|Newspaper Title||The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
I CHAPTER XYIL^
Tire Wheedling Power of Wives.-Little
Ron's Development, axd Catastrophe.
Ronald took quito throo hours to accomplish his journey home on his half-starved horso. Tho road was in many places impracticable, and ho had to make considerable dotours over tho ridges to avoid such flooded flats and creeks as could thus be escaped. Those ho could not avoid, his noble horse carried him ovor swim- ming. Ada waa not surprised at hia non appearanco the night before, as sho knew by the direction he look that ho was going to tho Haunted Hut ; but she became anxious as tho second night approached and no appearanco of him. Littlo Ron's importunate questions, "When pappy tammin homo, mamma ?" and " Dear pappy tammin* homo to night, mamma?" preyed so upon lier Bpirits, that she at length gnvo way, and burst into tears but a moment before the well-known footfall sounded on the veran-
"Why! why! Ada I What aro those tears
for ?" Ronald said. _ I
" Oh, Ronald !" she said, embracing him, " I thought something must have happened to you. But I will not detain you. Go and ohango, for yon aro wet through. You can toll me all your ndvontures afterwards. I put a dry chango out for you last night, thinking it just possible that you might return. Every I thing Í3 ready for you now."
| Ho went to his room, Rnd changed I113 wet
things. His littlo son was delighted to seo him . ngain, and followed him in, while Ada went to i the kitchen to hurry tho dinner. As his father
drew off his heavy boots, tho child took posses- sion of them, dragging them into a plnce by themselves. He named ouch article as it was cast off, after ono or other of the working bullocks, nnd spoko to it ns though ho wero tho driver. The two leggings wero dragged off and named, the little fellow shouting, " Turn hare, Nelson-geo Boxer." The two boots next. "I warm your hide, Magpie ! 'Tand up, Spot," and so on till everything was placed in a heap. When Ronald wnî ready, ho took the child into tho parlour. Ada was waiting for him, and
" Yes, I was terribly alarmed about you, Ronald. I thought something must have happened to you, as you wore not home by sun-
. "Isthat all?" he said playfully; and ina moro serious tone, "Well, you seo nothing has happenod to me, but I am Borry to say some- thing very terrible occurred at tho Haunted Hut, last night."
" What-the ghost, Ronald?" she said, look- ing up doubtingly ; for, though she did not actually believe in ghosts, sho yet had what ladies will recognise as " n grudged feeling all up tho back" when such things wero talked about near bod time. "Do tell ma now,
Ronald. What was it ?"
"Not ghosts, Ada-you know I do not beliovo in such things-but poor Billy Cantwell was killed by lightning last night, and wo buried him this afternoon. Tho same flash shivered a large gum treo, nnd tho bursting of ono of the root3 turned up tho earth, and with it the
skeleton of a mau in chains."
" How strange I How horrible ! But are you not drawing on my credulity, Ronald ? I know you often do, you wicked fellow," Bhe said archly ; but Boeing no indication of anything like a wish to "sell" hor, in his f»co, sho paused for his reply.
"I assuro you, Ada, I never felt more serious in my life. ' Tho mon told mo that Billy Cant- well was very queer in his ways for some time past. Ho certainly was lost night, and did not go to bed, but sat on a stool at my feot, ns I lay Btrotched before the fire, till-till late in the night. The wind blew the door open, and he went towaids it, as I thought to shut it ; but ho said-something, and went out, and was
killed soon after."
" How dreadful ! Did you hoar what he
said ? '
Ronald did not intend to give the whole par- ticulars, but he did not reckon on the wheedling power that young wives - and many old ones too-possess ; and as ho could not very well look an untruth, oven if ho told one in the way of a joke, ho hesitated, for he had already unwittingly ontered on ground that ho saw was dangerous ; he replied
" No-that is, not very distinctly."
" You ought to tell mo, Ronald. Do. I shall be bo unoasy if you do not. I can see by your face that you did hoar something."
" The man was quito mad. I could seo it in his faco. You know tho words of mad people never mean anything."
" I shall bo thinking all night about it if you do not tell mo. Wns it anything about
" No ! Oh, it was nothing."
