SHEPHERD JOCK'S VISION.
A CHRIST MAS STORY,
|i;y k. m. ihii'ki.k.i
Written for the Star Christmas Supplement. TAUT I.
" Unto v^ a Cnibii is Boun !"
It was Christmas Eve, and the hour was far advanced. The daylight had not long departed, however, and its lingering stops might still be traced in faint gleams in the eastern sky. The long, garish bonis of heat ami sunshine had given place, at last, fo the cool antl restful darkness of night. All men, all beasts, all plants wero lifting their weary heads to the cool night breeze, and rejoicing in the universal .-bade. The load bleating of a Ihousan.l sheen filled the air, as they' followed one upon another iv long lines, climbing (he narrow inouiifaiu tracks to seek tb.- highest summit, for tie ir resting-place. Near midnight, in New Zealand, the Southern Cross soinl dialing overhead in the empyreal blue. Jock, the sh.-pherd, \v,:: .Tiled, dull' in ovcilooking tho couitlry far and near! Keiicath bis reel iho land stretched away in dusky Hats, slill did inguishnblc in the vanishing twilight, far oil' la', a lake in which Jhe stars w. re rellccled. Wooded Mauds were visibl . rising like "h..-11, .-i,apes from the Ik. o.ii ol Ihe lake 1..-; rani, the c try -loped upwards lo a low i:iri"e ~. hills. Such wif thosecuc, dimly mapped ,1 ick was wrapped 1 dilation, licdlc of iho bleating sheep, I lie failing light, atr'l dimming huidsr-ap • Mi- rugged I'nc- u.-rs tb.ul in though! end hi keen ■•Toy eyes immovably directed to lire .-•imlhern horizon. The she] rd'seeiid.-i, ,:,.-,- tin r..i. dib hewn, us some "I'm.ir.- i- - i on th, ' p hillside, lb- was .-rill young, ollhoiigh his locks were sprinkled will, grey aud bis lealurc. won. by I .11 end ■ \po.-nie, lb: was „t abnosl ,- i - -.-. r• f I«. -; .lure, - I l.ibrawny arms i .. : rcul brown bare p..1 . lie was a mail of liltlc iiiiuginal ion. I.,,'ii day hiMii.hl lo him il.- noon i,.i i toil marked out I .dure him. To ii- bed,re daybreak, lo puirul., ~i a gr.,a, m.-.d of oarse viands-cuuke. Iby his own bend-, un loose bis dogs, and calling them In lit.J, set forth lo walk Ihe boundary, pipe in mouth : to tend, or drive, or clip, according tothe season, returning laleal nigh! i ■ Ihe cabin he called his hiuii..--eou. .ituled hidaily routine. 11l- sleep v.'as li avy, hiappetite unfailing, bis language concise and clear, to the point, and' garnished with rough ligure. ol speech. Only Due ineitleiil worthy the rem, inbriuieo had marked the career of J.,ok. the shepherd, and upon this incident his mind mils fixed Ibis Chrislmas Kve. Thai very night, one year before, Jock hail brought a young wife to share bis cabin home. The shepherd would have found ir dillietill loaecuunl for Ihi- circum ..-in<_:. Me had "picked up Nan.",. lie had been "awn' down Soul!, ' fur a -ca.-on in Ihe shearing time. Nancy was housemaid al the Kivelhead House. She was pretty, and gay, and wry young. She wore pink she"hail sel at Jock, the shepherd. and' pretty girl si 1.1 have 1.-.n','ied'.!..,•!.! with hi- .solemn lace and gri/'ling In ad. I'eiieip- the fair Nancy entered upon the game, which ended for'her so soriou.-U, in some merry j< -I. I'mhaps she wished In pi.p.e -nine younger lover. Perhaps sonic false e-tiuiate ol .lock.- possession.- had acted as a hue. Who can account lortiV freaks of marriage among either gentle or .simple . Nancy's relation- li v. d awuv in a remote seaside village, and heard null,ing .