|Newspaper Title||Sydney Mail (NSW : 1860 - 1871)|
|Trove Title||Which Wins? A Tale of Life's Impulses|
/ WHICH WINS? | / A TALE OF LIFE'S 1MPULSB3.
41 1 felt i mother-want about the worfd, And still vent seeking, Ukc a bleating lamb U'ft out at night, In shutting up Ue fold.' Mas. BfcOtTNINH. On one of the main roads of New .South Wales, between thirty and fifty miles from Sydney, may, at the present moment, be found the principal acene of my story* The road, breaking into sight over the brow of an eastern hill, descends to a email village of about thirty houBes, thence sweeping to northwest until it reaches another and larger village, Wunarah,
ana tnence away to townsnips, villages, ana nome steads, far in the interior. It is with the smaller of these two villages that my tale will have most connec tion. Twenty* thres years since, it was a rougher plate than it is to-day. People used to call it *' the Creek but you must not judge, from that, that iu inhabitants were cither fishes or ' water-folk.' With few exceptions, its men, indeed, could ' swill like fishes,' end its u-ootcn were as 41 ugly and as bold an mcrmaidens.' 'J his could scarcely be wondered at, for its inhabitants were principally convicts on ticket of-leavc or those whose time was up : of course, not all equally bad, but nearly all tainted in a larger or leseer degree by the black plague spot of reckless wickedness with which at that time the whole air of Australia wbb heavy, There might have been another and good Teason for Its appellation iu the faet thu the stream of water which ran through the village had an uncomfortable habit of swelling at odd and unex pected times, unceremoniously invading the premises of those among the inhabitants who obstinately per sisted in building their houses upon its banks. Yet it rather received its name by tradition and the tales of the oldest inhabitant, who had 'squatted' upon the spot in the early days of the colony, when the stream wbb to him and to his family simply the creek that supplied thcro with water, which title was trans mitted from children to children's children, and through them to the village which grew up on its banks in later days, when the Government had spoiled his tun by striking a public road through its midst. The village was dignified by another came, that cat&e forth on high days and holidays, with the women's best drctfith und the men*s white shirts and Fpotlc&e ' ducks' — tome cognomen of nobility er of sainthood —?too good for common ue»-, on account either of its sanctitv 01 its length ; and, lor man is frail, most pro bably the latter. Surveyors called it bythat name, and government o/licials in their papers and charts ; so did the poundkecper when he locked up the butcher's one-eved horse, and told the five-year urchin that was in search of it that it was in the 14 public pound of .St. Cudgcreewonga.' He let it out an hour after wards, without the proper lee, and, that evening, he and the butcher might have been seen a little more than simply elevated beneath the auspicious siga of St. Cudgcreewonga' s Boomerang. The one solitary pillar of the law called it so when* laying his hands on the shoulder of that reeling and boisterous bac chanal, our village blacksmith, he, by the efficacy of that wondrous saint's warrant—he, being but6hrivelled and wasted five-feet-five of authority, triumphantly marched to the village watchhouse that brawny six feitof strength, as cowed as a little child in the hands of its schoolmaster. The board ef magistrates, when they sat there — which, in all conscience, was Beldom enough— felt that their dignity was thiice rarified by the name of the mighty patron and sponsor of their parish. The parson's letters bore it ; the letters for the Great House bore it ; but on the lipB and to the cars of the vulgar many, the village of St. Cudgeree wonga was simply tbe Creek. From a distance the traveller would have called the valley of Cudgercewonga a pretty sight. Gray slab houses and a few red brick ones, picturesquely dotted beside the red road and among green barley fields and orchards, those green fields and orchards being well varied by sombre patches of bush, aud in tersected by several glittering creeks. The road, too, gave an improving touch to the scene, as a picture Earning almost blood-red up the densely-wooded hill in the east, and meandering out of sight after it had crossed two or three smaller hills to Warrarah, All this, circled by a heavy Bweep of distant mountains, formed a treat for the eye of an artist, did but ' dis tance lend enchantment to the view/' But, alas ! a nearer approach was fatal to e\ cry dream of beauty ; they were grievously dispelled by the sight of squalid homes, mud- floored and windowless, of dirty yards, and dirtier women and children ; and dirtiest pigs and dogs, of lounging, heavy-browed men, and young foul-mouthed lads. Such waa the village in whicn three-and-twenty years ago I lived as a child. My name is Ibola. ; uutil lately I had no other name that 1 could call my own, but went through the world with one and another borrowed designation tacked to that solitary trisyllable. Now — but I have a great deal to say before I come to this happy now. I am a woman of perhaps thirty years, or there about^ for I am not eure about my own age. Pretty? People aay so, but there I demur. I am too pale, my features too irregular ever to have been j*eally pretty, and my hair, though it is long, thick, and sou, is of a colour too uncertain to merit the same distinction. My eyes — well, I do think that though my eyes are only pale gray, they must be something more than ordinary. 