|Newspaper Title||Sydney Mail (NSW : 1860 - 1871)|
|Trove Title||Which Wins? A Tale of Life's Impulses|
WHICH WINS ? A. TALK OF LIFE'S IMPDLSKR.
' The *cacy wanderer, over- worn, Dcemt dcaUi a blluful miking mom.' Anom. It was Saturday afternoon when I entered the city, and, bb I passed down l'Mramatta-stieot I found mr fT, m a 'owd pf caru laden with supplies of veec Uble end fruit for the night-market. My destitute appearance wag no longer an object for notice, for I ?was in the very highway of destitution and beggary and met and overtook many others aa inunlfA
self. Observing how they all dragged and sauntered along, I mado an effort to increase my tread to a brisker and more purpose-seeming face but out wearied and faint, I found that the trial was useless— my feet clung to tho ground at every step. Besides, I found that if I would preserve my little dog I must carry him in my arms, for every other dog took upon him tbe sirs of an established resident towards my vagrant follower. Poor Jumbo Btraightened his curlv tail, hung down his head, drooped his shaggy ears' and crept close to my skirts for protection. But it was of no use : the canine citizens triumphantly drove him from his retreat, and forcing him to fly before them, scoured the street in unmerciful pursuit. I stood helplessly, with clasped hands, while my little pet was driven under horses' hoofs, and between cart
wheels, getting a cut from a carter's whip, a kick from a shopkeeper's boot, and bites innumerable from his persecutors, before he pantingly took refuge at my side again. Then I snatched him up into my arms, but I had to cast more thin one stone to drive off the baffled tyrants tbst were barking around. Poor Jumbo nestled in mv arms, perfectly contented but though he was small, ne was a heavv load to me in my weaiy state. I crept rather than walked up George street, until I reached the markets. Here, fitting down on a kerb-stone, I ouietly made up my mind to die, but to take care' of Jumbo whether I did or not. Truth is, mv mind was begin ning to fail, under the unusual and' violent exertion I had made, and the first stages of a severe illness were coming upon me. With the usual effect of delirium one object became magnified so as to fill my whole thought. I knew, I said to myself, that I had no place to lay my head in that night, but then that did not matter &inrp T it t ? ..i j « . ,
? i / *'61 *l * iuuiu uuiy nOQ B protector for J umbo. I knew, I said, that I was dying, and that my body would be left cast upon the cpen street, but that was no matter so Jumbo wan not cast there too. Dead bodies suffered little by indie, nity and contempt, but a living dog would suffer much by oppression and ill-usage. A vivid dream of Jumbo, yelping and torn by a thousand savage dogs tormented my distempered senses. I bent mv head over my little dop, and wept the impotent tears of ! madness, beseeching him only to try and get home to fat. Cudgereewonga, and I was sure King (that was the name of my Newfoundland dog that Mr. Barrett had given me) would rcceive him with gladnesB for my Bake. at this moment my attention was excited bv a little girl that stood near me. She was a child of the iVTrr 1 ' a' bu v for,a'l Jlcr ™G» she seemed to me beautiful as a cherub in disguise. Her great dark blue eyes looked out softly from beneath a tangled mats of flaxen cnrls, and her ruddy lips were parted into such a perfect child's smile. That smile at tracted me, as the one solitary ray that just at high noon penetrates into the prisoner's cell, draws his thankful gaze, even on the death-morning! I smiled in return, and that drew the child nearer. She spoke at last, in a swcc-t baby voice. -- j jhal 8 \ PreM-' dog you've got,' Bhe said : jou's' y°U r OT 6te41 il« or 6et given to . itr' * answered, with a consciousness of the doubtful manner in which I got my prize. ' Whv do you atk if I stole it, little one r' ?' You might she answered, 'mv mother always says it is wrong to steal, but most people I know wouldn t care about a dog, and such a pretty dog.' It came tome,' I said wearily, for my strength was not sufficient for language ef any length: 'I think God tent it to me.' « i'AJV t°u n«ae,' Bald the chad eagerly. I with you would tell me who God is. The people where we live eay it sometimes when they are dread fully bad, but my mother told me always to run 'far away then, and 60 1 do. She eays it too. but not in that way ; I hear her whispering it when she thinks I m asleep at a njght, and kisses me. I asked her
