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Chapter NumberXXVIII
Chapter Title
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Full Date1927-06-01
Page Number22
Word Count3880
Last Corrected2019-04-27
Newspaper TitleSydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938)
Trove TitleSons of the Seven Mile
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Sons of the Seven Mile

An Australian Novel of Country and City Life

By Zora Cross


'The saddle slaves of Love are we.' —Will H. Ogilvie. THE plough was fighting the batteries for supremacy in Hillborough now, and the plough was winning lellow butter, fragrant fruit, and a river of cream— that flowed thick and full from the Twelve-Mile through the Seven-Mile and Five-Mile on to Hillborough, where it met a dozen other streams from Deep Creek and Gidgee Gidgee and other dairying dis tricts—took the place of gold, and mocked the dead mullock-heaps raised everywhere JiJtp futile mmmric +„

a once payable industry that gradually was dying And Ann Farney, who had lived through all 'the roaring days' of the Hill field, as Rutli Markham had, and was now watching the wonderful development of the land she loved so well, rode homeward in the blue afternoon thinking of her lost children. Her once luxurious red-gold hair had turned to a duller bronze, through which the silver threads were beginning to appear; but time had made no furrows in her smooth brow, and her cheeks were unblemished by a wrinkle. She was still remarkably beautiful. Those who pointed her out as the one-time belle of Hillborough perhaps realised that beauty was a thing of the soul and the mind as they looked at her. Her eyes were clear and bright, and, like her sweet, strong mouth, smiled upon the world. She, who had once been lovely Ann Wilson, was growing old beautifully. . Out of its green silence, with mystic arms of leaves and branches, with the hush of ripe summer still hot upon its fragrant lips, the great Seven-Mile came to meet her. Changeless as the sky, save for the increasing number of sawmills, which meant the thinning out of the bush, and the number of new houses going up, the lovely land had not altered since the day she first accom panied her husband to the gates of her old home, Moonee. That was twenty-nine years ago, when she had been but seventeen. The brown roads curved away into the silence. The free birds whirred above her head, or went off into the wilderness with lonely, plaintive cries, with thin screeches, with song, and with twitter. Scarcely a mile on her way she saw a rider emerge from the bush to the right of her, and pulled up her horse, knowing that it would be one of the Mitchell girls. It was Ethel Mitchell, and she seemed to be riding quickly. 'Anything wrong, Ethel?' Ann called out, as Ethel seemed bent upon riding on in the direction of the town rather than stopping. 'No, Mrs. Farney,' she said. 'I was just hurrying to meet Tom. I'm taking his mother some tomato jam.' Ann smiled at the small excuse Ethel was making in order to see a little more of Tom, for all the Seven Mile knew that Ethel Mitchell and Tom Wilson were ' sweethearts. 'How is mother?' 'Pair, Mrs. Farney.' 'Father home?' 'No.' Ann hesitated. 'I'm just going over.' She turned her horse's head. 'I think I'll call over, Et.' Ethel's pleasant, face brightened. 'Do, Mrs. Farney. I'm sure she'd be pleased to see you.' THVTHEL checked a desire to ask if Ann had heard

? ' irom uer austiit '^* children. Somehow she felt that Airs. Farney would have told her had she received any word of those absent loved ones. And Ethel did not want to disturb other people's troubles, She had trou bles enough of her own. A big girl, with a big. kindly, freckled face, freckled neck and hands and arms, eyes of a peculiar blue, and hair like ripe corn gave her a . bush beauty which would have made many a pretty town girl turn and stare at her. Some day Ethel would lose those freckles, and how beautiful she would be then! She sat ' straight in her saddle, strong and commanding. But Ethel was as much a mother in some ways, though she was but a girl of nineteen, as Ann Farney herself was. Her father, Arnold Mit chell, made life hard for Ethel and her big com pany of brothers and . sisters. Mrs. Mitchell was almost the mainstay of the family, and they were clustered about the hard-working woman like

