Chapter 186929714

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Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186929714
Full Date1880-11-20
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Newspaper TitleThe Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 - 1934)
Trove TitleMy Colonial Experience
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TALES'& SKETCHES

MT COLONIAL EXPERIENCE.

Written especially for The Week. r 1 • (Continued from hit aeik V

Wbbn I made an agreement with Mr. Creek to take me as a new churo, my services and a certain premium boing accepted aa an eqotva* lent for the opportunities given me of acquiring a knowledge of station mattera, of oourse it was for a fixed time. This tirno had now nearly expired and though my present work was what is usually entrusted to more practised hands, naturally leading mo to suppose that some little value was attached to my services, Mr. Creek:had so far said nothing as to my remain ing, or rather, I should say, as to my receiving any;salary. ;He talked of pirns to be carried ont and spoke as if I wore to tako a share in them, so. I .had. no reason to conclude that he wished me to leavo at the end of my term; but/^ho made no allusion as to any.'change'iii my position. I, on my own part, had certainly no dfrire to go, to do any thing that might sever the very pleasant re lations that existed between me and the Drum monds'r yel', all the Bamo, T had not the slightest intention of working any longer with out pay. Not only did i feel that I was worthy . of mjJ.hire—find I don't sue how any ono who

has hia'wits''about him and really tries to do his bwt can be igno ant—but I hold it as un . fairto myfather not to rolievo him of the bur

deu of my keep as soon as I could; and the ooimotion that iny inclinations led me to re maiu'near Quaudohg, abovo all things, served but,'to make mo feel the more keenly what was duo' to him. 80 it came to pass that I was a

food?ddal exercised iu my mind on this matter,

shrank from speaking, thinking that any pro

posal ought to como from Mr.. Creek and that I dreaded' to -take n Btep that might end in my quitting this neighbourhood; yet I fretted' and reproached myself for remaining aileht.'. Thing® went on in this uncomfortable

itate, for some time ; day after day slipped by ;* chances of opening the" subject were lost, the present; ever seeming an inopportune moment; my period of pupillago bad come to an end,— and'yet nothing had b ioa decided. Of course I suffered for this shirking—ono always does. Had I spoken at once, as I ought to havo done, not only would I have been easier but I should cot. have'.been placed in such a position as gave others the right, aB I could not but own, to consider that I had acted unfairly towards them ; not chit I hud so acted;, and thorein lay the sting, for surely never is an unjust im putation so hard to bear as whon yon foel that, though guiltless, yet your conduct has given grounds for tho accusations.

The whole thing wa* settled, aa these long pondered affair* generally are, unexpectedly and without any premeditation. I was spend ing,? as'I'so frequently did, the . Sunday at Quandong, when Mr. Drummond, turning to mein his abrupt way, said, -

'•How much dooa Creek givo you P'. .. ' Nothing,'I answered. . 'How's that?'' :

Then; Iv;toId' him how' matters stood and being-very full of the subject ho doubt enlarged considerably oh'it. :

':I think iyou are making a great mistake in staying,' he said, interrupting- me after he had listea«d silently < for-some time. . ' You are worth pay, or, of oourse, Creek'wouldn't keep you on j^bntitisn't fair to your father to give your.time for.nothing.'

'You would, advise me:.then to ask for : ? salary.' .v. B

'. Well, T don't advise yoa at all in the mat ter ;.that:is your own affair; but I'll tell you what I'll do.i:;I will take you on in Gardener's place.-/J I1, won't. promise you the same pay, benause yon are not an old station hand like him,,but I'll do-what's fair.'

.Seeing.thnt I hesitated, for the idea of being actually at.Quandong startled me into silence, hecontinned,— •••.. ..

