Chapter 169576881

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Chapter NumberXIII. (Continued), XIV.
Chapter Url
Full Date1891-11-14
Page Number1
Word Count4616
Last Corrected2020-06-29
Newspaper TitleThe Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)
Trove TitleThe Devil's Own. An Australian Story
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“ Yes; they are nearly all Yankee drivers, up to their work and with plenty of n.rve. Splendid at yarns, too,” said Norman. "I heard such a good

story told last week of old Jackson, whq had just come from the old country, and on his first coach trip over some very rough county, he was sent up with a jolt and a jerk through the canvas roof of the coach; to his disgust, for he was a bit of a swell—.ut to add to his disgust he heard the driver say laughingly, to a fellow driver passing at the time, ‘ Hallo, Jim, have you seen our new stove pipe.’ Jackson's look of anger was a caution. “ O.e meets queer travellers in some of the coaches in the diggings district— Chinamen and others. I don’t think Connie was ever in a coach, she has such a horror of Chinamen, and I am sure the the seesaw motion would make her ill. She's not over strong. By the way, you will find a case of Albury wine at your place, splendid wine it is too, I saw it made myself, pure juice of the grape, no adulteration ; just the stuff to give you strength and put blood into you. Don’t thank me, it is not worth thanks, except of its invigorating properties. Connie, thought of it, it is her present, and if you wish to show your gratitude to he, take plenty of her specific (the Reisling), and you will be able to join in our next ‘muster,’ with all the energy of a warrior going to battle. Ah, here we are. “ Why, they have not finished their confab yet,” said Norman, as they entered the little sitting, room and found Vera on the sofa listening to Connie’s merry chat. After having assisted the nurse in bathing and putting in their little cots! the tired, wee olive branches. Puck, quite contrary to the rule, having volunteered to go to bed first if aunty would sit by him until he was asleep and tell him all all about the little boys, how big they were, what were their names, and who was the best boy of them all. The little fellow gradually dropping off to sleep al- most before he was in his little, bed. Vera, too, was tired and had felt de- pressed, not only from fatigue, but wondering as to how the long journey had affected her husband. She looked up with a bound of pleasure and jumped off the sofa as Mr. Fortescue said “Here’s your husband, Mrs. Annelaye, as fresh as a four-year-old and as lively as a cricket, none the worse for the journey. A good night’s sleep and he will be a different man. I couldn’t with all my persuasions tempt him to stay to dinner and let me fetch you, but he was wise, I was not. You must dine with us to-morrow, and as often after till you get tired of us. A stone’s throw distance is not much more than stepping into the next room, in a roomy old castle or modern palace. Good-night, Mrs. Annelaye, sleep well. Come, Connie; I verily be- lieve you have something more to talk about. “ I have," said Vera, with her old joyous laugh. “ I have a volume to say to Mr. Fortescue, and to you yourself, and Connie won't hear of my speaking of the subject of the commissariat; but I do not know how to thank you for coming to Albury for us to-day in all the heat, and then for me to find everything perfect in this enchanted palace, from a good ser- vant to the luxury of a pretty safe, crammed with everything in the shape of delicacies. The very sight of the game pie made me hungry. I am afraid we shall eat you out of house and home by. The contents of the larder—snipe, quail, duck, and I don’t know what else; all shot by yourself,” Vera continued. ‘‘You must be a splendid shot, Mr. Fortescue; but I am sure we have robbed your larder.” “ Tut, tut. There’s plenty more where those came from,” said Norman Fortescue, positively, blushing and looking pleased at Vera’s pretty compliment. “ Come, Connie; good night Mrs Annelaye. I think your husband will have to take care of you in- stead of vice versa. He must look after you to-night and not let you do too much. Connie will be down early I venture to say, to see if she hasn’t left out some- thing in to-day’s catering. Perhaps, there’s no salt. Are you sure there are salt spoons, Connie? If you people will picnic instead of living comfortably." “ Come away, you terrible old man,” said Connie laughing, and together they wended their way slowly to the home- stead, laughing and talking ; Connie full of the children and their little pranks and intelligent conversation. " I never met such dear children,” said Connie rapturously, ‘‘I thought ours were models, but they are more inde- pendent and outspoken.” " They turn after their old father, I fear,” said Norman, smiling to himself as he remembered having come to the rescue of the governess that very afternoon when she had strictly prohibited, and with difficulty prevented, her young charges leaving the