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Chapter NumberXXV
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Full Date1927-05-25
Page Number22
Word Count3614
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

CHAPTER XXV.— (Continued)

-'¥'^ONNY has confessed his guilt; forgive him,' Lw^ said Maggie. 'He has promised to pay it back. JjV Sandy! Sandy!' Grace Knocked to let them know she was there, but they seemed too upset Grace knew that there was some misunderstanding between McPhies and Blakes, but it seemed a poor thing to her for people to be quarrelling when Minnie and Mary were Iyiner at death's door.

; She could not make the McPhies hear, and went away not knowing that a mother was fighting as nobly for her son's honour at the McPhies as a father was fighting for his daughter's life at Blake's. 'Sandy,' Maggie urged, holding his hand when he threatened' to take Ronny's name from the book, 'Sandy, don't do it!'1 . In her hand she held Ronny's pitiful letter of con fession, and his begginer for forgiveness.

Tormented with 'the an guish of not being allowed to visit Mary in her illness, Ronny had been driven to this. Sandy was hard — harder than:,' Andy Blake — and he said to his wife : 'I canna call him my son when he steals and lies — I winna, I winna.' As they were struggling over the matter they heard the sound of galloping hopfs. .It was Flora, who had been toy town for the mail. She was white-faced, and she cried, panting, as she en tered the house half-fainting: 'Mother — father.' Oh, quick! Ronny!' 'What -is it?' Maggie said, colour flying from her face. 'Is he hurt?' 'Yes,' Flora said, begin ning to cry. 'He was up at. the Hill butter factory yes terday with the engineer, and he caught his hand in the machine ? ' Maggie screamed, and Flora fainted, while the children coming home from school came up running, and Sandy ifelt a wind blow in through the door and close the leaves of the Good Book. 'Oh, my laddie! My ain laddie!' Maggie cried. 'He's hurt! Which hand is it,

Flora? What is it? How bad is it? Tell me!' 'They took him to the hospital. Oh, mother, I was riding: by the factory when it happened, and I heard the scream.' 'Flora!' 'I heard him. I didn't know it was our Ronny. They stopped the machine at once, but he was crying out so terribly about Mary and saying lie was caught in the machine. Oh, mother, our Ronny!' 'Which hand is it?' Sandy asked. 'His left hand, I think. I don't know what they're doing.' 'When Maggie and Sandy saw their son in hospital his left hand and forearm were amputated, and he was muttering in a chloroform sleep: 'I did it — I took it. Mary!' 'Sandy, forgive him,'' Maggie begged. 'I canna.' Sandy replied. ? 'Sandy, the Lord has .judged him, and the Lord has taken his left hand. You're his father, and you mus'na take his right hand, too.' 'Til see what Dave says.' Sandy returned,

running a hand over his wet brow. 'The puir laddie, Sandy. He's ours ? ' ' 'He's no son of mine to lie and steal.' 'Oh, Sandy, there's no man good enough to judge the worst of the sons of women — we're puir weak things. Put the blame on me and ha' done, my man. You mind Ronny when he was two. It's the same wee hand has been torn off, Sandy. It hurts me just like that.' Sandy put an arm about her and gruffly said: 'All right, my lass, I forgive. Let's have no more of it.' 'Oh, Sandy!' They went home silently to prepare Ronny's room for the day when he would leave thf hospital. ? CHAPTER XXVI. 'Faith, love, or death — / know not which is best.' Dowell O'Reilly. AS Andy Blake bent over his dying child he was thinking that it was too late now to call Paddy Regan back, too late to forgive Charley.

Every day the Regans had come to the fence with the other Hill people asking for news of Mary. Every day it, became worse news, until now all had given up hope but Andy himself. He stamped from room to room like a child bent in pain. He, too, was nursing his little one as Dave Mark ham was nursing Minnie. But Dave had at last got Minnie to sleep — sleep, which was her cure, while Mary tossed and cried in vain for Nature's truest balm. Her love for her father now was more marked in these her last moments. She followed him with her eyes wherever he went. 'I think I'd go to sleep if the batteries would only stop, Dadda,' she said. Then she rolled her. head from side to side weakly. 'My little girl!' Andy ran his worn hand over her hair, which had been cut, and then looked round the room on Jeanie and Mabel and Lena, who were standing, each in a lonely place, waiting for the end.

