|Chapter Number||XXIX (Continued)|
|Newspaper Title||Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938)|
|Trove Title||Sons of the Seven Mile|
Sons of the Seven Mile
An Australian Novel of Country and City Life
By Zora Cross
CHAPTER XXIX.— (Continued.)
GIPSY hsd meant so much to the father that her flight from home had been a great blow to Michael. He could not discuss the search for her coldly like lliis, nor yet calmly, nor yet with en thusiasm. But neither did he wish to hurt his wife and to bring back that cold barrier that the girl's flight had put up between them until the birth of little Rosaleen re moved it.
ne SciKi genuy: uipsj kiiuws wncrc ner nuiue is, dear. She could send us word. She could have done that any time during the two years of her absence. Still, don't let me damp your enthusiasm. Only you know we agreed to wait until the girl herself wrote to us. I've got the prologue finished.' Ann's hands fell limply to her lap, and her strong mouth puckered like a child's as Michael turned to the piano and began to play again. Ann was not an artist, and she could only grope blindly along to feel with her husband's music at all. She did not like to think that, though she shared his thoughts and his life, she was locked out of his soul, and his music dwelt there. She took off her hat slowly, listening half in tears to the melodies. She never could understand why Michael had been content to sit down so quietly or seemingly patiently under the calamity of his daughter's complete disappearance. But she was forced to confess the music was beginning to hold her as it held him. She felt her arms reach out to him to take his head upon her breast, to enfold him in her arms in some great sympathy for him she could not comprehend. Of all these people about her, he alone seemed to breathe the real spirit of the place she loved so well. Here in this music-room, if there was such a thing as immortality, he was immor talising the Seven-Mile. He was locking it up for ever, leaves and grass, and hobbles and chains, trees and flowers, and hills and streams, and even people, in an opera, in melodies that were bewitching even her from her work. HE was flushed from his work, and she started as she heard him give back some of the aboriginal chants she had so often sung to him. The overture to the prologue was wild and barbaric, but redolent of Australia. He did not wait to hear what she had to say of it. He turned round and looked at her face. 'Ah,' he said. 'You approve.' 'I should think so.' She felt so proud of him, and proud, too, of herself, for had she not sheltered him that he might do this? 'Ellie thought,' he said, 'the story of the prologue too thin, so I've altered it.' EUie was a great help with the hook of the opera, over which Michael was stumbling. But gradually it was unfolding like a flower before him, and he never tired of . inhaling its fragrance. Ann, her mind on the separating, wanting to change and get to work, stood up, but he imprisoned her hands and made her sit again. 'Listen,' he said. 'How do you like this? My two settlers, Rose and Robert Middleway, who have taken up Lone Selection, .are attacked by blacks, and in the attack Robert accidentally kills Nunyan, the daughter of the king:'
'Yes, Ann repueu. 'But the daughter of an Australian king wouldn't matter any more than the meanest gin in the tribe. Women were of no im portance to the aborigi nal.' 'Oh, but Nunyan's lover is the great war rior Sudgeweesee, and he vows to be revenged on the settlers.' 'Yes,' Ann agreed, ad mitting to herself, how ever, that she was think ing more of Gipsy, of Ethel, and what Beat had said of Red Morgan Shan of the puppets in her husband's opera. This was a trick of which Ann could not break herself, thinking over the head and words of Michael and his music, away to the realities of life about her. 'When the blacks come back to take their re venge,' Michael said, 'in act I. they will capture the baby girl of the young settlers, and that baby is my gipsy girl.' 'Gipsy!' Ann cried out, unable to control herself. Michael softened his voice. His opera had always been called 'The Gipsy Girl,' in honour, and now in memory, of
Gipsy, his lost daughter. 'Yes,' he said. 'I've an entirely new idea, and the whole opera will be written round the child when she grows to be a girl.' 'I know it will be beautiful, dear — all of it,' Ann said. But she clasped her hands and wrung them. Oh, what would she not give to so clasp her child! Michael *was playing, and said over his shoulder: 'All the prologue leads'up now to the death of Nunyan, and she is borne off solemnly by the blacks after her lover's lament. Sit down, dear.' . He had begun to play .the \ beautiful aboriginal lament, and Ann, who had bobbed up, sat down again like a chidden child. ; She was always feelings like a' schoolgirl who was trying to steal out of school -when she entered this room of music, where so many lovely melodies were born. But not until Michael had drawn tears from her eyes did he let her even then reluctantly go. - ? ? ? The artist and the lover in ;him would have held her to, his side for ever. But she was self-willed, and ? as she quickly changed her riding habit and went about her usual tasks she felt her lips tighten in a determina tion which was as grim as . it: was earnest. 'Carrie- Mitchell has got. to go and look for Gip,' she saidj. 'and I've to take her place as well as I can.' Ted by this time was ready to go. home, as he did not sleep at the. selection. ' . . 'Is Morgan over with the teams, Ted?' she asked. 'No, Mrs. Farney,' Ted laughed.. 