|Chapter Title||THE GHOST.-Continued.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||Farmer Mack|
FIGTION. FARMER MACK, Written for the Examiner and Tasmanian. t By ADELINE J. WIITFELD. Author of 'My Lady,' ' Madge,' 'Rex,' etc. CHAPTER I.--THE (HOST. -Continued. The lady smiled She had not seen Farmer Mack jogging along on his old grey mare, but she guessed something I of the steed to which he was Iccus tomed. ' You must lot me drive over for you with my ponies,' she said; 3 'but you must not think of returning the same day. I am sure Mrs Melrose I will spare you for a short visit if I ask it as a personal favour.' " She had taken a singular fancy to Farmer Mack, but it was not wholly that fact that caused her to pay him such flattering attention, rather it was the result of having witnessed certain contemptuous looks and smiles which some of the other ladies had exchanged at the expense of the guileless old man. Now the hon. Mrs Fullard came of such good family, and was possessed of so much wealth and such good position, that she could afford in many things to do as she pleased ; and now piqued on behalf of Guida, for whom she had formed a sincere regard, she determined to show those ladies who had looked and smiled that what they affected to despise she would cherish. Since they had deigned to give Farmer Mack only a passing glance, she would be sufficiently unconventional as to invite him at this their first acquain tance to becomeherhonoured guest. She glanced at Guida for her ready acquiescence. The latter crimsoned painfully, but replied ' Surely, if you are so kind as to ask him, Mrs Fullard.'. ' You seem to be settlin' it between yer just as though I was a bag o' potatcrs, to be left till called for,' observed Farmer Mack genially. 'But you will come, Mr Mack, won't you?' asked the hon. Mrs Fullard in her winning way. 'I'm blest if I can say no to such a pretty woman, when i'm asked a simple thing like that,' said Farmer Mack, scratching his head. 'Fatherl' said Guida in tie old tone of warning. ' Bless me, there I am at it again !' exclaimed he perplexedly. 'Thought all wimmin liked to be called pretty, perticularly when they are, and it doesn't take a second glance 'Father !' interrupted Guida again. SYes, dear, yes. Putting my foot in it again,' he added sotto voce. 'It would take the dev-; oh lor ! there I go again.' But now the ladies with one accord, with the exception of the hon. Mrs Fullard, rose to take their leave, and having shaken hands graciously with their host and hostess bowed stiffly to Farmer Mack and passed out of the room. The latter looked after them with a half-piined, half-puzzled ex pression on his round, florid face, and then he said half aloud ' Seem a bit stiff in the back. Guess they're girthed too tightly, and if they bert much would snap most like.' The hon. Mrs Fullard lingered for fully half-an-hour after the departure of the other ladies, talking brightly all the time. Then she looked at her watch and gave a little start. ' I'd no idea it was so late,' she said ; ' Eric will think I'm down a well.' She sprang up and embraced Guide, and then, with a pretty grace, turned to the elder man and shook hands warmly. 'You will be sure to come,' she said. She did not know it, but there seemed to be an unseen influence urging her to make sure of this little visit of Farmer Mack's. This visit which, though seemingly of such slight import, was yet to have a most power ful effect upon her future. ' Eh, Gui. but she's a fine, strapping lass,' observed Farmer Mack when the hen. Mrs Fullard had driven away. A few days after she reappeared with her buggy and what Farmer Mack de clared to be a pair of the neatest things in ponies he had ever clapped eyes on. Bounding up the steps a picture of youth, health, anid energy, she met the old man in the hall. ' You see I have come,' she laughed, 'and now, if you are ready, we will just be back in time for lunch. In a short time they were driving away, and Farmer Mack was all ad miration to see the manner in which the hen. Mrs Fullard managed her spirited ponies. They were apparently a perfectly modelled pair, brown in colour, with the prettiest of heads and the daintiest of legs and feet. They kept up a fast trot up hill and down dale, and when they reached the top of a hill they danced there for a few moments in exuberance of spirits before pursuing their way. 'They come o' the same parents, I s'pose,' observed Farmer Mack as they trotted on. 'I suppose so,' returned the hen. Mrs Fullard carelessly.