■' the matter until she was already Mrs Jock. The shepherd led his young wife homeward on Christmas 'Kve. She rode beside him by the long tracks worn by bullock drays, and the shepherd wageiitle with bis unusual charge. Hut he did not continue genlle. Storms arose'aud shook that new household to its very foundation. Nancy was negligent, giddy, foolish, and tormenting, the shop herd stern and unyielding. Then Nancy became fretful, peevish, and mole negli gent, alid the shepherd became more gi'titl and stern with each succeeding day. lire three months were over they led a eat and-tlog life. All iho shepherd's peace was gone. Jealousies, cross words, angry speeches, even thr. atoned blows, succeeded, and ere many mouths were over Nancy bad lied. Fled—none knew whither; the shepherd never inquired, lie went back to his bachelor life with apparent contentment : lived with his tlogs and sheep and pipe for company, and appeared to have forgotten tho interruption that had occurred in his habits. To-night it was present with him. Perhaps it was the anniversary -Christmas Eve. He had heard the old, old story in his childhood at the church in the Scotch village of his infancy--" I'eace on earth, goodwill to men !" Little had I'eace adorned his dwelling during those brief months of married life. He hadeften heard tell of women's tongues, and experience bad taught him that where a woman entered, peace Hew out of tinwin.'low. Perhaps he had been hard upon her. His own tongue was sharp too when be was aroused." How pretty she hud looked that night as she .-toed r.\u:\ the threshold of her new homo ! Her tongue had not been sharp then, but a merry laugh had issued from hcrlipsi. she contemplated his rough abode. Maybe he should have spruced the place up a'bit and made things tine for a young wife, but in his opinion it was her business to put a place to rights. She was a vixen, and no mistake.
Darkness deepened round the shepherd, and gentle shadowy touches dimmed ihe landscape, obliterating With gradual lingers the out linesof the hills and lake. The odours of the balmy night, the gentle bleating of contented sheep, some unusual stillness in the air, exerted a peculiar influence over his rough, untutored mind. lie could not wrench his thoughts away from his last Christmas Eve.
"Woman," whispered his fancy, "was a queer creature, weak and foolish ; vixenish, maybe, and given to humours, Ah, weel, but Nancy was a winsome lass as he had seen her first. Ci'n she had been a better housewife and kept a civil tongue in hothead, he would have been glad the lass hud Btayoi. The old place looked dull eno' by times. But clatter, clatter, clatter, talk, talk, talk ; a man could'na stall' it." He wondered all the same where the wilful lassie had found a home.
Doubtless she had gone back to the old farmhouse, or maybe to tho aged parents of whom he had heard her toll, lie had never inquired anything about her, and no one had dared to mention her name to Jock since it became known that his saucy wife was gone.
Suddenly to the southward, over the lake, a gleam of golden light shot upwards in the sky. 11 might bo summer lightning. The shepherd moved his position slightly, resting bis chin upon his two hands clasped upon his stall', and watched. Again lire golden gleam, and now a rosy light, suffused the .southern sky, spreading upwards from the horizon. The lake was now distinctly visible. Tree-crowned islets appeared distinctly, cut dark upon the surface. The waters of tho lake took on a roseate hue, and danced and glanced beneath tbe strange, weird sky.