• VIt'a /-.better than staying at Grettan, even with a sorew, with the sheep I have and my management/;: Creek- knows about aa much as abUckfellow about sheep. - You'll learn far more.here.:: Of uourstt, thoftgh you take Gar dener'* place, you will be on a different footing. The factiis, I.want someone-1 can trust, to aot immediately', under me, -and I .think yon

will.do.-v: .?.,-•••

Then ho'stoppod .and -went on smoking, not looking directly;at roe, but T could aee that hib sharp littloroyes.were .watching me furtively all tho same.' J- ^ -

ilt'n very.cood of !you,' I answored slowly,; 'and i should ltko tho billet.' , ;

' Then.^why^don'.t ; you takor.itP' ho said quickly.r.^.ThetKorow Bhall he.(and.; he "named a fair enough mini) and your.quarters; at tha station-, though,' ^.adding* tho. last . few words af.er a.momentary, pause.

jlshould only bo too. h^ppy. to'get it/I re plied; Ibutl.can hardly loive Croek so abruptly, and-you say^Gardeuer goes atonce.'-. , *. •

'I.thought you.told uio just,now that it was over a:month Biiloe.your agreement terminated.'

VYes f l: suppose had,, ho f wanted mo ho would havo. spokon.'i,,

VNot a doubt,of it. -...I.don't seo any need for hesitation on that ficoro/ .... .;

1 Perhaps not; though I hhould riot like to offend.him by:uccoptiug,anothcr. billet before I bad fairly Jeft him ' u - V

VTbe», don't,say anything about it; the agreemont:is.finitihed and thero's au end of it.'

Tho .upshot of tho matter wns, I did tako tho billet, subject to .the condition that 'I should not.incouvonieuco Mr. Creek by leaving him hurriedlj*.. %Mra. Drumiuond- wasn't present when; this conversation took place. 8ho had Rone.<down ,to .tho station to seo some, sick woman; and her husband and I were waiting for her,fitting on a fallen log a little way off. Nothing was waid about it when sho rejoined ns and it,was not till ju*t boforo I left, and she and'I wero alone, together, that X mentionod that:! was. to bo one of the Quandongs.

* Did you or. Robert propose • it/ she Baid ^ith a'sudden harsh inflection in her voice.

'Mr. Drummond,certainly; even my im* pudence wonld not have been equal to that.'

She did not say anything more; hut her re* ttaik and tho tone it wu uttered in took xn«

aback not a little, for I thought Bhe would have been pleased, and had secretly reckoned oa sec* log a look of pleasure in her face when I told her. I puzzled a good deal over her speech

°jy n(^Q home, and between that and thinking how I should tell the Creeks of my new place—for I neod hardly say that X never for a moment meant to follow Mr. Druramoud's advice—I can fc say that my meditations were exactly agreeable; and I began to regret that I had.been so communicative, and so led to' the: offer being made.

The lights were out in the. sitting room when I got back, so my determina tion to have no moto delays—for I could not but feel how far more pleasant it would have been had I Bpokon to Mr. Creek before—w.s useless. My troubles aid not keep me awake, but thoy set me dreaming and, amongst other uncomfortable things, I thought Creek would insist on taking away my clothes to provent me going. My objection to this stripping proooss awoke me, and I found some foundation for my vision in the fact of Hope's kangaroo dog having planted himself on the end of my blanket whioh had fallen down, and and whose descent he was asisbing by some rapid turns preparatory to ourling himself up

in its folds.

I got through the affair daring the day and found it sufficiently disagreeable. Creek ohoao •to consider himself an aggrieved person and that T ought to have spoken to him before I made any arrangement. Perhaps I ought, but I thought he ought to have proposed something to me if he wished rao' to stay on, seeing that ho knew very well when my time, as an unsalaried new

chum, came to an end. He did not say much, , but his manner was nasty, to say the least of it. I web half savage at the time thut I could not find any words that would resent it, and yet not betray temper; bat I am glad now that my wit failed rae, for a sharp retort would pro bably have led to a quarrel, and I should have much regretted such a finale to some months of pleasant interoourBe. I found as soon as I met Mrs. Creek that she had heard the news, and I felt it too, for though sho affected to treat my departure as of no consequence (nor indeed was itl, she contrived to say more uu pleasanfc things during tho short time I re mained, than it was at all agreeable to listen to; so that though both hurt and annoyed at. the curt, ungracious way Mr. Creek put 011 one ride my offer to stop as long ns suited him, T was not sorry on the whole that my stay was

to he of short duration.

