Chapter 186929522

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Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186929522
Full Date1880-11-13
Page Number5
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Word Count4754
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 - 1934)
Trove TitleMy Colonial Experience
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TALES & SKETCHES

MY: COLONIAL EXPEEIENCE.

,Written oapecinlly for The Week.

..{Continued fromlatt vsick.)

I-HAD not much timo for beauty ale op aftor I got'bauk, and I rather think I blossbd Hopo Trtion ho came stumping into my den, calling ou£ ?£ull6,.Yornor; do you know what the time is f '.There's the misBus wanting you to help her to paok. Sho won't tako mo at any price. "Says'I am no more we than a fifth wheel to a, ooaoh.' But aftor I had rushed down'to the creek and hud a good bogey, I was all right and as lit as paint.

We wereluoky in the day; fino of oonrso; but the cool breeze that blew was by no means a blessing too often beatcwed upon ns. The place we had ohosen was on the banka of the river,.a grassy nook sheltered on three sides by thiok scrub that quite shaded us from the Bun; while it was open to get the breeze from the river. Don't run away with the idea that a fine stream of water rolled below up. There was none at all visible from this place, only tho broad;; empty bed coveted with grass in high : thiok tufts, with half dead reeds and dumps of bushes, and any amount of debris, great' logs, broken branches, sticks, and withered' leaves lying piled up in tangled masses and curved ridges, as the last flood had left'them. ' Through this ran a narrow sandy ohannel,' proinisououB like,' swerving now to ODe side,'now to the other. It was hard to pioturathe wholo of this -wide tipacti filled batik high with a rushing, swirling torrent; but tho rubbish, lodged among the branches of trees growing ini it told a talo.

TheAshwood peoplo came up about tho'f Biimo timii as wo did, Mrs- Grimes looking'" handsome ' and wonderfully young (slid' , was well up in' tho thirties) behihdh'er black veil, under which her dark iclvctty eyes and white teeth flashed moat becomingly.' Old Grimes -was in a suit of nank&n 'that had been so often washed that its colour was almost gone, while it had so shrubtthat his legs and arms appeared to have grown since he bepan to wear it. The stranger did not take my fanoy much; but, apparently, my sentiments were not shared by Mrs. Grimes, for his1 attentions—and he was pretty lavish of them—were received graciously enough. . Hopo. went off-, and I caught a sight of him and Hamloy planted behind a fig-tree and smoking liko.two'btoam engiues. Scott and Mr. Hall did the: amiable to the ladies, and I helped Mrs. Creek.. Miss Blount was good enough to come and assist after a little and took me in charge,- telling me where the things were to be placed,; making me trot about under her orders; so f was tolerably busy, but X did not forget to keept a bright lookout. No sign yet of tho

Drainmonds.'

When wa were all assembled and the lun oheonset out there was some faint opposition, on tlijj'hofltess's parti to onr beginning before the arrival of the missing guests; but her hus band j»i>h-poohed the notion of waiting.

' Nonsense, iny dear, they conld bo in time If they choose, and if they ao come they won*t

iterire.' ; '

I was not quite so snre of that, for I did not think;much of Mrs. Creek aa a caterer, and, I oertainly did not like the idea of the Drum monds finding lunoh half over when they came. But perhaps they would not come at all. Per haps the sky was olouded over just then. I know the plaqe looked as dull as ditch water for kjew minutes and the vieir; over the dry bed blue river—where the air quivered in the heai,, and the. flat beyoud, sparely scattered with" gam trees, whoso scanty greyish green . foliage, hardly showed—had the dreariest air

imaginable.

1 Mr.Vernor, you may sit down bore/ called out Misa Blnant. Bat, before I coald take ad vantage pf her invitation or rather permission, I heard the sound of a horse's hoof and caught a glimpse of Folly's shining chestnut coat through the trees and it waa not long before I wafl^elping her rider down. Not pretty had been, the verdict passed on her tho previous evening, when Mrs. Drummond was under dis cussion; 1 not proven/I said then to myself, though I epoko out never a word; now I gave utterance, mentally, to a decided < not guilty/ 8he,wore her light grey habit; but, instead of the shady Btraw she generally used, she had put on a saucy little velvet hat that suited her lair skin and hair to perfection. She had a colour/ too, with fast riding, and her soft hazel'eyes and fresh lips woro both smiling. Then her tnannor,—simple and unassuming, g*T,to playfalness, yet never overstepping tho invisible bounds of good breeding, or losing its quiet dignity,—was so different to that of tho others; while her voice, with its soft modulated tones, never'struck a harsh or sharp note.