'Nothing like it if you want a well- If matched pair,' said Farmer Mack. They drove on in silence after that for some time, till the glimmer of a large white house in the distance showed itself faintly among the trees. a 'That is my home you see over there,' said the hon. Mrs Fullard. ' Away over yander,' said Farmer Mack indicating the direction with his broad brown thumb. s ' Yes, that is it.' ' My!' ejaculated Farmer Mack, 'Looks a-a imposing edifice,' after 1 which eloquent utterance he drew a deep breath, whereupon the lady g laughed merrily. - 'Fine speeches do not seem.to suit you, Mr Mack,' she said. ' I don't often make a shot at 'em, mem,' he said with more candour than grace, ' but I got up a few a while ago 1 to please the gel, but, lor bless me I I've most forgot 'em now. I call to mind when I was a buy and went to school, which was mighty little I did. I call to mind gettin'a few good sound- E ing worJs in my nut, but they've died out, yes, they've died out, mem.' ' How did you go to Echool,' asked his companion for the sake of saying something. ' Rode, mem, when I could, part times on a bob-tailed nag, and 'part- i times on a white.' They now entered a picturesque avenue of native trees and shrubs, which had been left standing when the bush on all sides had been cleared. This avenue ran nearly a mile and was very shady and cool. 'Wasn't it a pretty idea to have these trees left1' asked the heon. Mrs Fullard as Farmer Mack got down from the buggy to open the gate. 'Real pretty, mem,' said the old man with enthusiasm. But as he took his seat again his face changed. ' Ain't them cattle over there?' he asked straining his dim old eyes to get a clearer view of a herd of animals graz ing in the furthermost end of the ad jacent field. 'Yes,' said the heon. Mrs Fullard with a smile, 'those are some of Eric's pure jerseys.' ' Heart alive !' said Farmer Mack, 'I thought I spotted them.' Mr Fullard did not come of as good a family as his wife, but though he was not entitled to an 'honourable' before his name he was no less a gentleman. He greeted Farmer Mack with a genuine warmth of welcome, and then it was good to see how proudly he turned towards his handsome young wife and said playfully 'I wonder Mr Mack trusted himself with ycu, Yola, behind those spirited little beasties.' Then they lunched, but first farmer Mack had to be introduced to Mr Fullard's mother. A dear. old lady with white hair and a pleasant face, but who from very old age had fallen into a habit of saying the wrong thing at all times. Mrs Fullard was in her ninety-third year. 'How do you do?' she said to Farmer Mack in a quavering tone, ' you are Mrs Melrose's father, who is always putting his foot in it, aren t you ?' Farmer Mack laughed heartily. He thought it was a great joke and showed that he.did so, but the heon. Mrs Fullard blushed crimson. 'That is too bad of you, my lady mother,' she said. ' No, no,'said Farmer Mack hastily, 'it is a bad habit of mine. You see I'm no ways used to what they call perlite society.' SYou're a self-made man, aren you ?' asked old Mrs Fullard. 'Hardly,' returned Farmer Mack with a puzzled air, ' I don't well see how any man could make himself. Mr Fullard was much older than his wife and his hair was iron grey, but Farmer Mack noted that an absolute harmony reigned between them, and that old Mrs Fullard,instead of seeming in the way, was just what was needed to prevent those whom she designated her "children" thinking too much of each other, and of them selves, After lunch Mr Fullard took Farmer Mack for a stroll to where the Jersey cattle browsed in the sunshine, and then the old man, to his own delight and to the amusement and edification of his host, enlarged upon what he termed the various " pints " of tne pretty animals. 'Who be all them 'buys ' ?' asked Farmer MAck presently, looking to where a party of young stockmen were riding towards the stables. 'Those are our "jackeroos"; observed Mr Fullard good-naturedly' ' good lads, some of them.' 'That ain't a "jackeroo"' observed Farmer Mack, indicating another horseman who was slowly making his way towards the front entrance. ' No,' said Mr Fullard, ' that looks like someone to see me, and there's young Maydew coming with the day's post. Come, Mr Mack, we will go back to the house.' The day's post lay on the hall table before being carried to Mr Fullard's office. The latter paused, and seeing that several letters and telegrams awaited his attention excused himself