The light failed suddenly, and all was darkness—blacker for the late radiancy. The shepherd never moved, but still intently gazed. Again ! Again gleams shot across the sky,' and the roseate Hush spread from south to cast. No lightning ever so luminous, so radiant, The southern stars were paled ; the heavens above, the earth below, were mingled in one glorious panoply. The lirinaiiieiit, Hooincd on lire. Darts of gold, ■■]-. in, vcllow, and crimson shot upwards, mot, and dissolved in streams of brilliancy. The landscape glowed with magical light. I.yon the shepherd's rugged, up-liii-iud f. aluv.-, were lunched with an un- ' IlisVu ed 'soul was in..veil within him. Nee.-'i I,:. Ihe wit licsseil a speelacle so ..-raiitl. For him, it seemt-d, was (his »-:..ri.ni:t |.aiioraina : plead. Ah.lie here on lie-in i[.-iiu side, scarce a living liuiiiaii ..,,„! I'ov 1,-agu. -■ around, he fancied himself ihe -'till." spot tutor ..I the splendid trullsformal inn scene ; the only witness of tin's luni in N..i err' ..raiitl k.-ileitluscopu. Sonic supcn-tilions linked deep iv Jock, ' ;ie. slu-pliei'trs, soul. Once he arose in a !cn-<i!--slri..-i:i v fancy (led the Judgment I. -1 v lead "..lie. 'almo.-l uxpool ing to li.'iir tin- lasl trump peal from oul Iho M.leudt.iir. As ihe ray .till silently i„,l adti, ihe sky, and tliele b.-imii,: abating..!' I'm- luminous display -no liurmi'iil re. nil I'i'oiir I hose darts nf llamo he •,-iiik li.e.tn again, rleleniiinirig, in his ,!,, ...,| ~i",lr!i I'a; liitui, to .■■■■■ Ihe mallei' out, a...i I hi- .-ilenl v.al.-lr. \nt| ..,.;•. nei'., - his in. iii.m llicro llitted .;!e.iin .c light r....-iu..ri.-.- of' tales learned Uliai' ..'..''lire lulolhcy Ifld'. U'hul bells e.ui Hie c bc...an.liri.i in his ears? Never this wild u'deii. No bell", save a cow bell, ever sounded here. Can il be that the ,„.,..ic utniusphcle of Christmas Kve has tern, .1 ii, ■ eov.-l.cli.' " tinkle loa chime?" .\,,.| iciv, Ihe , ..I I'll.-, a' ions in Ihe sky increase a thousandfold. The luminous darts .-1., in ineeHiig at one point. They take -ha.re and f .nil. lie ,-ct san angelic ihi'.mg li.ii.-tin..; i...in Iheliighesl Heaven. The ".hi.:, ge.ee are Miieiv opened. No liditbul the angelic or Divine could shine m? bright. He i- on the mountain side near I .thelei.i. On him gleam lights as on Ihe shepherds of old lime; to him come voices a- to the watchers of old. Voices ring out upon the midnight air from the midst of the luminous splendour, " I'ido us a child is born ! Unto us a son is given ! I'eace on earth! Cnodv.ill to men I" Me heard it. He nibbed his eves ami looked again, lie rose antl ga.eil I .wards the vision. Still ti„ re. Again the splendour Hashed into Iho sky. Again the heaven, opened. Again the angelic voices rang oul upon the air, " Ci.l.i us a child is burn! I'eace on oirth ! Coodwill to mon 1" One la : brilliant (la. .1 revealing the lake, ih. .haiowv islets, and all the glorified landscape. The lights were withdrawn: und'.d.y. The curtain had fallen". The '' Th. pluj over] the shepherd left his box and disc n(ie.l I'rt.iii In- rocky eminence. lie-ii.,-, which had never left his side, and bad em.d to share in his emotions, raising his ~y..-„ intpiiringh to his master's face, crouching in alarm at his |__l and whining pitifully from time to time, wagged his iniluml bounded joyfully forward as Jock took hi.- homeward way. "Did ye ever see the like o' that, noo, Jamie?" 'said the shepherd, as his eye fell upon the dog. Jamie seemed to answer " Never"' ns he rubbed himself against his master . leg, uttering a low bark of intelligence. The shepherds rude abode wi,s situated some two miles from the spot on which we have seen him first, lie walked briskly thitherward, now and then muttering to hiin.-eli or rubbing his horny hand over his hair and eyes, lie muttered the words of hi- vision, which seemed to have gathered a new meaning from the reality of his strange imaginings. The vision still swam before his eves ; tho old winds s 0 often heard, so long'forgotten, echoed in his brain with a prophetic insistancc. The hut which Jock inhabited consisted merely of two low rooms, with one little window cut in either. A wide door opened into the one, which served as kitchen, eating, and living room. In the other were certain relics of Jock's brief married life : an attempt at feminine adornment was still visible in the tattered window curtains, chintz-covered chair, ami patch-work quilt. All were dirty, torn, and faded ; however, no attempt to wash'or to replace had ever been mado since the disappearance of the mistress of the abode. Jock himself never slept in that room, although he sum,limes housed a passing stranger there. Ho rolled himself up in a blanket, and tumbled into a narrow bunk in the kitchen.
