|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||That Fellow Woman. A Kanaka Idyl|
"That Fellow Woman." A KANAKA IDYL.
[WRITTEN FOR THE QUEENSLANDER.]
BY ALICK FLAX.
Like the operculams cast on its strands rises the golden-shored, richly tinted, verdure crested isle called Lackone, one of the New Hebrides, the home of Wa-roo and his intended
bride Ro-tung, also of Wa-roo's dearest friend, Wa-miss and his wife, Ro-bulwell. As their names indicate they were all of one tribe. The Men had been friends from childhood, though certainly a great gap had been occasioned in their companionship by Wa-miss and his young wife's serving a term of three years on a Queensland sugar plantation, whence when our story opens they had only a few weeks before returned—returned, alas! to find their beloved and memory-cherished home robbed of its charms, and with minds constantly reverting to the superior attractions of the land of the brilliant-hued handkerchief, red turkey twill, and variegated-sectioned sunshades, not to speak of the fleshpots of plantation life. Dressed in a stiffly starched linen shirt, and with a crimson tie stuck with a cameo pin, the rest of his apparel in keeping, Wa-miss found it difficult to fraternise with his unsophisticated tountryman, whose sole claim to civilisation consisted, possibly, in a clay pipe minus tobacco, carried through his huge earhole, or perhaps a bunch of tortoiseshell hairpins suspended from the same convenient holdall. Robulwell too, recognising in clothing an important factor in the state of civilisation, knew that when her ostrich feathers, gay clothing, and the miscel laneous stock in her red-painted box were exhausted she could no longer maintain her proper position in society, and that with them must perish the (esthetic airs in which at present she was privileged to indulge. Then indeed would the Byronio fate, "among them, but not of them," be theirs. Bo Wa-Miss and Ro-bulwell agreed that whenever a recruiting sohooner hove in sight they would be ready to shake from off their feet the dust of their native island, and return to the higher life of a Queensland sugar plantation. In the meantime, however, they had made a convert of Wa-roo, who at the time was courting Ro-tung, and inspired him with a strong desire to accompany them thither, their descriptions of Queensland having conveyed the idea that there gorgeous handkerchiefs were stripped like leaves from the trees, trees whose pods were filled with beads of many hues, and that white moleskins came up like mushrooms. It is not surprising that courtship conducted on a Bcale of inducements so superb came quickly to a successful issue, for only as a boy's Wife might a Mary be recruited. Thus it came to pass that the stones and grass which Wa-roo bad collected with an eye
* All right* reserved.
to a future residence were now passed by in proud disdain, whilst 80-tang, as she steamed delicate fish on stones over a hot spriing, listened, elated, to Kobulwcll describing, as she reclined on the soft grass, the manner in which whitefellow Marys were married, and promising to lend her, on her wedding day, certain articles of dress that would make her the envy of the island. She kept her word, and Ro-tung appeared on the occasion in a blue cotton frook, with a crimson border; a tall plush hat on her head, over which waved a soft ostrioh feather, and for the first time in her life protecting herself from the sun's rays with a yellow holland parasol; moreover, at the cost of no little agony, with her feet encased in a pair of elastic side boots. The native marriage ceremony was varied by Wa-miss and 80-bulwell producing their prayer-books, which they affected to read with silent solemnity, though as far as the wedding feast was concerned " one touch of nature makes the whole world kin" seemed fully exemplified. Shortly afterwards the recruiting schooner, the Borough Belle, bore away our four friends, together with many others. In about six weeks' time they anchored at the Molaston wharf, where the sohooner's arrival was wit nessed by a motley throng. A bevy of tho unemployed, adhering like oysters to the un protected planks right to the water's edge, afterwards hurled uncomplimentary speeches, with "slavery" for their keynote, and greeted with a storm of hisses any attention bestowed on the new arrivals. These malcontents were flanked by representatives of a dozen alien races, mudlarks, larrikins, and society in general, sprinkled with a few of the town elite. On the voyage, in the seclusion .of the women's compartment, Ro-tung and Ro-bul well had cemented their friendship, the former receiving instruction in pigeon English, and being initiated into the ways of the new world with due reverence and respect for her instruot ress, little dreaming that at hand was a day when if Ro-bulwell were struggling for dear life in the waves below she might perish ere Ro-tung would stretch out a helping hand. Alas that, as in Var-ris the burning mountain, the smoke from whose summit was the last token seen of her childhood's home, a fire should be kindled within her bosom which, gradually fanned, would one day burst its bonds, and carry destruction before it! "How eu do, Mr. Bowen? You quite well?" said Wa-miss. Mr. Bowen wa3 one of three or four planters who had chartered the Borough Belle, and who had now oome on board with the Government officials to have the recruits allotted. Turning quickly on hearing himself addressed Mr. Bowen at onoe recognised Wa miss, who had served his former