|Newspaper Title||The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
A TALE OF EARLY ¡SQUATTING LIFE IN
BTTHBAÜTHOBOF " ADVENTUREaruQüEENSLAND."
[AU Rights Reserved.] -
Suas BLAST'S MATRIMONIAL SCHEME.-MRS.
BRANDON AND ADA.-RONAID'S ARRIVAL.
We will now resume the thread of tho story, but a few months later than when we last took leave of Neptune Villa.
Silas Blaat had become a much more frequent visitor at Neptune Villa than previous to his last unsuccessful appeal to Ada Brandon. He had never intimated to any one how enraged lie was at the rejection, and as Ada never spoke of it the secret was safe. His object in visiting at the villa was to secure a wife there. _ He was determined to marry, if only to convince Ada how little affeoted he was by her refusal. Ho hated her now, but his hatred for Ronald Walton was tenfold stronger. Tiiere was an- other, and perhaps deeper reason than the first, that induced him to determine on matrimony. His visits had been very frequont at Mrs Brandon's house before Ada's engagement, since that, he hsd seldom been there, and WAS afraid that unless ho could demonstrate that thoro were superior attractions elsewhere for him, his secret would be suspected. Mary Robinson bad sufficiently recovered from her disappointment to receive his very marked attention with some- thing like satisfaction. Not so, however, with her aunt, for as coon as BIIO noticed how things were going, she steadily set her faco against tho
" Mary," Baid aunt Felina one day at dinner, " I think I eau see IIB far into a stono woll as most peoplo, and I feel certain that Silas means matrimony, and that you do not object as much as I should like."
Mary bit her lips and looked vexed. " I did not ask him to come here, aunt, and you always seem glad to see him."
" I waa glad to soo him. I always took a great interest in him-and for tho matter of that, I always shall-but I am not so glad to seo him now. You cannot deceive me, Mary. I know you fool a good deal more than friendship
" 1 do not deny that I like him better than I used to do. Ho is very pleasant to chat with, and he reads and recites so beautifully 1 "
Her aunt eyed her keonly while she was speaking, and then said, impressively,
"Mary, I hope and trust that you will never allow yourself to have a stronger feeling towards that man than you profoss to have at prosent. Mind what I say, and do not blame me if he causea you grief hereafter."
" I think, aunt, you might bo a little more explicit ; and if you know anything wrong of Mr. Blast, you should say so."
" I know nothing wrong of him." i " Then, what do you suspect, aunt ? " I " I do not suspect anything that I can put in a definite form, but I have a fear that lie will never make a good husband."
" I think you do him an injustico, aunt."
" Well, I don't think BO. Be warned, Mary!-Oh! there's my celestial halo! My unmatched-my silver-furred darling, Pearl 1 (ono of her cats). Oh ! it is such a naughty itty titty ! Does it love its own muzzor Î "
_ The sleek-coated beauty replied with an affec- tionate " Pr-r-r-yow-ow," at the same time jumping on to its mistress' lap, where it was tenderly stroked.
" What a dear wicked toossy it is. I thought it would be ill all day, it was out so late last night. It must not bo out late to-night.
" You never told mo whero you found Pearl, last night ? "
" I looked an' looked oborywhere, 'in. I clum up de garden wall, an' I got on do kitchin roof, an' at last, tinks I, I'vo got to find her soon or she'll get her death o' cold. An' when I looked eberywheres, I says to myself, ' You nobber been a top o' de house yet, Snowball.' So I got do long polo, an' up it like a natib cat. Well, missus, I nigh gev it np, when I seo somothin' a top o' de parlour ohimloy-pot Says I, ' Datfs her ;' an' what do yer tink, 'm ? Why, it wasn't ; but a groat, big, whappin', 'trangor, family (female) cat, wid its bristols all correct (erect), an' tail up on end hko a poker in fits ; an' I do boliob I enbod do eyes o' dat darlin', pooty cat, for she was on de oder side o' de chimloy-pot, layin' down a'most in a dead paint (faint) wld funk. Oh ! it gib me sich a ' turn to see _ dat lamb, as I'd gib me head for nnytimes, in sich a scurrilous petition (perilous position). Tink, 'm, if Bhe'd cot giddy, and tum'lod down into do garden ! Well, I was ' up guards an' at em,' as dey say in elastics (classics), in a jiffoy. De big 'tranger, ehe cut her lucky in quick stick, an' hooked it like mad. S'poso you seo de kick I lot out ob me when she cum down ; you plenty laugh, I know. I nigh got rare buster down roof. But laws, missus, I don't mind notink so long I subo dst oro precious darlin' from detraction (de- struction). I say, misaus, what's catalopsy 7 I tink big 'tranger pussy hab catalopsy. Dat lop down de roof, Iep into de garden, den it 'pin roun' an' roun' hko teetotaler (teetotum)."
