Chapter 58217156

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Chapter Number1
Chapter TitleNone
Chapter Url
Full Date1876-12-23
Page Number1
Word Count2914
Last Corrected2013-05-18
Newspaper TitleAlexandra Times
Trove TitleWongawarra
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WONGA. WARRA.   BY WAIF WANDER Around the wide-stretching station of Wongawarra, soft and lovely Spring was spreading her green beauty. Across the miles of undulating pasture, up among the blossom laden branches of grand old box trees, along the trellised vines of the stately homestead, fresh Australian tinted verdure was bursting into leaf. The sunny haze of October floated on the distant line of blue purple hills. The bosom of the beautiful Goulburn river glittered in the sun like a broad ribbon of watered silver, and along its banks clustering eucalypti - young and fresh and green as the freshness of Stpring could make them - mirrored each soft outline in the sparkling water. Down from tho blue hills, among the mossy boulders of sparkling granite, a more brilliant and feathery bolt of verdure marked the winding and tortuous course of Wongawarra Creek. Patches of the richest golden-colored bloom nestled here and there in the soft full sprays along its banks, marking the spots whore the spring sun lingered most lovingly, and caressed the opening wattle buds into their full beauty of golden down. Rippling and singing sweetly, full of the yet unwasted floods of winter, widening into broad pools where its waters lay quiet and deep, and at length

flowing gently over the grassy plain, where   broad flocks of grey sheep slaked their gentle thirst in its bosom, Wongawarra Oreek at last rippled into the Goulburn and was lost. The homestead of Wongawarra was a   pattern Australian home. Wide verandahs, vine-wreathed and cool when the hottest sun of summer vainly sought admittance, made a pleasant draught through the spacious hall. Lofty rooms opened out to the verandah through deep French windows, that, on every side of the stone building, commanded a view of a most pleasant landscape. The sun of October, then, was inclining toward the west when we enter upon our story. Standing on the front veraudah of Wongawarra, under the sprays of passion flower, and leaning forward anxiously to gaze on t':e distant white track that wound over the grassy plain, was s young girl of some nineteen years. We have a good opportunity of observing her as she stainds there, for the haud with which she shades her eyes from the too piercing rays of the declining sun does not hide her features and the uplifted arm exposes a plump and well laced figure to easy scrutiny. Jane Beveridge was under the middle size, and her form could not, by any stretch of imagination, be called an attractive one. It had none of the piquante litheness of those petit figures at once graceful and well proportioned ; but her movements were fussy and obtrusive. She had dark brown hair, elabulately dreerd over a low and not broad forehead ; dark, bold eyes; and very commonplace features. But there were many who believed Janie Beveridge, as she was called familiarly, a very pretty girl indeed, for she was the only child of John   Beveridge, and heiress presumptive of the broad station of Wongawarra. The watcher had waited nearly an hour most impat;ently, passing to and fro on the verandah, and fidgetting in and out of the house, ere the figure of a horseman was seen emerging from the forest that bordered the plain ; and the impatience of the young lady during the short time that elapsed before the rider dismonunted in front of the house might have amused an uninterested observer. There was, however, an observer who it might he conoluded was anything but an uninterested one, at least if one might judge from the angry light of his dark eye and the scowl that corrugated his brows as he watched her. This was a young man of twenty-four years; a tall, handsome, and wall.made figure, with it face almost beautiful, as far as regularity of features went. But there was a hanghty air in the pose of his figure that ill became it, and an expression of ill- temper in his face that utterly destroyed the effect of his otherwise faultless appearance. Nothing could be glossier than his wavy, black hair; nothing deeper than the ex- pression of his dark, large eyes ; but it was the depth of a tideless pool that hides unpleasant secrets far down below its calm surface. This young gentleman, then, who was leaning against one of the pillars of a side verandah, when we open our story, was known an George Larkins, Mr Bevoridge's manager on Wongawarra Station. We must now make you acquainted with the third of our dramatis personae--the horseman who is approaohing Woogawarra at a smart canter, As he reaches it and dismounts we see a gentlemanly figure of the middle size, compactly and strongly built, with a deep chest and well-formed limbs. His riding dress is well calculated to show off the latter to the greatest advantage, and the well fitting riding boots do not hide a small and shapely foot. This gentleman had seen thirty-six years, and silvery streaks were beginning to show among his dark brown hair and abundant beard ; but the bright, grey eye was as youthful looking as it had been ten years before ; his delicately chiselled aquiline nose and thin nostril gave a beauty of feature that time would never destroy; and a strength of intellect that no wealth could purchase had stamped its impress boldly on the