|Chapter Number||IV. (Continued), V. VI.|
|Chapter Title||DOUBT. NONE. NONE.|
|Newspaper Title||The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||The Devil's Own. An Australian Story|
THE DEVIL'S OWN. AN AUSTRALIAN STORY B BY MRS. RICHMOND HENTY.
(ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) CHAPTER IV (Continued).
"It's to do with the squire's death," said they. "It has nothing to do with the squire's death," said Fanchette, showing her
small teeth like ad irate squirrel, and stamping her foot angrily; “Shall I take a pretty little oath,” she added, co- quettishly, a serious look shading the sweet face, telling of an inward fight she was trying to control. So they let her alone. Then followed illness so severe that when news came of her lover hav- ing met with an accident, and being past all hope of recovery in St. George’s Hospital Fanchette took it very quietly, even to the news of his death, so far as outward appearances went, bearing her grief in silence. Much she cared for the poor fellow,” said one ; “ coquette that she is,” said another. Fortunately for Fanchette she was spared the taunts and ill-natured remarks of her friends, for when on a fair way of recovery a distant connection of the baronet’s being in the neighborhood, offered to take the girl as companion, which Fanchette joyfully accepted, for the lady in question had been kind to Fanchette’s mother when a governess and poor. The rector of Marley and the doctor, indeed every one was surprised and dis- appointed at the new baronet's letter. “So unlike Captain Armytage” all agreed ; however, it generally ended with " Poor Captain Armytage, poor fellow ! he mut indeed be altered to write such a letter, perhaps illness or trouble may have changed him ; one never knows. We must not be too hard upon him, poor fellow, away in a strange land— and so longaway from all kith and kin.” CHAPTER V “My precept—to all who build, is that the owner should be an ornament to the house and not the house to the owner.—CICERO. Not very far from the beautiful little township of Albury (New South’Wales) with its vine clad-hills; its quaint German homesteads and cottages of the vignerons —sturdy, honest, hard - working, pcdple— was Seringa, a cattle station, par excel- lence, owned by Norman Fortescue—as good a man, in every sense of the word, as one could meet in a long day’s march, perhaps too honest, and trusting himself to believe in any man’s dishonesty—not that he ranked in the category of fools, nor was he a goody goody in the worldly sense of the term, for he was no humbug, and even hated that objectionable com- modity in all its moods and tenses. He had pride, add who hasn’t ? But if Norman Fortescue had any surplus pride it was in the beautiful piece of country he rented from the Sydney government and which he hoped some day to have in freehold possession and call his own. Seringa and its surroundings was a station any man would be proud of. Fault finding squatters with an eye only for pounds, shillings and pence, said some of the land was flukey, and ergo not fit for sheep ; but like the celebrity, who, when told that his rooms were too small even to swing a cat in, replied “I don’t want to swing a cat,” so, Norman Fortescue, when certain friends suggested turing Seringa into a sheep station, said “I don’t want sheep ; no, no, I prefer cattle, for freedom and pleasurable excite- ment; for an honest, healthy and jolly bush life, give me a cattle station. No doubt, sheep pay best, but sheep farming is like an egg without salt compared to the rattling exciting life of a cattle station. Besides sheep are a bother compared to cattle. You have to keep a staff of shep- herds and they cost you seventy pounds a year each, whereas for a cattle station half a dozen stockriders, and an overseer suffices for ten thousand cattle. Cattle pay me very well and I understand their management of sheep l know but little, so I am quite content.” You see, he was, no money grubber— gathering into his barns and garners greedily, he simply thought life worth living for, in its pleasantest and healthiest fashion, and he wasn’t wrong in his esti- mation of station life with its fresh air and healthy occupations, its freedom, its manly pursuits and amusements —above all its life of quiet contentment, with hope, the great lodestar of a squatter’s life spurring him on to the goal of his ambition, wealth property, for both, winding up with a satisfactory age of peace and rest. Norman Fortescue was of the few who had spared no thought, no trouble in try- ing to make his station as English and homelike as possible, and there was an air of comfort about it, and civilization