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The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn
by
Henry Kingsley




TO
MY FATHER AND MOTHER
THIS BOOK, THE FRUIT OF SO MANY WEARY
YEARS OF SEPARATION, IS DEDICATED WITH
THE DEEPEST LOVE AND REVERENCE




Chapter I



INTRODUCTORY.


Near the end of February 1857, I think about the 20th or so, though it
don't much matter; I only know it was near the latter end of summer,
burning hot, with the bushfires raging like volcanoes on the ranges,
and the river reduced to a slender stream of water, almost lost upon
the broad white flats of quartz shingle. It was the end of February, I
said, when Major Buckley, Captain Brentwood (formerly of the
Artillery), and I, Geoffry Hamlyn, sat together over our wine in the
veranda at Baroona, gazing sleepily on the grey plains that rolled away
east and north-east towards the sea.

We had sat silent for some time, too lazy to speak, almost to think.
The beautiful flower-garden which lay before us, sloping towards the
river, looked rather brown and sere, after the hot winds, although the
orange-trees were still green enough, and vast clusters of purple
grapes were ripening rapidly among the yellowing vine-leaves. On the
whole, however, the garden was but a poor subject of contemplation for
one who remembered it in all its full November beauty, and so my eye
travelled away to the left, to a broad paddock of yellow grass which
bounded the garden on that side, and there I watched an old horse
feeding.

A very old horse indeed, a horse which seemed to have reached the
utmost bounds of equine existence. And yet such a beautiful beast. Even
as I looked some wild young colts were let out of the stockyard, and
came galloping and whinnying towards him, and then it was a sight to
see the old fellow as he trotted towards them, with his nose in the
air, and his tail arched, throwing his legs out before him with the
ease and grace of a four-year-old, and making me regret that he wasn't
my property and ten years younger;--altogether, even then, one of the
finest horses of his class I had ever seen, and suddenly a thought came
over me, and I grew animated.

"Major Buckley," I said, "what horse is that?"

"What horse is that?" repeated the major very slowly. "Why, my good
fellow, old Widderin, to be sure."

"Bless me!" I said; "You don't mean to say that that old horse is alive
still?"

"He looks like it," said the major. "He'd carry you a mile or two,
yet."

"I thought he had died while I was in England," I said. "Ah, major,
that horse's history would be worth writing."

"If you began," answered the major, "to write the history of the horse,
you must write also the history of every body who was concerned in
those circumstances which caused Sam to take a certain famous ride upon
him. And you would find that the history of the horse would be reduced
into very small compass, and that the rest of your book would assume
proportions too vast for the human intellect to grasp."

"How so?" I said.

He entered into certain details, which I will not give. "You would
have," he said, "to begin at the end of the last century, and bring one
gradually on to the present time. Good heavens! just consider."

"I think you exaggerate," I said.

"Not at all," he answered. "You must begin the histories of the Buckley
and Thornton families in the last generation. The Brentwoods also, must
not be omitted,--why there's work for several years. What do you say,
Brentwood?"

"The work of a life-time;" said the captain.

"But suppose I were to write a simple narrative of the principal events
in the histories of the three families, which no one is more able to do
than myself, seeing that nothing important has ever happened without my
hearing of it,--how, I say, would you like that?"

"If it amused you to write it, I am sure it would amuse us to read it,"
said the major.

"But you are rather old to turn author," said Captain Brentwood;
"you'll make a failure of it; in fact, you'll never get through with
it."

I replied not, but went into my bedroom, and returning with a thick
roll of papers threw it on the floor--as on the stage the honest
notary throws down the long-lost will,--and there I stood for a
moment with my arms folded, eyeing Brentwood triumphantly.

"It is already done, captain," I said. "There it lies."

The captain lit a cigar, and said nothing; but the major said, "Good
gracious me! and when was this done?"

"Partly here, and partly in England. I propose to read it aloud to you,
if it will not bore you."

"A really excellent idea," said the major. "My dear!"--this last was
addressed to a figure which was now seen approaching us up a long vista
of trellised vines. A tall figure dressed in grey. The figure, one
could see as she came nearer, of a most beautiful old woman.

Dressed I said in grey, with a white handkerchief pinned over her grey
hair, and a light Indian shawl hanging from her shoulders. As upright
as a dart: she came towards us through the burning heat, as calmly and
majestically as if the temperature had been delightfully moderate. A
hoary old magpie accompanied her, evidently of great age, and from time
to time barked like an old bulldog, in a wheezy whisper.

"My dear," said the major; "Hamlyn is going to read aloud some
manuscript to us."

"That will be very delightful, this hot weather," said Mrs. Buckley.
"May I ask the subject, old friend?"

"I would rather you did not, my dear madam; you will soon discover, in
spite of a change of names, and perhaps somewhat of localities."

"Well, go on," said the major; and so on I went with the next chapter,
which is the first of the story.

The reader will probably ask:

"Now, who on earth is Major Buckley? and who is Captain Brentwood? and
last not least, who the Dickens are you?" If you will have patience, my
dear sir, you will find it all out in a very short time--Read on.




Chapter II



THE COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE OF JOHN THORNTON, CLERK, AND THE BIRTH OF
SOME ONE WHO TAKES RATHER A CONSPICUOUS PART IN OUR STORY.


Sometime between the years 1780 and 1790, young John Thornton, then a
Servitor at Christ Church, fell in love with pretty Jane Hickman, whose
father was a well-to-do farmer, living not far down the river from
Oxford; and shortly before he took his degree, he called formally upon
old Hickman, and asked his daughter's hand. Hickman was secretly well
pleased that his daughter should marry a scholar and a gentleman like
John Thornton, and a man too who could knock over his bird, or kill his
trout in the lasher with any one. So after some decent hesitation he
told him, that as soon as he got a living, good enough to support Jane
as she had been accustomed to live, he might take her home with a
father's blessing, and a hundred pounds to buy furniture. And you may
take my word for it, that there was not much difficulty with the young
lady, for in fact the thing had long ago been arranged between them,
and she was anxiously waiting in the passage to hear her father's
decision, all the time that John was closeted with him.

John came forth from the room well pleased and happy. And that evening
when they two were walking together in the twilight by the quiet river,
gathering cowslips and fritillaries, he told her of his good prospects,
and how a young lord, who made much of him, and treated him as a friend
and an equal, though he was but a Servitor--and was used to sit in
his room talking with him long after the quadrangle was quiet, and the
fast men had reeled off to their drunken slumbers--had only three days
before promised him a living of 300L. a-year, as soon as he should take
his priest's orders. And when they parted that night, at the old stile
in the meadow, and he saw her go gliding home like a white phantom
under the dark elms, he thought joyfully, that in two short years they
would be happily settled, never more to part in this world, in his
peaceful vicarage in Dorsetshire.

Two short years, he thought. Alas! and alas! Before two years were
gone, poor Lord Sandston was lying one foggy November morning on
Hampstead Heath, with a bullet through his heart. Shot down at the
commencement of a noble and useful career by a brainless gambler--a
man who did all things ill, save billiards and pistol-shooting; his
beauty and his strength hurried to corruption, and his wealth to the
senseless DEBAUCHEE who hounded on his murderer to insult him. But I
have heard old Thornton tell, with proud tears, how my lord, though
outraged and insulted, with no course open to him but to give the
villain the power of taking his life, still fired in the air, and went
down to the vault of his forefathers without the guilt of blood upon
his soul.

So died Lord Sandston, and with him all John's hopes of advancement. A
curate now on 50L. a-year; what hope had he of marrying? And now the
tearful couple, walking once more by the river in desolate autumn,
among the flying yellow leaves, swore constancy, and agreed to wait
till better times should come.

So they waited. John in his parish among his poor people and his
school-children, busy always during the day, and sometimes perhaps
happy. But in the long winter evenings, when the snow lay piled against
the door, and the wind howled in the chimney; or worse, when the wind
was still, and the rain was pattering from the eaves, he would sit
lonely and miserable by his desolate hearth, and think with a sigh of
what might have been had his patron lived. And five-and-twenty years
rolled on until James Brown, who was born during the first year of his
curateship, came home a broken man, with one arm gone, from the battle
of St. Vincent. And the great world roared on, and empires rose and
fell, and dull echoes of the great throes without were heard in the
peaceful English village, like distant thunder on a summer's afternoon,
but still no change for him.

But poor Jane bides her time in the old farm-house, sitting constant
and patient behind the long low latticed window, among the geraniums
and roses, watching the old willows by the river. Five-and-twenty
times she sees those willows grow green, and the meadow brighten up
with flowers, and as often she sees their yellow leaves driven before
the strong south wind, and the meadow grow dark and hoar before the
breath of autumn. Her father was long since dead, and she was bringing
up her brother's children. Her raven hair was streaked with grey, and
her step was not so light, nor her laugh so loud, yet still she waited
and hoped, long after all hope seemed dead.

But at length a brighter day seemed to dawn for them; for the bishop,
who had watched for years John Thornton's patient industry and
blameless conversation, gave him, to his great joy and astonishment,
the living of Drumston, worth 350L. a-year. And now, at last, he might
marry if he would. True, the morning of his life was gone long since,
and its hot noon spent in thankless labour; but the evening, the sober,
quiet evening, yet remained, and he and Jane might still render
pleasant for one another the downward road toward the churchyard, and
hand-in-hand walk more tranquilly forward to meet that dark tyrant
Death, who seemed so terrible to the solitary watcher.

A month or less after John was installed, one soft grey day in March,
this patient couple walked slowly arm-in-arm up the hill, under the
lychgate, past the dark yew that shadowed the peaceful graves, and so
through the damp church porch, up to the old stone altar, and there
were quietly married, and then walked home again. No feasting or
rejoicing was there at that wedding; the very realization of their long
deferred hopes was a disappointment. In March they were married, and
before the lanes grew bright with the primroses of another spring, poor
Jane was lying in a new-made grave, in the shadow of the old grey
tower.

But, though dead, she yet lived to him in the person of a bright-eyed
baby, a little girl, born but three months before her mother's death.
Who can tell how John watched and prayed over that infant, or how he
felt that there was something left for him in this world yet, and
thought that if his child would live, he should not go down to the
grave a lonely desolate man. Poor John!--who can say whether it would
not have been better if the mother's coffin had been made a little
larger, and the baby had been carried up the hill, to sleep quietly
with its mother, safe from all the evil of this world.

But the child lived and grew, and, at seventeen, I remember her well, a
beautiful girl, merry, impetuous, and thoughtless, with black waving
hair and dark blue eyes, and all the village loved her and took pride
in her. For they said--"She is the handsomest and the best in the
parish."




Chapter III



THE HISTORY OF (A CERTAIN FAMILY LIVING IN) EUROPE, FROM THE BATTLE OF
TRAFALGAR TO THE PEACE OF 1818, CONTAINING FACTS HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED.


Among all the great old commoner families of the south of England, who
have held the lands of their fore-fathers through every change of
dynasty and religion, the Buckleys of Clere stand deservedly high among
the brightest and the oldest. All down the stormy page of this great
island's history one sees, once in a about a hundred years, that name
in some place of second-rate honour at least, whether as admiral,
general, or statesman; and yet, at the beginning of this present
century, the representative of the good old family was living at Clere
House, a palace built in the golden times of Elizabeth, on 900L. a-year,
while all the county knew that it took 300L. to keep Clere in
proper repair.

The two Stuart revolutions had brought them down from county princes to
simple wealthy squires, and the frantic efforts made by Godfrey
Buckley, in the "South Sea" scheme to retrieve the family fortunes, had
well nigh broke them. Year by year they saw acre after acre of the
broad lands depart, and yet Marmaduke Buckley lived in the home of
his ancestors, and the avenue was untouched by axe or saw.

He was a widower, with two sons, John and James. John had been to sea
from his earliest youth, and James had joined his regiment a year or
more. John had been doing the state good service under his beloved
Collingwood; and on the 19th October 1805, when Nelson and
Collingwood made tryst to meet at the gates of hell, John Buckley was
one of the immortals on the deck of the "Royal Sovereign." And when the
war fog rolled away to leeward, and Trafalgar was won, and all seas
were free, he lay dead in the cockpit, having lived just long enough to
comprehend the magnitude of the victory.

Brave old Marmaduke was walking up and down the terrace at Clere uneasy
and impatient. Beside him was the good old curate who had educated both
the boys, and wearily and oft they turned to watch down the long vista
of the ancient avenue for the groom, who had been despatched to
Portsmouth to gain some tidings of the lieutenant. They had heard of
the victory, and, in their simple way, had praised God for it, drinking
a bottle of the rarest old wine to his Majesty's health and the
confusion of his enemies, before they knew whether they themselves were
among the number of the mourners. And now, as they paced the terrace,
every moment they grew more anxious and uneasy for the long delayed
intelligence.

Some trifle took them into the flower-garden, and, when they came back,
their hearts leapt up, for the messenger was there dismounted, opening
the gate. The curate ran down the steps, and taking a black-edged
letter from the sorrowful groom, gave it into the trembling hands of
the old man with a choking sob. He opened it and glanced over it, and
then, throwing it towards his friend, walked steadily up the steps, and
disappeared within the dark porch.

It was just three hasty lines from the great Collingwood himself.
That brave heart, in the midst of the din of victory, had found time to
scrawl a word to his old schoolmate, and tell him that his boy had died
like a hero, and that he regretted him like a son.

The old man sat that evening in the western gallery, tearless and
alone, brooding over his grief. Three times the curate had peeped in,
and as often had retreated, fearful of disturbing the old man's solemn
sorrow. The autumn sun had gone down in wild and lurid clouds, and the
gallery was growing dark and gloomy, when the white figure of a
beautiful girl entering silently at the lower door came gliding up the
darkening vista, past the light of the windows and the shadow of the
piers, to where the old man sat under the high north window, and knelt
at his feet, weeping bitterly.

It was Agnes Talbot, the daughter of his nearest neighbour and best
friend, whom the curate had slyly sent for, thinking in his honest
heart that she would make a better comforter than he, and rightly; for
the old man, bending over her, lifted up his voice and wept, speaking
for the first time since he heard of his bereavement, and saying, "Oh,
my boy, my boy!"

"He is gone, sir," said Agnes, through her tears; "and gone the way a
man should go. But there is another left you yet; remember him."

"Aye, James," said he; "alas, poor James! I wonder if he knows it. I
wish he were here."

"James is here," said she. "He heard of it before you, and came posting
over as fast as he could, and is waiting outside to know if you can see
him."

The door at the lower end of the gallery opened, and a tall and
noble-looking young man strode up and took his father's hand.

He was above the ordinary height of man, with a grand broad forehead
and bold blue eyes. Old Marmaduke's heart warmed up as he parted his
curling hair, and he said,

"Thank God, I've got one left still! The old house will not perish yet,
while such a one as you remains to uphold it."

After a time they left him, at his own request, and walked out together
through the dark rooms towards the old hall.

"Agnes, my beloved, my darling!" said James, drawing his arm round her
waist; "I knew I should find you with him like a ministering angel. Say
something to comfort me, my love. You never could love John as I did;
yet I know you felt for him as your brother, as he soon would have
been, if he had lived."

"What can I say to you, my own?" she replied, "save to tell you that he
fell as your brother should fall, amongst the foremost, fighting for
his country's existence. And, James, if you must go before me, and
leave me a widow before I am a bride, it would render more tolerable
the short time that would be left me before I followed you, to think
that you had fallen like him."

"There will be a chance of it, Agnes," said James, "for Stuart, they
say, is going to Italy, and I go with him. There will be a long and
bloody war, and who knows how it will end? Stay you here quiet with the
old man, my love, and pray for me; the end will come some day. I am
only eighteen and an ensign; in ten years I may be a colonel."

They parted that night with tears and kisses, and a few days afterwards
James went from among them to join his regiment.

From that time Agnes almost lived with old Marmaduke. Her father's
castle could be seen over the trees from the windows of Clere, and
every morning, wet or dry, the old man posted himself in the great
north window of the gallery to watch her coming. All day she would
pervade the gloomy old mansion like a ray of sunlight, now reading to
him, now leading him into the flower-garden in fine weather, till he
grew quite fond of flowers for her sake, and began even to learn the
names of some of them. But oftenest of all she would sit working by his
side, while he told her stories of times gone by, stories which would
have been dull to any but her, but which she could listen to and
applaud. Best of all she liked to hear him talk of James, and his
exploits by flood and field from his youth up; and so it was that this
quiet couple never tired one another, for their hearts were set upon
the same object.

Sometimes her two sisters, noble and beautiful girls, would come to see
him; but they, indeed, were rather intruders, kind and good as they
were. And sometimes old Talbot looked round to see his old friend, and
talked of bygone fishing and hunting, which roused the old man up and
made him look glad for half a day after. Still, however, Agnes and the
old curate were company enough for him, for they were the only two who
loved his absent son as well as he. The love which had been divided
between the two, seemed now to be concentrated upon the one, and yet
this true old Briton never hinted at James' selling out and coming
home, for he said that the country had need of every one then, more
particularly such a one as James.

Time went on, and he came back to them from Corunna, and spending
little more than a month at home, he started away once more; and next
they heard of him at Busaco, wounded and promoted. Then they followed
him in their hearts along the path of glory, from Talavera by Albuera
and Vittoria, across the Pyrenees. And while they were yet reading a
long-delayed letter, written from Toulouse at midnight--after having
been to the theatre with Lord Wellington, wearing a white cockade--he
broke in on them again, to tell them the war was well-nigh over, and
that he would soon come and live with them in peace.

Then what delightful reunions were there in the old gallery window,
going over all the weary campaigns once more; pleasant rambles, too,
down by the river-side in the sweet May evenings, old Marmaduke and
the curate discreetly walking in front, and James and Agnes loitering
far behind. And in the succeeding winter after they were married, what
pleasant rides had they to meet the hounds, and merry evenings before
the bright wood-fire in the hall. Never were four people more happy
than they. The war was done, the disturber was confined, and peace had
settled down upon the earth.

Peace, yes. But not for long. Spring came on, and with it strange
disquieting rumours, growing more certain day by day, till the
terrible news broke on them that the faithless tyrant had broke loose
again, and that all Europe was to be bathed in blood once more by his
insane ambition.

James had sold out of the army, so that when Agnes first heard the
intelligence she thanked God that her husband at least would be safe at
home during the storm. But she was soon to be undeceived. When the news
first came, James had galloped off to Portsmouth, and late in the
evening they saw him come riding slowly and sadly up the avenue. She
was down at the gate before he could dismount, and to her eager
inquiries if the news were true, he replied,

"All too true, my love; and I must leave you this day week."

"My God!" said she; "leave me again, and not six months married? Surely
the king has had you long enough; may not your wife have you for a few
short months?"

"Listen to me, dear wife," he replied. "All the Peninsular men are
volunteering, and I must not be among the last, for every man is wanted
now. Buonaparte is joined by the whole army, and the craven king has
fled. If England and Prussia can combine to strike a blow before he
gets head, thousands and hundreds of thousands of lives will be spared.
But let him once get firmly seated, and then, hey! for ten years' more
war. Beside the thing is done; my name went in this morning."

She said, "God's will be done;" and he left his young bride and his old
father once again. The nightingale grew melodious in the midnight
woods, the swallows nestled again in the chimneys, and day by day the
shadows under the old avenue grew darker and darker till merry June was
half gone; and then one Saturday came the rumour of a great defeat.

All the long weary summer Sabbath that followed, Agnes and Marmaduke
silently paced the terrace, till the curate--having got through his
own services somehow, and broken down in the "prayer during war and
tumults,"--came hurrying back to them to give what comfort he could.

Alas! that was but little. He could only speculate whether or not the
duke would give up Brussels, and retire for reinforcements. If the two
armies could effect a union, they would be near about the strength of
the French, but then the Prussians were cut to pieces; so the curate
broke down, and became the worst of the three.

Cheer up, good souls! for he you love shall not die yet for many long
years. While you are standing there before the porch, dreading the long
anxious night, Waterloo has been won, and he--having stood the
appointed time in the serried square, watching the angry waves of
French cavalry dash in vain against the glittering wall of bayonets--
is now leaning against a gun in the French position, alive and well,
though fearfully tired, listening to the thunder of the Prussian
artillery to the north, and watching the red sun go down across the
wild confusion of the battle-field.

But home at Clere none slept that night, but met again next morning
weary and harassed. All the long three days none of them spoke much,
but wandered about the house uneasily. About ten o'clock on the
Wednesday night they went to bed, and the old man sleeps from sheer
weariness.

It was twelve o'clock when there came a clang at the gate, and a sound
of horses' feet on the gravel. Agnes was at the window in a moment.

"Who goes there?" she cried.

"An orderly from Colonel Mountford at Portsmouth," said a voice below.
"A letter for Mr. Buckley."

She sent a servant to undo the door; and going to the window again, she
inquired, trembling,--

"Do you know what the news is, orderly?"

"A great victory, my dear," said the man, mistaking her for one of the
servants. "Your master is all right. There's a letter from him inside
this one."

"And I daresay," Mrs. Buckley used to add, when she would tell this old
Waterloo story, as we called it, "that the orderly thought me a most
heartless domestic, for when I heard what he said, I burst out laughing
so loud, that old Mr. Buckley woke up to see what was the matter, and
when heard, he laughed as loud as I did."

So he came back to them again with fresh laurels, but Agnes never felt
safe, till she heard that the powers had determined to chain up her
BETE NOIR, Buonaparté, on a lonely rock in the Atlantic, that he might
disturb the world no more. Then at last she began to believe that peace
might be a reality, and a few months after Waterloo, to their delight
and exultation, she bore a noble boy.

And as we shall see more of this boy, probably, than of any one else in
these following pages, we will if you please appoint him hero, with all
the honours and emoluments thereunto pertaining. Perhaps when I have
finished, you will think him not so much of a hero after all. But at
all events you shall see how he is an honest upright gentleman, and in
these times, perhaps such a character is preferable to a hero.

Old Marmaduke had been long failing, and two years after this he had
taken to his bed, never to leave it again alive. And one day when the
son and heir was rolling and crowing on his grandfather's bed, and
Agnes was sewing at the window, and James was tying a fly by the
bedside, under the old man's directions; he drew the child towards him,
and beckoning Agnes from the window spoke thus:--

"My children, I shan't be long with you, and I must be the last of the
Buckleys that die at Clere. Nay, I mean it, James; listen carefully to
me: when I go, the house and park must go with me. We are very poor as
you well know, and you will be doing injustice to this boy if you hang
on here in this useless tumble-down old palace, without money enough to
keep up your position in the county. You are still young, and it
would be hard for you to break up old associations. It got too hard for
me lately, though at one time I meant to do it. The land and the house
are the worst investment you can have for your money, and if you sell,
a man like you may make money in many ways. Gordon the brewer is dying
to have the place, and he has more right to it than we have, for he has
ten acres round to our one. Let him have the estate and found a new
family; the people will miss us at first, God bless 'em, but they'll
soon get used to Gordon, for he's a kindly man, and a just, and I am
glad that we shall have so good a successor. Remember your family and
your ancestors, and for that reason don't hang on here, as I said
before, in the false position of an old county family without money,
like the Singletons of Hurst, living in a ruined hall, with a miserable
overcropped farm, a corner of the old deer park, under their drawing-room
window. No, my boy, I would sooner see you take a farm from my
lord, than that. And now I am tired with talking, and so leave me, but
after I am gone, remember what I have said."

A few days after this the old man passed peacefully from the world
without a sigh.

They buried him in the family vault under the chancel windows. And he
was the last of the Buckleys that slept in the grave of his
forefathers. And the old arch beneath the east window is built up for
ever.

Soon after he was gone, the Major, as I shall call him in future, sold
the house and park, and the few farms that were left, and found himself
with twelve thousand pounds, ready to begin the world again. He funded
his money and made up his mind to wait a few years and see what to do;
determining that if no other course should open, he would emigrate to
Canada--the paradise of half-pay officers. But in the meantime he
moved into Devonshire, and took a pretty little cottage which was to
let, not a quarter of a mile from Drumston Vicarage.

Such an addition to John Thornton's little circle of acquaintances was
very welcome. The Major and he very soon became fast friends, and noble
Mrs. Buckley was seldom a day without spending an hour at least, with
the beautiful, wilful, Mary Thornton.





 Chapter IV



SOME NEW FACES.


The twilight of a winter's evening, succeeding a short and stormy day,
was fast fading into night, and old John Thornton sat dozing in his
chair before the fire, waiting for candles to resume his reading. He
was now but little over sixty, yet his hair was snowy white, and his
face looked worn and aged. Anyone who watched his countenance now in
the light of the blazing wood, might see by the down-drawn brows and
uneasy expression that the old man was unhappy and disquieted.

The book that lay in his lap was a volume of Shakespeare, open at the
"Merchant of Venice." Something he had come across in that play had set
him thinking. The book had fallen on his knees, and he sat pondering
till he had fallen asleep. Yet even in his slumber the uneasy
expression stayed upon his face, and now and then he moved uneasily in
his chair.

What could there be to vex him? Not poverty at all events, for not a
year ago a relation, whom he had seldom seen, and of late years
entirely lost sight of, had left him 5000L. and a like sum to his
daughter Mary. And his sister, Miss Thornton, a quiet good old maid,
who had been a governess all her life, had come to live with him, so
that he was now comfortably off, with the only two relations he cared
about in the world staying with him to make his old age comfortable.
Yet notwithstanding all this, John was unhappy.

His daughter Mary sat sewing in the window, ostensibly for the
purpose of using the last of the daylight. But the piece of white
muslin in her hand claimed but a small part of her attention. Sometimes
she gave a stitch or two; but then followed a long gaze out of the
window, across the damp gravel and plushy lawn, towards the white gate
under the leafless larches. Again with an impatient sigh she would
address herself to her sewing, but once more her attention would
wander to the darkening garden; so at length she rose, and leaning
against the window, began to watch the white gate once more.

But now she starts, and her face brightens up, as the gate swings on
its hinges, and a tall man comes with rapid eager step up the walk.
John moves uneasily in his sleep, but unnoticed by her, for she stands
back in the shadow of the curtain, and eagerly watches the new comer in
his approach. Her father sits up in his chair, and after looking sadly
at her for a moment, then sinks back with a sigh, as though he would
wish to go to sleep again and wake no more.

The maid, bringing in candles, met the new comer at the door, and,
carrying in the lights before him, announced--

"Mr. George Hawker."

I remember his face indistinctly as it was then. I remember it far
better as it was twenty years after. Yet I must try to recall it for
you as well as I can, for we shall have much to do with this man before
the end. As the light from the candles fell upon his figure while he
stood in the doorway, any man or woman who saw it would have exclaimed
immediately, "What a handsome fellow!" and with justice; for if
perfectly regular features, splendid red and brown complexion,
faultless white teeth, and the finest head of curling black hair I ever
saw, could make him handsome, handsome he was without doubt. And yet
the more you looked at him the less you liked him, and the more
inclined you felt to pick a quarrel with him. The thin lips, the
everlasting smile, the quick suspicious glance, so rapidly shot out
from under the overhanging eyebrows, and as quickly withdrawn, were
fearfully repulsive, as well as a trick he had of always clearing his
throat before he spoke, as if to gain time to frame a lie. But,
perhaps, the strangest thing about him was the shape of his head,
which, I believe, a child would have observed. We young fellows in
those times knew little enough about phrenology. I doubt, indeed, if I
had ever heard the word, and yet among the village lads that man went
by the name of "flat-headed George." The forehead was both low and
narrow, sloping a great way back, while the larger part of the skull
lay low down behind the ears. All this was made the more visible by the
short curling hair which covered his head.

He was the only son of a small farmer, in one of the distant outlying
hamlets of Drumston, called Woodlands. His mother had died when he
was very young, and he had had but little education, but had lived shut
up with his father in the lonely old farm-house. And strange stories
were in circulation among the villages about that house, not much to
the credit of either father or son, which stories John Thornton must in
his position as clergyman have heard somewhat of, so that one need
hardly wonder at his uneasiness when he saw him enter.

For Mary adored him; the rest of the village disliked and distrusted
him; but she, with a strange perversity, loved him as it seldom falls
to the lot of man to be loved--with her whole heart and soul.

"I have brought you some snipes, Mr. Thornton," said he, in his most
musical tones. "The white frost last night has sent them down off the
moor as thick as bees, and this warm rain will soon send them all back
again. I only went round through Fernworthy and Combe, and I have
killed five couple."

"Thank you, Mr. George, thank you," said John, "they are not so
plentiful as they were in old times, and I don't shoot so well either
as I used to do. My sight's going, and I can't walk far. It is nearly
time for me to go, I think."

"Not yet, sir, I hope; not yet for a long time," said George Hawker, in
an offhand sort of way. But Mary slipped round, kissed his forehead,
and took his hand quietly in hers.

John looked from her to George, and dropped her hand with a sigh, and
soon the lovers were whispering together again in the darkness of the
window.

But now there is a fresh footfall on the garden walk, a quick, rapid,
decided one. Somebody burst open the hall-door, and, without shutting
it, dashes into the parlour, accompanied by a tornado of damp air,
and announces in a loud though not unpleasant voice, with a foreign
accent--

"I have got the new Scolopax."

He was a broad, massive built man, about the middle height, with a
square determined set of features, brightened up by a pair of merry
blue eyes. His forehead was, I think, the finest I ever saw; so high,
so broad, and so upright; and, altogether, he was the sort of man that
in a city one would turn round and look after, wondering who he was.

He stood in the doorway, dripping, and without "Good-even," or
salutation of any sort, exclaimed--

"I have got the new Scolopax!"

"No!" cried old John, starting up all alive, "Have you though? How did
you get him? Are you sure it is not a young Jack? Come in and tell us
all about it. Only think."

"The obstinacy and incredulity of you English," replied the new comer,
totally disregarding John's exclamations, and remaining dripping in the
doorway, "far exceeds anything I could have conceived, if I had not
witnessed it. If I told you once, I told you twenty times, that I had
seen the bird on three distinct occasions in the meadow below Reel's
mill; and you each time threw your jacksnipe theory in my face. To-day
I marked him down in the bare ground outside Haveldon wood, then ran at
full speed up to the jager, and offered him five shillings if he would
come down and shoot the bird I showed him. He came, killed the bird in
a style that I would give a year's tobacco to be master of, and
remarked as I paid him his money, that he would like to get five
shillings for every one of those birds he could shoot in summer time.
The jolter-head thought it was a sandpiper, but he wasn't much further
out than you with your jacksnipes. Bah!"

"My dear Doctor Mulhaus," said John mildly, "I confess myself to have
been foolishly incredulous, as to our little place being honoured by
such a distinguished stranger as the new snipe. But come in to the
fire, and smoke your pipe, while you show me your treasure. Mary, you
know, likes tobacco, and Mr. George, I am sure," he added, in a
slightly altered tone, "will excuse it."

Mr. George would be charmed. But the Doctor, standing staring at him
open-eyed for a moment, demanded in an audible whisper--

"Who the deuce is that?"

"Mr. George Hawker, Doctor, from the Woodlands. I should have thought
you had met him before."

"Never," replied the Doctor. "And I don't--and I mean I have had the
honour of hearing of him from Stockbridge. Excuse me, sir, a moment. I
am going to take a liberty. I am a phrenologist." He advanced across
the room to where George sat, laid his hand on his forehead, and
drawing it lightly and slowly back through his black curls, till he
reached the nape of his neck, ejaculated a "Hah!" which might mean
anything, and retired to the fire.

He then began filling his pipe, but before it was filled set it
suddenly on the table, and drawing from his coat pocket a cardboard
box, exhibited to the delighted eyes of the vicar that beautiful little
brown-mottled snipe, which now bears the name of Colonel Sabine, and
having lit his pipe, set to work with a tiny penknife and a pot of
arsenical soap, all of which were disinterred from the vast coat-pocket
before mentioned, to reduce the plump little bird to a loose mass of
skin and feathers, fit to begin again his new life in death in a
glass-case in some collector's museum.

George Hawker had sat very uneasy since the Doctor's phrenological
examination, and every now and then cast fierce angry glances at him
from under his lowered eyebrows, talking but little to Mary. But now
he grows more uneasy still, for the gate goes again, and still another
footfall is heard approaching through the darkness.

"That is James Stockbridge. I should know that step among a thousand.
Whether brushing through the long grass of an English meadow in May
time, or quietly pacing up and down the orange alley in the New World,
between the crimson snow and the blazing west; or treading lightly
across the wet ground at black midnight, when the cattle are
restless, or the blacks are abroad; or even, I should think, staggering
on the slippery deck, when the big grey seas are booming past, and
the good ship seems plunging down to destruction."

He had loved Mary dearly since she was almost a child; but she, poor
pretty fool, used to turn him to ridicule, and make him fetch and carry
for her like a dog. He was handsomer, cleverer, stronger, and better
tempered than George Hawker, and yet she had no eyes for him, or his
good qualities. She liked him in a sort of way; nay, it might even be
said that she was fond of him. But what she liked better than him was
to gratify her vanity, by showing her power over the finest young
fellow in the village, and to use him as a foil to aggravate George
Hawker. My aunt Betsy (spinster), used to say, that if she were a man,
sooner than stand that hussy's airs (meaning Mary's), in the way young
Stockbridge did, she'd cut, and run to America, which, in the old
lady's estimation, was the last resource left to an unfortunate human
creature, before suicide.

As he entered the parlour, John's face grew bright, and he held out his
hand to him. The Doctor, too, shoving his spectacles on his forehead,
greeted him with a royal salute, of about twenty-one short words; but
he got rather a cool reception from the lovers in the window. Mary gave
him a quiet good evening, and George hoped with a sneer that he was
quite well, but directly the pair were whispering together once more in
the shadow of the curtain.

So he sat down between the Doctor and the Vicar. James, like all the
rest of us, had a profound respect for the Doctor's learning, and old
John and he were as father and son; so a better matched trio could
hardly be found in the parish, as they sat there before the cheerful
blaze, smoking their pipes.

"A good rain, Jim; a good, warm, kindly rain after the frost," began
the Vicar.

"A very good rain, sir," replied Jim.

"Some idiots," said the Doctor, "take the wing bones out first. Now, my
method of beginning at the legs and working forward, is infinitely
superior. Yet that ass at Crediton, after I had condescended to show
him, persisted his own way was the best." All this time he was busy
skinning his bird.

"How are your Southdowns looking, Jim?" says the Vicar. "Foot-rot, eh?"

"Well, yes, sir," says James, "they always will, you know, in these wet
clays. But I prefer 'em to the Leicesters, for all that."

"How is scapegrace Hamlyn?" asked the Vicar.

"He is very well, sir. He and I have been out with the harriers to-day."

"Ah! taking you out with the harriers instead of minding his business;
just like him. He'll be leading you astray, James, my boy. Young men
like you and he, who have come to be their own masters so young, ought
to be more careful than others. Besides, you see, both you and Hamlyn
being 'squires, have got an example to set to the poorer folks."

"We are neither of us so rich as some of the farmers, sir."

"No; but you are both gentlemen born, you see, and, therefore, ought to
be in some way models for those who are not."

"Bosh," said the Doctor. "All this about Hamlyn's going out hare-hunting."

"I don't mind it once a-week," said the Vicar, ignoring the Doctor's
interruption; "but FOUR TIMES is rather too much. And Hamlyn has been
out four days this week. Twice with Wrefords, and twice with Holes. He
can't deny it."

Jim couldn't, so he laughed. "You must catch him, sir," he said, "and
give him a real good wigging. He'll mind you. But catch him soon, sir,
or you won't get the chance. Doctor, do you know anything about New
South Wales?"

"Botany Bay," said the Vicar abstractedly, "convict settlement in
South Seas. Jerry Shaw begged the judge to hang him instead of sending
him there. Judge wouldn't do it though; Jerry was too bad for that."

"Hamlyn and I are thinking of selling up and going there," said Jim.
"Do you know anything about it, Doctor?"

"What!" said the Doctor; "the mysterious hidden land of the great South
Sea. Tasman's land, Nuyt's land, Leuwin's land, De Witt's land, any
fool's land who could sail round it, and never have the sense to land
and make use of it--the new country of Australasia. The land with
millions of acres of fertile soil, under a splendid climate, calling
aloud for some one to come and cultivate them. The land of the
Eucalypti and the Marsupials, the land of deep forests and boundless
pastures, which go rolling away westward, plain beyond plain, to none
knows where. Yes; I know something about it."

The Vicar was "knocked all of a heap" at James' announcement, and now,
slightly recovering himself, said--

"You hear him. He is going to Botany Bay. He is going to sell his
estate, 250 acres of the best land in Devon, and go and live among the
convicts. And who is going with him? Why, Hamlyn, the wise. Oh dear me.
And what is he going for?"

That was a question apparently hard to answer. If there was a reason,
Jim was either unwilling or unable to give it. Yet I think that the
real cause was standing there in the window, with a look of unbounded
astonishment on her pretty face.

"Going to leave us, James!" she cried, coming quickly towards him.
"Why, whatever shall I do without you?"

"Yes, Miss Mary," said James somewhat huskily; "I think I may say that
we have settled to go. Hamlyn has got a letter from a cousin of his who
went from down Plymouth way, and who is making a fortune; and besides,
I have got tired of the old place somehow, lately. I have nothing to
keep me here now, and there will be a change, and a new life there. In
short," said he, in despair of giving a rational reason, "I have made
up my mind."

"Oh!" said Mary, while her eyes filled with tears, "I shall be so sorry
to lose you."

"I too," said James, "shall be sorry to start away beyond seas and
leave all the friends I care about save one behind me. But times are
hard for the poor folks here now, and if I, as 'squire, set the example
of going, I know many will follow. The old country, Mr. Thornton," he
continued, "is getting too crowded for men to live in without a hard
push, and depend on it, when poor men are afraid to marry for fear of
having children which they can't support, it is time to move somewhere.
The hive is too hot, and the bees must swarm, so those that go will
both better themselves, and better those they leave behind them, by
giving them more room to work and succeed. It's hard to part with the
old farm and the old faces now, but perhaps in a few years, one will
get to like that country just as one does this, from being used to it,
and then the old country will seem only like a pleasant dream after one
has awoke."

"Think twice about it, James, my boy," said the Vicar.

"Don't be such an ass as to hesitate," said the Doctor impatiently. "It
is the genius of your restless discontented nation to go blundering
about the world like buffaloes in search of fresh pasture. You have
founded already two or three grand new empires, and you are now going
to form another; and men like you ought to have their fingers in the
pie."

"Well, God speed you, and Hamlyn too, wherever you go. Are you going
home, Mr. Hawker?"

George, who hated James from the very bottom of his heart, was not
ill-pleased to hear there would be a chance of soon getting rid of him. He
had been always half jealous of him, though without the slightest
cause, and to-night he was more so than ever, for Mary, since she had
heard of James' intended departure, had grown very grave and silent. He
stood, hat in hand, ready to depart, and as usual, when he meant
mischief, spoke in his sweetest tones.

"I am afraid I must be saying good evening, Mr. Thornton. Why, James,"
he added, "this is something quite new. So you are going to Botany
without waiting to be sent there. Ha! ha! Well, I wish you every sort
of good luck. My dear friend, Hamlyn, too. What a loss he'll be to our
little society, so sociable and affable as he always is to us poor
farmers' sons. You'll find it lonely there though. You should get a
wife to take with you. Oh, yes, I should certainly get married before I
went. Good night."

All this was meant to be as irritating as possible; but as he went out
at the door he had the satisfaction to hear James' clear honest laugh
mingling with the Vicar's, for, as George had closed the door, the
Doctor had said, looking after him--

"Gott in Himmel, that young man has go a skull like a tom-cat."

This complimentary observation was lost on Mary, who had left the room
with George. The Vicar looked round for her, and sighed when he missed
her.

"Ah!" said he; "I wish he was going instead of you."

"So does the new colony, I'll be bound," added the Doctor.

Soon after this the party separated. When James and the Doctor stood
outside the door, the latter demanded, "Where are you going?"

"To Sydney, I believe, Doctor."

"Goose. I mean now."

"Home."

"No, you ain't," said the Doctor; "you are going to walk up to Hamlyn's
with me, and hear me discourse." Accordingly, about eleven o'clock,
these two arrived at my house, and sat before the fire till half-past
three in the morning; and in that time the Doctor had given us more
information about New South Wales than we had been able to gather from
ordinary sources in a month.




Chapter V



IN WHICH THE READER IS MADE ACCOMPLICE TO A MISPRISION OF FELONY.


Those who only know the river Taw as he goes sweeping, clear and full,
past orchards and farmhouses, by woods and parks, and through long
green meadows, after he has left Dartmoor, have little idea of the
magnificent scene which rewards the perseverance of anyone who has the
curiosity to follow him up to his granite cradle between the two
loftiest eminences in the West of England.

On the left, Great Cawsand heaves up, down beyond down, a vast sheet of
purple heath and golden whin, while on the right the lofty serrated
ridge of Yestor starts boldly up, black against the western sky,
throwing a long shadow over the wild waste of barren stone at his feet.

Some Scotchmen, perhaps, may smile at my applying the word
"magnificent" to heights of only 2,100 feet. Yet I have been among
mountains which double Ben Nevis in height, and, with the exception of
the Murray Gates in Australia, and a glen in Madeira, whose name I have
forgotten, I have never seen among them the equal of some of the
northern passes of Dartmoor for gloomy magnificence. For I consider
that scenery depends not so much on height as on abruptness.

It is an evil, depressing place. Far as the eye can reach up the glen
and to the right it is one horrid waste of grey granite; here and there
a streak of yellow grass or a patch of black bog; not a tree nor a
shrub within the sky-line. On a hot summer's day it is wearisome enough
for the lonely angler to listen to the river crawling lazily through
the rocks that choke his bed, mingled with the clocking of some
water-moved boulder, and the chick-chick of the stonechat, or the scream
of the golden plover overhead. But on a wild winter's evening, when day is
fast giving place to night, and the mist shrouds the hill, and the wild
wind is rushing hoarse through tor and crag, it becomes awful and
terrible in the extreme.

On just such a night as that, at that time when it becomes evident that
the little light we have had all day is about to leave us, a lonely
watcher was standing by the angry swelling river in the most desolate
part of the pass, at a place where a vast confusion of formless rocks
crosses the stream, torturing it into a hundred boiling pools and
hissing cascades.

He stood on the summit of a cairn close to the river, and every now and
then, shading his eyes with his hand, he looked eastward through the
driving rain, as though expecting some one who came not. But at length,
grown tired of watching, he with an oath descended to a sheltered
corner among the boulders, where a smouldering peat-fire was giving out
more smoke than heat, and, crouching over it, began to fan the embers
with his hat.

He was a somewhat short, though powerful man, in age about forty, very
dark in complexion, with black whiskers growing half over his chin. His
nose was hooked, his eyes were black and piercing, and his lips thin.
His face was battered like an old sailor's, and every careless,
unstudied motion of his body was as wild and reckless as could be.
There was something about his TOUTE ENSEMBLE, in short, that would have
made an Australian policeman swear to him as a convict without the
least hesitation.

There were redeeming points in the man's face, too. There was plenty of
determination, for instance, in that lower jaw, and as he bent now over
the fire, and his thoughts wandered away to other times and places, the
whole appearance of the man seemed to change and become milder and
kindlier; yet when some slight noise makes him lift his head and look
round, there is the old expression back again, and he looks as reckless
and desperate as ever; what he is is more apparent, and the ghost of
what he might have been has not wholly departed.

I can picture to myself that man scowling behind the bayonet line at
Maida, or rapidly and coolly serving his gun at Trafalgar, helping to
win the dominion of all seas, or taking his trick at the helm through
arctic iceblocks with Parry, or toiling on with steadfast Sturt,
knee-deep in the sand of the middle desert, patiently yet hopelessly
scanning the low quivering line of the north-west horizon.

In fifty situations where energy and courage are required, I can
conceive that man a useful citizen. Yet here he is on the lone moor, on
the winter's night, a reckless, cursing, thrice convicted man. His very
virtues,--his impatient energy and undeniable courage,--his
greatest stumbling-blocks, leading him into crimes which a lazy man or
a coward would have shrunk from. Deserted apparently by God and man, he
crouched there over the low fire, among his native rocks, and meditated
fresh villanies.

He had been transported at eighteen for something, I know not what,
which earned transportation in those days, and since then his naturally
violent temper, aggravated instead of being broken by penal discipline,
had earned him three fresh convictions in the colony. >From the last of
these sentences he had escaped, with a cunning and address which had
baffled the vigilance of the Sydney police, good as they were, and had
arrived home, two years before this time, after twentyone years'
absence, at his native village in the moor.

None there knew him, or even guessed who he was. His brother, a small
farmer, who would have taken him to his heart had he recognised him,
always regarded him as a suspicious stranger; and what cut him deeper
still, his mother, his old, half-blind, palsied mother, whose memory he
had in some sort cherished through the horrors of the hulk, the
convict-ship, the chaingang, and the bush, knew him not. Only once,
when he was speaking in her presence, she said abruptly,--

"The voice of him is like the voice of my boy that was took away. But
he was smooth-faced, like a girl, and ye're a dark, wrinkled man.
'Sides, he died years agone, over the water."

But the old lady grew thoughtful and silent from that day, and three
weeks after she was carried up to her grave,--


"By the little grey church on the windy hill."


At the funeral, William Lee, the man whom I have been describing,
pushed quietly through the little crowd, and as they threw the first
earth on the coffin, stood looking over the shoulder of his brother,
who was unconscious of his existence.

Like many men who have been much in great solitudes, and have gone days
and weeks sometimes without meeting a fellow-creature, he had acquired
the habit of thinking aloud, and if anyone had been listening they
would have heard much such a soliloquy as the following, expletives
omitted, or rather softened:--

"A brutal cold country this, for a man to camp out in. Never a buck-log
to his fire, no, nor a stick thicker than your finger for seven mile
round; and if there was, you'd get a month for cutting it. If the
young'un milks free this time, I'll be off to the bay again, I know.
But will he? By George, he shall though. The young snob, I know he
daren't but come, and yet it's my belief he's late just to keep me
soaking out in the rain. Whew! it's cold enough to freeze the tail of a
tin possum; and this infernal rubbish won't burn, at least not to warm
a man. If it wasn't for the whisky I should be dead. There's a rush of
wind; I am glad for one thing there is no dead timber overhead. He'll
be drinking at all the places coming along to get his courage up to
bounce me, but there ain't a public-house on the road six miles from
this, so the drink will have pretty much died out of him by the time he
gets to me, and if I can get him to sit in this rain, and smoke 'backer
for five minutes, he won't be particular owdacious. I'll hide the grog,
too, between the stones. He'll be asking for a drink the minute he
comes. I hope Dick is ready; he is pretty sure to be. He's a good
little chap, that Dick; he has stuck to me well these five years. I
wouldn't like to trust him with another man's horse, though. But this
other one is no good; he's got all the inclination to go the whole hog,
and none of the pluck necessary. If he ever is lagged, he will be a
worse one than ever I was, or Dick either. There he is, for a hundred
pounds."

A faint "halloo!" sounded above the war of the weather; and Lee,
putting his hand to his mouth, replied with that strange cry, so well
known to all Australians--"Coee."

A man was now heard approaching through the darkness, now splashing
deep into some treacherous moss hole with a loud curse, now blundering
among loose-lying blocks of stone. Lee waited till he was quite close,
and then seizing a bunch of gorse lighted it at his fire and held it
aloft; the bright blaze fell full upon the face and features of George
Hawker.

"A cursed place and a cursed time," he began, "for an appointment. If
you had wanted to murder me, I could have understood it. But I am
pretty safe, I think; your interests don't lie that way."

"Well, well, you see," returned Lee, "I don't want any meetings on the
cross up at my place in the village. The whole house ain't mine, and we
don't know who may be listening. I am suspected enough already, and it
wouldn't look well for you to be seen at my place. Folks would have
begun axing what for."

"Don't see it," said George. "Besides, if you did not want to see me at
home, why the devil do you bring me out here in the middle of the moor?
We might have met on the hill underneath the village, and when we had
done business gone up to the publichouse. D----d if I understand it."

He acquiesced sulkily to the arrangement, however, because he saw it
was no use talking about it, but he was far from comfortable. He would
have been still less so had he known that Lee's shout had brought up a
confederate, who was now peering over the rocks, almost touching his
shoulder.

"Well," said Lee, "here we are, so we had better be as comfortable as
we can this devil's night."

"Got anything to drink?"

"Deuce a swipe of grog have I. But I have got some real Barret's twist,
that never paid duty as I know'd on, so just smoke a pipe before we
begin talking, and show you aint vexed."

"I'd sooner have had a drop of grog, such a night as this."

"We must do as the Spaniards do, when they can't get anything," said
Lee; "go without."

They both lit their pipes, and smoked in silence for a few minutes,
till Lee resumed:--

"If the witches weren't all dead, there would be some of them abroad
to-night; hear that?"

"Only a whimbrel, isn't it?" said George.

"That's something worse than a whimbrel, I'm thinking," said the other.
"There's some folks don't believe in witches and the like," he
continued; "but a man that's seen a naked old hag of a gin ride away on
a myall-bough, knows better."

"Lord!" said George. "I shouldn't have thought you'd have believed in
the like of that--but I do--that old devil's dam, dame Parker, that
lives alone up in Hatherleigh Wood, got gibbering some infernal nonsense
at me the other day, for shooting her black cat. I made the cross
in the road though, so I suppose it won't come to anything."

"Perhaps not," said Lee; "but I'd sooner kill a man than a black cat."

Another pause. The tobacco, so much stronger than any George had been
accustomed to, combined with the cold, made him feel nervous and
miserable.

"When I was a boy," resumed Lee, "there were two young brothers made it
up to rob the 'squire's house, down at Gidleigh. They separated in the
garden after they cracked the crib, agreeing to meet here in this very
place, and share the swag, for they had got nigh seventy pound. They
met and quarrelled over the sharing up; and the elder one drew out a
pistol, and shot the younger dead. The poor boy was sitting much where
you are sitting now, and that long tuft of grass grew up from his
blood."

"I believe that's all a lie," said George; "you want to drive me into
the horrors with your humbugging tales."

Lee, seeing that he had gone far enough, if not too far, proposed,
somewhat sulkily, that they should begin to talk about what brought
them there, and not sit crouching in the wet all night.

"Well," said George, "it's you to begin. What made you send for me to
this infernal place?"

"I want money," said Lee.

"Then you'd better axe about and get some," said George; "you'll get
none from me. I am surprised that a man with your knowledge of the
world should have sent me such a letter as you did yesterday, I am
indeed--What the devil's that?"

He started on his feet. A blaze of sudden light filled the nook where
they were sitting, and made it as bright as day, and a voice shouted
out,

"Ha, ha, ha! my secret coves, what's going on here? something quiet and
sly, eh? something worth a fifty-pound note, eh? Don't you want an
arbitrator, eh? Here's one, ready made."

"You're playing a dangerous game, my flash man, whoever you are," said
Lee, rising savagely. "I've shot a man down for less than that. So
you've been stagging this gentleman and me, and listening, have you?
For just half a halfpenny," he added, striding towards him, and drawing
out a pistol, "you shouldn't go home this night."

"Don't you be a fool, Bill Lee;" said the new comer. "I saw the light
and made towards it, and as I come up I heard some mention made of
money Now then, if my company is disagreeable, why I'll go, and no harm
done."

"What! it's you, is it?" said Lee; "well, now you've come, you may stop
and hear what it's all about. I don't care, you are not very squeamish,
or at least, usedn't to be."

George saw that the arrival of this man was preconcerted, and cursed
Lee bitterly in his heart, but he sat still, and thought how he could
out-manoeuvre them.

"Now," said Lee, "I ain't altogether sorry that you have come, for I
want to tell you a bit of a yarn, and ask your advice about my
behaviour. This is about the state of the case. A young gentleman, a
great friend of mine, was not very many years ago, pretty much given up
to fast living, cock-fighting, horse-racing, and many other little
matters which all young fellows worth anything are pretty sure to
indulge in, and which are very agreeable for the time, but which cost
money, and are apt to bring a man into low society. When I tell you
that he and I first met in Exeter, as principals in crossing a fight,
you may be sure that these pursuits HAD brought the young gentleman
into VERY low company indeed. In fact, he was over head and ears in
debt, raising money in every way he could, hook or crook, square or
cross, to satisfy certain creditors, who were becoming nasty impatient
and vexatious. I thought something might be made of this young gentleman,
so finding there was no pride about him, I cultivated his
acquaintance, examined his affairs, and put him up to the neatest
little fakement in the world, just showed him how to raise two hundred
pounds, and clear himself with everybody, just by signing his father's
name, thereby saving the old gent the trouble of writing it (he is very
infirm, is dad), and anticipating by a few years what must be his own
at last. Not to mention paying off a lot of poor publicans and
horse-dealers, who could not afford to wait for their money. Blowed if I
don't think it the most honest action he ever did in his life. Well, he
committed the--wrote the name I mean,--and stood two ten-pound notes
for the information, quite handsome. But now this same young gent is
going to marry a young lady with five thousand pounds in her own right,
and she nearly of age. Her father, I understand, is worth another five
thousand, and very old; so that what he'll get ultimately if he marries
into that family, counting his own expectations, won't be much less I
should say than twenty thousand pounds. Now I mean to say, under these
circumstances, I should be neglecting my own interests most culpably,
if I didn't demand from him the trifling sum of three hundred pounds
for holding my tongue."

"Why, curse you," broke in Hawker, "you said two hundred yesterday."

"Exactly so," said Lee, "but that WAS yesterday. To-morrow, if the job
ain't settled, it'll be four, and the day after five. It's no use,
George Hawker," he continued; "you are treed, and you can't help
yourself. If I give information you swing, and you know it; but I'd
rather have the money than see the man hanged. But mind," said he, with
a snarl, "if I catch you playing false, by the Lord, I'll hang you for
love."

For an instant the wretched George cast a hurried glance around, as if
considering what wild chance there was of mastering his two enemies,
but that glance showed him that it was hopeless, for they both stood
close together, each holding in his hand a cocked pistol, so in despair
he dropped his eyes on the fire once more, while Lee chuckled inwardly
at his wise foresight in bringing an accomplice.

"By Jove," he said to himself, "it's lucky Dick's here. If I had been
alone, he'd have been at me then like a tiger. It would have been only
man to man, but he would have been as good as me; he'd have fought like
a rat in a corner."

George sat looking into the embers for a full half minute, while the
others waited for his answer, determined that he should speak first.
At length he raised his head, and said hoarsely, looking at neither of
them,--

"And where am I to get three hundred pounds?"

"A simple question very easily answered," said Lee. "Do what you did
before, with half the difficulty. You manage nearly everything now your
father is getting blind, so you need hardly take the trouble of
altering the figures in the banker's book, and some slight hint about
taking a new farm would naturally account for the old man's drawing out
four or five hundred. The thing's easier than ever."

"Take my advice, young man," said Dick, "and take the shortest cut out
of the wood. You see my friend here, William, has got tired of these
parts, as being, you see, hardly free and easy enough for him, and he
wants to get back to a part of the world he was rather anxious to leave
a few years ago. If he likes to take me back with him, why he can. I
rather fancy the notion myself. Give him the money, and in three months
we'll both be fourteen thousand odd miles off. Meanwhile, you marry the
young lady, and die in your bed, an honest gentleman, at eighty-four,
instead of being walked out some cold morning to a gallows at twenty-two."

"Needs must where the devil drives," replied George. "You shall have
the money this day week. And now let me go, for I am nearly froze
dead."

"That's the talk," said Lee; "I knew you would be reasonable. If it
hadn't been for my necessities, I am sure I never would have bothered
you. Well, good night."

George rose and departed eastward, towards the rising moon, while Lee
and his companion struck due west across the moor. The rain had ceased,
and the sky was clear, so that there was not much difficulty in picking
their way through the stones and moss-hags. Suddenly Lee stopped, and
said to his comrade, with an oath,--

"Dick, my boy, I didn't half like the way that dog left us."

"Nor I either," replied the other. "He has got some new move in his
head, you may depend on it. He'll give you the slip if he can."

"Let him try it," said Lee; "oh, only just let him try it."

And then the pair of worthies walked home.




Chapter VI



GEORGE HAWKER GOES TO THE FAIR--WRESTLES, BUT GETS THROWN ON HIS BACK
SHOOTS AT A MARK, BUT MISSES IT.


Lee had guessed rightly. When George found himself so thoroughly
entrapped, and heard all his most secret relations with Lee so openly
discussed before a third man, he was in utter despair, and saw no hope
of extrication from his difficulties. But this lasted for a very short
time. Even while Lee and Dick were still speaking, he was reflecting
how to turn the tables on them, and already began to see a sparkle of
hope glimmering afar.

Lee was a returned convict, George had very little doubt of that. A
thousand queer expressions he had let fall in conversation had shown
him that it was so. And now, if he could but prove it, and get Lee sent
back out of the way. And yet that would hardly do after all. It would
be difficult to identify him. His name gave no clue to who he was.
There were a thousand or two of Lees hereabouts, and a hundred William
Lees at least. Still it was evident that he was originally from this
part of the country; it was odd no one had recognised him.

So George gave up this plan as hopeless. "Still," said he, "there is a
week left; surely I can contrive to bowl him out somehow." And then he
walked on in deep thought.

He was crossing the highest watershed in the county by an open, low-sided
valley on the southern shoulder of Cawsand. To the left lay the
mountain, and to the right tors of weathered granite, dim in the
changing moonlight. Before him was a small moor-pool, in summer a mere
reedy marsh, but now a bleak tarn, standing among dangerous mosses,
sending ghostly echoes across the solitude, as the water washed wearily
against the black peat shores, or rustled among the sere skeleton reeds
in the shallow bays.

Suddenly he stopped with a jar in his brain and a chill at his heart.
His breath came short, and raising one hand, he stood beating the
ground for half a minute with his foot. He gave a stealthy glance
around, and then murmured hoarsely to himself,--

"Aye, that would do; that would do well. And I could do it, too, when I
was half-drunk."

Was that the devil, chuckling joyous to himself across the bog? No,
only an innocent little snipe, getting merry over the change of
weather, bleating to his companions as though breeding time were come
round again.

Crowd close, little snipes, among the cup-moss and wolf's-foot, for he
who stalks past you over the midnight moor, meditates a foul and
treacherous murder in his heart.

Yes, it had come to that, and so quickly. He would get this man Lee,
who held his life in his hand, and was driving him on from crime to
crime, to meet him alone on the moor if he could, and shoot him. What
surety had he that Lee would leave him in peace after this next
extortion? none but his word,--the word of a villain like that. He
knew what his own word was worth; what wonder if he set a small value
on Lee's? He might be hung as it was; he would be hung for something.
Taw Steps was a wild place, and none were likely to miss either Lee or
his friend. It would be supposed they had tramped off as they came.
There could be no proof against him, none whatever. No one had ever
seen them together. They must both go. Well, two men were no worse than
one. Hatherleigh had killed four men with his own hand at Waterloo, and
they gave him a medal for it. They were likely honest fellows enough,
not such scoundrels as these two.

So arguing confusedly with himself, only one thing certain in his mind,
that he was committed to the perpetration of this crime, and that the
time for drawing back was passed long ago, he walked rapidly onwards
towards the little village where he had left his horse in an outhouse,
fearing to trust him among the dangerous bogs which he had himself to
cross to gain the rendezvous at Taw Steps.

He rapidly cleared the moor, and soon gained the little grey street,
lying calm and peaceful beneath the bright winter moon, which was only
now and then obscured for a moment by the last flying clouds of the
late storm hurrying after their fellows. The rill which ran brawling
loud through the village, swollen by the late rains, at length forced
on his perception that he was fearfully thirsty, and that his throat
was parched and dry.

"This is the way men feel in hell, I think," said he. "Lord! let me get
a drink while I can. The rich man old Jack reads about couldn't get one
for all his money."

He walked up to a stone horse-trough, a little off the road. He stooped
to drink, and started back with an oath. What pale, wild, ghastly face
was that, looking at him out of the cool calm water? Not his own,
surely? He closed his eyes, and, having drunk deep, walked on
refreshed. He reached the outhouse where his horse was tied, and, as he
was leading the impatient animal forth, one of the children within
the cottage adjoining woke up and began to cry. He waited still a
moment, and heard the mother arise and soothe it; then a window
overhead opened, and a woman said--

"Is that you, Mr. Hawker?"

"Aye," said he, "it's me. Come for the horse."

He was startled at the sound of his own voice. It was like another
man's. But like the voice of some one he seemed to know, too. A new
acquaintance.

"It will be morn soon," resumed the woman. "The child is much worse
to-night, and I think he'll go before daybreak. Well, well--much sorrow
saved, maybe. I'll go to bed no more to-night, lest my boy should be
off while I'm sleeping. Good night, sir. God bless you. May you never
know the sorrow of losing a first-born."

Years after he remembered those random words. But now he only thought
that if the brat should die, there would be only one pauper less in
Bickerton. And so thinking, mounted and rode on his way.

He rode fast, and was soon at home. He had put his horse in the stable,
and, shoeless, was creeping up to bed, when, as he passed his father's
door, it opened, and the old man came out, light in hand.

He was a very infirm old man, much bent, though evidently at one time
he had been of great stature. His retreating forehead, heavy grey
eyebrows, and loose sensual mouth, rendered him no pleasing object at
any time, and, as he stood in the doorway now, with a half drunken
satyr-like leer on his face, he looked perfectly hideous.

"Where's my pretty boy been?" he piped out. "How pale he looks. Are you
drunk, my lad?"

"No! wish I was," replied George. "Give me the keys, dad, and let me
get a drink of brandy. I've been vexed, and had nought to drink all
night. I shall be getting the horrors if I don't have something before
I go to bed."

The old man got him half a tumbler of brandy from his room, where there
was always some to be had, and following him into his room, sat down on
the bed.

"Who's been vexing my handsome son?" said he; "my son that I've been
waiting up for all night. Death and gallows to them, whoever they are.
Is it that pale-faced little parson's daughter? Or is it her tight-laced
hypocrite of a father, that comes whining here with his good
advice to me who know the world so well? Never mind, my boy. Keep a
smooth face, and play the humbug till you've got her, and her money,
and then break her impudent little heart if you will. Go to sleep, my
boy, and dream you are avenged on them all."

"I mean to be, father, on some of them, I tell you," replied George.

"That's right, my man. Good night."

"Good night, old dad," said George. As he watched him out of the room,
a kinder, softer, expression came on his face. His father was the only
being he cared for in the world.

He slept a heavy and dreamless sleep that night, and when he woke for
the first time, the bright winter's sun was shining into his room, and
morning was far advanced.

He arose, strengthened and refreshed by his sleep, with a light heart.
He began whistling as he dressed himself, but suddenly stopped, as the
recollection of the night before came upon him. Was it a reality, or
only a dream? No; it was true enough. He has no need to whistle this
morning. He is entangled in a web of crime and guilt from which there
is no escape.

He dressed himself, and went forth into the fresh morning air for a
turn, walking up and down on the broad gravel walk before the dark old
porch.

A glorious winter's morning. The dismal old stonehouse, many-gabled,
held aloft its tall red chimneys towards the clear blue sky, and looked
bright and pleasant in the sunshine. The deep fir and holly woods which
hemmed it in on all sides, save in front, were cheerful with sloping
gleams of sunlight, falling on many a patch of green moss, red fern,
and bright brown last year's leaves. In front, far below him, rolled
away miles of unbroken woodland, and in the far distance rose the moor,
a dim cloud of pearly grey.

A robin sat and sung loud beside him, sole songster left in the wintry
woods, but which said, as plain as bird could say, could he have
understood it, "See, the birds are not all dead in this dreary winter
time. I am still here, a pledge from my brothers. When yon dim grey
woods grow green, and the brown hollows are yellow with kingcups and
primroses, the old melody you know so well shall begin again, and the
thrush from the oak top shall answer to the goldentoned blackbird in
the copse, saying--'Our mother is not dead, but has been sleeping. She
is awake again--let all the land rejoice.'"

Little part had that poor darkened mind in such thoughts as these. If
any softening influence were upon him this morning, he gave no place to
it. The robin ceased, and he only heard the croak of a raven, an old
inhabitant of these wild woods, coming from the darkest and tallest of
the fir-trees. Then he saw his father approaching along the garden
walk.

One more chance for thee, unhappy man. Go up to him now, and tell him
all. He has been a kind father to you, with all his faults. Get him on
your side, and you may laugh Lee to scorn. Have you not the courage to
tell him?

For a moment he hesitated, but the dread of his father's burst of anger
kept him silent. He hardened his heart, and, whistling, waited for the
old man to come up.

"How is he this morning?" said his father. "What has he got his old
clothes on for, and such fine ones as he has in his drawer?"

"Why should I put on my best clothes this day, father?"

"Aint'ee going down to revils?"

"True," said George. "I had forgotten all about it. Yes; I shall go
down, of course."

"Are you going to play (wrestle)?" asked the father.

"Maybe I may. But come in to breakfast. Where's Madge?"

"In-doors," said the father, "waiting breakfast--mortal cross."

"Curse her crossness," said George. "If I were ye, dad, I'd kick her
out in the lane next time she got on one of her tantrams."

A tall woman about forty stepped out of the house as he uttered these
words. "Ye hear what he says, William Hawker," she said. "Ye hear what
ye're own lawful son says. He'd kick me out in the lane. And ye'd stand
there and let him, ye old dog; I don't doubt."

"Hush, George," said the old man. "You don't know what you're saying,
boy. Go in, Madge, and don't be a fool; you bring it on yourself."

The woman turned in a contemptuous way and walked in. She was a very
remarkable looking person. Tall and upright, at least six feet high,
with swarthy complexion, black eyes, and coal-black hair, looped up
loosely in a knot behind. She must have been very beautiful as a young
girl, but was now too fierce and hawkish looking, though you would
still call her handsome. She was a full-blooded gipsy, of one of the
best families, which, however, she totally denied. When I say that she
bore the worst of characters morally, and had the reputation besides of
being a witch of the highest acquirements,--a sort of double first at
Satan's university,--I have said all I need to say about her at
present.

These three sat down to breakfast, not before each of them, however,
had refreshed themselves with a dram. All the meal through, the old man
and Madge were quarrelling with one another, till at length the contest
grew so fierce that George noticed it, a thing he very seldom took the
trouble to do.

"I tell thee," said the old man, "ye'll get no more money this week.
What have 'ee done with the last five pounds?"

George knew well enough, she had given it to him. Many a time did she
contrive to let him have a pound or two, and blind the old man as to
where it was gone. The day before he had applied to her for some money
and she had refused, and in revenge, George had recommended his father
to turn her out, knowing that she could hear every word, and little
meaning it in reality.

"Ye STINGY OLD BEAST," she replied, very slowly and distinctly, "I wish
ye were dead and out of the way. I'll be doing it myself some of these
odd times." And looking at him fixedly and pointing her finger, she
began the Hebrew alphabet--Aleph, Beth, &c. from the 119th Psalm.

"I won't have it," screamed the old man. "Stop, or I'll kill you, I
will--! George, you won't see your father took before your eyes. Stop
her!"

"Come, quiet, old girl; none of that;" said George, taking her round
the waist and putting his hand before her mouth. "Be reasonable now."
She continued to look at the old man with a smile of triumph for a
short time, and then said, with a queer laugh:

"It's lucky you stopped me. Oh, very lucky indeed. Now, are you going
to give the money, you old Jew?"

She had carried the day, and the old man sulkily acquiesced. George
went up stairs, and having dressed himself to his taste, got on
horseback and rode down to the village, which was about three miles.

This was the day of the Revels, which corresponds pretty well with what
is called in other parts of England a pleasure fair; that is to say,
although some business might be done, yet it was only a secondary
object to amusement.

The main village of Drumston was about a mile from the church which I
have before noticed, and consisted of a narrow street of cob-houses,
whitewashed and thatched, crossing at right angles, by a little stone
bridge, over a pretty, clear trout-stream. All around the village,
immediately behind the backs of the houses, rose the abrupt red hills,
divided into fields by broad oak hedges, thickly set with elms. The
water of the stream, intercepted at some point higher up, was carried
round the crown of the hills for the purposes of irrigation, which,
even at this dead season, showed its advantages by the brilliant
emerald green of the tender young grass on the hill-sides. Drumston, in
short, was an excellent specimen of a close, dull, dirty, and, I fear,
not very healthy Devonshire village in the red country.

On this day the main street, usually in a state of ancle-deep mud six
months in the year, was churned and pounded into an almost knee-deep
state, by four or five hundred hobnail shoes in search of amusement.
The amusements were various. Drinking (very popular), swearing
(ditto), quarrelling, eating pastry ginger-bread and nuts (female
pastime), and looking at a filthy Italian, leading a still more filthy
monkey, who rode on a dog (the only honest one of the three). This all
day, till night dropped down on a scene of drunkenness and vice, which
we had better not seek to look at further. Surely, if ever man was
right, old Joey Bender, the methodist shoemaker, was right, when he
preached against the revels for four Sundays running, and said
roundly that he would sooner see all his congregation leave him and go
up to the steeplehouse (church) in a body, than that they should
attend such a crying abomination.

The wrestling, the only honest sensible amusement to be had, was not in
much favour at Drumston. Such wrestling as there was was carried on in
a little croft behind the principal of the public-houses, for some
trifling prize, given by the publicans. In this place, James
Stockbridge and myself had wandered on the afternoon of the day in
question, having come down to the revel to see if we could find some
one we wanted.

There was a small ring of men watching the performances, and talking,
each and all of them, not to his neighbour, or to himself, but to the
ambient air, in the most unintelligible Devonshire jargon, rendered
somewhat more barbarous than usual by intoxication. Frequently one
of them would address one of the players in language more forcible than
choice, as he applauded some piece of FINESSE, or condemned some
clumsiness on the part of the two youths who were struggling about in
the centre, under the impression they were wrestling. There were but
two moderate wrestlers in the parish, and those two were George Hawker
and James Stockbridge. And James and myself had hardly arrived on the
ground two minutes, before George, coming up, greeted us.

After a few common-place civilities, he challenged James to play. "Let
us show these muffs what play is," said he; "it's a disgrace to the
county to see such work."

James had no objection; so, having put on the jackets, they set to work
to the great admiration of the bystanders, one of whom, a drunken
tinker, expressed his applause in such remarkable language that I
mildly asked him to desist, which of course made him worse.

The two wrestlers made very pretty play of it for some time, till
James, feinting at some outlandish manoeuvre, put George on his back by
a simple trip, akin to scholar's-mate at chess.

George fell heavily, for they were both heavy men. He rose from the
ground and walked to where his coat was, sulkily. James thinking he
might have been hurt, went up to speak to him; but the other, greeting
him with an oath, turned and walked away through the crowd.

He was in a furious passion, and he went on to the little bridge that
crossed the stream. We saw him standing looking into the water below,
when a short light-looking man came up to him, and having spoken to him
for a few minutes, walked off in the direction of Exeter, at a steady,
rapid pace.

That man was Dick, the companion of Lee, (I knew all this well
afterwards). George was standing as I have described on the bridge,
when he came up to him, and touching him, said:

"I want to speak to you a moment, Mr. Hawker."

George turned round, and when he saw who it was, asked, angrily,

"What the--do you want?"

"No offence, sir. You see, I'm in trouble, there's a warrant out
against me, and I must fly. I am as hardup as a poor cove could be;
can you give me a trifle to help me along the road?"

Here was a slice of good luck; to get rid of this one so easily. George
gave him money, and having wished him farewell, watched him striding
steadily up the long hill towards Exeter with great satisfaction; then
he went back to the public-house, and sat drinking an hour or more. At
last he got out his horse to ride homeward.

The crowd about the public-house door was as thick as ever, and the
disturbance greater. Some of the women were trying to get their drunken
husbands home, one man had fallen down dead-drunk beside the door in
the mud, and his wife was sitting patiently beside him. Several girls
were standing wearily about the door, dressed in their best, each with
a carefully folded white pocket-handkerchief in her hand for show, and
not for use, waiting for their sweethearts to come forth when it should
suit them; while inside the tap all was a wild confusion of talk,
quarrelling, oaths, and smoke enough to sicken a scavenger.

These things are changed now, or are changing, year by year. Now we
have our rural policeman keeping some sort of order, and some show of
decency. And indeed these little fairs, the curse of the country, are
gradually becoming extinct by the exertions of a more energetic class
of county magistrates; and though there is probably the same amount of
vice, public propriety is at all events more respected. I think I may
say that I have seen as bad, or even worse, scenes of drunkenness and
disorder at an English fair, as ever I have in any Australian mining
town.

George Hawker was so hemmed in by the crowd that he was unable to
proceed above a foot's-pace. He was slowly picking his way through the
people, when he felt some one touching him on the leg, and, looking
round, saw Lee standing beside him.

"What, Lee, my boy, you here!" said he; "I have just seen your amiable
comrade--he seems to be in trouble."

"Dick's always in trouble, Mr. Hawker," replied he. "He has no care or
reason; he isn't a bad fellow, but I'm always glad when he is out of my
way; I don't like being seen with him. This is likely to be his last
time, though. He is in a serious scrape, and, by way of getting out of
it, he is walking into Exeter, along the high road, as if nothing was
the matter. There's a couple of traps in Belston after him now, and I
came down here to keep secure. By-the-bye, have you thought of that
little matter we were talking about the other night? To tell you the
truth, I don't care how soon I am out of this part of the country."

"Oh! ah!" replied George, "I've thought of it, and it's all right. Can
you be at the old place the day after to-morrow?"

"That can I," said Lee, "with much pleasure."

"You'll come alone this time, I suppose," said George. "I suppose you
don't want to share our little matter with the whole country?"

"No fear, Mr. George; I will be there at eight punctual, and alone."

"Well, bye-bye," said George, and rode off.

It was getting late in the evening when he started, and ere he reached
home it was nearly dark. For the last mile his road lay through
forest-land: noble oaks, with a plentiful under-growth of holly,
over-shadowed a floor of brown leaves and red fern; and at the end of the
wood nearest home, where the oaks joined their own fir plantations, one
mighty gnarled tree, broader and older than all the rest, held aloft
its withered boughs against the frosty sky.

This oak was one of the bogie haunts of the neighbourhood. All sorts
of stories were told about it, all of which George, of course,
believed; so that when his horse started and refused to move forward,
and when he saw a dark figure sitting on the twisted roots of the tree,
he grew suddenly cold, and believed he had seen a ghost.

The figure rose, and stalked towards him through the gathering gloom;
he saw that it held a baby in its arms, and that it was tall and
noble-looking. Then a new fear took possession of him, not supernatural;
and he said in a low voice--"Ellen!"

"That was my name once, George Hawker," replied she, standing beside
him, and laying her hand upon his horse's shoulder. "I don't know what
my name is now, I'm sure; It surely can't remain the same, and me so
altered."

"What on earth brings you back just at this time, in God's name?" asked
George.

"Hunger, cold, misery, drunkenness, disease. Those are the merry
companions that lead me back to my old sweetheart. Look here, George,
should you know him again?"

She held up a noble child about a year old, for him to look at. The
child, disturbed from her warm bosom, began to wail.

"What! cry to see your father, child?" she exclaimed. "See what a
bonnie gentleman he is, and what a pretty horse he rides, while we
tread along through the mire."

"What have you come to me for, Ellen?" asked George. "Do you know that
if you are seen about here just now you may do me a great injury?"

"I don't want to hurt you, George," she replied; "but I must have
money. I cannot work, and I dare not show my face here. Can't you take
me in to-night, George, only just to-night, and let me lie by the fire?
I'll go in the morning; but I know it's going to freeze, and I do dread
the long cold hours so. I have lain out two nights, now, and I had
naught to eat all day. Do'ee take me in, George; for old love's sake,
do!"

She was his own cousin, an orphan, brought up in the same house with
him by his father. Never very strong in her mind, though exceedingly
pretty, she had been early brought to ruin by George. On the birth of a
boy, about a year before, the old man's eyes were opened to what was
going on, and in a furious rage he turned her out of doors, and refused
ever to see her again. George, to do him justice, would have married
her, but his father told him, if he did so, he should leave the house
with her. So the poor thing had gone away and tried to get needlework
in Exeter, but her health failing, and George having ceased to answer
all applications from her, she had walked over, and lurked about in the
woods to gain an interview with him.

She laid her hand on his, and he felt it was deadly cold. "Put my coat
over your shoulders, Nelly, and wait an instant while I go and speak to
Madge. I had better let her know you are coming; then we shan't have
any trouble."

He rode quickly through the plantation, and gave his horse to a boy who
waited in front of the door. In the kitchen he found Madge brooding
over the fire, with her elbows on her knees, and without raising her
head or turning round, she said:

"Home early, and sober! what new mischief are you up to?"

"None, Madge, none! but here's the devil to pay. Ellen's come back.
She's been lying out these three nights, and is awful hard up. It's not
my fault, I have sent her money enough, in all conscience."

"Where is she?" inquired Madge, curtly.

"Outside, in the plantation."

"Why don't you bring her in, you treacherous young wolf?" replied she.
"What did you bring her to shame for, if you are going to starve her?"

"I was going to fetch her in," said George, indignantly; "only I
wanted to find out what your temper was like, you vicious old cow. How
did I know but what you would begin some of your tantrums, and miscall
her?"

"No fear o' that! no fear of pots and kettles with me! lead her in,
lad, before she's frozen!"

George went back for her, and finding her still in the same place,
brought her in. Madge was standing erect before the fire, and, walking
up to the unfortunate Ellen, took her baby from her, and made her sit
before the fire.

"Better not face the old man," said she; "he's away to the revels, and
he'll come home drunk. Make yourself happy for to-night, at all
events."

The poor thing began to cry, which brought on such a terrible fit of
coughing that Madge feared she would rupture a blood-vessel. She went
to get her a glass of wine, and returned with a candle, and then, for
the first time, they saw what a fearful object she was.

"Oh!" she said to George, "you see what I am now. I ain't long for this
world. Only keep me from worse, George, while I am alive, and do
something for the boy afterwards, and I am content. You're going to get
married, I know, and I wish you well. But don't forget this poor little
thing when it's motherless. If you do, and let him fall into vice,
you'll never be lucky, George."

"Oh, you ain't going to die, old Nelly," said George; "not for many
years yet. You're pulled down, and thin, but you'll pick up again with
the spring. Now, old girl, get some supper out before he comes home."

They gave her supper, and put her to bed. In the morning, very early,
George heard the sound of wheels below his bedroom window; and looking
out, saw that Madge was driving out of the yard in a light cart, and,
watching her closely, saw her pick up Ellen and the child just outside
the gate. Then he went to bed again, and, when he awoke, he heard
Madge's voice below, and knew she was come back.

He went down, and spoke to her. "Is she gone?" he asked.

"In course she is," replied Madge. "Do you think I was going to let her
stay till the old man was about?"

"How much money did you give her, besides what she had from me?"

"I made it five pounds in all; that will keep her for some time, and
then you must send her some more. If you let that wench starve, you
ought to be burnt alive. A MAN would have married her in spite of his
father."

"A likely story," said George, "that I was to disinherit myself for
her. However, she shan't want at present, or we shall have her back
again. And that won't do, you know."

"George," said Madge, "you promise to be as great a rascal as your
father."

The old man had, as Madge prophesied, come home very drunk the night
before, and had lain in bed later than usual, so that, when he came to
breakfast, he found George, gun in hand, ready to go out.

"Going shooting, my lad?" said the father. "Where be going?"

"Down through the hollies for a woodcock. I'll get one this morning,
it's near full moon."

All the morning they heard him firing in the bottom below the house,
and at one o'clock he came home, empty-handed.

"Why, George!" said his father, "what hast thee been shooting at? I
thought 'ee was getting good sport."

"I've been shooting at a mark," he replied.

"Who be going to shoot now, eh, George?" asked the old man.

"No one as I know of," he replied.

"Going over to Eggesford, eh, Georgey? This nice full moon is about the
right thing for thee. They Fellowes be good fellows to keep a fat
haunch for their neighbours."

George laughed, as he admitted the soft impeachment of deer-stealing,
but soon after grew sullen, and all the afternoon sat over the fire
brooding and drinking. He went to bed early, and had just got off his
boots, when the door opened, and Madge came in.

"What's up to now, old girl?" said George.

"What are you going to be up to, eh?" she asked, "with your gun?"

"Only going to get an outlying deer," said he.

"That's folly enough, but there's a worse folly than that. It's worse
folly to wipe out money-scores in blood. It's a worse folly if you are
in a difficulty to put yourself in a harder one to get out of the
first. Its a worse--"

"Why, you're mad," broke in George. "Do you think I am fool enough to
make away with one of the keepers?"

"I don't know what you are fool enough to do. Only mind my words before
it's too late."

She went out, and left him sitting moodily on the bed. "What a clever
woman she is," he mused. "How she hits a thing off. She's been a good
friend to me. I've a good mind to ask her advice. I'll think about it
to-morrow morning."

But on the morrow they quarrelled about something or another, and her
advice was never asked. George was moody and captious all day; and at
evening, having drank hard, he slipped off, and, gun in hand, rode
away through the darkening woods towards the moor.

It was dark before he had got clear of the labyrinth of lanes through
which he took his way. His horse he turned out in a small croft close
to where the heather began; and, having hid the saddle and bridle in a
hedge, strode away over the moor with his gun on his shoulder.

He would not think; he would sooner whistle; distance seemed like
nothing to him; and he was surprised and frightened to find himself
already looking over the deep black gulf through which the river ran
before he thought he was half-way there.

He paused to look before he began to descend. A faint light still
lingered in the frosty sky to the southwest, and majestic Yestor rose
bold and black against it. Down far, far beneath his feet was the
river, dimly heard, but not seen; and, as he looked to where it should
be, he saw a little flickering star, which arrested his attention. That
must be Lee's fire--there he began to descend.

Boldly at first, but afterwards more stealthily, and now more silently
still, for the fire is close by, and it were well to give him no
notice. It is in the old place, and he can see it now, not ten yards
before him, between two rocks.

Nearer yet a little, with cat-like tread. There is Lee, close to the
fire, sitting on the ground, dimly visible, yet clearly enough for his
purpose. He rests the gun on a rock, and takes his aim.

He is pinioned from behind by a vigorous hand, and a voice he knows
cries in his ear--"Help, Bill, or you'll be shot!"

The gun goes off in the scuffle, but hurts nobody, and Lee running up,
George finds the tables completely turned, and himself lying, after a
few desperate struggles, helplessly pinioned on the ground.

Dick had merely blinded him by appearing to go to Exeter. They both
thought it likely that he would attack Lee, but neither supposed he
would have stolen on him so treacherously. Dick had just noticed him in
time, and sprung upon him, or Lee's troubles would have been over for
ever.

"You treacherous young sweep, you shall hang for this," were Lee's
first words. "Ten thousand pounds would not save you now. Dick, you're
a jewel. If I had listened to you, I shouldn't have trusted my life to
the murdering vagabond. I'll remember to-night, my boy, as long as I
live."

Although it appeared at first that ten thousand pounds would not
prevent Lee handing George over to justice, yet, after a long and
stormy argument, it appeared that the lesser sum of five hundred
would be amply sufficient to stay any ulterior proceedings, provided
the money was forthcoming in a week. So that ultimately George found
himself at liberty again, and, to his great astonishment, in higher
spirits than he could have expected.

