Chapter 18338172

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Chapter NumberBOOK III I
Chapter TitleA LABORER IN THE VINEYARD.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18338172
Full Date1875-09-25
Page Number10
Corrections0
Word Count1887
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleHis Natural Life
article text

BOOK III.

CHAPTER I. A LABORER IN THE VINEYARD.

"SOCIETY in Hobart Town, in this year of grace 1838, is, my dear lord, composed of very, curious elements." So ran a passage in the sparkling letter which the Rev. Mr. Meekin,

Meekin, newly-appointed chaplain, and seven-days' resi dent in Van Diemen's Land, was carrying to the post-office, for the delectation of his patron in England. As the reverend gentleman tripped daintily down the summer street that lay be tween the blue river and the purple mountain, he cast his mild eyes hither and thither upon human nature, and the sentence he had just penned recurred to him with pleasurable appo siteness. Elbowed by well-dressed officers of garrison, bowing sweetly to well-dressed ladies, shrinking from ill-dressed, ill-odored ticket-of leave men, or hastening across a street to avoid being run down by the hand-carts that, driven by little gangs of gray-clothed convicts, rattled and jangled at him unexpectedly from behind corners, he certainly felt that the society through which he moved was composed of curious ele ments. Now passed with haughty noße, in the air, a newly-imported Government official, relax ing for an instant his rigidity of demeanor to smile languidly at the chaplain whom Governor Sir John Franklin delighted to honor; now swaggered, with coarse defiance of gentility and j patronage, a wealthy ex-prisoner grown fat on the profit* of rum. The population that waa abroad on that sunny December afternoon had certainly an incongruous appearance to a dapper clergyman lately arrived from London, and miss ing, for the first time in his sleek easy-going life, those social screens which in London civilisation decorously conceal the frailities and vices of human nature. Clad in glossy black of the most fashionable clerical cut, with dandy boots, and gloves of the lightest lavender,—a white silk | overcoat encouragingly hinting that its wearer was not wholly free from fleshly weaknesses of sun and heat—the Reverend Meekin tripped daintly to the post-office and deposited his letter. Two ladies met him as he turned. " Mr. Meekin!" Mr. Meekin's elegant hat was raised from his intellectual brow and hovered in the air, like some courteous blackbird, for an instant. "Mrs. Jellicoe ! Mrs. Protherick t My dear leddies, thifl it an unexpected pleausure ! And where, ?ray, are you going on this lovely afternoon ? 'o stay in the house is positively sinfuL Ah ( what a climate,—but the Trail of the serpent, my dear Mrs. Protherick—the Trail of the ser pent—" and he sighed. " It must be a great trial to you to come to the colony," said Mrs. Jellicoe, sympathising with a sigh. Meekin smiled, as a gentlemanly martyr might have smiled. " The Lord's work, dear leddies— the Lord's work. I am but a poor laborer in the vineyard, toiling through the heat and burden of the day." The aspect of him, with his faultless tie, his airy coat, hia natty boots, and hia self-satisfied Christian smile, was so unlike a poor laborer toiling through the heat and burden of the day, that good Mrs. Jellicoe, the wife of an orthodox Comptroller of Convicts' Stores, felt a horrible thrill of momentary heresy. " I would rather have remained in England," con tinued Mr. Meekin, smoothing one lavender finger with the tip of another, and arching his elegant eyebrows in mild deprecation of any praise for his self-denial, " but I felt it my duty not to refuse the offer made me through the kindness of his lordship. Here is a field, leddies —a field for the Christian pastor. They appeal to my, leddies, these lambs of our Church—these lost and outcast lambs of our Church." Mrs. Jellicoe shook her gay bonnet ribbons at Mr. Meekin, with a hearty smile. " You don't know our convicts," she said (from the tone of her jolly voice, it might have beeu " our cattle"). "They are horrible creatures. And as for servants—my goodness, I have a fresh one every week. When you have been here a little longer, you will know them better, Mr. Meekin." "They are quite unbearable at times," said Mrs. Protherick, the widow of a Superintendent of Convicts' Barracks, with a stately indigna tion mantling in.her sallow cheeks. "I am ordinarily the most patient creature breathing, but I do confess that the stupid, vicious wretches that one gets are enough to put a saint out of temper." "We have all our crosses, dear leddies— all our crosses," said Mr. Meekin, piously. " Heaven send us strength to bear them! Good-morning." "Why, you are going our way," says Mrs. Jellicoe. "We can walk together." " Delighted ! lam going to call on Major Vickers." ? "And I live within a stone's throw," re turned Mrs. Protherick. " What a charming little creature she is, isn't she ?" " Who ?" asked Mr. Meekin, as they walked. " Sylvia. You don't know her .' Oh, a dear little thing." " I have only met Major Vickers at Govern-

