|Chapter Number||II. & III.|
|Newspaper Title||Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)|
|Trove Title||Alice Laverne|
THE old mini was the first to break the silence. "Yes!" he said, some- what abruptly. " I must tell you the history of Alice Laverne of Oorandoo. The whole I can never relate, and
even if I could it would be far too long, for only a fragment of it could
be told in one night." " But I intend to remain here for a few days," re- plied Stanton, " to spell my horses ; and if it will not inconvenience you I would like you to stay with me for
that time. I feel sure that we can pass it pleasantly together in such a
delightful spot." After a pause, the old man began : "It is now thirty years since I first saw Oorandoo. Yes, thirty years have passed away,
and yet it seems but yesterday. I remember it so well. It was just such another evening as this, that I rode up to the new slab and bark hut that served as a homestead for tile Lavernes. It was not enclosed then, but there were a few yards some little distance away. They asked me to remain that night, for the people were hospitable in those days. Next morning Laverne, having learnt that I was accustomed to bush work,
I offered me employment, which I accepted. My work consisted chiefly in looking after the cattle and im- proving the place. We had many difficulties to contend with for the first few years. The cattle frequently strayed away, or were hunted by the blacks, and we had often to live on a limited supply of rations, for there were no steamers in those days, and the nearest port (which was then a long distance off, owing to the circui- tous road to be travelled) was visited only by sailing craft, and at long in- tervals. Still we were very happy. Laverne was a jolly, good, kind- hearted sort of fellow, whose greatest weakness, perhaps, was a love for his neighbours' cattle ; and rumour had it that he used his branding irons more frequently than he had a right to do ; but then he himself said that he had lost many cattle, and this we all knew to be true. He was also very hard on the blacks ; harder, I often thought, than there was any occasion to be ; and yet I scarcely think that he intended to be cruel, for when branding he never used to press the hot iron heavily, as he con- sidered it to be cruelty to animals. The result of this was that many of the cattle had to be re-branded, but 'two slight punishments are easier for them to endure than one that is severe,' he used to say. So lightly did he apply the brand that we had some- times to closely examine many of the older animals to find the missing letters LL, and if they had wholly disappeared, we knew the beast must be one of those branded by Laverne, and it was, of course, branded afresh. He was a wonderful man, I assure you, and had a great memory. He could recognise years after any beast that had been lost, be it ever so much changed, and could readily account for any change of colour that the animal might have acquired during its absence, and yet Laverne was a man who kept his word and paid every man to the utmost farthing. He used to say that his neighbours were jealous of him because he had such good luck with his cattle, when informed of their threats or opinions. ' Narrow-minded, narrow-minded fel- lows,' he would say ; ' they cannot look at things in a proper light.' As for Mrs. Laverne, she was a remark- able woman ; as good a housekeeper as ever lived, and so fond of flowers. It was herself and Alice that laid out
and looked after the garden. Alice was the only child. "When I first came to Oorandoo she was in her thirteenth year, very lively and happy. As might be expected, she was the 'pet' with everyone, and all her wishes were carried out. A few years passed away, and Alice became a lady of great beauty. In the mean- time another young lady came to live at Oorandoo ; she was Alice's com- panion, and they got on well together. Annie was some years older than her friend, and was also beautiful ; she was much admired, but Alice was loved. Things prospered at Ooran- doo; the herds increased, more hands were employed, and many improve- ments made. The family now occa- sionally visited Sydney, and in some instances remained away a month or two. During their absence things were, of course, very dull, and every-
one looked forward to their coming home again. On returning from one of these trips Laverne brought a new chum with him. They said that he came for colonial experience. His
name was James Prindle ; Mr. Prin-
dle he used to call himself, but among the station hands he was better known as 'Chummy' or 'Jackaroo.' He was a big, burly kind of fellow,
with stiff ways and a very high opinion of himself. As he was a poor horseman, and would get lost if he ventured out of sight of the build-
ings, unless he happened to be on a track, we had many a joke at his expense. This annoyed him much, and he never took kindly to the men, nor they to him. Still, he was a favourite with the ladies, and he and Annie were often seen riding out to- gether. After a stay of about six months, he went away to Sydney for a holiday, and did not return. Before leaving, however, in a lit of rage he nearly killed 'little Smith,' of the out station, for playing some tricks upon him. We missed for a time the 'butt' of our jokes. Before long, however, another colonial experience man —' Jackaroo ' No. 2 we called him —made his appearance at Oorandoo. He was a very different man from his predecessor, as he was small, with fair hair and a light
moustache. His eyes, however, were
nearly black, and his hands small and delicate. He appeared so helpless when he arrived that we came to the conclusion that he would soon get tired of hunting cattle and bush life at Oorandoo, and predicted for him a speedy return to Sydney. In this, however, we were mistaken, for a few months made a wonderful change in him. His name was Jules Fernando, and he was born some- where in the West Indian Islands, and brought up on a plantation; indeed, this was pretty well all that we ever learned of his history, for though as a rule he was not very silent, yet he seldom spoke of him- self. He was just twenty years of age when he came to Oorandoo, and so slender was his frame that any one at a glance would pronounce him wholly unfit for a rough out- door life. He had one peculiarity, however, that we noticed early—he never got lost. It took him some time to got accustomed to the saddle, but it was soon discovered that he