bees, like birds of the wilderness, the brown little and big bush Mitchells. It. was Ethel's duty to mind the brood while her mother cut wood and the boys sold it. Somewhere in the background Arnold drove a team to Hillborough for Red Morgan, still the biggest, strong est, and heaviest drinker in the district; but more often Arnold was to be found in one of the hotels with Mor gan, and the bullocks without bells wandering wherever they liked. Mrs. Morgan, who lived in a shed-like house next to Paddy Ryan's blacksmith's shop, always took him in and. got him ready for home again. Red Morgan and Mitchell were mates, and the woman asked nothing beyond that. Her husband's mates were her mates, and there were no children to worry her. 'You might tell Tom not to forget to come over and kill the pig for me to-morrow,' Ann said, as she turned her horse in the direction whence Ethel had come. 'I'll tell him,' Ethel answered, and rode on to wards Wilson's, while Ann went on to Wattle Grove, the Mitchells' selection. It was situated about half a mile avyay, near the old Cardigan homestead, and Ann had pleasant memories of the latter place, where many a grand old dance, had been held in other days. Carrie was cutting wood when Ann rode up. 'Hello, Ann,' she said, looking up, hot and red, from her work. 'The engine's out of order, and the load is on order; but I'm just finished.' Though Mrs. Mitchell had begun cutting up firewood with nothing but a good axe, she had sooji been. able to buy a circular saw, which she worked quicker than many men would have worked it, and ever so much quicker than her own growing sons. 'Wait a bit.' She stopped work, and presently came round by the fence, and stood wiping her face with a man's big red pocket-handkerchief. Her thick, black, wavy hair was cut short to Lhe neck, and that neck was massive and strong. It was more like a man's than a woman's neck, yet Carrie Mitchell was a beautiful woman, and in her grey eyes a great sorrow slumbered. It was this sorrow, that dwelt in the eyes of both strong women, and climbing side-by-side up the hill to fifty, each with all an Australian woman's cares of husband and children about her, that made a bond between Carrie Mitchell and Ann Farney. She could not tell why it was, but Carrie felt she could trust Ann, and she had told her more of her troubles than she had told anyone else in the world. She took a' billy of cold tea, which was hanging on the fence, drank some of it, and, wiping her mouth hastily with the great handkerchief, leaned her brown arms on the grey, splintery fence. , Dressed in an old pair of Arnold's trousers and a shirt, thick boots on her feet, it was difficult to believe for a while that she was a woman. Ann regarded her for a moment with mingled pride and wonder. 'I was just riding home, Carrie,' she said, 'and I met Ethel going to see Tom. I thought I'd come over.' 'Get down, then, and come in and have a cup of tea. Beat'll have the kettle boiling.' She climbed through the fence, and Ann followed her- to the house, where dogs came out to greet them as Ann dismounted. The homestead was a very large, roomy place, with verandahs on three sides. Carrie led Ann in through the side gate, and she left her horse at the fence. The children, who had been playing on the grass at the

side of the house, faded away with the shyness of Aus tralian bush children, for Ann was not a very frequent visitor. THERE were 14 Mitchells — seven of them boys and seven of them girls. Ethel was the eldest girl and the youngest, a baby in arms, was lying asleep on the cool side of the verandah, where, sitting beside it keep ing off flies and ants and bees and wasps with a green bough, was May Mitchell. She was fourteen, and one bare brown leg was curled round the other as she shyly hunched herself over the book she was reading, glancing up quickly to smile at Mrs. Farney's greeting, and quickly dropping her eyes again as she saw her disappear into the house with her mother. 'Better come inside, Ann,' Carrie said, 'now you're here. I want to show you something. Ah, Ann, you don't know half the things that trouble me.' Ann felt her heart surge up within her. She only talked of her own sorrow at rare moments, and now she realised that it was to Carrie she talked on these occasions. Carrie never let Ann think that her daughter had run away with Barnley, of the Hillborough Theatre, as it had been rumoured at the time. Carrie always dispelled those ideas, until lately, through Carrie, Ann had begun to think them impossible herself. Yet how could she recall that awful day when the news that Gipsy and Barnley had been seen together in Brisbane had come to her? 'I know you've got your share, Carrie,' Ann said now, going on with her friend. A hall led right through the house to the back. Carrie turned off at the first door, and asked Ann to wait in the hot and dark little sitting-room. Pulling up the blinds quickly to let the light in, and, in her somewhat tempestuous way, almost dislodging a china ornament, Carrie said : 'Arnold's not been home for three days, and sometimes I expect he'll never come home again.' 'You mustn't say that, Carrie.' 'Perhaps not.' She reached up her hand, and out of a brass bowl she took a number of letters. Then she sat down beside Ann, wiping a hasty tear from her eye and sniffing quickly, even while she listened for the cry ing of her youngest child. 'I got these from his pocket, Ann. Perhaps I shouldn't have looked, but I was wash ing an old coat for him, and these came out.' Ann did not like to look at them. 'Perhaps I shouldn't look at them if they are private papers, Carrie. Men are strange. They don't like cer tain things.' 'They're only envelopes, if you look,' Carrie re plied, putting up her great handkerchief to her eyes, and looking strangely pathetic as she folded her arms in a momentary state of abandonment to her sorrow. 'There is nothing in them, but there was something there. These envelopes all have the name of a Sydney firm of solici tors on them — Browne and Attow. What I should do is to follow them up, but how can I, with all the work and the children?' 'But what would you do, Carrie?' 'Oh, Ann, Arnold's been getting money month by month from somewhere, from someone, but never a bit do wre get. If it's only a pound note I should know about it. It's all needed here. A man should keep no money matters from his wife. Husband and wife should work and share alike. At least, that's the way of the Australian bush, Ann.' 'But, Carrie, it