'Thine eyes are speaking for thee, Dottums,' used to say my dear old grandy, and I myself have caught sight of them in my toilet-glass at night, flashing as bravely as any black eyes I knew. Then — I was a foolish girl — I have smiled with plea sure, and, beholding smile and glance, have dropped on my knees, and breathed a fervent thanksgiving that I was indeed pretty. Yet why should I not: — why should not any £irl pray for or be thankful for that wondrous gilt ot personal beauty ? It is bo sweet to be of the band that moBt truthfully render God's ideal; sweet to gratify the artistic eve by our pre sence; sweet that our dearest should rejoice in us and be rapt in our attractions. It is good for woman to be beautiful if she be virtuous, and I, as a woman, ?did no wrong or foolishness when I knelt in praise for that transient flattering dream. But, up*n maturer consideration, neither my reader nor myself will allow that these were sufficient proofs for such a conclusion. However, I, Isola, being what I am, a pale woman, with a heart and soul that have not slept within me, and having been somewhataternly tutored in my life hitherto, venture to tell of my lessons to mjmkind. In the common parlance of tbe word, ' ttory 1 Bare none to tell,' but of the passions that no human being can live and escape, of the waves that strand or float the ship, accordingly as she is steered, of everyday sorrows, of common joys, of the truth stranger than Action, I can recount some tales — 1 trust, not tediously. To begin at the beginning, I must go back many years of my life, to the time when I lived all alone with Grandy, and knew of jio world beyond the boundaries of our village and the valley of Cudgcreewonga. All alone with Grandy, blest in life's poet period, childhood ; when, over the hills and among the rosy sunset clouds lay the romance-world of which I dreamed for ever ; when every budding leaf of spring, every blooming flower of summer — when autumn's bursting fruits and drifting leavc6, and winter's cutting breezes, alike brought bounding vivid life to mind and body, educating me with pure teachings from the 'scripture of Nature' — all alone, but never lonely, with childhood and with Grandy. And often, too, alone, without even Grandy to take off the edge of my solitude, for he used to be away at work in the parson's garden ;-~we kept up that hearty, patriarchal title in our village. My grand father was old when I first remember him, bowed with the labour of the spade for half a lifetime, but otherwise hearty and hale of body. He was a short, wiry man, with a withered face, a mouth sunken in by the loss of his teeth, and sharp, light-blue eyes, deep set within tbe lincB that old women call crow's feet. Those lines were traced by the hand that should have smoothed his brow, and washed deeper by tbe surgings of his midnight agony for the guilt of another. Alas ! alas ! that man's dearest earthly ties too often chain the burden of an invisible woe upon his soul, until it falls from him into the grave. As good old men's eyes often do, my grandfather's looked positively beautiful at times, when he regarded ' my Dottums,' as he was wont caressingly to call me. He was the only free man that worked at the parsonage, and though he mourned openly over the fact that his pet was growing up in ignorance, yet it could not be helped, for, infirm as he was, he could scarce win food ana scanty clothing for us both. ' I can't teach thee to read, Dottums,' he would say sometimes, while sadly patting my head ; ' for thy old grandfather cannot do that himself, my pet. But I can teach thee to be a good girl^and to love thy Maker, and do that which is right is His tight. Stick thou to the right, thee knows, Dottums/' he would say, 11 and God will teach thee the right thee knows not. Be kind and civil to everybody, my little girl, for if thefe loves all thee can find to lore. God will give thee more still ; and then thee will be very, very happy, my darling Dottums.' I grew on, as the sparrows grow, with God e&ring for me ; not a neglected child, although my feet were . always bare, and most often my head, but one most tenderly loving and beloved, I mixed little with the neighbeurs, for among them I found only children, precocious and rude, out of whose company I inatinc.
