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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter TitleBY-PATHS.
Chapter Url
Full Date1871-05-13
Page Number348
Word Count1877
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912)
Trove TitleTom Hellicar's Children
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Tom Heilicar's Children.

By L. C

ChjlPtee XI.— By-paths.

.Fail av.ay from Mount Hellicar, in the wild mountain ranges among the high, gaunt gum trees, and sand stone toulders, ran a road leading from the stations in the interior coastwise — a road chiefly travelled by stock and stockmen — and even now such a party was movinp alone it.

Hundreds of cattle presented a bristling phalanx of horns — a stockman in a scarlet shirt, with a rough grisly beard, and extraordinary black cabbage-tree hat, seated on an old, high-boned horse — a black in European costume, and a lad, just then swearing at a refractory beast — those, and a few pack-horses sauntering aleng among the cattle, were tlie party. 'Keep a look out for a bit of a path, me boy '.' called the old man. ' All right,' was the laconic reply. The path was presently found. Billy, the black, ?was sent on ahead, and the other two began the diflicult opperation of cutting out several head of cattle from the drove. This operation provoked a frightful amount of swearing and v.'hip-cracking, and evolutions and display of horsemanship, which would have astonished one less skilled than the drover or his* companion. Eight head of cattle were so separated, and driven down the path which led away through the unbroken forest. ' Have we got 'um all, Jack r ' ' 'Where's the red poly cow r ' ' Bad luck to her for an illwished cratur — she must take her chance.' So they went on, galloping the cattle over the rough, rocky way, which presently led down a deep gully, and at the distance of a couple of miles opened out on to some partially cleared land, revealing one of those hybrid farms and stations so much dreaded by surrounding stockholders. The owner assisted to yard the heated and panting animals, and the three entered his hut, where a bottle of rum was produced and pannikin6. ' J. R. beasts,' remarked the farmer. The old man nodded — and began to give a florid description of the raid — how they had crossed the owner's run and swept away some of his beeves, as retribution for some previous attempt to prevent their travelling stock through his station — all three joined in the exploit, commenting and laughing. The lad, an impulsive, reckless fellow, saw only the danger and Aas-h of the whole thing — it was not stealing to him ; he saw no sin — the very exuberant manhood ill directed, was hurrying him to ruin ; there can be no doubt about it, that the worst people, too often, might have been the best ; just looking at them as so much material. The indomitable courage which made the martyr, apart from religion, might have been a curse — the philanthropist might have been the enemy of his race — let us never give up any as beyond the reach of mercy, as too bad to amend. It is the rich soil which throws up the heaviest crop of weeds. Before long the bargain was effected ; the stolen cattle were to be passed on into yet remoter fast nesses, and the stockmen went back to the drove left under the charge of the black. * * * * Were a mother's prayers following that line handsome boy ? Even now were good angels flutter ing round his bright careless head — who knows ? Long ago Jack Hellicar, for it was he, had lost his identity, and become Jack Feagan. It pleased the kind hearts of the old people to call him son, aud to hear the words father and mother from his lips ; and if Sam the drover was hurrying the lad to ruin, he yet loved him passionately, in hi6 own way. As to Margaret, there was much she never heard of — nor did . she fail often to remind Jack that 'he came of dacent peopie, and must never bemean himself, or let himself to the likes of the old man.' In conversation with the black they found a man seated on one of those vehicles in use long ago, under the name of mail-carts, a sort of clumsy dogcart built of wood. He was recognised by the name of Mac the dealer, being ostensibly a travelling grocer, with an odd fancy for carrying his commodities in kegs. He had once* been a respectable Sydney tradesman— but impatient of the slow returns of steady industry, adopted an illicit trade, being fined, imprisoned, and on his release started as licensed dealer. For a little ?while all went well, then he fell in with a party em ployed in distilling, and supplemented his business with casks of whisky. A taste of the deadly liquor ?was too much for Sam, and it was arranged that they should camp together, and spend the night in revelry. Such men as Sam Feagan are rapidly disappearing from the rank of drovers— a respectable and responsible class of men have, within the last few years, adopted a business at once remunerative, and with all the attractions of adventure, freedom, and change ; while the station holder finds the advantage of the change, and the picturesqv.e groups of men to be met with en route for the interior are usuail}' headed by one or more men who have just left their pleasant and improved homesteads, while their social status is among the respectable classes. Yet, while the time has come, and is yet more clearly coming, when a post involving considerable responsibility and trust is passing into the occupancy of the middle classes, the Sam Feagans are multiply ing down below. To those who know much of the real state of bush life, the fearful question must often present itself, how shall we keep pace with, and stem the flood of evil growing up in the remotest dis tricts r A school and a church in the townships doubtless benefit greatly a circle, and but a small one — still there remain the scattered bush settlers. The parents, or may be grand-parents, received a certain amount of instruction in Europe ; their children are growing up without that, uneducated, in absolute ignorance of religion, with scarcely a moral code of the most limited outlines — can we wonder that theft and highway robbery are running rampant ! The Bush Mission is doing something, but might it not be possible to find, and support, a class of men who would itinerate through such localities r — who would take their place by the stockman's watch fire, in the lonely sawyer's hut ; who would go from farm to farm ; from station to station ; simply teaching every where the glad tidings of salvation ? I believe that a large-hearted Christian would be well received, and that his influence would be immense— the benefit in calculable. This chapter leads us back four years ; Jack had never returned to Gindion. Chapter XII.—' I see the Light ! ' Have you ever heard of my mother, sir ? ' It was a question Richie had long been resolving to put, but the dry, sour face of his uncle constantly repelled him. ' Never dare to mention that woman to me, he returned, with a savage snarl. ' I have a right to ask the question, and I repeat The defiant tone made the old man draw back, but before he could reply a wild laugh was heard, followed bv the rapid steps of a horse ; quick as thought both were out on the verandah. The horses had just been

