Chapter 52032618

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Chapter NumberXI
Chapter Url
Full Date1884-07-12
Page Number3
Word Count3397
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleRonald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay
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[AU Rights Retened.]



' THE reader moat be enlightened on one pr

' two points. The document had not been wit- nessed or dated. Either omission wonld have Êroved fatal to its validity in a oourt of law.

tardshell knew perfectly well what bia em ' ployer meant by " compare the dates of the ' two," and he set to work at ones. He first eeleoted a piece of paper of a similar kind to ¡that on whioh Patten's receipt was written. 1 Then he took a quill pen-for it had been ' written with a qn;~-sod dipping it in the 'ink, wrote a gc citation of the characters 1 on Patten's y "6th of October, lg-." He then dr?' by a wood fire which he had made innis .te for that purpose.

"Too blai-V he exolaimed. "I must put

' some water in it."

He repeated the experiment over and over ' again, and at last succeeded in getting both ! tbs eharaetera and the colour of the ink to his 1 liking. He muttered,

" How Inoky he pnt the number of ocres, and the sum he paid, in figures. Some of i the vary figures I wanted too. Well, I don't

believe that any one oonld detect the differ- ence between those characters and his-if there is any ; so here goes."

He then wrote on Patton's document, with- out the least tremor of hand or heart, or twinge of eonaeienoe-Ootober 6th, 18-," and dried it by the firs. Then holding it before him, he said, softly.

" There-that's exactly four days later than the date of our deed. I'll defy the devil him- self to say that that date waa not filled in by the same hand that wrote the rest of it I Yes, I think thia will meet the views of my re-

spected and Boanotified employer. Well, he behaves handsomely to me ; but I think he only does it because he knows whioh side his

bread ia battered."

Next morning, the Governor Philip, brigl sailed for Norfolk Island, bearing away the convict Giovanni, together with a fnll freight of sin, manacled misery, and degradation. Immediately after her departure, Hardshel, proceeded to the farm with Patten's document and alto a letter from Silas Blast. As the man read the letter, he turned deadly pale, and clutched at his beard convulsively with his left hand. When he had read it through, he looked at Hardshell, but could not speak.

" I am very sorry to be the hearer of bad news to you, Afr. Patten. We lawyers some times have the most disagreeable duties tc perform ; amongst the most painful of which, the one I now am on must rank. It is very singular, the part I have unwittingly acted in this business, and goes far to prove now mud the creatures of circumstances we are. 1 never knew of the existence of the deed mem tioned by Mr. Blast in his letter, till I gav« bim that worthless doenment of yours ta examine yesterday afternoon. He, I neec eoaroely tell you knew nothing cf yours till 1 showed it to him ; and the most singular par of the affair it, that in trying to do you i service, I hastened tho explosion of the min -1 did hut hasten it, you see, for it mut

have come to this soon,"

"But-but-sir," gasped Patten. "Whs am I to do ? I paid my money-that ia,

lent him all I nsd-forty pounds-on th Btrength of this land ; and 1 wat to have it i he did not pay me back in six months, H must have been a worse man than I took hir for. I might kill a man in hot blood aa h did, but I couldn't take in a poor man lik that way. I'U go and tackle him about it."

"He ii fu away from here. He wu .hipped off to Norfolk leland."

"What can I do J"'laid Patten, in mnoh diitreai. Then an idea itrnok him. " Why, aa he hai made on the land to both of ni, we hare equal rights in it, and ought to share it between ns. That wai Solomon's justice when the two women quarrelled about the child. Yon see there is Scripture for it."

He thought this was a oonolusive argument, and looked quite bright again, but Hardshell quiokly undeceived him.

"Not at all, my friend ; even if that were Solomon's justioe, whioh I will loon prove it wasn't, it ia not British hw, as applied in Moreton Bay. Solomon limply gave that judgment as a test, to find ont whioh 'was the mother of the child, and you see the right owner got it after all, If this matter goes into a court of justice-which I sincerely hope it will pot, for your sake, you will only be

throwinrggood money after bad-the two doon.1 meat» will bo examined. Younis faulty all through, and as not a leg to stand on. It is, in fact, the dead child, while Mr. Blast's is the_ living child, because all ita parts are entire, and in due legal form."