time on his plantation. " Hallo, Wa-miss! You been come back ?" he exclaimed, accepting the boy's proffered hand, an action extremely satisfactory to the boy, though his native dignity supported him. " Yes, me come back," he replied with a non chalant upraising of his chin, as if Queensland was not on that accouut to think too highly of itself. "You no been stop long time. Me think yon no like him that island belong you. You like him Molaston more better ?" This question was not to be answered rashly, for away from his island home Wa-miss meant to uphold its importance. Meditatively he extended his foot to a bit of coral lying on the deck, and nimbly seizing it between his toes he hurled it backwards over the schooner's side as he replied, Adam-like: "Me think missis belong me like him this fellow more better. She no get him new boot, new hat, 'long my country." Then occurred a happy thought, "No plenty fellow church stop 'long island. Me plenty like him go 'long church." "Ah!" smilingly acquiesced Mr. Bowen. " Yes; church very good ; plantation good; plenty bullocky very good too. Eh! Wa-miss ?" " 'Long my country plenty pig, fish, coco- nut, stop," persisted the patriotic islander, adding in an aside, " Me think Mr. Bowen very good. Me come 'long plantation belong you again. Me think suppose yon talk 'long Government you make him all right." "All right, Wa-miss; me look out. You been very good boy. Me look out you oome 'long Yakham plantation 'long me again." " Suppose," continued the kanaka, "me go 'long you, me want mate be long me, and wife belong him come. He no been long time married 'long Ro-tung, and hitching into notice a boy who had been hooked on by each one's little finger, but who had turned bashfully aside when told " big fellow master been come up," he said " This Wa-roo. He great friend belong me." " Very good, you want four fellow come 'long me. You, your mate, and two fellow missis," said Mr. Bowen, looking towards the women and recognising Ko-bulwell, whose arm was thrown affectionately round Ro-tung's shoulders. Wa-miss nodded his head. " What else you want, my boy ?" " Wa-roo and Ro-tung no been see town belong whitefellow. Me think first time very good, we stop one week 'long Frenchman's boarding-house. By-and-by we come 'long Yakbam. First time me think very good you lend two pound 'long me. Me no got money." Mr. Bowen smiled and plunged his hand into his pocket, producing thence a miscellaneous collection, out of which he picked two gold coins and a bit of tobacco, which he handed to Wamiss. " Thank'eu," was the boy's brief acknowledg ment, but Mr. Bowen, acquainted with the high sense of honesty of the race, required no more. So our friends lingered in town, though the majority of the recruits, either on foot or perched on the top of returning waggons, de parted at once for the plantations. Walking from the wharf Wa-roo and Ro tung looked in vain for signs of the expected splendours, but nothing but gaunt sugar stores and public-houses, whose joys were unknown to them, met their gaze. Turning into the principal street, however, they knew that they had not voyaged over the sea in vain. There in the windows were hats, boots, and parasols,
whilst about the doorways flutterod gay handkerchiefs and prints in plenty. Wa-roo and Ro-tung rejoiced to think that in a few months they would be in a position to pick and choose amongst these gorgeous things. Wa-miss, who knew the ropes, led them to a shop specially fitted for attracting the kanakas. In its doorway stood Mr. Brian and his wife, while their children played on the pavement. The whole family appeared to have grown fat and rosy on the trade, their rubicund complexions vieing with their wares in brilliancy. Wa-miss and Ro-bulwell were at once recog nised as old customers, whose red-boxes had been bought and fitted out but a few months before at the store. During the conversation that ensued Wa-miss was given to understand that his name was good for any amount of "tick," but he contented himself with in vesting a few shillings cash only, and that for the benefit of hie friends. As they sauntered about the streets many turned to gaze at them. The men were finely formed handsome fellows, walking with shoulders well thrown baok, and with coun tenances that knew no fear, and looking every bit lords of creation. Their Marys were both pretty, though Ro-tung was the younger and fresher-looking. Alas! to think that the green-eyed monster jealousy should glide in, and destroy all harmony, and that poor Ro-tung, without shadow of reason, should be chosen its victim. But thus it was. What more natural than that, for the time, Wa-miss should devote his experience for Ro-tung's benefit, and that consequently Ro-bulwell should take that lady's ignorant husband under her care ? It was all done in good faith. How then could Ro-tung be such a little fool as to doubt her husband or her true friend Ro-bul well? The party sometimes divided, but always in pairs. One afternoon when they were all re united at the boarding-house, Wa-roo and Bobulwell displayed as the result of their day's work a photograph, in which Ro-bulwell was seen seated in a flowery patterned chair, whilst beside her stood Wa-roo with a hand spread liberally on her shoulder. Ro-tung said nothing, but from that time every trifle was converted into food for Tho green-eyed monster, which doth mock The meat it feeds on, till the poor girl firmly believed that her young husband had transferred his affections to the more cultured