|Newspaper Title||The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 - 1934)|
|Trove Title||My Colonial Experience|
MX COLONIAL EXPEDIENCE.
Written oxproasly.for JVis IFiek.
"" Continued from last 'wcti.)
AlKOsr.as soon as ho returned, Mr. Drum mond sent me Out to his nenr purchase, in ohfttge of . ehoop, and when I came back } fotfnd-that, both he and Mrsi Bruramond jadgOiio to town^ whoro thby wore to remuin gdnie lifctio time. It was rather dreary work lining alono up at the hoilso, for I was placed ja charge. Whero I had passod suctr pleasant fioffrs in Mrs. D< Ummond's society,, and found Sow her presence xtiust have eweotonod. my 5ork that iiori woaried mo dt times almost bo Jond endurance; I liadfi few lettora from her,
and though I own she did not eiicelao a corres pondent, and that hor short opistlcs gavo no idea of the writer, still I came to reckon the day the mail-man 'passod as the only one worth count jog, the rest bciug mere blanks.
It so -happened wo had a very dry aeaaon and woro gotting anxious about tbo stock, aa the feed was fast boing all scorched up; of water wo never feared any aotual scarcity, but eomo of fcho Greeks wore dry and the rivor only ran as a thread whore there was usually 8 fair stream. The day tbo mail was due was a fear fully hot one, but tbo coppery hue on the horizon, and, towards evening, a great bank of elouda showing to tho south-west, gave hopes of rain, and tho promisemade us endure the hedt almost With satisfaction. I Was at tho station when tho bag was brought in, and I oponed it with ris much fear aa expectation. For, on the two provious occasions I had been disappointed; but no, I was not doomed to that fate this .time. Thoro was the welcome letter showing out from amongst the others like a dovo in a flock of crowa. Possibly to most eyes it might have appeared like an ordinary envelope but to me it was, as I h&vo said, something wholly apart. I did not read it at onoe, putting off its perusal till I was alone at the house,.and I had no time to waste if I wanted to'get thoro in the diy.
A strong breeze, though only coming in gusts, was blowing; tho bank of clouds had surged up high above its former place and was fast breaking and flying in great trailing masses right in tho teeth of the wind, as if to oppose the long low-lying, steam-like looking olouds that were hurrying from tho opposite direction; .alow growl of distant thunder would bo heard now and then and a venomous Btroak of lightning dart zigzagging across the sky ; a . grey vapour, too, under the scattered clouds, now fast melting out of shape, told a welcome talo, and I saw with no little pleasure that the drought would Boon be broken up.
The letter was, as usual, interesting to me because penned by her hand aud dictated by her mind; but in itself not very much. But there was a postscript, and that did not lack matter at any rate, • for this, is: what was written in it•
'.Robert'has just left; he has had letters that will oblige him to go homo at once; wo leave on Friday, so as to catch tho mail stoamer in Melbourne.^ I may not see you again, but I will, I must' write before wo Anally start. Qood-bye, 1 ?'
On Friday—this was Tuesday ! " If I rode day and night I might still bo in timefor see . her again I would, if it wore in the bounds of
possibility.- I started up indeod with some vague idea of sotting off at once; but if I had entertained any such notion tho sloshing sound of the rain that was now pouring down in tor tents would havo put it o-»t of the question. All night long it kept on—now in one almost Unbroken sheet of water, now dashed against the house by the flerco guBts of wind that shook and tore at the shutters and flung themselves
Upon the wrIIs with such force that several
times I fancied they would be breaking down.
Towards morning the storm moderated, and at daylight a narrow streak of greenish sky to the westward, that rapidly increased as a high weat wind came up, showed that all chance of toore rain was ovor for the present. I was up be fore dawn, and, rousing one of the men, sent
him to bring in Sepoy. Very likely tho noise ! of the storm had disturbed tbo people, but every one seemed sleepy as owls, and so Blow in their movements that everything got behind hand, and I was nearly maddened by tho delay, knowing as I did how much evory moment was of conscquonco to me if I hoped to carry
out my journoy. There was one orossing- j place that I o*pecially feared—aud cross it I tnust or my rido would only bo a waste of
time—tho one near Grottan, wboro Halt was 1 In hiding; but tho 'oroek was always rather «ow in coming down, so that if I could only get to it quickly I might cross it without diffi culty.