| lively shrank ; and the grown people took every op. I portunity of 'taking down' my prid*t as they called 1 and thought or reserve, by some sarcastic allusion to my mother who, they affirmed was 11 no better than the should be.1' Everybody finds ft mystery oncc in life : mine came in my childhood, and it was— my mother. I never told my grandfather of the neighbours' taunts, from a vague idea that they would vex him, and a strong will that, through me, they should not. But, one day, having had that strange insinuation again thrown in my face, that glowed indignant refutation, I came home more thoughtful than usual, and met my grandfatccr at the door. My first impulse was to avoid him, with my blushing cheeks, but he put forth bis hand to detain me, gently drawing my hair through his fingers. Then I clasped my hands tightly around his knee and looked up; u Grandy,' £ said, ' I have been thinking about my mother ; why don't you ever speak to me of my mother r' My grandfather Btarted and momentarily bowed hie head before he answered me. 44 Don't my little Dottums; don't thee ask any questions about thy poor mother, there's a dear.' 41 Why not, Grandy?' 1 asked curiously; he so seldom forbade me to question him on any topic. Don't thee, there's a p» t. Is thee not content with thy own old Grandy ?*r and he kitted me—a very unusual carcs* with my grandfather. *' Aye, but mothers arc ho sweet,' I sighed ; and then, persisting, ' only one little question, Grandy. Is the alive?' 'Ah me, yes !' he groaned, aud buried his head in hiB hands. ' JJut, Grandy, (irandy/* 1 added, ' mayn't I pray pray for her, then ; ought 1 not to pray to God for my mother ?' 'Yes, thee should, thee should,' he exclaimed eagerly. 44 Yes, Dottums, pray always to God to watch over thj* poor, poor mother.' lie muttered, as he loosened iny hands, and walked away, ' Tiie child may do it; the child may win mercy, yet.' 1 looked after him in wonder, but a&ked no more questions, but never alter did I fail to pray for my mother. The thought ot her became a blessing to my life. Mow 1 pictured her daily and nightly in my waking drcauia; by day simply loving and good; most often a worn aud weatherbeatcn old woman, far you see the only example of love aud goodness wnicli 1 had wos worn, weaiherbeaten, and old. Indeed, I am nut sure that, at those times, 1 did not imagine my mother as looking out over the collar of my grand' father's dusty grey great coat : I know I always sup posed her to be addressing me in the most endearing tones I could conceive— which, withal, were some what unmusical— as ' my little Dottums.' But at night my fancy broke loose, and, with the darkness closing down between me and the haggard or bloated humanity that troubled my sight by day — stealing in, even, between me and the seamed lace of my dear old grandfather, leaving affection free to straighten the bowed Jorm, brighten the weary eyes, think smooth the furrowed face, and renovate the worn old frame into all the loveliness affection's dream could picture : then, also, my mother grew young and fair, and sweet-voiced to my thought, and 1 fell asleep with my young heart panting beneath its burden of love, to dream of her, the aegel-winged guardian of my life, lulling me with tongs of Paradise to rest. It would have been sacrilege to my own heart's sanctity —it would hare desecrated all my holy childhood, to have admitted for one second's consideration that strange hint of the neighbours, that she was ?? no better than she should be.' I stamped it down, and built over it my Btrongwilled forgettulnesB, and took home an unsullied mother-dream to my soul. My moiher must be pure and holy ; and, when I lay resting in her arms, as I never doubted but one day I should do, was it 1, her child , that was to be afraid to lift up my eyes to hcr't because between us came a horrible, mysterious suspicion. My childish faithful ness shrank from the thought, shuddering— if I did not, who should believe in my mother? At morning, I planned my life according as I deemed would be her pleasure ; and at night 1 judged it as I thought my