"At all events," said he to himself, as he limped back, lame and
bruised, "I have not got THAT on my mind. Even if this other thing was
found out, there is a chance of getting off. Surely my own father
wouldn't prosecute--though I wouldn't like to trust to it, unless I
got Madge on my side."

His father, I think I have mentioned, was too blind to read, and George
used to keep all his accounts; so that nothing would seem at first to
look more easy than to imitate his father's signature, and obtain what
money he wished. But George knew well that the old man was often in the
habit of looking through his banker's book, with the assistance of
Madge, so that he was quite unsafe without her. His former embezzlement
he had kept secret, by altering some figure in the banker's book; but
this next one, of such a much larger amount, he felt somewhat anxious
about. He, however, knew his woman well, and took his measures
accordingly.

On the day mentioned, he met Lee, and gave him the money agreed on; and
having received his assurances that he valued his life too much to
trouble him any more, saw him depart, fully expecting that he should
have another application at an early date; under which circumstances,
he thought he would take certain precautions which should be
conclusive.

But he saw Lee no more. No more for many, many years. But how and when
they met again, and who came off best in the end, this tale will truly
and sufficiently set forth hereafter.




Chapter VII



MAJOR BUCKLEY GIVES HIS OPINION ON TROUT-FISHING, ON EMIGRATION, AND ON
GEORGE HAWKER.


Spring had come again, after a long wet winter, and every orchard-hollow
blushed once more with appleblossoms. In warm sheltered
southern valleys hedges were already green, and even the tall
hedgerow-elms began, day after day, to grow more shady and dense.

It was a bright April morning, about ten o'clock, when Mary Thornton,
throwing up her father's studywindow from the outside, challenged him
to come out and take a walk; and John, getting his hat and stick,
immediately joined her in front of the house.

"Where is your aunt, my love?" said John.

"She is upstairs," said Mary. "I will call her."

She began throwing gravel at one of the upper windows, and crying out,
"Auntie! Auntie!"

The sash was immediately thrown (no, that is too violent a word--say
lifted) up, and a beautiful old lady's face appeared at the window.

"My love," it said, in a small, soft voice, "pray be careful of the
windows. Did you want anything, my dear?"

"I want you out for a walk, Auntie; so come along."

"Certainly, my love. Brother, have you got your thick kerchief in your
pocket?"

"No," said the Vicar, "I have not, and I don't mean to have."

Commencement of a sore-throat lecture from the window, cut short by the
Vicar, who says,--

"My dear, I shall be late if you don't come;" (jesuitically on his
part, for he was going nowhere.)

So she comes accordingly, as sweet-looking an old maid as ever you saw
in your life. People have no right to use up such beautiful women as
governesses. It's a sheer waste of material. Miss Thornton had been a
governess all her life; and now, at the age of five-and-forty, had come
to keep her brother's house for him, add her savings to his, and put
the finishingtouch on Mary's somewhat rough education.

"My love," said she, "I have brought you your gloves."

"Oh, indeed, Auntie, I won't wear them," said Mary. "I couldn't be
plagued with gloves. Nobody wears them here."

"Mrs. Buckley wears them, and it would relieve my mind if you were to
put them on, my dear. I fear my lady's end was accelerated by,
unfortunately, in her last illness, catching sight of Lady Kate's hands
after she had been assisting her brother to pick green walnuts."

Mary was always on the eve of laughing at these aristocratic
recollections of her aunt; and to her credit be it said, she always
restrained herself, though with great difficulty. She, so wildly
brought up, without rule or guidance in feminine matters, could not be
brought to comprehend that prim line-and-rule life, of which her aunt
was the very impersonation. Nevertheless, she heard what Miss
Thornton had to say with respect; and if ever she committed an extreme
GAUCHERIE, calculated to set her aunt's teeth on edge, she always
discovered what was the matter, and mended it as far as she was able.

They stood on the lawn while the glove controversy was going on, and
a glorious prospect there was that bright spring morning. In one
direction the eye was carried down a long, broad, and rich vale,
intersected by a gleaming river, and all the way down set thick with
hamlet, farm, and church. In the dim soft distance rose the two massive
towers of a cathedral, now filling all the countryside with the gentle
melody of their golden-toned bells, while beyond them, in the misty
south, there was a gleam in the horizon, showing where the sky


"Dipped down to sea and sands."


"It's as soft and quiet as a Sunday," said the Vicar; "and what a
fishing day! I have half a mind--Hallo! look here."

The exclamation was caused by the appearance on the walk of a very tall
and noble-looking man, about thirty, leading a grey pony, on which sat
a beautiful woman with a child in her arms. Our party immediately
moved forward to meet them, and a most friendly greeting took place on
both sides, Mary at once taking possession of the child.

This was Major Buckley and his wife Agnes. I mentioned before that,
after Clere was sold, the Major had taken a cottage in Drumston, and
was a constant visitor on the Vicar; generally calling for the old
gentleman to come fishing or shooting, and leaving his wife and his
little son Samuel in the company of Mary and Miss Thornton.

"I have come, Vicar, to take you out fishing," said he. "Get your rod
and come. A capital day. Why, here's the Doctor."

So there was, standing among them before any one had noticed him.

"I announce," said he, "that I shall accept the most agreeable
invitation that any one will give me. What are you going to do, Major?"

"Going fishing."

"Ah! and you, madam?" turning to Miss Thornton.

"I am going to see Mrs. Lee, who has a low fever, poor thing."

"Which Mrs. Lee, madam?"

"Mrs. Lee of Eyford."

"And which Mrs. Lee of Eyford, madam?"

"Mrs. James Lee."

"Junior or senior?" persevered the doctor.

"Junior," replied Miss Thornton, laughing.

"Ah!" said the Doctor, "now we have it. I would suggest that all the
Mrs. Lees in the parish should have a ticket with a number on it, like
the VOITURIERS. Buckley, lay it before the quarter-sessions. If you say
the idea came from a foreigner, they would adopt it immediately. Miss
Thornton, I will do myself the honour of accompanying you, and
examining the case."

So the ladies went off with the Doctor, while the Vicar and Major
Buckley turned to go fishing.

"I shall watch you, Major, instead of fishing myself," said the Vicar.
"Where do you propose going?"

"To the red water," said the Major. Accordingly they turn down a long,
deep lane, which looks certainly as if it would lead one to a red
brook, for the road and banks are of a brick-colour. And so it does,
for presently before them they discern a red mill, and a broad,
pleasant ford, where a crystal brook dimples and sparkles over a bed of
reddish-purple pebbles.

"It is very clear," says the Major. "What's the fly to be, Vicar?"

"That's a very hard question to answer," says the Vicar. "Your
Scotchman, eh? or a small blue dun?"

"We'll try both," says the Major; and in a very short time it becomes
apparent that the small dun is the man, for the trout seem to think
that it is the very thing they have been looking for all day, and rise
at it two at a time.

They fish downwards; and after killing half-a-dozen half-pound fish,
come to a place where another stream joins the first, making it double
its original size, and here there is a great oak-root jutting into a
large deep pool.

The Vicar stands back, intensely excited. This is a sure place for a
big fish. The Major, eager but cool, stoops down and puts his flies in
just above the root at once; not as a greenhorn would, taking a few
wide casts over the pool first, thereby standing a chance of hooking a
little fish, and ruining his chance for a big one; and at the second
trial a deep-bodied brown fellow, about two pounds, dashes at the
treacherous little blue, and gulps him down.

Then what a to-do is there. The Vicar jumping about on the grass,
giving all sorts of contradictory advice. The Major, utterly despairing
of ever getting his fish ashore, fighting a losing battle with infinite
courage, determined that the trout shall remember him, at all events,
if he does get away. And the trout, furious and indignant, but not in
the least frightened, trying vainly to get back to the old root. Was
there ever such a fish?

But the Major is the best man, for after ten minutes troutie is towed
up on his side to a convenient shallow, and the Vicar puts on his
spectacles to see him brought ashore. He scientifically pokes him in
the flank, and spans him across the back, and pronounces EX CATHEDRA--

"You'll find, sir, there won't be a finer fish, take him all in all,
killed in the parish this season."

"Ah, it's a noble sport," says the Major. "I shan't get much more of
it, I'm afraid."

"Why shouldn't you?"

"Well, I'll tell you," says the Major. "Do you know how much property I
have got?"

"No, indeed."

"I have only ten thousand pounds; and how am I to bring up a family on
the interest of that?"

"I should fancy it was quite enough for you," said the Vicar; "you have
only one son."

"How many more am I likely to have, eh? And how should I look to find
myself at sixty with five boys grown up, and only 300L. a-year?"

"That is rather an extreme case," said the Vicar; "you would be poor
then, certainly."

"Just what I don't want to be. Besides wanting to make some money, I am
leading an idle life here, and am getting very tired of it. And so--"
he hesitated.

"And so?" said the Vicar.

"I am thinking of emigrating. To New South Wales. To go into the
sheep-farming line. There."

"There indeed," said the Vicar. "And what has put you up to it?"

"Why, my wife and I have been thinking of going to Canada for some
time, and so the idea is not altogether new. The other day Hamlyn (you
know him) showed me a letter from a cousin of his who is making a good
deal of money there. Having seen that letter, I was much struck with
it, and having made a great many other inquiries, I laid the whole
information before my wife, and begged her to give me her opinion."

"And she recommended you to stay at home in peace and comfort,"
interposed the Vicar.

"On the contrary, she said she thought we ought by all means to go,"
returned the Major.

"Wonderful, indeed. And when shall you go?"

"Not for some time, I think. Not for a year."

"I hope not. What a lonely old man I shall be when you are all gone."

"Nay, Vicar, I hope not," said the Major. "You will stay behind to see
your daughter happily married, and your grand-children about your
knees."

The Vicar sighed heavily, and the Major continued.

"By-the-bye, Miss Thornton seems to have made a conquest already. Young
Hawker seems desperately smitten; did it ever strike you?"

"Yes, it has struck me; very deep indeed," said the Vicar; "but what
can I do?"

"You surely would not allow her to marry him?"

"How can I prevent it? She is her own mistress, and I never could
control her yet. How can I control her when her whole heart and soul is
set on him?"

"Good God!" said the Major, "do you really think she cares for him?"

"Oh, she loves him with her whole heart. I have seen it a long while."

"My dear friend, you should take her away for a short time, and see if
she will forget him. Anything sooner than let her marry him."

"Why should she not marry him?" said the Vicar. "She is only a farmer's
grand-daughter. We are nobody, you know."

"But he is not of good character."

"Oh, there is nothing more against him than there is against most young
fellows. He will reform and be steady. Do you know anything special
against him?" asked the Vicar.

"Not actually against him; but just conceive, my dear friend, what a
family to marry into! His father, I speak the plain truth, is a most
disreputable, drunken old man, living in open sin with a gipsy woman of
the worst character, by whom George Hawker has been brought up. What an
atmosphere of vice! The young fellow himself is universally disliked,
and distrusted too, all over the village. Can you forgive me for
speaking so plain?"

"There is no forgiveness necessary, my good friend;" said the Vicar. "I
know how kind your intentions are. But I cannot bring myself to have a
useless quarrel with my daughter merely because I happen to dislike the
object of her choice. It would be quite a useless quarrel. She has
always had her own way, and always will."

"What does Miss Thornton say?" asked the Major.

"Nothing, she never does say anything. She regards Hawker as Mary's
accepted suitor; and though she may think him vulgar, she would sooner
die than commit herself so far as to say so. She has been so long under
others, and without an opinion save theirs, that she cannot form an
opinion at all."

They had turned and were walking home, when the Vicar, sticking his
walking-cane upright in the grass, began again.

"It is the most miserable and lamentable thing that ever took place in
this world. Look at my sister again: what a delicate old maid she is!
used to move and be respected, more than most governesses are, in the
highest society in the land. There'll be a home for her when I die.
Think of her living in the house with any of the Hawkers; and yet, sir,
that woman's sense of duty is such that she'd die sooner than leave her
niece. Sooner be burnt at the stake than go one inch out of the line of
conduct she has marked out for herself."

The Vicar judged his sister most rightly: we shall see that hereafter.

"A man of determination and strength of character could have prevented
it at the beginning, you would say. I dare say he might have; but I am
not a man of determination and strength of character. I never was, and
I never shall be."

"Do you consider it in the light of a settled question, then," said the
Major, "that your daughter should marry young Hawker?"

"God knows. She will please herself. I spoke to her at first about
encouraging him, and she began by laughing at me, and ended by making a
scene whenever I spoke against him. I was at one time in hopes that she
would have taken a fancy to young Stockbridge; but I fear I must have
set her against him by praising him too much. It wants a woman, you
know, to manage those sort of things."

"It does, indeed."

"You see, as I said before, I have no actual reason to urge against
Hawker, and he will be very rich. I shall raise my voice against her
living in the house with that woman Madge--in fact, I won't have it;
but take it all in all, I fear I shall have to make the best of it."

Major Buckley said no more, and soon after they got home. There was
Mrs. Buckley, queenly and beautiful, waiting for her husband; and there
was Mary, pretty, and full of fun; there also was the Doctor, smoking
and contemplating a new fern; and Miss Thornton, with her gloved-hands
folded, calculating uneasily what amount of detriment Mary's complexion
would sustain in consequence of walking about without her bonnet in an
April sun.

One and all cried out to know what sport; and little Sam tottered
forward demanding a fish for himself, which, having got, he at once put
into his mouth head foremost. The Doctor, taking off his spectacles,
examined the contents of the fish-basket, and then demanded:

"Now, my good friend, why do you give yourself the trouble to catch
trout in that round-about way, requiring so much skill and patience? In
Germany we catch them with a net--a far superior way, I assure you.
Get any one of the idle young fellows about the village to go down to
the stream with a net, and they will get more trout in a day than you
would in a week."

"What!" said the Major, indignantly; "put a net in my rented water?--
if I caught any audacious scoundrel carrying a net within half a mile
of it, I'd break his neck. You can't appreciate the delights of
fly-fishing, doctor--you are no sportsman."

"No, I ain't," said the Doctor; "you never said anything truer than
that, James Buckley. I am nothing of the sort. When I was a young man,
I had a sort of brute instinct, which made me take the same sort of
pleasure in killing a boar that a cat does in killing a mouse; but I
have outlived such barbarism."

"Ha! ha!" said the Vicar; "and yet he gave ten shillings for a snipe.
And he's hand-and-glove with every poacher in the parish."

"The snipe was a new species, sir," said the Doctor indignantly; "and
if I do employ the hunters to collect for me, I see no inconsistency in
that. But I consider this fly-fishing mania just of a piece with your
IDIOTIC, I repeat it, IDIOTIC institution of fox-hunting. Why, if you
laid baits poisoned with NUX VOMICA about the haunts of those animals,
you would get rid of them in two years."

The Doctor used to delight in aggravating the Major by attacking
English sports; but he had a great admiration for them nevertheless.

The Major got out his wife's pony; and setting her on it, and handing
up the son and heir, departed home to dinner. They were hardly inside
the gate when Mrs. Buckley began:

"My dear husband, did you bring him to speak of the subject we were
talking about?"

"He went into it himself, wife, tooth and nail."

"Well?"

"Well! indeed, my dear Agnes, do you know that, although I love the old
man dearly, I must say I think he is rather weak."

"So I fear," said Mrs. Buckley; "but he is surely not so weak as to
allow that young fellow to haunt the house, after he has had a hint
that he is making love to Mary?"

"My dear, he accepts him as her suitor. He says he has been aware of it
for some time, and that he has spoken to Mary about it, and made no
impression; so that now he considers it a settled thing."

"What culpable weakness! So Mary encourages him, then?"

"She adores him, and won't hear a word against him."

"Unfortunate girl," said Mrs. Buckley! "and with such a noble young
fellow as Stockbridge ready to cut off his head for her! It is
perfectly inconceivable."

"Young Hawker is very handsome, my dear, you must remember."

"Is he?" said Mrs. Buckley. "I call him one of the most evil-looking
men I ever saw."

"My dear Agnes, I think if you were to speak boldly to her, you might
do some good. You might begin to undermine this unlucky infatuation of
her's; and I am sure, if her eyes were once opened, that the more she
saw him, the less she would like him."

"I think, James," said Mrs. Buckley, "that it becomes the duty of us,
who have been so happy in our marriage, to prevent our good old vicar's
last days from being rendered miserable by such a mesalliance as this.
I am very fond of Mary; but the old Vicar, my dear, has taken the place
of your father to me."

"He is like a second father to me too," said the Major; "but he wants a
good many qualities that my own father had. He hasn't his energy or
determination. Why, if my father had been in his place, and such an
ill-looking young dog as that came hanging about the premises, my
father would have laid his stick about his back. And it would be a good
thing if somebody would do it now."

Such was Major Buckley's opinion.




Chapter VIII



THE VICAR HEARS SOMETHING TO HIS ADVANTAGE.


"My dear," said old Miss Thornton, that evening, "I have consulted Mrs.
Buckley on the sleeves, and she is of opinion that they should be
pointed."

"Do you think," said Mary, "that she thought much about the matter?"

"She promised to give the matter her earnest attention," said Miss
Thornton; "so I suppose she did. Mrs. Buckley would never speak at
random, if she once promised to give her real opinion."

"No, I don't think she would, Auntie, but she is not very particular in
her own dress."

"She always looks like a thorough lady, my dear: Mrs. Buckley is a
woman whom I could set before you as a model for imitation far sooner
than myself."

"She is a duck, at all events," said Mary; "and her husband is a darling."

Miss Thornton was too much shocked to say anything. To hear a young
lady speak of a handsome military man as a "darling," went quite beyond
her experience. She was considering how much bread and water and
backboard she would have felt it her duty to give Lady Kate, or Lady
Fanny, in old times, for such an expression, when the Vicar, who had
been dozing, woke up and said:--

"Bless us, what a night! The equinoctial gales come back again. This
rain will make up for the dry March with a vengeance; I am glad I am
safely housed before a good fire."

Unlucky words! he drew nearer to the fire, and began rubbing his knees;
he had given them about three rubs, when the door opened and the maid's
voice was heard ominous of evil.

"Thomas Jewel is worse, sir, and if you please his missis don't expect
he'll last the night; and could you just step up?"

"Just stepping up," was a pretty little euphemism for walking three
long miles dead in the teeth of a gale of wind, with a fierce rushing
tropical rain. One of the numerous tenders of the ship Jewel (74), had
just arrived before the wind under bare poles, an attempt to set a rag
of umbrella having ended in its being blown out of the bolt-ropes, and
the aforesaid tender Jewel was now in the vicarage harbour of refuge,
reflecting what an awful job it would have in beating back against the
monsoon.

"Who has come with this message?" said the Vicar, entering the kitchen
followed by Miss Thornton and Mary.

"Me, sir," says a voice from the doorway.

"Oh, come in, will you," said the Vicar; "it's a terrible night, is it
not?"

"Oh Loord!" said the voice in reply--intending that ejaculation for a
very strong affirmative. And advancing towards the light, displayed a
figure in a long brown great-coat, reaching to the ancles, and topped
by some sort of head-dress, resembling very closely a small black
carpet bag, tied on with a red cotton handkerchief. This was all that
was visible, and the good Vicar stood doubting whether it was male or
female, till catching sight of an immense pair of hobnail boots
peeping from the lower extremity of the coat, he made up his mind at
once, and began:--

"My good boy--"

There was a cackling laugh from under the carpet bag, and a harsh
grating voice replied:

"I be a gurl."

"Dear me," said the Vicar, "then what do you dress yourself in that
style for?--So old Jewel is worse."

"Us don't think a'll live the night."

"Is the doctor with him?" said the Vicar.

"The 'Talian's with un."

By which he understood her to mean Dr. Mulhaus, all foreigners being
considered to be Italians in Drumston. An idea they got, I take it,
from the wandering organ men being of that nation.

"Well," said the Vicar, "I will start at once, and come. It's a
terrible night."

The owner of the great-coat assented with a fiendish cackle, and
departed. The Vicar, having been well wrapped up by his sister and
daughter, departed also, with a last injunction from Miss Thornton to
take care of himself.

Easier said than done, such a night as this. A regular south-westerly
gale, accompanied by a stinging, cutting rain, which made it almost
impossible to look to windward. Earth and sky seemed mixed together,
and each twig and bough sent a separate plaint upon the gale, indignant
at seeing their fresh-acquired honours torn from them and scattered
before the blast.

The Vicar put his head down and sturdily walked against it. It was well
for him that he knew every inch of the road, for his knowledge was
needed now. There was no turn in the road after he had passed the
church, but it took straight away over the high ground up to Hawker's
farm on the woodlands.

Old Jewel, whom he was going to see, had been a hind of Hawker's for
many years; but about a twelvemonth before the present time he had
left his service, partly on account of increasing infirmity, and partly
in consequence of a violent quarrel with Madge. He was a man of
indifferent character. He had been married once in his life, but his
wife only lived a year, and left him with one son, who had likewise
married and given to the world seven as barbarous, neglected, young
savages as any in the parish. The old man, who was now lying on his
deathbed, had been a sort of confidential man to old Hawker, retained
in that capacity on account, the old man said once in his drink, of not
having any wife to worm family affairs out of him. So it was generally
believed by the village folks, that old Jewel was in possession of some
fearful secrets (such as a murder or two, for instance, or a brace of
forgeries), and that the Hawkers daren't turn him out of the cottage
where he lived for their lives.

Perhaps some of these idle rumours may have floated through the Vicar's
brain as he fought forwards against the storm; but if any did, they
were soon dismissed again, and the good man's thoughts carried into a
fresh channel. And he was thinking what a fearful night this would be
at sea, and how any ship could live against such a storm, when he came
to a white gate, which led into the deep woods surrounding Hawker's
house, and in a recess of which lived old Jewel and his family.

Now began the most difficult part of his journey. The broader road that
led from the gate up to the Hawkers' house was plainly perceptible, but
the little path which turned up to the cottage was not so easily found,
and when found, not easily kept on such a black wild night as this.
But, at length, having hit it, he began to follow it with some
difficulty, and soon beginning to descend rapidly, he caught sight of a
light, and, at the same moment, heard the rushing of water.

"Oh," said he to himself, "the water is come down, and I shall have a
nice job to get across it. Any people but the Jewels would have made
some sort of a bridge by now; but they have been content with a fallen
tree ever since the old bridge was carried away."

He scrambled down the steep hill side with great difficulty, and not
without one or two nasty slips, which, to a man of his age, was no
trifle, but at length stood trembling with exertion before a flooded
brook, across which lay a fallen tree, dimly seen in the dark against
the gleam of the rushing water.

"I must stand and steady my nerves a bit after that tumble," he said,
"before I venture over there. That's the 'Brig of Dread' with a
vengeance. However, I never came to harm yet when I was after duty,
so I'll chance it."

The cottage stood just across the brook, and he halloed aloud for some
one to come. After a short time the door opened, and a man appeared
with a lantern.

"Who is there?" demanded Dr. Mulhaus' wellknown voice. "Is it you,
Vicar?"

"Aye," rejoined the other, "it's me at present; but it won't be me long
if I slip coming over that log. Here goes," he said, as he steadied
himself and crossed rapidly, while the Doctor held the light. "Ah," he
added, when he was safe across, "I knew I should get over all right."

"You did not seem very certain about it just now," said the Doctor.
"However, I am sincerely glad you are come. I knew no weather would
stop you."

"Thank you, old friend," said the Vicar; "and how is the patient?"

"Going fast. More in your line than mine. The man believes himself
bewitched."

"Not uncommon," said the Vicar, "in these parts; they are always
bothering me with some of that sort of nonsense."

They went in. Only an ordinary scene of poverty, dirt, and vice, such
as exists to some extent, in every parish, in every country on the
globe. Nothing more than that, and yet a sickening sight enough.

A squalid, damp, close room, with the earthen floor sunk in many places
and holding pools of water. The mother smoking in the chimney corner,
the eldest daughter nursing an illegitimate child, and quarrelling with
her mother in a coarse, angry tone. The children, ragged and hungry,
fighting for the fireside. The father away, at some unlawful occupation
probably, or sitting drinking his wages in an alehouse. That was what
they saw, and what any man may see to-day for himself in his own
village, whether in England or Australia, that working man's paradise.
Drink, dirt, and sloth, my friends of the working orders, will produce
the same effects all over the world.

As they came in the woman of the house rose and curtseyed to the Vicar,
but the eldest girl sat still and turned away her head. The Vicar,
after saluting her mother, went gently up to her, and patting the
baby's cheek, asked her kindly how she did. The girl tried to answer
him, but could only sob. She bent down her head again over the child,
and began rocking it to and fro.

"You must bring it to be christened," said the Vicar kindly. "Can you
come on Wednesday?"

"Yes, I'll come," she said with a sort of choke. And now the woman
having lit a fresh candle, ushered them into the sick man's room.

"Typhus and scarlatina!" said the Doctor. "How this place smells after
being in the air. He is sensible again, I think."

"Quite sensible," the sick man answered aloud. "So you've come, Mr.
Thornton; I'm glad of it; I've got a sad story to tell you; but I'll
have vengeance if you do your duty. You see the state I am in!"

"Ague!" said the Vicar.

"And who gave it me?"

"Why, God sent it to you," said the Vicar. "All people living in a
narrow wet valley among woodlands like this, must expect ague."

"I tell you she gave it to me. I tell you she has overlooked me; and
all this doctor's stuff is no use, unless you can say a charm as will
undo her devil's work."

"My good friend," said the Vicar, "you should banish such fancies from
your mind, for you are in a serious position, and ought not to die in
enmity with anyone."

"Not die in enmity with her? I'd never forgive her till she took off
the spell."

"Whom do you mean?" asked the Vicar.

"Why, that infernal witch, Madge, that lives with old Hawker," said the
man excitedly. "That's who I mean!"

"Why, what injury has she done you?"

"Bewitched me, I tell you! Given me these shaking fits. She told me
she would, when I left; and so she has, to prevent my speaking. I might
a spoke out anytime this year, only the old man kept me quiet with
money; but now it's nigh too late!"

"What might you have spoken about?" asked the Vicar.

"Well, I'll just relate the matter to you," said the man, speaking fast
and thick, "and I'll speak the truth. A twelvemonth agone, this Madge
and me had a fierce quarrel, and I miscalled her awful, and told her of
some things she wasn't aware I knew of; and then she said, 'If ever a
word of that escapes your lips, I'll put such a spell on ye that your
bones shall shake apart.' Then I says, if you do, your bastard son
shall swing."

"Who do you mean by her bastard son?"

"Young George Hawker. He is not the son of old Mrs. Hawker! Madge was
brought to bed of him a fortnight before her mistress; and when she
bore a still-born child, old Hawker and I buried it in the wood, and we
gave Madge's child to Mrs. Hawker, who never knew the difference before
she died."

"On the word of a dying man, is that true?" demanded the Vicar.

"On the word of a dying man that's true, and this also. I says to
Madge, 'Your boy shall swing, for I know enough to hang him.' And she
said, 'Where are your proofs?' and I--O Lord! O Lord! she's at me again."

He sank down again in a paroxysm of shivering, and they got no more
from him. Enough there was, however, to make the Vicar a very silent
and thoughtful man, as he sat watching the sick man in the close
stifling room.

"You had better go home, Vicar," said the Doctor; "you will make
yourself ill staying here. I do not expect another lucid interval."

"No," said the Vicar, "I feel it my duty to stay longer. For my own
sake too. What he has let out bears fearfully on my happiness, Doctor."

"Yes, I can understand that, my friend, from what I have heard of the
relations that exist between your daughter and that young man. You have
been saved from a terrible misfortune, though at the cost, perhaps, of
a few tears, and a little temporary uneasiness."

"I hope it may be as you say," said the Vicar. "Strange, only to-day
Major Buckley was urging me to stop that acquaintance."

"I should have ventured to do so too, Vicar, had I been as old a friend
of yours as Major Buckley."

"He is not such a very old friend," said the Vicar; "only of two years'
standing, yet I seem to have known him ten."

At daybreak the man died, and made no sign. So as soon as they had
satisfied themselves of the fact, they departed, and came out together
into the clear morning air. The rain-clouds had broken, though when
they had scrambled up out of the narrow little valley where the cottage
stood, they found that the wind was still high and fierce, and that the
sun was rising dimly through a yellow haze of driving scud.

They stepped out briskly, revived by the freshness of all around, and
had made about half the distance home, when they descried a horseman
coming slowly towards them. It seemed an early time for any one to be
abroad, and their surprise was increased at seeing that it was George
Hawker returning home.

"Where can he have been so early?" said the Doctor.

"So late, you mean," said the Vicar; "he has not been home all night.
Now I shall brace up my nerves and speak to him."

"My good wishes go with you, Vicar," said the Doctor, and walked on,
while the other stopped to speak with George Hawker.

"Good morning, Mr. Thornton. You are early a-foot, sir."

"Yes, I have been sitting up all night with old Jewel. He is dead."

"Is he indeed, sir," said Hawker. "He won't be much loss, sir, to the
parish. A sort of happy release, one may say, for every one but
himself."

"Can I have the pleasure of a few words with you, Mr. Hawker?"

"Surely, sir," said he, dismounting. "Allow me to walk a little on the
way back with you?"

"What I have to say, Mr. Hawker," said the Vicar, "is very short, and,
I fear, also very disagreeable to all parties. I am going to request
you to discontinue your visits to my house altogether, and, in fact,
drop our acquaintance."

"This is very sudden, sir," said Hawker. "Am I to understand, sir, that
you cannot be induced by any conduct of mine to reconsider this
decision?"

"You are to understand that such is the case, sir."

"And this is final, Mr. Thornton?"

"Quite final, I assure you," said the Vicar; "nothing on earth should
make me flinch from my decision."

"This is very unfortunate, sir," said George. "For I had reason to
believe that you rather encouraged my visits than otherwise."

"I never encouraged them. It is true I permitted them. But since then
circumstances have come to my ears which render it imperative that you
should drop all communication with the members of my family, more
especially, to speak plainly, with my daughter."

"At least, sir," said George, "let me know what charge you bring
against me."

"I make no charges of any sort," replied the Vicar. "All I say is, that
I wish the intercourse between you and my daughter to cease; and I
consider, sir, that when I say that, it ought to be sufficient. I
conceive that I have the right to say so much without question."

"I think you are unjust, sir; I do, indeed," said George.

"I may have been unjust, and I may have been weak, in allowing an
intimacy (which I do not deny, mind you) to spring up between my
daughter and yourself. But I am not unjust now, when I require that it
should cease. I begin to be just."

"Do you forbid me your house, sir?"

"I forbid you my house, sir. Most distinctly. And I wish you good-day."

There was no more to be said on either side. George stood beside his
horse, after the Vicar had left him, till he was fairly out of earshot.
And then, with a fierce oath, he said,--

"You puritanical old humbug, I'll do you yet. You've heard about Nell
and her cursed brat. But the daughter ain't always the same way of
thinking with the father, old man."

The Vicar walked on, glad enough to have got the interview over, till
he overtook the Doctor, who was walking slowly till he came up. He felt
as though the battle was gained already, though he still rather dreaded
a scene with Mary.

"How have you sped, friend?" asked the Doctor. "Have you given the
young gentleman his CONGEE?"

"I have," he replied. "Doctor, now half the work is done, I feel what a
culpable coward I have been not to do it before. I have been deeply to
blame. I never should have allowed him to come near us. Surely, the
girl will not be such a fool as to regret the loss of such a man. I
shall tell her all I know about him, and after that I can do no more.
No more? I never had her confidence. She has always had a life apart
from mine. The people in the village, all so far below us in every way,
have been to me acquaintances, and only that; but they have been her
world, and she has seen no other. She is a kind, affectionate daughter,
but she would be as good a daughter to any of the farmers round as she
is to me. She is not a lady. That is the truth. God help the man who
brings up a daughter without a wife."

"You do her injustice, my friend," said the Doctor. "I understand what
you mean, but you do her injustice. All the female society she has
ever seen, before Mrs. Buckley and your sister came here, was of a rank
inferior to herself, and she has taken her impressions from that
society to a great extent. But still she is a lady; compare her to any
of the other girls in the parish, and you will see the difference."

"Yes, yes, that is true," said the Vicar. "You must think me a strange
man to speak so plainly about my own daughter, Doctor, and to you, too,
whom I have known so short a time. But one must confide in somebody,
and I have seen your discretion manifested so often that I trust you."

They had arrived opposite the Vicar's gate, but the Doctor, resisting
all the Vicar's offers of breakfast, declined to go in. He walked
homeward toward his cottage-lodgings, and as he went he mused to
himself somewhat in this style,--

"What a good old man that is. And yet how weak. I used to say to myself
when I first knew him, what a pity that a man with such a noble
intellect should be buried in a country village, a pastor to a lot of
ignorant hinds. And yet he is fit for nothing else, with all his
intelligence, and all his learning. He has no go in him,--no back to
his head. Contrast him with Buckley, and see the difference. Now
Buckley, without being a particularly clever man, sees the right thing,
and goes at it through fire and water. But our old Vicar sees the
right, and leaves it to take care of itself. He can't manage his own
family even. That girl is a fine girl, a very fine girl. A good deal of
character about her. But her animal passions are so strong that she
would be a Tartar for anyone to manage. She will be too much for the
Vicar. She will marry that man in the end. And if he don't use her
properly, she'll hate him as much as she loves him now. She is more
like an Italian than an English girl. Hi! there's a noble Rhamnea!"

The Vicar went into his house, and found no one up but the maids, who
were keeping that saturnalia among the household gods, which, I am
given to understand, goes on in every well-regulated household before
the lords of the creation rise from their downy beds. I have never seen
this process myself, but I am informed, by the friend of my heart, who
looked on it once for five minutes, and then fled, horror struck, that
the first act consists in turning all the furniture upside down, and
beating it with brooms. Further than this, I have no information. If
any male eye has penetrated these awful secrets beyond that, let the
owner of that eye preserve a decent silence. There are some things that
it is better not to know. Only let us hope, brother, that you and I may
always find ourselves in a position to lie in bed till it is all over.
In Australia, it may be worth while to remark, this custom, with many
other religious observances, has fallen into entire desuetude.

The Vicar was very cross this morning. He had been sitting up all
night, which was bad, and he had been thinking these last few minutes
that he had made a fool of himself, by talking so freely to the Doctor
about his private affairs, which was worse. Nothing irritated the
Vicar's temper more than the feeling of having been too free and
communicative with people who did not care about him, a thing he was
very apt to do. And, on this occasion, he could not disguise from
himself that he had been led into talking about his daughter to the
Doctor, in a way which he characterised in his own mind as being
"indecent."

As I said, he was cross. And anything in the way of clearing up or
disturbance always irritated him, though he generally concealed it. But
there was a point at which his vexation always took the form of a
protest, more or less violent. And that point was determined by anyone
meddling with his manuscript sermons.

So, on this unlucky morning, in spite of fresh-lit fires smoking in his
face, and fenders in dark passages throwing him headlong into lurking
coalscuttles, he kept his temper like a man, until coming into his
study, he found his favourite discourse on the sixth seal lying on the
floor by the window, his lectures on the 119th Psalm on the hearthrug,
and the maid fanning the fire with his CHEF D'OEUVRE, the Waterloo
thanksgiving.

Then, I am sorry to say, he lost his temper. Instead of calling the
girl by her proper name, he addressed her as a distinguished Jewish
lady, a near relation of King Ahab, and, snatching the sermon from her
hand, told her to go and call Miss Mary, or he'd lay his stick about
her back.

The girl was frightened--she had never seen her master in this state
of mind before. So she ran out of the room, and, having fetched Mary,
ensconced herself outside the door to hear what was the matter.

Mary tripped into the room looking pretty and fresh. "Why, father," she
said, "you have been up all night. I have ordered you a cup of coffee.
How is old Jewel?"

"Dead," said the Vicar. "Never mind him. Mary, I want to speak to you,
seriously, about something that concerns the happiness of your whole
life."

"Father," she said, "you frighten me. Let me get you your coffee before
you begin, at all events."

"Stay where you are, I order you," said the father. "I will have no
temporizing until the matter grows cold. I will speak now; do you hear.
Now, listen."

She was subdued, and knew what was coming. She sat down, and waited.
Had he looked in her face, instead of in the fire, he would have seen
an expression there which he would little have liked--a smile of
obstinacy and self-will.

"I am not going to mince matters, and beat about the bush, Mary," he
began. "What I say I mean, and will have it attended to. You are very
intimate with young Hawker, and that intimacy is very displeasing to
me."

"Well?" she said.

"Well," he answered. "I say it is not well. I will not have him here."

"You are rather late, father," she said. "He has had the run of this
house these six months. You should have spoken before."

"I speak now, miss," said the Vicar, succeeding in working himself into
a passion, "and that is enough. I forbid him the house, now!"

"You had better tell him so, father. I won't."

"I daresay you won't," said the Vicar. "But I have told him so already
this morning."

"You have!" she cried. "Father, you had no right to do that. You
encouraged him here. And now my love is given, you turn round and try
to break my heart."

"I never encouraged him. You all throw that in my face. You have no
natural affection, girl. I always hated the man. And now I have heard
things about him sufficient to bar him from any honest man's house."

"Unjust!" she said. "I will never believe it."

"I daresay you won't," said the Vicar. "Because you don't want to. You
are determined to make my life miserable. There was Jim Stockbridge.
Such a noble, handsome, gentlemanly young fellow, and nothing would
please you but to drive him wild, till he left the country. Now, go
away, and mind what I have said. You mean to break my heart, I see."

She turned as she was going out. "Father," she said, "is James
Stockbridge gone?"

"Yes; gone. Sailed a fortnight ago. And all your doing. Poor boy, I
wonder where he is now."

Where is he now? Under the cliffs of Madeira. Standing on the deck of a
brave ship, beneath a rustling cloud of canvas, watching awe-struck
that noble island, like an aerial temple, brown in the lights, blue in
the shadows, floating between a sapphire sea and an azure sky. Far
aloft in the air is Ruivo, five thousand feet overhead, father of the
great ridges and sierras that run down jagged and abrupt, till they end
in wild surf-washed promontories. He is watching a mighty glen that
pierces the mountain, dark with misty shadows. He is watching the
waterfalls that stream from among the vineyards into the sea below, and
one long white monastery, perched up among the crags above the highway
of the world.

Borne upon the full north wind, the manhood and intelligence of Europe
goes past, day by day, in white winged ships. And above all, unheeding,
century after century, the old monks have vegetated there, saying their
masses, and ringing their chapel bells, high on the windy cliff.




Chapter IX



WHEN THE KYE CAME HAME.


And when Mary had left the room, the Vicar sat musing before the fire
in his study. "Well," said he to himself, "she took it quieter than I
thought she would. Now, I can't blame myself. I think I have shown her
that I am determined, and she seems inclined to be dutiful. Poor dear
girl, I am very sorry for her. There is no doubt she has taken a fancy
to this handsome young scamp. But she must get over it. It can't be
so very serious as yet. At all events I have done my duty, though I
can't help saying that I wish I had spoken before things went so far."

The maid looked in timidly, and told him that breakfast was ready. He
went into the front parlour, and there he found his sister making tea.
She looked rather disturbed, and, as the Vicar kissed her, he asked her
"where was Mary?"

"She is not well, brother," she answered. "She is going to stay upstairs;
I fear something has gone wrong with her."

"She and I had some words this morning," answered he, "and that happens
so seldom, that she is a little upset, that is all."

"I hope there is nothing serious, brother," said Miss Thornton.

"No; I have only been telling her that she must give up receiving
George Hawker here. And she seems to have taken a sort of fancy to his
society, which might have grown to something more serious. So I am glad
I spoke in time."

"My dear brother, do you think you have spoken in time? I have always
imagined that you had determined, for some reason which I was not
master of, that she should look on Mr. Hawker as her future husband. I
am afraid you will have trouble. Mary is selfwilled."

Mary was very self-willed. She refused to come down-stairs all day,
and, when he was sitting down to dinner, he sent up for her. She sent
him for an answer, that she did not want any dinner, and that she was
going to stay where she was.

The Vicar ate his dinner notwithstanding. He was vexed, but, on the
whole, felt satisfied with himself. This sort of thing, he said to
himself, was to be expected. She would get over it in time. He hoped
that the poor girl would not neglect her meals, and get thin. He might
have made himself comfortable if he had seen her at the cold chicken in
the back kitchen.

She could not quite make the matter out. She rather fancied that her
father and Hawker had had some quarrel, the effects of which would wear
off, and that all would come back to its old course. She thought it
strange too that her father should be so different from his usual self,
and this made her uneasy. One thing she was determined on, not to give
up her lover, come what would. So far in life she had always had her
own way, and she would have it now. All things considered, she
thought that sulks would be her game. So sulks it was. To be carried on
until the Vicar relented.

She sat up in her room till it was evening. Twice during the day her
aunt had come up, and the first time she had got rid of her under
pretence of headache, but the second time she was forced in decency to
admit her, and listen entirely unedified to a long discourse, proving,
beyond power of contradiction, that it was the duty of every young
Englishwoman to be guided entirely by her parents in the choice of a
partner for life. And how that Lady Kate, as a fearful judgment on her
for marrying a captain of artillery against the wishes of her noble
relatives, was now expiating her crimes on 400L. a-year, and when she
might have married a duke.

Lady Kate was Miss Thornton's "awful example," her "naughty girl." She
served to point many a moral of the old lady's. But Lady Fanny, her
sister, was always represented as the pattern of all Christian virtues
who had crowned the hopes of her family and well-wishers by marrying
a gouty marquis of sixty-three, with fifty thousand a-year. On this
occasion, Mary struck the old lady dumb--"knocked her cold," our
American cousins would say--by announcing that she considered Lady
Emily to be a fool, but that Lady Kate seemed to be a girl of some
spirit. So Miss Thornton left her to her own evil thoughts, and, as
evening began to fall, Mary put on her bonnet, and went out for a walk.

Out by the back door, and round through the shrubbery, so that she
gained the front gate unperceived from the windows; but ere she
reached it she heard the latch go, and found herself face to face with
a man.

He was an immensely tall man, six foot at least. His long heavy limbs
loosely hung together, and his immense broad shoulders slightly
rounded. In features he was hardly handsome, but a kindly pleasant
looking face made ample atonement for want of beauty. He was dressed in
knee-breeches, and a great blue coat, with brass buttons, too large
even for him, was topped by a broad-brimmed beaver hat, with fur on it
half-aninch long. In age, this man was about five-and-twenty, and
well known he was to all the young fellows round there for skill in all
sporting matters, as well as for his kind-heartedness and generosity.

When he saw Mary pop out of the little side walk right upon him, he
leaned back against the gate and burst out laughing. No, hardly "burst
out." His laughter seemed to begin internally and silently, till, after
one or two rounds, it shook the vast fabric of his chest beyond
endurance, and broke out into so loud and joyous a peal that the
blackbird fled, screeching indignantly, from the ivy-tree behind him.

"What! Thomas Troubridge," said Mary. "My dear cousin, how are you?
Now, don't stand laughing there like a great gaby, but come and shake
hands. What on earth do you see to laugh at in me?"

"Nothing, my cousin Poll, nothing," he replied. "You know that is my
way of expressing approval. And you look so pretty standing there in
the shade, that I would break any man's neck who didn't applaud. Shake
hands, says you, I'll shake hands with a vengeance." So saying, he
caught her in his arms, and covered her face with kisses.

"You audacious," she exclaimed, when she writhed herself free. "I'll
never come within arm's-length of you again. How dare you?"

"Only cousinly affection, I assure you, Poll. Rather more violent than
usual at finding myself back in Drumston. But entirely cousinly."

"Where have you been then, Tom?" she asked.

"Why, to London, to be sure. Give us ano--"

"You keep off, sir, or you'll catch it. What took you there?"

"Went to see Stockbridge and Hamlyn off."

"Then, they are gone?" she asked.

"Gone, sure enough. I was the last friend they'll see for many a long
year."

"How did Stockbridge look? Was he pretty brave?"

"Pretty well. Braver than I was. Mary, my girl, why didn't ye marry him?"

"What--you are at me with the rest, are you?" she answered. "Why,
because he was a gaby, and you're another; and I wouldn't marry either
of you to save your lives--now then!"

"Do you mean to say you would not have me, if I asked you? Pooh! pooh!
I know better than that, you know." And again the shrubbery rang with
his laughter.

"Now, go in, Tom, and let me get out," said Mary. "I say Tom dear,
don't say you saw me. I am going out for a turn, and I don't want them
to know it."

Tom twisted up his great face into a mixture of mystery, admiration,
wonder, and acquiescence, and, having opened the gate for her, went in.

But Mary walked quickly down a deep narrow lane, overarched with oak,
and melodious with the full rich notes of the thrush, till she saw down
the long vista, growing now momentarily darker, the gleaming of a ford
where the road crossed a brook.

Not the brook where the Vicar and the Major went fishing. Quite a
different sort of stream, although they were scarcely half a mile
apart, and joined just below. Here all the soil was yellow clay, and,
being less fertile, was far more densely wooded than any of the red
country. The hills were very abrupt, and the fields but sparely
scattered among the forest land. The stream itself, where it crossed
the road, flowed murmuring over a bed of loose blue slate pebbles, but
both above and below this place forced its way, almost invisible,
through a dense oak wood, deeply tangled with undergrowth.

A stone foot-bridge spanned the stream, and having reached this, it
seemed as if she had come to her journey's end. For leaning on the rail
she began looking into the water below, though starting and looking
round at every sound.

She was waiting for some one. A pleasant place this to wait in. So
dark, so hemmed in with trees, and the road so little used; spring was
early here, and the boughs were getting quite dense already. How
pleasant to see the broad red moon go up behind the feathery branches,
and listen to the evensong of the thrush, just departing to roost, and
leaving the field clear for the woodlark all night. There were a few
sounds from the village, a lowing of cows, and the noise of the boys at
play; but they were so tempered down by the distance, that they only
added to the evening harmony.

There is another sound now. Horses' feet approaching rapidly from the
side opposite to that by which she had come; and soon a horseman comes
in sight, coming quickly down the hill. When he sees her he breaks into
a gallop, and only pulls up when he is at the side of the brook below
her.

This is the man she was expecting--George Hawker. Ah, Vicar! how
useless is your authority when lovers have such intelligence as this.
It were better they should meet in your parlour, under your own eye,
than here, in the budding spring-time, in this quiet spot under the
darkening oaks.

Hawker spoke first. "I guessed," he said, "that it was just possible
you might come out to-night. Come down off the bridge, my love, and let
us talk together while I hang up the horse."

So as he tied the horse to a gate, she came down off the bridge. He
took her in his arms and kissed her. "Now, my Poll," said he, "I know
what you are going to begin talking about."

"I daresay you do, George," she answered. "You and my father have
quarrelled."

"The quarrel has been all on one side, my love," he said; "he has got
some nonsense into his head, and he told me when I met him this
morning, that he would never see me in his house again."

"What has he heard, George? it must be something very shocking to
change him like that. Do you know what it is?"

"Perhaps I do," he said; "but he has no right to visit my father's sins
on me. He hates me, and he always did; and he has been racking his
brains to find out something against me. That rascally German doctor
has found him an excuse, and so he throws in my teeth, as fresh
discovered, what he must have known years ago."

"I don't think that, George. I don't think he would be so deceitful."

"Not naturally he wouldn't, I know; but he is under the thumb of that
doctor; and you know how HE hates me--If you don't I do."

"I don't know why Dr. Mulhaus should hate you, George."

"I do though; that sleeky dog Stockbridge, who is such a favourite with
him, has poisoned his mind, and all because he wanted you and your
money, and because you took up with me instead of him."

"Well now," said Mary; "don't go on about him--he is gone, at all
events; but you must tell me what this is that my father has got
against you."

"I don't like to. I tell you it is against my father, not me."

"Well!" she answered; "if it was anyone but me, perhaps, you ought not
to tell it; but you ought to have no secrets from me, George--I have
kept none from you."

"Well, my darling, I will tell you then: you know Madge, at our place?"

"Yes; I have seen her."

"Well, it's about her. She and my father live together like man and
wife, though they ain't married; and the Vicar must have known that
these years, and yet now he makes it an excuse for getting rid of me."

"I always thought she was a bad woman," said Mary; "but you are wrong
about my father. He never knew it till now I am certain; and of course,
you know, he naturally won't have me go and live in the house with a
bad woman."

"Does he think then, or do you think," replied George, with virtuous
indignation, "that I would have thought of taking you there? No, I'd
sooner have taken you to America!"

"Well, so I believe, George."

"This won't make any difference in you, Mary? No, I needn't ask it, you
wouldn't have come here to meet me to-night if that had been the case."

"It ought to make a difference, George," she replied; "I am afraid I
oughtn't to come out here and see you, when my father don't approve of
it."

"But you will come, my little darling, for all that;" he said. "Not
here though--the devil only knows who may be loitering round here.
Half a dozen pair of lovers a night perhaps--no, meet me up in the
croft of a night. I am often in at Gosford's of an evening, and I can
see your window from there, you put a candle in the right-hand corner
when you want to see me, and I'll be down in a very few minutes. I
shall come every evening and watch."

"Indeed," she said, "I won't do anything of the sort; at least, unless
I have something very particular to say. Then, indeed, I might do such
a thing. Now I must go home or they will be missing me."

"Stay a minute, Mary," said he; "you just listen to me. They will, some
of them, be trying to take my character away. You won't throw me off
without hearing my defence, dear Mary, I know you won't. Let me hear
what lies they tell of me, and don't you condemn me unheard because I
come from a bad house? Tell me that you'll give me a chance of clearing
myself with you, my girl, and I'll go home in peace and wait."

What girl could resist the man she loved so truly, when he pleaded so
well? With his arm about her waist, and his handsome face bent over
her, lit up with what she took to be love. Not she, at all events. She
drew the handsome face down towards her, and as she kissed him
fervently, said:

"I will never believe what they say of you, love. I should die if I
lost you. I will stay by you through evil report and good report. What
is all the world to me without you?"

And she felt what she said, and meant it. What though the words in
which she spoke were borrowed from the trashy novels she was always
reading--they were true enough for all that. George saw that they were
true, and saw also that now was the time to speak about what he had
been pondering over all day.

"And suppose, my own love," he said; "that your father should stay in
his present mind, and not come round?"

"Well!" she said.

"What are we to do?" he asked; "are we to be always content with
meeting here and there, when we dare? Is there nothing further?"

"What do you mean?" she said in a whisper. "What shall we do?"

"Can't you answer that?" he said softly. "Try."

"No, I can't answer. You tell me what."

"Fly!" he said in her ear. "Fly, and get married, that's what I mean."

"Oh! that's what you mean," she replied. "Oh, George, I should not have
courage for that."

"I think you will, my darling, when the time comes. Go home and think
about it."

He kissed her once more, and then she ran away homeward through the
dark. But she did not run far before she began to walk slower and
think.

"Fly with him," she thought. Run away and get married. What a
delightfully wild idea. Not to be entertained for a moment, of course,
but still what a pleasant notion. She meant to marry George in the end;
why not that way as well as any other? She thought about it again and
again, and the idea grew more familiar. At all events, if her father
should continue obstinate, here was a way out of the difficulty. He
would be angry at first, but when he found he could not help himself he
would come round, and then they would all be happy. She would shut her
ears to anything they said against George. She could not believe it.
She would not. He should be her husband, come what might. She would
dissemble, and keep her father's suspicions quiet. More, she would
speak lightly of George, and make them believe she did not care for
him. But most of all, she would worm from her father everything she
could about him. Her curiosity was aroused, and she fancied, perhaps,
George had not told her all the truth. Perhaps he might be entangled
with some other woman. She would find it all out if she could.

So confusedly thinking she reached home, and approaching the door,
heard the noise of many voices in the parlour. There was evidently
company, and in her present excited state nothing would suit her
better; so sliding up to her room, and changing her dress a little, she
came down and entered the parlour.

"Behold," cried the Doctor, as she entered the room, "the evening-star
has arisen at last. My dear young lady, we have been loudly lamenting
your absence and indisposition."

"I have been listening to your lamentations, Doctor," she replied.
"They were certainly loud, and from the frequent bursts of laughter, I
judged they were getting hysterical, so I came down."

There was quite a party assembled. The Vicar and Major Buckley were
talking earnestly together. Troubridge and the Doctor were side by
side, while next the fire was Mrs. Buckley, with young Sam asleep on
her lap, and Miss Thornton sitting quietly beside her.

Having saluted them all, Mary sat down by Mrs. Buckley, and began
talking to her. Then the conversation flowed back into the channel it
had been following before her arrival.

"I mean to say, Vicar," said the Major, "that it would be better to
throw the four packs into two. Then you would have less squabbling and
bickering about the different boundaries, and you would kill the same
number of hares with half the dogs."

"And you would throw a dozen men out of work, sir," replied the Vicar,
"in this parish and the next, and that is to be considered; and about
half the quantity of meat and horseflesh would be consumed, which is
another consideration. I tell you I believe things are better as they
are."

"I hear they got a large stern-cabin; did they, Mr. Troubridge?" said
the Doctor. "I hope they'll be comfortable. They should have got more
amidships if they could. They will be sick the longer in their
position."

"Poor boys!" said Troubridge; "they'll be more heart-sick than
stomach-sick, I expect. They'd halfrepented before they sailed."

Mary sat down by Mrs. Buckley, and had half an hour's agreeable
conversation with her, till they all rose to go. Mrs. Buckley was
surprised at her sprightliness and good spirits, for she had expected
to find her in tears. The Doctor had met the Major in the morning, and
told him what had passed the night before, so Mrs. Buckley had come in
to cheer Mary up for the loss of her lover, and to her surprise found
her rather more merry than usual. This made the good lady suspect at
once that Mary did not treat the matter very seriously, or else was
determined to defy her father, which, as Mrs. Buckley reflected, she
was perfectly able to do, being rich in her own right, and of age. So
when she was putting on her shawl to go home, she kissed Mary, and said
kindly,--

"My love, I hope you will always honour and obey your father, and I am
sure you will always, under all circumstances, remember that I am your
true friend. Good night."

And having bidden her good night, Mary went in. The Doctor was gone
with the Major, but Tom Troubridge sat still before the fire, and as
she came in was just finishing off one of his thundering fits of
laughter at something that the Vicar had said.

"My love," said the Vicar, "I am so sorry you have been poorly, though
you look better to-night. Your dear aunt has been to Tom's room, so
there is nothing to do, but to sit down and talk to us."

"Why, cousin Tom," she said, laughing, "I had quite forgot you; at
least, quite forgot you were going to stay here. Why, what a time it is
since I saw you."

"Isn't it?" he replied; "such a very long time. If I remember right, we
met last out at the gate. Let's see. How long was that ago?"

"You ought to remember," she replied; "you're big enough. Well, good
night. I'm going to bed."

She went to her room, but not to bed. She sat in the window, looking at
the stars, pale in the full moonlight, wondering. Wondering what George
was doing. Wondering whether she would listen to his audacious
proposal. And wondering, lastly, what on earth her father would say if
she did.




Chapter X



IN WHICH WE SEE A GOOD DEAL OF MISCHIEF BREWING.


A month went on, and May was well advanced. The lanes had grown dark
and shadowy with their summer bravery; the banks were a rich mass of
verdure once more, starred with wild-rose and eglantine; and on the
lesser woodland stream, the king fern was again concealing the channel
with brilliant golden fronds; while brown bare thorn-thickets, through
which the wind had whistled savagely all winter, were now changed into
pleasant bowers, where birds might build and sing.

A busy month this had been for the Major. Fishing every day, and pretty
near all day, determined, as he said, to make the most of it, for fear
it should be his last year. There was a beaten path worn through the
growing grass all down the side of the stream by his sole exertions;
and now the May-fly was coming, and there would be no more fishing in
another week, so he worked harder than ever. Mrs. Buckley used to bring
down her son and heir, and sit under an oak by the river-side, sewing.
Pleasant, long days they were when dinner would be brought down to the
old tree, and she would spend the day there, among the long meadow-grass,
purple and yellow with flowers, bending under the soft west
wind. Pleasant to hear the corncrake by the hedge-side, or the
moorhen in the water. But pleasantest of all was the time when her
husband, tired of fishing, would come and sit beside her, and the boy,
throwing his lately-petted flowers to the wind, would run crowing to
the spotted beauties which his father had laid out for him on the
grass.

The Vicar was busy in his garden, and the Doctor was often helping him,
although the most of his time was spent in natural history, to which he
seemed entirely devoted. One evening they had been employed rather
later than usual, and the Doctor was just gone, when the Vicar turned
round and saw that his sister was come out, with her basket and
scissors, to gather a fresh bouquet for the drawing-room.

So he went to join her, and as he approached her he admired her with an
affectionate admiration. Such a neat, trim figure, with the snow-white
handkerchief over her head, and her white garden gloves; what a
contrast to Mary, he thought; "Both good of their sort, though," he
added.

"Good evening, brother," began Miss Thornton. "Was not that Dr. Mulhaus
went from you just now?"

"Yes, my dear."

"You had letters of introduction to Dr. Mulhaus, when he came to reside
in this village?" asked Miss Thornton.

"Yes; Lord C----, whom I knew at Oxford, recommended me to him."

"His real name, I daresay, is not Mulhaus. Do you know what his real
name is, brother?"

How very awkward plain plump questions of this kind are. The Vicar
would have liked to answer "No," but he could not tell a lie. He was
also a very bad hand at prevaricating; so with a stammer, he said
"Yes!"

"So do I!" said Miss Thornton.

"Good Lord, my dear, how did you find it out?"

"I recognised him the first instant I saw him, and was struck dumb. I
was very discreet, and have never said a word even to you till now;
and, lately, I have been thinking that you might know, and so I thought
I would sound you."

"I suppose you saw him when you were with her ladyship in Paris, in
'14?"

"Yes; often," said Miss Thornton. "He came to the house several times.
How well I remember the last. The dear girls and I were in the
conservatory in the morning, and all of a sudden we heard the door
thrown open, and two men coming towards us talking from the
breakfast-room. We could not see them for the plants, but when we heard
the voice of one of them, the girls got into a terrible flutter, and I was
very much frightened myself. However, there was no escape, so we came
round the corner on them as bold as we could, and there was this Dr.
Mulhaus, as we call him, walking with him."

"With him?--with who?"

"The Emperor Alexander, my dear, whose voice we had recognised; I
thought you would have known whom I meant."

"My dear love," said the Vicar, "I hope you reflect how sacred that is,
and what a good friend I should lose if the slightest hint as to who he
was, were to get among the gentry round. You don't think he has
recognised you?"

"How is it likely, brother, that he would remember an English
governess, whom he never saw but three times, and never looked at once?
I have often wondered whether the Major recognised him."

"No; Buckley is a Peninsular man, and although at Waterloo, never went
to Paris. Lans--Mulhaus, I mean, was not present at Waterloo. So they
never could have met. My dear discreet old sister, what tact you have!
I have often said to myself, when I have seen you and he together, 'If
she only knew who he was;'--and to think of your knowing all the time.
Ha! ha! ha! That's very good."

"I have lived long where tact is required, my dear brother. See, there
goes young Mr. Hawker!"

"I'd sooner see him going home than coming here. Now, I'd go out for a
turn in the lanes, but I know I should meet half a dozen couples
courting, as they call it. Bah! So I'll stay in the garden."

The Vicar was right about the lanes being full of lovers. Never a vista
that you looked down but what you saw a ghostly pair, walking along
side by side. Not arm in arm, you know. The man has his hands in his
pockets, and walks a few feet off the woman. They never speak to one
another--I think I don't go too far in saying that. I have met them
and overtaken them, and come sharp round corners on to them, but I
never heard them speak to one another. I have asked the young men
themselves whether they ever said anything to their sweethearts, and
those young men have answered, "No; that they didn't know as they did."
So that I am inclined to believe that they are contented with that
silent utterance of the heart which is so superior to the silly
whisperings one hears on dark ottomans in drawing-rooms.

But the Vicar had a strong dislike to lovers' walks. He was a practical
man, and had studied parish statistics for some years, so that his
opinion is entitled to respect. He used to ask, why an honest girl
should not receive her lover at her father's house, or in broad
daylight, and many other impertinent questions which we won't go into,
but which many a west-country parson has asked before, and never got an
answer to.

Of all pleasant places in the parish, surely one of the pleasantest for
a meeting of this kind was the old oak at the end of Hawker's
plantation, where George met Nelly a night we know of. So quiet and
lonely, and such pleasant glimpses down long oaken glades, with a
bright carpet of springing fern. Surely there will be a couple here
this sweet May evening.

So there is! Walking this way too! George Hawker is one of them; but we
can't see who the other is. Who should it be but Mary, though, with
whom he should walk, with his arm round her waist talking so
affectionately. But see, she raises her head. Why! that is not Mary.
That is old Jewel's dowdy, handsome, brazen-faced grandaughter.

"Now I'm going home to supper, Miss Jenny," he says. "So you pack off,
or you'll have your amiable mother asking after you. By-the-bye, your
sister's going to be married, ain't she?"

He referred to her eldest sister--the one that the Vicar and the
Doctor saw nursing a baby the night that old Jewel died.

"Yes," replied the girl. "Her man's going to have her at last; that's
his baby she's got, you know; and it seems he'll sooner make her work
for keeping it, than pay for it hisself. So they're going to be
married; better late than never."

George left her and went in; into the gloomy old kitchen, now darkening
rapidly. There sat Madge before the fire, in her favourite attitude,
with her chin on her hand and her elbow on her knee.

"Well, old woman," said he, "where's the old man?"

"Away to Colyton fair," she answered.

"I hope he'll have the sense to stay there to-night, then," said
George. "He'll fall off his horse in a fit coming home drunk some of
these nights, and be found dead in a ditch!"

"Good thing for you if he was!"

"May be," said George; "but I'd be sorry for him, too!"

"You would," she said laughing. "Why, you young fool, you'd be better
off in fifty ways!"

"Why, you unnatural old vixen," said he indignantly, "do you miscall
a man for caring for his own father? Aye, and not such a bad 'un
either; and that's a thing I'm best judge of!"

"He's been a good father to you, George, and I like you the better,
lad, for speaking up for him. He's an awful old rascal, my boy, but
you'll be a worse if you live!"

"Now, stop that talk of yours, Madge, and don't go on like a mad woman,
or else we shall quarrel; and that I don't want, for I've got something
to tell you. I want your help, old girl!"

"Aye, and you'll get it, my pretty boy; though you never tell me aught
till you are forced."

"Well, I'm going to tell you something now; so keep your ears open.
Madge, where is the girl?"

"Up-stairs."

"Where's the man?"

"Outside, in the stable, doing down your horse. Bend over the fire, and
whisper in my ear, lad!"

"Madge, old girl," he whispered, as they bent their heads together,--
"I've wrote the old man's name where I oughtn't to have done."

"What! again!" she answered. "Three times! For God's sake, mind what
you're at, George."

"Why," said he, astonished, "did you know I'd done it before?"

"Twice I know of," she said. "Once last year, and once last month. How
do you think he'd have been so long without finding it out if it hadn't
been for me? And what a fool you were not to tell me before. Why, you
must be mad. I as near let the cat out of the bag coming over that last
business in the book without being ready for it, as anything could be.
However, it's all right at present. But what's this last?"

"Why, the five hundred. I only did it twice."

"You mustn't do it again, George. You were a fool ever to do it without
me. We are hardly safe now, if he should get talking to the bank
people. However, he never goes there, and you must take care he don't."

"I say, Madge," said George, "what would he do if he found it out?"

"I couldn't answer for him," said she. "He likes you best of anything
next his money; and sometimes I am afraid he wouldn't spare even you if
he knew he had been robbed. You might make yourself safe for any storm,
if you liked."

"How?"

"Marry that little doll Thornton, and get her money. Then, if it came
to a row, you could square it up."

"Well," said George, "I am pushing that on. The old man won't come
round, and I want her to go off with me, but she can't get her courage
up yet."

"Well, at all events," said Madge, "you should look sharp. There's a
regular tight-laced mob about her, and they all hate you. There's that
Mrs. Buckley. Her conversation will be very different from yours, and
she'll see the difference, and get too proud for the like of you. That
woman's a real lady, and that's very dangerous, for she treats her like
an equal. Just let that girl get over her first fancy for you, and
she'll care no more about you than nothing. Get hold of her before
she's got tired of you."

"And there's another thing," said George. "That Tom Troubridge is
staying there again."

"That's very bad," said Madge. "She is very likely to take a fancy to
him. He's a fine young fellow. You get her to go off with you. I'll
find the money, somehow. Here comes the old man."

Old Hawker came in half-drunk and sulky.

"Why, George," he said; "you at home. I thought you'd have been down,
hanging about the parson's. You don't get on very fast with that girl,
lad. I thought you'd have had her by now. You're a fool, boy."

He reeled up to bed, and left the other two in the kitchen.

"George," said Madge, "tell us what you did with that last money."

"I ain't going to tell you," he answered.

"Ha, ha!" she said; "you hadn't need to hide anything from me now."

"Well, I like to tell you this least of all," he said. "That last money
went to hush up the first matter."

"Did any one know of the first matter, then?" said Madge aghast.

"Yes; the man who put me up to it."

"Who was that?"

"No one you know. William Lee of Belston."

"No one I know," she answered sarcastically. "Not know my old
sweetheart, Bill Lee of Belston. And I the only one that knew him when
he came back. Well, I've kept that to myself, because no good was to be
got by peaching on him, and a secret's always worth money. Why, lad, I
could have sent that man abroad again quicker than he come, if I had
a-wanted. Why hadn't you trusted me at first? You'd a-saved five hundred
pound. You'll have him back as soon as that's gone."

"He'd better mind himself, then," said George vindictively.

"None o' that now," said Madge; "that's what you were after the other
night with your gun. But nothing came of it; I saw that in your face
when you came home. Now get off to bed; and if Bill Lee gives you any
more trouble, send him to me."

He went to bed, but instead of sleeping lay thinking.

"It would be a fine thing," he thought, "to get her and her money. I am
very fond of her for her own sake, but then the money would be the
making of me. I ought to strike while the iron is hot. Who knows but
what Nell might come gandering back in one of her tantrums, and spoil
everything. Or some of the other girls might get talking. And this
cursed cheque, too; that ought to be provided against. What a fool I
was not to tell Madge about it before. I wonder whether she is game to
come, though. I think she is; she has been very tender lately. It don't
look as if she was getting tired of me, though she might take a fancy
into her head about Troubridge. I daresay her father is putting him up
to it; though, indeed, that would be sure to set her against him. If he
hadn't done that with Stockbridge, she'd have married him, I believe.
Well, I'll see her to-morrow night, and carry on like mad. Terribly
awkward it will be, though, if she won't. However, we'll see. There's a
way to make her;" and so he fell asleep.

As Somebody would have it, the very next day the Vicar and Mary had a
serious quarrel. Whether his digestion was out of order; whether the
sight of so many love-couples passing his gate the night before had
ruffled him and made him bilious; or whether some one was behind hand
with his tithe, we shall never know. Only we know, that shortly after
dinner they disagreed about some trifle, and Mary remained sulky all
the afternoon; and that at tea-time, driven on by pitiless fate, little
thinking what was hanging over him, he made some harsh remark, which
brought down a flood of tears. Whereat, getting into a passion, he told
Mary, somewhat unjustly, that she was always sulking, and was making
his life miserable. That it was time that she was married. That Tom
Troubridge was an excellent young fellow, and that he considered it was
her duty to turn her attention immediately to gaining his affections.

Mary said, with tearful indignation, that it was notorious that he was
making love to Miss Burrit of Paiskow. And that if he wasn't, she'd
never, never, think of him, for that he was a great, lumbering, stupid,
stupid fool. There now.

Then the Vicar got into an unholy frame of mind, and maddened by Mary's
tears, and the sight of his sister wiping her frightened face with her
handkerchief, said, with something like an asseveration, that she was
always at it. That she was moping about, and colloquing with that
infamous young scoundrel, Hawker. That he would not have it. That if he
found him lurking about his premises, he'd either break his neck
himself, or find some one who could; and a great deal more frantic
nonsense, such as weak men generally indulge in when they get in a
passion; much better left unsaid at any time, but which on this occasion,
as the reader knows, was calculated to be ruinous.

Mary left the room, and went to her own. She was in a furious passion
against her father, against all the world. She sat on the bed for a
time, and cried herself quiet. It grew dark, and she lit a candle, and
put it in the right corner of the window, and soon after, wrapping a
shawl around her, she slipped down the back-stairs, and went into the
croft.

Not long before she heard a low whistle, to which she replied, and in a
very few minutes felt George's arm round her waist, and his cheek
against hers.

"I knew you would not disappoint me to-night, my love," he began. "I
have got something particular to say to you. You seem out of sorts
to-night, my dear. It's not my fault, is it?"

"Not yours, George. Oh no," she said. "My father has been very cruel
and unjust to me, and I have been in a great passion and very
miserable. I am so glad you came to-night, that I might tell you how
very unhappy I was."

"Tell me everything, my love. Don't keep back any secrets from me."

"I won't indeed, George. I'll tell you everything. Though some of it
will make you very angry. My father broke out about you at tea-time,
and said that you were hanging about the place, and that he wouldn't
have it. And then he said that I ought to marry Tom Troubridge, and
that I said I'd never do. And then he went on worse again. He's quite
changed lately, George. I ain't at all happy with him."

"The cure is in your own hands, Mary. Come off with me. I can get a
licence, and we could be married in a week or so, or two. Then, what
follows? Why, your father is very angry. He is that at present. But
he'll of course make believe he is in a terrible way. Well, in a few
weeks he'd see it was no use carrying on. That his daughter had married
a young man of property, who was very fond of her, and as she was very
fond of. And that matters might be a deal worse. That a bird in hand is
worth two in the bush. And so he'll write a kind affectionate letter to
his only child, and say that he forgives her husband for her sake.
That's how the matter will end, depend upon it."

"Oh, George, George! if I could only think so."

"Can you doubt it? Use your reason, my dear, and ask yourself what he
would gain by holding out. You say he's so fond of you."

"Oh, I know he is."

"Well, my darling, he wouldn't show it much if he was angry very long.
You don't know what a change it will make when the thing's once done.
When I am his son-in-law he'll be as anxious to find out that I'm a
saint as he is now to make me out a sinner. Say yes, my girl."

"I am afraid, George."

"Of nothing. Come, you are going to say yes, now."

"But when, George? Not yet?"

"To-morrow night."

"Impossible! Sunday evening?"

"The better the day the better the deed. Come, no refusal now, it is
too late, my darling. At ten o'clock I shall be here, under your
window. One kiss more, my own, and good night."




Chapter XI



IN WHICH THE VICAR PREACHES A FAREWELL SERMON.
WHO has not seen the misery and despair often caused in a family by the
senseless selfishness of one of its members? Who has not felt enraged
at such times, to think that a man or woman should presume on the
affection and kindheartedness of their relatives, and yet act as if
they were wholly without those affections themselves? And, lastly, who
of us all is guiltless of doing this? Let him that is without sin among
us cast the first stone.

The Spring sun rose on the Sabbath morning, as if no trouble were in
store for any mortal that day. The Vicar rose with the sun, for he had
certain arrears of the day's sermons to get through, and he was in the
habit of saying that his best and clearest passages were written with
his window open, in the brisk morning air.

But although the air was brisk and pleasant this morning, and all
nature was in full glory, the inspiration did not come to the Vicar
quite so readily as usual. In fact, he could not write at all, and at
one time was thinking of pleading ill health, and not preaching, but
afterwards changed his mind, and patched the sermons up somehow, making
both morning and afternoon five minutes shorter than usual.

He felt queer and dull in the head this morning. And, after breakfast,
he walked to church with his sister and daughter, not speaking a word.
Miss Thornton was rather alarmed, he looked so dull and stupid. But
Mary set it all down to his displeasure at her.

She was so busy with far other thoughts at church that she did not
notice the strange halting way in which her father read the service--
sometimes lisping, sometimes trying twice before he could pronounce a
word at all. But, after church, Miss Thornton noticed it to her; and
she also noticed, as they stood waiting for him under the lychgate,
that he passed through the crowd of neighbours, who stood as usual
round the porch to receive him, without a word, merely raising his hat
in salutation. Conduct so strange that Miss Thornton began to cry, and
said she was sure her brother was very ill. But Mary said it was
because he was still angry with her that he spoke to no one, and that
when he had forgotten his cause of offence he would be the same again.

At lunch, the Vicar drank several glasses of wine, which seemed to do
him good; and by the time he had, to Miss Thornton's great
astonishment, drunk half a bottle, he was quite himself again. Mary was
all this time in her room, and the Vicar asked for her. But Miss
Thornton said she was not very well.

"Oh, I remember," said the Vicar, "I quarrelled with her last night. I
was quite in the wrong, but, my dear sister, all yesterday and to-day I
have been so nervous, I have not known what I said or did. I shall keep
myself up to the afternoon service with wine, and to-morrow we will see
the Doctor. Don't tell Mary I am ill. She will think she is the cause,
poor girl."

Afternoon service went off well enough. When Mary heard his old
familiar voice strong, clear, and harmonious, filling the aisles and
chapels of the beautiful old church, she was quite re-assured. He
seemed stronger than usual even, and never did the congregation
listen to a nobler or better sermon from his lips, than the one they
heard that spring afternoon; the last, alas, they ever had from their
kind old Vicar.

Mary could not listen to it. The old innocent interest she used to have
in her father's success in preaching was gone. As of old, sitting
beneath the carved oak screen, she heard the sweet simple harmony of
the evening hymn roll up, and die in pleasant echoes among the lofty
arches overhead. As of old, she could see through the rich traceried
windows the moor sloping far away, calm and peaceful, bathed in a misty
halo of afternoon sunshine. All these familiar sights and sounds were
the same, but she herself was different. She was about to break rudely
through from the old world of simple routine and homely pleasure, and
to cast herself unthinking into a new world of passion and chance, and
take the consequences of such a step, let them be what they might. She
felt as if she was the possessor of some guilty secret, and felt
sometimes as if some one would rise in church and denounce her. How
would all these quiet folks talk of her to-morrow morning? That was not
to be thought of. She must harden her heart and think of nothing. Only
that tomorrow she would be far away with her lover.

Poor Mary! many a woman, and many a man, who sat so quiet and calm in
the old church that afternoon, had far guiltier secrets than any you
ever had, to trouble them, and yet they all drank, slept, and died, as
quietly as many honest and good men. Poor girl! let us judge as kindly
of her as we can, for she paid a fearful penalty for her self-will. She
did but break through the prejudices of her education, we may say; and
if she was undutiful, what girls are not, under the influence of
passion? If such poor excuses as these will cause us to think more
kindly of her, let us make them, and leave the rest to God. Perhaps,
brother, you and I may stand in a position to have excuses made for us,
one day; therefore, we will be charitable.

My Lord was at church that afternoon, a very rare circumstance, for he
was mostly at his great property in the north, and had lately been much
abroad for his health. So when Miss Thornton and Mary joined the Vicar
in the main aisle, and the three went forth into the churchyard, they
found the villagers drawn respectfully back upon the graves, and his
lordship waiting in close confabulation with farmer Wreford, to receive
the Vicar as he came out.

A tall, courtly, grizzled-looking man he was, with clear grey eyes, and
a modulated harmonious voice. Well did their lordships of the upper-house
know that voice, when after a long sleepy debate it aroused them
from ambrosial slumbers, with biting sarcasm, and most disagreeably
told truths. And most heartily did a certain proportion of their
lordships curse the owner of that voice, for a talented, eloquent,
meddlesome innovator. But on all his great estates he was adored by
the labourers and town's-folk, though hated by the farmers and country
'squires; for he was the earliest and fiercest of the reform and
free-trade warriors.

He came up to the Vicar with a pleasant smile. "I have to thank you,
Mr. Thornton, for a most charming sermon, though having the fault
common to all good things, of being too short. Miss Thornton, I hope
you are quite well; I saw Lady D---- the other day, and she begged that
when I came down here, I would convey her kindest love to you. I think
she mentioned that she was about to write to you."

"I received a letter from her ladyship last week," said Miss Thornton;
"informing me that dear Lady Fanny had got a son and heir."

"Happy boy," said my Lord; "fifty thousand a-year, and nothing to do
for it, unless he likes. Besides a minority of at least ten years for
L---- is getting very shaky, Miss Thornton, and is still devotedly given
to stewed mushrooms. Nay, my dear lady, don't look distressed, she will
make a noble young dowager. This must be your daughter, Mr. Thornton--
pray introduce me."

Mary was introduced, and his Lordship addressed a few kindly
commonplaces to her, to which she replied with graceful modesty. Then
he demanded of the Vicar, "where is Dr. Mulhaus, has he been at church
this afternoon?"

At that moment the Doctor, attended by the old clerk, was head and
shoulders into the old oak chest that contained the parish registers,
looking for the book of burials for sixteen hundred and something. Not
being able to get to the bottom, he got bodily in, as into a bath, and
after several dives succeeded in fishing it up from the bottom, and
standing there absorbed for a few minutes, up to his middle in dusty
parchments and angry moths, he got his finger on a particular date, and
dashed out of church, book in hand, and hatless, crying, "Vicar,
Vicar!" just as the villagers had cleared off, and my lord was moving
away with the Vicar to the parsonage, to take tea.

When his Lordship saw the wild dusty figure come running out of the
church porch with the parish register in his hand, and no hat on his
head, he understood the position immediately. He sat down on a
tombstone, and laughed till he could laugh no longer.

"No need to tell me," he said through his laughter, "that he is
unchanged; just as mad and energetic as ever, at whatever he takes in
hand, whether getting together impossible ministries, or searching the
parishregister of an English village. How do you do, my dear old
friend?"

"And how do you do, old democrat?" answered the Doctor. "Politics seem
to agree with you; I believe you would die without vexation--just
excuse me a moment. Look you here, you infidel," to the Vicar, showing
him the register; "there's his name plain--'Burrows, Curate of this
parish, 1698.'--Now what do you say?"

The Vicar acquiesced with a sleepy laugh, and proposed moving
homewards. Miss Thornton hoped that the Doctor would join them at
dinner as usual. The Doctor said of course, and went back to fetch his
hat, my Lord following him into the church. When the others had gone
down the hill, and were waiting for the nobleman and the Doctor at the
gate, Miss Thornton watched the two coming down the hill. My Lord
stopped the Doctor, and eagerly demonstrated something to him with
his forefinger on the palm of his hand; but the Doctor only shook his
head, and then the pair moved on.

My Lord made himself thoroughly agreeable at dinner, as did also the
Doctor. Mary was surprised too at the calm highbred bearing of her
aunt, the way she understood and spoke of every subject of
conversation, and the deference with which they listened to her. It was
a side of her aunt's character she had never seen before, and she felt
it hard to believe that that intellectual dignified lady, referred to
on all subjects, was the old maid she had been used to laugh at, and
began to feel that she was in an atmosphere far above what she was
accustomed to.

"All this is above me," she said to herself; "let them live in this
sphere who are accustomed to it, I have chosen wiser, out of the rank
in which I have been brought up. I would sooner be George Hawker's wife
than sit there, crushed and bored by their highflown talk."

Soon after dinner she retired with her aunt; they did not talk much
when they were alone, so Mary soon retired to her room, and having made
a few very slight preparations, sat down at the window. The time was
soon to come, but it was very cold; the maids were out, as they always
were on Sunday evening, and there was a fire in the kitchen,--she
would go and sit there--so down she went.

She wished to be alone, so when she saw a candle burning in the kitchen
she was disappointed, but went in nevertheless. My Lord's groom, who
had been sitting before the fire, rose up and saluted her. A handsome
young man, rather square and prominent about the jaws, but
nevertheless foolish and amiable looking. The sort of man one would
suppose, who, if his lord were to tell him to jump into the pit Tophet,
would pursue one of two courses, either jump in himself, without
further to do, or throw his own brother in with profuse apologies. From
the top of his sleek round head to the sole of his perfect top-boot,
the model and living exponent of what a servant should be--fit to be
put into a case and ticketed as such.

He saluted her as she came in, and drawing a letter from his hat, put
it into her astonished hands. "My orders were, Miss, that I was not to
give it to you unless I saw you personally."

She thanked him and withdrew to read it. It was a scrawl from George
Hawker, the first letter she had ever received from him, and ran as
follows:--

"MY HEART'S DARLING,

"I SHALL be in the croft to-night, according to promise, ready to make
you the happiest woman in England, so I know you won't fail. My Lord is
coming to church this afternoon, and will be sure to dine with you. So
I send this present by his groom, Sam; a good young chap, which I have
known since he was so high, and like well, only that he is soft, which
is not to his disadvantage.

G.H."

She was standing under the lamp reading this when she heard the
dining-room door open, and the men coming out from their wine. She slipped
into the room opposite, and stood listening in the dark. She could see
them as they came out. There was my Lord and the Doctor first, and
behind came Major Buckley, who had dropped in, as his custom was, on
Sunday evening, and who must have arrived while she was up-stairs. As
they passed the door, inside which she stood, his Lordship turned round
and said:--

"I tell you what, my dear Major, if that old Hawker was a tenant of
mine, I'd take away his lease, and, if I could, force him to leave the
parish. One man of that kind does incalculable harm in a village, by
lowering the tone of the morality of the place. That's the use of a
great landlord if he does his duty. He can punish evildoers whom the
law does not reach."

"Don't say anything more about him," said the Doctor in a low voice.
"It's a tender subject in this house."

"It is, eh!" said my Lord; "thanks for the hint, good--bah!--Mulhaus.
Let us go up and have half an hour with Miss Thornton before I go!"

They went up, and then her father followed. He seemed flushed, and she
thought he must have been drinking too much wine. After they were in
the drawing-room, she crept up-stairs and listened. They were all
talking except her father. It was half-past nine, and she wished they
would go. So she went into her bedroom and waited. The maids had come
home, and she heard them talking to the groom in the kitchen. At ten
o'clock the bell was rung, and my Lord's horse ordered. Soon he went,
and not long afterwards the Major and the Doctor followed. Then she saw
Miss Thornton go to her room, and her father walk slowly to his; and
all was still throughout the house.

She took her hat and shawl and slipped down stairs shoeless into her
father's study. She laid a note on his chimney-piece, which she had
written in the morning, and opening the back-door fled swiftly forth,
not daring to look behind her. Quickly, under the blinking stars, under
the blooming apple-trees, out to the croft-gate, and there was George
waiting impatiently for her, according to promise.

"I began to fear you were not coming, my dear. Quick, jump!"

She scrambled over the gate, and jumped into his arms; he hurried her
down the lane about a hundred yards, and then became aware of a dark
object in the middle of the road.

"That's my gig, my dear. Once in that, and we are soon in Exeter. All
right, Bob?"

"All right!" replied a strange voice in the dark, and she was lifted
into the gig quickly; in another moment George was beside her, and they
were flying through the dark steep lanes at a dangerous speed.

The horse was a noble beast--the finest in the country side--and,
like his driver, knew every stock and stone on the road; so that ere
poor Mary had recovered her first flurry, they had crossed the red
ford, and were four miles on the road towards the capital, and began to
feel a little more cheerful, for she had been crying bitterly.

"Don't give way, Polly," said George.