was fearless, and not at all afraid of a horse. This, of course, raised him a few grades in the estimation of the
boys, and when he ventured to mount a buckjumper that was considered to be too good for any- one but Black Harry, we expected an accident. He, however, managed to stick on somehow by holding on to the pummel of the saddle till the animal ceased his plunging. Twelve
months after his arrival he was a
good horseman. He frequently stayed out till late at night ; what his object was nobody knew exactly. It was said, however, that, he used to 'throw' strange cattle, and mark them with Laverne's earmark. Be that as it may, it was well known that he had ventured farther into the mountain than anyone else, and even discovered some good grazing country on the upper streams. For
this Laverne rewarded him with cattle, and they became very inti- mate ; indeed, it seemed as if he would become the trustworthy man,
and this, of course, was galling to the
older hands who helped to make the place what it was. But, worse than all, he became a favourite with Alice —Alice, whom I loved as never man
loved before, and whom in the near future I intended to make my own, for I was now a prosperous man. Ah ! it was easier for a man to get on in those days than at present. My wages from the beginning was
cattle, and they had increased. I had an idea where I could settle down on unoccupied country—just as Laverne had done—and in all probability equally as fertile and pic- turesque as Oorandoo. I was led to believe, by what means no matter, that Alice loved me, and I knew that she loved me still ; but, alas ! I began
to fear that she loved Fernando more. I was, of course, passionately
jealous, but still proud, and endeav- oured to conceal my love. I should,
however, have mentioned that long before Alice and my rival met she I was my betrothed. I remember well the morning I told my tale. From the top of that hill you can obtain a glorious view of the ocean. Often Alice and myself, and for that mat- ter many others as well, took ad- vantage of the fine summer morn-
ings to see the sun rising out of the sea. On one occasion, however, we ascended and arrived at the summit earlier than usual. From whatever cause the great banks of clouds be- came of an intensely red colour, but gradually began to disperse. It was then that they assumed the most
wonderful shapes that I ever beheld.
The scene was always more interest- ing when there were a few clouds, for then we could watch their fantas- tic forms as they gathered or dis- persed in the golden beams. On this morning they appeared like a forest of moving trees along the horizon. I
had heard of sunrises like this from
the blacks, who considered them a good omen, but never witnessed one before. I know not why, but this
scene made us both doubly happy; to be brief, I confessed and was accepted. But since she took up with Fernando, though we often met, neither of us ever referred to that eventful morning, which was always uppermost in my mind. I deter- mined to forget it, be the cost to me what it may, and began to prepare my plans for leaving Oorandoo, but
never breathed a word about it to anyone. But did Fernando love Alice as I did ? Would he be true to her? Would he always try to make her happy ? were the questions I found myself trying to answer ; but this was not an easy task, for he was deep, and kept his own counsel. CHAPTER III.
I NOW left Oorandoo for a time on the pretence of visiting a distant cattle station, for my plans were not yet fully matured, but in reality to search for fresh country for myself. Taking Boko, my trusty, blackfellow, with me we set out on horseback, my intention being to take the animals as far as we could ; then, if necessary, leave them and travel on foot. Boko also led a horse, on which we packed enough provisions for a few weeks. Our route for a time lay parallel with the coast; then striking inland we for the mountains, in the hope of reaching some of the upper tribu- taries of the Wandaraja River. On the third night we camped in a wild, rangy country, and though we had travelled far, yet according to our own reckoning we could not be more than thirty miles in a straight line from Oorandoo, for we had been des- cribing a curve during the last 2 days. After taking our tea we put out the fire, as was our custom when travel- ling, and went some distance away, higher up the hill, to sleep for the night. We had to be cautious in those times, for travelling among savages was by no means safe ; there was always more or less danger, and they could account for many a white man that we cannot. But to resume, however. The night was clear, and the moon about half full ; Boko and myself were lying close to one another in the long grass at the butt of a huge tree, whn he whispered some- thing and slowly raised his head. I listened for a moment, then heard a distant tramping sound. I grasped my revolver in one hand and toma- hawk in the other, then waited. Nearer and nearer it came. I soon
recognised the tramping of a horse, and knew by the paces that it had a rider ; but who could it be in this land that I considered never to have been
trodden by any white man but myself? Immediately he made his appearance Boko whispered, 'Fer- nando,' and he was right, for it was none other than he. But where was he going at this hour, and what could be his mission ? This was a mystery that occupied my thoughts for the greater part of the night. He passed without noticing us, and as he urged his horse forward I conjectured that he intended to reach his destina- tion before the moon went down. I remembered now that for some time back he had often been away from Oorandoo a few nights at a time. This, however, attracted little or no attention, for it was believed that he was after cattle, and again, many stockmen are fond of camping out.
