Chapter 20710387

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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20710387
Full Date1881-10-15
Page Number489
Corrections0
Word Count4409
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleGathered In
article text

The Storyteller.

Gathered In.

CHAPTER XI.

RETROSPECTIVE.

BY CATHERINE HELEN SPENCE. Author of "Clara Morison," "Mr. Hogarth's Will," "Hugh Lindsay's Quest," &c.

IT is not easy to describe Mrs. Oswald's appearance, except as to her bulk and her clothes ; her face was so characterless, and was more remarkable for its want of expression than for

anything else ; her hair was of a neutral tint; her complexion of a uniform grayish paleness ; her eyes small, pale, and slow to apprehend even striking object* ; her height less remarkable than her breadth. In .speech she had a drawl, and her h's were, though not absent, very uncertain. Kenneth had his experience with Mr*. Honey to fall back upon, but she had been kept up bettor to the mark by her daughters, who had snubbed their mother's florid taste in dress, and would reconstruct her furniture remorselessly, so that in both these points she had been snubbed into bettor ways. But the general vapidness was similar hi the two ladies; perhaps, on the whole, Mrs. Oswald's natural nonentity was the more complete, and it was well that she should be dis tinguished by her clothes, whioh were changed with changing fashion and doubtful taste, forming a striking contrast to the fat lymphatic oolourless oountenance whioh retained in all circumstances its expression of uninterested ao quiescence with things as they were. She could not make a joke to save her life. She oould not even see one—although when she saw other people laughing around her she would insist on having the whole story minutely explained to her, to the utter loss of its point, and her calm " Oh, yes ; I see it now!" without relaxation of the mouth or intelligent glance of the eye, had the effect of making the interpreter of the wit, or the humour, or the grotesque exaggeration, feel he must have performed hi* task very badly. Unfortunately she was not a Scotchwoman, to whom some national affinities might have ap pealed, and she oould not understand the racy Doric of her husband and his friends. She was an Englishwoman by extraction, but had been born in New South Wales and had found her way to Melbourne, and had by some inexplicable fascination induced George Oswald to marry her. She certainly at that time was a good cook and not a bad listener. She never differed from any* one, and had no opinions of her own, and that to a somewhat overbearing man like George Oswald might have its charm. This temper, as well aa his love of strong liquors, had stood in the way of Kenneth's uncle in his beginning of life. In his first over* seership he had been so hard on the men under him, exacting so much and granting so little, that his master thought he had lost more by that than he gained by his undoubted vigilance and practical knowledge. However, when he undertook the management for the brothers Dirom, Oswald had learned by experience, and steered his course muoh more wisely. At the outbreak of the diggings he did wonders under the greatest difficulties, doing the work of half* a-dosen men himself, and liberal enough to get hands when others were destitute. The Diroms were young men of good family, who>ad started with what in old days would have been called a considerable capital, and at first they had intended to work themselves. But Oswald managed so well that they took to Melbourne life, and enjoyed it, and they were paralysed by the aspect of things which only aroused their overseer's energy and called out all his resources and ingenuity. Melbourne as a residence had become enor mously expensive, and the society unendurable, when, as the old colonists expressed it, the sweepings of the world were attracted to it The brothers offered their manager a half interest in the station, which he accepted, and carried on the station on those terms for several years, but chafed a tittle at the position, at the time he was grap pling with countless difficulties, and he thought that he would conquer better if the gains were all for himself. He therefore offered to buy them out altogether by long-dated bills, which the Diroms took with fear and trembling, and which George Oswald himself lay awake many nights thinking of. But it was a good bargain at the first for the overseer, and as things turned out it was a splendid investment Castlehurst market was at hand, the value of all stock doubled and trebled, and kept up its price, and indeed rose in value steadily, owing to the general rise in prices consequent on the gold discoveries. George Oswald added flock to flock and run to run, whereas, with the enhanced prices of everything in England and on the Continent, his old masters found themselves every year growing poorer. The marvellous advance of the colony of Vic toria in wealth and population raised the value of all his property, especially of his land ; and though in matters of detail George Oswald was what was called a " nipper," he had some excel-

