|Chapter Title||5. IT NEVER RAINS, BUT IT POURS.|
|Newspaper Title||Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||Nancy. A Story of the Fifties|
|article text|| |
NANCY. A STORY OF THE FIFTIES.
By GEORGE GORDON McORAE,
CHAPTER V. IT NEVER RAINS BUT IT POURS..
A very happy trio they made at tea under the old bark roof that afternoon. The conversation, though somewhat interjectional in the first instance, soon began to flow more freely, but Nancy - perfectiy frank and fearless as she
was - had perhaps the least to say of any, the main currnt of the talk on various topics, which ranged from mining and matters bucolic to Borak inprovements, being due more to her father than to Max. True ! Max could talk a little, and talk well, about gold, and tried to make the most of a little store of knowledge ; but while he showed himself an intelligent listener, putting in a telling remark here and an apt query there, he at last lapsed into that condition generally known as absence of mind. John Arnold put it down mentally to the account of pain In tho wounded bridle arm, but Nancy, who thought more of Max's poor arm than even her father did, showed by the tell tale blush upon her cheek as she caught Max's eye that she felt whither his thoughts were drifting, and Max, on receiving a return flash ot intelligence from the luminous blue grey eyes, now flaming into perfect sapphire, felt how futile must be any appeal to him as an authority upon merely sublunary matters. It was not long in point of fact - how unconsciounbly long, though, it seemed to Max, that instant after the despatch of the latest cup of tea ! But, at last, when John Arnold, leading the way, pushed back his chair from the table, Max experienoed
a sensible relief ; but, when John Arnold had cheerily challenged him to a quiet smoke on the verandah he felt more relieved than ever, though still dominated by a very natural desire for just two or three quiet words alone with Nancy. That was not to be yet, but Max, looking backward as he passed out of the doorway, knew for certain that a pair of the sweetest blue eyes in all creation was following his every movement. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * They talked and they puffed, those two men out there upon the verandah, and Max by degrees unfolded his past, his present, and what he hoped was to be his future to his prospective father-in-law. He told him when and how he had left the "old country," and what were his prospects here in the police, but added, in satisfaction of any doubts that might arise, the news of his being quite recently made heir to an uncle in England, who, being childless himself, and also rich, had determined to adopt bim. They knocked the ashes out of their pipes and came back into the house, both feeling more at ease now that all was known on both sides.. John Arnold took up a book, while Nancy and Max made believe to play at draughts, and continued to tell each other much between the most extraordinary and erratic moves conceivable. The old draught board was a capital neutral ground to meet upon, but while Max was congratulating himself on having Nancy to himself for the entire evening, there came a thunderous knocking at the door and thereafter, the trio became a quartette and private conversation, as a consequence, out of the question. The course of true love never did run smooth, and the rule, alas ! was not destined to find any very special exception in the case of Max and Nancy. Tho whole evening, as originally looked forward to, was spoiled, the element of privacy vanishing altogether, while ordinary good nature, or the pollteness instinctive in all good men and women, demanded that the visitor should be properly entertained. The stranger that Max had wished at Jericho, or farther, was a rough diamond, a man that had a farm on the other side of the mountain, but was staying in Borak for the night ; and as he generally visited John Arnold whenever he came in to Borak ; no ono could have attributed his visit as mere curiosity, but, all the same, he was terribly " in the way." It never rains but it pours : there was another knock at the door, and here another visitor arrived, holding a little girl by the hand. She had no intention of coming farther than the door. " No ! It was only a message for Nancy," but, submitting under protest to a little kindly pressure, she came in with her daughter, following. This addition to the party proved to be a relief, and set Nancy more completely at her ease, and also Max. Mrs. Brown, a sensible good natured woman (the wife of a miner), was one of the oldest friends the Arnolds had "on" Borak, and had "freedom of the tho house. She assisted Nancy in getting supper ready, while the men talked together, and Max found some solace in artless talk with the little girl, whose round, honest face and large trustful eyes reminded pleasantly of the rustic chiildren of his own country in England. JoIin Arnold filled the big chair in the ohimney corner, and filled it well. It was early in the summer, and the nights still sharp, so Nancy had a nice clear fire burning on the hearth of the huge bush chimney, which imparted an air of cheerfulness to all the surroundings. The preparations completed, Nancy drew up her chair beside Mrs Brown, who occupied herself with some knitting. Max had little Mary between his knees, amusing himself with her artless prattle as he stroked her head, while John Arnold and Mr. Thorn, the Nuggety Gully miner, exchanged notes on past doings in
