|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Thompson's Claim|
BY THE AUTHOR OF "DIVIDING MATES."
"IT wasn't much of an attack, but it takes a man down, does colonial fever. Seems as if all the world somehow was pressing down on you, and mighty sore it makes your head. When I
was round a bit Joe's daughter came to see me. I was lying back in a canvas chair, and tried to rise. . M' Don't try to get up, Mr. Watson, 1 she said, standing by me looking, it seemed, more beauti. ful than ever. ' I have come to make a cqnfes don to you. Mrs. Slattery has told me what you have been doing. No—please don't speak yet It has opened my eyes. I have been a very very Wicked hard>hearted girl' u 'That's not true,' I would say. "' It is. I have found oat for myself what my mother tried to teach me, what noble and generous hearts may be found under a rough oover. I won't say how I thank you, dear Mr. Wataon ; I think I begin to know what sort of men you are. But I will be a different girl, and I want you to help me.' •' • And I always will do it, my dear—that is, Miss Ethel' «' Please don't call me Miss Ethel; call me Ethel, or what you wilL. Treat me as if I was your—your—' «'' ril call you my nfoce, dear; yoor father and me were old friends.' "'Please do—think of me as your niece,' she said eagerly. And do you know it didn't seem quite so pleasant as I thought it would be. Tou tee I wasn't much over forty—not really, though maybe I looked it. " B v ' Well then, dear,' I went on after a bit, and feeling a little as if some more lead had come down and was pressing on my head, 'you won't make a fuss over me paying in my wages same as I have been doing. I shall be all right directly, and there is lota of work to be done on the field/ "'lt shall be as you like, uncle,' she said, and when she said it again it seemed to hurt me more ; ' but I have been thinking that poor papa would be better at work too. He always seems restless, and he gets his pick out and makes hole* about the hut. Couldn't you help him to make a hole somewhere, and perhaps you might tynd some more gold. I could cook and keep house for both of you, and we could live very cheaply.' "' We'll see about it when I get abont Any. way, I think you are right about bis working.' "Then we fell to talking about her father, i '"Please, uncle,' she said,' tell me about him. I want to learn to love him, and I know so little about him.' "So I told her all about Joe, and all the good I knew of him in all the years we had known ope another. She tat by me, leaning forward, her big brown eyes fixed on me taking in every word. "'Thank you, uncle.' she said very simply when I had don*. 'If I had only known this sooner it would have been better for mew' Then she rose to go, and, promising to *om« back soon> she put her little hand into my great big fiat "' I'll do all I can for you, Ethel, and never eVen ask for a thank-you. But I'd like it better, if you didn't call me uncle.' "' Why ? I wished to call you uuole because dext to my own father I wanted to love you,' she said very seriously; ' bat I will not if you do not wish it' " 'I wish yoa to love me, Ethel and perhaps, alter all, it's the best way.' . " When I got about again I went over to see Joe, and found him as his daughter had described with pick and shovel busy sinking a hole. All rbund the hut were holes as thick as if it had been a rich pocket on a good alluvial field. It had been all done since I had fallen ill, but Joe was a quick workman and never laay. He came up out of the hole with a dishful of stuff, and began to wash it Of course there was no gold, but he washed steadily to the end, and didn'fc seem te mind when he found nothing. After he had done I spoke to him. He knew me, as he had always done. "' Come along with me, Joe,' I said; ' I'll take you to work at a reef where there is gold.' " He looked at me, nodded, and made ready to start without a word. When first he had gone silly there was no stopping his tongue, but now he was quiet, and had barely a word to say. They made no difficulty about putting Joe on at the claim where I was working, and he earned his wages. He worked just as well as ever he had done, only he had to be told what to do always. "Between us we earned a good bit, and I gave in to Ethel and came to live at the hut, building myself a bit of a lean-to against one end of it for a bedroom. The cottage that poor Joe had built had been sold—at least the timber had. He used to get terribly excited when he was taken near it, so there could be no idea of going to live in it But you wouldn't have known the hut Ethel ? got me to fix up first one thing and then