I have alluded before to the jealous dislike the Creeks had for the Dniratnouds, and it was this feeling that was at tho bottom of Mrs: Creek's manner to me. She had always r - sented my being on friendly terras with her neighbours and now that I was fairly leaving Grettan for Ciaandong sho seemed to take it as a case of actual desertion to tho enemy. $ could not flatter myself that she had any ro gret ut my leaving on my own account, for I was not ignorant that I was not a favourite with her.. Perhaps, for that reason; I was hot at all drawn towards her. She was cleVer and'

amusing; a capital wife to Creek, who thought her perfection; and good-natured to the young fellows (myself included)' at the place ; hut I don't think she was particularly,sihoero, or that her standard of honour Was a high one, certainly her sense of truth was not, if I may judge from the tarradiddles she told now and then. And, whether it was that I ubcon seionsty betrayed my estimate of her character/ or for what she was pleased to term my fas tidiousness—at any rate, I* was not* exactly in

her good graoes. She gave me a Parthian ; shot as I was leaving, congratulating me on the difference I should find between their' poor

fare and rough and ready ways' and the , luxury of the Dra^raonds' House. ' I

1 Bat you see, Mrs. Creek, I am going to live at the station/I said.

* Oh,' with a tone of malioions surprise,4 are! yon to be counted amongst the men then

41'supposb so.' . 41 thought you wore far too great a favourite with Mrs. Drmnmond for that chango/ *

4 Most likely/ I answered, 4she .knows' nothing about it. Naturally thov would not caro always to have a stranger, with them '

' 4 It's fortunate our sensibilities aro .iiot so delicate/ she rejoined; 4for, wo have.had to put. up with having astranger always with us/ ^ I felt very much/at this retort, like the man •who never opened "his mouth but to put his foot in it,'and. that 1 had better keep mine shut and let my. antagonist retire with all the/honours of war. Perhaps this small

trininph modified .her; for when ; we next mot sho received mo graciously enough and we have always been oa very fair terms

I did not see very much of Mrs. Drumraond. Incver went to tho house without an expressinvi tation and, moreover, I had very little leisure. My now boss not only knew what was to be done, but he had the knack of making others do it. Finding that I was pretty good At fignreB, he got me to help him with the books, as well as

the outdoor work—not at the regular accounts I which he managed himself, there being no book keeper on the place—but for some extra re tarns he was making out on a plan of his own.

I'oould not hut he amused at the way he got I roe to do them. He began, as wo were riding out together to a sheep-station, to discuss them. I did not think mnch of his method, though I

thought the idea might be carried into exeou- I tion with advantage, and being naturally I concerned in all that related to sheep, I was j

much interested in tho question, and ven tured to proposo a few alterations, giv ing my reasons for these changes. Of courso I only put them forward as suggestions, not being quito such a fool, though I was a now churn comparatively, as to be at all sure that any notions of mine could bo of use to an experienced mau liko Mr. Drutnmond. After what. I havo said of him you would hardly imagine ho was the sort of man to let a youngster and a subordinate discuss and, oven in a mild manner, criticise a plan of his; but that is just what he would do. When he. had a scheme in petto he liked to talk it over with any one he met and, what's more, to listen to tho remarks made on it* Out of these different

opinions ho used to form his course of action and if he was not clover in originating he certainly ^was in choosing the best from the various views he elucidated}—in making the wisdom of others work for his ends. It sounds ill-natured, but I do believe it wak

his thorough ^ selfishness that was at tho bottom ^ of this unusual disregard of his own views : the iutensc hold that his interest had on him would not let him treat his own thoughts with any especial favour; so that he was never, as most people are, in fluenced by a scheme that had been evolved oat of bis internal consciousness.