The night hail changed in some slight measure. A chillier air had set in from the south, and the shepherd shivered slightly a- be left a valley and climbed the slope
li__un_; iv lii- home, which was concealed from the approaching eve by a scanty boscage on the eiest, of the hill. The bouse was
generally wrapped in total darkness until the .owner struck a match on his entrance. 11. was many a day since any friendly light had gleamed from the littlo window to tell the shepherd that he was expected home. Now, as he came in sight, to his astonishment he perceived that the house was brilliantly lighted. Candles gleamed in cither window. The door was wide open, and a Hood of light poured forth into the surrounding darkness. A bright lire burned on the open hearth. On the floor before tho lire, wonder of wonders, a naked babe, warm and rosy from the bath, lay steaming on a blanket, stretching its pink toes and tiny fingers to the delicious blaze. The baby crowed aloud as it watched the dancing flames. Jock, the shepherd, hastened forward, but stood dumbfounded ,it this extraordinary sight. PART 11. "HE'LL XKV-Ut HAVE ME HACK, KOR Sl'llK'." "1 think you have been in the wrong, Nancy, indeetl I do." "Ah, thou, do you indeed, Miss Flora? Well, it's myself that's thought so time and again. But sure you don't know what it is yorself to have a cross husband. Your own good man is far from you now, but thoy say there never was such sweetheartin' as when he was by you. But if you'd ever had a man always lookin' crooked at you, saying, ' Come here' and 'go there,' and 'why do not ■ you straighten things up a bit';' and never j
a pleasant word or a smile, antl times tal-in' no more notice than if you was a woolly sheep, and a deal of his dog, why, you'd think it hard yourself. Miss Flora, and that you would." " Perhaps you wero'nt too pleasant yourself, Nancy, and certainly you did'nt havo much patience. By your own confession you only stayed three months. Why, I've often been told that married jxioplo seldom get on well together at first. They find out all each others little faults and peculiarities, and often provoke one another, until they both learn to make allowances. Certainly Ido not speak from experience, for my own dear husband and I never had any disagceomoiit, however slight. We were always happy during short time we were together." Hero Flora sighed heavily, and looked from the window wistfully towards the sea. The littlo casement was set wide Open. A gentle breeze stirred the. roses and geraniums in the bright little garden. Beyond lay a great expanse of blue sea. shining, glittering, shimmering in the sunshine, and dashing in long white rollers on Ihe beach below.