broad, white forehead, and pure, blue- lined temple of Frederick Howard, adding to the effect of almost perfect features an air of intelligent manliness that was the principal characteristic of his appearance. Such, then was the visitor whom Miss Janie Beveridge had awaited so impatiently. " Oh, Mr Fred, you're come at last," she exclaimed, running down the steps and seizing his arm as he alighted. "I thought   you'd never come ; my eyes are crooked from staring across that plain !" A half smile curled Mr Howsard's lip as he looked down toward the little speaker, and coolly lifted the arm which she had appro priated and held firmly with both her hands. is eyes too met hers as she looked up with evident admiration in his face ; but although   the gaze flattered him, Mr Howard was too manly to prize an unsought affectlon. " If you please, Janie, my horse must be attended to ;" and he quietly withdrew his arm from her grasp. "Oh, bother the horse. Mr Larkins, please to send somebody for Mr Fred's horse. There, leave him there ; he won't run away. Oh, do come in, Mr Fred ; I have so much to tell you." There was something eminently disgusting to Mr Larkins not only in the order he haul received from his employer's heiress, but In her openly bestowed admiration of Mr Howard. The manager looked after their retreating figures as they entered the house, Mlsn Janie hanging on her favourite's arm, and looking up into his face with eyes brimfull of of meaning, while Hloward walked firmly onward, seeming to bestow neither attention nor neglect upon his companion; hlie simply permitted himself to be appro- printed, that was all, although his conscience   had often assured him that he had already permitted it too long. " Well, I'm blowcd I" soliloquised the handsome Larkins, when they had entirely disappeared, " what a blessed fool he must te to stand it. He cares no more for her than a staghound cares for a chattering jay. I wondcr girls are not ashamed of themselves who go and hang on a man that way ; it is enough to disgust any man who has the feelings of one, faugh !" and the unamiable Larkins turned on his heel with a sneer and walked round to the offices. " I've been like a hen on a hot griddle ever sinee yesterday, Mr Fred, Why to gracious didn't you come tlast night ? Oh, I've had such a letter from papa ; such news, and I was dying to tell you all about it, dcar Mr. Fred." Dear Mr Fred threw himself into a com. fortable chair to enable him to do which he was obligedl to draw his arm onet, more from Miss Janie's embrace. He did inot look very ardent, I must confess, nor very eager to hear the young lady's wonderful news; and a little cloud, just a very little oue, passed. over the self-satisfied features of the squatter's daughter. " Upon my word, you don't care a bit !" she cried pettishly, as she seated herself close beside Mr Howard. " Well, if you don't, I don't see why I should ! At any rate, all our comfort is over ; we shall not be all in all to each other any more, nor spend these delightful long evenings together, and no one to listen or carry stories" " All in all to each other? What do yon mean, Janie ?" inquired Fred, sitting up, rather uneasily in his chair, and feeling that much tried conscience of his knocking very loudly at the door of his judgment. And what is all this about listening and carrying stories ?" Miss Janie chose to shirk the first question

and reply to the last. " Because papa has sent me word that he is going to bring home an old frump of a thing with him, as a com- panion, or gouvernante, or something. In short, I'm too young, he says, to be entrusted   with the management of an establishment, such as Wongawarra, now that poor mamma's gone; and he thinks that no young girl ought to be permitted to live so entirely alone and unrestricted as I do." "Is that all?" was Mr Howard's careless phrase, as he resumed once again his easy posture on the conch. "All ! and is it not enough ? Upon my word, Mr Fred, I thought you cared more for me than to feel so little as that ! I don't care a straw about an old companion, or whatever she is, I'm sure, for I can soon put her in her own place; but I did think that you'd be sorry that—that—that we couldn't be so much together and so comfortable." And a red flush of anger mounted into the girl's disappointed looking face. Frederick Howard rose up from his seat, and walked uneasily toward one of the open windows. It was impossible for him any longer to affect blindness toward the sentiments of this demonstrative young lady. Twenty times slnce the recent death of Mrs Beveridge had he felt that the forward girl's conduct toward himself had exceeded the bounds of prudence, and that his own most proper course would have been to put a stop to it at once; but Fred Howard was a man, and possessed of all a man's vanity, and it flattered as well as amused him to be the subject of the heiress's openly exhibited regard, little as he recipro- cated it. Besides, he had known Janie Beveridge for seven years. She had grown from a child into a young woman almost impercepti- bly during his neighborly intimacy with the family at Wongawarra. She had made him the reciplent of all her childish troubles and girlish secrets, and wound up by bestowing her volatile heart upon him, with the full confidence that her unbidden affection was reciprocated. She was his chosen partner at the ball, his companion in many a lonely ride. His escort was ever available at any notice for a visit to the distant town, or a drive to return some neighborly visit. They were ever together, and it is no wonder that the country coupled their names. He was ever obedient to her beck and call, and, until very lately, had never given himself the slightest trouble to analyse from what feeling her favors were so openly bestowed upon him; or, if he had for a moment thought of the matter, it was but to conclude that the silly girl liked to boast of her power over the handsomest man in her circle ; and he permitted her to illustrate its apparent strength with a care- lessness that had indeed no feeling in the affair.   