'He was in at the Hill yesterday when . I took the cream in. threatening to carry off Kennedy's hotel.' Ted laughed, for the ex ploits of Red Morgan were always wild and picturesque. Ann saw Ted depart, and wondered if Ethel Mitchell would be afraid to stay at home ^without her mother. A great blue dusk began to close the wide and lovely petals of - the gold : flower of the day. CHAPTER XXX. 'Boy Love comes, laughing down the street, Love and my dear and I together; And, oh, his songs are blithe and sweet, To suit this golden weather!' F. Morton. THE blue flower of dusk was deepening to purple as Ethel Mitchell, with no thought of Red Morgan, headed her mare for Wilson's culvert. She was just within sight of the homestead when she saw her father's team. Her father was leaning leisurely and shakily against his whip, and Tom Wilson -was sitting carelessly astride a horse that looked very fresh, laugh ing as well as chatting to him. Tom liked her father, and, as far as she knew, her father liked Tom. The men were talking about the old times and the changes that were coming. Tom was rubbing tobacco for his pipe in the palm of his hand, and her father had already lit up. It was customary for Tom to stop her father and ask him for Ethel every time they met. Tom's hearty 'Oh, by the way, Mr. Mitchell, there was an important matter about which il wanted to speak to you,' would always take the older man off his guard, and sometimes make him pull up his
team wim difficulty. Tom's somewhat joking remark would always be: 'I just pulled you up, Mr Mitchell, to ask you if I could have your daughter Ethel to-day.' Sometimes Tom varied to : 'I just wanted to ask you if I could call round and get Ethel to-morrow . for keeps.' A gruff retort was all he ever got to that. But it was not easy to meet smiling Tom Wilson, a young man with all a young man's enthusiasm about him, without stopping to yarn to him. Sometimes Mitchell replied to Tom's request: 'Ethel isn't a baby. Marry her and come and live with us.' But that would not suit Tom, nor Ethels either, though Tom knew* Ethel would never marry without her father's consent. Mitchell was aware of that, too, and he knew that as yet they could not get on at home with out Ethel. Besides, the girl was young. He looked up and saw her before Tom flushed, swung one careless leg over the neck of his horse, and glanced almost shyly at the girl he loved. 'Hello, Et!' lie said, removing his hat and putting it back closer over his eyes, that he might the better and easier look at his girl, who made him draw in his breath whenever he saw her, sit up strangely, stiffly and still, and then fold his arms as if he were pre paring to take, a blow.' LOVE lias many ways of coming to human beings. It came to Tom Wilson like a blow, like something stun ning that turned him from a strong brown bushman into a boy whose lips trembled too much even to whistle. When he thought of touching Ethel's freckled face or letting his arm accidentally encircle her waist, though they had promised to marry one another for a long time now, he always found that the collar of his shirt was too tight, or his hands were trembling as if he had just ceased carrying some great load a great distance. Ethel was not nearly so shy with Tom. 'Hello, Tom!' she replied, pulling in her horse, which jingled its bridle and bowed down its fine head, and tossed it back again, impatient of the pause. It had not taken Ethel a hundred times along the road to Wil son's without knowing that the culvert meant the end of the journey was at hand. Mitchell looked up somewhat sheepishly at his daughter. He was never gruff, never uncouth, never anything but gentle with women. He thought they wero things like horses— to be treated like that, gently. You kicked a bullock and swore at it. It understood that. All women had something of the horse about them, so Mitchell thought; you coaxed and led them gently. There was only one woman lie had failed to lead like this. That was Carrie, the woman he loved. He quar relled with her, but he was gentle even in his quarrelling, and, while she thought she mattered nothing to him, Carrie was his whole existence. 'I suppose your mother's kicking up a noise, Ethel,' he said, feeling how the atmosphere at home was. 'She ought to be,' Ethel retorted. 'Where've you been, father?' Mitchell, whose face never lost its long English look even in the more sodden of his moments, closed his blue eyes, and under his felt hat, which was badly bat tered about, he looked up half humorously at his daugh ter. 'I lost the bullocks,'
he said with a dry smile. 'Always the same yarn. Well, mother's got it in for you this time. She said when I left home that she'd kick you out if you didn't come home to-night.' Tom, who never inter fered, much less chaffed Mitchell over his weak ness, could not help thinking to himself : 'Mitchell's luck is in.' But lie did not speak. He was considering how pretty Ethel looked in her hailstone muslin blouse with the somewhat low collar of lace, her hol land skirt, which had seen good service, just showing her strong kid boots as she sat easily on her side-saddle. 'I'll be home before night, Ethel,' Mitchell said, unwinding fhe thong of his whip from the handle and proceed ing to move on. He took off his hat and scratched his head as if lie were perplexed. 'Everything all right at home?' he asked. 'Yes,' Ethel replied, as if the 'Yes' implied: 'But no thanks to you.' She was short and sometimes sharp with her father, but the idea of going against his
A WEEK-END SCENE AT MANLY, . NEAR BRISBANE. Since the advent of Greater Brisbane Council new salt-water baths (wliicb are filled by the liigli tides) have been constructed . at Manly, and an excellent motor road with a bitumen surface between that popular resort and the city. At week-ends and on holidays a continuous line of cars may be seen on this road. As many as 1800 people have paid for admission to the baths in a single day.
