Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/13

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11
MOTHER'S JOURNEY.

of heat and dust and thirst, of the monotonous cracking of the whip and the vigorous, but mostly unintelligible, language of the driver and his mate. Six nights of camping out and roughing it, and now the seventh day's journey, the last, has begun. Each day mother commenced by walking a few miles. If she had known the way she would have waited on this last day and left the dray to follow. As it was she was a good mile ahead when the dray was overtaken by a mounted trooper, who asked for Mrs. Jacobs. Pointing to a speck in the distance before them the driver said "that's her."

In a few minutes the trooper had ridden up and told my mother his errand. Told it all too abruptly, for when the full significance of his words reached her consciousness she reeled, and would would have fallen, as if stricken with a blow, had not the trooper caught her and laid her gently down. There was no water at hand, but the trooper rubbed her hands, fanned her face, and forced a little whisky from a pocket flask between her lips and brought her back to life.

By the time the dray got up to them the trooper had shown his important document and explained to mother that he had been sent as messenger owing to the exertions of some of her friends in Sydney, else the pardon would not have reached her husband for many days yet.

Mother pleaded with the trooper to let her be the bearer of the pardon. To this he consented, although it was not quite in accordance with his instructions, and was the means of causing suffering to both my parents. Only about twelve miles remained. Mother walked that, the trooper walking by her side leading his horse. The station was reached late in the afternoon, but the squatter and his foreman and all the men were away, and the place was in charge of some native women called jins and a female convict, a respectable looking woman, Mrs. Finn.

Mother and the trooper were supplied with a rough and ready kind of meal, Mrs. Finn meanwhile telling how difficult it was for free people to obtain work owing to convict labor and that of the blacks. Mrs. Finn could tell nothing about the convict Jacobs except that he came to the station once a fortnight for rations, and that he was trusted with an important duty on a distant part of the run. There was nothing for it but to wait the return of the squatter. It was late when Mr. Beedham, the squatter, returned, and later still before he would pay any attention to my mother's errand. However, when he saw the pardon releasing Jacobs from his control he expressed surprise and consternation, for that very afternoon he had found that Jacobs and his mate had been fighting at one of the huts about a jin, that he could not got to know which was in the wrong, and had sent both to a J.P., who resided twenty miles away.

The trooper explained to mother that no man was allowed to inflict punishment upon his own assigned convict servant; that he was bound to have him punished by order of a magistrate or to send him back to the