"No fear of my giving way now, George. If I had been going to do that,
I'd have done it before. Now tell us what you are going to do? I have
left everything to you."

"I think we had better go straight on to London, my dear," he replied,
"and get married by licence. We could never stop in Exeter; and if you
feel up to it, I should like to get off by early coach to-morrow
morning. What do you say?"

"By all means! Shall we be there in time?"

"Yes; two hours before the coach starts."

"Have you money enough, George?" she asked.

"Plenty!" he replied.

"If you go short, you must come to me, you know," she said.

They rattled through the broad streets of a small country town just as
the moon rose. The noble minster, which had for many years been used as
the parish church, slept quietly among the yews and gravestones; all
the town was still; only they two were awake, flying, she thought, from
the fellowship of all quiet men. Was her father asleep now? she
wondered. What would Miss Thornton say in the morning? and many other
things she was asking herself, when she was interrupted by George
saying, "Only eight miles to Exeter; we shall be in by daybreak."

So they left Crediton Minster behind them, and rolled away along the
broad road by the river, beneath the whispering poplars.


* * * * *


As Miss Thornton was dressing herself next morning she heard the Vicar
go down into his study as usual. She congratulated herself that he was
better, from being up thus early, but determined, nevertheless, that he
should see a doctor that day, who might meet and consult with Dr.
Mulhaus.

Then she wondered why Mary had not been in. She generally came into her
aunt's room to hook-and-eye her, as she called it; but not having come
this morning, Miss Thornton determined to go to her, and accordingly
went and rapped at her door.

No answer. "Could the girl have been fool enough?" thought Miss
Thornton. "Nonsense! no! She must be asleep!"

She opened the door and went in. Everything tidy. The bed had not been
slept in. Miss Thornton had been in at an elopement, and a famous one,
before; so she knew the symptoms in a moment. Well she remembered the
dreadful morning when Lady Kate went off with Captain Brentwood, of the
Artillery. Well she remembered the Countess going into hysterics. But
this was worse than that; this touched her nearer home.

"Oh you naughty girl! Oh you wicked, ungrateful girl; to go and do such
a thing at a time like this, when I've been watching the paralysis
creeping over him day by day! How shall I tell him? How shall I ever
tell him? He will have a stroke as sure as fate. He was going to have
one without this. I dare not tell him till breakfast, and yet I ought
to tell him at once. I was brought into the world to be driven mad by
girls. Oh dear, I wish they were all boys, and we might send them to
Eton and wash our hands of them. Well, I must leave crying, and prepare
for telling him."

She went into his study, and at first could not see him; but he was
there--a heap of black clothes lay on the hearthrug, and Miss Thornton
running up, saw that it was her brother, speechless, senseless,
clasping a letter in his hand.

She saw that the worst was come, and nerved herself for work, like a
valiant soul as she was. She got him carried to his bed by the two
sturdy maids, and sent an express for Dr. Mulhaus, and another for the
professional surgeon. Then she took from her pocket the letter which
she had found in the poor Vicar's hand, and, going to the window, read
as follows:

"When you get this, father, I shall be many miles away. I have started
to London with George Hawker, and God only knows whether you will see
me again. Try to forgive me, father, and if not, forget that you ever
had a daughter who was only born to give you trouble.--Your erring but
affectionate Mary."

It will be seen by the reader that this unlucky letter, written in
agitation and hurry, contained no allusion whatever to marriage, but
rather left one to infer that she was gone with Hawker as his mistress.
So the Vicar read it again and again, each time more mistily, till
sense and feeling departed, and he lay before his hearth a hopeless
paralytic.

At that moment Mary, beside George, was rolling through the fresh
morning air, up the beautiful Exe valley. Her fears were gone with
daylight and sunshine, and as he put his arm about her waist, she said,

"I am glad we came outside."

"Are you quite happy now?" he asked.

"Quite happy!"----




Chapter XII



IN WHICH A VERY MUSCULAR CHRISTIAN INDEED, COMES ON THE STAGE.


For the first four weeks that the Vicar lay paralyzed, the neighbouring
clergymen had done his duty; but now arose a new difficulty at
Drumston. Who was to do the duty while the poor Vicar lay there on his
back speechless?

"How," asked Miss Thornton of Tom Troubridge, "are we to make head
against the dissenters now? Let the duty lapse but one single week, my
dear friend, and you will see the chapels overflowing once more. My
brother has always had a hard fight to keep them to church, for they
have a natural tendency to dissent here. And a great number don't care
what the denominations are, so long as there is noise enough."

"If that is the case," answered Tom, "old Mark Hook's place of worship
should pay best. I'd back them against Bedlam any day."

"They certainly make the loudest noise at a Revival," said Miss
Thornton. "But what are we to do?"

"That I am sure I don't know, my dearest auntie," said Troubridge, "but
I am here, and my horse too, ready to go any amount of errands."

"I see no way," said Miss Thornton, "but to write to the Bishop."

"And I see no way else," said Tom, "unless you like to dress me up as a
parson, and see if I would do."

Miss Thornton wrote to the Bishop, with whom she had some acquaintance,
and told him how her brother had been struck down with paralysis, and
that the parish was unprovided for; that if he would send any gentleman
he approved of, she would gladly receive him at Drumston.

Armed with this letter, Tom found himself, for the first time in his
life, in an episcopal palace. A sleek servant in black opened the door
with cat-like tread, and admitted him into a dark, warm hall; and on
Tom's saying, in a hoarse whisper, as if he was in church, that he had
brought a note of importance, and would wait for an answer, the man
glided away, and disappeared through a spring-door, which swung to
behind him. Tom thought it would have banged, but it didn't. Bishops'
doors never bang.

Tom had a great awe for your peers spiritual. He could get on well
enough with a peer temporal, particularly if that proud aristocrat
happened to be in want of a horse; but a bishop was quite another
matter.

So he sat rather uncomfortable in the dark, warm hall, listening to
such dull sounds as could be heard in the gloomy mansion. A broad oak
staircase led up from the hall into lighter regions, and there stood,
on a landing above, a lean, wheezy old clock, all over brass knobs,
which, as he looked on it, choked, and sneezed four.

But now there was a new sound in the house. An indecent, secular sound.
A door near the top of the house was burst violently open, and there
was a scuffle. A loud voice shouted twice unmistakeably and distinctly,
"So--o, good bitch!" And then the astounded Tom heard the worrying of a
terrier, and the squeak of a dying rat. There was no mistake about it;
he heard the bones crack. Then he made out that a dog was induced to go
into a room on false pretences, and deftly shut up there, and then he
heard a heavy step descending the stairs towards him.

But, before there was time for the perpetrator of these sacrileges to
come in sight, a side door opened, and the Bishop himself came forth
with a letter in his hand (a mild, clever, gentlemanly-looking man he
was too, Tom remarked) and said,--

"Pray is there not a messenger from Drumston here?"

Tom replied that he had brought a letter from his cousin the Vicar. He
had rather expected to hear it demanded, "Where is the audacious man
who has dared to penetrate these sacred shades?" and was agreeably
relieved to find that the Bishop wasn't angry with him.

"Dear me," said the Bishop; "I beg a thousand pardons for keeping you
in the hall; pray walk into my study."

So in he went and sat down. The Bishop resumed,--

"You are Mr. Thornton's cousin, sir?"

Tom bowed. "I am about the nearest relation he has besides his sister,
my lord."

"Indeed," said the Bishop. "I have written to Miss Thornton to say that
there is a gentleman, a relation of my own, now living in the house
with me, who will undertake Mr. Thornton's duties, and I dare say,
also, without remuneration. He has nothing to do at present.--Oh, here
is the gentleman I spoke of!"

Here was the gentleman he spoke of, holding a dead rat by the tail, and
crying out,--

"Look here, uncle; what did I tell you? I might have been devoured
alive, had it not been for my faithful Fly, your enemy."

He was about six feet or nearly so in height, with a highly
intellectual though not a handsome face. His brown hair, carelessly
brushed, fell over a forehead both broad and lofty, beneath which shone
a pair of bold, clear grey eyes. The moment Troubridge saw him he set
him down in his own mind as a "goer," by which he meant a man who had
go, or energy, in him. A man, he thought, who is thrown away as a
parson.

The Bishop, ringing the bell, began again, "This is my nephew, Mr.
Frank Maberly."

The sleek servant entered.

"My dear Frank, pray give that rat to Sanders, and let him take it
away. I don't like such things in the study."

"I only brought it to convince you, uncle," said the other. "Here you
are, Sanders!"

But Sanders would have as soon shaken hands with the Pope. He rather
thought the rat was alive; and, taking the tongs, he received the beast
at a safe distance, while Tom saw a smile of contempt pass over the
young curate's features.

"You'd make a good missionary, Sanders," said he; and, turning to
Troubridge, continued, "Pray excuse this interlude, sir. You don't look
as if you would refuse to shake me by my ratty hand."

Tom thought he would sooner shake hands with him than fight him, and
was so won by Maberly's manner, that he was just going to say so, when
he recollected the presence he was in, and blushed scarlet.

"My dear Frank," resumed his uncle, "Mr. Thornton of Drumston is taken
suddenly ill, and I want you to go over and do his duties for him till
he is better."

"Most certainly, my dear lord; and when shall I go?"

"Say to-morrow; will that suit your household, sir?" said the Bishop.

Tom replied, "Yes, certainly," and took his leave. Then the Bishop,
turning to Frank, said,--

"The living of Drumston, nephew, is in my gift; and if Mr. Thornton
does not recover, as is very possible, I shall give it to you. I wish
you, therefore, to go to Drumston, and become acquainted with your
future parishioners. You will find Miss Thornton a most charming old
lady."

Frank Maberly was the second son of a country gentleman of good
property, and was a very remarkable character. His uncle had always
said of him, that whatever he chose to take up he would be first in;
and his uncle was right. At Eton he was not only the best cricketer and
runner, but decidedly the best scholar of his time. At Cambridge, for
the first year, he was probably the noisiest man in his college, though
he never lived what is called "hard;" but in the second year he took up
his books once more, and came forth third wrangler and first class, and
the second day after the class-list came out, made a very long score in
the match with Oxford. Few men were more popular, though the fast men
used to call him crotchety; and on some subjects, indeed, he was very
impatient of contradiction. And most of his friends were a little
disappointed when they heard of his intention of going into the Church.
His father went so far as to say,--

"My dear Frank, I always thought you would have been a lawyer."

"I'd sooner be a--well, never mind what."

"But you might have gone into the army, Frank," said his father.

"I am going into the army, sir," he said; "into the army of Christ."

Old Mr. Maberly was at first shocked by this last expression from a son
who rarely or never talked on religious matters, and told his wife so
that night.

"But," he added, "since I've been thinking of it, I'm sure Frank meant
neither BLAGUE nor irreverence. He is in earnest. I never knew him tell
a lie; and since he was six years old he has known how to call a spade
a spade."

"He'll make a good parson," said the mother.

"He'll be first in that, as he is in everything else," said the father.

"But he'll never be a bishop," said Mrs. Maberly.

"Why not?" said the husband, indignantly.

"Because, as you say yourself, husband, he will call a spade a spade."

"Bah! you are a radical," said the father. "Go to sleep."

At the time of John Thornton's illness, he had been ordained about a
year and a-half. He had got a title for orders, as a curate, in a
remote part of Devon, but had left it in consequence of a violent
disagreement with his rector, in which he had been most fully borne out
by his uncle, who, by the bye, was not the sort of man who would have
supported his own brother, had he been in the wrong. Since then Frank
Maberly had been staying with his uncle, and, as he expressed it,
"working the slums" at Exeter.

Miss Thornton sat in the drawing-room at Drumston the day after Tom's
visit to the Bishop, waiting dinner for the new Curate. Tom and she had
been wondering how he would come. Miss Thornton said, probably in the
Bishop's carriage; but Tom was inclined to think he would ride over.
The dinner time was past some ten minutes, when they saw a man in black
put his hand on the garden-gate, vault over, and run breathless up to
the hall-door. Tom had recognised him and dashed out to receive him,
but ere he had time to say "good day" even, the new comer pulled out
his watch, and, having looked at it, said in a tone of vexation:--

"Twenty-one minutes, as near as possible; nay, a little over. By Jove!
how pursy a fellow gets mewed up in town! How far do you call it, now,
from the Buller Arms?"

"It is close upon four miles," said Tom, highly amused.

"So they told me," replied Frank Maberly. "I left my portmanteau there,
and the landlord-fellow had the audacity to say in conversation that I
couldn't run the four miles in twenty minutes. It's lucky a parson
can't bet, or I should have lost my money. But the last mile is very
much up-hill, as you must allow."

"I'll tell you what, sir," said Tom; "there isn't a man in this parish
would go that four mile under twenty minutes. If any man could, I ought
to know of it."

Miss Thornton had listened to this conversation with wonder not unmixed
with amusement. At first she had concluded that the Bishop's carriage
was upset, and that Frank was the breathless messenger sent forward
to chronicle the mishap. But her tact soon showed the sort of person
she had to deal with, for she was not unacquainted with the
performances of public schoolboys. She laughed when she called to
mind the BOULEVERSEMENT that used to take place when Lord Charles and
Lord Frederick came home from Harrow, and invaded her quiet school-room.
So she advanced into the passage to meet the new-comer with one
of her pleasantest smiles.

"I must claim an old woman's privilege of introducing myself, Mr.
Maberly," she said. "Your uncle was tutor to the B----s, when I was
governess to the D----s; so we are old acquaintances."

"Can you forgive me, Miss Thornton?" he said, "for running up to the
house in this lunatic sort of way? I am still half a school-boy, you
know. What an old jewel she is!" he added to himself.

Tom said: "May I show you your room, Mr. Maberly?"

"If you please, do," said Frank; and added, "Get out, Fly; what are you
doing here?"

But Miss Thornton interceded for the dog, a beautiful little black
and tan terrier, whose points Tom was examining with profound
admiration.

"That's a brave little thing, Mr. Maberly," said he, as he showed him
to his room. "I should like to put in my name for a pup."

They stood face to face in the bed-room as he said this, and Frank, not
answering him, said abruptly:--

"By Jove! what a splendid man you are! What do you weigh, now?"

"Close upon eighteen stone, just now, I should think;" said Tom.

"Ah, but you are carrying a little flesh," said Frank.

"Why, yes;" said Tom. "I've been to London for a fortnight."

"That accounts for it," said Frank. "Many dissenters in this parish?"

"A sight of all sorts," said Tom. "They want attracting to church here;
they don't go naturally, as they do in some parts."

"I see," said Frank; "I suppose they'll come next Sunday though, to see
the new parson; my best plan will be to give them a stinger, so that
they'll come again."

"Why, you see," said Tom, "it's got about that there'll be no service
next Sunday, so they'll make an excuse for going to Meeting. Our best
plan will be, for you and I to go about and let them know that there's
a new minister. Then you'll get them together, and after that I leave
it to you to keep them. Shall we go down to dinner?"

They came together going out of the door, and Frank turned and said:--

"Will you shake hands with me? I think we shall suit one another."

"Aye! that we shall," said Tom heartily; "you're a man's parson; that's
about what you are. But," he added, seriously; "you wouldn't do among
the old women, you know."

At dinner, Miss Thornton said, "I hope, Mr. Maberly, you are none the
worse after your run? Are you not afraid of such violent exercise
bringing on palpitation of the heart?"

"Not I, my dear madam," he said. "Let me make my defence for what,
otherwise, you might consider mere boyish folly. I am passionately fond
of athletic sports of all kinds, and indulge in them as a pleasure. No
real man is without some sort of pleasure, more or less harmless. Nay,
even your fanatic is a man who makes a pleasure and an excitement of
religion. My pleasures are very harmless; what can be more harmless
than keeping this shell of ours in the highest state of capacity for
noble deeds? I know," he said, turning to Tom, "what the great
temptation is that such men as you or I have to contend against. It is
'the pride of life;' but if we know that and fight against it, how can
it prevail against us? It is easier conquered than the lust of the
flesh, or the lust of the eye, though some will tell you that I can't
construe my Greek Testament, and that the 'pride of life' means
something very different. I hold my opinion however, in spite of them.
Then, again, although I have taken a good degree (not so good as I
might, though), I consider that I have only just begun to study.
Consequently, I read hard still, and shall continue to do so the next
twenty years, please God. I find my head the clearer, and my intellect
more powerful in consequence of the good digestion produced by
exercise; so I mean to use it till I get too fat, which will be a long
while first."

"Ain't you afraid," said Tom, laughing, "of offending some of your
weaker brothers' consciences, by running four miles, because a publican
said you couldn't?"

"Disputing with a publican might be an error of judgment," said Frank.
"Bah! MIGHT be--it WAS; but with regard to running four miles--no. It
is natural and right that a man at five-and-twenty should be both able
and willing to run four miles, a parson above all others, as a protest
against effeminacy. With regard to consciences, those very tender
conscienced men oughtn't to want a parson at all."

Miss Thornton had barely left the room, to go up to the Vicar, leaving
Tom and Frank Maberly over their wine, when the hall-door was thrown
open, and the well-known voice of the Doctor was heard exclaiming in
angry tones:--

"If! sir, if! always at if's. If Blucher had destroyed the bridge,
say you, as if he ever meant to be such a Vandal. And if he had meant
to do it, do you think that fifty Wellesleys in one would have stayed
him? No, sir; and if he had destroyed every bridge on the Seine, sir,
he would have done better than to be overruled by the counsels of
Wellington (glory go with him, however! He was a good man). And why,
forsooth?--because the English bore the brunt at Waterloo, in
consequence of the Prussians being delayed by muddy roads."

"And Ligny," said the laughing voice of Major Buckley. "Oh, Doctor,
dear! I like to make you angry, because then your logic is so very
outrageous. You are like the man who pleaded not guilty of murder:
first, because he hadn't done it; secondly, that he was drunk when he
did it; and thirdly, that it was a case of mistaken identity."

"Ha, ha!" laughed the Doctor, merrily, recovering his good humour in a
moment. "That's an Irish story for a thousand pounds. There's nothing
English about that. Ha! ha!"

They were presented to Frank as the new curate. The Doctor, after a
courteous salutation, put on his spectacles, and examined him
carefully. Frank looked at him all the time with a quiet smile, and in
the end the Doctor said--

"Allow me the privilege of shaking hands with you, sir." "Shall I be
considered rude if I say that I seldom or never saw a finer head than
yours on a man's shoulders? And, judging by the face, it is well
lined."

"Like a buck-basket," said Frank, "full of dirty linen. Plenty of it,
and of some quality, but not in a state fit for use yet. I will have it
washed up, and wear such of it as is worth soon."

The Doctor saw he had found a man after his own heart, and it was not
long before Frank and he were in the seventh heaven of discussion.
Meanwhile, the Major had drawn up alongside of Tom, and said--

"Any news of the poor little dove that has left the nest, old friend?"

"Yes," said Tom, eagerly; "we have got a letter. Good news, too."

"Thank God for that," said the Major. "And where are they?"

"They are now at Brighton."

"What's that?" said the Doctor, turning round. "Any news?"

They told him, and then it became necessary to tell Frank Maberly what
he had not known before, that the Vicar had a daughter who had "gone
off."

"One of the prettiest, sweetest creatures, Mr. Maberly," said the
Major, "that you ever saw in your life. None of us, I believe, knew how
well we loved her till she was gone."

"And a very remarkable character, besides," said the Doctor. "Such a
force of will as you see in few women of her age. Obscured by passion
and girlish folly, it seemed more like obstinacy to us. But she has a
noble heart, and, when she has outlived her youthful fancies, I should
not be surprised if she turned out a very remarkable woman."




Chapter XIII



THE DISCOVERY OF THE FORGERIES.


One morning the man who went once a-week from old Hawker's, at the
Woodlands, down to the post, brought back a letter, which he delivered
to Madge at the door. She turned it over and examined it more carefully
than she generally did the old man's letters, for it was directed in a
clerk-like hand, and was sealed with a big and important-looking seal,
and when she came to examine this seal, she saw that it bore the words
"B. and F. Bank." "So, they are at it again, are they?" she said. "The
deuce take 'em, I say: though for that matter I can't exactly blame the
folks for looking after their own. Well, there's no mistake about one
thing, he must see this letter, else some of 'em will be coming over
and blowing the whole thing. He will ask me to read it for him, and
I'll do so, right an end. Lord, what a breeze there'll be! I hope I
shall be able to pull my lad through, though it very much depends on
the old 'uns temper. However, I shall soon know."

Old Hawker was nearly blind, and, although an avaricious, suspicious
old man, as a general rule, trusted implicitly on ordinary occasions to
George and Madge in the management of his accounts, reflecting, with
some reason, that it could not be their interest to cheat him. Of late,
however, he had been uneasy in his mind. Madge, there was no denying,
had got through a great deal more money than usual, and he was not
satisfied with her account of where it had gone. She, we know, was in
the habit of supplying George's extravagances in a way which tried all
her ingenuity to hide from him, and he, mistrusting her statements, had
determined as far as he could to watch her.

On this occasion she laid the letter on the breakfast table, and waited
his coming down, hoping that he might be in a good humour, so that
there might be some chance of averting the storm from George. Madge was
much terrified for the consequences, but was quite calm and firm.

Not long before she heard his heavy step coming down the stairs, and
soon he came into the room, evidently in no favourable state of mind.

"If you don't kill or poison that black tom-cat," was his first speech,
"by the Lord I will. I suppose you keep him for some of your witchwork.
But, if he's the devil himself, as I believe he is, I'll shoot him. I
won't be kept out of my natural sleep by such a devil's brat as that.
He's been keeping up such a growling and a scrowling on the hen-house
roof all night, that I thought it was Old Scratch come for you, and
getting impatient. If you must keep an imp of Satan in the house, get a
mole, or a rat, or some quiet beast of that sort, and not such a
vicious toad as him."

"Shoot him after breakfast if you like," she said. "He's no friend of
mine. Get your breakfast, and don't be a fool. There's a letter for
you; take and read it."

"Yah! Read it, she says, and knows I'm blind," said Hawker. "You artful
minx, you want to read it yourself."

He took the letter up, and turned it over and over. He knew the seal,
and shot a suspicious glance at her. Then, looking at her fixedly, he
put it in his breastpocket, and buttoned up his coat.

"There!" he said. "I'll read it. Oh yes, believe me, I'll read it. You
Jezebel!"

"You'd better eat your meat like a Christian man," she answered, "and
not make such faces as them."

"Where's the man?" he asked.

"Outside, I suppose."

"Tell him I want the gig. I'm going out for a drive. A pleasure drive,
you know. All down the lane, and back again. Cut along and tell him
before I do you a mischief."

She saw he was in one of his evil humours, when nothing was to be done
with him, and felt very uneasy. She went and ordered the gig, and when
he had finished breakfast, he came out to the door.

"You'd best take your big coat," she said, "else you'll be getting
cold, and be in a worse temper than you are,--and that's bad enough,
Lord knows, for a poor woman to put up with."

"How careful she is!" said Hawker. "What care she takes of the old man!
I've left you ten thousand pounds in my will, ducky. Good-bye."

He drove off, and left her standing in the porch. What a wild, tall
figure she was, standing so stern and steadfast there in the morning
sun!--a woman one would rather have for a friend than an enemy.

Hawker was full of other thoughts than these. Coupling his other
suspicions of Madge with the receipt of this letter from the bank, he
was growing very apprehensive of something being wrong. He wanted this
letter read to him, but whom could he trust? Who better than his old
companion Burrows, who lived in the valley below the Vicarage? So,
whipping up his horse, he drove there, but found he was out. He turned
back again, puzzled, going slowly, and as he came to the bottom of the
hill, below the Vicarage, he saw a tall man leaning against the gate,
and smoking.

"He'll do for want of a better," he said to himself. "He's an honest-going
fellow, and we've always been good friends, and done good
business together, though he is one of that cursed Vicarage lot."

So he drew up when he came to the gate. "I beg your pardon, Mr.
Troubridge," he said, with a very different tone and manner to what we
have been accustomed to hear him use, "but could you do a kindness
for a blind old man? I have no one about me that I can trust since my
son is gone away. I have reason to believe that this letter is of
importance; could you be so good as to read it to me?"

"I shall be happy to oblige you, Mr. Hawker," said Tom. "I am sorry to
hear that your sight is so bad."

"Yes; I'm breaking fast," said Hawker. "However, I shan't be much
missed. I don't inquire how the Vicar is, because I know already, and
because I don't think he would care much for my inquiries, after the
injury my son has done him. I will break the seal. Now, may I trouble
you?"

Tom Troubridge read aloud:--

"B. and F. Bank. [Such a date.]

"SIR,--May I request that you will favour me personally with a call,
at the earliest possible opportunity, at my private office, 166,
Broad Street? I have reason to fear that two forged cheques, bearing
your signature, have been inadvertently cashed by us. The amount, I am
sorry to inform you, is considerable. I need not further urge your
immediate attention. This is the third communication we have made to
you on the subject, and are much surprised at receiving no answer. I
hope that you will be so good as to call at once.

Yours, sir, &c., P. ROLLOX, Manager."

"I thank you, Mr. Troubridge," said the old man, quietly and politely.
"You see I was not wrong when I thought that this letter was of
importance. May I beg as a favour that you would not mention this to
any one?"

"Certainly, Mr. Hawker. I will respect your wish. I hope your loss may
not be heavy."

"The loss will not be mine though, will it?" said old Hawker. "I
anticipate that it will fall on the bank. It is surely at their risk to
cash cheques. Why, a man might sign for all the money I have in their
hands, and surely they would be answerable for it?"

"I am not aware how the law stands, Mr. Hawker," said Troubridge.
"Fortunately, no one has ever thought it worth while to forge my name."

"Well, I wish you a good day, sir, with many thanks," said Hawker. "Can
I do anything for you in Exeter?"

Old Hawker drove away rapidly in the direction of Exeter; his horse, a
fine black, clearing the ground in splendid style. Although a cunning
man, he was not quick in following a train of reasoning, and he was
half-way to Exeter before he had thoroughly comprehended his
situation. And then, all he saw was that somebody had forged his name,
and he believed that Madge knew something about it.

"I wish my boy George was at home," he said. "He'd save me getting a
lawyer now. I am altogether in the hands of those Bank folks if they
like to cheat me, though it's not likely they'd do that. At all events
I will take Dickson with me."

Dickson was an attorney of good enough repute. A very clever, quiet
man, and a good deal employed by old Hawker, when his business was not
too disreputable. Some years before, Hawker had brought some such
excessively dirty work to his office, that the lawyer politely declined
having anything to do with it, but recommended him to an attorney who
he thought would undertake it. And from that time the old fellow
treated him with marked respect, and spoke everywhere of him as a man
to be trusted: such an effect had the fact of a lawyer refusing
business made on him!

He reached Exeter by two o'clock, so rapidly had he driven. He went at
once to Dickson's, and found him at home, busy swinging the poker, in
deep thought, before the fireplace in his inner office. He was a small
man, with an impenetrable, expressionless face, who never was known to
unbend himself to a human being. Only two facts were known about him.
One was that he was the best swimmer in Exeter, and had saved several
lives from drowning, and the other was, that he gave away (for him)
large sums in private charity.

Such was the man who now received old Hawker, with quiet politeness;
and having sent his horse round to the inn stable by a clerk, sat down
once more by the fire, and began swinging the poker, and waiting for
the other to begin the conversation.

"If you are not engaged, Mr. Dickson," said Hawker, "I would be much
obliged to you if you could step round to the B. and F. Bank with me. I
want you to witness what passes, and to read any letters or papers for
me that I shall require."

The attorney put down the poker, got his hat, and stood waiting, all
without a word.

"You won't find it necessary to remark on anything that occurs, Mr.
Dickson, unless I ask your opinion."

The attorney nodded, and whistled a tune. And then they started
together through the crowded street.

The bank was not far, and Hawker pushed his way in among the crowd of
customers. It was some time before he could get hold of a clerk, there
was so much business going on. When, at last, he did so, he said--"I
want to see Mr. Rollox; he told me to call on him at once."

"He is engaged at present," said the clerk. "It is quite impossible you
can see him."

"You don't know what you are talking about, man," said Hawker. "Send in
and tell him Mr. Hawker, of Drumston, is here."

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Hawker. I have only just come here, and did
not know you. Porter, show Mr. Hawker in."

They went into the formal bank parlour. There was the leather writing
table, the sheet almanac, the iron safe, and all the weapons by which
bankers war against mankind, as in all other sanctuaries of the kind.
Moreover, there was the commander-in-chief himself, sitting at the
table. A bald, clever, gentlemanly-looking man, who bowed when they
came in. "Good day, Mr. Hawker. I am obliged to you for calling at
last. We thought something was wrong. Mr. Dickson, I hope you are well.
Are you attending with Mr. Hawker, or are you come on private
business?"

The attorney said--"I'm come at his request," and relapsed into silence.

"Ah!" said the manager. "I am, on the whole, glad that Mr. Hawker has
brought a professional adviser with him. Though," he added, laughing,
"it is putting me rather at a disadvantage, you know. Two to one,--eh?"

"Now, gentlemen, if you will be so good as to close the door carefully,
and be seated, I will proceed to business, hoping that you will give me
your best attention. About six or eight months ago,--let me be
particular, though," said he, referring to some papers,--"that is
rather a loose way of beginning. Here it is. The fourth of September,
last year--yes. On that day, Mr. Hawker, a cheque was presented at
this bank, drawn 'in favour of bearer,' and signed in your name, for
two hundred pounds, and cashed, the person who presented it being well
known here."

"Who?" interrupted Hawker.

"Excuse me, sir," said the manager; "allow me to come to that
hereafter. You were about to say, I anticipate, that you never drew a
cheque 'on bearer' in your life? Quite true. That ought to have excited
attention, but it did not till, a very few weeks ago, our head-clerk,
casting his eye down your account, remarked on the peculiarity, and, on
examining the cheque, was inclined to believe that it was not in your
usual handwriting. He intended communicating with me, but was prevented
for some days by my absence; and, in the meantime, another cheque,
similar, but better imitated, was presented by the same person, and
cashed, without the knowledge of the head-clerk. On the cheque coming
into his hands, he reprimanded the cashier, and he and I, having more
closely examined them, came to the conclusion that they were both
forgeries. We immediately communicated with you, and, to our great
surprise, received no answer either to our first or second application.
We, however, were not idle. We ascertained that we could lay our
hands on the utterer of the cheques at any moment, and tried a third
letter to you, which has been successful."

"The two letters you speak of have never reached me, Mr. Rollox," said
Hawker. "I started off on the receipt of yours this morning--the first
I saw. I am sorry, sir, that the bank should lose money through me;
but, by your own showing, sir, the fault lay with your own clerks."

"I have never attempted to deny it, Mr. Hawker," said the manager. "But
there are other matters to be considered. Before I go on, I wish to
give you an opportunity of sending away your professional adviser, and
continuing this conversation with me alone."

They both turned and looked at the lawyer. He was sitting with his
hands in his pockets, and one would have thought he was whistling, only
no sound came. His face showed no signs of intelligence in any feature
save his eyes, and they were expressive of the wildest and most
unbounded astonishment.

"I have nothing to do in this matter, sir," said Hawker, "that I should
not wish Mr. Dickson to hear. He is an honourable man, and I confide in
him thoroughly."

"So be it, then, Mr. Hawker," said the manager. "I have as high an
opinion of my friend Mr. Dickson as you have; but I warn you, that some
part of what will follow will touch you very unpleasantly."

"I don't see how," said Hawker; "go on, if you please."

"Will you be good enough to examine these two cheques, and say whether
they are genuine or not?"

"I have only to look at the amount of this large one, to pronounce it
an impudent forgery," said Hawker. "I have not signed so large a cheque
for many years. There was one last January twelvemonth of 400 pounds, for
the land at Highcot, and that is the largest, I believe, I ever gave in my
life."

"There can be no doubt they are forgeries. Your sight, I believe, is
too bad to swear easily to your own signature; but that is quite
enough. Now, I have laid this case before our governor, Lord C----, and
he went so far as to say that, under the painful circumstances of the
case, if you were to refund the money, the bank might let the matter
drop; but that, otherwise, it would be their most painful duty to
prosecute."

"I refund the money!" laughed Hawker; "you are playing with me, sir.
Prosecute the dog; I will come and see him hung! Ha! ha!"

"It will be a terrible thing if we prosecute the utterer of these
cheques," said the manager.

"Why?" said Hawker. "By-the-bye, you know who he is, don't you? Tell me
who it is?"

"Your own son, Mr. Hawker," said the manager, almost in a whisper.

Hawker rose and glared at them with such a look of deadly rage that
they shrank from him appalled. Then, he tottered to the mantelpiece and
leant against it, trying to untie his neckcloth with feeble, trembling
fingers.

"Open your confounded window there, Rollox," cried the lawyer, starting
up. "Where's the wine? Look sharp, man!"

Hawker waved to him impatiently to sit down, and then said, at first
gasping for breath, but afterwards more quietly:

"Are you sure it was he that brought those cheques?"

"Certainly, sir," said the manager. "You may be sure it was he. Had it
been any one else, they would not have been cashed without more
examination; and on the last occasion he accounted rather elaborately
for your drawing such a large sum."

Hawker recovered himself and sat down.

"Don't be frightened, gentlemen," he said. "Not this time. I've
something to do before that comes. It won't be long, the doctor says,
but I must transact some business first. O Lord! I see it all now. That
cursed, cursed woman and her boy have been hoodwinking me and playing
with me all this time, have they? Oh, but I'll have my vengeance on 'em
one to the stocks, and another to the gallows. I, unfortunately,
can't give you any information where that man is that has the audacity
to bear my name, sir," said he to the manager. "His mother at one time
persuaded me that he was a child of mine; but such infernal gipsy drabs
as that can't be depended on, you know. I have the honour to wish you a
very good afternoon, sir, thanking you for your information, and hoping
your counsel will secure a speedy conviction. I shall probably
trouble you to meet me at a magistrate's tomorrow morning, where I
will take my oath in his presence that those cheques are forgeries. You
will find alterations in my banker's book, too, I expect. We'll look
into it all to-morrow. Come along, Dickson, my sly little weasel; I've
a gay night's work for you; I'm going to leave all my property to my
cousin Nick, my bitterest enemy, and a lawsuit with it that'll break
his heart. There's fun for the lawyers,--eh, my boy!"

So talking, the old man strode firmly forth, with a bitter, malignant
scowl on his flushed face. The lawyer followed him, and, when they were
in the street, Hawker again asked him to come to the inn and make his
will for him.

"I'll stay by you, Hawker, and see that you don't make a fool of
yourself. I wish you would not be so vindictive. It's indecent; you'll
be ashamed of it tomorrow; but, in the meantime, it's indecent."

"Ha, ha!" laughed Hawker; "how quietly he talks! One can see that he
hasn't had a bastard child fathered on him by a gipsy hag. Come along,
old fellow; there's fifty pounds' worth of work for you this week, if I
only live through it!"

He took the lawyer to the inn, and they got dinner. Hawker ate but
little, for him, but drank a good deal. Dickson thought he was getting
drunk; but when dinner was over, and Hawker had ordered in
spirits-and-water, he seemed sober enough again.

"Now, Mr. Dickson," said he, "I am going to make a fresh will to-morrow
morning, and I shall want you to draw it up for me. After that I want
you to come home with me and transact business. You will do a good
day's work, I promise you. You seem to me now to be the only man in the
world I can trust. I pray you don't desert me."

"As I said before," replied the lawyer, "I won't desert you; but listen
to me. I don't half like the sudden way you have turned against your
own son. Why don't you pay this money, and save the disgrace of that
unhappy young man? I don't say anything about your disinheriting him--
that's no business of mine--but don't be witness against him. The
bank, or rather my Lord C----, has been very kind about it. Take
advantage of their kindness and hush the matter up."

"I know you ain't in the pay of the bank," said Hawker, "so I won't
charge you with it. I know you better than to think you'd lend yourself
to anything so mean; but your conduct looks suspicious. If you hadn't
done me a few disinterested kindnesses lately, I should say that they'd
paid you to persuade me to stop this, so as they might get their money
back, and save the cost of a prosecution. But I ain't so far gone as to
believe that; and so I tell you, as one man to another, that if you'd
come suddenly on such a mine of treason and conspiracy as I have this
afternoon, and found a lad that you have treated as, and tried to
believe was, your own son, you'd be as bad as me. Every moment I think
of it, it comes out clearer. That woman that lives with me has palmed
that brat of hers on me as my child; and he and she have been
plundering me these years past. The money that woman has made away with
would build a ship, sir. What she's done with it, her master, the
devil, only knows; and I've said nought about it, because she's a
witch, and I was afraid of her. But now I've found her out. She has
stopped the letters that they wrote to me about this boy's forgery, and
that shows she was in it. She shall pack. I won't prosecute her; no.
I've reasons against that; but I'll turn her out in the world without a
sixpence. You see I'm quiet enough now!"

"You're quiet enough," said the lawyer, "and you've stated your case
very well. But are you sure this lad is not your son?"

"If I was sure that he was," said Hawker, "it wouldn't make any
difference, as I know on. Ah, man, you don't know what a rage I'm in.
If I chose, I could put myself into such an infernal passion at this
moment as would bring on a 'plectic fit, and lay me dead on the floor.
But I won't do it, not yet. I'll have another drop of brandy, and sing
you a song. Shall I give 'ee 'Roger a-Maying,' or what'll ye have?"

"I'll have you go to bed, and not take any more brandy," said the
lawyer. "If you sing, get in one of the waiters, and sing to him; he'd
enjoy it. I'm going home, but I shall come to breakfast to-morrow
morning, and find you in a different humour."

"Good night, old mole," said Hawker; "good night, old bat, old
parchment skin, old sixty per cent. Ha, ha! If a wench brings a brat to
thee, old lad, chuck it out o' window, and her after it. Thou can only
get hung for it, man. They can only hang thee once, and that is better
than to keep it and foster it, and have it turn against thee when it
grows up. Good night."

Dickson came to him in the morning, and found him in the same mind.
They settled down to business, and Hawker made a new will. He left all
his property to his cousin (a man he had had a bitter quarrel with for
years), except 100 pounds to his groom, and 200 pounds to Tom Troubridge,
"for an act of civility" (so the words ran), "in reading a letter for a
man who ought to have been his enemy." And when the will (a very short
one) was finished, and the lawyer proposed getting two of his clerks as
witnesses, Hawker told him to fold it up and keep it; that he would get
it witnessed by-and-by.

"You're coming home with me," he said, "and we'll get it witnessed
there. You'll see why, when it's done."

Then they went to the manager of the bank, and got him to go before a
magistrate with him, whilst he deposed on oath that the two cheques,
before mentioned, were forgeries, alleging that his life was so
uncertain that the criminal might escape justice by his sudden death.
Then he and Dickson went back to the inn, and after dinner started
together to drive to Drumston.

They had been so engaged with business that they had taken no notice of
the weather. But when they were clear of the northern suburbs of the
town, and were flying rapidly along the noble turnpike-road that
turning eastward skirts the broad Exe for a couple of miles before
turning north again, they remarked that a dense black cloud hung before
them, and that everything foreboded a violent thunder-storm.

"We shall get a drowning before we reach your place, Hawker," said the
lawyer. "I'm glad I brought my coat."

"Lawyers never get drowned," said Hawker, "though I believe you have
tried it often enough."

When they crossed the bridge, and turned to the north, along the pretty
banks of the Creedy, they began to hope that they would leave it on the
right; but ere they reached Newton St. Cyres they saw that it was
creeping up overhead, and, stopping a few minutes in that village,
perceived that the folks were all out at their doors talking to one
another, as people do for company's sake when a storm is coming on.

Before they got to Crediton they could distinguish, above the sound of
the wheels, the thunder groaning and muttering perpetually, and as they
rattled quickly past the grand old minster a few drops of rain began to
fall.

The boys were coming out of the Grammar School in shoals, laughing,
running, whooping, as the manner of boys is. Hawker drove slowly as he
passed through the crowd, and the lawyer took that opportunity to put
on his great-coat.

"We've been lucky so far," he said, "and now we are going to pay for
our good luck. Before it is too late, Hawker, pull up and stay here. If
we have to stop all night, I'll pay expenses; I will indeed. It will be
dark before we are home. Do stop."

"Not for a thousand pound," said Hawker. "I wouldn't baulk myself now
for a thousand pound. Hey! fancy turning her out such a night as this
without sixpence in her pocket. Why, a man like you, that all the
county knows, a man who has got two gold medals for bravery, ain't
surely afraid of a thunderstorm?"

"I ain't afraid of the thunderstorm, but I am of the rheumatism," said
the other. "As for a thunderstorm, you're as safe out of doors as in;
some say safer. But you're mistaken if you suppose I don't fear death,
Hawker. I fear it as much as any man."

"It didn't look like it that time you soused in over the weir after the
groom lad," said Hawker.

"Bah! man," said the lawyer; "I'm the best swimmer in Devon. That was
proved by my living at that weir in flood time. So I have less to fear
than any one else. Why, if that boy hadn't been as quiet and plucky as
he was, I knew I could kick him off any minute, and get ashore. Hallo!
that's nearer."

The storm burst on them in full fury, and soon after it grew dark. The
good horse, however, stepped out gallantly, though they made but little
way; for, having left the high road and taken to the narrow lanes,
their course was always either up hill or down, and every bottom they
passed grew more angry with the flooding waters as they proceeded.
Still, through darkness, rain, and storm, they held their way till they
saw the lights of Drumston below them.

"How far is it to your house, Hawker?" said the lawyer. "This storm
seems to hang about still. It is as bad as ever. You must be very wet."

"It's three miles to my place, but a level road, at least all up-hill,
gently rising. Cheer up! We won't be long."

They passed through the village rapidly, lighted by the lightning. The
last three miles were done as quickly as any part of the journey, and
the lawyer rejoiced to find himself before the white gate that led up
to Hawker's house.

It was not long before they drew up to the door. The storm seemed worse
than ever. There was a light in the kitchen, and when Hawker had
halloed once or twice, a young man ran out to take the horse.

"Is that you, my boy?" said Hawker. "Rub the horse down, and come in to
get something. This ain't a night fit for a dog to be out in; is it?"

"No, indeed, sir," said the man. "I hope none's out in it but what
likes to be."

They went in. Madge looked up from arranging the table for supper, and
stared at Hawker keenly. He laughed aloud, and said,--

"So you didn't expect me to-night, deary, eh?"

"You've chose a bad night to come home in, old man," she answered.

"A terrible night, ain't it? Wouldn't she have been anxious if she'd a'
known I'd been out?"

"Don't know as I should," she said. "That gentleman had better get
dried, and have his supper."

"I've got a bit of business first, deary. Where's the girl?"

"In the other kitchen."

"Call her.--Lord! listen to that."

A crash of thunder shook the house, heard loud above the rain, which
beat furiously against the windows. Madge immediately returned with the
servant girl, a modest, quiet-looking creature, evidently in terror at
the storm.

"Get out that paper, Dickson, and we'll get it signed."

The lawyer produced the will, and Madge and the servant girl were made
to witness it. Dickson, having dried the signatures, took charge of it
again; and then Hawker turned round fiercely to Madge.

"That's my new will," he said; "my new will, old woman. Oh, you cat!
I've found you out."

Madge saw a storm was coming, worse than the one which raged and
rattled outside, and she braced her nerves to meet it.

"What have you found out, old man?" she said quietly.

"I've found out that you and that young scoundrel have been robbing and
cheating me in a way that would bring me to the workhouse in another
year. I have found out that he has forged my name for nearly a thousand
pounds, and that you've helped him. I find that you yourself have
robbed me of hundreds of pounds, and that I have been blinded, and
cozened, and hoodwinked by two that I kept from the workhouse, and
treated as well as I treated myself. That's what I have found out, gipsy."

"Well?" was all Madge said, standing before him with her arms folded.

"So I say," said Hawker; "it is very well. The mother to the streets,
and the boy to the gallows."

"You wouldn't prosecute him, William; your own son?"

"No, I shan't," he replied;--"but the Bank will."

"And couldn't you stop it?"

"I could. But if holding up my little finger would save him, I wouldn't
do it."

"Oh, William," she cried, throwing herself on her knees; "don't look
like that. I confess everything; visit it on me, but spare that boy."

"You confess, do you?" he said. "Get up. Get out of my house; you
shan't stay here."

But she would not go, but, hanging round him, kept saying, "Spare the
boy, William, spare the boy!" over and again, till he struck her in his
fury, and pulled her towards the door.

"Get out and herd with the gipsies you belong to," he said. "You witch,
you can't cry now."

"But," she moaned, "oh, not such a night as this, William; not to-night.
I am frightened of the storm. Let me stay to-night. I am frightened of the
lightning. Oh, I wouldn't turn out your dog such a night as this."

"Out, out, you devil!"

"Oh, William, only one--"

"Out, you Jezebel, before I do you a mischief."

He had got the heavy door open, and she passed out, moaning low to
herself. Out into the fierce rain and the black darkness; and the old
man held open the door for a minute, to see if she were gone.

No. A broad, flickering riband of light ineffable wavered for an
instant of time before his eyes, lighting up the country far and wide;
but plainly visible between him and the blaze was a tall, dark,
bare-headed woman, wildly raising her hands above her head, as if
imploring vengeance upon him, and, ere the terrible explosion which
followed had ceased to shake the old house to its foundations, he shut the
door, and went muttering alone up to his solitary chamber.

The next morning the groom came into the lawyer's room, and informed
him that when he went to call his master in the morning, he had found
the bed untouched, and Hawker sitting half undressed in his arm-chair,
dead and cold.




Chapter XIV



THE MAJOR'S VISIT TO THE "NAG'S-HEAD."


Major Buckley and his wife stood together in the verandah of their
cottage, watching the storm. All the afternoon they had seen it
creeping higher and higher, blacker and more threatening up the eastern
heavens, until it grew painful to wait any longer for its approach. But
now that it had burst on them, and night had come on dark as pitch,
they felt the pleasant change in the atmosphere, and, in spite of the
continuous gleam of the lightning, and the eternal roll and crackle of
the thunder, they had come out to see the beauty and majesty of the
tempest.

They stood with their arms entwined for some time, in silence; but
after a crash louder than any of those which had preceded it, Major
Buckley said:--

"My dearest Agnes, you are very courageous in a thunderstorm."

"Why not, James?" she said; "you cannot avoid the lightning, and the
thunder won't harm you. Most women fear the sound of the thunder more
than anything, but I suspect that Ciudad Rodrigo made more noise than
this, husband?"

"It did indeed, my dear. More noise than I ever heard in any storm yet.
It is coming nearer."

"I am afraid it will shake the poor Vicar very much," said Mrs.
Buckley. "Ah, there is Sam, crying."

They both went into the sitting-room; little Sam had petitioned to go
to bed on the sofa till the storm was over, and now, awakened by the
thunder, was sitting up in his bed, crying out for his mother.

The Major went in and lay down by the child on the sofa, to quiet him.
"What!" said he, "Sammy, you're not afraid of thunder, are you?"

"Yes! I am," said the child; "very much indeed. I am glad you are come,
father."

"Lightning never strikes good boys, Sam," said the Major.

"Are you sure of that, father?" said the little one.

That was a poser; so the Major thought it best to counterfeit sleep;
but he overdid it, and snored so loud, that the boy began to laugh, and
his father had to practise his deception with less noise. And by
degrees, the little hand that held his moustache dropped feebly on the
bedclothes, and the Major, ascertaining by the child's regular
breathing that his son was asleep, gently raised his vast length, and
proposed to his wife to come into the verandah again.

"The storm is breaking, my love," said he; "and the air is deliciously
cool out there. Put your shawl on and come out."

They went out again; the lightning was still vivid, but the thunder
less loud. Straight down the garden from them stretched a broad gravel
walk, which now, cut up by the rain into a hundred water channels,
showed at each flash like rivers of glittering silver. Looking down
this path toward the black wood during one of the longest continued
illuminations of the lightning, they saw for an instant a dark, tall
figure, apparently advancing towards them. Then all the prospect was
wrapped again in tenfold gloom.

Mrs. Buckley uttered an exclamation, and held tighter to her husband's
arm. Every time the garden was lit up, they saw the figure, nearer and
nearer, till they knew that it was standing before them in the
darkness; the Major was about to speak, when a hoarse voice, heard
indistinctly above the rushing of the rain, demanded:

"Is that Major Buckley?"

At the same minute the storm-light blazed up once more, and fell upon
an object so fearful and startling that they both fell back amazed. A
woman was standing before them, tall, upright, and bareheaded; her
long black hair falling over a face as white and ghastly as a three
days' corpse; her wild countenance rendered more terrible by the blue
glare of the lightning shining on the rain that streamed from every
lock of her hair and every shred of her garments. She looked like some
wild daughter of the storm, who had lost her way, and came wandering to
them for shelter.

"I am Major Buckley," was the answer. "What do you want? But in God's
name come in out of the rain."

"Come in and get your things dried, my good woman," said Mrs. Buckley.
"What do you want with my husband such a night as this?"

"Before I dry my things, or come in, I will state my business," said
the woman, coming under the verandah. "After that I will accept your
hospitality. This is a night when polecats and rabbits would shelter
together in peace; and yet such a night as this, a man turns out of his
house the woman who has lain beside him twenty years."

"Who are you, my good soul?" said the Major.

"They call me Madge the Witch," she said; "I lived with old Hawker, at
the Woodlands, till to-night, and he has turned me out. I want to put
you in possession of some intelligence that may save much misery to
some that you love."

"I can readily believe that you can do it," said the Major, "but pray
don't stand there; come in with my wife, and get your things dried."

"Wait till you hear what I have to say: George Hawker, my son--"

"Your son--good God!"

"I thought you would have known that. The Vicar does. Well, this son of
mine has run off with the Vicar's daughter."

"Well?"

"Well, he has committed forgery. It'll be known all over the country
to-morrow, and even now I fear the runners are after him. If he is
taken before he marries that girl, things will be only worse than they
are. But never mind whether he does or not, perhaps you differ with me;
perhaps you think that, if you could find the girl now, you could stop
her and bring her home; but you don't know where she is. I do, and if
you will give me your solemn word of honour as a gentleman to give him
warning that his forgery for five hundred pounds is discovered, I will
give you his direction."

The Major hesitated for a moment, thinking.

"If you reflect a moment, you must see how straightforward my story
is. What possible cause can I have to mislead you? I know which way you
will decide, so I wait patiently."

"I think I ought to say yes, my love," said the Major to his wife; "if
it turned out afterwards that I neglected any opportunity of saving
this poor girl (particularly if this tale of the forgery be true), I
should never forgive myself."

"I agree with you, my dear," said Mrs. Buckley. "Give your promise, and
go to seek her."

"Well, then," said the Major; "I give you my word of honour that I will
give Hawker due warning of his forgery being discovered, if you will
give me his direction. I anticipate that they are in London, and I
shall start to-night, to be in time for the morning coach. Now, will
you give me the address?"

"Yes!" said Madge. "They are at the Nag's Head, Buckingham Street,
Strand, London; can you remember that?"

"I know where the street is," said the Major; "now will you go into the
kitchen, and make yourself comfortable? My dear, you will see my
valise packed? Ellen, get this person's clothes dried, and get her some
hot wine. By-the-bye," said he, following her into the kitchen, "you
must have had a terrible quarrel with Hawker, for him to send you out
such a night as this?"

"It was about this matter," she said: "the boy forged on his father,
and I knew it, and tried to screen him. My own son, you know."

"It was natural enough," said the Major. "You are not deceiving me, are
you? I don't see why you should, though."

"Before God, I am not. I only want the boy to get warning."

"You must sleep here to-night," said the Major; "and to-morrow you can
go on your way, though, if you cannot conveniently get away in the
morning, don't hurry, you know. My house is never shut against
unfortunate people. I have heard a great deal of you, but I never saw
you before; you must be aware, however, that the character you have
held in the place is not such as warrants me in asking you to stay here
for any time."

The Major left the kitchen, and crossed the yard. In a bedroom above
the stable slept his groom, a man who had been through his campaigns
with him from first to last. It was to waken him that the Major took
his way up the narrow stairs towards the loft.

"Jim," he said, "I want my horse in an hour."

The man was out of bed in a moment, and while he was dressing, the
Major continued:--

"You know Buckingham Street, Strand, Jim, don't you? When you were
recruiting you used to hang out at a public-house there, unless I am
mistaken."

"Exactly so, sir! We did; and a many good chaps we picked up there,
gents and all sorts. Why, it was in that werry place, Major, as we
'listed Lundon; him as was afterwards made sergeant for being the first
man into Sebastian, and arterwards married Skettles; her as fell out of
eighteen stories at Brussels looking after the Duke, and she swore at
them as came to pick her up, she did; and walked in at the front door
as bold as brass."

"There, my good lad," said the Major; "what's the good of telling such
stories as that? Nobody believes them, you know. Do you know the Nag's
Head there? It's a terribly low place, is it not?"

"It's a much changed if it ain't, sir," said Jim, putting on his
breeches. "I was in there not eighteen months since. It's a
fighting-house; and there used to be a dog show there, and a reunion of
vocal talent, and all sorts of villanies."

"Well, see to the horse, Jim, and I'll sing out when I'm ready," said
the Major, and went back into the house.

He came back through the kitchen, and saw that Madge was being treated
by the maids with that respect that a reputed witch never fails to
command; then, having sat for some time talking to his wife, and
finding that the storm was cleared off, he kissed his sleeping child
and its mother, and, mounting his horse in the stable-yard, rode off
towards Exeter.

In the morning, when Mrs. Buckley came down stairs, she inquired for
Madge. They told her she had been up some time, and, having got some
breakfast, was walking up and down in front of the house. Going there,
Mrs. Buckley found her. Her dress was rearranged with picturesque
neatness, and a red handkerchief pinned over her rich dark hair, that
last night had streamed wild and wet in the tempest. Altogether, she
looked an utterly different being from the strange, storm-beaten
creature who had craved their hospitality the night before. Mrs.
Buckley admired the bold, upright, handsome figure before her, and gave
her a cheery "good morning."

"I only stayed," said Madge, "to wish you goodbye, and thank you for
your kindness. When they who should have had some pity on me turned me
out, you took me in!"

"You are heartily welcome," said Mrs. Buckley. "Cannot I do more for
you? Do you want money? I fear you must!"

"None, I thank you kindly," she replied; "that would break the spell.
Good-bye!"

"Good-bye!" said Mrs. Buckley.

Madge stood in front of the door and raised her hand.

"The blessing of God," she said, "shall be upon the house of the
Buckleys, and more especially upon you and your husband, and the boy
that is sleeping inside. He shall be a brave and a good man, and his
wife shall be the fairest and best in the country side. Your kine shall
cover the plains until no man can number them, and your sheep shall be
like the sands of the sea. When misfortune and death and murder fall
upon your neighbours, you shall stand between the dead and the living,
and the troubles that pass over your heads shall be like the shadow of
the light clouds that fly across the moor on a sunny day. And when in
your ripe and honoured old age you shall sit with your husband, in a
garden of your own planting, in the lands far away, and see your
grandchildren playing around you, you shall think of the words of the
wild, lost gipsy woman, who gave you her best blessing before she went
away and was seen no more."

Mrs. Buckley tried to say "Amen," but found herself crying. Something
there was in that poor creature, homeless, penniless, friendless, that
made her heart like wax. She watched her as she strode down the path,
and afterwards looked for her re-appearing on a high exposed part of
the road, a quarter of a mile off, thinking she would take that way.
But she waited long, and never again saw that stern, tall figure, save
in her dreams.

She turned at last, and one of the maids stood beside her.

"Oh, missis," she said, "you're a lucky woman today. There's some in
this parish would have paid a hundred pounds for such a fortune as that
from her. It'll come true,--you will see!"

"I hope it may, you silly girl," said Mrs. Buckley; and then she went
in and knelt beside her sleeping boy, and prayed that the blessing of
the gipsy woman might be fulfilled.


* * * * *


It was quite late on the evening of his second day's journey that the
Major, occupying the box-seat of the "Exterminator," dashed with
comet-like speed through so much of the pomps and vanities of this wicked
world as showed itself in Piccadilly at half-past seven on a spring
afternoon.

"Hah!" he soliloquized, passing Hyde-park Corner, "these should be the
folks going out to dinner. They dine later and later every year. At
this rate they'll dine at half-past one in twenty years' time. That's
the Duke's new house; eh, coachman? By George, there's his Grace
himself, on his brown cob; God bless him! There are a pair of
good-stepping horses, and old Lady E---- behind 'em, by Jove!--in her
war-paint and feathers--pinker than ever. She hasn't got tired of it yet.
She'd dance at her own funeral if she could. And there's Charley
Bridgenorth in the club balcony--I wonder what he finds to do in peace
time?--and old B---- talking to him. What does Charley mean by letting
himself be seen in the same balcony with that disreputable old fellow?
I hope he won't get his morals corrupted! Ah! So here we are! eh?"

He dismounted at the White Horse Cellar, and took a hasty dinner. His
great object was speed; and so he hardly allowed himself ten minutes to
finish his pint of port before he started into the street, to pursue
the errand on which he had come.

It was nearly nine o'clock, and he thought he would be able to reach
his destination in ten minutes. But it was otherwise ordered. His evil
genius took him down St. James Street. He tried to persuade himself
that it was the shortest way, though he knew all the time that it
wasn't. And so he was punished in this way: he had got no further than
Crockford's, when, in the glare of light opposite the door of that
establishment, he saw three men standing, one of whom was talking and
laughing in a tone perhaps a little louder than it is customary to use
in the streets nowadays. Buckley knew that voice well (better, perhaps,
among the crackle of musketry than in the streets of London), and, as
the broad-shouldered owner of it turned his jolly, handsome face
towards him, he could not suppress a low laugh of satisfaction. At the
same moment the before-mentioned man recognised him, and shouted out
his name.

"Busaco Buckley, by the Lord," he said, "revisiting once more the
glimpses of the gas-lamps! My dear old fellow, how are you, and where
do you come from?"

The Major found himself quickly placed under a lamp for inspection, and
surrounded by three old and well-beloved fellow-campaigners. What could
a man do under the circumstances? Nothing, if human and fallible, I
should say, but what the Major did--stay there, laughing and joking,
and talking of old times, and freshen up his honest heart, and shake
his honest sides with many an old half-forgotten tale of fun and
mischief.

"Now," he said at last, "you must let me go. You Barton (to the first
man he had recognised), you are a married man; what are you doing at
Crockford's?"

"The same as you are," said the other,--"standing outside the door.
The pavement's free, I suppose. I haven't been in such a place these
five years. Where are you staying, old boy?"

The Major told them, and they agreed to meet at breakfast next morning.
Then, after many farewells, and callings back, he pursued his way
towards the Strand, finding to his disgust that it was nearly ten
o'clock.

He, nevertheless, held on his way undiscouraged, and turning by degrees
into narrower and narrower streets, came at last on one quieter than
the others, which ended abruptly at the river.

It was a quiet street, save at one point, and that was where a blaze of
gas (then recently introduced, and a great object of curiosity to the
Major) was thrown across the street, from the broad ornamented windows
of a flash public-house. Here there was noise enough. Two men fighting,
and three or four more encouraging, while a half-drunken woman tried to
separate them. >From the inside, too, came a noise of singing,
quarrelling, and swearing, such as made the Major cross the road, and take
his way on the darker side of the street.

But when he got opposite the aforesaid public-house, he saw that it was
called the "Nag's Head," and that it was kept by one J. Trotter. "What
an awful place to take that girl to!" said the Major. "But there may be
some private entrance, and a quiet part of the house set by for a
hotel." Nevertheless, having looked well about him, he could see
nothing of the sort, and perceived that he must storm the bar.

But he stood irresolute for a moment. It looked such a very low place,
clean and handsome enough, but still the company about the door looked
so very disreputable. "J. Trotter!" he reflected. "Why, that must be
Trotter the fighting-man. I hope it may be; he will remember me."

So he crossed. When he came within the sphere of the gas lamps, those
who were assisting at the fight grew silent, and gazed upon him with
open eyes. As he reached the door one of them remarked, with a little
flourish of oaths as a margin or garland round his remark, that "of
all the swells he'd ever seen, that 'un was the biggest, at all
events."

Similarly, when they in the bar saw that giant form, the blue coat and
brass buttons, and, above all, the moustache (sure sign of a military
man in those days), conversation ceased, and the Major then and there
became the event of the evening. He looked round as he came in, and,
through a door leading inwards, he saw George Hawker himself, standing
talking to a man with a dog under each arm.

The Major was not deceived as to the identity of J. Trotter. J.
Trotter, the hero of a hundred fights, stood himself behind his own
bar, a spectacle for the gods. A chest like a bull, a red neck,
straight up and down with the back of his head, and a fist like a
seal's flipper, proclaimed him the prize-fighter; and his bright grey
eye, and ugly laughing face, proclaimed him the merry, good-humoured
varlet that he was.

What a wild state of amazement he was in when he realized the fact that
Major Buckley of the --th was actually towering aloft under the
chandelier, and looking round for some one to address! With what
elephantine politeness and respect did he show the Major into a private
parlour, sweeping off at one round nearly a dozen pint-pots that
covered the table, and then, shutting the door, stand bowing and
smiling before his old pupil!

"And so you are gone into business, John, are you?" said the Major.
"I'm glad to see it. I hope you are doing as well as you deserve."

"Much better than that," said the prize-fighter. "Much better than
THAT, sir, I assure you."

"Well, I'm going to get you to do something for me," said the Major.
"Do you know, John, that you are terribly fat?"

"The business allus does make flesh, sir. More especially to coves as
has trained much."

"Yes, yes, John, I am going from the point. There is a young man of the
name of Hawker here?"

The prize-fighter remained silent, but a grin gathered on his face. "I
never contradicts a gentleman," he said. "And if you say he's here,
why, in course, he is here. But I don't say he's here; you mind that,
sir."

"My good fellow, I saw him as I came in," said the Major.

"Oh, indeed," said the other; "then that absolves me from any
responsibility. He told me to deny him to anybody but one, and you
ain't she. He spends a deal of money with me, sir; so, in course, I
don't want to offend him. By-the-bye, sir, excuse me a moment."

The Major saw that he had got hold of the right man, and waited
willingly. The fighting-man went to the door, and called out, "My
dear." A tall, goodlooking woman came to the bar, who made a low
curtsey on being presented to the Major. "My dear," repeated Trotter,
"the south side." "The particular, I suppose," she said. "In course,"
said he. So she soon appeared with a bottle of Madeira, which was of
such quality that the Major, having tasted it, winked at the
prize-fighter, and the latter laughed, and rubbed his hands.

"Now," said the Major, "do you mind telling me whether this Hawker is
here alone?"

"He don't live here. He only comes here of a day, and sometimes stays
till late. This evening a pretty young lady--yes, a LADY--come and
inquired for him in my bar, and I was struck all of a heap to see such
a creature in such a place, all frightened out of her wits. So I showed
her through in a minute, and up stairs to where my wife sits, and she
waited there till he come in. And she hadn't been gone ten minutes when
you come."

The Major swore aloud, without equivocation or disguise. "Ah," he said,
"if I had not met Barton! Pray, Trotter, have you any idea where Hawker
lives?"

"Not the least in the world, further than it's somewhere Hampstead
way. That's a thing he evidently don't want known."

"Do you think it likely that he and that young lady live in the same
house? I need not disguise from you that I am come after her, to
endeavour to get her back to her family."

"I know they don't live in the same house," said Trotter, "because I
heard her say, to-night, before she went away, 'Do look round, George,'
she says, 'at my house, for ten minutes, before you go home.'"

"You have done me a great kindness," said the Major, "in what you have
told me. I don't know how to thank you."

"It's only one," said the prize-fighter, "in return for a many you done
me; and you are welcome to it, sir. Now, I expect you'd like to see
this young gent; so follow me, if you please."

Through many passages, past many doors, he followed him, until they
left the noise of the revelry behind, and at last, at the end of a long
dark passage, the prizefighter suddenly threw open a door, and
announced--"Major Buckley!"

There were four men playing at cards, and the one opposite to him was
George Hawker. The Major saw at a glance, almost before anyone had time
to speak, that George was losing money, and that the other three were
confederates.

The prize-fighter went up to the table and seized the cards; then,
after a momentary examination, threw both packs in the fire.

"When gents play cards in my house, I expect them to use the cards I
provides at the bar, and not private packs, whether marked or not. Mr.
Hawker, I warned you before about this; you'll lose every sixpence
you're worth, and then you will say it was done at my house, quite
forgetting to mention that I warned you of it repeatedly."

But George took no notice of him. "Really, Major Buckley," he began,
"this is rather--"

"Rather an intrusion, you would say--eh, Mr. Hawker?" said the Major;
"so it is, but the urgency of my business must be my apology. Can you
give me a few words alone?"

George rose and came out with them. The prizefighter showed them into
another room, and the Major asked him to stand in the passage, and see
that no one was listening; "you see, John," he added, "we are very
anxious not to be overheard."

"I am not at all particular myself," said George Hawker. "I have
nothing to conceal."

"You will alter your mind before I have done, sir," said the Major.

George didn't like the look of affairs.--How came it that the Major
and the prize-fighter knew one another so well? What did the former
mean by all this secrecy? He determined to put a bold face on the
matter.

"Miss Thornton is living with you, sir, I believe?" began the Major.

"Not at all, sir; Miss Thornton is in lodgings of her own. I have the
privilege of seeing her for a few hours every day. In fact, I may go as
far as to say that I am engaged to be married to her, and that that
auspicious event is to come off on Thursday week."

"May I ask you to favour me with her direction?" said the Major.

"I am sorry to disoblige you, Major Buckley, but I must really
decline;" answered George. "I am not unaware how disinclined her family
are to the connexion; and, as I cannot but believe that you come on
their behalf, I cannot think that an interview would be anything but
prejudicial to my interest. I must remind you, too, that Miss Thornton
is of age, and her own mistress in every way."

While George had been speaking, it passed through the Major's mind:
"What a checkmate it would be, if I were to withhold the information I
have, and set the runners on him, here! I might save the girl, and
further the ends of justice; but my hands are tied by the promise I
gave that woman,--how unfortunate!"

"Then, Mr. Hawker," he said aloud, "I am to understand that you
refuse me this address?"

"I am necessitated to refuse it most positively, sir."

"I am sorry for it. I leave it to your conscience. Now, I have got a
piece of intelligence to give you, which I fear will be somewhat
unpalatable--I got your address at this place from a woman of the name
of Madge--"

"You did!" exclaimed George.

"Who was turned out of doors by your father, the night before last, in
consequence, I understood, of some misdeeds of hers having come to
light. She came immediately to my house, and offered to give me your
direction, on condition of my passing my word of honour to deliver you
this message: 'that the forgery (500 pounds was the sum mentioned, I
think) was discovered, and that the Bank was going to prosecute.' I of
course form no judgment as to the truth or falsehood of this: I leave you
to take your own measures about it--only I once again ask you whether you
will give me an interview with Miss Thornton?"

George had courage enough left to say hoarsely and firmly, "No!"

"Then," replied the Major, "I must call you to witness that I have
performed my errand to you faithfully. I beg, also, that you will carry
all our kindest remembrances to Miss Thornton, and tell her that her
poor father was struck with paralysis when he missed her, and that he
is not expected to live many weeks. And I wish you good night."

He passed out, and down the stairs; as he passed the public parlour-door,
he heard a man bawling out a song, two or three lines of which he
heard, and which made him blush to the tips of his ears, old soldier as
he was.

As he walked up the street, he soliloquised: "A pretty mess I've made
of it--done him all the service I could, and not helped her a bit--I
see there is no chance of seeing her, though I shall try. I will go
round Hampstead to-morrow, though that is a poor chance. In Paris, now,
or Vienna, one could find her directly. What a pity we have no police!"




Chapter XV



THE BRIGHTON RACES, AND WHAT HAPPENED THEREAT.


George Hawker just waited till he heard the retiring footsteps of the
Major, and then, leaving the house, held his way rapidly towards Mary's
lodgings, which were in Hampstead; but finding he would be too late to
gain admittance, altered his course when he was close to the house, and
went to his own house, which was not more than a few hundred yards
distant. In the morning he went to her, and she ran down the garden to
meet him before the servant had time to open the door, looking so
pretty and bright. "Ah, George!" said she, "you never came last night,
after all your promises. I shall be glad when it's all over, George,
and we are together for good."

"It won't be long first, my dear," he answered; "we must manage to get
through that time as well as we can, and then we'll begin to sound the
old folks. You see I am come to breakfast."

"I expected you," she said; "come in and we will have such a pleasant
chat, and after that you must take me down the town, George, and we
will see the carriages."

"Now, my love," said George; "I've got to tell you something that will
vex you; but you must not be down-hearted about it, you know. The fact
is, that your friends, as they call themselves, moving heaven and earth
to get you back, by getting me out of the way, have hit on the
expedient of spreading false reports about me, and issuing scandals
against me. They found out my address at the Nag's Head, and came there
after me not half an hour after you were gone, and I only got out of
their way by good luck. You ought to give me credit for not giving any
living soul the secret of our whereabouts, so that all I have got to do
is to keep quiet here until our little business is settled, and then I
shall be able to face them boldly again, and set everything straight."

"How cruel!" she said; "how unjust! I will never believe anything
against you, George."

"I am sure of that, my darling;" he said, kissing her. "But now, there
is another matter I must speak about, though I don't like to,--I am
getting short of money, love."

"I have got nearly a hundred pounds, George," she said; "and, as I told
you, I have five thousand pounds in the funds, which I can sell out at
any time I like."

"We shall do well, then, my Polly. Now let us go for a walk."

All that week George stayed with her quietly, till the time of
residence necessary before they could be married was expired. He knew
that he was treading on a mine, which at any time might burst and blow
his clumsy schemes to the wind. But circumstances were in his favour,
and the time came to an end at last. He drank hard all the time without
letting Mary suspect it, but afterwards, when it was all over, wondered
at his nerve and self-possession through all those trying days, when he
was forced eternally to have a smile or a laugh ready, and could not
hear a step behind him without thinking of an officer, or look over his
head without thinking he saw a gallows in the air.

It was during this time that he nursed in his heart a feeling of
desperate hatred and revenge against William Lee, which almost became
the leading passion of his life. He saw, or thought he saw, that this
man was the author of all the troubles that were gathering so thick
around his head, and vowed, if chance threw the man in his way again,
that he would take ample and fearful vengeance, let it cost what it
might. And though this feeling may have sometimes grown cold, yet he
never to the last day forgot or forgave the injuries this man had done
him.

Mary was as innocent of business as a child, and George found little
difficulty in persuading her, that the best thing she could do under
present circumstances, was to sell out the money she had in the funds,
and place it in a bank, to be drawn on as occasion should require;
saying that they should be so long perhaps, before they had any other
fund to depend on, that they might find it necessary to undertake some
business for a living, in which case, it would be as well to have their
money under command at a moment's notice.

There was, not far from the bank, an old Stockbroker, who had known
her father, and herself, for many years, and was well acquainted with
all their affairs, though they had but little intercourse by letter. To
him she repaired, and, merely informing him that she was going to marry
without her father's consent, begged him to manage the business for
her; which he, complimenting her upon her good fortune in choosing a
time when the funds were so high, immediately undertook; at the same
time recommended her to a banker, where she might open an account.

On the same day that this business was concluded, a licence was
procured, and their wedding fixed for the next day. "Now," thought
George, as he leapt into bed on that night, "let only to-morrow get
over safely, and I can begin to see my way out of the wood again."

And in the morning they were married in Hampstead church. Parson,
clerk, pew-opener, and beadle, all remarked what a handsome young
couple they were, and how happy they ought to be; and the parson
departed, and the beadle shut up the church, and the mice came out
again and ate the Bibles, and the happy pair walked away down the road,
bound together by a strong chain, which nothing could loose but death.

They went to Brighton. Mary had said she would so like to see the sea;
and the morning after they arrived there--the morning after their
wedding--Mary wrote an affectionate penitential letter to her father,
telling him that she was married, and praying his forgiveness.

They were quite gay at Brighton, and she recovered her spirits
wonderfully at first. George soon made acquaintances, who soon got very
familiar, after the manner of their kind,--greasy, tawdry, bedizened
bucks,--never asleep, always proposing a game of cards, always
carrying off her husband. Mary hated them, while she was at times proud
to see her husband in such fine company.

Such were the eagles that gathered round the carcass of George Hawker;
and at last these eagles began to bring the hen-birds with them, who
frightened our poor little dove with the amplitude and splendour of
their feathers, and their harsh, strange notes. George knew the
character of those women well enough, but already he cared little
enough about his wife, even before they had been a month married, going
on the principle that the sooner she learned to take care of herself,
the better for her; and after they had been married little more than a
month, Mary thought she began to see a change in her husband's
behaviour to her.

He grew sullen and morose, even to her. Every day almost he would come
to her with a scowl upon his face; and when she asked if he was angry
with her, would say, "No, that he wasn't angry with her; but that
things were going wrong--altogether wrong; and if they didn't mend, he
couldn't see his way out of it at all."

But one night he came home cheerful and hilarious, though rather the
worse for liquor. He showed her a roll of notes which he had won at
roulette--over a hundred pounds--and added, "That shall be the game
for me in future, Polly; all square and above-board there."

"My dear George, I wish you'd give up gambling."

"So I will, some of these fine days, my dear. I only do it to pass the
time. It's cursed dull having nothing to do."

"To-morrow is the great day at the races, George. I wish you would take
me; I never saw a horserace."

"Ay, to be sure," said he; "we'll go, and, what's more, we'll go alone.
I won't have you seen in public with those dowdy drabs."

So they went alone. Such a glorious day as it was--the last happy day
she spent for very long! How delightful it was, all this rush and
crush, and shouting and hubbub around, while you were seated in a
phaeton, secure above the turmoil! What delight to see all the
beautiful women in the carriages, and, grandest sight of all, which
struck awe and admiration into Mary's heart, was the great Prince
himself, that noble gentleman, in a gutter-sided hat, and a wig so
fearfully natural that Mary secretly longed to pull his hair.

But princes and duchesses were alike forgotten when the course was
cleared for the great event of the day, and, one by one, the sleek
beauties came floating along, above the crowd, towards the starting-post.
Then George, leaving Mary in the phaeton to the care of their
landlady, pushed his way among the crowd, and, by dint of hard
squeezing, got against the rail. He had never seen such horses as
these; he had never known what first-class horse-racing was. Here was a
new passion for him, which, like all his others, should only by its
perversion end in his ruin.

He had got some money on one of the horses, though he, of course, had
never seen it. There was a cheer all along the line, and a dark bay
fled past towards the starting-post, seeming rather to belong to the
air than the ground. "By George," he said, aloud, as the blood mounted
to his face, and tingled in his ears, "I never saw such a sight as that
before."

He was ashamed of having spoken aloud in his excitement, but a groom
who stood by said, for his consolation,--

"I don't suppose you ever did, sir, nor no man else. That's young
Velocipede, and that's Chiffney a-ridin' him. You'll see that horse
walk over for everything next year."

But now the horses came down, five of them abreast; at a walk, amid a
dead silence from the crowd, three of them, steady old stagers, but two
jumping and pulling. "Back, Velocipede; back, Lara!" says the starter;
down goes the flag, they dart away, and then there is a low hum of
conversation, until a murmur is heard down the course, which swells
into a roar as you notice it. The horses are coming. One of the royal
huntsmen gallops by, and then, as the noise comes up towards you, you
can hear the maddening rush of the horses' feet upon the turf, and, at
the same time, a bay and a chestnut rush past in the last fierce
struggle, and no man knows yet who has won.

Then the crowd poured once more over the turf, and surged and cheered
round the winning horses. Soon it came out that Velocipede had won, and
George, turning round delighted, stood face to face with a gipsy woman.

She had her hood low on her head, so that he could not see her face,
but she said, in a low voice, "Let me tell your fortune."

"It is told already, mother," said George. "Velocipede has won; you
won't tell me any better news than that this day, I know."

"No, George Hawker, I shan't," replied the gipsy, and, raising her hood
for an instant, she discovered to his utter amazement the familiar
countenance of Madge.

"Will you let me tell your fortune now, my boy?" she said.

"What, Madge, old girl! By Jove, you shall. Well, who'd a' thought of
seeing you here?"

"I've been following you, and looking for you ever so long," she said.
"They at the Nag's Head didn't know where you were gone, and if I
hadn't been a gipsy, and o' good family, I'd never have found you."

"You're a good old woman," he said. "I suppose you've some news for
me?"

"I have," she answered; "come away after me."

He followed her into a booth, and they sat down. She began the
conversation.

"Are you married?" she asked.

"Ay; a month since."

"And you've got her money?"

"Yes," he said; "but I've been walking into it."

"Make the most of it," said Madge. "Your father's dead."

"Dead!"

"Ay, dead. And, what's worse, lad, he lived long enough to alter his
will."

"Oh, Lord! What do you mean?"

"I mean," she said, "that he has left all his money to your cousin. He
found out everything, all in a minute, as it were; and he brought a new
will home from Exeter, and I witnessed it. And he turned me out of
doors, and, next morning, after I was gone, he was found dead in his
bed. I got to London, and found no trace of you there, till, by an
accident, I heard that you had been seen down here, so I came on. I've
got my living by casting fortins, and begging, and cadging, and such
like. Sometime I've slept in a barn, and sometime in a hedge, but I've
fought my way to you, true and faithful, through it all, you see."

"So he's gone," said George, between his teeth, "and his money with
him. That's awful. What an unnatural old villain!"

"He got it into his head at last, George, that you weren't his son at
all."

"The lunatic!--and what put that into his head?"

"He knew you weren't his wife's son, you see, and he had heard some
stories about me before I came to live with him, and so, at the last,
he took to saying he'd nought to do with you."

"Then you mean to say----"

"That you are my boy," she said, "my own boy. Why, lad, who but thy own
mother would a' done for thee what I have? And thou never thinking of
it all these years! Blind lad!"

"Good God!" said George. "And if I had only known that before, how
differently I'd have gone on. How I'd have sneaked and truckled, and
fetched and carried for him! Bah, it's enough to drive one mad. All
this hide-and-seek work don't pay, old woman. You and I are bowled out
with it. How easy for you to have given me a hint of this years ago, to
make me careful! But you delight in mystery and conglomeration, and
you always will. There--I ain't ungrateful, but when I think of what
we've lost, no wonder I get wild. And what the devil am I to do now?"

"You've got the girl's money to go on with," she said.

"Not so very much of it," he replied. "I tell you I've been playing
like--never mind what, this last month, and I've lost every night.
Then I've got another woman in tow, that costs--oh curse her, what
don't she cost, what with money and bother?--In short, if I don't get
something from somewhere, in a few months I shall be in Queer Street.
What chance is there of the parson's dying?"

"It don't matter much to you when he dies, I expect," said she, "for
you may depend that those that's got hold of him won't let his money
come into your hands. He's altered his will, you may depend on it."

"Do you really think so?"

"I should think it more probable than not. You see that old matter with
the Bank is known all over the country, although they don't seem
inclined to push it against you, for some reason. Yet it's hardly
likely that the Vicar would let his money go to a man who couldn't be
seen for fear of a rope."

"You're a raven, old woman," he said. "What am I to do?"

"Give up play, to begin with."

"Well?"

"Start some business with what's left."

"Ha, ha! Well, I'll think of it. You must want some money, old girl!
Here's a fipunnote."

"I don't want money, my boy; I'm all right," she said.

"Oh, nonsense; take it."

"I won't," she answered. "Give me a kiss, George."

He kissed her forehead, and bent down his head reflecting. When he
looked up she was gone.

He ran out of the booth and looked right and left, but saw her nowhere.
Then he went sulkily back to his wife. He hardly noticed her, but said
it was time to go home. All the way back, and after they had reached
their lodgings, he kept the same moody silence, and she, frightened at
some unheard-of calamity, forbore to question him. But when she was
going to bed she could withhold her anxiety no longer, and said to him:

"Oh, George, you have got some bad news; let me share it with you. If
it is anything about my father, I implore you to tell me. How is it I
have got no answer to the letter I wrote a month ago?"

He answered her savagely: "I don't know anything about your father,
and I don't care. I've got bad news, d----d bad news, if that will make
you sleep the sounder. And, once for all, you'll find it best, when you
see me sulky, not to give me any of your tantrums in addition. Mind
that."

He had never spoken to her like that before. She went to her bed
crushed and miserable, and spent the night in crying, while he went
forth and spent the night with some of his new companions, playing
wildly and losing recklessly, till the summer morning sun streamed
through the shutters, and shone upon him desperate and nigh penniless,
ripe for a fall lower than any he had had as yet.




Chapter XVI



THE END OF MARY'S EXPEDITION.


Let us hurry over what is to follow. I who knew her so well can have no
pleasure in dwelling over her misery and degradation. And he who reads
these pages will, I hope, have little sympathy with the minor details
of the life of such a man as George Hawker.

Some may think that she has been punished enough already, for leaving
her quiet happy home to go away with such a man. "She must have learnt
already," such would say, "that he cares nothing for her. Let her leave
her money behind, and go back to her father to make such amends as she
may for the misery she has caused him." Alas, my dear madam, who would
rejoice in such a termination of her troubles more than myself? But it
is not for me to mete out degrees of punishment. I am trying with the
best of my poor abilities to write a true history of certain people
whom I knew. And I, no more than any other human creature, can see the
consequences that will follow on any one act of folly or selfishness,
such as this poor foolish girl has committed. We must wait and watch,
judging with all charity. Let you and me go on with her, even to the
very end.

Good men draw together very slowly. Yet it is one of the greatest
happinesses one is capable of, to introduce two such to one another,
and see how soon they become friends. But bad men congregate like crows
or jackals, and when a new one appears, he is received into the pack
without question, as soon as he has given proof sufficient of being a
rascal.

This was the case with George Hawker. His facility for making
acquaintance with rogues and blacklegs was perfectly marvellous. Any
gentleman of this class seemed to recognise him instinctively, and
became familiar immediately. So that soon he had round him such a
circle of friends as would have gone hard to send to the dogs the most
honourable and virtuous young man in the three kingdoms.

When a new boy goes to school, his way is smoothed very much at first
by the cakes and pocket-money he brings with him. Till these are gone
he must be a weak boy indeed who cannot (at a small school) find some
one to fight his battles and fetch and carry for him. Thackeray has
thought of this (what does he not think of?) in his little book, "Dr.
Birch," where a young sycophant is represented saying to his friend,
who has just received a hamper, "Hurrah, old fellow, I'LL LEND YOU MY
KNIFE." This was considered so true to nature, on board a ship in which
I once made a long voyage, that it passed into a proverb with us, and
if any one was seen indulging in a luxury out of the way at dinner,--
say an extra bottle of wine out of his private store,--half-a-dozen
would cry out at once, "Hurrah, old fellow, I'll lend you my knife:" a
modest way of requesting to be asked to take a glass of wine better
than that supplied by the steward.

In the same way, George Hawker was treated by the men he had got round
him as a man who had a little property that he had not got rid of, and
as one who was to be used with some civility, until his money was gone,
and he sank down to the level of the rest of them--to the level of
living by his wits, if they were sharp enough to make a card or
billiard sharper; or otherwise to find his level among the proscribed
of society, let that be what it might.

