Dick Donovan.

Out there : a romance of Australia online

. (page 18 of 22)
Online LibraryDick DonovanOut there : a romance of Australia → online text (page 18 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


suffered, and the money sacrifices he had made, in
trying to locate in the interests of the town, the
alleged rich deposits of gold in the Ranges, he
considered it was abominable that his character and
honour should be assailed by " an obscure doctor.-"
Of course this went down " with the flippant and
thoughtless, but he could no longer deceive himself as
to the exact position in which he stood. He realised
that his popularity had waned.

His cousin, Mary Gordon, was particularly hurt by v
what was referred to " as a scandalous affair." To
her he excused himself bv asserting that Dr Blain had
been calumniating him for years ; that the limit was
reached on the day when he grosslj- insulted him in
the Club.

" What could I do, Mary? " he asked pathetically,
trying to look tearful. " After all, I am only human,
and the \vay I was insulted was more than flesh and
blood could stand, so I slapped the doctor's face. Of
course he made a tall story of it, and you know the

Mar) T 's sympathies were aroused ; it could hardly
have been otherwise. She, unfortunately -for herself,
believed that he had been kind and devoted to Harold ;
and then had he not given proof of his generosity by
cancelling the mortgage. All the same, she suggested
that he should leave the town for a considerable time,
and return when the whole affair had blown over.
This was quite in accord with his own views, he had
been contemplating it, and was glad she had put the
idea in words. And so, in the course of a week or
two after that, he bade a tender farewell, and left
Gordonstown for Melbourne, and shortly afterwards
she went to Glenbar to take possession of her



THAT outpost of civilisation the little settlement of
Glenbar was en fete; a general holiday had been
proclaimed, and every soul had donned his or her
best attire in honour of the occasion. For several
days preparations had been going on. A bullock
dray, drawn by a span of twelve fine oxen, had come
in from Gordonstown, heavily laden with boxes of
provisions and all sorts of delicacies. It was followed
by a horse wagon with barrels of beer and several
cases of wine. A triumphal arch had been erected
across the road ; it was composed of a light framework
of wood, covered with wheat sheaves, flowers and
fruits, and above it waved the dear old British flag.
It was a really beautiful structure, and did credit to
all concerned. The whole place had been made gay
and festive with flags, flowers, strips of bunting, even
bright-coloured cloths and blankets being pressed into

At the entrance to Mary Gordon's house two masts
had been set up, and stretched from one to the other
was a broad strip of turkey red, on which in white
letters appeared the words" Welcome Home." In
the paddock adjoining the house was a huge marquee
gaily decorated with flags and flowers, with candle
lanterns suspended from various parts of the roof
for illumination purposes. In this marquee the
banquet was to take place. The beer barrels had been
piled up in a triangle at one end. Tables and seats
were provided for the accommodation of over two
hundred guests; every employe on the estate was
invited, arrangements being made for even the
228 '


shepherds and the herdsmen to be present. It had
been intended at first that the feast should take place
in the open air, but unfortunately the weather was
threatening, and Jim Dawkins wisely determined to
get a marquee from the town. A sheep and an ox
were also to have been roasted whole in the open, but
for the same reason it had been deemed necessary to
put up a tempera^ framework with a corrugated iron
roof so that the culinary operations could be carried
on despite the weather. Jim Dawkins had been
responsible for the whole of the arrangements, and
had a free hand to do what he thought proper. His
instructions were to do everything on a liberal scale.
He had carried out his duties faithfully and with the
punctilious regard for detail which was so character-
istic of him, though all the time his heart was sad.

Xor was Margaret Bruce much behind. She had
superintended the work of the women and children
with the assistance of Miss Ruth Welford, who had
been appointed mistress of the little school, founded
by Mary Gordon, when she came into possession of the
property. The house had been furbished up and
made bright with flowers. In carrying out the general
scheme of the decorations Ruth had been a prime
mover, for she was a young lady of artistic instincts,
with an excellent eye for colour.

