|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||The Christmas Motto|
ïïyllbridge was a quiet little country, iowa lying among the woods between the Mendip Ranges and the Moors. The single track of a branch railway just touched the town in its wanderings, but did not disturb its antique ^quietude. The steep, narrow .streets echoed now and then to the harness foils on the six-horse teams which drew the piting country wagons, but there was little eke to break its air of constant serenity. It had an ancient church, and scores of old fashioned houses, whose upper stories pro- jected over the worn stone pathways. An old Btone'cross stood in the centre of its little market-place, and served as a general trysting point on summer evenings. How tte inhabitants lived was an insoluble prob lem to anyone from the city, for the litth stops seemed always empty, and there wer< rarely as many as a dozen people visible ii tne street in day time. But there were f e\ visitors Ho comment on its secluded an' iranquil air. The train sometimes droppei au antiquarian, who visited the ancien
church among the trees, and disturbed the long grass to read the rough-hewn epitaphs on slanting tombstones; sometimes a-na- turalist, who". wandered ever the moors, searching for plants, hunting for strange beetles, or fishing for water insects in the stagnant dykes.
The Ryllbridge moors stretched away from the hills for many; miles, an even green plain. Absolutely flat, and very low, they were sometimas flooded when the JRyll -was full, and always there was water.in1 the long intersecting ' rhines.' These narrow chan- nels divided the green moors by long straight lines of water. There was rarely any current in them ; their surface was only flecked by the. tiny flotillas of 'water-boat- men,' the green leaves of pond weeds, or here and there a yellow water lily. As the seasons ordered, there were -blue-flags and meadow-sweet, and raggéd-robin .* growing in the grateful wet, and rare marsh flowers in boggy wastes, and insect life in myriads ; in the sluggish water.
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The. quiet life among the flowers and country folk was a perpetual delight to Jinny. She laboured heart and soul to reconcile her husband, but "William Hutton, now known ras William Brawn; di ! not be- come content so easily. The deceptive adopted name chafed him, and he missed the work which made his past li fe seem valuable.
Take lier away, for God's sake!" he said.'
The noise of the bread riots had spread all over the country, and his name as one of the supposed ringleaders was notorious. His disappearance was duly chronicled, and it was understood that he was 'wanted'; but he was never searched for. The nature of the man and the excellence of his char- acter were well known, and the police were only too glad to escape the necessity of prosecuting him. Nevertheless, as an absentee, he was saddled with numberless offences not his own, and branded with ill . names that belonged to others ; he heard his
name reviled in tones that made his blood
boil, but he kept his secret and said nothing.
He was a thoughtful and self-controlled man, and he made up his mind that, as he had married, he was bound to make his wife happy ; and he resolved to devote himself to making her life pleasant, to support the old cause by all the money he could send, and for his life's work merely to do his best in
the little circle to which he was now trans- planted.
His old employers, to whom he sent a full explanation, readily kept his secret, and
recommended him as a faithful and skilful
servant, so that he was soon settled as engi- neer in the Eyllbridge Paper Mill, and had nothing to fear from want or anxiety.
Not long after their settlement at Ryll bridge they took into their home little Hetty
Ryan, the neglected daughter of a drunken carrier, who hung himself in. _Eyllbridge "Woods. The little girl soon grew into their hearts, and as they had no children, they
trained and loved her as if she were indeed their own.. .. .-.
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Seven years passed quietly, patched with the lights and shadows which chequer even tranquil rustic days. They left the old town unaltered, for it layv as it were, out of the main current of obliterating time in a motionless backwater of its own. The
years had strengthened the ivy on the church and brought the creepers higher ; the hawthorn hedges were thicker ; the brambles claimed more of the road, and some old folks had mumbled the last strains of gossip at the cottage door and gone to their last couch under the shade of the old yew tree.
Hetty was now a pretty girl of eighteen, light-hearted, affectionate, docile. ' Her eyes are too bright for her brains to be very shiny,' said William, who was nevertheless very fond of her. Jinny was the same good, gentle wife ; a matron now of three-and thirtv years, and plump, with the agreeable obesity to which good health and unalloyed
content are said to be conducive. Seven
years had left the wedded pair still lovers. They rambled out together, and shared the lovely hills and lanes of Byllbridge with
courting couples of a younger generation. One glorious autumn evening they strolled to the banks of the little river, and sat down to revel in the mellow twilight.
The fields were purple with the smooth pointed buds and serrated cups of thousands ' of crocuses. The evening breeze rustled
the leaves of the great trees which shadowed the quiet currents of the Byll, and half a mile away, the old church and its encom- passing trees stood outlined sharply against the yellow sky. The singers were practising in the church, and the bells made the air musical with their mellow monotonous
octaves. They were very happy, and the scene was emblematic of the quiet and harmony of their later years.
' Jinny,' he said ; ' I can hardly believe that seven years ago I was within five minutes of handcuffs, and a gaol. Ah, your face was white and miserable that night. I shall never forget it. You stood between me and the gaol, my dear. They would have condemned me along with the others. Instead of this, we should have been suffering, who knows what, miseries of separation. It would have meant despair for me, and poverty for you.'
' Well, well, William, we are happy now, why talk of it?'
' Well, I want to talk of it. I want to talk of it to Hetty. I can't stand having a
secret from the girl. She is one of us, and she ought to know.'
T don't think ! would, William. She doesn't wrant ta know besides, would it be safe, she's only a girl yet ?'
' Oh, yes. Hasn't she grown up like a daughter to us ? I can't feel easy to know she thinks me what I am not. I feel like a cheat to her. As for the other people, I've thought of that. I mean to have it out, but I can't make-up my mindi I must tell the story myself, but I believe Fin too big a ' coward ' to. tell them I've lived all these years with them, under a false, name: If it wasn't for that malicious scoundrel, Read,
Fd do it to-morrow.' '
' Well, William, tell Hetty then. Your
So they sat among the grass and flowers recalling the grim London scenes, until the mists began to gather on the moors. Tuen the bells clanged all their notes together, and stopped, and the reverberations dying
left the town in darkness and in silence.
When Hetty came hom3 (she had been. out with a friend she said), they told her all the old sad faded story of William Hutton's work in London aad of danger aud flight.
Then William kissed her and said it had so long been their secret, and their only one, they wanted their dearest girl to share it and keep it with them, and Hetty was very much astonished, and said she was very
sony, but in reality she did not understand very well, nor care very much, and it would
have been far better to have left her in her
shallow, simple innocence and ignorance of all such things. She went to bed, thinking only of what someone had said to her about her pretty face as she was walking home ; what a handsome, well-bred gentleman he was ; so unlike the men of Ryllbridge; and what a pleasant, musical lullaby you could make of the three words, Henry Ramsay Read.