|Chapter Title||RONALD POPS THE QUESTION.- ASK MAMMA.|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
A TALK OF EARLY SQUATTINO LIFE IN
SÍ THE AUTHOR OF " ADVENTURES IN QUEENS-
[AU Biglde Jtciervcd.]
CHAPTER I.-RONALD TOPS THE QUESTION.
' ASK MAMMA.
TIIBEE hundred miles from Brisbane,, stood the homestead of a 'fine sheep station .called Boorooma, owned by a wealthy merchant who resided in Sydney, and managed by Ronald Walton,, a young man of considerable ability and. lpng experçenoe in the bush. He waa about thirty, of ,mlddle height, broad and sinewy. His complexion was decidedly dark. He had .black, curly hair, black eyes, and where his face was not covered with black bair, his skin was tanned by the fierce rays of the sun to à deep bronze. He was very steady on the station, but on the occasions of his visits to Brisbane, and after his business was completed-never before-he would throw off restraint somewhat, aud pursue his pleasure with some kindred spirits-young men of his own calling, managers or owners of stations who generally visited town about thc same time of the year, for it was only once, or per- haps twice a year, that they could be spared
from their station duties for two or three weeks. It must not be supposed from this that they were drunkards ; but then it could not be. said that they were Good Templars.
Their long pent spirits vented themselves in various directions. They were fond of songs, billiards, and practical jokes-very practical, and generally more amusing to themselves than to .their "victbnB. Yet, their fun was only fun'; it was' never ill-natured ; and if it paused chagrin, it certainly never did more substantial harm.
.. Ronald Walton was the son of a noble old soldier, Colonel Walton, who had done his country good service, and finally settled down on a Government grant of land in New South Wales. ' Ronald was neither the quietest nor steadiest of those restless spirits, as may be gathered from the fact that he well earned the sobriquet ol "Wild Walton,"by which he was known. But we must let bygones be. bygones, for at the period at which this tale opens, "Wild Walton"hadBobcreddown considerably, and when pressed by his companions to join in some frolic, he would reply that he had sown all hie wild oats, and henceforth sprees wore not'in his line. This wonderful change requires but little explanation-Walton was tn love.
The young lady who had captured Walton's affections and wrought such a change in his mode of life, deserves at least passing mention. She <was considered a beauty, and as a matter of course had a great many admirers, amongst whom was a solicitor named Silas Blast, who is destined to play a somewhat prominent part in these pages. But more of him anon.
Ada Brandon was the only surviving child of a widow lady of bnt limited means. She WaB'V tender,'anèctionate girl, and a great comfort to her mother in her declining years. Ada was. fair and Blender, and ber beautiful complexion, massive curls, and blue eyes, were at once the envy of her own sex, and objects, of adoration with the opposite. She Vas a "Currency" lass, being a native of Sydney-a city that overlooks one of the loveliest harbours in the world, and whose
daughters aie not. surpassed in beauty and other feminine attractions by those of any other land. Ada's attire was always shnplo and v elegant-never expensive-and though
she was fond of balls ana. their, attendant ex- [ citement, of dance, music, and. pleasant con- j vernation, sho was always careful to keep ' quite within the bounds ot moderation in: each ; and it could not be said by any of those who were envious of her charms, and of the great amount of attention she received from ell the gentlemen who constantly flitted about her, that ehe .was a flirt, nor that her head was In tho least turned by the cour they paid her. There were several young men of her, acquaintance, any onè of whom only required .aUttle favour shown by .her more than she extended to the rest, to fall at ber feet in abject supplication. That little nameless something, only to be understood instinctively by love- nothing tangible, nothing that can afterwards justify a young man in saying, if he has been too precipitate, and has been rejected, " You led me to this. You deceived-tne." Ronald Walton, who, though perhaps the least "eligible" amongst her admirers, Wae ' yet the only ono who had the hardihood to declare unreservedly his ardent love, and to throw himself on her mercy,' without ever having received that Intangible something-Yes, there was another, Silas Blast, but he stood cn a different foot-
ing; he had been intimate with Ada from
childhood, and had always determined that she .should be . his wife, but Bhe never liked lira sufficiently to give him any encourage- ' ment, nevertheless he .still went on trusting that she would soften towards bim. He was' able, and, eloquent in his profession, but
personally he was not a lovable individual,
being cold, hard, and revengeful, never for-. giving an injury, or what be considered to be one. Oh the day that he heard the rumour of ' Ada's engagement he set himself tho task of ascertaining its truth, which, with his usual - wiliness, he «eon drew from Ada. He left her