schoolroom in a body and marching off, banners flying (in the shape of juvenile pocket handkerchiefs tied on to wickets), down to the cottage to welcome their cousins. “Its a crying shame,” said Lindesay, the third hopeful, a handsome, high- spirited boy of ten, having been occa- sionally allowed of late to, with his elder brothers, accompany their father in his shooting or fishing expedition and walks, was gradually beginning to fight against petticoat government, even though his brothers were still under its dominion. The day following, and for many days to come, the children, who had soon made friends, have a rollicking jubilee of it with no one but two good tempered nurses to control them, for it is getting near Christmas. Miss Edwards, the governess, had gone to her friends for the Christmas week, rather to her regret, for she felt a twinge of remorse at leaving Mrs. Fortescue the whole weight and of such a tribe of little ones, together with a house full of visitors; but the children had no such ideas. They set to work—stowed away lesson books, slates and every objectionable reminder of school hours in an old cupboard upstairs, then brought all their toys—tools and games—to the schoolroom. That was all their own for a time, without let or hindrance, and as such they intended to arrange it accord- ing to their own childish ideas, inviting their cousins to do likewise, " and a glorious time we'll have of it, boys," said of boys,” said' Dicky, ..... with Elliott Yorke the Duke, and Lord Newry (as they named two white mice), and a guinea pig which he has landed in the centre of the doll’s hospital, to little Enid's utter dismay. Ernest is the major demon of the juvenile establishment, keeping due order amongst the little ones, who looked

up to him as their oracle and superior, and merry times they have. Happy children— sunny with joyous laughter, bright with happy thoughts— laugh on, enjoy life while ye may, for it is now that you can enjoy it; sing on with happy voices the songs of youth and childhood, for the days will pass away too soon, and then will follow a time of graver looks, deeper thoughts, troubles, disappointments and grief, perhaps sick- ness and sorrow, and then Death — the finisher of all. CHAPTER XIV. WELCOME. “Sing heigho ! for the holly, Christmas is most jolly.” A general welcome from his grace salutes ye all: this night he dedicates to fair content and you; none here he hopes in this noble bevy has brought with her one care abroad. He would have all as merry as just good company, good wel- come, good wine, can make good people. SHAKESPEARE. Christmas in old England and Christ- mas at the antipodes are not so widely different as people in the old country would imagine. It is merely the differ- ence of climate and the ther- mometer, and generally speaking, a warm summer sun, with flowers and fruits in abundance, instead of a snow panorama and blazing fires other manners and customs remain the same in Australia. The feastings, the merry makings, the Christmas tree laden with gifts, the loving welcome of old friends, the holly and the mistletoe, all remain the same, even to a yule log occasionally burning briskly on the hearth; often the case when Christmas eve is a chilly one by contrast to the intensely hot sun of a summer day. An Australian Christmas is Christmas without its drawbacks, as in- England, where it is marred by the near- presence of poverty, misery, and starva- tion—calamities made the harder to bear by the snow, ice, and bitter cold—aye, and bitter thoughts of those who have charitable minds and pity for those who are starving or dying of cold in a country where only the wealthy can revel in enjoyment at Christmas time. At Seringa every one was happy and determined to be so in honor of the occa- sion—the Christmas festival—even old Paddy Kavanagh, the fencer, forgot his rheumatics for the time and managed to hobble up to the house, a distance of two miles, from his tent, to wish the ladies a happy Christmas, for which he was well rewarded for his troublesome walk, as were many old people on the run ; not that there is any beggary in the Aus- tralan bush, nor even in Australian cities or townships; they don't even re- quire unions or workhouses. Of course there are professional beggars by the the bush as well as elsewhere in Australia, as Norman Fortescue could have testified, for it cost him some hundreds a year to feed travellers, as these loafers called themselves, wander- ing as they did from station to station nine months out of the twelve begging a night’s lodging, supper and breakfast; in fact more than once Norman caught a body of these "sundowners," as they were called, sitting in a paddock near the station chatting away com- fortably, only waiting till the sun went down that they might (as was their custom) go up to the station hut for the night. And at Christmas time the number of these ne'er-do-wells in- creased in proportion as the roast beef and plums pudding to a large extent were distributed amongst the hands and at the hut. The Fortescues were essentially Eng- lish, and