^'fir round for Richie to take his cousin for a ride and Missy, seeir.g them left alone, had slipt out and clambered on to Richie's horse ; elated at her success, tne poor girl had broken out into one of those wild peals of laughter which expressed her satisfaction at all tunes, and the startled horse was seen madly bounding down the lawn, in front of the house. The spectators held their breaths in horror; to pursue was only to urge the animal onward, already goaded to madness by the shrieks of its clinging burden. The norse swerved to one side, evidently making for the gate communicating with its pasture land, and Richie sped forwards in hopes of catching it there. Before ne reached it, Missy was hurled to the ground; crushed, bleeding, senseless. They bore her indoors, with white faces and horror stricken hearts ; the doctor came— shook his head bade them prepare for the worst, and retired again. After a while the vacant eyes opened with a strange intense expression in them, and fixed their eyes on the evening eky. 'Missy, my dear Missy, are you better?' whispered her mother. 'It|s all dark here — but its bright — bright up there,' she murmured, without heeding the ques tion. ' It's the sun-set, dear.' There was a long silence ; then, in a glad loud tone, she cried, ' / sec the ligM.' And there was ' no more night, for the former things had pasted away.' * ** *? «? The three youtlis had lately been sent to England ; they were to travel for two years, and return polished, and worthy of the name of Tristam. A great change had come over Maud Hellicar ; the old flippant manner rarely showed itself, and her cheek was often pale ; she had grown very fond of Esther Thorell, and even now her arms were round her friend's neck, and her head pillowed in her bosom. They had been planting flowers on Missy's grave. 'Essie, I do believe,' she was saying, 'that she now sees and knows the light above. Oh that I did too.' The passionate tone startled her companion. ' 'What is my life ?' she went on hurriedly ! ' Can any thing be emptier than that of a vain trifling girl — don't interrupt me. I must speak now, and then be silent for ever. Essie, I am to marry my cousin Tristam — mamma wishes it, so does papa — but I despise him — all through my life I must feel myself his superior. I used to think, till this engagement came, that I should look up, and up to my husband ; that I should love him till I lost my waywardness, and almost worship him in my love and devotion. We used to say, we girls at school, how we would make our husbands obey us ; but I never meant it, never wished it — now my soul will grow narrower and meaner to the end.' ' You must not take this step — you must not live a lie — ' ' I must — I have not the courage to draw back.' ' Let me ? ' ' No — be silent — it is all you can do for me.' She rose aud walked away. Essie had still some attention to pa}' to a little grassy mound. She had promised a sorrowing mother, when she left the parish, that her baby's grave should be attended by loving hands.