|Newspaper Title||Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)|
|Trove Title||The Remnant of a Life|
The Remnant of a Life.
(Written for the "Town and Country Journal.")
(BY MRS. LANGLOH PARKER.)
There are lonely graves left on the Wallaby Track,
And the bush-grass bends above them;
They had no white hands to wave them back,
Perhaps, no hearts to love them.
But none the less will their sleep be sound
For the Hope and the Love denied them,
Or the ceaseless tramp on the thirsty ground
Till all men sleep beside them.
It was a midsummer's afternoon on the West- tern plains of New South Wales. Rain there is a luxury, and coolness in summer an unknown quantity.
Mrs. Treherne sat on the narrow verandah of a station house, trying to imagine herself among her native hills, in fern-tree gullies, besides babbling streams, where flies were few and mos- quitoes none.
But it required a more acrobatic mind than hers to achieve such a difficult stretch of imagination, where the outlook was across a grey saltbush plain, studded with silvery, drooping myall trees, and where the thermometer was well en route to boiling, and the flies only to be kept at bay by the constant waving to and fro of her big palmetto fan, and well she knew that when the flies went the mosquitoes would come.
The crows were cawing incessantly out on the plain in front—some poor lamb at their mercy, thought Mrs. Treherne; and her mind wandered on to how much she had read of the solemn silence of the bush, and she pondered as to where that bush was, for here there was certainly silence never, solemn or otherwise—crows cawing by day, galahs screeching. Even as she thought of them, a large flock of galahs wheeled past, screeching in their flight, before they settled on an old dead, rung tree in front. How brilliantly, she thought, their rose-coloured breasts and top- knots showed out on that grey tree against the background of a cloudless deep blue sky !
But oh! Tho hateful nolso of their harsh cries! Silence Indeed! Not evon the night brought lt. Tao mosquitoes then take up a buzzing re- frain to Ncturo's chorus. Tho myriad frogs, too, lu tho far swamp would croak In something Uko the roar ot a distant city.
Silence ot tho- bush! A sarcasm indeed, she thought, os she waved away tho buzzing flies, and a ¿croat t\ornet thatlwas humming past her to tho water-bag, Just as Bho WAS thinking that to live In thia climate a woman should be born with a punkah aa part of hor mechanism, and, wondorlng If the nee", would in generations to como OVOIYO audi on addition, silo heard her husband's step.
"Surely it can't be tho mall," she said, hoping for the ono weekly excitement Ufo hold there,
"it mufct bc someone come," she thought, as «ha rWpnlsecl on alertness In hor hubnnd'B Btop in ninrked contrast to tho lazy saunter with whloh he liad dtnggod himself away when called somo time previously.
"I suy, Rindgo," ho called out, ns ho carno along, "gtiiiiliopi» it; up from tho Bond."
"And StMil.'Dpo ls?"
"Tho chap I was tolling you about who has boen riding the Bond paddock for tho Inst fow months. I'vo Just puld him off. He's lull up
oí it, and off out Weat. He's a gentleman, don't you know-old army man. I asked him to stay the night at least, and for a few days If he cared to. Ho's a rum chap-a bit balmy, some follows think. But I'm hanged if I know; a repu- tation for lunacy ls easily earned herc. You've only, to clean your nails and wear clean collars, and tub, to bo thought a blt off; and as to Eng- lish riding-breeches, a scratch Jury would lock you up as dangerous at tho sight of thom."
All this a running accompaniment to tho emp- tying of a long Blecver, which ilnished, Mr. Tre- horne said, "I'll bring Stanhope round, shall I? I showed him Into one of tho barrack rooms to scrub a little of the red dust off him."
"Bring him, of course. I'll be charmed to meet even a mad variation from tho bush type, which does run somewhat to dulness. Look here, if you drink so much sodawater you'll balloon into space."
"Can't help lt; I'vo a thirst that many tum- blers won't ciuench."
"I suppose," wont on Mrs. Troherne, "this Stanhopo is a dcrollot. I nra always so sorry for tho men who are social wrecks, and yet have to drift about the ocean of life, until some storm or another finally breaks them up."
