Chapter 166692918

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Chapter NumberXVI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166692918
Full Date1862-02-01
Page Number2
Corrections0
Word Count3798
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleSydney Mail (NSW : 1860 - 1871)
Trove TitleWhich Wins? A Tale of Life's Impulses
article text

WHICH WINS ?

A TA.LE OF LIFE'S IMPULSES.

BT A11IEL.

Chapter XVI.

' I roved o'er many & bill aid many a dale, In aunthinc and in shade, in wtt and fair, DrooplaB or blithe of heart, os might bcfull j My ta»t companions now Hie driving vtndr, And sow the ' trotting brooks* mi whispering tteos, And now luo rouBic ofmyown aad ulcnB, with many a shortlived thought that p»wcd between, And disappeared,' WoaDAWOHTH. I slept late on the next morning, in spile of the dis comfort of my resting-place, and, indeed, was roueed at last by the appearance of my good-n&tured hostess.

' Sure,' Bhe said, ' an' it's myself that is eorry to Tvake ye from the good sleep, but yc see the boys are ?wanting to go to the woik, an' its not poor folk like us that can afford to lose the time when the earth is Boft after the blessed rain. If ye'll come to the house ?with, me, dear, may be a drop of tea an' a morsel will comfort your heart before ye take to the weary tramp again.' I sprang up at her summons, and found that the outhouse in which. I had been steeping was a dilapi dated room, that seemed to be used as half stable, half tool-house, for, at the far end was a rude tempo. laty stall, that bad been lately occupied, and nearer to me was a collection of rusty and half-broken tools, to which my wakener pointed by way of pointing her own remark. 'It's here,' she continued, ' that we keep our horse Tommy — the poor beast— when my Pat is at home. My Vat brings up goods from Sydney for the stores on the road, but he s down, to Sydney these three days past.' She continued to chatter about Pat, with all the garrulity of a satisfied wife, as we crossed a muddy yard to the room through which I had paescd in the evening. Arrived there, she intimated to throe clownish-looking young men that they were at liberty to get their tooU and ' make themselves scarce' as quickly as possible, with a most ridiculoui air of superiority. ' Poor boys '.' she remarked, in a confidential tone, as soon aB they had complied with her desire, ' they're not very bright articles just yet, but they'll pick up well enough after a bit. Pat's worth all three of them put together, an' a dozen more to the crown ; but then, after all, be they what they may be, still they are his brothers, ye knows. When Pat an' I came out we had a hard tug, but when we got a good place an' double rations, ' Molly,' says he, ' I'd like to get out the boys an' Kathleen'— that eame'shU tistcr. 'True for you, Pat,' Bays I, ' an' we'll do it, too ' An' co we did. The rations were more than the two of us could eat, an' what we had no need of we eould, an' the pi ice bought the few rags of clothes that we got. We saved every farthing of wages for to bring out the craturs, an* its but three months since they came. Kathleen's got a first-rate place in Sydney, but, between jou an' me, there's a smart young carter -won't lave her in it for long.'. So she talked while I sipped her pungent tea and munched at the damper which she hid put before me, hospitably atoning for its rough quality by an in crease of quantity with which I could easily have dis pensed. She seemed hair offended that I did not consume the liberal supply, with which she hid pro Tided me. To divert her attention, and re-establish hci temper, I made some overtures to the child that she held in her arms — a red-haired, blue-cyed, chubby little fellow, who had been for the past few minutes crowing and making faces at me with true Hibernian vivacity. 1 he mother was won in a moment. ' Ay, look at him, the dailint, the precious mummy's da'rliiu that he is !' ehe exclaimed, tossing him up so close to the low rafters that I closed ray eyes in terror ; ' he's the picture of his own daddy he is— as like as two pinB. Yes,' she added seilousiy, 'you'll may-be know one d&y, dear, what a blessing it is to have a child like the husband that is dear to you. An' my Fat is good ; he never struck me yet, since the day ?we plighted faith before the priest, an' that's five year come next month ; an' if he do drink s drop now an' then' — I interrupted the true wife's questionable cutogium, for I saw the morning coach coming up the road, and though I was well disguised, I withdrew instinctively from my seat by the door to one close to the hole that served for a window, where I could see as well and be less seen. I saw one upon it, as it ncared me, that made my heart beat quicker, for on the box-seat waB John Danett — his arms folded closely and his turn uad glance bent straight before him. I