|Newspaper Title||Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938)|
|Trove Title||Sons of the Seven Mile|
Sons of the Seven Mile
By Zora Cross
An Australian Novel of Country and City Life
CHAPTER XXI.— (Continued.)
SANDY was puzzled, for he knew the scrub was dangerous. Tramps going out to the racecourse and exhibition buildings often haunted it. The blacks used it, and Sandy did not care very much about it himself. He went faster now, and was rewarded at last by seeing a little white figure trudging on nobly before him. He gave chase, for it occurred to him that it might be one of Mabel's sisters. The little figure, that he could see was weary, made an effort to run, tripped, and fell.
Sandy was soon beside the little girl, who scrambled to her feet and looked at him pantingly. 'Is it Minnie Markham?' Sandy said. 'Oh, Mr. McPhie,' she cried, ' — I thought you were Uncle Andy.' 'Have you hurt yourself?' 'N-no, I don't think so,' she replied. 'Where are you going? You'd better get up on my horse.' 'No — oh, no,' she replied furtively. 'I — I'm just going home.' Before he could prevent her, she had darted off again. She felt giddy from the race she had run and the effort to reach her cousin. But, though Sandy called out after her, she pushed blindly on. Once or twice she thought, she was lost, but she found with joy at last that she had come out in Maiden- hair Gully, and judged that she had been running for nearly four miles. How sick she felt! Her head throbbed. Her heart seemed as if it were jumping out of her breast. She began to reel giddily, believing that Sandy was follow- ing her, and, wondering why she saw light, and blotches and funny shapes darting before her, she called, 'Mabel! Mabel! Mabel!' She knew that the gully was not far from Wilson's back paddocks. Someone might hear. She began to shiver and then grew hot. 'Mabel! Mabel!' She was running down the gully calling and cooee- ing when she saw a white dress through the green trees, and realised that it was Mabel. 'Mabel! Mabel! Quick — quick! Your father's coming to look for you. Mabel!' Minnie had reached her cousin now. Paddy Regan was sitting beside her among the maidenhair fern and mosses, and they were so lost in each other they did not see or hear Minnie till she was at their side. Minnie burst into tears of hysteria and fatigue as she sank down panting on the ground. 'Mabel screamed, and Paddy jumped up, saying, 'The devil!' 'Oh, quickly.'' Minnie said. 'Mabel, Uncle Andy's riding out after you with the horse-whip. He's heard
you are here with Paddy. Quick! I've run all the way from the Hill lo tell you — I came through the bush track. Run — oh, run!' She sobbed and held her side that ached — and Mabel stood hesitating. 'Oh, Minnie, you darling. Thank you,' she, said. 'Minnie. Minnie, come, up with me. You're hurt.' 'No. no,' M'nnie said, rolling over on Ihe grass. 'Do co quickly, Mabel.' Mabel turned and ran a\ .ay through the trees, in Ihe direction of Wilson's house. Paddy tried to pick Minnie up in his arms. 'Leave, me alone,' she said suddenly, beating him off. 'Leave me alone. You shouldn't have done it,- — you shouldn't have been so deceitful. Mabel'll be killed now, and Mary will die. Oh, the pain in my side — the pain in my head!' 'Minnie, don't blame me,' Paddy said. 'I'm sorry. Lie here and rest for a while, and then I'll lake you home.' 'No, no; go away yourself, and don't let Uncle Andy sec you. I'll l,o home.' 'But you can't,' Paddy said, looking al the slight little figure, and longing t.o 1 oil her how7 grateful lie was for warning I hern. ?'Oh, I know I can't,' she said; and cried again: 'And I'll be sick now, like Mary, and I won't be. able to go for my exam. Oh, 1 hate you. Paddy Regan! 