"You silly girl," Baid Aunt Felina, who allowed a good doal of freedom to her strange little domestic, for her curious speeches and on quiring turn of mind always amused her. "Catalepsy attacks human beings - whito fellows, and I suppose black-fellows, too."
" Well den, missus, dat was catalepsy, 'causo she was going to 'tack mo when I let dat kick
out at it."
Mary had been laughing heartily at the girl's narrative and antics, and as the last odd thought was expressed by tho imp, sho requested hor aunt to send her out of the room, or she would go into hysterics. Even Aunt Felina sat with a grim Birnie playing over her hard features. Snowball was dismissed, with a oiution to keep her eye on Pearl's movements towards evening. As she sided out of tho room, sho said,
" Oh yes, missus. 1 always keeps dis oye," pointing to the right ono, which turned up very muoh, ''for de pussies, 'cause dey go up eberytink. Hi ! yah !"
Her laugh was merry and musical, though perhaps a little unrefined. When she had dis- appeared, Aunt Felina exclaimed,
" What a strange croature ! I do not think I shall everoiviliso hor." _
Snowball was au oddity in her way, aud did not' always adhere rigidly to the truth. She , was fond of embellishing her narratives with
language more forcible than elegant. She had i her mistress1 " measure" pretty accurately, and
framed her fibs so as to tell to her own ad- vantage. Her statements reBpocting Pearl and the strange cat wore true in the main ; but she , did not state how in revenge for the trouble > Pearl had given her, she grasped the poor oat by
the baok of tho neck so tightly, that her eyes wero nearly forced out of her head ; and how she shook her so violently, that if tho pampered thing had been placed on her foot but just then,
sho would cortainly have rollod off the roof I from sheer giddiness and oxhaustion. The girl had a long polo that she used to lean against places that were otherwise impregnable to her active limbs, and up that pole she would climb with'tho agility of a monkey. Onoe on the roof, she could scalo tho steepest piton, and 'runalong the ridge with her naked feet, with as little fear of falling as a cockatoo would have felt.' '?
<' Ada and hor mother wore sitting in the bay window overlooking tho bright little garden in front of their bouse. The moon was shining . gloriously in the intensely blue vault of a cloud-
less sky. On such nights at Brisbane, and Indeed over a largo area of Australia, small ' print can be read with ease by the light of the
moon at its full. There was no light in the room. Ada and her mother had been talking but little, each being engaged with her own thoughts. The mother pondered pensively ou 1l the sad events of hor life. She thought of her
bright boy, who fell BO gloriously ; of her fine old soldier husband, who had more recently . left her ; and of her beloved daughter whose
head now rested on her shoulder. The girl's eyes were turned to her parent's face, scanning its lines with tenderness. Her thouphts had been roaming wildly in joyous reminiscence of the no very distant past, and anticipatory of a bright, happy future.
V Mother, dear, you seem a little sad to ' night Have I done anything to vex you to-
day 1" she said, stroking her mother's cheek With hsrl.ft hand.' ? r
í " You vex me, my dear one ! No. If all daughters were like you Ada, there would be not only fewer tears for parents, but lea« bitter one« when they . did now. No, my child, but when you are as old as I, you will bo able to under- stand what I occasionally feel when I think of tho past. It is impossible that young people can realise the inward experiences of the aged. Your thoughts have been pleasant enough, no
Ada smiled and blushed. Her thoughts had been pleasant. She bad been picturing herself the happy wife of Ronald Walton, and the happy man he should be, if it lay in her power to mike him so ; and how much moro comfortable he should be made in bis house at Boorooma, or elsewhere, if he did not remain there. The country was lar*¡o ; ho we« clever, and must succeed. She would wait, and cheerfully too. lu reply to her mother's lost remark, she «aid,
" I wns thinking, mother, of - "
Without finishing tho sentence, she uttered a cry of joy which shaped itself into tho name '.Ronald." She flew to tho door, and was out into the garden in a moment Her mother had seen a figuro at the gate, but her older and less interested eyes did not recognise it. Three or four minutes must really havo elapsed ero the strong form of Ronald Walton entered tho house. Mrj. Brandon hoard sounds not at all resem-
bling either the creaking of hinges, or the turning ' of the door-handle, and Ronald and Ada ap- peared bofore her. During Ronald's greeting, Ada stood behind him, vainly endeavouring to
reduce her curls to something like order, for , they had, by some means become sadly dis- arranged.
