|Newspaper Title||Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Parson Dick of Pinginup|
PARSON DICK OP PIÏTGINUP.
By May Gibbs.
Sh! sh! sh! sh! sh!
Pat rolled over on his back, and slow- ly opened, his eyes- big black eyes had Pat, and a shaggy mop of nut-brown hair. He had a plain but fascinating little face. He was very sleepy, and his heavy lashes were closing again, when sh ! sh ! sh ! sh ! sh ! sh ! came from above his head. He opened them wide this time and gazed lovingly up. A few feet up the wall on a piece of hollow bark slung by string, sat a small 'possum. Seeing Pat's hand held up, it lowered it- self by its tail and climbed on. Pat cuddled it in beside him. There were blackboy rushes and a few sacks be- tween Pat and the ground, but the king in a feather bed could not have been more comfortable.
Pat had no belongings in the world but the 'possum and Parson Dick. His father, a low, drunken brute, had gone off one night two years ago, leaving Pat, aged eight, to shift for himself.
Pat lay thinking, watching the patch of sunlight which fell from the open window of the hut. Suddenly a shadow blotted it. A black face grinned at him from under tousled hair.
"Hullo! Jack, what you got?"
Jack's face suggested that he had something.
"Parson, he up?" queried Jack. "No, him sleepin'."
"Parson berry mindick last night, '
returned Jack. "Him drunk."
"Him no drunk!" shouted Pat fierce- ly. "Here, you be off, you no good, bad feller, walk quick!" .
"No walk,' said Jack, shaking his
head, "no bad, quobbor feller, gotteom big feller kangaroo. You tellum Par- son."
"Ah, you bad feller!" said Pat, still angry. 'You say parson drunk, you tellum lie; be off out of this."
Jack's face fell. "Parson him drunk,' persisted he.
"Me sorry. ''You givum t'im kangaroo?''
"No," said Pat firmly.
Jack looked pathetic, his heavy mouth quivered as he whined, "you give um t'im kangaroo." He held up a small brush with the blood still fresh on the Spear wound.
Pat looked thoughtful, but shook his head.
Jack turned slowly, and retired to the shade of a neighbouring tree, where he squatted, sulky, surrounded by his
Pat smiled, then his face puckered with anxiety. He took the 'possum from his head, where it had sat during the interview, and putting it gently in
its bark house, set solemnly to work. He swept vigorously on the earthen floor, raising a cloud of dust, then made his bed and set things tidy. He made a funny little figure, brown skin deepen- ing to black about his feet and ankles, his one garment a man's silk shirt roll- ed up at the sleeves. He opened the door and looked out. Unconsciously his small soul was stirred by the beauty of the morning- the clear air, laden with the scent of bush flowers the long, liquid notes of a distant magpie, the sound of a cow-bell; tinkling near the foot of the hill where a small river marked its course by thick green foliage. A small Willie-wagtail perched on a stump close by flourished its tail at him.
Pat gathered some blackboy rings and wood and soon a thin spire of smoke
rose and blended with the deeper blue above.
Pat bethought himself of his trousers and went and put them on.
"Pat" a man's voice called him from the inner room (the hut had but two). It was strangely unlike the other. Along one side several rough shelves full of books, under the window a quaintly carved mahogany desk, beside it, across
the corner, a small cottage piano. On the wall above the books were some
framed prints of old masters.
On the opposite side, on a stretcher bed, his head raised on one hand, lay Parson Dick. The linen and pillows were white, gaudy-coloured blankets lay smoothly over. Parson Dick, with the
merest suspicion of a twinkle in his eye, looked slowly from Pat's tousled head to his small black feet.
'Did I ever tell you anything about being clean?"
"Lots," said Pat, sadly.
"Then down to the river, quick! Plenty of soap, Pat!" The last words reached Pat as he scampered past the window.
Parson Dick, the puzzle of Pinginup and the pet. The man who always had a kind word and a joke, who always said the right thing at the right mo- ment, who never was without money to give away, yet who lived almost as a pauper. The man who played cricket and always made a decent score. The man who smoked like a chimnev and played cards with the doctor. The man who filled, to the last seat, his little corrugated iron church Sunday after Sunday. The man who made friends with the roughest of the mill hands. The man who sat reading far into the nights, and was seen at sunrise the next morning making his way with the doctor to some accident on the mills. The man who was father, mother, friend, and Deity to small Pat.