another, and she was always busy with odds and ends of little thing, to ornament it, till it became the prettiest little place in town. We had a China man to do washing and job about the hut, and Ethel cooked and kept it tidy. " I don't know that I was rightly comfortable at that time. It seemed as if the hut where Joe and I had sat each on a bunk and smoked was gone, and this was a place where rough men like me had no right to be. Ethel ÜBed to get her father to dress tidy when he came home from his work. There was always a big tub of water — warm water —and he, being as obedient aa a child, would go into his bedroom and wash in it and then dress in a nice clean Crimean shirt and thin woollen trousers, with a loose coat over all After supper he would sit outside, under the verandah Ethel had made me put up, and smoke, she sitting by his knee on a little stool. Sometimes he would look at himself, at her, and around him in a strange puzzled way; but for the moat part he smoked quietly and without talking. "Of course I got into the same way. There was a tub of water for me too, and I got into the way of tidying up. '"Took to dressing for dinner, I'll be blowed if he ain't! Say, old nun, won't yoa get me an invitation ?',
"It was the younger son of a lord who aaid that, and a dirty, flash, jeering blackguard he was. I believe the boya did chaff about ua con siderably, but not much in my hearing. I waa abre about it, mind yon, but I would rather have gone against the whole camp than againßt Joe's daughter. "Aa time went on I took to the quiet life amazingly.' Mrs. Slattery came in on some of the evenings, and Ethel waa always glad to see her. It waa wonderful how quiet she seemed to be, and how fond of the girL Lit ing in this way we spent very little money, and began putting away savingß till it eeemed as if we were going to save up our rise—that rise which poor Joe and I had been expecting to make all our lives. "It went on regular as could be, month after month, Joe just as well as ever he had been, and even stronger and younger looking, though no nearer hia right mind. And when the break dame it was just the simplest thisg. I wasn't there when it happened, being on top for some* thing, but I saw a lot of people running to the mine. So I ran too, and the first thing I heard was: 1 "' Joe Thompson is killed.' a "The words seemed to strike me faint and sick, and I pushed through the crowd to reach the top just as the bucket came out of the shaft with two men, and what looked like poor Joe's body. They laid him out on the floor, and sure enough he seemed dead. " 'It was only just this little bit of a stone bit him, and it hadn't fallen far/ said one of the men. ' I saw it come down and strike him, and he dropped flat* " But I had been kneeling by J""n and oould make out hia heart beating. "' Send for the doctor I' I shouted. '"All right, Bill; the dootor is Tory tight, and they are pouring water over him to sober him.' " By-and-by the dootor came—it was the same one we had before—looking very wet and silly. "' What J Joe again—and Joe's mate I' he ex claimed. ' Wasn't onoe enough V " So he knelt by him and felt him, and shook his head. "<ls it a ewe, doctor I 1 I asked; but he wouldn't answer, and got some of ua to carry Joe over to the hut M Ethel—poor Ethel—stood there very white, but ready to do what waa wanted. Mrs. Slattery, good soul, had run over and broken the news to her. So they undressed Joe and hud him in his bed, breathing so that you oould just make it out, but as still as a corpse. The dootor went over him again very carefully; Ethel waiting out in the next room. " "' Look here, Joe's mate I' he said after a while,speaking very low. 'I can't make this ojut—at least not to my satisfaction. It doesn't seem as if there was any sufficient cause for the state he is in; the blow was not a bad one, but tys touohed the old trouble. Hark ye t' in a whisper. 'He may live, or he may die, but it's my belief that he will live or die sane.' , "' Are you sure of it, dootor ?' said I, gripping him tight. ."•?« No, I ain't, bat I think so.' i " Then he went on giving direction* what to dp,, ana x iwyim uui, miuuk uu* tie nvuia *.v HtbeL ' «<I can't,' he said, looking down ;'I can't face fajsr. Maybe you don't understand, but she is • lady, and I—l was a gentleman onoe.' "
