|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
BY THE AUTHOR or " ADVENTUBESINQUEENSLAND."
[AU Right» Reterved.]
POOH MARY BLAST'S DEATH.-SNOWBALL, AND
THOSE HORRID CATS AGAIN.-DEATH AND BURIAL OF PEAR-,
Poor Mary Blast drooped rapidly after her separation from her husband. She was tenderly nursed and cared for by her good, eccentric aunt, and many were the passages of affection that passed between them. For a time after Mary sought the shelter of her aunt's roof, she was able to get about, but with difficulty, and she never went beyond the garden. The ex- posure to that wretched night into which she was driven by Blast's brutality, combined with extreme misery of mind and the coming trouble before hinted at, induced such debility as to leave the doctor very little hope of hor ultimate recovery. The hectic flush deepened, the cough increased, and silo was at last unable to rise from her bed. How earnestly she prayed for the welfare of her infant girl I And day and night sho failed not to ask that blessingB and forgivoness might be extended to her murderer-though sho put not her petitions in that form, nor thought of him in that light. Faithful and true to the end, she had no regrets for herself, nor grieved for her wasted young life. Oh I wretched man 1 What more could you havo .desired than the possession of such a loving, solf
saorifioing girl ? Ono day, when the ond was near-a bright beautiful day-and the flowers in the little garden were looking their beet, the bouquets that her own thin fingers had tastefully arranged, decorated the room, and her aunt sat by her bedside holding the baby Up for her to talk to. Sho asid,
" Aunty, dear, you must let ino have my Own way now, and sometimes talk about him. How I wißh I could see bim, if only for fire minutes. Just to ask and pronounce the for- giveness that people who are about to separate For ever ought to give and receive. Are we separated for over when our companionship is severed in this world 1 Can two so closely bound by the holiest of ties, as husband and wife, ever be separated 1"
.'The wicked shall be damned. That wo
know. Mary. You are not wicked, aud never have been. Then how can you expect him to go to the samo place that you aro going to ?"
. 'Mary covered her eyes with her skeleton fingers, at those, to her, harsh wordB, and the burning tears trickled through them ; not that she felt the words of her aunt were meant unkindly. She and her aunt differed widely in their views of the hereafter, but they differed without rancour. Mary, with tho feelings of a wife and mother, held more tender and expan- sive views of God's mercy than her aunt.
"Do not say so, dear aunty. I think we Shall all liso to a bettor life-even the wickedest of us Wo shall all have other chances, I feel assured. A God of infinite love and mercy will surely not condemn poor frail creatures of his own creating to eternal torments for the errors of this short life. Surely not I Yes, wo shall meet again, I feel sure."
"Nonsense, child. Do not buoy up your hopes with such fallacies. ' They that have done good shall go into life everlasting ; and they that havo done evil into ovorlastmg fire.'"
"I cannot think it, aunty."
"Then you fly in the face of scripture"
"No, indeed, aunty. The general tenor of the scriptures is that God is a God of mercy and - love, and would have all to bo saved. You may
quote isolated texts to support nny theory, but u that fair 1 Besides, are wo quite sure in all oases of the literal translation from the original ?"
V Do not talk so wickedly, Mary. You make my blood run cold, you say such dreadful things that way ! "
" I cannot help it, aunty. I do not Buppose our Creator will think it very wicked of me for using the reason He has given me, mid which leads mo to think of Bim as more merciful than many other people do. Why did our Saviour go and 'preach to the spirits in prison!' I believe He and HÍB Baints are doing BO now, and will continue to do BO till all turn to God "
"Mary," said her aunt, with a troubled look, "you are preaching a very dangerous doctrine, extremely unorthodox I "
Thus did aunt and neico argue. It is, per- haps, natural that people's roligious belief should take its colour from their constitutional bias, or be restricted by their oipacity.
In a few Bhort months Mary Blast passed away, and her little dead-born infant was coffined with lier. During the laßt few days of her life B_e tnlkod a great deal about her brutal husband, but always iii terms of affection, and in hopes of meeting him in happiucss hereafter. * She asked her aunt why sho had opposed lier marriage with Silas The old lady looked troubled, but did not like to refuse to comply With what she felt was ono of tho fow requests
the would over make in this hfo.
" Tell me all, aunty. If it is a secret, I Bhall take it with mo. I would so like to know why you objected. I feel now, that you kept some- thing back from mc. I was vory wilful, and very likely anything you could have told mo Would have mado no difference. I really loved him very muoh, and believed be loved mo."
"Yes, my child, I will toll you. Perhaps I ought to have told you then. Heaven forgivo 1 me if I did wrong in keeping it from you. Do
Îou remember that I told you how much I oved a man, whom, I had reason to believe, loved me forvontly-and do Btill believe that ho did 1 And how ho tried to force mo to marry him by exciting my jealousy? How ho married another, and broke her heart, and in the end com- mitted suicide, leaving an infant son ?"