1 hate you! Our Grace loves you, and : Mabel loves you, and all tlie girls love you; but I hale you. Them — there!' Paddy, alarmed now, and realising by' her ad ions that the long race from lown had been' too much for her, that, the terror of the bush track had proved loo much for her. tried in vain to soothe her. Then she leaned white and fainting against him, beaten, not knowing why she felt so tired and sick. He picked her up in his strong young arms with out any more delay, and, murmuring over her in his emotional Irish w7ay, 'I'm sorry. Poor little Minnie — it's a shame. Poor little kid!' he hurried in the direction of her home. CHAPTER XXII. Among the trees I found A host of pleasant things — Tiny blossoms on the f/ro-und, Coloured stones and fain/ rim/s. H. A. Broinoii 'ski. THERE was no one in sight when Paddy reached Orange Park with his burden. The Park was a very pretty little place seen from the side al which Paddy entered. He did not go by the sliprails. which opened on an orange grove, but opened the side gate to the cow-paddocks without having to put Minnie down, and reached the side verandah without anyone being aware of his approach. 'Dead horse at Wilson's for Grace,' he heard Grace
say from Hie ol.iu*r side of the, verandah — 'Paddy Regan gone bush will) Mabel Blake.' Then Grace came hurry ing round the verandah with an empty tea-tray in her hand, and she cried out and dropped il wilh a clatter as she saw Paddy wilh Minnie. She, could see that it was Minnie at once. 'What's the malter?' she cried, running to them. 'Jane! Jane! Jane I' Jano, who had been reading a novel with Bob Mit chell, bolh of them lying 'back leisurely in the one verandah chair, leapt up al! once, and long-legged Bob followed her to where Grace ami Paddy were bending over Minnie, whom he had laid down on the verandah. He was very while, and he said: 'I think she's fainted, Grace. She ran out all ihe way from Ihe Hill to tell Mabel her fattier w:as coming after her.' 'Oh. heavens! .lane, Jane, Minnie's here, sick or faint, or something. Hadn't we, better get a doctor?' Minnie opened her eyes to see them all crowding round her. She felt very weak, and there was a nause ating feeling aboul her. 'Darling,' Jane said, as Minnie helplessly leaned towards her, looking with stricken eyes. 'What's the matlor with me. .lane?' Minnie said we, ?icily. 'I feel so sick — all of a sudden.' 'I'd get her in! o bed, I think, Jane,'1 Bob said. 'Oh, it's all Aunly Jeanie and Uncle Andy making all Ibis fuss over .Mabel and Paddy,' .lane burst out. 'Perhaps Ihe child has si rained her heart.' 'No; ] jusl feel sick, Jane.' 'Where, darling?' Jane gave her a drink of water Grace had anxiously broughl — Grace, who was trem bling partly wilh fear, partly wilh delight and excite ment, because the object of her infatuation was so sweetly near lo her. Minnie suddenly cried, and clutched Jane, 'Don't let Uncle Andy heal, me! Oh, 1 must get home before him. I can hear his horse's hoofheats. Mr. McPhie is sure lo '1 ell. Jane, you're all turning upside down. Jane!' Bob, who possessed the easy grace of a born bush man, with long, loose limbs; brown-cheeked as brown limbed, felt all the colour drain from his face.. He was a strong-featured, rather than handsome young man, but in an emergency he could always ')te trusted to act at once in the right way. Blue-eyed as Jane, they had much in common. Bob managed his own family's selec tion across the paddocks, and now prepared- to manage the uncomfortable situation before them, lie drew7 Jane aside and spoke lo her as she wrung her hands. 'Get her lo bed at once, as 1 said, Jane,' he re peated. 'I'll go for the doctor. Your father and mother are both away.' 'Oh, Boh!' Jane cried, and then turned . to help Paddy and Grace wilh Minnie. 'I'll carry her,' Paddy said, trembling -lipped. ' He felt that he was to. blame. They laid her gently on Grace's bed, and Grace began to cry. , Bob had ridden away for the doctor a;t once. Jane began to undress her sister, who was now
