, of course, cannot be troubled.' ?' You cannot expect, papa, that the children of a Trifitam are to be made companions for the child of goodness knows who ? ' She spoke in so ill-used a tone, and at the same time gave Missie such a severe frown, that Richard Hellicar, who was rather afraid of his wife in his heart of hearts, answered with alacrity, ' Certainly not, mama.' The presence of Tom Hellicar's wife and cliild being thus ignored at ' the house,' she sunk into the posi tion of a cottager, without any effort on her own, or other'6, part to prevent it. The cottage set apart for her U6e occupied the sloping brow of a cleared hill, and stood quite alone. It was of slab, but had been shingled and the windows glazed. As time had made entry through the roof, and rain consequently did the same, some sheets of bark were added. These, with a homely papering on the walls, and some dabs of mortar and whitewash upon the ceiling, completed those preparations of which she had heard. The first evening happened to be cold and wet, and, without the gilding of sunlight, how poor a place it looked ! She was so very young, almost a child, when she became a wife, and had since lived in such com fort, so petted and cherished, that to fall back into lonely poverty was a keenly felt trial. She1 felt bewildered and helpless. Her hand travelled often to her brow, as though trying to put aside a troubled dream, that even waking came back again with terror. Drop, drop, fell the rain from the roof, and with the sap of the new bark, the idea would force itself that it was her life-blood dropping from a broken heart. She looked away from it out into the duck pond below, and a few broken peach trees beside the house. Still the rain came crimson, — drep, drop, drop. Ruth Hellicar was a woman of a reverent, rather than a pious spirit. There was a great blank before her now, such as they must feel at some time or other who have not learned to look up to God in Christ. She had prayed when first a mother, she had prayed over each subsequent child, and had taught them to bow the knee, but it was rather the impulse of a gentle nature than an act of worship. Since her husband's death, when sorrow and per plexities had come upon her, she had began to pray in a different spirit ; she wanted help, she wanted com fort ; but she felt so ignorant. What should she do ? God seemed so great to take her troubles to. Then came the thought of the God-man, and she dared venture to lay her burdens at His feet, ' Who was afflicted and despised of men.' But that night, alone on the doorstep, in a strange house, with the blood red drops falling ever beside her, she had not found that resting place, and the deadly sick fear was growing into a burden that made the brain burn and reel, and brought her thin white fingers often to her brow. At that moment sounded the cries of the child ; she had just awakened from sleep, and started up affrighted in the strange bed, in an almost dark room. The little voice was like the tones of an angel, it told of hope and love yet remaining ; still, as she clasped the pretty dimpled form, there was the dread suspicion at her heart. The sum Mr. Richard Hellicar allowed her ' for the maintenance of the girl ' was so limited that it only sufficed for actual wants. Wine and ale, and other things which had been for years a matter of course, were laid aside. She would not ask for more, lest he should be angered, and then— the fear at her heart might become a truth. Very few were the visits she could pay her boys, and the few minutes of steaithy intercourse was a doubtful enjoyment. She always found them with their elbows and knees in holes, inky hands, and un combed hair. The fact was, the boys having been used to the care of a nurse, were both helpless and heedless about their personnels. Mrs. Heland was allowed a certain sum to cloth them, but being an invalid, she did no more than order occasional suits of cheap slop clothing for them, always too large, under the idea that ' boys were such growing creatures.' The consequence being that they fitted nicely when the cuffs were turned back and the hems of the trousers rolled up, only, perhaps, the waists might have been shorter, and the shoulders not so broad. There was an awful mystery about Mrs. Heland's illness. The doctor did not know what it was, and she did not know, and nobody knew. She used to say if ' dear Doctor Preel was alive she was sure he would know,' to which everybody answered ' very likely.' In fact, how could they contradict it ? No body knew who Dr. Preel was either. Some people thought she had been married before, and was the widow of Dr. Preel; and others thought he was her brother or uncle. No one knew of such a practitioner at Gindion at any period, or anywhere else, indeed. However, he was dead, and Mrs. Heland's sufferings continued unalleviated ; whatever they were, they occasioned obesity, and she was always found either reclining on a couch or seated in an arm-chair, covered with a very greasy chintz, with her feet on a high footstool, and cased in slippers run down on one side; they were very large pufly feet. At 11a.m. she had to take a grilled chop and glass of porter, and at night a strong glass of hot gin and water, about which she uttered nightly little shrieks and shudders, but said she must not be so naughty as to disobey the doctor, she supposed ; and so drank it. That same doctor had been known to turn aside and wink when ir.eisting on this diet. He was not at all a gentle manly man, that doctor ; in fact, rather a vulgar man, and rather knowing about horses, and all matters connected with the turf. Tom Hellicar's boys liked him amazinglv ; he had a way of forgetting bottles, labelled 'The mixture,' which he intended for Mrs. Heland, and then, when he found his pockets emptv, would bellow out, 'Bless my heart, was there ever such a memory, I nave left the mixture on the surgery table. Here, one of you boys, take my horse and go down for it. -Jld Jakes knows where it is — by dad, so particu lar as I was about it. Now, don't you leave that horse for one moment, or he'll bolt ; how are you going to knock at the door ? You jump up behind, Jack, and then you can slip down and knock. Don't go too fast, now.' And away went the delighted hoys, while the doctor stamped back into the parlour, and gave Mrs. Heland the last bit of scandal, which she enjoyed with much relish and little screams. -)ld Jakes was a clever, tidy little widow, who laboured under the hallucination that boys were always hungry, and made a point of buttering and

eugaiing huge slices of bread for the children upon these occasions, which they eat in much comfort in the surgery, it being found that the horse did not bolt when left, after which they made great way in a jug of milk, and then jogged back again, and were lifted down by Dr. Leary, with the welcome of ' You rapscallions, you did not break your necks, then. Did he bolt ? ' At which they grinned in silence. On Christmas Day it happened that Mrs. Heland was taken worse, and Richie sent with all speed for the doctor ; he was in the surgery. 'Worse, is she?' and he indulged in certain grimaces quite outside the pale of good society, but which threw a flood of light upon the youthful mind of the messenger, relative to the sufferings of that un fortunate lady. ' Well, she must have some physic— so shall you, you dog — now choose, castor oil or Jakes's pudding r' and with a feint of a huge kick, he lifted the boy on the road to the kitchen. What a pudding ! It marked an epoch in life a* Gindion. When he had finished a great plateful a second was wrapped in paper, and stuffed into his pocket for Jack. That was all of Christmas the boys saw. Mr. Heland went to Mount Hellicar to dinner, and his lady indulged in a poached egg and a novel. Little Jack, who by virtue of running messages about the town, had made some street acquaintances, and added considerably to Ms vocabulary since the days at Biribang, pronounced Dr. Leary ' a brick.'