|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Our Bush Parson, and the Great Flood of the Darling River.|
Our Bush Parson, and the Great Flood of the Darling River.
BY "A BUSH NATURALIST."
(Continued from last issue.) Chapter X.
IMPRISONMENT -- EXTRACTS FROM ADELAIDE'S DIARY. "AUGUST 17TH.--This is the third day since dear papa left us, and he not returned. Mamma is very anxious and afraid that some accident has be fallen him, but neither Ettie nor myself think that it is likely. Papa is too experienced in bushcraft, too self reliant, to be easily beaten by difficulties; the most probable explanation of his not return the pine ridge and so has reached the out station but finds it utterly impossible to get back again. Unfortunately all the blacks have gone away to a grand corobboree down the river, so we are not likely to get any word at all from him. I wonder how long this flood will last. The lake is even now higher than dear mamma ever saw it in all the many years she has been here; it has risen fully 20ft. since papa left, and there is a regular creek running out of it by the men's hut. "August 18th. -- No papa returned, and poor mamma walked about all last night, for it is evident to her that he cannot possibly get back. Ethel and I yesterday put a stick in the lake at the edge of the water and marked it, so that we can tell the daily rise; it only rose 4ft. yes terday, but over such a level country this extra 4ft. makes a great difference; the tops of many little islands are now gone and the general limits of the lake are hidden under one sheet of water. Only the high sandridges on the east side, about two miles from us, are to be seen. I wonder where he is? Oh! it is so long since he was here. The last letter he sent to papa was from Melbourne and dated only three weeks ago, and he said he was coming up direct and as quickly as he could, and there was something in the tone of his letter which started me thinking of him again. Oh! how foolish I am; how I have tried for two long years to crush out this in fatuation; and I thought I had done it, and I will, yes, I will do it. Latterly his visits have been only for a few days, and then he is off on his journey again, as if glad to get away. Surely he cannot suspect that I -- no that he can never do, for I have never given him even the slightest hint of it. How I wish he had not come to blight our happy home; and yet after all I am glad he came. "August 23rd. -- Five days since my last entry; the water is still rising and encroaching upon us in our island prison. Mamma is better; feels certain now that papa is at the out-station, but wishes he was here, and so do we all, for it is so dreary and disheartening; yet Ettie is as jolly as ever, but says "it is awful mopy work; wouldn't mind it a bit if Ned Stratheley was with us or "the parson," as he calls Mr. Calley, and says she "should not wonder if he was to turn up some how." In reply to my question whether it was Mr. Stratheley she thought might come to us, she said, "Ned! oh no, he has got enough work to put his sheep and station to rights, even if the flood has now left him. No, I mean Mr. Calley; he has the faculty of turning up in a way just the opposite to what you would expect in a par son. Don't you remember the day of his first arrival here in the four-in-hand, which we took to be the P.M.'s; as if I had ever forgotten that fatal night! Ettie little knows what cause I have to remember that evening. "Well," continued Ettie, and I almost smile as I write it down, "I should not be at all surprised to see him swim here, and I wish he would come, for it is very lonely." "Nonsense, Ettie," I replied; "how could a man swim over this ocean of water?" "Oh, well, Parson Noah got caught in a bigger flood than this and he made an ark; and our parson is no fool." Strange how these silly words of dear Ettie's pleased me. What if they should be prophetic? but it really is silly to think of it. The water is rising fast.; it is up 10ft. since we put the stick in, but yesterday it only rose a foot. Another rise of 10ft. perpendicular and it would reach up to the house, but we did not think it possible; the whole country is so level that a rise of even one 1ft. now means a spread of that depth over thousands of square miles of country. "September 3rd. -- Ten days since my last entry. Oh! this dreary, dreary flood; the water is still rising, not now by the foot but inch by inch; this we hope shows that the climax is nearly reached. The little round patch of sand-hill upon which we are is all the land visible, except the other similar patch on the high land at the other side of the lake. What a sea of still, dead water! current there apparently is none, I suppose the expanse is too great to cause it, and it is this silent, insidious, ever-encroaching approach of the water that is beginning to prey upon our minds. Mamma is getting quite nervous, and twenty times a day we will