|Newspaper Title||Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938)|
|Trove Title||Sons of the Seven Mile|
Sons of the Seven Mile An Australian Novel of
Country & City Life
by Zora Cross
The Storv So Far
We see the members of the Markham family mak ing preparations for the journey to Goldville, a hundred miles away. Ernest Markham, formerly a butcher in Brisbane, has- gone ahead to make a home for his wife and children — it is in the early gold-rush days of Queensland — and Emmy, with her three little girls, is travelling in a spring-cart driven by her brother Ralph, while her brother George is to take up the cattle. The little varfv meets with various ob
stacles, and, the news of the hard journey and Emmie's struggles to get through has so stirred the hearts of the Gohlville people that, they have deter mined to give her a royal welcome. Jus-t before reaching the Humpy Mountains the husband, ar rives, iiaving ridden across-country to meet his family. He tells them that he has left little Dave w'Uh the blacks, but thai, hr is quite safe, and adds that, they will have to hurry along as quickly as possible, because it is reported that the notorious bushranger Palmerly is on the road. They are bliss fully unconscious that their camp that night is being watched by Palmerly himself. CHAPTER II. The night too quickly passes And we are growing old; So let us fill our glasses And toas-t the Days of Gold; When finds of wondrous treasure Set all the Sotilh ablaze, And you and. I were faithful mates All through the roaring days. —HENRY LAWSON. THE children svore playing round the camp-fire, with Ernest and Emmy .scaled near them, when Palmerly rolled up his swag, Jit his pipe, and, going hack a little way through the bush, cut across it and came out on the road behind the travellers. He was dressed in a typical miner's clothes, as if he had just moved from one diggings to the other. A speckled handkerchief was about his neck; while dunga rees and a red shirt, heavy hoois, and a felt hat com pleted his dress. He had made a mistake, however, in putting a black sash on. Also, he had put the 'Sydney Morning Herald' he had been reading into his back pocket, and the 'Herald' was not a paper that came often to the Humpy Mountains. Palmerly was tall, handsome, wilh black hair, and eyes of a peculiarly light blue. They were unpleasant eyes to meet. His smile was hard and cold. The police had been searching for him for some time, but he had eluded them with great skill. In his cave in the Humpy Mountains were to be found the rea sons for his success. Palmerly had left there a black fellow's mask, which, he used whenever he stuck up the coach carrying gold from the diggings to Brisbane. Hated by the blacks, Palmerly had made use of them. The police were under the impression that he was black, not white. He knew them all intimately in Goldville, and they were of the opinion that 'Flash Harry,' as Palmerly was known in Goldville, was a friend who would help them to run the bushranger down. Palmerly had never encountered young Ernest Mark ham before. He knew that the Markhams dealt in cattle, that old Josiah Markham, Ernest's father, had sold the first meat in Brisbane, and killed the first sheep, and at the same time established the first cattle run. But of Ernest and Ernest's attempts to explore Queensland, dis cover gold there, and make friends with the blacks the bushranger knew nothing. Ernest suspected Palmerly at once when he saw him turn the curve of the read and come sauntering along towards the peaceful camp-fire. 'Ernest-, a man! Quick, a man!' Emmy cried, woman-like. 'Dolly, Madge. Jeanie!'' Palmerly was completely at his ease. He saw at once that Ernest was armed, that there was another man of the party, as well as a woman and children, and it
was obvious that they were settler?, and not people rushing to the field. Ernesi, had narrowly missed Ihe discovery of gold at Goldville himself. He knew the country so well that lie thought the stranger must have come from the hush. Mis clothes were too dean, his boot? unrciudtlieri, his whole appearance too startlingly sudden for anything else. Though he said nothing to Emmy, Ernesi was alarmed. He could feel that Palmerly was dangerous: instinct told him so. Also, Ihe blacks had assured Ernest that Pal merly was no blackfellow; but lately there had been rumours of a second bushranger, and Ernest was faced with- the grim fact that before him was probably a brutal murderer who would stop at nothing. As he approached the five Palmerly took out a pocket-knife and commenced to cut up some black 1o bacco. 'Nice evenin',' he said to Ernest. 'Yes. Good evening,' Ernesi replied. 'Going lo the diggings?' 'Yes; on my way there,' Palmerly said, dropping his swag. 'I don't think we'll have a moon to-night.' 'No.' 'Come far?' 'From Brisbane,' Ernest replied. Palmerly glanced at his pack-horses, and Ralph came up In the fire. 'Aren't you going to sit down?' he said, not taking any more notice of Palmerly than he would have taken of any other stranger who happened to pass. 'Thanks,' Palmerly said, and soon, to Emmy's con sternation, he. was sprawled out before the fire chewing tobacco and warming his hands. They were all uneasy. Night was gathering, anri