It, was tho Ist of November previous to Iho scene ol our hist chapter. Nancy was lying back iv a low chair, with a shawl wrapped round her, although the day was warm. Her (ace win pale from recent illness, but still remarkably pretty. Her glance wandered continually lo an article ol furniture near by, easily distinguishable as a cradle. Il needed no (.'real penolration lo guess thai it contained » sleeping babe, even if Ihe young mother's band bad no! nowuritl (hen reached over and turned down the pink coverlet to gaze will, ever renew.,.! interest on a tiny round brown face ami a soft littlo bend covered ivi'h llu'l'y black hair. .Nancy's companion was also young and pretty, bill her face was marked by a higher degree of cull ore, (bought 'and intelligence Her iai'ge brown eyes bad a slightly sail expression ; absent, wi.-tl'ul, deep wilb suppressed moling. Although Nancy called her Mis- flora, il was plain that 'she owned n more matronly title. There was a wedding-ring on ln.-r_n.-l bare band. Sl„- bad a habi'l ol tv.i-iing and playing with it, as her eyes had n habit of wandering wi-itullv towards tlit; -, a. Klein I'rlzroe was a sailor's wife Three years before ■■!,..■ had married the lieuietianl ol tire lioooverv against the advice and wishes of ail her friends. Harry l-'itzruv was as gay iim | ~„,.. less ' a young ..ilr.r :•- ev.-r .ailed tho sea. 'lie and pretty flora I'erey had spent a siiiiim. r ol llirfatioii while- the Recovery was on duty, anchored in the harbour,',! a colonial tow,. Thee end been dances, picnics, summer days --I j.<_-_.■ lin the bush, riding parties, walking parties, and the upshot of all had been an engagement. Kings and vows „,..,-<; exchanged. A few short months followed, in whi>-h each made the other's joy. and there v.-.:- no cloud to mar their sky, Al last a cloud came; a thunderbolt 'fell. The- Recovery was ordered to a distant station, to a station where'it was impossible for an English latly to reside. The future lay shrouded in much uncertainty before the lover*. The thought of parting was unbearable, -till more the uncertainly as to when, win : •■, oi how they might meet again. I.xperionee, observation, knowledge of the ways of the world, all suggested that lovers, once part oil by the long sea-, too often never again como together. Tlh-v determine to make thing but tbctiealh ~i either could sever. As husband aud wife, only time and the sea could part them. Cue line day th y went, to church and were married. Their friends were indignant, bill Hurry gt.l three mouths'leave<d absence and Ihe lover- v..:ie happy, it, was a .-horn married lit", a brief pio'pululi.n for years of parting :it was over to.. . .iu:i. The liecareer. Three mouth, afterwards, Harry Fitzroy packed up, -aid govd-bye l.j bis young wile, and sel i •'. lo join Lis -hip at iier distant station. Flora's friends were so fat reconciled that they wished her to live with them. They bad" not objected to the man but to the match, advising waiting until Harry ha<l command of a ship. She went home to live with her parents until the joyful day of his return, with some delinite plans for their future. Harry was a good correspondent and wrote regularly to his wife, sent her remittances to Ihe utmost of his resources, and cheered her soul with hopes of a speedy meeting. Nevertheless, the months seemed endless to the wife at home. The months grew to a year, then dragged slowly on towards the close of another. The young lieutenant's prospects grew no brighter. His letters became shorter, and were slightly despondent in tone. Then they ceased, and for live long months no letter came. Flora occupied her mind as best she could. She attended to the duties of a daughter in her parents' home, and visited the people round, but her heart was very heavy. Neither was she free from occasional taunts from those " I told you so's " that add a sting to disappointed hopes. Her happiest hours were spent in the cottages of the poor.
Nancys parents were honest Irish people, who occupied a small lot near the sea-side village where the I'ercics dwelt during tho greater portion of the year. Thoy kept the proverbial horse, pig, ami cow, and with fowls and pot-tees picked up a living in a truly Irish fashion. Nancy hail often been in the employ of the I'ercies from a child, and "Miss Flora" had often been alternately her friend and mistress. About the time of Flora's marriage Nancy had insisted on taking a situation on a distant farm. She wanted a change and to see other parts. Her change resulted in her curious match, ami her wilful disposition bad brought her again beneath hor parents' lowly roof.
Such was the position of these two young women,
" Yes, you ai-_ wrong, Nancy," repeated Flora, .sadly. " You should have had more patience, and tried to please. A woman's proper place is with her husband. You must once have liketl the man, or you should not have married him."
" Ah, for the matter of that, then, Miss Flora, Shepherd Jock is a fine upstanding man as ever I saw, and he was civil enough when he was courtin'. All the other girls said Shepherd Jock was never known to be civil to a woman before, he was that shy like. It was flatterin' to any girl you see, Miss, and sure 1 did like him well enough. It was when he got me home he was so contrary like —and that jealous "
"Perhaps if he saw the baby it would please him, and he would be more kind and patient. Take my adyice Nancy; take your baby and go back to him. Someday you will be very sorry if you do not. " I've half a mind to that same myself, >but I'm feared he'll be so morful angry with me for going away. He'_ never liave mo back for sure."