'It's money, Ann. Red Morgan wouldn't treat the men the way Ar nold does. Arnold's a brewery when he start?. That takes money. Why do they make such a fuss of him? Who pays for all the liquor they have at Morgan's? Why, Ann, once, when I went there after Ar nold in the days when I used to worry about him, there were forty of them, and as much beer and whisky as would stock an hotel. I wondered then. Now I know. I feel it. Arnold gets an allowance from somewhere, and has been keeping it from me. Of course. Ann, you understand I don't blame anyone. I knew what I was marrying.' ANN, as well as others, had heard it rumoured that Mitchell received an allowance from Eng land. He was said to be the. son of a good family in London, who had been hastily shipped awoy to Australia — brought out of gaol, in

fact, by his people, who now paid him to stay in Australia. But Ann knew that people said many things that were not true. Carrie, for one, had repeatedly denied the rumour, and ehe certainly, up to the present, had known nothing of an allowance. 'If I only could go, Ann, I'd be off down to Sydney to make inquiries ' from Browne and Attow about it at once.' 'You might find out that it is some thing quite different, Carrie,' Ann argued. Then her own trouble tripped from her lips. 'Look at me! How often have I got ready packed up to go and find my children? Oh, Carrie, think of a daughter of yours, think of any young girl alone, try ing to face a world that never had any regard for the young.' Ann almost broke down, but she conquered herself, and Carrie replied : ' 'Tis a mystery, isn't it? Maybe your children have both gone out of the country. They aren't little now. It's a man and a woman who are battling the world, and what is life but a man and woman against the world? What makes it easy is when the battle is single handed, as it is with Kit Wilson and her husband. I hope nothing ever comes between Ethel and Tom, and I only wish to goodness Beat likes Denny as much as she says she does. There aren't better boys in the world than the Wilsons.' Ann, proud to hear her nephews so well spoken, of, yet was hurt to think that she could not say the same of her own vanished son. 'Never mind,' Carrie said, getting up and putting- the envelope back again. 'Your children will come back again, Ann, mark my words, And, though I love Arnold, I'll fight for my children till I can fight no longer.' ? Ann felt a lump rise in her throat. She had, in a measure, sacrificed her children for her husband. Here was a woman doing the opposite, for Carrie* seemed to have actually thrown away the unfortunate Arnold, since she let him go his own way while she fought and found food and worked and lived for her great growing family. But was she wise? Ann wondered. HP HEY soon left the room. Beat had x tea ready for them on the veran dah, and the children were begin ning to shyly' appear, looking up under drooping lashes at Ann. Eight- ' year-old Katie, brown and muddy and as untidy as her own bush; little golden-haired Biddy, looking like something out of an Irish fairy-tale with her big blue wondering eyes, her bare Jillle feet, and torn print dress; Ned and Billy and Ray and Bob, as mischievous a bunch of little bare-legged Australians as one could possibly imagine. Ann tried to draw them to her, but from Ned, who was twelve and the eldest, to wee two-years-old Biddy they dodged away again, somewhat like a group of wild birds and bush creatures rather than little children. Beat was a dark-eyed, sallow cheeked girl with straight, dark hair, riot at all like the blue-eyed, fair haired May and Ethel. She was thin and tall for seventeen, and she always seemed to do everything as if she were tired. 'Did you meet Et, Mrs. Farney?' she asked. 'Yes, Beat, near the turn.' 'She was going to call at Murray's, hut she should get to Wilson's be fore sunset. I hope she doesn't meet Bed Morgan.' Red Morgan, her father's em ployer, had proposed to Ethel, had been rejected before Morgan married,

ana uuiei did not like him. ; . 'I thought I saw Morgan riding out towards Gio-- gee,' Ann said. 'It looked like his horse/' 'Dad'U be home to-night, then, Mum,' Beat said, returning to the plaque she had been painting -white the women drank their tea. : They dismissed Morgan from their minds, and con tinued instead to speak of Ann's children, whose where abouts they discussed, as now7 and again they did when they met. ' 'I sometimes think Gipsy might be dead,' Ann said slowly. 'Not one line have we had from her in two years.' Carrie shook her head in sympathy. Then she said': 'But generally a girl who's got the grit to leave home and fight for herself arrives somewhere unless she's a bad girl, and your Gip was never that, Ann. I believe if 1 could only get to Sydney to hunt up this fortune Arnold is drinking, instead of giving to us, I'd find your girl in two minutes* and maybe your boy, too.' There should lave been something heartening in the thought as Ann rnre to leave. But there was not.