"lam very glad to seo you, Ronald," said Mrs. Brandon. " When did you como down J"
"But ten minutes ago, Mrs. Brandon. I just gave my horsos to tho groom at the Corn- stalk Inn, had a wash, and walked straight here ;
and I hopo rou will forgive mo for appearing j before you and Ada in such a costume. But . now I soo you aro both well, I must get back and change ; and if you will allow me, and it is not too late, I will come back after dinner and soe you again."
" Do_ not go away, Ronald. Ada will get you some dinner, if you can put np with what wo have in tho house ; and we shall be so glad to hoar all the news you havo to tell us Why, it is six months since you left us '"
"I am roilly ashamed to gi va you so much trouble, and to sit down in such a guiBe. I I-think I had bettor go back, and-" I
Ho did not think anything of the kind, and was dying to stay ; but to do bim justico he did foel a little diffidonco at giving what he con- ceived to be an unreasonable amount of trouble. While ho hesitated, the little tempter behind him whispered, "Do stay, Ronald." So ho accepted, with moro apologies.
Ronald woro a coarse blue serge shirt, tucked iriBÍdo n pair of strapped cord unmentionables, with a belt round the waist, and a pair of thick leather leggings up to his knees. On his heels were massive spurs. The dross was a common one at that period, and set off his well-knit figure to advantage. Whatever his attire" might be, no ono could mistake him for anything but a gentloman.
Ada's quick and neat hand, guided by lovo, soon had all in readiness for Ronald, and ho sat down to the most appetising meal that had been spread before bim for many n day. Ho sat at
tho side of the tablo, and Ada at tho head, 1 ' making toa, Mrs. Brandon was scntod on the |
sofa, where sho had a full view of both, and j could not help observing how strong their attachment was. Ada looked her very best ; she had previously slipped away to her room to arrange her curls, at the samo time deftly putting a finishing touch hore and there to her
In spito of Ronald's rough dress, Mrs. Brandon was moro than over impressed with his manly strength and features, and she thought that, nmongst nil the young men who had paid court to her daughter, thoro was not one to bo compared with him in many essentials,
and she felt more than ever satisfied that her
daughter's happiness might safoly be entrusted to him. Tho spectacle drew her from the calmly sad review she had previously been engaged in, of some of tho more touching events in the long vista of her past, but well-spent life ; and forced her to revert to a timo when sho and
another sat thus together in tho days of thoir early happiness.
" I see yon havo letters, Ronold. Good news, I hope," said Ada.
He hastily put his hand to the breast pocket of his serge shirt, out of which peeped the ends of a number of letters.
" By Jove ! I forgot all about thom, Ada There aro some important ones, too, I know by the handwriting. I got them at the post-office ns I carno by. How silly of mo to forget
Mrs. Brandon smiled at his voxation and sur- paie, and remarked,
" t>o not m.iko n stranger of yourself, Ronald, Whon you havo finished your toa, Ada and I will excuso your nuding thom."
"Thank you, Mrs. Brandon, but I think I will poatpono tho reading of them till I got back to my qunrtorB for tho night. I hope that fellow will give my horse a good feed. If he docs not, I Bhall treat him to n-that is, I will not ' treat ' him at nil ; but I think he knows mo pretty well, for I always put up at the Corn-
" How does your treasure of a cook got on, Ronald ?" asked Mrs. Brandon.
" He is just tho same useful, voxatious, good-natured fellow, and if possible, sings and plays the fiddle moro than ever. Tho day boforo I loft, ho »as waltzing in with a huge blancmango covered with myrtleberry jelly for a partnor, and whon ho reached tho parlour door, his heel caught against a stone or some- thing, and ho full on his back, completely Bmothored with blancmaneo. How I wish you could have seen him I I liad to broak up my dinner party, consisting of old Tickler, the two cats, and myself, for I could scarcely touch one of the good things he had already brought in, for laughing.
