|Chapter Title||15. A RECOVERY. 16. AND LAST. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.|
|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 McCRAE,
CHAPTER XV. A RECOVERY.
When the good news that Max was alive had been duly communicated to John Arnold by our old friend the " Oracle," it produced in him almost the effect of counter shock. In fact, as he himself is reported to have said long afterwards in referring to what his feelings had been on this occasion, "I 'don't know which news
affected me the most, the good or the bad. I had become resigned to the death of Max after the first few days, and when I heard that he was alive , and strong and happy it seemed such a strange thing, altogether ; but when Max himself came in to see me, I felt then almost as if I had seen a ghost, but, I soon recovered myself, and while I thanked God for his deliverance, I directly set about to discover how best to break the news to Nancy and so restore her to her former self. But this I was unable to compass for a very long time." It is to John Thomson that I am indebted for the reminiscence that I have already quoted so far, and I shall continue the sense at all events of his narration, but I shall clothe it in my own words for a few lines yet further. " It was a peculiar feature in Nancy's case that she shed no tears ; she had talked, and sung, and laughed, it is true ; but all in a manner that served to convinoe me of the hollowness of her gaiety. I was compelled to restrain her on different occasions from wandering away out into the bush, and once (it was a terribly trying time for me) she escaped from me altogether, nor was it until after a long and anxious search that I found her at last lying face down among the grass close to the 'source' in the Sassafras Gully, with some newly gathered flowers in one of her clenched hands. When she came more to herself the ruling idea was uppermost - instead of turning the conversation, I chimed in with her and spoke of Max as still living, in faot ww talked about him all the way home. Whenever opportunity offered I spoke of him, and always as of a living man. Her reason which was only shaken, not fled, asserted itself, for she reproached me with attempting to deceive her, but when I asserted that it was possible we had both been deceived she appeared more than half convinced - as welt as sorry for what she had said. I watohed again for a fitting' opportunity, and, following up the advantage I had already gained, undertook to produoe Max to her alive and well within a week's time. She saw now that there was no deception, she flung herself on my neck, sobbing, found relief in a natural flow of tears, and from that moment her cure was assured. She was the old Nancy again, and a load was lifted from my heart. As for me, who writes this, I am no doctor, and I confess myself a profound ignoramus in the treatment of all diseases, physical and mental ; but for all that I feel assured instinctively that John Arnold knew what he was talking about when he asserted that Nancy's cure was thorough and complete. Nancy's laugh was now natural, her step elastic, her interest in household matters, in the garden, in her bees and her flowers, all that it had ever been. Her's was as veritable a resurrection as that of Max himself, after which what reason to say more in the present chapter ? CHAPTER XVI., AND LAST. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. Max and Nancy were happily married at last ; but it it was not on Borak. Truth compels us in limine to confess this much : for there were no decorations on the wedding day in the chapel off the long main street, The village children were not there to peer in at the ceremony through the half open doorway, not Maria and Charlotte, the blacksmith's twins, not little Clara Brown with the big blue eyes and flaxen yellow ringlets, nor indeed any other of the younger folks on Borak. The "Oracle" was not there with a dubious smile on his honest countenance, nor a trite remark touching " mairyin nor given in marriage i thae laiter days o' the warld's heestory." Nor yet the redoubtable Mrs. Downes, of the general store, with upturned eyes and arms extended in well acted horror at the awful denouement. The wedding, a very quiet one, took plaoe actually in Melbourne, at St Peter's, on the hill - St. Peter's as it appeared before the stucco. Nancy was given away by her father, in the shirt collar and costume of the period. There were no bridesmaids, but Max himself, effectively supported by an old brother-cadet, a whilom lieutenant of Austrian cavalry, went through the ceremony with the same earnestness and determination which marks the old service man all the world over ; and, as John Arnold
remarked afterwards, "exactly as he meant it." I who write this was not myself at the wedding, nor, indeed did I figure at the breakfast which followed. I therefore trust I may be forgiven a fragmentary description received second hand from one that was. Max had shortly before the event which crowns our simple story retired from the force. His uncle had been as good as his word, and thus, furnished with ample means, Max had no dread for the future. As for John Arnold, he, too, had found the sweet reward of years of toil and trouble. The old Borak home was broken up, though it cost him a severe struggle to part with the place, considering ail the associations which had endeared it to him and his during so many memorable years. But there certainly did remain this consolation - he was never to be parted from his daughter, who as she advanced in years only served to remind him more and more of the earlier Nancy who had found her rest in the little God's acre among the hills at Borak. To be brief, Max, after a visit with his new-made bride to his uncle in England, settled down to station life on a property he had acquired in the Western district, where a new and most beautiful garden grew into being under Nancy's constant and loving supervision, and where he himself was enabled to indulge his taste for stable building, for horses and for horsemanship to the full. It was my privilege to visit the happy family on several occasions after their thorough establishment on the soil, and I not only always came away the better for it, but I seemed some how to recognise in the old world fragrance of the garden the very air and associations of the older Borak. I missed "Darkie," it is true, among other friends and acquaintances, but for all that I found "Gaythorne " (as Nancy had named the place) simply perfection. The house was large, but without pretension, roomy, with deep verandahs all round, a veritable bungalow, with garden surroundings. The most was made of everything, and the garden nooks abounded in all sorts of pretty contrivances, latticed screens and arbors, rustic chairs and seats, rock work overrun with cactus and houseleek stands for beehives, bowers overhung with matted oonvoivulus and Virginia creeper, while actually singing, rejoioing on it's way between sedges and moss-grown boulders, was a little never- failing stream whose original course Max had succeeded in turning and diverting thither. The forest