And George's wits were not of the first order, or the second; and his
manners and education were certainly not those of a gentleman, or
likely to be useful in attracting such unwary persons as these Arabs of
the metropolis preyed upon. So it happened that when all his money was
played away, which came to pass in a month or two, the higher and
cleverer class of rascals began to look uncommonly cold upon him.

At first poor crushed Mary used to entertain of an evening some of the
ELITE among the card-sharpers of London--men who actually could have
spoken to a gentleman in a public place, and not have got kicked. These
men were polite, and rather agreeable, and one of them, a Captain
Saxon, was so deferential to her, and seemed so entirely to understand
her position, that she grew very fond of him, and was always pleased to
see him at her house.

Though, indeed, she saw but little of any men who came there soon after
any of them arrived, she used to receive a signal from George, which
she dared not disobey, to go to bed. And when she lay there, lonely and
sleepless, she could detect, from the absence of conversation, save now
and then a low, fierce oath, that they were playing desperately, and at
such times she would lie trembling and crying. Once or twice, during
the time she remembered these meetings, they were rudely broken upon by
oaths and blows, and on one particular occasion, she heard one of the
gamesters, when infuriated, call her husband "a d----d swindling dog of
a forger."

In these times, which lasted but a few months, she began to reflect
what a fool she had been, and how to gratify her fancy she had thrown
from her everything solid and worth keeping in the world. She had
brought herself to confess, in bitterness and anguish, that he did not
love her, and never had, and that she was a miserable, unhappy dupe.
But, notwithstanding, she loved him still, though she dreaded the sight
of him, for she got little from him now but oaths and taunts.

It was soon after their return from Brighton that he broke out, first
on some trivial occasion, and cursed her aloud. He said he hated the
sight of her pale face, for it always reminded him of ruin and misery;
that he had the greatest satisfaction in telling her that he was
utterly ruined; that his father was dead, and had left his money
elsewhere, and that her father was little better; that she would soon
be in the workhouse; and, in fine, said everything that his fierce,
wild, brutal temper could suggest.

She never tempted another outbreak of the kind; that one was too
horrible for her, and crushed her spirit at once. She only tried by
mildness and submission to deprecate his rage. But every day he came
home looking fiercer and wilder; as time went on her heart sunk within
her, and she dreaded something more fearful than she had experienced
yet.

As I said, after a month or two, his first companions began to drop
off, or only came, bullying and swearing, to demand money. And now
another class of men began to take their place, the sight of whom made
her blood cold--worse dressed than the others, and worse mannered,
with strange, foul oaths on their lips. And then, after a time, two
ruffians, worse looking than any of the others, began to come there, of
whom the one she dreaded most was called Maitland.

He was always very civil to her; but there was something about him, his
lowering, evil face, and wild looks, which made him a living nightmare
to her. She knew he was flying from justice, by the way he came and
went, and by the precaution always taken when he was there. But when he
came to live in the room over theirs, and when, by listening at odd
times, she found that he and her husband were engaged in some great
villany, the nature of which she could not understand, then she saw
that there was nothing to do, but in sheer desperation to sit down and
wait the catastrophe.

About this time she made another discovery, that she was penniless, and
had been so some time. George had given her money from time to time to
carry on household expenses, and she contrived to make these sums
answer well enough. But one day, determined to know the worst, she
asked him, at the risk of another explosion, how their account stood at
the bank? He replied in the best of his humours, apparently, "that the
five thousand they had had there had been overdrawn some six weeks, and
that, if it hadn't been for his exertions in various ways, she'd have
been starved out before now."

"All gone!" she said; "and where to?"

"To the devil," he answered. "And you may go after it."

"And what are we to do now, George?"

"The best we can."

"But the baby, George? I shall lie-in in three months."

"You must take your chance, and the baby too. As long as there's any
money going you'll get some of it. If you wrote to your father you
might get some."

"I'll never do that," she said.

"Won't you?" said he; "I'll starve you into it when money gets scarce."

Things remained like this till it came to be nearly ten months from
their marriage. Mary had never written home but once, from Brighton,
and then, as we know, the answer had miscarried; so she, conceiving she
was cast off by her father, had never attempted to communicate with him
again. The time grew nigh that she should be confined, and she got very
sick and ill, and still the man Maitland lived in the house, and he and
George spent much of their time at night, away together.

Yet poor Mary had a friend who stayed by her through it all--Captain
Saxon, the great billiard sharper. Many a weary hour, when she was
watching up anxious and ill for her husband, this man would come and
sit with her, talking agreeably and well about many things; but chiefly
about the life he used to lead before he fell so low as he was then.

He used to say, "Mrs. Hawker, you cannot tell what a relief and
pleasure it is to me to have a LADY to talk to again. You must conceive
how a man brought up like myself misses it."

"Surely, Captain Saxon," she would say, "you have some relations left.
Why not go back to them?"

"They wouldn't own me," he said. "I smashed everything, a fine fortune
amongst other things, by my goings on; and they very properly cast me
off. I never got beyond the law, though. Many well-known men speak to
me now, but they won't play with me, though; I am too good. And so you
see I play dark to win from young fellows, and I am mixed up with a lot
of scoundrels. A man brought an action against me the other day to
recover two hundred pounds I won of him, but he couldn't do anything.
And the judge said, that though the law couldn't touch me, yet I was
mixed up notoriously with a gang of sharpers. That was a pleasant
thing to hear in court--wasn't it?--but true."

"It has often surprised me to see how temperate you are, Captain
Saxon," she said.

"I am forced to be," he said; "I must keep my hand steady. See there;
it's as firm as a rock. No; the consolation of drink is denied me; I
have something to live for still. I'll tell you a secret. I've insured
my life very high in favour of my little sister whom I ruined, and who
is out as a governess. If I don't pay up to the last, you see, or if I
commit suicide, she'll lose the money. I pay very high, I assure you.
On one occasion not a year ago, I played for the money to pay the
premium only two nights before it would have been too late. There was
touch and go for you. But my hand was as steady as a rock, and after
the last game was over I fainted."

"Good Lord," she said, "what a terrible life! But, suppose you fall
into sickness and poverty. Then you may fall into arrear, and she will
lose everything after all."

He laughed aloud. A strange wild laugh. "No," said he; "I am safe
there, if physicians are to be believed. Sometimes, when I am falling
asleep, my head begins to flutter and whirl, and I sit up in bed,
breathless and perspiring till it grows still again. Then I laugh to
myself, and say, 'Not this time then, but it can't be long now.' Those
palpitations, Mrs. Hawker, are growing worse and worse each month. I
have got a desperate incurable heart complaint, that will carry me off,
sudden and sure, without warning, I hope to a better sort of world than
this."

"I am sorry for you, Captain Saxon," she said, sobbing, "so very, very
sorry for you!"

"I thank you kindly, my good friend," he replied. "It's long since I
had so good a friend as you. Now change the subject. I want to talk to
you about yourself. You are going to be confined."

"In a few days, I fear," she said.

"Have you money?"

"My husband seems to have money enough at present, but we have none to
fall back upon."

"What friends have you?"

"None that I can apply to."

"H'm," he said. "Well, you must make use of me, and as far as I can
manage it of my purse too, in case of an emergency. I mean, you know,
Mrs. Hawker," he added, looking full at her, "to make this offer to you
as I would to my own sister. Don't in God's name refuse my protection,
such as it is, from any mistaken motives of jealousy. Now tell me, as
honestly as you dare, how do you believe your husband gets his living?"

"I have not the least idea, but I fear the worst."

"You do right," he said. "Forewarned is forearmed, and, at the risk of
frightening you, I must bid you prepare for the worst. Although I
know nothing about what he is engaged in, yet I know that the man
Maitland, who lives above, and who you say is your husband's constant
companion, is a desperate man. If anything happens apply to me
straightway, and I will do all I can. My principal hope is in putting
you in communication with your friends. Could you not trust me with
your story, that we might take advice together?"

She told him all from beginning to the end, and at the last she said,
"If the worst should come, whatever that may be, I would write for help
to Major Buckley, for the sake of the child that is to come."

"Major Buckley!"--he asked eagerly,--"do you mean James Buckley of
the --th?"

"The same man," she replied, "my kindest friend."

"Oh, Lord!" he said, growing pale, "I've got one of these spasms coming
on. A glass of water, my dear lady, in God's name!"

He held both hands on his heart, and lay back in his chair a little,
with livid lips, gasping for breath. By degrees his white hands dropped
upon his lap, and he said with a sigh, "Nearer still, old friend,
nearer than ever. Not far off now."

But he soon recovered and said, "Mrs. Hawker, if you ever see that man
Buckley again, tell him that you saw Charley Biddulph, who was once his
friend, fallen to be the consort of rogues and thieves, cast off by
everyone, and dying of a heart complaint; but tell him he could not die
without sending a tender love to his good old comrade, and that he
remembered him and loved him to the very end."

"And I shall say too," said Mary, "when all neglected me, and forgot
me, this Charles Biddulph helped and cheered me; and when I was fallen
to the lowest, that he was still to me a courteous gentleman, and a
faithful adviser; and that but for him and his goodness I should have
sunk into desperation long ago. Be sure that I will say this too."

The door opened, and George Hawker came in.

"Good evening, Captain Saxon," said he. "My wife seems to make herself
more agreeable to you than she does to me. I hope you are pleased with
her. However, you are welcome to be. I thank God I ain't jealous.
Where's Maitland?"

"He has not been here to-night, George," she said, timidly.

"Curse him then. Give me a candle; I'm going up-stairs. Don't go on my
account, Captain Saxon. Well, if you will, good night."

Saxon bade him good-night, and went. George went up into Maitland's
room, where Mary was never admitted; and soon she heard him hammer,
hammering at metal, over-head. She was too used to that sound to take
notice of it; so she went to bed, but lay long awake, thinking of poor
Captain Saxon.

Less than a week after that she was confined. She had a boy, and that
gave her new life. Poorly provided for as that child was, he could not
have been more tenderly nursed or more prized and loved if he had been
born in the palace, with his Majesty's right honourable ministers in
the ante-room, drinking dry Sillery in honour of the event.

Now she could endure what was to come better. And less than a month
after, just as she was getting well again, all her strength and courage
were needed. The end came.

She was sitting before the fire, about ten o'clock at night, nursing
her baby, when she heard the street-door opened by a key; and the next
moment her husband and Maitland were in the room.

"Sit quiet, now, or I'll knock your brains out with the poker," said
George; and, seizing a china ornament from the chimney-piece, he thrust
it into the fire, and heaped the coals over it.

"We're caught like rats, you fool, if they have tracked us," said
Maitland; "and nothing but your consummate folly to thank for it. I
deserve hanging for mixing myself up with such a man in a thing like
this. Now, are you coming; or do you want half-an hour to wish your
wife good-bye?"

George never answered that question. There was a noise of breaking
glass down-stairs, and a moment after a sound of several feet on the
stair.

"Make a fight for it," said Maitland, "if you can do nothing else. Make
for the back-door."

But George stood aghast, while Mary trembled in every limb. The door
was burst open, and a tall man coming in said, "In the King's name, I
arrest you, George Hawker and William Maitland, for coining."

Maitland threw himself upon the man, and they fell crashing over the
table. George dashed at the door, but was met by two others. For a
minute there was a wild scene of confusion and struggling, while Mary
crouched against the wall with the child, shut her eyes, and tried to
pray. When she looked round again she saw her husband and Maitland
securely handcuffed, and the tall man, who first came in, wiping the
blood from a deep cut in his forehead, said,

"There is nothing against this woman, is there, Sanders?"

"Nothing, sir, except that she is the prisoner Hawker's wife."

"Poor woman!" said the tall man. "She has been lately confined, too. I
don't think it will be necessary to take her into custody. Take away
the prisoners; I shall stay here and search."

He began his search by taking the tongs and pulling the fire to pieces.
Soon he came to the remnants of the china ornament which George had
thrown in; and, after a little more raking, two or three round pieces
of metal fell out of the grate.

"A very green trick," he remarked. "Well, they must stay there to cool
before I can touch them;" and turning to Mary said, "Could you oblige
me with some sticking-plaster? Your husband's confederate has given me
an ugly blow."

She got some, and put it on for him. "Oh, sir!" she said, "Can you tell
me what this is all about?"

"Easy, ma'am," said he. "Maitland is one of the most notorious coiners
in England, and your husband is his confederate and assistant. We've
been watching, just to get a case that there would be no trouble about,
and we've got it."

"And if it is proved?" she asked, trembling.

He looked very serious. "Mrs. Hawker, I know your history, as well as
your husband's, the same as if you told it to me. So I am sorry to give
a lady who is in misfortune more pain than I can help; but you know
coining is a hanging matter."

She rocked herself wildly to and fro, and the chair where she sat,
squeezing the child against her bosom till he cried. She soothed him
again without a word, and then said to the officer, who was searching
every nook and cranny in the room:

"Shall you be obliged to turn me out of here, or may I stay a few
nights?"

"You can stay as long as you please, madam," he said; "that's a matter
with your landlady, not me. But if I was you I'd communicate with my
friends, and get some money to have my husband defended."

"They'd sooner pay for the rope to hang him," she said. "You seem a
kind and pitiful sort of man; tell me honestly, is there any chance for
him?"

"Honestly, none. There may be some chance of his life; but there is
evidence enough on this one charge, leave alone others, mind you, to
convict twenty men. Why, we've evidence of two forgeries committed on
his father before ever he married you; so that, if he is acquitted on
this charge, he'll be arrested for another outside the court."

All night long she sat up nursing the child before the fire, which from
time to time she replenished. The officers in possession slept on
sofas, and dozed in chairs; but when the day broke she was still there,
pale and thoughtful, sitting much in the same place and attitude as she
did before all this happened, the night before, which seemed to her
like a year ago, so great was the change since then. "Then," thought
she, "he was nothing but a villain after all. He had merely gained her
heart for money's sake, and cast her off when it was gone. What a
miserable fool she had been, and how rightly served now, to be left
penniless in the world!"

Penniless, but not friendless. She remembered Captain Saxon, and
determined to go to him and ask his advice. So when the strange weird
morning had crept on to such time as the accustomed crowd began to
surge through the street, she put on her bonnet, and went away for the
first time to seek him at his lodgings, in a small street, leading off
Piccadilly.

An old woman answered the door. "The Captain was gone," she said, "to
Boulogne, and wouldn't be back yet for a fortnight. Would she leave any
name?"

She hardly thought it worth while. All the world seemed to have
deserted her now; but she said, more in absence of mind than for any
other reason, "Tell him that Mrs. Hawker called, if you please."

"Mrs. Hawker!" the old woman said; "there's a letter for you, ma'am, I
believe; and something particular too, 'cause he told me to keep it
in my desk till you called. Just step in, if you please."

Mary followed her in, and she produced a letter directed to Mrs.
Hawker. When Mary opened it, which she did in the street, after the
door was shut, the first thing she saw was a bank-note for five pounds,
and behind it was the following note:--

"I am forced to go to Boulogne, at a moment's notice, with a man whom I
must not lose sight of. Should you have occasion to apply to me during
my absence (which is fearfully probable), I have left this, begging
your acceptance of it, in the same spirit as that in which it was
offered; and I pray you to accept this piece of advice at the same
time:--

"Apply instantly to your friends, and go back to them at once. Don't
stop about London on any excuse. You have never known what it is to be
without money yet; take care you never do. When a man or a woman is
poor and hungry, there is a troop of devils who always follow such,
whispering all sorts of things to them. They are all, or nearly all,
known to me: take care you do not make their acquaintance.

"Yours most affectionately,

"CHARLES BIDDULPH."

What a strange letter, she thought. He must be mad. Yet there was
method in his madness, too. Devils such as he spoke of had leant over
her chair and whispered to her before now, plain to be heard. But that
was in the old times, when she sat brooding alone over the fire at
night. She was no longer alone now, and they had fled--fled, scared at
the face of a baby.

She went home and spoke to the landlady. But little was owing, and that
she had money enough to pay without the five pounds that the kind
gambler had given her. However, when she asked the landlady whether she
could stay there a week or two longer, the woman prayed her with tears
to begone; that she and her husband had brought trouble enough on them
already.

But there was still a week left of their old tenancy, so she held
possession in spite of the landlady; and from the police-officers, who
were still about the place, she heard that the two prisoners had been
committed for trial, and that that trial would take place early in the
week at the Old Bailey.

Three days before the trial she had to leave the lodgings, with but
little more than two pounds in the world. For those three days she got
lodging as she could in coffee-houses and such places, always meeting,
however, with that sort of kindness and sympathy from the women
belonging to them which could not be bought for money. She was in such
a dull state of despair, that she was happily insensible to all smaller
discomforts, and on the day of the trial she endeavoured to push into
the court with her child in her arms.

The crowd was too dense, and the heat was too great for her, so she
came outside and sat on some steps on one side of a passage. Once she
had to move as a great personage came up, and then one of the officers
said,--

"Come, my good woman, you mustn't sit there, you know. That's the
judge's private door."

"I beg pardon," she said, "and I will move, if you wish me. But they
are trying my husband for coining, and the court is too hot for the
child. If you will let me sit there, I will be sure to get out of the
way when my lord comes past."

The man looked at her as if it was a case somewhat out of his
experience, and went away. Soon, however, he came back again, and,
after staring at her a short time, said,--

"Do you want anything, missis? Anything I can get?"

"I am much obliged to you, nothing," she said; "but if you can tell me
how the trial is going on, I shall be obliged to you."

He shook his head and went away, and when he returned, telling her that
the judge was summing up, he bade her follow him, and found her a place
in a quiet part of the court. She could see her husband and Maitland
standing in the dock, quite close to her, and before them the judge was
calmly, slowly, and distinctly giving the jury the history of the case
from beginning to end. She was too much bewildered and desperate to
listen to it, but she was attracted by the buzz of conversation which
arose when the jury retired. They seemed gone a bare minute to her,
when she heard and understood that the prisoners were found guilty.
Then she heard Maitland sentenced to death, and George Hawker condemned
to be transported beyond the seas for the term of his natural life, in
consideration of his youth; so she brought herself to understand that
the game was played out, and turned to go.

The officer who had been kind to her stopped her, and asked her "where
she was going?" She answered "to Devonshire," and passed on, but almost
immediately pushed back to him through the crowd, which was pouring
out of the doors, and thanked him for his kindness to her. Then she
went out with the crowd into the street, and almost instinctively
struck westward.

Through the western streets, roaring with carriages, crowded with foot
passengers--like one in a dream--past the theatres, and the arches,
and all the great, rich world, busy seeking its afternoon pleasure,
through the long suburbs, getting more scattered as she went on, and so
out on to the dusty broad western highway; a lonely wanderer, with only
one thought in her throbbing head, to reach such home as was left
her, before she died.

At the first quiet spot she came to she sat down and forced herself to
think. Two hundred miles to go, and fifteen shillings to keep her.
Never mind, she could beg; she had heard that some made a trade of
begging, and did well; hard if she should die on the road. So she
pushed on through the evening toward the sinking sun, till the
milestones passed slower and slower, and then she found shelter in a
tramps' lodging-house, and got what rest she could. In a week she was
at Taunton. Then the weather, which had hitherto been fair and
pleasant, broke up, and still she held on, with the rain beating from
the westward in her face, as though to stay her from her refuge, dizzy
and confused, but determined still, along the miry high-road.

She had learnt from a gipsy woman, with whom she had walked in company
for some hours, how to carry her child across her back, slung in her
shawl. So, with her breast bare to the storm, she fought her way over
the high bleak downs, glad and happy when the boy ceased his wailing,
and lay warm and sheltered behind her, swathed in every poor rag she
could spare from her numbed and dripping body.

Late on a wild rainy night she reached Exeter, utterly penniless, and
wet to the skin. She had had nothing to eat since noon, and her breast
was failing from want of nourishment and over-exertion. Still it was
only twenty miles further. Surely, she thought, God had not saved her
through two hundred such miles, to perish at last. The child was dry
and warm, and fast asleep, if she could get some rest in one of the
doorways in the lower part of the town, till she was stronger she could
fight her way on to Drumston; so she held on to St. Thomas's, and
finding an archway drier than the others sat down, and took the child
upon her lap.

Rest!--rest was a fiction; she was better walking--such aches, and
cramps, and pains in every joint! She would get up and push on, and yet
minute after minute went by, and she could not summon courage.

She was sitting with her beautiful face in the light of a lamp. A woman
well and handsomely dressed was passing rapidly through the rain, but
on seeing her stopped and said:--

"My poor girl, why do you sit there in the damp entry, such a night as
this?"

"I am cold, hungry, ruined; that's why I sit under the arch," replied
Mary, rising up.

"Come home with me," said the woman; "I will take care of you."

"I am going to my friends," replied she.

"Are you sure they will be glad to see you, my dear," said the woman,
"with that pretty little pledge at your bosom?"

"I care not," said Mary, "I told you I was desperate."

"Desperate, my pretty love," said the woman; "a girl with beauty like
yours should never be desperate; come with me."

Mary stepped forward and struck her, so full and true that the woman
reeled backwards, and stood whimpering and astonished.

"Out! you false jade," said Mary; "you are one of those devils that
Saxon told me of, who come whispering, and peering, and crowding
behind those who are penniless and deserted; but I have faced you, and
struck you, and I tell you to go back to your master, and say that I am
not for him."

The woman went crying and frightened down the street, thinking that she
had been plying her infamous trade on a lunatic; but Mary sat down
again and nursed the child.

But the wind changed a little, and the rain began to beat in on her
shelter; she arose, and went down the street to seek a new one.

She found a deep arch, well sheltered, and, what was better, a lamp
inside, so that she could sit on the stone step, and see her baby's
face. Dainty quarters, truly! She went to take possession, and started
back with a scream. What delusion was this? There, under the lamp, on
the step, sat a woman, her own image, nursing a baby so like her own
that she looked down at her bosom to see if it was safe. It must be a
fancy of her own disordered brain; but no--for when she gathered up
her courage, and walked towards it, a woman she knew well started up,
and, laughing wildly, cried out,

"Ha! ha! Mary Thornton."

"Ellen Lee?" said Mary, aghast.

"That's me, dear," replied the other; "you're welcome, my love, welcome
to the cold stones, and wet streets, and to hunger and drunkenness, and
evil words, and the abomination of desolation. That's what we all come
to, my dear. Is that his child?"

"Whose?" said Mary. "This is George Hawker's child."

"Hush, my dear!" said the other; "we never mention his name in our
society, you know. This is his too--a far finer one than yours. Cis
Jewell had one of his too, a poor little rat of a thing that died, and
now the minx is flaunting about the High-street every night, in her
silks and her feathers as bold as brass. I hope you'll have nothing to
say to her; you and I will keep house together. They are looking after
me to put me in the madhouse. You'll come too, of course."

"God have mercy on you, poor Nelly!" said Mary.

"Exactly so, my dear," the poor lunatic replied. "Of course He will.
But about him you know. You heard the terms of his bargain?"

"What do you mean?" asked Mary.

"Why, about him you know, G--- H----, Madge the witch's son. He sold
himself to the deuce, my dear, on condition of ruining a poor girl
every year. And he has kept his contract hitherto. If he don't, you
know--come here, I want to whisper to you."

The poor girl whispered rapidly in her ear; but Mary broke away from
her and fled rapidly down the street, poor Ellen shouting after her,
"Ha, ha! the parson's daughter too,--ha, ha!"

"Let me get out of this town, O Lord!" she prayed most earnestly, "if I
die in the fields." And so she sped on, and paused not till she was
full two miles out of the town towards home, leaning on the parapet of
the noble bridge that even then crossed the river Exe.

The night had cleared up, and a soft and gentle westerly breeze was
ruffling the broad waters of the river, where they slept deep, dark,
and full above the weir. Just below where they broke over the low rocky
barrier, the rising moon showed a hundred silver spangles among the
broken eddies.

The cool breeze and the calm scene quieted and soothed her, and, for
the first time for many days, she began to think.

She was going back, but to what? To a desolated home, to a heart-broken
father, to the jeers and taunts of her neighbours. The wife of a
convicted felon, what hope was left for her in this world? None. And
that child that was sleeping so quietly on her bosom, what a mark was
set on him from this time forward!--the son of Hawker the coiner!
Would it not be better if they both were lying below there in the cold
still water, at rest?

But she laughed aloud. "This is the last of the devils he talked of,"
said she. "I have fought the others and beat them. I won't yield to
this one."

She paused abashed, for a man on horseback was standing before her as
she turned. Had she not been so deeply engaged in her own thoughts she
might have heard him merrily whistling as he approached from the town,
but she heard him not, and was first aware of his presence when he
stood silently regarding her, not two yards off.

"My girl," he said, "I fear you're in a bad way. I don't like to see a
young woman, pretty as I can see you are even now, standing on a
bridge, with a baby, talking to herself."

"You mistake me," she said, "I was not going to do that; I was resting
and thinking."

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"To Crediton," she replied. "Once there, I should almost fancy myself
safe."

"See here," he said; "my waggon is coming up behind. I can give you a
lift as far as there. Are you hungry?"

"Ah," she said, "If you knew. If you only knew!"

They waited for the waggon's coming up, for they could hear the horses'
bells chiming cheerily across the valley. "I had an only daughter went
away once," he said. "But, glory to God! I got her back again, though
she brought a child with her. And I've grown to be fonder of that poor
little base-born one than anything in this world. So cheer up."

"I am married," she said; "this is my lawful boy, though it were
better, perhaps, he had never been born."

"Don't say that, my girl," said the old farmer, for such she took him
to be, "but thank God you haven't been deceived like so many are."

The waggon came up and was stopped. He made her take such refreshment
as was to be got, and then get in and lie quiet among the straw till in
the grey morning they reached Crediton. The weather had grown bad
again, and long before sunrise, after thanking and blessing her
benefactor, poor Mary struck off once more, with what strength she had
left, along the deep red lanes, through the driving rain.




Chapter XVII



EXODUS.


But let us turn and see what has been going forward in the old
parsonage this long weary year. Not much that is noteworthy, I fear.
The chronicle of a year's sickness and unhappiness, would be rather
uninteresting, so I must get on as quick as I can.

The Vicar only slowly revived from the fit in which he fell on the
morning of Mary's departure to find himself hopelessly paralytic,
unable to walk without support, and barely able to articulate
distinctly. It was when he was in this state, being led up and down the
garden by the Doctor and Frank Maberly, the former of whom was trying
to attract his attention to some of their old favourites, the flowers,
that Miss Thornton came to him with the letter which Mary had written
from Brighton, immediately after their marriage.

It was, on the whole, a great relief for the Vicar. He had dreaded to
hear worse than this. They had kept from him all knowledge of Hawker's
forgery on his father, which had been communicated to them by Major
Buckley. So that he began to prepare his mind for the reception of
George Hawker as a son-in-law, and to force himself to like him. So
with shaking palsied hand he wrote:--

"Dear Girl,--In sickness or sorrow, remember that I am still your
father. I hope you will not stop long in London, but come back and stay
near me. We must forget all that has passed, and make the best of it.--

"JOHN THORNTON."

Miss Thornton wrote:--

"My dearest foolish Mary,--How could you leave us like that, my love!
Oh, if you had only let us know what was going on, I could have told
you such things, my dear. But now you will never know them, I hope. I
hope Mr. Hawker will use you kindly. Your father hopes that you and he
may come down and live near him, but we know that is impossible. If
your father were to know of your husband's fearful delinquencies, it
would kill him at once. But when trouble comes on you, my love, as it
must in the end, remember that there is still a happy home left you
here."

These letters she never received. George burnt them without giving them
to her, so that for a year she remained under the impression that they
had cast her off. So only at the last did she, as the sole hope of
warding off poverty and misery from her child, determine to cast
herself upon their mercy.

The year had nearly passed, when the Vicar had another stroke, a stroke
that rendered him childish and helpless, and precluded all possibility
of his leaving his bed again. Miss Thornton found that it was necessary
to have a man servant in the house now, to move him, and so on. So one
evening, when Major and Mrs. Buckley and the Doctor had come down to
sit with her, she asked, did they know a man who could undertake the
business?

"I do," said the Doctor. "I know a man who would suit you exactly. A
strong knave enough. An old soldier."

"I don't think we should like a soldier in the house, Doctor," said
Miss Thornton. "They use such very odd language sometimes, you know."

"This man never swears," said the Doctor.

"But soldiers are apt to drink sometimes, you know, Doctor," said Miss
Thornton. "And that wouldn't do in this case."

"I've known the man all my life," said the Doctor, with animation. "And
I never saw him drunk."

"He seems faultless, Doctor," said the Major, smiling.

"No, he is not faultless, but he has his qualifications for the office,
nevertheless. He can read passably, and might amuse our poor old friend
in that way. He is not evil tempered, though hasty, and I think he
would be tender and kindly to the old man. He had a father once
himself, this man, and he nursed him to his latest day, as well as he
was able, after his mother had left them and gone on the road to
destruction. And my man has picked up some knowledge of medicine too,
and might be a useful ally to the physician."

"A paragon!" said Mrs. Buckley, laughing. "Now let us hear his faults,
dear Doctor."

"They are many," he replied, "I don't deny. But not such as to make him
an ineligible person in this matter. To begin with, he is a fool--a
dreaming fool, who once mixed himself up with politics, and went on the
assumption that truth would prevail against humbug. And when he found
his mistake, this fellow, instead of staying at his post, as a man
should, he got disgusted, and beat a cowardly retreat, leaving his duty
unfulfilled. When I look at one side of this man's life, I wonder why
such useless fellows as he were born into the world. But I opine that
every man is of some use, and that my friend may still have manhood
enough left in him to move an old paralytic man in his bed."

"And his name, Doctor? You must tell us that," said Mrs. Buckley,
looking sadly at him.

"I am that man," said the Doctor, rising. "Dear Miss Thornton, you will
allow me to come down and stay with you. I shall be so glad to be of
any use to my old friend, and I am so utterly useless now."

What could she say, but "yes," with a thousand thanks, far more than
she could express? So he took up his quarters at the Vicarage, and
helped her in the labour of love.

The Sunday morning after he came to stay there, he was going down
stairs, shortly after daybreak, to take a walk in the fresh morning
air, when on the staircase he met Miss Thornton, and she, putting
sixpence into his hand, said,

"My dear Doctor, I looked out of window just now, and saw a tramper
woman sitting on the door-step. She has black hair and a baby, like a
gipsy. And I am so nervous about gipsies, you know. Would you give her
that and tell her to go away?"

The Doctor stepped down with the sixpence in his hand to do as he was
bid. Miss Thornton followed him. He opened the front door, and there
sure enough sat a woman, her hair, wet with the last night's rain,
knotted loosely up behind her hatless head. She sat upon the door-step
rocking herself to and fro, partly it would seem from disquietude, and
partly to soothe the baby which was lying on her lap crying. Her back
was towards him, and the Doctor only had time to notice that she was
young, when he began,--

"My good soul, you musn't sit there, you know. It's Sunday morning,
and----"

No more. He had time to say no more. Mary rose from the step and looked
at him.

"You are right, sir, I have no business here. But if you will tell him
that I only came back for the child's sake, he will hear me. I couldn't
leave it in the workhouse, you know."

Miss Thornton ran forward, laughing wildly, and hugged her to her
honest heart. "My darling!" she said, "My own darling! I knew she would
find her home at last. In trouble and in sorrow I told her where she
was to come. Oh happy trouble, that has brought our darling back to
us!"

"Aunt! aunt!" said Mary, "don't kill me. Scold me a little, aunt dear,
only a little."

"Scold you, my darling! Never, never! Scold you on this happy Sabbath
morn! Oh! never, my love."

And the foolishness of these two women was so great that the Doctor had
to go for a walk. Right down the garden, round the cow-yard, and in by
the back way to the kitchen, where he met Frank, and told him what had
happened. And there they were at it again. Miss Thornton kneeling,
wiping poor Mary's blistered feet before the fire. While the maid,
foolishly giggling, had got possession of the baby, and was talking
more affectionate nonsense to it than ever baby heard in this world
before.

Mary held out her hand to him, and when he gave her his vast brown paw,
what does she do, but put it to her lips and kiss it?--as if there was
not enough without that. And, to make matters worse, she quoted
Scripture, and said, "Forasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of
these, ye have done it unto me." So our good Doctor had nothing left
but to break through that cloak of cynicism which he delighted to wear,
(Lord knows why!) and to kiss her on the cheek, and to tell her how
happy she had made them by coming back, let circumstances be what they
might.

Then she told them, with bursts of wild weeping, what those
circumstances were. And at last, when they were all quieted, Miss
Thornton boldly volunteered to go up and tell the Vicar that his
darling was returned.

So she went up, and Mary and the Doctor waited at the bed-room door and
listened. The poor old man was far gone beyond feeling joy or grief to
any great extent. When Miss Thornton raised him in his bed, and told
him that he must brace up his nerves to hear some good news, he smiled
a weary smile, and Mary looking in saw that he was so altered that she
hardly knew him.

"I know," he said, lisping and hesitating painfully, "what you are
going to tell me, sister. She is come home. I knew she would come at
last. Please tell her to come to me at once; but I can't see HIM yet. I
must get stronger first." So Mary went in to him, and Miss Thornton
came out and closed the door. And when Mary came downstairs soon
afterwards she could not talk to them, but remained a long time silent,
crying bitterly.

The good news soon got up to Major Buckley's, and so after church they
saw him striding up the path, leading the pony carrying his wife and
baby. And while they were still busy welcoming her back, came a ring at
the door, and a loud voice, asking if the owner of it might come in.

Who but Tom Troubridge! Who else was there to raise her four good feet
off the ground, and kiss her on both cheeks, and call her his darling
little sister! Who else was there who could have changed their tears
into laughter so quick that their merriment was wafted up to the
Vicar's room, and made him ring his bell, and tell them to send Tom up
to him! And who but Tom could have lit the old man's face up with a
smile, with the history of a new colt, that my lord's mare Thetis had
dropped last week!

That was her welcome home. To the home she had dreaded coming to,
expecting to be received with scorn and reproaches. To the home she had
meant to come to only as a penitent, to leave her child there and go
forth into the world to die. And here she found herself the honoured
guest--treated as one who had been away on a journey, whom they had
been waiting and praying for all the time, and who came back to them
sooner than expected. None hold the force of domestic affection so
cheap as those who violate it most rudely. How many proud unhappy souls
are there at this moment, voluntarily absenting themselves from all
that love them in the world, because they dread sneers and cold looks
at home! And how many of these, going back, would find only tears of
joy to welcome them, and hear that ever since their absence they had
been spoken of with kindness and tenderness, and loved, perhaps, above
all the others!

After dinner, when the women were alone together, Mrs. Buckley began,--

"Now, my dear Mary, you must hear all the news. My husband has had a
letter from Stockbridge."

"Ah, dear old Jim!" said Mary; "and how is he?"

"He and Hamlyn are quite well," said Mrs. Buckley, "and settled. He has
written such an account of that country to Major Buckley, that he, half
persuaded before, is now wholly determined to go there himself."

"I heard of this before," said Mary. "Am I to lose you, then, at once?"

"We shall see," said Mrs. Buckley; "I have my ideas. Now, who do you
think is going beside?"

"Half Devonshire, I should think," said Mary; "at least, all whom I
care about."

"It would seem so, indeed, my poor girl," said Mrs. Buckley; "for your
cousin Troubridge has made up his mind to come."

"There was a time when I could have stopped him," she thought; "but
that is gone by now." And she answered Mrs. Buckley:--

"Aunt and I will stay here, and think of you all. Shall we ever hear
from you? It is the other side of the world, is it not?"

"It is a long way; but we must wait, and see how things turn out. We
may not have to separate after all. See, my dear; are you fully aware
of your father's state? I fear you have only come home to see the last
of him. He probably will be gone before this month is out. You see the
state he is in. And when he is gone, have you reflected what to do?"

Mary, weeping bitterly, said, "No; only that she could never live in
Drumston, or anywhere where she was known."

"That is wise, my love," said Mrs. Buckley, "under the circumstances.
Have you made up your mind where to go, Miss Thornton, when you have to
leave the Vicarage for a new incumbent?"

"I have made up my mind," answered Miss Thornton, "to go wherever Mary
goes, if it be to the other end of the earth. We will be Ruth and
Naomi, my dear. You would never get on without me."

"That is what I say," said Mrs. Buckley. "Never leave her. Why not come
away out of all unhappy associations, and from the scorn and pity of
your neighbours, to live safe and happy with all the best friends you
have in the world?"

"What do you mean?" said Mary. "Ah, if we could only do so!"

"Come away with us," said Mrs. Buckley, with animation; "come away with
us, and begin a new life. There is Troubridge looking high and low for
a partner with five thousand pounds. Why should not Miss Thornton and
yourself be his partners?"

"Ah me!" said Miss Thornton. "And think of the voyage! But I shall not
decide on anything; Mary shall decide."


* * * * *


Scarcely more than a week elapsed from the day that Mary came home,
when there came a third messenger for old John Thornton, and one so
peremptory that he arose and followed it in the dead of night. So, when
they came to his bedside in the morning, they found his body there,
laid as it was when he wished them good night, but cold and dead. He
himself was gone, and nothing remained but to bury his body decently
beside his wife's, in the old churchyard, and to shed some tears, at
the thought that never, by the fireside, or in the solemn old church,
they should hear that kindly voice again.

And then came the disturbance of household gods, and the rupture of
life-old associations. And although they were begged by the new comer
not to hurry or incommode themselves, yet they too wished to be gone
from the house whence everything they loved had departed.

Their kind true friend Frank was presented with the living, and they
accepted Mrs. Buckley's invitation to stay at their house till they
should have decided what to do. It was two months yet before the Major
intended to sail, and long before those two months were past, Mary and
Miss Thornton had determined that they would not rend asunder the last
ties they had this side of the grave, but would cast in their lot with
the others, and cross the weary sea with them towards a more hopeful
land.

One more scene, and we have done with the Old World for many a year.
Some of these our friends will never see it more, and those who do will
come back with new thoughts and associations, as strangers to a strange
land. Only those who have done so know how much effort it takes to say,
"I will go away to a land where none know me or care for me, and leave
for ever all that I know and love." And few know the feeling which
comes upon all men after it is done,--the feeling of isolation, almost
of terror, at having gone so far out of the bounds of ordinary life;
the feeling of self-distrust and cowardice at being alone and
friendless in the world, like a child in the dark.


* * * * *


A golden summer's evening is fading into a soft cloudless summer's
night, and Doctor Mulhaus stands upon Mount Edgecombe, looking across
the trees, across the glassy harbour, over the tall men-of-war, out
beyond the silver line of surf on the breakwater, to where a tall ship
is rapidly spreading her white wings and speeding away each moment more
rapidly for a fair wind, towards the south-west. He watches it growing
more dim minute by minute in distance and in darkness, till he can see
no longer; then brushing a tear from his eye he says aloud:--

"There goes my English microcosm, all my new English friends with whom
I was going to pass the rest of my life, peaceful and contented, as a
village surgeon. Pretty dream, two years long! Truly man hath no sure
abiding place here. I will go back to P----, and see if they are all
dead, or only sleeping."

So he turned down the steep path under the darkening trees, towards
where he could see the town lights along the quays, among the crowded
masts.




Chapter XVIII



THE FIRST PUFF OF THE SOUTH WIND.


A new heaven and a new earth! Tier beyond tier, height above height,
the great wooded ranges go rolling away westward, till on the lofty
sky-line they are crowned with a gleam of everlasting snow. To the
eastward they sink down, breaking into isolated forests, fringed
peaks, and rock-crowned eminences, till with rapidly straightening
lines they disappear gradually into broad grey plains, beyond which the
Southern Ocean is visible by the white reflection cast upon the sky.

All creation is new and strange. The trees, surpassing in size the
largest English oaks, are of a species we have never seen before. The
graceful shrubs, the bright-coloured flowers, ay, the very grass
itself, are of species unknown in Europe; while flaming lories and
brilliant parroquets fly whistling, not unmusically, through the gloomy
forest, and over head in the higher fields of air, still lit up by the
last rays of the sun, countless cockatoos wheel and scream in noisy
joy, as we may see the gulls do about an English headland.

To the northward a great glen, sinking suddenly from the saddle on
which we stand, stretches away in long vista, until it joins a broader
valley, through which we can dimly see a full-fed river winding along
in gleaming reaches, through level meadow land, interspersed with
clumps of timber.

We are in Australia. Three hundred and fifty miles south of Sydney, on
the great watershed which divides the Belloury from the Maryburnong,
since better known as the Snowy-river of Gipps-land.

As the sun was going down on the scene I have been describing, James
Stockbridge and I, Geoffry Hamlyn, reined up our horses on the ridge
above-mentioned, and gazed down the long gully which lay stretched at
our feet. Only the tallest trees stood with their higher boughs glowing
with the gold of the departing day, and we stood undetermined which
route to pursue, and half inclined to camp at the next waterhole we
should see. We had lost some cattle, and among others a valuable
imported bull, which we were very anxious to recover. For five days we
had been passing on from run to run, making inquiries without success,
and were now fifty long miles from home in a southerly direction. We
were beyond the bounds of all settlement; the last station we had been
at was twenty miles to the north of us, and the occupiers of it, as
they had told us the night before, had only taken up their country
about ten weeks, and were as yet the furthest pioneers to the
southward.

At this time Stockbridge and I had been settled in our new home about
two years, and were beginning to get comfortable and contented. We had
had but little trouble with the blacks, and, having taken possession of
a fine piece of country, were flourishing and well to do.

We had never heard from home but once, and that was from Tom
Troubridge, soon after our departure, telling us that if we succeeded
he should follow, for that the old place seemed changed now we were
gone. We had neither of us left any near relations behind us, and
already we began to think that we were cut off for ever from old
acquaintances and associations, and were beginning to be resigned to it.

Let us return to where he and I were standing alone in the forest. I
dismounted to set right some strap or another, and, instead of getting
on my horse again at once, stood leaning against him, looking at the
prospect, glad to ease my legs for a time, for they were cramped with
many hours' riding.

Stockbridge sat in his saddle immoveable and silent as a statue, and
when I looked in his face I saw that his heart had travelled further
than his eye could reach, and that he was looking far beyond the
horizon that bounded his earthly vision, away to the pleasant old home
which was home to us no longer.

"Jim," said I, "I wonder what is going on at Drumston now?"

"I wonder," he said softly.

A pause.

Below us, in the valley, a mob of jackasses were shouting and laughing
uproariously, and a magpie was chanting his noble vesper hymn from a
lofty tree.

"Jim," I began again, "do you ever think of poor little Mary now?"

"Yes, old boy, I do," he replied; "I can't help it; I was thinking of
her then--I am always thinking of her, and, what's more, I always
shall be. Don't think me a fool, old friend, but I love that girl as
well now as ever I did. I wonder if she has married that fellow
Hawker?"

"I fear there is but little doubt of it," I said; "try to forget her,
James. Get in a rage with her, and be proud about it; you'll make all
your life unhappy if you don't."

He laughed. "That's all very well, Jeff, but it's easier said than
done.--Do you hear that? There are cattle down the gully."

There was some noise in the air, beside the evening rustle of the south
wind among the tree-tops. Now it sounded like a far-off hubbub of
waters, now swelled up harmonious, like the booming of cathedral bells
across some rich old English valley on a still summer's afternoon.

"There are cattle down there, certainly," I said, "and a very large
number of them; they are not ours, depend upon it: there are men with
them, too, or they would not make so much noise. Can it be the blacks
driving them off from the strangers we stayed with last night, do you
think? If so, we had best look out for ourselves."

"Blacks could hardly manage such a large mob as there are there," said
James. "I'll tell you what I think it is, old Jeff; it's some new chums
going to cross the watershed, and look for new country to the south. If
so, let us go down and meet them: they will camp down by the river
yonder."

James was right. All doubt about what the new comers were was solved
before we reached the river, for we could hear the rapid detonation of
the stock-whips loud above the lowing of the cattle; so we sat and
watched them debouche from the forest into the broad river meadows in
the gathering gloom: saw the scene so venerable and ancient, so seldom
seen in the Old World--the patriarchs moving into the desert with all
their wealth, to find new pasture-ground. A simple primitive action,
the first and simplest act of colonization, yet producing such great
results on the history of the world, as did the parting of Lot and
Abraham in times gone by.

First came the cattle lowing loudly, some trying to stop and graze on
the rich pasture after their long day's travel, some heading noisily
towards the river, now beginning to steam with the rising evening mist.
Now a lordly bull, followed closely by two favourite heifers, would try
to take matters into his own hands, and cut out a route for himself,
but is soon driven ignominiously back in a lumbering gallop by a
quick-eyed stockman. Now a silly calf takes it into his head to go for a
small excursion up the range, followed, of course, by his doting
mother, and has to be headed in again, not without muttered wrath and
lowerings of the head from madame. Behind the cattle came horsemen,
some six or seven in number, and last, four drays, bearing the
household gods, came crawling up the pass.

We had time to notice that there were women on the foremost dray, when
it became evident that the party intended camping in a turn of the
river just below. One man kicked his feet out of the stirrups, and,
sitting loosely in his saddle, prepared to watch the cattle for the
first few hours till he was relieved. Another lit a fire against a
fallen tree, and while the bullock-drivers were busy unyoking their
beasts, and the women were clambering from the dray, two of the
horsemen separated from the others, and came forward to meet us.

Both of them I saw were men of vast stature. One rode upright, with a
military seat, while his companion had his feet out of his stirrups,
and rode loosely, as if tired with his journey. Further than this, I
could distinguish nothing in the darkening twilight; but, looking at
James, I saw that he was eagerly scanning the strangers, with elevated
eyebrow and opened lips. Ere I could speak to him, he had dashed
forward with a shout, and when I came up with him, wondering, I found
myself shaking hands, talking and laughing, everything in fact short of
crying, with Major Buckley and Thomas Troubridge.

"Range up alongside here, Jeff, you rascal," said Tom, "and let me get
a fair hug at you. What do you think of this for a lark; eh?--to meet
you out here, all promiscuous, in the forest, like Prince Arthur! We
could not go out of our way to see you, though we knew where you were
located, for we must hurry on and get a piece of country we have been
told of on the next river. We are going to settle down close by you,
you see. We'll make a new Drumston in the wilderness."

"This is a happy meeting, indeed, old Tom," I said, as we rode towards
the drays, after the Major and James. "We shall have happy times, now
we have got some of our old friends round us. Who is come with you? How
is Mrs. Buckley?"

"Mrs. Buckley is as well as ever, and as handsome. My pretty little
cousin, Mary Hawker, and old Miss Thornton, are with us; the poor old
Vicar is dead."

"Mary Hawker with you?" I said. "And her husband, Tom?"

"Hardly, old friend. We travel in better company," said he. "George
Hawker is transported for life."

"Alas! poor Mary," I answered. "And what for?"

"Coining," he answered. "I'll tell you the story another time. To-night
let us rejoice."

I could not but watch James, who was riding before us, to see how he
would take this news. The Major, I saw, was telling him all about it,
but James seemed to take it quite quietly, only nodding his head as the
other went on. I knew how he would feel for his old love, and I turned
and said to Troubridge--

"Jim will be very sorry to hear of this. I wish she had married him."

"That's what we all say," said Tom. "I am sorry for poor Jim. He is
about the best man I know, take him all in all. If that fellow were to
die, she might have him yet, Hamlyn."

We reached the drays. There sat Mrs. Buckley on a log, a noble, happy
matron, laughing at her son as he toddled about, busy gathering sticks
for the fire. Beside her was Mary, paler and older-looking than when we
had seen her last, with her child upon her lap, looking sad and worn.
But a sadder sight for me was old Miss Thornton, silent and frightened,
glancing uneasily round, as though expecting some new horror. No child
for her to cling to and strive for. No husband to watch for and
anticipate every wish. A poor, timid, nervous old maid, thrown adrift
in her old age upon a strange sea of anomalous wonders. Every old
favourite prejudice torn up by the roots. All old formulas of life
scattered to the winds!

She told me in confidence that evening that she had been in sad trouble
all day. At dinner-time, some naked blacks had come up to the dray, and
had frightened and shocked her. Then the dray had been nearly upset,
and her hat crushed among the trees. A favourite and precious bag,
which never left her, had been dropped in the water; and her Prayer-book,
a parting gift from Lady Kate, had been utterly spoiled. A
hundred petty annoyances and griefs, which Mary barely remarked, and
which brave Mrs. Buckley, in her strong determination of following her
lord to the ends of the earth, and of being as much help and as little
incumbrance to him as she could, had laughed at, were to her great
misfortunes. Why, the very fact, as she told me, of sitting on the top
of a swinging jolting dray was enough to keep her in a continual state
of agony and terror, so that when she alit at night, and sat down, she
could not help weeping silently, dreading lest any one should see her.

Suddenly, Mary was by her side, kneeling down.

"Aunt," she said, "dearest aunt, don't break down. It is all my wicked
fault. You will break my heart, auntie dear, if you cry like that. Why
did ever I bring you on this hideous journey?"

"How could I leave you in your trouble, my love?" said Miss Thornton.
"You did right to come, my love. We are among old friends. We have come
too far for trouble to reach us. We shall soon have a happy home again
now, and all will be well."

So she, who needed so much comforting herself, courageously dried her
tears and comforted Mary. And when we reached the drays, she was
sitting with her hands folded before her in serene misery.

"Mary," said the Major, "here are two old friends."

He had no time to say more, for she, recognising Jim, sprang up, and,
running to him, burst into hysterical weeping.

"Oh, my good old friend!" she cried; "oh, my dear old friend! Oh, to
meet you here in this lonely wilderness! Oh, James, my kind old
brother!"

I saw how his big heart yearned to comfort his old sweetheart in her
distress. Not a selfish thought found place with him. He could only see
his old love injured and abandoned, and nought more.

"Mary," he said, "what happiness to see you among all your old friends
come to live among us again! It is almost too good to believe in.
Believe me, you will get to like this country as well as old Devon
soon, though it looks so strange just now. And what a noble boy, too!
We will make him the best bushman in the country when he is old
enough."

So he took the child of his rival to his bosom, and when the innocent
little face looked into his, he would see no likeness to George Hawker
there. He only saw the mother's countenance as he knew her as a child
years gone by.

"Is nobody going to notice me or my boy, I wonder?" said Mrs. Buckley.
"Come here immediately, Mr. Stockbridge, before we quarrel."

In a very short time all our party were restored to their equanimity,
and were laying down plans for pleasant meetings hereafter. And long
after the women had gone to bed in the drays, and the moon was riding
high in the heavens, James and myself, Troubridge and the Major, sat
before the fire; and we heard, for the first time, of all that had gone
on since we left England, and of all poor Mary's troubles. Then each
man rolled himself in his blanket, and slept soundly under the rustling
forest-boughs.

In the bright cool morning, ere the sun was up, and the belated opossum
had run back to his home in the hollow log, James and I were afoot,
looking after our horses. We walked silently side by side for a few
minutes, until he turned and said:--

"Jeff, old fellow, of course you will go on with them, and stay until
they are settled?"

"Jim, old fellow," I replied, "of course you will go on with them, and
stay till they are settled?"

He pondered a few moments, and then said, "Well, why not? I suppose she
can be to me still what she always was? Yes, I will go with them."

When we returned to the dray we found them all astir, preparing for a
start. Mrs. Buckley, with her gown tucked up, was preparing breakfast,
as if she had been used to the thing all her life. She had an imperial
sort of way of manoeuvring a frying-pan, which did one good to see. It
is my belief, that if that woman had been called upon to groom a horse,
she'd have done it in a ladylike way.

While James went among the party to announce his intention of going on
with them, I had an opportunity of looking at the son and heir of all
the Buckleys. He was a sturdy, handsome child about five years old, and
was now standing apart from the others, watching a bullock-driver
yoking-up his beast. I am very fond of children, and take great
interest in studying their characters; so I stood, not unamused,
behind this youngster, as he stood looking with awe and astonishment
at the man, as he managed the great, formidable beasts, and brought
each one into his place; not, however, without more oaths than one
would care to repeat. Suddenly, the child, turning and seeing me behind
him, came back, and took my hand.

"Why is he so angry with them?" the child asked at once. "Why does he
talk to them like that?"

"He is swearing at them," I said, "to make them stand in their places."

"But they don't understand him," said the boy. "That black and white
one would have gone where he wanted it in a minute; but it couldn't
understand, you know; so he hit it over the nose. Why don't he find out
how they talk to one another? Then he'd manage them much better. He is
very cruel."

"He does not know any better," I said. "Come with me and get some
flowers."

"Will you take me up?" he said; "I musn't run about for fear of snakes."

I took him up, and we went to gather flowers.

"Your name is Samuel Buckley, I think," said I.

"How did you know that?"

"I remember you when you were a baby," I said. "I hope you may grow to
be as good a man as your father, my lad. See, there is mamma calling
for us."

"And how far south are you going, Major?" I asked at breakfast.

"No further than we can help," said the Major. "I stayed a night with
my old friend Captain Brentwood, by the way; and there I found a man
who knew of some unoccupied country down here, which he had seen in
some bush expedition. We found the ground he mentioned taken up; but he
says there is equally good on the next river. I have bought him and his
information."

"We saw good country away to the south yesterday," I said. "But are you
wise to trust this man? Do you know anything about him?"

"Brentwood has known him these ten years, and trusts him entirely;
though, I believe, he has been a convict. If you are determined to come
with us, Stockbridge, I will call him up and examine him about the
route. William Lee, just step here a moment."

A swarthy and very powerfully built man came up. No other than the man
I have spoken of under that name before. He was quite unknown either to
James or myself, although, as he told us afterwards, he had recognised
us at once, but kept out of our sight as much as possible, till
by the Major's summons he was forced to come forward.

"What route to-day, William?" asked the Major.

"South and by east across the range. We ought to get down to the river
by night if we're lucky."

So, while the drays were getting under way, the Major, Tom, James, and
myself rode up to the saddle where we had stood the night before, and
gazed southeast across the broad prospect, in the direction that the
wanderers were to go.

"That," said the Major, "to the right there must be the great glen out
of which the river comes; and there, please God, we will rest our weary
bodies and build our house. Odd, isn't it, that I should have been
saved from shot and shell when so many better men were put away in the
trench, to come and end my days in a place like this? Well, I think we
shall have a pleasant life of it, watching the cattle spread further
across the plains year after year, and seeing the boy grow up to be a
good man. At all events, for weal or woe, I have said good bye to old
England, for ever and a day."

The cattle were past, and the drays had arrived at where we stood. With
many a hearty farewell, having given a promise to come over and spend
Christmas-day with them, I turned my horse's head homewards and went on
my solitary way.




Chapter XIX



I HIRE A NEW HORSEBREAKER.


I must leave them to go their way towards their new home, and follow my
own fortunes a little, for that afternoon I met with an adventure quite
trifling indeed, but which is not altogether without interest in this
story.

I rode on till high noon, till having crossed the valley of the
Belloury, and followed up one of its tributary creeks, I had come on to
the water system of another main river, and the rapid widening of the
gully whose course I was pursuing assured me that I could not be far
from the main stream itself. At length I entered a broad flat,
intersected by a deep and tortuous creek, and here I determined to camp
till the noon-day heat was past, before I continued my journey,
calculating that I could easily reach home the next day.

Having watered my horse, I turned him loose for a graze, and, making
such a dinner as was possible under the circumstances, I lit a pipe and
lay down on the long grass, under the flowering wattle-trees, smoking
and watching the manoeuvres of a little tortoise, who was disporting
himself in the waterhole before me. Getting tired of that I lay back on
the grass, and watched the green leaves waving and shivering against
the clear blue sky, given up entirely to the greatest of human
enjoyments--the after dinner pipe, the pipe of peace.

Which is the pleasantest pipe in the day? We used to say at home that a
man should smoke but four pipes a-day: the matutinal, another I don't
specify, the post-prandial, and the symposial or convivial, which last
may be infinitely subdivided, according to the quantity of drink
taken. But in Australia this division won't obtain, particularly when
you are on the tramp. Just when you wake from a dreamless sleep beneath
the forest boughs, as the east begins to blaze, and the magpie gets
musical, you dash to the embers of last night's fire, and after blowing
many fire-sticks find one which is alight, and proceed to send abroad
on the morning breeze the scent of last night's dottle. Then, when
breakfast is over and the horses are caught up and saddled, and you are
jogging across the plain, with the friend of your heart beside you, the
burnt incense once more goes up, and conversation is unnecessary. At
ten o'clock when you cross the creek (you always cross a creek about
ten if you are in a good country), you halt and smoke. So after dinner
in the lazy noon-tide, one or perhaps two pipes are necessary, with,
perhaps, another about four in the afternoon, and last, and perhaps
best of all, are the three or four you smoke before the fire at night,
when the day is dying and the opossums are beginning to chatter in the
twilight. So that you find that a fig of Barret's twist, seventeen to
the pound, is gone in the mere hours of day-light without counting such
a casualty as waking up cold in the night, and going at it again.

So I lay on my back dreaming, wondering why a locust who was in full
screech close by, took the trouble to make that terrible row when it
was so hot, and hoping that his sides might be sore with the exertion,
when to my great astonishment I heard the sound of feet brushing
through the grass towards me. "Black fellow," I said to myself; but no,
those were shodden feet that swept along so wearily. I raised myself on
my elbow, with my hand on my pistol, and reconnoitred.

There approached me from down the creek a man, hardly reaching the
middle size, lean and active-looking, narrow in the flanks, thin in the
jaws, his knees well apart; with a keen bright eye in his head; his
clothes looked as if they had belonged to ten different men; and his
gait was heavy, and his face red, as if from a long hurried walk; but I
said at once, "Here comes a riding man, at all events, be it for peace
or war."

"Good day, lad," said I.

"Good day, sir."

"You're rather off the tracks for a foot-man;" said I. "Are you looking
for your horse?"

"Deuce a horse have I got to my name, sir,--have you got a feed of
anything? I'm nigh starved."

"Ay, surely: the tea's cold; put it on the embers and warm it a bit;
here's beef, and damper too, plenty."

I lit another pipe and watched his meal. I like feeding a real hungry
man; it's almost as good as eating oneself--sometimes better.

When the edge of his appetite was taken off he began to talk; he said
first--

"Got a station anywheres about here, sir?"

"No, I'm Hamlyn of the Durnongs, away by Maneroo."

"Oh! ay; I know you, sir; which way have you come this morning?"

"Southward; I crossed the Belloury about seven o'clock."

"That, indeed! You haven't seen anything of three bullock drays and a
mob of cattle going south?"

"Yes! I camped with such a lot last night!"

"Not Major Buckley's lot?"

"The same."

"And how far were they on?"

"They crossed the range at daylight this morning;--they're thirty
miles away by now."

He threw his hat on the ground with an oath: "I shall never catch them
up. I daren't cross that range on foot into the new country, and those
black devils lurking round. He shouldn't have left me like that;--all
my own fault, though, for staying behind! No, no, he's true enough--
all my own fault. But I wouldn't have left him so, neither; but,
perhaps, he don't think I'm so far behind."

I saw that the man was in earnest, for his eyes were swimming;--he was
too dry for tears; but though he looked a desperate scamp, I couldn't
help pitying him and saying,--

"You seem vexed you couldn't catch them up; were you going along with
the Major, then?"

"No, sir; I wasn't hired with him; but an old mate of mine, Bill Lee,
is gone along with him to show him some country, and I was going to
stick to him and see if the Major would take me; we haven't been parted
for many years, not Bill and I haven't; and the worst of it is, that
he'll think I've slipped away from him, instead of following him fifty
mile on foot to catch him. Well! it can't be helped now; I must look
round and get a job somewhere till I get a chance to join him. Were you
travelling with them, sir?"

"No, I'm after some cattle I've lost; a fine imported bull, too,--
worse luck! We'll never see him again, I'm afraid, and if I do find
them how I am to get them home single handed, I don't know."

"Do you mean, a short-horned Durham bull with a key brand? Why, if
that's him, I can lay you on to him at once; he's up at Jamieson's,
here to the west. I was staying at Watson's last night, and one of
Jamieson's men staid in the hut--a young hand; and, talking about
beasts, he said that there was a fine short-horned bull come on to
their run with a mob of heifers and cows, and they couldn't make out
who they belonged to; they were all different brands."

"That's our lot for a thousand," says I; "a lot of store cattle we
bought this year from the Hunter, and haven't branded yet,--more shame
to us."

"If you could get a horse and saddle from Jamieson's, sir," said he, "I
could give you a hand home with them: I'd like to get a job somehow,
and I'm well used to cattle."

"Done with you," said I; "Jamieson's isn't ten miles from here, and we
can do that to-night if we look sharp. Come along, my lad."

So I caught up the horse, and away we went. Starting at right angles
with the sun, which was nearly overhead, and keeping to the left of him
holding such a course, as he got lower, that an hour and half, or
thereabouts, before setting he should be in my face, and at sundown a
little to the left;--the best direction I can give you for going about
due west in November, without a compass--which, by the way, you always
ought to have.

My companion was foot-sore, so I went slowly; he, however, shambled
along bravely when his feet got warm. He was a talkative, lively man,
and chattered continually.

"You've got a nice place up at the Durnongs, sir," said he; "I stayed
in your huts one night. It's the comfortablest bachelor station on this
side. You've got a smart few sheep, I expect?"

"Twenty-five thousand. Do you know these parts well?"

"I knew that country of yours long before any of it was took up."

"You've been a long while in the country, then?"

"I was sent out when I was eighteen; spared, as the old judge said, on
account of my youth: that's eleven years ago."

"Spared, eh? It was something serious, then?"

"Trifling enough: only for having a rope in my hand."

"They wouldn't lag a man for that," said I.

"Ay, but," he replied, "there was a horse at the end of the rope. I was
brought up in a training stable, and somehow there's something in the
smell of a stable is sure to send a man wrong if he don't take care. I
got betting and drinking, too, as young chaps will, and lost my place,
and got from bad to worse till I shook a nag, and got bowled out and
lagged. That's about my history, sir; will you give me a job, now?" and
he looked up, laughing.

"Ay, why not?" said I. "Because you tried hard to go to the devil when
you were young and foolish, it don't follow that you should pursue that
line of conduct all your life. You've been in a training stable, eh? If
you can break horses, I may find you something to do."

"I'll break horses against any man in this country--though that's not
saying much, for I ain't seen not what I call a breaker since I've been
here; as for riding, I'd ridden seven great winners before I was
eighteen; and that's what ne'er a man alive can say. Ah, those were the
rosy times! Ah for old Newmarket!"

"Are you a Cambridgeshire man, then?"

"Me? Oh, no; I'm a Devonshire man. I come near from where Major Buckley
lived some years. Did you notice a pale, pretty-looking woman, was with
him--Mrs. Hawker?"

I grew all attention. "Yes," I said, "I noticed her."

"I knew her husband well," he said, "and an awful rascal he was: he was
lagged for coining, though he might have been for half-a-dozen things
besides."

"Indeed!" said I; "and is he in the colony?"

"No; he's over the water, I expect."

"In Van Diemen's Land, you mean?"

"Just so," he said; "he had better not show Bill Lee much of his face,
or there'll be mischief."

"Lee owes him a grudge, then?"

"Not exactly that," said my communicative friend, "but I don't think
that Hawker will show much where Lee is."

"I am very glad to hear it," I thought to myself. "I hope Mary may not
have some trouble with her husband still."

"What is the name of the place Major Buckley comes from?" I inquired.

"Drumston."

"And you belong there too?" I knew very well however, that he did not,
or I must have known him.

"No," he answered; "Okehampton is my native place. But you talk a
little Devon yourself, sir."

The conversation came to a close, for we heard the barking of dogs, and
saw the station where we were to spend the night. In the morning I went
home, and my new acquaintance, who called himself Dick, along with me.
Finding that he was a first-rate rider, and gentle and handy among
horses, I took him into my service permanently, and soon got to like
him very well.




Chapter XX



A WARM CHRISTMAS DAY.


All through November and part of December, I and our Scotch overseer,
Georgy Kyle, were busy as bees among the sheep. Shearers were very
scarce, and the poor sheep got fearfully "tomahawked" by the new hands,
who had been a very short time from the barracks. Dick, however, my
new acquaintance, turned out a valuable ally, getting through more
sheep and taking off his fleece better than any man in the shed. The
prisoners, of course, would not work effectually without extra wages,
and thus gave a deal of trouble; knowing that there was no fear of my
sending them to the magistrate (fifty miles off) during such a busy
time. However, all evils must come to an end some time or another, and
so did shearing, though it was nearly Christmas before our wool was
pressed and ready for the drays.

Then came a breathing time. So I determined, having heard nothing of
James, to go over and spend my Christmas with the Buckleys, and see how
they were getting on at their new station; and about noon on the day
before Boxing-day, having followed the track made by their drays from
the place I had last parted with them, I reined up on the cliffs above
a noble river, and could see their new huts, scarce a quarter of a mile
off, on the other side of the stream.

They say that Christmas-day is the hottest day in the year in those
countries, but some days in January are, I think, generally hotter.
To-day, however, was as hot as a salamander could wish. All the vast
extent of yellow plain to the eastward quivered beneath a fiery sky,
and every little eminence stood like an island in a lake of mirage.
Used as I had got to this phenomenon, I was often tempted that morning
to turn a few hundred yards from my route, and give my horse a drink at
one of the broad glassy pools that seemed to lie right and left. Once
the faint track I was following headed straight towards one of these
apparent sheets of water, and I was even meditating a bathe, but, lo!
when I was a hundred yards or so off, it began to dwindle and disappear,
and I found nothing but the same endless stretch of grass,
burnt up by the midsummer sun.

For many miles I had distinguished the new huts, placed at the apex of
a great cape of the continent of timber which ran down from the
mountains into the plains. I thought they had chosen a strange place
for their habitation, as there appeared no signs of a watercourse
near it. It was not till I pulled up within a quarter of a mile of my
destination, that I heard a hoarse roar as if from the bowels of the
earth, and found that I was standing on the edge of a glen about four
hundred feet deep, through which a magnificent snow-fed river poured
ceaselessly, here flashing bright among bars of rock, there lying in
dark, deep reaches, under tall, white-stemmed trees.

The scene was so beautiful and novel that I paused and gazed at it.
Across the glen, behind the houses, rolled up a dark mass of timbered
ranges, getting higher and steeper as far as the eye could reach, while
to the north-east the river's course might be traced by the timber that
fringed the water's edge, and sometimes feathered some tributary gully
almost to the level of the flat lofty table-land. On either side of it,
down behind, down folded one over the other, and, bordered by great
forests, led the eye towards the river's source, till the course of the
valley could no longer be distinguished, lost among the distant ranges;
but above where it had disappeared, rose a tall blue peak with streaks
of snow.

I rode down a steep pathway, and crossed a broad gravelly ford. As my
horse stopped to drink, I looked delighted up the vista which opened on
my sight. The river, partly over-shadowed by tall trees, was hurrying
and spouting through upright columns of basalt, which stood in groups
everywhere like the pillars of a ruined city; in some places solitary,
in others, clustered together like fantastic buildings, while a hundred
yards above was an island, dividing the stream, on which, towering
above the variety of low green shrubs which covered it, three noble
fern trees held their plumes aloft, shaking with the concussion of the
falling water.

I crossed the river. A gully, deep at first, but getting rapidly
shallower, led up by a steep ascent to the tableland above, and as I
reached the summit I found myself at Major Buckley's front door. They
had, with good taste, left such trees as stood near the house--a few
deep-shadowed light-woods and black wattles, which formed pretty groups
in what I could see was marked out for a garden. Behind, the land began
to rise, at first, in park-like timbered forest glades, and further
back, closing into dense deep woodlands.

"What a lovely place they will make of this in time!" I said to myself;
but I had not much time for cogitation. A loud, cheerful voice shouted:
"Hamlyn, you are welcome to Baroona!" and close to me I saw the Major,
carrying his son and heir in his arms, advancing to meet me from the
house-door.

"You are welcome to Baroona!" echoed the boy; "and a merry Christmas
and a happy New-year to you!"

I went into the house and was delighted to find what a change a few
weeks of busy, quiet, and HOME had made in the somewhat draggle-tailed
and disconsolate troop that I had parted with on their road. Miss
Thornton, with her black mittens, white apron, and spectacles, had
found herself a cool corner by the empty fire-place, and was stitching
away happily at baby linen. Mrs. Buckley, in the character of a
duchess, was picking raisins, and Mary was helping her; and, as I
entered, laughing loudly, they greeted me kindly with all the old
sacred good wishes of the season.

"I very much pity you, Mr. Hamlyn," said Mrs. Buckley, "at having
outlived the novelty of being scorched to death on Christmas-day. My
dear husband, please refresh me with reading the thermometer!"

"One hundred and nine in the shade," replied the Major, with a chuckle.

"Ah, dear!" said Mrs. Buckley, "If the dear old rheumatic creatures
from the alms-house at Clere could only spend to-morrow with us, how it
would warm their old bones! Fancy how they are crouching before their
little pinched grates just now!"

"Hardly that, Mrs. Buckley," I said laughing; "they are all snug in bed
now. It is three o'clock in the morning, or thereabouts, at home, you
must remember. Miss Thornton, I hope you have got over your journey."

"Yes, and I can laugh at all my mishaps now," she replied; "I have just
got homely and comfortable here, but we must make one more move, and
that will be the last for me. Mary and Mr. Troubridge have taken up
their country to the south-west, and as soon as he has got our house
built, we are going to live there."

"It is not far, I hope," said I.

"A trifle: not more than ten miles," said Miss Thornton; "they call the
place Toonarbin. Mary's run joins the Major's on two sides, and beyond
again, we already have neighbours, the Mayfords. They are on the river
again; but we are on a small creek towards the ranges. I should like to
have been on the river, but they say we are very lucky."

"I am so glad to see you," said Mary; "James Stockbridge said you would
be sure to come; otherwise, we should have sent over for you. What do
you think of my boy?"

She produced him from an inner room. He was certainly a beautiful
child, though very small, and with a certain painful likeness to his
father, which even I could see, and I could not help comparing him
unfavourably, in my own mind, with that noble six-year-old Sam Buckley,
who had come to my knee where I sat, and was looking in my face as if
to make a request.

"What is it, my prince?" I asked.

He blushed, and turned his handsome gray eyes to a silver-handled
riding-whip that I had in my hand "I'll take such care of it," he
whispered, and, having got it, was soon astride of a stick, full gallop
for Banbury Cross.

James and Troubridge came in. To the former I had much to tell that was
highly satisfactory about our shearing; and from the latter I had much
to hear about the state of both the new stations, and the adventures of
a journey he had had back towards Sydney to fetch up his sheep. But
these particulars will be but little interesting to an English reader,
and perhaps still less so to an Australian. I am writing a history of
the people themselves, not of their property. I will only say, once for
all, that the Major's run contained very little short of 60,000 acres
of splendidly grassed plain-land, which he took up originally with
merely a few cattle, and about 3,000 sheep; but which, in a few years,
carried 28,000 sheep comfortably. Mrs. Hawker and Troubridge had quite
as large a run; but a great deal of it was rather worthless forest,
badly grassed; which Tom, in his wisdom, like a great many other new
chums, had thought superior to the bleak plains on account of the
shelter. Yet, notwithstanding this disadvantage, they were never, after
a year or two, with less than 15,000 sheep, and a tolerable head of
cattle. In short, in a very few years, both the Major and Troubridge,
by mere power of accumulation, became very wealthy people.

Christmas morn rose bright; but ere the sun had time to wreak his fury
upon us every soul in the household was abroad, under the shade of the
lightwood trees, to hear the Major read the Litany.

A strange group we were. The Major stood with his back against a
tree-stem, and all his congregation were ranged around him. To his right
stood Miss Thornton, her arms folded placidly before her; and with her,
Mary and Mrs. Buckley, in front of whom sat the two boys: Sam, the
elder, trying to keep Charles, the younger, quiet. Next, going round
the circle, stood the old housekeeper, servant of the Buckleys for
thirty years; who now looked askance off her Prayer-book to see that
the two convict women under her charge were behaving with decorum.
Next, and exactly opposite the Major, were two free servants: one a
broad, brawny, athleticlooking man, with, I thought, not a bad
countenance; and the other a tall, handsome, foolish-looking Devonshire
lad. The round was completed by five convict man-servants,
standing vacantly looking about them; and Tom, James, and myself, who
were next the Major.

The service, which he read in a clear manly voice, was soon over, and
we returned to the house in groups. I threw myself in the way of the
two free servants, and asked,--

"Pray, which of you is William Lee?"--for I had forgotten him.

The short thickset man I had noticed before touched his hat and said
that he was. That touching of the hat is a very rare piece of courtesy
from working men in Australia. The convicts are forced to do it, and so
the free men make it a point of honour not to do so.

"Oh!" said I, "I have got a groom who calls himself Dick. I found him
sorefooted in the bush the day I met the Major. He was trying to pick
you up. He asked me to tell you that he was afraid to cross the range
alone on account of the blacks, or he would have come up with you. He
seemed anxious lest you should think it was his fault."

"Poor chap!" said Lee. "What a faithful little fellow it is! Would it
be asking a liberty if you would take back a letter for me, sir?"

I said, "No; certainly not."

"I am much obliged to you, sir," he said. "I am glad Dick has got with
A GENTLEMAN."

That letter was of some importance to me, though I did not know it till
after, but I may as well say why now. Lee had been a favourite servant
of my father's, and when he got into trouble my father had paid a
counsel to defend him. Lee never forgot this, and this letter to Dick
was shortly to the effect that I was one of the RIGHT SORT, and was to
be taken care of, which injunction Dick obeyed to the very letter,
doing me services for pure good will, which could not have been bought
for a thousand a-year.

After breakfast arose the question, "What is to be done?" Which
Troubridge replied to by saying: "What could any sensible man do such
weather as this, but get into the water and stop there?"

"Shall it be, 'All hands to bathe,' then?" said the Major.

"You won't be without company," said Mrs. Buckley, "for the black
fellows are camped in the bend, and they spend most of their time in
the water such a day as this."

So James and Troubridge started for the river with their towels, the
Major and I promising to follow them immediately, for I wanted to look
at my horse, and the Major had also something to do in the paddock. So
we walked together.

"Major," said I, when we had gone a little way, "do you never feel
anxious about Mary Hawker's husband appearing and giving trouble?"

"Oh, no!" said he. "The man is safe in Van Diemen's Land. Besides, what
could he gain? I, for one, without consulting her, should find means to
pack him off again. There is no fear."

"By the bye, Major," I said, "have you heard from our friend Doctor
Mulhaus since your arrival? I suppose he is at Drumston still?"

"Oh dear, no!" said he. "He is gone back to Germany. He is going to
settle there again. He was so sickened of England when all his friends
left, that he determined to go home. I understood that he had some sort
of patrimony there, on which he will end his days. Wherever he goes,
God go with him, for he is a noble fellow!"

"Amen," I answered. And soon after, having got towels, we proceeded to
the river; making for a long reach a little below where I had crossed
the night before.

"Look there!" said the Major. "There's a bit for one of your painters!
I wish Wilkie or Martin were here."

I agreed with him. Had Etty been on the spot he would have got a hint
for one of his finest pictures; though I can give but little idea of it
in writing, however, let me try. Before us was a long reach of deep,
still water, unbroken by a ripple, so hemmed in on all sides by walls
of deep green black wattle, tea-tree, and delicate silver acacia, that
the water seemed to flow in a deep shoreless rift of the forest, above
which the taller forest trees towered up two hundred feet, hiding the
lofty cliffs, which had here receded a little back from the river.

The picture had a centre, and a strange one. A little ledge of rock ran
out into deep water, and upon it, rising from a heap of light-coloured
clothing, like a white pillar, in the midst of the sombre green
foliage, rose the naked carcass of Thomas Troubridge, Esq., preparing
for a header, while at his feet were grouped three or four black
fellows, one of whom as we watched slid off the rock like an otter. The
reach was covered with black heads belonging to the savages, who were
swimming in all directions, while groups of all ages and both sexes
stood about on the bank in Mother Nature's full dress.

We had a glorious bathe, and then sat on the rock, smoking, talking,
and watching the various manoeuvres of the blacks. An old lady,
apparently about eighty, with a head as white as snow, topping her
black body (a flourbag cobbler, as her tribe would call her), was
punting a canoe along in the shallow water on the opposite side of the
river. She was entirely without clothes, and in spite of her
decrepitude stood upright in the cockleshell, handling it with great
dexterity. When she was a little above us, she made way on her barque,
and shot into the deep water in the middle of the stream, evidently
with the intention of speaking us. As, however, she was just half-way
across, floating helplessly, unable to reach the bottom with the spear
she had used as a puntpole in the shallower water, a mischievous black
imp canted her over, and souse she went into the river. It was amazing
to see how boldly and well the old woman struck out for the shore,
keeping her white head well out of the water; and, having reached dry
land once more, sat down on her haunches, and began scolding with a
volubility and power which would soon have silenced the loudest tongue
in old Billingsgate.

Her anger, so far from wearing out, grew on what fed it; so that her
long-drawn yells, which seemed like parentheses in her jabbering
discourse, were getting each minute more and more acute, and we were
just thinking about moving homewards, when a voice behind us sang out,--

"Hallo, Major! Having a little music, eh? What a sweet song that old
girl is singing! I must write it down from dictation, and translate it,
as Walter Scott used to do with the old wives' ballads in Scotland."

"I have no doubt it would be quite Ossianic--equal to any of the
abusive scenes in Homer. But, my dear Harding, how are you? You are
come to eat your Christmas dinner with us, I hope?"

"That same thing, Major," answered the new comer. "Troubridge and
Stockbridge, how are you? This, I presume, is your partner, Hamlyn?"

We went back to the house. Harding, I found, was half-owner of a
station to the north-east, an Oxford man, a great hand at skylarking,
and an inveterate writer of songs. He was good-looking too, and
gentlemanlike, in fact, a very pleasant companion in every way.

Dinner was to be at six o'clock, in imitation of home hours; but we did
not find the day hang heavy on our hands, there was so much to be
spoken of by all of us. And when that important meal was over we
gathered in the open air in front of the house, bent upon making
Christmas cheer.

"What is your last new song, eh, Harding?" said the Major; "now is the
time to ventilate it."

"I've been too busy shearing for song-writing, Major."

Soon after this we went in, and there we sat till nearly ten o'clock,
laughing, joking, singing, and drinking punch. Mary sat between James
Stockbridge and Tom, and they three spoke together so exclusively and
so low, that the rest of us were quite forgotten. Mary was smiling and
laughing, first at one and then at the other, in her old way, and now
and then as I glanced at her I could hardly help sighing. But I soon
remembered certain resolutions I had made, and tried not to notice
the trio, but to make myself agreeable to the others. Still my eyes
wandered towards them again intuitively. I thought Mary had never
looked so beautiful before. Her complexion was very full, as though she
were blushing at something one of them had said to her, and while I
watched I saw James rise and go to a jug of flowers, and bring back a
wreath of scarlet Kennedia, saying:--

"Do us a favour on Christmas night, Mary; twine this in your hair."

She blushed deeper than before, but she did it, and Tom helped her.
There was no harm in that, you say, for was he not her cousin? But
still I could not help saying to myself, "Oh Mary, Mary, if you were a
widow, how long would you stay so?"

"What a gathering it is, to be sure!" said Mrs. Buckley!--"all the old
Drumstonians who are alive collected under one roof."

"Except the Doctor," said the Major.

"Ah, yes, dear Doctor Mulhaus. I am so sad sometimes to think that we
shall never see him again."

"I miss him more than any one," said the Major. "I have no one to
contradict me now."

"I shall have to take that duty upon me, then," said his wife. "Hark!
there is Lee come back from the sheep station. Yes, that must be his
horse. Call him in and give him a glass of grog. I was sorry to send
him out to-day."

"He is coming to make his report," said Mrs. Buckley; "there is his
heavy tramp outside the door."

The door was opened, and the new comer advanced to where the glare of
the candles fell full upon his face.

Had the Gentleman in Black himself advanced out of the darkness at that
moment, with his blue bag on his arm and his bundle of documents in his
hand, we should not have leapt to our feet and cried out more suddenly
than we did then. For Doctor Mulhaus stood in the middle of the room,
looking around him with a bland smile.




Chapter XXI



JIM STOCKBRIDGE BEGINS TO TAKE ANOTHER VIEW OF MATTERS.


He stood in the candle-light, smiling blandly, while we all stayed for
an instant, after our first exclamation, speechless with astonishment.

The Major was the first who showed signs of consciousness, for I
verily believe that one half of the company at least believed him to
be a ghost. "You are the man," said the Major, "who in the flesh called
himself Maximilian Mulhaus! Why are you come to trouble us,
O spirit?--not that we shouldn't be glad to see you if you were alive,
you know, but--my dear old friend, how are you?"

Then we crowded round him, all speaking at once and trying to shake
hands with him. Still he remained silent, and smiled. I, looking into
his eyes, saw that they were swimming, and divined why he would not
trust himself to speak. No one hated a show of emotion more than the
Doctor, and yet his brave warm heart would often flood his eyes in
spite of himself.

He walked round to the fire-place, and, leaning against the board that
answered for a chimney-piece, stood looking at us with beaming eyes,
while we anxiously waited for him to speak.

"Ah!" he said at length, with a deep sigh, "this does me good. I have
not made my journey in vain. A man who tries to live in this world
without love must, if he is not a fool, commit suicide in a year. I
went to my own home, and my own dogs barked at me. Those I had raised
out of the gutter, and set on horseback, splashed mud on me as I
walked. I will go back, I said, to the little English family who loved
and respected me for my own sake, though they be at the ends of the
earth. So I left those who should have loved me with an ill-concealed
smile on their faces, and when I come here I am welcomed with tears of
joy from those I have not known five years. Bah! Here is my home,
Buckley: let me live and die with you."

"Live!" said the Major--"ay, while there's a place to live in; don't
talk about dying yet, though,--we'll think of that presently. I can't
find words enough to give him welcome. Wife, can you?"

"Not I, indeed," she said; "and what need? He can see a warmer welcome
in our faces than an hour's clumsy talk could give him. I say, Doctor,
you are welcome, now and for ever. Will that serve you, husband?"

I could not help looking at Miss Thornton. She sat silently staring at
him through it all, with her hands clasped together, beating them upon
her knee. Now, when all was quiet, and Mrs. Buckley and Mary had run
off to the kitchen to order the Doctor some supper, he seemed to see
her for the first time, and bowed profoundly. She rose, and, looking
at him intently, sat down again.

The Doctor had eaten his supper, and Mrs. Buckley had made him
something to drink with her own hands; the Doctor had lit his pipe, and
we had gathered round the empty fire-place, when the Major said,--

"Now, Doctor, do tell us your adventures, and how you have managed to
drop upon us from the skies on Christmas-day."

"Soon told, my friend," he answered. "See here. I went back to Germany
because all ties in England were broken. I went to Lord C----: I said,
'I will go back and see the palingenesis of my country; I will see what
they are doing, now the French are in the dust.' He said, 'Go, and God
speed you!' I went. What did I find? Beggars on horseback everywhere,
riding post-haste to the devil--not as good horsemen, either, but as
tailors of Brentford, and crowding one another into the mud to see who
would be there first. 'Let me get out of this before they ride over
me,' said I. So I came forth to England, took ship, and here I am."

