|Chapter Title||MISS FELINA ROBINSON; HER CATS; AND NIECE.- WHEN I WAS YOUNG AND CHARMING.|
|Newspaper Title||The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
Miss FEMNA ROBINSON ; HER OATS ; AND ¡
NIECE.-" WHEN I WAS YOUNO AND CHAUM INO."
Miss Felina Robinson was a tall, raw-boned woman. Not bad looking, by any means, but Bomowhat hard-featurod. Many people thought she was as hard as she looked, but that was a mistake. She cortainly had not a soothing way of putting things to people she cared but little for, nor, indeed, to thoso sho likod, sometimes. But that was only hor way. Sho had a soft spot in her heart-indeed sho had two. The person who reigned supremo in ono, during his life, was her brother the captain. She idolised him, and it was refreshing^ to BOB how sho softened when Bpoaking of him. The other spot was kept warm for hor cats, and her nioco Mary. She loved her cats dearly, and was very, very particular about their education, and tho caro of thom generally. Sho had four, and it must bo confessed that they woro very beautiful animals ; and, on tho wholo, did tolorablo credit to their bringing up. To the old lady's mind they wore simply perfect. In reality, thoy wero not quite She thought they possessed all the virtues of well-balanced humanity. To thoso who had children, or rodo any other than a felino hobby, thoy wero nasty, selfish, trouble somo things ; and if they had nice coats, it was on account of the silly amount of caro that was lavished upon thom. Thoy woro bathed ovory morning, dried carefully, and then combed and brushed^ At meals, a chair was placed on either side of their indulgent mistress ; two cats jumped into each, and waited, patiently for their portions, but their patience was never sorely tried. Whilo Aunt Felina said grace, they sat on their tails in a begging attitude, with their fore paws together, and na soon as tho act of devotion was comploted, they gravely resumed their original posture, licking their lips. Thoy woro combed and brushed at night, and put to bed in a little nursery kopt for their exclusive use. Tho person whoao pleasant duty it was to muster them at night, and minister to thoir wants genorally, was a girl of about 16, strong, active, and a good climbor. The latter quality was indispensable in ono who had to perform hor work, for the cats had to be in by 0 p.m., or the rules of Neptune Villa would bo infringed. If a rule of Neptune Villa was wilfully disregarded, the culprit romombered it vividly for a long time after, for Aunt Folina was mistress at tho Villa.
Poor Mary reached home in a rathor dejected fraoio of mind after tho conversation with Ada, previously detailed, and flung horsolf on to tho sofa. Her aunt was knitting, with throo of her cats by hor, one of thom lazily patting the ball of worsted that lay on tho Door with hor volvot paw. Tho tea was on tho tablo,
" Mary, you aro late. Toa has boen rosdy nearly five minutos Do not Ho thero child get rosdy for tea, and find my pretty satinet darling, Rose (a truant cat). Sho must bo famishing for want of her tea. Aro you, my swoetio, Florina»?" BIIO said, addressing tho languid one ¡jutting tho ball of worsted ; and, taking it up, kissed it. " Yes, I sure it is, pitty dear-it'abeenplayingsolongwiih that great ball of worsted, tho naughty itty titty. No, it isn't naughty-it's tho best, best, boat itty toossy over
Mary soon appeared, but without the cat. "Mary, where ii ROBO ? "
" I do not know, Aunt." She had not been looking for it.
"Dear me! Sho must bo found. Could any- thing have happened ? It is a very unusual thing for her to bo awny at tea-time. Snow-
Snowball appeared in obedience to her mis
" Are you awaro, Snowball, that Rose is away ? "
" No, missus, please."
" Thon, you ought to have known it. How many times have I told you tho same thing ? (io and find her instantly I"
Snowball ran out, and cast hor eyes round the roofs and garden walls, but without success. Then she bethought her of the nursery, where she found Rose coiled up asleep ; for the poor misguided cat had not been keeping regular hours of an evening for some time previously, and was drowsy in consequence. Snowball carried her to her mistress.