After^I had found Mrs. Drummond a seat, I remembered Miss Blount's gracious offer and, the place beingstill vaoant, took up my position by her aide. She waB not a silent individual and had besides a very f.tir appetite; so be tween koeptng her supplied with eatables and drinkables, and replvrng to her provocative tpeeohes, I was not idle in reind or body. I managed, howover, to seo that my guest—for I felt as if I had a claim to her—was not neglected. I had no chance of saving much, but I glanced once or twice towards her, when my:, companion said anything particularly startling—and she was rather given to un common remarks—and wo oxchanged a

momentary smile, more of tho eyes than lips. I Wo,were certainly not a dumb party and were

bo busily engaged oating and drinking, j ohattering and laughing about nothing, that

wo none of us remarked the olouding over of , tho sky. Wo were not to remain long in' ignoranco, for noon tbero came a muttorod growl- of thunder, followed by a low rushing sound that botok? ned cither rata or wind, perhaps both. 8hoUer thor©> was none. Some kind of wraps were made for tho ladies with what had been used to cover the things in the cart, and I got Mrs. Drummond her cloud that by somo chance she had,brought with her and loft fastened to her •addle—I wondarod, aa I oarried it, was it tho ono I had iooa her.wear the previous evening—

to protect her hat for whose Bafety'she-was frankly BohoitouB. I wanted her to take mv float, but gha would not hear of it. 'However,

Si " hanging over my arm,' oalled out. If you don't moan to use that gar ment, you might as well lond it to me.' So l handed it over to'hor, catching, as I did so, a look of amusement in Mrs. Drummond'a face that made mo laugh at the discomfiture that ruy own must bavo betrayed. Having made our ^ preparations, such as they were, we awaited the coming storm. It did not keep us long in suspense. First came n gust of wind that bent all the branches in 'ono direction and thon sent them tossing and whirling in tho air, blow tho twigs and dried leaves and bits of grass till they scampered about like live things, and filled tho air with the noise of rustling foliage and cracking, jarring branches. Tho blast past over. There was a Buddon stillness almost startling after the late turmoil, fiomo great drops of rain splashed down and then, with a swiBh, the shower was upon us. How it did rain. None of your pattering drops, but regular streams of water poured down upon our dovoted heads. An other minuto and it was gone, and we only heard its loud, rushing sound, as we saw it, like a great grey curtain, sweeping away over the tree tops. We were not muoh. the worso Evon Mrs. Drummond's little hat re-appeared from ' under the cloud' safe from the threat ened bath. Mrs. Creek gave me back my coat which, I am happy to say, had been of no use to her. Mrs. Grimes took her handkerchiof away from her face. 'Her skin was so tender,' was the information she volun teered. I suppose it wob and that the rain had hurt it, for I saw a pink stain on the white cambric. On tho whole ' tho fair sect,' as Mrs. Brown bath it, came off pretty welland though

we of the lower order of creation were wet through,—onr shirts clinging like loose skins, onr unmentionables defining our nether limbs

more plainly than was altogether flattering to the vanity of some of us, our hats dripping,— there was nothing worth lamenting, and onr plight only served to give fresh canae for mirth. But the lunoh. The cloth was Boaking and splashed with sand, tho dishes half full of water, tho remains of tho viands plentifully besprinkled with leaves and twigs and gravel, the bread a sop, and I declare that a piece of duck on my plate waa washed whits. Fortu nately, the inner man had been satisfied with

the snhstantials and the rain had not got into the bottles, at any rate. Very soon the ana was shining out of a sky of the most intenso blue, made still lovelier in colour by mas3eB of snow-white clonds. The quivering leaves were sparkling as if powdered with diamonds, as a cool breeze shook' showers of rain drops off them at each moment. Birds sang and gargled most musi cally, for, though Australian birds have no con tinuous song, some of their notes are exceed ingly rich aud aweet; not all, though, as we had good proof, for Buddenly ono solemn old feathered biped sitting near ns on a dead branch lifted up his voice with u preliminary

giggle and then burst ont into a roar of chuok- I ling laughter, so inharmonious and so utterly

absurd in sound that we all followed Bait and roared in chorus. After this we got up the horses and, while some stowed away, the things in the cart, the others saddled them, and soon we were nearly all mounted. J 11st as we were about starting a song was suggested. Tho idea took. But first wo were to have a Btirrnp oup and, as a suitable chant to follow that operation, ' Drink to mo only with thine eyes,' was selected. What a group we made. We were now standing, having left tho acrub, amongst some huge gum trees whose smooth trunks were still darkened with the wet; the cart was ready and formed a prominent object; alt the ladiea were on horse back, but some of the men still on foot. I was by Mrs. Drummond's mare, resting my hand on her neck, lost tbo noise might frighten her, and stealing a look up now and then into her rider's fair smiling face. Old Mr. Grimes with his hat off,—his scanty red hair glistening with wot, his damp spare garments bringing hie meagre limbs out in strong relief, his littlo eyes twinkling with pleasure,—was singing away, gloss in hand, with all his might. The carter, iuspired by tho music and probably a bottlo of beer, was joining in with a very shame-faced expression, but an uncommonly sweet voice All tho others almost were doing their best. .Mrs. Drummond contributed a sweet if not