voce wno uoa was. she say ?' I inquired, interested in spite of my illneSs. 41 She said Uod was my father,' said the little one, mysteriously ; ' and when I asked her what was a lather, she only cried and kissed me, so I was sorry I asked her. But I do wonder what is God, and what is a father.' ' I wish I could tell you,' I said ; ' but I am very ill, and cannot speak much,' 'Poor thing !' the child said soothingly, ' don't apeak, then, and I will talk to you instead. Perhaps a father s like a Bister. I know what that is.' 'Do your' I enquired listlessly. ' Yes,' she continued, ' a sister, a pretty lady with long curls and nice ej-cs, and music like low wind sounds in her voice.' ' Who told lyou that r' I inquired, for the idea that this was Una began to steal upon me. ' Mother told me ; 6he says my sister is like that, and that she lives somewhere in the country, and that when she goes down into tlie grasB.gTave, she will
stna mc 10 my sister. 1 don t want to let my mother be in that place,' the dear little one said gravely, J' but I would like to see my sister.' It must be Una, I grew faint with joy, and closed my eyes while the child's voice prattled on : ' But I wish God would pond me such a pretty little dog as that ; ne might if he gave thai to you, for he ib my father, you know.' That recalled the delirious phantasy again, and, full of my care for Jumbo's welfare, I said eagerly, *' Wouldn't you like me to give you this one r X will, if you will promise to take care of it, feed it well, and not let bad dogs run it down and kill it.' The child danced with pleasure. ' Oh, I ehouid like, I should 'like ! but I must ask my mother first, you know. Will you let me ask my mother f' ' Yes,' I said, scarce consciously again, and the child ran off. Presently she came dancing back again t« get the dog, and, forgetting altogether my surmise that this was Una, I put him into her arms and let her go bom me. Then, having got over the care that had preyed so heavily on my disordered mind, I quietly leant back against a wall, and, in the midst of all the bustle of the market, prepared to die, as a matter of course. I was neither glad nor sorry, but just passive. I thought that it would have been sweeter to lie down gentlv on my own white bed, in my own silent room ; to feel the kind hand of love clasping the farewell clasp with mine : to hear tlie dear voice of love speak ing to the last of eternal truth. But then, on the other band, I should in a very few moments be past all this outward circumstance, and it would be a matter of no importance to me whether I cast off my earthly garb amid all that wealth of loTe, or despised and alone in the crowded city thoroughfare. When I should be above even the comprehension of a thing so limited as earthly love it would not be to me a matter of regret that I had not died in its cmbrace ; when I ehouid be above the distinctions of place and person, it would be to me no matter of distress that I had expired a beggar under the market wall. And already I felt tbe inseparable barrier coming between me ana the world, and the buBy hum around me grew VBguer and more distant-soundfing. In reality, I was sinking into the heavy sleep by which a fever is often preceded. Yet I nourished a strong eager desire that, I being gone, they would bury the body I had cast off in a particular comer of the St. Cudgereewonga churchyard. In that corner grew avery large swamp oak tree, and I fell asleep prayine to be buried there. I pictured a grave green with violets from my own garden bed, John Barrett standing lonely by its side, and that sorrowful tree moaning its requiem music over both ; and, with delirious contrariety, I found as much comfort in that picture, as I did in the thought that I myself should not be there but far away. A sweet voice that I heard above me did not wake me to consciousnes, though I caught its words. ' Poor girl !' it said : ' how came she here amidst all this turmoil, and she so HI J' There were many confused voices raised, but I lay still with inward wonder that any ehouid dare to ad dress an angel, for to I deemed the speaker surely was, ' Does any one among you know howshe came here r' the voice again demanded. 'No,' a rough, 'man's voice returned; 'girls are often about here but we never concern about them much. 1 expect she came on her ten toes.' 'She's very ill was repeated by the voice again ; '? something must be done for her ; she can't be left In this *state. Who among you will lift her to my carriage i' The idea of an angel having a carriage struck me as a little incongruous, but the chief thought that this awoke in me was that, after all, my body would not Buffer the indignity of lying abandoned in the street. With a second thought, not so pleasing— that it might