At last I got off, riding a station horso, a j mounted blackboy leading Sepoy, to keep him fresh as long as possible. But a fow miles from 1 the crossing-plnco_my horso cast a'shoo : so I | had to mount Sepoy atouceund sond tho othor book. I got ovor tho remaining ground at a
?mart canter,' but I was too lato:' When I I reaohod tho river it was, as I feared, I flooded. T can't say I liked tho look of it ! as it wont tearing between its banks, its turbid foaming surface broken by tho tops of tho sub merged bushes that wero all bent down by tbo stream, savo when, now and then, a ehange in tho current would let them lift their heads for a moment,- to bo dashed down again tho next instant by tho Bwirling torrent. „
Had Tbeea obliged to go straight over, it would. havB'bcon quite useless to attempt to cross; but,somewhat lower down, tho opposite bank shelved, and if 1 could manage to guide my horsa sufficiently to land there, I should bo ®U right. If I were carried further it would
bo a caso of11 v, p." with me, for not only did tho I obannel. narrow beyond, making' tho water rush along liko a mill race,-but a hugo flooded « gura had toppled over, and if I got caught in its head there would not
he much doubt as to tho result. But there j
was no timo for hesitation j tho flood was rising ' still, and if I did not cross thero was no chanco of roaohing my destination boforo tho steamor
Uft. I know Sepoy was a capital swimmer, 1
for he had taken mo more than once over rather bad crooks, though never such a one as this, and I could trust to his prowess once more. The poor boast did not seem to relish the idea him self: ho went in very unwillingly, snorting and turning round and fefiiaing several times, trembling all over aB ho would sniff at the water with neck extended and then start back
from tho stream, that ruahiag and tumbling along mado suob a deafoning din . as to over
power every sound but its own.
Just as I succoeded iu fairly getting him in, I caught a glimpso of two mounted figures on tho opposite bank, frantically gesticulating and waving mo baok ; . but, oven bad I wished, it was too late now. No sooner was Sopoy afloat than be struck out at once for the other side. .We ere in the ourrent almost immediately, and then roturnwas an utter impossibility; It had not looked vofy in-, viling from the bank, but I bad no idea of what it Was liko till I encountered the full force of the atroam. It Beemcd to seita upon my horse and myself and fling us along us if we had been two brokon twigs. The rush and roar of the water ob it tore past in great swirling masses; the hurry and sweep of the swift ever-chang ing ourrent, now gliding by in a smooth un broken surface, now breaking and chafing against some obstacle, now whirling round in quick, varying eddies; the wooded baak, the trees on which seemed to be flying by mo,— these utterly confused me. I was stunned and liilf blinded by the rapid movement and cease
less turmoil. Idid not seem to know where we were or where we were going. Dizzy and bewildered I could only meohanic&Uy grasp the pummel of .my saddle. I had but so much sense left as not to interfere with my horse, that, I was conscious, was striving to make for the landing-placo I have spoken of. Whether he could have reached it, I can't say. I doubt if he could havo stemmed thei force of the boil ing flood; at any rate, the sight of the narrow channel, into whioh we seemed to be fast drift ing, proved too much for my self-oomm&nd. I tried to turn Sepoy's head too quickly with the rein,—the next instant he rolled over and I was under the water. Instinctively I ^truck out, felt something touoh my hand, and grasped it; it was the top of one of the lood-awept buBhes. The current catching my extended body, as X hung on to the branchj swung me suddenly and violently round to,, one side. Luckily, it wrenched apart my grasp, for X was flung out of the fierce strength of the rushing waters into a comparatively calm part, and a few strokes put me into safety.. X scrambled some
how on to the bank and then fell down. X expect I must have become unconscious, for X don't remember anything more till X looked up and saw Creek's face bending over me.
' Where's my horse,' X said, croaking like a
raven with a sore throat, for X did not seem to 1
have any voice to speak of. |
*1 don't know where; but I know what he i is—dead as & herring. He's in the timber. The only wonder is you are not thero too;' was
When I got up the water seemed yet to be sweeping and eddying by me and the roar still in my ears; but X soon was able to steady my self, and the stockman giving me up his horse,
he going at .my request'to see if there were ? any, signs of Sepoy, X rode on with Creek to the station, fortunately quite near, whore I got a suit of clothes, and the cook set me up with a oup of half scalding coffee.