with ascowl on his brow, and a set determina- tion at heart that he would never rest till ho had had revenge on his successful rival, Ronald Walton. So great was his hatred, that he oared not if the Innocent girl and her aged
mother were drawn into the vortex of ruin
In which he panted for the opportunity to engulf Walton. He would not allow a soul to guess his intentions, The secret should be his own till the time for revenge came, then Wilton at least should know it. He was the very opposite to Walton in almost every paracuhu-. The .latter was warm-hearted, and gênerons almoBt to prodigality. Blast was tall and thin, had very light hair of no particular colour, and a small quantity of straggling whiskers of the same hue, the rest of his face being shaved. His features were not to say bad, But expressionless-perhaps a valnable quality in his profession. Neverthe- less, those who noted his face for the first time -involuntarily shrank from his con- templation, and shuddered as his cold, snake- like grey eyes'met theirs, Yet he was, in outward life, a man on whose oharactcr rested no stain. He was a regular attendant at. his church, aud when the minister was absent on Us round of visits to the stations in tbedlstrict, Silas Blast, being a good reader, did duty (or him. Besides was not his name foremost in all charities and on all subscrip- tion lists t But, to return to Ada, Nature must have intended her for a squatter's wife. She was not only a graceful, but an accom- plished equestrain, and In leaping, racing, Boamperins through 'tho bush with the kangaroo dogs, or in a chase after an emu, she eclipsed all the young ladies in Brisbane. Then, «ne waa domesticated, and by reason of her many visits to lady friends on stations in the Moreton Bay district, she became con-
versant with the domestjÄjCöäomy of buBh life, and with many ?3KjJi of station management, tho perfornrfte oF-nJiich does not come properly withftKtho province ot a lady, but still she eomeVäies ls placed tn a position which renders the knowledge ex- tremely valuable to the welfare cf the station.
Ronald Walton's mode of popping the ques- tion was perhaps the same as that pursued by most men of his ardent temperament. He made a morning call at Mrs. Brandon's
house. Ada only^ was at home. He
was a man who seized opportunities, and though he felt very nervous-who does not at such a time t-be Knew the danger of losing Sreclous moments, so he fell on his knees and
eclared himself. He told how her image haunted him day and night ; and how she was the first girl who had ever raised thc flame of love in his breastt and how certain he was that there did not exist another in the whole world who could have done lt. Ada was at first a little Startled by thc vehemence of his unexpected declaration, and when she re- covered her oomposure sufficiently to speak, «aid that he must give her time for considera Üon, and must speak to her mamma, Mrs.
wera spoken, and noticed, without appearin to do so, that Ronald's visit had some mean ing that required explanation, No doubt sh saw that there was something unusual in th expression of both countenances - lie daughter's heightened colour, and her visitor' nervous look. Ronald was a great favourit of Mrs. Brandon's, and she extending be hand frankly and with a winning smile, sail how glad she was to see him. Ada soon foum an excuse for leaving thc room. Whci Ronald Iud cloted the door after her exit, h
I " Mrs. - Brandon, I have a confession ti make which I hope you will have the patieno to listen to, as it concerns my happiness vorj nearly. I have just now declared my sinccr passion for your daughter, and she has reform me to you, and also requested me to give he time for consideration,
" Do you not think, Mr. Walton, that yoi should have come to me first}" said Mrs
Brandon. Ronald looked puzzled, andrstem
"I-I-It did not occur to me in thai light, Mrs, Brandon. The fact is, I-that is I hope you will forgive mc if I have don« wrong, but I really do not know much about this sort of thing, and-and-but I should have thought, really, that the young lady'i consent was thc first thbig to be obtained. Ii I had your consent, Mrs. Brandon, and youl daughter was-was unfortunate enough to I beg pardon, I mean if I was unfortunate enough to bo refused by Miss Brandon after. wardB, I should have troubled you noed lessyly."
There was certainly something logical in this, and as Mrs. Brandon was not an un- reasonable old lady, she waived the point and proceeded.
" How do you know, Mr. Walton, that you have not troubled Miss Brandon needlessly ? Has she ever given you any hope that your suit would be favourably received?"
"Never, on my honour, Mrs. Brandon. But, on the other hand, Miss Brandon has always treated me kindly, and as I am-a a-that is-a-my affection is very great for your daughter, and_ recollecting that ' faint heart never won faur lady,' I thought it best to do as I have done, and get my mind relieved as soon as possible. I am not an entire stranger to you and Miss Brandon, and trust you will allow mc to visit you as usual at least, till Miss Brandon has made up her
mind. Minc cannot alter."
