The Convict Laundress

The Convict Laundress

by Mary Theresa Vidal

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The Convict Laundress by Mary Theresa Vidal

It was a bright, clear day--how bright, how blue, and how clear, none
but those who have been out of the British isles can understand. It
was Christmas day; but instead of frost and snow, and cold, and
leafless trees, and blazing fires, there was intense heat, and the
trees looked, as they always do in Australia, a dingy blueish tint,
but still full of leaf and blossom: and here and there, where marks of
cultivation peeped through the interminable forest or bush, there were
strips of the brightest green maize, refreshing indeed to the eye, and
contrasting pleasantly with the brown grass, and the tall white trunks
of the gums. The house, or rather weather-boarded cottage, was four or
five miles from the settlement, where there was a wooden church.
Thither the family had repaired on this morning. There was but one
service, for the clergyman proceeded to another congregatation eight
miles beyond. There had been beef and plum pudding for dinner, the
government men, or convicts, partaking in the Christmas fare; and
there were thoughts of those far away, and many a lingering regret for
the old associations of the season. Yet as the evening breeze sprung
up, and stirred the gums and acacias, and breathing through the
cottage refreshingly cool, the spirits of all rose, and with one
accord they went out into the forest at the back of the house. The
merry voices were echoed round and round, and I could see the farm-
servants and working men as they strolled under the trees. Every one
being out, I went to the back, to see that all was safe. There was a
large waste piece of ground with the men's huts, the stables and barn,
and nearer the house stood the kitchens and store. Two or three dogs
lay about, the poultry were busy picking up their food, and a pet
cockatoo came jumping up to my side, begging for a bone in its
peculiarly unharmonious voice. As I stood, feeling rather lonely, I
heard a dull, melancholy noise; it came from the kitchen. I thought
every one had been out: I listened again. Yes, it was from the
kitchen, and it was certainly some one in grief: heavy sobs and a low
moaning formed a strange contrast to the distant sounds of mirth and

On approaching the kitchen I found one of the servants, a convict,
leaning on the table--a solitary, heart-broken creature! Hour after
hour, day after day, did that woman work, and often till late at
night, and never was there more faithful or more devoted service than
hers. Was there a trouble, or an ailment, or an extra job, it was, 'Go
to Grace Allen.' Did the children want a string, or a stick, or a
cake, or a kind word--Grace was there. Early and late she was at her
washing-tub, or bestowing dainty care on all the old clothes that came
from England, because she said she knew 'the Missis set more value on
them than on any thing new.' There was the poultry which throve doubly
after they were given into her charge. Early in the morning, with
light and gentle step, did she stand with a cup of coffee, made with
the utmost care, because she knew 'the Missis was used to it at home.'
Late at night she was there to see if all was right; and after an
absence from home, Grace was sure to be the first to spy the horses,
and to fly to the slip-rail with 'You're kindly welcome back, your
reverence; you're kindly welcome home, ma'am, and the children are
well, the jewels!'

Slight of figure and of graceful form was Grace, and there was every
mark to show how pretty she once had been. There was a refined and
graceful turn in every feature and limb; but she was no longer young,
her hair was growing grey, her eyes were hollow, and her cheeks
sunken; and now, as she raised her pale face on hearing steps, what a
withered, crushed expression was there! She had been glad to let them
all go out, and leave her to weep alone. Nor was it only the thoughts
of her kindred, her children, her old home, which oppressed her heart;
Grace was under a deadly bondage, worse than that of being a convict;

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013740716
Publisher: WDS Publishing
Publication date: 01/09/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 21 KB

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