"A most lucid and entirely satisfactory explanation of what you have
been about, I must say," answered the Major; "however, I must be
content."

At this moment, little Sam, who had made his escape in the confusion,
came running in, breathless. "Papa! papa!" said he, "Lee has come home
with a snake seven feet long." Lee was at the door with the reptile in
his hand--a black snake, with a deep salmon-coloured belly, deadly
venomous, as I knew. All the party went out to look at it, except the
Doctor and Miss Thornton, who stayed at the fire-place.

"Mind your hands, Lee!" I heard James say; "though the brute is dead,
you might prick your fingers with him."

I was behind all the others, waiting to look at the snake, which was
somewhat of a large one, and worth seeing, so I could not help
overhearing the conversation of Miss Thornton and the Doctor, and
having heard the first of it my ears grew so unnaturally quickened,
that I could not for the life of me avoid hearing the whole, though I
was ashamed of playing eavesdropper.

"My God, sir!" I heard her say, "what new madness is this? Why do you
persist in separating yourself from your family in this manner?"

"No madness at all, my dear madam," he answered; "you would have done
the same under the circumstances. My brother was civil, but I saw he
would rather have me away, and continue his stewardship. And so I let
him."

Miss Thornton put another question which I did not catch, and the sense
of which I could not supply, but I heard his answer plainly: it was,--

"Of course I did, my dear lady, and, just as you may suppose, when I
walked up the Ritter Saal, there was a buzz and giggle, and not one
held out his hand save noble Von H----; long life to him!"

"But--?" said Miss Thornton, mentioning somebody, whose name I
could not catch.

"I saw him bend over to M--- as I came up to the Presence, and they
both laughed. I saw a slight was intended, made my devoirs, and backed
off. The next day he sent for me, but I was off and away. I heard of it
before I left England."

"And will you never go back?" she said.

"When I can with honour, not before; and that will never be till he is
dead, I fear; and his life is as good as mine. So, hey for natural
history, and quiet domestic life, and happiness with my English
friends! Now, am I wise or not?"

"I fear not," she said.

The Doctor laughed, and taking her hand, kissed it gallantly; by this
time we had all turned round, and were coming in.

"Now, Doctor," said the Major, "If you have done flirting with Miss
Thornton, look at this snake."

"A noble beast, indeed," said the Doctor. "Friend," he added to Lee,
"if you don't want him, I will take him off your hands for a sum of
money. He shall be pickled, as I live."

"He is very venomous, sir," said Lee. "The blacks eat 'em, it's true,
but they always cut the head off first. I'd take the head off, sir,
before I ventured to taste him."

We all laughed at Lee's supposing that the Doctor meant to make a meal
of the deadly serpent, and Lee laughed as loudly as anybody.

"You see, sir," he said, "I've always heard that you French gents ate
frogs, so I didn't know as snakes would come amiss."

"Pray, don't take me for a Frenchman, my good lad," said the Doctor;
"and as for frogs, they are as good as chickens."

"Well, I've eaten guaners myself," said Lee, "though I can't say much
for them. They're uglier than snakes any way."

Lee was made to sit down and take a glass of grog. So, very shortly,
the conversation flowed on into its old channel, and, after spending a
long and pleasant evening, we all went to bed.

James and I slept in the same room; and, when we were going to bed, I
said,--

"James, if that fellow were to die, there would be a chance for you
yet."

"With regard to what?" he asked.

"You know well enough, you old humbug," I said; "with regard to Mary
Hawker,--NEE Thornton!"

"I doubt it, my lad," he said. "I very much doubt it indeed; and,
perhaps, you have heard that there must be two parties to a bargain, so
that even if she were willing to take me, I very much doubt if I would
ask her."

"No one could blame you for that," I said, "after what has happened.
There are but few men who would like to marry the widow of a coiner."

"You mistake me, Jeff. You mistake me altogether," he answered, walking
up and down the room, with one boot off. "That would make but little
difference to me. I've no relations to sing out about a mesalliance,
you know. No, my dear old fellow, not that; but--Jeff, Jeff! You are
the dearest friend I have in the world."

"Jim, my boy," I answered, "I love you like a brother. What is it?"

"I have no secrets from you, Jeff," he said; "so I don't mind telling
you." Another hesitation! I grew rather anxious. "What the deuce is
coming?" I thought. "What can she have been up to? Go on, old fellow,"
I added aloud; "let's hear all about it."

He stood at the end of the room, looking rather sheepish. "Why, the
fact is, old fellow, that I begin to suspect that I have outlived any
little attachment I had in that quarter. I've been staying in the house
two months with her, you see; and, in fact!--in fact!"--here he
brought up short again.

"James Stockbridge," I said, sitting up in bed, "you atrocious humbug;
two months ago you informed me, with a sigh like a groggy pair of
bellows, that her image could only be effaced from your heart by death.
You have seduced me, whose only fault was loving you too well to part
with you, into coming sixteen thousand miles to a barbarous land, far
from kindred and country, on the plea that your blighted affections
made England less endurable than--France, I'll say for argument;--
and, now having had two months' opportunity of studying the character
of the beloved one, you coolly inform me that the whole thing was a
mistake. I repeat that you are a humbug."

"If you don't hold your tongue, and that quick," he replied, "I'll send
this boot at your ugly head. Now, then!"

I ducked, fully expecting it was coming, and laughed silently under the
bed-clothes. I was very happy to hear this--I was very happy to hear
that a man, whom I really liked so well, had got the better of a
passion for a woman who I knew was utterly incapable of being to him
what his romantic high-flown notions required a wife to be. "If this
happy result," I said to myself, "can be rendered the more sure by
ridicule, that shall not be wanting. Meanwhile, I will sue for peace,
and see how it came about."

I rose again and saw he had got his other boot half off, and was
watching for me. "Jim," said I, "you ain't angry because I laughed at
you, are you?"

"Angry!" he answered. "I am never angry with you, and you know it. I've
been a fool, and I ought to be laughed at."

"Pooh!" said I, "no more a fool than other men have been before you,
from father Adam downwards."

"And he was a most con--"

"There," I interrupted: "don't abuse your ancestors. Tell me why you
have changed your mind so quick?"

"That's a precious hard thing to do, mind you;" he answered. "A
thousand trifling circumstances, which taken apart are as worthless
straws, when they are bound up together become a respectable truss,
which is marketable, and ponderable. So it is with little traits in
Mary's character, which I have only noticed lately, nothing separately,
yet when taken together, to say the least, different to what I had
imagined while my eyes were blinded. To take one instance among fifty;
there's her cousin Tom, one of the finest fellows that ever stepped;
but still I don't like to see her, a married woman, allowing him to
pull her hair about, and twist flowers in it."

This was very true, but I thought that if James instead of Tom had been
allowed the privilege of decorating her hair, he might have looked on
it with different eyes. James, I saw, cared too little about her to be
very jealous, and so I saw that there was no fear of any coolness
between him and Troubridge, which was a thing to be rejoiced at, as it
would have been a terrible blow on our little society, and which I
feared at one time that evening would have been the case.

"Jim," said I, "I have got something to tell you. Do you know, I
believe there is some mystery about Doctor Mulhaus."

"He is a walking mystery," said Jim; "but he is a noble good fellow,
though unhappily a frog-eater."

"Ah! but I believe Miss Thornton knows it."

"Very like," said Jim, yawning.

"I told him all the conversation I overheard that evening."

"Are you sure she said 'the king'?" he asked.

"Quite sure," I said; "now, what do you make of it?"

"I make this of it," he said: "that it is no earthly business of ours,
or we should have been informed of it; and if I were you, I wouldn't
breathe a word of it to any mortal soul, or let the Doctor suspect that
you overheard anything. Secrets where kings are concerned are
precious sacred things, old Jeff. Good night!"




Chapter XXII



SAM BUCKLEY'S EDUCATION.


This narrative which I am now writing is neither more nor less than an
account of what befell certain of my acquaintances during a period
extending over nearly, or quite, twenty years, interspersed, and let us
hope embellished, with descriptions of the country in which these
circumstances took place, and illustrated by conversations well known
to me by frequent repetition, selected as throwing light upon the
characters of the persons concerned. Episodes there are, too, which I
have thought it worth while to introduce as being more or less
interesting, as bearing on the manners of a country but little known,
out of which materials it is difficult to select those most proper to
make my tale coherent; yet such has been my object, neither to dwell on
the one hand unnecessarily on the more unimportant passages, nor on the
other hand to omit anything which may be supposed to bear on the
general course of events.

Now, during all the time above mentioned, I, Geoffry Hamlyn, have
happened to lead a most uninteresting, and with few exceptions
prosperous existence. I was but little concerned, save as a hearer, in
the catalogue of exciting accidents and offences which I chronicle. I
have looked on with the deepest interest at the lovemaking, and ended
a bachelor; I have witnessed the fighting afar off, only joining the
battle when I could not help it, yet I am a steady old fogey, with a
mortal horror of a disturbance of any sort. I have sat drinking with
the wine-bibbers, and yet at sixty my hand is as steady as a rock.
Money has come to me by mere accumulation; I have taken more pains to
spend it than to make it; in short, all through my life's drama, I have
been a spectator, and not an actor, and so in this story I shall keep
myself as much as possible in the background, only appearing personally
when I cannot help it.

Acting on this resolve I must now make my CONGE, and bid you farewell
for a few years, and go back to those few sheep which James Stockbridge
and I own in the wilderness, and continue the history of those who are
more important than myself. I must push on too, for there is a long
period of dull stupid prosperity coming to our friends at Baroona and
Toonarbin, which we must get over as quickly as is decent. Little Sam
Buckley also, though at present a most delightful child, will soon be a
mere uninteresting boy. We must teach him to read and write, and ride,
and what not, as soon as possible, and see if we can't find a young
lady--well, I won't anticipate, but go on. Go on, did I say?--jump
on, rather--two whole years at once.

See Baroona now. Would you know it? I think not. That hut where we
spent the pleasant Christmas-day you know of is degraded into the
kitchen, and seems moved backward, although it stands in the same
place, for a new house is built nearer the river, quite overwhelming
the old slab hut in its grandeur--a long low wooden house, with deep
cool verandahs all round, already festooned with passion-flowers, and
young grapevines, and fronted by a flower garden, all a-blaze with
petunias and geraniums.

It was a summer evening, and all the French windows reaching to the
ground were open to admit the cool south wind, which had just come up,
deliciously icily cold after a scorching day. In the verandah sat the
Major and the Doctor over their claret (for the Major had taken to
dining late again now, to his great comfort), and in the garden were
Mrs. Buckley and Sam watering the flowers, attended by a man who drew
water from a new-made reservoir near the house.

"I think, Doctor," said the Major, "that the habit of dining in the
middle of the day is a gross abuse of the gifts of Providence, and I'll
prove it to you. What does a man dine for?--answer me that."

"To satisfy his hunger, I should say," answered the Doctor.

"Pooh! pooh! stuff and nonsense, my good friend," said the Major; "you
are speaking at random. I suppose you will say, then, that a black
fellow is capable of dining?"

"Highly capable, as far as I can judge from what I have seen," replied
the Doctor. "A full-grown fighting black would be ashamed if he
couldn't eat a leg of mutton at a sitting."

"And you call that DINING?" said the Major. "I call it gorging. Why,
those fellows are more uncomfortable after food than before. I have
seen them sitting close before the fire and rubbing their stomachs with
mutton fat to reduce the swelling. Ha! ha! ha!--dining, eh? Oh, Lord!"

"Then if you don't dine to satisfy your hunger, what the deuce do you
eat dinners for at all?" asked the Doctor.

"Why," said the Major, spreading his legs out before him with a benign
smile, and leaning back in his chair, "I eat my dinner, not so much for
the sake of the dinner itself, as for the after-dinnerish feeling which
follows: a feeling that you have nothing to do, and that if you had
you'd be shot if you'd do it. That, to return to where I started from,
is why I won't dine in in the middle of the day."

"If that is the way you feel after dinner, I certainly wouldn't."

"All the most amiable feelings in the human breast," continued the
Major, "are brought out in their full perfection by dinner. If a fellow
were to come to me now and ask me to lend him ten pounds, I'd do it,
provided, you know, that he would fetch out the cheque-book and pen and
ink."

"Laziness is nothing," said the Doctor, "unless well carried out. I
only contradicted you, however, to draw you out; I agree entirely. Do
you know, my friend, I am getting marvellously fond of this climate."

"So am I. But then you know, Doctor, that we are sheltered from the
north wind here by the snow-ranges. The summer in Sydney, now, is
perfectly infernal. The dust is so thick you can't see your hand before
you."

"So I believe," said the Doctor. "By the bye, I got a new butterfly
to-day; rather an event, mind you, here, where there are so few."

"What is he?"

"An Hipparchia," said the Doctor, "Sam saw him first and gave chase."

"You seem to be making quite a naturalist of my boy, Doctor. I am
sincerely obliged to you. If we can make him take to that sort of thing
it may keep him out of much mischief."

"He will never get into much," said the Doctor, "unless I am mistaken;
he is the most docile child I ever came across. It is a pleasure to be
with him. What are you going to do with him?"

"He must go to school, I am afraid," said the Major with a sigh, "I
can't bring my heart to part with him; but his mother has taught him
all she knows, so I suppose he must go to school and fight, and get
flogged, and come home with a pipe in his mouth, and an oath on his
lips, with his education completed. I don't fancy his staying here
among these convict servants, when he is old enough to learn mischief."

"He'll learn as much mischief at a colonial school, I expect," said the
Doctor, "and more too. All the evil he hears from these fellows will be
like the water on a duck's back; whereas, if you send him to school in
a town, he'll learn a dozen vices he'll never hear of here. Get him a
tutor."

"That is easier said than done, Doctor. It is very hard to get a
respectable tutor in the colony."

"Here is one at your hand," said the Doctor. "Take me."

"My dear friend," said the Major, jumping up, "I would not have dared
to ask such a thing. If you would undertake him for a short time?"

"I will undertake the boy's education altogether. Potztausend, and why
not! It will be a labour of love, and therefore the more thoroughly
done. What shall he learn, now?"

"That I must leave to you."

"A weighty responsibility," said the Doctor. "No Latin or Greek, I
suppose? They will be no use to him here."

"Well--no; I suppose not. But I should like him to learn his Latin
grammar. You may depend upon it there's something in the Latin
grammar."

"What use has it been to you, Major?"

"Why, the least advantage it has been to me is to give me an insight
into the construction of languages, which is some use. But while I was
learning the Latin grammar, I learnt other things besides, of more use
than the construction of any languages, living or dead. First, I learnt
that there were certain things in this world that MUST be done. Next,
that there were people in this world, of whom the Masters of Eton were
a sample, whose orders must be obeyed without question. Third, I found
that it was pleasanter in all ways to do one's duty than to leave it
undone. And last, I found out how to bear a moderate amount of birching
without any indecent outcry."

"All very useful things," said the Doctor. "Teach a boy one thing well,
and you show him how to learn others. History, I suppose?"

"As much as you like, Doctor. His mother has taught him his catechism,
and all that sort of thing, and she is the fit person, you know. With
the exception of that and the Latin grammar, I trust everything to
your discretion."

"There is one thing I leave to you, Major, if you please, and that is
corporal chastisement. I am not at all sure that I could bring myself
to flog Sam, and, if I did, it would be very inefficiently done."

"Oh, I'll undertake it," said the Major, "though I believe I shall have
an easy task. He won't want much flogging."

At this moment Mrs. Buckley approached with a basketful of fresh-gathered
flowers. "The roses don't flower well here, Doctor," she said,
"but the geraniums run mad. Here is a salmon-coloured one for your
button-hole."

"He has earned it well, Agnes," said her husband. "He has decided the
discussion we had last night by offering to undertake Sam's education
himself."

"And God's blessing on him for it!" said Mrs. Buckley warmly. "You have
taken a great load off my mind, Doctor. I should never have been happy
if that boy had gone to school. Come here, Sam."

Sam came bounding into the verandah, and clambered up on his father,
as if he had been a tree. He was now eleven years old, and very tall
and wellformed for his age. He was a good-looking boy, with regular
features, and curly chestnut hair. He had, too, the large grey-blue eye
of his father, an eye that never lost for a moment its staring
expression of kindly honesty, and the lad's whole countenance was one
which, without being particularly handsome, or even very intelligent,
won an honest man's regard at first sight.

"My dear Sam," said his mother, "leave off playing with your father's
hair, and listen to me, for I have something serious to say to you.
Last night your father and I were debating about sending you to school,
but Doctor Mulhaus has himself offered to be your tutor, thereby giving
you advantages, for love, which you never could have secured for money.
Now, the least we can expect of you, my dear boy, is that you will be
docile and attentive to him."

"I will try, Doctor dear," said Sam. "But I am very stupid sometimes,
you know."

So the good Doctor, whose head was stored with nearly as much of human
knowledge as mortal head could hold, took simple, guileless little Sam
by the hand, and led him into the garden of knowledge. Unless I am
mistaken, these two will pick more flowers than they will dig potatoes
in the aforesaid garden, but I don't think that two such honest souls
will gather much unwholesome fruit. The danger is that they will waste
their time, which is no danger at all, but a certainty.

I believe that such an education as our Sam got from the Doctor would
have made a slattern and a faineant out of half the boys in England. If
Sam had been a clever boy, or a conceited boy, he would have ended with
a superficial knowledge of things in general, imagining he knew
everything when he knew nothing, and would have been left in the end,
without a faith either religious or political, a useless, careless man.

This danger the Doctor foresaw in the first month, and going to the
Major abruptly, as he walked up and down the garden, took his arm, and
said,--

"See here, Buckley. I have undertaken to educate that boy of yours, and
every day I like the task better, and yet every day I see that I have
undertaken something beyond me. His appetite for knowledge is insatiable,
but he is not an intellectual boy; he makes no deductions of his
own, but takes mine for granted. He has no commentary on what he
learns, but that of a dissatisfied idealist like me, a man who has been
thrown among circumstances sufficiently favourable to make a prime
minister out of some men, and yet who has ended by doing nothing.
Another thing: this is my first attempt at education, and I have not
the schoolmaster's art to keep him to details. Every day I make new
resolutions, and every day I break them. The boy turns his great eyes
upon me in the middle of some humdrum work, and asks me a question. In
answering, I get off the turnpike road, and away we go from lane to
lane, from one subject to another, until lesson-time is over, and
nothing done. And, if it were merely time wasted, it could be made up,
but he remembers every word I say, and believes in it like gospel, when
I myself couldn't remember half of it to save my life. Now, my dear
fellow, I consider your boy to be a very sacred trust to me, and so I
have mentioned all this to you, to give you an opportunity of removing
him to where he might be under a stricter discipline, if you thought
fit. If he was like some boys, now, I should resign my post at once
but, as it is, I shall wait till you turn me out, for two reasons. The
first is, that I take such delight in my task, that I do not care to
relinquish it; and the other is, that the lad is naturally so orderly
and gentle, that he does not need discipline, like most boys."

"My dear Doctor," replied Major Buckley, "listen to me. If we were in
England, and Sam could go to Eton, which, I take it you know, is the
best school in the world, I would still earnestly ask you to continue
your work. He will probably inherit a great deal of money, and will not
have to push his way in the world by his brains; so that close
scholarship will be rather unnecessary. I should like him to know
history well and thoroughly; for he may mix in the political life of
this little colony by and by. Latin grammar, you know," he said,
laughing, "is indispensable. Doctor, I trust my boy with you because I
know that you will make him a gentleman, as his mother, with God's
blessing, will make him a Christian."

So, the Doctor buckled to his task again, with renewed energy; to
Euclid, Latin grammar, and fractions. Sam's good memory enabled him to
make light of the grammar, and the fractions too were no great
difficulty, but the Euclid was an awful trial. He couldn't make out
what it was all about. He got on very well until he came nearly to the
end of the first book, and then getting among the parallelogram
"props," as we used to call them (may their fathers' graves be
defiled!), he stuck dead. For a whole evening did he pore patiently
over one of them till A B, setting to C D, crossed hands, poussetted,
and whirled round "in Sahara waltz" through his throbbing head. Bed-time,
but no rest! Whether he slept or not he could not tell. Who could
sleep with that long-bodied, ill-tempered-looking parallelogram A H
standing on the bed-clothes, and crying out, in tones loud enough to
waken the house, that it never had been, nor never would be equal to
the fat jolly square C K? So, in the morning, Sam woke to the
consciousness that he was farther off from the solution than ever, but,
having had a good cry, went into the study and tackled to it again.

No good! Breakfast time, and matters much worse! That long peaked-nose
vixen of a triangle A H C, which yesterday Sam had made out was equal
to half the parallelogram and half the square, now had the audacity
to declare that she had nothing to do with either of them; so what was
to be done now?

After breakfast Sam took his book and went out to his father, who was
sitting smoking in the verandah. He clambered up on to his knee, and
then began:--

"Father, dear, see here; can you understand this? You've got to prove,
you know,--oh, dear! I've forgot that now."

"Let's see," said the Major; "I am afraid this is a little above me.
There's Brentwood, now, could do it; he was in the Artillery, you know,
and learnt fortification, and that sort of thing. I don't think I can
make much hand of it, Sam."

But Sam had put his head upon his father's shoulder, and was crying
bitterly.

"Come, come, my old man," said the Major, "don't give way, you know;
don't be beat."

"I can't make it out at all," said Sam, sobbing. "I've got such a
buzzing in my head with it! And if I can't do it I must stop; because I
can't go on to the next till I understand this. Oh, dear me!"

"Lay your head there a little, my boy, till it gets clearer; then
perhaps you will be able to make it out. You may depend on it that you
ought to learn it, or the good Doctor wouldn't have set it to you:
never let a thing beat you, my son."

So Sam cried on his father's shoulder a little, and then went in with
his book; and not long after, the Doctor looked in unperceived, and saw
the boy with his elbows on the table and the book before him. Even
while he looked a big tear fell plump into the middle of A H; so the
Doctor came quietly in and said,--

"Can't you manage it, Sam?"

Sam shook his head.

"Just give me hold of the book; will you, Sam?"

Sam complied without word or comment; the Doctor sent it flying through
the open window, halfway down the garden. "There!" said he, nodding
his head, "that's the fit place for him this day: you've had enough of
him at present; go and tell one of the blacks to dig some worms, and
we'll make holiday and go a fishing."

Sam looked at the Doctor, and then through the window at his old
enemy lying in the middle of the flowerbed. He did not like to see
the poor book, so lately his master, crumpled and helpless, fallen from
its high estate so suddenly. He would have gone to its assistance, and
picked it up and smoothed it, the more so as he felt that he had been
beaten.

The Doctor seemed to see everything. "Let it lie here, my child," he
said; "you are not in a position to assist a fallen enemy; you are
still the vanquished party. Go and get the worms."

He went, and when he came back he found the Doctor sitting beside his
father in the verandah, with a penknife in one hand and the ace of
spades in the other. He cut the card into squares, triangles, and
parallelograms, while Sam looked on, and, demonstrating as he went,
fitted them one into the other, till the boy saw his bugbear of a
proposition made as clear as day before his eyes.

"Why," said Sam, "that's all as clear as need be. I understand it. Now
may I pick the book up, Doctor?"

History was the pleasantest part of all Sam's tasks, for they would sit
in the little room given up for a study, with the French windows open
looking on the flower-garden, Sam reading aloud and the Doctor making
discursive commentaries. At last, one day the Doctor said,--

"My boy, we are making too much of a pleasure of this: you must really
learn your dates. Now tell me the date of the accession of Edward the
Sixth."

No returns.

"Ah! I thought so: we must not be so discursive. We'll learn the dates
of the Grecian History, as being an effort of memory, you not having
read it yet."

But this plan was rather worse than the other; for one morning, Sam
having innocently asked, at half-past eleven, what the battle of
Thermopylae was, Mrs. Buckley coming in, at one, to call them to lunch,
found the Doctor, who had begun the account of that glorious fight in
English, and then gone on to German, walking up and down the room in a
state of excitement, reciting to Sam, who did not know delta from
psi, the soul-moving account of it from Herodotus in good sonorous
Greek. She asked, laughing, "What language are you talking now, my dear
Doctor?"

"Greek, madam, Greek! and the very best of Greek!"

"And what does Sam think of it? I should like you to learn Greek, my
boy, if you can."

"I thought he was singing, mother," said Sam; but after that the lad
used to sit delighted, by the river side, when they were fishing, while
the Doctor, with his musical voice, repeated some melodious ode of
Pindar's.

And so the intellectual education proceeded, with more or less energy;
and meanwhile the physical and moral part was not forgotten, though the
two latter, like the former, were not very closely attended to, and
left a good deal to Providence. (And, having done your best for a boy,
in what better hands can you leave him?) But the Major, as an old
soldier, had gained a certain faith in the usefulness of physical
training; so, when Sam was about twelve, you might have seen him any
afternoon on the lawn, with his father, the Major, patiently teaching
him singlestick, and Sam as patiently learning, until the boy came to
be so marvellously active on his legs, and to show such rapidity of eye
and hand, that the Major, on one occasion, having received a more than
usually agonizing cut on the forearm, remarked that he thought he was
not quite so active on his pins as formerly, and that he must hand the
boy over to the Doctor.

"Doctor," said he that day, "I have taught my boy ordinary sword play
till, by Jove, sir, he is getting quicker than I am. I wish you would
take him in hand and give him a little fencing."

"Who told you I could fence?" said the Doctor.

"Why, I don't know; no one, I think. I have judged, I fancy, more by
seeing you flourish your walking-stick than anything else. You are a
fencer, are you not?"

The Doctor laughed. He was, in fact, a consummate MAITRE D'ARMES; and
Captain Brentwood, before spoken of, no mean fencer, coming to Baroona
on a visit, found that our friend could do exactly as he liked with
him, to the Captain's great astonishment. And Sam soon improved under
his tuition, not indeed to the extent of being a master of the weapon;
he was too large and loosely built for that; but, at all events, so far
as to gain an upright and elastic carriage, and to learn the use of his
limbs.

The Major issued an edict, giving the most positive orders against its
infringement, that Sam should never mount a horse without his special
leave and licence. He taught him to ride, indeed, but would not give
him much opportunity for practising it. Once or twice a-week he would
take him out, but seldom oftener. Sam, who never dreamt of questioning
the wisdom and excellence of any of his father's decisions, rather
wondered at this; pondering in his own mind how it was that, while all
the lads he knew around, now getting pretty numerous, lived, as it
were, on horseback, never walking a quarter of a mile on any
occasion, he alone should be discouraged from it. "Perhaps," he said to
himself one day, "he doesn't want me to make many acquaintances. Its
true, Charley Delisle smokes and swears, which is very ungentlemanly;
but Cecil Mayford, Dad says, is a perfect little gentleman, and I
ought to see as much of him as possible, and yet he wouldn't give me a
horse to go to their muster. Well, I suppose he has some reason for
it."

One holiday the Doctor and the Major were sitting in the verandah after
breakfast, when Sam entered to them, and, clambering on to his father
as his wont was, said,--

"See here, father! Harry is getting in some young beasts at the stockyard
hut, and Cecil Mayford is coming over to see if any of theirs are
among them; may I go out and meet him?"

"To be sure, my boy; why not?"

"May I have Bronsewing, father? He is in the stable."

"It is a nice cool day, and only four miles; why not walk out, my boy?"

Sam looked disappointed, but said nothing.

"I know all about it, my child," said the Major; "Cecil will be there
on Blackboy, and you would like to show him that Bronsewing is the
superior pony of the two. That's all very natural; but still I say, get
your hat, Sam, and trot through the forest on your own two legs, and
bring Cecil home to dinner."

Sam still looked disappointed, though he tried not to show it. He went
and got his hat, and, meeting the dogs, got such a wild welcome from
them that he forgot all about Bronsewing. Soon his father saw him
merrily crossing the paddock with the whole kennel of the
establishment, Kangaroo dogs, cattle dogs, and colleys, barking
joyously around him.

"There's a good lesson manfully learnt, Doctor," said the Major; "he
has learnt to sacrifice his will to mine without argument, because he
knows I have always a reason for things. I want that boy to ride as
little as possible, but he has earned an exception in his favour
to-day.--Jerry!" (After a few calls the stableman appeared.) "Put Mr.
Samuel's saddle on Bronsewing, and mine on Ricochette, and bring them
round."

So Sam, walking cheerily forward singing, under the light and shadow of
the old forest, surrounded by his dogs, hears horses' feet behind him,
and looking back sees his father riding and leading Bronsewing saddled.

"Jump up, my boy," said the Major; "Cecil shall see what Bronsewing is
like, and how well you can sit him. The reason I altered my mind was
that I might reward you for acting like a man, and not arguing. Now, I
don't want you to ride much yet for a few years. I don't want my lad to
grow up with a pair of bow legs like a groom, and probably something
worse, from living on horseback before his bones are set. You see I
have a good reason for what I do."

But I think that the lessons Sam liked best of all were the swimming
lessons, and at a very early age he could swim and dive like a black,
and once when disporting himself in the water, when not more than
thirteen, poor Sam nearly had a stop put to his bathing for ever, and
that in a very frightful manner.

His father and he had gone down to bathe one hot noon; the Major had
swum out and was standing on the rock wiping himself while Sam was
still disporting in the mid-river; as he watched the boy he saw what
seemed a stick upon the water, and then, as he perceived the ripple
around it, the horrible truth burst on the affrighted father: it was a
large black snake crossing the river, and poor little Sam was swimming
straight towards it, all unconscious of his danger.

The Major cried out and waved his hand; the boy, seeing something was
wrong, turned and made for the shore, and the next moment his father,
bending his body back, hurled himself through the air and alighted in
the water alongside of him, clutching him round the body, and heading
down the river with furious strokes.

"Don't cling, Sam, or get frightened; make for the shore."

The lad, although terribly frightened at he knew not what, with
infinite courage seconded his father's efforts although he felt
sinking. In a few minutes they were safe on the bank, in time for them
to see the reptile land, and crawling up the bank disappear among the
rocks.

"God has been very good to us, my son. You have been saved from a
terrible death. Mind you don't breathe a word to your mother about
this."

That night Sam dreamt that he was in the coils of a snake, but waking
up found that his father was laid beside him in his clothes with one
arm round his neck, so he went to sleep again and thought no more of
the snake.

"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not"--a saying which it
is just possible you have heard before. I can tell you where it comes
from: it is one of the apothegms of the king of a little eastern nation
who at one time were settled in Syria, and whose writings are not much
read now-a-days, in consequence of the vast mass of literature of a
superior kind which this happy century has produced. I can recommend
the book, however, as containing some original remarks, and being
generally worth reading. The meaning of the above quotation (and the
man who said it, mind you, had at one time a reputation for shrewdness)
is, as I take it, that a man's morals are very much influenced by the
society he is thrown among; and although in these parliamentary times
we know that kings must of necessity be fools, yet in this instance I
think that the man shows some glimmerings of reason, for his remark
tallies singularly with my own personal observation; so, acting on
this, while I am giving you the history of this little wild boy of the
bush, I cannot do better than give some account of the companions with
whom he chiefly assorted out of school-hours.

With broad intelligent forehead, with large loving hazel eyes, with a
frill like Queen Elizabeth, with a brush like a fox; deep in the
brisket, perfect in markings of black, white, and tan; in sagacity a
Pitt, in courage an Anglesey, Rover stands first on my list, and claims
to be king of Colley-dogs. In politics I should say Conservative of the
high Protectionist sort. Let us have no strange dogs about the place to
grub up sacred bones, or we will shake out our frills and tumble them
in the dust. Domestic cats may mioul in the garden at night to a
certain extent, but a line must be drawn; after that they must be
chased up trees and barked at, if necessary, all night. Opossums and
native cats are unfit to cumber the earth, and must be hunted into
holes, wherever possible. Cows and other horned animals must not come
into the yard, or even look over the garden fence, under penalties.
Black fellows must be barked at, and their dogs chased to the uttermost
limits of the habitable globe. Such were the chief points of the creed
subscribed to by Sam's dog Rover.

All the love that may be between dog and man, and man and dog, existed
between Sam and Rover. Never a fresh cheery morning when the boy arose
with the consciousness of another happy day before him, but that the
dog was waiting for him as he stepped from his window into clear
morning air. Never a walk in the forest, but that Rover was his merry
companion. And what would lessons have been without Rover looking in
now and then with his head on one side, and his ears cocked, to know
when he would be finished and come out to play?

Oh, memorable day, when Sam got separated from his father in the Yass,
and, looking back, saw a cloud of dust in the road, and dimly descried
Rover, fighting valiantly against fearful odds, with all the dogs in
the township upon him! He rode back, and prayed for assistance from the
men lounging in front of the publichouse; who, pitying his distress,
pulled off all the dogs till there were only left Rover and a great
white bulldog to do battle. The fight seemed going against Sam's dog;
for the bulldog had him by the neck, and held him firm, so that he
could do nothing. Nevertheless, mind yourself, master bulldog; you've
only got a mouthful of long hair there; and when you do let go, I
think, there is danger for you in those fierce gleaming eyes, and
terrible grinning fangs.

Sam was crying; and the men round were saying, "Oh! take the bulldog
off; the colley's no good to him,"--when a man suddenly appeared at
Sam's side, and called out,

"I'll back the colley for five pounds, and here's my money!"

Half-a-dozen five-pound notes were ready for him at once; and he had
barely got the stakes posted before the event proved he was right. In
an evil moment for him the bulldog loosed his hold, and, ere he had
time to turn round, Rover had seized him below the eye, and was
dragging him about the road, worrying him as he would worry an opossum:
so the discomfited owner had to remove his bulldog to save his life.
Rover, after showing his teeth and shaking himself, came to Sam as
fresh as a daisy; and the new comer pocketed his five pounds.

"I am so much obliged to you," said Sam, turning to him, "for taking my
dog's part! They were all against me."

"I'm much obliged to your dog, sir, for winning me five pound so easy.
But there ain't a many bad dogs, or bad men either, about Major
Buckley's house."

"Then you know us?" said Sam.

"Ought to it, sir. An old Devonshire man. Mr. Hamlyn's stud-groom,
sir--Dick."

Well, as I am going to write Rover's life, in three volumes post
octavo, I won't any further entrench on my subject matter, save to say
that, while on the subject of Sam's education, I could not well omit a
notice of the aforesaid Rover. For, I think that all a man can learn
from a dog, Sam learnt from him; and that is something. Now let us go
on to the next of his notable acquaintances.

Who is this glorious, blue-eyed, curly-headed boy, who bursts into the
house like a whirlwind, making it ring again with merry laughter? This
is Jim Brentwood, of whom we shall see much anon.

At Waterloo, when the French cavalry were coming up the hill, and our
artillerymen were running for the squares, deftly trundling their
gun-wheels before them, it happened that there came running towards the
square where Major Buckley stood like a tower of strength (the tallest
man in the regiment), an artillery officer, begrimed with mud and
gunpowder, and dragging a youth by the collar, or rather, what seemed
to be the body of a youth. Some cried out to him to let go; but he
looked back, seeming to measure the distance between the cavalry and
the square, and then, never loosing his hold, held on against hope.
Every one thought he would be too late; when some one ran out of the
square (men said it was Buckley), and, throwing the wounded lad over
his shoulder, ran with him into safety; and a cheer ran along the line
from those who saw him do it. Small time for cheering then; for neither
could recover his breath before there came a volley of musketry, and
all around them, outside the bayonets, was a wild sea of fierce men's
faces, horses' heads, gleaming steel, and French blasphemy. A strange
scene for the commencement of an acquaintance! And yet it throve; for
that same evening, Buckley, talking to his Colonel, saw the artillery
officer coming towards them, and asked who he might be?

"That," said the Colonel, "is Brentwood of the Artillery, who ran away
with Lady Kate Bingley, and they haven't a rap to bless themselves
with, sir. It was her brother that you and he fetched into the square
to-day."

And so began a friendship which lasted the lives of both men; and, I
doubt not, will last their sons' lives too. For Brentwood lived within
thirty miles of the Major, and their sons spent much of their time
together, having such a friendship for one another as only boys can
have.

Captain Brentwood's son Jim was a very different boy to Sam, though a
very fine fellow too. Mischief and laughter were the apparent objects
of his life; and when the Doctor saw him approaching the house, he used
to put away Sam's lesson-books with a sigh and wait for better times.
The Captain had himself undertaken his son's education, and, being a
somewhat dreamy man, excessively attached to mathematics, Jim had got,
altogether, a very remarkable education indeed; which, however, is
hardly to our purpose just now. Brentwood, I must say, was a widower,
and a kindhearted, easy-going man; he had, besides, a daughter, who
was away at school. Enough of them at present.

The next of Sam's companions who takes an important part in this
history is Cecil Mayford--a delicate, clever little dandy, and
courageous withal; with more brains in his head, I should say, than Sam
and Jim could muster between them. His mother was a widow, who owned
the station next down the river from the Buckleys', distant about five
miles, and which, since the death of her husband, Doctor Mayford, she
had managed with the assistance of an overseer. She had, besides Cecil,
a little daughter of great beauty.

Also, I must here mention that the next station below Mrs. Mayford's,
on the river, distant by the windings of the valley fifteen miles, and
yet, in consequence of a bend, scarcely ten from Major Buckley's at
Baroona, was owned and inhabited by Yahoos (by name Donovan), with whom
we had nothing to do. But this aforesaid station, which is called
Garoopna, will shortly fall into other hands, when you will see that
many events of deep importance will take place there, and many pleasant
hours spent there by all our friends, more particularly one--by name
Sam.

"There is one other left of whom I must say something here, and more
immediately. The poor, puling little babe, born in misery and disaster,
Mary Hawker's boy Charles!"

Toonarbin was but a short ten miles from Baroona, and, of course, the
two families were as one. There was always a hostage from the one house
staying as a visitor in the other; and, under such circumstances, of
course, Charles and Sam were much together, and, as time went on, got
to be firm friends.

Charles was two years younger than Sam; the smallest of all the lads,
and perhaps the most unhappy. For the truth must be told: he was morose
and uncertain in his temper; and although all the other boys bore
with him most generously, as one whom they had heard was born under
some great misfortune, yet he was hardly a favourite amongst them; and
the poor boy, sometimes perceiving this, would withdraw from his play,
and sulk alone, resisting all the sober, kind inducements of Sam, and
the merry, impetuous persuasions of Jim, to return.

But he was a kind, good-hearted boy, nevertheless. His temper was not
under control; but, after one of his fierce, volcanic bursts of
ill-humour, he would be acutely miserable and angry with himself for days,
particularly if the object of it had been Jim or Sam, his two especial
favourites. On one occasion, after a causeless fit of anger with Jim,
while the three were at Major Buckley's together, he got his pony and
rode away home, secretly speaking to no one. The other two lamented all
the afternoon that he had taken the matter so seriously, and were
debating even next morning going after him to propitiate him, when
Charles reappeared, having apparently quite recovered his temper, but
evidently bent upon something.

He had a bird, a white corrella, which could talk and whistle
surprisingly, probably, in fact, the most precious thing he owned. This
prodigy he had now brought back in a basket as a peace-offering, and
refused to be comforted, unless Jim accepted it as a present.

"But see, Charley," said Jim, "I was as much in the wrong as you were"
(which was not fact, for Jim was perfectly innocent). "I wouldn't take
your bird for the world."

But Charles said that his mother approved of it, and if Jim didn't take
it he'd let it fly.

"Well, if you will, old fellow," said Jim, "I'll tell you what I would
rather have. Give me Fly's dun pup instead, and take the bird home."

So this was negotiated after a time, and the corrella was taken back to
Toonarbin, wildly excited by the journey, and calling for strong liquor
all the way home.

Those who knew the sad circumstances of poor Charles's birth (the
Major, the Doctor, and Mrs. Buckley) treated him with such kindness
and consideration, that they won his confidence and love. In any of his
Berserk fits, if his mother were not at hand, he would go to Mrs.
Buckley and open his griefs; and her motherly tact and kindness seldom
failed to still the wild beatings of that poor, sensitive, silly little
heart, so that in time he grew to love her as only second to his
mother.

Such is my brief and imperfect, and I fear tedious account of Sam's
education, and of the companions with whom he lived, until the boy had
grown into a young man, and his sixteenth birthday came round, on which
day, as had been arranged, he was considered to have finished his
education, and stand up, young as he was, as a man.

Happy morning, and memorable for one thing at least--that his father,
coming into his bedroom and kissing his forehead, led him out to the
front door, where was a groom holding a horse handsomer than any Sam
had seen before, which pawed the gravel impatient to be ridden, and ere
Sam had exhausted half his expressions of wonder and admiration--that
his father told him the horse was his, a birthday-present from his
mother.




Chapter XXIII



TOONARBIN.


"But," I think I hear you say, "What has become of Mary Hawker all this
time? You raised our interest about her somewhat, at first, as a young
and beautiful woman, villain-beguiled, who seemed, too, to have a
temper of her own, and promised, under circumstances, to turn out a bit
of a b--mst-ne. What is she doing all this time? Has she got fat, or
had the small-pox, that you neglect her like this? We had rather more
than we wanted of her and her villanous husband in the first volume;
and now nothing. Let us, at all events, hear if she is dead or alive.
And her husband, too,--although we hope, under Providence, that he has
left this wicked world, yet we should be glad to hear of it for
certain. Make inquiries, and let us know the result. Likewise, be so
good as inform us, how is Miss Thornton?"

To all this I answer humbly, that I will do my best. If you will bring
a dull chapter on you, duller even than all the rest, at least read it,
and exonerate me. The fact is, my dear sir, that women like Mary Hawker
are not particularly interesting in the piping times of peace. In
volcanic and explosive times they, with their wild animal passions,
become tragical and remarkable, like baronesses of old. But in tranquil
times, as I said, they fall into the back-ground, and show us the value
and excellence of such placid, noble helpmates, as the serene, high-bred
Mrs. Buckley.

A creek joined the river about a mile below the Buckleys' station,
falling into the main stream with rather a pretty cascade, which even
at the end of the hottest summer poured a tiny silver thread across the
black rocks. Above the cascade the creek cut deep into the table land,
making a charming glen, with precipitous blue stone walls, some eighty
or ninety feet in height, fringed with black wattle and lightwood, and
here and there, among the fallen rocks nearest the water, a fern tree
or so, which last I may say are no longer there, Dr. Mulhaus having cut
the hearts out of them and eaten them for cabbage. Should you wander up
this little gully on a hot summer's day, you would be charmed with the
beauty of the scenery, and the shady coolness of the spot; till coming
upon a black snake coiled away among the rocks, like a rope on the deck
of a man of war, you would probably withdraw, not without a strong
inclination to "shy" at every black stick you saw for the rest of the
day. For this lower part of the Moira creek was, I am sorry to say, the
most troubled locality for snakes, diamond, black, carpet, and other,
which I ever happened to see.

But following this creek you would find that the banks got rapidly less
precipitous, and at length it swept in long curves through open forest
glades, spreading, too, into deep dark water-holes, only connected by
gravelly fords, with a slender stream of clear water running across the
yellow pebbles. These water-holes were the haunts of the platypus and
the tortoise. Here, too, were flocks of black duck and teal, and as you
rode past, the merry little snipe would rise from the water's edge, and
whisk away like lightning through the trees. Altogether a pleasant
woodland creek, alongside of which, under the mighty box-trees, ran a
sandy road, bordered with deep beds of bracken fern, which led from
Baroona of the Buckleys to Toonarbin of the Hawkers.

A pleasant road, indeed, winding through the old forest straight
towards the mountains, shifting its course so often that every minute
some new vista opened upon you, till at length you came suddenly upon a
clear space, beyond which rose a picturesque little granite cap, at the
foot of which you saw a charming house, covered with green creepers,
and backed by huts, sheepyards, a woolshed, and the usual
concomitants of a flourishing Australian sheep station. Behind all
again towered lofty, dark hanging woods, closing the prospect.

This is Toonarbin, where Mary Hawker, with her leal and trusty cousin
Tom Troubridge for partner, has pitched her tent, after all her
spasmodic, tragical troubles, and here she is leading as happy, and by
consequence as uninteresting, an existence as ever fell to the lot of a
handsome woman yet.

Mary and Miss Thornton had stayed with the Buckleys until good cousin
Tom had got a house ready to receive them, and then they moved up and
took possession. Mary and Tom were from the first copartners, and,
latterly, Miss Thornton had invested her money, about 2,000 pounds, in the
station. Matters were very prosperous, and, after a few years, Tom
began to get weighty and didactic in his speech, and to think of
turning his attention to politics.

To Mary the past seemed like a dream--as an old dream, well-nigh
forgotten. The scene was so changed that at times she could hardly
believe that all those dark old days were real. Could she, now so busy
and happy, be the same woman who sat worn and frightened over the dying
fire with poor Captain Saxon? Is she the same woman whose husband was
hurried off one wild night, and transported for coining? Or is all that
a hideous imagination?

No. Here is the pledge and proof that it is all too terribly real. This
boy, whom she loves so wildly and fiercely, is that man's son, and his
father, for aught she knows, is alive, and only a few poor hundred
miles off. Never mind; let it be forgotten as though it never was. So
she forgot it, and was happy.

But not always. Sometimes she could not but remember what she was, in
spite of the many kind friends who surrounded her, and the new and busy
life she led. Then would come a fit of despondency, almost of despair,
but the natural elasticity of her temper soon dispersed these clouds,
and she was her old self again.

Her very old self, indeed. That delicate-minded, intellectual old maid,
Miss Thornton, used to remark with silent horror on what she called
Mary's levity of behaviour with men, but more especially with honest
Tom Troubridge. Many a time, when the old lady was sitting darning (she
was always darning; she used to begin darning the things before they
were a week out of the draper's shop), would her tears fall upon her
work, as she saw Mary sitting with her child in her lap, smiling, while
the audacious Tom twisted a flower in her hair, in the way that pleased
him best. To see anything wrong, and to say nothing, was a thing
impossible. She knew that speaking to Mary would only raise a storm, and
so, knowing the man she had to deal with, she determined to speak to Tom.

She was not long without her opportunity. Duly darning one evening,
while Mary was away putting her boy to bed, Tom entered from his wine.
Him, with a combination of valour and judgment, she immediately
attacked, acting upon a rule once laid down to Mary--"My dear, if you
want to manage a man, speak to him after dinner."

"Mr. Troubridge," said Miss Thornton. "May I speak a few words to you
on private affairs?"

"Madam," said Tom, drawing up a chair, "I am at your service night or
day."

"A younger woman," said Miss Thornton, "might feel some delicacy in
saying what I am going to say. But old age has its privileges, and so I
hope to be forgiven."

"Dear Miss Thornton," said Tom, "you must be going to say something
very extraordinary if it requires forgiveness from me."

"Nay, my dear kinsman," said Miss Thornton; "if we begin exchanging
compliments, we shall talk all night, and never get to the gist of the
matter after all. Here is what I want to say. It seems to me that your
attentions to our poor Mary are somewhat more than cousinly, and it
behoves me to remind you that she is still a married woman. Is that too
blunt? Have I offended you?"

"Nay--no," said Tom; "you could never offend me. I think you are right
too. It shall be amended, madam."

And after this Mary missed many delicate little attentions that Tom had
been used to pay her. She thought he was sulky on some account at
first, but soon her good sense showed her that, if they two were to
live together, she must be more circumspect, or mischief would come.

For, after all, Tom had but small place in her heart. Heart filled
almost exclusively with this poor sulky little lad of hers, who seemed
born to trouble, as the sparks went upward. In teething even,
aggravating beyond experience, and afterwards suffering from the whole
list of juvenile evils, in such a way as boy never did before; coming
out of these troubles too, with a captious, disagreeable temper,
jealous in the extreme,--not a member who, on the whole, adds much to
the pleasure of the little household,--yet, with the blindest
passionate love towards some folks. Instance his mother, Thomas
Troubridge, and Sam Buckley.

For these three the lad had a wild hysterical affection, and yet none
of them had much power over him. Once by one unconsidered word arouse
the boy's obstinacy, and all chance of controlling him was gone. Then,
your only chance was to call in Miss Thornton, who had a way of
managing the boy, more potent than Mary's hysterics, and Tom's
indignant remonstrances, or Sam's quiet persuasions.

For instance,--once, when he was about ten years old, his mother set
him to learn some lesson or another, when he had been petitioning to go
off somewhere with the men. He was furiously naughty, and threw the
book to the other end of the room, all the threats and scoldings of his
mother proving insufficient to make him pick it up again. So that at
last she went out, leaving him alone, triumphant, with Miss Thornton,
who said not a word, but only raised her eyes off her work, from time
to time, to look reproachfully on the rebellious boy. He could stand
his mother's anger, but he could not stand those steady wondering looks
that came from under the old lady's spectacles. So that, when Mary came
in again, she found the book picked up, and the lesson learned.
Moreover, it was a fortnight before the lad misbehaved himself again.

In sickness and in health, in summer and in winter, for ten long years
after they settled at Toonarbin, did this noble old lady stand beside
Mary as a rock of refuge in all troubles, great or small. Always
serene, patient, and sensible, even to the last; for the time came when
this true and faithful servant was removed from among them to receive
her reward.

One morning she confessed herself unable to leave her bed; that was the
first notice they had. Doctor Mayford, sent for secretly, visited her.
"Break up of the constitution," said he,--"no organic disease,"--but
shook his head. "She will go," he added, "with the first frost. I can
do nothing." And Dr. Mulhaus, being consulted, said he was but an
amateur doctor, but concurred with Dr. Mayford. So there was nothing
to do but to wait for the end as patiently as might be.

During the summer she got out of bed, and sat in a chair, which Tom
used to lift dexterously into the verandah. There she would sit very
quietly; sometimes getting Mrs. Buckley, who came and lived at
Toonarbin that summer, to read a hymn for her; and, during this time,
she told them where she would like to be buried.

On a little knoll, she said, which lay to the right of the house,
barely two hundred yards from the window. Here the grass grew shorter
and closer than elsewhere, and here freshened more rapidly beneath the
autumn rains. Here, on winter's evenings, the slanting sunbeams
lingered longest, and here, at such times, she had been accustomed to
saunter, listening to the sighing of the wind, in the dark funeral
sheoaks and cypresses, like the far-off sea upon a sandy shore. Here,
too, came oftener than elsewhere a flock of lories, making the dark low
trees gay with flying living blossoms. And here she would lie with her
feet towards the east, her sightless eyes towards that dreary ocean
which she would never cross again.

One fresh spring morning she sat up and talked serenely to Mrs.
Buckley, about matters far higher and more sacred than one likes to
deal with in a tale of this kind, and, after a time, expressed a wish
for a blossom of a great amaryllis which grew just in front of her
window.

Mrs. Buckley got the flower for her, and so holding the crimson-striped
lily in her delicate, wasted fingers, the good old lady passed from
this world without a struggle, as decently and as quietly as she had
always lived in it.


* * * * *


This happened when Charles was about ten years old, and, for some time,
the lad was subdued and sad. He used to look out of the window at night
towards the grave, and wonder why they had put her they all loved so
well, to lie out there under the wild-sweeping winter rain. But, by
degrees, he got used to the little square white railing on the sheoak
knoll, and, ere half a year was gone, the memory of his aunt had become
very dim and indistinct.

Poor Mary, too, though a long while prepared for it, was very deeply
and sincerely grieved at Miss Thornton's death; but she soon recovered
from it. It came in the course of nature, and, although the house
looked blank and dull for a time, yet there was too much life all
around her, too much youthful happy life, to make it possible to dwell
very long on the death of one who had left them full of years and
honour. But Lord Frederick, before spoken of incidentally in this
narrative, playing billiards at Gibraltar, about a year after this; had
put into his hand a letter, from which, when opened, there fell a lock
of silver grey hair on the green cloth, which he carefully picked up,
and, leaving his game, went home to his quarters. His comrades thought
it was his father who was dead, and when they heard it was only his
sister's old governess, they wondered exceedingly; "for Fred," said
they, "is not given to be sentimental."

And now, in a year or two, it began to be very difficult to keep Master
Charley in order. When he was about thirteen, there was a regular
guerilla-war between him and his mother, on the subject of learning,
which ended, ultimately, in the boy flatly refusing to learn anything.
His natural capacities were but small, and, under any circumstances,
knowledge would only have been acquired by him with infinite pains.
But, as it was, with his selfishness fostered so excessively by his
mother's indulgence, and Tom's good-humoured carelessness, it became
totally impossible to teach him anything. In vain his mother scolded
and wept, in vain Tom represented to him the beauties and excellences
of learning--learn the boy would not; so that at fourteen he was given
up in despair by his mother, having learnt nearly enough of reading,
writing, and ciphering, to carry on the most ordinary business of life,
a most lamentable state of things for a lad who, in after life, would
be a rich man, and who, in a young and rapidly-rising country, might
become, by the help of education, politically influential.

I think that when Samuel Buckley and James Brentwood were grown to be
young men of eighteen or nineteen, and he was about seventeen or so, a
stranger would have seen a great deal of difference between the two
former and the latter, and would, probably, have remarked that James
and Sam spoke and behaved like two gentlemen, but that Charles did not,
but seemed as though he had come from a lower grade in society,--with
some truth too, for there was a circumstance in his bringing up which
brought him more harm than all his neglect of learning, and all his
mother's foolish indulgences.

Both Major Buckley and Captain Brentwood made it a law of the Medes and
Persians that neither of their sons should hold any conversation with
the convict servants, save in the presence of competent authorities;
and, indeed, they both, as soon as increased emigration enabled them,
removed their old household servants, and replaced them by free men,
newly arrived: a lazy independent class, certainly, with exaggerated
notions of their own importance in this new phase of their life, but
without the worse vices of the convicts. This rule, even in such
well-regulated households, was a very hard one to get observed, even under
flogging penalties; and, indeed, formed the staple affliction of poor
thoughtless Jim's early life, as this little anecdote will show:--

One day going to see Captain Brentwood, when Jim was about ten years
old, I met that young gentleman (looking, I thought, a little out of
sorts) about two hundred yards from the house. He turned with me to go
back, and, after the first salutations, I said,--

"Well, Jim, my boy, I hope you've been good since I saw you last?"

"Oh dear, no," was the answer, with a shake of the head that meant
volumes.

"I'm sorry to hear that; what is the matter?"

"I've been CATCHING it," said Jim, in a whisper, coming close alongside
of me. "A tea-stick as thick as my forefinger all over."--Here he
entered into particulars, which, however harmless in themselves, were
not of a sort usually written in books.

"That's a bad job," I said; "what was it for?"

"Why, I slipped off with Jerry to look after some colts on the black
swamp, and was gone all the afternoon; and so Dad missed me; and when
I got home didn't I CATCH IT! Oh lord, I'm all over blue wales; but
that ain't the worst."

"What's the next misfortune?" I inquired.

"Why, when he got hold of me he said, 'Is this the first time you have
been away with Jerry, sir?' and I said, 'Yes' (which was the awfullest
lie ever you heard, for I went over to Barker's with him two days
before); then he said, 'Well, I must believe you if you say so. I shall
not disgrace you by making inquiries among the men;' and then he gave
it to me for going that time, and since then I've felt like Cain and
Abel for telling him such a lie. What would you do,--eh?"

"I should tell him all about it," I said.

"Ah, but then I shall catch it again, don't you see! Hadn't I better
wait till these wales are gone down?"

"I wouldn't, if I were you," I answered; "I'd tell him at once."

"I wonder why he is so particular," said Jim; "the Delisles and the
Donovans spend as much of their time in the huts as they do in the
house."

"And fine young blackguards they'll turn out," I said; in which I was
right in those two instances. And although I have seen young fellows
brought up among convicts who have turned out respectable in the end,
yet it is not a promising school for good citizens.

But at Toonarbin no such precautions as these were taken with regard to
Charles. Tom was too careless, and Mary too indulgent. It was hard
enough to restrain the boy during the lesson hours, falsely so called.
After that he was allowed to go where he liked, and even his mother
sometimes felt relieved by his absence; so that he was continually in
the men's huts, listening to their yarns--sometimes harmless bush
adventures, sometimes, perhaps, ribald stories which he could not
understand; but one day Tom Troubridge coming by the hut looked in
quietly, and saw master Charles smoking a black pipe, (he was not more
than fourteen,) and heard such a conversation going on that he advanced
suddenly upon them, and ordered the boy home in a sterner tone than he
had ever used to him before, and looked out of the door till he had
disappeared. Then he turned round to the men.

There were three of them, all convicts, one of whom, the one he had
heard talking when he came in, was a large, desperate-looking fellow.
When these men mean to deprecate your anger, I have remarked they
always look you blankly in the face; but if they mean to defy you and
be impudent, they never look at you, but always begin fumbling and
fidgetting with something. So when Tom saw that the big man before
mentioned (Daniel Harvey by name) was stooping down before the fire, he
knew he was going to have a row, and waited.

"So boss," began the ruffian, not looking at him, "we ain't fit company
for the likes of that kinchin,--eh?"

"You're not fit company for any man except the hangman," said Tom,
looking more like six-foot-six than six-foot-three.

"Oh my----(colonial oath!)" said the other; "oh my----'cabbage tree!'
So there's going to be a coil about that scrubby little myrnonger; eh?
Don't you fret your bingy; boss; he'll be as good a man as his father
yet."

For an instant a dark shadow passed over Tom's face.

"So," he thought, "these fellows know all about George Hawker, eh?
Well, never mind; what odds if they do?" And then he said aloud,
turning round on Harvey, "Look you here, you dog; if I ever hear of
your talking in that style before that boy, or any other boy, by George
I'll twist your head off!"

He advanced towards him, as if to perform that feat on the spot; in a
moment the convict had snatched his knife from his belt and rushed upon
him.

Very suddenly indeed; but not quite quick enough to take the champion
of Devon by surprise. Ere he was well within reach Tom had seized the
hand that held the knife, and with a backward kick of his left foot
sent the embryo assassin sprawling on his back on the top of the fire,
whence Tom dragged him by his heels, far more astonished than burnt.
The other two men had, meanwhile, sat taking no notice, or seeming to
take none, of the disturbance. Now, however, one of them spoke, and
said,--

"I'm sure, sir, you didn't hear me say nothing wrong to the young
gent," and so on, in a whining tone, till Tom cut him short by saying
that, "if he had any more nonsense among them, he would send 'em all
three over to Captain Desborough, to the tune of fifty (lashes) a-piece."

After this little EMEUTE Charles did not dare to go into the huts, and
soon after these three men were exchanged. But there remained one man
whose conversation and teaching, though not, perhaps, so openly
outrageously villanous as that of the worthy Harvey, still had a very
unfortunate effect on his character.

This was a rather small, wiry, active man, by name Jackson, a native,
colonially convicted, very clever among horses, a capital light-weight
boxer, and in running superb, a pupil and PROTEGE of the immortal
"flying pieman," (May his shadow never be less!) a capital cricketer, and
a supreme humbug. This man, by his various accomplishments and great
tact, had won a high place in Tom Troubridge's estimation, and was put
in a place of trust among the horses; consequently having continual
access to Charles, to whom he made himself highly agreeable, as being
heir to the property; giving him such insights into the worst side of
sporting life, and such truthful accounts of low life in Sydney, as
would have gone far to corrupt a lad of far stronger moral principle
than he.

And so, between this teaching of evil and neglect of good, Mary
Hawker's boy did not grow up all that might be desired. And at
seventeen, I am sorry to say, he got into a most disreputable connexion
with a Highland girl, at one of the Donovans' out-station huts; which
caused his kindly guardian, Tom Troubridge, a great deal of vexation,
and his mother the deepest grief, which was much increased at the same
time by something I will relate in the next chapter.

So sixteen years rolled peacefully away, chequered by such trifling
lights and shadows as I have spoken of. The new generation, the
children of those whom we knew at first, are now ready to take their
places, and bear themselves with more or less credit in what may be
going on. And now comes a period which in the memory of all those whom
I have introduced to you ranks as the most important of their lives. To
me, looking back upon nearly sixty years of memory, the events which
are coming stand out from the rest of my quiet life, well defined and
remarkable, above all others. As looking on our western moors, one sees
the long straight sky-line, broken only once in many miles by some
fantastic Tor.




Chapter XXIV



IN WHICH MARY HAWKER LOSES ONE OF HER OLDEST SWEETHEARTS.


Sixteen years of peace and plenty had rolled over the heads of James
Stockbridge and myself, and we had grown to be rich. Our agent used to
rub his hands, and bow, whenever our high mightinesses visited town.
There was money in the bank, there was claret in the cellar, there were
race-horses in the paddock; in short, we were wealthy prosperous men--
James a magistrate.

November set in burning hot, and by the tenth the grass was as dry as
stubble; still we hoped for a thunder-storm and a few days' rain, but
none came. December wore wearily on, and by Christmas the smaller
creeks, except those which were snow-fed, were reduced to a few muddy
pools, and vast quantities of cattle were congregated within easy reach
of the river, from other people's runs, miles away.

Of course, feed began to get very scarce, yet we were hardly so bad off
yet as our neighbours, for we had just parted with every beast we could
spare, at high prices, to Port Phillip, and were only waiting for the
first rains to start after store cattle, which were somewhat hard to
get near the new colony.

No rain yet, and we were in the end of January; the fountains of heaven
were dried up, but now all round the northern horizon the bush fires
burn continually, a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by
night.

Nearer, night by night, like an enemy creeping up to a beleaguered
town. The weather had been very still for some time, and we took
precaution to burn great strips of grass all round the paddocks to the
north, but, in spite of all our precautions, I knew that, should a
strong wind come on from that quarter, nothing short of a miracle would
save us.

But as yet the weather was very still, not very bright, but rather
cloudy, and a dense haze of smoke was over everything, making the
distances look ten times as far as they really were, and rendering the
whole landscape as grey and melancholy as you can conceive. There was
nothing much to be done, but to sit in the verandah, drinking
claret-and-water, and watching and hoping for a thunderstorm.

On the third of February the heat was worse than ever, but no wind; and
as the sun went down among the lurid smoke, red as blood, I thought I
made out a few brush-shaped white clouds rising in the north.

Jim and I sat there late, not talking much. We knew that if we were to
be burnt out our loss would be very heavy; but we thanked God that even
were we to lose everything it would not be irreparable, and that we
should still be wealthy. Our brood mares and racing stock were our
greatest anxiety. We had a good stack of hay, by which we might keep
them alive for another month, supposing all the grass was burnt; but if
we lost that, our horses would probably die. I said at last,--

"Jim, we may make up our minds to have the run swept. The fire is
burning up now."

"Yes, it is brightening," said he, "but it must be twenty miles off
still, and if it comes down with a gentle wind we shall save the
paddocks and hay. There is a good deal of grass in the lower paddock. I
am glad we had the forethought not to feed it down. Well, fire or no
fire, I shall go to bed."

We went to bed, and, in spite of anxiety, mosquitoes, and heat, I feel
asleep. In the grey morning I was awakened, nearly suffocated, by a
dull continuous roar. It was the wind in the chimney. The north wind,
so long imprisoned, had broke loose, and the boughs were crashing, and
the trees were falling, before the majesty of his wrath.

I ran out, and met James in the verandah. "It's all up," I said. "Get
the women and children into the river, and let the men go up to
windward with the sheep-skins. [Note: Sheep-skins, on sticks, used for
beating out the fire when in short grass.] I'll get on horseback, and
go out and see how the Morgans get on. That obstinate fellow will wish he
had come in now."

Morgan was a stockman of ours, who lived, with a wife and two children,
about eight miles to the northward. We always thought it would have
been better for him to move in, but he had put it off, and now the fire
had taken us by surprise.

I rode away, dead-up wind. Our station had a few large trees about it,
and then all was clear plain and short grass for two miles; after that
came scrubby ranges, in an open glade of which the Morgans' hut stood.
I feared, from the density of the smoke, that the fire had reached them
already, but I thought it my duty to go and see, for I might meet them
fleeing, and help them with the children.

I had seen many bush-fires, but never such a one as this. The wind was
blowing a hurricane, and, when I had ridden about two miles into scrub,
high enough to brush my horse's belly, I began to get frightened. Still
I persevered, against hope; the heat grew more fearful every moment;
but I reflected that I had often ridden up close to a bush-fire, turned
when I began to see the flame through the smoke, and cantered away from
it easily.

Then it struck me that I had never yet seen a bushfire in such a
hurricane as this. Then I remembered stories of men riding for their
lives, and others of burnt horses and men found in the bush. And, now,
I saw a sight which made me turn in good earnest.

I was in lofty timber, and, as I paused, I heard the mighty cracking of
fire coming through the wood. At the same instant the blinding smoke
burst into a million tongues of flackering flame, and I saw the fire--
not where I had ever seen it before--not creeping along among the
scrub--but up aloft, a hundred and fifty feet overhead. It had caught
the dry bituminous tops of the higher boughs, and was flying along from
tree-top to tree-top like lightning. Below, the wind was comparatively
moderate, but, up there, it was travelling twenty miles an hour.
I saw one tree ignite like gun-cotton, and then my heart grew small,
and I turned and fled.

I rode as I never rode before. There were three miles to go ere I
cleared the forest, and got among the short grass, where I could save
myself--three miles! Ten minutes nearly of intolerable heat, blinding
smoke, and mortal terror. Any death but this! Drowning were pleasant,
glorious to sink down into the cool sparkling water. But, to be burnt
alive! Fool that I was to venture so far! I would give all my money now
to be naked and penniless, rolling about in a cool pleasant river.

The maddened, terrified horse, went like the wind, but not like the
hurricane--that was too swift for us. The fire had outstripped us
over-head, and I could see it dimly through the infernal choking reek,
leaping and blazing a hundred yards before me, among the feathery
foliage, devouring it, as the south wind devours the thunder clouds.
Then I could see nothing. Was I clear of the forest? Thank the Lord,
yes--I was riding over grass.

I managed to pull up the horse, and as I did so, a mob of kangaroos
blundered by, blinded, almost against me, noticing me no more in their
terror than if I had been a stump or a stone. Soon the fire came
hissing along through the grass scarcely six inches high, and I walked
my horse through it; then I tumbled off on the blackened ground, and
felt as if I should die.

I lay there on the hot black ground. My head felt like a block of
stone, and my neck was stiff so that I could not move my head. My
throat was swelled and dry as a sand-hill, and there was a roaring in
my ears like a cataract. I thought of the cool waterfalls among the
rocks far away in Devon. I thought of everything that was cold and
pleasant, and then came into my head about Dives praying for a drop of
water. I tried to get up, but could not, so lay down again with my head
upon my arm.

It grew cooler, and the atmosphere was clearer. I got up, and, mounting
my horse, turned homeward. Now I began to think about the station.
Could it have escaped? Impossible! The fire would fly a hundred yards
or more such a day as this even in low plain. No, it must be gone!
There was a great roll in the plain between me and home, so that I
could see nothing of our place--all around the country was black,
without a trace of vegetation. Behind me were the smoking ruins of the
forest I had escaped from, where now the burnt-out trees began to
thunder down rapidly, and before, to the south, I could see the fire
raging miles away.

So the station is burnt, then? No! For as I top the ridge, there it is
before me, standing as of old--a bright oasis in the desert of burnt
country round. Ay! the very hay-stack is safe! And the paddocks?--all
right!--glory be to God!

I got home, and James came running to meet me.

"I was getting terribly frightened, old man," said he. "I thought you
were caught. Lord save us, you look ten years older than you did this
morning!"

I tried to answer, but could not speak for drought. He ran and got me a
great tumbler of claret-and-water; and, in the evening, having drunk
about an imperial gallon of water, and taken afterwards some claret, I
felt pretty well revived.

Men were sent out at once to see after the Morgans, and found them
perfectly safe, but very much frightened; they had, however, saved
their hut, for the fire had passed before the wind had got to its full
strength.

So we were delivered from the fire; but still no rain. All day, for the
next month, the hot north wind would blow till five o'clock, and then a
cool southerly breeze would come up and revive us; but still the
heavens were dry, and our cattle died by hundreds.

On the eighteenth of March, we sat in the verandah looking still over
the blackened unlovely prospect, but now cheerfully and with hope; for
the eastern sky was piled up range beyond range with the scarlet and
purple splendour of cloud-land, and, as darkness gathered, we saw the
lightning, not twinkling and glimmering harmlessly about the horizon,
as it had been all the summer, but falling sheer in violet-coloured
rivers behind the dark curtain of rain that hung from the black edge of
a teeming thunder-cloud.

We had asked our overseer in that night, being Saturday, to drink with
us; he sat very still, and talked but little, as was his wont. I
slapped him on the back, and said:--

"Do you remember, Geordie, that muff in Thalaba who chose the wrong
cloud? He should have got you or me to choose for him; we wouldn't have
made a mistake, I know. We would have chosen such a one as yon
glorious big-bellied fellow. See how grandly he comes growling up!"

"It's just come," said he, "without the praying for. When the fire came
owre the hill the other day, I just put up a bit prayer to the Lord,
that He'd spare the haystack, and He spared it. (I didna stop working,
ye ken; I worked the harder; if ye dinna mean to work, ye should na
pray.) But I never prayed for rain,--I didna, ye see, like to ask the
Lord to upset all his gran' laws of electricity and evaporation, just
because it would suit us. I thocht He'd likely ken better than mysel.
Hech, sirs, but that chiel's riding hard!"

A horseman appeared making for the station at full speed; when he was
quite close, Jim called out, "By Jove, it is Doctor Mulhaus!" and we
ran out into the yard to meet him.

Before any one had time to speak, he shouted out: "My dear boys, I'm so
glad I am in time: we are going to see one of the grandest electrical
disturbances it has ever been my lot to witness. I reined up just now
to look, and I calculated that the southern point of explosion alone is
discharging nine times in the minute. How is your barometer?"

"Haven't looked, Doctor."

"Careless fellow," he replied, "you don't deserve to have one."

"Never mind, sir, we have got you safe and snug out of the thunderstorm.
It is going to be very heavy I think. I only hope we will have plenty of
rain."

"Not much doubt of it," said he. "Now, come into the verandah and let
us watch the storm."

We went and sat there; the highest peaks of the great cloud alps,
lately brilliant red, were now cold silver grey, harshly defined
against a faint crimson background, and we began to hear the thunder
rolling and muttering. All else was deadly still and heavy.

"Mark the lightning!" said the Doctor; "that which is before the rain-wall
is white, and that behind violetcoloured. Here comes the thundergust."

A fierce blast of wind came hurrying on, carrying a cloud of dust and
leaves before it. It shook the four corners of the house and passed
away. And now it was a fearful sight to see the rain-spouts pouring
from the black edge of the lower cloud as from a pitcher, nearly
overhead, and lit up by a continuous blaze of lightning: another blast
of wind, now a few drops, and in ten minutes you could barely
distinguish the thunder above the rattle of the rain on the shingles.

It warred and banged around us for an hour, so that we could hardly
hear one another speak. At length the Doctor bawled,--

"We shall have a crack closer than any yet, you'll see; we always have
one particular one;--our atmosphere is not restored to its balance
yet,--there!"

The curtains were drawn, and yet, for an instant, the room was as
bright as day. Simultaneously there came a crack and an explosion, so
loud and terrifying, that, used as I was to such an event, I
involuntarily jumped up from my seat.

"Are you all right here?" said the Doctor; and, running out into the
kitchen, shouted, "Any one hurt?"

The kitchen girl said that the lightning had run all down her back like
cold water, and the housekeeper averred that she thought the thunder
had taken the roof of the house off. So we soon perceived that nothing
was the matter, and sat down again to our discourse, and our supper.
"Well," began I, "here's the rain come at last. In a fortnight there
will be good grass again. We ought to start and get some store cattle."

"But where?" replied James. "We shall have to go a long way for them;
everyone will be wanting the same thing now. We must push a long way
north, and make a depot somewhere westward. Then we can pick them up by
sixes and sevens at a time. When shall we go?"

"The sooner the better."

"I think I will come with you," said the Doctor. "I have not been a
journey for some time."

"Your conversation, sir," I said, "will shorten the journey by
one-half"--which was sincerely said.

Away we went northward, with the mountains on our left, leaving
snow-streaked Kosciusko nearly behind us, till a great pass, through the
granite walls, opened to the westward, up which we turned, Mount Murray
towering up the south. Soon we were on the Murrumbidgee, sweeping
from side to side of his mountain valley in broad curves, sometimes
rushing hoarse, swollen by the late rains, under belts of high timber,
and sometimes dividing broad meadows of rich grass, growing green once
more under the invigorating hand of autumn. All nature had awakened
from her deep summer sleep, the air was brisk and nimble, and seldom
did three happier men ride on their way than James, the Doctor, and I.

Good Doctor! How he beguiled the way with his learning!--in ecstasies
all the time, enjoying everything, animate or inanimate, as you or I
would enjoy a new play or a new opera. How I envied him! He was like a
man always reading a new and pleasant book. At first the stockmen rode
behind, talking about beasts, and horses, and what not--often talking
about nothing at all, but riding along utterly without thought, if such
a thing could be. But soon I noticed they would draw up closer, and
regard the Doctor with some sort of attention, till toward the evening
of the second day, one of them, our old acquaintance, Dick, asked the
Doctor a question, as to why, if I remember right, certain trees should
grow in certain localities, and there only. The Doctor reined up
alongside him directly, and in plain forcible language explained the
matter: how that some plants required more of one sort of substance
than another, and how they get it out of particular soils; and how,
in the lapse of years, they had come to thrive best on the soil that
suited them, and had got stunted and died out in other parts. "See,"
said he, "how the turkey holds to the plains, and the pheasant (lyrebird)
to the scrub, because each one finds its food there. Trees cannot
move; but by time, and by positively refusing to grow on unkindly
soils, they arrange themselves in the localities which suit them
best."

So after this they rode with the Doctor always, both hearing him and
asking him questions, and at last, won by his blunt kindliness, they
grew to like and respect him in their way, even as we did.

So we fared on through bad weather and rough country, enjoying a
journey which, but for him, would have been a mere trial of patience.
Northward ever, through forest and plain, over mountain and swamp,
across sandstone, limestone, granite, and rich volcanic land, each
marked distinctly by a varying vegetation. Sometimes we would camp out,
but oftener managed to reach a station at night. We got well across the
dry country between the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan, now abounding
with pools of water; and, having crossed the latter river, held on our
course toward Croker's Range, which we skirted; and, after having been
about a fortnight out, arrived at the lowest station on the Macquarrie
late in the afternoon.

This was our present destination. The owner was a friend of ours, who
gave us a hearty welcome, and, on our inquiries as to store cattle,
thought that we might pick up a good mob of them from one station or
another. "We might," said he, "make a depot for them, as we collected
them, on some unoccupied land down the river. It was poor country, but
there was grass enough to keep them alive. He would show us a good
place, in a fork, where it was impossible to cross on two sides, and
where they would be easily kept together; that was, if we liked to risk
it."

"Risk what?" we asked.

"Blacks," said he. "They are mortal troublesome just now down the
river. I thought we had quieted them, but they have been up to their
old games lately, spearing cattle, and so on. I don't like, in fact, to
go too far down there alone. I don't think they are Macquarrie
blacks; I fancy they must have come up from the Darling, through the
marshes."

We thought we should have no reason to be afraid with such a strong
party as ours; and Owen, our host, having some spare cattle, we were
employed for the next three days in getting them in. We got nearly a
hundred head from him.

The first morning we got there the Doctor had vanished; but the third
evening, as we were sitting down to supper, in he came, dead beat, with
a great bag full of stones. When we had drawn round the fire, I said:

"Have you got any new fossils for us to see?"

"Not one," said he; "only some minerals."

"Do not you think, sir," said Owen, our host, "that there are some ores
of metals round this country? The reason I ask you is, we so often pick
up curiouscoloured stones, like those we get from the miners at home,
in Wales, where I come from."

"I think you will find some rich mines near here soon. Stay; it can do
you no harm. I will tell you something: three days ago I followed up
the river, and about twenty miles above this spot I became attracted by
the conformation of the country, and remarked it as being very similar
to some very famous spots in South America. 'Here,' I said to myself,
'Maximilian, you have your volcanic disturbance, your granite, your
clay, slate, and sandstone upheaved, and seamed with quartz;--why
should you not discover here, what is certainly here, more or less?'--
I looked patiently for two days, and I will show you what I found."

He went to his bag and fetched an angular stone about as big as one's
fist. It was white, stained on one side with rust-colour, but in the
heart veined with a bright yellow metallic substance, in some places
running in delicate veins into the stone, in others breaking out in
large shining lumps.

"That's iron-pyrites," said I, as pat as you please.

"Goose!" said the Doctor; "look again."

I looked again; it was certainly different to ironpyrites; it was
brighter, it ran in veins into the stone; it was lumpy, solid, and
clean. I said, "It is very beautiful; tell us what it is?"

"Gold!" said he, triumphantly, getting up and walking about the room in
an excited way; "that little stone is worth a pound; there is a quarter
of an ounce in it. Give me ten tons, only ten cartloads such stone as
that, and I would buy a principality."

Every one crowded round the stone open-mouthed, and James said:

"Are you sure it is gold, Doctor?"

"He asks me if I know gold, when I see it,--me, you understand, who
have scientifically examined all the best mines in Peru, not to mention
the Minas Geraes in the Brazils! My dear fellow, to a man who has once
seen it, native gold is unmistakeable, utterly so; there is nothing at
all like it."

"But this is a remarkable discovery, sir," said Owen. "What are you
going to do?"

"I shall go to the Government," said he, "and make the best bargain I
can."

I had better mention here that he afterwards did go to the Government,
and announce his discovery. Rather to the Doctor's disgust, however,
though he acknowledged the wisdom of the thing, the courteous and
able gentleman who then represented his Majesty informed him that he
was perfectly aware of the existence of gold, but that he for one
should assert the prerogative of the Crown, and prevent any one
mining on Crown-lands: as he considered that, were the gold abundant,
the effects on the convict population would be eminently disastrous. To
which obvious piece of good sense the Doctor bowed his head, and the
whole thing passed into oblivion--so much so, that when I heard of
Hargreave's discovery in 1851, I had nearly forgotten the Doctor's gold
adventure; and I may here state my belief that the knowledge of its
existence was confined to very few, and those well-educated men, who
never guessed (how could they without considerable workings?) how
abundant it was. As for the stories of shepherds finding gold and
selling it to the Jews in Sydney, they are very mythical, and I for one
entirely disbelieve them.

In time we had collected about 250 head of cattle from various points
into the fork of the river, which lay further down, some seven miles,
than his house. As yet we had not been troubled by the blackfellows.
Those we had seen seemed pretty civil, and we had not allowed them to
get familiar; but this pleasant state of things was not to last. James
and the Doctor, with one man, were away for the very last mob, and I
was sitting before the fire at the camp, when Dick, who was left behind
with me, asked for my gun to go and shoot a duck. I lent it him, and
away he went, while I mounted my horse and rode slowly about, heading
back such of the cattle as appeared to be wandering too far.

I heard a shot, and almost immediately another; then I heard a queer
sort of scream, which puzzled me extremely. I grew frightened and rode
towards the quarter where the shots came from, and almost immediately
heard a loud call. I replied, and then I saw Dick limping along through
the bushes, peering about him and holding his gun as one does when
expecting a bird to rise. Suddenly he raised his gun and fired. Out
dashed a black fellow from his hiding place, running across the open,
and with his second barrel Dick rolled him over. Then I saw half-a-dozen
others rise, shaking their spears; but, seeing me riding up, and
supposing I was armed, they made off.

"How did this come about, Dick, my lad?" said I. "This is a bad job."

"Well," he said, "I just fired at a duck, and the moment my gun was
gone off, up jumped half-a-dozen of them, and sent a shower of spears
at me, and one has gone into my leg. They must a' thought that I had a
single-barrel gun and waited till I'd fired it; but they found their
mistake, the devils; for I gave one of them a charge of shot in his
stomach at twenty yards, and dropped him; they threw a couple more
spears, but both missed, and I hobbled out as well as I could, loading
as I went with a couple of tallow cartridges. I saw this other beast
skulking, and missed him first time, but he has got something to
remember me by now."

"Do you think you can ride to the station and get some help?" said I.
"I wish the others were back."

"Yes," he replied, "I will manage it, but I don't like to leave you
alone."

"One must stay," I said, "and better the sound man than the wounded
one. Come, start off, and let me get to the camp, or they will be
plundering that next."

I started him off and ran back to the camp. Everything was safe as
yet, and the ground round being clear, and having a double-barrel gun
and two pistols, I was not so very much frightened. It is no use to say
I was perfectly comfortable, because I wasn't. A Frenchman writing
this, would represent himself as smoking a cigar, and singing with the
greatest nonchalance. I did neither. Being an Englishman, I may be
allowed to confess that I did not like it.

I had fully made up my mind to fire on the first black who showed
himself, but I did not get the opportunity. In about two hours I heard
a noise of men shouting and whips cracking, and the Doctor and James
rode up with a fresh lot of cattle.

I told them what had happened, and we agreed to wait and watch till
news should come from the station, and then to start. There was, as we
thought, but little danger while there were four or five together; but
the worst of it was, that we were but poorly armed. However, at
nightfall, Owen and one of his men came down, reporting that Dick, who
had been speared, was getting all right, and bringing also three
swords, and a brace of pistols.

James and I took a couple of swords, and began fencing, in play.

"I see," said the Doctor, "that you know the use of a sword, you two."

"Lord bless you!" I said, "we were in the Yeomanry (Landwehr you call
it); weren't we, Jim? I was a corporal."

"I wish," said Owen, "that, now we are together, five of us, you would
come and give these fellows a lesson; they want it badly."

"Indeed," I said, "I think they have had lesson enough for the present.
Dick has put down two of them. Beside, we could not leave the cattle."

"I am sorry," said James, "that any of our party has had this collision
with them. I cannot bear shooting the poor brutes. Let us move out of
this, homeward, to-morrow morning."

Just before dark, who should come riding down from the station but
Dick!--evidently in pain, but making believe that he was quite
comfortable.

"Why, Dick, my boy," I said, "I thought you were in bed; you ought to
be, at any rate."

"Oh, there's nothing much the matter with me, Mr. Hamlyn," he said.
"You will have some trouble with these fellows, unless I am mistaken. I
was told to look after you once, and I mean to do it."

(He referred to the letter that Lee had sent him years before.)

That night Owen stayed with us at the camp. We set a watch, and he took
the morning spell. Everything passed off quietly; but when we came to
examine our cattle in the morning, the lot that James had brought in
the night before were gone.

The river, flooded when we first came, had now lowered considerably, so
that the cattle could cross if they really tried. These last, being
wild and restless, had gone over, and we soon found the marks of them
across the river.

The Doctor, James, Dick, and I started off after them, having armed
ourselves for security. We took a sword a-piece, and each had a pistol.
The ground was moist, and the beasts easily tracked; so we thought an
easy job was before us, but we soon changed our minds.

Following on the trail of the cattle, we very soon came on the
footsteps of a black fellow, evidently more recent than the hoof-marks;
then another footstep joined in, and another, and at last we made out
that above a dozen blacks were tracking our cattle, and were between us
and them.

Still we followed the trail as fast as we could. I was uneasy, for we
were insufficiently armed, but I found time to point out to the Doctor,
what he had never remarked before, the wonderful difference between the
naked foot-print of a white man and a savage. The white man leaves the
impression of his whole sole, every toe being distinctly marked, while
your black fellow leaves scarce any toe-marks, but seems merely to
spurn the ground with the ball of his foot.