"If it wasn't fer 'is 'aggard expres- sion 'e'd be 'andsome." said Mrs. Jills. "''Yes, that's right," assented Mrs.
" 'Is face is awful full of lines, too : but ain't 'is eyes queer?"
"Beautiful, I think," said Mrs. Brown.
"Yes, that's right."
"They seem to look straight through
"So they do."
"Did yer notice 'ow pale 'e looked on Sunday?"
"Pat tells me 'e don't eat 'nothing hardly."
"So I 'ear."
"Some days 'e starves outright." "Go on !"
"It's ???? goin' into a de- cline."
"My word! if 'e died that boy'd die
'I'm sure I hope 'e don't; I fair love
Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jills uncon- sciously voiced the feelings of all on the
"Tom," said the doctor's wife, anx- iously, "do you think Parson Dick's
The doctor looked exceedingly grave "There's a mystery about that man
"To me, he is sometimes uncanny What is such a man doing here in the
"The doctor laughed. "What am I doing here?" he said.
"You? You're young: and things must have a beginning: but he's old.'
"Nonsense; not a day over thirty
"Well, he looks ill. Tom. I wish you'd see to him."
"I am, my dear."
Parson Dick closed his book as Pat entered.
"That's the shiny shilling, Pat."
"Ain't you going to have one this morning, 'sir?"
Pat looked serious, for Parson Dick to miss his morning twim was ominous,
"Don't look at me like a scared bun- ny. Pat. I'm only tired. Now, come here. We must be very serious, just
for a few moments."
Pat's black eyes grew round.
"If ever I should die, Pat-" "What for?" breathed Pat. "If I should, Pat-"
"I might get run over, or tumble
down dead. "
"If I should, Pat." Pat nodded.
"Go to my desk, take this key, open
the drawer. Do it now. See the let- ter tied with pink tape. Take it out." Parson Dick untied the tape.
"There a picture inside; you may
look at it."
Pat, very round-eyed, drew forth the photograph of a lovely girl, a clever laughing face. Across the corner was written, in strong hand, the word
"Do you like it, Pat?" Parson Dick's eyes held a curious light.
"Licks Lizzy Mulligan all to bits," said Pat, seriously.
Parson Dick smiled; he sealed the envelope.
"Put it back, Pat. now hang the key on that nail at the back of the desk. Now. Pat, if anything should happen, could you post that letter for me?"
"Without waiting to do anything
He nodded again.
"You'll try to remember." There was a look in Parson Dick's face that brought the tears to Pat's eyes. In a moment it was gone.
"Tut-nonsense, man," he said, ruf- fling Pat's hair with a thin white hand. "Gosh, Pat! What's that over there?"
Pat followed his gaze in time to see the thin end of a snake's tail sliding over the doorstep of the outer room. It glistened as it passed into the sun. Like lightning Pat had seized Parson Dick's thick walking-stick from the cor- ner and was gone. The next moment came sounds of whacking and quick breathing and grunts of "Would you? No. you don't! Take that! That got yer!" then an uproar as Jack, the nig- ger, and his dogs joined the fray.
Pat appeared all breathless and tri- umphant. A large black snake hung over the stick. "Gosh!" said Parson Dick ; "he is a beauty!"
It was piping hot. The roofs of Perth glistened and shimmered in the heat of noonday sun. In the broad, cool verandah of a fine hotel, overlook- ing Perth Water, two people were talking. One was Kitty Carrew, the fascinating girl comedian who had set all Perth astir, not such a girl as she looked, but still in the spring of her life, with rare personal charm and gifts. Kitty Carrow, if London had been at her feet, what could Perth do but rave? Kitty Carrew, so charming, so witty, bright, and sympathetic to all who knew her personally. There were stor- ies, but there always are.
As she sat there listlessly gazing at the blue river, half Perth were dis- cussing her. How little did they guess, how little does one being know of what is in another's heart. In Kitty Car- rew's heart, discontent, unrest, self- accusation, unsatisfied longing.
Her companion, leaning against the rail, his back to the pret- ty scene, making a dark blot against the dazzling blue outside, was a tall, handsome man of heavy build. His clean, flexible, worldly face sugges- ted his profession at a glance.
"Kit," he was saying, "do you ever wonder what would have happened had we never met?"
"You do lots of things." "It's hard to imagine!"
"My life without yours."