could not resist the impulse that prompted me to go back tu the door with a wild, unformed hope and thought that he. being so cloee, I could not be the forlorn thing that I was. In vain : the pitiless vehicle came crashing past ; the man I loved never turned his head atide to regard the squalid woman who was looking at him in agony, and all the while the happy woman beside me was crooning, half to me and half to her child, the never-tiring tale of her satisfied love. I returned to my scat in a silent grief, past that of Mare. Although I knew well that the errand which took him to Sydney was a search after me ; although I knew so well how to read his features as to see that their settled calm was a maik of his most earnest Eotrow, and although I was thankful in five minutes after that he had not rccognisod me, I vet was stung to the heart by his want of recognition. It seemed to be the first putting of separation between us -a push ing off by him who had hitherto striven only to draw me closer; and, with every struggle to regain cheer fulnees, I found it less easy not to suppose this cruel chance a sign that in very deed there was no more connection between the wandering Uoln and John. Barrett, Useless, however, at that period of my history, were such vain lamentations as these. Commanding down all weak emotions, I rose to go, and, thanking my careless, lighthcarted hostess, I resumed my journey, in the track which he had taken. I had been quite recovered from my lassitude of the previous evening by food and rest, and my step was steady and firm that morning, and ray brain clear to think and re solve. In truth I had need of firm strength, and clear brain both, for I had thirty miles to walk over a muddy road before I could reach Sydney, and, when there, I was penniless. But I did not despair, so I could but reach Sydney; for, once here, it must be easy to get employment of tome kind, and I would do anything at first, although I meant to strive cease lessly to find and join my mother and sister. So, with Hope for my upbearer, I trod on lightly -enough. Indeed, it was such a day as one could hardly sigh in ; one of those rare days when the earth, having been washed from all impurity, lies in all its brightest beauty beneath a pure unclouded sky. The heaven, of deepest, clearest blue, domed over the world as if in love with its loveliness, paling with passion at it neared the object of its desire, casting over it a flood of soft, sunny emilcB, and breathing over it a gently impetuous desire in low musical breezes. The white gum stems glistened like silver pillars, and gnarled and burnt old giants stood out in strong iclief in the sunlight. Every leaf sparkled to the sheen, every leaf whispered with the breeze ; a million little birds fluttered, twittered and pecked around ; the fences and tree-trunks were alive withbright-eyed glittering lizards of all sizes, and the locusts kept up an inter mittent, joyous, if confessedly harsh, accompaniment to all other sounds. It was almost impossible to maintain an unceasing sorrow amid all the gaiety of Nature. By noon I was ten miles from St. Cudgeree wonga, and not very tired, although my walk had been a long plodding through heavy mud. If I could get ten miles further by nightfall I might hope to reach Sydney with eBse on the morrow. I stayed for half an hour by the side of a rippling streamlet, and made a hearty meal of apiece of damper, which I had yet remaining from my Uydleigh friend's Bupply, and & draught of water, and started again with raised Bpirits and renewed strength. About half-past two I was obliged to turn aside into the bush, to avoid the coach, on which \ was apprehensive there might be some one with eyes keen enough to recognise me. I became very tired towards sunset, and as I dragged up a hill of comparative steepneBs, it seemed as if the summit retreated before me and I should never reach it. I began to feel anxious as to what might be beyond, and where I should get a night's rest. Worse than that anxiety was my dismay when, reaching the top, I sank exhausted by the side of a milestone that marked the distance to Sydney as twelve miles, and looked around me. The road stretched away level and straight as far as sight could trace it, and on its ?whole length was no trace of a habitation. I knew that the nearest hut behind me was two miles off, and I could not have walked another hundred yards. It was in vain that my eye searched keenly ell around for the smoky cloud that should betray some low chimney, and that my ear became intensely fine in its desire to discover the signs of human life. I saw no sight but the pink evening clouds ; I heard bo sounds but the sharp click-click of the grasshoppers, the louder ?whin-ing of the locusts, and, above all Bounds, the loud beating of my own heart. I grew faint with combined few aad fatigue, and, leaning

