|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
A TALE OF EARLY SQUATTZNO LOK ? nr
BY THE AUTHOR OF " ADVENTURES IN QUEENS-
\A1l Rigid» Reserved.}
CHAPTER IX--MISS FEUNA ROBINSON
, HER CATS ; AND NIECE.-" WHEN I WAI
YOUNO AND CHAMHNO."
Mies Felina Robinson was a tall raw-bonec
woman. Not bad looking, by any meant, bul somewhat hard-featured. Many peoph thought she was as hard as she looked, bul that was a mistake. She certainly had not a soothing way of putting things td people she cared but little for, nor, indeed, to those ahe liked, sometimes. But that was only hei way. Shs had a soft spot in her heart indeed she had two. The person who reigned supreme in ono, during bis life, was her brother the captain. She idolised him, and it was refreshing to see how she softened when speaking of him. The other spot was kept warm for her cats and her niece Mary, She loved her cats dearly, and* was very, very particular about their education, and the oore of them generally. She had four and it mast be confessed that they were very beautiful animals; and on the whole, did tolerable credit to their bringing up. To the old lady's mind thoy were limply perfcot. In reality, they were not quite, She .thought they possessed all the virtues of well-balanced humanity. To thoss who had children, or rode any other than a feline hobby, they were nasty, selfish,'trouble-some things ! and if they had nice coats, it was -on.acfeounljif the silly amount of care that was lavished upon them. They were bathed every morn- ing, dried carefully, and then combedi and brushed. At meals, a chair waa placed on either side of their indulgent mistreat; two cats jumped into each, and waited patiently for their portions, bot their patisoce Vas never Bordy tried. While Aunt Felint said grace, they sat on their tails in a begginkatti- tude, with their fore-paws together^ aid as soou se the act of devotion waa completed, they gravely resumed their original, posture, licking their lips. They were combed and brushed at night, and put to bed in a lctle narsory kept for their exclusive use. the porson whose pleasant duty it waa to mírsler them at night, and minister to their waite generally, was a girl of about lfk strorg, active, and a good climber. The latter qnahy was indispensable in one who had to perforo her work, for the cats had to be in by 9 p.m, or the rules pf Neptune. Villa would be ii fringed. If a rule of Neptune Villa was wil-
fully disregarded, the culprit remembered t. vividly for a long time after, for Annt Folio
was mistress at the Villa.
Poor Mary readied home in a rather de jected frame of mind after the conversation with Ada, previously detailed, and fluni herself on the sofs. Her annt wai knitting with three of her cats by her, one ot then lazily patting the ball of worsted that lay ot the floor with her velvet paw. The tea wai on the table. ' , r
" Mary, you aro late. Tea has been ready nearly five minutes, Do not lie there child set ready for tea, and find my pretty satinet darling, Ross (a truant .cat). She must he famishing for want of her tea. Are you mj sweetie, Florinda?" she said¡ addressing th» languid one patting the ball, of Worsted ; and taking it up and kissed it. " Yes, I'm sure it is, pitty dear-it's been playing so long with that great ball of worsted, the naughty ¡tty titty. No, it isn't naughty-it's the best, best, best itty toosy ever lived 1"
Mary si on appeared, but without the oat. " Mary, where is Roset"
"I do not know, Aunt." She had not been looking for it '
"Dear mel She must be found. Oonld
anything have happened t ' It ia a. very un- usual thing for her to he away at tea-time. Snowball."
Snowball appeared in obedience to her mis-
tress ea' call..
" Are yon ß»*»«, Snowball, that Bose is ""No, missus, please?"" --'?- -.__ "Then, you ought to have known it. How many times have I told yon the same thing f Go and find her instantly 1" ...
"Yee.'m." - .