"I wish I had got a lawyer to draw it out ; I never knew it was necessary to be so par-


"All the lawyers in Brisbane could not have saved you in this case."

" Why so J If my deed had been drawn out the same as Mr. Blist'e, wouldn't it have had as good a chanoe t"

"No. Look here." He unfolded the deed before the eyes of his victim, who was astonished beyond measure of the number of closely-written pages it contained. " Now, look here," he said, pointing to the bottom ot the last page. " Read that."

Patten read aloud :

"Given nnder my hand and seal this first (1st) day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and-" He paused, and then said dubiously, "First of October-first of Ootober. Why, I thought my business was done in September ; I feel iure it was. I'll ask wife ; shs has a better mind than me about those things. But what's

the odds about the date?"

"That is jost where the odds are in Mr. Blast's favour. The first conveyance is the one that stands good InTaw, and If fifty other are made, they are worth no more than the paper that is spoilt in the writing of them."

" Well, if that's the case, the farm's mine, because I'll swear it was in September I did the business with him-Ooo-e-e," he shouted. A woman looked out at the hat door, and he beckoned to her.

" Itisno nae calling your wife to corroborate your statement, or swearing to its correctness Facts and figures are stubborn things, and they are against you. Look at yonr own


"I never thought of that, "said Patten, as I be proceeded to unfold the paper. " But I disremember altogether what date was on it or if it had ons ; but I'll swear it wai in Sep-


He looked at the paper. The date was on it plain enough. He read, and re-readflit ¡ turned the paper sideways, then held it at arm's length, and said, with an air of bewil- derment,

"Well, Tm blowedl That beats the devil 1"

His wife joined them ; her arms were cover with flour to the elbows.

" Why, Betsy, it seems I've made a fool of you-I've called you for nothing," he said apologetically,

" That's no news. You're always making a fool of me, or of yourself, I was inst putting the loaves into the camp oven. They was ríe beautiful, and 'lt be down like leaden damps now-ind the baby's a squalling like possums ap a gum tres."

" Well, well, Betsy," he replied soothingly, " I thonght I bought this farm of Giovanni in September, but

" Who the Diokens said yon didn't ?" "Why, thia.paper. Look hire."

i "Then the papers a lie. It was in Sep. tomber. I know it, because I was abed with baby at the time, and I wai np before the end of September."

"I thought it was, bnt-but-well I know I wrote this when I paid the money."

''I don't know what you wrote, but I know the money was tied up ia a silk band knroher under my mattress,' and yon nigh tumbled me and the blessed baby out of bed a getting of it."

"It s no use arguing about it Mr. Patten," said Hardshell. " Is that your writing, or is

it not ?"

"That's my writing, I don't deny;


"That's your fist, safe enough, you old fool I I'd snow it among ten thousand writings," said the ruffled wife, who waa not to say a good temper. " Bat what's the row, I want to know ?

"Well, Betsy, don't take on about it you'll have to know it sooner or later. This gentlemen says as Mr. Silas.Blast really owns the land."

She looked at her husband, then at Hard- shell. The latter shortly explained the Eoaition of affairs. The woman caught her

naband by the beard, and as she delivered the following, she ground his nose Blowly with the other flowery fist.

" Yon old fool I So you've gone and done it at last, have you ? You've ruinated your- self lending money to a murderer-bnt that don't matter. Yoj've ruinated me and my

obildren-that does matter."

The grinding increased, so paint ally, that the man gently caught her arm.

"Ohl You'd use viólenos to your lawful wife-the mother of your children that bas a ass for a father-would yer ?"