step out to the edge of this ocean and put in a bit of stick in the hope that the next time we look it will be left dry. Alas! it is always the other way; step by step, creeping along like some hideous reptile determined to envelope us in its folds, ever onward, upward, it comes. The sight of it by day chills and depresses us, the thought of it haunts our dreams at night. Even the light-hearted Ettie is breaking down. I try to reason with mamma on the matter, point out that we have no need to be anxious, that it is just what we had expected; that we have pro visions in abundance, that the store is even on higher land than the house, and the stables fully 10ft. higher still, being quite on the crown of the ridge; and that it is not now at all likely that the whole hill will be covered, and that if it was we should still have the loft of the stable to live in, so that really there is no danger apart from the nervous tension induced by the peculiarity of our position and the silent encroachment of our assailant. Fortunately we have no cow or horse, or on our acre of an island the poor thing would have starved. The fowls are the only living things beside us three poor deserted women. There is no possible chance of Mr. Calley coming now. "September 10th. -- Another week has passed, a week of weary, weary anxiety. Oh! if this continues much longer I shall go mad. Poor, poor mamma has quite broken down, will not allow us to even speak of papa; not a soul have we seen since the day he left us, never I am afraid to see us again. Dear, dear father!
the thought will intrude that he might not have got out of the flooded land. Oh, if this is so! The water is now up to the front of the house. Ettie and I were busy to day making a little embankment to keep it from the front verandah if it should rise any higher. We can still walk out at the back to the kitchen and up to the stables and along the sand ridge a little way; the top of the woolshed roof can be just seen, the bark is however nearly all floated away; the men's huts have long ago been under the water, and the stockyards are quite covered, only the hideous gallows of the slaughter-yard is towering above the flood, and the rope dangling from the cross beam adds to the dismal surroundings of our miserable existence. Another danger threatens us, vermin of all sorts are taking refuge on our island. We do not mind the gaunt looking, poor, starved kangaroo, paddy melons, and bandicoots, but the bush rats and the snakes make for our house, and in spite of all our precautions manage to get in. Fortunately papa brought us up not to be frightened of snakes, and we keep a spade handy on purpose to kill them with. Poor things, they seem quite cowed with this universal danger, and not as vicious as usual. What a strange flood this is—how different to what we have always read of Australian floods! It is now three weeks since papa left us and the water has ever since gradually, gradually, encroached. How little he thought when he bid us good-bye of the long anxious separation we should have! Ettie has just told me that she thinks the water has gone down half-an-inch since yesterday, but she can't be quite certain. Oh! joy, joy, if this is so; if the end has at last begun to come. Why, why, do I so foolishly keep thinking of Mr. Calley coming? As soon expect a miracle to happen, an angel to appear, as for any man to find out our little sand-island in this the interior sea of Australia." Now I will cease intruding upon the private pages of the diary and take up my story from the day after the entry last quoted. "Addie! Addie ! mamma! mamma !" exclaimed Ettie, rushing into the house from the hill, "look, there is a canoe and some one in it." "Where, where, Ettie?" they asked,and all gazed upon the waters, but nothing could be seen. "I am certain I saw it, quite certain," said Ettie. "It was at the far side of the lake, near the opposition island; there it is—look—just coming out of that bunch of box tree tops which have never been under water, and see it is coming across the lake to us ;" and the young girl clapped her hands and danced and kissed her mother and sister, and they were all happy for they felt sure that it would be a black fellow with a message from their papa. Addie stepped in and got the glass and was already taking a long look at the canoe. "Who is it ? Addie; do tell us. Is it old Dick, or Jimmy, or Bullocky?" But Adelaide did not reply, and Ettie turned impatiently towards her, and then saw that a flush, a colour, had spread over those cheeks which had been pale now for many a long month, and she tenderly said," Ah! Addie, dear, my good kind old sister, did I not tell you he would come? he indeed is a man worth having. Let me have the glass." " Who is it, Ettie? Is It your father?" " No, mamma, it is Mr. Calley." And Mrs. Mason wondered exceedingly, but Adelaide quietly slipped into the kitchen and looked to the fire and the kettle.