babbling wildly. 'Uncle Andy won't catch me! I know he won't. I mustn't be late for school. Mabel! Mabel ' Grace went out with Paddy, and Paddy caught her hand and said, 'Grace. I am so sorry.' Grace clung, to his hand. 'Oh, Paddy,' sh'e.said, and impulsively drew near him. . 'Grace,'; Jane. . called, coming out to them, 'you'd better run Over, for Mrs. . Wilson, or : ,j\lrs. Farney, or - Mrs. ? Mit chell — a.riypfte.,--.;r..ddii't know what I - should do. She's so hot and feverish, and. I think she's delirious.' 1 'Let me' go,' Paddy said. ? ? 'No; Uncle Andy might only be angry with Mabel over you,' Paddy. You'd better not be seen.' ? 'I'll go and get Aunty Carrie,' Paddy replied. 'No one will see me.' 'All- right,' Jane said. 'In case she * can't coihe, vou go for Mrs. Farney, Grace.' : ? - 1 '? ' ' ' Jane ran back to Minnie as Grace ? and Paddy hurried ' away. ;.:'Tt 'makes me feel such a cad, Grace,' Paddy . said. ? 'You aren't , that,' : Grace -replied, biting her lips to redden ;? them for Paddy's admiration even in the midst of; the tragic happening.. v -She .; thanked heaven she had her prearti dress on and lier lace hat. Sbe hoped he thought her nicie: THEY; parted at the cross-roads, for Paddy went: one way to Mitchell's; [?' while.Graicehad to go- another, to Moonee, the: home;of Ann Farney, than . whom no woman on the Seven-Mile was more ready to help anyone. 'I hope Minnie'll soon be better,' Paddy said as they approached the cross-roads. Grace flushed as she looked at him. She could scarcely speak. 'I hope so,' she choked out. 'What's tlie matter, Grace?' he asked, pulling at a leaf of a sapling near them. 'Nothing, though it's so sad. It's been the nicest walk I've ever had.' 'Has it?' Paddy said, and a memory of Grace's last kiss swept over him. 'I liked it, too,' he said. 'I'll never forget it,' she said, with blushing cheeks that hid all her freckles. , 'I won't, either,' he replied. Her eyes drew him as if they had been stars, and he swept her into his arms and kissed hei: again. At that moment Andy, who had come leisurely enough by the road for some distance, and then had taken to riding through tlie bush in order to reach Mitchell's, instead of Wilson's first, was riding up to meet the young people. He drew rein when lie saw them. He recognised Paddy at once, and, not stopping to consider whether the girl tlie young man was kissing was Mabel or not, he slipped off his horse and with his riding-whip in his hand came upon them. He caught Paddy by the shoulder, and swung him round witli such force as he cried, 'I've got you now, young Regan!' that for a moment Paddy thought a bomb had fallen on him. , 'Here, I say!' Paddy cried, turn ing quickly to strike and defend him self. He drew back half ashamed when he recognised Andy. Andy was about to thrash him when Grace, her lips and cheeks burning, cried, 'Uncle! Uncle! Uncle!' Andy turned in amazement to behold Grace. He was too enraged to speak toiler. 'It's a scheme you young ones have put up between you,' he cried, never theless releasing. Paddy. 'Where's Mabel ? Where's Mabel ?' 'I haven't seen her,' Grace replied. 'I needn't have words with you,' he said to Paddy. 'She's about here somewhere.' ? But they denied having seen her, and angrily he turned away and got on his horse and rode off. Paddy swallowed hard as he sf.raiffhtonorl hies /inllor'
'Grace, good-bye,' he said meekly, softly. 'This business gets too much for me. I must go.' 'Good-bye, Paddy,' she said. 'He might have apologised.' 'Regans don't expect anything from Blakes,' he said, feeling too hurt to say any more. 'I'll go and tell 'Aunty Carrie. Good-bye, Grace, and think of me sometimes.' 'Paddy!' she cried out to him. But he was gone, and she had to- run to do her own message. She ran, dashing blinding tears from ker eyea.