"She was on her own bod,'m-sho don't Boom well," said tho girl, with a malicious
" Oh 1 The ducky ! I thought it was killed and eaton up by some nasty doggie-I did. Is oo well, pitty one ? You mustn't keop such late hours-you will be really ill if you do. Snowball, put Roso to bed directly after toa."
'. Yes, 'in," the girl replied, and disappeared, rejoiced at the command. Indeod she had art- fully put it that tbe oat did not seem well, knowing that tbe order would come as A couse qutooe i for ehe sometimes did work the oracle
with her m-tren,
Snowball waa a little black gin, whose parents had been shot. 8he had not one relative left, for death by disease and the bullet had carried them all off. Aunt Felina kindly took the poor little orphan in when sho was only about six years old ; had treated her well, and taught her to speak very fair English. She was vory quiet and intelligent, and performed a great varioty of domestic duties as well as most white girls older than herself. She waa really fond of tho cats, but her temper, though average good, was sorely tried by them at times, and when sho could do so without fear of detection, she paid thom for thoir delinquencies. A squint in one eye gave her a comical expression, and sho was fond of usiug, for her, long and difficult words.
Tho small party sat down to tea. Aunt Felina noticed that Mary did not eat, and re- marked,
" You seem to be not in your usual spirit«, my dear. Aro you unwell ?"
"Yes," Mary replied, but quickly added, "No
" You are very contradictory, Mary. I hato contradictions ;" and with a vory soarohing look she went on, " You havo been putl out--I can see it in your faco."
Mary's open face told the tale as plainly as possible, and any one who know her not half so well as her aunt did, could have discovered it at a glance.
" Where havo you boen Î Only to seo Ada ?" " That's all, aunt !''
" What were you talking about ? You did not fall out, did you ?"
"I fall out with Ada, aunt !" she said, shirk- ing the first question.
" I hope not, indeed. Well, did you hear any
" Hardly to bo called news, aunt."
" Well then, the stale news must havo been very interesting, for you were there a long
This was put with an interrogative look, but Mary would not see it, and only said,
" Will you havo another cup of tea aunt ?"
Without replying to the'"question, her aunt said,
"Why do you not talk to me, Mary? You »re very queer to-night. You always say so much, and I like to hear you talk. It feels strange when you are so quiet."
Mary looked up in wonder ; she nevor thought that bor aunt took so much interest in her as to noto whothor she talked much or little ; but what astonished her most was that sho reilly liked her rattlo. Certainly, lier aunt had not often to complain of hor quietness or reticence.
"You seom astonished, Mary," said Felina Robinson, who rightly interpreted her look. " And I think it is very ungrateful of you. Do you think I tako no interest in you, child ? Because I can tell you I do. Do you think I don't love you ? I can tell you I do very muc/i. Recollect that. "
1 ho last words were accompanied by a thump
with her clenched hand on the table that made the tea things rattle, and the cats to start up in attitudes of defence. Mary looked somowhat amused, and her aunt, whose eyes were still fixed on her with a glowing expression, embody- ing affection and admonition, said, in a soft tono that she had hitherto kept almost exclusively for her cats,
" Tell me, dear-what was the subject of your
conversation with Ada ?"
"I suppose you have heard that Ada is en- gaged to Mr. Walton, aunt ?" Mary said, with an indifferent effort at composure.
*' Yes, I heard the rumour. Then that is what you havo been discussing, oh ?"
A tear stolo down Mary's cheek in spite of
her efforts to check it. Her aunt observed it.
" Why ! Why ! Mary ! What's that ?"
Mary modo a final attempt to suppress the rising in her throat, but it was unsuccessful, and she had recourse to her handkerchief.
"Sol That is it, then ! I suspected as much for some time past. You are too ' open and above-board,' as my sainted brother used to say, to be able to hide your feelings-from me, at all events. You are like mo in that respect. It has been my bano through life, and "it will bo yours too, I firmly believe I '' Sho moved her chair close to her niece's side, took her hand in hers, and said kindly,
" Do not fret, child. You will soon get over'
it. I was over head and ears in love moro than once, about your ago, and I know your father was too. We both got over it, for it takes a deal of disappointed love to break the heart."