CHAPTER XI. THE BUILDING OF THE ARK. "AND the waters prevailed and were increased greatly upon the earth, and all the high hills that were under the whole heavens were covered. And the ark went upon the face of the waters." These were the words of Holy Writ that fell from the lips of our hero-parson as he stood and gazed at the liquid expanse before him; then he added, "With God's help I will do it." And what was this scheme which he had con ceived—had not mentioned to Dicky—but which now that he saw the difficulties before him he determined to put into execution? It was simple enough in idea, being merely to cut a canoe from the bark of a tree and by its means reach Ulolo; but, reader, wait till I have ex plained what this meant, and you will admire the courage and determination of the under taking. Many who read this have no idea of the kind of canoes that the once numerous natives of the Murray and Darling districts were in the habit of using, and may imagine them to have been like the comfortable and comparatively safe constructions of the blacks of Northern Queensland, or similar to those which are seen in pictures of savage scenes in other lands. Nothing could be farther from the mark. There are no inhabitants on the earth whose naval architecture is in such a rudimentary state as is that of the inhabitants of interior Australia. These primitive vessels are merely an oval sheet of bark cut from a gum or box tree the trunk of which has a slight curve, inclination, or bulge; this when carefully taken off so as to be free from cracks, and the sides kept from curling up by two cross sticks, has consequently a slight depression in the centre, corresponding exactly to the natural bulge of the tree; and, as the nature of the bark will not allow of any attempt to arti ficially force it into ship-shape, it remains, in truth, nothing more than a flat bark tray, say 12ft. long by 3ft. broad, and when it is loaded with only two persons the sides will often be not more than two inches out of the water, the stern, moreover, being frequently so flat, through the difficulty of getting a tree with a curve at both ends, that the water is only kept out by a little wall or dam of mud, some 3in. in height, made upon the bark. In just such frail craft the blacks travel long distances, propelling the boat by a long pointed pole used on alternate sides, and the person propelling must stand up to do it. The slightest loss of balance, and over the whole thing goes. It takes much practice for a white man to become skilful enough to work one, and I myself have had many a duck ing in the attempt. The smallest of waves are of course fatal to this shallow shell, even ripples must be avoided, and it is only in calm weather, or in an extra large canoe, that a black will venture upon one of the lakes or larger expanses of water when only a light breeze is blowing. Now to cut and manage such a frail ship re quires some blackfellow's art, therefore our hero had brought little Dicky—now grown to youth—with him. Also our parson knew well
that trees suitable for stripping generally grew near the main river, or on some permanent billabong, or round some annually flooded lake, neither of which he expected to find so far from the real channel; and this it was that made him so doubtful of the scheme that he did not care to speak of it till he actually got to the flood waters. But he knew also that a small inferior canoe, cut out of flooded box, could perhaps be got somewhere near the edge of the flood, and he now determined to look out one and start even in it till opportunity occurred of getting a better. During that night's camp by the edge of the water having thought out his plans, next morn ing when his little black friend asked, " Which way we yan now ?" he quietly said, " Ulolo, Dicky: mine think it best fellow cut 'em canoe." Dicky's eyes opened wide at this announce ment, and he quickly replied, "Baal waddy" (no trees). But our parson hinted that he might "find little fellow waddy," and by-and-by get a bigger when on their journey. So the morning was devoted to hunting for a tree ; which meant wading up to the arm-pits over flooded flats, now swimming, now splashing through bog. At last Dick's sharp eyes detected a likely clump of trees growing by a small island which the flood had not reached. Dicky rather jibbed upon the " big fellow bogie," but when he saw his master strike out to swim across the wide sheet of water he did so too. A very fair tree was there found, and Dicky