Chapter 8988296

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Chapter NumberXIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1880-09-25
Page Number1
Word Count2868
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)
Trove TitleRonald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay
article text


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When Ronald reached the Cornstalk, several of his old friends and acquaintances were there to meet him, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour. They had heard of his arrival in town, and went to tho inn at once, but were not in the least astonished at not finding him there, for all knew of his ongagoment to Ada.

The groom at tho Cornstalk, who occasionally did duty as waiter also, accosted Ronald,

i " I've got dinner all ready for you, sir."

I " More fool .you, Mike. I had dinner long

ago-but have you given my horses a good


" My blessed oath, sir I That I have. They had three quarts of maize, and lashings of bush hay. T washed 'em down, and rubbed 'em dry, and thoy'ro ready for a journey this blessed minute, I swear."

"I'll just go and soo them. Bring the lantern to the stable, and if they have not been well treated, I'll warm your hide, Mr. Mike."

Mike obeyed, and as Ronald entered the stable, they whinnied.

" Did you give them plenty of water ? " " Bedod that I did, sir-galoroB."

" Then bring some moro, for I see they have had a good feed, and they will want a drop

more to drink."

"Be japers ! ho thinks more of his hosses than he does of hinself," muttered Mike to him Bolf, as he sot about Ronald's bidding. " And I'd sooner be ono of his hossos, nor a man belonging to many masters I know. Ob, I'll treat 'em well, no fear. Ho always treats a fellow handsome when the work's well done but my oath, it don't do to try to tnke him in ! I know'd a fellow in this same sitiwation as tried it on on him with his horses, and he caught it,

he did !"

The horses drank but little, thus proving the

truth of Mike's statements.

" What a dirty little close holo thiB is for a ptablo. Why, it is not fit for a pigsty, Mike. Havo you not gut a paddock with somo grass in it Í Tho poor things look unhappy, and they aro not used to being in stables at all, lot alone in such an apology for one as this is. The night is not cold, so they would be better on the grass."

"Yes, sir, I'll take 'em to the best paddock about these parts if you like. It's only half a mile or so. Want 'em early to-morrow, sir ?"

" No, I probably shall not require them for a week. Do not ride either of them to the pad- dock-lead them quietly."

" Ride one of 'cm, sir 1 No, not if I knows it. Look hero, sir. I'm blowed if tho ono at you rode didn't slash out at me, when I was taking tho cruppor off; and t'other un nigh lept a top of me when I was iindoin' of the girths of the pack Bajillo ! Mo ride 'em ! No !"

" That is only their playfulness, and becauso you aro a stranger to them. Look here." Ronald wont bohind each of tho horses and pulled their tails straight out, as though trying to pull the animals backwards, and neither of thom so much as put his ears back. The groom looked aston ished, and said,

I " Well-that bangs the divil 1 How long did you tako coming from Boorooma, sir ?''

I " Six days and a half. They have carried me ¡ and my pack sixty milos to-day."

"Threo hundred miles in six days and a half ! I thought a bit ago I'd like to be your horse, but I wouldn't now, sir."

" Why, Mike ! You Bee I havo not hurt

thom. "

Mike scratched his head, and tried to reconcile the two apparently opposite facts. At last he made a slosh at the Gordian knot, thoagh not apparently with a perfectly satisfactory result, for he said foggily,

" They must be good un's, sir."

" So they are. Mike. Now off with them out of this hole as quick as you like."

Mike led the two horses away, and Ronald strolled into the inn parlour.

"Hallo! old man!" "How are "you, Wal- ton?" "Welcome, my boy;" and many other hearty expressions of greeting sounded from the eager throng that pressed towards him to shake hands. Little Swills, late ensign in Her Majesty's 99th Rogimont of Foot, roared out quizzically,

" Where have you como from, Walton ?"

"If you moan just now-from the stable."

" Why, I saw you coming into town about 6 this evening. It is now half-past 10. Do you mean to say that you have been in the stable

ever since ?"

"Very likely," said one, answering for Ronald. "Youknow that whon a man is going in for a situation as groom, he must spend a good deal of time in the stable."

" Do you moan bridegroom ? " _ said little Swills, with an air of innooont enquiry.

" You are a beast, Swills, to require a fellow to explain so good a joke,"replied tho


"Well, Walton," continued Swills, "wo know ona placo you Went to besides tho stable the post office."

" Shut up your chaff, Swills ; or by the piper I will wring your neck," said Ronald, good naturedly.

