|Newspaper Title||The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889)|
|Trove Title||Miss Roberts's Lovers: An Australian Story|
" PUT UP YOUR HANDS," CONTINUED CANDY BOB, IN A STATE OF GREAT EXCITEMENT, " UNLESS YOU'RE A COWARD.—CHAP. II.
Although the line of mail-coaches which connected Karradindy with the centres of population went far beyond that township, merely using it as a stopping-place on the journey, as far as Candy Bob was concerned, his duties, ended for the time being when the township was reached, another driver taking his place on the
box from thence to the coach's ultimate destination. It was Candy Bob's duty, however, to pilot the return coach part of its way back. By this arrangement, in consequence of having to be on the box during the major part of the night during two nights in the week, he had two full days leisure to recruit in, one at the beginning and one at the close of the week. The day following that of the accident was one of his off-days, the return coach not arriving till late in the evening, starting off the following morning. The sun had hardly risen before the town was fully astir. That unfortunate victim of circumstance, Candy Bob, in consequence of his late exertions in the cause of distress, slept late and soundly. When he awoke a look of stern resolve was on his face. He ate his breakfast in silence, and as silently made his way outside. He first lingered outside the little private sittingroom of the Bushman's Rest, but finding the blinds down and nobody about, he betook himself to . the yard at the back of the stables, where Mr. Purdy Jack had passed the night. He found that worthy industriously scraping himself with a bit of iron hooping, endeavouring to rub off some of the dirt that had accumulated on his person. His face and hands were clean ; a well-bucket standing by full of water, combined with the dripping state of his hair, showing that he had completed his morning's ablutions. A few of the young fellows were collected together in the yard, in consequence of the report having been spread that a fight was — to use a Karradindy colloqualism — "on the carpet." As Candy Bob approached, the frail and erring Purdy Jack bent more industriously than ever over his task of scraping. He was a tall, ill-formed man, with a straggling mass of red whisker, but possessing tremendous bone, and a great pair of horny hands, altogether a foeman not to be despised. His opponent, however, was himself no chicken. Better looking he was by far, and of more shapely build ; though near middle age, he was large of limb, tall, and broad of chest, and had that determination and resolve in his face which the other lacked. 'Purdy Jack," he exclaimed, as he neared the group, "you're a drunken sweep, and I'm goin' to give you a hammering for
yesterday s work." The recipient of this elegant salutation only raised himself from his stooping position, and shook his head solemnly. "Put up your hands," continued Candy Bob, in a state of great excitement, " unless you're, a coward, you drunken hound ! Do you know what you've done? Overset the coach, and nearly killed a lady. Stand out there, and I'll give you a lesson." "No, Candy," responded the other, drawing himself up with an air of resolve. " I won't put up my hands! Jack here an' Tommy 've been tellin' me what was up, an' I feel pretty mean. I ain't— " "You'd be a damned fine fellow, if you didn't feel small. Put up your hands, I tell you !" " No, Candy," he answered, with an almost ludicrous solemnity. "I aint agoin' to row with you. I aint no coward, an' you know that. You can do what you like. Here I am, belt away; I shan't say nothin.' I deserve it." The driver was somewhat taken aback at the turn of affairs. Purdy Jack looked so solemnly repentant, and spoke in such mournful tones, that he was quite puzzled what to make out of him. "Belt away, Candy," repeated the latter, putting his face and person in close proximity to his opponent for the better performance of that interesting proceeding. " Belt away, Candy, I shan't say nothin'. I deserve it." "You're a nice feller, ain't you, going and overturnin' coaches, and then backin' out of it?" Aye!' responded Purdy Jack in the same solemn tones. "See 'ere, Candy. I feel pretty mean this morning, an' I ain't a goin' to fight nobody. You know me, you all of you knows me. I ain't no cocktail. I ain't frightened of no man. You've got a edge on me, an' quite right, too. I frit the hosses an' the coach, an' a lady was hurt. So I says, ' Belt away.' I can't nay no fairer nor that. Belt away till you think you've done." His voice, which preserved its ludicrous solemnity through this burst of eloquence, assumed quite a cheery tone when he requested the other to perform the exhilarating operation of ' belting him,' as if it would afford him the liveliest satisfaction to undergo that process. "Belt your grandmother !" exclaimed Candy Bob, disdainfully.