"We all know, Madge, you'd mother creation if you could-a born mother. Mothers are born, right enough, not made. You soe lots of women with children not a scrap motherly; lots without any, real mothers. Anyway, your heart ls a Cave of Adullam where all such as are in trouble can find a refuge Now, I'v» pretty well quenched my thirst. A follow wants the neck of a giraffe this weather, and a cool stream of ioed liquid trickling down it all the time. I'll go and bring Stanhope."
In a few minutes ho came back; with him a man of medium height, tipnro In build; a thin tannod face, baro, but for a hoavy dark-brown moustache; a small square forehead, with pro- minent eyebrows, and a straight fringe across it of dark-brown hair shot with groy. His foaturos wore regular, but Madgo's attention was fixed at once by tho maddest, saddest brown eyes she had over soon on a human faoo. "Just how a dog must look when he is baying the moon," she thought.
Stanhope made a sort of hop, step, and Jump to within a few feet pf Madgo, thon suddenly stopped, as lt someone had touched a spring, put his feet togothor, and stood at attention.
Trohcrno said, "Madge, lot mo introduce Mr. Stanhope to you."
"How do you do?" said Madge, with the swoet motherly smile that Jack said uno kopt in stock for life's falluros. Madgo Trehorne was rather unapproachable save through tho modlum of falluro. "Only the unsuooossful want frlonds," she used to say; "thoso who sucoeod havo thom thick as flies round a honey-pot-so swoot is success.to human nature" She followed Walt Whitman's croed, and sang for tùe vanquished, who, Bho too Bald, had fought life's battle equally with the victors,
Sometimos she was roproaohod for helping In- discriminately the desorvlng and undeserving poor.
With a fine scorn she used to reply, "And who am I to judge as to who deserve help and who
do not? Who am I to put in tho word deserving, which had no place in Christ's command to take what yon had and give lt to tho poor? That a person la In want of help ls enough for me to warrant that naslstanco should be given. If a man were drowning ehould we stay to ask If ho deserved saving?"
In recognising the introduction, Stanhope bent hi3 head down, down until he nearly touched his toes, then up again with a quick Jerk, a hop for- ward, and his hand limply touched tho ono Madge waa offorlng him.
"Now," said Mr. Troherne, "I must be off. Oreen, the bullock-drlver, wanta to see me. Those chaps always choose tho hottest day they can to root out their boas. I'll leave you, Stan- hope, to my wife. Take my tip, and quench your thirst. I expect you have ono you would not soil for a fiver. You'll find the where- withal In that canvas water-boat."
Left to entertain Mr. Stanhope, who was making her feel quite uncomfortable by his Axed gazo-he nevor soemed to remove his mad, sad eyo.i from her face-iMrs. Troherne began:-'
"You must have found it dreadfully dull at the
"Dull? Yea, by Goorge. remaps auiness ?waa what I dla fool. I hardly roallBed." Ho ehook himself ns it awakening from a dream.
"You should have come up to BOO US before, Or, are thero not some homesteads nearer that end of the run? Tho Bend paddock is over thirty miles from here, Isn't lt?"
"Yes, thirty-three bush miles, which are like Irish ones-long. There aro several home- steads nearer than this. But, dash it all, Mrs. Treherno, I feel less alone when alone than with uncongenial companions. You and Mr. Trohorno are different. As to the rest, what recreation is it for a mnn to hear the fluctuations of the tallow, wool, and fat stock market? Such are the only Bubjoots that interest the men. A non-reading community, or, lt they road, their mental pabulum consists of tho "Stock and Station Journal" and the local rag, or perhaps the moro advanced take a Weekly Sydney paper and the "Review of Re- views," and, by way ot being cultured, glvo you a rechauffe ot what they havo read in these. You notice, though, when tho mail comes they all open the local rag ilrst. Tho women don't road at all, unless thero has been a show, nnd they expect to seo their own names in print. How dowdy and how conceited a woman can bo is left to a man to learn in tho Australian bush. No, I find I have more in common with my horse and my dog than I have with tho avorago run of so-called humans I moot. I must «how you my dog."
Again on Mrs. Treherno he anchored his eyes, which, while he was speaking, had roamed round tho garden, up and down the vorandah, and anywhere but towards tho person to whom ho was spoaklng,
"You have, I think my husband said, som« relations in Australia. Do you not find thom affording?"
