by Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) writing as Mrs Arthur Davitt
An extract from the first chapter of Ellen Davitt’s novel, Force and fraud, which appeared in The Australian journal in 1865.
FORCE AND FRAUD; A TALE OF THE BUSH. BY MRS. ARTHUR DAVITT. Author of ” Edith Travers,” &c., &c.
[from] CHAPTER I.
“Take care, master, or you’ll fall into the creek; those old boughs are not always to be trusted,” said a labourer to a young man who, to aid himself in climbing a steep bank, caught at the branches of a tree; and the speaker to illustrate his remark, uprooted another at a little distance. “Thank you, my friend, for your advice; but I shall go no farther at present,” replied the traveller, seating himself among the brushwood.
“These old sticks are of no good but to make fires,” continued the first speaker, disdainfully kicking away the uprooted tree.
“Leave it where it is, if you please; it is just what I want,” said Herbert Lindsey (for such was the name of the traveller).
The labourer obeyed, but he looked inquisitively into the face of the stranger, who, as he thought, must have a peculiar taste if he cared anything about a decayed tree.
It was a pleasant face to look at, as the features, if not strictly classical were remarkably good; a cheerful smile rested on the handsome mouth, and an expression of high intellect lighted up the dark grey eyes. This latter characteristic might have escaped the observation of Harry Saunders, for his pursuits had never led him to the study of physiognomy, but when the stranger threw aside the large felt hat which had hitherto covered his noble forehead, the labourer was instantly attracted by an expression of goodness and candour: qualities which are equally appreciated by the unlettered and the refined.
Whether from some sudden feeling of sympathy, or from a desire to gratify his own curiosity, Saunders lingered about the spot, although he was evidently neglecting his duty – that of driving home a herd of cattle; and, when asked if he would be so good as to remain a few minutes longer, he cheerfully replied, “Glad to serve you any way, master!”
“Thank you; then just stand as you are. Aye, that’s right. Look me full in the face.”
“Why, it’s taking my picture you are!” exclaimed Saunders, in surprise, as the stranger rapidly sketched the well-formed figure of his companion.
“Exactly; but don’t stand so stiffly – you were better before.”
“Ah! but I don’t know how to look; I never had my picture made.”
“Well, then, try to root up another tree; that old red gum by your side.”
“That fellow’s too strong. He won’t be pulled up this many a year.”
“Never mind, suppose you try.”
Harry Saunders laughed and pulled away with all his force; but the tree resisted his efforts, and then Herbert Lindsey laughed too, – he had obtained what he wanted – a fine spirited sketch, as the exertion required threw the figure of his companion into an attitude expressive of great vigour.
“Now come and drink a glass of wine,” said the artist, as, his sketch being completed, he drew a bottle out of a small knapsack. Saunders drank off the wine, and then looking at his own portrait, exclaimed, “Dashed if I don’t think it’s like me! And you made it without putting my head into a frame, as the photograph-man does! I never could put up with that sort of thing-hang it!”
“Yes; you see I did not want the frame.”
“But it’s so natural like; just as a man does pull up a tree.”
“There’s nothing like nature. Now, I’m going to draw that cow, and I don’t suppose she would relish the frame more than you do.”
Saunders laughed again, but he seemed rather solicitous respecting the manner in which the cow should be permitted to gaze, as he twisted her about in a way neither to her satisfaction nor that of the artist. Nevertheless, the new friends soon understood each other very well; and Saunders admitted he had often thought that the bit of country just there would make a first-rate picture, particularly when the hills looked purple, and the sun shone on the water as it did then. Saunders was an artist at heart, though his occupation was that of a day-labourer. At length, after another glance at the sketch, he remarked, “That he liked coloured pictures best.”
“You shall see this coloured, if you can wait long enough,” replied the artist.
Saunders expressed his desire to witness the process, and Mr. Lindsey, opening his case of water-colours, laid his camel-hair pencils in order, and prepared to moisten the paper with a sponge. Saunders, who was watching these preliminaries with eager curiosity, perceived that the stranger suddenly turned very pale, exclaiming, as if to himself, “How careless!”
Lindsay plunged the sponge into the creek, but on wringing it great heavy drops of blood trickled into the stream; it was rinced [sic] again and again, and Mr. Lindsey, at length satisfied that it was fit for use, applied it to the drawing-paper.
The natural colour had now returned, and his hand did not appear to tremble when set to work on his sketch. But Saunders, who was an acute observer, noticed that he had previously drank off another glass of wine. Perhaps the colouring of the drawing absorbed the attention of the artist, more than the outline had done, for he remained silent; and Saunders, from some cause or other, ceased to ask questions. The labourer, if he did not speak, watched the rapid movements of the skilled hand that transferred to paper the representation of the familiar scene. He admired those delicately shaped fingers, he thought the diamond ring that sparkled: on one of them very handsome, but he felt an involuntary distrust of the artist, as he saw on the wristband, which had been turned over the coat sleeve, dark red stains like those which had lately dripped from the sponge.
Text transcribed from:
Davitt, Mrs. Arthur. “FORCE AND FRAUD; A TALE OF THE BUSH.” Australian Journal, vol. I, no. 1, 2 Sept. 1865. Nineteenth Century UK Periodicals, link-gale-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/apps/doc/CC1904098757/NCUK?u=slnsw_public&sid=bookmark-NCUK&xid=4fb1b0e8. Accessed 9 Aug. 2023.
Note: the scan of the text is partly illegible and a best guess has been made in some instances. Access provided via State Library of NSW.