,It was now about eleven o'clock, and Mary had not really slept since she fell ill. Her sick cry to him all through her fever had been: 'I think I'd go to sleep if the batteries stopped, Dadda.' He stooped back from the bed, and his grey hair against his grey face and eyes had an ashen, death-like look. Such a look was gathering now on the face of his child. Mary had always been his favourite daugh ter. She understood him and his ways as Jeanie had never clone. She had washed and ironed the shirt he wore, mended the slippers in which he crept about, patched his old trousers. 'Dadda!' 'What is it, my little one?' He stooped back to her, trembling. 'Aren't you going to work?' 'By-and-bye, Mary. By-and-bye.'

A PANG wrenched at his heart. She was delirious again, crying about his supper which was not ready for him. 'I can't make the stew,' she said. 'The dishcloth won't come out of the meat, and the beans are all mixed. Oh, Dadda.. I've put bootblack in your tea! I'm so sorry.' 'Mary! Mary!' 'She's dying,' Andy, isn't she?' Jeanie said tone lessly, coming over to the bed. 'I always said she had too much housework to do. Now it's got on her mind. Phe'd never let the others meddle with her work.' The others, tortured with grief, came across wist fully to her .bed. 'Mary,' Mabel said, half in fear, 'you mustn't worry about things. You must just get better.' Mary, in her delirium, was making soup with the grey slag from the mines and trying to pull rough pieces of quartz out of her pudding. 'I must, be sick,' she said, returning to conscious

ness. 'I cant be going to get better.' 'Oh, yes, you are,' Lena said. 'Don't be silly, Mary.' Mary saw an angel in blue float, into the room. In her hand she held a bunch of blue daisies, and she plucked the petals from the flowers one by one. Pain vanished with the angel. A deep silence settled over her and the room. She said drowsily: 'The batteries have stopped at last, Dadda. I'm so nice and sleepy.' Almost instantly sho turned paler, a frightened peep of a look came into her eyes; she stretched herself wearily, and wondrously was fast asleep. Andy smiled with the sim plicity of a child, and looked up at Jeanie as if he said: 'She's all right, Jeanie. See, she's asleep.' Then lie saw what had hap pened, and he opened his mouth as if to cry out in pro test, but no sound came. With a roar the batteries began, and lulled old miners and young miners alike asleep. But Mary they would never lull again. 'Andy! Andy!' Andy heard Charlie Regan calling him from the back steps. 'I called round to see if there is any thing I could do for you. As old matps Anrlv.'

Regan was drunk, clinging to the steps, and he sat down with his head between his hands. There had been rows at home ever since Paddy went. 'Andy, Charley Regan's still your old mate!' Andy saw Jeanie pull the sheet up over Mary's peaceful face, and he stooped out of the door without seeing or hearing Regan, who rose and tottered away. Lena and Mabel were crying. 'Never mind, Jeanie,' Andy said, trying to comfort her. Jeanie looked at him as If she had been turned to stone, and she put a finger out and touched Mary. 'Come away, mamma,' Mabel said. Jeanie walked from the room like one in her sleep. She could hear nothing, not even the batteries that had lulled Mary over the Great River. Mabel shut the door and choked with grief. 'I suppose Minnie Markham's dead, too.' But out at Orange Park Dave and Jane and Grace were looking with pleased yet startled eyes at Minnie, I who, awakened from a deep sleep, was crying for dolls. i

Minnie came back to life with no recollection of her days with Jeanie. She was a child with dolls and her study days were a lost dream. 'Will she never remember?' Dave asked. Dr. Cameron shook his head. 'She may. But you must watch her and take great care of her. Get her away, and some day her memory of her lost days may return.' This was to take place months later, w)ien Minnie came back with tears and sobs to a rea lisation that she could never win a scholarship, since she could never study again. And Ronny McPhie was going about his work, shrinking a little from boys and men alike, as they spoke of him as 'One Hand McPhie.' CHAPTER XXVII. RUTH MARKHAM was riding home from Hill borough in the lovely blue stillness of the late afternoon humming the snatch of an old song. Though it was more lhan thirty years since she had been the toast of the diggings, so straight and slim did she sit in her saddle, so bright were her eyes, and her hair so free I'rom grey patches, that she still might have been tl'.e

A CHARMING PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDY. On the terrace of the Houses of Parliament, Canberra.