I felt very ill at ease. The morning was raw, and a dense fog was over
everything. One always feels wretched on such a morning, but on that
one I felt miserable. There was an indefinable horror over me, and I
talked more than any one, glad to hear the sound of my own voice.

Once, the Doctor turned round and looked at me fixedly from under his
dark eyebrows. "Hamlyn," he said, "I don't think you are well; you talk
fast, and are evidently nervous. We are in no danger, I think, but you
seem as if you were frightened."

"So I am, Doctor, but I don't know what at."

Jim was riding first, and he turned and said, "I have lost the black
fellows' track entirely: here are the hoof-marks, safe enough, but no
foot-prints, and the ground seems to be rising."

The fog was very thick, so that we could see nothing above a hundred
yards from us. We had come through forest all the way, and were wet
with pushing through low shrubs. As we paused came a puff of air, and
in five minutes the fog had rolled away, and a clear blue sky and a
bright sun were overhead.

Now we could see where we were. We were in the lower end of a
precipitous mountain-gully, narrow where we were, and growing rapidly
narrower as we advanced. In the fog we had followed the cattle-track
right into it, passing, unobserved, two great heaps of tumbled rocks
which walled the glen; they were thickly fringed with scrub, and, it
immediately struck me that they stood just in the place where we had
lost the tracks of the black fellows.

I should have mentioned this, but, at this moment, James caught sight
of the lost cattle, and galloped off after them; we followed, and very
quickly we had headed them down the glen, and were posting homeward
as hard as we could go.

I remember well there was a young bull among them that took the lead.
As he came nearly opposite the two piles of rock which I have
mentioned, I saw a black fellow leap on a boulder, and send a spear
into him.

He headed back, and the other beasts came against him. Before we could
pull up we were against the cattle, and then all was confusion and
disaster. Two hundred black fellows were on us at once, shouting like
devils, and sending down their spears upon us like rain. I heard the
Doctor's voice, above all the infernal din, crying "Viva! Swords, my
boys; take your swords!" I heard two pistol shots, and then, with
deadly wrath in my heart, I charged at a crowd of them, who were
huddled together, throwing their spears wildly, and laid about me with
my cutlass like a madman.

I saw them scrambling up over the rocks in wild confusion; then I heard
the Doctor calling me to come on. He had reined up, and a few of the
discomfited savages were throwing spears at him from a long distance.
When he saw me turn to come, he turned also, and rode after James, who
was two hundred yards ahead, reeling in his saddle like a drunken man,
grinding his teeth, and making fierce clutches at a spear which was
buried deep in his side, and which at last he succeeded in tearing out.
He went a few yards further, and then fell off his horse on the ground.

We were both off in a moment, but when I got his head on my lap, I saw
he was dying. The Doctor looked at the wound, and shook his head. I
took his right hand in mine, and the other I held upon his true and
faithful heart, until I felt it flutter, and stop for ever.

Then I broke down altogether. "Oh! good old friend! Oh! dear old
friend, could you not wait for me? Shall I never see you again?"

Yes! I think that I shall see him again. When I have crossed the dark
river which we must all cross, I think he will be one of those who come
down to meet me from the gates of the Everlasting City.----


* * * * *


"A man," said the Doctor to me, two days after, when we were sitting
together in the station parlour, "who approached as nearly the model
which our Great Master has left us as any man I know. I studied and
admired him for many years, and now I cannot tell you not to mourn. I
can give you no comfort for the loss of such a man, save it be to say
that you and I may hope to meet him again, and learn new lessons from
him, in a better place than this."




Chapter XXV



IN WHICH THE NEW DEAN OF B--- MAKES HIS APPEARANCE, AND ASTONISHES THE
MAJOR OUT OF HIS PROPRIETY.


One evening towards the end of that winter Mrs. Buckley and Sam sat
alone before the fire, in the quickly-gathering darkness. The candles
were yet unlighted, but the cheerful flickering light produced by the
combustion of three or four logs of sheoak, topped by one of dead gum,
shone most pleasantly on the wellordered dining-room, on the close-drawn
curtains, on the nicely-polished furniture, on the dinner-table,
laid with fair array of white linen, silver, and glass, but, above all,
on the honest, quiet face of Sam, who sat before his mother in an easy
chair, with his head back, fast asleep.

While she is alternately casting glances of pride and affection towards
her sleeping son, and keen looks on the gum log, in search of
centipedes, let us take a look at her ourselves, and see how sixteen
years have behaved to that handsome face. There is change here, but no
deterioration. It is a little rounder perhaps, and also a little fuller
in colour, but there are no lines there yet. "Happiness and ceaseless
good temper don't make many wrinkles, even in a warmer climate than old
England," says the Major, and says, also, confidentially, to Brentwood,
"Put a red camelia in her hair, and send her to the opera even
now, and see what a sensation she would make, though she is nearer
fifty than forty,"--which was strictly true, although said by her
husband, for the raven hair is as black as it was when decorated with
the moss-roses of Clere, and the eye is as brilliant as when it flashed
with the news of Trafalgar.

Now, the beautiful profile is turned again towards the sleeper as he
moves. "Poor boy!" she said. "He is quite knocked up. He must have been
twenty-four hours in the saddle. However, he had better be after cattle
than in a billiard-room. I wonder if his father will be home to-night."

Suddenly Sam awoke. "Heigho!" said he. "I'm nice company, mother. Have
I been asleep?"

"Only for an hour or so, my boy," said she. "See; I've been defending
you while you slumbered. I have killed three centipedes, which came out
of that old gum log. I cut this big one in half with the fire-shovel,
and the head part walked away as if nothing had happened. I must tell
the man not to give us rotten wood, or some of us will be getting a
nip. It's a long fifty miles from Captain Brentwood's," said Mrs.
Buckley after a time. "And that's a very good day's work for little
Bronsewing, carrying your father."

"And what has been the news since I have been away,--eh, mother?"

"Why, the greatest news is that the Donovans have sold their station,
and are off to Port Phillip."

"All the world is moving there," said Sam. "Who has he sold it to?"

"That I can't find out.--There's your father, my love."

There was the noise of horses' feet and merry voices in the little
gravelled yard behind the house, heard above a joyous barking of dogs.
Sam ran out to hold his father's horse, and soon came into the room
again, accompanied by his father and Captain Brentwood.

After the first greetings were over, candles were lighted, and the
three men stood on the hearth-rug together--a very remarkable group,
as you would have said, had you seen them. You might go a long while in
any country without seeing three such men in company.

Captain Brentwood, of Artillery renown, was a square, powerfully built
man, say five-foot-ten in height. His face, at first sight, appeared
rather a stupid one beside the Major's, expressing rather determination
than intelligence; but once engage him in a conversation which
interested him, and you would be surprised to see how animated it could
become. Then the man, usually so silent, would open up the store-house
of his mind, speaking with an eloquence and a force which would
surprise one who did not know him, and which made the Doctor often take
the losing side of an argument for the purpose of making him speak. Add
to this that he was a thoroughly amiable man, and, as Jim would tell
you (in spite of a certain severe whipping you wot of), a most
indulgent and excellent father.

Major Buckley's shadow had grown no less,--nay, rather greater, since
first we knew him. In other respects, very little alteration, except
that his curling brown hair had grown thinner about the temples, and
was receding a little from his forehead. But what cared he for that! He
was not the last of the Buckleys.

One remarks now, as the two stand together, that Sam, though but
nineteen, is very nearly as tall as his father, and promises to be as
broad across the shoulders some day, being an exception to colonially-bred
men in general, who are long and narrow. He is standing and talking to his
father.

"Well, Sam," said the Major, "so you're back safe,--eh, my boy! A
rough time, I don't doubt. Strange store-cattle are queer to drive at
any time, particularly such weather as you have had."

"And such a lot, too!" said Sam. "Tell you what, father: it's lucky
you've got them cheap, for the half of them are off the ranges."

"Scrubbers, eh?" said the Major; "well, we must take what we can catch,
with this Port Phillip rush. Let's sit down to dinner; I've got some
news that will please you. Fish, eh? See there, Brentwood! What do you
think of that for a blackfish? (What was his weight, my dear?)"

"Seven pounds and a half, as the black fellows brought him in," said
Mrs. Buckley.

"A very pretty fish," said the Major. "My dear, what is the news?"

"Why, the Donovans have sold their station."

"Ha! ha!" laughed the Major. "Why, we have come from there to-day. Why,
we were there last night at a grand party. All the Irishmen in the
country side. Such a turmoil I haven't seen since I was quartered at
Cove. So that's your news,--eh?"

"And so you stepped on there without calling at home, did you?" said
Mrs. Buckley. "And perhaps you know who the purchaser is."

"Don't you know, my love?"

"No, indeed!" said Mrs. Buckley. "I have been trying to find out these
two days. It would be very pleasant to have a good neighbour there,--
not that I wish to speak evil of the Donovans; but really they did go
on in such terrible style, you know, that one could not go there. Now,
tell me who has bought Garoopna."

"One Brentwood, captain of Artillery."

"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Buckley. "Is he not joking now, Captain
Brentwood? That is far too good news to be true."

"It is true, nevertheless, madam," said Captain Brentwood. "I thought
it would meet with your approval, and I can see by Sam's face that it
meets with his. You see, my dear lady, Buckley has got to be rather
necessary to me. I miss him when he is absent, and I want to be more
with him. Again, I am very fond of my son Jim, and my son Jim is very
fond of your son Sam, and is always coming here after him when he ought
to be at home. So I think I shall see more of him when we are ten miles
apart than when we are fifty. And, once more, my daughter Alice, now
completing her education in Sydney, comes home to keep house for me in
a few months, and I wish her to have the advantage of the society of
the lady whom I honour and respect above all others. So I have bought
Garoopna."

"If that courtly bow is intended for me, my dear Captain," said Mrs.
Buckley, "as I cannot but think it is, believe me that your daughter
shall be as my daughter."

"Teach her to be in some slight degree like yourself, Mrs. Buckley,"
said the Captain, "and you will put me under obligations which I can
never repay."

"Altogether, wife," said the Major, "it is the most glorious
arrangement that ever was come to. Let us take a glass of sherry all
round on it. Sam, my lad, your hand! Brentwood, we have none of us ever
seen your daughter. She should be handsome."

"You remember her mother?" said the Captain.

"Who could ever forget Lady Kate who had once seen her?" said the
Major.

"Well, Alice is more beautiful than her mother ever was."

There went across the table a bright electric spark out of Mrs.
Buckley's eye into her husband's, as rapid as those which move the
quivering telegraph needles, and yet not unobserved, I think, by
Captain Brentwood, for there grew upon his face a pleasant smile,
which, rapidly broadening, ended in a low laugh, by no means
disagreeable to hear, though Sam wondered what the joke could be, until
the Captain said,--

"An altogether comical party that last night at the Donovans', Buckley!
The most comical I ever was at."

Nevertheless, I don't believe that it was that which made him laugh at
all.

"A capital party!" said the Major, laughing. "Do you know, Brentwood, I
always liked those Donovans, under the rose, and last night I liked
them better than ever. They were not such very bad neighbours, although
old Donovan wanted to fight a duel with me once. At all events, the
welcome I got last night will make me remember them kindly in future."

"I must go down and call there before they go," said Mrs. Buckley.
"People who have been our neighbours so many years must not go away
without a kind farewell. Was Desborough there?"

"Indeed, he was. Don't you know he is related to the Donovans?"

"Impossible!"

"Fact, my dear, I assure you, according to Mrs. Donovan, who told me
that the De Novans and the Desboroughs were cognate Norman families,
who settled in Ireland together, and have since frequently inter-married."

"I suppose," said Mrs. Buckley, laughing, "that Desborough did not deny
it."

"Not at all, my dear: as he said to me privately, 'Buckley, never deny
a relationship with a man worth forty thousand pounds, the least penny,
though your ancestors' bones should move in their graves.'"

"I suppose," said Mrs. Buckley, "that he made himself as agreeable as
usual."

"As usual, my dear! He made even Brentwood laugh; he danced all the
evening with that giddy girl Lesbia Burke, who let slip that she
remembered me at Naples in 1805, when she was there with that sad old
set, and who consequently must be nearly as old as myself."

"I hope you danced with her," said Mrs. Buckley.

"Indeed I did, my dear. And she wore a wreath of yellow chrysanthemum,
no other flowers being obtainable. I assure you we 'kept the flure'
in splendid style."

They were all laughing at the idea of the Major dancing, when Sam
exclaimed, "Good Lord!"

"What's the matter my boy?" said the Major.

"I must cry peccavi," said Sam. "Father, you will never forgive me! I
forgot till this moment a most important message. I was rather
knocked up, you see, and went to sleep, and that sent it out of my
head."

"You are forgiven, my boy, be it what it may. I hope it is nothing very
serious."

"Well, it is very serious," said Sam. "As I was coming by Hanging Rock,
I rode up to the door a minute, to see if Cecil was at home,--and Mrs.
Mayford came out and wanted me to get off and come in, but I hadn't
time; and she said, 'The Dean is coming here to-night, and he'll be
with you to-morrow night, I expect. So don't forget to tell your
mother.'"

"To-morrow night!" said Mrs. Buckley, aghast. "Why, my dear, boy, that
is to-night! What shall I do?"

"Nothing at all, my love," said the Major, "but make them get some
supper ready. He can't have expected us to wait dinner till this
time."

"I thought," said Captain Brentwood, "that the Dean was gone back to
England."

"So he is," said the Major. "But this is a new one. The good old Dean
has resigned."

"What is the new one's name?" said the Captain.

"I don't know," said the Major. "Desborough said it was a Doctor
Maypole, and that he was very like one in appearance. But you can't
trust Desborough, you know; he never remembers names. I hope he may be
as good a man as his predecessor."

"I hope he may be no worse," said Captain Brentwood; "but I hope, in
addition, that he may be better able to travel, and look after his
outlying clergy a little more."

"It looks like it," said the Major, "to be down as far as this, before
he has been three months installed."

Mrs. Buckley went out to the kitchen to give orders; and after that,
they sat for an hour or more over their wine, till at length, the Major
said,--

"We must give him up in another hour."

Then, as if they had heard him, the dogs began to bark. Rover, who had,
against rules, sneaked into the house, and lain PERDU under the sofa,
discovered his retreat by low growling, as though determined to do his
duty, let the consequences be what they might. Every now and then, too,
when his feelings overpowered him, he would discharge a 'Woof,' like a
minute gun at sea.

"That must be him, father," said Sam. "You'll catch it, Mr. Rover!"

He ran out; a tall black figure was sitting on horseback before the
door, and a pleasant cheery voice said, "Pray, is this Major
Buckley's?"

"Yes, sir," said Sam; "we have been expecting you."

He called for the groom and held the stranger's horse while he
dismounted. Then he assisted him to unstrap his valise, and carried it
in after him.

The Major, Mrs. Buckley, and the Captain had risen, and were standing
ready to greet the Church dignitary as he came in, in the most
respectful manner. But when the Major had looked for a moment on the
tall figure in black, which advanced towards the fire, instead of
saying, "Sir, I am, highly honoured by your visit," or, "Sir, I bid you
most heartily welcome," he dashed forward in the most undignified
fashion, upsetting a chair, and seizing the reverend Dean by both
hands, exclaimed, "God bless my heart and soul! Frank Maberly!"

It was he: the mad curate, now grown into a colonial dean,--sobered,
apparently, but unchanged in any material point: still elastic and
upright, looking as if for twopence he would take off the black cutaway
coat and the broad-brimmed hat, and row seven in the University eight,
at a moment's notice. There seems something the matter with him though,
as he holds the Major's two hands in his, and looks on his broad handsome
face. Something like a shortness of breath prevented his speech,
and, strange, the Major seems troubled with the same complaint; but
Frank gets over it first, and says,--

"My dear old friend, I am so glad to see you!"

And Mrs. Buckley says, laying her hand upon his arm, "It seems as if
all things were arranged to make my husband and myself the happiest
couple in the world. If we had been asked to-night, whom of all people
in the world we should have been most glad to see as the new Dean, we
should have answered at once, Frank Maberly; and here he is!"

"Then, you did not know whom to expect," said Frank.

"Not we, indeed," said the Major. "Desborough said the new Dean was a
Doctor Maypole; and I pictured to myself an old schoolmaster with a
birch rod in his coat tail-pocket. And we have been in such a stew all
the evening about giving the great man a proper reception. Ha! ha! ha!"

"And will you introduce me to this gentleman?" said the Dean, moving
towards Sam, who stood behind his mother.

"This," said the Major, with a radiant smile, "is my son Samuel, whom,
I believe, you have seen before."

"So, the pretty boy that I knew at Drumston," said the Dean, laying his
hands on Sam's shoulders, "has grown into this noble gentleman! It
makes me feel old, but I am glad to feel old under such circumstances.
Let me turn your face to the light and see if I can recognise the
little lad whom I used to carry pickaback across Hatherleigh Water."

Sam looked in his face--such a kindly good placid face, that it seemed
beautiful, though by some rules it was irregular and ugly enough. The
Dean laid his hand on Sam's curly head, and said, "God bless you,
Samuel Buckley," and won Sam's heart for ever.

All this time Captain Brentwood had stood with his back against the
chimney-piece, perfectly silent, having banished all expression from
his countenance; now, however, Major Buckley brought up the Dean and
introduced him:--

"My dear Brentwood, the Dean of B----; not Dean to us though, so much
as our dear old friend Frank Maberly."

"Involved grammar," said the Captain to himself, but, added aloud: "A
Churchman of your position, sir, will do me an honour by using my
house; but the Mr. Maberly of whom I have so often heard from my friend
Buckley will do me a still higher honour if he will allow me to enrol
him among the number of my friends."

Frank the Dean thought that Captain Brentwood's speech would have made
a good piece to turn into Greek prose, in the style of Demosthenes; but
he didn't say so. He looked at the Captain's stolid face for a moment,
and said, as Sam thought, a little abruptly:

"I think, sir, that you and I shall get on very well together when we
understand one another."

The Captain made no reply in articulate speech, but laughed internally,
till his sides shook, and held out his hand. The Dean laughed too, as
he took it, and said:

"I met a young lady at the Bishop's the other day, a Miss Brentwood."

"My daughter, sir," said the Captain.

"So I guessed--partly from the name, and partly from a certain look
about the eyes, rather unmistakeable. Allow me to say, sir, that I
never remember to have seen such remarkable beauty in my life."

They sat Frank down to supper, and when he had done, the conversation
was resumed.

"By-the-bye, Major Buckley," said he, "I miss an old friend, who I
heard was living with you; a very dear old friend,--where is Doctor
Mulhaus?"

"Dear Doctor," said Mrs. Buckley; "this is his home indeed, but he is
away at present on an expedition with two old Devon friends, Hamlyn
and Stockbridge."

"Oh!" said Frank, "I have heard of those men; they came out here the
year before the Vicar died. I never knew either of them, but I well
remember how kindly Stockbridge used to be spoken of by everyone in
Drumston. I must make his acquaintance."

"You will make the acquaintance of one of the finest fellows in the
world, Dean," said the Major; "I know no worthier man than Stockbridge.
I wish Mary Thornton had married him."

"And I hear," said Frank. "that the pretty Mary is your next door
neighbour, in partnership with that excellent giant Troubridge. I must
go and see them to-morrow. I will produce one of those great roaring
laughs of his, by reminding him of our first introduction at the
Palace, through a rat."

"I am sorry to say," said the Major, "that Tom is away at Port Phillip,
with cattle."

"Port Phillip, again," said Frank; "I have heard of nothing else
throughout my journey. I am getting bored with it. Will you tell me
what you know about it for certain?"

"Well," said the Major, "it lies about 250 miles south of this, though
we cannot get at it without crossing the mountains, in consequence of
some terribly dense scrub on some low ranges close to it, which they
call, I believe, the Dandenong. It appears, however, when you are
there, that there is a great harbour, about forty miles long,
surrounded with splendid pastures, which stretch west further than any
man has been yet. Take it all in all, I should say it was the best
watered, and most available piece of country yet discovered in New
Holland."

"Any good rivers?" asked the Dean.

"Plenty of small ones, only one of any size, apparently, which seems to
rise somewhere in this direction, and goes in at the head of the bay.
They tried years ago to form a settlement on this bay, but Collins, the
man entrusted with it, could find no fresh water, which seems strange,
as there is, according to all accounts, a fine full-flowing river
running by the town."

"They have formed a town there, then?" said the Dean.

"There are a few wooden houses gone up by the river side. I believe
they are going to make a town there, and call it Melbourne; we may live
to see it a thriving place."

The Major has lived to see his words fulfilled--fulfilled in such
marvellous sort, that bald bare statistics read like the wildest
romance. At the time he spoke, twenty-two years ago from this present
year 1858, the Yarra rolled its clear waters to the sea through the
unbroken solitude of a primeval forest, as yet unseen by the eye of a
white man. Now there stands there a noble city, with crowded wharves,
containing with its suburbs not less than 120,000 inhabitants. A thousand
vessels have lain at one time side by side, off the mouth of that
little river, and through the low sandy heads that close the great port
towards the sea, thirteen millions sterling of exports is carried away
each year by the finest ships in the world. Here, too, are waterworks
constructed at fabulous expense, a service of steam-ships, between this
and the other great cities of Australia, vieing in speed and
accommodation with the coasting steamers of Great Britain; noble
churches, handsome theatres. In short, a great city, which, in its
amazing rapidity of growth, utterly surpasses all human experience.

I never stood in Venice contemplating the decay of the grand palaces of
her old merchant princes, whose time has gone by for ever. I never
watched the slow downfal of a great commercial city; but I have seen
what to him who thinks aright is an equally grand subject of
contemplation--the rapid rise of one. I have seen what but a small
moiety of the world, even in these days, has seen, and what, save in
this generation, has never been seen before, and will, I think, never
be seen again. I have seen Melbourne. Five years in succession did I
visit that city, and watch each year how it spread and grew until it
was beyond recognition. Every year the press became denser, and the
roar of the congregated thousands grew louder, till at last the scream
of the flying engine rose above the hubbub of the streets, and two
thousand miles of electric wire began to move the clicking needles with
ceaseless intelligence.

Unromantic enough, but beyond all conception wonderful. I stood at
the east end of Bourke Street, not a year ago, looking at the black
swarming masses, which thronged the broad thoroughfare below. All the
town lay at my feet, and the sun was going down beyond the distant
mountains; I had just crossed from the front of the new Houses of
Legislature, and had nearly been run over by a great omnibus. Partly to
recover my breath, and partly, being not used to large cities, to enjoy
the really fine scene before me, I stood at the corner of the street in
contemplative mood. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and looked round,--
it was Major Buckley.

"This is a wonderful sight, Hamlyn," said he.

"When you think of it," I said, "really think of it, you know, how
wonderful it is!"

"Brentwood," said the Major, "has calculated by his mathematics that
the progress of the species is forty-seven, decimal eight, more rapid
than it was thirty-five years ago."

"So I should be prepared to believe," I said; "where will it all end?
Will it be a grand universal republic, think you, in which war is
unknown, and universal prosperity has banished crime? I may be too
sanguine, but such a state of things is possible. This is a sight which
makes a man look far into the future."

"Prosperity," said the Major, "has not done much towards abolishing
crime in this town, at all events; and it would not take much to send
all this back into its primeval state."

"How so, Major?" said I; "I see here the cradle of a new and mighty
empire."

"Two rattling good thumps of an earthquake," said the Major, "would
pitch Melbourne into the middle of Port Phillip, and bury all the gold
far beyond the reach even of the Ballarat deep-sinkers. Come down and
dine with me at the club."




Chapter XXVI



WHITE HEATHENS


Captain Brentwood went back to Garoopna next morning; but Frank Maberly
kept to his resolution of going over to see Mary; and, soon after
breakfast, they were all equipped ready to accompany him, standing in
front of the door, waiting for the horses. Frank was remarking how
handsome Mrs. Buckley looked in her hat and habit, when she turned and
said to him,--

"My dear Dean, I suppose you never jump over five-barred gates now-a-days?
Do you remember how you used to come over the white gate at the
Vicarage? I suppose you are getting too dignified for any such thing?"

There was a three-railed fence dividing the lower end of the yard from
the paddock. He rammed his hat on tight, and took it flying, with his
black coattails fluttering like wings; and, coming back laughing,
said,--

"There's a bit of the old Adam for you, Mrs. Buckley! Be careful how
you defy me again."

The sun was bright overhead, and the land in its full winter verdure,
as they rode along the banks of the creek that led to Toonarbin. Frank
Maberly was as humorous as ever, and many a merry laugh went ringing
through the woodland solitudes, sending the watchman cockatoo screaming
aloft to alarm the flock, or startling the brilliant thick-clustered
lories (richest coloured of all parrots in the world), as they hung
chattering on some silver-leaved acacia, bending with their weight the
fragile boughs down towards the clear still water, lighting up the dark
pool with strange, bright reflections of crimson and blue; startling,
too, the feeding doe-kangaroo, who skipped slowly away, followed by her
young one--so slowly that the watching travellers expected her to
stop each moment, and could scarcely believe she was in full flight
till she topped a low ridge and disappeared.

"That is a strange sight to a European, Mrs. Buckley," said Frank; "a
real wild animal. It seems so strange to me, now, to think that I could
go and shoot that beast, and account to no man for it. That is, you
know, supposing I had a gun, and powder and shot, and, also, that the
kangaroo would be fool enough to wait till I was near enough; which,
you see, is presupposing a great deal. Are they easily approached?"

"Easily enough, on horseback," said Sam, "but very difficult to come
near on foot, which is also the case with all wild animals and birds
worth shooting in this country. A footman, you see, they all mistake for
their hereditary enemy, the blackfellow; but, as yet, they have not come
to distinguish a man on horseback from a four-footed beast. And, this
seems to show that animals have their traditions like men."

"Pray, Sam, are not these pretty beasts, these kangaroos, becoming
extinct?"

"On sheep-runs, very nearly so. Sheep drive them off directly; but on
cattle-runs, so far from becoming extinct, they are becoming so
numerous as to be a nuisance; consuming a most valuable quantity of
grass."

"How can you account for that?"

"Very easily," said Sam; "their enemies are all removed. The settlers
have poisoned, in well-settled districts, the native dogs and eagle-hawks,
which formerly kept down their numbers. The blacks prefer the
beef of the settlers to bad and hard-earned kangaroo venison; and,
lastly, the settlers never go after them, but leave them to their own
inventions. So that the kangaroo has better times of it than ever."

"That is rather contrary to what one has heard, though," said Frank.

"But Sam is right, Dean," said the Major. "People judge from seeing
none of them on the plains, from which they have been driven by the
sheep; but there are as many in the forest as ever."

"The Emu, now," said Frank, "are they getting scarce?"

"They will soon be among the things of the past," said the Major; "and
I am sorry for it, for they are a beautiful and harmless bird."

"Major," said Frank, "how many outlying huts have you?"

"Five," said the Major. "Four shepherds' huts, and one stockkeeper's in
the range, which we call the heifer station."

"You have no church here, I know," said Frank; "but do these men get
any sort of religious instruction?"

"None whatever," said the Major. "I have service in my house on Sunday,
but I cannot ask them to come to it, though sometimes the stockmen do
come. The shepherds, you know, are employed on Sunday as on any other
day. Sheep must eat!"

"Are any of these men convicts?"

"All the shepherds," said the Major. "The stockman and his assistant
are free men, but their hut-keeper is bond."

"Are any of them married?"

"Two of the shepherds; the rest single; but I must tell you that on our
run we keep up a regular circulation of books among the huts, and my
wife sticks them full of religious tracts, which is really about all
that we can do without a clergyman."

"Do you find they read your tracts, Mrs. Buckley?" asked Frank.

"No," said Mrs. Buckley, "with the exception, perhaps, of 'Black
Giles the Poacher,' which always comes home very dirty. Narrative
tracts they will read when there is nothing more lively at hand; but
such treatises as 'Are You Ready?' and 'The Sinner's Friend,' fall
dead. One copy lasts for years."

"One copy of either of them," said Frank, "would last. Then these
fellows, Major, are entirely godless, I suppose?"

"Well, I'll tell you, Dean," said the Major, stopping short, "it's
about as bad as bad can be; it can't be worse, sir. If by any means you
could make it worse, it would be by sending such men round here as the
one who was sent here last. He served as a standing joke to the hands
for a year or more; and I believe he was sincere enough, too."

"I must invade some of these huts, and see what is to be done," said
Frank. "I have had a hard spell of work in London since old times; but
I have seen enough already to tell me that that work was not so
hopeless as this will be. I think, however, that there is more chance
here than among the little farmers in the settled districts. Here, at
all events, I shan't have the rum-bottle eternally standing between me
and my man. What a glorious, independent, happy set of men are those
said small freeholders, Major! What a happy exchange an English peasant
makes when he leaves an old, well-ordered society, the ordinances of
religion, the various give-and-take relations between rank and rank,
which make up the sum of English life, for independence, godlessness,
and rum! He gains, say you! Yes, he gains meat for his dinner every
day, and voila tout! Contrast an English workhouse schoolboy--I take
the lowest class for example, a class which should not exist--with a
small farmer's son in one of the settled districts. Which will make the
most useful citizen? Give me the workhouse lad!"

"Oh, but you are over-stating the case, you know, Dean," said the
Major. "You must have a class of small farmers! Wherever the land is
fit for cultivation it must be sold to agriculturists; or, otherwise,
in case of a war, we shall be dependent on Europe and America for the
bread we eat. I know some excellent and exemplary men who are
farmers, I assure you."

"Of course! of course!" said Frank. "I did not mean quite all I said;
but I am angry and disappointed. I pictured to myself the labourer,
English, Scotch, or Irish--a man whom I know, and have lived with and
worked for some years, emigrating, and, after a few years of honest
toil, which, compared to his old hard drudgery, was child's-play,
saving money enough to buy a farm. I pictured to myself this man
accumulating wealth, happy, honest, godly, bringing up a family of
brave boys and good girls, in a country where, theoretically, the
temptations to crime are all but removed: this is what I imagined. I
come out here, and what do I find? My friend the labourer has got his
farm, and is prospering, after a sort. He has turned to be a drunken,
godless, impudent fellow, and his wife little better than himself; his
daughters dowdy hussies; his sons lanky, lean, pasty-faced, blaspheming
blackguards, drinking rum before breakfast, and living by cheating one
another out of horses. Can you deny this picture?"

"Yes," said the Major, "I can disprove it by many happy instances, and
yet, to say the truth, it is fearfully true in as many more. There is
no social influence in the settled districts; there are too many men
without masters. Let us wait and hope."

"This is not to the purpose at present, though," said Mrs. Buckley.
"See what you can do for us in the bush, my dear Dean. You have a very
hopeless task before you, I fear."

"The more hopeless, the greater glory, madam," said Frank, taking off
his hat and waving it; called, chosen, and faithful. "There is a
beautiful house!"

"That is Toonarbin," said the Major; "and there's Mary Hawker in the
verandah."

"Let us see," said Mrs. Buckley, "if she will know him. If she does not
recognise him, let no one speak before me."

When they had ridden up and dismounted, Mrs. Buckley presented Frank.
"My dear," said she, "the Dean is honouring us by staying at Baroona
for a week, and proposes to visit round at the various stations. To-morrow
we go to the Mayfords, and next day to Garoopna."

Mary bowed respectfully to Frank, and said, "that she felt highly
honoured," and so forth. "My partner is gone on a journey, and my son
is away on the run, or they would have joined with me in bidding you
welcome, sir."

Frank would have been highly honoured at making their acquaintance.

Mary started, and looked at him again. "Mr. Maberly! Mr. Maberly!" she
said, "your face is changed, but your voice is unchangeable. You are
discovered, sir!"

"And are you glad to see me?"

"No!" said Mary, plainly.

"Now," said Mrs. Buckley to herself, "she is going to give us one of
her tantrums. I wish she would behave like a reasonable being. She is
always bent on making a scene;" but she kept this to herself, and only
said aloud: "Mary, my dear! Mary!"

"I am sorry to hear you say so, Mrs. Hawker," said Frank; "but it is
just and natural."

"Natural," said Mary, "and just. You are connected in my mind with
the most unhappy and most degraded period of my life. Can you expect
that I should be glad to see you? You were kind to me then, as is your
nature to be, kind and good above all men whom I know. I thought of you
always with love and admiration, as one whom I deeply honoured, but
would not care to look upon again. As the one of all whom I would have
forget me in my disgrace. And now, to-day of all days; just when I have
found the father's vices confirmed in the son, you come before me, as
if from the bowels of the earth, to remind me of what I was."

Mrs. Buckley was very much shocked and provoked by this, but held her
tongue magnanimously. And what do you think, my dear reader, was the
cause of all this hysteric tragic nonsense on the part of Mary? Simply
this. The poor soul had been put out of temper. Her son Charles, as I
mentioned before, had had a scandalous liason with one Meg Macdonald,
daughter of one of the Donovans' (now Brentwood's) shepherds. That
morning, this brazen hussy, as Mary very properly called her, had come
coolly up to the station and asked for Charles. And on Mary's shaking
her fist at her, and bidding her be gone, had then and there rated poor
Mary in the best of Gaelic for a quarter of an hour; and Mary, instead
of venting her anger on the proper people, had taken her old plan of
making herself disagreeable to those who had nothing to do with it,
which naturally made Mrs. Buckley very angry, and even ruffled the
placid Major a little, so that he was not sorry when he saw in his
wife's face, the expression of which he knew so well, that Mary was
going to "catch it."

"I wish, Mary Hawker," said Mrs. Buckley, "that you would remember that
the Dean is our guest, and that on our account alone there is due to
him some better welcome than what you have given him."

"Now, you are angry with me for speaking truth too abruptly," said Mary
crying.

"Well, I am angry with you," said Mrs. Buckley. "If that was the truth,
you should not have spoken it now. You have no right to receive an old
friend like this."

"You are very unkind to me," said Mary. "Just when after so many years'
peace and quietness my troubles are beginning again, you are all
turning against me." And so she laid down her head and wept.

"Dear Mrs. Hawker," said Frank, coming up and taking her hand, "if you
are in trouble, I know well that my visit is well timed. Where trouble
and sorrow are, there is my place, there lies my work. In prosperity my
friends sometimes forget me, but my hope and prayer is, that when
affliction and disaster come, I may be with them. You do not want me
now; but when you do, God grant I may be with you! Remember my words."

She remembered them well.

Frank made an excuse to go out, and Mary, crying bitterly, went into
her bedroom. When she was gone, the Major, who had been standing by the
window, said,--

"My dear wife, that boy of hers is aggravating her. Don't be too hard
upon her."

"My dear husband," said Mrs. Buckley, "I have no patience with her, to
welcome an old friend, whom she has not seen for nearly twenty years,
in that manner! It is too provoking."

"You see, my love," said the Major, "that her nerves have been very
much shaken by misfortune, and at times she is really not herself."

"And I tell you what, mother dear," said Sam, "Charles Hawker is going
on very badly. I tell you, in the strictest confidence, mind, that he
has not behaved in a very gentlemanlike way in one particular, and if
he was anyone else but who he is, I should have very little to say to
him."

"Well, my dear husband and son," said Mrs. Buckley, "I will go in and
make the AMENDE to her. Sam, go and see after the Dean."

Sam went out, and saw Frank across the yard playing with the dogs. He
was going towards him, when a man entering the yard suddenly came up
and spoke to him.

It was William Lee--grown older, and less wildlooking, since we saw
him first at midnight on Dartmoor, but a striking person still. His
hair had become grizzled, but that was the only sign of age he showed.
There was still the same vigour of motion, the same expression of
enormous strength about him as formerly; the principal change was in
his face. Eighteen years of honest work, among people who in time,
finding his real value, had got to treat him more as a friend than a
servant, had softened the old expression of reckless ferocity into one
of good-humoured independence. And Tom Troubridge, no careless observer
of men, had said once to Major Buckley, that he thought his face grew
each year more like what it must have been when a boy. A bold flight of
fancy for Tom, but, like all else he said, true.

Such was William Lee, as he stopped Sam in the yard, and, with a bold,
honest look of admiration, said--

"It makes me feel young to look at you, Mr. Buckley. You are a great
stranger here lately. Some young lady to run after, I suppose? Well,
never mind; I hope it ain't Miss Blake."

"A man may not marry his grandmother, Lee," said Sam, laughing.

"True for you, sir," said Lee. "That was wrote up in Drumston church, I
mind, and some other things alongside of it, which I could say by heart
once on a time--all on black boards, with yellow letters. And also, I
remember a spick and span new board, about how Anthony Hamlyn (that's
Mr. Geoffry Hamlyn's father) 'repaired and beautified this church;'
which meant that he built a handsome new pew for himself in the
chancel. Lord, I think I see him asleep in it now. But never mind that
I've kept a pup of Fly's for you, sir, and got it through the
distemper. Fly's pup, by Rollicker, you know."

"Oh, thank you," said Sam. "I am really much obliged to you. But you
must let me know the price, you know, Lee. The dog should be a good
one."

"Well, Mr. Buckley," said Lee, "I have been cosseting this little beast
up in the hopes you'd accept it as a present. And then, says I to
myself, when he takes a new chum out to see some sport, and the dog
pulls down a flying doe, and the dust goes up like smoke, and the dead
sticks come flying about his ears, he will say to his friends, 'That's
the dog Lee gave me. Where's his equal?' So don't be too proud to take
a present from an old friend."

"Not I, indeed, Lee," said Sam. "I thank you most heartily."

"Who is this long gent in black, sir?" said Lee, looking towards Frank,
who was standing and talking with the Major. "A parson, I reckon."

"The Dean of B----," answered Sam.

"Ah! so,"--said Lee,--"come to give us some good advice? Well, we
want it bad enough, I hope some on us may foller it. Seems a man, too,
and not a monkey."

"My father says," said Sam, "that he was formerly one of the best
boxers he ever saw."

Any further discussion of Frank's physical powers was cut short, by his
coming up to Sam and saying,--

"I was thinking of riding out to one of the outlying huts, to have a
little conversation with the men. Will you come with me?"

"If you will allow me, I shall be delighted beyond all measure."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Lee, "but I understood you to say that
you were going to one of our huts to give the men a discourse. Would
you let me take you out to one of them? I'd like well to hear what
you'd got to say myself, sir, and I promise you the lads I'll show you
want good advice as well as any."

"You will do me infinite service," said Frank. "Sam, if you will excuse
me, let me ask you to stay behind. I have a fancy for going up alone.
Let me take these men in the rough, and see what I can do unassisted."

"You will be apt to find them uncivil, sir," said Sam. "I am known, and
my presence would ensure you outward respect at all events."

"Just what I thought," said Frank. "But I want to see what I can do
alone and unassisted. No; stay, and let me storm the place single-handed."

So Lee and he started toward the ranges, riding side by side.

"You will find, sir," said Lee, "that these men, in this here hut, are
a rougher lot than you think for. Very like they'll be cheeky. I would
almost have wished you'd a' let Mr. Buckley come. He's a favourite
round here, you see, and you'd have gone in as his friend."

"You see," said Frank, turning confidentially to Lee, "I am not an
ordinary parson. I am above the others. And what I want is not so much
to see what I can do myself, but what sort of a reception any parson
coming haphazard among these men will get. That is why I left Mr.
Buckley behind. Do you understand me?"

"I understand you, sir," said Lee. "But I'm afear'd."

"What are you afraid of?" said Frank, laughing.

"Why, if you'll excuse me, sir, that you'll only get laughed at."

"That all!" said Frank. "Laughter breaks no bones. What are these men
that we are going to see?"

"Why, one," said Lee, "is a young Jimmy (I beg your pardon, sir, an
emigrant), the other two are old prisoners. Now, see here. These
prisoners hate the sight of a parson above all mortal men. And, for
why? Because, when they're in prison, all their indulgences, and half
their hopes of liberty, depend on how far they can manage to humbug the
chaplain with false piety. And so, when they are free again, they hate him
worse than any man. I am an old prisoner myself, and I know it."

"Have you been a prisoner, then?" said Frank, surprised.

"I was transported, sir, for poaching."

"That all!" said Frank. "Then, you were the victim of a villanous old
law. Do you know," he added, laughing, "that I rather believe I have
earned transportation myself? I have a horrible schoolboy recollection
of a hare who would squeak in my pocket, and of a keeper passing
within ten yards of where I lay hidden. If that is all, give me your
hand."

Lee shook his head. "That is what I was sent out for," said he, "but
since then there are precious few villanies I have not committed. You
hadn't ought to shake hands with me, sir."

Frank laid his hand kindly on his shoulder. "I am not a judge," he
said. "I am a priest. We must talk together again. Now, we have no
time, for, if I mistake not, there is our destination."

They had been riding through splendid open forest, growing denser as
they approached the ranges. They had followed a creek all the way, or
nearly so, and now came somewhat suddenly on a large reedy waterhole,
walled on all sides by dense stringy bark-timber, thickly undergrown
with scrub. Behind them opened a long vista, formed by the gully,
through which they had been approaching, down which the black burnt
stems of the stringy bark were agreeably relieved by the white stems of
the red and blue gum, growing in the moister and more open space near
the creek. In front of them was a slab hut of rich mahogany colour, by
no means an unpleasing object among the dull unbroken green of the
forest. In front of it was a trodden space littered with the chips of
firewood. A pile of the last article lay a few yards in front of the
door. And against the walls of the tenement was a long bench, on which
stood a calabash, with a lump of soap and a coarse towel; a lamp oven,
and a pair of black top-boots, and underneath which lay a noble
cattle dog, who, as soon as he saw them, burst out into furious
barking, and prepared to give battle.

"Will you take my horse for me," said Frank to Lee, "while I go
inside?"

"Certainly, sir," said Lee. "But mind the dog."

Frank laughed and jumped off. The dog was unprepared for this. It was
irregular. The proper and usual mode of proceeding would have been for
the stranger to have stayed on horseback, and for him (the dog) to have
barked himself hoarse, till some one came out of the hut and pacified
him by throwing billets of wood at him. No conversation possible till
his barking was turned into mourning. He was not up to the emergency.
He had never seen a man clothed in black from head to foot before. He
probably thought it was the D----. His sense of duty not being strong
enough to outweigh considerations of personal safety, he fled round the
house, and being undecided whether to bark or to howl, did both, while
Frank opened the door and went in.

The hut was like most other bush huts, consisting of one undivided
apartment, formed of split logs, called slabs, set upright in the
ground. The roof was of bark, and the whole interior was stained by the
smoke into a rich dark brown, such as Teniers or our own beloved
Cattermole would delight in. You entered by a door in one of the long
sides, and saw that the whole of the end on your right was taken up by
a large fireplace, on which blazed a pile of timber. Round the walls
were four bed places, like the bunks on board ship, each filled with a
heap of frouzy blankets, and in the centre stood a rough table,
surrounded by logs of wood, sawn square off, which served for seats.

The living occupants of the hut were scarcely less rude than the hut
itself. One of the bed places was occupied by a sleepy, not bad-looking
young fellow, clad in greasy red shirt, greasy breeches and boots, and
whose shabby plated spurs were tangled in the dirty blankets. He was
lying on his back, playing with a beautiful little parrot. Opposite
him, sitting up in his bunk, was another young fellow, with a
singularly coarse, repulsive countenance, long yellow hair, half-way
down his back, clothed like the other in greasy breeches. This last one
was puffing at a short black pipe, in an affected way, making far more
noise than was necessary in that operation, and seemed to be thinking
of something insolent to say to the last speaker, whoever he may have
been.

Another man was sitting on the end of the bench before the fire, with
his legs stretched out before it. At the first glance Frank saw that
this was a superior person to the others. He was dressed like the
others in black top-boots, but, unlike the others, he was clean and
neat. In fact the whole man was clean and neat, and had a clean-shaved
face, and looked respectable, so far as outward appearances were
concerned. The fourth man was the hut-keeper, a wicked-looking old
villain, who was baking bread.

Frank looked at the sleepy young man with the parrot, and said to
himself, "There's a bad case." He looked at the flash, yellow-haired
young snob who was smoking, and said, "There's a worse." He looked at
the villanous grey-headed old hut-keeper, and said, "There's a hopeless
case altogether." But when he looked at the dry, neatly-dressed man,
who sat in front of the fire, he said, "That seems a more likely
person. There is some sense of order in him, at all events. See what I
can do with him."

He stood with his towering tall black figure in the doorway. The sleepy
young man sat up and looked in wonder, while his parrot whistled and
chattered loudly. The yellow-haired young man looked round to see if he
could get the others to join him in a laugh. The hut-keeper said, "Oh,
h--!" and attended once more to the cooking; but the neat-looking man
rose up, and gave Frank courteously "good day."

"I am a clergyman," said Frank, "come to pay you a visit, if you will
allow me."

Black-hair looked as if astonishment were a new sensation to him, and
he was determined to have the most of it. Meanwhile, little parrot
taking advantage of his absence of mind, clambers up his breast and
nips off a shirt-button, which he holds in his claw, pretending it is
immensely good to eat. Hut-keeper clatters pots and pans, while yellow
hair lies down whistling insolently. These last two seem inclined to
constitute themselves his Majesty's Opposition in the present matter,
while Black-hair and the neat man are evidently inclined towards Frank.
There lay a boot in front of the fire, which the neat man, without
warning, seized and hurled at Yellow-hair, with such skill and
precision that the young fellow started upright in bed and demanded,
with many verbs and adjectives, what he meant by that?

"I'll teach you to whistle when a gentleman comes into the hut--you
Possumguts! Lie down now, will you?"

Yellow-hair lay down, and there was no more trouble with him. Hut-keeper,
too, seeing how matters were going, left off clattering his
pots, and Frank was master of the field.

"Very glad to see you, sir," says the neat man; "very seldom we get a
visit from a gentleman in a black coat, I assure you."

Frank shook hands with him and thanked him, and then, turning suddenly
upon Black-hair, who was sitting with his bird on his knee, one leg out
of his bunk, and his great black vacant eyes fixed on Frank, said,--

"What an exceedingly beautiful bird you have got there! Pray, what do
you call it?"

Now it so happened that Black-hair had been vacantly wondering to
himself whether Frank's black coat would meet across his stomach, or
whether the lower buttons and buttonholes were "dummies." So that when
Frank turned suddenly upon him he was, as it were, caught in the fact,
and could only reply in a guilty whisper, "Mountain blue."

"Will he talk?" asked Frank.

"Whistle," says Black-hair, still in a whisper, and then, clearing his
throat continued, in his natural tone, "Whistle beautiful. Black
fellows gets 'em young out of the dead trees. I'll give you this one if
you've a mind."

Frank couldn't think of it; but could Black-hair get him a young
cockatoo, and leave it with Mr. Sam Buckley for transmission?--would
be exceedingly obliged.

Yes, Black-hair could. Thinks, too, what a pleasant sort of chap this
parson was. "Will get him a cockatoo certainly."

Then Frank asks may he read them a bit out of the Bible, and neat man
says they will be highly honoured. And Black-hair gets out of his bunk
and sits listening in a decently respectful way. Opposition are by no
means won over. The old hut-keeper sits sulkily smoking, and the
yellow-haired man lies in his bunk with his back towards them. Lee had
meanwhile come in, and, after recognitions from those inside, sat
quietly down close to the door. Frank took for a text, "Servants, obey
your masters," and preached them a sermon about the relations of master
and servant, homely, plain, sensible and interesting, and had succeeded
in awakening the whole attention and interest of the three who
were listening, when the door was opened and a man looked in.

Lee was next the door, and cast his eyes upon the new comer. No sooner
had their eyes met than he uttered a loud oath, and, going out with the
stranger, shut the door after him.

"What can be the matter with our friend, I wonder?" asked Frank. "He
seems much disturbed."

The neat man went to the door and opened it. Lee and the man who had
opened the door were standing with their backs towards them, talking
earnestly. Lee soon came back without a word, and, having caught and
saddled his horse, rode away with the stranger, who was on foot. He was
a large, shabbily-dressed man, with black curly hair; this was all they
could see of him, for his back was always towards them.

"Never saw Bill take on like that before," said the neat man. "That's
one of his old pals, I reckon. He ain't very fond of meeting any of
'em, you see, since he has been on the square. The best friends in
prison, sir, are the worst friends out."

"Were you ever in prison, then?" said Frank.

"Lord bless you!" said the other, laughing, "I was lagged for forgery."

"I will make you another visit if I can," said Frank. "I am much
obliged to you for the patience with which you heard me."

The other ran out to get his horse for him, and had it saddled in no
time. "If you will send a parson round," he said, when Frank was
mounted, "I will ensure him a hearing, and good bye, sir."

"And God speed you!" says Frank. But, lo! as he turned to ride away,
Black-hair the sleepy-headed comes to the hut-door, looking important,
and says, "Hi!" Frank is glad of this, for he likes the stupid-looking
young fellow better than he fancied he would have done at first, and
says to himself, "There's the making of a man in that fellow, unless I
am mistaken." So he turns politely to meet him, and, as he comes
towards him, remarks what a fine, good-humoured young fellow he is,
Blackhair ranges alongside, and, putting his hand on the horse's neck,
says, mysteriously--

"Would you like a native companion?"

"Too big to carry, isn't it?" says Frank.

"I'll tie his wings together, and send him down on the ration dray,"
says Black-hair. "You'll come round and see us again, will you?"

So Frank fares back to Toonarbin, wondering where Lee has gone. But
Black-hair goes back into the hut, and taking his parrot from the
bedplace, puts it on his shoulder, and sits rubbing his knees before
the fire. Yellow-hair and the hut-keeper are now in loud conversation,
and the former is asking, in a loud, authoritative tone (the
neat man being outside), "whether a chap is to be hunted and badgered
out of his bed by a parcel of-----parsons?" To which the Hut-keeper
says, "No, by-----! A man might as well be in barracks again." Yellowhair,
morally comforted and sustained by this opinion, is proceeding to
say, that, for his part, a parson is a useless sort of animal in
general, who gets his living by frightening old women, but that this
particular parson is an unusually offensive specimen, and that there is
nothing in this world that he (Yellow-hair) would like better than to
have him out in front of the house for five minutes, and see who was
best man,--when Black-hair, usually a taciturn, peaceable fellow,
astonishes the pair by turning his black eyes on the other, and saying,
with lowering eyebrows,--

"You d----d humbug! Talk about fighting him! Always talking about
fighting a chap when he is out of the way, when you know you've no more
fight in you than a bronsewing. Why, he'd kill you, if you only waited
for him to hit you! And see here: if you don't stop your jaw about him,
you'll have to fight me, and that's a little more than you're game for,
I'm thinking."

This last was told me by the man distinguished above as "the neat man,"
who was standing outside, and heard the whole.

But Frank arrived in due time at Toonarbin, and found all there much as
he had left it, save that Mary Hawker had recovered her serenity, and
was standing expecting him, with Charles by her side. Sam asked him,
"Where was Lee?" and Frank, thinking more of other things, said he had
left him at the hut, not thinking it worth while to mention the
circumstance of his having been called out--a circumstance which
became of great significance hereafter; for, though we never found out
for certain who the man was, we came in the end to have strong
suspicions.

However, as I said, all clouds had cleared from the Toonarbin
atmosphere, and, after a pleasant meal, Frank, Major and Mrs. Buckley,
Sam, and Charles Hawker, rode home to Baroona under the forest arches,
and reached the house in the gathering twilight.

The boys were staying behind at the stable as the three elders entered
the darkened sitting-room. A figure was in one of the easy chairs by
the fire--a figure which seemed familiar there, though the Major could
not make out who it was until a well-known voice said,--

"Is that you, Buckley?"

It was the Doctor. They both welcomed him warmly home, and waited in
the gloom for him to speak, but only saw that he had bent down his head
over the fire.

"Are you ill, Doctor?" said Mrs. Buckley.

"Sound in wind and limb, my dear madam, but rather sad at heart. We
have had some very severe black fighting, and we have lost a kind old
friend--James Stockbridge."

"Is he wounded, then?" said Mrs. Buckley.

"Dead."

"Dead!"

"Speared in the side. Rolled off his horse, and was gone in five
minutes."

"Oh, poor James!" cried Mrs. Buckley. "He, of all men! The man who was
their champion. To think that he, of all men, should end in that way!"


* * * * *


Charles Hawker rode home that night, and went into the room where his
mother was. She was sitting sewing by the fire, and looked up to
welcome him home.

"Mother," said he, "there is bad news to tell. We have lost a good
friend. James Stockbridge is killed by the blacks on the Macquarrie."

She answered not a word, but buried her face in her hands, and very
shortly rose and left the room. When she was alone, she began moaning
to herself, and saying,--

"Some more fruit of the old cursed tree! If he had never seen me, he
would have died at home, among his old friends, in a ripe, honoured old
age."




Chapter XXVII



THE GOLDEN VINEYARD.


On a summer's morning, almost before the dew had left the grass on the
north side of the forest, or the belated opossum had gone to his nest,
in fact just as the East was blazing with its brightest fire, Sam
started off for a pleasant canter through the forest, to visit one of
their out-station huts, which lay away among the ranges, and which was
called, from some old arrangement, now fallen into disuse, "the
heifer station."

There was the hut, seen suddenly down a beautiful green vista in the
forest, the chimney smoking cheerily. "What a pretty contrast of
colours!" says Sam, in a humour for enjoying everything. "Dark brown
hut among the green shrubs, and blue smoke rising above all; prettily,
too, that smoke hangs about the foliage this still morning, quite in
festoons. There's Matt at the door!"

A lean long-legged clever-looking fellow, rather wide at the knees,
with a brown complexion, and not unpleasant expression of face, stood
before the door plaiting a cracker for his stockwhip. He looked pleased
when he saw Sam, and indeed it must be a surly fellow indeed, who did
not greet Sam's honest phiz with a smile. Never a dog but wagged his
tail when he caught Sam's eye.

"You're abroad early this morning, sir," said the man; "nothing the
matter; is there, sir?"

"Nothing," said Sam, "save that one of Captain Brentwood's bulls is
missing, and I came out to tell you to have an extra look round."

"I'll attend to it, sir."

"Hi! Matt," said Sam, "you look uncommonly smart."

Matt bent down his head, and laughed, in a rather sheepish sort of way.

"Well, you see, sir, I was coming into the home station to see if the
Major could spare me for a few days."

"What, going a courting, eh? Well, I'll make that all right for you.
Who is the lady,--eh?"

"Why, its Elsy Macdonald, I believe."

"Elsy Macdonald!" said Sam.

"Ay, yes, sir. I know what you mean, but she ain't like her sister; and
that was more Mr. Charles Hawker's fault than her own. No; Elsy is good
enough for me, and I'm not very badly off, and begin to fancy I would
like some better sort of welcome in the evening than what a cranky old
brute of a hutkeeper can give me. So I think I shall bring her home."

"I wish you well, Matt," said Sam; "I hope you are not going to leave
us though."

"No fear, sir; Major Buckley is too good a master for that!"

"Well, I'll get the hut coopered up a bit for you, and you shall be as
comfortable as circumstances will permit. Good morning."

"Good morning, sir; I hope I may see you happily married yourself some
of these days."

Sam laughed, "that would be a fine joke," he thought, "but why
shouldn't it be, eh? I suppose it must come some time or another. I
shall begin to look out; I don't expect I shall be very easily suited.
Heigh ho!"

I expect, however, Mr. Sam, that you are just in the state of mind to
fall headlong in love with the first girl you meet with a nose on her
face; let us hope, therefore, that she may be eligible.

But here is home again, and here is the father standing majestic and
broad in the verandah, and the mother with her arm round his neck, both
waiting to give him a hearty morning's welcome. And there is Doctor
Mulhaus kneeling in spectacles before his new Grevillea Victoria, the
first bud of which is just bursting into life; and the dogs catch sight
of him and dash forward, barking joyfully; and as the ready groom takes
his horse, and the fat housekeeper looks out all smiles, and retreats
to send in breakfast, Sam thinks to himself, that he could not leave
his home and people, not for the best wife in broad Australia; but then
you see, he knew no better.

"What makes my boy look so happy this morning?" asked his mother. "Has
the bay mare foaled, or have you negotiated James Brentwood's young
dog? Tell us, that we may participate."

"None of these things have happened, mother; but I feel in rather a
holiday humour, and I'm thinking of going down to Garoopna this
morning, and spending a day or two with Jim."

"I will throw a shoe after you for luck," said his mother. "See, the
Doctor is calling you."

Sam went to the Doctor, who was intent on his flower. "Look here, my
boy; here is something new: the handsomest of the Grevilleas, as I
live. It has opened since I was here."

"Ah!" said Sam, "this is the one that came from the Quartz Ranges, last
year; is it not? It has not flowered with you before."

"If Linnaeus wept and prayed over the first piece of English furze
which he saw," said the Doctor, "what everlasting smelling-bottle
hysterics he would have gone into in this country! I don't sympathise
with his tears much, though, myself; though a new flower is a source of
the greatest pleasure to me."

"And so you are going to Garoopna, Sam?" said his father, at breakfast.
"Have you heard, my dear, when the young lady is to come home?"

"Next month, I understand, my dear," said Mrs. Buckley. "When she does
come I shall go over and make her a visit."

"What is her name, by-the-bye?" asked the Doctor.

"Alice!"

So, behold Sam starting for his visit. The very Brummel of bush-dandies.
Hunt might have made his well-fitting cord breeches, Hoby
might have made those black top-boots, and Chifney might have worn them
before royalty, and not been shamed. It is too hot for coat or
waistcoat; so he wears his snow-white shirt, topped by a blue
"bird's-eye-handkerchief," and keeps his coat in his valise, to be used as
occasion shall require. His costume is completed with a cabbage-tree
hat, neither too new nor too old; light, shady, well ventilated, and
three pounds ten, the production, after months of labour, of a private
in her Majesty's Fortieth Regiment of Foot: not with long streaming
ribands down his back, like a Pitt Street bully, but with short and
modest ones, as became a gentleman,--altogether as fine a looking
young fellow, as well dressed, and as well mounted too, as you will
find on the country side.

Let me say a word about his horse, too; horse Widderin. None ever
knew what that horse had cost Sam. The Major even had a delicacy about
asking. I can only discover by inquiry that, at one time, about a year
before this, there came to the Major's a traveller, an Irishman by
nation, who bored them all by talking about a certain "Highflyer" colt,
which had been dropped to a happy proprietor by his mare "Larkspur,"
among the Shoalhaven gullies; described by him as a colt the like of
which was never seen before; as indeed he should be, for his sire
Highflyer, as all the world knows, was bought up by a great Hunter-river
horse-breeder from the Duke of C----; while his dam, Larkspur,
had for grandsire the great Bombshell himself. What more would you
have than that, unless you would like to drive Veno in your dog-cart?
However, it so happened that, soon after the Irishman's visit, Sam went
away on a journey, and came back riding a new horse; which when the
Major saw, he whistled, but discreetly said nothing. A very large colt
it was, with a neck like a rainbow, set into a splendid shoulder, and a
marvellous way of throwing his legs out;--very dark chestnut in
colour, almost black, with longish ears, and an eye so full, honest,
and impudent, that it made you laugh in his face. Widderin, Sam said,
was his name, price and history being suppressed; called after Mount
Widderin, to the northward there, whose loftiest sublime summit bends
over like a horse's neck, with two peaked crags for ears. And the Major
comes somehow to connect this horse with the Highflyer colt mentioned
by our Irish friend, and observes that Sam takes to wearing his old
clothes for a twelvemonth, and never seems to have any ready money. We
shall see some day whether or no this horse will carry Sam ten miles,
if required, on such direful emergency, too, as falls to the lot of
few men. However, this is all to come. Now in holiday clothes and in
holiday mind, the two noble animals cross the paddock, and so down by
the fence towards the river; towards the old gravel ford you may
remember years ago. Here is the old flood, spouting and streaming as of
yore, through the basalt pillars. There stand the three fern trees,
too, above the dark scrub on the island. Now up the rock bank, and away
across the breezy plains due North.

Brushing through the long grass tussocks, he goes his way singing, his
dog Rover careering joyously before him. The horse is clearly for a
gallop, but it is too hot to-day. The tall flat-topped volcanic hill
which hung before him like a grey faint cloud, when he started, now
rears its fluted columns overhead, and now is getting dim again behind
him. But ere noon is high he once more hears the brawling river beneath
his feet, and Garoopna is before him on the opposite bank.

The river, as it left Major Buckley's at Baroona, made a sudden bend to
the west, a great arc, including with its minor windings nearly
twenty-five miles, over the chord of which arc Sam had now been riding,
making, from point to point, ten miles, or thereabouts. The Mayfords'
station, also, lay to the left of him, being on the curved side of the
arc, about five miles from Baroona. The reader may, if he please,
remember this.

Garoopna was an exceedingly pretty station; in fact, one of the most
beautiful I have ever seen. It stood at a point where the vast forests
which surround the mountains in a belt, from ten to twenty miles broad,
run down into the plains and touch the river. As at Baroona, the stream
runs in through a deep cleft in the table land, which here, though
precipitous on the eastern bank, on the western breaks away into a
small natural amphitheatre bordered by fine hanging woods just in
advance of which, about two hundred yards from the river, stood the
house, a long, low building densely covered with creepers of all sorts,
and fronted by a beautiful garden. Right and left of it were the
woolsheds, sheepyards, stockyards, men's huts etc. giving it almost the
appearance of a little village; and behind the wooded ranges begin to
rise, in some places broken beautifully by sheer scarps of grey rock.
The forest crosses the river a little way, so Sam, gradually descending
from the plains to cross, went the last quarter of a mile through a
shady sandy forest tract, fringed with bracken, which leads down to a
broad crossing place, where the river sparkles under tall over-arching
red gums and box-trees; and then following the garden fence, found
himself before a deep cool-looking porch, in a broad neatly-kept
courtyard behind the house.

A groom came out and took his horse. Rover has enough to do; for
there are three or four sheep dogs in the yard, who walk round him on
tiptoe, slowly, with their frills out and their tails arched, growling.
Rover, also, walks about on tiptoe, arches his tail, and growls with
the best of them. He knows that the slightest mistake would be
disastrous, and so manoeuvres till he gets to the porch, where, a deal
of gravel having been kicked backwards, in the same way as the ancients
poured out their wine when they drank a toast, or else (as I think is
more probable) as a symbol that animosities were to be buried, Rover is
admitted as a guest, and Sam feels it safe to enter the house.

A cool, shady hall, hung round with coats, hats, stockwhips; a gun in
the corner, and on a slab, the most beautiful nosegay you can imagine.
Remarkable that for a bachelor's establishment;--but there is no time
to think about it, for a tall, comfortable-looking housekeeper, whom
Sam has never seen before, comes in from the kitchen and curtseys.

"Captain Brentwood not at home, is he?" said Sam.

"No, sir! Away on the run with Mr. James."

"Oh! very well," says Sam; "I am going to stay a few days."

"Very well, sir; will you take anything before lunch?"

"Nothing, thank you."

"Miss Alice is somewhere about sir. I expect her in every minute."

"Miss Alice!" says Sam, astonished. "Is she come home?"

"Came home last week, sir. Will you walk in and sit down?"

Sam got his coat out of his valise, and went in. He wished that he had
put on his plain blue necktie instead of the blue one with white spots.
He would have liked to have worn his new yellow riding-trousers,
instead of breeches and boots. He hoped his hair was in order, and
tried to arrange his handsome brown curls without a glass, but, in the
end, concluded that things could not be mended now, so he looked round
the room.

What a charming room it was! A couple of good pictures, and several
fine prints on the walls. Over the chimneypiece, a sword, and an old
gold-laced cap, on which Sam looked with reverence. Three French
windows opened on to a dark cool verandah, beyond which was a beautiful
flower garden. The floor of the room, uncarpeted, shone dark and
smooth, and the air was perfumed by vases of magnificent flowers, a
hundred pounds worth of them, I should say, if you could have taken
them to Covent-garden that December morning. But what took Sam's
attention more than anything was an open piano, in a shady recess, and
on the keys a little fairy white glove.

"White kid gloves, eh, my lady?" says Sam; "that don't look well." So
he looked through the bookshelves, and, having lighted on "Boswell's
Johnson," proceeded into the verandah. A colley she-dog was lying at
one end, who banged her tail against the floor in welcome, but was too
utterly prostrated by the heat and by the persecution of her puppy to
get up and make friends. The pup, however, a ball of curly black wool,
with a brown-striped face, who was sitting on the top of her with his
head on one side, seemed to conclude that a game of play was to be got
out of Sam, and came blundering towards him; but Sam was, by this time,
deep in a luxurious rocking-chair, so the puppy stopped half way, and
did battle with a great black tarantula spider who happened to be
abroad on business.

Sam went to the club with his immortal namesake, bullied Bennet
Langton, argued with Beauclerk, put down Goldsmith, and extinguished
Boswell. But it was too hot to read; so he let the book fall on his
lap, and lay a-dreaming.

What a delicious verandah is this to dream in! Through the tangled
passion-flowers, jessamines and magnolias, what a soft gleam of bright
hazy distance, over the plains and far away! The deep river-glen
cleaves the table-land, which, here and there, swells into breezy
downs. Beyond, miles away to the north, is a great forest-barrier,
above which there is a blaze of late snow, sending strange light aloft
into the burning haze. All this is seen through an arch in the dark
mass of verdure which clothed the trellis-work, only broken through in
this one place, as though to make a frame for the picture. He leans
back, and gives himself up to watching trifles.

See here. A magpie comes furtively out of the house with a key in his
mouth, and, seeing Sam, stops to consider if he is likely to betray
him. On the whole he thinks not; so he hides the key in a crevice, and
whistles a tune.

Now enters a cockatoo, waddling along confortably and talking to
himself. He tries to enter into conversation with the magpie, who,
however, cuts him dead, and walks off to look at the prospect.

Flop, flop, a great foolish-looking kangaroo comes through the house
and peers round him. The cockatoo addresses a few remarks to him, which
he takes no notice of, but goes blundering out into the garden, right
over the contemplative magpie, who gives him two or three indignant
pecks on his clumsy feet, and sends him flying down the gravel walk.

Two bright-eyed little kangaroo rats come out of their box peering and
blinking. The cockatoo finds an audience in them, for they sit
listening to him, now and then catching a flea, or rubbing the backs of
their heads with their fore-paws. But a buck 'possum, who stealthily
descends by a pillar from unknown realms of mischief on the top of the
house, evidently discredits cocky's stories, and departs down the
garden to see if he can find something to eat.

An old cat comes up the garden walk, accompanied by a wicked kitten,
who ambushes round the corner of the flowerbed, and pounces out on her
mother, knocking her down and severely maltreating her. But the old
lady picks herself up without a murmur, and comes into the verandah
followed by her unnatural offspring, ready for any mischief. The
kangaroo rats retire into their box, and the cockatoo, rather nervous,
lays himself out to be agreeable.

But the puppy, born under an unlucky star, who has been watching all
these things from behind his mother, thinks at last, "Here is some one
to play with," so he comes staggering forth and challenges the kitten
to a lark.

She receives him with every symptom of disgust and abhorrence; but he,
regardless of all spitting, and tail swelling, rolls her over, spurring
and swearing, and makes believe he will worry her to death. Her
scratching and biting tell but little on his woolly hide, and he
seems to have the best of it out and out, till a new ally appears
unexpectedly, and quite turns the tables. The magpie hops up, ranges
alongside of the combatants, and catches the puppy such a dig over the
tail as sends him howling to his mother with a flea in his ear.

Sam lay sleepily amused by this little drama; then he looked at the
bright green arch which separated the dark verandah from the bright hot
garden. The arch was darkened, and looking he saw something which made
his heart move strangely, something that he has not forgotten yet, and
never will.

Under the arch between the sunlight and the shade, bareheaded, dressed
in white, stood a girl, so amazingly beautiful, that Sam wondered for a
few moments whether he was asleep or awake. Her hat, which she had just
taken off, hung on her left arm, and with her delicate right hand she
arranged a vagrant tendril of the passion-flower, which in its
luxuriant growth had broken bounds and fallen from its place above.--A
girl so beautiful that I in all my life never saw her superior. They
showed me the other day, in a carriage in the park, one they said was
the most beautiful girl in England, a descendant of I know not how many
noblemen. But, looking back to the times I am speaking of now, I said
at once and decidedly, "Alice Brentwood twenty years ago was more
beautiful than she."

A Norman style of beauty, I believe you would call it. Light hair, deep
brilliant blue eyes, and a very fair complexion. Beauty and high-bred
grace in every limb and every motion. She stood there an instant on
tiptoe, with the sunlight full upon her, while Sam, buried in gloom,
had time for a delighted look, before she stepped into the verandah and
saw him.

She floated towards him through the deep shadow. "I think," she said in
the sweetest, most musical little voice, "that you are Mr. Buckley. If
so, you are a very old friend of mine by report." So she held out her
little hand, and with one bold kind look from the happy eyes, finished
Sam for life.

Father and mother, retire into the chimney corner and watch. Your day
is done. Doctor Mulhaus, put your good advice into your pocket and
smoke your pipe. Here is one who can exert a greater power for good or
evil than all of you put together. It was written of old,--"A man
shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his----" Hallo! I am
getting on rather fast, I am afraid.

He had risen to meet her. "And you, Miss Brentwood," he said, "are
tolerably well known to me. Do you know now that I believe by an
exertion of memory I could tell you the year and the month when you
began to learn the harp? My dear old friend Jim has kept me quite AU
FAIT with all your accomplishments."

"I hope you are not disappointed in me," said Alice, laughing.

"No," said Sam. "I think rather the contrary. Are you?"

"I have not had time to tell yet," she said. "I will see how you behave
at lunch, which we shall have in half an hour TETE-A-TETE. You have
been often here before, I believe? Do you see much change?"

"Not much. I noticed a new piano, and a little glove that I had never
seen before. Jim's menagerie o wild beasts is as numerous as ever, I
see. He would have liked to be in Noah's Ark."

"And so would you and I, Mr. Buckley," she answered, laughing, "if we
had been caught in the flood."

Good gracious! Think of being in Noah's Ark with her.

"You find them a little troublesome, don't you, Miss Brentwood?"

"Well, it requires a good deal of administrative faculty to keep the
kitten and the puppy from open collision, and to prevent the magpie
from pecking out the cockatoo's eye and hiding it in the flower bed.
Last Sunday morning he (the magpie) got into my father's room, and
stole thirty-one shillings and sixpence. We got it all back but half
a sovereign, and that we shall never see."

The bird thus alluded to broke into a gush of melody, so rich, full,
and metallic, that they both turned to look at him. Having attracted
attention, he began dancing, crooning a little song to himself, as
though he would say, "I know where it is." And lastly he puffed out his
breast, put back his bill, and swore two or three oaths that would have
disgraced a London scavenger, with such remarkable distinctness too,
that there was no misunderstanding him; so Sam's affectation of not
having caught what the bird said, was a dead failure.

"Mr. Buckley," said she, "if you will excuse me I will go and see about
lunch. Can you amuse yourself there for half an hour?" Well, he would
try. So he retired again to the rocking-chair, about ten years older
than when he rose from it. For he had grown from a boy into a man.

He had fallen over head and ears in love, and all in five minutes,
fallen deeply, seriously in love, to the exclusion of all other
sublunary matters, before he had well had time to notice whether she
spoke with an Irish brogue or a Scotch (happily she did neither).
Sudden, you say: well, yes; but in lat. 34 degrees, and lower, whether in
the southern or northern hemisphere, these sort of affairs come on with a
rapidity and violence only equalled by the thunder-storms of those
regions, and utterly surprising to you who perhaps read this book in
52 degrees north, or perhaps higher. I once went to a ball with as free
and easy, heart-whole a young fellow as any I know, and agreed with him to
stay half an hour, and then come away and play pool. In twenty-five
minutes by my watch, which keeps time like a ship's chronometer, that
man was in the tragic or cut-throat stage of the passion with a pretty
little thing of forty, a cattledealer's widow, who stopped HIS
pool-playing for a time, until she married the great ironmonger in George
Street. Romeo and Juliet's little matter was just as sudden, and very
Australian in many points. Only mind, that Romeo, had he lived in
Australia, instead of taking poison, would probably have


"Took to drinking ratafia, and thought of poor Miss Baily,"


for full twenty-four hours after the catastrophe.

At least such would have been the case in many instances, but not in
all. With some men these suddenly-conceived passions last their
lives, and, I should be inclined to say longer, were there not strong
authority against it.

But Sam? He saw the last twinkle of her white gown disappear, and then
leant back and tried to think. He could only say to himself, "By Jove,
I wonder if I can ever bring her to like me. I wish I had known she was
here; I'd have dressed myself better. She is a precious superior girl.
She might come to like me in time. Heigh ho!"

The idea of his having a rival, or of any third person stepping in
between him and the young lady to whom he had thrown his handkerchief,
never entered into his Sultanship's head. Also, when he came to think
about it, he really saw no reason why she should not be brought to
think well of him. "As well me as another," said he to himself; "that's
where it is. She must marry somebody, you know!"

Why was she gone so long? He begins to doubt whether he has not after
all been asleep and dreaming. There she comes again, however, for the
arch under the creepers is darkened again, and he looks up with a
pleasant smile upon his face to greet her.

"God save us! What imp's trick is this?" There, in the porch, in the
bright sun, where she stood not an hour ago in all her beauty and
grace, stands a hideous, old savage, black as Tophet, grinning; showing
the sharp gap-teeth in her apish jaws, her lean legs shaking with old
age and rheumatism.

The colley shakes out her frill, and, raising the hair all down her
back, stands grinning and snarling, while her puppy barks pot-valiantly
between her legs. The little kangaroo rats ensconce themselves once
more in their box, and gaze out amazed from their bright little eyes.
The cockatoo hooks and clambers up to a safe place in the trellis, and
Sam, after standing thunder-struck for a moment, asks, what she wants?

"Make a light," [Note: "See"] says the old girl, in a pathetic squeak.
Further answer she makes none, but squats down outside, and begins a
petulant whine: sure sign that she has a tale of woe to unfold, and is
going to ask for something.

"Can that creature," thinks Sam, "be of the same species as the
beautiful Alice Brentwood? Surely not! There seems as much difference
between them as between an angel and an ordinary good woman." Hard to
believe, truly, Sam: but perhaps, in some of the great European cities,
or even nearer home, in some of the prison barracks, you may chance to
find a white woman or two fallen as low as that poor, starved,
ill-treated, filthy old savage!

Alice comes out once more, and brings sunshine with her. She goes up to
the old lubra with a look of divine compassion on her beautiful face;
the old woman's whine grows louder as she rocks herself to and fro.
"Yah marah, Yah boorah, Oh boora Yah! Yah Ma!"

"What! old Sally!" says the beautiful girl. "What is the matter? Have
you been getting waddy again?"

"Baal!" says she, with a petulant burst of grief.

"What is it, then?" says Alice. "Where is the gown I gave you?"

Alice had evidently vibrated the right chord. The "Yarah Moorah"
coronach was begun again; and then suddenly, as if her indignation had
burst bounds, she started off with a shrillness and rapidity
astonishing to one not accustomed to black-fellows, into something like
the following: "Oh Yah (very loud), oh Mah! Barkmaburrawurrah,
Barkmamurrahwurrah, Oh Ya Barkmanurrawah Yee (in a scream. Then a
pause). Oh Mooroo (pause). Oh hinaray (pause). Oh Barknamurrwurrah
Yee!"

Alice looked as if she understood every word of it, and waited till the
poor old soul had "blown off the steam," and then asked again:

"And what has become of the gown, Sally?"

"Oh dear! Young lubra Betty (big thief that one) tear it up and stick
it along a fire. Oh, plenty cold this old woman. Oh, plenty hungry this
old woman. Oh, Yarah Moorah," &c.

"There! go round to the kitchen," said Alice, "and get something to
eat. Is it not abominable, Mr. Buckley? I cannot give anything to this
old woman but the young lubras take it from her. However, I will 'put
the screw on them.' They shall have nothing from me till they treat her
better. It goes to my heart to see a woman of that age, with nothing to
look forward to but kicks and blows. I have tried hard to make her
understand something of the next world: but I can't get it out of her
head that when she dies she will go across the water and come back a
young white woman with plenty of money. Mr. Sandford, the missionary,
says he has never found one who could be made to comprehend the
existence of God. However, I came to call you to lunch; will you give
me your arm?"

Such a self-possessed, intrepid little maiden, not a bit afraid of him,
but seeming to understand and trust him so thoroughly. Not all the
mock-modesty and blushing in the world would have won him half so
surely, as did her bold, quiet, honest look. Although a very young man,
and an inexperienced, Sam could see what a candid, honest, gentle soul
looked at him from those kind blue eyes; and she, too, saw something in
Sam's broad noble face which attracted her marvellously, and in all
innocence she told him so, plump and plain, as they were going into the
house.

"I fancy I shall like you very much, Mr. Buckley. We ought to be good
friends, you know; your father saved the lives of my father and uncle."

"I never heard of that before," said Sam.

"I dare say not," said Alice. "Your father is not the man to speak of
his own noble deeds; yet he ran out of his square and pulled my father
and uncle almost from under the hoofs of the French cavalry at
Waterloo. It makes my cheeks tingle to tell of it now."

Indeed it did. Sam thought that if it brought such a beautiful flush to
her face, and such a flash from her eyes, whenever she told it, that he
would get her to tell it again more than once.

But lunch! Don't let us starve our new pair of turtle-doves, in the
outset. Sam is but a growing lad; and needs carbon for his muscles,
lime for his bones, and all that sort of thing; a glass of wine won't
do him any harm either, and let us hope that his new passion is not of
such lamentable sort as to prevent his using a knife and fork with
credit and satisfaction to himself.

Here, in the dark, cool parlour, stands a banquet for the gods, white
damask, pretty bright china, and clean silver. In the corner of the
table is a frosted claret-jug, standing, with freezing politeness,
upright, his hand on his hip, waiting to be poured out. In the centre,
the grandfather of watermelons, half-hidden by peaches and
pomegranates, the whole heaped over by a confusion of ruby cherries
(oh, for Lance to paint it!) Are you hungry, though? If so, here is a
mould of potted-head and a cold wild duck, while, on the sideboard, I
see a bottle of pale ale. My brother, let us breakfast in Scotland,
lunch in Australia, and dine in France, till our lives' end.

And the banquet being over, she said, as pleasantly as possible, "Now,
I know you want to smoke in the verandah. For my part, I should like to
bring my work there and sit with you, but, if you had rather not have
me, you have only to say that 'you could not think,' &c. &c., and I
will obediently take myself off."

But Sam didn't say that. He said that he couldn't conceive anything
more delightful, if she was quite sure she did not mind.

Not she, indeed! So she brought her work out, and they sat together. A
cool wind came up, bending the flowers, swinging the creepers to and
fro, and raising a rushing sound, like the sea, from the distant
forest. The magpie having been down the garden when the wind came on,
and having been blown over, soon joined them in a very captious frame
of mind; and, when Alice dropped a ball of red worsted, he seized it as
lawful prize, and away in the house with a hop and a flutter. So both
Sam and Alice had to go after him, and hunt him under the sofa, and the
bird, finding that he must yield, dropped the ball suddenly, and gave
Sam two vicious digs on the fingers to remember him by. But when Alice
just touched his hand in taking it from him, he wished it had been a
whipsnake instead of a magpie.

So the ball of worsted was recovered, and they sat down again. He
watched her nimble fingers on the delicate embroidery; he glanced at
her quiet face and down-turned eyelids, wondering who she was thinking
of. Suddenly she raised her eyes and caught him in the fact. You could
not swear she blushed; it might only be a trifling reflection from one
of the red China roses that hung between her and the sun; yet, when she
spoke, it was not quite with her usual self-possession; a little
hurriedly perhaps.

"Are you going to be a soldier, as your father was?"

Sam had thought for an instant of saying "yes," and then to prove his
words true of going to Sydney, and enlisting in the "Half Hundred."
Truth, however, prompting him to say "no," he compromised the matter by
saying he had not thought of it.

"I am rather glad of that, do you know," she said. "Unless in India,
now, a man had better be anything than a soldier. I am afraid my
brother Jim will be begging for a commission some day. I wish he would
stay quietly at home."

That was comforting. He gave up all thoughts of enlisting at once. But
now the afternoon shadows were beginning to slant longer and longer,
and it was nearly time that the Captain and Jim should make their
appearance. So Alice proposed to walk out to meet them, and, as Sam did
not say no, they went forth together.

Down the garden, faint with the afternoon scents of the flowers before
the western sun, among petunias and roses, oleander and magnolia; here
a towering Indian lily, there a thicket of scarlet geranium and
fuschia. By shady young orange trees, covered with fruit and blossom,
between rows of trellissed vines, bearing rich promise of a purple
vintage. Among fig trees and pomegranates, and so leaving the garden,
along the dry slippery grass, towards the hoarse rushing river, both
silent till they reached it. There is a silence that is golden.

They stood gazing on the foaming tide an instant, and then Alice said,--

"My father and Sam will come home by the track across there. Shall we
cross and meet them? We can get over just below."

A little lower down, all the river was collected into one headlong
race; and a giant tree, undermined by winter floods, had fallen from
one bank to the other, offering a giddy footway across the foaming
water.

"Now," said Alice, "if you will go over, I will follow you."

So he ran across, and then looked back to see the beautiful figure
tripping fearlessly over, with outstretched arms, and held out his
great brown hand to take her tiny fingers as she stepped down from the
upturned roots on to the soft white sand. He would like to have taken
them again, to help her up the bank, but she sprang up like a deer, and
would not give him the opportunity. Then they had a merry laugh at the
magpie, who had fluttered down all this way before them, to see if they
were on a foraging expedition, and if there were any plunder going, and
now could not summon courage to cross the river, but stood crooning and
cursing by the brink. Then they sauntered away, side by side, along the
sandy track, among the knolls of braken, with the sunlit boughs
whispering knowingly to one another in the evening breeze as they
passed beneath.--An evening walk long remembered by both of them.


"Oh see ye not that pleasant road,
That winds along the ferny brae?
Oh that's the road to fairy land,
Where thou and I this e'en must gae."


"And so you cannot remember England, Mr. Buckley?" says Alice.

"Oh dear, no. Stay though, I am speaking too fast. I can remember some
few places. I remember a steep, red road, that led up to the church,
and have some dim recollection of a vast grey building, with a dark
porch, which must have been the church itself. I can see too, at this
moment, a broad green flat, beside a creek, which was covered with
yellow and purple flowers, which mother and I made into nosegays. That
must be the place my father speaks of as the Hatherleigh Meadows, where
he used to go fishing, and, although I must have been there often, yet
I can only remember it on one occasion, when he emptied out a basket of
fish on the grass for me to look at. My impression of England is, that
everything was of a brighter colour than here; and they tell me I am
right."

"A glorious country," said Alice; "what would I give to see it?--so
ancient and venerable, and yet so amazingly young and vigorous. It
seems like a waste of existence for a man to stay here tending sheep,
when his birthright is that of an Englishman: the right to move among
his peers, and find his fit place in the greatest empire in the world.
Never had any woman such a noble destiny before her as this young lady
who has just ascended the throne."