Snowball ran ont, and oast ber eyes ronna;
the roofs and garden walls, bot without suocesa. * Then she bethought her of the nursery, where she fonnd Bose roiled np asleep ; for the poor misguided «at had not been keoping regular boars of. an evening for some time previously, and waa drowsy incon- sequence. Snowball carried her to her mis-
tress. . ' ' ... ,
"She was on her own bed, m-she don't seem well," said the girl, with a malicious
" Oh ! The dncky I I thought it was killed and eaten up by some nestle doggie-I did.' Is oo well, pitty oust - Von.mustn't keep such late hours-you will banally JU if ?you do. Snowball, put Bose to bsd-directly after tea." . . ,J -, .
" Yes, 'rn," the girl replied, and disappaaed rejoiced at the command. Indeed she jud artfully put it that the oat didnot seem WelL knowing that the order would come as a con- sequence ; for she sometimes did Work the
oracle with her mistress.
Snowball was, a little black gin, whoas parents had been shot. Shs bsd not one relative left, for death by disease and the bullet had carried them all -off.* Aunt Felina
kindly took the poor little orphan' in when she was only about six years old; had treated her well, and taught her to speak very fair English. She wa« very quiet and intelligent,
and performed a great variety of doroestio ' duties as weU as moat white girls older than herself. She was really fond of the eats, but her temper, though average good, was sorely tried by them at times, and when she could* do so without fear of detection, ehe^wid them for their delinquencies. A squint in one eye gave her a comical expression, and she was fond of using, for her, long and difficult words. ,
The small party sat down to tea. Aunt Felina noticed that Mary did not eat, »nd. re- marked,
" You seem to be not in your usual spirits, my dear. Are you unwell^" **
" Yes," Mary replied, but quiokly added,
" You are very contradictory, Mary. I bate contradictions;" and with a very aearoh . ing look she went on, " Yon have been put out-I can see it in your face."
Mary's open face told the tale as plainly as possible, and any one who knew her not one half so well as ber aunt did, could have dis- covered it at a glance, '
"Where have yon been* Only to see Adat"
"That's all, aunt I" ,
"What were you talking abouti Yon did not fall out, did you I"
"I fall out with Ada, auntt" she said, shirking the first question.
"I hope not, indeed. Well, did yon hear ¿ny newe Î"
" Hardly to be called news, aunt."
" Well then, the stale news must have been very interesting, for you were there a long time."
This was put with an interrogative look, but Mary would not see it, and only said,
" Will you have another oup of teat"
Without replying to the question, her aunt said,
" Why do you not talk to me, Mary ? Yoe arc very queer to night. Yon always say sc much, and I like to hear yon talk. It feeli strange when you are so quiet."
Mary looked up in wonder ; she neve] thongbt that her aunt took so much - interest in her os to note whether Bhe talked much 01 little ; but what astonished her most was thal abe really liked her rattle. . Certainly, hei aunt bad not often to complain of her quiet
neas cr reticence.
" You seem astonished. Mary," said Felini Robinson, who rightly interpreted ber look .'Andi think it is very ungrateful of you
Do yon .think I toke no interest in yon child f Because I can tell yon I do. Do yon think I dont lore yon} I can tell yon I do-very
muck. Beoolleot that.
The last words were accompanied by a thump with her clenched hand on the table that made the tea things rattle, and the oats to »tart up in attitudes of defence. Mary looked somewhat amused, and her aunt, whose eyes were still fixed on her with a glowing expression, embodying affection and admonition, said, in a soft tone that she had
ST1? keP'tiauai exclusively for her cats, J ."Tell me, dear-what was the subject of
your conversation with Ada 7"
"I suppose you have heard that Ada is en- gaged to Mr. Walton, aunt?" Mary said, with an indifferent effort at composure,
" Yes, I heard the rumour. Then that ii what you have been discussing, chi"
A tear stole down Mary's cheek in spite of her efforts to check-it. Her aunt observed it.
"Whyl Whyl Maryl What's that!"
Mary made a final attempt to suppress tho rising in her throat, but it was unsuccessful, and she had recourse to her handkerchief.
