|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||A Girl Named Bobbie|
A Girl Named Bobbie.
Poor little Sally. She was standing to- day ia the bare washhouse, after two days' service, awaiting the advent of her mis- tress, who was going to make her " smart." "I. deserve it, I know I do," she cried, twisting her little slim hands tiffhtly together, " I deserve hanging for killing Ted, so this is very little punishment j oh, my temper, what shall I do, what shall I do ; she said I dropped the baby on pur- pose, perhaps I did, I don't know what I
She walked up and down, up and down
"I hope she'll hit me hard, oh, very hard," she said feverishly, as she stopped by the window, and looked up at the moon sailing pure and calm in the high, far away heavens, that seemed, oh, so high, and so very far away from the wretched, hot-hearted little child who was gazing up with such dry, wistful eyes, " perhaps, if she . hurts very much, it may keep the temper away for a long time, oh, father-" and she crouched in a little heap on the cold floor and sobbed, " oh, father, if j ou'd only hit me hard when I was little, and got angry, perhaps I shouldn't be so bad now j oh, father, why didn't you, aud, oh, mother, why didn't you stay alive."
She heard a slow step in the passage outside, and quick as thought sprang up, and, with hot little fingers, unbuttoned her frock, and stood waiting with her bare neck and arms, in her underskirt. " It'll hurt a lot more," she whispered to herself, " and I shan't forget so soon."
Mrs. Wilkes came in with slow,* heavy steps, and, at the open door, the children clustered to see Sally " get it."
" I said I'd make you smart," she said, picking up the first thing that came handy -a thick, heavy clothes line. " You've marked my Georgie, and if this drubbing I'll give you don't mark you, my name
isn't Susan Wilkes--now then."
A pair of steadfast, shining brown eyes were lifted to hers, and a quiet little voice said very softly, " I'm ready."
Then there was silence for four minutes, silence broken only by the swish, swish, of the rope as it fell on the child's white, soft flesh, and once a softly breathed oh-h! escaped from the tightly shut lipB.
" There, p'raps in future you'll be more careful," said Mrs. Wilkes, at last, drop- ping the rope quite breathlessly j "p'raps to-morrow you'll look after Georgie more careful. You can go at the end of the week
though j I won't be bothered with you
Bobbie did not utter a word, but glanced up from time to time to the full-faced moon, as if it gave her courage.
" You shall stay where you are for the night. You don't deserve a bed, you don't," continued the woman, secretly vexed, to find she could make no apparent impression on her handmaid. "There's a blanket over there," and then she turned away, swept ber staring children before ber, and shut
and locked the door.
The sobs came now, thick and fast. In a little huddled-up heap on the cold floor she lay sobbing bitterly for the father who was BO /ar away, for the lovely young mother she had never known, for the bright, merry lads she had played with ;
for the sunny round-faced Ted she thought she had killed. ,
In all the length and breadth of Sydney a more weary, heart-broken, forlorn, miserable little child than Bobbie could hardly be found.
" It is BUD a long way, girl,;-Alie's feet
is so tired."
" We are nearly there, Alfie. Oh, do be good just a little while longer, it's, just up this road and round the corner, and turn to the left and then the right, and then we're there. Oh, dear, Alfie, do be good," and Bobbie hastened on dragging the little fellow by the hand.
Such little feet his were to keep up with her eager, hurrying steps, no wonder he stopped from time to time and said : " It was sus a long way."
It was the day after the evening on which Bobbie had been " made to smart $ " she had been brought from the washhouse and set to mind some of the children while Mrs. Wilkes was washing j suddenly that worthy lady discovered she was quite out of starch and, unable to proceed with her work, she took the baby from Bobbie's arms and bade her go out for it.
" Go to the shop, Hudson's, at the end of Redwood-road for it," she said, producing a dirty-looking sixpence, " and take Alfie along with you, and if you're more than 10 minutes, Sally, I'll give you a taste of what you got last night. Here, give me the child, blessed lamb, I declare that hair of yours hanging about is enough to make him cry as he does."
" Is it the color of my bair makes me bad ? " asked Bobbie, suddenly.
" Like enough, I'm sure," said the woman, soothing her child's ruffled feelings by a series of joltings on her knees, " I've never had to do with a child like you for temper and like you for hair. Hurry off
Bobbie took a step to the door and then stopped.
" If you cut it off, would my temper be
cut off too ? " she asked.
" Laws ! to hear you talk one would think I was a plumber like Wilkes, and could cut off your temper like he cuts off people's gas," and Mrs. Wilkes laughed
*' I suppose temper is a kind of gas," said Bobbie, musingly ; " gas in the body, and certain things make it inflam-in- flammable, and then it goes off. Don't you think so, Mrs. Wilkes-I mean ma'am ? "
" Oh, don't worrit me with your silly questions. Gas, is gas, I s'pose, and temper is temper, and hair is hair. Do go and get that starch."
" I'm thinking," said Bobbie, standing on one leg in her old meditative fashion " I'm thinking that praps gas is temper, and temper is hair, and the reason mine is red is that hair is in little iubes-the doctor said it was-and praps the temper runs along them like gas in pipes, and when you're angry why that's why it's red. Don't you think so, Mrs.-ma'am ? "
" Like enough-quite like enough. I'd be sorry for any of my children to have such unchristian color, anyhow." And the woman looked complacently from the rebelliously curly red-gold hair to the smooth, much-be-brushed black head of her offspring.
" Wife," said Mr. Wilkes from the arm- chair where he was smoking his after dinner pipe, " wife, I'm thinking how awfully black your temper must be, if
that's the case."
" Hold your tongue, Wilkes," answered his wife, sharply, " and you Miss, I'll trouble you to make tracks for that starch and not stand harrangering there like a Salvation Army leader, you can go in that
" Can't I get my hat ? " said Bobbie, timidly, the obnoxious cap in her hand.
"No, you can't Miss, you'll go in that
cap or I'll-"
" Yes, Sally my lasB," interrupted Wilkes gravely, " you'd best keep on the cap, put your hair well under it and then the gat
can't go off,-down at the shop we always put caps on gas."
Bobbie's " gas " at that moment seemed very near going off, she flushed angrily, crushed the cap over her bair, and taking Alfie's hand, set off hastily down the garden path.
" Common, vulgar, uneducated people ! " she said disdainfully, her small head at a very high angle.
"What you say, Sally?" asked little Alfie, trotting by her side.
"O nothing," said Bobbie, and tben there was silence for a few minutes.
Something in the childish trustfulness of Alfie's manner brought sweet-tempered Bonnie to the girl's mind.
" O, if I could only see one of them, j ust one of them, for a moment," she breathed, rather than said, and a cold hand seemed to tighten round her heart. " If I could only hear Suds laugh, or Dick tease. Oh, if I only could 1 "
The longing grew intensified every step she took. Further and further she went, the starch entirely forgotten, and more and more keen grew the desire,
" I will ! I will 1 " she cried aloud suddenly, a brilliant scarlet burning on her cheeks. " I'll just go to the thicket in the paddock and peep in, and then I'll come away."
««What you say, Sally?" asked Alfie again.
" Shall Sally take Alfie nice walk," she said persuasively to the little fellow, " near pretty trains ? "
Small Alfie was quite agreeable, and the two were soon hurrying far from the road leading to Starch.
(TO BE CONTINUED.}