All these preparations, the decorations, the
triumphal arch, the marquee, the furbishings, and the
barbecue were to celebrate the home-coming of Mr and
Mrs Gordon ; Mary had become the wife of Oliver
Gordon, who had thus made good his boast to Mr
Cartwright, the town surveyor, that Mary would
never be Mrs Harold Preston, but would be Mrs Oliver
Gordon. They had been married six months, and two
years had now been numbered with the dead past
since Gordon and his two companions had come back
from the ill-fated expedition to the Ranges. Of the
two companions. George Grindon had since died.
His health had been broken down by the hardships
he had endured. The other man who had been in
Gordon's service had gone home to his native

For nearly eighteen months after his quarrel with

23 " OUT THERE "

Dr Blain and the concomitant scandal, Gordon had
lived chiefly in Melbourne, paying short visits
occasionally to Gordonstown and longer ones to
Glenbar. During his visits to the Run he persistently
appealed to Mary to marry him. At first she was
very resolute in her refusal, saying that she had
loved Harold with her whole heart and soul, and
could never love any other man. Nothing daunted,
Oliver persevered. He- told her that she was outraging
Nature by remaining single, that it was her duty to
link her fortune with his, and thus consolidate the
Gordon interest in this district. Poor Marv began io
feel bewildered. She appealed to Jim Dawkins, who
had become greatly attached to her, and served her
loyally and faithfully " for Mr Harold's sake." In
his blunt, honest way he said : "I ain't agin you
marrying, miss, if you can find the right man, for "it's
right that a woman should have a husband, but I
ain't in favour of your marrying Mr Gordon."

She knew that Jim had always been prejudiced
against the Gordons, even against herself at one
time, therefore although she had appealed to him, she
did not attach the importance to his objection that
otherwise she might have done. Then in her distress
of mind she turned for consolation and advice to her

" I have never been much impressed with Oliver "
said Margaret, " but I think that under the changed
condition of things you might give favourable
consideration to his proposal. You are still youno-,
and I don't think you should spend the rest of your
life in mourning. .All the mourning in the world will
not bring Harold to life again ; besides, while you are
in the world you owe a duty to the living. You have
property, Oliver is your cousin, and from all I hear
and see the life he is leading now is breaking up hi,
health fast. You may save him. You have" to con-
sider whether it is not somewhat in the nature of a
duty for you to do so. Beyond that I will not go
I do not urge you to marry him. You are quite old
enough to judge for yourself. I certainly will not
ncourage nor discourage him. You must work out
your own destinies together. Perhaps you would be


happier, more contented if you were married, but if
you don't marry Oliver, who else is there? Living
here, in this out-of-the-way place, what chance is
there of your meeting anyone ? If you sold your
property and went elsewhere, say to England, would
yott be happier? I say again use your own judgment.
I will certainly not take any responsibility one way
or the other."

Mary was thus thrown on her own resources. Sortie
of the points iu her aunt's argument weighed with
her, particularly when she referred to the state of his
health, and suggested that Mary might save him.
She had often felt for him when she had noticed that
he appeared to be suffering, and her expressions of
sympathy were met by an assertion that he was
intensely unhappy, but she could make him happj'.
She did not know that his peccant past was corroding
Bis present, torturing him, and driving him, as weak
men are driven, to seek nepenthe in strong drink.
Had she known that she surely would have cursed him.

With the deep subtlety that was part of his nature
he played upon her feelings, aroused her pity until in
her loneliness and despair she at last felt that she
could hold out no longer, though she told him frankly
that while she would be a good, faithful, and dutiful
wife to him, she could never love him.

"I will take you on those conditions," he said,
" iu the hope that love will come afterwards."

It thus came about that after his years of scheming
and his dastardly crime, he had gained his purpose,
and triumphed for the last time.

Mary joined him in Melbourne, where they were
married, and immediately afterwards started for New
Zealand, and had been travelling about in that
country for seven months. Now they were returning
to where in future their home would be Glenbar.
From Glenbar the expedition had set out for the
Ranges, and to Glenbar Gordon had returned. That
was a little more than two years ago. Now he was
bringing his bride there, and the home-coming was
to be celebrated with feasting and junketting. The
weather which had been threatening for some days
broke inauspiciously as the husband and wife arrived

232 " OUT THERE "

in a sort of wagonnette with a hood to it. They were
greeted by a sharp thunderstorm and a heavy down-
pour of rain that dashed the flowers to pieces, made
the bunting- and flags limp, and damped the ardour cf
the welcome that had been prepared for them. Gordon
and his wife both looked very ill, Mary particularly.
She had a tired, worn, haggard appearance. Her
husband had aged considerably, his face was marked
by dissipation, his eyes had a shifty, restless, hunted
expression. There was unmistakable evidence that
he had suffered been tortured. The rain poured so
heavily that in a very short time everything was
bedraggled. The depression that fell on the spirits of
everyone was painfully apparent. Mary, followed by
Aunt Margaret, went up to her room wearily. As
soon as they were alone, she flung off her hat and
cloak, and throwing her arms round the neck of Mrs
Bruce, burst into tears.