" \ou can but try. You ought never to have come away. If he won't forgive you, you can come back again." " Is that yourself that's advisin' Nancy to go back to her man, Miss Flora?" saiclan old woman, entering the room leaning on her stick. "'Deed, then, you're right. Many the time 1 longed to tell her the same thing, and more'n ever since the spalpeen
came." And the grandmother bent over tho cradle as she spoke, regarding the infant with affection and pride. "Dearly I love tcf have her to home with her old tladdy and mo, but it's a poor thing for a young woman to live away from her husband." The saucy queen oughtn't never to have married the man if she didn't mean to stick to him, and it's myself that often thinks he can't bo so bad after all. It's ' very handsome gounds he's given her by times, enough to please any woman ; and the neighbours' tongues is sharp enough, the Lord knows." "Don't you talk, mammy," ejaculated Nancy ; but thero were tears in her eyes which did not escape Flora's observation. She changed the conversation, leaving the advice givon to sink into Nancy's mind, antl grow there. Presently tho old woman rose antl left the room. " What about your own young man, Miss Flora ? " said Nancy, softly. " Sure I don't like to sco you so pale antl thin like. You're white as any lily, and I'm afraid its fretting. Do you not hear of his coming back to you one of these days ?" "I diil hope," said Flora; antl now it was on her eyelashes that tho dew gathered swiftly. " I ditJ hope he would have been with me ere this, but I havo not heard from him for such a long time. Nancy, I grow very weary waiting for him. Sometime* I fear he may never return, and now I dread that sonic harm may have come to him. Surely he would write to me if he were living still. He may be drowned as I nightly dream. Tbe cruel sea may have swallowed him, and 1 shall never see . him more." Antl now a white handkerchief had been drawn forth and llutteied a sure signal of distress. " Don't take on now, Miss Flora; don't now," said Nancy, with much feeling, wijiing her own eyes. "Maybe he'll be here before Christmas. .Maybe his silence is just a sign that he's comin' home to you. 'Deed an' you make me cjuite ashamed of myself that hail a husband handy and didn't, stick to him. 1 believe I'll go back to Jock myself and ask him to forgive me anil have me hack, for a bad wife I've been iv leaving PART 111. "it is NorniNt; i;i;t the ' uoKY .tkalv'! " Tin: day before Christmas in a colonial town is frequently marked by a blazing sky, by white roads, and streets dazzling in the glare, water-carts passing on their dripping way, drays and carts laden with greenery passing along. From all sides people and animals are travelling towards the town from early dawn. The hotels are rife with humanity of the most mixed and doubtful description. To-morrow and next day they will be comparatively deserted. To-morrow hotels will be closed, the better j,.at of the population will be in the churches, a large proportion attending Nature's purest shrines, in green forest and mossy dell ; or from the rivers gazing upwards at a clear sky, seen through evergreen tracery. On the following day the stream of human beings will turn towards the Racecourse. Boxing Day will see the hotels in town deserted until the evening. Yes, the day before Christmas is the day to witness a crowded town, where the people are assembling for good or ill. Among the stream of horses, carts, and drays travelling citywards, there was one bullock cart at oarly dawn that Christmas Eve wending its slow way from, not into, the town. Passing the conveyances laden with green ferns and trees, the driver of this dray shouted a "Cood morning" and a " Merry Christmas " heartily. He seemed a well-known character, and drivers of the incoming carts several times threw him it branch of green karaka or a bunch of scarlet rata, the Christmas iiower of the New X.inlander, wherewith to dock his dray. These he passed to a yumig woman seated therein, with a child' in her anus. She was young, pretty, and gay. She twined the rata in her hat, decorated the baby with ir, and stuck it in the old wideawake of her conductor. Laughing merrily, aud talking to the baby, which she held up in her arms, bidding it notice the nodding green plume-and prancing horses,she passed along the loads. The baby was too young to notice much, but was a line, strapping chilil of its age. It blinked its eyes in the sun, and kicked in its mother's arms until she quieted it to sleep. The driver, the woman, and the child seemed a happy family party going to spend Christinas with some country friends. It Mas not. so, however. The woman was Ni-ncy, the wilful wife of Jock, the shepherd ; the child was his, although he knew it not, and tbe driver and dray were in tho employ of Messrs Allen, the owners of the Hullabaloo Station, and the employers of the trustworthy and steady Scotchman Jock.
