|Chapter Number||XXIII (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 XXIII— (Continued)
FLORA ceased playing, and she and the children came out. Maggie went to the door and drove them back. 'Go away,' she said sharply, 'when father and Ronny are talking!' She siiut the door upon them, and kept her hack to it. Light broke on her suddenly. Sandy said: 'Ronny, did you take it? Did you take it yourself to put it on the horses, and let me accuse David Markham of having it?' 'Oh, father, did you do that,' Ronny said. 'You
shouldn t have accused anyone ? 'Did .you take it?' Sandy almost wailed. 'No.' . Maggie clenched her hands, Ihen flung up her head. 'Row can you sit there, Sandy,' she said, 'and accuse Ronny?' 'I'm not accusing him.' 'Ye are!' Then Maggie, her face going white, clutched Ronny's arm. 'If you took it and were tempted, Ronny, speak up about it.' Ronny lied again. 'Sandy, what trouble have you made with Blake's ?' Maggie said. 'I spoke too quickly,' Sandy confessed. 'I don't know whether to believe the lad or not. He's forbid den to go near the Blalces', and Mary's very ill.' 'Not to go near Mary,' Ronny said, wetting his lips. 'Father, what have you done?' Sandy dropped his pipe, which he could not fill, and stood for a second a pathetic, trembling figure of uncertainty among them. 'I don't know what I've done, but if I've born a son that's told me a lie, before the Lord on the Sabbath Day I've done a thing to be sorry for all the days of my life. Oh, Ronny, you aren't lying about it?' ? 'No,' said Ronny, bitterly afraid no*v, thinking of Mary and Dave Markham, and his own misery. He drew himself together sharply. His word was as good as Macpherson's — as good as anyone's. He could swear for ever lie was not at the races. . 'Ronny, the only kind of criminal that is shut out from heaven is a liar. Even the thieves are let in.' Ronny smarted. ? 'But the mean men can't get in, either,' he retali ated; 'and if I have lied and if I have stolen I've as much chance of getting in as you have.' 'Ronny, Ronny!' Maggie cried. 'You're lying, Ronny,' Sandy replied. 'Get out of my house. Get out of it! Get out of it!' 'Sandy, Sandy! What are you doing?' Ronny and his father raised hands against one an other. . Maggie drew them apart, and stood between them quivering. 'If you've got no respect for yourselves,' site said, 'remember it's the Sabbath, and the children can hear ye.' Ronny went' to his room and locked it. Then he packed his clothes hastily, and while his mothep aijd father were bickering about him, and Flora and his younger brother and sisters coming anxiously back to find out what had happened, he got down by the win dow, caught his horse, and rode towards Hillborough. He had left home, and, though he had no intention of running away, he meant never to return to the farm. He was some distance away when Maggie had suffi ciently pacified Sandy to enable her to try to make a reconciliation between them. Sandy knew that he was a mean man, and liis son's dart had hurt him. Though he was sometimes gene
rous, his bursts of generosity seemed not to belong to him, but rather to another Sandy he himself had long slain. 'I'm not a mean man, Maggie!' he said. 'You are, Sandy. Perhaps if you'd let the boy have a little more money now and again this never would have happened.' She brought her judgment down like a blow on Lis head. He gave in and consented to apologise to Ronny, for his mother believed him innocent. Then she went to the door and called him, to find him gone. She sat down listlessly when she realised iie had run away. When Flora and the children came out she flung out her hands and cried as she rocked herself. 'Wiia's the use of a body building a wee nest for her brood when a man comes and tumbles the bairns out with his harsh tongue; what's the use?' 'Ronny'11 come back, mother,' Flora said. 'Dinna cry about it.' But Maggie could not be comforted. 'Oh,' she cried, 'he must be guilty — my laddie — my ain laddie. I winna believe it — no, no!' 'Has he be^n to the races again, mother?' Flora asked. She shook her head. 'Ask no questions, der.rie. Ask no questions. If any mother is sadder than I am over her boy I'd like to know who she is.' CHAPTER XXIV. 