standing upon the shoulders of his master soon with his sharp tomahawk cut round the bark to the required shape ; they then slipped it carefully off, and had the satisfaction of finding that it was large enough to carry them both. It was late in the day when the camp was reached, and the start was therefore deferred till the morrow. That night, John Calley gave very earnest thought as to his perilous journey, for his posi tion was difficult; he had come on an unknown track across the country and so could not say exactly where he was; he only knew he was on the Darling flood waters, but how far from the main river he could not tell—the distance might only be five miles, but most probably was twenty. Then again he had purposely aimed to hit the river some distance above Ulolo in order that he might have the advantage of the current. He reckoned that he ought then to be thirty miles higher up than the station; if so all might be well; but if he was wrong and should be below it, then his excursion would be a failure, for he could not possibly work his way up against the flood. Ulolo and its outstations were on the other or far side of the Darling, consequently the main river had to be crossed. But why this excessive desire to get to Ulolo? Why could not the journey be put off, at anyrate, until the flood subsided ? The answer to these questions will be given presently; in the mean time the question the parson put to himself was: Sup pose there should be no one remaining at the station, what would he do then? This thought when reasoned over he dismissed as improbable, for he knew that the station was on high ground and that there really would be no occasion for Mr. Mason to trouble bis wife with the dis comforts of moving; he would most likely do as the majority of the station owners up the river had done—wait patiently at home till the water went down; but our hero little thought that the ladies were alone, or he would indeed have been anxious. But why this hurry? Well, reader, the simple reason was that a great change had come over his future prospects; one of those changes which are a turning point in the events of a man's life; and this was his farewell visit to his friends prior to his immediate departure for England and wealth, and he wanted—to take Adelaide with him.
CHAPTER XII THE ARK UPON THE WATERS. It was a lonely spring-morning when the parson and his little black friend stepped into their frail bark. Previously to doing so John Calley had unhobbled the horses, placed all the saddles up in a tree out of the way of native dogs, packed in a swag the blankets and every article of clothing, except such as could not possibly be done without, and to this he attached a note, stating where he was going, as well as his mode of transport, and requesting the finder to take horses and saddles to any station, until word could be sent to him. It was this plant that the manager of flash Banga same across, and when he read the note and looked over the flooded land, and thought of the folly and hope lessness of the undertaking, no wonder he re turned to Balranald and said that they had seen the last of their much honored bush parson. In these frail canoes, all but the one propel ling it must sit down; this is easy enough for a blackfellow, who can tuck his legs under him and sit a la Turk, but our hero soon found it a most cramp-creating and uncomfortable position. Before the very slightest change could be made a halt had to be called, and Dicky would have to steady the canoe by holding on to a tree top, or a turn-over it would have been. At last he found out that the easiest position was lying full length on his side, with his head and arm resting on the swag, and of course the full control of the piloting was left to Dicky. The route de cided upon was to go West till the main river was reached, and then down it, trusting to memory to be able to indentify the different bends or reaches—a very difficult matter when nothing but tree tops were to be seen above water. For an hour or so all went well, then the ex treme probability of an upset, through coming in contact with floating logs or semi-submerged trees, became so apparent that a stoppage was made and precautions taken in this way: a light line, which had been used on land for the tent, was fastened securely to the prow of the canoe, coiled up carefully, the end looped and left all handy to be gripped by Dicky, who was to catch hold of it if a capsize did occur; they would thus have a hold of their boat, and by swimming to the nearest tree could pull it up and again float it. The provisions and matches were carefully packed in the waterproof canvas bag in which they were always carried on the pack-horses, and to this another looped line was attached, and it was our hero's duty to do the same by this precious swag as Dick did by the boat. Dick was, of course, naked as he was born, and John Calley, clergyman though he was, had discarded boots and all overclothing, being clad only in