She let go her bold of his beard, stnok her hands on her hips, jumped into the air, and uttered a tremendous "Coo-e-e el" which seemed to relieve her feelings some-what, bnt it caused some parrots and cockatoos that were feeding quietly on the gum tree blossom over head to start off as though they had been fired at, aoreeobfng most discordantly. She then left them and proceeded towards the hut saying,

" Then I suppose I may pack up, and go into service I I'm fit for that now, ain't I, after having all them children? Ohl You I old f-f-f-o-ool I" She hissed through her

teeth ; occasionally turning round and shaking ber fist at him.

He looked very sheepish, knowing what a

life was in Btore for him.

"I cannot stay any longer, Mr. Patten," Hardshell said. " I repeat that I am very sorry for what has taken place. You may see a lawyer about your business, if yon are not satisfied, of course ; but it will coat you more than it is worth,"

"I am only a poor man, sir, and can't afford to lose any more. I left the farm I was renting, and doing well on, to come here. Now, I shall have no home, and no money neither. I hope Mr. Blast won't be hard on me. I've a lot depending on me, and times ain't over bright. Oh dear ! It's a great lois ! How could I have been such a blinded idiot as to make such a mistake in the date ?"

The poor fellow looked puzzled and dis- tressed. He was no donbt thinking, too, about the reception he weald hare at dieser time from his wife.

" Mr. Blast is not a hard man. You just come in with me, and see him," Hardshell said.

It was the dearest wish of his heart that the matter should be settled right off, instead of remaining in uncertainty ; and he shrewdly guessed that if he could get Patten in his present state of mind into his employer's office, the business could be done. Patten hesitated to accept his invitation, not that he did not with to go, but because he knew he was "in for it" at the hut, and he wished to get it over as soon as possible, for whenever Betsy was " up," the longer her wrath was corked, the greater the explosion when she did "let out." He stroked the flour and stray bits of dough ont of his beard and off his face, saying,

" I'd be glad to go with you, sir, but-well, III go in after dinner, for sure."

" You had better appoint a time, and then Mr. Blast will be at the office to see yon."

" Will two o-olook do, sit t"

"Yes, Hr. Blattis mire to te In at two. Good morning."

- Fatten sighed heavily aa ho returned the lawyer's salute ; then said to^himself, "Now

for it I" and walked towards hil hut like well, perhaps' no simile can be found to express it so eoourately as a plain statement of the fact-like a man going heroically to meet the ira of a scolding wife. What more terrible I

" So you're come, hare you ? You're just in time (so it seemed). Your dinner ii nearly ready, and I hope you'll enjoy it."

He made no reply, but walked humbly towards his room with the intention of having a wash ; but she stopped him.

"Don'tyon enter that room. The child's asleep, and a pretty time I've had of it this blessed morning. He's been squalling ever since breakfast. Susan burnt her hand

putting the bread into tbs oven, and the pig got out of the old sty that you are always talking of mending, and capsized the beef-pot while I was np to my armpits in soapsuds, and took away the beef. I've done half a dozen jobs of your work, as well as all my own. I don't know what men was msde for.

It's only to give poor hard-working women trouble. (His way of looking at the matri- monial situation was obverse to her stand-

point ; bnt he did not say so.) What are you going to do with all these brats when Tm tone to'service? You can't expect me to

eep them and you too," This waa very unjust ¡he waa a very hard-working, steady man. He ventured to say in a conciliatory


"Now, Betsy, it isn't so bad aa that. I rented a farm before, and did well on it, and can do it again,"

" Yon shut up drat yon 1 Do yon suppose don't I know better than you what you can do, and what you can't) I'll never slave the flesh off my bones again to save money for yon to fool away on murderers ! (She was in a remarkably fine oondition, a faot that she seemed to overlook.) Forty pounds, indeed I You'd never make forty pounds without my help, from this till the crack of doom. You bring forty pounds of dirt into the house every time you oome into it. Look at your beastly boots I and me slaving since daylight.*

"Issy, Betsy-come old woman-let's get dinner, i've got to be at Mr. Silas Blast's at


