Chapter 224958989

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttps://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article224958989
Full Date1928-04-14
Page Number44
Corrections1
Word Count2386
IllustratedY
Last Corrected2018-12-08
Newspaper TitleWeekly Times
Trove TitleThe Golden Buddha
article text

THE GOLDEN BUDDHA

By Bernice May

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

CHAPTER I.

Sergt. Jackson looked out on the havoc" that the recent hailstorm had made of his new and flourishing ban ana plantation. For the first time since he had come to Wyburn from his Brisbane office he felt that he was losing interest in the land and losing too the old trrin.

Ho was 47 last birthday, at least five hundred pounds in debt, and he had nothing whatever in the bank, nothing at all in fact but the five acres of banacias before him. It was as yet only January and Jackson knew that he could not hope to cut any more fruit regularly till April. He glanced at the last account from Flinders Lane. Five cases of bananas at twenty shillings a case, which looked as if it should have meant five pounds to him. But when ripen ing foe of two shillings a case, com mission seven and a half per cent., freight, inspection fees, telegrams, charges per case and cartage were taken- off, it loft him with thi-ee guineas instead of five pounds. Jackson crumpled the account paper in his hand acid, instead of filing It as usual, was about to toss it away fcnd with the action toss away the

plantation. Wyburn, the land for ever. . . . He had been working day and night, body and mind and spirit with the fruit for some years now and he was foi-ced to face the grim fact that the bananas had not paid for themselves. The buyers had it all their own way and could do what they liked with growers and consumers alike. . . .Of what use was it that the Queensland Fruit So ciety was putting up a fight for grow ers and tlieir produce, the older mer chants were older at the game, the Q.F.S. was an infant. He would have to sell out the plan tation and admit that he was beaten after all the brave effort he had made, after almost paralysing the district with the speed at which he had planted his early suckers, after clearing his land with a couple of assistants quicker than any of the old hands had believed it could be done. Jackson's still strong mouth quiv ered a little. Yes. He had worked like that for Dolly's sake. He had wanted her and the kiddies with him. They had come, Dolly reluctantly, young Peter and Bob and Bessie pleased as only kiddies can be pleased when they leave a city for the freedom of the country. They had come to him

IlllllilltllllllllUllllillllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllf Itllllltlli -3 when the place was looking fresh and clean and spanking new. He had brought Dolly to a new house and the young suckers were showing rich leaf while the first whisper of success- was sweet in Jackson's ears when he had driven her out. Wonderful to remember, too, she had loved it all — the blue hills be hind the green, the little white house and him. He had never known she loved him till that day — the first day at Wvhurn. Jackson's face clouded. Since then they had lost young Bessie through scrarlet fever, and - though Provi dence had given them Enid, their six months' old daughter, Dolly had never recovered from the shock of Bessie's death. Bessie was their first born, and she had been seven when the fever took her from them almost suddenly. The child had ailed a little for a fe- days, but they had not suspect ed it was serious. The plantation was som" miles from Wyburn, and when they at last got Bessie to hospi tal it was too late." Jackson bit his lips. He curled them under his teeth and clenched his hands. Bananas! Bananas! That summer Bessie died they had been fighting a more than usual weed in-

vasion. Dolly had herself come out to help him. Even after they had lost Bessie tliev had had no time to sorrow about her. They had -had to get their heads down again to the weeds. Bananas! No one but the grower knew what the fruit meant. A softening breeze blew through the torn and ruined leaves, and Jack son felt liis eyes narrow. While he had been trying to learn i something about the banana, its diseases and habits, its good and bad points, and solving the problem of whether it was worth growing it or not, lie had lost not only Bessie, his first born, but Dolly, his wife. A man could not go on produc ing, growing, just making a living without looking about. A man had to live, and when he was no longer single he had to live for as well as with his wife. Something was wrong with Dolly. He felt his face twitch. Diseases at tacked human beings as they attack ed fruit. A xnan had to be for ever watchful, especially with one as dear and precious as Dolb- was to him. Dr. Swan's advice to him a month ago, "Better take Mrs Jackson away for a bit of a holiday if you can af ford it, old man," came back to him now suddenly. Dolly did want a holiday. Since they had lost Bessie she had not been out of the house. Enid had been born there. Take her for a holiday? How was he — >ing to take her for a holi day ? A hopelessness swept over him. Only if he sold up everything — gave in. He drew himself up a little stub bornly. He could not see all his fine effort passing like this. Except for the hail the promises had been bright. A man expected trouble on the land. It was like being at war. Man was al ways at war with nature, nature who seemed to support the weeds, nature who had no mind at all as far as he Jackson, who had fought all . through the war, and had never lost the nick-name of "Serg.", which had accompanied him to Gallipoli and on into France afterwards, felt the fight gathering within him again. A man only showed what he was when he was hit from all sides. He had been hit as hard as this before. He , would be hit again. Fight it. Stick it. Fight it out. Had not the hit which had sent him half dead from the field in Flan ders floated him through a sea of sickly ether, which was worse than pain almost, sheer into Dolly's hands and arms. Who would have expected to find a Brisbane girl nursing in a hospital in Rouen? Who would have expected that she would take any interest in him — Serg. Jackson, a widower with a growing family, when she was a singing-actress? Yet she had. She had never ceased to write to him from the time he had left Rouen. After the war she had gone back to the stage, then had come to Australia under an engagement. She had married him as soon as he had proposed. Something born that day in Rouen in her heart and his had never died. It flowered wondrously after their marriage, culminating in Bessie. But with the loss of Bessie

