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Chapter V.

Her whole soul is roused from its deepest recesses, and all that was painful and that was blissful there, dim images, vague feelings of a whole Past and a whole Future are heaving in unquiet eddies within her.

SARTOR RESARTUS.

WINTER advanced quickly, bringing however little variety to the monotonous life on a bush farm. Dairying was over, and Gertrude had consequently less fatigue. A new life had sprung up in her heart, and everything assumed an altered aspect, it would be hard to say she was unhappy, and yet perhaps the new life had more pains than pleasures, yet it made her less lonely. Had that throbbing pulse and glowing cheek anything to do with the horseman who just enters the yard? and flinging his bridle over a post, dismounts and approaches her with a smiling eye and lip. Most unaccountably Charley Inkersole's cattle and horses had taken a fancy to stray from Muttee Muttee to Murrumbowrie, and a world of trouble the young man took to find and remove them; it did indeed, astonish Gertrude when she thought on the subject, to know how business was conducted at home, considering that Dick was still on crutches. There was one black mare especially which nobody could ever see, and yet which Charley was always morally sure was in the scrub “somewhere,” and which he was always seeking.

“Is the ‘super’ in?” asked he.

“No, he is on the farm, or I think he went round the Run. I saw the cattle dogs with him when he was saddling old “Don,” replied Gertrude.

“He is not likely to be in for some time?”

“I don't think till evening.”

“Hang it, one never can see that fellow” he exclaimed with impatience.

Now it always happened that Inkersole presented himself at the very hour when Tudor was not about the house, but after some little show of impatience and disappointment he consoled himself with a few minutes chat with the fair Immigrant, and then departed. These little scenes occurred about once a fortnight.

Sometimes no one but Mary was about, and then the dialogue had this preface.

“Good morning Mary, a fine day this.”

“Sure thin an' it is.”

“Is Mr. Tudor at the house?”

“No he ain't.”

“When will he be in?”

“It's down at his own place he may be this very minute, an' I know nothing of it.”

“Perhaps Miss Gertrude might know.”

“Faith and she'd be after knowing it's likely.”

“Run and ask her there's a good girl.”

Whereupon Mary departs laughing and calling.

“Here yer wanted, Mr. Inkersole's wanting yer miss.”

Poor Gertrude was sorely perplexed, was it right to love this stranger? and did he love her? True he came often to the house, and sprung from his saddle to give her hand a warm pressure, and bestow a few cheerful words and smiles, but might she not be deceived? the merest stranger might have uttered the words he did. And did he not smile on every one? then she would bid her fond heart give up all hope and tenderness, and rate herself severely for indelicacy in loving unbidden; and was he worthy? was it a sin to enshrine him in her heart? and then all her fortitude gave way and she reproached herself for her doubts and wept over some treasured words or look. Often she thought of Mrs. Doherty's words “you must confide in me,” but the sharp bustling manner and fierce eyes repelled her; and she knew Charley was an object of aversion to her employer. Oh for a mother's gentle sympathy! This incessant disquietude affected her health, she looked pale and thin; and was repeatedly subject to questions from Mrs. Doherty; nor did her assurance that it was a change of climate, satisfy her. “Why child the wind is as keen as a razor, and frost lays on the ground till midday,” Mrs. Doherty would return and Gertrude vainly sought shelter in reiterating “I am quite well thank you.” On one occasion Dr. Bower was present and she met his eyes fixed on her, reading in their expression that her secret was known, she sent back an appealing look and received a virtual promise of silence.

As spring approached another trial met her; a gradual shadow seemed to have spread between Mrs. Doherty, Tudor, and herself; nothing definable, something only known to the spirit.

In the early part of the season Tudor used to come up occasionally of an evening, and sit and chat, and such delightful hours they were, when leaving all the cares and burdens of superintendence without, he became the well bred intellectual gentleman; then he would unlock the rich storehouse of a retentive memory, and pour forth a flood of sensible and amusing conversation: every line smoothed out of his sun burned brow, every hard form from his handsome lips; and the grave eyes lighted up with warmth and benevolence: yet it would appear that on the morrow he became graver, and more silent than before; as if he looked back on the evening with regret, as a weakness that must be guarded against. Once he met Charley Inkersole speaking to Gertrude, and from that time he came no more to the parlour, and always was particularly busy when Mrs. Doherty pressed him to do so; and he began to arrange the farm affairs to enable him to pay a visit to the distant stations; that visit which had been indefinitely talked of, and postponed all the winter.

Sundry little wants had been accumulating till at length Mrs. Doherty said she must have certain things from the store; as to think, plan, and act, were the work of a moment with her, she turned to Gertrude, saying,

“You shall go child, and Tudor shall drive you in the spring cart, and you can take Kitty Kenlow to keep you company on the way.”

“Very well ma'am.”

“You shall go to-morrow.”

“Yes ma'am.”

“After dinner run down to Mrs. Kenlow's and see after Kitty; she must come up this evening, for you will start at daylight.”

“If Catherine should be unable to go?”

“Tell her I say I wish she would, I should be obliged.” She opened her desk and took out paper to write a list of purchases; when we set to work seriously to find wants, we generally discover no lack, and Gertrude found a long list of commissions prepared for her.

Catherine Kenlow was the daughter of the sheep overseer who lived on Murrumbowrie; she was a native of the colony, and a very good specimen of the lower class of females. Tall and well proportioned, with her cheek and jaw bones rather prominent, a clear skin, bright color, and dark hair, neatly and rather well dressed, she presented a far from uncomely aspect, as Gertrude crossed the threshold, and returning the salutations of mother and daughter took the proffered seat.

“I have come” she said “to ask a favour.”

“Have you now?” returned Mrs. Kenlow.