Mrs. Creek. was not at home, much to my relief, for I by no means cared to face those sharp eyes of hers, or to orade the questions she would have, had small scruple in putting as to why I was so eager to go on—for go on I was determined to . do. Crook made some sort of remonstrance; but of course it was no business of his, and I don't suppose he ever troubled himself enough about it to find any motive for my determination. Ho lent me a horse'and told me I might take it on if X oould not get a remount at Bishop's He gave me one queer look as ho shook hands when we parfed, that X recalled afterwards with a certain annoyance, but said nothing after his first few words.
X did get a fresh horse at the inn* and after a few hours' spoil went on again and reaohed the town a little after tenon Thursday night. It was about time, for I was dead beat, and had almost to be lifted off my horse. I managed though to ask when the steamer was to leave. 1 She doesn't go till Saturday morning,* was tho welcome reply. .
I could not eat, but I got a big drink of bitter beer, and then turned in, boots and all, for I woke up at day dawn and found myself fully dressed outside tho bed. A Turkish bath put me to right and as I had a portman teau in town I was able to make myself look something more like a Christian. When I went to the hotel where the Drummonds were stav
ing, I was told they were absent and would not return till tho afternoon. It was a bitter disappointment; but still this unexpected reprieve of a day made it less hard to bear than it would otherwise have been, and as I im proved the shining hour by falling fast asleep and remaining in that happy state of uncon sciousness for a considerable time, it was not quito so grievous as I at first thought. When I presented myself again at the hotel Mrs. Druminond was in, and I soon found my self in her presence. Sho gave a little cry as I enterod unannounced, for the waiter seemed to think that quito an unnecessary ceremony, and though she never came forward or said a word, I could not doubt that I was welcome. I don t know how I crossed the room; I only seem to remember holding her hand in mine, and seeing my own feelings reflected in that agitated faoe. T daresay it was not many seconds that this silent greeting lasted. (There are occasions
when our old enemy is nowhere, ana wo measure by some other standard than time.) Then Mrs. Druramond seemed to pull herself together as it were, in an instant, and I found myself sitting down and tryiog to talk on ordinary topics, • and not to be bewil dered by the sudden change in the face oppo site mo. ISvery trace of the expression that but a moment uiro, it seemed, had almost made mo forget everything but how much I loved hor, had vanished, and neither in look nor man ner was sho more than friendly,scarcely that; for hei eves avoided mine and when com
pelled to meet them without actual rudeness,
there was something hdrd, almoat defiant, in them. She told xne what I already knaw, that they did not start till the next day, and in all probability would never return to the colony, as the • news received by the last mail had dono away with any necessity for again leaving England. I dare say she spoke about other things, but I felt dazod, and paid, I suppose, but little real attention to what she said, for I cannot recall the rest of our conversation.
While wo wero talking, some strangers came in, and soon after Mr. Drumtuond and Mrs. Greek; the former gate me a, for him, cordial greeting; the latter began immediately to a&k me the particulars of my adventure in the
' What's that ?' exclaimed Mr. Drummond, looking at me in surprise.
' Hasn't ho told you V she said. 'Why ho war within an ace of being* drowned. I have just got a telegram from Mr. Greek. Here it is: " Hirer np. Vernor nearly lost in crossing. Horse drowned."' •
Who does not know tho singular sensation when you see everything at a glance, while, at the same time, you seem never to have raised yoiir eyes. That is how it was with me then. I saw Mr. Drummond dart one quick suspicious glance at his wife. Saw Mrs. Greek's malioious smile as her eyes followed that look. Saw Mrtf. Drummond smiling as she Went on talk ing to one of the strangers. Had she beard ? Surely not; for even had she noi guessed wby I bad thus risked my life she would have shown some feeling in the matter. But she did hear; for after a little while Bhe turned to me and said, in a tone of complete indifference and rather flippantly: ' I thinkyouogmen imagine they have as many lives as a cat.' Her speech did not need any answer, and if it had I could not have given it, for something seemed to choke me.
I wont away soon and did not see her again that day. Mr. Drummond aaked me to dine with them ; but his wife reminded him that they were going to a reception at Government House. But though I did not see her I did hear her again; for as I was mooning about
that night, restless and unhappy, the | idea struck me to make one of tho etaring crowd who were hanging about the gates, that led to paradise, and so perhaps catch a glimpse of. her. As I stood there, hidden by the shadow of the gate house, a carriage that was coming out stopped, and a gentleman getting out said:—'
'Thank you, here is my trap. Good-bye. I wish you a pleasant voyage. :Youmustbe uncommonly glad to return to*the civilised
'Yes,perfcctlydelighted,of courae,' answered
a voice I knew so well. 1 Life there has one
advantage,—you have no time to think.'