"Impossible! Quito impossible! Sont out, I should think, because they wore too slow for England,"
"I had thought people wore more llkoly to bo sont out for being too fast,"
"Ia some cases, perhaps, but not 'With my re«
lotions, unices, indeed, the sending out effected a radical change. Why, tho women wear elastic sided boots, and the men survey tho world from tho tops of tallow casks, seeing only in tho dis- tance a vista of many sheep yards which bound
"Sometimes a yearning comes over me to know once more tho women I have knoym. And lt mad- dens me to think that I must spend my few re- maining years in a land of wool-brained squat- ters' wives and blackgins."
He beat his forehead with his hand, blt his moustache, and sighed out a long sigh.
"Mad, quite," thought Mrs. Treherno, "to box us all up together-squatters' wives and black- gins."
Aloud she said, "You long, then, for your old world?"
"My world? What's the old world to me, with all its dazzling women? I'm forgotten. Couldn't keep my head above water-went under. Dead to all."
"My world ls a good waterhole, with a margin of grass where my horse can graze. Thon If I havo a bono for my dog and a billy of tea for my fielf, I camp content for the most part as aa ordinary bushman; they aro self-satisfied and content enough, God knows. Tho tragody of tholr Bush ls a soalod book to thora.
"But at times comes a longing for just another forty minutes on tho grass, as tho old Leicester- shire fields pas3 In memory's magic slldos before rae, and I feel the old pulsation, when every 'breath ono drew was lifo. Or once more I guido the beauty of tho season through a London ball- room, or lead on my company to glory or tho grave. But enough.
".Meeting once more a lady has roused recollec- tions of a past that no mental effort can kill. I will go and got my dog Caesar."
Ho jumped up, as If again a spring was touoh ed. Ho bowed to tho ground, and stopped back- wards off the verandah. Mrs. Treherno was ter- rified lost he should trip on tho unovou boards and fall; howover, ho safely effected his exit.
Another urandisonian bow, and thon his hop, etep, and jump of a retreat. After a few moments ho returned, a black-and-tan collie to hool.
Bowing again, ho said "This ls Caesar. Pat him, Mrs. Trehorno; ho ls worthy of a lady's touch. Look at him. Look at his faithful oyes!
"What a world of sllont sorrow Iles in a dog's oyes. 1 think Caesar In this existence has to ex- piate some evil dono in his laBt. Perhaps, poor beggar! ho took his own Ufo' and ia earth-bound In this form until his expiation ls. complote.
"My idoa of heaven ls that all ranimais wé have loved on earth will bo there with us In the same form as wo aro; that at last our spirits way bs in perfect communion, such speech as is ours will bo theirs, too. You can't persuado mo animal» havo no souls. Why, dash lt all! I bollevo thojr fcavo more soul than us, for they can remember their past; that's what really makos them so faithful to us, and bruto man says it ls becaus» they do not realise their t trongth. Look at tho soul in Oaoaar's eyo! Look how ho prloks his faithful oarB! Soo how ho wags his faithful tall! Worthy of Laudsoor'a brush! Dash lt alli BX GoorgoJ No Landseer was ovor worthy to limn n lino of him. Dooli lt all! By George! Not'
Jack Troherne carno baok at this otago of tnt
'dog rhapsody, nnd soolng Caesar said, "Showing tho wlfo your dog, oh? Ho looks a good sort. Any uso with sheep?"
"Sheep!" with a look of withering scorn. "Do you supposo I demean that noble animal by lot- ting him work sheep? Mako him do what I'd novor do myself? Cattle work I don't mind. There's an element of sport about that, a kind of polo with horned beasts for balls. By George! what polo ponies some of those cuttlng-out horses would mako! But sheep work, Bah! Novor do Caesar and his boss got so low as that! That's why wo'ro out Wost, away from tho smell of the sheep yards and tho talk of wool for a spell.
"You'll all ruin youralvos soiling your cattle for a song, and buying up any Riverina rubbish of shcop for fabulous prices. But you don't see it, any of you; you're all shcop mnd. But I dare say it suits your bankers well enough. A caso of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Tho bank that has you hos tho follow in Riverina, too; DO it's only a paper deal after all. That's Aus- tralian ilnanco for you-paper deals, and a nico smash it's hooping up to como some day. No
moro shcop for mo. So I'm off 'whero tbo peli- can builds her nest.' "