oven Ralph did not wish to pass the night with this stranger, who seemed now to have no intention of going on. ?What was more, he unrolled his swag. EMMY had taken the 'children apart to the cart, whore she was washing up the supper tilings. in a tin dish. She wanted another bucket of ' water from the creek, hut nothing would induce her to go and get it. She kepi, looking from her husband and brother to the stranger who had made himself so much at home. Mournful cries from Ihe. bush startled her. Though she hrid been born in Australia, and one of the first cries she had recognised was the cry of the mopoke owl, it had an eerie,' uncanny sound to her now. Never had she fell so afraid in the presence of a man as she fell now. Suddenly she screamed. Before her, not a dozen yards away, she saw the naked figure of a black — an- other and another. Dropping the cups and saucers and gathering1 her children to her once more, she fled back to the fire, a spear landing before her and another behind. 'Ernest! Ernest!'' she cried, 'we are attacked by the blacks! Ernest!' At her cry and the sight of the hurtled spear Pal inerly stood up. Ernest saw him trembling with fear, ,ind some innate feeling of distrust towards the man made him suspect him a second lime. Ho knew7 Palmerly was supposed to bo, on the Brisbane road, and also that Palmerly was unfriendly with the blacks. By !i;r hurtled spear Ernest recognised the tribe of blacks that were ntlaeking them. He could pacify them ;d once. But. fin's stranger! There was no time to lose. Calling out in a friendly voice to the blacks, 'I am your friend. Gome and have u drink of billy lo-V Ernest sprang' to Palmerly, and hoioro the bushranger could realise it Ernest and Ralph hau him imprisoned and tied hand and foot. 'You must excuse me,' Ernest said politely, 'but I think you are Palmerly.' Never had a bushranger been so easily caught. Palmerly expressed no surprise. A close observer, however, might have seen an ugly light flash for a second in his cold blue eyes — a light that, expressed a newly born hatred. That was all. Palmerly shrugged his shapely shoul ders and said: 'You'll find I'm 'Flash Harry,' of Gold ville. They all know nip there.' 'I am taking no risks,' Ernest replied. By this limo the blacks, male and female, were gathering about Ernest, whom ihey knew. They gesticu lated wildly when they saw that he had a prisoner, but did not seem to know anything about him. 'You go back alonga scrub,' Ernest said, giving them all some tea and sugar and tobacco. 'Go along my place; see you by-and-bye.' To Emmy's amazement, with a few words of their own tongue Ernest sent them off. They spent the night in peace. Palmerly made no attempt to get away, and in the morning laughed openly when they put him a prisoner on one of the horses. So they came into Goldville. IT was dusk when they arrived. Having grown ac customed to seeing the prisoner on their father's horse, the children were no longer interested in him, but in the goldfield itself. If was spread on many hills, seven principal ones, which had already been called Gold Hill, Lucky Hill, One-Tree Hill, Nugget Hill, Bald Hill, Patchy HiJl, and Red Hill. Any newcomers to the field were always sure of a welcome, and the news that Markham was bringing in someone whom he believed to be Palmrly had brought miners from all the seven hills to meet the party at the Goldville road, which curved from Ihe field to meet the well-marked road to Brisbane. Emmy, wondering if Rose would meet her, was still feeling ashamed of the long time she had taken lo get to the goldfield. Put now, as she saw the field of white
fours, dolled here and there with weatherboard collars and sheds, she felt a little thrilled. Hero was wonderful Goldville, where men were .making fortunes in an hour, a day, a week, a month. Fabulous wealth lay here. A smell of cooking food met. her. and Ihe air was noisy with the voices of men sing ing', fighting, quarrelling, arguing. 'Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Here they are!' A shout from dozens of throats made Emmy turn pale. But the waiting miners were crowding around Ihem. Had Emmy been in the spring-cart with the children, and not riding beside Ernest and his prisoner, the miners, all good-hearted and sociable, might have taken Ihe horse out of the shafts and dragged her into Goldvil-lo., spring-cart, and all. ..Dolly, who was afraid of all the strange bearded men, most of them clad in white trousers and wearing ve-\ shirls like soldiers, hid her face on Jeahie's shoulder and screamed shrilly.
'Once away from .Brisbane, Emmie let the girls put on old print dresses.' The picture illustrates a scene on the first day out from Brisbane. as related in the opening chapter of the story .