"Mr. Walton, you muBt know that my daughter is very dear to me. She is all the world to mc, and I am very proud of hor, for she is a girl of no mean order, and her happi- ness is thc one thing that I live for. If lier welfare should suffer in any material point, I may say it would be the death of me. Now, you may easily conceive that it behoves me to watch any event likely to affect her happiness with a jealous care, and will excuse me if I ask what worldly prospects you have T You are quite old enough, and sensible enough too, to know that ' love iii a cottage ' without any other dependence, will not satisfy the era vines of hunger."
This business-like speech struck a cold chord in poor Ronald's breast. He was, at present, only a superintendent of a Btation, with a salary of £200 a year, and but small hope of an increase thereto, for his employer was a close-fisted, money-getting man of business. He felt that he was able to make his way anywhere in Australia, by himself, but how could he drag a wife, and, perhaps children, about from Slace to place, and subject them to all the
iscomforts of an unsettled life ? He could rough it- he had done that all his life, and had enjoyed it. He called to mind several instances of friends and acquaintances who had married under similar circumstances, and who managed to keep thc wolf from the door very successfully. Australia is just the place for suoh imprudent marriages, and yet one seldom sees a case of real want resulting. This, however, he felt would be useless as an argument to advance to -Mrs. Brandon. He knew it was treacherous ground at the best, upon which to attempt to build a successful matrimonial structure, and that it succeeded of tenor than it deserved. With thoughtless- ness and imprudence at thc start, young people could not expect a flourishing issue, unlcBS the gods stepped in to favour them. All this flashed across his mind as he hesitated in his reply. At length he said with a sigh,
"I have but £200 a year at present, Mrs. Brandon, hut since my mind has been fixed on matrimony, I have been thinking of making a start on my own account-with sheep, of course. Indeed, I have written to my em- ployer, Mr. Sharp, asking him, if he will either take me in as a partner, or sell me the station on terms that will leave me a fair pros- pect of ultimately clearing myself of the debt. I have not yet received his reply."
" I do not doubt your ability to succeed, Mr. Walton, if you have ordinary luck ; but you must admit that there are chances against yon is such a venture, and though I do not wish to be discouraging, I look upon a start in life, under such circumstances, as precarious, to say the least. You begin with a heavy debt, and are mainly dependent on circum- stances over which you hate no control, to favour you in your struggle to pay it off. Sea- sons, disease, or the fluctuations in the market, or all oombined, may work against you. I have not much business knowledge, but Ilhap 'pen to know to my cost about what I am'now speaking, for my poor husband lost all he had by misfortunes of that "kind; und Bli I now have to support myself and my daughter is thc pension I receive as the widow of a lieutenant colonel. If it were not for the faith I have in the love and goodness of our Heavenly Father, I should foe! great anxiety for the future of my dear child in the event of my being called away before she is settled."
Mrs. Brandon's eyes were suffused with tears as she concluded. Her faith was only 'human faith, and therefore liable to slight flaws, for in spite ber trust, she had In tho course of her long sojourn on earth seen many as pure, loving girls aa Ada, thrown on the mercy of the hard, hard world, to be rewarded with bitterness and insult for their sweet un- complaining self-sacrifice at the altar of ple- beian amy ance and wealth.
" If you do not object to me personally, and I obtain Miss Brandon's consent,"saidRonald, "I promise you, Mrs. Brandon, that I will leave the date of our union to be fixed by yourself."
Mrs. Brandon bowed without replying, and after a short silence continued,
" There is yet another matter upon which I wish to touch : and thnneh the last, it is, in my eyes, certainly not the least in importance. 7noel that I cannot conclude this interview without mentioning it. It is commonly said that you are somewhat wild and reckless, and that you have earned the sobriquet of ' Wild Walton.1 I am aware that fast young men do, at times, settle down and make good husbands, but I have seen so many instances to tho oontrary, that I do not hide from you the fact that I would place every obstacle in tho way of such a union for my child."
"Mrs, Brandon, make yourself quite easy on that score," Ronald said smiling. "I freely admit I have not been as steady as I ought to have been, but my wildness-if you will con- sider my unfortunate conduct in so severe a light-has been confined to harmless, if bois- terous amusements, which I now see are but folly, and of which I am heartily sick. I will disguise nothing. If I have drank deeply at times, it has been more for the sake of com- panionship than for thc love of liquor. I do
not wish to attach blame to others. I did it 1 freely and willingly, but I promise you it 1 shall never occur again. Beyond that, I can
conscientiously assert that I have never com ' mitted an unmanly act against man or woman. I I defy friends and enemies alike to witness
against me, upon my word and honour, Mrs.
