|Chapter Title||ILL NEWS.|
|Newspaper Title||Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||Nancy. A Story of the Fifties|
TALES l\m SKETCHES.
NANCY. A STORY OF THE FIFTIES.
BY GEORGE GORDON MaCRAE, Author op "The Mas In the Iron Mask,"&o.
' Chapter XIII.— Ill News.
Nanoy throws tho front tloor wi(lo open nr.d runs gaily forth into the garden, just as tho rosy Dawn is announced in tlio singularly tremulous " timbre " of "tho settlor's oloolr." AH Australian natiiro wnkoris at the sound —
tho trees begin nlrendy to east long, dark shadows on tho blankoty tint outsido. The swarming cockatoos, witli sulphur crests orcot, and much screaming nnd fluttering, settlodown like one vast shoot of suow on tho neighboring paddook, their scouts the whilo posted in the surrounding tree tops, nnd iuteijeoting honrso cries of warning at uncertnin intervals. Tho roselln flutes, and a. gentlo whistle salutes the ear, as after a prolonged nnd grnoo- fully -..diving flight lie alights at last 011 tlio gnrilen fence, whoro lie displays the guidon glory of his bosom, his aoral scat-lot cowl, and his beaming ocrulcan shoulders. Tho sober plumagad minnhs and lcathorhoads ebattor and "ohirr" along with tho gray coated wattlo birds in tho very topmost hrnnohos of tho tailor gum .trees about tho oottnge, while tho warbling, woodland melody of tho mngpio, (ohecrfnl in the midst of melancholy) affords tho very sweetest matin. song of all. It is John Arnold who picks up tlio paper this .morning.: He runs his oyo slowly up aiid down tho advertising columns, notes thnt: the hlaoksmlth's cow,. which lie recognises from tile - brands and description, lias got into tlio pound, turns, over, and skints the- loader, apropos of npthhig atall, and leaving, this 'uninviting pas ture, , rambles . into , the., gossiping , columns of purely looul interest, which woro surely tho
fororunnors of tho "Town Talk" of our own day. Horo his attention is arrested all at oneo by a eertain heading. John Arnold cannot bo said to read, ho takes in tho sonso of tho paragraph with fixed and Btaring, stony eyes, his lips do not move mechanically, as they somo- times will when a man is reading to himsolf. He absorbs tho sonso of tho text through his oyos right into his soul, and his bouI is now only too fully seised of the story ; I10 slowly foldsand rofolds tlio paper into tho smallest possible com pass, This dono, ho placos it most carofnlly in tlio inner breast pooket of his ooat, feeling faint, ho rools in his ngitation to tho gnto and supports himself agninst tho post for thopresont. "Have you seen tho papor this morning, father ? " ories Nanoy. "I could not find it when I looked on tho grass nndor tho troc, and tho coaoh must liavo passed kalf-an-hour ago, quite." John Arnold, with all tho eomposuro he oan command, remarks that "it is but seldom tho eoaoh driver misses throwing the paper over the gate, though that has happened oooaslonally." Nanoy, who really docs not onto two straws about tho Advertiser, with its puffery and poundages and potty gossip, bounds nimbly up tlio main walk to seo to her bees and flowers, and without tho very slightest suspioion as to her father's state of mind or tho aause of that state. Slio sings as she flies along in all tho onrly morning joy of an innocent young hoart ; hut every note of that voice, which at any other time had reflected all its happiness In hor father's countenance, now only sorvod to stab liim to tho heart. Ho lias left tho gato, and is walking liko a man in a dream townrds tlio old workshop j whon lie oncountora Nanoy with a glorious collection of' freshly cut flowers gathoicd up in hor apron. "Whatever are you thinking of, dad? You surely don't forgot, do you, that to-morrow is Christmas day, and Mnx is eoming for mo (for us, that is to say), and we are all going to chapel in tlio morning, and than home for the Christ mas dinner, of course? Only our own three salves, you know, and then, by and bye, in the aftornoon, to your own favorito haunt, by tho source in the Sassafras Gully. Max bad suoli a niee kind letter from his unolo, and I10 says it has made him so happy, and ho is going to bring tho letter for us all to read together on Christmas day." John replios with a nod and a forced smile, and marches along straight into the work shop. "Yos; it must bo kept from hor," lto muttered to himself ; then, withdrawing the paper from his pocket, unfolding It and reading tlio passage carefully over again, ho tore it into fragments, flung thorn into the fireplace, struck a match and applied it. In a few seconds tho paper wns a tiny heap of black and grey ashes. "Now, that's well so far. But why need I have destroyed it at all? The fact cannot long remain hid from hor, as so many hero tako the papor that never took it before, and they all talk. How am I to broak it to her? and how, of all times, at the present, when her innocent young heart is so full of sunshine and joy? Better that I should tell lier myself tlinn that any other should attempt it. Slio shall not go into tlio street to-day to be stoppod by some imbecile gossip nnd half killed or killed outright with the suddenness of tho shook."
