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Chapter NumberXXXIII
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Full Date1927-06-29
Page Number41
Word Count3437
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


'Love that, brings the laughing tears - Of an April day Comes but once in all our years, Comes but once for aye.' — James Hebblethwaite.

MEANTIME, little dreaming of the. chance that was to come so soon, Tom and Ethel sat on the ferny verandah at Kit's place, while Bridgy played songs for Alf. Love-making was something solemn iq Tom Wilson, and the sound of her future father-in-laws voice singing 'Queen of the Earth' was ,as good as a serenade of love from Tom 'to 'Ethel,' who was not a de monstrative girl and thought 'spooning,1' as courting was called, silly — or said she did— which made Tom's love making a harder task still . ? ? Ethel's engagement ring was a hroad band ring.wnn a ruby in it; but Tom was saving up for five .diamond*., the orthodox engagement ring. They- were going to live on his cultivated land at Wilson's Greek, where the old Chinaman's garden had been, and Tom had already drivtn the postholes for the stumps of his house. 'When are you coming up to the house again, Et?'1 he asked. , ? ? As the house was only stumps, she laughed at his joke, but replied: 'Whenever you like, Tom,. .Next Sun day.' 'Yes. Dad'll have the .sawmill going soon.. That'll get the timber quicker.' . ' Ethel felt her cheeks glow as they talked about their' ' house. Then she took -Tom's arm and put it about her waist, and a silence fell between them, as it always 'dki ? when they came thus into intimate physical contact witn one another. ?'..-,:.? ; ,., A little sadness was born of the simple action — not because they were sad, but because they did not know, though they loved each other, when they could marry. Tom knew that a wife did not mean just a gin. Talcing a wife meant setting up a sign of love and honour somewhere— setting up a challenge to time and eternity — that was, making the most wondrous thing' in the world . for her — a home. He could see a home something like his own. He did not want Ethel to live through the hardships of pio neering, though all Australians who lived on the lann nad, in some small way, to do that, forming a link be tween themselves and that brown, brave company or men and women who had faced and fought and won a wilderness to civilisation for the glory of the Empire. Tom was always making tilings for his home, as Ethel was always making tilings for her glory-box — only when Tom thought of a meat-safe, Ethel thought of a linen pillow-sham, which her hands and needle had made dainty with embroidery. When Tom thought 01 a table, Ethel thought of a centre for it; so the matter and the ornamenter worked side by side., They listened to each other's sighing, sweet as tu« breeze that came through the honeysuckle lattice, soft, warm, with something tender and holy in it. Ethel could see Kit mending a eoat and Molly bena ing over a shadow-cloth frame, and the pale yellow gjovy of the lamplight was soft and warm as a flower abom their faces. Ethel saw herself and Tom like that in tins same happy peace which dwelt nowhere on earth so securely as in a true home. 'Tom,' she said, and looked a I him. 'Et— oh, Bt!' He' 'was the eager lover, and embraced her witn sudden fervour. Then. they were quiet again as she re . strained his ardour. . 'Et,'1 he protested, 'I'm going to ride- away witn you — there!' - 'I'm too big. You couldn't carry me.' 'Well, when are we going to get married?' .'? 'In a year or two.' 'Oh!' His restraint was broken now, and he longed to kiss her. Ethel was difficult to kiss. That was way he loved her, perhaps. He felt much freer with many other girls than he did with this one he loved. She suddenly threw her amis about his neck im pulsively, almost weeping as she said, close to his ear: 'Oh* Tom, I wish we could get married and have done with it. But don't, keep making it harder for me. as long as father leaves things to mother, I've to help her. - He kept her close to him even when she had disen gaged her arms. 'All right, Et,' he said. 'Don't worry. You never know when something'!) turn up.' 'No,' Ethel said, and she and Tom sprang apart a* someone cooeed at the gate. -.'Gooee! Anyone in?' 'What-oh!' Mick answered, coming round from uis room with the gun he had been cleaning in his hand. 'What's up?' The music stopped, and everyone went to the veran dah. They saw that a buggy had pulled up, and in it w.ere two people. Kit knew them at once, and, as she had. gone down to meet Ethel a little earlier, she now hastened to meet them. 'Come in,' she said, even before she had reached Ma