" It's more nor two years since I was tight last," continued the other in more melancholy tones than ever, "an' I don't know how it came this time. I cum in with the butter an eggs same as usual, an' I hadn't more nor two nips afore I went back with the cart. I must have fell out, I suppose," he continued, thoughtfully. "The old hoss, he knows his way home. I expec he went off an' left me there. I've reg'ler disgraced myself, an' what I says is, if you've got a edge on me, belt away an' then shake hands arterwards." "Well, I don't know," saidy Candy Bob, mollified, despite himself. " You've made a nice mess of it, Jack, but I believe it's more the fault of the trashy stuff they sell here for grog. I'm not one to go kickin' up rows and fightin' like a larrikin, but you've got me into a nice piece of trouble, and I don't——" "I'll act square, Candy," he interrupted energetically ; "blister me if I don't. You an' me's old mates, an' I'll see this thing through. I got as good a s'lection as there is goin', an' you're the man as knows it, Candy. I got close up 300 sheep an' 25 head prime milkers, an' I keeps the town goin' in butter an' eggs, an' I makes a power o' money shearin'-time. I'll this 'ere thing through, an' there's my hand on it." "Well, Jack, you're a darned fool, but here's my fist and let's make it up," and the two late opponents gripped each other lustily by the hand in token of mutual reconciliation and friendship. It is to be feared that the onlookers rather failed to appreciate the peaceful termination of the affair, and would, if left to choose, have preferred to see, as they expressed it, 'some fun,' more especially as sundry bets had passed between them. Indeed, one young gentleman, who had loudly declared he would " lay two to one on Candy Bob up to anything in shillings," and had noisily desired his companions to "back their fancy," gave vent to his dissatisfaction so freely, hinting that personal fear had a great deal to do with Purdy Jack's reluctance to fight, that he was not silenced till the latter gentleman turned upon him so fiercely as to impress upon him the conviction that it would be safest and most desirable to be silent on that point. In the meantime Mrs. Rattray, who, in pure kindness of heart, generally interested herself in anybody or anything requiring aid or assistance in the township, paid an early morning visit to the patient. She found the doctor's horse hitched up outside, and the doctor himself inside. He was just taking his leave as she
entered. "Good morning, ma'am !" he said. "I've just been interviewing the patient. Not feverish at all, going on first rate. The arm's nicely in position. There's nothing more to do till the bone begins to set. Miss Roberts," he exclaimed, turning to the invalid, "it's just nothing at all. You ought to be thankful it wasn't your right arm instead ; you'd have been more helpless then. Now I'm off, I've stopped too long already. You only want looking after in about a week or so, to see that you haven't been playing any pranks with the splints and bandages, and I'll think you'll do. So I'll be back in a week or so. Good morning !" with which Dr. Waddlegrig, surprised out of his natural gruff- ness for a moment by the helpless appearance of his patient, assumed his ordinary brusque manner, and strode noisily out of the room. Seeing Candy Bob approaching as he got into the saddle, he called out, " Here's this mad fellow again. Lock him up, or he'll be doing some one a mischief," and then cantered off on his return journey. Directly he had left the room, his patient burst into a torrent of tears, much to Mrs. Rattray's dismay. "Why, my dear, whatever's the matter?" she said kindly, taking her hand in hers. " You mustn't give way so. Whatever is the matter ?" "Oh! what shall I do? Oh! what shall I do?" sobbed the other bitterly. " It wasn't my fault. I couldn't help it." "Couldn't help what, dear? I'm sure there's nothing to cry about. If you are in any trouble, dear, tell me, and I'll do my best to help you, as an honest woman should help another. Don't cry like that ; I'm sure it must be bad for your arm." "Oh! w-what shall I do, Mrs, Rattray ?" she cried, sobbing more than ever. "It wasn't my fault. l've hardly got any m-m-money, and however shall pay everybo-o-o-dy ?" The poor creature seemed so distressed, and burst into such a paroxysm of hysterical sobbing, that Mrs Rattray could only set herself to soothe and calm her. "Never mind, my dear," she said, a little vaguely, "don't think of it, it'll be all right." " It wasn't my fault" sobbed Miss Roberts pitifully. " I was on my way home. I live with Miss Princh, the dressmaker, at Ha-Haverly. I work at dressma-a-king there, and the doctor says I shan't be able to use my hand for more than a mo-mo- month. Oh ! whatever shall I do !" At the prospect of which eventuality, her tears flowed afresh, and she buried her face in her hands and wept with redoubled violence. Her kind companion exerted herself to the utmost to soothe and console her, and in a few minutes was so far successful that Miss Roberts's tears stopped, and only an occasional sob— break-