toast. Ruth was happy ; she was bring ing home the satin for Jane's wedding dress, though Jane and Bob were not thinking of marrying for some months. RUTH was half like a child with pretty clothes, and even to her self she was forced to confess she was still extravagant, despite all the hard lessons she should have learned Lo the contrary. But there was much besides Jane's ap proaching wedding that was making her happy. She had had a long letter from Grace, who had followed in Ruth's girl steps as an actress, after all, and was how in Sydney, so she wrote, hoping for a good part in a musical comedy that the great Otway, one of the biggest of Australian entrepreneurs, was soon to put on. Also, Grace had said that she had heard of Paddy Regan, who was also on the stage now, and she was hoping ' to meet him. Ruth's still pretty face clouded a little as she thought of Paddy. Though Mary's death had softened Andy, he still passer] Charley by without speaking to him; but the Regan girls had been so kind to .lennie during Mary's sickness that, his heart melted towards them, and he always nodded kindly in passing. He had gone deaf with the shock of Mary's tfnd, and the gentle ways of the deaf were with the ageing Andy. Mabel had married long ago, and could smile at the thought of her early infatu- : ation for Paddy; but Grace seemed to ; have retained her affection for her girlish . ? ideal. ... Ruth's thoughts flew to Jeanie, living ? alone with Andy and Lena on Lucky Hill - still — Lena, who was growing up with modern ideas of what a girl's life should', he like. The passing of years make a difference in the lives even of simple people, and as now a motor-car and occasionally a motor-lorry passed Ruth on the old road to Hillborough she could not help think- ? ing of the old days of Gobb and Co., which seemed so near to her and yet were so far away. ? Dave, her husband, drove no car, for ? Dave always moved with the old times of horses and saddles, and looked with sus picion on the mechanical conveyances. But Ruth was conscious that the horse was going, and she would soon need a car herself. Red Morgan pulled her up at the race course hotel. He was driving some cattle 4 to Gidgee station. Rich and prosperous they both were now, and between them, as they looked across the length of their horses' necks from one another, the years seemed very many. Morgan was still a powerful man, handsome, too, in his rather coarse way, and looking none of his fifty and more years. He had remained something of a bully, and there were times when he rode his horse into the hotels or upon private verandahs just out of bravado, as he had done in the old days. 'Good afternoon, Mrs. Markham,' he said to Ruth, taking a telegram out of his pocket. 'I was asked to pass that on to anyone going by Wilson's. Would you mind leaving it there?' 'Not at all, Mr. Morgan,' Ruth replied. And Morgan thought: 'She'd draw the. crowds yet with that face, and she sings as well as ever.' Ruth rode on, for she seldom had much to say to Morgan, who was not popular since he had behaved rather un pleasantly over Carrie Mitchell's daugh ter Ethel. He had actually proposed to Ethel, who was but eighteen at the time and all but engaged to Tom Wilson even then. Tom Wilson and Morgan had no civil words to say to one another, for Ethel Mitchell was in her way a bush belle. Wilson's homestead, where Ruth was

to leave the telegram, since bush telegrams were often carried in this way, was on her direct way home — a large and wonderful old place of Australian hospitality. Kt Wilson's house was the centre of social activity on the Seven-Mile, in the same way that Jeanie Blake's house on Lucky Hill still was. There was a world of romance about the Wilsons, for it was rumoured, not without foundation, that Kit's husband, Alf, and his sister, Ann, who had married Michael Parney, a travelling musician from London, many years ago, were closely related to the old Earl of Mona through their grandfather, who was the Earl's grandson. It was said young Lieutenant Hartt, youngest son of Colonel Hartt, the Earl's youngest son, had come to Australia in the early days, where he had married Alf Wilson's mother. Old Mrs. Wilson, who with her hus band still lived on the Seven-Mile, had been born at an orphanage, as the young lieutenant was accidentally . killed; and for years, sp it was said, she believed she was a foundling until her own daughter, actually at the home of her mother-in-law, Mrs. Farney, had found a portrait of a lady so like her mother that the two might have passed as sisters. The lady was the Countess, of Ethelduue, and no less than the cousin of Mary Wilson.