trousers and a Crimean shirt banging loose out side the trousers:—when swimming with clothes on, every man should take this precaution; even if called upon to hurriedly jump in to save a drowning person, there is always time to pull out the shirt, it is more important than even taking off the coat, for the tucked in shirt acts exactly like what boatmen call a drogue, and retards the swimmer greatly. For a long distance the journey was over lands flooded to the tops of the taller saltbushes and polygonum scrubs; this latter plant, abbreviated into "lignum," is a most curious production. I can compare it to nothing so aptly as to a con fused mass of bundles of fencing wire which have burst their bands, and are twisted and twined in every direction till they make a heap, varying in all intermediate sizes, from that of a hay cock to that of a blown-over hay-stack. These bundles of wiry scrub cover thousands of square miles of the flooded lands of interior Australia, giving a most dreary tone to the landscape: they are a certain sign of flooded lands, like the blue-bush of Northern Interior Queensland; wherever either of these two plants is seen, some day or other the flood will come, or surface water will lodge for a considerable time. Cattle are very fond of the young shoots of both, and in dry seasons on the Darling this "lignum," passed through a chaff-cutter, is found to be excellent feed for horses. To ride through a bush is impossible, but by following the cattle tracks the horseman can wind his way round the bushes. The long vines from these sub merged bushes our canoeists found very danger ous, for, when the boat suddenly shot over one of these scrubby flats, the outlying long twigs of this well-named polygonum (many knotted) would entwine around the canoe and the danger of an upset was imminent. A capsize when over one of these thickets would be fatal, for swimming would be difficult and the canoe would become too entangled to be raised again. So, whenever lignum shoots were seen, Dicky would do his best to avoid them. After a time a broad channel was struck, only to be recognised as a channel by the avenue-like appearance of the trees on each side. As it was evidently an ana-branch of some importance they decided to go down it, for the current ran strongly in the direction in which they wanted to go. Dicky's work was now easy; our hero, too, felt much less anxious, for there was none of the horrid lignum, and the floating logs, travelling as they were in the same direction as the canoe, were by no means so dangerous. Things thus went on smoothly, and about 3 o'clock they came to the first land they had seen since leaving port in the morning; it was a small sand-hill with a patch of mallee upon it, so they both joyfully determined to camp for the rest of the day and the night. That lonely camp on this little isolated island hillock, among this dreary waste of water —how difficult for the reader to realise it! The bright fire cast its glimmer over the immediately sur rounding waters, rendering by its contrast more dark still the huge enveloping outer circle of sea. Little Dicky, after his hearty supper, lay down and was soon sound asleep, but John Calley for long paced that lonely hill, meditating on the strangeness of his surroundings and this grand demonstration of Nature's power. He was not nervous, although the wind howled through the few pines on the ridge, and the heron's harsh croak was heard in the distance. The horrid snarl of the opossums which had congregated for safety on these island trees, the whistle of the wild duck as it flew rapidly along, the deep "dong" of the bull-frog—he heard, but recog nised in them only the voice of Nature, with whom he delighted to have such an intimate and solitary communion. Did he doubt the successful accomplish ment of his undertaking? No. For this night's deep communion with Nature had given him an accession of strength, an increase of self-reliance —that godly gift from God to man—the power to say, " I will do it," and it is done!