' * Very well, old man. On those terms I am yours obodiently ; for though lam a man of war, yet I do not mind making an honourable sur- render when the odds are so much against nie. Indeed, I may say my opinion rather coinoides with that of old Jack Thrust-as bravo an old codger as ever shouldered a musket-that it is better to be a live pensioner than a dead hero. What will you have, Walton ? I'll shout glasses round, hanged if I don't, in honour of your engage-I mean arrival."

J' Nothing, thank you, Swills, I have had enough already. I will have a yarn with you all, and then to bed, for I have a lot of business to do in the morning, and want to rise with a

olear head."

" Looking after your horses, no doubt."

" Fillies are more in his line now," remarked


"Go on. Have your kiok at a man now he is down," said Ronald, laughing. " Your turn

will ooma sooner or later."

" Later-very muoh later," replied tho incor- rigible Swills, "When you catch Cornelius , Swills giving up his liberty, for the sake of being Jlbound band and foot with garters and, ribbons,

bjQeorgel you can 'make a note of tit,'" >,

Cornelius had realty been one of Ada's most ardent admirer«, but he bore no ill-will towards hi« friend on account of his victory. He was a very small, dapper fellow, with delieate features, hair parted in the middle, and trim military-cut moustache and whisker«. He wag a regalar ladies' man, but no lady had over been able to screw her courage up to the neces- sary pitch for accepting the responsibility of reforming him, as he looked, even to the most artless, a hopeless case. Thoroughly niee and gentlemanly in hi« demeanour, with lots of small-ttlk for the fair «ex, a capital dancer, could aing a good song, and waa perpetually good tempered, and liked by all ; nevertheless, he was considered to be worth lettiog alone in a matrimonial way. Cupid had_ apparently singled out Cornelius as a favourite target at which to shoot his amour-tipped shafts, and as the little rascal so often hit the sensi- tive bullseye, poor Corney was in a chronic state of love. Love play« such pranks with some of it« victims-with one it acts a« a tonio, while with another, it reduces tho appetite and animal spirit« ; others go on in the ordinary way under it« influence-but then they aro in the minority, and probably are not hard hit. Corney did not seem to suffer much from loss of appetite. If there was any appreciable difference during the fit, it was only noticeable in that he drank a little leas ; and when it waa over for the usually brief period, his imbibations increased in the necessary ratio to raino his despondent spirits to their accustomed standard ; «o, on the whole, it wa« a charitable and graceful act of any young lady to allow Corney to spoon her, and a« girl« generally are charitable and graceful-in that respeot they did permit him, but only up to a certain Eoint. His amiable idiosyncrasy was so well

nown, and his attentions so particular when he fancied himself desperately in love, that he generally received his conge before the declara- tion came. But such coldness, or cruelty, or whatever else it may be called, on the part of the object of his worship for the time being, did not break his heart, for within a brief space his affections were transferred to somo one else. When ho had thus gone the rounds of his fair acquaintances, he would start afresh with his first love, if she were not married, and «till dis- posed for a flirtation.

Ronald's determination to go to bed soon, was completely overcome by tho seductions of his old friends, and they did not break up till the small hours. One resolution he kept firmly -he did not drink deeply. Little Swills was the worst of those who did imbibe freely, and waa put to bed on the sofa by two of his com ǻnions, who were a shade leas squiffy than he.

hat is to say, they pulled ono boot and hi« necktie off, and covered him with the table-


In the morning, Mike found the tablecloth a« above, and after smoothing it nut, proceeded to lay the table with it, no one being any the wiser, for Swills was still fast asleep. The hostess came in soon after, and noticing ita tumbled condition, said,

"Mike, what a rumpled state that there cloth's in. It looks for all the world as if one of your horses had step' in it. You never folded it last night, you lazy animal you."

" Indeed, but I did, 'm ; but the gentlemen turned the placo tupsy-turvy last night ; and I think some of 'em must have thrown it down after I put it on the sideboard. It was clean last night."