! Chapter VL ' " Whht the doctor left I told Ethel what was ty be done. He oune again and again, and he kept sober. To be sure Mrs, Slattery took him I, i» hand, and, being up to all his dodges, when he wanted liquor managed to keep him straight .We waited one day, two days, three days, and , the change came. "It was evening. I was sitting outside in the moonlight; Ethel was with her father. Suddenly I.heard her step, and turned round. She was standing in the doorway, holding to the side, w^th big eyes staring. I jumped up and went to her. "'Go-go—in,' she half sobbed; 'he U awake, afed I frighten him. Go in, and I will run for the doctor.' "I ran in. There was Joe, trying to raise himself in his bed, and looking all round as frightened as may be, but not silly. I could see at once he wasn't silly. "' Is that you, Bill I" he said, sinking down. ' Thank God t I couldn't make out where I was, and there was my dead wife—my dead wife, Bill, as sure as you're alive, standing by the bunk.' '"It's all right, Joe,' £ said soothingly, not knowing what to say; ' lie down.' "He lay still a bit looking round him. 'Where am I, Bill ?' he asked. ' I don't know the place.' "' You are all right, Joe; just keep still.' "' Oh yes, I'm ail right now you are here, but I was frightened.' "Then again after another rest. ''' I think I remember. I suppose the horse slung me. Say, pard, you'll hare to go to the town without me; it won't do to risk missing the ship.' " Then another quiet spell. "' How long have I lain here ? Perhaps you ought to be gone now. Don't stop for me.' As he said this he began raising himself excitedly. "'lie down, Joe. I'll take care about the ship ; don't you be afraid.' "It was getting too much for me, and I was very thankful to hear footsteps. I got up and went to the door. " 'Don't go, Bill; don't go !' he cried feebly. I was jußt able to mutter,' He's sane' as the I doctor pawed. Joe used to know him. "' Ah, they've got you for me, doctor,' he said feebly. ' I expeot I had a big falL " The doctor made him swallow some mcdi« cine he had brought, and remained with him a little while. Then he came out to us. "' I have given him a strong sleeping draught,' he said, ' and he is quiet. I'll come again in an hour. He is quite sane, and I think he will get round.' " The doctor went, and when he was out of sight Ethel threw herself upon me and began sobbing. I drew her to me, and she cried on. M' Let me cry,' she begged, as I tried to soothe her. " After a bit she gathered herself up. "' Forgive me, dear uncle,' Bhe said, her sweet face all lit up through her tears ; ' I won't be so foolish again. But lam so, so happy 1'
"Joe did not wake that night When tha doctor came back he found him Bleeping, sad told me to ait and watcb, and not to let him see his daughter when first he awoke. The sun waa high overhead, and I waa sitting beside him nod* ding with sleep when I noticed bis eyes were open. He lay very quiet, looking around bim k and I Bpoke, asking if he felt better. '"Aye, mate/ he said, 'I am better, much better, and I'm trying to make out how it all happened. But there's the ship, Bill. Won'b you make a start now, and let me follow when I can travel ?' "' Tou needn't trouble about the Bbip, Joe; she's oome and gone long ago.' " He turned towards me. "' And my daughter V "'She's here, joe, all right. It's a year and more since your horse threw you, and you have been out of your mind ever since.' "It didn't seem to excite him; he just lay quietly without speaking. "' Then it was not—not her dead mother! It seems to me I've been dreaming all the time, mate, aad her mother came to me always in my dreams.' "I didn't know what to say. Presently ho began again: "•Where is she?' "' Here, father;' and Ethel passed me and knelt by the bed. Joe stretched out his arm, and laying his hand on her head looked Bteadily in her face. I got up and went outside. " I was frightened, mind you. It was not what the doctor said Bhould be done, and very glad I was to see him coming again. He listened to what I had to say, and then went softly to the door of the room. In a minute he cam* back rubbing his hands. "' It's all right, Joe's mate. They didn't sea me, but I saw enough. The man's right. Won* derful cure, ain't it V he continued; and I nodded; ' wonderfully successful cure " due to the skilful treatment of oar esteemed fellow* citizen, Hugh Mafiddy, Esq., M.R.C.S., &c., &&;" that's how to put it, my boy. No it ain't, old man. Though I'm sober I will be honest II isn't my cure at all, and it's a better job in con sequence. And now, my friend, I'm very thirsty ; don't you think that eh? I Bhan't have another chance, for you won't want me any more.' " I gave him the bottle and a tumbler, and he nearly filled the glass. But he deserved the drink. After he had gone Ethel came out look* ing—I can't say how she looked. And she came up to me and kissed me in the joy of her heart " That afternoon Joe was up and walking