Ada and her mother laughed heartily as Ronald narra od tho discomfiture of the in- veterate dancer.
".Oh ! poor little Tommy Jones ! What wa« tho tune he fell to ? " oxclaimed Ada.
" Sweet Jenny Jones."
" Then wo must re-christen it tho ' Tommy Jones Waltz."'
"Yes." repliod Ronald, " and wo will have it now, please Ada I hoard Tommy sing, whistle, and play it so often, that I hated it ; but since his misfortune, I take a malicious pleasure in listening to it Whenever I felt a bit tirod or sad on tho jotirnoy, I always struck it up, mid it quito choered me. Will j ou play it
" No. You read your letters instead ; I know you want to."
"Well, I will road one," he said, sorting the packet. " It is from Mr. Sharp, and no doubt contains information that I-and perhaps you, too. Ada-may bo a little interested in. After that, you will play, will you not 1"
" Anything you like, Ronald, Besides, you know I am interested in anything that concerns yon."
Tho words were commonplace enough, literally interpreted, but to Ronald they conveyed much, very much, as indeed they were intended to ; and she WRB rewarded with a look that satisfied lior. He broko the seal and opened the letter, which oonttinod tho information he had waited «o lung and anxiously for. It was a roply to his letter asking his employer if he would soil the Boorooma station, either wholly or in part. In it Mr. Sharp stated that he would not take a partnor into tho conoern ; but that if ho did think of doing so, he would rather have Ronald than anynnoolso ho knew, as ho had proved hi« competence in its management for such a length of time. Ho had, however, a dislike to a partnership, and would only «eil out, whioh ho was willing to do, on the following terms : Half cash, and the balance might remain for a term of years on approved bills, with security on tho stock and station. He paid Ronald some high and well-merited compliments, which of course wero greatly appreciated by Ada and
"That is a very fair offer of Mr. Sharp'«," Ronald said. " Indeed, the price and term« are muoh easier than I anticipated. But I must go through the business quietly, and «ee what ohance I have of making end« meet. If I decide to take the station, I mint then «ee where I can get1 the money ¡ though I d6 not think, there will, be much trouble In arranging foe
' Ada played the Tommy Jones waltz, and other music, after which, Ronald expressed his determination not to keep Mrs. Brandon up any longer, as it was getting late. Ada saw him to the front door. The same mysterious sounds
that Mrs. Brandon had heard on Ronald's en- trance again met hor ears. Tho door closed, and Ad« again went through the performance of regulating h-r curls, but only with one hand, while she was, apparently, vainly endeavouring with the other to chain the door. She was not artful-indeed, no-but it is very trying for a young lady comparatively inexperienced in love matters, to appear suddenly bef oro the calm gaze of a parent, with a heightened colour and dishevelled hair, after letting ,her sweetheart out ; and it is one of those wonderful _ natural effects having no cause as yet explained by science, that do ocaBionally crop up and astonish us. The question is-Why should the simple act of letting a gentleman out, saying " good night," and fastening the door again, cause so much palpitation, colour, and disorder of her sunny curls, when the same girl will, night after night, Bee a bevy of lady friends out-and even kisB each of them several times-faston the door, and skip bick into the room looking as cool as a cucumber, and not a hair out of place 1 How 1 is it ?
" Ada, how long you are fastening that chain to-night," Baid Mrs. Brandon. " Is it out of
" No, mamma. I am coming now. Shall I put the lump out in the parlour I" ! "Yes, dear."
Performing that little office afforded her a rospite for two or threo minutes longer, and an opportunity to view herself in the mirror. When she returned to the drawing-room, her mother said,
" We will have prayers now, darling. Get me
Mrs. Brandon read, as usual, a short form of evening prayer in her silvery tones, and Ada's happy heart was raised, as the fulness of love does uplift that incomprehensible organ. Then, the fond kiss of the mother, no less affection- ately responded to by Ada, and both retired -tho first to sleep, and the other t-> lie for a timo revelling in that supromo blissfulness that is perhaps only realised by such little
idolaters as she.