xnusspoKe donn Arnold ro niinseii. nis noarc was very heavy within him as ho came out, pulled tho door to after him, and looked it. Tlio table is laid for breakfast, the room decorated with flowers, Darkio sits, washing his faco with bis paws, on the hearthrug, and generally trimming himself up for Oluistmas. John Arnold, with heavy steps and stern countenance, advances to Ills little library case, opens the glass door, and takes down a book. Ho seats himself in tho big chair, regardless of Darkic, who offers a salute by rubbing liis black satiny side up sgaiiiBt him first ouo way and thon the another, purring loudly and con tentedly as tho salute proceeds. John Arnold is to all nppearanco immersed in his hook. Ho docs not read, but keeps on turning over tho leaves as if I10 did. Slio (tho "slio" of our first ohaptcr), enters perfuotly raidant nnd so fresh, so beauti fully noat that no one could have behoved that it was herself who had so reeontly decorated the npartments and prepared tho breakfast, but Nanoy, whoso heart was welling over with joyous anticipation, would have still boon woudrously beautiful oven had she presented the outer signs of toil and fatigue. "Fattier !" she exclaims, getting right behind the oliair, leaning over it and kissing him fondly 011 tlio forehead, " have you not one single word for mo about our decorations? They aro not all they aro meant to ho yot, but to-morrow I promise you you won't know the plaoc, it will ho so gay ; and I have asked Mr. Thomson, who is to bring us soma ferns niul musk, not to gatlior them till lato in tho aftornoon, so that thoy siinll bo frosli and green for Christmas." With tho distinot privilege of an only child — and that a girl — she takes tho book right out of his hands, whioh offer no rosistntico; but, as slio lays it on a side tablo and looks nskanco upon him, sho is struok by the oxprcssion of his conntennnoo, storn and sad, wearing all the outer signs of a severe montal oonflict. " Oil 1 father," ories sho, springing towaids him at tho moment, "You aro not woll. Why did you not toll mo boforo? Hut you don't look so sick as sad. Toll mo what is the matter— do ! Has anything happoned ?" At theso words from Nanoy a lionvy Biglr escaped him in spite of all his cfTovts to com mand himsolf. In tlio midst of this simplo soeno of rural love liness and beauty ; tlio 'roses roposing on their beds of fresh gracn moss on the window scats ; tlio glossy sprnyB of laurel trained artistically noross the tops of tho picture frames ; tho man telpiece 0110 profusion of tho richost and most fragrant . blossomH, nnd tho morning sunsiiino slanting in through the hnlf open windows, tho hum of tlio bees in tho garden, tlio warbling of the birds in tho shritbbory, ail those mnde John Arnold fool moro and more what was tho soli tude' of his position with that untold sooret looked up in liis breast. The beauty of liis surroundings, tho glory of tlio sunsiiino, tlio carol of tho birds, wore all to liim as so many cruel mockeries, bconu.se so inappropriate to his present frame of mind. . " Snpposo now, darling," said John Arnold slowly and tentatively, as if feeling his .way in tlio dark. " Suppose now, that I had met with a great misfortune, ns groat a misfortuno per haps as man could lto called upon to moot, how would it nlfoct you ?" Why ask, father? yon know I would ho sure to fool it oxaatlynsif it had happened to myself." Ohafteh XIV.— The Dead Alxve. - ' — To tho supromo shock suoooedod. a: -period of toarlcss silonoe— a strange condition of soml- oblivion to whioh neither smiles nor- laughter wore utter strangors.' John Arnold had told iter tho wliolo story, but told it after a fashion possiblo only to tlio fondest of fathers and tho olosest of nil earthly friends. : It " scorns questionable had Nriuoy's mother boon nlivo at this tinie whether even her woll considered consolations would havo' proved more satisfying than, tlio tender sympathy 'of John Arnold. Son draws to mother, -' and lias
continued so to do from tho very remotest ages, it is equally truo that between father and daughtor from tho beginning of timo has sub sisted a Birbtlo sympathy whoso doptlis no phil osophy of any ago lias ovor boon nblo to plumb. Lot uslcuvo them here, father and daughter, eaoh nursing an unspoakablo grief, but cnoli in a different way, and turn book onoo moro to tile everyday lifo on Bnrak. Certain nowspnpors, and very muoli so "up- country " journals,- aro not ovor rcmarkablo for noonraoy in thoir reports of tho "sensational." (We did not use tlio word in tho "fifties," but never mind); nnd tlio Muddy Gully Times and Jiorak Advertiser was not at all- an oxooption in this way, ns may ho gathered from tho narrativoota recent attack on tho gold csoort, at a placo about 30 miles north of Borak. -Tlio paragraph, a highly spioed one, related tho story after snoh a fashion that tho surviving troopors scnrcoly know thcmsolvos, and utterly failed to rocogniso tlio cnomy. In or "on" Borak every man of tho escort was woll