overstrong second, to which I added my mite. Miss Blount, ono email gloveless hand holdiug tho whip with which sho beat time, took a capital first though sho did rather overpower Mrs. Creek's pure, silver-toned soprano. Hope, whoso forte was not music, waa very busy doing eomething to Miss Brown's stirrup aud that young lady was apparently too deeply en gaged with tho subject of its being shortened or lengthened to attend to her vocal duties. Wo had all, in separate directions, some little dis tance to go; but whoa somo one struck up ' Tho days when wo went gipsying' it was irresistible, and off wo all went in a swinging chorus. ' Isn't it jolly,' I hoard Miss Blouut say to Mrs. Grimes, and tho reply was, ' Yos, awfully; but it wasn't quite so pleasant when you did go gipsying " a long timo ago."' Alter this wo really made a start and not too Boon, for the long shadows showed that sunset was not far off. When bits. Drummond turned off I of oourse prepared to accompany

her.

' What are thinking of," called out Mrs. Creek; 'you are not going homo when Mr. Drummond ia away; you are to return with

really cannot. Robert ie sure to bo back orrow ; besides'—and she gave a moan glance at the already largo party from our lhat's of no consequence,' replied Mrs. k, interrupting the look. ' I can put the

In one room.'

rs. Drummond still hositating, Mrs. Creek

'Very well; if you won't oome with ns, rill go with you; so tako your choioe.'

;hon really, in pure kindness to you, I must pt your invitation, for I don't bolievo my sr oontains anything but tho remains of jhickoa I had for dinner yesterday.'

— So she came-backwithus. - Ineversaw-her

in'such Bpirits. Sho.was tho gayest of 113, olL

She made - Folly , pranco and . curvet . and . jump oyer„logs,,and finished with a raco with Miss,Blount on some straight' running that led to tho house." Mosfcof us joined , in' this; eo it was. a regular, hurry 'skurryl. In the confusion and gathering darkness wo camo (almost .without.-Hooingj thora) full on tho milkers who were lying; down placidly chewing the ^ud. [ Helter skel-. tor wo dashed in amongst them. Miss Blount's horae gave u great 8hy, cannoning against Mr. Hall's (who had returned with us); in trying to oscapo he jumped over a reclining cow., or rather he tried to, for-the cow in her alarm en deavoured to get up, and in an instant nothing wa3 to be seen but any number oflegs ap parently, sticking up in the air; for cow and horae and rider all seemed to be on tho broad of the backs and all flourishing their limbs about at tho same time. As to thinking of any danger to Mr. Hall, not one of us troubled ouc heads in the matter. We regarded it as got up for our special amusement and appreciated it with complete unanimity, and when the poor man, dusty and dirty, got into a sitting pos

ture and gazed araund him with a most woe begone aspect, it sent us off again into a fresh burst of merriment. Th* fact is the fellow was an utter cad, and we felt it would be mere waste of sympathy to have any pity for.an animal who left oat all hia h's. But no, I wrong him; ho used the right number, but, like tho confession in the prayer-book, that which he ought to have done, he did not do; while he did do that which he ought not to have done.

In reference to this failing he tried U3 all fearfully at breakfast the next 'morning. In one of thoBd pauses of silezico that always occur in a large party, hia voice was heard saying,

11 think it so dangerous to-sloop oa tho bare ground that I always take a hair mattress with me into camp/

' A hair mattress/replied Mrs. Drummond, to whom he was talking, with a puzzled look; ' surely that is very cumbersome.'

1 Oh dear, no l* was the calm response. (I only ^inflate when it is wanted.'

X caught a glimpse of a look of horror on Mrs. Drummond's face. After that I dare not lift my eyes from my plate. There was a dead silence in whioh'you might have heard a pin drop; the faintest suspicion of a giggle came from Miss Brown'sdirection. In another momentweshould havebroken down and disgraced ourselves, when, by good luck, one of the youngsters dropped a plate, and we all broke out into a laugh that muBt have seemed perfectly idiotic to the real caase of it. I don't think I felt more amiable towards the fellow, as a few hours after I saw him going off with the rest of the visitors and Mrs. Creek, towards Quandong. There he I was, well mounted and garbed in dazzling

white, riding by Mrs. Drummond's side and bending over towards her in earnest conveTsa tion, while I, hot, scorched, and grimy and smothered in dust, was counting sheep in the

yard. I must say I was very glad they did j not stop as they passed, for I should not at all have fancied the idea of being Been in such a plight; and yet, as I caught a last glimpse of a little figure in a grey habit, I felt as if there was something -almost unkind in riding by without a word of farewell.