mother would have judged. Scarcely, since thea, have 1 lired as carefully in the sight of my God as then I lived in the hope of my mother. The first incidents that stand clear in my remem brance were the removal of the parson to a oetter parish, and the subsequent arrival of his successor, the Rev. John lien on i Barrett. A very different mux was the second to tne first, we soon discovered. His predecessor— if on Sunday he preached to ue a sermon a little above modio'crity, and if once in every two months he honoured our poor squalid houses by stepping daintily over the thresholds, patting with two fingers of his gloved hand the abashed heads of the shrinking children*, and admonishing the elders to observe golden rule, and *' do as they would be done by'— thought he hud well fulfilled the duties of bis oilice Unobrihiian, though ho lived by rule, J-iM.'iplc ol tbat solemn school vvbo judge their neighbours, not themselves, ( And pared, number, pack their faults ou bhclrcs, To puU them down before their eyes, Wfaoseeoal for comfort e&dly critm. , Without the nerve to form a thought— Ilis precept *-tcrn, bis practice nought He uttered glibly truths allowed, With uptum'd eyes and angry face, lie heaped up texts and loudly vowed, God's vengcancc on a u recreant raco.' A priest who slandered when he drew The God his feelJngu never knew ; Who railed of justice, law, and hell, But could not truth and mercy tell ; And quite forgot the judge above — Caine down to earth and died for love. Ue aided none ; ah, might we say That, through him, none were led astray ! He came unwelcomed, went unwept ; Oblivion o'er his memory slept The change of clergymen was at first received with Certect indifference by the parishioners of the Creek, ut, before Mr. Barrett had been three days at the Parsonage, the lethargy waa dispelled by numerous flying rumours of the parson's ' queer ways.' Gra dually these rumours took form. He had walked into the workshop of Jackson the carpenter, and, after laughing heartilv at his astonishment over this display of ministerial condescension, had taken up a plane and gone heartily to work at his side ; carrying this on fot half-an-hour with a running stream of mirthful conversation tliat drew out all Jackson's latent capabilities. Not going away, either, before he had contrived to drop some appropriate allusions to the Son of the Carpenter of Nazareth, and to sow some grains for the great harvest, which, whether they fell upon good or on bad ground it remained for time to prove. He had hammered out a horseshoe on the blacksmith's anvil, and struck forth at the same time some sparks of the living fire of thought, never again to be extinguished. He had stood by the dresBmaker's little table, and discoursed eloquently of the coat of many colours thrown over the beloved child by the hands of a loving father ; interpreting well, too, from that touching talc, the manifold bless ings which God the Ail -Father had lavished upon this favoured earth. 'Until,' said little Miss Gould, tearfully, 41 1 was ready, but for shame, to cry at my own. untruthfulness. ' Pointing out, also,' she said, 'another cloak, perfect, without seam or hem, even that of the righteousness of Christ, which he in death had given for the covering of man.' Going forth from there he had dandled babies till they crowed, while he impressed upon their mothers the respon sibility of their immortality. He had walked with the duldiren, and told them long stories of Joseph and Samuel and the infant Jesus. In short, the whole village was quickly in a state of excitement about Tarson Barrett. Amongst his visits my grandfather was not forgot ten — indeed, Mr. Barrett found a special reason for calling upon him. We, at least, had a special reason to be glad of tbat visit. At the «ld parson's removal my father had, of course, been thrown out of his work at tbe parsonage, and came home disspirited enough to his little l-ottums, although he had little doubt of being taken on again by the newcomer. For my part, I rejoiced exceedingly, seeing that I should have my dear old grandfather constantly