Morrison, the oldest gossip on the Seven-Mile, and Jinny O'Callaghan, for whom in tne hour of their travail so many women cried. They were sitting side ny side in Ma's buggy. 'No, we wan't stop. We're

hurrying out to my young daughter-in-law, who s ev pecting any minute,' Ma said, in her old garrulous way; 'but we had to pull up to give you the news. Have you heard it?' 'No. What is it?' Ma gave Jinny and Kit no time to exchange greet ings, but rambled on: 'Jamiesons, the new people at the creek, you know, I told you about with the girl that's deaf and the boy with the twisted foot ? ' Kit listened. 'Well' — Ma was driving, and she hitched at the rein and caught the whip-thong as she leaz^ned over the wheel nearest Kit — 'I was over there yesterday, and I was telling Mrs. Jamieson about Gipsy Farney. 'You would be,' Kit thought. 'She doesn't know Ann and Michael, nor anything about them; so I don't think it'd matter, because you know I don't like talking about anyone on the Seven Mile. But it came out accidentally. She had a post card of a girl in a fancy-dress costume that she said she had bought at an entertainment in a theatre hi Rockhampton, and the girl was singing there, and she was very pretty, with blue eyes and dark hair ana a. lovely contralto voice, and as soon as I clapped my eyes on the postcard that she showed me I said : 'Gipsy Far ney!' But the name under it wasn't right. It said: 'Antoinette Coreli.' Now, what do you think of tlia,,, Kit Wilson? Poor Ann! Poor Ann! Her lovely daugn ter gone astray like that, singing with those bad, wicked, strolling singers. I don't know whether I ought to tell Ann or keep it from her. Gipsy's changed her name. That's what she's doing.' Ma sat back. 'Us all think ing her dead or run away with a bad, wicked married man. and she singing under our very noses.' Jinny and Kit both breathed for Ma, who seemed to be able to talk hour by hour without, needing iu breathe at all. But Kitty, who had always liked her runaway niece, had no intention of letting the old gossip run on any further. She was half inclined to speak 10 her sharply, despite her age, but everyone knew that there was no one who could stop Ma's tongue. Kitty crushed the old lady in the one way she did not want to be crushed. She said: 'Oh, I don't tnink you can tell people from postcards. All girls look alike. And how eould the girl be Gipsy Farney if she were Antoinette Coreli?' Ma was indignant. 'But I'm sure it is Gipsy,' she said, and was about to begin another recital when Jinny hurried her on. ? 'Gome on, now, and let us gel along,' she said. 'Gipsy Fartiey's a woman, and 1 always said she was

one who could take care of herself.' She nudged Ma's arm, as she was growing impatient. 'A girl who runs away from home and changes her name and never writes 10 her mother ? ' began Ma.

'Oh, get on with you, you old busybody.' Mrs. O'Callaghan looked over at Kit as she urged Ma on. 'I'll drop in on my way back, Kit.' 'When, do you expect to be back?' Ma, not very pleased to be robbed of her gossiping, popped in again before Mrs. O'Callaghan could speak. 'She's going to stop the night with Violet, and then Pa will drive her back in the morning, most likely; or I'll get one of the boys' horses and ? ' 'Go on, you talking old woman, you, Ma. Your daughter-in-law will be on her way to recovery if you don't whip up and gel us along.' Jinny started tne horse as she spoke by flapping the reins. 'Good-bye, Kit. I don't know when I'll be back, but I think most likely in the morning.' The buggy was moving on slowly now. 'You'll have a nice drive in the moonlight,' Kit said. 'Yes.' SHE saw them drive on, and heard Ma's voice above the rattle of the buggy wheels pitched high and loud : 'If one of my girls ran away from home ? ' But Jinny's voice interrupted her just as loudly with: 'Oh, go on with you, Ma Morrison; how do you know what your girls'U do, or your girls' girls, eitner? You leave the girls alone to look after themselves, and keep your eyes on your boys. Your daughters never bring you anything home but little bits of trouble that make the world full of sunshine, whichever way you look at it; but your boys! They're always heading for big trouble — always!' Kit did not hear Ma's loud-voiced comment on this, but when she looked after them she could hear their voices raised in argument, and it made her smile. Daughters and sons! Kit had watched them come in and out of her gate for nearly thirty years, daugh ters and sons of the Seven-Mile and the Hill. She nad watched them go. Ah, what would she not give to see some of the sons who had left come whistling home again! The daughters, who left were so few that there was a certain fascination in conjecturing what had be come of that one lovely daughter of the Seven-Mile Gipsy Farney, whose brother had failed to find her, ana who, Ma now declared, had been seen in Rockhampton. But she turned back to her own sons and daughters. Ethel and Tom were preparing to ride home. Tom was saddling the horses, and whistling as he did so. Ethel was tidying her hair in Bridgy 's room, and looking at Bridgy's glory-box at the same time. Bridgy had a round Irish face which always seemea to be dimpling into laughter and flashing a set of the

