Chapter 64974111

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleTHE CLOUD ON THE DWELLING.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64974111
Full Date1881-02-19
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count1638
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitleThe Golden Link
article text

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CHAPTER I.

" THE CLOUD ON THE DWELLING.

THERE was sorrow in the thriving township of Tal botdale, a place which, by some unaccountable mistake, has been omitted from the official maps of the colony.

John Armstrong, its actual founder, the man who had assisted in creating a garden out of the wilderness,

was no more.

Only the summer before he died he presided at a public meeting-a hale, hearty man-who seemed to have years of life and strength in him, yet in less than six months he was carried to his grave.

He passed away calmly and quietly, even just as he had lived. He is dead, but he will not soon be for- gotten. His memory will live for ever among those who knew him, for he was a man of a good heart and a

free hand.

They say that there are very few who for long cherish the memory of lost ones, but it may be doubted whether they will ever forget John Armstrong, whether a time can come when old men shall cease to point out to visitors his grave, situated in a corner of the little church-yard outside the town, in the midst of a shrub- bery protected by a mass of gum trees from the fierce, hot glare of the summer sun.

The mourners came from far and near to the funeral : there was Edward Martin, the squatter ; Peter Camp- bell, the lawyer, who represented the district in the Legislative Assembly; Hugh Cameron, who had just taken up several thousand acres towards the north ; and many other local magnates.

It was like a gathering of the clans, for even the humblest settler was found anxious to shew his resj)ect for the memory of one who had become regarded as

the father of the district.

Men can still remember the awe with which, when lads, they gazed on the long funeral procession of friends and relatives. There were more than fifty con- veyances and a hundred horsemen.

By John Armstrong's own wish his body was carried by four of the station hands, and when the coffin was placed in the church porch some wreaths of flowers were lovingly deposited thereon.

The little church was crowded to excess, and the first part of the service was read most impressively by the clergyman. On leaving the church door the sad cortege was re-formed, and proceeded on foot to the grave, where the concluding portion of the beautiful Church of England Burial Service was read. There was scarcely a dry eye in the silent mournful gathering, and strong men, who had fearlessly braved the perils of the bush, were to be seen sobbing as though they were children.

Very touching were the words of the clergyman as he addressed himself to the crowd of mourners by which he was surrounded. Earnestly he exhorted them to mark well the lessons which had been forced upon them by the sad duties of that day. John Arm- strong was beloved because he had striven to do his best for his neighbours as well as for himself, and in so doing he had acted faithfully, both as a man and as

a Christian.

He had indeed been a kind man, " whom to look on was to love." The humblest station hands, rough sturdy men, had loved him deeply ; for, from his youth, he had known that there many whose lot was hard, and he had striven to take away some part of their burden.

His opulent neighbours had loved him, for his heart had been frank and he had ever been ready to welcome

all to his table.

His friends had loved him, for the grasp of his hand had spoken the truth of his heart, and he was of those who are bom for adversity.

But, far above all these, his children had loved him, and right worthy had he been of their love, for " even to the utmost he had been to them a kind and a good

father."

They had been left to him as a sacred charge by the one woman whom he had loved, the wife he had chosen in his youth..

His life, till that sad day when she had been taken from him, had been well nigh an eternal summer : as a boy he had loved her, and she had returned his love, and when, having cast boyhood off and taken to him the man, he had asked her to fulfil the promise of her childhood, she had laid her hand in his and whispered to him the words which had bound him to her for ever.

There are some who speak against early love, but is it well to wait until the bones are dry and the heart has become hardened through the incessant battering of the shocks of time, before a man seeks the comfort which a wife brines to his home ?

Perhaps it is well that it should be so. Let a man find a woman worthy of his love before the world has become all in all to him, whose love shall be the brightest jewel in the crowned life-let his heart be made glad by her loved words-let him give up all for her - win her, bring her to his home-and she shall love him until the years have given to them both that crown which shall fade not through all eternity.

And such a wife had she been to him who was just

dead.

They are both at rest now, for the cloud had come upon him since that day, and had deepened on his brow until that night, which is the herald of a most glorious dawn, had given him an everlasting rest.

But this was not all that had darkened the last hours of his life.

There had been a man whom he had called his friend, one whom he had trusted above all others whom he knew, and that man had returned him evil for his good-hatred for his good Avili.

Through that man it came that when John Armstrong died, he died a beggar.

No one had known of this ; for to the last he had trusted that after all the scoundrel had perhaps meant him well, and this had made him shrink from exposing

him.

And now it was too late.

He was beyond all reach of trouble. It was not for himself that he grieved as he lay awaiting the summons which should give him the unfading crown ; he knew full well in whom he trusted. He knew that the perishable riches of this world would profit him nothing in that new world to which he was going ; but he felt that he had done a wrong in not denouncing this man before a wrong to those whom, far above all others in the world, he loved with an almost perfect love.

It was the trouble which would come upon his children that wrung from him the only groan which he uttered during those long, long weeks of suffering.

But it was too late for all this now, what he could he did. With an earnest prayer he committed them to the protection of that God in whom he had trusted, and fell asleep knowing that his prayer should not be

vain.

There had been three children of the marriage-a boy, a girl, and a boy again.

The eldest had been christened Phillip some sixteen

or seventeen summers before the date of the commence- ment of this story.

A tall, light-haired, curly-headed, handsome lad, with spirits as high as it is well possible to imagine, he won nearly everybody's love with whom he was brought in contact ; and, though he was perhaps a little deficient in that species of coolness which is so lauded by old aunts, take him all in all it would be difficult to find a much better specimen of a genuine Cornstalk in the

whole of Australia.

In company, however, he was considered rather an awkward, stupid fellow ; but in the bush or the field he was a general favourite.

He hated to be bothered by women, he said, and swore there was only one fit to talk to in the world, and that

was his sister Edith.

He certainly was stretching a point in saying that, even though it was true that before many more years had passed over her head Edith Armstrong was acknowledged to be the prettiest and sweetest girl in all Talbotdale, if not in the colony.

Up to this time, at any rate, she had been almost all in-all to her brothers, and " May Edith go ?" had been the question from time immemorial whenever any picnic or excursion was planned, and the " yes" or " no" invariably decided the success or non-success of that | scheme.

They all loved one another, as children should. I "Birds," they say, or rather Dr. Watt says, "in their little nests agree ;" but never was such a nest, never such good-tempered nestlings as the three who kept the peace in the big nursery of John Armstrong at Talbot

field.

The last of them, Walter, was a ten year old, bush | pastime delighting boy, who never passed a day without getting into some scrape or other, who hated learning in general, yet would have given his head to have gone to school with Phillip, who was for ever plaguing his sister and his sister's governess out of their lives ; in fact, to put it shortly, he was just what we should expect a ten year old lad who had hardly known any restraint to I be-a thorough plague to every one about him.