"So 1 That is it, then 1 I suspected as much for some time past. You are too 'open ?and above-board,'as my sainted brother used know your father was too. We both got over to say, to be able to hide your feelings-from me, at all events. You are like me in that respeot. It has been my bane through life, and it will bo yours too, I firmly believe 1" She moved her chair close to her niece's side, took her hand in hers, and said kindly,
"Do not fret, child. You will Boon get over it. I was over bead and and ears in love mor hanonce, about your ago, andi know father was too, wc both got over it, forittakes a dealof disappointed love to break the heart."
"I am not going to break my heart, aunt," she replied, making a final and successful -aßbrklo establish an outward appearance of composure. " I do not think I am capable of Boing that for any man."
"That's right-and spoken like a true Robinson. They are plenty of young men in this district. Mary, who should be proud to possess a girl like you."
The eccentric old lady was now showing out in her true colours. She was not so hard- hearted as she had the credit for being gener- ally ; aB them usual exhibition of sympathy on ber part was as welcome to Mary as it was un- expected, and if not tendered in the most feminine manner, was as kindly meant as if it had been. When she said that Mary resembled herself in outspokenness, she said truly. The main difference between them was
that the .younger expressed her thoughts lightly, girlishly ; the elder, having long since passed the freshness of youth, and being somewhat soured by rough experiences dnring
her long life, was not so mindful of the feelings j
of others. .
"It is very likely that I shall resemble yon m more respects that one, aunt, and never
" You think so now, bntyou will not be in
that mind long, child. Do you really care so , much for him ?" ,
" I really did think him a most gentlemanly and handsome man, aunt ; and I did care for
«f'Well, I always liked him, I must-confess
but'I never noticed that he paid you any par- ] ticnlar attention. Did you congratulóte Ada , on ber conquest TI suppose not." I
"Oh course I" did, aunt. Why should I
not?" * ' i * "There is no earthly reason why you
should not, my dear. Ada is a lucky girl I ,
."So I told her, Bunt." . "Oh, you funny giri," said her aunt, laugh- ing heartily. "You have taken it just os, I should have done at your age. But now I have come to think of it, I had two or three affairs before I waa your age, andlwiU tell you of one, my dear that made me very Bad
for some weeks. The gentleman was a young
cavalry officer. He had paid me a great deal of attention-in foot, I really believed that my time had come, but he married another jiirl after all. I met him yean after, and he used 'to laugh at the affair. He often said before his wife, ' Never mind, Felino, I wül have you yet.' Now, I will tell you a secret. Mary-but yon must keep it as a secret, mind for I should not like it to get about, though it mention bia name-aniYwere engaged for a long time, and we both meant matrimony. It waa my very last love affair. He was a barrister. He "was talented, and had a good Êraotioe, but was very fast, and as much aa
ived him I waa determined not to tie myself to him till he showed some decided symptoms of a change of life., He pressed me sorely at times, and made many promises of reform. He was sanguine that if I would consent, and beonme jiis wife, it would have the effect I desired, foritwouldafford himgreatexcusefor breaking off from his old associates and habits. I-i remained firm, and thank heaven I did I He tried to force me to consent by arousing feelings of jealousy, and flirted a good deal with an old schoolmate and friend of mine, fie snceeded in one part of his design-I was jealous-madly jealous I" A spasm seemed to shake the old lady's frame, ana she pressed her brow with her hand. " Still I would not give in, He reproached me-called me cold and hard, and said I should hove to answer for his ruin. Oh 11 wish he had not said that I It wu not just, but it bascóme to me many a time since. I believe I d d what was right, and if his disapointoient was kees, so was mine. He married the poor girl in a fit of pique, and-and-ill-used her. She died of a broken heart within a year, and left him a son. That' son is-but no, I oannottell you that. Well, my lover died by his own hand, leavinr-nis infant son an orphan'at two years of age.
Mary was astonished at the old lady's revel- ations. She hod never suspeoted her of so much tenderness, and there was a closer bond between them from that evening, for they understood each other better. Tho aunt detected in the niece a greater resemblance to herself than she had ever before imagined, which is so often a very strong recommendation with old people. The niece saw that there were vulnerable points in her aunt's armour,
that'her own outspokenness could pierce far better than could the sharp laces of tact.
(To be continued.)