The man explained that a ministerial party had chartered his best team to go on a tour of inspection to a mine; a brother coachman had been “stuck up” for horses, and borrowed a couple from him, whereupon he was forced to do with animals which had been turned out for a spell, and the heat and overloading accounted for a good part of the contretemps. However, we managed to catch our train, but had to rush for it without waiting for refreshments. Nice articles we looked—our hair grey with dust, and our faces grimy. The men took charge of me as carefully as though I had been specially consigned to their care. One procured my ticket, another secured me a scat, while a third took charge of my luggage; and they were just as thoughtful when we had to change trains. Off we went. Grannie had packed me quite a large box full of dainties. I produced it, the men provided drinks, and we had quite a pleasant picnic, with all the windows down to catch a little air.
I love the rush and roar of the train, and wished on this occasion that it might go on and on for over, never giving me time to think or stop. But, alas, at 1.20 we pulled up at Yarnung, where a man came inquiring for a young lady named Melvyn. My fellow passengers collected my belongings, and I got out.
“Good-bye, gentlemen; thank you very much for your kindness.”
“Good-bye, miss; you’re welcome. Some of us might meet again yet. Ta-ta!”
A shriek, a jerk, and the great train rushed on into the night, leaving me there on the insignificant little platform, feeling how lonely and unhappy, no one knew or cared.
Mr M’Swat shouldered most of my luggage, I took the remainder, and we trudged off in the dark without a word on either side. The publican had given M’Swat the key, so that we might enter without disturbing the household, and he escorted me to a bedroom, where I tumbled into bed with expedition.
It is indelibly imprinted on my memory in a manner which royal joy, fame, pleasure, and excitement beyond the dream of poets could never efface, not though I should be cursed with a life of five-score years. I will paint it truthfully—letter for letter as it was.
It was twenty-six miles from Yarnung to Barney’s Gap, as M’Swat’s place was named. He had brought a light wagonette and pair to convey me thither.
As we drove along, I quite liked my master. Of course, we were of calibre too totally unlike ever to be congenial companions, but I appreciated his sound common sense in the little matters within his range, and his bluntly straightforward, fairly good-natured, manner. He was an utterly ignorant man, with small ideas according to the sphere which he fitted, and which fitted him; but he was “a man for a’ that, an’ a’ that”.
He and my father had been boys together. Years and years ago M’Swat’s father had been blacksmith on my father’s station, and the little boys had played together, and, in spite of their then difference in station, had formed a friendship which lived and bore fruit at this hour. I wished that their youthful relations had been inimical, not friendly.