the history of Borak Creek. Max oould not choose but listen, and both Nancy and Mrs. Brown dropped their work for a few moments as they followed the thread of the story, for Mr. Thom, sinking the conversationalist, had blossomed into the story teller. " You remember the first fall, of course ;" below the Femtree Gully - where the big boulders is, with the still pot of black water and the scrub round it, not so far from where Wilson used to set the native dog trap ? Well ; that's the place, and a place I never oared for myself - so solitary-like and solemn. I never see duck there, not even a diver, but sometimes a blue crane that would stand susplciously like, with his long neok out and his head all to one side, considerin' what villainy he would be up to next. And then if you'd come closer a bit he'd up and oil with a flop, his neck carried curling right back over his crupper, and his two legs stuck out behind like the arms of a wheelbarrow. I never liked them birds - to my mind, there's something unlucky about them. Even if you shoot one you'll find him thin and stringy and tough and oily and no good to eat - just a cartridge throw'd away, that's all. Anyway, that's my experience of cranes. Cabbawn Billy sez they've something to do with dibbel-dibbel, and I believe he's right. Them blacks knows a lot more nor you'd think, and when Marshall and Thomson found the pannikin and the pistol and the skull and armbands In the scrub there, blest if there wasn't one of them blue cranes posted sentry right over the spot when they come up. " * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
" That man never died of hunger neither," interjected John Arnold, "never ; he'd a hole drilled clean through his head, and he never did it himself. We all agreed it was a ball from a carbine or a musket, but never a pistol bullet. The belt was gone too, though they found the pistol and the boots and all the olothes here and there in rags among the bushes, and everyone that knew the man knew it was a belt with pockets in it, made just to carry gold or money." " Was it murder ?" ejaculated Mrs. Brown inquiringly, " Murder, ma'am ! Yes, and nothin' short of that ; but we never got the man that done it yet." "There, sir," oried Mr. Thom, warming to his subject, and turning towards Max ; " there's summat in your line. Now, if you was to get up there and see the spot for yourself, and then set (on the quiet you know) in the ' Borak ' over there for a bit every day, and, I say, you might do worse than give a drink or two to Squinting Sam, ' the Flagellator, the old Vandemonian. Sam might give you the " office." Max flashed up to the roots of his hair. The suggestion hit him all the harder for being made in the presence of Nancy. " I am a soldier," said he, " not a Catchpole. I belong to the police in a way, but not in that way. I might, likely enough, have a brush with the bushrangers in defence of the gold some day ; but for running in bad oharaoters, or setting traps to catch criminals, I have had nothing to do with that, and never will." " Well, no offence meant, sergeant !" rejoined Mr. Thom, stroking his grisly beard. " Of oourse escorts might be different, but I mind a man in town once - one of the Collins-street men - you know tho Collins-street men, sir, of course, all blue and silver and lace and buttons, with waxed murstarsners and shiny belts, and as many reins and chains to one bridle as would serve any three of my horses - chaps with cloaks, and holster pistols and caps cocked to one side of
the head, pipe clayed gloves and sometimes a bit of scented ankercher stiokin out between the hooks and eyes of the breast of his jacket. Well it was one of these chaps standing outside a tailor's door in Collins-stieet, and looking up and down as if the whole place belonged to him, when up comes a man as wanted to see whether he couldn't give him something to do." " Come along," sez he, ' there's an old woman in liquor lying agin the kerb round the corner. I wants you to lend a hand - and fetch her to the lockup." " The Collins-streot man, a regular silver lace cadet, mind you, refused him with a imperfect stare and a big oath. 'You wait a bit," sez the man, " while I goes and sees a matchystraight about this ; and with that he cuts and runs, but afore he came baok the cadet was out of sight. So he lost the chance of proving his case, but that same man told me that the matohystraight advised him that for all his silver lace he was only a constable and bound to take up folks just the same as other constables, Max smiled, for he knew the cadet personally and had heard tho story from his own lips ; and smiling added that in the cadet's place he would have refused too. " Well, no offence, sergeant, you ain't a cadet, anyhow." " No," replied Max, " but I have been, and that man was an old comrade of my own. They have taken away the dragoon uniform from us, but it isn't the uniform alone that goes to make the soldier." Nancy, who had been regarding Max's countenance during this little passage of arms, thought he looked the soldier all over, and felt proud to think he was a policeman only in name. John Arnold turned the conversation with some very trivial remark, which answered the purpose better than any set speeoh, after which there was talk enough, and pleasant talk, too, in which everybody could join and did join, with plenty of laughter and merriment as the evening wore on. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was past 10 o'clock by the solemn, timepiece in the passage when the guests rose to go. The moon at the full, bathed the whole landscape in her silvery glory as John Arnold walked down to the garden gate. Max rose also, but did not immediately follow. Had anyone been left behind he might have beheld Nancy with her shapely head leaning on Max's shoulder, as with one fair and beautifully rounded arm about his neck she murmured, " I am so glad, my own Max, that you're not a policeman." What further followed must be left to the unaided imagination ; but Max did not finally take his leave until he had promised to come over early next day, which being Sunday, they could all go for a little excursion to the Sassafras Gully. When Max got to the gate, John Arnold was there leaning out over it contemplating the moon-silvered landscape, and smoking contentedly, as if he had no thought of going in anymore. " I do like sometimes to be out of doors when the moon is up." " And so do I," cried Max. " But not always,", rejoined John Arnold, with an amused smile." With a hearty good night and a slap on the shoulder by way of benediction, Max took his departure, and marched along at the "quick " towards the house of the Oracle, who was anxiously expecting him. To Be Continued.