Chapter XIII THE GROUNDING OF THE ARK. SPACE will not admit of my minutely detailing the events of this adventurous voyage of our parson. I must hurry on to the end of my story, and only tell how, day after day for four days, the ark was guided over the waters. The long billabong they first came into was followed to its junction with the main river, which then was travelled down till on the bank on one side were seen the half-submerged huts of a station, which, being on low ground, had been aban doned. This place was well known by the voyagers, and for the first time since starting they became aware of their position. The relief to our hero's mind was very great, for now he knew that in some thirty miles of the river's course they would come to the billabong that flowed into and filled Ulolo. Their dangers were many, their discomforts very great; one after noon a wind sprang up, and twice was the shallow tea-tray of bark swamped by the little waves, and but for the precaution of the lines attached a cold grave would have been the portion of our brave parson and his faithful black friend. Snakes struggling to escape from this widespread invasion again and again tried to take shelter in the little ark; the dead bodies of sheep, horses, cattle, and marsupials drifted by them, or were seen entangled in the branches of the trees; the only living creatures that seemed perfectly happy were the herons. It was on the evening of the fourth day that they camped on a little sandhill at the mouth of the Ulolo billa bong, and it was on the fifth morning that the canoe was seen by the imprisoned inmates of the station just as it entered the lake at the opposite sandhills. When this wide expanse of clear water —this space upon which there were no tree-tops to be seen—opened upon their view, John Calley's heart beat high with the excitement of the success of his bold project. His eye wandered around for some signs of humanity, but the sharp vision of the black had been before him, for he excitedly said, "Whitefellow sit down along a station!" and he pointed to the curling smoke from the chimney, the result of Adelaide's fire. Straight across the lake they struck, heed less of the waves that might at any moment arise on this unsheltered sheet of water. "See, Misses! three fellow Misses, sit down!" (" Sit down" is blackfellows' pigeon
English for "are there;" it is invariably used when talking to a white man); and John Calley looked, and recognised the three ladies of the household, and wondered greatly as to where the men of the station could be. "Push along, Dicky," he said, and the little fellow made his pliant paddle bend with his ex ertions. "Only a half-mile more and yet no men to be seen about. Things look bad, but the ladies seem all right for they are all at the edge of the water," thought our hero as he gazed at the land which they were now rapidly nearing. Adelaide he noticed standing quietly, her mother leaning upon her shoulder; but Ethel was wildly waving a handkerchief—a signal which was answered from the canoe by the parson placing his old wide-awake hat on the pole and little Dicky flourishing it about. The bark gets nearer, only another hundred yards; five minutes more, and the ark rests upon the island. And now, strangely, most strangely, for the first time since his dangers commenced, although they are now all over, does John Calley feel nervous. The self-reliance, that godly gift he had boasted of, was gone, simply because he stood before the woman he loved!
Chapter XIV. CUPID AT ULOLO. The appearance of our parson as he stepped out of the canoe and heartily shook hands with his friends was rather different to that of the well-dressed young gentleman who jumped so smartly out of the four-in-hand baggy on the day we first made his acquaintance. Now he was without boots or socks, coat, waistcoat, or neck tie, and he stood before his lady friends with his bare feet protruding from beneath a pair of mud-stained trousers, with a torn saturated shirt on his back, a limp shapeless old wide-awake hat upon his head. The warm friendly greeting he received was full recompense for all his troubles; and as for the three deserted inhabitants of the island they indeed felt a relief simply indescrib able. It was not long before our hero was satisfying his hungry longings by eating " his hardest," as he termed it, of the meal which Adelaide's fore thought had provided; but he had first slipped into the store, and was now encased in a genuine station rig of brand new mole trousers and red Crimean shirt, socks and blucher boots; certainly a most unclerical style of costume, but one which nevertheless was exceedingly comfortable. Explanations were now given on both sides as to the troubles and difficulties gone through, and when John Calley heard of the absence of Mr. Mason he at once determined that he would that afternoon build a flat-bottomed boat out of the loose pine boards with which the loft of the stable was floored, and on the morrow row over to the out-station and bring back Mr. Mason with him. With this boat and the pair of oars that were in the corner of the store he did not doubt that he could reach the back country in one day, for he knew well the direction to take. It is needless to say how delighted all were at this prospect of seeing the head of the household again. Little Dicky had not been forgotten by the girls; he also was rigged out in a white pair of moles and blue shirt, and, having been given "a big feller tuck-out, no gammon," he had retired