" Oh, auntie," she sobbed, " thank God I am home
again. I feel so wretched. I am so ill."

Margaret soothed, comforted her, did not distress her
with needless questioning.

" You are tired, dearie, and your condition makes
it imperative that you should rest, and be tranquil,"
she said sweetly. " Now dry those tears. You
haven't come home to weep, but to be happy."

" Happy ! " the girl repeated with a heart-rending

. "Yes, why not? Come, come cheer up! The
wretched weather is enough to make anyone
miserable, but we cannot help the weather. There are
warm hearts ready to welcome you. We have all
been working for days to give you a bright and
cheery reception, but this storm has spoilt everything,
though it hasn't damped the hearts of those who love
you, and there isn't a man, nor woman, nor child on
the estate who doesn't love you. So change your
things, have a short rest, then we'll go down to the
marquee; everyone is just panting to greet you. As
for that big-hearted fellow, Jim Dawkins, he'll dance
for joy. He is a treasure, is that man. He has
carried out your husband's instructions to the letter,
and done wonders, I think."


Under her aunt's cheering influence Mary recovered
her spirits; one of the niaids came up and helped her
to change her things, and as soon as she was ready
to receive him, Jim Dawkins was admitted. He bore
in his hand a magnificent bouquet of choice flowers,
which he presented to her with what might - be
described as graceful awkwardness. A tear or two
trickled down his rough, sunburnt cheeks, and there
was a huskiness in his throat as .he spoke.

" Miss Mary I beg pardon, miss, I mean Mrs
Gordon, it does me real good to see you again; and I
hope, miss, I beg your pardon, Mrs Mary, I hope God
will bless you and make you happy. I says that
from my heart, Miss Marj r , I mean Mrs Gordon."

Mary could not suppress a little smile, and she was
so deeply touched by the old man's sincerity that she
took his brown, weather beaten face in her hands and
kissed him.

That spontaneous act overcame Jim, and he wiped
his tears away with his knuckles.

" You ain't looking well, miss," he said in honest
simplicity; "I beg your pardon, miss, I can't get
into the way of calling you Mrs all of a sudden. . . ."

" Never mind, Jim," she said. " Call me what you
like. I know that your dear old heart is true to me."

" Indeed it is, Mi Mrs Gordon," he blubbered in a
voice that suggested he had a plum in his throat, and
he knuckled some more tears away. " I was saying
you are not looking well, but when you have been
here a few days you will be all right again." He
made a movement as if to leave the room, for the
situation was one that taxed his self-possession, and
he had exhausted his vocabulary. It was an unique
experience for him to talk to a lady in her boudoir.
Mary stopped him.

" Jim, are the people in the marquee? "

" Yes, mum."

" Very well then, you and auntie shall take me

The three of them went downstairs, and then Mary
put one hand on Jim's arm and the other on her
aunt's, and they walked into the tent. Her entrance
was the signal for a burst of cheering, that lasted as

234 " OUT THERE "

it seemed to the tired woman an interminable time.
Her husband, who had taken his seat at the head
table, rose and would have advanced to meet her, but
Jim and her aunt led her forward to the seat next her
husband. Margaret sat beside her, and Dawkins sat
on Gordon's left. As Gordon did not offer to do it,
Mary leant a little forward and addressing Dawkins
said :

" Say grace, Jim*"

Looking greatly abashed, he rose to his feet, and
asked a blessing, while Gordon sat motionless with
eyes fixed.

The weather had not affected the appetites of the
people, and they did ample justice to the good things
spread before them. Such a feast marked a red-letter
Jay in their lives. When the knife and fork work
ceased Jim Dawkins got to his feet, and made quite a
felicitous little speech, beginning with the homely
phrase : " Well, chaps and womenfolk." He
proposed the health of the bride and bridegroom,
referred to the " missus " being dear to them, and
expressed a hope " the boss would prove a good sort."