" Yes ; I remember all that, aunty." " That son was Silas Blast."
Mary thought for a long timo, and then
" How strange, aunty 1 I do not beliovo in fate, or I should be inclined to think that some , strange influenco bos been at work. Aunty, my little ono will be motherless in n few days, for I cannot get safely over the coming trouble, even if I last till it comes. You will toko caro ,of my little angel, Florence 1"
The poor broken-hearted girl was right, and the end wo3 as she foresaw. After her death, which was a groat blow to her good aunt, the poor old lady's eccentricities inoreaied, espe- cially in relation to her cats Snowball found it no easy task to perform all the extra duties imposed on her in that way by the whims of her ' 'mistress One of her new duties was to make tho , ¡ oats say their prayers every morning and evening.
This performance W&B gone through much in the - same way as their graco at meals-Snowball
, Mid the words while they sat in supplicating
' ' Like most other creatures whoso natural
instinots it is attempted to criiBh with a strong hand, the pampered cats of Neptune Villa were - constantly rebelling. They loved to ramblo free
in the warm sun, and to prey on little birds and bush mice, in preference to being shut up in a «lose room, and fed on the best that mistaken kindness could doviso. They loved to . perambulato at night, and squabble with the * neighbouring cats on the roofs ; or to ait
on the chimney tops and squeal at each other in pleasant conversation ; or hurl notes of defiance acrosB to their enemies, and lick the dow off their sleek coats, till tho small hours, in Í¡reference to being captured at 0 p.m., bathed n hot water, and put to bed boforo a roasting fire at the lower end of the chimney. What . true i cats would not? Cats oro fond of good
fires, good food, and other civilised creature comforts ; but there is a time for all things, and Aunt Felina'a time was not theirs. Thus, the ,, more the old lady put on them, the more deter-
minedly did they rebel, and at length Snowball was at her wit's end. Aunt Felina roBo one night from her bed to see if all tho cats were sale. She frequently did so-sometimes two or ; three times a night. To her horror not a sound
greeted her-only that of the sharp wind as it t whistled through a broken pane of glass in the
cits' nursery. It wss about 2 in tho morning, and a very frosty morning, too. Snowball was aroused from her slumbers in her warm bed, and was told what had happened. She ex- claimed sleepily, as she sat up rubbing her eyes,
"Frizzle dem cats 1"
" Snowball I How dare you apply suoh lan , guage to my precious cats I* ' >
i, " Oh, missus, I only mean dem big wloked cats «uUide-'trangsn-not yow precious dariiai'i
" You wicked girl ! Did you say your prayers before going to bed to-night ?"
" Oh yes, missus. Always I say 'em. I very good girl."
" Do you uevor make use of that naughty word again," continued the old lady, as Snow- ball rote and wiappod a blaukot round her black shivoring form before going out after the cats ; " H you do, you will novor go where my pro ciouB pets are sure to go when they die."
" Whero dat, missus ?"
" Why, to heaven, to be sure."
"Well, missiiB, if dere much cold nights an' bij chimleys up dere, I rather not go," said Snowball, mentally resolving to say the naughty word very often, to lessen the chance of being with the departed cats here- after. She went out into the frosty, starlit morn, and after some trouble, captured three of the cats, but Pearl was missing. Pearl must bo found, and Snowball again issued into the chilly air in a very bad temper, using the naughty word very freely, and with much em-
phasis as soon as she was out of her mistress' j hearing. This she did with tho twofold object of relieving her feelings, and of utterly destroy- ing all chance of a re-union with tho cats here- after. She at length spied Pearl on the chim- ney top, where she had jumped from some place of concealment, in ths endeavour to find the whoreabonts of her captured com- panions. Snowball was on the roof in a moment, and nearly reached Pearl, but her ladyship objected to . the curtailment of her liberty, ond sprang to the roof, running along the ridge, and jumping on to the chimney at the opposito end. Snowball gave chase, but was not quito so active as the cat, and the same , performance had to be gouo over and over again . from one chimnoy to the other. What wonder
that the girl lost the small remnant of her potience ? Har opportunity came, and sho seized tho cat by tho throat. Pearl objected to the treatment, and used her claws freely, to avoid which her captor shook her so violently as to dislocate her neck. When she saw what she had done, she quietly dropped her on to the flowoi bed by the chimney. Pearl fell into a geranium bUBh, and her murderer went in and pretended that she could not find her, and sup 1 posed she must have gono away somewhero for
the night ¡ so her mistress, considering that the poor girl had been out in tho cold quito an hour, let hor off from any further search.
¡ " Good gracious I Snowball What is the matter with your bund ? It is all torn und ! bleeding. Did any of the cats scintah you ?"
I " No, missus, only me been ketch 'im Florinda j like it rose bush."
i " Poor girl ! Come and I will dress it for yon. Friar's balsam is good for scratches and cuts. i How deep they aro !"