Nancy had chanced to find the dray in town, and taking the opportunity, was now on her way to the home she had entered as a bride a year before. Her own home was far away. She had travelled to town by coach, and horse, and dray. Arrived there, she was fortunate in meeting with no long delay, but was enabled immediately to proceed by the conveyance owned by her husband's employers, the driver of which was well-known to her.
She was in the highest possible spirits. It was her nature to be so. No fears of her reception daunted her. She laughed and sang, played with the child, and chatted with the driver, asking all the news since she left, as though her conduct had been irreproachable. When midday arrived she chose the prettiest spot to rest, brought out the lunch she had provided, and insisted on sharing it with the drayman. There were mince pies, cake, sandwiches, and hardboiled oggs. John MeCilpin had not enjoyed a meal so much for many a day. Mrs Jock helped him to unyoke the bullocks, which she insisted should have an hour of freedom. When that time had expired she helped him to yoke up again. She gathered fresh greenery to decorate the bullocks and the dray, and arranged an enormous bouquet of scarlet rata gathered from the bush, as a Christmas gift for Jock.
Before the day was half over she had confided fully in John McGilpin. She told how she was more than afraid ho had not been a good wife to Shepherd Jock, but was resolved to do better now. She had learned better since she had had a baby. Miss Flora had talked to her about it and told her to go back again, bring her baby, and ask Jock to forgive her. John McGilpin didn't know Miss Flora. She was the sweetest, kindest, darlingest young lady in all this world; she had her own troubles too. Nancy was afraid Jock would never forgive her and take her back again. Never mind, if he was obstinate, John McGilpin must take her right back to town without delay. It wouldn't be her fault, anyway. She would have done her best to make it up.
As afternoon went on, the country became more and more wild and uncultured. The dray .moved onward slowly, making a gay spot in the landscape with its green and scarlet decorations. They moved alongsteep hill sides, where the dray sometimes seemed almost tipping over on the slanting road, and N_icy screamed and begged to be allowed to walk. They dragged on through a dense forest by a road so broken that the rough conveyance jolted terribly, and awoke the infant from its slumbers. Evening found them rising gradually to the sloping downs, over which a portion of the Hullabaloo Station extended.
The night air grew sliouT" ."~~5! Nancy wrapped herself S\% and shawls she had provided She' c™d in, silent and thoughtful as the C,-!. ever rehearsing in her thoimffi dva nce<L interview with her husband n. ecoinin. they travelled slowly along -»• . ground, they saw a gorgeo_« 1 "^ing Lights shot up into the S? '/**«!le, mingled in a glorious pageantry jft ■* shooting, dancing, falling, «„H_**», played upon tho southern honW^t the Aurora Australis. It fiiy v' « Wa. no terror, for she had seen ____? wi& before ; but she loved it as Wm it seemed to her a welcome home Vfor had so glorious a panorama _a_. ' ."ov' . her sight. The last aurora XkV** nessed was poor in comparison Tk ~wit' gleamed all around them as thev u ght« on, and fell upon the conntenanw. 71 '.- sleeping babe. The very hX?_?*» on fire. -fMMliied
In such a gleaming, shbin ' brightening, they reached the <,kg \ ani* home. It was dark, dlent 6 S.^ sorted. Nancy's spirits were QuSi de" thei moment, but they soon t'ose^^ bade the drayman set her down r_,i he the unlocked door. It took ff short time to find lights, to g_t„fi- a ! etY and boil a kettle. She flew round r £esetting things to rights. ThenZ& tub, gave hei baby a wana & d. spreading out a rug she had with h_ i laid the steaming infant upon it, !ffi *6 bustled round. This w as ttefl2l_t a liked. It cooed and glowed Xt_. pink toe, and tiny hands to iff®!** the lire. The cottage was S„1 lighted. Fire-light streamed f 72 windows ami doors, the kettle raw- ;? c brtby.a'owed ! andMi'sJo=kke at.i h e e t spirits with a song. ' ** act Shepherd Jock came up to the. door \) hat he saw we know fce_h _■*__ u£ vision he had seen, dazed with the m, unwonted light, bewildered, st_ nned T m.-.dehisway into the room, and beheld--