therefore took a delight in keep- ing up all the old English style of merry- making, more particularly as Christmas- tide, when at Seringa all was joyous as marriage bells. The sun was shining brightly, the birds were singing, and all Nature seemed to be rejoicing at a time when it ought to rejoice, even to the hum of insect life. The air was heavy with ; the scent of orange trees, seringa, daphne, and other sweet smelling shrubs and flowers. Now and then a whole flight of bright hued little buggareegars or ground parroquets flew overhead in a cloud, twittering and chirping, whilst the rippling laughter and merry voices of children echoed through the forest as a little troop, headed by Enid, toiled up the hill, laden with flowers and foliage for decoration, which they had been col- lecting in the glen the last hour busy as bees in the summer sunshine. Like the rest of the inhabitants of Seringa, every one was busy, even to the hut cook, who having cleared his premises for a time of all travellers and objectionable intruders, was to be soon hard at work stirring most energetically with an old American broom handle a savory mess of good in- gredients in a zinc washing tub, the morrow’s plum pudding. The servants were busy (though terribly hindered by the old postman and his jokes), for that evening fifteen to twenty guests would be there for the Christmas, and there was no time to be lost in getting several rooms ready before night. It was astonishing how the accommodation at Seringa, like many other hospitable stations, could stretch itself, and the servants rather liked the bustle and turn out in preparing the rooms, though it gave them much more to do. They liked festival times and hos- pitable people. Connie and Vera in large white muslin aprons were flitting about together—the picture of happiness —superintending all flowers to done (and at Seringa flowers were to be seen in every nook and corner or elsewhere of the house), wine to be decanted, fruit to be arranged, beds to be contrived, furni- ture to be managed, the German tree to be fitted up with gifts, etc. They had the place all to themselves, for Norman Fortescue, Herbert Annelaye, with some friends had been off at day dawn to make havoc amongst the feathered tribe, and the report of guns could be heard following each other in quick succession in the far distance. “ No mean day’s work," said Norman Fortescue that evening, as a whole heap of game lay on the shadiest side of the broad verandah—duck and teal of all kinds, wood pigeon, and last, not least, snipe, for the spring had been late that year, and the heavy rains had filled the water holes and swamps, making snipe plentiful. There was no game act in those days in New South Wales, every- body shot what they chose and when they chose. Since then seasons have been proclaimed, and shooting wild fowl restricted to certain periods of the year, for the best perhaps; or wild turkey and all kinds of choice game and water fowl would soon have become extinct or driven away from their usual haunts. Snipe however, and quail are not included, these, being migratory, birds, only appear- ing at one season, late spring or early summer. Snipe shooting is the shooting in the | southern portions of Australia, though it entails strong boots, snake proof gaiters, and much walking under often a hot sun. “No mean day’s work," repeated Mr. Fortescue, as he contemplated the feathery mass waiting to be packed for distribu- tion. “Pater, we want you to come and see

our decorations, and put this up, for us. Nurse says Christmas isn’t Christmas without holly and mistletoe," said Ernest, holding in one hand a large bunch of mistloe, and at arms' lengthen the other a bunch of holly. “Where did you get that from sonnie?” said Mr. Fortescue to his son. "Oh, Jim, the carrier, brought. The holly came all the way from Albury," said Percy. “Ernie, run and tell Jim to wait half an hour, and I'll send the game in time for to-night’s coach, added Mr. Fortescue, as Ernie hurried off to deliver the mes- sage, leaving the mistletoe and holly to his relief on the verandah. The game ‘ was soon v packed in sugar mats, and with an sundry other packages of fruit, poultry, and good things, Jim was sent on his way rejoicing, for besides a a substantial meal, a flirtation with the maids, and a Christmas box, the carrier’s little waggon was well filled with packages for the coach, and as he whipped up his horses a smile flitted over the rugged face as he shouted. “ Now boys, on you go; I’ll be in time for to- night’s coach if I die for it.” It was a great relief to Norman Fortescue’s mind, having despatched their Christmas gifts to town friends so easily and unexpectedly that afternoon, and he wondered to himself what had brought the carrier there that day, as he began hanging up the mistletoe and holly in the different rooms to please the children. “ Any good children about ?” shouted a jovial voice in the hall. “ Its Uncle Ted,” said merry young voices in the schoolroom, followed by a general stampede to the hall, where sat the jolliest, kindliest, merriest