" Yes it was. Ah do tell me,.Ronald. Did ho mention any name at all ?"
" Yes-of n man you nevor heard of."
" Well, thon, thero can bo no harm in your tolling mo."
"Joe Stockwell. Now, how much wisor aro you, Miss Inquisitivo ?"
' ' Woll, what did ho say about Joo Stockwell ?" "Nothing."
" Yes, ho did. Now, Ronald, dear, you may as well tell mo all. I shall not sleep a wink all night if you do not. It is not kind of you. You ought not to treat your little wife with so little confidence. I never keep anything from you," she said, half hurt, half coaxingly.
" Woll, if you must know, Ada," he said, "It's Joo Stock woll beckoning to mo. I muai
" How horrid ! Do you think he was the murderer, Ronald ?" sho said, covoring her
"How can I toll?"
" Of course you buried the skeleton. Did you road service over thom both? I gave Pot a prayer-book nnd.Bible, when I caine up, for the
neo of himself and matea."
"Yes, I read the burial service over both."
"I am so glad-thon the Pet has kept his promise. He said ho would read the books regularly to his mates."
Ronald did not undecoivo her. He did not say how thoy hunted for tho prayer-book, nor
where it was found. .
While they wore conversing, littlo Ron ant on his father's kneo, looking from one to the other of the speakers in fear and wonder, with his great dark eyes wide opon, for lie oomprolionded n good deal of what was said. Thon ho gave some of his own impressions.
"Mo frightened big wickod lightning turn last night. Mamma not let it hit little Ron."
" Hush ! You must not speak so, you wioked boy," said Ada. Then she took him on to hor own lap, saying, " Yon pretty darling 1 What couW hnrm you ? God lovos and tnkes caro of my littlo Ron.-and my big one too," she added, with thankfulness and nffection, kissing both. " Now then, bring papa into dinner Ron."
Little Ron. was very precocious and amusing. Being the first, he had had n great deal more atten- tion lavished upon him than could possibly bo extended to a second, or any Bubsoquent ono ; at nil ovonts in the bush, whoro sorvants wero so hard to get, and when obtainod had, and havo still, to bo taken " for bettor for worse."
After the wedding, and boforo starting for the station, a facotious friend presented Ronald with a very useful nrticlo of furniture Thnt is to say, very useful when such a thing is really required; but just then it was not required, so Ronald had it packed up and sent to his ngont, who wns a storekeeper in town, to bo taken caro of. He would doubtless havo retumod it to the donor, but tho gift was anonymous, bo ho took tho most sensiblo course under tho circum- stances, ït turned out that, when there was a probability of tho gift being required on tho station, and Ronald wroto for it, tho ngent omittod to put it on tho dray. For the infor mitiou of thoso who have not guessed what the nrtiolo was, and who still wish to know, it may bo stated that it was a child's cot AVliat was to bo done for a substitute for that indispensable commodity ? Ronald and his wife ransacked their brains and tho station to find ono, and the old proverb-" Necessity is the mother of invention "-was once moro vindicated. A large soap box was singled out as the destined dis- tinguished receptacle for the first-born-not only of the new house at Walton, but of the Boo- rooma station, for the shortly-expected ono was to havo tho honour of being the first white child bom on the station. The box waa thoroughly washed and dried, and lind rockers nailed on, of course ; but according to the author's experience, they are a vexatious addition to a child'» crib, and are more often chocked than uied. A little canopy wai fitted at one, and, »ad tastily
covered and curtained with the orthodox pink and laco, otc. The box was softly padded and gorgeously lined ; but Ron. could not sleop in it for ever, for the soft pam- pered little animal grew apace. It would haro leon marvollous indeed if ho had not, for the nourishment he took was sufficient to koep a throo-months'-old calf, not only from starva- tion, but absolutely in sleek condition. Little Ron. grew, but the cot did not, and two pink little feet protruded over the end. Ingenuity was again taxed, and was again triumphant. Of course, young mothers must be " supported " - even in the absence of a "monthlynurse" so a cask or two of the regulation beverage for British maternity-BarclayandOo'sXXXbottled -found its way to the station among other nourishing things on tho