During the time that Jim was talking the boss sat
still with a stolid, self-absorbed expression on his red
and bloated face, a fixed, lifeless stare in his eyes.
When Jim sat down and the applause had ended, Mary
glanced at her husband, evidently expecting him to
reply, but he seemed to be dreaming, asleep with his
bleared eyes open, and oblivious of everybody and
everything; so she got up, and with an effort that
taxed her sorely and an emotion that imparted a
tender tearfulness to her voice, she asked " Dear
Friends " to accept the thanks of herself and her
husband, and assured them " out of the fulness " of
her heart, that she felt " truly glad to be home
again." She regretfully referred to the bad weather
which had so marred the proceedings, but asked them
to make the best of it, and enjoy themselves to their
hearts' content, and on the plea that she was tired
and not feeling very well, she begged of them to allow
her to retire.

It needed no words to express the sympathy all felt
for her, it was shown in every face. Without noticing


her husband, she turned to her aunt, whispered
something, and the two left the tent, Mary leaning on
Aunt Margaret's arm. Mary was so done up, felt so
ill that she went straight to bed. When she had gone
Gordon roused himself a little, laughed inanely,
ordered Jim to open another bottle of champagne, and
tell the people they could do what " they bally well

There was a tacit understanding that he could be
ignored, and unspoken feelings of regret that " the
poor missus should have married such a chap."
However, the brief hours were theirs for enjoyment;
they were under no restraint ; a barn had been cleared
for dancing, and the revels were kept up all night.
Some fireworks had been sent up from Melbourne, but
the persistent rain prevented their being let off, and
they were put away for some other occasion. Gordon
remained in his seat smoking and drinking champagne
and brandy, until overcome he put his anns on the
table, buried his face, and slept in that uneasy
position until in the cold, gre}'-, damp dawn he awoke
dazed and haggard, but he managed to stagger into
the house, and throwing himself on to a couch, went
to sleep again.



AFTER a few days' thorough rest, combined with the
sympathy of all about her, Mary recuperated consider-
ably, although she felt ill, and she decided to call in
Dr Blain. When her husband heard of her intention
he became furious, swore that Blain should not enter
his house, and that if she really wanted a doctor she
was to consult Dr Evans, but his own opinion was
there was nothing much the matter with her.

It was the first time he had seriously lost his temper
in her presence, and the result was he only succeeded
in arousing a spirit of independence and determination
that staggered him ; it was so unexpected.

" You can do as you like, and I intend to do as I
like," she said quietly but forcibly. " I am neither
your slave nor your servant, and I will not tolerate
any interference from you. I am going to send for
Dr Blain, and as, no doubt, you are ashamed to meet
him face to face, you can take yourself off somewhere.
Do I make myself quite clear? "

Upwards of six months of married life had revealed
to Mary that she had bound herself to a man whom
she could not respect, let alone love. She was pain-
fully deceived in him. He had become a dipsomaniac ;
when under the influence of drink he cared for nothing
or nobody; at other times he proved that he was a
weak-willed, bullying creature for whom she could
feel nothing but contempt. He was a debased
specimen of manhood from whom she shrank with

Poor woman! She knew that her life was spoilt,
that its fair promise of some time ago had resulted in


ashes and bitterness. But she prayed in her heart to
God that her child, soon to be born, might prove a
blessing and a comfort to her. Aunt Margaret and
Jim Dawkins compensated her for much suffering.
Jim, rough as he was, was stirred by a high and
ennobling chivalry. He never attempted to interpose
between the husband and wife, but he was as watchful
as a house dog, and rightly or wrongly, if need arose,
he would have done battle to the death, for Mary's
sake. In him the old feud which he thought .was dead,
whereas it had only been dormant, was aroused, and
though he would haye gone through fire and water for
Mary, he looked upon her husband with a hatred that
was hardly concealed.

At Mary's request, he sent one of the hands on
horseback with a message to Dr Blain.

" My husband doesn't like Dr Blain, as you know,
Jim," she remarked, " but I am going to have him
all the same."

" That's right, mum, I like to hear you talk like
that. You do a? you like. Your husband ain't got
no right to try and boss you in your own place."