* The Hie right to publish " Gathered In" In Qaeent tand h*s been Mound bj\the proprietor* of the Quttw ianacr.

lent idea* about the judicious application of capital, and did not •tarre hit station! for want of hands, or use them shabbily. v The bettor clau of squatters thought he had driven a hard bargain with the Diroms by taking advantage of their panic and disgust, and Mis. Oswald was more objeotionable to their wives than he himself was to them, and the only son Jim had got such a rooted taste for low company that he neither desired the Booiety of hit betters nor tried to fit himiielf for it; so that with all this outward prosperity there was a bitter drop in the cup at Tingalpa. Mr. Oswald was always ashamed of not assist* iag his parents substantially and regularly before he did, but he had bitterly resented the disgrace whioh Isabel had brought on the family, whioh, though very briefly and imperfectly revealed in his mother's letters, had struck bim in the tenderest point He reooilected her as a lovely girl of thirteen, and her mother wrote of her growing beauty, her cleverness at her books and with her needle, and bis first present of £6 had gone to teach her dressmaking. He had just made up his mind to write home for her to share his prosperity and keep his house. If she had objected to leave her parent* it might have been managed that they should come out too. Ho hid thought Isabel's society might do more to wean him from his besetting am than anything else, and when the humiliating news reached him he gave way to it more than before. Shortly after that he married, and had one son, on whom his hopes were centred; and though he wrote, not unkindly, to his parents, he never again addressed a letter to his sister. On hearing of her death, and some particulars hitherto unknown, he softened a little, and sent more money, but, on concluding his bargain with the Diroms by paying off the last of his bills, he thought, aa a sort of thank-offering for sooh prosperity, he might act a father's part by Isabel's worse than orphan boy, and tJ«en the idea of making a gentleman of him charmed his imagination. The boy's letters were well written, and ex pressed good feeling; the photograph* that were sent from time to time showed a very promising young fellow, who would hold his own with the stuck-up neighbours. As yean advanced, and as his over-indulged self-willed boy refused to learn from tutor or schoolmaster, Mr. Oswald's thoughts turned constantly to the clever nephew, who would oome out fresh from college, well-dressed, good-looking, and chock-full of the needful knowledge. Every thing that was wrong Kenneth would put right; he would be only too glad to do service to the uncle who had taken him up aad made a gentle, man and a soholar of him} and Jim oould not •lip out of his hands as he had oat of those of the shabby tutors who had been engaged before. And thus, through his kitmintts and liberality to his nephew, his own ion would have a ohanoe to be made a gentbmas and a scholar of too, Mrs. Oswald's ordinary mood of acquiescence had been slightly ruffled by these plane of her husband ; for the idea of the subordination of her boy to bis cousin had been so actively re sented by the former that her maternal sympa thies, which were the strongest feelings in her nature, were aroused in opposttion, But she took refuge in the thought that Jim had never submitted to any one in his life; and that though of oourse he would learn a great deal from his cousin—for that was only reasonable- ?till, as he was the son of the house, he would always be the master and take the lead every* where. Nobody oould suppose that the heir of such a property was to be tied down to hours and tasks like a poor child at a common school. And Jim, though he was younger than his cousin and not so book-learned, knew the world as well or better, and would not go in leading' strings. As Mis. Oswald presided over the well-spread tea-table, and pressed her nephew with languid hospitality to do justice to such a meal as the felt sure he had never seen in Scotland—which she looked on as a land of starvation, for all her husband's memories of his native land bad been of hard work and poor living, and he often shocked her notions of gentility and propriety by bringing up these subjects ? she felt a shade of disappointment at his sUeooe and abstrac tion. No doubt, he was rather awed by the handsomeness of everything about him, from the silverplate and massive dining-room furmi ture to her own rioh silk, costly lace, and over powering cap, freshly donned while he made his own toilet, and that was certainly gratifying ; but if he oould not talk and hold his own in society he would be of little use in helping them up the social ladder, whioh was their one desideratum ; and if he was really grumpy and sulky Jim would hate him outright and learn nothing from him. However, in the oourse of the meal, a subject was started that was more successful than Ken* neth's preoccupied anxious mind could have supposed possible under die circumstances—the fellow-passengers per Melbourne clipper ship Kent To Mrs. Oswald's delight she found that her nephew had spent seventy days in the society of a tip-top Melbourne merchant and his family. She knew the Dunnes and the Honeys to be large squatters, though, unfortunately, in a distant district. There were many ladies on board, frenh from Continental and English sight-seeing. How they looked, how they talked, and, above all, how they dressed, gave Mrs. Oswald abundant cause for questioning, and the account of the various costumes improvised for some private theatricals on board was of much more thrilling interest than the sketch of the piece adapted from the French by Kenneth, "La Mattresse au Logis," which to himself was much more inter esting. How he could have got so quickly out of one suit of clothes into another, so as to re present two quite different characters, was a greater stroke of cleverness than changing his voice, air, and manner completely to carry out the illusion. And the different dresses of the young widow for reception and for her wedding attire were also gone into minutely, and Kenneth's interest in the actress, who was Miss Emily Dunne, made him recollect Ten creditably what she had on.