'At times I urge to noble ways, At times for evil strive; But reckless aye for good or base If but the race survive.' Bernard O'Dowd. MRS. REGAN started up at the sound of her son Paddy's footsteps. Paddy had no sooner left the message with his aunt Carrie than he had gone home, and was there hours before he was expected. His mother was cutting up the cribs in the kitchen for the boys, who were going out to work the midnight shift. She always got their crib ready early — some corned beef sandwiches and a slice of cake. She was spreading mustard 011 the meat when Paddy came in. 'How you startled me, Paddy!' she said. 'Why are you home so early?' He did not reply, but kissed her quietly and coldly, and then said, as he sat down on the form near the
fire and clenched and unclenched his hands: 'Never mind me, mother.' 'But what's up, Paddy?' 'Where's father?' 'Gone over to Neilson's, as usual, to have a game of cards.' 'Humph!' 'Paddy, you aren't going to pick a quarrel with Dad?' '0!i, no.' He thrust bis hands into his pocket and stretched out his long legs. 'Did Andy Blake see you with his girl?' 'No.' 'What's up, then?' Paddy ran his fingers through his hair, got up, and went out of the room. He could not explain to his mother how he felt. She followed him, and he came hack and put his arms about her. 'Mother, I haven't been sucli a bad son, have I?' 'No, no; you've been the best hoy in the world. What's happened, Paddy?' 'A lot of things. But I don't seem to care. Mother, I'm not fitted to be a miner. There's something too small and cramped and light about it. I'll have to get away. I'd rather sing comic songs dancing on a board all night for a soak of bread and a cigarette than live here, where men can't be decent — where I go down a hole and work for eight hours, just to go back and work there for a couple of pounds a week.' 'Paddy what's worried you to make you talk like this?' 'It's enough to make me take to drink, like Uncle Arnold. He and Red Morgan and the boys. They're all happy drinking together. I've never done any harm :,o Andy Blake.' 'Oh, Paddy, it is Andy Blake.' His mother wiped a tear away. 'The children seem to get punished for the fathers, and the children are always punishing the fathers and the mothers.' 'It was a mean thing father did to Andy Blake.' 'Yes; but he could forgive him if he liked. Dad's got his punishment more than enough.' Paddy disengaged himself, and stroked his mother's hair and kissed her again. 'Til go out a bit, I think. I don't want to worry you.' Paddy was working the midnight shift, and longing to know how Mabel had got home, if her father had punished her, and whether Minnie Markham were any better. He strolled round the hill to Casey's hotel. At Casey's hotel, which he entered by the dwelling— the old hotel being semi-detached from Casey's residence — he heard all the news worth hearing — news that smote him and made him sit down with clenched hands again feeling numbed. Mabel's father had brought her home without any punishment at all, and Mary Blake and Minnie Markham were both very ill with dengue fever, mild and severe cases of which malady were breaking out everywhere. Paddy blamed himself. Then his face hardened, and he blamed his father. He stood up, and Casey said to him: 'Oh, I think Mary Blake'll get over it.' Paddy was not thinking about that. He was won dering how he had kept his patience so long with his father — wondering why he had never told him before what he thought of him. AS he strode away from Casey's Paddy knew that lie was going away from the Hill. He could not bear to think of little Minnie suffering through him. He passed Blake's with bowed head, not daring to so