Kitty Carrew raised the palm-leaf fan to shade her eyes from the glare,
"Its strange," he continued, "how people meet, and know, and care; so little about each other's former lives."
"It's very natural, you of the Past has nothing to do with you of the Pres-
ent," she answered.
"I don't agree, the life you have lived will always be part of you."
Kitty Carrew lowered her fan a shade more over her face.
"I wish you wouldn't moralise on a day like this," she said prettishly.
"My dear Kit, you've grown fright- fully irritable lately."
"It's this rotten place."
"Nonsense, the place is charming."
"Oh, you always like every place and everything."
"Perhaps when you're my age you'll hold the same comfortable philosophy."
"Oh, stuff Rob, you're too good. Did you never do anything wrong?"
"I've done my share." He turned as he spoke, and looked out over the river -his thoughts running back over years of hard fighting, reckless enjoyments, burning ambitions, bitter realisations and endless broken resolutions. His own deep sigh roused him ; he turned and looked down tenderly on the wo- man before him. What a picture she made in her dainty white frock, her glossy hair, fresh pink and white com- plexion, big, wide-set, grey eyes and rich, red, curving lips making lovely colouring against the pale green cus- hions at her back.
"What's the matter?"
"You look as though you had the cares of the world on your shoulders,
"I'm depressed, that's all." "But why?"
He went and sat in the chair beside her.
"Kit, little woman," he said gently, smothering her hand. "I wish you'd-"
"Oh don't, Rob, it's too hot."
'Very well, dear, I don't want to bother you."
He rose slowly, his face wore an ex- pression of pain. He left the veran- dah, pausing at the doorway as if he half expected her to speak. If he had seen her face he would have gone back, but he went in without looking round.
"I don't like this mood of Kit's," he mused as he sought the shady side of the street; "she can't be well, the voy- age will pick her up."
Katty Carrew was at that moment on her knees at her bedside, pressing hot eyes, while through her fingers slow tears found their way and dropped one by one into the spotless frills of her
There was quite a small crowd on Pin- ginup Station to see the Albany train go through. Mrs. Gills and Mrs. Brown in picture hats. It was a big occasion. She, the great London actress would be on board. The company was leaving for Africa. Parson Dick, with small Pat beside him, his 'possum tucked un- der his coat, and all the children and and dogs of the place. All watched
the long level lines running away into
Pat was the first to see the smudge of smoke against the sky, "Here she comes," he said shading his eyes with his hand. "I can see her plain."
Parson Dick saw her too and a curi- ous feeling stirred within him. His
face was a ghastly colour or was it the glare from the white walls of the stat-
In silence they watched the mere speck growing till it became a huge, snorting, fiery thing bearing down on the tiny station like some dragon poun- cing on it's prey.
The train stopped. Some men got out and walked about, the station-mas- ter exchanged news with the guard, a freckled little girl in short frock and pinafore hurried to and fro with large cups of sloppy tea.
"There she is," said Mrs. Jills, "that's 'er lookin' out of the winder. My word, ain't she lovely?"
Mrs. Jill's tongue made incessant comment. "That's evidently 'er 'us- band, that tall toff with the white waistcoat."
Parson Dick overheard and smiled as a nervous person smiles when horrible or very sad news is told.
"Ain't 'is coat funny split up the back and regular in at the waist. What a tie. I'd like to catch my old man wearin' a locour like that. Whatever's Pat doin' showin' his 'possum, well that boy's got a cheek."
Parson Dick leaning against the wall watched the scene. His eyes never once moved from the figure who quite uncon- sciously caused so much interest.
"Look Rob. Did you ever see any- thing half so sweet?"
"You wouldn't part with it?" she said smiling into Pat's radiant face.
"Not much," said Pat. "He knows tricks-see!" and he held the 'possum out hanging by it's tail from his fore- finger.
" 'E's all right at night, but he doesn't like the light, see ; 'e'II get under my coat now." And Pat clutched as the small grey thing climbed up his arm and pushed under his coat.
"He's very sweet, very !" Pat grinned with delight. "Did you catch him?"
"No ; Parson Dick got 'im. He shot his mother when ''e was a little feller, 'e tumbled out of 'er pouch."
Pat jerked his thumb in the direc- tion of Parson Dick. She glanced up. but the sun was in her eyes.
"That is interesting; what's your name?"
"Rob," she said, turning to where he stood, looking on with kindly amuse- ment. "Isn't it a picture ? Could you get a snap?"