Neighbor (to returned reveller with damaged head) : "I say wheT I have you clone to your head?" B Reveller: "Mush have bit myshelf. ole chap I" I Neighbor: "But you can't bite the top of your own head!" 8 Reveller: "Mush have stood on a chair 1" I

it had died. . . . Jackson's face

ciouaea again. x esteraay ne ana Dolly had quarrelled, and she had said she hated him. Jackson had always been patient. To leave the stage, city-life and all the hectic atmosphere of a theatre and come to a banana plantation, blue hills, silence, tfees, Wyburn. and, moreover, his first wife's daughter and two growing sons, who had joined them on the plantation, Jack son argued that Dolly must have loved him dearly. If he had lost her love now it was either his own fault or some sickness of her mind occasioned by Bessie's death; and by and by her love would return.. Jackson knew that Dolly had been a flirt before he married her, knew that she must have had many chances better than his. But she' had ac cepted him, and though he did not guess why. beyond the fact that love was always without law or reason, he believed she was faithful. Still . . . That was before young Carruthers had come to Wy burn, He had only heard yesterday that Dolly had once been engaged to Carruthers. Jackson's hair was turning grey. Carruthers was only two years older than Dolly, and Dolly was as yet but thirty. She had crowded much into her young life. Always she was rather reticent about her family. "Oh, we moved from Brisbane when I was very small," she had told him in Rouen, "but I remember it well. Wonderful fruit we used to get. Buckets of grapes, and carts of pine apples and bananas." Bananas! Yes. They might have been said to have begun their flirta tion over bananas. Bananas might end their marriage. Serg. wanted his Dolly to be happy, anyway. He would jog on somehow. Her family, she had told him, had settled down in London, and she and her sisters went on the stage as soon as they left school. She was in France when the war broke out, and she and her sisters were all nurs ing till after it. Her family, some day, she always said, intended returning to Australia. Lately, h'owever, since Enid had been born, Dolly could do nothing but talk about going back to them for a change. Something was wrong. ... It was all queer and unnatural to Serg. A woman, who loved a man as she had seemed to love him. did not sud denly grow to hate him like this un less , , . unless there was another man. But it seemed incredible. Enid- was six months old. Yes. But Dolly had left Enid almost exclusively to Edith, her step-daughter, while she went to Wyburn and amused herself. And husband and wife had begun to quarrel. They were perpetually quarrelling now over Dolly's neglect of everything in the interests of the little bazaar which was soon to be held. Dolly was arranging some theatri cal items — Dolly with a child six months old, whom sh'e should have been minding. Jackson's mind was being forced back to remember his first wife now, who had lived alone for her children, giving her life at last for her third

born, young Tom, who was becoming 8

sucn a help to Jackson now. fl Leila would have died rather than I leave a six months' old baby. fl Jackson was tense suddenly think- B ing he saw a snake glistening be- I tween the weeds not far away. Nothing. It passed. It was & I lizard, no more. But why was Dolly I spending so much time at Wvburn? B Why had she selected young Car- B ruthers as h'er partner in these thea- B tricai things? X Jackson had let it go on because Dr. Swan had said to him, "Mrs Jack- B son needs a chance. She's fretting."- B Humph!" It didn't seem to Serg. B that she was f retting. Yet — how he B wished he could undei-stand some- B thing of women and their ways and B moods, he might then understand B this one who was dearer than life to fl him'. X He had always been a rather ne'er- do-well himself, even in his youth. Leila had caught him and chained " him to a farm for a while till her death. Then her people had taken the children and he had begun to wander, ending up at last in a de tective's office, where he had begun, for that had been his father's oc cupation. Jacks on had never been good at his work. He had disliked it, too. Spying and peeping and prying about were not the things he liked doing. On his mother's side he came of a long generation of people who had fought and won their battles with the land, and the soil was his natural home. Deep down in his heart he felt that Dolly belonged to the land, too. He had never been able to probe that mystery of her life in Australia when she was little. But he had a feel ing that her people had been farmery and some piece of good fortune had sent them to London, and the life Dolly had known there. Anyway, until a year ago, for it was just a_year since they had lost Bessie, Dolly had been happy. There was none of this desire in her heart to be always running about, and she had never quarrelled with liim. "Dad! Dad! Dad! Snake in the bath-room, quick! I've locked it in. Oh, quick! Dad!" Edith's voice calling him from the house at no distance from where he was standing brooding out over his fl fxuit and wife, Jackson pulled him- fl self together quickly, and picking up fl a stick, was running back to the fl house when he saw Dolly and CarrU- fl thers riding up together. B Dolly was laughing as if she was fl a£f,u/dly bappy, and, though the fl children were screaming, "Snake! X Snake!" and Jackson Ijnew how im- fl portant it was never to let a snake H get away, he was for a moment drawn fl up angrily by the sight of the two fl approaching. H Hfere had he been 'worrying over fl her, wondering whether he should fl sell out to get her away for a holi- fl day, and she was all the time riding fl and amusing herself, with young Car- fl ruthers. X . He felt a momentary desire to use fl Ji ?ticlc on Carruthers, but after nil fl "ie "azaar theatricals were throwing fl the pair together, and Jackson was fl really concerned about Doily. m (To be continued.) fl