^ But to return: after I had talked for some time and had Bbown, I suppose, not only an interest but Some slight insight into the mat ter, be sai 1, turning towards me witb quite the air of bonhommie with which people generally

confer a favour:—

*1 tell you what it is,Ternor; you shall make them out for aie yourself.. Put them into some shape to-night and come .up to-morrow evening, and we can look tho plan over and

see if it will work.*

I think 1 did murmur something like an as sent, but I doubt if ho heard me ; he certainly never heeded. :He seemed to consider that for tho present he had done with the ..matter, —that it. was _ out of ' his . hands, — for when I inade some further remarks on the Btib ject, feeling indeed rather nervous at the responsibility and desirous of more in formation,. he made no answer and began, almost before" the words of my ques tion wero fairly uttered, to give too direc tions on another business. That done, lie lighted his pipe uud smoked on without speak ing a word till we reached tho sheep-station.

Hero ho broke out into a fine storm. Tho shepherd, a Chinamen, not expecting a visit, as he had only got his rations the previous day, had coolly brought his flock home quite early in

the afternoon and the wretched animals were all yarded, to remain for some fifteen hours without food or water; while tho ruffian was comfortably stretched out in bis bunk and, a savoury smell proceeding from a pot on the fire, was evidently going in for an afternoon of quiet enjoyment.

You should have seen the boss's face as these

things dawned upon him. He made one jump off his horse, throwing the reins to me; dashed

into the hat nnd the next minute out came first the pot and its steaming contents, then John hinue'f, followed by a shower of pannikins, dam per, sugar, tea, and filially a blazing fire stick; after this emerged Air. Drummond, with a very red face and blowing like a porpoise. I fully expected he was going to follow up his attack and was preparing to lead a hand in demolish ing the child of the Flowery Land who, having taken refuge behind a big gum tree, was loudly vociferating in the nasal, high-pitched twang of our yellow brethren; but whether he was explaining matters or breathing forth vows of vengeance 1'can't say. I expeot he got .back, in his state of high pressure, to his mother tongue; at any rate, theonly words I could make out were 'jou savey,-. But the bos3 never even looked towards him, but, taking the reins out of my' hand| , mounted ond rode off, turning roqud/afterhe had ridden a short {way, to call out to me,—/*•,.' ' i

'Just wait till the other shepherd comes iu and see if the sheep .are all right. I expect that (adjective) scoundrel has lost some.'

:As soon as he was out or: eight the culprit ventured into the opening and began picking up the fragments with a smile that was childlike .and bland. '• *;

: ' By the time the other fellow had returned

and the sheep counted it was pretty late, eo i that when Tgot home'and bad'had something to 'eat;-'I didn't feel ^much inclined to tackle the returns; :r,BdtT;kriew it was now or never; that the next day I'should have no time, and I did not menu to lose a.pleasaut "evening tip at the Honse ;-so I set to work and. once fairly at it, ' I'fo'und' my fatigue vanish' and was quite surprised whea l hud done my work how late, or rather, how early it waB. : •

When I Vent np iu the evening I. found "a new arrival.there iii'thq person ofMiss Blount, who' was mskingV regular rouud of visits iu this part of the couutry.; Air. Drummond had been speaking lately of a visit that ho would have to pay shortly to a station ho was think

I iug of purchasing, nnd he had brought the j young lady over from Ash.wood that she might

remain with his wife during his absence. I must say* I was glad to'see her. She was so lively that she seemed to set us going as it were, not that I had much chance of benefiting by her" presence on this occasion, for the b^ss took mo off almost at once to his sanctum aud kept me grinding away till it was so late that I began to think .ho did not intend I should return to the drawing-room. As it was I could only stay a very short time, and I can't say that a little ohaff that I'exchanged with the visitor, quite compensated me for the loss of the pleasure I had anticipated,—a pleasure that certainly, was in no way connected with

Miss Blount.

But I was to see moie of her, as well as of her hostess, than I had at all expected.. One afternoon, just before Mr. Drummoud left, .the three rode into the station-yard as I too came in, though from au opposite direction. So we Btopped to exchange a few words. An allusion was made to Mr. Dmmmond's departure and I said something about being glad Airs. Drum mond would have a companion, but I wished tho house had not been so far from the other buildings.