looking fat old gentleman, the picture of rosy health and contentment, as the children crowded round him, struggling who should be first to get a kiss and say a “happy Christmas” to their favorite old uncle. "Dick, where are your manners, sir, pushing before a young lady ?” said Uncle Ted. “ Please sir, Miss Stewart took them away with her for the holidays,” said Dick comically. “ How did you come, uncle ? Did you drive all the way?” said Percy. " Half way by train and the rest by buggy—old Bum Bun. But what’s his name? Can’t you help me, Ernie ; it be- gins with a B-u.” " Certainly, uncle, Buzzfly, Bumblebee,” said Ernie with a merry twinkle in his large eyes. “ You young scamp ; you are too pre- cocious by half,” said Uncle Ted. "I cannot think of the man’s name. He has a station near Howlong.” “ Where’s aunty ?" said little Enid. “ Why didn’t you bring her ?’’ “ You never asked her, Miss Enid, and too long a journey,” at which the child was silent. “ Where’s your mother, Ernie ?” “She has just taken a basket of cakes and fruit down to Aunt, Vera.” “Don’t you know,” said Dicky, “that we are all going down there to tea. Will you come, uncle ?” “Oh do, uncle!” said little Enid, strok- ing the old man’s face. “ Too long a walk for me, my dear,” he said. “ But we’ll carry you, uncle,” said Dick. “ Then I'll go, let that be understood’ but mind, if you let me fall I’ll eat up the whole lot of you.” At which there was great merriment, as Norman Fortescue entered the hall, with a pleasant surprised face, and shook his uncle heartily, by the hand, “ Thought I knew your voice, but couldn’t believe it. So glad to see you. Where are your things? Connie will be here in a second. How well you are looking, uncle; so glad you have come. Connie will be delighted.” Edward Fortescue worshipped his brother Stephen. “ My sheet anchor,” as he termed his brother. Together they had worked through many years of their bible, Edward as a squatter or landed pro- prietor, and Stephen as a merchant. The latter had been the mainspring of his brother’s successes, acting as his banker, adviser, friend, and brother—a true brother in every sense, without a grain of the envy and jealousy, which too often mars brotherly love in English families. Stephen Fortescue was a busy worker for good in the world’s line, beloved and re- spected by all, a thorough Christian al- though in his own estimation preferring to rank himself amongst the publican’s of the bible rather than the self-exalted Christian of the Pharisee type. Having no children of his own to his great regret, for he was fond of them and deserved some), Edward Fortescue simply took to his heart his favorite brother, Stephen’s children, of which Norman was his especial favorite. He had known him and loved him from his babyhood— childhood—and many a pleasant day in Norman’s boyhood had he spent with his uncle on his station riding, fishing, or shooting, and when Norman took unto him a wife, Uncle Ted was glad, and still more pleased when little representatives of the name increased, and Uncle Ted was never so happy as when surrounded by the little boys and girls at Seringa. “Do you know,” said Dicky, confi- dentially, that afternoon as they wore pre- paring to start for Aunt Vera’s tea ; “do you know, I don't think Uncle Ted has got any presents for us this time, Enid.” “ Don’t be greedy, Dicky,” said, Enid; “perhaps he couldn’t bring us any. You know he was driven up by Mr. Somebody else.” An hour later and the old man with his nephew was to be seen literally being pulled along by a bevy of happy children holding his hand, Dick pushing from be- hind, as they slowly walked down the hill to the glen, where in the horse paddock a velvety little meadow near the creek, shaded by some old trees, Vera had her tea table covered with fruit and cakes. “Uncle, dear,” said Connie joyously ; you are good. See, this is your throne Vera has brought out her only comfort- able arm chair for you, and a footstool also.” “ Don’t kill me with kindness, my dear Connie, " said Uncle Ted ; “or I shall have an attack of my old enemy, and then there’ll be a pretty how de-do, won’t there, Dick. What are you think- ing about, buns and strawberries, of course." But the little fellow was not thinking of buns and strawberries. He was plot- ting and planning how he could best coax his uncle to take him on his next shooting or fishing excursion, a promise not easy to be won, for Uncle Ted was very nervous where snakes were likely to be troublesome, and thought twice before taking the children where there was any risk of coming in contact with such ob- noxious intruders. However, Uncle Ted was in a happy frame of mind concern- ing his treat for the children, for he had just heard casually that Bartin's circus would be in Albury next day. "Just the thing of all others for the boys and