rarely to be met with in the crown lands of New South Wales in those days. The homestead, with its long range of substantial brick buildings and goodly array of lystitus hedges, was for a wonder beautifully situated. I say for a wonder, for the most of sites chosen for stations in the early times were ugly in the extreme, generally on a flat or deep in a forest valley to be near or on a creek, or river, or waterhole, for the sake of water, a very scarce commodity too often in those days. Seringa was an exception—built on the brow of a picturesquely shaped hill—it looked over an immense extent of wooded scenery in the far distance like a silvery streak of bright ore, or the severn from the Malvern hills on a clear summer morning was the river Murray glistening in the sunshine, whilst wind- ing along the yalley beneath the house and its sloping garden was the pretty Currajong creek shaded by the rich green foliage of the Mimosa or Wattle, and part of the year ablaze with the sweetly scented golden blossom of the same which lined the banks in such luxuriance. Near the Murray and not a great distance from Seringa were Lagoons and swamps, the paradise for wild fowl of every descrip- tion. Here there was at all times shoot- ing enough to gladden the heart of the most fastidious sportsman. Snipe, quail wood pigeon, abounded in this dis- trict, and if you had time for a few days fishing you were amply repaid for your pleasant trip up or down the Murray, by some splendid Murray cod and silver perch—the salmon of the an- tipodus—tho' ere long, methinks, we shall have right down fresh English salmon. Thanks to a few generous and enter- prising colonists the acclimatisation of salmon ... prove a great boon in Aus- tralia, financially to the sportsman, in- stead of a curse, as the rabbit, sparrow, and Tom fool’s importation of Scotch thistles have proved. A few twenty pound Murray cod would be no mean reward for a day's pleasure amidst beauti- ful scenery and pleasant companions
steaming, floating, or rowing down the wide, cool, and placid looking Murray, with its shady inlets. Snakes certainly at times marred the day's sport along the banks, causing many a shudder of dread at the sight now and then of one of these deadly reptiles, lying basking, coiled up in the path in the hot summer sunshine, though the sportsmen regularly keep their eyes on the look out and their senses on the qui vive against such deadly enemies. Seringa House itself was a model of com- fort and convenience. A modern builder would have laughed to scorn the peculiar architecture (if even it deserved that name); a wing here, a room added there, a little greenhouse squeezed in a corner, an ex- tra bath room, etc., etc.; but it needed no apology, it was in keeping with the useful and comfortable surroundings which cannot be said of every domicile, and the hot summer climate had been carefully studied in the Bungalow style of residence, shaded by its very broad verandah, matted with western Bogan- villier and choice creepers, ibus keeping out the hottest rays of the sun from the rooms, only nine in number as to reception and bedrooms, for the ser- vant’s rooms and the kitchen and other offices were detached, except that a trel- lised communication connected the kit- chen quarters with the house, which was and model of comfort and coolness, the rooms all opening inside to a square roomy hall, the receptacle for hats, cloaks, tennis and croquet sets, the walls ornamented with velvet shields, on which were well arranged savage imple- ments of war from Fiji, New Zealand, as well as the native tribes and other primi- tive places, contributions from distant friends or kindly travellers visiting the Fortescue’s. Outside the rooms all opened with French windows to the verandah with newspapers and period- icals of the latest edition to be had, ex- cept at tea time, when tea and gossip weighed supreme. Very little gossip by the way, for as the nearest neighbor Iived some miles distant topics of scandal were few and far between, and news at a premium, got mostly from old Paddy O’Brien—the postman—a genuine re- tailer of gossip, on the premises and off the premises, generally leaving the ser- vants in .fits of laughter, and the interior of the kitchen department strongly savouring of cheap whisky and inferior tobacco, as old Paddy wended his way on a steed (only in name) to the next neighbor’s domain. At the end of the verandah was a small room or office, which contained in variety more articles than all the rooms put together. A peep at this sanctum sanctorum was enough to distract the brain of any ordinary mortal sensitive to order and neatness. In vain Mrs. Fortescue