round the hut leaning on his daughter's shoulder, and as the sun sank in the west he sat outside, just in the place where he had aat and smoked so many evenings, and his daughter sat again by his knee. A short distance from the place wag the stump to which we tied our horses and near by the spot where tie had been thrown, that terrible day when our troubles began. He kept lpokiog at it and asking about the falL "' Don't keep bothering about it, Joe. It's all over now.' "' No it ain't, mate. There's something on my mind I'm bound to remember, and I can't **« m J fc "i! 1 °°m 9 *° me> * Then he made me go over tv« mumv ow.j again, questioning about every little thing that fyad happened, till I was tired of answering. At last he straightened up suddenly and put his hand to his forehead. "'I have it, Bill; at least I think I have,' " From that he went on to ask me about the, claims that had been opened since he could re member, and where there had been prospecting. I told him all I knew, and as I spoke he kept on stroking the thick brown hair of bis daughter. " At last she put in a word: "' This won't do, papa. You have had enough talking now with uncle BilL You shall go to bed, and I will hurry Ah Ching and bring Borne nice tea in to you.' '"All right, my darling,' he said, stooping over and kissing her fondly; ' but I want you to do something for me, Bill. Get me a quiet hone to-morrow, and one for yourself. We have got to take a ride in the morning.' " I told him I would do nothing of the kind, and that it was only foolishness in him talking of going on horseback bo soon. But he insisted on it—begged of me to humour him—bub wouldn't tell me why. All I could get from him was: "'So many of the dreams I have been dreaming, old friend, have come out true that I can't rest till I see whether one more I haven't told you about yet isn't true olbo.' " There was nothing for it but to promise to do as he wanted, and he went to bed."
Chapter VII. "In the morning Joe was quieter in his manner, and seemed quite strong. "' I don't think that last little crack did me any harm at all,' he said. 'It was just a rough way of putting me straight.' "Ethel was very pale and anxious-looking. 'You won't go out for that ride to-day, dear papal' she said. "' I must, darling. I've got an idea here,' he went on, tapping his head,' that burns like fire. Maybe it's only a fancy, but I can't rest till I have settled it, for the more I think the more sure I am that it's a memory, and not a dream. Tou say that I was excited and wild-looking when I came galloping up that morning?' he asked, turning to me. "' That's bo, Joe,' I answered. " ' My hone wasn't bolting with me V "' No, you had it in hand right enough till you began to get down.' " * Well, then, what was I excited about f be cried in au almost angry voice. "' I can't say, Joe. Ire thought you might have had a touch of the sun—a stroke, you know.' "'Ah! I never thought of that. They say that people who are struck have fancies, don't they, Bill V he went on sadly ; ' so maybe mine's all a fancy too. Never mind, I must go and see.' " There was no use trying to stop him, so I went out to borrow two hones. They were easy got. The boys were all very curious about Joe, and there was a man getting up an address and a testimonial to the dootor. I don't remember the fellow's name, but be was going to run for Parliament as the miner'd friend, aud he was always lookiug out for a chance of making speeches. He would have been » big man sow, S,
reckon, only he died after a great burst at Mick Flannigan'a one time that the barmaid there got married. Anyway, there was no trouble in get ting a loan of two horses. Joe wanted a ride, I •aid, and I was going to look after him. " Ethel looked rather miserable when she saw the saddled horses, but she tried to be cheerful. "'Cheer up, darling,' her father said as he kissed her ; ' maybe I'm only going to get rid of •'dream. But if it isn't—if it isn't'—and he held her back from him for a while, looking at her aweet troubled face. Then he kissed her again and again, and mounted his horse. " We started off quietly, Joe taking the lead, and for a while he seemed not very sure as to the way he was going. "' Blessed if I'm not puzzled,' he said ; * they have been cutting down trees and changing the look of the place.' "But he quickly picked up the track and went jogging steadily along. I soon saw that he was making for the scrub where he went to look for his horse that morning. He had very little to say as we went along, and made straight for a pocket of the scrub, a bit of grass land running into the thick wall of trees. There was a