for a few moments, while Farmer Mack went on to the drawing-room. As he entered he heard a man's voice addressing the hon. Mrs Fullard. She rose at Farmer Mack's entrance and something like a look of relief stole over her face. ' We will have some tea now,' she I gaid smiling, 'but what have you,done with Eric, Mr Mack ?' e 'He's busy with his post, mem,' d said Farmer Mack. 'Then he must just tear himself t away,' said the hon. Mrs Fullard t lightly, ' but let me introduce Mr t Pickara to you, Mr Mack.' A tall and i gentlemanly looking man of about i thirty years of age, handsome of feature and singularly clear in com- C plexion, advanced towards Farmer Mack and bowed graciously, not to a say condescendingly. Farmer Mack e .responded with his short awkward ' little bow, and sat down without a word. He was no longer at ease. His long hard life, containing more a 'kicks than ha' pence' had rendered him anything but sensitive or impres sionable, and yet there was something, an inexplicable something, about Mr Pickara that repelled the old man. What was it, he asked himself, that made him feel as though he'd got a fit o' the grumps? So he sat down and said nothing, but Mr Pickara turned his good-looking face towards him and made some conventional remark respecting the weather. To this Farmer Mack barely responded, but a small fly wandering aimlessly about the room just then happening to settle upon his bald head, the old man brought down one of his great brown hands upon it with a slap that sounded through the roam, and startled the hou. Mrs Fullard as she was about to resume her seat. She glanced at Farmer Mack in some surprise, and seeing this he broke into his customary mode of apology. 'Eh, dear, I beg your pardon, I'm sure.' The door opened just then to admit Mr Fullard, and with him the old lady his mother. Mr Fullard greeted his guest courteously, even kindly, but Farmer Mack, who had suddenly become observant, came to the con clusion that Mr Pickara was not an intimate friend of the master of the house. Tea was brought, and some desultory conversation indu'ged in, and then Mr Fullard said suddenly, Slooking at his wife, 'I am awfully sorry, Yola dear, but I have to start for Moree to-night, or rather leave this afternoon.' ' This is rather sudden, Eric,' said the heon. Mrs Fullard, 'isn't it 1 ' Well, it is, but I have just got a telegram asking me to be there on Thursday to take delivery of those sheep I was telling you about.' ' It's awkward too with two visitors in the house,' observed Mrs Fullard with innocent suavity. No one heeded this observation, but Farmer Mack, who was wrtching Mr Pickara, saw,or thought he saw, a flash, apparently a flash of triumph, light up that gentleman's fine eyes. It was in the afternoon of the suc ceeding day, a hot drowsy afternoon, that everyone with one accord made their way to the large, lofty, and well ventilated drawing-room and lounged there in its dim recesses. It was too hot to talk, they said but after a while Mr Pickara changed his seat from a lounge on one side to that occupied by the hon. Mrs Fullard, and began a conversation in a voice so low, that Farmer Mack, who sat at some little distance, could scarcely distinguish a word. The hon. Mrs Fullard from time to time moved uneasily despite the luxurious cush ions on which she leaned, or Farmer Mack thought that she did, and the old man wished that he could divine the cause of that uneasiness Presently he caught the words mesmeric power and magnetic awra. He knew nothing of such things, but they had an ugly sound he thought, and Sthen he almost started to see Mr Pichara take the lady's hand in his and hold it for a few minutes. The Snext moment he ealled himself an old fool for his pains. Most likely they were old friends, and what business was it of his if they did hold each other's hand and speak in low tones ? But he, too, moved uneasily in his rhair, though no one heeded him. SNow, Mr Pickara was making rapid Spasses with his hands before the hen. Mrs Fullard's face. The room was shrouded in all the gloom which Semanates from closed shutters, and old Mrs Fullard,who was somewhere near, by her deep breathing betokened the fact that she was fast asleep. The a motion of hands on the part of Mr Pickara lasted for a short time and e then he changed his tactics. He and the hen. Mrs Fullard came directly between the faint light from the window and the old man who was watching them in some mystification. The lady's eyes were closed and she a ppeared to be sleeping peacefully, when without warning Mr Pickara took her hands in his and stooping touched her lips with his own. Crash SAnd an easel carved in. solid oak fell Sheavily to the ground, berring with it an oil painting which it had supported. SThe hen. Mrs Fullard started to her feet, and her companion in some con e fusion went to pick up the fallen easel. 5Farmer Mack went straight to the g great green shutters and pushed them Sopen, thereby admitting a brilliant f stream of sunshine. (To be contimued.)