The too plain words of Janie Beveridge had almost disgusted the sensitive feeling of Fred Howard, and for one moment, as he angrily walked toward the window, he had almost used language as plain as her own ; but as he stood there, looking out on the lovely land- scape of Wangawarra, and the low sun redly gilding the bosom of the clear Goulburn, better feelings prevailed, and he remem- bered that he himself was greatly to blame in having permitted her unchecked feelings to have been indulged so freely. He remem- bered, too, how long Mrs Beveridge had been an invalid, and how entirely without motherly control the girl had grown up. " Tell me, Janie," he said, controlling his feelings with an effort, and returning to her side, "tell me all about this new arrange-   ment of Mr Beveridge. Whom is he going to bring with him, and when does he return ?" The flighty girl's face brightened up at the question, and nothing more was necessary to encourage all her usual exhibition of familiarity. Gathering his arm in to her with both her hands, a favorite caress of Janie Boveridge's, she commenced her relation anew. " I'm so glad to see you come back again, Mr Fred ! I was afraid you had taken the huff at me. You so often take the huff now. Dear Mr Fred you are not angry with me ?" The pleading question was enforced by a half embrace ; the self deluded girl laying her head on Fred's shoulder and looking up into his eyes with a craving affection. Never had Frederick Howard felt so guilty or so weak. Was it a premonition of approaching events that gave him courage to speak ? "Janie, you must remember that you are no longer a child," he said, lifting her gently from her reclining posture on his shoulder ; "If any person were to see you now, what would he think ?" "Think ! what do I care what they think ? Indeed, Mr Fred, what people think is the last thing that troubles me, How you do talk, to be sure, as it everybody doesn't know that we've always been like — " "Everybody knows that we are and always have been good friends, Janie," interrupted Howard. He didn't add — "and no more," as he felt that he ought to have done ; but he was weak, and knew it. "But you have not yet explained to me any of the particulars of your father's note, Janie." "Oh, I will show the note to you, Mr Fred ; it is here in my pocket ;" and the girl felt for it among a host of miscellaneous articles in an untidy pocket. "No ; it is gone. I must have drawn it out with my handkerchief. But never mind, I can tell you all about it. It is a Miss Alston—a Miss Ellinor Alston—who comes home with papa to correct poor Miss Janie, and remodel her manners." " Miss Ellinor Alston !" The face of Frederick Howard grew deathly white. His very lips would have shown their ashy hue had it not been for the dark silky moustache that shaded them. It was no longer necessary for Miss Janie to suppose that he had no interest in her story, for the generally cool man of the world rambled like a child. "Did you say Alston, Janie ?—Ellinor   Alston ? " he enquired, holding the back of an arm chair with a firm grasp. "Are you sure you are not mistaken ? '" "Quite certain, Mr Fred ; but whatever is the matter with you ? Dear Mr Fred, you are ill." "I am, Janie. I must go home. I have not b:een well all day, Good night—good evening Janie ; I'll come back again soon and be introduced to your gouvernante;" and with a forced smile Frederick Howard   hastily wrung the staring girl's hand, and went out. Jane Beveridge was too well accustomed to the brusque ways of Mr Howard to be very much astonished at this termination to the interview to which she had looked for- ward with such a craving; but she was more astonished than under similar circumstances, she had ever been before. Hitherto, when her appropriated cavalier had left her side in such a hurried way she had generally offended his nice sense of propriety in some outrageous manner, or ruffled his not very even temper with some of her pert speeches. Nor had he been wont hitherto to part with her in so friendly a manner after one of her escapades. How firm was the pressure of his hand ! Dear fellow, how agitated he looked. The silly girl stood at the window and watched his figure fast fading away on the darkening plain. The disappointment of her hopes of an uninterrupted evening of delicious chat with her favourite would have filled her eyes with tears, had not her strong self-love found a balm in even the behaviour that had so dlsappointed her. "Dear fellow !" she soliloquised in a   sentimental mood; "he tried to hide his feelings, but he cannot from me; I know them too well. He was as much put out about this miserable old woman comlng as I am myself. He loves me dearly, I know he   does ; and it won't be my fault if Miss Alston stops long st Wongawarra." A week had passed since Frederick Howard had parted so abruptly from Miss Beveridge