Chaptib XIL OIOBOX OSWALD 111 RITIBXKSnT. Ik the midat of thli Ulk Mick pat in his head.

" Avyou plage, ma'am, the muter has heard of Mr. Kenneth'i being after taking his tay along, aide of jer, and nothing will put him past the notion that he must ace him at wan«t" 44 Why did you tell him, Mick ? You know it's much better he should not be disturbed. It's his own orders before he goes in for uuoh boutß that he should see no strangers." "True for ye, ma'am, but ye see he don't count hi* nephy as a stranger." "And he cannot bear the Bight of me or Mr. Jim, either." " When he comes acquainted with Mr. Kenneth, it's like enough he'll serve him with the same sauce, but in the meantime he's raging like a wild boll for the sight of him." " And how was he to know he was here if he had not been told!" "He was after blowing me up sky-high for laving him for my own divarsion, and I let out that it was to Cast'ehurst I had to go, and he put two and two together, and swore that £ had brought home his nephy, and was after hiding him as if we were ashamed of him. So, to paci fieate his mind, I said I'd step in and fetch him at wanst" 11 I'm very sorry, Kenneth, that Mick has been ao foolish as to disobey Mr. Oswald's orders. He'll suffer for it himself My-and-by." "Then you think I should not go," said Ken* neth, taming to his aunt v Faith, Mr. Kenneth, you must go, or he'll come out himself and fetch you, and that 'ud be worse." Mm Oswald only shook her head helplessly, and allowed her nephew to follow Mick along the passage to a room which opened from the verandah. 44 I'm bound to be after laving you, Mr. Ken* neth, for the master can only stand one at one time, and often not aa much as that;" so he opened the door of the room softly, and Ken* neth entered. There, in an eaay chair, sat his uncle, with his feet in slippers, a smoking cap set on one side of his head. An old flowered dressing-gown, buttoned very muoh awry, en veloped his person ; neither shirt nor gown was buttoned at the wrist, and he was, with shaking hand, filling himself out a fresh tumbler of brandy and water. A box of cigars lay at his left hand, and on the right was the brandy bottle and a large monkey of cold water. His face was swollen, hia eyes were bloodshot, his mouth hung loosely, so that it was difficult for him to command his toios to greet his nephew in the manner he evidently wished to do. The room was in general used as a smoking-room, butonoocasions such as this it was fitted up as the master's bedroom, with a stretcher for Mick at the far corner. He knew Mr. Oswald's ways, and humoured him with discretion, and could tell the exact moment when the boat was over, and whan the "materials," aa he called them, might be removed with safety. Kenneth advanced to the place where his uncle sat, and stretched forth his hand. George Oswald mad* the very poorest attempt at rising from his chair, and sank down again, but shook hands with such pertinacity that it seemed as if it would never be over. " Glad to set you, Kenneth, my boy. Wei come to Tingalpa. Have a glass of something ! WhexVs Mick? Bid the rascal