w ishes would never have occurred to her, and, though §he often told him he should be ashamed of himself, the good-natured way in which lie agreed with her always puzzled her. Tom once or twice had hinted to her that she should stand out for her rights against him and her family, but Ethel never did. Ethel loved her mother with a devo tion that was sometimes almost fierce in its intensity. And the very idea of get ting married, and leaving Carrie with all the children and the work as well, brought Ethel up to quarrelling pitch with Tom when he suggested she marry him despite her father's wishes. She had to wait until she was twenty one to do anything desperate like that, at any rate, she always told him. But Tom was getting impatient, He had loved Ethel Mitchell ever since school days, and for over a year they had been en gaged. READY to ride on now with Tom, and let her father go his way to what ever of forgiveness or tongue thrashing awaited him at home, Ethel glanced down at him. He was a tall man with slightly stooped shoulders and a good face and head. The forehead was large, the mouth certainly not a weak mouth, the chin good. His face was the despair of everyone who had looked on Arnold half in pity when they saw him helpless and unable to look after him self. Mitchell's face was not at all the sort of face that one expected to find with a weak man. Perhaps the rather pale blue eyes were the only indication that the character of the man behind them was not as strong as the face sug gested it was. Yet those eyes could be so soft and so tender that such a thing seemed absurd. Perhaps something that happened Jong ago started father on this stupid drinking business,' Ethel often thought. 'Something of which we know nothing.' But she did not think that gave him ail excuse. Yet she was sorry for him. She almost wished she were riding home with him to prepare tier mother for his com ing. There had been times when her mother had almost ill-treated him, she had been so angry. Those were the times when Carrie searched for him and almost carried him home in her arms, like a child. But she had got over that stage of the bad business now. Carrie always received her husband in a grim silence, but Ethel often feared the silence would break and something terrible would hap pen. Perhaps Arnold feared it, too, as he went on towards whatsoever fate awaited him, casually nodding to Tom and saying 'Good-bye' to Ethel. 'Race. you to the gates, Et,' Tom said, though he would have very much liked to ride close beside Ethel and kiss her, at tbe risk of a sharp word for taking such a liberty from the girl he intended to marry. Love was a very beautiful, still, and silent thing between them. It was timid as the breeze at evening, and yet about it the freshness of early dawn. ' It was shy and quiet as the leaves when they fell in the. mid of summer in the forest depths, a hidden thing, like a lone and lovely pool that was sheltered in the heart of the hills, far from crowds, and sacred, too ; not to be disturbed thought lessly, rather to be approached in reve rence. Love was so easily hurt and died so suddenly, was slain so quickly by unkindness or carelessness. Ethel raced with him, and they ar rived at Wilson's gate laughing, be cause Ethel's hat had blown off and her hair had come loose, and was blowing yellow as sunlight, about her. Kit Wilson and her girls, with Paddy and some birds and opossums he was trying to keep friendly in' the one human cage, which was the front of his shirt, came down the steps to meet them, the bloom still fresh on Kilty's cheeks. 'Just in time for supper, Et,' Bridgy Wilson said, slipping her arm round Ethel and taking her away to do her
hair as soon as sbe had greeted the others and - given Kit the jam. 1 . .. 'Come on, now, everyone,' Alf Wilson called. He . was already waiting at the head of tbe table,, and im-^ patient to get back t.o the bags lie arid the boys were making. So they all bad to hasten to table. Ethel, always shy at Wilson's, though it was her second home, smiled on Molly and Katy. j . . . Tom sat beside Ethel and opposite them Mick, Bully, . - .and Denny Wilson were already seated. ' 'You didn't bring beat for Denny, ;Et?' Mick said. 'Shuddup!' Denny said, kicking his shins. Bully, secretly in love with Ethel, and watching, in the silence of unrequited love, the progress of his bro ther's romance with the only girl he felt he ever could love, did not speak. He was quieter than either Mick or Denny. He was heavier, too, for Mick had a lithe grace about him such