Jim was nothing if he was not blunt, and where
Mary's welfare was concerned he could rap out with
a decisiveness that could leave no one in any doubt
as to the state of his feelings.

Mary wrote rather an urgent little note to Blain.
" Of course I am aware of the ill feeling between you
and my husband," she said, " but I want your service,
and I won't have anyone else. I will die first. So
please come. Although I am a wife I still remain my
own mistress."

Both as a friend and in his professional capacity
Blain could not be indifferent to this appeal, and he
returned word that he would ride out to the Run in
a couple of days' time. On the morning of the day
on which Blain was to arrive, Oliver, who was afraid
to face the doctor, galloped off to the grazing lands.
Mary greeted her old friend with a warmth that was
fully reciprocated, but he was shocked to see how much
she had changed. She seemed so weary, her poor
broken life was so obvious, and the agony of her heart
had stamped itself on her face

238 " OUT THERE "

Blain was very tender, very tactful and sympathetic.

" The last three years have taken so much from me
and wrought so many changes in my life," she said,
" but thank God you have not changed, you remain
the same dear, kind, loving old doctor. Ah ! if poor
Blewitt had never come into .the town with those
luring tales of hidden wealth how different things
might have been," she added with a sigh.

" Kismet," replied the doctor, lifting his shoulders.
" It seems sometimes as if destiny deals out some
rather cruel knocks. Our poor human comprehension
cannot grasp the meaning of it all. Possibly there is
a deep meaning, but it is beyond our understanding ;
we can only endure and wonder. But come, come, we
mustn't drift into a speculative argument. You must
turn your eyes hopefully to the future, my dear girl,
and concentrate your strength of mind, and all "the
beautiful sweetness of your nature on the child which
will soon bring sunshine into your life again. Now
I am going to insist on your taking every possible
care of yourself. You are a little weak, a bit run
down. You must have plenty of rest, keep cheerful,
eat plenty of wholesome food. I shall send you a
tonic, though you hardly require medicine. You have
been worrying yourself, you know, and worry will
kill a cat. Don't worry, don't worry, my dear, for
baby's sake. You must be quite good to yourself.
Now you understand, don't you? "

Dr Blain's visit had a very cheering effect on Mary's
spirits. He spent between three and four hours with
her and Mrs Bruce, and promised to come regularly
one day a week, unless an emergency should arise, in
which case she was to send post haste for him. When
the time came for him to leave, he and Margaret
walked down to the garden gate, where Jim Dawkins
was holding his horse.

" That poor girl has been fretting herself to pieces,"
he said to Margaret. " She is terribly run down ; I
am just the least bit anxious about her. I want
her to sleep as much as possible, and she must have
plenty of nourishing food. You will look after
her, I am sure, Mrs Bruce. She couldn't be in better


" The poor dear is all I have to live for," sighed
Margaret. " When do you expect the baby will be
borti ? ' '

" I should say in about six weeks. Keep her
tranquil as far as you can. Don't let her worry."

" Ah, poor darling, if she could only forget, if she
could only forget."

" I understand," replied the doctor, " but we must
help her to forget. In a few weeks her motherhood
will have calls upon it that will bring new hope, new
joy to her. The conservation of her strength in the
meantime is of the greatest importance. Please don't
forget that," were his parting words as he mounted
his horse and rode away into the gathering darkness
of the night.

The doctor's professional eye had detected symptoms
in Mary's case that were significant ; as he himself
had said " she had fretted herself to pieces." She had
realised when the fatal step had been taken in
marrying Oliver Gordon she had wrecked her life.
He had managed somehow to throw dust into her
eyes, and blind her to facts. It was only when she
had become his wife that she discovered how pusill-
animous he was, and how putrid was his mind. Nor
had she known up to then that he was given to
intemper:.ntia bibendi. During their honeymoon tour
in New Zealand she had gone through a feverish time
of anxiety with him. He had degenerated into a
clod with 'no soul, no heart, and so utterly selfish was
he that he seemed to be indifferent to her. No wonder
she had fretted ; no wonder she was glad to get home
where the warm hearts of Margaret Bruce and Jim
Dawkins were waiting to receive her.

Aunt Margaret was determined that as far as

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22

Online LibraryDick DonovanOut there : a romance of Australia → online text (page 18 of 22)