known, nnd many of tiro troopors woro favorites— nono of thorn moro so than Mnx. So, whon it oamo to bo . repented from mouth to mouth, nfter- sundry readings of tlio paragraph in tlio blnoksmith's shop and in tlio liar of tlio Borak, not to mention tho general store, that Max had been shot through the heart at the very commencement of tlio mdlie, it would have been hard to say wlietlior sorrow or exoitoment had tho freor roin. It was "in print," and therefore must bo true. Alas I tlio pity of it. Nothing olso wns talked of in the long, scram bling, one sided street that day, and the news travelled, as all ill news docs, at tho pas de charge, to tho bark roofod huts porohod up nmong tho olearings on tho flank of tho mountain, and downwards and outwards to . tho dwellers on tho plain. Even tho solitary jambuok-man seated in the shadow of his hand-barrow watch-box out among the braekon, meditated upon it botwaen tho long, slow whilfs of his black pipe, as his faithful lieutenant tho Scotch collie dog kept watch and ward in his stead. Tho courage ovon of Mrs. Downos, of tho general store, was some- wbnt dashed for the moment, though slio waB quito .roady to nver later 011, " that desperate men generally meot desperate ends." John Thomson, tho Oracle, was porhans one of those most shocked, but following out his usual motkod he found tho " dispensation " (as ho termed it) to fit in exactly liko a piooe in a puzzle map among tho strange ooourrencos nnd ovents pre luding tho fall of Borak and tho end of all things human. John Thomson, to tho world at large but a shoemaker who seldom travelled beyond his " last," hid benonth that weather worn " nppor leather " of . his (none of tho thickest either, bo it told) tho spirit of one of nature's - gentlemen, and though by no means givon to salaaming or unnecessary salutation, lie lifted liis bat from his brow witli iustinctiva rovcroneo as he passed tho closed door of tho Arnold's cottage that evening — tho silent liomago of a simplo soul to those within and now prostrate under thoir heavy load of sorrow. It was a wild, if not a wot, night at " The Borak," for there was a "hero" among tho motley and miscellaneous company— a man who had witnsssod tho "scrimmage" between the escort end tlio bushrangers from a tolerably safe distanoo and aotunlly knew all about it or thought ho did. The description, delivered cllipticaily between
sunury raisings or sua glass 1.0 too itps aim umiu cheers and orios of oncourogcmont, was not exnotly couched in military parlance, but perhaps thus all the better suitod to tho general oapaoity of tho andionoc, to whom was dotailod the sur prise prepared for the escort by tho bushrangers and how those foolhardy wretches bad fired upon it from an amhusli in tlio scrub at tiie turn the road makes round the aornor of Jackson's big paddock. How thoy had followed up thoir fire with a badly calculated charge, resulting in two empty saddles ; aiid whioh throw thom into tho midst of a lot of well mounted, well armed and properly appointod men, ho. Staincr, Max's corporal, who had already dis posed of ono of tho attaoking party and was in the not of flourishing his sabre prior to outting down another, was treaokerously shot through the back and foil heavily forward from his ohargor a dead man. "Tharo was a little moro ' fire works 'after this," modestly put in tho narrator, " as woll as a fow dropping shot, but tho bush rangers turned tail and vanished in thosorub. Somo random shots woro Urod after tiiomandtho roar guard of the escort dotaohod in pursuit ; but owing to heavy clouds obscuring tho moon and tlio rough ness of the country, tho roar guard hied back and joined tire escort on tho main road and the whole body with drawn sabres tore along at a hand gallop till tho station was readied. Tlio escort lmd lost one good man in Corporal Staincr, whoso body thoy had in the waggon, two or throo of the troopers had reooived scratches and flesh wounds, but the gold was safe. So, Sor- goant Gay t hor no ami his mon had given a good account of themselves in their first engage ment." " But," put in a voioo from amidst tiro small company and the terribly dense - tobacco olond that overhung all, " but Sergeant Gaythorne himself is shot." "Not a bit of it. Don't yon boliovo it. He cnginoorad the whole affair, kept tho men in hand, sont the fellows off in pursuit and brought tho gold and his brother trooper's body into the station. Sergeant Gaythomo will bo toaring through Borak again to-morrow, and thon you oan soo him for yoursolvos." Tlio soono that succeeded waa fostive and noisy, "alio oak" nnd ship rum flowing like water and ovoryboily wanting to shout for tho horo that neither fought nor ran away. If there wore not many aehing lioartB under tho "Borak" rooftrce towards tho small hours there were many aahing heads, but all this will bo overlooked and forgivon, whan one refloats that tliiB was tho very first revelation, tho cnrliost development of tho war-oorrcspondent in our midst. (to be continued.)