Ro-bulwell. Never for one moment did it occur to her that the attentions of Wa-miss were equally open to be miscon strued. Indeed her great dark eyes would have expanded considerably at such an in sinuation. On their last evening in town the whole party went with many other kanakas to the circus. Notwithstanding the glittering glory of the show Ro-tung never permitted herself to smile, but with over-clouded face watched the childlike mirth of her husband and Ro-bulwell, who was evidently exerting herself to explain the different situations to her companion. Wa-miss was similarly engaged for the benefit of Ro-tung, but with results so different that he at last exclaimed: "Me think, Ro-tung, you no like him this country. Me think very good you stop 'long island altogether," and Ro-tung not seeming to understand, he repeated the remark in their native tongue. In truth the poor girl's thoughts were back there in her old home. She was thinking of the happy days when Wa-wo was courting her in the cool 'shade of the spreading cocoanut tree, or floating in a gaily painted oanoe on the Te-sul, before her Eden was destroyed by the return of the fashionable Ro-bulwell. " Mother, here are Wa-miss and Ro-bulwell!" exclaimed Connie Bowen, a bright golden haired girl of 14, the next morning at break fast, and looking towards the door the Bowen family beheld the pair enter— sans oeremony. A warm welcome was accorded them and their friends, and compliments paid on their part anent the growth of the younger children, with whom Wa-miss and Ro-bulwell were on a familiar footing, as they had for a long time been house servants, and then Mrs. Bowen told them to go to the kitchen, and have breakfast, Connie, the loquacious, first of all inquiring "Why for Wa-miss you no write him letter 'long island tell me you soon come back? Father been get him new chum come along England other day. He stop do him work belong you. Me no like him. Ho no all the same you." " Never mind," said her father. " Wa-miss is a good hand in the mill. I will put him in charge of a centrifugal, and Ro-bulwell can sew up the sugar bags. We must not have them to work in the house." " Why, there are Wa-miss and the others picnicking under the mangoes," reported Connie a few minutes later, who had sauntered on to the veranda. The whole family followed her down the broad wooden 3teps and out into the garden. "What for you no eat 'long table 'long kitchen veranda?" inquired Connie. Wa-miss silently cut away at his meat till, the question being repeated, he replied, " Me, Ro-bulwell, no like eat 'long same table 'long new chum. No use him knife and fork. Suppose he no got knife and fork, then very good he eat him meat all same this," and the boy held a bit of meat daintily between his fingers and broke off a morsel. "He no eat that way," he continued, "he eat all same this" —and distending his eyes he took the juicy steak in his hands and rent it with his teeth. "Me think that no good," he said. "That fellow all same wild beast." Now the truth of the matter was that Wa-miss and Ro-bulwell had gone to the table, where in times gone by they had been accus tomed to have their meals, and proceeded to help themselves from the liberal supply thereon. The other two kanakas, indeed, had already seated themselves, when husband and wife, as they glanced towards the new chum seated at the same table, exchanged horrified glances as they discovered that unaccustomed to an ample supply of beef, and evidently unwilling to lose any of its substance, he was devouring it in the manner described, frowning
meanwhile on the new comers. Ro-bulwell thereupon disengaged her toe from the leg of a chair, which she was about to drag to the table, and Wa-miss taking possession of some plates of food, calmly suggested : " Me think very good we ki-ki 'long garden," and so the polished immigrant was left in sole possession, quite satisfied that the thunder on his brow had dispersed his unwelcome visitors. The Bowen family continuing to discuss the situation, Connie gave it as her opinion " that it would be* well for England to civilise her half-starved immigrants before sending them out to shock even kanakas," while her brother Johnny added, " Wa-miss, me think very good you and Ro-bulwell go 'long that country teach people ki-ki 'long knife and fork." " Johnny, don't you think it is time to be off to school? There may still he something left for you to learn," saiA Mr. Bowen by way of calling to order his Australian-born children. "Yes, father, I am off," replied Johnny, adding in an aside, " Wa-miss, very good you tell him, William, suppose he want ki-ki* all same that, sugar-cane very good ki-ki." " And it is time for me, too, to be down at the mill," 6aid Mr. Bowen. William, the immigrant, being summoned appeared, leading up Mr. Bowen's horse with the bit reversed, but before handing his master the bridle he said in an aggrieved tone, " Mr. Bowen, Hi ham blowed if Hi ham goin' to eat at the same table as those black slaves of yours. Hi be a Hinglishman, and not haccustomed to such society. Honly I frightened away the black savages they woutd 'aye sat down hat the same table has myself, a Hinglishman and a Christian." "Very well," replied by Bowen in a con ciliatory voice; " very well, William, I pro mise you they shall not be asked to do so again." Unconscious of the mild satire William followed the retreating figure with the con temptuous remark in an undertone, "Hi should think not! You bloomin' hold slave driver." (to be concluded.)