The riding party did not return till late, for not only haa they seen Mrs. Drummond home but tbey gone round by Ashwood, where they

had left Miss Brown and Mr. Hall.

I expect the unwonted dissipation had some thing to do with it, but for somecau3e or other we certainly were not festively inclined this evening. Musio was tried; but Mrs. Greek

would sing * Laura/ and plainly expected me i to join with the others in saying how much better she sang it than Mrs. Drummond ; bat I didn't think, and would not be made to say bo. It was very absurd, I know, but this trifle regularly irritated me. I could not but ac knowledge that Mrs. Creek had a finer voice, but its clear, silvory tones had not a particle of expression and, beautiful as they were, never got near your heart, and I felt not only that there was an injustice in giving her tho palm in the renderiug of a song, the very raison

d'etre of which was feeling, but that there was \ a certain spico of ill-nature towards the rival singerin theaward. Then Mrs. Creek went off to her bibies and Miss Blount took her place, but that wouldn't do at all. She was tired, I suspect, aud screamed like a peacock. The worst of it was, the others, taking advantage of my being installed as leaf-turner, cleared out,"and I had to do the civil till I. wished the girl at—well certainly anywhere but where she was. Then cards were proposed, but a round game for love, when there is no one whose love yon caro about, not being enticing to people arrived at years of discretion, the idea fell through, and very soon we all retired to try the effects of 1 nature's sweet restorer ' in putting us into a ploaaanter mood.

One day I had rather a quoer adventure. I was riding home from an out station when, a mile or two from the house, I met Miss Blount and Kitty. Without vanity I think I may say tho former was very glad to see me, for she was not at all fond of solitude, and the little girl went I for nothing. On my own part I was pleased ' enough, it's awfully dull riding by yourself

milo after mile through tho bush, where one 1 tree is exactly like the other, and each gully

aud ridge cries ditto to that you have just , orossed. This isn't a very complimentary way

to speak of Mies Blouut; but indeed, though I could hardly fancy a fellow losing his heart to her, she was capital chaff and good enough to take tho trouble of entertaining into her own haods. We plunged at once into a kiud of mimic warfaro that raged between us—the j oause of our moek dissensions this time being

the comparative merits of our steeds—till we oame to a crossing-placo over the river, about a milo from tho station. Hero, my horso, being thirsty, put down hia head to drink, my companions riding on. Sepoy was very dainty in his tastes, and, the shallow water crossed by tho others being muddied, he sniffed disdain fully at it, and insistod on going to a place whore tho stream ran cloar. This - took soma littlo time. The others had gone over, mounted the bank, and woro disappearing out of sight, tho land falling beyond. Sepoy hay

ing-slaoked his thirst, lifted up-his head, champing at his bit and shaking the wet off his muzzle. I was about to follow, wheal thought I heard a voice calling me by namo— a inau's voice too—so there was nothing wrong ;,with the girls. I looked round, but could: boo do one, and gathered np my reins for a rash up the bank, & favourito .proceeding of Bepoya*' hastened by Kitty's calling out, in impationt tones, 1 Oh ! Mr. Yernor, do make ha9te.'

But there could bo no mistake this time about

the. strange voice. 1 Yernor, Vernor! For heavens sake don't go.' Guided better by the sound now my eyes caught eight of a pale face peering round a tree not far distant.

' What's the matter,' I said, staring in amaze

ment at the scared countenance from which the ' voice had evidently proceeded. I did not go towards it at first, for if I had any ideas at all on the subject it was that my interviewer was a madman, and that it would be as well to carry oat the old adage as to discretion.. Se

poy, taking advantage of my inattention to' him, now made a move forward to follow bis

mates. * ' '

1 Stop,' almost shrieked the owner of the head. (I'm Hall; I have lost my clothes; and, in his

anxiety, getting from behind the kiadly Bhelter >. of the tree it was very evident some awkward accident had befallen his garments, for not & rag had he on save a hat.

' AU right,' I called out, turning my horse and going towards him;' only get oat of s ight again my good fellow.' ......