bring a dean tumbler, here—quick." v No, thank you, uncle. I've just had tea." - Tea I" said George Oswald, with a voice of •corn ; " poor stuff, only fit for heathen Chinese, •specially aa Mr*. Oswald makes it Na, ye matm ha* a glass of brandy." " Ton know you laid me under an interdict about drinking, and I have obeyed it," "id Kenneth. "Glad to heir it! Glad to hear ye mind what I say. I maun drink your health on the strength of it Here's t' ye. Have you seen Jim ?" " H« is not at home, Mrs. Oswald aays." M That's a pity. He aye slopes off when I'm out of gear. His mother has nae control to keep him at home. She* little gude, little ill, like a ?pale (chip) amang parriteh. But you maun get aoquent wi' Jim. He's a sly dog, Jim. Mair in Jim than you'd think, to look at him." Kenneth could not help thinking there must be more in his nneLs than present appearances piomtssrt A man to have been so successful— to carry on such large operations—must in ordi nary conditions be very different from this poor, trembling, inarticulate George Oswald, who had sal there nearly day and night for more than a week with a single tumbler and successive bottles of brandy before him. " Ye were owre quick in the passage, Kenneth. You caught me napping, as I may say, though It's just the reverse, for I canna get a wink o' sleep. There's something on my mind that starts up to drive sleep away. Kenneth"—and his voice lowered to a confidential whisper—"get me pen, ink, and paper. That villain, Mick, will not five them to me. I want to write a letter; only to write a letter. Hard that a man in his own house cannot get leave to write a letter to a friend. You think because my hand shakes that I canna write ; but I'll let you see different It would steady my hand to write that letter." " Could not I write for you, sir ? Tell me what you want said." M No, it maun be done by my very self," said his uncle. " It's to the Diroms I waat to write. Get the paper, and the pen, and the ink, and dinna forget an envelope—some of your am, that Miok need never hear tell of it." It seemed to Kenneth very hard that a man who wanted to write should be prevented; the letter need not be despatched after it was written, Uit was a foolish one. So he went softly to his own room, and brought his writing-case. The shaking hand applied itself to the paper, but it did not appear to be a letter that Mr. Oswald penned. It was evidently a promissory* note that was drawn out, and that for an enor mous sum; but it appeared to be correctly done. "An envelope, quick, man, an envelope, or Mick will be in here and burn it He deserves the sack, that chap, and he'll get it thia time. Now put it into the pest without delay, for it maun gang. Oh! Kenneth, now I see I have got a real friend. Here's t'ye again," and he took another great draught of brandy and water. "And yell no taste, just to our better ac quaintanoe? You look like a gentleman, Ken* neth, and all my making. Maybe yell keep that look longer if ye keep clear ©' the drink, and it's likely ye have na the head to stand it That's what I aye say to Jim, but he'U take no telling.

