|Chapter Title||THE GHOST.-Continued.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||Farmer Mack|
FIGTION. FARMER MACKI Written for the Examiner and Tasmanian. By ADELINE J. WHITFELD. _t Author of ' My Lady,' 'Madge,' 'Rex,' eta. CHArTER 11.-THE GnOST. -Continued. 'It's moved ! It's moved I' cried the little one feverishly. ' It skipped up the chimney, an' now its laughin' at me. Isaw it hop up. Drive it out, Muddy I Drive it out ! Don't you see its big mouth all red and ugly, and a fire in each eye ? Oh Muddy! Muddy !' The child sat up in bed and pointed with a shaking finger in the direction of the fireplace, her eyes were terror stricken even to wildness, her voice grew shrill. Again her mother tried to soothe her, and even professed to have driven 'it' up the chimney, and out at the top. ' Et's a naughty story, Muddy, to say it's gone away, fir there it is now creeping under the wardrobe,' she cried presently. ' Nina," said her mother, ' mother never tells stories, not naughty stories, and now mother says that there is no one:here but you and me, will you not believe her ?' ' But I can see it, Muddy,' she re iterated, ' there it goes I Oh now we are in among the bushes, and it's get ting dark, and oh ! oh ! the water is so cold. So cold ! ' She fell back ex hausted and lay silent fora few moments. Her mother prepared to leave the room for something she wanted, but Nina in a voice of terror begged her to stay with her. Certainly she seemed very ill. Just then there came a low timid knock at the door, which Nina's mother quickly opened. Dickson stood out side, a curious mixture of shame, sorrow, and anxiety depicted in his face. ' If you please, Mrs Brown,' he be gan diffidently, ' bhow is the little girl ' A sudden thought struck the mother. She drew the boy into the room. ' Now you tell Ninea,' she said, ' that it was all a naughty trick.' Dickson was nervous and abashed. He began in a parrot-like fashion 'It was all a naughty-' but Nina threw out her little hands ' Go away,' she cried. ' Go away, bad boy ; ugly pig, go away.' Dickson, who had red hair and a freckled face, looked still more ill at ease. ' ] won't hurt you, Nina.' In school boy phraseology this was the most soothing thing he could find to E ay. The most comforting assurance that he could offer her was that which pro. mised her a whole skin. But Nina in her excited, feverish condition refused to be mollified. 'Go away,' she said in a high pitched, little voice. ' Go away, dog ! Go away, pig ! ' Mrs Brown signed to the boy to leave the room. She followed him to the door ' Is Farmer Mack still in his road ? she asked. 'Yes'm,' said Dickson. 'What a pity,' said the mother, ' I fancy he could soothe Nina; she has taken such a fancy to him.' Now Farmer Mack was still n bed, and still very stiff and sore, and yet somehow when Dickson told him of Mrs Brown's idea the old man rose and slowly and painfully dressed him self, and then made his way to the sick room. Nina was fretting, not shedding real tears, but giving forth various and prolonged sounds of woe intermixed with cries of 'Muddy! muddy!' When Farmer Mack's thump, which the old man in his simplicity of heart fondly believed to be a gentle knock, was heard at the door, the little girl, sup posing it to be Dickson returnel, cried aloud 'Go away, dog ! Go'way, puppy l Go 'way, ammomel! Go 'way, am ,nomel; little puppy dog down a yard!' Mrs Brown's look of gratitude to Farmer Mlack said much more than her words of thanks as she ushered him into the room. ' You would't call me names, little woman,' said he, sitting down by the bedside. . Nina's fit of delirium had passed, but she was now in a highly nervous and excited condition. She looked at Farmer Mack, and then burst into tears and held out her little arms to wards him. He bent his head and she wound them round his neck, and still sobbing pressed her tiny tear-stained face close to the bald patch with its fringe of grey hair. It didn't kill you then,' she sobbed, 'Ifort you must be dead, cos Icouldn't see you.' 'Oh, no,' said Farmer Mack cheer fully. 'I'm not so easily killed. But what do you mean by it?' Nina trembled visibly. 'Don't speak of it,' she said. ' It was awful! It had a face all fire, an'