protested against the general untidiness of it and "the disreputable amalgamation of rubbish,” as she called it, and begged to be allowed to put it to rights. Norman was seldom known to frown, but at the bare mention of the corner room being interfered with, even by his loving little wife, was too much— his brows contracted beware ! “ Now, Connie, my dear, once and for all I’ll not have my den even dusted,” was enough, spok.n as it was with a puckering of the eyebrows and tightened mouth. Conse- quently the aforesaid den was left in dusty repose and cobwebby neglect for the revels of spiders and mason flies, etc., to the torture of flies. Altogether the interior of this spider’s eden was curious, containing an omnium gatherum of everything agricultural, floral, his- torical, chronological, useful and useless, a human skull so absurdly monkeyish in shape, one almost began to believe in Darwin’s theory; snake skins, guns of all kinds, new and old, ( Norman in- sisting always on religiously locking up his own and everyone else’s gun when finished with, to avoid “battle, murder, and sudden death ” out of season, as he expressed it); powder flasks, shot do., cartridges, opossum and other skins, fishing rods, with tins of eye bait, too often l.f. uncared for, to die of starva- tion and render themselves obnoxious when the tin happened to want looking into; garden seeds, tobacco of all grades, from jars of fragrant Satakia to the dried leaves of the plant grown by way of experiment (in the garden) or for sheep washing purposes; samples of wool of every description, good, bad and in- different, dirty, greasy, washed, scoured, a collection generally much increased after a visit to neighboring stations; for Norman was a good hearted fellow, and took a kindly interest in other people’s weaknesses and hobbies; even to wool, though not a wool grower himself, so that when neighbourly squatters said you must see my samples of this year’s clip, Norman would give one of his brightest smiles, generally returning home with whole budgets of oily smelling tufts of wool to add to the al- ready over-crowded collection. How fortunate some people are in the possession of a pleasant, and happy manner, together with a suaviter in modo address, qualities or attributes far above rubies or wealth in going through the monotony of every day life—a golden key to get through the world with and ensuring a welcome wherever you may go. Norman Fortescue was one of these. He entered into your plan's, your ideas, and he invariably made you satisfied and contented with yourself and life in general (a great art which so few possess), find you come home pleased and in charity towards all mankind. It was before the curse of free selection —a gigantic mistake which intruded upon, and broke up the lands held as tenants of the crown, by the early selec- tors—these selection's were limited to half a square mile or three hundred and twenty square acres, and just imagine your horror at finding that a selection and been taken up close to your homestead, had people without capi- tal, to cultivate, and who, therefore, made it their business to annoy you, and, if possible live at your expense. No wonder station holders thought selectors a nuisance in more ways than one, but particularly because the value of the run became very much lessened if not actually destroyed. It is no part of my plan in writing my story to enter into the political aspects of the case, but merely to show there was sufficient cause to provoke the best tem- pered man. Moreover, Norman Fortescue was no laggard, and though an Aus- tralian native, he inherited some of the best blood of old England, and had no false pride so when work was to be done at the station or on the run, hands were short, he was often up at break of dawn; or might, be seen at eventide busy at work in his shirt sleeves, re- pairing a fence, gardening, or doing a little carpentering about the homestead, —none the worse for his work, always cheerful—singing joyously about the house or whistling in the garden, hop- ing in the future before him and laying out his dream plans for his children— four handsome boys find a fairy dot of a girl—thinking how best he could decide for them in their future career; how