much as glance their way. Then, as he passed round by the mullock heap, lie glanced back nervously to see Dr. Came ron's gig coming up Lucky Hill. He paused, .watching. The gig stopped at Blake's, and Mabel's mother ran out to meet the doctor. . paddy went home depressed. He was afraid to face his father: -he was trou bled with the thought of what he might say to him. His father was not at home, and after the evening meal he went out again,' and, .walking along by the railway line, . wandered down by Blake's fence to wait for Mabel.' Every night, or almost every 'night when lie was on night shift, he came and whistled at the fence, arid Mabel either .just waved from' the \vinr dow, threw him a kiss, or ran down to speak to him behind Hie lantanas. Sometimes. ' the other . girls, Mary's . friends arid Mabel's; hid her while she met' Paddy-;.'; ' ; To-night,, he whistled for a long time. Mabel, did not appear. He saw a light in .. Mary's room,- and figures moving, about', constantly. Then'Mabcl suddenly appealed, and 'as suddenly came down and hirl .under the' lantana bushes. . . He was over the fence and at -her side in a second. Bui. when he tried to take her in his arms she put out restraining hands. 'Paddy,'' she said, all her slender girlisbness drawn up sharply, half de liantly. .'I -heard about it. I know all.' ?He -tried to kiss her again. 'Mabel, don't be silly,' he said half sulkily. 'Why won't, you he the same as you were?' She was cold in her thin linen dress, and she had flung; a light shawl round her. 'Paddy, I'm never coming out to meet you again — never,' she said. He caught her face between his hands and looked down into her eyes, ana would have crushed iris lips to hers only she drew away half crying. 'Your falher told you 1 kissed Grace,' he said. 'Yes. . ' That's enough, Paddy — go away, please. Mary is very ill. Dr. Cameron says she has dengue, and some other complication. Sandy McPhie came here rowing this afternoon, and Mary is worried over Bonny and us. You must go away, please, Paddy.' 'You — you don't want me any more, Mabel ?' 'How can you want me, Paddy, when you kiss Grace?' 'I couldn't help it,' he said doggedly. 'Some girls are made to kiss.' She was indignant. 'Grace, I sup pose. You. may have my cousin.' 'Mabel!' But Mabel was hurt, and she still felt humiliated since her father had told her he had caught, Paddy kissing Grace. Her father had made a .joke of the matter at Wilson's when all the people had been gathered a1 tea. Mabel could not forget that. Besides, she was realising there were too many dangers attached to Paddy Regan. 'I'm never going to see you again, Paddy— never,' she ended, tearing her self away from him and flying hack to the house. 'Mabel! Mabel! Lei me explain, please!' be cried. But she was gone. ;He ran up the paddock, overtook her. anti caught, her in his strong arms and carried her hack to the lantana, strug gling to be free. 'Let me go! : I hate you! I don't love you!' 'Mabel, you do. I won't let you go until you say you do.' She struggled from his grasp, p'anl ing. It was a lonely little moment of youthful: emotion, and it died away in tears. .'How could you, Paddy Regan?' she cried, and, crying, ran away. This time he did not follow her. But neither did lie go away. He stamped like a young colt under the lantana, and saw Andy Blake stoop out, as lie always did, from the dining-room to the par lour landing. He felt, reckless. He wanted lo rush up to.hini.and say: 'What have 1 ever done 1o you that you should come be tween Mabel and me? 1 was only flirt
ing wil.h Grace. J. couldn't help it. A man has to kiss some girls.' Bui lie continued to stamp up and down, and did nol move. He heard the midnight whistle blow, and realised with a gasp that he could not possibly he in time for the shift. 'Oil, 1 don't care! T don't care!' he cried, run ning to liie fence, and then pausing before be. leapt, for the lamp was still alight in Mary's room. A depression encompassed him. Minnie might he ill like this. A goods train came lumbering out from t lie Hiii, and for one breathless moment he hesitated as to whether
he should fling himself .under it. Then he stopped, and his heart seemed to cease heating. He could he out of the Hill and in Brisbane in the morning. Quickly lie crawled up and over the top of an empty truck. He crowded down in a corner, his heart now heating wildly. The goods irain lumbered on, and, though he strained his eyes to see tile light of iiis mother's home, the last thing he saw was the feeble 1 winkle of light in the room where Mary Blake was lying tossing on her bed of fever. Out at Orange. Park Minnie, too, was tossing and de liriously crying for her father.
