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Chapter IV.

What is our duty here?—to tend
From good to better—Thence to best.

BOWRING.

“YOU are early” said the voice of Mr. Tudor as Gertrude paused between the hen house, and the dwelling, to view the Sun slowly and majestically emerge from a bank of dark clouds; only upon the tops of the hills the sun rested, otherwise the scenery was bathed in shade and light blue mist.

“I never lay late on Sunday” she returned timidly, unable to shake off the impression the previous evening had renewed.

“Nor week days either I think,” he said smiling pleasantly.

“I always see the Sun rise.”

“If it were not that the dew would wet your feet I could show you a spot where you could have a fine view. There, do you see that clear hill with the trees on the top, over the clover paddock: if you like such scenes it would repay a walk; you will not be wanted for an hour, or two.”

Mr. Tudor spoke so kindly Gertrude almost forgot that he was judged to be so proud; and a little urging carried the point. She set the basket of eggs upon a post.

“That will never do, the crows will have them all” interposed her companion; taking it from her hands and bearing it to the kitchen.

The clover field lay before them silvered with dew, which brushed off as they stepped, leaving a vivid green track. Gertrude held up her dress and stepped high, and in a few minutes stood glowing and panting on the green elevation.

Tudor's brown eyes gleamed with kindness, and his almost austere gravity, partially national and partially the result of early responsibilities and cares in the management of large and scattered concerns, was nearly dissipated for the time.

“Is it not worth a walk through the clover to see that?” he said permitting her for the first time to turn round.

An exclamation of delight was her only reply.

The ground fell gradually from the cone on which they stood down to the chain of ponds now alternately black with shade thrown by huge round topped Woollygums, or gilded with the rapidly spreading sun rays. On each side of the clover field and at the back of the cone was a heavy stringybark forest, while a high distant range of mountains bounded the horizon; the clear meadows lay on each side of the house, and the huts of the labourers with their log walls and bark roofs looked as quiet and solitary as the bush: only the gay grateful hearted magpies raised their heads to heaven and poured forth a noisy cheerful song; and on the wheat just rising in delicate green blades through the black mould a flock of cockatoos, white as the driven snow, excepting their golden crests and sulphur tinted quills, had spread themselves to feed.

It was Sunday morning, and Gertrude inquired where the church was.

“Indeed” returned Tudor “we have no church, or any place of worship nearer than thirty miles; which is of course too far to attend.”

“No church!” echoed Gertrude in dismay, “and do you have no religious instruction?”

“Very little, occasionally a Dissenting Minister comes round, and holds service at some of the farmers'; and the people near attend.”

“And can it be possible to keep a Christian course under such circumstances,” asked she sadly.

“I fear Miss Gonthier,” he resumed gravely “we think too little of these things in the Bush.”

“But how do people pass the Sabbath, they do not work do they?”

“No, with very few exceptions it is observed as a day exempt from labour, the climate even here where our great elevation above the Sea places us in a keen bracing atmosphere is in summer hot, and bodily energies are greatly spent by the return of the Sabbath, and that makes it welcome, as a rest day. But you ask how it is spent; the uneducated and laborious make late hours of the morning, and devote the day between visiting and sleeping, and their employers where they cannot attend Public Service, and you understand that I speak of such Districts as this, read a little and doze, and fritter the day in fact.”

“And you—” she asked anxiously.

The bright color mounted to his brow as he replied.

“I fear I do no better.”

“Could you not, knowing so well what is right,” she suggested.

“I am not sure Miss Gertrude that I do know so well, instructors generally neglect religious instructions, when we are children, and what are we to do afterwards? Every year makes the heart harder, and colder, and more wordly, when its only thoughts are for the world; so that by the time reason is matured so heavy a burden of cares have lighted upon us that they destroy and little sense we have of holier things, as surely as those cockatoos would my wheat if I did not drive them away.”

To a Christian heart the picture was indeed dismal. Tudor continued:

“I do not mean to say there are no pious, or well informed persons in New South Wales, for there are many. Perhaps we are not worse than any country where the population is scattered and uninstructed: but I often see so much ignorance, that I quite shudder. I am a Native and have never left the Colony therefore do not know how your country folks are, and indeed our population consists in a great measure of the immigrants from other lands.”

“I have some nice, good books, which were given me by some gentlemen who visited the ship before we sailed, I should like to lend them to you, I think they would interest you,” said Gertrude.

“I am sure they would.” The bright smile rested rather on the speaker than the promised books.

“These things make me very sad Sir” remarked Gertrude as they walked home “what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”

“Gertrude” he returned in a low earnest tone “you may do us all good.”

“I. I.” she repeated sadly “Ah if you knew how much I need guidance and instruction.” She paused.

“Yet I think we read of Jesus Christ setting a child in the midst of his disciples to teach them some grave lessons?”

“True.”

“Have we a right then to suppose any too ignorant, or feeble to be useful?”

Gertrude did not reply: she felt at once her duty and her weakness, and the tears gathered in her eyes.

“What did you think of Dr. Bower?” inquired Tudor presently as they walked down the hill.

“I scarcely know.”

“You thought him eccentric?”

“Very.”

“And uncouth?”

“I must confess it.”

“Yet he has good qualities. It is hard, indeed I think it impossible, to judge of people by their appearance, or manners. Think of the cares and anxieties that man must have borne; of the scenes of suffering and sin through which he must have passed; of the strong distaste for the little aims and struggles and appearances of life he may have contracted at the death bed scenes he must have witnessed.”

“You are eloquent in his cause,” returned his companion, smiling at his warmth.

“Hardly perhaps in his cause so much as in the cause of a class, there are so many on whom care has brooded like a bird of prey, till they have grown unlike the less oppressed; we judge such beings too hardly; we blame them for being what circumstances have made them.”

“Yet those adverse circumstances received and encountered in a religious spirit might have proved rich blessings. But certainly we should not judge any one.”

“Nor receive the glitter for the gold; but it requires much worldly wisdom to detect the difference of being, and seeming to be. But here is the last gate, do not forget to change your damp shoes.”

“Wait one moment for the books.”

The morning's walk had exhilarated Gertrude's spirits, and yet opened up a fund of reflections. The Christian's responsibilities was a subject on which she had never been led to reflect; and insufficient as she felt herself to be for the discharge of those duties, she was thrown upon the strength of One All-sufficient and Wise.

The household was late that morning.

“There was no occasion to rise early being Sunday,” Mrs. Doherty remarked as she broke the cover of a Newspaper, a messenger having brought up the mail bag the evening before.

During breakfast, and for a couple of hours afterwards Mrs. Doherty scanned its contents; glancing down the long columns of advertisements in the Herald for very listlessness, and then reluctantly laid it aside, and strolled round the garden and orchard, and visited the wheat fields, and so on, till one o'clock summoned her to dinner. Then followed the afternoon's nap, a Chapter in the Bible, and alternate dozing, and opening a book of old Sermons which she had possessed ten years and never read through, although it passed every Sabbath afternoon on her knee.

Gertrude in her own quiet room, or on the seat under a trellis overhung by cape honey-suckle and cluster roses, read her German Bible and prayed, with an earnest spirit that made those hours both pleasant and profitable.

That evening found her cheerful and courageous for the future, so much so that she offered to sing a hymn for Mrs. Doherty and at her request followed it by several both in German and English, and found at least a patient listener to some of the Holy and Sublime lessons and narratives of the Gospel.

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