drays. Ronald's in- ventive genius ross at tho sight of one of those empty dry casks. He said nothing to his wife about it, for ho determined to work out his idea, and surpriao hor with the brightness of tho finished conception. He placed the cask on its bilge, and beginning about a foot from the chine, cut straight across the staves with a saw till about half vero severed ; then turning the cask up on to the end nearest to which he had cut, ho sawed tho opposite head across the raiddlo, on a lovel with tho tops of tho whole staves below the first-mentioned cut. All that had to be done then was to cut through the wooden hoops on either Bide, and the smaller sootion carno off, leaving a very elegant cradle. Of courso a few nails wore required to koop tho hoops and staves together ; and, in defiance of past experienco, the inevitable pair of rockers wero fitted, completing the work. Ada was struck with wondor and admiration when introducod to the finished article, and gave the maker quito as much praise as he was entitled to. Her deft fingers, and good taste, soon accomplished the padding and covering. A friend who was invited to inspect it, pro- nounced it to bo equal to anything of tho kind ever turnod out of a Regent-street shop. Thus, then, did the restless form of that embodiment of all small human perfections-Ronald Brandon Walton, heir of the house of Walton-toss, chuckle, or sleep, as the humour took him, within the staves of a dry porter cask ! When ho was put into the gorgeous crib for the first time, Ron had, what is known in bush parlance, as a " shine." The word, as meant hero, is not to bo found in some of the best English diction- aries, but certainly ought to appear in all futuro editions, because it is so expressive. Ho was put in by his mother, carefully tucked in, well kissed, and tho mosquito curtains arranged to perfection. Both father and mother sat down by tho crib to Bee how the cherub would tako it. They thought that as ho must ba infinitely more comfortable than in his late bed-tho soap box-ho would drop off " like a lamb." Ho, however, did not see it in the same light as they did. Children of I1Í3 ago sometimes do hold opposite opinions to papas and mammas, especially in mattara somnolenic ; and when they do-well, who wins 1 Ron was too comfortable, and the gay now surroundings took his fancy and excited lum. Ho lay so quiet for some timo that they thought he was asleop, and were about to leavo him to his peaceful slumbers, but he hud half his nnpillowed eyo upon them, and when they rose and put out the light, he quietly sat up and whimpered beseechingly,
"Dear pappy, do put the dark out !" By which ho meant, light the candió again, and of courso it was done. Then, with a chuckle, he exclaimed, "Flapupnoo bye bye, Ronny!" which, being interpreted, moant " Ronny's new bed is slap up 1"
" You wicked little angel ! I thought you were off for tho night. Go to sleep," said h s
" Bo peep, mamma," said he, clutching the mosquito curtain with both hands, and pressing his chubby face against it. Then he dived under everything, bedclothes, mattress and all, and came up on the other side, ' ' Ronny havo good duck under dat time, like pappy," he exclaimed, blowing, and shaking his head, and pretending to wipe the water from his face and curls with
" Go to «loop, yon bad boy !" said his father very stonily, but Ron knew he did not mean it. Ho laid down, howovor, and began to snore, but all his dimples showing with roguery.
" I fleep now," he said ; then suddenly jump- ing up, he stood on his head and tips of his toes. From that position, he turned on to his back, and tried a variety of juggling and acro- batic Irlcks with 1Û3 feet and hands, such as balancing his pillow and kicking it into tho air. His father's threats and his mother's skill in somnipathy failed, but whon such undue excite- ment at that hour of tho evening has been indulgod in by an imp of his oasily-reckoned years for such a length of time, a crisis must come. Ho was no exception to the rule. He attempted a somersault ; the curtain becoming involved was rent from the canopy, and Ron fell ovor the sido and landed on the floor, enveloped in the not. Oh ! such a screoch from mother and child, and such a laugh from the original Ronald ! The imp was unwound and oxamined critically, but no indications of broken bones or internal injurios wore discovered, and ho sobbed himself to Bleep un his mother's lap.
(To be continued.)