CHAPTER XXV. 'And then as the heart confesses The sins of a selfish way, The spirit of pardon blesses And closes the gates of day.' Louisa Lawson. MARY grew worse -the following ?daiy, aiid'Dr^Cameron feared there was.. rhore serious trouble than ' dengue. Jeanie, . wlio; had every inten tion of wiring to ' Brisbane to Dave, let the' matter drop in the more critical affair „ of -Ma'ry's sickness. 'Her home was 'all unprepared for sickness, of any kind. , Oil Tuesday, a .nurse had to be brought, ancriGra.ee Markhanrricarne in to tell them Minnie, had ,a bad. attack -of- dengue, but the doctor thought she had, been over . studying, and she.. was worrying so much ; about her examination, that 'they' could ' not' get' her to sleep! Grace' went back home to look 'down 'on tier'own little sister in ; something ' h'ke despair. ' She said to Jane.: . 'Mary ? Blake is much worse. The doctor' thinks it is something rnore than fever. She is like Minnie— she canriot sleep.''' ? 'Dadda! Dadda!''Minnie cried; 'Uncle Andy will break Mabel to ^ pieces. 'Oh, I've walked a hundred miles. '? When I pass my examination to go to the Gram mar I'm going to win a Fairfax. I'm going to win one.' Minnie did riot know exactly where she was. Sometimes she thought she was at school, sometimes at Lucky Hill ; and by Wednesday, when all hope for Mary had been given up, Minnie showed little sign of improvement. On Thursday her father came home. He was thrown into a state of self-abuse at his neglect, for, bushman as he was, the hush had healed his anger ,;'and he had only ridden about seeking blacks' implements and making drawings and pictures of aboriginal life, catching but terflies and studying the birds, and doing all those hundred and one things he liked doing about the bush. He had a sugar-bag full of mineral specimens, as well as aboriginal axe heads and- some strange weapons, which he dropped at the door as he ran in to his child's delirious cry. Jane and Grace, were too distressed .by this time to ask him where he had been. THERE was a pile of letters from Ruth on the mantelpiece, but they were all addressed to Dave ; so the girls had not touched them. 'I know you won't let me die, Dadda,' Minnie cried. 'Is Mary Blake dead?' 'No, no, my little one,' Dave replied, bending over her. It was not until Dr. Cameron came out t,o Minnie that Dave read Ruth's letters. Some of them were old, and had evi dently been delayed at the post-office. The last contained good news. Ruth had succeeded in obtaining the money they required from her step-father, but she could riot leave him, as be was dying. If she left him now he might take hack his promise about the money. If she stayed and saw to her own interests she would very likely come home a rich woman. Her wish seemed to be that Dave should purchase Monibea, but take the family down to Brisbane and let the old home. Dave glanced from her letters to Iris child. Ruth was in Sydney 'with her step father: not in Brisbane. as he had sup posed; so there seemed little sense in wiring for her. He took upon himself the nursing of his child. By Friday she showed improvement, hut Dr. Cameron . drew him aside and said solemnly that Minnie should never study again if he brought her through. She would need a complete change and quiet. Dave looked at the doctor in concern. 'But Minnie will never live without her school and study.' 'She must. I wish I could see as much chance for Mary Blake as I see for Minnie.' Dave sat in patience by the fever racked little girl and wrote to Ruth lo say he would bring the family to her as soon as she sent the money, Grace, who had driven is to see Mary, ?brought back the ill tidings that Dr.
Cameron had told the Blakes lie could not save her. 'She's got some other trouble — I don't understand,' Grace said. Grace knew by llris the bitter truth that Paddy Regan had run away from home, and she. was fretting and pining as much about Paddy as over Mary and Minnie. She was glad' to 'hear that they might be leaving the district. She had no wish to remain there. Siie walked over the paddocks to tell the McPhies, and she found Maggie and Sandy McPhie alone in tiie kitchen, the family Bible between them. 'Ltell you I'll take his name from the Book. He's a thief.' (To be Continued,)