back against the stone, closed my eyes with a drowsy «?« '-* hopeless resignation. 1 should probably have slept there in a few moments more, had I not been roused by the distant smack of a stock-whip and an indistinct'' Gee-woa, gee-up !' l started awake and listened : the sound was repeated on the road in the direction in which 1 had come, ?'I Presently a bullock-tcam dragged lazily into sight jn the distance, accompanied by two men. I knew now lawless those men would probably be, and how little they would think themselves bound to respect a woman whom they found crouching at night by a milestone two miles from the nearest dwelling, and I dragged myself in terror some distance into the bush, and took refuge in a close, thorny thicket, inside which I found a clear and grassy space. I had scarcely Bcttled myself to rest here, when the team gained the brow of the hill, and I heard one man suggest to the other — ' Better camp here, Joe, and we'll do the twelve miles easy before dinner to-morrow.' ' All right, old boy !' was the response, and in ten minutes the very men I had striven to avoid were unyoking their bullocks, and gathering materials for afire within fifty yards from my retreat. There was nothing better to be done than remain quiet, and I did that, folding my hands in breathlesdy eager prayer that 1 might not be found. Twice through that long night my danger became imminent. One of the weary bullocks passed close by my hiding-place, snd, scenting the intruder, snuffed and snorted and groaned in bovine alarm, until it drew its drivers' at tention to its agitation, They came up, under the impression that the animal had seen a snake, and beat about my bush and potted sticks into it for ten minutes, but they found neither the snake nor me, and, driving the bullock to a distance, gave up the search with a few muttered maledictions. Later in the night, a little dog which they had with them made the same discovery, but the men sat still by the fire, one of them remarking, parenthetically to their conversation, that ' that there Jumbo was a brick for 'jiOBsums.' Meanwhile, I coaxed Jumbo, who was really a pretty, good-natured, though half-stwved Bpanicl, and presently he crept in at the hole by which 1 had entered, and, after receiving with evident pleasure my pats and whispered soothings, coiled him bdf contentedly at my feet, and went to sleep. After that I had time to listen to the conversation of Jumbo's masters, which I soon found nearly concerned myself. 'Found,' said the one tiliom his mate designated as ' old boy,' and who seemed to expect a rough kind of deference that the other paid to him as a mutter ol course : ' found — there aint a bit o' doubt about it, mate. Them sort o' girls aint got the spirit to carry out a Jark to the end ; the first little catch they lind in their plan they're down on their luck at once. Old Dick says she never crossed the ferry, and for all the old parson says, I'm certain 6ure she'd never make the lord. She'd be frightened at the first sight of hir own bare feet, and the touch o' cold water would bring out the white feather at once. If I'd had a sight o' the parson I'd ha' put him up to a trick or two that would help him to find his pet again. He went too far afield ; take my word for it, the girl has doubled, and is only pretending to bide Bome wheic near, praying to all the saintB that she may be found and taken back into warm quarters again.' ' May.be,' said the younger man deferentially ; ' but my mind misgives me that the poor thing's diownded. If you'd seen the face of the poor gentle man when they showed him the little black cloak that some of them picked up. I was ancar him when he turned and pushed it away with his hand, and I saw him go white and shivei.and then he clutched his hand, and bit his poor lips tight, and I heard him say—' ' Ay, what did he say :' said the old man, in a tone of interest ; ' you're as good company aB at the theatre, Joe.' Animated by his cider's approbation, he mimicked Mr. Barrett' « voice, until I started, but in a tone of the deepest dejection. ' ' 'W by,' says he just so, ' if Bhe's dead, I am her murderer. I might have known that, quiet as she was, it I once wakened her sense of honour she would go msd before it slept again.' ' Poor gentleman,' said the man pityingly, ' I wish he may find her again, that's all.' ' Um,' grumbled the old man ; 'people do say she wasn't his daughter at all.' ' Not a bit more than I am : it was whispered she was more to him than daughter could be.' ' Bad, bad,' commented the old man oraculurlv ; and he a parson too. I shouldn't wonder if she was drownded for a judgment on him. But I say, mate, what took him to Sydney, then ?' ' Oh, he said he had searched all down the Creek, and If others hud found the cloak, he had found a little book belonging to her. high above water-mark on the Sydney side' (I must have lost it from my pocket), 'and he believed she was safe, and on the road to Sydney. lie thought he might overtake her, I fancy.' ' It's my belief the girl was tired and wanted a change; and if so