gifts, Connie," said he in confidence over the tea table, as he took an immense lump of sugar, dipping it in the thick cream, swallowing it and making an ex- cruciating grimace after, as if it had been a piece of rhubarb, to the children’s amusement. And when after the pretty tea was finished and the old man still sat in the arm- chair, smothered or rather buried alive in little ones, for both Connie’s and Vera’s chicks had climbed up to hear what he proposed. Their delight knew no bounds when he said, “ If you are all very good children, and don’t swear or call names, I am going to take you all to the circus—such wonderful things—one fellow takes off his head and runs away with it. But you must be very good, or . . . . . . . . the Dicken's; there’s Aunt Vera’s best Sunday-go-to-meeting-chair coming to grief, as with the weight one leg of it was gradually sinking in a soft bit of the ground. It will have to go to the Ballarat Hospital if it has a broken leg,” said Dicky. But no; “ the chair has survived the extra load, legs and all,” said Ernie. ' " If you’ll promise not to tumble out you can sit still in it, and we'll all carry you up to the house, uncle,’’ said Dicky. " Uncle, dear; how can you let them annoy you so. Children, come away. Do you hear, dears,” said Connie. No one moved. " They are all deaf, Connie,” said Uncle Ted. The dawn of Christmas Day at Seringa was ushered in with all the splendour of an Australian summer morning; the sun tinting, with rosy light, the tops of the trees in forest country, and throwing its warm bright beams across the valley, lighting up the verdant peeps of open country. There were no chimes or even church bells to herald in the day; no music but the singing of the birds, the warbling matins of the magpie, or here and there two quaint looking jackasses having a cross fire of chuckles and bush laughter, as they sat on the dead branches of an old tree, on the qui vive for an early snake or luscious insect or grub. It was a beautiful scene—worthy of the brush of the most fastidious painter—but it required a Claude, a Glover a Chevalie, or a Guerraed to have done justice to such a picture, to have delineated perfectly the whole scene, even to the slight blue haze so characteristic of Aus-tralian scenery, that enveloped the landscape, as— “Sunlight seeking hidden shadow, touched The green leaves all a-tremble with gold light.” Every one was up betimes, for the children in both homes had been awake and up before sunrise, eager to see what the good Santa Claus had put into their stockings that night. Little Puck had stolen a march, and climbing on to the pillow in the dark (not quite sure that Santa Claus would come all the way to their new Christmas home, had crept back into bed again, quite satisfied by feeling) that his stocking was quite full with substantial presents, and had slept heavily till late for a wonder. Uncle Ted had been up first of all, had had his bath, a glass of fresh buttermilk, and a tour of inspection through the stables before any of the household were astir ; had even been mysteriously busy in his own room before breakfast, with his door locked, to the children’s surprise and annoyance. But the reason was obvious soon after, as was the reason of the carrier’s visit, when amongst the many gifts spread out on a large table, Uncle Ted's Christmas presents almost eclipsed them all. No wonder he had disappeared for an endless time—such gifts must have taken an hour in opening out. No one was for- gotten, and it would have puzzled a problem decipherer as to who was the most pleased and surprised. Even Vera, who could only claim distant relationship, had been remembered, and a silver mounted travelling-bag awaited her, with a handsome platypus travelling rug for her husband. Connie’s gifts from Uncle Ted were too numerous to mention. “ All and everything I have been longing for,” she said joyously. Connie had made a decree that all gifts were to be put on the table and plainly marked for and from whom. “Connie, my dear,” said Uncle Ted, with a sly wink waggishly; " I have a present for Norman, but I don’t see any room.” “ Oh yes, uncle; we’ll soon make room. See," clearing about a yard square, “ there is enough.” “ Well my dear, I don’t see how it is to be managed. We might tie their legs.” “ Oh, uncle, I know. Its poultry; is it not ! " “ Not exactly, dear, as cocks and hens can generally boast of only two legs.” “ Its dogs. I know it - it is,” said Dicky. “ Dear little weeny hairy terriers.” “No,” said Uncle Ted; “but upon second thoughts I don’t think he will put them on the table. They might upset the china and glass. They are at the door in their. . . . . . their” “ Coops,” said Connie. “No; body clothes,” said Uncle Ted. “Body clothes !" said Connie. “ Yes; flannel dressing gowns. Come and see; come along Norman, my son. You are the most interested,” said Uncle Ted, leading the way, “ followed by the whole congregation,” whispered Ernie to Aunt Vera. It was a handsome pair of buggy ponies that greeted Norman’s view first, to his inexpressible delight. In fact there was such a petting and stroking and admiring the animals, and feeding them with sugar, biscuits, and cake, and other injurious things, it was a wonder Ronald and Donald didn’t choke or have a fit of apoplexy then and there. (TO BE CONTINUED.)