Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/15

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13
MOTHER'S JOURNEY.

got to the house of the foreman, quite eight miles from McCallum's principal station. They found two jins in the house, and one of these brought in a black who could speak a little English.

The black was induced to go with them and act as guide lest they should again got off the track and lose more invaluable time.

Owing to the delay it was nearly half-past nine when they arrived at McCallum's. Meanwhile the farce of an investigation had been made and both father and his co-worker had been sentenced to twenty-five lashes each. They had been taken to the stock-yard for punishment. Out rushed my mother, shouting "Where is my husband?" The soreness and cramp and weariness caused by seven hours in the saddle all disappeared instantly, and mother ran like a girl the quarter-mile distance to the yard. Yes, there was father, face towards her, as mother ran calling, "Stop! stop!! a pardon! a pardon!!"

Father's face was set and his teeth clenched and he was doing his best trying to bear his utterly undeserved punishment in silence, when suddenly he heard his wife's voice; and saw running swiftly towards him the woman whom he supposed to be in England and whom he never expected to see again.

He would have endured the lash, but the sudden revulsion of feeling produced by mother's coming and the King's pardon proved too much and for the first time in his life he fainted.

What had led up to this tragedy?

Simply this: Father was what colonials term a "new chum." He did not understand and could not appreciate the ways of the community into which he had been thrown. He was too moral for his surroundings. His working companion, a convict like himself, had been on McCallum's station for several years and thoroughly understood his work. The new man was sent to work with the already trained one, and the two lived in the bark hut a dozen miles from the central house or homestead. Great numbers of the men so situated got native women, called jins to live with them, and to prepare their rations and do what housework had to he done or could be done where the house was a bark hut twelve feet by ten or less.

Father's mate had had a jin for several years about the hut, and she had died a few weeks before father joined. For months after there was no jin about the place, until one day the shepherd brought in with him a young jin, apparently a girl of about twelve years of age. As father had been cook and housemaid since his arrival he set to work to teach the new girl her duties, and took some interest in his charge. He learned a little of her language and she learned more of his, until they could understand each other pretty well. By this time the jin could do all the indoor work, and have the meals ready for the men. Father described her as a nice girl, and said that she appeared more intelligent than the majority of Australian blacks.