“Mrs. Doherty wishes me to go to Mr. Dugdale's store to-morrow, and she desired me to say she would be much obliged if you could spare Catherine, that she would go with me.”

“Will you go a horseback” inquired Catherine.

“No I cannot ride. Mr. Tudor will drive us in the spring cart.”

“Well. I suppose Kitty you must go” remarked Mrs. Kenlow, with a gracious air. Both mother and daughter were a little affected with genteel mannerism.

“I don't see but I can, there a'n't nothing particular to do,” assented Catherine. “And” turning to Gertrude “when do you start?”

“At day break, perhaps you could come up with me this afternoon and then we would be ready,” suggested she.

“Lauk Kitty you'd better clean yourself at once” exclaimed the mother, and the young lady retired for that purpose.

“It's a long way to go shopping” said Gertrude smiling.

“Yes now is n't it?” returned Mrs. Kenlow with a most ladylike intonation, and droop of the head on one side. “Have you been down to the store lately?”

“No I have not left home since I came up last autumn.”

“Hav'n't you now, well it is a long way but you'll like a change now won't you.”

“Well, perhaps I shall.”

After some desultory conversation of a like nature, Catherine returned habited in a purple merino, gray woollen shawl, and pretty straw bonnet trimmed with pink ribbands.

“I shall want some money mother,” said she drawing on her gloves.

“Take a pound out of my drawer, and you may as well get me a gown Kitty.”

“And trimmings.”

“Well and trimmings. Will you be back to-morrow night?”

“It may rain, otherwise I believe we shall,” returned Gertrude.

“Don't you fret now mother if we shouldn't” said Catherine.

“I shall be very lonesome: but I shan't fret. There now, take that sovereign. Good bye. Good day Gertrude.”

And away the girls started. They were about the same age, but Gertrude was much less [experienced] than her companion, and Catherine experienced a good natured pleasure in a sense of superior strength and bush knowledge.

“Do you go all round by the creek,” she inquired as her companion took that direction.

“Yes, I do not know any other way.”

“I'll show you then, we will go through the bush and across the range,” so they pursued the course indicated.

“I do think of mother, she is so down hearted when I'm away,” she said, as they paused to take breath upon the side of the rocky spur they were mounting.

“It's a happy thing to have a mother Catherine,” returned Gertrude with feeling.

“Yes it is. I should be lost without mother.” By “lost” Catherine meant lonely and cheerless.

“You don't know what it is to be so lonely as I am.” Gertrude sat down on a mossy bolder of trap rock with her eyes swimming in tears.

“Don't now” pleaded Kitty with a sympathising dimness about her eyelashes, and she sat down too.

The girls were no strangers. Gertrude had not allowed five months to elapse in useless repinings, but had sought wisdom from Above, and then gone out among the many families located on the property; she had lent them her little library, and taught their children, and visited the sick, and condoled with the afflicted; if some laughed and others were indifferent, the majority were pleased and interested. From the first she had been kindly received by the Kenlows, and found interested listeners and students. What effect her books had had upon Mr. Tudor she did not know, she had been pleased one day by his presenting her with several religious works he had ordered from Sydney, and he had said “Do not fear to be thought a Christian. Whatever you do, do it with a will and it must succeed.”

“You did not give me half an idea of how ignorant the children were. Many have never heard of Christ, and the name of the Almighty only as a curse,” she replied.

“Therefore are they greater objects of pity. You are a missionary Miss Gertrude, these are your savages, South Sea Islanders, or Indians, or anything you like to call them.”

Yet he had not said what he thought of that doctrine which she taught, or how he valued it for himself. But now he never shot cockatoos on the Sunday, nor came to borrow the Newspaper; and Mrs. Doherty permitted Gertrude to read to her the greater part of the afternoon on the Sabbath, and she readily entered into conversation upon subjects of theology, but certainly ran off to mysteries and knotty points of church doctrine, upon which the different sects of religious persons are so sadly apt to jar, and leave the mightier matters undone.

Gertrude's superior knowledge, and her delicate frame and beauty, made her at once an object of respect and affection to Catherine Kenlow; while she found so many good qualities and useful attainments in the Australian girl, as to awake a kindly feeling, and they finished their walk engaged in a cheerful conversation, and arriving glowing and bright at home.

Mr. Tudor stood listening to Mrs. Doherty's plans with a peculiarly grave face.

“Are you in any particular hurry for these things?” he inquired.

“Yes. I must have them,” she said briskly. His brows worked with a nervous contraction he was subject to when perplexed.

“What are you debating now?” inquired she with some asperity.

“If you are engaged, one of the men—” Gertrude commenced timidly.

“No, no, I will go myself,” he said quickly and in a moment his brow grew smooth and he called the “odd-jobber” and “Jack-of-all-trades” who was chopping wood, to come and assist to rig up the tilt, and brighten the harness.

It was a fine illustration of working with a will, an hour saw every speck of dust removed from the cart, the white awning stretched over the green painted hoops and the harness buckles as white as real silver. Mrs. Doherty however vainly pressed him to come in to tea.

“I could not, thank you. I have something to look after to-night. Don't let it be late to-morrow Miss Gertrude. Shall I call you early?”

“I shall be sure to wake, thank you.”

“Good evening then, give the cushions to Mary to air. Good evening,” and he went.

Catherine was a parlour guest for the time, except for a little excess of gentility you might have supposed it her wonted place, but when she found herself in Gertrude's little dormitory she became again the natural country girl, and had a thousand questions to ask about her companion's wardrobe, and other little possessions, being peculiarly desirous of knowing their cost, and where they were bought; so that, though Mrs. Doherty had sent them early to their room to have a long night's rest, it was ten o'clock, a late hour in that household before their heads touched the pillow.

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