He said this to siro himself the trouble of taking it off again. The hostess, Mrs. Wake-

field, said,

" Ob, if they like to play them rigs in a 'spectacle house, they must put up with the consekences. I ain't goin' to give 'em clean linen at that rate. Why, it do look awful scrimpled t Liker it 'ad been slop' in. Well, well, it must bide as it ia. I can't afford a clean cloth every day ; times isn't good enough

for that ; and though Mr. Walton Btays here | when he comes from the bush, his custom ain't

wuth a cuss. His new-fangled notions don't do ' me no good, no how. He was a gentleman as j was a gentleman once, and was the life and soul ' of thom young sparks, and kop' 'em at it all night. I He used to drink more in a night then than he does now in a week. They was a merry »et nothink but singing of songs, and glasses round, from _ morning till night, and from night till morning again ; but now he's left 'em like, times ia changed, and the namby-pamby coves must have good dinners cooked ; they eat like a lot of beasts, and don't drink as much as is

good for their| degestions ; and actually go to ! bed st 12 or 1 ! all because their leader's got shook on a toy of a gal as '11 never be

any good to him nor no ono else but a town | gentleman with lots of money. Why, look here, i Mike-they used to call him ' Wild Walton' now they call him ' Tamo Ronald.' Ha I ha !" ¡

Tho poor woman was just then interruptol, ' and perfectly appallod, by a loud burst of laughter immediately behind her. It was a merry peal that seemed to come from the manufacturer's

cotton socks-for he had no boots on. Mrs. ! Wakefield knew it well. She soreamed, turned I palo, and dropped the jug of milk she had boen ¡ holdiug while pouring forth her griefs to Mike

who was beside her. Turning sharply round, } she dropped on her knees before Ronald ; but ' could only exclaim, |

" Oh 1 Mr. Walton !"

Ronald continued in unrestrained laughter for some time, quite unable to say anything to put tho victim of an unbridled and urguarded tongue at oase. His door stood ajar when she began her harangue, and he was about to close it, but being intensely amused at the turn her humour took, he opened it wider and stood silently behind her, until forced to give way to his bottled

up feelings, I

"Doget up, Mrs. Wakefield," he gaspod.

" I should not have thought, from your speech ' but a minute ago, that I was suoh an object of . adoration. Pray get off your knees. Oh I you will kill me ! What a character for a young man who is engaged 1 Fray do not tell the young lady of the awful and degrading change I have undergone

' O wad some power the giftie gie us,

To see oursels as others see us.'

Bless my heart ! Mrs. Wakefield. I never knew I had become half so bad as you seem to think me. Perhaps it would be as well to tell

the young lady, after all, and thereby reliovo ' me of a painful incubus-a toy that will never be useful to me-do get off your knees-1 did not think «he was so wicked. Why, it reminds me of ' The house that Jack built. She influ- ences me ; I influence my friends ; and my friends become so wickedly steady that you are all but ruined in oonsequonce."

" Oh I don't, Mr. Walton, Bir ! Forgive

me. Upon my soul I never meant it. I got ) out of bed the wrong aide, and it'll be the ruin | of me !" i

" Pray get up, Mrs. Wakefield. I would not

have missed this for all tho world. I do not,

look as if I bore you any ill-will, do IV j

"Don't say nothink about it, sir-please


"No-I promise you it shall not do you

any harm-not a shilling's worth. Indeed, ! I think it will be poundB in your pocket. I Tho only caution I would give you, is, don't repeat this dose with a étranger behind you, because he might not take it kindly."

" Thank you kindly, Bir. You are the same good gentleman you always was, and I'm the biggest fool and liar out. 1 wish my tongue was

burnt out 1"

" Now, stir yourself about breakfast, Mrs. Wakefield, for you have sharpened my appetite."

She rose from her knees, and went to the kitchen, where Mike had gone before her ; for he had slunk away as soon a« he heard Ronald'« voice, expecting that things might take an un- pleasant turn, and that be would oome in for a «hare of the lodger'« anger, which he had no in- clination to brave. When «he observed poor Mike, «he ' let him have it,' for «ho was regu- larly out of joint, and waa not a woman to Buffer alone under »uch painful circumstance«.

" Mike, you murderin' thief, you 1 You are the cause of all thi« 'ere bobbery, and the los« of all my beat customer».' What did you pat Mr. Walton in that No. 3 room for 1 Drat you ! Didn't I tell you to put him into No. 0 at t'other end of the house-the double-bedded room ? I'll sack you, you varmint I"

" Well, 'm, I did put Mr. Walton's thing« into it ; and he «aid he wouldn't sleep in it, and wouldn't be played no lark« on, n puttin' him in double beddod rooms afore hi« nat'ral time came. He'd have his own old room or none, and made ma take hi« vali»e and pack into it It wa» no fault of mine."

> , Vlt^ycmHvwypurhnV r^rtUted.thè'

irate woman. " And I'll sack you without judgo or jury-seo if I don't, you-"

She was interrupted by Ronald ringing the bell for breakfast, but she mentally resolved to give Mike some more of her tongue the first spare moment she had, and kept that organ in readiness-indeed, it was always as sharp as a bowie knife, and as easily unsheathed,

fro be continued.]