D'ye ken how muokle I can put past, and, aa ye see, aa clear aa a clock when all'B done ? Look at the dead men there I" and he pointed to an array of empty bottles. "All brandy, 10° over proof; good spirits though, or it might have upßet me. I give the beßt price, and I can de pend on the beat article. And, as ye Bee, I'm as right as the Bank. Oh ! Lord, I'm rich, I'm rich. Where'B nay cheque-book ? Mick has it hid somewhere, but you'll find it. Ya'll need Biller. Tell me out of hand how muckloyon want." " I need nothing, uncle. I have quite as much aa I want." "Never knew a mm who had as muckle as that in all the course of my experience. Na, Kenneth, ye maun hae siller, you need not spare it Oh ! Lord, I'm rich—Beventy thooeand sheep, a thooaand head o' beasts, three hundred and fifty horses, twenty thousand acres of laud, and mair to be had—and John and Eobert Dirom— but that 'ill be put right, and you'll see if William Gray will turn up his nose at me then. There's mair to be made of Tingalpa than of Wilta itself, and thae sons of bis, that he is so proud of, are scattering. I've got a bod, too, and a nephew, my brother Jamie's son ; mind that's what you are, and a gentleman—not a word about your mother, though ye arc like her, laddie—that's what my money was invested in ; how muckle per cent will it pay, think ye? On the one side o* the ledger a thooaand pounds —mair—thooaands o' pounds ; on the other side ' a gentleman.' How do you think the speculation will answer ?" 111 cannot tell," said Kenneth sadly. " Can't ye ?—well I can ; every speculation I went into paid me, and this will be the best I ever tried. Now, any other man would have been as drunk as a fiddler with all thae dead men that he had made an end of; but lam not drunk ; not mad, most noble Festus; but Bpeak the words of truth and soberness. Ye see I can quote Scripture. Your granny wanted you brought up for the Kirk, but we know of some thing better than that, Kenneth. What do you think of this head station of Tingalpa; tho house and the grounds, and the furniture and tho plate ? Is that not better than any manse you ever taw, whether Established, Free, or U.P. A beggarly lot they are. I could buy up the whole lot of them. Oh I Lord, seventy thoosand sheep, and every mothor'a son of them seven pounds of greasy. Oh, Lord! I'm rich. And the beasts, and the horses, and the land, Ken neth, the land, if we could be sure of the solectora keeping off, damn them 1 They may pick out William Gray's een an* welcome, but I canna hae Tingalpa meddled with. But you maun hae a cheque for a hundred pounds, just to show that you have got • good man at your hack. And if I drew a cheque for ten thousand the bank would make it good. Oh 1 Lord, Beventy thou sand sheep! Do have a glaaa. My throat's as dry as a whustle, for all I can do to slocken my drouth. But I have an excuse to drink for two when you're ben; let's have two bottles of brandy; I'll ring for Mick." The handbell was touohed, and Mick appeared. He scowled at the writing materials. " Another bottle of brandy, Mick, Don't you see there's another gentleman." " It's time you knocked off. You're two bottles ahead already of what you said you should stop at, sir." " You count double, you rascal; you're drunk; you're very drank." " It's like enough, ur ; for it's you that has been setting me a mighty bad example." "But you've no head to stand it, Mick ; you'll be breaking heads and getting into trouble. That's what I say to Master Jim, and what I say to Master Kenneth. There's few heads like mine —clear as a clock yet, and fit for another week of it" " If you're clear as a clock you should be mind ing that it's time of night to be after going to bed, and not for another bottle of brandy. And there's Mr. Kenneth dying for his bed after his long journey this day." " But I canna sleep, and you know it, you villain. I can drink, drink, drink, but the sleep is the devil." "I'd advise you to try, sir. You've no patience. Now, you'll just let me ondreas you, and tuck you in, and you'd be amazed how com* fortable you'll feel after this joyful meeting with your nephy, who's the pleasant young gentleman to get alongbide of in a buggy, and who'Jl be after admiring all the improvements when you show them to him. I'll stop in the room with you, aad you'll get a beauty sleep and get up in the morning as fresh as a daisy, and Mr. Kenneth, too, and then you'll go round the place, the two of you, and find out if there's a screw loose anywheres. We must turn you out, Mr. Kenneth ; the missis is after wanting you for the cards." Kenneth said good-night Quick as thought Mike followed him to the door. " Whatever he has written, you must burn, or he'd never for* give you when he's in bin sober senses. He gives me extra pay for never minding his orders at such saysonß as this. But when he's wild for pen aad ink I know he's got to the worst, and I can hould him in. [TO BB CONTINUED.]

In reference to an article entitled " The Oldest Church in Australia," which appeared in a late issue of the S. M. Herald, the llov. P. Fitz Gerald, minister of Windsor and Portland Head, writes :—" The writer supposes that Christ Church, Newcastle, is the oldest edifice of its class in Australia, it having been erected in the year 1817. The author of the article is probably not aware of the fact that there is in existence a still older sacred building than the one ho refers to, and that is the Presbyterian Church, Ebeneser, at Portland Head, Hawkeabury River. It was built of stone by the first free settlers on that river in the year 1803, and public worship has been held in it regularly up to the present date—in the first instance by the elders of the congregation, and subsequently by ordained pastors of the Presbyterian Church. The late llev. Dr. Lang, the first fully accredited minister of the Church of Scotland in the colony, wat the first to preach there in the year 1824. I have before me now the miuutes of public meetings held on the river at the date quoted—lBoB—when stops were taken to erect the building, and which fully confirm the above ?tatementi."