Cookson, 28 08 1911 2
28 August 1911
THE DEATH OF KATE.
“Jim does what he can for us. But he cannot do much. He’s a man, Jim. There are not many like him. Most men marry long before they get to be his age. Men who live in the bush should have a wife to keep them company. But for my sake Jim has never married. He has kept single to keep me, and it is hard work, because the times are very bad, and the land is very poor—it won’t grow anything, scarcely, except a few sheep. Yes: Jim is a man, every inch of him.
“It . . . pains to think of the old, old times—the old, good times when we were all happy together. My head . . . Oh, dear. . . . Ah, no one knows what it is to suffer as I have suffered—no one. Not many could have lived through it. Sometimes I wish I had not. But there are the children. When Kate died—that was in New South Wales , at a place called Forbes—her children were left destitute. Her husband was a blacksmith, but he was away at the time. It was more than 10 years ago that Jim one day found a telegram waiting for him at the post-office with the news that Kate had died. . . Such an awful death, too! All alone, with no one to help her when she became delirious. Oh, the poor darling! Oh, the cruelty of it.”
Sobs shook the aged woman’s meagre frame as she spoke. But there was indomitable resolution beneath that weak and wan exterior, and the mother of the outlaws forced back the welling tears and proceeded, in almost even tones:—
JOURNEY OF 800 MILES.
“We had very little money; but Jim had his waggon team, so he harnessed up his horses straight off and set out for Forbes. It was 400 miles away. He got there in six days, and was home again in another seven. He travelled 60 miles a day. And we took over the charge of those children, that’s Kate, there (indicating the eldest of the three), and she’s the image of her mother—except—well, I don’t think she’s quite as good-looking.”
Little Miss Kate blushed rosily at this and said she knew she wasn’t—that it wouldn’t have been right. She was a prepossessing little girl, her demeanor strongly characterised by that quiet self-reliance that comes so early in life to the children of the bush. But it suddenly occurred to her that she was not dressed “for company.” The surprise of the visit had put that fact back in her mind for a while. So she demurely withdrew into the neighboring apartment, and presently re-emerged with face bright and shining as soap could make it, and a fragment of ribbon round her shapely throat. She was dressed now and ready for any social emergency. And there was abundant evidence of self-consciousness of the fact.
Going back th the early history of the family, Mrs Kelly said that her husband, John Kelly, made some money on the golfields, and bought a farming property at Beveridge. In 1865 he got into trouble, and died not long afterwards. There were seven children, namely, Edward, Dan, James, Ann, Kate, Grace, and Ellen. With these Mrs Kelly took up the land at East Greta, on which the old Kelly homestead still stands. Here she and her children lived, happily enough, if roughly, till the visit of Constable Fitzpatrick.
But by this time “granny,” as the children called the old woman, was fatigued—no less with the emotions called up by her brief review of the principal incidents in her life of tribulation than with the utterance of her sad narrative. And, besides, there was an obvious though decorously concealed impatience about the younger children that suggested about the younger children that suggested the proximity of meal time. Wherefore, the rain having somewhat abated, the visitors departed on their long, wet drive back to Glenrowan, on a promise to return on the morrow with a camera and “something nice” for the little ones.
The rain kept up all night and nearly all the next day, but the promise was faithfully fulfilled. There was a flutter of red on the green background of the home paddock, a few hundred yards from the cottage, as the vehicle passed the sliprails, and at once the vehicle passed the sliprails, and at once the flutter became a streak. Miss Kate had been on the lookout, and now she was running like a deer to report the arrival. She said it was going to stop raining for a while, soon—and sure enough it did, long enough, at any rate, to secure half-a-dozen photos. There was a little delay in the accomplishment of this purpose of the visit, because the ? of the ? to certain bulky packages under the apron of the sulky, and in a minute the living-room looked like a confectionary shop. For the youngsters the occasion was beyond the power of words to do justice to. But justice was done before long, and that of a tranical kind.
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