ment House," says Meekin. " I haven't yet had .?the pleasure of seeing his daughter." "Asad thing," Baid Mr*. Jelliooe. Quite a romance, if it was not so sad, you know. His wife, poor Mrs. Vickers." "Indeed! What of her?" asked Meekin, bestowing a condescending bow on a passer-by. "Is she an invalid?" " She is dead, poor soul," returned Jolly Mrs. Jellicoe, with a fat sigh. " You don't mean to Bay that you havent heard the story, Mr. Meekin!" "My dear leddies, I hare only been in Hobart Town a week, and I have not heard the story." "It's about the mutiny, you know, the mutiny at Maoquarie Harbor. The prisoners took the ship, and put Mrs. Viokers and Sylvia ashore somewhere. Captain Frere was with them, too. The poor things had a dreadful time, and nearly died. Captain Frere made a boat at last, and they were picked up by a ship. Poor Mrs. Vickere only lived a few hours, and little Sylvia—she was only twelve years old then—was quite light-headed, the little soul. They thought «he wouldn't recover." " How dreadful! And has she recovered I" "Oh yes, she's quite strong now, but her memory's gone." v Her memory!" "Yes," struck in Mrs. Protherick, eager to have a share in the story-telling. " She doesn't remember anything about the three or four weeks they were ashore—at least not distinctly." "It's a great mercy !" interrupted Mrs. Jel liooe, determined to keep the post of honor. ' "Who wants her to remember these horrors? From Captain Frere'B account, it was positively awful." " You don't say so !" said Mr. Meekin, dabbing * bis nose with dainty handkerchief. "A ' bolter '—that's what we call an escaped prisoner, Mr. Meekin—happend to be left be hind, and he found them out, and insisted on sharing the provisions—the wretch ! Captain . Frere was obliged to watch him constantly for fear he should murder them. Even in the boat, he tried to run them out to sea, and escape. He was one of the worst men in the Harbor, they say; but you should hear Captain Frere tell the story." "And where is he now V asked Mr. Meekin, with interest. " Captain Frere ?" . " No, the prisoner." "Oh goodness, I don't know—at Port Arthur, I think. I know that he was tried for bolting, and would have been hanged but for Captain Frere's exertions." "Dear, dear I a strange story indeed," said Mr. Meekin. "And so the young lady doesn't know anything about it ?" Only what she has been told, of course, poor dear. She's engaged to Captain Frere. " Beally to the man who saved her. How charming—quite a romance P " Isn't it ? Everybody says so. And Captain Frere's so much older than she is." " But her girlish love clings to her heroic pro* tector," said Meekin mildly poetical. "Remark* able and beautiful. Quite the—hem I—the ivy and the oak, dear leddies. Ah, in our fallen nature what sweet spots—l think thia k the gate." [TO BK CONTINUED.]

" Atticus," in the Leader, says that Viotoriaa society is beginning to grumble a little. The young people don't like being done out of the usual vice-regal ball, and the old folks say Sir William Stawell does not make up for the paucity of dancing by any great extravagance m the way of dinners. A painful rumor comes from England that Sir George Bowen is un willing to face the expense of, the new Govern ment House, and that any new man who may succeed him will either demand a special allow ance for entertaining, or else will follow the example of the Tasmanian Governors, and live in one wing of the ugly erection. At all events, Sir George has written to ask the Government to renew the lease of Bishop's Court, a request which I hope won't be complied with/ I don't care much as a rule for the woes of the super* fine, but it is a serious thing for fathers of marriageable daughters to learn that there are to be fewer balls than heretofore. The milliners' bills may be less, but then the daughters are likely to remain longer on hand. A Chinaman (says the Maryborough Adicr (tier), brought before the Bench at the Police Court on Wednesday, on a charge of vagrancy, seemed to like going to gaol, somewhat to the surprise of Mr. Carr, who asked the interpreter to enquire of the prisoner " How he would like six months ?" Sergeant Fahey stated that when sent to gaol on a former occasion the prisoner expressed a desire to get three years; he had then said, "Three years, welly good I welly good I" "Ask him," said Mr. Carr, "how he would like three years ?" The Chinaman said, "Welly good—he would leave it t« his Honor." He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. If all that is stated concerning the perform ance of a Chinese doctor from Maryborough, who has recently visited this town, be correct (re marks the Qedong Advertiser) the disciples of Esculapius will have to look out for their laurels. The almond-eyed medico in question is said to have been prescribing for certain pronounced incurables, who had been given up as hopeless by the reportedly most eminent members of the faculty, and some of whom were in an advanced stage, suffering from cancer and other complaints that have hitherto set the skill of the most learned profeusraofmedicalscienceatdefiance. In one bad case, where the sufferer was informed he had only a few days to live, the improvement made by the simple treatment of the Celestial practi tioner has been something astounding, and the convalescent one has indefinitely postponed the attentions of the undertaker. Several other equally hopeless cases are progressing favorably, and, no doubt, their ultimate result will be watched with interest It may be mentioned that the Chinese physician affects considerable contempt for the legally-qualified practitioners of the colony. He is said to assert that in China thesciencejof medicine is transmitted hereditarily from father to son ; that it is made a life study, the student being trained from his earliest boy hood, and he regards the European physician as a mere tyro in the curative art