(Start with Part 1)
After having battled her own way through the world ever since she could remember, having a home of her own and someone to look after her was as near to heaven as Ellie ever expected to get. So long as Sam was about the place she was quite happy, and busied herself round the house andgarden, and spent hours cooking little dainty dishes for Sam, and was well repaid for her trouble by his quiet appreciation and his humble adoration of herself. Unfortunately, though, Sam had to spend most of his days working out on the run, fencing, ring barking, and all the other jobs of an almost unimproved sheep selection, not allowing him much leisure, and now that he had Ellie he was so feverishly anxious to “make a do” of his venture that she was left very much alone. City born and bred, she had scarcely ever been further than a threepenny tram would take her from the heart of civilisation till she was married, and now the silence and the immensity of the bush overawed her, and made her feel an alien and an interloper. And the snakes … The first one she had seen was a few days after her homecoming. Sam had killed it, quite casually, with a stick, just near the front steps, and she had sat fascinated, and watched the great shining, brown creature twist and writhe, till Sam had taken it away and burned it. It haunted her dreams for nights, but the weather was cool, and she had not seen another for some time. As the summer came, and they re-appeared, she went in such constant dread of them that finally Sam gave her a small automatic pistol, and tried to teach her to use it, thinking that confidence in herself might help to dispel her fears. He tried also to get her to ride a quiet old horse but Ellie used to get nearly sick with terror.
“He’s so big, Sam, he could do anything he wanted to with me.”
“But he won’t, Ellie. Look at Mrs. Rawson; she’s only a little bit of a thing, and she rides a much bigger horse than Bob, and she shoots, and everything.”
“Yes, but she’s a bushwoman.”
“And so will you be one of these days, Ellie; you’ll learn yet,” said Sam in his quiet, patient, old way.
But some months had passed now, and Ellie still felt as alien as ever. Suddenly she started from her chair; surely that was a car crossing the creek. Cars were a rarity, so she rushed to the window, and looked out. Sure enough, there it was, just coming across the flat. She waited to see if it was going straight along the main road, but it pulled up at the gate, and turned up the hill to the house. Ellie couldn’t help looking at it, a smart little single-seater, blue, her favourite colour; somehow it looked so civilised and comprehensible, not big, and vague, and silent, like the bush. The driver stepped out of the car, and Ellie’s heart stopped, and then did a nose-dive, finishing with a horrible bump, for the man pushing open the gate was Mr. Claude Myers. Sleek, self-assertive, and crooked, Ellie had known him in the old days. He walked jauntily up to the steps, and raised his hat, as he always did to the ladies, in his very best manner, and was about to make a conventional greeting, when he recognised Ellie.
“Well! Of all the wonders! Am I seeing ghosts, or is it really Ellie?”
“It’s really Ellie, Claude, but what are you doing here?”
“The insurance business takes me to all the God-forsaken holes in the country, Ellie, but I think I might ask you the same thing.”
“Oh, I’m married, Claude. I’ve been living here eight months now.”
“You? In this place? You’re too pretty to be stuck out here, Ellie, you’re wasted!”
“Sam – my husband – doesn’t think so, anyway. Would you care for a cup of tea?”
“Thanks, Ellie, that’s a good idea, and, I say, what about a kiss?”
(Continued in The Bushwoman — Part 3)