Snowball, like all her kind, had neither con 1 science nor religion in any perceptible degree, ' or she would certainly have been pricked at her j mistress' kindness and solicitude.
At daylight, Snowball was sent out to look for I Pearl, and after a pretended search, she dragged
, the stiffened carcass of the cat out of the
' geranium, and conveyed it to her mistress, who
wont off into a fit of hysteria. When sho re- covered, Snowball asked if she should diga hole in the garden and put the deceased into it.
" No, I cannot have my favourite put away in that unceremonious way. I cinnot part with her to-day. She must be buried in a proper manner. How did this dreadful thing happen, Snowball, do you think ?"
" Why, missus, I find her all a heap jist outside 'de darnley. I s'poso the darlin' got giddy on top an' tum'le down. Oh, dear ! I very sorry I She best cat of whole lump, by chalks-'cept she wouldn't say no prayers dis two night. You fink she very wicked for
" Do not speak BO of the dead, Snowball. It
is not Christian-like. "
" Oh, I Christian all out I not say not'ing bad-never. S'pose I good girl like it Pearl, den me go hebben, oh ?"
" Yes, indeed, Snowball ; that you will "
The little gin then mentally resolved not to be as good as Pearl. Cortainly, sho wished that the dead animal's mantle might descend upon her, not metaphorically, but sub- stantially, in the Bhape of her Bkin. It was a pretty one; and she thought how becom- ing a decoration it would make cut up and woven in with hor black woolly looks. Sho knew that any proposal of tho sort would meet with a severe rebuke, BO sho abstained from hinting it. Snowball was cuto, and knew pretty well all her mistress' weak points, and
how to humour them. In common with all her race, sho was quito incapable of receiving the sublimo truths of Christianity, but sho, being WÍBO in her generation, was sharp enough to see that to fall in with the idiosyncrasies of her employer was the bost policy. She said her prayers-that is, her mistress' prayera without in tho least comprehending or caring what they meant. After all, how much diJ the little balf-savago creature differ fiom multitudes of well taught, professing Christians ?
People who have ridden one hobby for-well, ' we will not fix the period-but whether tho ' hobby bo birds, charities, dogs, tho rotation of j their flirtations, or cats-but especially cats
they generally diift beyond tho liuu-if there is ono- between eccentricity and insanity. Let it be clearly understood that wo speak of hobbies, not generalities, for it is woll known that one may be perfectly sano on all points save one.
So it was with aunt Folina. Sho was fshrewd mid sensibln in every relation of lifo, not touch- ing cats. She would listen with enthusiasm to the narration of come trivial trick performod by a cat, or somo trait in its character, but if a similar story were told her of a dog or a bird, it would not oxcito tho smallest feeling of admi-
ration in her breast.
Tho corpso of Peail lay in stato, and ' was mourned over all that day. An order was sent to n carpenter for a coffin ; i Snowball dug a grave in the garden ; and-will
it be believed-when aunt Felina committed the body to the grave, she read the burial service over it. She talked much of hor pot, and re- peatedly asserted her belief that it had gone to heaven ; at each iteration of which, Snowball rushed to the cat's nursery anddoeplyemphasised the naughty word not a few times.
From the time Mary left ber husband, he never mado the least attompt to see her or her child, beyond the letter ho wroto, and which fell into the hands of aunt Felina. H-i revenge- ' fully resolved to cut them off by making a fresh will, and leaving everything to charities, which would ho thought, bo a high and lasting monu- ment lo his righteousness, and satisfy liis ven giancu at tho samo timo. He had already given a portion of his ill-gotten possessions Giovanni's farm-for church and school pur- poses ; and had also offered a largo sum of money towards the erection of tho buildings, on condition that three other people would subscribo the same amount each within six months. Cheap liberality 1 Ho knew very well that three such sums would not be forthcoming within the time specified, but his princoly liberality waa talked about a great deal, and that was just what hu wanted. That his wife and ho wero separated every one knew, but he played his cards so well as to cause the whole blaine to be thrown on the shoulders of his inno- cent wife, not a whisper of which ever reached the BCCIUBÍOU of the villa. Many uuoharitable remarks wero uttered against the broken-hearted girl, but the affair blew ovor, and was super- seded in the minds of busy-bodieB by somo other scandal, even before her death.
Aunt Folina engaged a respectable, middle aged person to attend to little Florence. The child grew healthy and strong, as children did in that salubrious climate, even ia the towns, before they became too thickly populated, and the Btreets enclosed on either Bide by con- tinuous rows of houses. Civilisation-save the mark !-is always attended by its jackals disease and prematuro doath, engendered by ignorance and vice, whioh prey upon tho vitals of the strong, as well as on the young and
Florence was often taken to see Mrs.
Brandon, who still lived in her little cottage, for that lady adhered to her determination not to bo persuaded to accompany her daughter to Boorooma after her marriage. She maintained that it would not be conducive to their happi- ness, so Ronald and Ada very reluctantly gaye up the attompt to alter her resolve. i