shc'il take care the parson don't get hold of her. Anyways, mate, I'm going to turn in.' That iast observation was followed by the two men drawing closer to the fire, and settling themselves for repose. Precarious as my own situation was, I, too, slept several times during the night, wakening at in tervals with renewed terror that was stronger for the state of half-consciousness in which it came upon me. At daylight the men began to stir, and before long they had gathered and rc-yoked their bullocks, hung the kettle beneath the dray, and beaten out the fire with a branch, and were ready to start. Then there was a call for Jumbo. The little dog at my feet lifted hie head, growled lowly, and then coiled himself up again. But the cry was repeated again and again, and Jumbo got up, stretched himself, and prepared reluctantly to go. I could not help trying to detain the dog, and I put out my hand, whispered encourage ments to him, and begged of him to stay, aa if he had been a friend wnose presence I wished to retain. He turned his kind, soft, brown eyes upon me, pricked his ears and wagged hiB tail, and then, moving from my feet to my head, lay down again, and I put my arm caressingly round his neck. The men's voices stew loud and 'angry, but Jumbo answered every c&U by the same low growl, and did not attempt to stir. To my great delight they ceased at last, with an angry imprecation, and the little dog remained with me. 'Stolen fruits' are not always sweet, but I exulted over that theft with almost childish joy ; I will even cenfesB that when the men were gone I bent my head on the dog's neck, and cried with thankfulness that he had not left me. Now, when nearly ten years are gone past, I would not change the little, shaggy old dog, that lies at my feet while I write, for his weight in Australian gold; neither, I know, would the grave, white-headed man, who has been silently reading at the other Bide of the table for the last three hours. I waited an hour before I ventured to come from out of my hiding-place, and when I did, I found that I was much weaker than on the preceding day, and in great want of food. However, the acquisition of Jumbo had put me hi good spirits, and I had no doubt that I should ect food at the next cottage. So I started down the hill at a run, Jumbo gambol ing and barking joyfully around me. But at the next cottsge I was repulsed with insult, and a big boy, who saw his parents' mood, followed it up by setting a great bulldog upon my lit tie pet. I snatched him up in my arms, and the man, not choosing to have a woman worried to death on the door-step,grufily called off the dog and told me to be off. I went, cry ing over my poor trembling little dog ; but I had sot got many steps before I was hailed by a voice close to me : ' Hi ! young woman !' I turned round apprehensive of some new insult, but the kindly face I met reassured me. It belonged to the driver of a cart that had turned out of a cross-road, just as I approached the door from which I had been so harshly driven. ' Never mind that old hunks, my girl,' he said cheerily; 'he's known ten miles round for what he is— a near old codger, that takes so much care of the crumbs he's got, that he can't spare time to earn a loaf. Never cry about the matter, girl ; them that's down have got to be trod on sometimes, but may be it teaches them to be careful when they get up a step or two in their turn. If you won't mind breakfast ing under a tree with an old man, I've got food enough for both of us, and the little dog into the bargain, and after that I can give you a lift to within a mile or two of Sydney, if you're going there.' I thanked him as well as my tears would let me, and the old man said, ' AU right, then. Hand up the dog here and jump in yourself, that the old miser yonder may see you've come to no harm through him, and when we turn the next corner, may be you'll do a bit of woman's work for me, and fry a steak or two.' In ten minutes we halted. My companion pro duced pan and kettle, and while I gathered sticks for a fire, took the latter vessel in search of water, with which he soon came back. I prepared the meal with all the art I knew, while he sat smoking his pipe and telling me long tales about his wife and (daughters. The man was one of Nature's born gentlemen, and it not a little soothed my wounded feelings to mark how

he strove, by giving me something to do, to blunt the edge of his charity for my reception, ana the careful ness that he showed not to take advantage of my helpless position, but to p»y me all the deference that good men show to the weakness of women. I and Jumbo ate a hearty breakfast, and, repeating our BelveB in the cart, went on our way rejoicing. My kind old friend put me down two miles out of Sydney with a hearty wish that he could drive me bII the way. About one o'clock I entered the city, a beggar, with no property but my little stolen dog, snd feeling on the verge of a severe illness. For my head ached and throbbed, my whole body tingled with pain, and my feet were blisterc^with walking, to which I was unused.