CHAPTER XXIII. 'By the bitter tracks ive trod, By our exiled years ; By our six-foot grant of sod, We are pioneers.' Ella McFadyen. ANDY rode towards ; Wilson's, .and when he. ; met Sandy McPhie- Just turning off for .his nwn /home he passed him with-. a~ scowl: .But . Sandy wanted none of Andy. He :.was -in ran ill mood:: ,.Hhi-3fitervicw with Jeanie and Andy and his encounter with Minnie
had made him call in again at the race course hotel, and, instead -of whisky quietening him, it made him^ bitter. Suppose Macpherson's hint about Ronny meant something, after all! Ho put a spur to his horse at the gate, and began to tell the air about him that if he found Ronny: out in a lie he would have none of the boy. 'No, if Ronny has told a lie about the money he can igo to the eihds of ' tlie earth, ; but lie cjan't. stay under ; an honest- father's roof!' . - . y-f* He spoke tliis aloud when he's came within sight, of tlie house. . Maggie . was ' feeding chickens, and ? Flora- was- playing-hymhsJ and sacrec . songs for the children, in ? the front room. He could hear their yourig voices and see Maggie, pink and rosy and sunny, amid , a scatter of white feathers and . red combs. He took heart. The . son of such a mother could not be a bad lad, and he was not a-ted man himself. , t 'Sandy felt his heart sink. In ; the midst of bis fear for his son . lie saw that the lad looked troubled, and \yas walking about wjth his' hands ; behind his back 'and his head/down. »./; -??? Sandy saw liim start when* he heard hoof-beats, and then slink'awayi. SOMETHING like a stone rolled over and' over in Sandys throat! /-He pulled . his „ horse up dead and' let his reins go slack. He had liis doubts about Ronny. ' : ? . , . 'But, 0 .Lord,' he! cried . within him, 'don't let. me prove.vhim'a liar as Well asv'a thief. ''Don't— dorilt ' ? ? ' .l.j. 'Coo-ee!' Maggie called out. He could see her smiling as she shook out the last of the pollard and ran r1- n to meet him. Sail;.;, s brain was on fire,. He must have it out at once with the lad. And it the Sabbath! 'Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee. . .' . The voices of. his - children floated down to him. Sandy- felt-a hand creep up and wring his heart, as it were. He did not answer Maggie, but went round by the back and pulled off tils saddle and bridle, still trembling with fear rather than anger. Maggie, only thought: 'The man's drunk again, and on the Sabbath, too. Aweel; perhaps it does him good.' But Sandy was drunken with anxi ety, as she soon discovered. He entered the kitchen, and, sitting down, began to fill his pipe. 'Ronny!' he called. Ronny heard him, but the lad, fear ing his father may have met Macpher son, and Macpherson may. have dropped some hint, shuddered like a criminal and locked his door noiselessly -as possible. Maggie, ruddy . froiri her task and the pleasant heat of the air on her cheeks, entered the kitchen as Sandy started, his quick ears catching 'the sound of the turning key. 'Where's Ronny?' he asked when Maggie entered. 'Why? What has happened?' she replied. 'I want him. I've had words with Andy Blake, and he's not to go near them again, not him, nor any of ye.' 'But why, man ? Speak out! What ever has come over things ?' Seeking a towel on which to dry lier hands, Maggie used her apron in Sheer consternation, and stood staring at him. 'Ronny!' Sandy called. This time Ronny answered, 'Com- ing!' He appeared almost instantly. His hair was neatly brushed. He'woret-iis new navy-blue suit and a blue 'tie with white spots on it. From the top pocket of his coat the! tip,' of- a silk handkerchief appeared. He was at ease. Something told him his father guessed. He wanted to confess, and. might have done .so had not his father opened up the discus sion with: 'Ronny, if I find, out.ypu ave- lvinir ahniit tho) flvo nmnvic. ' vn-;
«.*. JJUUUUQ J \J\X said you Jost, I'll turn you out, of my home neck and crop— and for ever. Mind me, now!' 'Sandy!' Maggie, cried. 'Father! Oh,' Ronny said, 'whatever could have put such an idea into your head?' It was done now. Ronny felt no shame. He would flght for his own deceit. 'No one. I was talking to Macpherson.' ... Sandy watphed his .son, and, though Ronny felt all his skin shiver with apprehension, lie cvinced no. surprise. /..'What ,of that?' Maggie, interjected,; ;her eyjes dart .ijig :.:frDHi-..one . ;tavtbe .olher^as if .she. did not understand. (To be Continued.) ' . '