A Bride from the Bush, by E. W. Hornung

Chapter 19

Another Letter from Alfred

‘Bindarra Station, N.S.W., April 13.

‘Dearest Mother — Your dear letter, in answer to my first, written in January, has just reached me. Though I wrote so fully last mail, I can’t let a mail go without some sort of an answer. But, as a matter of fact, I am in a regular old hurry. The mail-boy is waiting impatiently in the veranda, with his horse “hung up” to one of the posts; and the store keeper is waiting in the store to drop my letter in the bag and seal it up. So I must be short. Even with lots of time, however, you know I never could write stylish, graphic letters like Gran can. So you must make double allowances for me.

‘And now, dear mother, about our coming back to England; and what you propose; and what you say about my darling. To take the best first — God bless you for your loving words! I can say nothing else. Yes, I knew you were getting to love her in spite of all her waywardness; and I know — I know— that you would love her still. And you would love her none the less for all that has happened; you would remember what I explained in my first letter, that it was for my sake; you would think no longer of what she did, but why she did it.

‘But, about coming back, we have, as you already know, made up our minds to live out our lives here in Australia. After all, it’s a far better country — a bigger and a better Britain. There is no poverty here, or very little; you never get stuck up for coppers in the streets of the towns; or, if you do, it’s generally by a newly-landed immigrant who hasn’t had time to get out of bad old habits. There’s more room for everybody than at home, and fairer rations of cakes and ale all round. Then there’s very little ill-health, because the climate is simply perfect — which reminds me that I am quite well now — have put on nearly two stone since I landed! But all this about Australia’s beside the mark: the real point is that it suits Gladdie and me better than any other country in the world.

‘Now for some news. We have decided upon our station at last. It is the one in Victoria, in the north-eastern district —— I think I mentioned it among the “probables” in my last. It is not large as stations go; but “down in Vic” you can carry as many sheep to the acre as acres to the sheep up here in the “back-blocks.” You see, it is a grass country. But the scenery is splendid: great rugged ranges covered with the typical gum-trees, of which there are none up here, and a fine creek clean through the middle of the “run.” Then there are parrots and ‘possums and native bears all over the place, none of which you get up here, though I fear there will be more snakes too. The only drawback is the “cockatoos.” I don’t mean the bird, dear mother, but the “cockatoo selectors.” Personally, I don’t think these gentry are the vermin my father-in-law makes them out to be; he brackets them with the rabbits; but I mean to make friends with them — if I can. The homestead is delightful: good rooms, and broad veranda round three sides. We are going to be absurdly happy there.

‘We shall not take possession though till after shearing —i.e. in your autumn, though the agreement is signed and everything arranged. Meanwhile, we shall stay on here, and I am to get a little more Colonial experience. I need it badly, but not perhaps so badly as my father-in-law makes out. He ridiculed the idea of my turning squatter on my own account, unless Gladys was “boss.” But, now that we have fixed on the Victorian station, he is a bit more encouraging. He says any fool could make that country pay, referring of course to the rainfall, which just there, in the ranges, is one of the best in Australia. Still, he is right: experience is everything in the Colonies.

‘So I am not quite idle. All day I am riding or driving about the “run,” seeing after things, and keeping my eyes open. In the evenings Gladdie and I have taken to reading together. This was her doing, not mine, mind; though I won’t yield to her in my liking of it. The worst of it is, it’s so difficult to know where to begin; I am so painfully ignorant. Can you not help us, dear mother, with some hints? Do! — and when we come home some day (just for a trip) you will find us both such reformed and enlightened members of society!

‘But, long before that, you must come out and see us. Don’t shake your head. You simply must. England and Australia are getting nearer and nearer every year. The world’s wearing small, like one of those round balls of soap, between the hands of Time —(a gem in the rough this, for Gran to polish and set!) Why, there’s a Queensland squatter who for years has gone “home” for the hunting season; while, on the other hand, Australia is becoming the crack place to winter in.

‘Now, as you, dear mother, always do winter abroad, why not here as well as anywhere else? You must! You shall! If not next winter, then the following one; and if the Judge cannot bring you, then Gran must. That reminds me: how are they both? And has Gran been writing anything specially trenchant lately? I’m afraid I don’t appreciate very ‘cutely —“miss half the ‘touches,’” he used to tell me (though I think I have made him a present of a “touch” today). But you know how glad we would both be to read some of his things; so you might send one sometimes, dear mother, without him knowing. For we owe him so much! And, besides what he did for me afterwards, he was always so nice and brotherly with Gladys. I know she thought so at the time, though she doesn’t speak about him much now — I can’t think why. You’re the one she thinks of most, dearest mother; you’re her model and her pattern for life!

‘The mail-boy has begun to remonstrate. He’ll have to gallop the whole way to the “jolly” township, he says, if I am not quick. So I must break off; but I will answer your dear letter more fully next mail, or, better still, Gladdie shall write herself. Till then, good-bye, and dearest love from us both.

‘Ever your affectionate son,

‘Alfred.

‘PS. — Gladys has read the above: so one last word on the sly.

‘Oh, mother, if you only saw her at this moment! She is sitting in the veranda — I can just see her through the door. She’s in one of those long deck-chairs, with a book, though she seems to have tired of reading. I can’t see much of her face, but only the sweep of her cheek, and the lashes of one lid, and her little ear. But I can see she isn’t reading — she’s threading her way through the pines into space somewhere — perhaps back to Twickenham, who knows? And she’s wearing a white dress; you would like it — it’s plain. And her cheek is quite brown; you’ll remember how it was the day she landed from the launch. But there! I can’t describe like Gran, so it’s no good trying. Only I do know this: I simply love her more and more and more, and a million times more for all that has happened. And you, and all of you, and all your friends, would fairly worship her now. You couldn’t help it!’

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:51