4 All the more glory for you/ answered Miss Blount, for having the sale - charge, of two forlorn damsels.'

Til do my bast, Miss Blount; but don'tyou tbiuk we had better establish a code of signals ?!

* Why? What do wo want siguals for?'

4 TIow else am I to know the dangers you may ..be expected to?.Supposo a particularly, largo spider (her especial aversion) put in an Hppearance, if you hoist a ;flag half-post high then I'lUush to the rescue.'

41 don't understand. Whore are you to be ?' •; : ? ? • •- - '•

1 Hore, I presume,' I answered, pointing to my quarters. ,. *. r.

Alias Blount stared at me for a moment, then turned Bhorb round on Mr. Drummond.

;'You don't mean to say/ she exclaimed in • ' the utmost indignation, * that we are expected

to stop up there by ourselves. Indeed I will -.'•i do nothing of th6 kind. I would rather sleep ona shelf in the store* Of course I supposed

Mr. Yernor would be at the house while yon : were away.* .

Mr. Drummond, rather taken aback at thia:: * unexpected attack, muttered something about ' : his wife having often been alone there. . t

1 More shame for you then,' was the retort; 1 hut certainly I won't/ y

Mr. Drummond, looking as if he felt con victed of having been neglectful of his wife's feelings, and yet hardly caring, by giving in,

to acknowledge his fault, evidently did not y : know what to say. Mrs. Drummond,with an ; ,r amused smile on her face, though she never raised her eyes, played with her reins. -Miss

Blount was unaffectedly in earnest in her pro- ' testations. I wished myself anywhere bnt ' where I was, while I mentally most heartily

endorsed what the latter had said. After a ' moment's pause and a look of inquiry at his " wife that she would not Bee, Mr. Drummond • said in a hesitating way,—

r. * Perhaps, Vernor, Miss Blount is right; ' you hadjbetter go up to the house.'

So it was nettled, and on the boss's departure - I was installed as watch-dog. I can't say I

bad much cause to complain. I found my * evenings pass very differently to what they r usually did. Miss Blount and I were soon on our old. footing of friendly war and though it was hardly fair of Mrs. Drummond to go over to the enemy as she did, still they were neither very remorseless foes.

Of course, now I was to a certain extent in charge of the station I was fully occupied all day, oiten having to be out on the run be

fore my fair hostess and her friend bad left ' their rooms; but my evenings were always free and I certainly did find them pleasant. I enjoyed being with Mrs. Drummond above all things, preferring her society infinitely to that of any one else ; bnt Miss Blount's presence in no way interfered with that pleasure; nay more, I think it

enhanced it. It took away all foeling of . restraint and somehow I always was to a oertain extent embarrassed when alone with

her, and she used sometimes to put en a cold, indifferent manner, as if she was pre.occupied; but now we were all together she had not a trace of it; indeed I think we all felt in some degree like school children when the master is away. "We got up little concerts, with our selves as audience. We played at whist, Mrs. ! Drummond and Miss Blount against dummy

and me; such whist, where revokes and leading questions made startling variations in the game. We Btarted a species of drawing-room tennis, till the ball was within an ace of bring ing the lamp to grief; and one evening we

had a dance. Mrs. Drummond was at the "

piano, when suddenly she dashed into a gallop.

She did not generally play dance music well; ' but she was in the humour, I suppose, to-night, for nothing could be more spirited than her way of rendering the mnsic.

'Really, it's too bad/ called oat Miss Blount { : 1 it's positively aggravating to listen and be still.'

* Why are you still F answered the player*

Miss Blount half rose.

'All right/ I said, jumping up, hnd tfad -J next minute we were pirouetting round1 the room ; but, naturally, the place WaSu'fi arranged for that sort of thing, and We found ohairs and tables somewhat hard objects to come against. So we soon had to stop and clear the gangway, and on we went again* We stopped the second time by thepiano.

:1 Go on/ oried Mrs. Drummond; * I am not 4

at all tired!'