' Brandon 1"
! He spoke very earnestly, and during the
latter part of his speech he unconsciously rose 1 and extended his clenched hand with excite 1 mont. Mrs. Brandon read truth and honesty . in thc expression of his manly features, and i as she noted his powerful, well-shaped figure,
she thought that, so far as outward ap . pcarancoB went, it would bc hard to find a
moro suitable prospector for her beloved one.
roe to continue on tho esme footing that yoi and Mies Brandon have been kind cnoug] hitherto to recognise ?"
" That is more than I can prudently decide Mr. Walton, before seeing my daughter, will write to you."
She rose, and Ronald left with a mind no at ease. Ile was a man of impulsive, strong feeling, and would have liked the matter ti have been settled off hand ; but bc Baw hov keenly the widow's heart was bound up in he. daughter, and fully recognised the propriety of her cautious reply. As soon as he wai gone, Mrs. Brandon called Ada, who did no respond, so.Bbe went to her room, and fount her bathing her eyes with cold water, whicl operation BUB had commenced a little too soon,
" Ada, my child 1 What is the mattel with you !"
"I really don't exactly know, mamma. I--" and she rushed up to her mother, threw her arms round her, and burst into a
flood of tears.
" Ada I Ada ! My darling child I What
is it ? You must be ill."
"Dear mamma," said Ada, with many sobs. " No, I am not ill, I assure you ; but it would be so dreadful to-to-leave you 1 Oh I I
could not do it 1"
" Then, Ada, you do think of leaving mc?" " Oh 1 no-no-yes-that is, I-Oh I I could not ! Dear mamma, do not talk about anything so dreadful. It would break my
" But, darling, you talked about it. Did you give Mr. Walton any consent, or lead him to suppose that you might do so ?"
"No, no, dear mamma, I only referred him to you."
"Now, my dear child, we must not boat about the bush. Have you ever given Mr. Walton any encouragement to warrant his action to-day?"
" No, indeed, mamma."
'1 We must trust each other fully, Ada. Tell me without fear or reservation. Do you love
"Ohl mammal I have really never thought of such a thing-till-till to-day, I do not think I ever did, or ever can love any one as well as I love you."
Ada spoke truly. She had never thought seriously of love till that day, when it «ne thrust so prominently into notice by the eloquent pleading of Ronald. But she had had a preference for him for some time in her inmost heart, though she knew it not till she retired to her room after leaving him and her mother together. He had touched thc hidden spring in that maiden breast, and at thc open- ing of the door to the new feeling she was bewildered, not knowing precisely what it
" Mr. Walton told me, my dear, that you never had given him any encouragement ; but, of course, I would sooner have that, or the contrary assurance, from yourself, before taking it for granted-"
"I am sure, mamma," interrupted Ada, with ever so little warmth of manner, but not too little to escape the watchful eyes of her parent, " I am sure Mr. Walton would not tell you an untruth. He certainly is a gentle-
" Ada, love, I have to communicate with Mr. Walton respecting our interview j and it is necessary that I should know from your own lips, whether yon love him or not."
j " I cannot anBwer that, mamma. Indeed I
would if I could. Give me a little time."
Mrs. Brandon, thinking it would relieve her daughter of some embarrassment, put the question in another form.
"Do you like him better than any other gentleman of your acquaintance, Ada?"
" Very muoh indeed, mamma," replied Ada, frankly, hiding her face on her mother's
" Then I need not tell him to call herc any
"Oh, mammal That would be dreadfully rude, would it nott" Ada returned, with a deprecatory look through her tears, at the bare thought of the possible alternative.
Mrs. Brandon kissed her very tenderly, and pushing her beautiful hair from her forehead, told her that she would always consult her happiness ; and prayed that tho man who should be so fortunate as to win her affections, might be worthy of her. But the old lady said it with sadness, for an undefined feeling stole through her, and whispered to her dis- comfort, that the happiness of her daughter in such a case, would mean separation from her ; but there was nothing of selfishness in her composition, and so long as Ada was happy, what did lt matter if only she herself had to bear the grief of separation.
Tho news of the engagement, for so it turned out to be, was soon sproad far and wide, and deep were the anathemas launched at Ronald for carryiug off thc coveted prize from BO many.
(To bc eoHitmii'if.)