draw out their different talents to be o use to them in life; how educate them to the best advantage so that they might become not only a credit to their name and the country they were born in, but useful members in the busy hive of the world. Many an hour of pleasant dream- land did Norman Fortescue indulge in, mostly after the day’s toil, or heat, or business was over, and his little wife was “away with the young ones in the nur- sery ,” as he expressed it, and he could have a quiet hour of consideration and thought to himself, snipping carefully here, pruning carefully there in the old garden, as he thought of his little boys and girl, not that he had the slightest presentiment or idea of any trouble, chance or otherwise, happening to him. He was too clean minded trusting in God believing in the Bible, thankful for health and grateful for God’s benefits, a true Christian at heart, though nothing would tempt him to undergo “a church stew,” as he termed it, on a hot Sunday after several mile drive to Albury, not even if the Archbishop of Canterbury had been advertised to preach. Norman Fortescue had a good conscience and Christian constitution, unsullied by con- ventionalities, and newfangled no- tions in religion as well as in other sub- jects, and he would have opened his dark grey eyes wide and then sighed in sorrow and pity had you told him that pure, unadulterated Christian religion was fast going out in the educated (or sup- posed to be) and aristocratic world, and high society in general had turned into a modern and artificial collection of atheists, deists, pessimists, positivists, and a whole host of other sects, all pull- ing different ways, and each section setting up an idea of its own, regardless of the plain, clear, and simple teaching of the Great Mediator. Norman Fortes- cue was none of these, but of the good old school of Christians now so rare in this conventional and metaphysical age. Like Richter, he “ would rather dwell in the dim fog of superstition than in air rarified to nothing by the air pumps of unbelief, in which the breast expires vainly and convulsively gasping for breath. CHAPTER VI. “Nothing lovelier can be found in woman than to study household good, and good works in her husband to promote.” MILTON. “ Norman, dear, are you there ? ” said Mrs. Fortescue, running into the little office and surprising her husband as he was busy totting up his bank book and comparing his cattle account one hot morning in December. “ Oh, Norman dearest, I have had such a long letter from Vera, and what do you think ? they will be here to-morrow—to-morrow, dear ; I am so glad. I must run down to the cottage and see to things being finished. I shall be so busy all day.” Norman Fortescue put down his pen and shut up his bank and other books, to take in thoughtfully and sensibly all his wife had hurriedly informed him. “ Wait a wee, Connie,” he said slowly, “ I’ll go with you ; but it is very hot for you to go out, dear. Couldn’t I do it for you, or see to things at the cottage. I have to go that way to see Smithson about some fencing he is doing in the horse paddock.” “ You. Norman, you are a dear old goose to think you could turn substitute for me —me, with a big M—mind ; why I should die of laughing at your arrange- ment of furniture to begin with, per- haps.” "But joking apart, will Fritz and the others be home for lunch? You will have to content yourselves with a ‘cold collation’ (to quote the newspapers), for I want all the maids to help me at the cottage, and we shall be as busy as bees for hours.” The “den ” was locked, the key hung up, and Norman and his wife strolled away arm in arm, happy as they always were in their own society, through the garden with its trellised vines, its orange groves scenting the air filled with their delicious perfume; its terraced walks sloping gradually down the hill, then to a bend of the creek, past the old cattle yard ; to a little nook well hidden by thick timber—a veritable rustic bower— as the cottage was, with its thickly matted covering of honeysuckle, jessa- mine, roses and scarlet passion flower, hanging heavily like massive drapery over the roof and verandah, almost to the entire concealment of the small rustic porch. The “ Nest,” as it was called, had been the manager’s quarters for some years, but poor man, his children had increased and multiplied at such an alarming rate that, like the old woman who lived in a shoe, who had so many children she did not know what to do—he had no alterna- tive—but to try a now sphere of action and money-making, by taking up some land with the small capital he had saved, for the “ Nest ” was much too limited in size for the little colony of Spills’ and, moreover, Mr. Fortescue, now he intended to remain on the station, no longer wanted a manager, though he had not had the heart to send Richard Spills and his encumbrances away. Mrs. Fortescue had “spotted” (to use Norman Fortes- cue’s word) this rustic retreat one Sun- day morning in her peregrinations in search of ferns not long after the exodus of Mr. Spills and suite; had