|Chapter Title||FARMER MACK IS AT HOME.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||Farmer Mack|
I CHIIAPTER VI,-FARMER MAOK IS AT HOME. The place seemed ' kind o' lonely,' Farmer Mack often remarked to him self after he had returned home. Within the next month plenty of rain had fallen, and there was an abun dance of grass on the farm, and the people of Inverell and Bundarra when he rode to one or the other of these places on his old grey mare all seemed in good spirits, and were jubilant over a probable rise in the market for fat stock. So he s'posed he'd no right to go givin' way to low sperrits,but hehad a kind o' sentiment that we would never see Gui's little gel as was comin' in the winter. Time passed on, and the old man grew still more lonely, but uttered no complaint. It was only a matter o' a few years, he con stantly reminded himself, and he must see the last of them on the old farm. One day he brightened visibly under the influence of the generous gift of a pure bred jersey heifer from the flock which had been Mr Fullard's pride for some time. The heifer displayed all the' pints ' which awoke such genuine admiration within the old man's breast, and many a happy hour was spent in contem plating the same, for Farmer Mack though he barely admitted the truth to himself was failing in health and strength, and as a natural consequence materially in spirits, and yet no one who cared for him knew this, no one who loved him was near to render any of those little attentions so necessary to a weak body and a weary soul. The woman who kept his little home tidy and cooked his meals was not observant, but occasionally it did occur to her to wonder in her slow way why the'maister' ate so little and smoked so much. But he made no complaint, and she asked no questions. She s'posed he would get right arter a bit. So it came about that Farmer Mack made a great pet and out-door com panion of the Jersey heifer, which he named Guida, because when he said the name it sounded as though his daughter was back again, and he failed to feel so lonesome when imagin ing that. The heifer soon learned to moo with pleasure when the old man appeared, and then she would run to him and lick his sleeve.
'Eh dear,' Farmer Mack was wont to remark to himself. 'She's a fine o creature, and will be good at the h bucket when the time comes, though ti mebbe I'll never live to see it, for I'm h kind o' off me oats.' ci And so the time went slowly on. He r' rose each day at his accustomed hour b and looked after things, but the man of all work noted that each week his c step grew feebler, his eye less bright, and that little by little the old man relinquished some of his simple daily tasks until they all fell to the a former, But when that came about t( Farmer Mack with characteristic b firmness insisted upon raising his h servant's wages, and he, though " nothing loth, put it down as a bad " sign for the master. Every week W brought a long, bright letter from Guida, and to sit down by the window a: and, after a preliminary careful wiping a. of glasses, to spell this out was his h. keenest delight. Sometimes he would send a short reply, but the task of com posing and committing the same to s paper was laborious in the extreme. 'Ay,' he remarked sorrowfully to himself, after signing a little letter p which left him with a sad feeling of incompleteness ;' ay, my letter writing days, such as they were, are dead and gone. I never had much schoolin', an' hi I reckon what little I had is giving me the slip.' He brushed his hand across his dim old eyes, and when he had m done so the back was damp with o unbidden tears. i When the weather began to grow cooler he brightened rather and spent , a considerable portion of his day h for some weeks in fashioning a pen, , or what he termed 'making a bedroom' T for Guida, the heifer. This done the man of all work lined it with clean h straw, and every evening Farmer Mack u walked into it with the pretty animal, h his arm round her neck, while expres- a sions of endearment fell from his lips. Then he would coax her to lie down, and sometimes as an outcome of the waste affection of his big empty heart, t the simple old man would press his a lips to the heifer's neck, and leave her a with the customary words that she ' was ' as snug as a bug in a rug.' About the beginning of April the weather became very tempestuous the high winds when they subsided being succeeded by heavy and continuous , rains, which with but short intervals r of sunshine lasted some weeks. On s the first genuinely fine day Farmer Mack, who felt as he termed it 'like a rat out of a trap,' determined to drive J into Inverell and get a few things -he a needed and hear the news. It was E towards evening when he reached the outskirts of his little farm upon his return journey, and then he saw some- r thing that made his heart beat fast. 1 Where there had been but a compara- I tively speaking ignominious looking stream when he left in the morning, there was now a wide expanse of water rushing on and on whither no man knew. For a moment he gazed be wildered, and then he understood. The Guida though so many miles away had overflowed its banks, and a vast quantity of the flood water had made its way through forest and scrub form ing a ' billabong,' until it had met the rivulet which skirted Farmer Mack's farm, when mingling their waters,they swept on together, covering many acres of the old man's flats. Not far from where he had halted were a few labourers' cottages,and several men and women stood a little way off now gazing at the hurrying, seething stream. 'I call to mind,' Farmer Mack said slowly to himself, 'I call to mind a very decent ford a bit higher up, an' I reckon it would be a deal safer than trying to find the bridge now.' He turned his horse in the direction of the ford, but when he reached the water's edge there came loud and warning cries from some of the men. 'I am not afeared, if you're not,' said Farmer Mack, leaning forward and patting the old grey mare.' 'Don't try it,' called the men, 'you will be a great fool if you do.' 'It will be higher termorrer,' said the old man to himself, 'and Gui's shut up in her bedroom not being her. self through a touch o' colic, and the man, he was goin' over to young Pentow's this arternoon to look at his sow and litter, an' I reckon he ain't back, an' what's to become o' Guida when she's shut up, she can't do no other than starve.' He spoke to the old mire, who quickly responded by walking straight into the water. 'Come back, Come back !' yelled the men, but Farmer Mack did not so much as turn his head. 'Starve and die all alone,' he muttered to himself and he urged on the old grey mare till they were near ing the middle of the powerful current. Then she began to sway from side to side, for the force of the hurrying water was very great, too great to enable her to keep her legs. there came a great shouting, and Farmer Mack heard a familiar voice say 'Come back for God's sake and I Swill ride over.' He tried to turn the old grey mare, Sbut when doing so the current swept the poor animal, and with her the cart and its occupants into deeper water, and then a great cry went up from those who watched, followed by a Srushing splashing sound as someone Srode his horse, a powerful thorough bred, into the water
And up and down the bank on the opposite side rushed the Jersey heifer half frantic with terror, and after her two or three mongrel dogs snapping at her heels as they went. It had not oc curred to the simple old man, her master, as possible that she could make her way out of the pen, or that, had she been doomed to remain, she could have eaten the clean straw with which her bed was replenished daily. In a few minutes the old grey mare sank and was drowned, and when he saw this, Farmer Mack,who still clung to the cart, gave a groan. He had brought her to her death, he thought, he might as well die too. But what was this huge thing looming blackly near him. His head went round. It was the beginning of the end, he thought, and he might as well give in at once. But a strong arm seized him and the same familiar voice be had heard a short while before said quickly 'Don't struggle, and I think I can save you. When they reached the shore Farmer Mack 'opened his eyes and looked at his rescuer. It was Mr Pickara who looked back at him, and who tried to form his white lips into a smile. ' You've risked your life for mine brave lad,' murmured the old man, ' but I'm done lad, I'm done. Give me your hand. The hand of a man of a mau-of a man,' he added faintly and then his eyes closed again and the light went out of his face. Years after, a wee mite with big awestruck eyes, and God's sunlight in her hair, stood by a green and grassy mound in the cemetery at Inverell. They had told her that " Grandpa' was there, and she scattered many. hued blossoms over the grass,and pulled up a stray weed or two with her tiny hands. ' Poor Grandpa,' and she gave a quick little sigh. She wished he would come up and play with her. Another time a man came and looked. till his breast heaved. 'Dear good old man,' he whispered, 'you were, you are my good angel still. God bless you ! God bless you!'