I think my partner was quite willing, but t thought it hardly fair to give the other &U the work, we taking the pleasure for our share J so, I dare say I lagged a little in starting, for she said,—

'.We will have one more turn, Mrs. Drum mond, and then I'll play.'

i It was very short turn, I confess, and then after a short pause (for Miss Blount wanted the music-stool altered and to take off her rings, and to get into position generally) with a prelimi nary crashing chord or two, she began her

[part and settled down to a rattling galop. '

But no, Mrs. Drummond wanted a waltz, and what do you suppose her guest chose ? 1 The Pilgrims of the night.' Bnt, hymn tune or not, it makes a delicious waBz, and we began.

I have danced pretty often and with a fair ? number of good partner*, but I never had such f a dance, or such a partner. She had a perfect ..ear, lithe as a willow wand, 8be seemed to be one with the music and her fellow dancer/

turning to the slightest move of the guiding • arm, swaying to the melody as if she was liter*

ally floating on the strain. My arm elapsed - her rounded, slender waist; my breath almost - stirred the soft hair on the pretty head that ' drooped towards ma. I could feel the beating

of her heart I felt a wild desire to go on fof - ever. Involuntarily I drew hew closer to - me, and held her hand with g tighter clasp.

I looked down at the face that was so near, but '• she would not raise her eyes. I conld only see

the long lushes lying on a cheek tinted with - the tender lines of a sea-shell, and as I gazed ? ' I utterly forgot myself and whispered her - name. Then, with a sudden olash, the mnsio ceased and, quick as thought, Mrs. Drummond had glided out of my arm and from the room.

< What has hocome of Mrs. Drummond,' ex- ' claimed Miss Blount, as she turned round and . suw only one of tho performers; 'yon were- , dancing a minuto ago.'

1 And we only stopped a minute ago, when you did.*

' Yes, I did that on pnroose; people gene* . rally lcok 6o delightfully silly when pulled up

with a round turn. Now I feel ill-used.' . ,

* Thank you. T arn sorry of ooucse for your . disappointment, especially after your admirable %! playing.' .

' Thank you; but for my own part, I prefer' dancing.'

* I need not tell Mis Blount that I too prefer r her as a partner. • . r ; ' No. you ueed not; for I should not believe, v* you. But you, poor boy, you are quite tired out; - you are actually white. Mrs. Drummond,1 she ? called out to her- hostess, who had just r?«'~

entered.the roam, 'it's really too bad of us; we altogether forgot that Mr. Verrior has' been oat after cattle all day, and hare nearly danced

him to death.' .

Mrs. Drummond made no answer. For my* •elf I felt horribly guilty. I must have been mad to have ventured on such an impertinence and. I did not dare to face her, lest I should read toy fate in her . eyes. X busied myself patting the music into the standi I suppose I was making rather wild work of it, .for Jfiiw Blount, seeing what I. was abont,

exclaimed,

4 Fray don't put! the raosio like that! One

would think you were " Buttercup," mixing ' the babies, the way you are jumbling it up. | We strive so hard to keep our belongings I

apart.!

* Never mind/ answered Mrs. Drummond; (we cdQ66p&rote them to-morrow. Let us sit on the-veranda, it is cooler out there.'

The tone of her voice re-assured me. There was no anger in it; if anything it was softer -than usual. She was very silent the rest of the evening, leaning back in her chair, her hands lying dasped in her lap, and with a dreamy almost aad expression on her face that looked so white and still in the moonlight. Hiss Blount was in high spirits and talked for all of us, and of course I did my best to keep up the ball, not that I felt particularly bright, ana indeed -answered her sallies almost at random, bat I was restless and excited, and anything seemed better than dwelling on the folly I had committed. I had not as j*et cared to speak to Mm. Drummond, but seeing that tho moonlight

seemed too bright for her, I got a little screen |

from tho room and offered it. She took it j withou&a word, without once raising her eyes,

and after that I too grew (silent. I suppose onr j companion found a solo rather slow, for stifling j

a yawn she got up saying.—

'So many angels haveb*en parsing over the house in this last half.hour that there must be* a regular procession of them. I vote we seek the balmy.'

* (To be continued neat week.)