found it empty and the door locked, and after investigating the whole habitation through the windows, and rejoiced in the garden with its glorious array of fruit trees, row of bee hives, and other signs of comfortable cottage life, to- gether with the deliciously scented at- mosphere of mignonette and violets, the little dame forgot all about her fern ex- plorations and intentions, even to leaving a fresh gathered collection to wither unnoticed, down by the garden gate, as she tripped away quietly, over the creek and up the hill to the house, " brimming over with a grand idea,” she said, as she sat herself down stiffly and bolt upright (as if for business) on the stretched out logs (I believe limbs is the new and proper word in society at this period) of her husband, who, for a won- der, was indulging in the “dolce far niente," i.e., lying at full length under the verandah in one of the bamboo Iounges, with an antimacassar off one of the drawing room chairs he had taken by way of a mosquito-curtain or fly pro- tection for his head and face; a cloth bound novel—Kingsley’s “Two Years Ago’’—lying upside down in a disorderly tumbled mess on the ground close to his chair, and Norman sound asleep. Mrs. Fortescue looked at him for a second, or rather what was to be noticed of his profile under the antimacassar, switched a fly off his hand, picked up his book, and stole softly away on tiptoe, leaving her worthy spouse to his happy dreams, and reserving her project about the “ Nest” till a more convenient season, thereby as a fitting reward gaining her point next day; when she received per- mission to appropriate the " Nest” for her own use and sole benefit, a per- mission she gladly made the best use of,
fitting up, decorating, and ornamenting the little hermitage to her hearts con- tent, making it ready as a pleasant re- treat, either in summer or winter, autumn or spring, for those of her friends who longed for a little shooting or a month's rest, or quiet country life, for a time, picnic fashion and rustic simplicity, without the trammels of society habits and conventional customs and fashions. The cottage itself resembled a pet shoot- ing box, buried deep in one of the beauti- ful wooded valleys of old England, or a keeper's lodge hidden away for shelter in some sequestered corner of the Highlands, but instead of heather around, there was a good old English garden of years' cul- tivation and growth; old fashioned per- haps with its well trimmed rosemary borders, its showers of golden laburnum, lilac, and delicious scent of syringa, whilst the useful part of the garden ad- joining the creek, contributed vegetables and fruit of every kind, the most de- licious peaches and apricots weighed down the old trees. Too often was the creek almost, if not quite, dry in summer, but this year had been an exception, late heavy rains having altered the whole as- pect of dryness into one of freshness and verdant foliage. Certainly the glen was lovely at most times—a veritable sylvan bower—the cool water rippling past over mossy stones, here and there eddying into little green corners, the roosts of the duck and water-hen, shrouded with mimosa and other picturesque shrubs; a fairy corner with its carpet of mosses and fens, fit for an Elfin Queen to hold court amidst fays and pxies in the moon- light. “ Norman, dear, why didn’t you bring me here for our honeymoon ? I like it better than the house. This peep up the valley is positively lovely,” said Mrs. Fortescue, drawing back a curtain and looking out of one of the bedroom win- dows. “Woman, thy name is ingratitude,” said her husband, striking a match and lighting his meerschaum contentedly. “No; the most learned men of all ages, from Shakespeare down, invariably have said that women and dogs are the only creatures possessed of gratitude, but really this place is just fit for a newly married pair. How delighted Vera will be. I know she will go into rap- tures with such a romantic dell, but if it is as hot as to-day, what a tir- ing journey they will have, and the children, poor darlings,” and Connie sat down and heaved a deep sigh as her thoughts went back to her pretty cousin, who, with her husband and three little children, had promised to come and spend their last few weeks with the Fortescue’s, before leaving the colony. The Armytage’s hoped to have eaten their Christmas dinner in London, but, owing to a serious illness lately to Mr. Armytage, had altered their plans, the doctor's recommending them to wait until the winter was over in England and the spring had set in before they attempted to land, where the climate after the Aus- tralian sun was so trying. (TO BE CONTINUED.)