One of the miners put out a hard hand io stroke her hair, saying. 'Ail right, litile 'un; don't be frightened.' Then they saw Ernest's prisoner. A roar of laughter went up. 'What's the matter?' Ernest asked. 'You've caught 'Flash Harry,1 ' they said 'Mark- ham, you're born an ijut. What have you done with Palmerly?' Palmerly joined in the laughter against Ernest, 'I told you,' he said politely to him. 'Don't you think I've worn these braceelts long enough?' Emmy once more took panic as now hundreds of miners swarmed about them, looking and laughing at Palmerly, whom they called 'Flash Harry,' and pointing lingers of derision ai. Ernest. He was the laughing slock ul' the field. Emmy took their laughter to herself. She felt that I his was a climax to her long painful journey. Having &el, out with so much hope, so many pigs and ducks and geese, she had arrived in Goldville with the white hen, and a few chickens, feeling ashamed and hurt. She only wanted to run away somewhere and cry. Sh(. was not super-sensitive, but she had never before been the centre of so many hundreds of male eyes. The new miners all thronged round to see her. Those who knew of her long trip expressed their admiration in a 3'ough but. kindly way. Emmy kept back her tears with difficulty. She saw Ernest reluctantly lot the prisoner go. Soon she heard
that Rose had gone down in the coach to Parbury, and was unable to restrain her tears. The wilderness dis mayed her. LODGING was found for them in Goldville for the night, and early in the morning they set out again. Miners were busy at work, and the children were loo shy to make friends with them. Most of the inhabitants of Goldville were men. Here and there a woman was to be seen, but no young girl. One or two families, who had already come to settle on the field, had small girls; but the big rush was to come, bringing wealth of youth as well as age with it. Emmy was not sorry to leave the gold hive. She was presented with two or three little nuggets, however, and much fuss was made over her and the children. This time she rode and the children travelled in the spring-cart, but. without Ralph, wiio had decided lo stay on the field' The temptation was too much for him. Gold was in the air. Gold was everywhere. The miners talked
about nothing else. The great Goldville nugget had just been discovered, and every miner believed that he had another such nugget in his own claim. When they cooked their meals they talked gold: when they came to the bars they showed their nuggets. Every man was full of dreams for the future. The hills of Goldville were studded with gold. Under their hob nailed boots thousands upon thousands of ounces of gold lay buried. They were the first to begin to draw out the many millions from the earth — the millions that, were to help to build up the colony and Australia. Tongues of all nations spoke only of one metal — gold. Men of all professions could think of nothing else. Men working in gloves, men working with the intention of slaying their partners, men harbouring vengeance and distrust in their hearts, saw the pioneers of a different goldfleld pass away from Goldville — Emmy and Ernest and their children, who were to be tillers of the soil, producing another gold — gold of fruit and butter and corn. And Palmerly, washing his dirt in Goldville creek beside grey-bearded Tommy Gold, the discoverer of the field, listened to the news, picking up information about the new companies that were going to put down a shaft on Bald Hill, and the Scottish company that had already pegged out a claim at Lucky Hill, listened, and decided lo bide his time till he was ready to make another suc cessful hold-up. But Emmy and her little band went on. It was late
i i afternoon when they came to the cleared space m ihe j forest where their little home already stood. -f'j To Emmy's surprise, Dave, her twelve-year-old boy, a I was waiting there, two fat aboriginal gins, an old black- ' I fellow, and one or two picaninnies. ;. I On the edge of the scrub she could see the blacks' ?- fires and dark naked figures moving before them. She : was horrified to find that all the savages were naked. Clothing that had been given them, and which they could not wear, hung about the gins in a ridiculous fashion. 'Mamma, mamma, look!' Dolly cried. One of the girls had a picaninny, and she crinnec' in a friendly way at Emmy. J Emmy, looking on the only female companions she ii| was to know' through long days and nights of hush lone- :|j liness, returned the friendly smile. , ]] She had clasped her son in her arms again and got f; the little girls safely inside before she approached tho |! gins with an old rug and an older cape. * 'I can't have them about if they won't dress, Ernest.'
she said firmly lo her husband. 'You've lo tell them, for the children's sake, that they must not come naked.' With no one but blacks for their companions, what was she going to do with the children during the long years? There was no school nearer than Goldyille, unless she taught school again herself. The blacks' camp was so near that even now she could hear their weird singing. Dave, ats, brown and freckled as a boy could be, came and slipped bis arm about her neck. 'I don't know why you look so sad, mamma,' he said. 'It's the best fun in the world being with the blacks. I've been all through the scrub. 1 ate some black snake, and it was lovely — just like fish.' Emmy shuddered. Ernest fussed about her, getting her her first meal. The home was made of slabs and bark, and he was very proud of it. The blacks had taken a great, interest in its building, and be hoped Emmy was not going lo be unfriendly with them. There were two rooms, one for the girls and one for themselves. Dave slept in a loft above them. After Brisbane the boy thought the wilderness was paradise. It certainly was in the nature of paradise for- ; a boy. i Already he could talk to the blacks, already climb \ and track and hunt with them. No matter how many j boys since the beginning of time had. had adventures \ in the world, none would or (Continued on Page 51.)
Sons of the Seven Mile (Continued from Paqe 23.) .
could have better. That was his view. The blacks had accepted him as a man among them. He was proud and pleased at once. That night the blacks held a corroboree in honour of Emmy and Ernest. It was a wondrous sight to Emmy. The circle of naked gins beat their thighs and crooned, and the blackfellows danced with their white-painted bodies. When it was over the king of the tribe, old white-haired Mombea, pulled down a slender sapliiig and said : 'If the sapling bends and does not break you will stay here for ever and ever; if it bends and breaks
you will go away from the wilderness again.' . . Breathlessly they waited while the old blackfellow bent the sapling. It bent and cracked, but did not quite break. Then it sprang back again. A shout burst from the assembled blacks. 'You will go away, but your children will come back,' was the interpretation he gave. Emmy, looking from the savages to the naked forest, wondered. ? . (To be Continued.)