SKATING ON MOUNT BUFFALO. It is reported from Mount Buffalo {Vic.) that con tinued frosts have produced 65 acres of thick ice, on which visitors revel in various sports. Our picture shows a couple crossing Lake Catonl (Photo : YV. E. Johnson.)

MISS. EVA K. M'INTOSH, L.S.C.M. This young lady, of Coatt's Crossing, North Coast, is a pianist of great promise. Though only 16, she is a Licentiate of the Sydney Col lege of Music, and has won many medals at musical competitions. She belongs to ? well known cattle people in the Orara River dis trict, and is a granddaughter of a well-known Scotsman, Mr. Alexander M'Intosh. She is a pupil of Mrs. Orr-Morris, of South Grafton.

prettiest of little pearly-white teeth. Her hair was the colour of ripe corn, and her eyes a deep grey. She was .laughing at something Ethel had said, curling up her less at the end of her hed when Kit entered the room. 'Mind the quilt, Bridgy,' Kit said; hut when she saw Ethel doing' her hair before the mirror where the laughing-eyed Gipsy had so often tidied her hair, looking back over her shoulder fluslied with love and happiness, a fear caught at Kit's heart. Nothing must ever separate Tom and Ethel. Nothing must ever mar their inno cent happiness. Though she was a woman, climbing to fifty with Ann and Carrie, Kit could feel for Ihe young still, as if she were one of them. 'Who was that, Mum?' Molly asked, for, though they had all come to the verandah to see who it was wiien Ma cooeed, Kit had ordered Siem back into the house. Unless the callers to the homeslead were their re latives or close friends. Kit never liked the family running out in a familia. bush way to meet them. Kit flicked an imaginary piece of fluff from the patchwork quilt of a thousand patches she had made herself and taken a prize for at the Hillborough show some years ago;- then she sat down, looking from Bridgy's glory-box tea-trays and d'oileys to Ethel's flushed face of love and happiness, and replied: 'Only Mrs. Morrison and Mrs. O'Callaghan.' 'Any news?' Bridgy asked, smoothing out the pink paper under one of the pillow shams. Kit told them what Ma had said. 'Gipsy Farn^y in Rocky!' Molly cried. 'Oh, I say! WhrU/11 Aunty Ann do? Go and bring her hack?' 'Be quiet, miss, and don't speak about your elders,' Kit said, snubbing Molly. 'Oh, Ma's always talking about poor Gipsy,' Kathleen said. 'Run outside, Kat.hy and Molly,' Kit said, and the younger girls, who were more like Ann and Alf than their own mother, left the room. 'I think I'd want to run away if my boy jilted me,' Ethel said, blushing. 'So would I,' Bridgy replied. 'But, Mum, I heard about that postcard Jamie sons are supposed to have. Jessie Carter made it her business to go over and have a look at it. When she got there Mrs. Jamieson said she was sorry but she had let the children play with it, and it had got torn and she had had to burn it. I think it was a yarn myself.' JESSIE CARTER, who was one of Kit's best J and closest friends, though she had broken her heart when Kit married Alf. whom Jessie had hoped to marry, was the wise old .maH of the Seven-Mile, who never left a stone unturned if she thought the turning of it could do anyone any good. 'Jess told me nothing about that,' Kit said. ' ? : 'I don't think you've seen her since,' Bridgy replied, running a soft hand over Ethers hair. 'Oh, Ethel, isn't your hair lovely? It's like rippling sunlight.'. 'It's a jolly nuisance to do.' 'I'll have to ask Jess about that,' said Kit, 'but I don't think they ought to fill Ann's head with silly hopes. How do you like the. new tray-cloth, Et?' Kit looked admiringly at her daughter's lovely fancywork, for Bridgy carried off more prizes than anyone else at all the shows, even in Brisbane, for her beautiful shadow and drawn thread work, her smocking, and other embroidery. Ethel admired it, too. 'Bridgy's got more things than I have,' she said. 'Mum said I should put in a few sheets,' Bridgy laughed. 'And towels! Fancy sheets and towels in a glory-box!'