Nancy dew to him and fell upon hi. neck and wepe. 1 here were explanation, scarcely questions, for Jor.k could find breath to ask none. All he could contrive to say was "Bless me, Nancy lass t." seen a vision The angel of the Lo rd himself came to mo this night in flamintr lire. I heard the words as plain as I see ye now sn.giir, singin' ' Unto us a child 18 b° .'-,• f1!':' the,e rt '?■ t'e Lord he1p,_,,... " \\ hat did ye see, Jock?"
"I see the heavens opened and the golden gates all wide, and the Lord himsel shinin and singin' and showin' all the glory to the Shepherd Jock 1"
Nancy burst into a roar of laughter, " Bless ye, Jock, you're dreamiu', nothins but dreamin'. It was the 'Kory 'Stialy Nothing more. Did'nt ye never see it before, Jock, my man? Why, when I was housemaid down to the Rcinga, we saw a beautiful one. MaryMcCallum, she wasso frightened sho ran and put on her Sunday clothes, thinkin'it was the Judgment Day and she'd meet the Lord in her best. But it weren't, nnd iinely she got laughed at for her pains.
' " Blest If 1 don't think your just as silly. Shepherd, Jock." "•
" Say what .you please, Nancy, say what you please. It's my belief that the Lord .-cut ye. I heard the words I tell ye; I heard tho words as plain as I hear ye now: ' Unto us a child is born ! Unto us a child is born !' Singing out of the glory. And there it is -. all just as the Lord Himself informed me."
Nancy ami Jock lived happy ever after. He forgave her freely for her faults and (light, and received hot to his home again, being fully convinced that the Lord had sent her. She had learned steadiness and domesticity; he had learned patience arid consideration. They became a happy couple, and lived to a green oltl age. She was always convinced that she owed her prompt forgiveness and welcome to the "Kory 'St'.uly," and the recurrence of the phenomenon was ever a festival in tho family of the " Shepherd Jock."
Our story would not he complete without the record of a scene which tuok place elsewhere on that very Christmas Eve.
Alice Fitzroy had been strolling late in the garden, watching the flashing lights of the aurora. Her heart was heavy, for in the midst of the Christmas cheer within, her own desolation seemed more marked.
She could hear the dashing of the surf upon the shore. The sound seemed the only link between herself and her young husband, and she listened wearily to the recurrent roar. The balconies above and beyond were filled with gaily-dressed, light-hearted revellers, come out to watch the unusual display in the heavens. She could hear gay voices and light laughter streaming across the garden, above the washing of the tide. Her young sisters were there with their lovers, and her own lot seemed lonelier by contrast.
Presently the garden gate swung open. A figure advanced towards her. A brilliant Hash of light revealed the face. A wellknown voice made conviction certainty. A moment more and Alice was in her husband's arms. He.had come, true to his word, ere Christmas Day. The flashing lights and golden darts had brought him. He had come in splendour. Hope shone all around. His prospects wero now secure. All uncertainty was over. He was already Captain Fitzroy, as he soon whispered to his wife, and proved by documents in his pockets. All had ended in joy, and we may be sure that Alice, after all, spent a happy Christmas Eve. May our readers pass as happy a Christmas Day and New Year as all the characters in this brief story, which is not without its basis of truth.
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