"We are just going, dear ; you'd bet- ter get in."
Parson Dick started violently. Pat was pulling his sleeve.
"Look what she gave me." He held up a ten shilling piece. "She kissed
me, too," he added, rubbing his cheek with the back of his hand. "She did
Parson Dick put out a hand to steady himself. The station, the trees with long slanting shadows falling across the lines, the long, straight track, with the rapidly diminishing train, all whirl- ed before his eyes. Then came a dark-
Half an hour later the doctor's wife made her way through the blackboys growing so thick beneath the tall gum's, and crossed the little clearing to the hut. The doctor met her at the door, there was that in his face which made her hold her breath.
"What?" she whispered. "Not dead."
"It's almost worse." "How, Tom?" "Morphia!"
"Will he die?"
"If God is kind."
"No. no, Tom! While there's life there's hope,"
The doctor sighed.
"You'd bettor look for the boy. He must sleep at home to-night."
"I must be here. Send this telegram and find the boy. They say he disap-
peared directly it happened."
. . . . .
It was in the cool of the evening some days later, that Pat and the doc- tor's wife entered the hut. Pat was transferred into a more respectable, if slightly less fascinating. Pat. It was
his first visit.
Parson Dick's face glowed with plea- sure at sight of him. Parson Dick was getting well: he was propped in many cushions, and had been reading.
"Pat, old man," said Parson Dick, "do you think you can take care of me while Mrs. Tom takes nurse for a walk?"
Pat nodded. His face was very seri-
"Why. Pat, what have they done to you? You're a regular 'Bobbie Daz- zler' !"
Pat nodded again, and was silent.
Tile voices of the two women died away.
"What's the matter, Pat?" "I dunno.'
"Yes, you do."
Pat shook his head.
Parson Dick reached out a thin hand and pulled the boy to his side. He fin- gered the plump little brown hands, they wore so clean ; he marvelled, "Ive been ill, Pat."
"Aren't you sorry?" "Pat still nodded.
"I might have died, Pat."
"Then it wouldn't have mattered," he said, quickly.
"Wouldn't have mattered. Pat?" Parson Dick smiled. He stroked Pat's hair.
"Pat. do you want me to die ?"
"No-but-the-the letter." _
"I posted it," sobbed Pat.
"Gosh!" said Parson Dick, then ne laughed. Laughter comes strangely
out of place at times.
"Pat, he said, "I'm glad you posted
All London was in deep fog. Kitty Carrew strained her eyes to see her whereabouts. The glass front of the hansom was down, she could make n0- thing of the blur before her. The slow
jog of the traffic and monotonous ging- le of bells lulled her into a half dreamy
The blurred lights dancing past put her in mind of phosphorus in deep ocean. Now she seemed to be back on
board, now she was whirling past end- less trees, weird trees with long stems and straggling branches. Now she was in her fiat in Chelsea, holding a letter, staring at the writing, now she was away back, a girl again-
She awoke. The cab had stopped. A few minutes later she was treading the soft carpet of a brilliantly lit stair- way. She stopped at a door on the first landing and knocked.
For a moment she hesitated, then
turned the handle and went in.
She closed the door and crossing to where he sat at a table strewn with pa- pers handed him an opened letter.
"Rob, read that."
"My dear child whatever possessed you to come out? You look white." He went to a cupboard as he spoke.
"No ! no." she said hastily, "don't get me anything ; I'm all right, read the letter," She moved calmly to a big chair near the fire and waited while he silently found his glasses and adjust-
He opened the letter. This is what
was written :
"Kit, you were right to leave me ; you could not love where you could no long-
er respect. I would have ruined your life. I came here to fight my fiend alone. God knows I try. If my love
for you and my sacred office could not help me. You were right. I want you to know I have always thought so, al- ways loved you. This will not be post- ed unless I die. You will be free when you read it. God bless you."
A deep silence filled the room. Kit leaning forward watched. A new strength had come to her. Yesterday she could not have done this. She watched for a sign, but the face before her was unmovable, every line and mus- cle showing in the strong light at his side.
He stopped reading and slowly re-fol-
ded the letter. The silence was breath- less, it held unfathomable meaning.
" Kit's eyes were riveted on his face. He put the letter down and raised his eyes to hers.
There was infinite pity shinning
through the tears in them. There was infinite tenderness in the movement of the big hands held out to her.
The silence broke and the weight of the universe seemed to fall.