Both girls laughed at the very idea. 'You want something useful as well as showy,' Kit added. Bridgy and Ethel were racing one an other to the altar, as the boys said, and 'the glory-box' was a never-tiring sub ject with them. Tom called out that he was ready, and Ethel said 'Good-bye.' Mick, who had brought his gun into the dining-room, where there was a better light, looked up to tease Tom with : 'Now. see you're home early, my boy.' Bully said 'Good-night' quietly to Ethel, who stood like a radiant being amongst them, and as he stood up he kicked Mick. 'Get up, and remember your manners,' Bully said. Mick wrinkled his eyes. 'Wha-a-at? Oh!' He got up and made an elaborate bow, then he sat down. 'Like a salute fired, too?' 'Don't be an ass!' Danny half-shyly put Iiis forefinger be tween the pages of his book, and stole through to the hall, pressing back against the wall to let the lovers pass out. 'Shall I take a message to Beat, Denny?' Ethel asked. 'Y-e-s,' he stammered. 'I'll give her your love, eh?' 'Ye-p-es, please.' A LI, came out to see Tom and Ethel off, '*'*? and the pair set out for home. When they had gone along the road a little Tom slackened his horse's pace, and he drew nearer Ethel. 'I'm going to make a proposal, Ethel.' he said. 'What, Tom?' She felt afraid. Tom's face looked so earnest. ? . . . 'I'm going to suggest we get married secretly.' 'On the ilv? Oh, I' couldn't, Tom ; you miss every t. .ing.' 'Yes, you could. It won't be hard once you make up your mind. Go on, Et,' he urged. 'Your father will never change. There'll be more children to mind in a few years. We'll never get married and have our own home. You'll just be a slave for ever to your sisters and brothers.' 'Tom!' But his pleading was steady and insis tent. 'Go on, Et. Say you will. I'm tired of waiting. The Dad can't say anything to me; he and Mum got married without any one but Mum's uncle knowing. Look how happy they are still.' Tom had never spoken like this before. 'But I'm not twenty-one,' she said. 'Oh, you look twenty-one, and I am of age.' 'What do you mean, Tom? Go and swear I am twenty-one? Oh, but I couldn't swear a lie. We wouldn't be married.' 'Yes, we would. Write twenty-one in the lining of your boots ; then it won't be a lie. You'll be over twenty-one.' 'Tom, you're joking.' 'I'm not. We've been engaged for a long time. Mum and Mrs. Carter and Aunty Ann all got married when they were younger than you. You want to marry me, Bt?' 'Yes, of course I do. But I want to be married properly.' 'Decide, Et. I'll go down to Brisbane next Saturday. One of us has to go, and I can manage it. I'll tell Mick; he'll help us. Once we're married we'll he all right.' 'Oh, no. Don't tell anyone.'. '. Ethel was feeling the thrill of adventure. 'We'll have to tell Mick. I never keep anything from him.' 'All right. We could come back and go on living at home for a while before we told anyone.' - : . . 'No, we couldn't, We'll come home and tell them we're married, and I'll buy a tent till the house is up.' ; 'Oh, Tom, it's loo rash. Could ,we do that.' 'Yes. All you've to do is to buy a ticket Jo Brisbane and get in the train. I'll meet you in Brisbane and have everything ar ranged. Once we #q through the cere mony no one will object. They ail want us to marry, Et. . Beat and May can take your place. It's time they did, anyway.' Ethel was tempted. She had done a mother's share home long enough, and there was that in the wonder of the night that wooed her with the same persistence as Tom's suddenly loosened tongue. 'All right?' she said. 'You'll come?' Tom's eyes lighted up. 'Yes.' She nodded. 'Whatever made you think of it?' 'I don't know. I've thought about it often, 1 suppose.' 'Have you? Why didn't, you tell me before?' 'I don't know, unless it \vas the fact that one of us has to go to Brisbane. The Dad was going himself, but changed his mind Now it's settled. Et. Keep it quiet. We'll make ' final arrangements before I go.' 'All right, Tom.' Instinctively they drew rein and -sealed ihe secret with a kiss that was not shy or timid, but bold and fervent as their sud den resolution. After that they g:ave themselves up to the gallop home, and the great starry night, so lotus-peaceful and large with dreams, took their secret to itself as. the age-old moon lighted them happily on their way. (To be Continued:)