to the stable for a coil, totally unmindful of any merit in having so faithfully helped his master to overcome the difficulties of the flood. It was evening time at Ulolo—the evening of the day on which the parson had joined the long-imprisoned inmates. It was one of those calm lovely nights so general in that region. The vast expanse of water around tempered the heat, and all the prisoners were sitting in the easy chairs on the verandah, chatting. The water had receded an inch or two, the turn of the tide had just begun, but the very edge of the verandah was still lapped by the miniature waves of this lately-formed sea. The boat—or rather punt —was built; it had not taken John Calley long to do that bit of carpentering. Dicky was delighted with it, and being left to apply some hot pitch and tar—of which there is always plenty upon a sheep-station—to the seams, had improved his opportunity by giving it a liberal daubing all over, and in the process had so managed to also daub his clean white trousers, his new shirt, and his face, as well as to plaster his hair with the pitch, that, as he quietly walked into the parlour pitch-brush in hand, all burst out laughing at him when, with sparkling eyes and a merry grin on his big mouth, he announced the completion of his job as " Budgeree now—all same as blackfellow." John Calley had announced his intention of starting at very early dawn in the morning; Mrs. Mason had just wished him good night and good-bye, and expressed her sorrow that he should have to go away again, in spite of the pleasure she felt at the thought of getting some news of her so long lost husband, and tears of gratitude had come into the kind old lady's eyes as she shook the young man by the hand and said, "God will be sure to bless you, Mr. Calley, for you are always so good to others;" and the moon was shining brightly upon this internal sea, sending a silvery gleam over the gently quivering waters, as the young parson and the two girls were left alone on the verandah. Ettie soon rose, said she was going to get breakfast ready and put up some provisions for the travel lers on the morrow, and so slipped away into the kitchen, but she whispered to herself, "Two are company—three none. Well, I'll leave them alone at any rate." Adelaide had risen and was standing under the climbing passiflora that, clinging to the trellis at the end of the verandah, formed a natural arch of living beauty; at her very feet were the ripples of this terrible flood which had caused them so much anxiety, and had made them feel how unsuited were they of the weaker sex to combat with these physical difficulties of the world; and her thoughts naturally reverted to him who had so nobly risked his life to come to them. She was gazing dreamily at the waters when suddenly she became aware that John Calley was by her side. It was very quietly done; and very quietly also were spoken the words, "Adelaide, dear Adelaide, I have always loved you, from the day I first came among you; will you be my own dear wife?" The surprise with which she heard this declaration was so great that an answer to the question was not at
once forthcoming. No hope had she ever enter tained that she could win his love; for having regarded her own love for him as hopeless she had not noticed, as Ettie had done, John Galley's attachment. For the moment there came no reply; then an arm was slipped lightly around her waist, and again she experienced that indefinable pleasure, that magnetic thrill, which she had felt when she first shook hands with the young parson, and which had then en slaved her for life. Now this pleasure seemed intensified, for it was the sympathetic union of the two natures. Again came the words, "Dearest Adelaide, surely my journey here is sufficient proof of my love for you." Then the tender wild-bird of our Australian woods felt that shelter and strength had come to her— that she had found her true mate; and the beautiful swan-like neck bent towards him, the flushed face looked up into his, the soft brown eyes assumed a still softer hue with the tears that were filling them, as she whisperingly said, "John, I am so happy." They were as two dewdrops on one leaf. See, the more sensitive feels the attraction of the larger drop beside it; the leaf stirs; there is a moment's hesitation, a struggle for individuality; the two drops draw near, touch, then blend into one whole drop of pearly purity—the two spheres have become one! duality has become unity! soul has met soul! Oh! that glorious first kiss of love—that rapturous acknowledg ment of trust; on its sacred joy we will not intrude, for with Ettie we will say, "Two are company, three none." When Ettie had got ready the provisions she came back to the verandah, but seeing what she called "a bit of spooneying" going on she judi ciously withdrew; however, after half-an-hour, being unable to resist the temptation any longer, she surprised the lovers in such an unmistakably loverlike position that she laughingly said, " Ah, Addie, did I not tell you that Mr. Calley would swim to you? and, faith, he did too. When he got out of that canoe I—not being in love, you know—could not help thinking that he looked a good deal more like a drowned paddymelon than a parson;" and then she added in a half-comic, half-serious manner, "How 1 do wish Ned would come!" and Adelaide embracing her replied, "Who knows, dear little Ettie, perhaps he will come back with John to-morrow ;" and the par son, kissing sister Ettie, said he would bring him.