around it was denser and richer than any about Borak, in short, one found his way out of the garden right into the wild bush. Thero were no neighbours nearer than six miles, and, as Max did not shoot about the homestead, birds and wild animals abounded. The parrots and magpies were quite at home in the garden, while the little olive green bell birds (bell birds are a tradition nowadays), bathed boldly in the garden rivulet and made all the air melodious with their silvery ohimes. The live coal robin and the azure warbler hopped gaily about the walks, perched on the borders, and not infrequently even invaded the verandah. A veritable feast of air, light, color and fragrance, so it was to me. I still adhere to my old fashioned notions, and I find myself so distinctly loyal to my traditions, to past times and friends, and their influences, that I take leave to doubt whether nature, very much assisted by money and art, can ever be the same with primaeval nature suffered to follow her own sweet will after being guided gently in certain directions..' I have carried away with me among sundry other happy memories of Gaythorne the recollection of certain pictures on the wall of the breakfast room. A young Max in a scarlet coat, sash and epaulettes (the epaulettes will fix the period for you), and an older (but still young) Max in the elegant blue and white and silver light cavalry uniform of the old cadet corps ; between those two piotures, a remarkably happy likeness of Nancy herself taken during her visit to England ; but there was yet a living and happy and speaking likeness in the face and figure of an arch, naive little fellow, who, possessing ( as he undoubtedly did ) the better traits of both his parents, reminded me in the most wonderful manner of both Max and Nancy. The paternal instinct was strong in him as I last saw him bestriding John Arnold's walking stick and leading a wild imaginary cavalry charge at a tearing pace down one of the walks of the garden. Max is distinctly repeated in this urchin, but if he favours his father ( as the gossips have it ), he is equally distinctly his mother's boy, and that means a whole world. I never revisited Borak, preferring always to think of it as it used to be in the days of the gum trees and the earlier gold fever, the esoorts, the bushrangers and King Cobb, of the Arnolds and the "Oracle." In fact, I thought of Borak as I once chose to think of a very dear friend of my youth, separated from me for ever by a chain of iron circumstances and 16,000 miles of the mountain and valley series of ocean billows. " Don't send me your photograph, mon cher ; and I promise you absolutely never to send you mine ; let us think of each other always as the boys we were," &c. But, I found myself disillusionised one day by an injudicious friend, who presented me with a sun portrait of an elderly man with marked lines on his face and a grizzled moustaohe. I became interested, painfully so, as we were boys of an age. My own amor propre was also touched, for long custom had familiarised me with the face that presented itself to me in the glass every morning as I shaved myself. Whatever change I may have experienced was thus gradually robbed of more than half its terrors; but when I came to regard myself in the glass again after the adventure of that photograph, I knew myself for an old man, quite as old as my dear old comrade, and with a moustache quite as frosted and grizzled as his. Apropos, I have my Borak recollections upset by another ancient colonist of the "Forties." It is matter of history, so perhaps the reader will bear with me as I tag on here a part of his letter, which will enable us to finish where we began, that is to say, "on" Borak. It is simply a case of "look on this picture and on that" ; I was riding lazily through Borak the other day, pondering over old times as I jogged along with all the well known landmarks rising one by one before me — the eternal hills, rugged and sun smitten as of yore, the ancient and turbid oreck of evil omen still crawling through the valley like a wounded snake. Most of the trees, I observed, and nearly all the underwood had disappeared ; indeed, I seriously questioned as to whether there might be any timber left even in the Sassafras Gully. Wood is brought in from a distance to supply fuel to the furnaces of the stamper batteries, but oftener with a horse and cart than the good old fashioned dray with its long team of bullocks. Borak today is like one vast ant heap, populated by human pismires. Earth and mullock, sand and tailings, piled up in all directions. Windlasses and poppet heads, flag poles, tall chimneys, sheds and tents of every possible pattern, besides numbers of nondescript shanties of sheet iron and canvas rise like so many ghosts above the billowy scene. There has been a ' rush ' here, which will account for the wondrous metamorphosis. " The main street continues to be one sided. Mrs. Downes's general store has been replaced by a smart two-storey erectlon in red brick.
There is a brand new post office of painted wood, also a stout blue stone lockup and quite a respectable police station. Tho old churoh is now a Sunday School, and there are no fewer than five churches or chapels on the flat, where a travelling circus is now encamped. The old Borak Hotel is a thing of the past, and in place of that rowdy, ill favoured and unsavoury house of call for the coaches, we have a large inn with a porte cochere and an inscription in huge block letters of blue and gold running right across its face from end to end, the " Governor Barkly Hotel." Between this and where the old blacksmith's forge used to be (of course, you remember 'the twins !') I sought ( but in vain ) for John Arnold's old cottage and Nancy's lovely garden. In plaoe of the cottage with its rustic greybark roof and winking windows, I discovered a severe angular structure, with a new roof of corrugated iron, and a most aggressive looking spiky finial on the red leaded gable overlooking the road ; the garden, a wilderness and worse, littered all over with broken bottles, scrap metal and outcast sardine tins ; it is occupied by a tinsmith, but the music of his hammering is na pour exchange for the long smooth ' k'ssh ' ( that you once taught me how to spell ) of good old John Arnold's jack plane. A galvanised iron bucket with an iron handle stood by the door, and the remains of some red-rusted iron maohinery blocked one end of the verandah, while a woman with rusty red hair and an iron physiognomy, occupied the doorway, with both arms akimbo. It was a shock certainly, but that soon passed when I remembered that at Gaythorne, Max and Nancy and John Arnold had not only revived all that was once beautiful in Borak, but had added to these, other and rarer beauties, such as the older home with all its loveliness had never possessed." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Here the extract closes, and here the writer with all the slow reluctance of one taking leave of old and familiar friends, draws the curtain across the scene, and gratefully bids the reader who has followed him thus far, a respectful farewell. THE END.