ing forth on the most unexpected occasions and in the most abrupt manner — testified to her late outburst. "Now, my dear," said motherly Mrs. Rattray, "tell me all about it. I m sure it'll relieve you." After one or two false starts, owing to one or another of those pathetic little sobs getting unexpectedly in the way, she succeeded in relating the story of her woes. I went down to see my sister married," she said, still some- what shaky in her voice ; " she lives at Kimperton. I hadn't seen her for three years, and it was an old promise that we should go to one another's wedding." At this point the narrator showed approaching signs of another burst of tears, but made an heroic attempt to conquer it and continued, " I wasn't very well, too, and I felt a change would do me good. I got leave from Miss Princh, and I've been away a month, and I've spent nearly all my mo-money, and I don't know what I shall do to pay the do-do-doctor, and everybody, for oh ! I won't be able to work for more than a month.' The outburst of sorrow which had threatened throughout broke forth once again with redoubled violence, quite over- whelming the fragile-looking dressmaker in its intensity. " Why, my dear, don't cry like that for goodness sake, you'll make yourself ill. It'll be all right, never fear. The Coach Company ought to be liable. I suppose they are ; so you needn't put yourselt out at all. Don't fret, dear. It'll be all right, you'll see." There was a good deal of tact in Mrs. Rattray's mode of holding out comfort, and it had the best results. When she took her leave shortly afterwards, the dressmaker appeared calm, and laid herself down to rest at her guest's bidding with quiet obedience. It preyed somewhat heavily upon the mind of the storekeeper a good lady, all the same, that the young woman should have been so innocently the victim of a misfortune like the present. She felt it was no trifling matter to be laid up in daily pain, incurring expense, and cut off from all chance of earning her livelihood again for some considerable time. It was very hard on the poor dress- maker, she thought, and she deserved some recompense. With these ideas in her head, she spoke to Candy Bob on the subject, telling him plainly Miss Roberta's dependent position and want of money, and seeking his advice, as a a trusted servant of the company, on behalf her young friend, us to the means of making known the case to the authorities. It was noticed that after this communication Candy Bob went about for some time, with a thoughtful, not to say a somewhat perturbed air— that he held open-air conversations in the company of Purdy Jack— and that both hovered about outside the little private sittingroom, in a peculiar and even suspicious manner. It was noticed, too, by the more curious that Purdy Jack—who by this time had recovered entirely from all effects of his late
overthrow by the rosy god— wore upon his face a grin of mys- terious complacency, and would, every now and again, burst into a hoarse guffaw seemingly without due cause or reason. The pair, after waiting for some time vainly before the little sittingroom verandah, marched boldly to the door, at which the driver gave a modest rap. Mrs. Rattray came in response to the summons, and Candy Bob, motioning her away from the little sittingroom, stated his business so as not to be heard by its occu- pant— the dressmaker. " I've been thinking over what you told me, Mrs. Rattray " he said steadily, " and Purdy Jack and I have been having a yarn over it, and we've made up our minds what's the best to do. Jack here's to blame most, nobody 'll deny that ; but I was driving at the time, and perhaps ought to have been more careful, But what we want to say is this. Please tell the young lady from us, that we came to apologise to her and express to her how sorry we both are for the accident, and hope she'll forgive us. And Purdy Jack and I've sworn that it shan't cost her a penny. Tell her, please, I'll do my best and see if there's any chance of getting something out of the company without going to law, as you suggested. But, company or no company, Purdy Jack and I pay all her expenses. So please tell her that. We don't want to sneak out of our share of the blame, and we've made up our minds that it sha'n't cost Miss Roberts a single penny ; and Purdy