a body all white, and it howled, howled like-like a mad dog.' ' And all the time it was a naughty boy playing a trick,' said Farmer Mack. Nina's unnaturally bright eyes opened wide. 'Do you tell lies ' she asked in an awestruck tone, 'because if you do you will go down, down, down, to where the devil has a big fire called bell, an' you will burn, and burn, and burn, an' not have a drop o' water to cool your burning tongue. ' You would give me some water,' said Farmer Mack somewhat at a loss to meet this small agent for hell fire on her own ground. 'I won't be there,' said Nina sleepily. A sudden weariness had overtaken her, and already her eyes were closed. Presently Farmer Mack went heavily out of the room leaning on his stick as he did so, but Nina was in a deep sleep and did not hear him go. The long exhausting sleepless hours through which she had passed made this sleep doubly deep, and the old man felt very thankful as he tramped down the long passage that he had been the means of bringing the same. Tbe pretty housemaid at that moment tripped up to him. 'Dinner will soon be served, sir,' she said brightly, ' Where would you like yours ?' ' Eb, my dear,' said Farmer Mack, a little touched by her attention, and for getting for the moment all Guida's re minders of the laws of society, ' Eh, my dear, why I think I will set to the table with the company.' The trim maid looked at him criti cally. He was dressed in anything but company clothes,she thought.They were shabby, dusty-looking, very shiny about the elbows, and a little gone in the knees. 'If you'd give me your coat, sir, I'd brush it for you,' she said respectfully. ' No, thank yer,' responded Farmer Mack cheerfully, 'it will do as well as the best, though it has seen better days. Now these things was my Sun day-go-to-meeting suit up to last year for, let me see,some five year, but when you wunst takes to wearin' 'em right through the hull week it knocks tin pots out of 'em.' ' I'll tell Mrs Melrose,' said the girl, hurrying away to hide her laughter. 'Eh, dear,' said Farmer Mack, run ning his eyes over the dinner table and adjacent sideboard as he took his seat, ' but you purvide well for the inner man here, Gui., whatever you may do for the outer.' There were some thirty persons in all assembled there, for in addition to the other invited guests several 'jackeroos' employed by Mr Melrose and two or three others from a neigh bouring station found a seat reserved for them, and now, as Farmer Mack made his remark in his loud cheerful key, an audible titter passed round the young people -. a titter that was quickly suppressed by a glance from their host. But when the huge pud ding, surmounted by a pretty cluster of sprays of the berry bearing holly, was brought in, the simple old man created a sensation by exclaiming ' Good Lawk I Gui., you never ex pect to get that eaten at one sittin', do yer?' During the afternoon some grandly dressed ladies came in, as they said, for a cup of Mrs Melrose's fragrant tea, and were electrified by seeing Farmer Mack sitting at ease in the drawing-room with his halfemptied cup set down beside him on the Brussels carpet, He had been per suaded to lay aside his shabby coat, and.was now arrayed in a neat black one of his son-in-law's; the old waist coat was hidden too, but the trousers, which were a trifle gone in the knees, were still in evidence. 'Father,' said Guida a little ner vously, 'let me introduce you to Mrs Black, Mrs de Love, and the hen, Mrs Fullard, the Misses Mute, and Miss Crane.' Farmer Mack rose to his feet and gave a short, awkward bow. 'Good afternoon ladies,' he said, ' Good afternoon, uncommon hot, ain't it ?' and he mopped his heated brow energetically. Guida found seats for her guests and, touching a bell, sent a footman in quest of her husband. Farmer Mack had resumed his seat almost immediately, but was slightly disconcerted to find that the hen. Mrs Fullard occupied a chair well within speaking distance. He coughed once or twice, and then remarked somewhat diffidently- - ' ee, it's awful hot,and what makes it worse for me is that I'm a bit off colour to-day.' '1 beg your pardon ?' said the hen. Mrs Fullard, 'Eh I' said Farmer Mack, 'I did not quite understand you,' she said smiling. She was a bright, youthful-looking creature, with a sweet face and a winning manner. 'Oh, what I meant was, I'm not up to my oats to.day,' said Farmer Mack. 'I got a ducking in a pond last night, and my old bones to-day are in a constant state of rebellion about it.' The hen. Mrs Fullard was too much of a lady to look more than genuinely interested. 'Do tell me how you got the duck ing,' she said.