' H-m/said the stranger as the cab drove on, and, evidently speaking aloud unconsciously, ' got a crumpled rose leaf somewhere/
WI should not have had courage to go to their hotel without some excuse the next morning ; but, meeting Mr. Drummond, he sent me there with a message about a missing trunk that had turned up; but I did not see her,she was in her room, and I had to give the message by deputy. It did not seo n as if I had gained much by my wild ride. It was almost a pity I had not shared poor Sepoy's fate, I thought sadly, as I turned away from the door.
It waB now ten, and at eleven they wero to go, and long before the iirst bell raug I was down at the steamer. I must see her again, •and though but a little whilo past I had felt
that tho game was hardly worth the candle, I would have swum twenty flooded rivers now rather than miss that last look. At the wharf I met Hope, who had come dowu, he told me, j with Mrs. Creek.
I 'Had a narrow escape, I hear,' he said. I ' Must be more careful another time, my lad.
One might find a worse fellow if one tried very I ! hard.' t
I thought the Drummonds would never come, and as I was roaming , restlessly about, consumed with an anxious fear that I should not havo time to speak to. i her, X came suddenly on Mrs. Greek
talking, and not in a very suppressed tone, to a friend. She stopped abruptly as I came up, I and though the phrase I heard, ' Overdid it/
1 had no meaning for me, I could not but fancy |
I was the subject of the conversation. ! ' At last they came. Mrs. Drummond was I deadly pale, but very animated. I don't think
I overheard her laugh so, much or so. un
musically . She greeted me with a smile, hardly . ' addressing me ; but when it was time to go
she suddenly turned to me as I stood silent by, her side, put. her hand on my arm and said with
a break in her voice
' Take me on board/
She did not take horhand away for tho few minutes before the steamer started. There was a crowd round us and sho needed
some protection against a chanco push, for her husband was fully occupied with the luggago. She never, spoke to or evon looked at me; but I fancied she drew hearer to mo and that the hand on my arm trembled; but possibly my own heart throbbed too violently for me to tell.
Then the warning bell rang. • All her friends crowded round and bade her 'gqod«byc.' ; Mr. Drummond came up. • «
' Now Vernor,' he .said, 'you^must be off. Just write a lino now and then (o say how Powell is getting on/ , , ,
I don't think any looker-on would have noticed our farewell. X took her hand and muttored some unintelligible words. She made no answer; never lifted her eyes. All she said was, ,
' -Robert, I havo given Folly to Mr. Vernor. Then she walked away/ # #
Shall I ever feel so wretched as I did when X bade her good-bye and caught ray last look of that face, without . which life seemed a mere blank P
X stood on the wharf long after I ceased to distinguish her, until a turn in the river shut out any further view of the steamer. How miserable X felt as I stood there, I have no
words to tell. I hardly knew what X was about, j or was conscious of where I was, or that tho
| crowd was fast dispersing, and that curious ^ eyes night note the despair that I had at my
heart and poeaibly betrayed in my face. I was. •'
roused by Hope taking mo by the arm andsay-,. ing in o loud oheory tone
1 Como along, old fellow; ono is getting re* gularly grilled here besides I want to show you my new purchase/•
' I turned and went mechanically. with hin>y thinking bitterly as I walked along how little
friendB know or caro about ono. Hie • new horse; yea, that was infinitely - moro attractive matter than any affair of
mine. But X believo I wronged him; for he . said never a word more on that subject; hardly spoke indeed at all; but as we reached my hotel and . I turned off from him, he just rested hie hand a moment with a kindly pres sure on my shoulder before ho went on.
I had one half hour in the solitude of my room of such utter misery that the mere recol lection if it makes mo wince; as if a rough haud had probed a cruel wound. Then I went out and X suppose looked and spoke as other men. At any rate no one seemed to notice any difference, or to think I needed sympathy; in which last they were right, seeing that I should have hotly resented any sign of such. But I did not forget, though I played my part in life and took my share of its pleasures as before. I lived some time in a land where there was no sun, and with an aching void in my heart that made all things stale, fiat, and unprofitable. But Buch feelings are now of the past. Other thoughts and hopes, and sorrows have swept them not away but on one side, for they are not wholly lost. X think thero is a corner in my heart where they lie hidden, stealing out now ana then at some rare moments of solitude, when the by-gone days come back, and I am again a yonng fellow, gazing with a silent reverential adora tion at a face that was to .me the fairest and dearest on the earth.