Jack will tell you the same." It was strange when Candy Bob had occasion to speak to a lady, how, seemingly without effort, he could cast off all the roughness of speech and manner which ordinarily characterised him, and assume a totally different air of quiet respectability. Mr. Purdy Jack, during his comrade's speech, in token of acquiescence in the sentiments advanced, grinned hugely, and at times chuckled in an audible and disconcerting manner. Wearing previously such a solemn air, and speaking in such lugubrious tones as he did some time previously, it might be surmised that his temperament was naturally a somewhat melancholic one. But such was by no means the case. The effect of liquor on gentlemen of Purdy Jack's temperament generally demonstrates itself either in extreme depression and melancholy, or else in certain bellicose tendencies more objectionable. With him the former was generally the case. Being appealed to by his companion, he grinned more than ever, and chuckling with much gusto, observed. 'That's what this ere deppitation's about, an' no mistake. 'Pologise to the leddy, an' Candy Bob an' me pays." "If Miss Roberts is well enough to receive us," said his companion, " we feel we'd like to apologise to her personally ; but if not, you'll bear our message, please, and assure her we've fully made up our minds that we are to bear all the expenses she incurs. Doctor, lodging, and everything." "It's very good of you; Candy," returned Mrs. Rattray, doubtfully, "and you, too, Mr. Heeley, but I don't know whether Miss Roberts will be agreeable to it. I must say, I think it only just, and I'll tell her so. Will you wait here a moment, and I'll see if she can see you. It would be better to speak to her personally, and let her decide for herself." In a few moments she returned; and saying that Miss Roberts was up, and would see them, ushered them into the little sitting- room. The dressmaker was lying on the sofa, a book in her lap, clad in a loose morning gown, with one sleeve dangling empty. She looked very pale and delicate, and even the loose wrapper she wore could hardly conceal the very fragile outline of her form. If either of her visitors had been ungallant enough to make a guess as to her age, he would, no doubt, have put it down as somewhere between 28 and 30. She was decidedly not a young girl in the literal sense of the word, and would have looked almost middle-aged, only for a peculiar clinging, tender, almost imploring kind of look in her face, and especially in her eyes, that gave her slightly irregular features a youthful look, and made them rather attractive. Her hair was a glossy brown, and tied in a neat knot
at the back of her head. The deputation of two advanced into the room, and saluting the invalid, at Mrs. Rattray's invitation seated themselves. Purdy Jack, who seemed to regard the affair in quite a different light from what he had in the morning, showed his appreciation of the situation by grinning more than ever, until he found himself seated opposite the dressmaker, when he relapsed into a vacuous state of staring admiration. "I hope you feel better to-day, Miss Roberts." said Candy Bob, with his most polite air and manner. " Mr. Heeley and I, who I daresay you know were to blame for the accident, we wished to tell you personally how sorry we feel that you should have been hurt——" "That's what this 'ere deppitation's for," growled Purdy Jack cheerfully, waking up for a moment to corroborate his com- panion, but subsiding again immediately into a state of feeble admiration. "Oh ! thank you," exclaimed the dressmaker hurriedly, with a little flush rising over her face. " I didn't blame anyone. I — " "I daresay Mrs. Rattray's been telling you," said Candy Bob steadily, as the lady stammered, hesitated, and finally broke down ; " that we feel we are to blame in the matter, and that any consequences that may ensue ought to full on our shoulders. Its hard to speak to a lady on such a subject, but what I want to say is, that all the expense you are undergoing we are deter- mined — that is Mr. Heeley and myself — to share between us." "Oh ! I couldn't think — oh, no ! — never " — exclaimed the poor little dressmaker, very much confused, the colour coming and going on her face, and the uninjured hand quite trembling again. "I've got about as good a s'lection as there is goin'," observed Purdy Jack, with cheerful gruffness, as though advancing a point which must finally clench the matter, "an' close up three hundred sheep, an' twenty-five head prime milkers, an' I earns a power o' money shearin'-time. Money ain't no objec'." This observation, which was addressed to no one in particular, but was thrown out merely us a general observation bearing on the case, he emphasised with sundry chuckles and grins, and then fell into a second paroxysm of staring admiration. Candy Bob, taking up the argument again, caught a glimpse of a morsel of white arm peeping out from bandages, from under the dress- maker a gown, and his voice assumed a still more determined