But my warning came too late, for a shrill voice (Kitty's) exclaimed, 10, goodness gracious!' and 1 caught a glance of the little girl's figure in full retreat. Quite sure now that the coast was clear I could listen with a., tranquil mind to the tale to be told.

It seems Hall had stopped, on his way from . Asbfield to Grettan, at the Downfall, at the large waterhole close to where we had our pic-' nic. Hera the water looked ao deliriously cool as it Bplashed over the little ledge of rocks formiag the miniature cascade from which it had its name, that he thought he would have a bathe. Now a few days before, when indulging in a similar luxury, he had been stung by some large ants that had got into his' clothes aa they lay on the gronnd. To avoid this. danger he strapped them together and fastened them on to his saddle, and then hitching his horse securely to & sapling, proceeded with an easy mind to disport himself in the crystal stream. So far so good. But when he came out again, no sooner did he approach his horse

than the latter started back with an affrighted * snort. Like a fool, instead of standing stiUand speaking so as to re-assure the animal, he rushed forward to grab the reins before they broke. The natural result was that, terrified still more at the antics of this strange object, the horse plunged wildly, the headstall gave way, and off he went, carrying the clothes of course with him. He did not go very far ! though,butjwheeling round,stopped in hisfiight

and, with uplifted tail and expanded nostril, gaz:d at the cause of his alarm. Taught dis cretion, Hall advanced more carefully this time, trying, by addressing him in soothing tones, to calm his fear; bnt in vain. No sooner was he almost within touching distance than the horse wonld gradually back, give a snort, and, wheeling round, trot off. Again he advanced, and in terms of dulcet flattery—1 Whoa, good horse; good boy; coop, coop; come along; gently, old fellow ; poor old boy '—strove to catch the truant steed. But the result was another failure, and so it went on; the horse letting him approach to fast beyond catching distance, and then at the moment he thought he had him, sheering off. Once he stalked him, and creeping up behind actually got hold of one of the legs of his trousers. The horse, startled afresh, started forward. Hall held on, and, as the animal was not only stronger but had a base of four to Hall's of two, the man toppled over, and ashe

scrambled up he found himself in the possession of about as much of his nether garments as would encircle his ancle, and saw his horse disappearing in the distance, carrying away the rest of his attire in triumph. ^ There he was in a nice predicament. He tried at first to run after hi9 horse, but soon pulled himself up with a barked shin and a scratched face, having tumbled into the head of a fallen tree. What was he to do ? He wasn't very far from Grettan, for his horse had headed that way ; but how on earth was he to make his appearance in such a plight? He shud dered at the bare idea (no pun meant). Tet he could not 6tay where or how ho was. He thought of our great parents; but thatohing

himself with branches did not seem a very

feasible plan, and as to usiDg single leaves the only kind that were at all suitable were those of the nettle fcreo frem the scrub, and they certainly would not do. At last he determined to mako his way to the crossing-place and wait in concealment there, on the chanco of some one passing by. He got to where I found him at last, with no little difficulty, for his feet were nearly cut to pieces by sticks and stones j and indeed I did pity him when he held them up for my inspection, for their state proved what- rough usage they had had, although his rueful expression and the surroundings in gene ral wore so ludicrous that I conld hardly keep my countenance. Here, planted hebind a big tree, he had waited, shivering with cold and stiff with fatigue, and. almost wild with the attacks of mosquitoes, who came in shoals to partake of the feast so bounteously spread for them. The sound of our advancing horses had fallen like sweetest musio on his oar.

Judge then his dismay when he caught sight of two female forms. Crouching behind the tree, be had gathered himself into the smallest space, not daring to move lest bis presence might be betrayed, all his hopes of a resoue being lost in the dread of being seen by Miss Blount. When, however, I lingered behind, it seemed liko a special interposition of Provi dence in his favour, and he was in such an agony of fear that I should not hear him that he could scarcely control his voice sufficiently to call out. Of course his troubles were, to a certain extent, over now. I could not give him any garmonts there and then, because X hadn't more than was necessary for myself, one's toilet in the bush being distinguished more. for simplicity than abundance; but

X rode back as; quickly as I could, and returned with'a led horse and the where witfcal to "clothe him,rnot forgetting: some thing, to comfort the inner man.^ Nothing could induce: him to face the fair females. Indeed ho'was so utterly dono up and in'such pain with his bruised and swollen foot that bed was about the best place for him, So I gave him up.my room as' it was on the veranda and he oould crawl to it without being seen, except indeed bv one or two of the boys, who had evidently learned something of the affair from their sister, and whose looks wero certainly not expressive of. pity as they watched him Hob

bling along.1 ./ <

. {Tabccontinuiinexiicee}:.)