" You're going to order me about, are you ? You'll see'different to that, I know, before long. I'm not going to put up with yonr tan- trums muoh longer. You'll find that a poor worm'll turn when it's trod on. Old woman, -eh 1 I know who's the old woman. If I am an old woman, who made me one! Why you, with your worrit and laziness, and the murdering society you keep that drives the sleep from my eyes at night with fear that I'll be shot or have my brains knocked ont .by stabbing foreigners. (She waa a thoroughly good Bleeper, and honestly snored through her six, seven, or eight hours-aooording to the humour of the baby-every night.) Whafa Mr. Blast to me? Hang Mr. Silas, I say

j and you too. I suppose you'll be making a

fool of yourself with him, as you do with everyone«else. Look here ! Don't you put

I your hand to paper for no one ; if heaxesyou

say out tibe a man, 'I won't' says you. Why ' I believe any idiot oould make you sign away yonr poor wi-wi-wife and ch-ildrenl" She burst m to tears. That was the olimax, and poor Joe hailed it with delight. Like the tropical thunderstorm, the danger was lessened by the oopious downpour, and the lightning of her tongne and thunder of her voice sensibly dimished. As for signing away his wife, he often thought, on occasions like the present, that if it oould be lawfully done, he would feel mighty tempted to do it, though he did not know where the article wonld be marketable ; it certainly would not be in his neighbourhood. She waa a thrifty, hard- working woman, but her virulent tongne effectually marred the satisfaction and comfort that would undoubtedly have accrued to her husband and ohildren, by the exercise of her good qualities without that accom- paniment.

Joe Patten had a much quieter dinner than he anticipated, and then went into town to see Silas Blast. That individual was in, of course, and the npahot of the interview was, that poor Joe was induced to give np his title and lease the farm for a term of years-Silas Blast magnanimously waiving the first year's rent. As soon as Patten was gone, Blast called Hardshell; and delivered young Gio- vanni's agreement, and the unluoky paper that Patten bad got from Giovanni, the elder,

to him.

"Take particular care of that document, Hardshell, he said, indicating the last men-

tioned one,

The eyes of the two met, Hardshell quite understood the instructions, and when he closed his door, he pot the agreement into the iron safe ;the other paper beheld between hiB finger and thumb, atrnok a lucifer match, and in a few momenta Patten's rightful title to the land waa reduced to ashes. Hard- shell smiled as the flame died ont, and he muttered to himself, as he crashed the tinder beneath his feet,

"Such fools don't deserve to have property I"

The above episode-the incidents of which, it will be remembered, took place three years before the commencement of this story is in- serted, that the reader may the more readily comprehend events wbion have yet to be recorded. During those years, the boy, Giovanni, had grown but little in stature, though muoh in knowledge. He had been most harshly treated by Silas Blsst, who worked bim almost to death, half starved him and gave him very little clothing. He went further than that, on several occasions striking the lad. Once in particular, not long before bia introduction to these pages, the poor drodge had been at his desk for many hours, and it was near midnight. He fell

asleep, and Blast, who always Kept a sharp ' eye on him, caught him with bis head on the deed he had writing. The deed was smeared in consequence, and be gave bim a tremendous horsewhipping. The lad's hot Italian blood rose at the injustice, and he told the per- petrator of the ornelty that he would be revenged. He said,

"Ipromised my father faithfully, that I would serve you to the best of my ability to the end of my time, and so I will, if possible, You have overworked and half starved me ever since I came to you. I oould put ap with that, but the hand that whips an Italian like a slave, shall perish 1"

A fire of hate and revenge blazed in his dark

eyes, and his white teeth gleamed between his thin lipB as the word hissed through them. Apart from the lad's looks, Blast would have felt no small uneaaineas at his threat, but the two combined struck a terror into hia cowardly heart that he oould but Ul conceal, and from that time he carefully abstained from striking him, but increased his diaoomfort in other ways.

(To be continued.)