as Denny possessed, for all his tendency to slouch. 'Hear about Red Morgan, my girl ?' A3 f said. He looked no older than his sons, who took their brown good looks from him. „ 'No,' Ethel, replied. , ; 'Your father ought to leave him.' ' 'Why?' ' ' ? '' ? ? Mick answered: 'He carried, off -Kennedys pub this afternoon: — 1.oo.kJt' away toGidgee with; him.' , Ev.ery.prie laughed. But Ethel wanted to knowWhat Mick meant, * ; ? ^ '? Alf explained. 'He's been smashing things 'up in town — rode his horse into the bar, and swept it clean.' Ethel gasped. Red Morgan's exploits often made her do so. 'I thought father had been with him and he was sober again,' she said. 'It's a pity your father doesn't drop him,' Kit said. Ethel grew uneasy. So did Tom. He did not like
them mentioning Morgan, who once had proposed to Ethel, and, despite the fact that lie had a sawmill and two or three bullock teams, had been very firmly re jected. 'Talk about something more pleasant than Morgan,' Tom said. They were all silent for a moment Everyone knew that Tom hated Morgan, and never disguised the fact that there had been a time, two years ago, when he was jealous of the big man. Kit., perhaps remembering a time when Tom came to her, telling her he was afraid Morgan's money would draw Ethel away from him, started. Ethel and Tom were sitting in the very seats where once her niece Gipsy and her young lover Eric had sat. An unkind fate had separated them. Eric had grown insanely jealous over a trifling matter. Love was so ridiculously sensitive when it was young. Kitty saw an unhappy shadow chase the happy love-light for a moment from the faces of the young lovers opposite tier. Nothing must ever separate Tom and Ethel — nothing. 'More potatoes, Ethel,' sbe said. After all, Morgan had been Tom's only rival at any time, and Morgan was married now. There was no need to worry over him, unless Tom developed some insane jealousy, for he had a quick, strange way of taking things up the wrong way at times. He was not as easy as her other boys to manage. Ethel secretly caught Tom's hand and pressed it, so that the young man for got the once formidable rival whom, without any real cause, he so much disliked. 'Nothing more for me, thanks, Mum,' Ethel said, while the conversation turned to other mailers, and they were soon laughing at Mick's account of how his mother broke the back of a whip thong, mistaking it for a snake. Did a brooding Fate, piteous as dust, listen and chuckle eerily into the night outside as at that moment Ethel's father rode slowly down the road to his home? CHAPTER XXXI. 'Wanderers, why are your hearts so cold? Bow can your f eet to the city stray When the Bush is pleading to young and old, 'Don't, don't, don't, don't, don't go away!' ' — Elsie Cole. DRESSED in a pretty cream and blue frock, Gipsy Farney, looking a fresh and dainty picture of young womanhood, stood on the steps of the Pitt-street residential building where she was living, and smilingly watched the river of men and women roll by her. It was just five o'clock, and the stream was thickening and widening, pouring down steadily from the other end of Sydney, for her place of residence was near tbe big Central Railway Station. Gipsy's smile deepened as the stream grew and grew. She would smile just like this above the people soon, and see their bright upturned faces and hear the crash of their applause, just as she had heaird it in the old Hillborough theatre and there in the Eisteddfod tents, where she had been acclaimed the grand cham pion vocalist of Queensland. Hillborough, where she had spent her girlhood, was far away, but it would be proud of her yet. She knew what her voice was like, and she knew that she would not and could ; not fail in this tremendous thing that she had undertaken. She drew in her breath as she thought of it. With a hundred pounds in her pocket — a hundred pounds, which her brother had won by gambling at the Chinese houses in Hillborough — she. had run away from home to prove that Signor Foleri and other judges and singers and musicians were right when ' they said that she had a voice which should make her world-famous. She owed it to her father, too, to make
, ' ' - a success. Her nostrils dilated with genuine pride and a thrill of approaching triumph. So far .she had not. failed. Certainly she had only been a travelling singer in poor companies, and had had to take a much humiiler position than she ever dreamed she could take. But her voice had increased in rich ness .and voluftie, and, now that she had got as far as Sydney, she. intended taking lessons in singing, perhaps huntjng up Signor Foleri himself, and going on the stage. :?- Going on the stage! The thought gave her a thrill. Her father would not like that, but she was going to do it for bis sake'. When, by-and-bye, she returned to Hillborough, as she intended returning, she meant to help him with the opera he had been writing for so many years. Something was wrong with it. He did not know anything about stagecraft. She would learn all that. She remembered every step of his work. She would improve it all for him. She would return in full everything she seemed to have taken from him. [To be Continued.)