" I am not going to break my heart, aunt," sho replied, making a final and successful effort to establish an outward appearanco of composure. " I do not think I am capable of doing that for any man." ¡.
" That's right-and spoken like a Iruo Robin- son. There aro plenty of young men in this district, Mary, who should bo proud to possess a girl like you."
The eccentric old lady was now showing out
in her true colours. Sho was not so imrd hearted as sho hod the credit for being generally ; and tho unusual exhibition of sympathy on her part, was as wolcomo to Mary as it was un- expected, and if not tendered in the most feminine manner, was as kindly meant as if it lind boon. When sho said that Mary resembled herself in outspokenness, she said truly. Tho main difference between them was that tho youngorexpressed her thoughts lightly, girlishly ; the elder, having long sinoe pas3od tho fresh- ness of youth, and being somowhat soured by rough experiences during her long life, was nut so mindful of the feelings of others.
"It is very likely that I shall resemble you in more respects than one, aunt, and never marry."
" You think so now, but you will not bo in that mind long, ohild. Do you rosily care so
muoh for him ?"
" I really did think him a most gentlemanly and handsome man, aunt ; and I did caro for him very much indeed," said tho ingenuous girl.
" Well, I always liked him, I must oonfess, but I never noticed that ho paid you any par- ticular attention. Did you congratulate Ada ou her conquest ? I suppose not."
' ' Of course I did, aunt. Why should I not ?" " Thoro ia no earthly reason why you should not, my dear. Ada is a lucky girl, I think. "
" So I told her, aunt."
"Oh, you funny girl," said hor aunt, laugh- ing heartily. " You havo taken it just as I should havo dono at your age. But now _ I como to think of it, I had two or threo affairs before I was your age, and I will tell you of ono, my dear, that made mo very sad for some weeks. The gentleman was a young cavalry officer. He had paid mo a great deal of atten- tion-in fact, I really believed that my timo had como, but lie married another girl after all. I met him years after, and ho used to laugh at the affair. Ho ofton said before his wifo, * No vor mind, Felina, I will have you yet.' Now, I will toll you a secret, Mary-but you must keep it as a secret, mind, for 1 should not like it to get about, though it was so long ago. Tho gentleman-I will not mention his name and I were engaged for a long time, and wo both meant matrimony. It was my vory last lovo affair. Ho was a barrister. Ho was talented, and had a good practice, but was vory fast, and muoh as I loved him I was determined not to tie myself to him till he showed some decided symptoms of a chango of life. He pressed me soroly at time«, and made many promises of reform. Ho was sanguino that if I would consent, and becomo his wife, it would have the effect I desired, for it would afford him a good excuse for breaking off from his old associates and habits. I remained firm, and thank heaven I did I Ho tried to forco mo to consent by arousing feelings- of jealousy, and flirted a good deal with au old schoolmate and friend of mine. He succeeded in one part of his design-I was jealoiiB-madly jealous !" A spasm seemed to shake the old lady's frame, and she pressed her brow with lier hand. "Still I would not give in, He re- proached me-called me cold aud hard, and said I should have to answer for his ruin. Oh ! I wish he had not said that ! It was not just, but it has come to me many timos sinoo, I believe I did what was right, and if his disap- pointment was keen, so was mine. He married the poor girl in a fit of pique, and-and-ill usod her. Sho died of a brokon heart within a year, and loft him a son. That son is but no, I cannot toll you that. Well, my lover died by his own hand, leaving his infant sun an orphan at two years of age."
Mary was astonished at tho old lady's révélai tion«. She had never suspected her of co much tenderness, and there wa« a closer bond between I them from that evening, for they understood
each other better. The aunt detected in the niece a greater resemblance to herself than she had ever before imagined, -which is so often a very strong recommendation with old people Tho niece saw that there were vulnerable points in her aunt's armour, that her own outspoken ? ness coulii pierce far better than could tho sharp
lances of tact.
[To be continued.] ,