Chapter 33103354

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33103354
Full Date1894-01-20
Page Number49
Corrections0
Word Count1457
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleWestern Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)
Trove TitleUnder the Southern Cross
article text

CHAPTER I.

More than twenty years ago John Pres eott and his two yoong daughters, accom- panied by aa old woman who acted as housekeeper and nurse,strived in Southern Queensland and took up their abode in tents while a small slab cottage was being built. ;

There was no ono to wonder why a man, evidently a gentleman, should seek to bury himself and bis infant children in that remote corner-f-so V far from the madd

Sbg'l^wil." The startled pigeons flew: ? np ^tbAy^irr as the mah« tread sounded j hsavUj|||^ ; i

fea BCtjmSttÊ&J eyed him askance from! ker percrPssTOngst the sheltered boughs ;

but John Prescott was never disturbed by curious eyes and questioning Hps--for the nearest living mortal was a good fifteen miles away.

The housekeeper was in absolute ignor- ance of her master's psst life, he had only engaged her when he arrived in Brisbane. ¡ She tried cautiously to question the eldest of her cbarges-a girl of seven years--but

Rosamond could tell her nothing of what ;

' she most wanted to know.

She learnt that they had all com» " in a big ship" from Englaud only a little while ago; that Rosamond's own mother had died when she herself was, oh, very little, and Rosamond had gone to the funeral; that ono day her father had brought home another lovely mother, who was always kind and quiet; and then Rosamond's nurse took hör to Brighton, and they need to have grand games oo the saud ; and ono day they had to go back, and her lather met them in London and he looked dreadfully angry 1 When she asked about mamma and when they were going home, he told her they were never going home anymore; mamma was dead, and there was a little baby; and they were all going away in äbig ship, and going to take the baby with them, and papa didn't seem to like the baby, she thought.

"That'splain enough!" muttered the

old woman.

Then Rosamond added :

"But when my own mather died I had a box of black frocks and two black bonnets, bnt I didn't have any when Lorne's mamma died." 1

" But are yon enre abe did die P" asked Hrs. Waltere, keenly. Then she cowered down in terror, for the tall form of ; John Prescott towered ia awful wrath in front of her.

" Attend to this !" said he, sternly. "I will have no prying into ray private affairs ! My business is my bnsiness, aud woe betide you if I find you seeking to know more than I choose to tell you. Bo you see those miles of scrub between us and that range of mountains P If you stood on the top of them you would see just the same wilderness anead. Listen to this ! The next time I find you questioning that child-whether it be in the day br the night-in storm or in shine-that moment, out yon go ! To sleep with the dingoes

or herd with thé blacks!"

"And you!" he grasped Rosamond's arm roughly. " You have an excellent memory I find\-bear this in mind : after to-day you are never to «peak of the life . jon lived helóte you came hore. Ton had fetter ^member what Í say !"

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He threw the elim arm away from him violently, and turned away.

That scene made a deep impression on

Rosamond. Her little sister was then a

year old, jost beginning to toddle about and lisp baby words, and she noticed that her father's hatred of the child increased as her charms expanded.

Lorne shrank instinctively from her father; when ho was in the house the children crept about softly on tip toe, and speke only in whispers; but in the day- time he was nearly always out of doors, for he worked as hard as any of tho black men he employed, deanne that dense scrub in the usual way, brushing the undergrowth, felling the trees ; then in due time burning it all, and planting the crop of maize. Keeping the cockatoos from the ripening grain ; pulling, husk- ing and threshing bis corn ; early and late he toiled unceasingly, as if in constant action lay his only chance of mental rest.

"When his crop was sold he found that it had not nearly paid expenses ; but that did not deter him from repeating the experiment year after year, though his face grew sterner and more hard as his reserved capital diminished.

The children, left to themselves, would wander hand lu hand, miles from the cottage where the sour-faced housekeeper cooked and mended; and in their way were not unhappy.

Ko one who bas not lived that life conld picture the awful solitude that surrounded these dawning souls, groping darkly for the key to the mysteries of life.

Hand in hand the little creatures wandered away into the thick shadow where no white foot had ever trod before ; gathering wild berries and peopling the scrub with fairios and sprites until they did not know how much was real and how much was-" make believe."

At night Mr. Prescott gave lessons tb Rosamond for two hours, and told her to teach her sister during the daytime. This Rosamond did in a most imperfect way, and so the years passed, until Lerne was

seven.

About that time Mrs. Walters found means of getting away without having to trust to the tender mercies of either dingoes or blacks. A party of travellers was passing through , into New South Wales, and she begged to accompany them. Then the children were more alone than ever.

Kow that there was no housekeeper Rosamond had to stay at home to cook the food. To Lorne she seemed to develop strange matronly ways that made her appear a little bit terrible. To make matters worse Mr. Prescott began to'con- verse with his eldest daughter, and Lorne wondered how Home found it possible to answer, and even to essay a laugh occas atonally. At such times Lorne would creep away to bed, feeling more lonely than ever. For was not Rozzie learning things that she could never hope to under- stand P And when she knew them, might she not be just as terrible as her stern-eyed father P

And so the poor child, nofc daring to- ssy good-night to Rosamond, would] dumbly kiss her sister's shadow on thei wall as she passed, and slip softly to bed, \ where she would sob herself to sleep.

OBS night Rosamond was' later than usual, and found her sister lying near the edge of the bed.

*' Mflve over, Lorne, you are in my place, and Tory nearly tumbled out on the floor !" Then, when the child made room for her ehe exclaimed :

" Whjr, you silly little thing, yon have been crying ! the pillow is all wet !"

! " I am so sorry Rozzie, I forgot that it was your pillow'! Take mine," said the Child, gently.

f "Oh, never mind, lean tura this. Bat why did yon cry P"

"Oh, I can't tell you!" and the sobs hurst forth again. "I am such a little thing, Rossie, and nobody helps ms to

think!"

" Helps you to think P What does that mean P People haven't got to be helped

to think!"

" But I want to think about happy things; and I only know what it is like to be lonely ! Was I ever very naughty, KozzieP"

" Who said you were naughty P"

. " Nobody ; only I think 1 must have been so bad one timo that father can never forget it! I don't want him1 to love me, Rozzie. I don't want him very much, I mean ;, bat why doesn't he P"

" I don't know why, Lorne," the other answered, thoughtfully. "I don't think Sou are to blame at all, because-" -she

esitated, and then added hurriedly: "But never mind, I love yon, and perhaps he will, too, sometime."

" Rozzie, blow the candle out and come to bed; I want to say something," whis- pered Lorne.

In a moment there was darkness, and the two children were lying side by

side.

"What is it, Lorne? Your face is all wet yet !" '

"Iknow;X c*0** "alp ttl Pat JW artaB round me, Renie,, and let me lie

fathir, For lam rtili a little thing, and

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the pain ia here," touching her breast, " will make me die-ii nobody loves me !"