tone. "The company, perhaps, 'll see the thing through," he said, "if it is properly represented to them. Of course, there's the law on your side, and you might sue them. When I go down to- morrow I'll make some inquiries and see the best way to act. But company or no company, what we wish to say is, that we consider it our duty to bear all the expense you may incur." Candy Bob spoke, with the morsel of white arm still in his mind, in a determined voice, that the poor dressmaker had not the courage to say what she wanted, and could only utter a faint "Oh!" "If you were to ask me, my dear," said Mrs. Rattray, "I think jt only right and proper, anyway until we know how the company intends to act." "Oh !" observed Miss Roberts, more faintly than ever. "Right an' proper," whispered Purdy Jack in his companion's ear, in very gruff and very audible tones, nudging him vigorously with his elbow. " O' course, that's it. You tell her, Candy, as money ain't no objec'." "The company's generally pretty severe on any driver that upsets the coach," said Candy Bob thoughtfully, not heeding his companion's remark. "But if I explain the matter how it occurred exactly, I don't think there can be anything said. I don't believe there's a man in the colony could help a thing like that occurring with such a pair of leaders," he said proudly, "not a man." "Course not," chimed in his companion, growling cheerfully, as though he found a vast fund of humour in the admission. "T'werent you ; 'twas me. Drunk for the first time for two years." His perception of the humour of that fact was so keen that he burst into a loud guffaw, and repeated the statement with apparent enjoyment. "Well," said Candy Bob, rising, "we may consider that
settled. Don't you worry yourself at all, miss. If it would be any satisfaction for you to know, I may mention that both Mr. Heeley and myself are quite in a position to bear any expense you may incur, and that, really we sha'n't feel it. I wouldn't mention the matter," only I thought it better. " "The best s'lection goin'— close up three hundred sheep an' twenty-five head prime milkers — earns a power o' money shearin' time —murmured Mr. Purdy Jack to himself, in a kind of running accompaniment. "Oh! I don't like," exclaimed Miss Roberts, half-rising from the sofa, in her anxiety to speak, as the deputation of two moved to the door. " I don t like to take any money, I'm surest wasn't your fault. I can't take any money. I don't know what to do— do. I do-o-n't. " She lay back on the sofa, and burst into a piteous fl od of tears. Mrs. Rattray soothed her with motherly care, chiding her gently for the foolishness of giving way. "Miss Roberts is not quite herself yet," she said to the deputa- tion; "I think you'd better go, and I'll talk over the matter with her, and let you know afterwards." What with another momentary glimpse of that morsel of white arm, and what with the sight of the owner's tears, Candy Bob felt as if he had suddenly come into possession of a particularly large and uncomfortable lump, that had lodged itself in the immediate region of his throat. " Good-bye, miss," he exclaimed, hurriedly ; "I'm sorry to see you take on so. Come along, Jack." The admonition was somewhat necessary, for that gentleman was standing, staring open-mouthed and aghast at the weeping dressmaker, his face set with a ludicrous look of horror and
pity. "Go-od-bye," sobbed the invalid, and despite her tears, in the feeling of gratitude that moved her, she held out her hand. It was so small and white, and lay so still and helpless in Candy Bob's brown palm, and there was, besides, such a pathetic, helpless look in the owner's tear-stained face, that the lump that had taken possession of his throat increased in size to an alarming extent, and he hastily made for the door, followed by his companion. As they were descending the verandah steps, a happy inspira- tion occurred to Purdy Jack. He returned, and opening the door of the sittingroom very slightly and with elaborate caution, put his head in, and with a reassuring grin, observed— "I has three hundred sheep an' twenty-five head prime milkers an' earns a pile o' money shearin' time. It's all right. Money ain't no objec'," and nodding with great solemnity five or six times, his features gradually relaxed, and he broke into a grin as he carefully shut the door and followed his companion, perfectly satisfied within himself that he had clenched the matter in an extremely neat and conclusive manner.