''I think it would tak£ more than two minutes to find a girl who has been gone*' for two years,' she1 said. 'But if you should think of going, ; Carrie, I'll do ajpl can to look after the children for you.' , ??' ! Carrie pressed her hand in gratitude, and as ; pre sently they said 'Good-bye,' -and Ann rode away, Carrie felt that she could ' perhaps contemplate the trip with Ann's assistance, and in return search a little vhile for her daughter. . ? ' - ' ; ? — : ; - ? : 'It should be done,' she thought, 'and I think, uh known to Arnold, -I'll do it.' . ,..-;????? CHAPTER XXIX. ' 'What Qumnt old melodies he plays, All white Decembers and green Mays.' '????? Louis Lavater. CARRIE turned hack to her duties, looking in wistful tenderness after her friend. But Ann rode home, her. pulses beginning to quicken as she thought of the scheme Carrie had so lightly suggested. Carrie

should go and make inquiries about Arnold's allowance — if he got one. If Carrie went to Sydney she could ad vertise for Gipsy; she could do it in a veiled way, and perhaps Gipsy would be found. ^ HE galloped past her old home, ^ though she usually called in. The teams had come down, for Hill borough mills kept the teams busy still, and she fancied that one of them was Sully's and another Joe Carter's ; her mother and father were not in sight. They were ageing now ; but, though her mother was begin ning to look her age, her father did not seem to change. He moved with the moving times, and declared that he would live to see motor waggons, which were beginning to take the place of horse conveyances, displa'ce all the bullock teams on the road. The patient bullocks were still win ning Australia for the white man, however, and, whatever came after them, theirs would be the glory of making the great way the pioneers had trodden. Little Moonee, Ann's own home, beautiful amid its lemon and orange groves — for the district was famous throughout Australia for its citrus fruit already — seemed to swim up out of the blueness to her as she left her old home behind and reached the homestead on which all her children had been born, and from which one by one they had gone away. With something like envy she looked back on Carrie Mitchell stand ing amid all her boys — those strong little sons of the Seven-Mile, mysti cally mixed with it in their bush shy ness. . . The curling blue smoke from the distant chimney of her daughter Ellie's home, however, which she could see on the rise beyond her own, gave sher heart. Ellie had always wanted to go away, and Ellie had : remained safe in the midst of the bush, Ellie and her husband, Danny O'Donnel, whom she had once tried to drive from her — and — Rosaleen Ann's eyes softened as she thought of her little golden-haired grandchild. Why was she envying Carrie and all her sons? Arthur, her boy who remained with her, would be borne from school for the Christmas holi days soon. And by then, if Carrie went away to Sydney at once, news of Gipsy might have come home. News of Gipsy! The mother's heart seemed to turn over in expectant joy. Her first-born had always been able to curl herself about her mother's heart in a mystical way, perhaps just because she was the first-born. Ann was home now, and Michael's music met her. She drew rein and listened. She was sure it was beau tiful, sure that that something which she could not understand, that sad ness, or depth; she knew not what, that had crept into his compositions after the departure of his child meant greatness. His opera, which had dis satisfied him so ? often, would yet satisfy him and thrill others. But no time now to dream about the music. Michael must be told at once about . Carrie's offer to search for Gipsy. Ted Carter, who had taken her absent son's place on the selection, ran up to take her horse as she dis mounted and hurried in. 'Everything all right, Ted?' was all she asked as she drew off her riding-gloves quickly. 'Yes, Mrs. Farney. I'm just finish ing the milking.' 'I'll be down in one minute with you, Ted,' she said. Michael had not yet heard her com ing, so engrossed in his work was he. She was in the music-room, with her

arms supped apout nis necK, oeiore ; he turned,'- apologetic for his neglect of her. He had aged much more perceptibly than she. He was com pletely grey, and Ms face had a grey ness about it, too, .? despite ' his fresh ! English complexion, which so long : ago he had brought from England to Australia. :,. ',.'.'. Ann -gave out: her news almost as eagerly as a girl. Indeed, she had practically decided that Carrie was going out to look for Gipsy, though Carrie had not made up her mind' .herseif. She quickly told Michael what Carrie suspected, ending- with: 'Carrie thinks she'll go to Sydney and make inquiries, and at the same time she suggests that she'll look for Gipsy. Oh, if she should find her!' Michael's fine face clouded. The thought of Carrie Mitchell going to search for his child gave him no thrill at all. He was, indeed, a little hurt with , Ann for mentioning it to him. Long ago they had agreed never to mention the names of their vanished children. Why, then, did Ann bring it up in this way in connec tion with a woman who was only a friendly neighbour? {To be Continued.) ? ' ?: '