In all these things rumour was correct, but the Wil sons and the Parneys were too proud of being Austra lians to speak at all of their English connections. The sister, Ann, who had made the discovery, how ever, had never told her brother, and, though the whole story of their English connections was bush gossip and town gossip, the brother, Alf, was ignorant of the truth, though when he had fought in the South African war he had been mistaken twice for a Major Hartt. Kit Wilson, Irish as Ruth herself was, had been a friend to Ruth in the .days when her extravagances made her the talk of the district. Now that Ruth was back at Mombea, able to maintain it and live a full and happy life there,. Kit Wilson was still a friend. It was Kit who had advised Ruth to send Minnie to a Grammar School and let her do a little studying, in spite of the doctors, when Ruth returned from her step father's deathbed with a small fortune for herself and Dave, only to find Minnie playing like a small child with dolls. Kit had told her that her sister-in-law's girl, Ellie, as a young child had gone 'queer' like Minnie after a ..fe_ver; JbuJL.EUie .was now strong and the mother of a lovely child. ~

Ruth had taken the advice, and Minnie had become herself. She and Ruth were like girl-mates together now. Minnie had not remained long at school, but had grown- up from childhood to girlhood in the sweet freshness of her bush home, with bush-girls as com - panions, chief of whom was May Mit chell, the young daughter of Ruth's old friend, Carrie. Minnie and May wrote for the papers, or to the children's pages of various papers, and they were two of the hap piest girls in the world. Yes, Ruth had much to be thankful, for as she drew rein at Wilson's gate and coo-eed. AS she might have expected, laughing, merry-hearted Kit' was in the gar den with her children, among hor flowers. Kit's garden was one of the loveliest for miles around, and just now spring was making snowy-white and rosy-red every bed and fence and plot. 'Mrs. Markham, mum,' one of the children said. 'Oh, hello!' Kit called put. 'Won't, you come in for a cup of tea?' She came hurrying down the path with a garden fork in her hand, her cheeks flushed and her soft goldPii hair, of which she had always boon proud, blowing about her face. 'Not to-day, Kit,' Ruth said. 'I've got a telegram for Mr. Wilson.' .'He was expecting it. Thank you,' ? Kit .said, and readied over the gale and: ?took it. '...-. — 'How's Gracie?' Kit asked. . .:. ' Ruth' told her the news. ? ... 'And Johnny?' : 'Oh, he's fine. He and young Arthur ? Parney, your nephew, Kit, are the best of mates.' 'They always were,' Kit replied: ?- 'Ann's had no news yet, of course?'' ? Ruth shook her head. One of the. . several little sorrows of the Seven-Mile concerned Kit's sister-in-law, Ann Par ney, and her husband, Michael,, who isolated himself somewhat from the bush -(people, as he vwrn composing an ?opera. The opera was being written : round his eldest daughter, Gipsy. Everybody in Hillborough and on the Seven-Mile spoke Gipsy Farney's name with a 'hush. It was said that the mono tony of the bush had led to her flight with Barnley, the picture proprietor. ' A lovely girl, with perhaps the most magnificent contralto voice Queensland had produced, she had been crossed in love', at seventeen by foolish young Eric Martin, another singer. Eric had left the Hill just as reckless Paddy Regan had done, and Gipsy had waited in vain ? for him for eight years, and then she had, run away. Nothing had been seen or heard of her for some time. Her elder brother, Frank, had gone to search for ,her, and no news had come from him, either. The children were lost to the mother, and whenever Ann Parney passed voices, whispered in compassion. As Ruth had once been the toast of the town, so Ann had been the recog nised belle of the bush for many, many miles around. She had married Michael Farney, and, despite all the remarks of people who said she had made a mistake, had held her place on the land she loved, and kept her- husband with her. Her dream had been that she would make him a true son of the Seven-Mile and teach her children to love the land. In these she had failed, but failed finely. Only little Ellie of all her chil .dren had remained in the bush, and Ellie had married Danny O'Donnell, an ex-army officer much older than her self, who had come to Australia for his health. Once the ever-absorbing topic of Ann

Farney and her vanished daughter had been brought up between Ruth and Kit, they talked for some time in sub dued voices of the tragedy. Even Jeanie Blake, who had lost her daughter Mary, ? received somewhat less sympathy than Ann Parney, for Mary was at rest; but none knew what dangers and despairs the absent Gipsy was meeting. All attempts to trace the girl, had failed. It was the same with Frank Parney. None knew his whereabouts, nor what had become of him. People heard that Gipsy Farney's old sweetheart, Eric Martin, was in America, that the absent Paddy Regan was sing ing with a pierrot show in Melbourne; but Frank's dis appearance was shrouded in mystery. This mystery was like a story to the people whom it concerned, and Grace Markham, away in Sydney, was only one of many Hill and Seven-Mile people 'ever on the look-out for the lost girl and boy. 'You ?'never -know when Grace will meet Gipsy, Kit,' Ruth said at last, as she picked up her reins io move on. Kit sent one of the girls away with the telegram, and RuthiTOde-on to Mombea, where Minnie was waiting -for her. {To he Continued,)