But the conversation changed here, and her Majesty escaped criticism
for the time. They came to an open space in the forest, thickly grown
with thickets of bracken fern, prickly acacia, and here and there a
solitary dark-foliaged lightwood. In the centre rose a few blackened
posts, the supports of what had once been a hut, and as you looked, you
were surprised to see an English rose or two, flowering among the
dull-coloured prickly shrubs, which were growing around. A place, as any
casual traveller would have guessed, which had a history, and Sam,
seeing Alice pause, asked her, "what old hut was this?"

"This," she said, "is the Donovans' old station, where they were burnt
out by the blacks."

Sam knew the story well enough, but he would like to hear her tell it;
so he made believe to have heard some faint reports of the occurrence,
and what could she do, but give him the particulars?

"They had not been here a year," she said; "and Mrs. Donovan had been
confined only three days; there was not a soul on the station but
herself, her son Murtagh, and Miss Burke. All day the blackfellows were
prowling about, and getting more and more insolent, and at night, just
as Murtagh shut the door, they raised their yell, and rushed against
it. Murtagh Donovan and Miss Burke had guessed what was coming all day,
but had kept it from the sick woman, and now, when the time came, they
were cool and prepared. They had two double-barrelled guns loaded with
slugs, and with these they did such fearful execution from two loop-holes
they had made in the slabs, that the savages quickly retired; but
poor Miss Burke, incautiously looking out to get a shot, received a
spear wound on her shoulder, which she bears the mark of to this day.
But the worst was to come. The blackfellows mounted on the roof,
tried to take off the bark, and throw their spears into the hut, but
here they were foiled again. Wherever a sheet of bark was seen to move
they watched, and on the first appearance of an enemy, a charge of shot
at a few yards' distance told with deadly effect. Mrs. Donovan, who lay
in bed and saw the whole, told my father that Lesbia Burke loaded and
fired with greater rapidity and precision than her cousin. A noble
woman, I say."

"Good old Lesbia!" said Sam; "and how did it end?"

"Why, the foolish blacks fired the woolshed, and brought the Delisles
upon them; they tried to fire the roof of the hut, but it was raining
too hard; otherwise it would have gone hard with poor Miss Burke. See,
here is a peach-tree they planted, covered with fruit; let us gather
some; it is pretty good, for the Donovans have kept it pruned in memory
of their escape."

"But the hut was not burnt," said Sam; "where did it stand?"

"That pile of earth there, is the remains of the old turf chimney. They
moved across the river after it happened."

But peaches, when they grow on a high tree, must be climbed for,
particularly if a young and pretty girl expresses a wish for them. And
so it fell out, that Sam was soon astride of one of the lower boughs,
throwing the fruit down to Alice, who put them one by one into the
neatest conceivable little basket that hung on her arm.

And so they were employed, busy and merry, when they heard a loud
cheery voice, which made both of them start.

"Quite a scene from 'Paradise Lost,' I declare; only Eve ought to be up
the tree handing down the apples to Adam, and not VICE VERSA. I miss a
carpet snake, too, who would represent the D----, and make the thing
complete.--Sam Buckley, how are you?"

It was Captain Brentwood who had come on them so inaudibly along the
sandy track, on horseback, and beside him was son Jim, looking rather
mischievously at Sam, who did not show to the best of advantage up in
the peach-tree; but, having descended, and greetings being exchanged,
father and son rode on to dress for dinner, the hour for which was now
approaching, leaving Sam and Alice to follow at leisure, which they
did; for Captain Brentwood and Jim had time to dress and meet in the
verandah, before they saw the pair come sauntering up the garden.

"Father," said Jim, taking the Captain's hand. "How would that do?"

"Marvellous well, I should say;" replied the Captain.

"And so I think, too," said Jim. "Hallo! you two; dinner is ready, so
look sharp."

After dinner the Captain retired silently to the chimney-corner, and
read his book, leaving the three young people to amuse themselves as
they would. Nothing the Captain liked so much as quiet, while he read
some abstruse work on Gunnery, or some scientific voyage; but I am
sorry to say he had got very little quiet of an evening since Alice
came home, and Jim had got some one to chatter to. This evening,
however, seemed to promise well, for Alice brought out a great book of
coloured prints, and the three sat down to turn them over, Jim of
course, you know, being in the middle.

The book was "Wild Sports of the East," a great volume of coloured
lithographs, worth some five-andtwenty guineas. One never sees such
books as that now-a-days, somehow; people, I fancy, would not pay that
price for them. What modern travels have such plates as the old
editions of "Cook's Voyages"? The number of illustrated books is
increased tenfold, but they are hardly improved in quality.

But Sam, I think, would have considered any book beautiful in such
company. "This," said Alice, "is what we call the 'Tiger Book'--why,
you will see directly.--You turn over, Jim, and don't crease the
pages."

So Jim turned over, and kept them laughing by his simple remarks, more
often affected than real, I suspect. Now they went through the tangled
jungle, and seemed to hear the last mad howl of the dying tiger, as the
elephant knelt and pinned him to the ground with his tusks. Now they
chased a lordly buffalo from his damp lair in the swamp; now they saw
the English officers flying along on their Arabs through the high grass
with well-poised spears after the snorting hog. They have come
unexpectedly on a terrible old tiger; one of the horses swerves, and a
handsome young man, losing his seat, seems just falling into the
monster's jaws, while the pariah dogs scud away terrified through the
grass.

"That chap will be eaten immediately," says Jim.

"He has been in that position ever since I can remember," says Alice;
"so I think he is pretty safe."

Now they are with the British army on the march. A scarlet bar
stretches across the plain, of which the further end is lost in the
white mirage--all in order, walking irresistibly on to the conquest of
an empire greater than Haroun Al Raschid's, so naturally done, that as
you look, you think you see the columns swing as they advance, and hear
the heavy, weary tramp of the troops above the din and shouting of the
cloud of camp-followers, on camels and elephants, which surrounds them.
Beyond the plain the faint blue hills pierce the grey air, barred with
a few long white clouds, and far away a gleaming river winds through a
golden country, spanned with long bridges, and fringed with many a
fantastic minaret.

"How I should like to see that!" said Alice.

"Would you like to be a countess," said Jim, "and ride on an elephant
in a howitzer?"

"Howdah, you goose!" said Alice. "Besides, that is not a countess; that
is one of the soldiers' wives. Countesses don't go to India; they stay
at home to mind the Queen's clothes."

"What a pleasant job for them," said Jim, "when her Most Gracious
Majesty has got the toothache! I wonder whether she wears her crown
under her bonnet or over it?"

Captain Brentwood looked up. "My dear boy," he said, "does it not
strike you that you are talking nonsense?"

"Did you ever see the old King, father?" said Jim.

"I saw King George the Third many times."

"Ah, but I mean to speak to him."

"Once only, and then he was mad. He was sitting up with her Majesty,
waiting for intelligence which I brought. His Royal Highness took the
despatches from me, but the King insisted on seeing me."

"And what did he say, father? Do tell us," said Alice eagerly.

"Little enough, my love," said the Captain, leaning back. "He asked,
'Is this the officer who brought the despatches, York?' And his Royal
Highness said 'Yes.' Then the King said, 'You bring good news, sir; I
was going to ask you some questions, but they are all gone out of my
head. Go and get your supper; get your supper, sir.' Poor old
gentleman. He was a kindly old man, and I had a great respect for him.
Alice, sing us a song, my love."

She sang them "The Burial of Sir John Moore" with such perfect taste
and pathos that Sam felt as if the candle had gone out when she
finished. Then she turned round and said to him, "You ought to like
that song; your father was one of the actors in it."

"He has often told me the story," said Sam, "but I never knew what a
beautiful one it was till I heard you sing it."

All pleasant evenings must end, and at last she rose to go to bed. But
Sam, before he went off to the land of happy dreams, saw that the
little white glove which he had noticed in the morning was lying
neglected on the floor; so he quietly secured and kept it. And, last
year, opening his family Bible to refer to certain entries, now pretty
numerous, in the beginning; I found a little white glove pinned to the
fly-leaf, which I believe to be the same glove here spoken of.




Chapter XXVIII



A GENTLEMAN FROM THE WARS.


I need hardly say that Sam was sorry when the two days which he had
allowed himself for his visit were over. But that evening, when he
mentioned the fact that he was going away in the morning, the Captain,
Alice, and Jim, all pressed him so eagerly to stay another week, that
he consented; the more as there was no earthly reason he knew of why he
should go home.

And the second morning from that on which he should have been at home,
going out to the stable before breakfast, he saw his father come riding
over the plain, and, going to meet him, found that he, too, meditated a
visit to the Captain.

"I thought you were come after me, father," said Sam. "By the bye, do
you know that the Captain's daughter, Miss Alice, is come home?"

"Indeed!" said the Major; "and what sort of a body is she?"

"Oh, she is well enough. Something like Jim. Plays very well on the
piano, and all that sort of thing, you know. Sings too."

"Is she pretty?" asked the Major.

"Oh, well, I suppose she is," said Sam. "Yes; I should say that a great
many people would consider her pretty."

They had arrived at the door, and the groom had taken the Major's
horse, when Alice suddenly stepped out and confronted them.

The Major had been prepared to see a pretty girl, but he was by no
means prepared for such a radiant, lovely, blushing creature as stepped
out of the darkness into the fresh morning to greet him, clothed in
white, bareheaded, with


"A single rose in her hair."


As he told his wife, a few days after, he was struck "all of a heap;"
and Sam heard him whisper to himself, "By Jove!" before he went up to
Alice and spoke.

"My dear young lady, you and I ought not to be strangers, for I
recognise you from my recollections of your mother. Can you guess who I
am?"

"I recognise you from my recollections of your son, sir," said Alice,
with a sly look at Sam; "I should say that you were Major Buckley."

The Major laughed, and, taking her hand, carried it to his lips: a
piece of old-fashioned courtesy she had never experienced before, and
which won her heart amazingly.

"Come, come, Buckley!" said the quiet voice of Captain Brentwood from
the dark passage; "what are you at there with my daughter? I shall have
to call out and fight some of you young fellows yet, I see."

Alice went in past her father, stopping to give him a kiss, and
disappeared into the breakfast-room. The Captain came out, and shook
hands warmly with the Major, and said,

"What do you think of her,--eh?"

"I never saw such beauty before," answered the Major; "never, by Jove!
I tell you what, Brentwood, I wish she could come out this season in
London. Why, she might marry a duke."

"Let us get her a rouge-pot and a French governess, and send her home
by the next ship; eh, Buckley?" said the Captain, with his most
sardonic smile. "She would be the better for a little polishing;
wouldn't she, eh? Too hoydenish and forward, I am afraid; too fond of
speaking the truth. Let's have her taught to amble, and mince, and----
Bah, come to breakfast!"

The Major laughed heartily at this tirade of the Captain's. He was fond
of teasing him, and I believe the Captain liked to be teased by him.

"And what are you three going to do with yourselves to-day, eh?"
asked the Captain at breakfast. "It is a matter of total indifference
to me, so long as you take yourselves off somewhere, and leave me in
peace."

Alice was spokesman:--"We are going up to the Limestone Gates; Mr.
Samuel Buckley has expressed a desire to see them, and so Jim and I
thought of taking him there."

This was rather a jesuitical speech. The expedition to the Limestone
Gates involved a long ride through very pretty scenery, which she
herself had proposed. As for Sam, bless you! he didn't care whether
they rode east, west, north, or south, so long as he rode beside her;
however, having got his cue, he expressed a strong wish to examine,
geologically, the great band of limestone which alternated with the
slate towards the mountains, the more particularly as he knew that the
Captain and the Major intended to ride out in another direction, to
examine some new netting for sheep-yards which the Captain had
imported.

If Major Buckley thought Alice beautiful as he had seen her in the
morning, he did not think her less so when she was seated on a
beautiful little horse, which she rode gracefully and courageously, in
a blue ridinghabit, and a sweet little grey hat with a plume of
companion's feathers hanging down on one side. The cockatoo was on the
door-step to see her start, and talked so incessantly in his
excitement, that even when the magpie assaulted him and pulled a
feather out of his tail, he could not be quiet. Sam's horse Widderin
capered with delight, and Sam's dog Rover coursed far and wide before
them, with joyful bark. So they three went off through the summer's day
as happy as though all life were one great summer's holiday, and there
were no storms below the horizon to rise and overwhelm them; through
the grassy flat, where the quail whirred before them, and dropped again
as if shot; across the low rolling forest land, where a million parrots
fled whistling to and fro, like jewels, in the sun; past the old
stockyard, past the sheep-wash hut, and then through forest which grew
each moment more dense and lofty, along the faint and narrow track which
led into one of the most abrupt and romantic gullies which pierce the
Australian Alps.

All this became classic ground to them afterwards, and the causes which
made it so were now gathering to their fulfilment, even now, while
these three were making happy holiday together, little dreaming of what
was to come. Afterwards, years after, they three came and looked on
this valley again; not as now, with laughter and jokes, but silently,
speaking in whispers, as though they feared to wake the dead.

The road they followed, suddenly rising from the forest, took over the
shoulder of a rocky hill, and then, plunging down again, followed a
little running creek up to where a great ridge of slate, crossing the
valley, hemmed them in on either side, leaving only room for the creek
and the road. Following it further, the glen opened out, sweeping away
right and left in broad curves, while straight before them, a quarter
of a mile distant, there rose out of the low scrub and fern a mighty
wall of limestone, utterly barring all further progress save in a
single spot to the left, where the vast grey wall was split, giving a
glimpse of another glen beyond. This great natural cleft was the limestone
gate which they had come to see, and which was rendered the more
wonderful by a tall pinnacle of rock, which stood in the centre of the
gap about 300 feet in height, not unlike one of the same kind in
Dovedale.

"I don't think I ever saw anything so beautiful," said Alice. "How fine
that spire of rock is, shooting up from the feathered shrubs at the
base! I will come here some day and try to draw it."

"Wait a minute," said Jim; "you have not seen half yet."

He led them through the narrow pass, among the great boulders which
lined the creek. The instant they came beyond, a wind, icy cold, struck
upon their cheeks, and Alice, dropping her reins, uttered a cry of awe
and wonder, and Sam too exclaimed aloud; for before them, partly seen
through crowded tree stems, and partly towering above the forest, lay a
vast level wall of snow, flecked here and there by the purple shadow of
some flying summer cloud.

A sight so vast and magnificent held them silent for a little; then
suddenly, Jim, looking at Alice, saw that she was shivering.

"What is the matter, Alice, my dear?" he said; "let us come away; the
snow-wind is too much for you."

"Oh! it is not that!" she said. "Somebody is walking over my grave."

"Oh, that's all!" said Jim; "they are always at it with me, in cold
weather. Let 'em. It won't hurt, that I know of."

But they turned homeward nevertheless; and coming through the rock
walls again, Jim said,

"Sam, what was that battle the Doctor and you were reading about one
day, and you told me all about it afterwards, you know?"

"Malplacquet?"

"No; something like that, though. Where they got bailed up among the
rocks, you know, and fought till they were all killed."

"Thermopylae?"

"Ah! This must be just such another place, I should think."

"Thermopylae was by the sea-shore," said Alice.

"Now, I should imagine," said Sam, pointing to the natural glacis
formed by the decay of the great wall which they had seen fronting them
as they came up, "that a few determined men with rifles, posted among
those fern-trees, could make a stand against almost any force."

"But, Sam," said Jim, "they might be cut up by cavalry. Horses could
travel right up the face of the slope there. Now, suppose a gang of
bushrangers in that fern-scrub; do you think an equal number of police
could not turn them out of it? Why, I have seen the place where Moppy's
gang turned and fought Desborough on the Macquarrie. It was stronger
than this, and yet--you know what he did with them, only kept one
small one for hanging, as he elegantly expressed it."

"But I ain't talking of bushrangers," said Sam. "I mean such fellows as
the Americans in the War of Independence. See what a dance they led our
troops with their bushfighting."

"I wonder if there will ever be a War of Independence here," said
Alice.

"I know which side I should be on, if there was," said Sam.

"Which would that be?" asked Jim.

"My dear friend," said Sam, testily, "how can you, an officer's son,
ask me, an officer's son, such a question? The King's (I beg pardon,
the Queen's) side, of course."

"And so would I," said Jim, "if it came to that, you know."

"You would never have the honour of speaking to your sweet sister
again, if you were not," said Alice.

"But I don't think those Americans were in the wrong; do you, Miss
Brentwood?" said Sam.

"Why no; I don't suppose that such a man as General Washington, for
instance, would have had much to do with them if they had been."

"However," said Sam, "we are talking of what will never occur here. To
begin with, we could never stand alone against a great naval power.
They would shut us up here to starve. We have everything to lose, and
nothing to gain by a separation. I would hardly like myself, for the
sake of a few extra pounds taxes, to sell my birthright as an
Englishman."

"Conceive," said Alice, "being in some great European city, and being
asked if you were British, having to say, No!"

They were coming through the lower pass, and turned to look back on the
beautiful rock-walled amphitheatre, sleeping peaceful and still under
the afternoon sun. The next time (so it happened) that Sam and Jim
looked at that scene together, was under very different circumstances.
Now the fronds of the ferntrees were scarce moved in the summer's
breeze, and all was silent as the grave. They saw it again;--when
every fern tuft blazed with musketry, and the ancient cliffs echoed
with the shouts of fighting, and the screams of dying men and horses.

"It is very early," said Alice. "Let us ride to the left, and see the
great waterfall you speak of, Jim."

It was agreed. Instead of going home they turned through the forest,
and debouched on the plains about two miles above Garoopna, and,
holding their course to the river, came to it at a place where a great
trap dike, crossing, formed a waterfall, over which the river, now full
with melting snow, fell in magnificent confusion. They stood watching
the grand scene with delight for a short time, and then, crossing the
river by a broad, shallow ford, held their way homeward, along the
eastern and more level bank, sometimes reining up their horses to gaze
into the tremendous glen below them, and watch the river crawling on
through many impediments, and beginning to show a golden light in its
larger pools beneath the sloping, westering sun.

Just as they sighted home, on the opposite side of the river, they
perceived two horsemen before them, evidently on the track between
Major Buckley's and Garoopna. They pushed on to "overhaul them," and
found that it was Doctor Mulhaus, whom they received with boisterous
welcome, and a tall, handsome young gentleman, a stranger.

"A young gentleman, Sam," said the Doctor, "Mr. Halbert by name, who
arrived during your father's absence with letters of introduction. I
begged him to follow your father over here, and, as his own horse was
knocked up, I mounted him at his own request on Jezebel, he preferring
her to all the horses in the paddock on account of her beauty, after
having been duly warned of her wickedness. But Mr. Halbert seems of the
Centaur species, and rather to enjoy an extra chance of getting his
neck broke."

Politeness to strangers was one of the first articles of faith in the
Buckley and Brentwood families; so the young folks were soon on the
best of terms.

"Are you from Sydney way, Mr. Halbert?" said Sam.

"Indeed," said the young man, "I have only landed in the country six
weeks. I have got three years' leave of absence from my regiment in
India, and, if I can see a chance, I shall cut the army and settle
here."

"Oh!" said Alice, "are you a soldier, Mr. Halbert?"

"I have that honour, Miss Brentwood. I am a lieutenant in the Bengal
Horse Artillery."

"That is delightful. I am a soldier's daughter, and Mr. Buckley here
also, as you know, I suppose."

"A soldier's daughter, is he?" said impudent Jim. "A very fine girl
too!"

Sam, and Jim too, had some disrespectful ideas about soldiers' riding
qualities; Sam could not help saying,--

"I hope you will be careful with that mare, Mr. Halbert; I should not
like a guest of ours to be damaged. She's a desperate brute,--I'm
afraid of her myself."

"I think I know the length of her ladyship's foot," said Halbert,
laughing good-naturedly.

As they were speaking, they were passing through a narrow way in a
wattle scrub. Suddenly a blundering kangaroo, with Rover in full chase,
dashed right under the mare's nose and set her plunging furiously. She
tried to wheel round, but, finding herself checked, reared up three or
four times, and at last seemed to stand on her hind legs, almost
overbalancing herself.

Halbert sat like a statue till he saw there was a real chance of her
falling back on him; then he slipped his right foot quickly out of the
stirrup, and stood with his left toe in the iron, balancing himself
till she was quieter; then he once more threw his leg across the
saddle, and regained his seat, laughing.

Jim clapped his hands; "By Jove, Sam, we must get some of these army
men to teach us to ride, after all!"

"We must do so," said Sam. "If that had been you or I, Jim, with our
rough clumsy hands, we should have had the mare back atop of us."

"Indeed," said Alice, "you are a splendid rider, Mr. Halbert: but don't
suppose, from Mr. Buckley's account of himself, that he can't ride
well; I assure you we are all very proud of him. He can sit some
bucking horses which very few men will attempt to mount."

"And that same bucking, Miss Brentwood," said Halbert, "is just what
puzzles me utterly. I got on a bucking horse in Sydney the other day,
and had an ignominious tumble in the sale-yard, to everybody's great
amusement."

"We must give one another lessons, then, Mr. Halbert," said Sam;--"but
I can see already, that you have a much finer hand than I."

Soon after they got home, where the rest of the party were watching for
them, wondering at their late absence. Halbert was introduced to the
Major by the Doctor, who said, "I deliver over to you a guest, a young
conqueror from the Himalayas, and son of an old brother-warrior. If he
now breaks his neck horse-riding, his death will not be at my door; I
can now eat my dinner in peace."

After dinner the three young ones, Sam, Alice, and Jim, gathered round
the fire, leaving Halbert with the Major and the Captain talking
military, and the Doctor looking over an abstruse mathematical
calculation, with which Captain Brentwood was not altogether satisfied.
Alice and Sam sat in chairs side by side, like Christians, but Jim lay
on the floor, between the two, like a blackfellow; they talked in a
low voice about the stranger.

"I say," said Jim, "ain't he a handsome chap, and can't he ride? I dare
say, he's a devil to fight too,--hear him tell how they pounded away
at those Indians in that battle. I expect they'd have made a general of
him before now, only he's too young. Dad says he's a very distinguished
young officer. Alice, my dear, you should see the wound he's got, a
great seam all down his side. I saw it when he was changing his shirt
in my room before dinner."

"Poor fellow!" said Alice; "I like him very much. Don't you, Mr.
Buckley?"

"I like him exceedingly;--I hope he'll stop with us," continued Jim.

"And I also," said Sam, "but what shall we do to-morrow?"

"Let's have a hunt," said Jim. "Halbert, have you ever been kangaroo
hunting?"

"Never!--I want to go!"

"Well, we can have a capital hunt to-morrow: Sam has got his dog Fly
here, and I'll take one of my best dogs, and we'll have a good run, I
dare say."

"I shall come, too," said Alice: "that is," added she, looking shyly at
Sam, "if you would be kind enough to take care of me, and let Mr.
Halbert and Jim do the riding. But I'm afraid I shall be sadly in your
way."

"If you don't go," said Sam, "I shall stay at home: now then!"

At this minute, the housekeeper came in bearing jugs and glasses.
"Eleanor," said Jim, "is Jerry round?"

"Yes, sir; he's coiled somewhere in the woodhouse," said she.

"Just rouse him out and send him in."

"Who is this Jerry who coils in woodhouses?" said Halbert.

"A tame black belonging to us. He is great at all sorts of hunting; I
want to see if he can find us a flying doe for to-morrow."

Jerry entered, and advanced with perfect self-possession towards the
fire. He was a tall savage, with a big black beard, and wavy hair like
a Cornishman. He was dressed in an old pair of dandy riding breeches of
Jim's, which reached a short way below the knees, fitting closely, and
a blue check shirt rolled up above the elbow showing his lean wiry
forearm, seamed and scarred with spear wounds and bruises. He addressed
nobody, but kept his eyes wandering all over the room; at length he
said, looking at the ceiling,--

"Cobbon thirsty this fellow: you got a drop of brandy?"

"Jerry," said Jim, having produced the brandy, "you make a light
kangaroo."

"All about plenty kangaroo," said Jerry.

"Yowi; but mine want it big one flying doe."

"Ah-h-h! Mine make a light flying doe along a stockyard this morning;
close by, along a fent, you see!"

"That'll do," says Jim. "We'll be up round the old stockyard after
breakfast to-morrow. You, Jerry, come with us."

It was a fresh breezy autumn morning in April, when the four sallied
forth, about nine o'clock, for their hunt. The old stockyard stood in
the bush, a hundred yards from the corner of the big paddock fence, and
among low rolling ranges and gullies, thickly timbered with gum,
cherry, and sheoak: a thousand parrots flew swiftly in flocks,
whistling and screaming from tree to tree, while wattled-birds and
numerous other honeyeaters clustered on the flowering basksias. The
spurwinged plover and the curlew ran swiftly among the grass, and on
a tall dead tree white cockatoos and blue cranes watched the intruders
curiously.

Alice and Sam rode together soberly, and before them were Halbert and
Jim, just up, ready for the chase. Before them, again, was the active
blackfellow, holding the dogs in a leash,--two tall hounds, bred of
foxhound and greyhound, with a dash of colley.

A mob of kangaroos crosses their path, but they are all small; so the
dogs, though struggling fiercely, are still held tight by Jerry: now he
crosses a little ridge before them and looks down into the gully
beyond, holding up his hand.

The two young men gather up their reins and settle themselves in their
seats. "Now, Halbert," says Jim, "sit fast and mind the trees."

They ride up to the blackfellow; through the low wattles, they can see
what is in the gully before them, though the dogs cannot.

"Baal, flying doe this one," says Jerry in a whisper. "Old man this
fellow, cobbon matong, mine think it."

A great six-foot kangaroo was standing about two hundred yards from
them, staring stupidly about him.

"Let go, Jerry," said Jim. The dogs released; sprang forward, and, in
an instant, saw their quarry, which, with a loud puff of alarm, bounded
away up the opposite slope at full speed, taking twenty feet at each
spring.

Halbert and Jim dashed off after the dogs, who had got a good start of
them, and were laying themselves out to their work right gallantly;
Sam's dog, Fly, slightly leading. Both dogs were close on the game, and
Halbert said,--

"We are going to have a short run, I'm afraid."

"Talk about that twenty minutes hence," said Jim, settling to his work.

Over range after range they hold their headlong course. Now a bandicoot
scuttles away from under their feet to hide in his hollow log; now a
mob of terrified cattle huddle together as they sweep by; now they are
flying past a shepherd's hut, and the mother runs out to snatch up a
child, and bear him out of harm's way, after they are safe past. A
puppy, three weeks old, joins the chase with heart and soul, but "eaves
in" at about fifty yards, and sits him down to bark. Now they are
rushing on through a broad flat, with another great range before them.
Still always the grey bounding figure holds on, through sunlight and
shadow, with the dogs grim and steadfast close in his wake.

The work begins to tell on the horses. Fat Jezebel, who could hardly be
held at first, now is none the worse for a little spur; and Jim's lean,
long-legged horse, seems to consider that the entertainment ought to
conclude shortly. "Well done, Fly!" he shouts; "bravely tried, my
girl!" She had drawn herself ahead, and made a bold strike at the
kangaroo, but missed him. Now the other dog, Bolt, tries it, but
without luck; and now they have both dropped a little back, and seem in
for another mile or so.

Well done, lass!--there she goes again! With a furious effort she
pushes ahead, and seizes the flying beast by the hock--this time with
some luck, for down he goes in a cloud of dust and broken sticks, and
both the dogs are on him at once. Now he is up again and running, but
feebly. And see, what is the matter with the young dog? He runs on, but
keeps turning, snapping fiercely at his side, and his footsteps are
marked with blood. Poor lad! he has got a bad wound in that last
tumble,--the kangaroo has ripped up his flank with a kick from his
hind foot. But now the chase is over,--the hunted beast has turned,
and is at bay against a tree, Fly standing before him, waiting for
assistance, snarling fiercely.

They pulled up. Jim took out a pistol and presented it to Halbert.

"Thank you," said he. "Hair trigger?"

"Yes."

He balanced it for a second, and in another the kangaroo was lying
quivering on the ground, shot through the heart.

"Well done!" said Jim. "Now, I must look to this dog."

All his flank along the ribs was laid open, and Jim, producing a needle
and thread, proceeded to sew it up.

"Will you let me do that for you?" said Halbert.

"I wish you would. I'm fond of the poor thing, and my hand shakes.
You've seen the surgeons at work, I expect."

"Yes, indeed." And he tenderly and carefully stitched up the dog's
side, while Jim held him.

"What do we do with the game?" said he.

"Oh, Jerry will be along on our tracks presently," said Jim. "He brings
me the tail, and does what he likes with the rest. I wonder where Sam
and Alice are?"

"Oh, they are right enough," said Halbert, laughing. "I dare say they
are not very anxious about the kangaroo, or anything else. That's 'a
case,' I suppose?"

"Well, I hope it is," said Jim; "but you see I don't know. Girls are so
odd."

"Perhaps he has never asked her."

"No; I don't think he has. I wish he would. You are not married, are
you?"

"My God--no!" said Halbert, "nor ever shall be."

"Never?"

"Never, Jim. Let me tell you a story as we ride home. You and I shall
be good friends, I know. I like you already, though we have only known
one another two days. I can see well what you are made of. They say it
eases a man's mind to tell his grief. I wish it would mine. Well;
before I left England I had secretly engaged myself to marry a
beautiful girl, very much like your sister, a governess in my
brother-in-law's family. I went off to join my regiment, and left her
there with my sister and her husband, Lord Carstone, who treated her as if
she was already one of the family--God bless them! Two years ago my
father died, and I came into twenty thousand pounds; not much, but
enough to get married on in India, particularly as I was getting on
in my profession. So I wrote to her to come out to me. She sailed in
the Assam, for Calcutta, but the ship never arrived. She was spoken off
the Mauritius, but never seen after. The underwriters have paid up her
insurance, and everyone knows now that the Assam went down in a
typhoon, with all hands."

"God bless you," said Jim! "I'm very sorry for that."

"Thank you. I have come here for change of scene more than anything,
but I think I shall go back soon."

"I shall come with you," said Jim. "I have determined to be a
soldier, and I know the governor has interest enough to get me into
some regiment in India." (I don't believe he had ever thought of it
before that morning.)

"If you are determined, he might. His services in India were too
splendid to have been forgotten yet."

"I wonder," said Jim, "if he will let me go? I'd like to see Alice
married first."

They jogged on in silence for a little, and slowly, on account of the
wounded dogs. Then Jim said,--

"Well, and how did you like your sport?"

"Very much, indeed; but I thought bush-riding was harder work. We have
only had one or two leaps over fallen logs altogether."

"There ain't much leaping, that's a fact. I suppose you have been
fox-hunting?"

"My father was a master of hounds," replied Halbert. "On the first day
of the season, when the hounds met at home, there would be two hundred
horsemen on our terrace, fifty of them, at least, in pink. It was a
regular holiday for all the country round. Such horses, too. My
father's horse, the Elk, was worth three hundred pounds, and there were
better horses than him to be seen in the field, I promise you."

"And all after a poor little fox!"

"You don't know Charley I can see," said Halbert. "Poor little fox,
indeed! Why, it's as fair a match between the best-tried pack of hounds
in England, and an old dog-fox, as one would wish to see. And as hard
work as it is to ride up to them, even without a stiff fence at every
two hundred yards, to roll you over on your head, if your horse is
blown or clumsy. Just consider how many are run, and how few are
killed. I consider a fox to be the noblest quarry in the world. His
speed, courage, and cunning are wonderful. I have seen a fox run
fifteen miles as the crow flies, and only three of us in at the death.
That's what I call sport."

"So do I, by Jove!" said Jim. "You have some good sport in India, too?"

"Yes. Pig-sticking is pretty--very pretty, I may say, if you have two
or three of the right sort with you. All the Griffins ought to hunt
together though. There was a young fellow, a King's-officer, and a
nobleman too, came out with us the other day, and rode well forward,
but as the pig turned he contrived to spear my horse through the
pastern. He was full of apologies, and I was outwardly highly polite
and indifferent, but internally cursing him up hill and down dale. I
went home and had the horse shot; but when I got up next morning, there
was a Syce leading up and down a magnificent Australian, a far finer
beast than the one which I had lost, which my Lord had sent up to
replace my unfortunate nag. I went down to his quarters and refused to
accept it; but he forced me in the end, and it gave me a good lesson
about keeping my temper over an unavoidable accident, which I don't
mean to forget. Don't you think it was prettily done?"

"Yes, I do," said Jim; "but you see these noblemen are so rich that
they can afford to do that sort of thing, where you or I couldn't. But
I expect they are very good fellows on the whole."

"There are just as large a proportion of good noblemen as there are
of any other class--more than that you have no right to expect. I'm a
Liberal, as my father was before me, and a pretty strong one too; but I
think that a man with sixty thousand acres, and a seat in the House of
Lords, is entitled to a certain sort of respect. A Grand Seigneur is a
very capital institution if he will only stay on his estates some part
of the year."

"Ay!" said Jim; who was a shrewd fellow in his way. "They know that
here, well enough: look at our Macarthurs and Wentworths,--but then
they must be men, and not snobs, as the governor says."

When they got home, they found Sam and Alice sitting in the verandah as
comfortable as you please.

"Well," said Jim, "you are a nice lot! This is what you call
kangaroo-hunting!"

"Oh, you went too fast for us. Have you killed?"

"Yes! out by the big swamp."

"You have taken your time to get home then."

"Poor Bolt is cut up, and we couldn't go out of a walk. Now give us
something to eat, will you, Alice?"

"Well, ring the bell and we will have lunch."

But just as Jim rang the bell, there was a loud voice outside, and the
three young men went out to see who it was, and found two horsemen in
front of the door.

One, who was still sitting on his horse, was a darkhaired slight
young man, Charles Hawker in fact, whom we know already, but the other,
who had dismounted, and was leaning against his horse, was a highbred,
delicate little fellow, to whom we have yet to be introduced.

He was a slight lad, perhaps not more than eighteen, with one of the
pleasantest, handsomest faces of his own that you could wish to see,
and also a very intellectual look about him, which impressed you at
once with the idea that if he lived he would have made some sort of
figure in life. He was one of the greatest dandies, also, in those
parts, and after the longest ride used to look as if he had been turned
out of a bandbox. On the present occasion he had on two articles of
dress which attracted Jim's attention amazingly. The first was a new
white hat, which was a sufficiently remarkable thing in those parts at
that time; and the second, a pair of yellow leather riding-trousers.

"Why, Cecil Mayford!" said Sam, "How do you do? Charley, how are you?
Just in time for lunch. Come in."

Jim was walking round and round Cecil without speaking a word. At last
the latter said, "How do YOU do, James Brentwood?"

"How do your breeches do, Cecil?" answered Jim; "that is a much more
important question, By-the-bye, let me introduce you to Mr. Halbert.
Also, allow me to have the honour to inform you that my sister Alice is
come home from school."

"I am aware of that, and am come over to pay my respects. Sam, leave me
alone. If I were to disarrange my dress before I was presented to
Miss Brentwood, I would put a period to my existence. Jim, my dear
soul, come in and present me. Don't all you fellows come mobbing in,
you know."

So Jim took Cecil in, and the other young fellows lounged about the
door in the sun. "Where have you come from, Charley?" asked Sam.

"I have been staying at the Mayfords'; and this morning, hearing that
you and your father were here, we thought we would come over and stay a
bit."

"By-the-bye," said Sam, "Ellen Mayford was to have come home from
Sydney the same time as Alice Brentwood, or thereabouts. Pray, is she
come?"

"Oh, yes!" said Charles; "she is come this fortnight, or more."

"What sort of a girl has she grown to be?"

"Well, I call her an uncommonly pretty girl. A very nice girl indeed, I
should say. Have you heard the news from the north?"

"No!"

"Bushrangers! Nine or ten devils, loose on the upper Macquarrie, caught
the publican at Marryong alone in the bush; he had been an overlooker,
or some such thing, in old times, so they stripped him, tied him up,
gave him four dozen, and left him to the tender mercies of the
blowflies, in consequence of which he was found dead next day, with the
cords at his wrists cutting down to the bone with the struggles he made
in his agony."

"Whew!" said Sam. "We are going to have some of the old-fashioned work
over again. Let us hope Desborough will get hold of them before they
come this way."

"Some of our fellow-countrymen," said Halbert, "are, it seems to me,
more detestably ferocious than savages, when they once get loose."

"Much of a muchness--no better, and perhaps no worse," said Sam. "All
men who act entirely without any law in their actions arrive at much
the same degree, whether white or black."

"And will this Captain Desborough, whom you speak of, have much chance
of catching these fellows?" asked Halbert.

"They will most likely disperse on his approach if he takes any force
against them," said Sam. "I heard him say, myself, that the best way
was to tempt them to stay and show fight, by taking a small force
against them, as our admirals used to do to the French, in the war.
By-the-bye, how is Tom Troubridge? He is quite a stranger to me. I have
only seen him twice since he was back from Port Phillip."

"He is off again now, after some rams, up to the north."

"I hope he won't fall in with the bushrangers. Anybody with him?"

"William Lee," answered Charles.

"A good escort. There is lunch going in,--come along."




ii: Chapter XXXIX



SAM MEETS WITH A RIVAL, AND HOW HE TREATED HIM.


That week one of those runs upon the Captain's hospitality took place
which are common enough in the bush, and, although causing a temporary
inconvenience, are generally as much enjoyed by the entertainer as
entertained. Everybody during this next week came to see them, and
nobody went back again. So by the end of the week there were a dozen or
fourteen guests assembled, all uninvited, and apparently bent on making
a good long stay of it.

Alice, who had expected to be rather put out, conducted everything with
such tact and dignity that Mrs. Buckley remarked to Mrs. Mayford, when
they were alone together, "that she had never seen such beauty and such
charming domestic grace combined, and that he would be a lucky young
fellow who got her for a wife."

"Well, yes, I should be inclined to say so too," answered Mrs. Mayford.
"Rather much of the boarding-school as yet, but that will wear off, I
dare say. I don't think the young lady will go very long without an
offer. Pray, have you remarked anything, my dear madam?"

Yes, Mrs. Buckley had remarked something on her arrival the day before
yesterday. She had remarked Sam and Alice come riding over the paddock,
and Sam, by way of giving a riding-lesson, holding the little white
hand in his, teaching it (the dog!) to hold the reins properly. And on
seeing Alice she had said to herself, "That will do." But all this was
not what Mrs. Mayford meant,--in fact, these two good ladies were at
cross-purposes.

"Well, I thought I did," replied Mrs. Buckley, referring to Sam. "But
one must not be premature. They are both very young, and may not know
their own minds."

"They seem as if they did," said Mrs. Mayford. "Look there!" Outside
the window they saw something which gave Mrs. Buckley a sort of pang,
and made Mrs. Mayford laugh.)

There was no one in the garden visible but Cecil Mayford and Alice, and
she was at that moment busily engaged in pinning a rose into his
buttonhole. "The audacious girl!" thought Mrs. Buckley; "I am afraid
she will be a daughter of debate among us. I wish she had not come
home." While Mrs. Mayford continued,--

"I am far from saying, mind you, my dear Mrs. Buckley, that I don't
consider Cecil might do far better for himself. The girl is pretty,
very pretty, and will have money. But she is too decided, my dear.
Fancy a girl of her age expressing opinions! Why, if I had ventured to
express opinions at her age, I----I don't know what my father would
have said."

"Depend very much on what sort of opinions they were; wouldn't it?"
said Mrs. Buckley.

"No; I mean any opinions. Girls ought to have no opinions at all.
There, last night when the young men were talking all together, she
must needs get red in the face and bridle up, and say, 'She thought an
Englishman who wasn't proud of Oliver Cromwell was unworthy of the name
of an Englishman.' Her very words, I assure you. Why, if my daughter
Ellen had dared to express herself in that way about a murderous
Papist, I'd have slapped her face."

"I don't think Cromwell was a Papist; was he?" said Mrs. Buckley.

"A Dissenter, then, or something of that sort," said Mrs. Mayford. "But
that don't alter the matter. What I don't like to see is a young girl
thrusting her oar in in that way. However, I shall make no opposition,
I can assure you. Cecil is old enough to choose for himself, and a
mother's place is to submit. Oh, no; I assure you, whatever my opinions
may be, I shall offer no opposition."

"I shouldn't think you would," said Mrs. Buckley, as the other left the
room: "rather a piece of luck for your boy to marry the handsomest and
richest girl in the country. However, madam, if you think I am going to
play a game of chess with you for that girl, or any other girl, why,
you are mistaken."

And yet it was very provoking. Ever since she had begun to hear from
various sources how handsome and clever Alice was, she had made up her
mind that Sam should marry her, and now to be put out like this by
people whom they had actually introduced into the house! It would be a
great blow to Sam too. She wished he had never seen her. She would
sooner have lost a limb than caused his honest heart one single pang.
But, after all, it might be only a little flirtation between her and
Cecil. Girls would flirt; but then there would be Mrs. Mayford
manoeuvring and scheming her heart out, while she, Agnes Buckley, was
constrained by her principles only to look on and let things take their
natural course.

Now, there arose a coolness between Agnes Buckley and the Mayfords,
mother and son, which was never made up--never, oh, never! Not very
many months after this she would have given ten thousand pounds to have
been reconciled to the kind-hearted old busy-body; but then it was too
late.

But now, going out into the garden, she found the Doctor busy planting
some weeds he had found in the bush, in a quiet corner, with an air of
stealth, intending to privately ask the gardener to see after them
till he could fetch them away. The magpie, having seen from the window
a process of digging and burying going on, had attended in his official
capacity, standing behind the Doctor, and encouraging him every now and
then with a dance, or a few flute-like notes of music. I need hardly
mention that the moment the Doctor's back was turned the bird rooted up
every one of the plants, and buried them in some secret spot of his
own, where they lie, I believe, till this day.

To the Doctor she told the whole matter, omitting nothing, and then
asked his advice. "I suppose," she said, "you will only echo my own
determination of doing nothing at all?"

"Quite so, my dear madam. If she loves Sam, she will marry him; if she
don't, he is better without her."

"That is true," said Mrs. Buckley. "I hope she will have good taste
enough to choose my boy."

"I hope so too, I am sure," said the Doctor. "But we must not be very
furious if she don't. Little Cecil Mayford is both handsomer and
cleverer than Sam. We must not forget that, you know."

That evening was the first thoroughly unhappy evening, I think, that
Sam ever passed in his life. I am inclined to imagine that his
digestion was out of order. If any of my readers ever find themselves
in the same state of mind that he was in that night, let them be
comforted by considering that there is always a remedy at hand, before
which evil thoughts and evil tempers of all kinds fly like mist before
the morning sun. How many serious family quarrels, marriages out of
spite, alterations of wills, and secessions to the Church of Rome,
might have been prevented by a gentle dose of blue pill! What awful
instances of chronic dyspepsia are presented to our view by the
immortal bard in the characters of Hamlet and Othello! I look with awe
on the digestion of such a man as the present King of Naples. Banish
dyspepsia and spirituous liquors from society, and you would have no
crime, or at least so little that you would not consider it worth
mentioning.

However, to return to Sam. He, Halbert, Charles Hawker, and Jim had
been away riding down an emu, and had stayed out all day. But Cecil
Mayford, having made excuse to stay at home, had been making himself in
many ways agreeable to Alice, and at last had attended her on a ride,
and on his return had been rewarded with a rose, as we saw. The first
thing Sam caught sight of when he came home was Alice and Cecil walking
up and down the garden very comfortably together, talking and laughing.
He did not like to see this. He dreaded Cecil's powers of entertainment
too much, and it made him angry to hear how he was making Alice laugh.
Then, when the four came into the house, this offending couple took no
notice of them at all, but continued walking up and down in the garden,
till Jim, who, not being in love, did'nt care twopence whether his
sister came in or not, went out to the verandah, and called out "Hi!"

"What now?" said Alice, turning round.

"Why, we're come home," said Jim, "and I want you."

"Then you won't get me, impudence," said Alice, and began walking up
and down again. But not long after, having to come in, she just said,
"How do, Mr. Halbert?" and passed on, never speaking to Sam. Now there
was no reason why she should have spoken to him, but "Good evening, Mr.
Buckley," would not have hurt anybody. And now in came Cecil, with that
unlucky rose, and Jim immediately began,--

"Hallo, Cis, where did you get your flower?"

"Ah, that's a secret," said Cecil, with an affected look.

"No secret at all," said Alice, coming back. "I gave it to him. He had
the civility to stay and take me out for a ride, instead of going to
run down those poor pretty emus. And that is his reward. I pinned it
into his coat for him." And out she went again.

Sam was very sulky, but he couldn't exactly say with whom. With himself
more than anybody, I believe.

"Like Cecil's consummate impudence!" was his first thought; but after
he had gone to his room to dress, his better nature came to him, and
before dinner came on he was his old self again, unhappy still, but not
sulky, and determined to be just.

"What right have I to be angry, even suppose she does come to care more
for him than for me? What can be more likely? He is more courtly,
amusing, better-looking, they say, and certainly cleverer; oh,
decidedly cleverer. He might as well make me his enemy as I make him
mine. No; dash it all! He has been like a brother to me ever since he
was so high, and I'll be d----d if there shan't be fair play between us
two, though I should go into the army through it. But I'll watch, and
see how things go."

So he watched at dinner and afterwards, but saw little to comfort him.
Saw one thing, nay, two things, most clearly. One was, that Cecil
Mayford was madly in love with Alice; and the other was, that poor
Cecil was madly jealous of Sam. He treated him differently to what he
had ever done before, as though on that evening he had first found his
rival. Nay, he became almost rude, so that once Jim looked suddenly up,
casting his shrewd blue eyes first on one and then on the other, as
though to ask what the matter was. But Sam only said to himself, "Let
him go on. Let him say what he will. He is beside himself now, and some
day he will be sorry. He shall have fair play, come what will."

But it was hard for our lad to keep his temper sometimes. It was hard
to see another man sitting alongside of her all the evening, paying her
all those nameless little attentions which somehow, however unreasonably,
he had brought himself to think were his right, and no one
else's, to pay. Hard to wonder and wonder whether or no he had angered
her, and if so, how? Halbert, good heart! saw it all, and sitting all
the evening by Sam, made himself so agreeable, that for a time even
Alice herself was forgotten. But then, when he looked up, and saw Cecil
still beside her, and her laughing and talking so pleasantly, while he
was miserable and unhappy, the old chill came on his heart again, and
he thought--was the last happy week only a deceitful gleam of
sunshine, and should he ever take his old place beside her again?

Once or twice more during the evening Cecil was almost insolent to him,
but still his resolution was strong.

"If he is a fool, why should I be a fool? I will wait and see if he can
win her. If he does, why, there is India for me. If he does not, I will
try again. Only I will not quarrel with Cecil, because he is blinded.
Little Cecil, who used to bathe with me, and ride pickaback round the
garden! No; he shall have fair play. By Jove, he shall have fair play,
if I die for it."

And he had some little comfort in the evening. When they had all risen
to go to bed, and were standing about in confusion lighting candles, he
suddenly found Alice by his side, who said in a sweet, low, musical
tone,--

"Can you forgive me?"

"What have I to forgive, my dear young lady?" he said softly. "I was
thinking of asking your forgiveness for some unknown fault."

"I have behaved so ill to you to-day," she said, "the first of my new
friends! I was angry at your going out after our poor emus, and I was
cross to you when you came home. Do let us be friends again."

There was a chance for a reconciliation! But here was Cecil Mayford
thrusting between them with a lit candle just at the wrong moment; and
she gave him such a sweet smile, and such kind thanks, that Sam felt
nearly as miserable as ever.

And next morning everything went wrong again. Whether it was merely
coquetry, or whether she was angry at their hunting the emus, or
whether she for a time preferred Cecil's company, I know not; but she,
during the next week, neglected Sam altogether, and refused to sit
beside him, making a most tiresome show of being unable to get on
without Cecil Mayford, who squired her here, there, and everywhere, in
the most provoking fashion.

But it so happened that the Doctor and the Major sat up later than the
others that night, taking a glass of punch together before the fire,
and the Major said, abruptly,--

"There will be mischief among the young fellows about that girl. It is
a long while since I saw one man look at another as young Mayford did
at our Sam tonight. I wish she were out of the way. Sam and Mayford
are both desperately in love with her, and one must go to the wall. I
wish that boy of mine was keener; he stayed aloof from her all to-night."

"Don't you see his intention?" said the Doctor. "I am very much
mistaken if I do not. He is determined to leave the field clear for all
comers, unless she herself makes some sort of advances to him. 'If she
prefers Mayford,' says Sam to himself, 'in the way she appears to, why,
she is welcome to him, and I can go home as soon as I am assured of
it.' And go home he would, too, and never say one word of complaint to
any living soul."

"What a clear, brave, honest soul that lad has!" said the Major.

"Truly," said the Doctor, "I only know one man who is his equal."

"And who is he?"

"His father. Good night; good dreams!"


* * * * *


So Sam kept to his resolution of finding out whether or no Alice was
likely to prefer Cecil to him. And, for all his watching and puzzling,
he couldn't. He had never confided one word of all this to his mother,
and yet she knew it all as well as he.

Meanwhile, Cecil was quite changed. He almost hated Sam, and seldom
spoke to him, and at the same time hated himself for it. He grew pale,
too, and never could be persuaded to join any sport whatever; while
Sam, being content to receive only a few words in the day from My Lady,
worked harder than ever, both in the yards and riding. All day he and
Jim would be working like horses, with Halbert for their constant
companion, and, half an hour before dinner, would run whooping down to
the river for their bathe, and then come in clean, happy, hungry--so
full of life and youth, that in these sad days of deficient grinders,
indigestion, and liver, I can hardly realize that once I myself was as
full of blood and as active and hearty as any of them.

There was much to do the week that Alice and Sam had their little tiff.
The Captain was getting in the "scrubbers" cattle, which had been left,
under the not very careful rule of the Donovans, to run wild in the
mountains. These beasts had now to be got in, and put through such
processes as cattle are born to undergo. The Captain and the Major were
both fully stiff for working in the yards, but their places were well
supplied by Sam and Jim. The two fathers, with the assistance of the
stockman, and sometimes of the sons, used to get them into the yards,
and then the two young men would go to work in a style I have never
seen surpassed by any two of the same age. Halbert would sometimes go
into the yard and assist, or rather hinder; but he had to give up just
when he was beginning to be of some use, as the exertion was too
violent for an old wound he had.

Meanwhile Cecil despised all these things, and, though a capital hand
among cattle, was now grown completely effeminate, hanging about the
house all day, making, in fact, "rather a fool of himself about that
girl," as Halbert thought, and thought, besides, "What a confounded
fool she will make of herself if she takes that little dandy!--not
that he isn't a very gentlemanlike little fellow, but that Sam is worth
five hundred of him."

One day, it so happened that every one was out but Cecil and Alice; and
Alice, who had been listening to the noises at the stockyard a long
while, suddenly proposed to go there.

"I have never been," she said; "I should so like to go! I know I am not
allowed, but you need not betray me, and I am sure the others won't. I
should so like to see what they are about!"

"I assure you, Miss Brentwood, that it is not a fit place for a lady."

"Why not?"

Cecil blushed scarlet. If women only knew what awkward questions they
ask sometimes! In this instance he made an ass of himself, for he
hesitated and stammered.

"Come along!" said she; "you are going to say that it is dangerous--
(nothing was further from his thoughts); I must learn to face a little
danger, you know. Come along."

"I am afraid," said Cecil, "that Jim will be very angry with me;" which
was undoubtedly very likely.

"Never mind Jim," she said; "come along."

So they went, and in the rush and confusion of the beasts' feet got to
the yard unnoticed. Sam and Jim were inside, and Halbert was perched
upon the rails; she came close behind him and peeped through.

She was frightened. Close before her was Sam, hatless, in shirt and
breeches only, almost unrecognisable, grimed with sweat, dust, and
filth beyond description. He had been nearly horned that morning, and
his shirt was torn from his armpit downwards, showing rather more of a
lean muscular flank than would have been desirable in a drawing-room.
He stood there with his legs wide apart, and a stick about eight feet
long and as thick as one's wrist in his hand; while before him, crowded
into a corner of the yard, were a mob of infuriated, terrified cattle.
As she watched, one tried to push past him and get out of the yard; he
stepped aside and let it go. The next instant a lordly young bull tried
the same game, but he was "wanted;" so, just as he came nearly abreast
of Sam, he received a frightful blow on the nose from the stick, which
turned him.

But only for a moment. The maddened beast shaking his head with a roar
rushed upon Sam like a thunderbolt, driving him towards the side of the
yard. He stepped on one side rapidly, and then tumbled himself bodily
through the rails, and fell with his fine brown curls in the dust,
right at the feet of poor Alice, who would have screamed, but could not
find the voice.

Jim and Halbert roared with laughter, and Sam, picking himself up, was
beginning to join as loud as anybody, when he saw Alice looking very
white and pale, and went towards her.

"I hope you haven't been frightened by that evildisposed bull, Miss
Brentwood," he said pleasantly; "you must get used to that sort of
work."

"Hallo, sister!" shouted Jim; "what the deuce brings you here? I
thought you were at home at your worsted work. You should have seen
what we were at, Cecil, before you brought her up. Now, miss, just
mount that rail alongside of Halbert, and keep quiet."

"Oh, do let me go home, Jim dear; I am so frightened!"

"Then you must learn not to be frightened," he said. "Jump up now!"

But meanwhile the bull had the best of it, and had got out of the yard.
A long lithe lad, stationed outside on horseback, was in full chase,
and Jim, leaping on one of the horses tied to the rails, started off to
his assistance. The two chased the unhappy bull as a pair of greyhounds
chase a hare, with their whips cracking as rapidly and as loudly
as you would fire a revolver. After an excursion of about a mile into
the forest, the beast was turned and brought towards the yard. Twice he
turned and charged the lad, with the same success. The cunning old
stockhorse wheeled round or sprang aside, and the bull went blundering
into empty space with two fourteen-foot stock-whips playing on his
unlucky hide like rain. At length he was brought in again, and one by
one those entitled to freedom were passed out by Sam, and others
reserved unto a day of wrath--all but one cow with her calf.

All this time Alice had sat by Halbert. Cecil had given no assistance,
for Jim would have done anything rather than press a guest into the
service. Halbert asked her, what she thought of the sport?

"Oh, it is horrible," she said. "I should like to go home. I hope it is
all over."

"Nearly," said Halbert; "that cow and calf have got to go out. Don't
get frightened now; watch your brother and Buckley."

It was a sight worth watching; Sam and Jim advanced towards the
maddened beasts to try and get the cow to bolt. The cattle were huddled
up at the other end of the yard, and, having been so long in hand, were
getting dangerous. Once or twice young beasts had tried to pass, but
had been driven back by the young men, with a courage and dexterity
which the boldest matador in Spain could not have surpassed. Cecil
Mayford saw, with his well-accustomed eye, that matters were getting
perilous, and placed himself at the rails, holding one ready to slip if
the beasts should break. In a moment, how or why none could tell, they
made a sudden rush: Jim was borne back, dealing blows about him like a
Paladin, and Sam was down, rolled over and over in the dust, just at
Alice's feet.

Half-a-dozen passed right over him as he lay. Jim had made good his
retreat from the yard, and Cecil had quietly done just the right thing:
put up the rail he held, and saved the day's work. The cattle were
still safe, but Sam lay there in the dust, motionless.

Before any of them had appreciated what had happened, Alice was down,
and, seizing Sam by the shoulders, had dragged him to the fence.
Halbert, horrified to see her actually in the presence of the cattle,
leaped after her, put Sam through the rails, and lifted her up to her
old post on the top. In another instant the beasts swept furiously
round the yard, just over the place where they had been standing

They gathered round Sam, and for an instant thought he was dead; but
just as Jim hurriedly knelt down, and raising his head began to untie
his handkerchief, Sam uprose, and, shaking himself and dusting his
clothes, said,--

"If it had been any other beast which knocked me down but that poley
heifer, I should have been hurt;" and then said that "it was bathing-time,
and they must look sharp to be in time for dinner:" three
undeniable facts, showing that, although he was a little unsteady on
his legs, his intellect had in nowise suffered.

And Halbert, glancing at Alice, saw something in her face that made him
laugh; and, dressing for dinner in Jim's room, he said to that young
gentleman,--

"Unless there are family reasons against it, Jim, which of course I
can't speak about, you know, I should say that you would have Sam for
your brother-in-law in a very short time."

"Do you really think so, now?" said Jim; "I rather fancied she had
taken up with Cecil. I like Sam's fist, mind you, better than Cecil's
whole body, though he is a good little fellow, too."

"She has been doing that, I think, rather to put Sam on his mettle; for
I think he was taking things too easy with her at first; but now, if
Cecil has any false hopes, he may give them up; the sooner the better.
No woman who was fancy free could stand seeing that noble head of Sam's
come rolling down in the dust at her feet; and what courage and skill
he exhibited, too! Talk of bull-fights! I have seen one. Bah! it is
like this nail-brush to a gold watch, to what I saw to-day. Sam, sir,
has won a wife by cattledrafting."

"If that is the case," said Jim, pensively brushing his hair, "I am
very glad that Cecil's care for his fine clothes prevented his coming
into the yard; for he is one of the bravest, coolest hands among
cattle, I know; he beats me."

"Then he beats a precious good fellow, Jim. A man who could make such
play as you did to-day, with a stick, ought to have nothing but a big
three-foot of blue steel in his hand, and Her Majesty's commission to
use it against her enemies."

"That will come," said Jim, "the day after Sam has got the right to
look after Alice; not before; the governor is too fond of his
logarithms."

When Sam came to dress for dinner he found that he was bruised all
over, and had to go to the Captain for "shin plaster," as he called it.

Captain Brentwood had lately been trying homeopathy, which in his
case, there being nothing the matter with him, was a decided success.
He doctored Sam with Arnica externally, and gave him the five-hundredth
of a grain of something to swallow; but what made Sam forget
his bruises quicker than these dangerous and violent remedies, was the
delightful change in Alice's behaviour. She was so agreeable that
evening, that he was in the seventh heaven; the only drawback to his
happiness being poor Cecil Mayford's utter distraction and misery.
Next morning, too, after a swim in the river, he handled such a
singularly good knife and fork, that Halbert told Jim privately, that
if he, Sam, continued to sport such a confoundedly good appetite, he
would have to be carried half-a-mile on a heifer's horns and left for
dead, to keep up the romantic effect of his tumble the day before.

They were sitting at breakfast, when the door opened, and there
appeared before the assembled company the lithe lad I spoke of
yesterday, who said,--

"Beg your pardon, sir; child lost, sir."

They all started up. "Whose child?" asked the Captain.

"James Grewer's child, sir, at the wattle hut."

"Oh!" said Alice, turning to Sam, "it is that pretty little boy up the
river that we were admiring so last week."

"When was he lost?" asked Major Buckley.

"Two days now, sir," said the lad.

"But the hut is on the plain side of the river," said the Major; "he
can't be lost on the plains."

"The river is very low, sir," said the lad; "hardly ancle deep just
there. He may have crossed."

"The black fellows may have found him," suggested Mrs. Buckley.

"They would have been here before now to tell us, if they had, I am
afraid," said Captain Brentwood. "Let us hope they may have got him;
however, we had better start at once. Two of us may search the river
between this and the hut, and two may follow it towards the Mayfords'.
Sam, you have the best horse; go down to the hut, and see if you can
find any trace across the river, on this side, and follow it up to the
ranges. Take some one with you, and, by-thebye, take your dog Rover."

They were all quickly on the alert. Sam was going to ask Jim to come
with him; but as he was putting the saddle on Widderin he felt a hand
on his arm, and, turning, saw Cecil Mayford.

"Sam Buckley," said Cecil, "let me ride with you; will you?"

"Who sooner, old friend?" answered Sam heartily: "let us come together
by all means, and if we are to go to the ranges, we had better take a
blanket a-piece, and a wedge of damper. So if you will get them from
the house, I will saddle your horse."




ii: Chapter XXX



HOW THE CHILD WAS LOST, AND HOW HE GOT FOUND AGAIN--WHAT CECIL SAID TO
SAM WHEN THEY FOUND HIM--AND HOW IN CASTING LOTS, ALTHOUGH CECIL WON
THE LOT, HE LOST THE PRIZE.


Four or five miles up the river from Garoopna stood a solitary hut,
snug, sheltered by a lofty bare knoll, round which the great river
chafed among the boulders. Across the stream was the forest, sloping
down in pleasant glades from the mountain; and behind the hut rose the
plain four or five hundred feet over head, seeming to be held aloft by
the blue-stone columns which rose from the river side.

In this cottage resided a shepherd, his wife, and one little boy, their
son, about eight years old. A strange, wild little bush child, able to
speak articulately, but utterly without knowledge or experience of
human creatures, save of his father and mother; unable to read a line;
without religion of any sort or kind; as entire a little savage, in
fact, as you could find in the worst den in your city, morally
speaking, and yet beautiful to look on; as active as a roe, and, with
regard to natural objects, as fearless as a lion.

As yet unfit to begin labour. All the long summer he would wander
about the river bank, up and down the beautiful rock-walled paradise
where he was confined, sometimes looking eagerly across the water at
the waving forest boughs, and fancying he could see other children far
up the vistas beckoning to him to cross and play in that merry land of
shifting lights and shadows.

It grew quite into a passion with the poor little man to get across and
play there; and one day when his mother was shifting the hurdles, and
he was handing her the strips of green hide which bound them together,
he said to her,--

"Mother, what country is that across the river?"

"The forest, child."

"There's plenty of quantongs over there, eh, mother, and raspberries?
Why mayn't I get across and play there?"

"The river is too deep, child, and the Bunyip lives in the water under
the stones."

"Who are the children that play across there?"

"Black children, likely."

"No white children?"

"Pixies; don't go near 'em child; they'll lure you on, Lord knows
where. Don't get trying to cross the river, now, or you'll be drowned."

But next day the passion was stronger on him than ever. Quite early on
the glorious cloudless midsummer day he was down by the river side,
sitting on a rock, with his shoes and stockings off, paddling his feet
in the clear tepid water, and watching the million fish in the shallows
black fish and grayling--leaping and flashing in the sun.

There is no pleasure that I have ever experienced like a child's
midsummer holiday. The time, I mean, when two or three of us used to go
away up the brook, and take our dinners with us, and come home at night
tired, dirty, happy, scratched beyond recognition, with a great
nosegay, three little trout, and one shoe, the other one having been
used for a boat till it had gone down with all hands out of soundings.
How poor our Derby days, our Greenwich dinners, our evening parties,
where there are plenty of nice girls, are after that! Depend on it, a
man never experiences such pleasure or grief after fourteen as he does
before, unless in come cases in his first love-making, when the
sensation is new to him.

But, meanwhile, there sits our child, barelegged, watching the
forbidden ground beyond the river. A fresh breeze was moving the trees,
and making the whole a dazzling mass of shifting light and shadow. He
sat so still that a glorious violet and red king-fisher perched quite
close, and, dashing into the water, came forth with a fish, and fled
like a ray of light along the winding of the river. A colony of little
shell parrots, too, crowded on a bough, and twittered and ran to and
fro quite busily, as though they said to him, "We don't mind you, my
dear; you are quite one of us."

Never was the river so low. He stepped in; it scarcely reached his
ancle. Now surely he might get across. He stripped himself, and,
carrying his clothes, waded through, the water never reaching his
middle all across the long, yellow, gravelly shallow. And there he
stood naked and free in the forbidden ground.

He quickly dressed himself, and began examining his new kingdom, rich
beyond his utmost hopes. Such quantongs, such raspberries, surpassing
imagination; and when tired of them such fern boughs, six or eight feet
long! He would penetrate this region, and see how far it extended.

What tales he would have for his father to-night. He would bring him
here, and show him all the wonders, and perhaps he would build a new
hut over here, and come and live in it? Perhaps the pretty young lady,
with the feathers in her hat, lived somewhere here, too?

There! There is one of those children he had seen before across the
river. Ah! ah! it was not a child at all, but a pretty grey beast, with
big ears. A kangaroo, my lad; he won't play with you, but skips away
slowly, and leaves you alone.

There is something like the gleam of water on that rock. A snake! Now a
sounding rush through the wood, and a passing shadow. An eagle! He
brushes so close to the child; that he strikes at the bird with a
stick, and then watches him as he shoots up like a rocket, and,
measuring the fields of air in ever-widening circles, hangs like a
motionless speck upon the sky; though, measure his wings across, and
you will find he is nearer fifteen feet than fourteen.

Here is a prize, though! A wee little native bear, barely eight inches
long,--a little grey beast, comical beyond expression, with broad
flapped ears, sits on a tree within reach. He makes no resistance, but
cuddles into the child's bosom, and eats a leaf as they go along; while
his mother sits aloft, and grunts indignant at the abstraction of her
offspring, but, on the whole, takes it pretty comfortably, and goes on
with her dinner of peppermint leaves.

What a short day it has been! Here is the sun getting low, and the
magpies and jackasses beginning to tune up before roosting.

He would turn and go back to the river. Alas! which way?

He was lost in the bush. He turned back and went, as he thought, the
way he had come, but soon arrived at a tall, precipitous cliff, which,
by some infernal magic, seemed to have got between him and the river.
Then he broke down, and that strange madness came on him which comes
even on strong men when lost in the forest: a despair, a confusion of
intellect, which cost many a bold man his life. Think what it must be
with a child.

He was fully persuaded that the cliff was between him and home, and
that he must climb it. Alas! every step he took aloft carried him
further from the river and the hope of safety; and when he came to the
top, just at dark, he saw nothing but cliff after cliff, range after
range, all around him. He had been wandering through steep gullies all
day unconsciously, and had penetrated far into the mountains. Night was
coming down, still and crystal-clear, and the poor little lad was far
away from help or hope, going his last long journey alone.

Partly perhaps walking, and partly sitting down and weeping, he got
through the night; and when the solemn morning came up again he was
still tottering along the leading range, bewildered; crying, from time
to time, "Mother, mother!" still nursing his little bear, his only
companion, to his bosom, and holding still in his hand a few poor
flowers he had gathered the day before. Up and on all day, and at
evening, passing out of the great zone of timber, he came on the bald,
thunder-smitten summit ridge, where one ruined tree held up its
skeleton arms against the sunset, and the wind came keen and frosty.
So, with failing, feeble legs, upward still, towards the region of the
granite and the snow; towards the eyrie of the kite and the eagle.


* * * * *


Brisk as they all were at Garoopna, none were so brisk as Cecil and
Sam. Charles Hawker wanted to come with them, but Sam asked him to go
with Jim; and, long before the others were ready, our two had strapped
their blankets to their saddles, and, followed by Sam's dog Rover, now
getting a little grey about the nose, cantered off up the river.

Neither spoke at first. They knew what a solemn task they had before
them; and, while acting as though everything depended on speed, guessed
well that their search was only for a little corpse, which, if they had
luck, they would find stiff and cold under some tree or crag.

Cecil began: "Sam, depend on it that child has crossed the river to
this side. If he had been on the plains he would have been seen from a
distance in a few hours."

"I quite agree," said Sam. "Let us go down this side till we are
opposite the hut, and search for marks by the river side."

So they agreed; and in half an hour were opposite the hut, and, riding
across to it to ask a few questions, found the poor mother sitting on
the door-step, with her apron over her head, rocking herself to and
fro.

"We have come to help you, mistress," said Sam. "How do you think he is
gone?"

She said, with frequent bursts of grief, that "some days before he had
mentioned having seen white children across the water, who beckoned
him to cross and play; that she, knowing well that they were fairies,
or perhaps worse, had warned him solemnly not to mind them; but that
she had very little doubt that they had helped him over and carried him
away to the forest; and that her husband would not believe in his
having crossed the river."

"Why, it is not knee-deep across the shallow," said Cecil.

"Let us cross again," said Sam: "he MAY be drowned, but I don't think it."

In a quarter of an hour from starting they found, slightly up the
stream, one of the child's socks, which in his hurry to dress he had
forgotten. Here brave Rover took up the trail like a bloodhound, and
before evening stopped at the foot of a lofty cliff.

"Can he have gone up here?" said Sam, as they were brought up by the
rock.

"Most likely," said Cecil. "Lost children always climb from height to
height. I have heard it often remarked by old bush hands. Why they do
so, God, who leads them, only knows; but the fact is beyond denial.
Ask Rover what he thinks?"

The brave old dog was half-way up, looking back for them. It took them
nearly till dark to get their horses up; and, as there was no moon, and
the way was getting perilous, they determined to camp, and start again
in the morning.

They spread their blankets and lay down side by side. Sam had thought,
from Cecil's proposing to come with him in preference to the others,
that he would speak of a subject nearly concerning them both; but Cecil
went off to sleep and made no sign; and Sam, ere he dozed, said to
himself, "By Jove, if he don't speak this journey, I will. It is
unbearable that we should not come to some understanding. Poor Cecil!"

At early dawn they caught up their horses, which had been hobbled with
the stirrup leathers, and started afresh. Both were more silent than
ever, and the dog, with his nose to the ground, led them slowly along
the rocky rib of the mountain, ever going higher and higher.

"It is inconceivable," said Sam, "that the poor child can have come up
here. There is Tuckerimbid close to our right, five thousand feet above
the river. Don't you think we must be mistaken?"

"The dog disagrees with you," said Cecil. "He has something before him
not very far off. Watch him."

The trees had become dwarfed and scattered; they were getting out of
the region of trees; the real forest zone was now below them, and they
saw they were emerging towards a bald elevated down, and that a few
hundred yards before them was a dead tree, on the highest branch of
which sat an eagle.

"The dog has stopped," said Cecil, "the end is near."

"See," said Sam, "there is a handkerchief under the tree."

"That is the boy himself," said Cecil.

They were up to him and off in a moment. There he lay, dead and stiff,
one hand still grasping the flowers he had gathered on his last happy
play-day, and the other laid as a pillow, between the soft cold cheek
and the rough cold stone. His midsummer holiday was over, his long
journey was ended. He had found out at last what lay beyond the shining
river he had watched so long.

Both the young men knelt beside him for a moment in silence. They had
found only what they had expected to find, and yet, now that they had
found it, they were far more touched and softened than they could have
thought possible. They stayed in silence a few moments, and then Cecil,
lifting up his head, said suddenly,--

"Sam Buckley! there can be no debate between us two, with this lying
here between us. Let us speak now."

"There has never been any debate, Cecil," said he, "and there never
would be, though this little corpse was buried fathoms deep. It takes
two to make a quarrel, Cecil, and I will not be one."

"Sam," said Cecil, "I love Alice Brentwood better than all the world
besides."

"I know it."

"And you love her too, as well, were it possible, as I do."

"I know that too."

"Why," resumed Cecil hurriedly, "has this come to pass? Why has it been
my unlucky destiny, that the man I love and honour above all others
should become my rival? Are there no other women in the world? Tell me,
Sam, why is it forced on me to choose between my best friend and the
woman I love dearer than life? Why has this terrible emergency come
between us?"

"I will tell you why," said Sam, speaking very quietly, as though
fearing to awaken the dead: "to teach us to behave like men of honour
and gentlemen, though our hearts break. That is why, Cecil."

"What shall we do?" said Cecil.

"Easily answered," said Sam. "Let her decide for herself. It may be,
mind you, that she will have neither of us. There has been one living
in the house with her lately, far superior in every point to you or I.
How if she thought fit to prefer him?"

"Halbert!"

"Yes, Halbert! What more likely? Let you and I find out the truth,
Cecil, like men, and abide by it. Let each one ask her in his turn what
chance he has."

"Who first?"

"See here," said Sam; "draw one of these pieces of grass out of my
hand. If you draw the longest piece ask her at once. Will you abide by
this?"

He said "yes," and drew--the longest piece.

"That is well," said Sam. "And now no more of this at present. I will
sling this poor little fellow in my blanket and carry him home to his
mother. See, Cecil, what is Rover at?"

Rover was on his hind legs against the tree, smelling at something.
When they came to look, there was a wee little grey bear perched in the
hollow of the tree.

"What a very strange place for a young bear!" said Cecil.

"Depend on it," said Sam, "that the child had caught it from its dam,
and brought it up here. Take it home with you, Cecil, and give it to
Alice."

Cecil took the little thing home, and in time it grew to be between
three and four feet high, a grandfather of bears. The magpie protested
against his introduction to the establishment, and used to pluck
billfulls of hair from his stomach under pretence of lining a nest,
which was never made. But in spite of this, the good gentle beast lived
nigh as long as the magpie--long enough to be caressed by the waxen
fingers of little children, who would afterwards gather round their
father, and hear how the bear had been carried to the mountains in
the bosom of the little boy who lost his way on the granite ranges, and
went to heaven, in the year that the bushrangers came down.

Sam carried the little corpse back in his blanket, and that evening
helped the father to bury it by the river side. Under some fern trees
they buried him, on a knoll which looked across the river, into the
treacherous beautiful forest which had lured him to his destruction.

Alice was very sad for a day or two, and thought and talked much about
this sad accident, but soon she recovered her spirits again. And it
fell out, that a bare week after this, the party being all out in one
direction or another, that Cecil saw Alice alone in the garden, tending
her flowers, and knew that the time was come for him to keep his
bargain with Sam and speak to her. He felt like a man who was being led
to execution; but screwed his courage to the highest point, and went
down to where she was tying up a rose-tree.

"Miss Brentwood," he said, "I am come to petition for a flower."

"You shall have a dozen, if you will," she answered. "Help yourself;
will you have a peony or a sunflower? If you have not made up your
mind, let me recommend a good large yellow sunflower."

Here was a pretty beginning!

"Miss Brentwood, don't laugh at me, but listen to me a moment. I love
you above all earthly things besides. I worship the ground you walk on.
I loved you from the first moment I saw you. I shall love you as well,
ay, better, if that could be, on the day my heart is still, and my hand
is cold for ever: can you tell me to hope? Don't drive me, by one hasty
half-considered word, to despair and misery for the rest of my life.
Say only one syllable of encouragement, and I will bide your time for
years and years."

Alice was shocked and stunned. She saw he was in earnest, by his looks,
and by his hurried, confused way of speaking. She feared she might have
been to blame, and have encouraged him in her thoughtlessness, more
than she ought. "I will make him angry with me," she said to herself.
"I will treat him to ridicule. It is the only chance, poor fellow!"

"Mr. Mayford," she said, "if I thought you were in jest, I should feel
it necessary to tell my father and brother that you had been
impertinent. I can only believe that you are in earnest, and I deeply
regret that your personal vanity should have urged you to take such an
unwarrantable liberty with a girl you have not yet known for ten days."

He turned and left her without a word, and she remained standing where
she was, half inclined to cry, and wondering if she had acted right on
the spur of the moment--sometimes half inclined to believe that she
had been unladylike and rude. When a thing of this kind takes place,
both parties generally put themselves in immediate correspondence
with a confidant. Miss Smith totters into the apartments of her dearest
friend, and falls weeping on the sofa, while Jones rushes madly into
Brown's rooms in the Temple, and, shying his best hat into the
coalscuttle, announces that there is nothing now left for him but to
drown the past in debauchery. Whereupon Brown, if he is a good fellow,
as all the Browns are, produces the whisky and hears all about it.

So in the present instance two people were informed of what had taken
place before they went to bed that night; and those two were Jim and
Doctor Mulhaus. Alice had stood where Cecil had left her, thinking,
could she confide it to Mrs. Buckley, and ask for advice. But Mrs.
Buckley had been a little cross to her that week for some reason, and
so she was afraid; and, not knowing anybody else well enough, began to
cry.

There was a noise of horses' feet just beyond the fence, and a voice
calling to her to come. It was Jim, and, drying her eyes, she went out,
and he, dismounting, put his arm round her waist and kissed her.

"Why, my beauty," he said, "who has been making you cry?"

She put her head on his shoulder and began sobbing louder than ever.
"Cecil Mayford," she said in a whisper.

"Well, and what the d----l has he been at?" said Jim, in a rather
startling tone.

"Wants to marry me," she answered, in a whisper, and hid her face in
his coat.

"The deuce doubt he does," said Jim; "who does not? What did you tell
him?"

"I told him that I wondered at his audacity."

"Sent him off with a flea in his ear, in fact," said Jim. "Well, quite
right. I suppose you would do the same for any man?"

"Certainly I should," she said, looking up.

"If Doctor Mulhaus, now,--eh?"

"I'd box his ears, Jim," she said, laughing; "I would, indeed."

"Or Sam Buckley; would you box his ears, if he were to--you know?"

"Yes," she said. But there spread over her face a sudden crimson blush,
like the rosy arch which heralds the tropical sun, which made Jim laugh
aloud.

"If you dared to say a word, Jim," she said, "I would never, never--"

Poor Cecil had taken his horse and had meant to ride home, but came
back again at night, "just," he thought, "to have one more look at her
before he entered on some line of life which would take him far away
from Garoopna and its temptations."

The Doctor (who has been rather thrust aside lately in the midst of all
this love-making and so on) saw that something had gone very wrong with
Cecil, who was a great friend of his, and, as he could never bear to
see a man in distress without helping him, he encouraged Cecil to
stroll down the garden with him, and then kindly and gently asked him
what was wrong.

Cecil told him all, from beginning to end, and added that life was over
for him, as far as all pleasure and excitement went; and, in short,
said what we have all said, and had said to us in our time, after a
great disappointment in love; which the Doctor took for exactly what it
was worth, although poor little Cecil's distress was very keen; and,
remembering some old bygone day when he had suffered so himself, he
cast about to find some comfort for him.

"You will get over this, my boy," said he, "if you would only believe it."

"Never, never!" said Cecil.

"Let me tell you a story, as we walk up and down. If it does not
comfort you, it will amuse you. How sweet the orange bloom smells!
Listen:--Had not the war broke out so suddenly, I should have been
married, two months to a day, before the battle of Saarbruck. Catherine
was a distant cousin, beautiful and talented, about ten years my
junior. Before Heaven, sir, on the word of a gentleman, I never persecuted
her with my addresses, and if either of them ay I did, tell
them from me, sir, that they lie, and I will prove it on their bodies.
Bah! I was forgetting. I, as head of the family, was her guardian, and,
although my younger brother was nearer her age, I courted her, in all
honour and humility proposed to her, and was accepted with even more
willingness than most women condescend to show on such occasions, and
received the hearty congratulations of my brother. Few women were ever
loved better than I loved Catherine. Conceive, Cecil, that I loved her
as well as you love Miss Brentwood, and listen to what follows.

"The war-cloud burst so suddenly that, leaving my bride that was to be,
to the care of my brother, and putting him in charge over my property,
I hurried off to join the Landsturm, two regiments of which I had put
into a state of efficiency by my sole exertions.

"You know partly what followed,--in one day an army of 150,000 men
destroyed, the King in flight to Konigsberg, and Prussia a province of
France.

"I fled, wounded badly, desperate and penniless, from that field. I
learnt from the peasants, that what I had thought to be merely a
serious defeat was an irretrievable disaster; and, in spite of wounds,
hunger, and want of clothes, I held on my way towards home.

"The enemy were in possession of the country, so I had to travel by
night alone, and beg from such poor cottages as I dared to approach.
Sometimes got a night's rest, but generally lay abroad in the fields.
But at length, after every sort of danger and hardship, I stood above
the broad, sweeping Maine, and saw the towers of my own beloved castle
across the river, perched as of old above the vineyards, looking
protectingly down upon the little town which was clustered on the
river-bank below, and which owned me for its master.

"I crossed at dusk. I had to act with great caution, for I did not know
whether the French were there or no. I did not make myself known to the
peasant who ferried me over, further than as one from the war, which my
appearance was sufficient to prove. I landed just below a long high
wall which separated the town from the river, and, ere I had time to
decide what I should do first, a figure coming out of an archway caught
me by the hand, and I recognised my own major domo, my foster-brother.

"'I knew you would come back to me,' he said, 'if it was only as a pale
ghost; though I never believed you dead, and have watched here for you
night and day to stop you.'

"'Are the French in my castle, then?'

"'There are worse than the French there,' he said; 'worse than the
devil Bonaparte himself. Treason, treachery, adultery!'

"'Who has proved false?' I cried.

"'Your brother! False to his king, to his word, to yourself. He was in
correspondence with the French for six months past, and, now that he
believes you dead, he is living in sin with her who was to have been
your wife.'

"I did not cry out or faint, or anything of that sort. I only said, 'I
am going to the castle, Fritz,' and he came with me. My brother had
turned him out of the house when he usurped my property, but by a still
faithful domestic we were admitted, and I, knowing every secret passage
in my house, came shoeless from behind some arras, and stood before
them as they sat at supper. I was a ghastly sight. I had not shaved for
a fortnight, and my uniform hung in tatters from my body; round my head
was the same bloody white handkerchief with which I had bound up my
head at Jena. I was deadly pale from hunger, too; and from my entering
so silently they believed they had seen a ghost. My brother rose, and
stood pale and horrified, and Catherine fell fainting on the floor.
This was all my revenge, and ere my brother could speak, I was gone--
away to England, where I had money in the funds, accompanied by my
faithful Max, whom Mary Hawker's father buried in Drumston churchyard.

"So in one day I lost a brother, a mistress, a castle, a king, and a
fatherland. I was a ruined, desperate man. And yet I lived to see old
Blucher with his dirty boots on the silken sofas at the Tuileries, and
to become as stout and merry a middle-aged man as any Prussian subject
in her young Majesty's dominions."




Chapter XXXI



HOW TOM TROUBRIDGE KEPT WATCH FOR THE FIRST TIME.


Human affairs are subject to such an infinite variety of changes and
complications, that any attempt to lay down particular rules for
individual action, under peculiar circumstances, must prove a failure.
Hence I consider proverbs, generally speaking, to be a failure, only
used by weak-minded men, who have no opinion of their own. Thus, if you
have a chance of selling your station at fifteen shillings, and buying
in, close to a new gold-field on the same terms, where fat sheep are
going to the butcher at from eighteen shillings to a pound, butter,
eggs, and garden produce at famine prices, some dolt unsettles you, and
renders you uncertain and miserable by saying that "rolling stone
gathers no moss;" as if you wanted moss! Again, having worked harder
than the Colonial Secretary all the week, and wishing to lie in bed
till eleven o'clock on Sunday, a man comes into your room at half-past
seven, on a hot morning, when your only chance is to sleep out an hour
or so of the heat, and informs you that the "early bird gets the
worms." I had a partner, who bought in after Jim Stockbridge was
killed, who was always flying this early bird, when he couldn't sleep
for musquitoes. I have got rid of him now; but for the two years he was
with me, the dearest wish of my heart was that my tame magpie Joshua
could have had a quiet two minutes with that early bird before any one
was up to separate them. I rather fancy he would have been spoken of as
"the late early bird" after that. In short, I consider proverbs as the
refuge of weak minds.

The infinite sagacity of the above remarks cannot be questioned; their
application may. I will proceed to give it. I have written down the
above tirade nearly, as far as I can guess, a printed pageful (may be a
little more, looking at it again), in order to call down the wrath of
all wise men, if any such have done me the honour of getting so far in
these volumes, on the most trashy and false proverb of the whole:
"Coming events cast their shadows before."