be taken somewhere where it would not be so easy for Mr, Barrett to find it, and lay it under the swamp oak's music. I was quickly lifted, but cot with so much gen tleness aa speed, and the rough movement made me open my eyes. There stood beside me one, tall, heavy-browed, and earnest-eyed ; and, though she was clad in this world's most fashionable garb, her appearance did not dispel my delusion that ahe was i superhuman being sent to take me out of the woild, I was raised into the carriage, the lady entered after me, and it drove off at once. She stooped over me, and fanned me with her handkerchief for a moment or two before Bhe inquired — ' My poor child, what brought you in such a posi tion as that r' I made an effort to answer, but could not. 'Press my hand,' she said, ' if you hear me and cannot speak.' I did so. ' l»o you understand what I say ?' I again pressed the hand she had laid in mine. 'I fear,' ahe continued; 'that ysu are wrong, somehow ; cne so young as you ehouid not be haunt ing the streets. Will you promise me to try and do better when you recover r' It was a strange speech for what I supposed her to t*, especially as I half thought myself on the other side of death ; and, in spite of all my veneration, I could not help feeling angry at the unjust supposition. I made no response. ' Do you hear mc f' the lady questioned. I contrived to answer. ' Yea.'
'And am I right i' 'No.' 'Donotspeak if it hurts you,' the said more kindly : ' I shall take the pressure of your hand at an affirmative. Am I to understand that, notwith standing all presumptive appearances, you assert that there is nothing blameworthy in your conduct i' I made the requisite sign in answer, but very feebly. I was becoming more confused, and my ima gination was confounding the supposed angel with my mother, and my mother with John llarrett, very strangely. ' Well,' she said, after a pause, ' I shall take your word for truth, and shall be glad if it proves such. Any way, I will watch over you until you re cover from what I fear will be a stubborn illness. I would take you to my own home, but I fear your sickness is contagiouB, and I have a child whose health I must not endanger ; but at the ? ' I heard no more, for 1 had swooned at her feet while she was speaking. I woke up very weak and faint. I was lying in a narrow white bed, one of twenty that lined the sides of a long, whitewashed room, with windows between each bed, covered with close-drawn white blinds. Two or three women with large white aprons were moving about among the beds, that seemed nearly all occupied. ' Where am I?' I. asked of one who came near me at that moment. ' Oh, have you come right at last, dear r' alie an Bwercd kindly. ' I'm glad of that. You'll soon be all right again now, if you keep quiet.' ' Where am I,' I repeated. '.Why, where should you be, if not in the — ward of ? hospital.' ' Am I f and how long have I been here ?' ' Near upon a month, dear. But you must be quiet now, or you'li be bad again.' ' A month !' ' Yes, dear, you've been very bad, and its a mercy you ever came round at all. But you must not talk any more now.' ;? Only another question, nurse : how did I get into this placet I con't remember.'
jars, uume Drougtit you ; and she's been here nearly every day Bince to inquire after you. She's a good kind lady, and will be giad of this change in you, I know. Row go to Bleep, dear, and you'U soon be well and strong to thank her.' It was in vain that I begged to know who Mrs. Uume was ; the good-natured nurse refused to talk or let me talk any longer, and insisted on my going to sleep immediately. Which I found no difficulty in doing : for the next week I did nothing else but sleep and eat by turns. Nature was exacting payment for the long strain I had given her by demanding long and mcessant rest as the price of recovered health.