with me. But, as we literally 4- lived by day-won daily bread,' my joy was soon considerably damped by the bare facta of a low bread-box, an empty safe, and my grandfather's down heartedn ess. Then, when the new parson came, Grandy went up to beg for his old place, and was repulsed by the housekeeper at the door, with 'The parson wasn't such a fool as to employ an old crawler Buch as he was, when there were plenty of young, able men to be had dirt cheap.' Grandy knew that she wanted the place for Dick Keen, her eon, and the greatest scapegrace in the Creek, He turned full-hearted away, answering not pgftitij «rifl came home to me. That night our bread and sugar was out, and ^Grandy and 1 made tea and next morning's breakfast en a boiled potato and a glass of water. Grandy whistled between every mouthful. Isat childishly building heroic dreams abeut slipping out and offering myself at our one great house as nurserymaid, minus shoes and hat, and going down on my knees with pathetic entreaties that I might be allowed to earn my dally bread. Which reasonable idea, for a child ox my age, was rapidly widening, Aloaschar-like, into visions of the glory of half-a-crown a week end my food, when Grandy dis pelled all by exclaiming — ' 'T will never do, Dottums ; thy old Grandy must not sit still in trouble, like a winkle on a rock, till the wave breaks over him and his Dottums too. Kiss me, darling, and pray for thy old Grandy. I'll take
heart of hope, and '11 go on the tramp for work, as i many a better man has done! before me. I'll try 1 round this morning, pet, and if X fail, why, thee'll have to tramp too, poor Utile Dottums ! and we'll go I further afield. Never fear but the good, kind God I '11 find us something somehow in hu own time aud ' way. So, do not thee fret, my blossom ; do not thee i fret, but hope with a good heart.' Grandy went, but he came baok at night fagged and unsuccessful. 'Hehad not been able to plead against his gray hairs,' he said, with half a sigh and half a groan. i% We must travel to»morrow, little Dottums,' he said, smiling sadly, 'but we'll never doit on empty hearts. How will 1 eet food for thee, Dottums. — eh t' He thought for a moment, then, taking from his chest his red, Sunday waistcoat, he bade me ' Take thcc that to the butcher, Dottums, and ask if he will nnt give thy old Grandy a bit of beef and a loaf in ; change for it. Nay, never thee cry, pet,' for the reality was forcing 'real tears from my eyes ; ' he'll give it thee, for the gaud 's worth more twice over.** j It waa while I was gone on this errand that I Mr. Barrett walked in, wt hie back to the door, and, | in a dozen words, offered my grandfather the same j situation that he had held before, at almost doubled | wages, together with a cottage on the grounds. Grandy scarce knew how to thaak him, 1 heard, but, in his goodness of heart, said nothing of his repulse at the PAreonagc on tke previous day: which reti cence drew from Mr. Barrett a few curt words, to the effect that Mrs. Keen would answer no more doors for him, aB he had overheard, in my grandfather's case, how that duty waa performed, lie was away agaia I before I returned, and 1 found Grandy Bobbing like % scolded baby. I was confounded, and crept fearfully into his armB. They opened to take me in. ' BIcps thee, Dottums, bless thee ! out of the full heart that the Lord has filled with blessing. The good Lord has done it all, my precious ; He has saved Ufi from the weary tramp and the harsh repulse, and has left our lines in pleasant placcs. lie hbg left us where she may elill find us—the poor lost—' 1 caught with eauer breath at wh&t I knew was an allufeini to my mother, but Grandy stopped suddenly bhd changed his theme. 'It is the Lord, Djttum* , never thee forget that the Lord has done it all.' 'Whatr'! flaked; and heard, in reply, all the good tidings. I wept for joy on my grandfather's ortaft. j That night I forgot not to thank God earnestly that He had kept me where I might yet see my loving, i beautiful mother. The parson won his way into my heart that day, never again to be deposed. * 1