When I first saw him it flashed across my mind that he might, like myself, be out on an exploring tour, but a nearer view soon convinced me that such could not be the case, for he was in no way fitted out for that purpose. There was something about the affair that I disliked, and before going to sleep I decided to track Fernando. This, with the assistance of Boko, would be an easy matter. Next morning, however, many things had to be attended to before setting out. In the first place, a suitable locality
to leave the horses had to be found. As this took up some time it was late when we got a start. We had no difficulty in following the trail, and hurried on. The more I thought the matter over the more certain I felt
that Fernando had some secret motive
in coming here. Evening came on, and the sun sank behind the great trees ; it got too dark to follow the track any longer, so there was nothing for it but to camp for the night. We chose a place a small distance away from the trail, and began to eat a portion of the small supply of pro- visions that we had brought with us. Boko appeared more restless than usual, but to my query replied there was nothing the matter. Presently we heard some noise not a great distance off, and knew that they were made by natives. I determined to go nearer, if possible, and see what they were up to. Boko disliked the idea of going very much, for the tame blacks are far more afraid of the wild tribes than the white men are.
However, I induced him to follow.
We soon saw the glare of fires beneath us, and had now to proceed stealthily. We at length crawled to where some rocks projected. From our position we had a good view of what was going on beneath, with little danger of being observed. 'White gin,' muttered Boko, in his broken English, as soon as we reached the place. Though I spoke his lan- guage fluently, he seldom addressed me in his native tongue, unless I spoke it first. Tho scene that broke so suddenly upon us I shall never forget. On a small wattle flat were a number of fires ; some of them very large. Several blacks went to and fro among them ; they were busy roasting animals and birds. Many, however, were seated in groups, and chatted mirthfully ; their metallic laughter echoing pleasantly in the stillness of the night. There were many women and children, the latter taking a considerable in- terest in the roasting process carried on by the black figures that moved weirdly among the trees. I at once recognised Fernando among them, looking very complacent and happy. He was standing on the opposite side of one of the fires, and beside him was the fairy-like form of a young white girl, probably not more than seventeen years of age. Her figure was extremely graceful, with- out a particle of dress excepting an ornamental girdle that encircled her waist. As she moved in the light of the fire, surrounded by the darkness, her long black hair streaming over her shoulders, I thought her the most beautiful vision that I ever behold. They addressed one another in the native tongue, and it was not difficult to see that the pair were lovers. I will not dwell on the feast or the corroboree that followed —
those were not new to me. My eyes followed Fernando and his mysteri- ous lover. Wherever he went she
followed. Once, and once only, did she leave his side. She soon, how- ever, returned, and smilingly handed him something. It evidently pleased him much, for he examined it again and again, showed it to some of the blacks, who did not appear to take much notice of it ; then went to his saddle, which was a little distance off at the foot of a tree. I could see it but dimly. However, I concluded that he placed his present in one of the saddle bags, for I did not see it with him when he returned to the fire. I drew Boko's attention to this but that was hardly necessary, for little happened that escaped his at-
tention. We waited till silence fell over the camp, and the fires had smouldered away ; then in the dark- ness of the night I desired Boko to descend and search the saddle bags for the object he had seen with Fer- nando, and if he found it to bring it to him. Cat-like he disappeared, and as noiselessly returned with some- thing in his hand. I knew by the feel and weight that it was some heavy metal. We now took our de- parture, but had not gone far when daylight began to dawn in the east; then hurrying back to our horses, we resumed our journey.
To be Continued in Tuesday's issue.
TlIE LITERARY OUTLOOK REVIVAL.-A new revival in our literature is presnged by Mr. Jose in lus lecture before the Uni- versity Union, which appears in the Dully Teieu'ritph. The encl ot the century is at hand, when the history of literature justiiles the expectation of new developments. Sur- veying the literary horizon of to-day, tho writer looks for the coming of a new genius sufficiently powerful to inspire the revival, now due by date, and Antis the pioneer in Rudyard Kipling. Despite his extravagance, his cynicism, and tricks of turgid verse, hu recognises the possession of the stuff of which great men aro made. There are many other indications that wo are passing into an era of literary revival, in its main form dis- tinctly Elizabethan. Never since tho days of Drake and Raleigh has tho fiery spirit of adventure burned so brightly among the English race as in these days. Never since tito days of Sidney and Drayton has a clearer spirit ol' poetry lit so many minds in so many and so various' ranks ; und never even in tho proudest, days of Nelson's victories' have the name and the deeds of Englishmen roused such a reasoning and yet. indistinguishable patriotism. The sap of the national genius ts rising in us again ; the winter lull is over. New literary life is upon us and around us, and it behoves Australia to see tn ifs lot and part in it. A new world of thought and character has been opened up-a land which we may explore as well as our kinsmen over the sea".
During Cardinal Moran's recent, illness he appears to have been .resting at Fraséate, that interesting Roman suburb of which the bust of the Royal House of Stuart-the Car- dinal of York-was Archbishop early, in tho present century. Tho Pope, willi whom the chief Australian prelate is. ii favourite by reason of intimate, association in former years, sont a special messenger every day tô intpiire after,tho health'bf the Cardinal.' .'