mob of horses there and he looked at them. "«That's just how they were,'he said, 'and I swore because the mare wasn't among them. " Then he rode out and along the edge of the ?crab some distance till we came to another pooket, but with worse grass. ut That's right,' Joe said; «I came here, but there were no horses, just as there are none now. I wonder if there is the same track.' MHe rode in close to the scrub that rose up, trees and bushes all tangled with vines like a green wall, and he searched. I could see he was terribly excited, and I was getting uneasy. "* By Q—d !' he cried, «here it is,' "Sure enough there was a little opening, just like what a mob of wild cattle or hones might make travelling in and out of the scrub, and Joe pushed bis horse under the vineß and into it I followed. Fortunately Joe's hone was a steady one and went Blow, for he was too excited to pay much heed to the branches that closed over him. Indeed he was nearly jerked off the saddle by a vine which hung low. But the old horse went very steadily, and, except a few tears in his shirt, there was not much harm done. "After going maybe half a mile, I could see the light through the trees ahead, as if we were ooming to an opening in the scrub, and I could feel my horse slipping, and hear its hoofs striking on stone underfoot Up to then the ground had been soft and spongy, but we had oome on to ?tones, and soon after we rode out into a wide opening of the scrub, where nothing but a few trees were growing. It was a terribly lonely place. Some big gray kangaroos hopped out of sight, and there was a great chattering of oockatoos in a clump of tall gum trees. "' Help me down, Bill,' said Joe,' or I'll falL* MI was off my saddle and lifting him down in a minute. "' There's been no one here—eh, Bill f' M*No one, I think, Joe; but why have you brought me here ?' "He was gray looking, and hiß lips were dry, and he answered feebly and hoarsely : "'Maybe it was only.a <Wm wn v-i s«, wvu very reau Tie up the horses and I'll sit down yonder—on that flat stone.' ** I did as he told me. *" That's right, BilL Now you see there what looks like the cap of a reef. Pick up one of the loose stones and chip it' "I did so, he watching me with staring eyes. "' Well V "I shook my head. "'lt's quartz, Joe, and likely looking, but there's nothing in it' ** * Try again, Bill—for any sake try again.' " I looked at the reef for a good place to chip with the little prospector's piok I carried with me, when my eye fell on a lump that seemed to have rolled off the cap. I put my hand on it and tried to raise it, and was surprised to find it fast. I looked again. It was lying loosely, and did not Beem too big a bit to be lifted, but it was terribly heavy. Then I chipped a corner off, and it was my turn to start " * Great heavens !' I cried,«it's half gold.' " I turned round, and Joe had fallen on his knees with hands clasped. "' It's true—my dream is true; it's my little girl's fortune!'
"That was how Joe Thompson's claim wts found," my companion continued, "and yon would hardly believe that the township around you is built on the desolate empty-looking scrub opening Joe and I rode into that day. There isn't much of the scrub left either, is there?" he oontinued, looking around. "We all found that where we had been reefing before was the wrong nlace ; it was in the scrub that the richest veins jay. But there was no claim so good as ours. No more talk of the 'Jonah crowd' for Joe and me." " And how about Miss Thompson—the Ethel you have told me about ?" " Oh, of course she was glad when the claim was found, and herfather took her down south soon after the reef had been fairly opened and we had made sure that it wasn't all surface-blow. It was a pretty sight when she christened the new machine; I don't think there was a man on the field who wouldn't have punched even his mate's head if he had spoken a disrespectful word of her." "And after that?" I persisted. " She lived with her father down south till she married." " Then she is married ? Who was the fortu nate man V " A swell, of course," he answered, a little roughly. "Joe was bound to see the thing through. But he is a fine fellow, and when I went to see them this last trip I found that they had christened their little boy * William,' and his mother told me that she would teach him to call me uncle. But come along. We have had quite enough yarning, and dinner must be nearly ready. I expect one or two men in this evening, and maybe we'll have a quiet game. I have plenty of company sometimes. The married men say they like my bachelor's quarters. ' Liberty hall' they call them." [TBK JUJD.J