Chapter XV. CONCLUSION. Again was it eventide at Ulolo, and again was there an assembling on the verandah. Why do I so often introduce this evening time and this verandah scene? simply because it is the sociable hour of the bush, the only time of the day since the sun rose that all can meet, and chat, and smoke, and arrange plans for the future; the verandah is, at I said before, the withdrawing room of the squatter's house. But this assembly was an important one; it was the final breaking up of the old order of things. There was a goodly number of us there assembled, for Mr. Mason and his family were on the morrow to take their departure from the district en route for England, to visit the scenes of their youth. But let me go back, or rather tell what had happened since our last chapter. John Calley had duly started for the back country; had there found not Mr. Mason but Ned Stratheley, who had escaped from his im prisonment higher up the river, and had ridden down through the back mallee till he came to the outstation of Ulolo; here he had been for two or three days when our hero arrived. When he heard the story of the isolation of the ladies and of our parson's successful effort to get to them, he shook him heartily by the hand and generously said, "By jove! though you are a parson, you beat us bushmen in everything." Jack Mason was away when this news of the disappearance of his father arrived, but as I at once suggested the likelihood of Mr. Mason being camped on the pine ridge island, nothing would satisfy the clergyman —who had passed within a mile of the ridge in the boat—but an immediate return there, and Ned Stratheley insisted upon going with him. Thus it turned out that Adelaide was a true prophet, for her lover on his return to Ulolo brought with him both the master of the station and Ned. It was a large muster that night at Ulolo; the water had retired to its normal limits, and travelling was again rendered possible; yet our talk was principally of the flood; of Mr. Mason's semi-starvation on nothing but mutton; of the imprisonment of the ladies; and besides almost everyone had some strange personal adventure to relate; but one and all admitted that the pluck and daring of our bush parson were unparalleled on the river; heartily was he praised and cheerily was he congratulated on the winning of that fairest prize upon the Darling, the hand of Miss Mason. Mr. and Mrs. Mason were especially pleased to see Adelaide once more the gay merry girl she used to be, and as we ourselves saw her in the opening chapter, and were well satisfied that this noble-hearted young man, who had brought light and life to the district, and who was honored and loved by all, was to be their son-in-law. On the morrow, the " Moolgewaukie" steamer, entering the billabong from the Darling, would cross fair Ulolo Lake and carry away from the station the master, his wife, and daughters, and our "bush parson." Yet, gay was the conversa tion; past flood-troubles were laughed at, and many a bumper of cool South Australian Reisling was drunk in congratulations; for Mr. Mason had turned over his share of Ulolo to his son Jack and Ned Stratheley, and that day two years was the latter to have Ettie for his bride, and a month hence Adelaide was to be united in Mel bourne, not to the Rev. John Calley, bush parson, but to John Calley Landor, Esq., and her future residence would be, not at Lake Ulolo, but on the grand old paternal mansion of the Landors, situated on the shores of one of those many lakes to be found in that most beautiful of English counties—Cumberland. For our parson had learned his riding, his shooting, his boxing, and his manliness from his sporting old father, John Landor, who had quarrelled with his son on account of this "preaching mania," and so the son had come to Australia and had at the re
quest of his father, dropped the family name for a time. Readers, my story is ended; if the perusal of it has afforded you any pleasure I am satisfied, for it has been a labour of love to chronicle these doings of my friend—the BUSH PARSON..