Now, they don't, you know. They never did, and never will. I myself
used to be a strong believer in pre-(what's the word?--prevarications,
predestinations)--no--presentiments; until I found by experience
that, although I was always having presentiments, nothing ever came of
them. Sometimes somebody would walk over my grave, and give me a
creeping in the back, which, as far as I can find out, proceeded from
not having my braces properly buttoned behind. Sometimes I have heard
the death-watch, produced by a small spider (may the deuce confound
him!), not to mention many other presentiments and depressions of
spirit, which I am now firmly persuaded proceed from indigestion. I am
far from denying the possibility of a coincidence in point of time
between a fit of indigestion and a domestic misfortune. I am far from
denying the possibility of more remarkable coincidences than that. I
have read in books, novels by the very best French authors, how a man,
not heard of for twenty years, having, in point of fact, been absent
during that time in the interior of Africa, may appear at Paris at a
given moment, only in time to save a young lady from dishonour, and
rescue a property of ten million francs. But these great writers of
fiction don't give us any warning whatever. The door is thrown heavily
open, and he stalks up to the table where the will is lying, quite
unexpectedly; stalks up always, or else strides. (How would it be, my
dear Monsieur Dumas, if, in your next novel, he were to walk in, or run
in, or hop in, or, say, come in on all-fours like a dog?--anything for
a change, you know.) And these masters of fiction are right--"Coming
events do not cast their shadows before."

If they did, how could it happen that Mary Hawker sat there in her
verandah at Toonarbin singing so pleasantly over her work? And why did
her handsome, kindly face light up with such a radiant smile when she
saw her son Charles come riding along under the shadow of the great
trees only two days after Cecil Mayford had proposed to Alice, and had
been refused?

He came out of the forest shadow with the westering sunlight upon his
face, riding slowly. She, as she looked, was proud to see what a fine
seat he had on his horse, and how healthy and handsome he looked.

He rode round to the back of the house, and she went through to meet
him. There was a square court behind, round which the house, huts, and
store formed a quadrangle, neat and bright, with white quartz gravel.
Bythe-bye, there was a prospecting party who sank two or three shafts
in the flat before the house last year; and I saw about eighteen
pennyweights of gold which they took out. But it did not pay, and is
abandoned. (This in passing, A PROPOS of the quartz.)

"Is Tom Troubridge come home, mother?" said he, as he leaned out of the
saddle to kiss her.

"Not yet, my boy," she said. "I am all alone. I should have had a dull
week, but I knew you were enjoying yourself with your old friend at
Garoopna. A great party there, I believe?"

"I am glad to get home, mother," he said. "We were very jolly at first,
but latterly Sam Buckley and Cecil Mayford have been looking at one
another like cat and dog. Stay, though; let me be just; the fierce
looks were all on Cecil Mayford's side."

"What was the matter?"

"Alice Brentwood was the matter, I rather suspect," he said, getting
off his horse. "Hold him for me, mother, while I take the saddle off."

She did as requested. "And so they two are at loggerheads, eh, about
Miss Brentwood? Of course. And what sort of a girl is she?"

"Oh, very pretty; deuced pretty, in fact. But there is one there takes
my fancy better."

"Who is she?"

"Ellen Mayford; the sweetest little mouse----Dash it all; look at this
horse's back. That comes of that infernal flash military groom of Jim's
putting on the saddle without rubbing his back down. Where is the
bluestone?"

She went in and got it for him as naturally as if it was her place to
obey, and his to command. She always waited on him, as a matter of
course, save when Tom Troubridge was with them, who was apt to rap out
something awkward about Charles being a lazy young hound, and about his
waiting on himself, whenever he saw Mary yielding to that sort of
thing.

"I wonder when Tom will be back?" resumed Charles.

"I have been expecting him this last week; he may come any night. I
hope he will not meet any of those horrid bushrangers."

"Hope not either," said Charles; "they would have to go a hundred or
two of miles out of their way to make it likely. Driving rams is slow
work; they may not be here for a week."

"A nice price he has paid!"

"It will pay in the end, in the quality of the wool," said Charles.

They sat in silence. A little after, Charles had turned his horse out,
when at once, without preparation, he said to her,--

"Mother, how long is it since my father died?"

She was very much startled. He had scarcely ever alluded to his father
before; but she made shift to answer him quietly.

"How old are you?"

"Eighteen!" he said.

"Then he has been dead eighteen years. He died just as you were born.
Never mention him, lad. He was a bad man, and by God's mercy you are
delivered from him."

She rose and went into the house quite cheerfully. Why should she not?
Why should not a handsome, still young, wealthy widow be cheerful? For
she was a widow. For years after settling at Toonarbin, she had
contrived, once in two or three years, to hear some news of her
husband. After about ten years, she heard that he had been reconvicted,
and sentenced to the chain-gang for life; and lastly, that he was dead.
About his being sentenced for life, there was no doubt, for she had a
piece of newspaper which told of his crime,--and a frightful piece of
villany it was,--and after that, the report of his death was so
probable that no one for an instant doubted its truth. Men did not live
long in the chain-gang, in Van Diemen's Land, in those days, brother.
Men would knock out one another's brains in order to get hung, and
escape it. Men would cry aloud to the judge to hang them out of the
way! It was the most terrible punishment known, for it was hopeless.
Penal servitude for life, as it is now, gives the very faintest idea of
what it used to be in old times. With a little trouble I could tell you
the weight of iron carried by each man. I cannot exactly remember, but
it would strike you as being incredible. They were chained two and two
together (a horrible association), to lessen the chances of escape;
there was no chance of mitigation for good conduct; there was hard
mechanical, uninteresting work, out of doors in an inclement climate,
in all weathers: what wonder if men died off like rotten sheep? And
what wonder, too, if sometimes the slightest accident,--such as a blow
from an overseer, returned by a prisoner, produced a sudden rising,
un-preconcerted, objectless, the result of which were half a dozen
murdered men, as many lunatic women, and five or six stations lighting
up the hill-side, night after night, while the whole available force of
the colony was unable to stop the ruin for months?

But to the point. Mary was a widow. When she heard of her husband's
death, she had said to herself, "Thank God!" But when she had gone to
her room, and was sat a-thinking, she seemed to have had another
husband before she was bound up with that desperate, coining, forging
George Hawker--another husband bearing the same name; but surely that
handsome curly-headed young fellow, who used to wait for her so
patiently in the orchard at Drumston, was not the same George Hawker as
this desperate convict? She was glad the convict was dead and out of
the way; there was no doubt of that; but she could still find a corner
in her heart to be sorry for her poor old lover,--her handsome old
lover,--ah me!

But that even was passed now, and George Hawker was as one who had
never lived. Now on this evening we speak of, his memory came back just
an instant, as she heard the boy speak of the father, but it was gone
again directly. She called her servants, and was telling them to bring
supper, when Charles looked suddenly in, and said,--"Here they are!"

There they were, sure enough, putting the rams into the sheep-yard. Tom
Troubridge, as upright, bravelooking a man as ever, and, thanks to
bush-work, none the fatter. William Lee, one of our oldest acquaintances,
was getting a little grizzled, but otherwise looked as broad and
as strong as ever.

They rode into the yard, and Lee took the horses.

"Well, cousin," said Tom; "I am glad to see you again."

"You are welcome home, Tom; you have made good speed."

Tom and Charles went into the house, and Mary was about following them,
when Lee said, in so low a tone, that it did not reach the others,--
"Mrs. Hawker!"

She turned round and looked at him, she had welcomed him kindly when
he came into the yard with Tom, and yet he stood still on horseback,
holding Tom's horse by the bridle. A stern, square-looking figure he
was; and when she looked at his face, she was much troubled, at--she
knew not what.

"Mrs. Hawker," he said, "can you give me the favour of ten minutes'
conversation, alone this evening?"

"Surely, William, now!"

"Not now,--my story is pretty long, and, what is more, ma'am, somebody
may be listening, and what I have got to tell you must be told in no
ear but your own."

"You frighten me, Lee! You frighten me to death."

"Don't get frightened, Mrs. Hawker. Remember if anything comes about,
that you have good friends about you; and, that I, William Lee, am not
the worst of them."

Lee went off with the horses, and Mary returned to the house. What
mystery had this man to tell her, "that no one might hear but she"?--
very strange and alarming! Was he drunk?--no, he was evidently quite
sober; as she looked out once more, she could see him at the stable,
cool and self-possessed, ordering the lads about: something very
strange and terrifying to one who had such a dark blot in her life.

But she went in, and as she came near the parlour, she heard Charles
and Tom roaring with laughter. As she opened the door she heard Tom
saying: "And, by Jove, I sat there like a great snipe, face to face
with him, as cool and unconcerned as you like. I took him for a flash
overseer, sporting his salary, and I was as thick as you like with him.
And 'Matey,' says I, (you see I was familiar, he seemed such a jolly
sort of bird), 'Matey, what station are you on?' 'Maraganoa,' says he.
'So,' says I, 'you're rather young there, ain't you? I was by there a
fortnight ago.' He saw he'd made a wrong move, and made it worse. 'I
mean,' says he, 'Maraganoa on the Clarence side.' 'Ah!' says I, 'in the
Cedar country?' 'Precisely,' says he. And there we sat drinking
together, and I had no more notion of its being him than you would have
had."

She sat still listening to him, eating nothing. Lee's words outside
had, she knew not why, struck a chill into her heart, and as she
listened to Tom's story, although she could make nothing of it, she
felt as though getting colder and colder. She shivered, although the
night was hot. Through the open window she could hear all those
thousand commingled indistinguishable sounds that make the night-life
of the bush, with painful distinctness. She arose and went to the
window.

The night was dark and profoundly still. The stars were overhead,
though faintly seen through a haze; and beyond the narrow enclosures in
front of the house, the great forest arose like a black wall. Tom and
Charles went on talking inside, and yet, though their voices were loud,
she was hardly conscious of hearing them, but found herself watching
the high dark wood and listening to the sound of the frogs in the
creek, and the rustle of a million crawling things, heard only in the
deep stillness of night.

Deep in the forest somewhere, a bough cracked, and fell crashing, then
all was silent again. Soon arose a wind, a partial wandering wind,
which came slowly up, and, rousing the quivering leaves to life for a
moment, passed away; then again a silence, deeper than ever, so that
she could hear the cattle and horses feeding in the lower paddock, a
quarter of a mile off; then a low wail in the wood, then two or three
wild weird yells, as of a devil in torment, and a pretty white curlew
skirled over the housetop to settle on the sheepwash dam.

The stillness was awful; it boded a storm, for behind the forest blazed
up a sheet of lightning, showing the shape of each fantastic elevated
bough. Then she turned round to the light, and said,--

"My dear partner, I had a headache, and went to the window. What was
the story you were telling Charles, just now? Who was the man you met
in the publichouse, who seems to have frightened you so?"

"No less a man than Captain Touan, my dear cousin!" said Tom, leaning
back with the air of a man who has made a point, and would be glad to
hear "what you have to say to that, sir."

"Touan?" repeated Mary. "Why, that's the great bushranger, that is out
to the north; is it not?"

"The same man, cousin! And there I sat hob and nob with him for half an
hour in the 'Lake George' public-house. If Desborough had come in, he'd
have hung me for being found in bad company. Ha! ha! ha!"

"My dear partner," she said, "what a terrible escape! Suppose he had
risen on you?"

"Why I'd have broken his back, cousin," said Tom, "unless my right hand
had forgot her cunning. He is a fine man of his weight: but, Lord, in a
struggle for life and death, I could break his neck, and have one more
claim on Heaven for doing so; for he is the most damnable villain that
ever disgraced God's earth, and that is the truth. That man, cousin, in
one of his devil's raids, tore a baby from its mother's breast by the
leg, dashed its brains out against a tree, and then--I daren't tell a
woman what happened." [Note: Tom was confusing Touan with Michael Howe.
The latter actually did commit this frightful atrocity; but I never heard
that the former actually combined the two crimes in this way.]

"Tom! Tom!" said Mary, "how can you talk of such things?"

"To show you what we have to expect if he comes this way, cousin; that
is all."

"And is there any possibility of such a thing?" asked Mary.

"Why not? Why should he not pay us the compliment of looking round
this way?"

"Why do they call him Touan, Tom?" asked Charles.

"Can't, you see," said Tom, "the Touan, the little grey flying
squirrel, only begins to fly about at night, and slides down from his
bough sudden and sharp. This fellow has made some of his most terrible
raids at night, and so he got the name of Touan."

"God deliver us from such monsters!" said Mary, and left the room.

She went into the kitchen. Lee sat there smoking. When she came in he
rose, and, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, touched his forehead and
stood looking at her.

"Now then, old friend," she said, "come here."

He followed her out. She led the way swiftly, through the silent night,
across the yard, over a small paddock, up to the sheep-yard beside the
woolshed. There she turned shortly round, and, leaning on the fence,
said abruptly--

"No one can hear us here, William Lee. Now, what have you to say?"

He seemed to hesitate a moment, and then began: "Mrs. Hawker, have I
been a good servant to you?"

"Honest, faithful, kindly, active; who could have been a better servant
than you, William Lee! A friend, and not a servant; God is my witness;
now then?"

"I am glad to hear you say so," he answered. "I did you a terrible
injury once; I have often been sorry for it since I knew you, but it
cannot be mended now."

"Since you knew me?" she said. "Why, you have known me ever since I
have been in the country, and you have never injured me since then,
surely."

"Ay, but at home," he said. "In England. In Devonshire."

"My God!"

"I was your husband's companion in all his earlier villanies. I
suggested them to him, and egged him on. And now, mind you, after
twenty years, my punishment is coming."

She could only say still, "My God!" while her throat was as dry as a
kiln.

"Listen to what I have got to tell you now. Hear it all in order, and
try to bear up, and use your common sense and courage. As I said
before, you have good friends around you, and you at least are
innocent."

"Guilty! guilty!" she cried. "Guilty of my father's death! Read me this
horrible riddle, Lee."

"Wait and listen," said Lee, unable to forego, even in her terror, the
great pleasure that all his class have of spinning a yarn, and using as
many words as possible. "See here. We came by Lake George, you know,
and heard everywhere accounts of a great gang of bushrangers being out.
So we didn't feel exactly comfortable, you see. We came by a bush
public-house, and Mr. Troubridge stops, and says he, 'Well, lad, suppose
we yard these rams an hour, and take drink in the parlour?' 'All
right,' I says, with a wink, 'but the tap for me, if you please. That's
my place, and I'd like to see if I can get any news of the whereabouts
of the lads as are sticking up all round, because, if they're one way,
I'd as lief be another.' 'All right,' says he. So in I goes, and sits
down. There was nobody there but one man, drunk under the bench. And I
has two noblers of brandy, and one of Old Tom; no, two Old Toms it was,
and a brandy; when in comes an old chap as I knew for a lag in a
minute. Well, he and I cottoned together, and found out that we had
been prisoners together five-and-twenty years agone. And so I shouted
for him, and he for me, and at last I says, 'Butty,' says I, 'who are
these chaps round here on the lay' (meaning, Who are the
bushrangers)? And he says, 'Young 'uns--no one as we know.' And I
says, 'Not likely, matey; I've been on the square this twenty year.'
'Same here,' says the old chap; 'give us your flipper. And now,' says
he, 'what sort of a cove is your boss' (meaning Mr. Troubridge)? 'One
of the real right sort,' says I. 'Then see here,' says he, 'I'll tell
you something: the head man of that there gang is at this minute a-sitting
yarning with your boss in the parlour.' 'The devil!' says I.
'Is so,' says he, 'and no flies.' So I sings out, 'Mr. Troubridge,
those sheep will be out;' and out he came running, and I whispers to
him, 'Mind the man you're sitting with, and leave me to pay the score.'
So he goes back, and presently he sings out, 'Will, have you got any
money?' And I says, 'Yes, thirty shillings.' 'Then,' says he, 'pay for
this, and come along.' And thinks I, I'll go in and have a look at this
great new captain of bushrangers; so I goes to the parlour door, and
now who do you think I saw?"

"I know," she said. "It was that horrible villain they call Touan."

"The same man," he answered. "Do you know who he is?"

She found somehow breath to say, "How can I? How is it possible?"

"I will tell you," said Lee. "There, sitting in front of Mr.
Troubridge, hardly altered in all these long years, sat George Hawker,
formerly of Drumston,--your husband!"

She gave a low cry, and beat the hard rail with her head till it bled.
Then, turning fiercely round, she said, in a voice hoarse and strangely
altered,--

"Have you anything more to tell me, you croaking raven?"

He had something more to tell, but he dared not speak now. So he said,
"Nothing at present, but if laying down my life----"

She did not wait to hear him, but, with her hands clasped above her
head, she turned and walked swiftly towards the house. She could not
cry, or sob, or rave; she could only say, "Let it fall on me, O God, on
me!" over and over again.

Also, she was far too crushed and stunned to think precisely what it
was she dreaded so. It seemed afterwards, as Frank Maberly told me,
that she had an indefinable horror of Charles meeting his father, and
of their coming to know one another. She half feared that her husband
would appear and carry away her son with him, and even if he did not,
the lad was reckless enough as it was, without being known and pointed
at through the country as the son of Hawker the bushranger.

These were after-thoughts, however; at present she leaned giddily
against the house-side, trying, in the wild hurrying night-rack of her
thoughts, to distinguish some tiny star of hope, or even some glimmer
of reason. Impossible! Nothing but swift, confused clouds everywhere,
driving wildly on,--whither?

But a desire came upon her to see her boy again, and compare his face
to his father's. So she slid quietly into the room where Tom and
Charles were still talking together of Tom's adventure, and sat looking
at the boy, pretending to work. As she came in, he was laughing loudly
at something, and his face was alive and merry. "He is not like what
his father was at his age," she said.

But they continued their conversation. "And now, what sort of man was
he, Tom?" said Charles. "Was he like any one you ever saw?"

"Why, no. Stay, let's see. Do you know, he was something like you in
the face."

"Thank you!" said Charles, laughing. "Wait till I get a chance of
paying you a compliment, old fellow. A powerful fellow--eh?"

"Why, yes,--a tough-looking subject," said Tom.

"I shouldn't have much chance with him, I suppose?"

"No; he'd be too powerful for you, Charley."

A change came over his face, a dark, fierce look. Mary could see the
likeness NOW plain enough, and even Tom looked at him for an instant
with a puzzled look.

"Nevertheless," continued Charles, "I would have a turn with him if I
met him; I'd try what six inches of cold steel between----"

"Forbear, boy! Would you have the roof fall in and crush you dead?"
said Mary, in a voice that appalled both of them. "Stop such foolish
talk, and pray that we may be delivered from the very sight of these
men, and suffered to get away to our graves in peace, without any more
of these horrors and surprises. I would sooner," she said, increasing
in rapidity as she went on, "I would far sooner, live like some one I
have heard of, with a sword above his head, than thus. If he comes and
looks on me, I shall die."

She had risen and stood in the firelight, deadly pale. Somehow one of
the bands of her long black hair had fallen down, and half covered her
face. She looked so unearthly that, coupling her appearance with the
wild, senseless words she had been uttering, Tom had a horrible
suspicion that she was gone mad.

"Cousin," he said, "let me beseech you to go to bed. Charles, run for
Mrs. Barker. Mary," he added, as soon as he was gone, "come away, or
you'll be saying something before that boy you'll be sorry for. You're
hysterical; that's what is the matter with you. I am afraid we have
frightened you by our talk about bushrangers."

"Yes, that is it! that is it!" she said; and then, suddenly, "Oh! my
dear old friend, you will not desert me?"

"Never, Mary; but why ask such a question now?"

"Ask Lee," she said, and the next moment Mrs. Barker, the housekeeper,
came bustling in with smelling salts, and so on, to minister to a mind
diseased. And Mary was taken off to bed.

"What on earth can be the matter with her, cousin Tom?" said Charles
when she was gone.

"She is out of sorts, and got hysterical; that's what it is," said Tom.

"What odd things she said!"

"Women do when they are hysterical. It's nothing more than that."

But Mrs. Barker came in with a different opinion. She said that Mary
was very hot and restless, and had very little doubt that a fever was
coming on. "Terribly shaken she had been," said Mrs. Barker, "hoped
nothing was wrong."

"There's something decidedly wrong, if your mistress is going to have a
fever," said Tom. "Charley, do you think Doctor Mulhaus is at Baroona
or Garoopna?"

"Up at the Major's," said Charles, "Shall I ride over for him? There
will be a good moon in an hour."

"Yes," said Tom, "and fetch him over at once. Tell him we think it's a
fever, and he will know what to bring. Ride like h----l, Charley."

As soon as he was alone, he began thinking. "What the DOOSE is the
matter?" was his first exclamation, and, after half-an-hour's
cogitation, only had arrived at the same point, "What the DOOSE is the
matter?" Then it flashed across him, what did she mean by "ask Lee?"
Had she any meaning in it, or was it nonsense? There was an easy
solution for it; namely, TO ask Lee. And so arising he went across the
yard to the kitchen.

Lee was bending low over the fire, smoking. "William," said Tom, "I
want to see you in the parlour."

"I was thinking of coming across myself," said Lee; "In fact I should
have come when I had finished my pipe."

"Bring your pipe across, then," said Tom. "Girl, take in some hot water
and tumblers."

"Now, Lee," said Tom, as soon as Lee had gone through the ceremony of
"Well, here's my respex, sir," "Now Lee, you have heard how ill the
mistress is."

"I have indeed, sir," said he; "and very sorry I am, as I am partly the
cause of it."

"All that simplifies matters, Will, considerably," said Tom. "I must
tell you that when I asked her what put her in that state, she said,
'ask Lee.'"

"Shows her sense, sir. What she means is, that you ought to hear what
she and I have heard; and I mean to tell you more than I have her. If
she knew everything, I am afraid it would kill her."

"Ay! I know nothing as yet, you know."

Lee in the first place put him in possession of what we already know--
the fact of Hawker's reappearance, and his identity with "The Touan;"
then he paused.

"This is very astonishing, and very terrible, Lee," said he. "Is there
anything further?"

"Yes, the worst. That man has followed us home!"

Tom had exhausted all his expressions of astonishment and dismay
before this; so now he could only give a long whistle, and say,
"Followed us home?"

"Followed us home!" said Lee. "As we were passing the black swamp,
not two miles from here, this very morning, I saw that man riding
parallel with us through the bush."

"Why did not you tell me before?"

"Because I had not made up my mind how to act. First I resolved to tell
the mistress; that I did. Then after I had smoked a pipe, I resolved to
tell you, and that I did, and now here we are, you see."

That was undeniable. There they were, with about as pretty a
complication of mischief to unravel as two men could wish to have. Tom
felt so foolish and nonplussed, that he felt inclined to laugh at Lee
when he said, "Here we are." It so exactly expressed the state of the
case; as if he had said, "All so and so has happened, and a deuce of a
job it is, and here sit you and I, to deliberate what's to be done with
regard to so and so."

He did not laugh, however; he bit his lip, and stopped it. Then he
rose, and, leaning his great shoulders against the mantelpiece, stood
before the fireless grate, and looked at Lee. Lee also looked at him,
and I think that each one thought what a splendid specimen of his style
the other was. If they did not think so, "they ought to it," as the
Londoners say. But neither spoke a few minutes; then Tom said,--

"Lee, Will Lee, though you came to me a free man, and have served me
twenty years, or thereabouts, as free man, I don't conceal from myself
the fact that you have been convict. Pish, man! don't let us mince
matters now,--a lag."

Lee looked him full in the face, without changing countenance, and
nodded.

"Convicted more than once, too," continued Tom.

"Three times," said Lee.

"Ah!" said Tom. "And if a piece of work was set before me to do, which
required pluck, honesty, courage, and cunning, and one were to say to
me, 'Who will you have to help you?' I would answer out boldly, 'Give
me Will Lee the lag; my old friend, who has served me so true and
hearty these twenty years.'"

"And you'd do right, sir," said Lee quietly. And rising up, he stood
beside Tom, with one foot on the fender, bending down and looking into
the empty grate.

"Now, Will," said Tom, turning round and laying his hand on his
shoulder, "this fellow has followed us home, having found out who we
were. Why has he done so?"

"Evident," said Lee, "to work on the fears of the mistress, and get
some money from her."

"Good!" said Tom. "Well answered. We shall get to the bottom of our
difficulty like this. Only answer the next question as well, and I will
call you a Poly--, Poly--; d--n the Greek."

"Not such a bad name as that, I hope, sir," said Lee smiling. "Who
might she have been? A bad un, I expect. You don't happen to refer to
Hobart-town Polly, did you, sir?"

"Hold your tongue, you villain," said Tom, "or you'll make me laugh;
and these are not laughing times."

"Well, what is your question, sir?" asked Lee.

"Why, simply this: What are we to do?"

"I'll tell you," said Lee, speaking in an animated whisper. "Watch,
watch, and watch again, till you catch him. Tie him tight, and hand him
over to Captain Desborough. He may be about the place tonight: he
will be sure to be. Let us watch to-night, you and I, and for many
nights, till we catch him."

"But," whispered Tom, "he will be hung."

"He has earned it," said Lee. "Let him be hung."

"But he is her husband," urged Tom, in a whisper. "He is that boy's
father. I cannot do it. Can't we buy him off?"

"Yes," answered Lee in the same tone, "till his money is gone. Then you
will have a chance of doing it again, and again, all your life."

"This is a terrible dilemma," said Tom; and added in a perplexity
almost comical, "Drat the girl! Why did'nt she marry poor old Jim
Stockbridge, or sleepy Hamlyn, or even your humble servant? Though, in
all honour, I must confess that I never asked her, as those two others
did. No! I'll tell you what, Lee: we will watch for him, and catch him
if we can. After that we will think what is to be done. By-the-bye, I
have been going to ask you:--do you think he recognised you at the
public-house there?"

"That puzzles me," said Lee. "He looked me in the face, but I could not
see that he did. I wonder if he recognised you?"

"I never saw him in my life before," said Tom. "It is very likely that
he knew me, though. I was champion of Devon and Cornwall, you know,
before little Abraham Cann kicked my legs from under me that unlucky
Easter Monday. (The deuce curl his hair for doing it!) I never forgave
him till I heard of that fine bit of play with Polkinghorn. Yes! he
must have known me."

Lee lit the fire, while Tom, blowing out the candles, drew the
curtains, so that any one outside could not see into the room.
Nevertheless, he left the French window open, and then went outside,
and secured all the dogs in the dog-house.

The night was wonderfully still and dark. As he paused before entering
the house, he could hear the bark falling from the trees a quarter of a
mile off, and the opossums scratching and snapping little twigs as they
passed from bough to bough. Somewhere, apparently at an immense
distance, a morepork was chanting his monotonous cry. The frogs in the
creek were silent even, so hot was the night. "A good night for watching,"
said he to Lee when he came in. "Lie you down; I'll take the
first watch."

They blew out the candle, and Lee was in the act of lying down, when he
arrested himself, and held up his finger to Tom.

They both listened, motionless and in silence, until they could hear
the spiders creeping on the ceiling. There it was again! A stealthy
step on the gravel.

Troubridge and Lee crouched down breathless. One minute, two, five, but
it did not come again. At length they both moved, as if by concert, and
Lee said, "'Possum."

"Not a bit," said Troubridge; and then Lee lay down again, and slept in
the light of the flickering fire. One giant arm was thrown around his
head, and the other hung down in careless grace; the great chest was
heaved up, and the head thrown back; the seamed and rugged features
seemed more stern and marked than ever in the chiaroscuro; and the
whole man was a picture of reckless strength such as one seldom sees.
Tom had dozed and had awoke again, and now sat thinking, "What a
terrible tough customer that fellow would be!" when suddenly he
crouched on the floor, and, reaching out his hand, touched Lee, who
woke, and silently rolled over with his face towards the window.

There was no mistake this time--that was no opossum. There came the
stealthy step again; and now, as they lay silent, the glass-door was
pushed gently open, showing the landscape beyond. The gibbous moon was
just rising over the forest, all blurred with streaky clouds, and
between them and her light they could see the figure of a man, standing
inside the room.

Tom could wait no longer. He started up, and fell headlong with a crash
over a little table that stood in his way. They both dashed into the
garden, but only in time to hear flying footsteps, and immediately
after the gallop of a horse, the echoes of which soon died away, and
all was still.

"Missed him, by George!" said Lee. "It was a precious close thing,
though. What could he mean by coming into the house,--eh?"

"Just as I expected; trying to get an interview with the mistress. He
will be more cautious in future, I take it."

"I wonder if he will try again?"

"Don't know," said Troubridge; "he might: not to-night, however."

They went in and lay down again, and Troubridge was soon asleep; and
very soon that sleep was disturbed by dreadful dreams. At one time he
thought he was riding madly through the bush for his bare life;
spurring on a tired horse, which was failing every moment more and
more. But always through the tree-stems on his right he saw glancing, a
ghost on a white horse, which kept pace with him, do what he would. Now
he was among the precipices on the ranges. On his left, a lofty
inaccessible cliff; on the right, a frightful blue abyss; while the
slaty soil kept sliding from beneath his horse's feet. Behind him,
unseen, came a phantom, always gaining on him, and driving him along
the giddiest wallaby tracks. If he could only turn and face it, he
might conquer, but he dare not. At length the path grew narrower and
narrower, and he turned in desperation and awoke--woke to see in the
dim morning light a dark figure bending over him. He sprang up, and
clutched it by the throat.

"A most excellent fellow this!" said the voice of Doctor Mulhaus. "He
sends a frantic midnight message for his friend to come to him,
regardless of personal convenience and horseflesh; and when this
friend comes quietly in, and tries to wake him without disturbing the
sick folks, he seizes him by the throat and nearly throttles him."

"I beg a thousand pardons, Doctor," said Tom; "I had been dreaming, and
I took you for the devil. I am glad to find my mistake."

"You have good reason," said the Doctor; "but now, how is the patient?"

"Asleep at present, I believe; the housekeeper is with her."

"What is the matter with her?"

"She has had a great blow. It has shaken her intellect, I am afraid."

"What sort of a blow?" asked the Doctor.

Tom hesitated. He did not know whether to tell him or not.

"Nay," said the Doctor, "you had better let me know. I can help then,
you know. Now, for instance, has she heard of her husband?"

"She has, Doctor. How on earth came you to guess that?"

"A mere guess, though I have always thought it quite possible, as the
accounts of his death were very uncertain."

Tom then set to work, and told the Doctor all that we know. He looked
very grave. "This is far worse than I had thought," he said, and
remained thoughtful.

Mary awoke in a fever and delirious. They kept Charles as much from her
as possible, lest she should let drop some hint of the matter to the
boy; but even in her delirium she kept her secret well; and towards the
evening the Doctor, finding her quieter, saddled his horse, and rode
away ten miles to a township, where resided a drunken surgeon, one of
the greatest blackguards in the country.

The surgeon was at home. He was drunk, of course; he always was, but
hardly more so to-day than usual. So the Doctor hoped for success in
his object, which was to procure a certain drug which was neither in
the medicine-chest at the Buckleys' nor at Toonarbin; and putting on
his sweetest smile when the surgeon came to the door, he made a remark
about the beauty of the weather, to which the other very gruffly
responded.

"I come to beg a favour," said Doctor Mulhaus. "Can you let me have a
little--so and so?"

"See you d--d first," was the polite reply. "A man comes a matter of
fourteen thousand miles, makes a pretty little practice, and then gets
it cut into by a parcel of ignorant foreigners, whose own country is
too hot to hold them. And not content with this, they have the brass to
ask for the loan of a man's drugs. As I said before, I'll see you d--d
first, AND THEN I WON'T." And so saying, he slammed the door.

Doctor Mulhaus was beside himself with rage. For the first and last
time since I have known him he forgot his discretion, and instead of
going away quietly, and treating the man with contempt, he began
kicking at the door, calling the man a scoundrel, &c., and between the
intervals of kicking, roaring through the keyhole, "Bring out your
diploma; do you hear, you impostor?" and then fell to work kicking
again. "Bring out your forged diploma, will you, you villain?"

This soon attracted the idlers from the public-house: a couple of
sawyers, a shepherd or two, all tipsy, of course, except one of the
sawyers, who was drunk. The drunken sawyer at length made out to his
own complete satisfaction that Doctor Mulhaus' wife was in labour, and
that he was come for the surgeon, who was probably drunk and asleep
inside. So, being able to sympathize, having had his wife in the
straw every thirteen months regularly for the last fifteen years, he
prepared to assist, and for this purpose took a stone about half a
hundredweight, and coming behind the Doctor, when he was in full kick,
he balanced himself with difficulty, and sent it at the lock with all
the force of his arm, and of course broke the door in. In throwing the
stone, he lost his balance, came full butt against Dr. Mulhaus,
propelled him into the passage, into the arms of the surgeon, who was
rushing out infuriated to defend his property, and down went the three
in the passage together, the two doctors beneath, and the drunken
sawyer on the top of them.

The drunken surgeon, if, to use parliamentary language, he will allow
me to call him so, was of course underneath the others; but, being a
Londoner, and consequently knowing the use of his fists, ere he went
down delivered a "one, two," straight from the shoulder in our poor
dear Doctor's face, and gave him a most disreputable black eye, besides
cutting his upper lip open. This our Doctor, being, you must remember,
a foreigner, and not having the rules of the British Ring before his
eyes, resented by getting on the top of him, taking him round the
throat, and banging the back of his head against the brick floor of the
passage, until he began to goggle his eyes and choke. Meanwhile the
sawyer, exhilarated beyond measure in his drunken mind at having raised
a real good promising row, having turned on his back, lay procumbent
upon the twain, and kicking everything soft or human he came across
with his heels, struck up "The Bay of Biscay, Oh," until he was dragged
forth by two of his friends; and, being in a state of wild excitement,
ready to fight the world, hit his own mate a violent blow in the eye,
and was only quieted by receiving a sound thrashing, and being placed
in a sitting posture in the verandah of the public house, from which he
saw Doctor Mulhaus come forth from the surgeon's with rumpled feathers,
but triumphant.

I am deeply grieved to have recorded the above scene, but I could not
omit it. Having undertaken to place the character of that very noble
gentleman, Doctor Mulhaus, before my readers, I was forced not to omit
this. As a general rule, he was as self-contained, as calm and as
frigid as the best Englishman among us. But under all this there was,
to speak in carefullyselected scientific language, a substratum of
pepper-box, which has been apparent to me on more than one occasion. I
have noticed the above occasion per force. Let the others rest in
oblivion. A man so true, so wise, so courteous, and so kindly, needs
not my poor excuses for having once in a way made a fool of himself. He
will read this, and he will be angry with me for a time, but he knows
well that I, like all who knew him, say heartily, God bless you, old
Doctor!

But the consequences of the above were, I am sorry to say, eminently
disastrous. The surgeon got a warrant against Doctor Mulhaus for
burglary with violence, and our Doctor got a warrant against him for
assault with intent to rob. So there was the deuce to pay. The affair
got out of the hands of the Bench. In fact they sent BOTH parties for
trial, (what do you think of that, my Lord Campbell?) in order to ge
rid of the matter, and at sessions, the surgeon swore positively that
Doctor Mulhaus had, assisted by a convict, battered his door down with
stones in open day, and nearly murdered him. Then in defence Doctor
Mulhaus called the sawyer, who, as it happened, had just completed a
contract for fencing for Mrs. Mayford, the proceeds of which bargain he
was spending at the public-house when the thing happened, and had just
undertaken another for one of the magistrates; having also a large
family dependent on him; being, too, a man who prided himself in
keeping an eye to windward, and being slightly confused by a trifling
attack of delirium tremens (diddleums, he called it): he, I say, to
our Doctor's confusion and horror, swore positively that he never took
a stone in his hand on the day in question; that he never saw a stone
for a week before or after that date; that he did not deny having
rushed into the passage to assist the complainant (drunken surgeon),
seeing him being murdered by defendant; and, lastly, that he was never
near the place on the day specified. So it would have gone hard with
our Doctor, had not his Honour called the jury's attention to the
discrepancies in this witness's evidence; and when Dr. Mulhaus was
acquitted, delivered a stinging reproof to the magistrates for wasting
public time by sending such a trumpery case to a jury. But, on the
other hand, Dr. Mulhaus' charge of assault with intent fell dead; so
that neither party had much to boast of.

The night or so after the trial was over, the Doctor came back to
Toonarbin, in what he intended for a furious rage. But, having told
Tom Troubridge the whole affair, and having unluckily caught Tom's eye,
they two went off into such hearty fits of laughter that poor Mary, now
convalescent, but still in bed, knocked at the wall to know what the
matter was.




Chapter XXXII



WHICH IS THE LAST CHAPTER BUT ONE IN THE SECOND VOLUME.


The state of terror and dismay into which poor Mary Hawker was thrown
on finding that her husband, now for many years the BETE NOIR of her
existence, was not only alive, but promising fairly to cause her more
trouble than ever he did before, superadded, let me say, for mere
truth's sake, to a slight bilious attack, brought on by good living and
want of exercise, threw her into a fever, from which, after several
days' delirium, she rose much shattered, and looking suddenly older.
All this time the Doctor, like a trusty dog, had kept his watch, and
done more, and with a better will than any paid doctor would have been
likely to do. He was called away a good deal by the prosecution arising
out of that unhappy affair with the other doctor, and afterwards with a
prosecution for perjury, which he brought against the sawyer; but he
was generally back at night, and was so kind, so attentive, and so
skilful that Mary took it into her head, and always affirmed
afterwards, that she owed her life to him.

She was not one to receive any permanent impression from anything. So
now, as day by day she grew stronger, she tried to undervalue the
mischief which had at first so terrified her, and caused her illness;--
tried, and with success, in broad daylight; but, in the silent dark
nights, as she lay on her lonely bed, she would fully appreciate the
terrible cloud that hung over her, and would weep and beat her pillow,
and pray in her wild fantastic way to be delivered from this frightful
monster, cut off from communion with all honest men by his
unutterable crimes, but who, nevertheless, she was bound to love,
honour, and obey, till death should part her from him.

Mrs. Buckley, on the first news of her illness, had come up and taken
her quarters at Toonarbin, acting as gentle a nurse as man or woman
could desire to have. She took possession of the house, and managed
everything. Mrs. Barker, the house-keeper, the only one who did not
submit at once to her kindly rule, protested, obstructed, protocolled,
presented an ultimatum, and, at last, was so ill advised as to take up
arms. There was a short campaign, lasting only one morning,--a
decisive battle,--and Mrs. Barker was compelled to sue for peace. "Had
Mr. Troubridge been true to himself," she said, "she would never have
submitted;" but, having given Tom warning, and Tom, in a moment of
irritation, having told her, without hesitation or disguise, to go to
the devil (no less), she bowed to the circumstances, and yielded.

Agnes Buckley encouraged Dr. Mulhaus, too, in his legal affairs, and, I
fear, was the first person who proposed the prosecution for perjury
against the sawyer: a prosecution, however, which failed, in
consequence of his mate and another friend, who was present at the
affair, coming forward to the sawyer's rescue, and getting into such a
labyrinth and mist of perjury, that the Bench (this happened just after
quarter sessions) positively refused to hear anything more on either
side. Altogether, Agnes Buckley made herself so agreeable, and kept
them all so alive, that Tom wondered how he had got on so long without
her.

At the end of three weeks Mary was convalescent; and one day, when she
was moved into the verandah, Mrs. Buckley beside her, Tom and the
Doctor sitting on the step smoking, and Charles sleepily reading aloud
"Hamlet," with a degree of listlessness and want of appreciation
unequalled, I should say, by any reader before; at such time, I say,
there entered suddenly to them a little-cattle dealer, as brimful of
news as an egg of meat. Little Burnside it was: a man about eight stone
nothing, who always wore top-boots and other people's clothes. As he
came in, Charles recognised on his legs a pair of cord breeches of his
own, with a particular grease patch on the thigh: a pair of breeches he
had lent Burnside, and which Burnside had immediately got altered to
his own size. A good singer was Burnside. A man who could finish his
bottle of brandy, and not go to bed in his boots. A man universally
liked and trusted. An honest, hearty, little fellow, yet, one who
always lent or spent his money as fast as he got it, and was as poor as
Job. The greatest vehicle of news in the district, too. "Snowy river
Times," he used to be called.

After the usual greetings, Tom, seeing he was bursting with
something, asked him, "What's the news?"

Burnside was in the habit of saying that he was like the Lord Mayor's
fool--fond of everything that was good. But his greatest pleasure, the
one to which he would sacrifice everything, was retailing a piece of
news. This was so great an enjoyment with him that he gloried in
dwelling on it, and making the most of it. He used to retail a piece of
news, as a perfect novel, in three volumes. In his first he would take
care to ascertain that you were acquainted with the parties under
discussion; and, if you were not, make you so, throwing in a few anecdotes
illustrative of their characters. In In his second, he would grow
discursive, giving an episode or two, and dealing in moral reflections
and knowledge of human nature rather largely. And in his third he would
come smash, crash down on you with the news itself, and leave you
gasping.

He followed this plan on the present occasion. He answered Tom's
question by asking,--

"Do you know Desborough?"

"Of course I do," said Tom; "and a noble good fellow he is."

"Exactly," said Burnside; "super of police; distinguished in Indian
wars; nephew of my Lord Covetown. An Irishman is Desborough, but far
from objectionable."

This by way of first volume: now comes his second:--

"Now, sir, I, although a Scotchman born, and naturally proud of being
so, consider that until these wretched national distinctions between
the three great nations are obliterated we shall never get on, sir;
never. That the Scotch, sir, are physically and intellectually
superior----"

"Physically and intellectually the devil," burst in Tom. "Pick out any
dozen Scotchmen, and I'll find you a dozen Londoners who will fight
them, or deal with them till they'd be glad to get over the borders
again. As for the Devon and Cornish lads, find me a Scotchman who will
put me on my back, and I'll write you a cheque for a hundred pounds, my
boy. We English opened the trade of the world to your little two
millions and a-half up in the north there; and you, being pretty well
starved out at home, have had the shrewdness to take advantage of it;
and now, by Jove, you try to speak small of the bridge that carried you
over. What did you do towards licking the Spaniards; eh? And where
would you be now, if they had not been licked in 1588, eh? Not in
Australia, my boy! A Frenchman is conceited enough, but, by George, he
can't hold a candle to a Scotchman."

Tom spoke in a regular passion; but there was some truth in what he
said, I think. Burnside didn't like it, and merely saying, "You
interrupt me, sir," went on to his third volume without a struggle.

"You are aware, ladies, that there has been a gang of bushrangers out
to the north, headed by a miscreant, whom his companions call Touan,
but whose real name is a mystery."

Mrs. Buckley said, "Yes;" and Tom glanced at Mary. She had grown as
pale as death, and Tom said, "Courage, cousin; don't be frightened at a
name."

"Well, sir," continued Burnside, putting the forefinger and thumb of
each hand together, as if he was making "windows" with soapsuds,
"Captain Desborough has surprised that gang in a gully, sir, and,"
spreading his hands out right and left, "obliterated them."

"The devil!" said Tom, while the Doctor got up and stood beside Mary.

"Smashed them, sir, "continued Burnside;" extinguished them utterly.
He had six of his picked troopers with him, and they came on them
suddenly and brought them to bay. You see, two troopers have been
murdered lately, and so our men, when they got face to face with the
cowardly hounds, broke discipline and wouldn't be held. They hardly
fired a shot, but drew their sabres, and cut the dogs down almost to a
man. Three only out of twelve have been captured alive, and one of them
is dying of a wound in the neck." And, having finished, little Burnside
folded his arms and stood in a military attitude, with the air of a man
who had done the thing himself, and was prepared to receive his meed of
praise with modesty.

"Courage, Mary," said Tom; "don't be frightened at shadows."--He felt
something sticking in his throat, but spoke out nevertheless.

"And their redoubted captain," he asked; "what has become of him?"

"What, Touan himself?" said Burnside. "Well, I am sorry to say that
that chivalrous and high-minded gentleman was found neither among the
dead nor the living. Not to mince, matters, sir, he has escaped."

The Doctor saw Mary's face quiver, but she bore up bravely, and
listened.

"Escaped, has he?" said Tom. "And do they know anything about him?"

"Desborough, who told me this himself," said Burnside, "says no, that
he is utterly puzzled. He had made sure of the arch-rascal himself;
but, with that remarkable faculty of saving his own skin which he has
exhibited on more than one occasion, he has got off for the time, with
one companion."

"A companion; eh?"

"Yes," said Burnside, "whereby hangs a bit of romance, if I may profane
the word in speaking of such men. His companion is a young fellow,
described as being more like a beautiful woman than a man, and bearing
the most singular likeness in features to the great Captain Touan
himself, who, as you have heard, is a handsome dog. In short, there is
very little doubt that they are father and son."

Tom thought to himself, "Who on earth can this be? What son can George
Hawker have, and we not know of it?" He turned to Burnside.

"What age is the young man you speak of?" he asked.

"Twenty, or thereabouts, by all description," said the other.

Tom thought again: "This gets very strange. He could have no son of
that age got in Van Diemen's Land: it was eight years before he was
free. It must be some one we know of. He had some byeblows in Devon, by
all accounts. If this is one of them, how the deuce did he get here?"

But he could not think. We shall see presently who it was. Now we must
leave these good folks for a time, and just step over to Garoopna, and
see how affairs go there.




Chapter XXXIII



IN WHICH JAMES BRENTWOOD AND SAMUEL BUCKLEY, ESQUIRES, COMBINE TO
DISTURB THE REST OF CAPTAIN BRENTWOOD, R.A. AND SUCCEED IN DOING SO.


The morning after Cecil Mayford had made his unlucky offer to Alice,
he appeared at Sam's bedside very early, as if he had come to draw
Priam's curtains; and told him shortly, that he had spoken, and had
been received with contempt; that he was a miserable brute, and that he
was going back home to attend to his business;--under the
circumstances, the best thing he could possibly do.

So the field was clear for Sam, but he let matters stay as they were,
being far too pleasant to disturb lightly; being also, to tell the
truth, a little uncertain of his ground, after poor Cecil had
suffered so severely in the encounter. The next day, too, his father
and mother went home, and he thought it would be only proper for him to
go with them, but, on proposing it, Jim quietly told him he must stay
where he was and work hard for another week, and Halbert, although a
guest of the Buckleys, was constrained to remain still at the
Brentwoods', in company with Sam.

But at the end of a week they departed, and Jim went back with them,
leaving poor Alice behind, alone with her father. Sam turned when they
had gone a little way, and saw her white figure still in the porch,
leaning in rather a melancholy attitude against the door-post. The
audacious magpie had perched himself on the top of her head, from which
proud elevation he hurled wrath, scorn, and mortal defiance against
them as they rode away. Sam took off his hat, and as he went on kept
wondering whether she was thinking of him at all, and hoping that she
might be sorry that he was gone. "Probably, however," he thought, "she
is only sorry for her brother."

They three stayed at Baroona a week or more, one of them riding up
every day to ask after Mary Hawker. Otherwise they spent their time
shooting and fishing, and speculating how soon the rains would come,
for it was now March, and autumn was fairly due.

But at the end of this week, as the three were sitting together, one of
those long-legged, slab-sided, lean, sunburnt, cabbage-tree-hatted
lads, of whom Captain Brentwood kept always, say half-a-dozen, and the
Major four or five (I should fancy, no relation to one another, and yet
so exactly alike, that Captain Brentwood never called them by their
right names by any chance); lads who were employed about the stable and
the paddock, always in some way with the horses; one of those
representatives of the rising Australian generation, I say, looked in,
and without announcing himself, or touching his hat (an Australian
never touches his hat if he is a free man, because the prisoners are
forced to), came up to Jim across the drawingroom, as quiet and as
self-possessed as if he was quite used to good society, and, putting a
letter into his hand, said merely, "Miss Alice," and relapsed into
silence, amusing himself by looking round Mrs. Buckley's drawing-room,
the like of which he had never seen before.

Sam envied Jim the receipt of that little threecornered note. He
wondered whether there was anything about him in it. Jim read it, and
then folded it up again, and said "Hallo!"

The lad,--I always call that sort of individual a lad; there is no
other word for them, though they are of all ages, from sixteen to
twenty,--the lad, I say, was so taken up with the contemplation of a
blown-glass pressepapier on the table, that Jim had to say, "Hallo
there John!"

The lad turned round, and asked in a perfectly easy manner, "What the
deuce is this thing for, now?"

"That," said Jim, "is the button of a Chinese mandarin's hat, who was
killed at the battle of Waterloo in the United States by Major
Buckley."

"Is it now?" said the lad, quite contented. "It's very pretty; may I
take it up?"

"Of course you may," said Jim. "Now, what's the foal like?"

"Rather leggy, I should say," he returned. "Is there any answer?"

Jim wrote a few lines with a pencil on half his sister's note, and gave
it him. He put it in the lining of his hat, and had got as far as the
door, when he turned again. He looked wistfully towards the table where
the pressepapier was lying. It was too much for him. He came back and
took it up again. What he wanted with it, or what he would have done
with it if he had got it, I cannot conceive, but it had taken his
simple fancy more, probably, than an emerald of the same size would
have done. At last he put it to his eye.

"Why, darn my cabbage-tree," he said, "if you can't see through it! He
wouldn't sell it, I suppose, now?"

Jim pursed his lips and shook his head, as though to say that such an
idea was not to be entertained, and the lad, with a sigh, laid it down
and departed. Then Jim with a laugh threw his sister's note over to
Sam. I discovered this very same note only last week, while searching
the Buckley papers for information about the family at this period. I
have reason to believe that it has never been printed before, and, as
far as I know, there is no other copy extant, so I proceed to give it
in full.

"What a dear, disagreeable old Jim you are," it begins, "to stay away
there at Baroona, leaving me moping here with our daddy, who is
calculating the explosive power of shells under water at various
temperatures. I have a good mind to learn the Differential Calculus
myself, only on purpose to bore you with it when you come home."

"By the bye, Corrella has got a foal. Such a dear little duck of a
thing, with a soft brown nose, and sweet long ears, like leaves! Do
come back and see it; I am so very, very lonely!"

"I hope Mr. Halbert is pretty well, and that his wound is getting quite
right again. Don't let him undertake cattle-drafting or anything
violent. I wish you could bring him back with you, he is such a nice,
agreeable creature."

"Your magpie has attacked cocky, and pulled a yellow feather out of his
crest, which he has planted in the flower-bed, either as a trophy, or
to see if it will grow."

Now this letter is historically important, when taken in connexion with
certain dates in my possession. It was written on a Monday, and
Halbert, Jim, and Sam started back to Garoopna the next day, rather a
memorable day for Sam, as you will see directly. Now I wish to call
attention to the fact, that Sam, far from being invited, is never once
mentioned in the whole letter. Therefore what does Miss Burke mean by
her audacious calumnies? What does she mean by saying that Alice made
love to Sam, and never gave the "poor boy" a chance of escape? Can she,
Lesbia, put her hand on her heart and say that she wasn't dying to
marry Sam herself, though she was (and is still, very likely) thirty
years his senior? The fact is, Lesbia gave herself the airs, and
received the privileges of being the handsomest woman in those parts,
till Alice came, and put her nose out of joint, for which she never
forgave her.

However, to return to this letter. I wonder now, as I am looking at the
age-stained paper and faded writing, whether she who wrote it
contemplated the possibility of its meeting Sam's eye. I rather imagine
that she did, from her provoking silence about him. At any rate, Jim
was quite justified in showing him the letter, "for you know," he said,
"as there is nothing at all about you in it, there can be no breach of
confidence."

"Well!" said Sam, when he had read it.

"Well!" said Jim. "Let us all three ride over and look at the foal."

So they went, and were strictly to be home at dinner time; whereas not
one of them came home for a week.

When they came to the door at Garoopna, there was Alice, most
bewitchingly beautiful. Papa was away on the run, and Dr. Mulhaus with
him; so the three came in. Alice was very glad to see Halbert--was
glad also to see Sam; but not so glad, or, at all events, did not say
so much about it.

"Alice, have you seen the newspaper?" said Jim.

"No; why?"

"There is a great steamer gone down at sea, and three hundred persons
drowned!"

"What a horrible thing! I should never have courage to cross the sea."

"You would soon get accustomed to it, I think," said Halbert.

"I have never even seen it as yet," she said, "save at a distance."

"Strange, neither have I," said Sam. "I have dim recollections of our
voyage here, but I never stood upon the shore in my life."

"I have beat you there," said Jim. "I have been down to Cape Chatham,
and seen the great ocean itself: a very different thing from Sydney
Harbour, I promise you. You see the great cape running out a mile into
the sea, and the southern rollers tumbling in over the reefs like
cascades."

"Let us go and see it!--how far is it?" said Alice.

"About thirty miles. The Barkers' station is about half a mile from the
Cape, and we could sleep there, you know."

"It strikes me as being a most brilliant idea," said Sam.

And so the arrangement was agreed to, and the afternoon went on
pleasantly. Alice walked up and down with Sam among the flowers, while
Jim and Halbert lay beneath a mulberry tree and smoked.

They talked on a subject which had engaged their attention a good deal
lately: Jim's whim for going soldiering had grown and struck root, and
become a determination. He would go back to India when Halbert did,
supposing that his father could be tempted to buy him a commission.
Surely he might manage to join some regiment in India, he thought.
India was the only place worth living in just now.

"I hope, Halbert," he said, "that the Governor will consent. I wouldn't
care when I went; the sooner the better. I am tired of being a
cattle-dealer on a large scale; I want to get at some MAN'S work. If one
thing were settled I would go to-morrow."

"And what is that?" said Halbert.

Jim said nothing, but looked at the couple among the flower-beds.

"Is that all?" said Halbert. "What will you bet me that that affair is
not concluded to-night?"

"I'll bet you five pounds to one it ain't," said Jim; "nor any time
this twelvemonth. They'll go on shillyshallying half their lives, I
believe."

"Nevertheless I'll bet with you. Five to one it comes off to-night!
Now! There goes your sister into the house; just go in after her."

Jim sauntered off, and Sam came and laid his great length down by the
side of Halbert.

They talked on indifferent matters for a few minutes, till the latter
said,--

"You are a lucky fellow, Sam."

"With regard to what?" said Sam.

"With regard to Miss Buckley, I mean."

"What makes you think so?"

"Are you blind, Sam? Can't you see that she loves you better than any
man in the world?"

He answered nothing, but turning his eyes upon Halbert, gazed at him
a moment to see whether he was jesting or no. No, he was in earnest. So
he looked down on the grass again, and, tearing little tufts up, said,--

"What earthly reason have you for thinking that?"

"What reason!--fifty thousand reasons. Can you see nothing in her eyes
when she speaks to you, which is not there at other times; hey, Bat?--
I can, if you can't."

"If I could think so!" said Sam. "If I could find out?"

"When I want to find out anything, I generally ask," said Halbert.

Sam gave him the full particulars of Cecil's defeat.

"All the better for you," said Halbert; "depend upon it. I don't know
much about women, it is true, but I know more than you do."

"I wish I knew as much as you do," said Sam.

"And I wish I knew as little as you do," said Halbert.

Dinner-time came, but the Captain and the Doctor were not to the fore.
After some speculations as to what had become of them, and having
waited an hour, Jim said, that in the unexplained absence of the
crowned head, he felt it his duty to the country, to assume the reins
of government, and order dinner. Prime Minister Alice, having entered a
protest, offered no further opposition, and dinner was brought in.

Young folks don't make so much of dinner as old ones at any time, and
this dinner was an unusually dull one. Sam was silent and thoughtful,
and talked little; Alice, too, was not quite herself. Jim, as usual,
ate like a hero, but talked little; so the conversation was principally
carried on by Halbert, in the narrative style, who really made himself
very useful and agreeable, and I am afraid they would have been a very
"slow" party without him.

Soon after the serious business of eating was over, Jim said,--

"Alice, I wonder what the Governor will say?"

"About what, brother?"

"About my going soldiering."

"Save us! What new crotchet is this?"

"Only that I'm going to bother the Governor, till he gets me a
commission in the army."

"Are you really serious, Jim?"

"I never was more so in my life."

"So, Mr. Halbert," said Alice, looking round at him, "you are only come
to take my brother away from me!"

"I assure you, Miss Brentwood, that I have only aided and abetted: the
idea was his own."

"Well, well, I see how it is;--we were too happy I suppose."

"But, Alice," said Jim, "won't you be proud to see your brother a good
soldier?"

"Proud! I was always proud of you. But I wish the idea had never come
into your head. If it was in war time I would say nothing, but now it
is very different. Well, gentlemen, I shall leave you to your wine. Mr.
Halbert, I like you very much, but I wish you hadn't turned Jim's
head."

She left them, and walked down the garden; through the twilight among
the vines, which were dropping their yellow leaves lightly on the turf
before the breath of the autumn evening. So Jim was going,--going to
be killed probably, or only coming back after ten years' absence, "full
of strange oaths and bearded like a pard!" She knew well how her father
would jump at his first hint of being a soldier, and would move heaven
and earth to get him a commission,--yes, he would go--her own
darling, funny, handsome Jim, and she would be left all alone.

No, not quite! There is a step on the path behind her that she knows;
there is an arm round her waist which was never there before, and yet
she starts not as a low voice in her ear says,--

"Alice, my love, my darling, I have come after you to tell you that you
are dearer to me than my life, and all the world besides. Can you love
me half as well as I love you? Alice, will you be my wife?"

What answer? Her hands pressed to her face, with

flood of happy tears, she only says,--

"Oh! I'm so happy, Sam! So glad, so glad!"

Pipe up there, golden-voiced magpie; give us one song more before you
go to roost. Laugh out, old jackass; till you fetch an echo back from
the foggy hollow. Up on your bare boughs, it is dripping, dreary
autumn: but down here in the vineyard, are bursting the first green
buds of an immortal spring.

There are some scenes which should only be undertaken by the hand of
a master, and which, attempted by an apprentice like myself, would only
end in disastrous failure, calling down the wrath of all honest men and
true critics upon my devoted head,--not undeservedly. Three men in a
century, or thereabouts, could write with sufficient delicacy, and
purity to tell you what two such young lovers as Sam Buckley and Alice
Brentwood said to one another in the garden that evening, walking up
and down between the yellow vines. I am not one of those three. Where
Charles Dickens has failed, I may be excused from being diffident. I am
an old bachelor, too--a further excuse. But no one can prevent my
guessing, and I guess accordingly,--that they talked in a very low
tone, and when, after an hour, Alice said it was time to come in, that
Sam was quite astonished to find how little had been said, and what
very long pauses there had been.

They came in through the window into the sittingroom, and there was
Dr. Mulhaus, Captain Brentwood, and also, of all people, Major Buckley,
whom the other two had picked up in their ride and brought home. My
information about this period of my history is very full and complete.
It has come to my knowledge on the best authority, that when Sam came
forward to the light, Halbert kicked Jim's shins under the table, and
whispered, "You have lost your money, old fellow!" and that Jim
answered, "I wish it was ten pounds instead of five."

But old folks are astonishingly obtuse. Neither of the three seniors
saw what had happened; but entered CON AMORE into the proposed
expedition to Cape Chatham, and when bedtime came, Captain Brentwood,
honest gentleman, went off to rest, and having said his prayers and
wound up his watch, prepared for a comfortable night's rest, as if
nothing was the matter.

He soon found his mistake. He had got his boots off, and was sitting
pensively at his bedside, meditating further disrobements, when Jim
entered mysteriously, and quietly announced that his whole life in
future would be a weary burden if he didn't get a commission in the
army, or at least a cadetship in the East India Company's service.
Him the Captain settled by telling, that if he didn't change his mind
in a month he'd see about it, and so packed him off to bed. Secondly,
as he was taking off his coat, wondering exceedingly at Jim's
communication, Sam appeared, and humbly and respectfully informed him
that he had that day proposed to his daughter and been accepted,--
provisionally; hoping that the Captain would not disapprove of him as a
sonin-law. He was also rapidly packed off to bed, by the assurance
that he (Brentwood) had never felt so happy in his life, and had been
sincerely hoping that the young folks would fall in love with one
another for a year past.

So, Sam dismissed, the Captain got into bed; but as soon as the light
was blown out two native cats began grunting under the washing-stand,
and he had to get out, and expel them in his shirt; and finally he lost
his temper and began swearing. "Is a man never to get to sleep?" said
he. "The devil must be abroad tonight, if ever he was in his life."

No sleep that night for Captain Brentwood. His son, asking for a
commission in the army, and his daughter going to be married! Both
desirable enough in their way, but not the sort of facts to go to sleep
over, particularly when fired off in his ear just as he was lying
down. So he lay tossing about, more or less uncomfortable all night,
but dozed off just as the daylight began to show more decidedly in the
window. He appeared to have slept from thirty to thirty-five seconds,
when Jim awoke him with,--

"It's time to get up, father, if you are going to Cape Chatham to-day."

"D--n Cape Chatham," was his irreverent reply when Jim was gone,
which sentiment has been often re-echoed by various coasting skippers
in later times. "Why, I haven't been to sleep ten minutes,--and a
frosty morning, too. I wish it would rain. I am not vindictive, but I
do indeed. Can't the young fools go alone, I wonder? No; hang it, I'll
make myself agreeable to-day, at all events!"




Chapter XXXIV



HOW THEY ALL WENT HUNTING FOR SEA ANEMONES AT CAPE CHATHAM--AND HOW
THE DOCTOR GOT A TERRIBLE FRIGHT--AND HOW CAPTAIN BLOCKSTROP SHOWED
THAT THERE WAS GOOD REASON FOR IT.


And presently, the Captain, half dressed, working away at his hair with
two very stiff brushes, betook himself to Major Buckley's room, whom he
found shaving. "I'll wait till you're done," said he; "I don't want you
to cut yourself."

And then he resumed: "Buckley, your son wants to marry my daughter."

"Shows his good taste," said the Major. "What do you think of it?"

"I am very much delighted," said the Captain.

"And what does she say to it?"

"She is very much delighted."

"And I am very much delighted, and I suppose Sam is too. So there you
are, you see: all agreed."

And that was the way the marriage negotiations proceeded; indeed, it
was nearly all that was ever said on the subject. But one day the Major
brought two papers over to the Captain (who signed them), which were
supposed to refer to settlements, and after that all the arrangements
were left to Alice and Mrs. Buckley.

They started for Cape Chatham about nine o'clock in the day; Halbert
and Jim first, then Sam and Alice, and lastly the three elders. This
arrangement did not last long, however; for very soon Sam and Alice
called aloud to Halbert and Jim to come and ride with them, for that
they were boring one another to death. This they did, and now the
discreet and sober conversation of the oldsters was much disturbed by
loud laughter of the younger folks, in which, however, they could not
help joining. It was a glorious crystal clear day in autumn; all
nature, aroused from her summer's rest, had put off her suit of hodden
grey, and was flaunting in gaudiest green. The atmosphere was so
amazingly pure that miles away across the plains the travellers could
distinguish the herds of turkeys (bustards) stalking to and fro, while
before them, that noble maritime mountain Cape Chatham towered up,
sharply defined above the gleaming haze which marked the distant sea.

For a time their way lay straight across the broad well-grassed plains,
marked with ripples as though the retiring sea had but just left it.
Then a green swamp; through the tall reeds the native companion, king
of cranes, waded majestic; the brilliant porphyry water hen, with
scarlet bill and legs, flashed like a sapphire among the emerald green
water-sedge. A shallow lake, dotted with wild ducks; here and there a
group of wild swan, black with red bills, floating calmly on its bosom.
A long stretch of grass as smooth as a bowling-green. A sudden rocky
rise, clothed with native cypress (Exocarpus--Oh my botanical
readers!), honeysuckle (Banksia), she-oak (Casuarina), and here and
there a stunted gum. Cape Chatham began to show grander and nearer,
topping all; and soon they saw the broad belt of brown sandy heath that
lay along the shore.

"Here," said the Doctor, riding up, "we leave the last limit of the
lava streams from Mirngish and the Organ-hill. Now, immediately you
shall see how we pass from the richly-grassed volcanic plains, into the
barren sandstone heaths; from a productive pasture land into a useless
flower-garden. Nature here is economical, as she always is: she makes
her choicest ornamental efforts on spots otherwise useless. You will
see a greater variety of vegetation on one acre of your sandy heath
than on two square miles of the thickly-grassed country we have been
passing over."

It was as he said. They came soon on to the heath; a dark dreary
expanse, dull to look upon after so long a journey upon the bright
green grass. It stretched away right and left interminably, only broken
here and there with islands of dull-coloured trees; as melancholy a
piece of country as one could conceive: yet far more thickly peopled
with animal as well as vegetable life, than the rich pastoral downs
further inland. Now they began to see the little red brush kangaroo,
and the grey forester, skipping away in all directions; and had it been
summer they would have been startled more than once by the brown snake,
and the copper snake, deadliest of their tribe. The painted quail, and
the brush quail (the largest of Australian game birds I believe),
whirred away from beneath their horses' feet; and the ground parrot,
green with mottlings of gold and black, rose like a partridge from the
heather, and flew low. Here, too, the Doctor flushed a "White's
thrush," close to an outlying belt of forest, and got into a great
state of excitement about it. "The only known bird," he said, "which is
found in Europe, America, and Australia alike." Then he pointed out the
emu wren, a little tiny brown fellow, with long hairy tail-feathers,
flitting from bush to bush; and then, leaving ornithology, called their
attention to the wonderful variety of low vegetation that they were
riding through; Hakeas, Acacias, Grevilleas, and what not. In spring
this brown heath would have been a brilliant mass of flowers; but now,
nothing was to be seen save a few tall crimson spikes of Epacris, and
here and there a bunch of lemon-coloured Correas. Altogether, he kept
them so well amused, that they were astonished to come so quickly upon
the station, placed in a snug cove of the forest, where it bordered on
the heath beside a sluggish creek. Then, seeing the mountain towering
up close to them, and hearing, as they stayed at the door, a low
continuous thunder behind a high roll in the heath which lay before them,
they knew that the old ocean was close at hand, and their journey was
done.

The people at the station were very glad to see them, of course.
Barker, the paterfamilias, was an old friend of both the Major and the
Captain, and they found so much to talk about, that after a heavy
midday-meal, excellent in kind, though that kind was coarse, and
certain libations of pale ale and cold claret and water, the older of
the party, with the exception of Dr. Mulhaus, refused to go any
farther; so the young people started forth to the Cape, under the
guidance of George Barker, the fourth or fifth son, who happened to be
at home.

"Doctor," said Alice as they were starting, "do you remark what
beautiful smooth grass covers the cape itself, while here we have
nothing but this scrubby heath? The mountain is, I suppose, some
different formation?"

"Granite, my dear young lady," said the Doctor. "A cap of granite
rising through and partly overlying this sandstone."

"You can always tell one exactly what one wants to know," said Alice;
and, as they walked forwards, somehow got talking to Halbert, which I
believe most firmly had been arranged beforehand with Sam. For he,
falling back, ranged alongside of the Doctor, and, managing to draw him
behind the others, turned to him and said suddenly,--

"My dear old friend! my good old tutor!"

The Doctor stopped short, pulled out a pair of spectacles, wiped
them, put them on, and looked at Sam through them for nearly a minute,
and then said:

"My dear boy, you don't mean to say----"

"I do, Doctor.--Last night.--And, oh! if you could only tell, how
happy I am at this moment! If you could guess at it!----"

"Pooh, pooh!" said the Doctor; "I am not so old as that, my dear boy.
Why, I am a marrying man myself. Sam, I am so very, very glad! You
have won her, and now wear her, like a pearl beyond all price. I think
that she is worthy of you: more than that she could not be."

They shook hands, and soon Sam was at her side again, toiling up the
steep ascent. They soon distanced the others, and went forwards by
themselves.

There was such a rise in the ground seawards, that the broad ocean was
invisible till they were half way up the grassy down. Then right and
left they began to see the nether firmament, stretching away
infinitely. But the happy lovers paused not till they stood upon the
loftiest breezy knoll, and seemed alone together between the blue
cloudless heaven and another azure-sphere which lay beneath their feet.

A cloudless sky and a sailless sea. Far beneath them they heard but saw
not the eternal surges gnawing at the mountain. A few white albatrosses
skimmed and sailed below, and before, seaward, the sheets of turf,
falling away, stretched into a shoreless headland, fringed with black
rock and snow-white surf.

She stood there, flushed and excited with the exercise, her bright hair
dishevelled, waving in the free sea-breeze, the most beautiful object
in that glorious landscape, her noble mate beside her. Awe, wonder,
and admiration kept both of them silent for a few moments, and then she
spoke.

"Do you know any of the choruses in the 'Messiah'?" asked she.

"No, I do not," said Sam.

"I am rather sorry for it," she said, "because this is so very like
some of them."

"I can quite imagine that," said Sam. "I can quite imagine music which
expresses what we see now. Something infinitely BROAD I should say.
Is that nonsense now?"

"Not to me," said Alice.

"I imagined," said Sam, "that the sea would be much rougher than this.
In spite of the ceaseless thunder below there, it is very calm."

"Calm, eh?" said the Doctor's voice behind them. "God help the ship
that should touch that reef this day, though a nautilus might float in
safety! See, how the groundswell is tearing away at those rocks; you
can just distinguish the long heave of the water, before it breaks.
There is the most dangerous groundswell in the world off this coast.
Should this country ever have a large coast-trade, they will find it
out, in calm weather with no anchorage."

A great coasting trade has arisen; and the Doctor's remark has proved
terribly true. Let the Monumental City and the Schomberg, the Duncan
Dunbar and the Catherine Adamson bear witness to it. Let the drowning
cries of hundreds of good sailors, who have been missed and never more
heard of, bear witness that this is the most pitiless and unprotected,
and, even in calm weather, the most dangerous coast in the world.

But Jim came panting up, and, throwing himself on the short turf, said--

"So this is the great Southern Ocean; eh! How far can one see, now,
Halbert?"

"About thirty miles."

"And how far to India; eh?"

"About seven thousand."

"A long way," said Jim. "However, not so far as to England."

"Fancy," said Halbert, "one of those old Dutch voyagers driving on this
unknown coast on a dark night. What a sudden end to their voyage! Yet
that must have happened to many ships which have never come home.
Perhaps when they come to explore this coast a little more they may
find some old ship's ribs jammed on a reef; the ribs of some ship whose
name and memory has perished."

"The very thing you mention is the case," said the Doctor. "Down the
coast here, under a hopeless, black basaltic cliff, is to be seen the
wreck of a very, very old ship, now covered with coral and seaweed. I
waited down there for a spring tide, to examine her, but could
determine nothing, save that she was very old; whether Dutch or Spanish
I know not. You English should never sneer at those two nations: they
were before you everywhere."

"And the Chinese before any of us in Australia," replied Halbert.

"If you will just come here," said Alice, "where those black rocks are
hid by the bend of the hill, you get only three colours in your
landscape; blue sky, grey grass, and purple sea. But look, there is a
man standing on the promontory. He makes quite an eyesore there. I
wish he would go away."

"I suppose he has as good a right there as any of us," answered the
Doctor. "But he certainly does not harmonise very well with the rest of
the colouring. What a strange place he has chosen to stand in, looking
out over the sea, as though he were a shipwrecked mariner--the last of
the crew."

"A shipwrecked mariner would hardly wear breeches and boots, my dear
Doctor," said Jim. "That man is a stockman."

"Not one of ours, however," said George Barker; "even at this distance
I can see that. See, he's gone! Strange! I know of no way down the
cliff thereabouts. Would you like to come down to the shore?"

So they began their descent to the shore by a winding path of turf,
among tumbled heaps of granite, down towards the rock-walled cove, a
horseshoe of smooth white sand lying between two long black reefs,
among whose isolated pinnacles the groundswell leapt and spouted
ceaselessly.

Halbert remarked, "This granite coast is hardly so remarkable as our
Cornish one. There are none of those queer pinnacles and tors one sees
there, just ready to topple down into the sea. This granite is not half
so fantastic."

"Earthquakes, of which you have none in Cornwall," said the Doctor,
"will just account for the difference. I have felt one near here quite
as strong as your famous lieutenant, who capsized the Logan stone."

But now, getting on the level sands, they fell to gathering shells and
sea-weeds like children. Jim trying to see how near he could get to a
wave without being caught, got washed up like jetsam. Alice took Sam's
pocket-handkerchief, and filled it indiscriminately with everything she
could lay her hand on, principally Trochuses, as big as one's fist, and
"Venus-ears," scarlet outside. And after an hour, wetfooted and happy,
dragging a yard or so of sea-tang behind her, she looked round for the
Doctor, and saw him far out on the reef, lying flat on his stomach, and
closely examining a large still pool of salt water, contained in the
crevices of the rocks.

He held up his hand and beckoned. Sam and Alice advanced towards him
over the slippery beds of seaweed, Sam bravely burying his feet in
the wet clefts, and holding out his hand to help her along. Once there
was a break in the reef, too broad to be jumped, and then for the first
time he had her fairly in his arms and swung her across, which was
undoubtedly very delightful, but unfortunately soon over. At length,
however, they reached the Doctor, who was seated like a cormorant on a
wet rock, lighting a pipe.

"What have you collected?" he asked. "Show me."

Alice proudly displayed the inestimable treasures contained in Sam's
handkerchief.

"Rubbish! Rubbish!" said the Doctor, "Do you believe in mermaidens?"

"Of course I do, if you wish it," said Alice. "Have you seen one?"

"No, but here is one of their flower-gardens. Bend down and look into
this pool."

She bent and looked. The first thing she saw was her own exquisite
face, and Sam's brown phiz peering over her shoulder. A golden tress of
hair, loosened by the sea breeze, fell down into the water, and had to
be looped up again. Then gazing down once more, she saw beneath the
crystal water a bed of flowers; dahlias, ranunculuses, carnations,
chrysanthemums, of every colour in the rainbow save blue. She gave a
cry of pleasure: "What are they, Doctor? What do you call them?"

"Sea anemones, in English, I believe," said the Doctor, "actinias,
serpulas, and sabellas. You may see something like that on the European
coasts, on a small scale, but there is nothing I ever have seen like
that great crimson fellow with cream-coloured tentacles. I do not know
his name. I suspect he has never been described. The common European
anemone they call 'crassicornis' is something like him, but not half as
fine."

"Is there any means of gathering and keeping them, Doctor?" asked Sam.
"We have no flowers in the garden like them."

"No possible means," said the Doctor. "They are but lumps of jelly. Let
us come away and get round the headland before the tide comes in."

They wandered on from cove to cove, under the dark cliffs, till
rounding a little headland the Doctor called out,--

"Here is something in your Cornish style, Halbert."

A thin wall of granite, like a vast buttress, ran into the sea, pierced
by a great arch, some sixty feet high. Aloft all sharp grey stone:
below, wherever the salt water had reached, a mass of dark clinging
weed: while beyond, as though set in a dark frame, was a soft glimpse
of blue sky and snow-white seabirds.

"There is nothing so grand as that in Cornwall, Doctor," said Halbert.

"Can we pass under it, Mr. Barker?" said Alice. "I should like to go
through; we have been into none of the caves yet."

"Oh, yes!" said George Barker. "You may go through for the next two
hours. The tide has not turned yet."

"I'll volunteer first," said the Doctor, "and if there's anything worth
seeing beyond, I'll come for you."

It was, as I said, a thin wall of granite, which ran out from the rest
of the hill, seaward, and was pierced by a tall arch; the blocks which
had formerly filled the void now lay weed-grown, half buried in sand,
forming a slippery threshold. Over these the Doctor climbed and looked
beyond.

A little sandy cove, reef-bound, like those they had seen before, lay
under the dark cliffs; and on a water-washed rock, not a hundred yards
from him, stood the man they had seen on the downs above, looking
steadily seaward.

The Doctor slipped over the rocks like an otter, and approached the man
across the smooth sand, unheard in the thunder of the surf. When he was
close upon him, the stranger turned, and the Doctor uttered a low cry
of wonder and alarm.

It was George Hawker! The Doctor knew him in a moment: but whether the
recognition was mutual, he never found out, for Hawker, stepping
rapidly from stone to stone, disappeared round the headland, and the
thunderstruck Doctor retraced his steps to the arch.

There were all the young people gathered, wondering and delighted. But
Alice came to meet him, and said,--

"Who was that with you just now?"

"A mermaid!" replied he.

"That, indeed!" said Alice. "And what did she say?"

"She said, 'Go home to your supper; you have seen quite enough; go home
in good time.'"

"Doctor, there is something wrong!" said Alice. "I see it in your face.
Can you trust me, and tell me what it is?"

"I can trust you so far as to tell you that you are right. I don't like
the look of things at all. I fear there are evil times coming for some
of our friends! Further than this I can say nothing. Say your prayers,
and trust God! Don't tell Sam anything about this: to-morrow I shall
speak to him. We won't spoil a pleasant holiday on mere suspicion."

They rejoined the others, and the Doctor said, "Come away home now; we
have seen enough. Some future time we will come here again: you might
see this fifty times, and never get tired of it."

After a good scramble they stood once more on the down above, and
turned to take a last look at the broad blue sea before they descended
inland; at the first glance seaward, Halbert exclaimed,--

"See there, Doctor! see there! A boat!"

"It's only a whale, I think," said George Barker.

There was a black speck far out at sea, but no whale; it was too steady
for that. All day the air had been calm; if anything, the breeze was
from the north, but now a strong wind was coming up from the south-east,
freshening every moment, and bringing with it a pent bank of dark
clouds; and, as they watched, the mysterious black speck was topped
with white, and soon they saw that it was indeed a boat driving before
the wind under a spritsail, which had just been set.

"That is very strange!" said George Barker. "Can it be a shipwrecked
party?"

"More likely a mob of escaped convicts from Van Diemen's Land," said
Jim. "If so, look out for squalls, you, George, and keep your guns
loaded."

"I don't think it can be that, Jim," said Sam. "What could bring them
so far north? They would have landed, more likely, somewhere in the
Straits, about the big lakes."

"They may have been driven off shore by these westerly winds which have
been blowing the last few days," replied Jim, "and kept their boat's
head northward, to get nearer the settlements. They will be terribly
hungry when they do land, for certain. What's your opinion, Doctor?"

"I think that wise men should be always prepared. We should communicate
with Captain Desborough, and set the police on the alert."

"I wonder," said Sam, "if that mysterious man we saw to-day, watching
on the cliff, could have had any connexion with this equally mysterious
boat. Not likely, though. However, if they are going to land to-night,
they had better look sharp, for it is coming on to blow."

The great bank of cloud which they had been watching, away to the
south-east, was growing and spreading rapidly, sending out little black
avant-couriers of scud, which were hurrying fanlike across the heavens,
telling the news of the coming storm. Landward, in the west, the sun
was going down in purple and scarlet splendours, but seaward, all
looked dark and ominous.

The young folks stood together in the verandah before they went into
dinner, listening to the wind which was beginning to scream angrily
round the corners of the house. The rain had not yet gathered strength
to fall steadily, but was whisked hither and thither by the blast, in a
few uncertain drops. They saw that a great gale was coming up, and knew
that, in a few hours, earth and sky would be mingled in furious war!

"How comfortable it is to think that all the animals are under shelter
to-night!" said Sam. "Jim, my boy, I am glad you and I are not camped
out with cattle this evening. We have been out on nights as bad as this
though; eh? Oh, Lord! fancy sitting the saddle all to-night, under the
breaking boughs, wet through!"

"No more of that for me, old Sam. No more jolly gallops after cattle or
horses for me. But I was always a good hand at anything of that sort,
and I mean to be a good soldier now. You'll see."

At dark, while they were sitting at dinner, the storm was raging round
the house in full fury; but there, in the well-lighted room, before a
good fire, they cared little for it. When dinner was over, the Doctor
called the Captain and the Major aside, and told them in what manner he
had seen and recognised George Hawker on the beach that day; and raised
their fears still more by telling them of that mysterious boat which
the Doctor thought Hawker had been watching for. None of them could
understand it, but all agreed that these things boded no good; and so,
having called their host into their confidence, with regard to the
boat, they quietly loaded all the fire-arms in the place, and put them
together in the hall. This done, they returned to the sitting-room,
and, having taken their grog, retired to bed.

It must be remembered that hitherto Major Buckley knew nothing of
George Hawker's previous appearance, but the Doctor now let him into
the secret. The Major's astonishment and wrath may be conceived, at
finding that his old PROTEGEE Mary, instead of being a comfortable
widow, was the persecuted wife of one of the greatest bushrangers
known. At first he was stunned and confused, but, ere he slept, his
clear straightforward mind had come to a determination that the first
evil was the worst, and that, God give him grace, he would hand the
scoundrel over to justice on the first opportunity, sure that he was
serving Mary best by doing so.

That night Jim and Sam lay together in a little room to the windward of
the house. They were soon fast asleep, but, in the middle of the night,
Jim was woke by a shake on the shoulder, and, rousing himself, saw that
Sam was sitting up in the bed.

"My God, Jim!" said he,--"I have had such an awful dream! I dreamed
that those fellows in the boat were carrying off Alice, and I stood by
and saw it, and could not move hand or foot. I am terribly frightened.
That was something more than a dream, Jim."

"You ate too much of that pie at dinner," said Jim, "and you've had the
nightmare,--that's what is the matter with you. Lord bless you, I
often have the nightmare when I have eaten too much at supper, and lie
on my back. Why, I dreamed the other night that the devil had got me
under the wool-press, screwing me down as hard as he could, and singing
the Hundredth Psalm all the time. That was a much worse dream than
yours."

Sam was obliged to confess that it was. "But still," said he, "I think
mine was something more than a dream. I'm frightened still."

"Oh, nonsense; lie down again. You are pulling all the clothes off me."

They lay down, and Jim was soon asleep, but not so Sam. His dream had
taken such hold of his imagination, that he lay awake, listening to
the storm howling around the house. Now and then he could hear the
unearthly scream of some curlew piercing the din, and, above all, he
could hear the continuous earth-shaking thunder of the surf upon the
beach. Soon after daylight, getting Halbert to accompany him, he went
out to have a look at the shore, and, forcing their way against the
driving, cutting rain, they looked over the low cliff at the furious
waste of waters beneath them, and saw mountain after mountain of water
hurl itself, in a cloud of spray, upon the shore.

"What terrible waves, now!" said Sam.

"Yes," replied Halbert; "there's no land to windward for six thousand
miles or more. I never saw heavier seas than those. I enjoy this, Sam.
It reminds me of a good roaring winter's day in old Cornwall."

"I like it, too," said Sam. "It freshens you up. How calm the water is
to the leeward of the Cape!"

"Yes; a capital harbour of refuge that. Let us go home to breakfast."

He turned to go, but was recalled by a wild shout from Sam.

"A ship! A ship!"

He ran back and looked over into the seething hell of waters helow. Was
it only a thicker spot in the driving mist, or was it really a ship? If
so, God help her.

Small time to deliberate. Ere he could think twice about it, a full-rigged
ship, about five hundred tons, with a close-reefed topsail and a
rag of a foresail upon her, came rushing, rolling, diving, and plunging
on, apparently heading for the deadly white line of breakers which
stretched into the sea at the end of the promontory.

"A Queen's ship, Sam! a Queen's ship! The Tartar, for a thousand
pounds! Oh, what a pity; what a terrible pity!"

"Only a merchant ship, surely," said Sam.

"Did you ever see a merchant ship with six such guns as those on her
upper deck, and a hundred blue-jackets at quarters? That is the
Tartar, Sam, and in three minutes there will be no Tartar."

They had run in their excitement out to the very end of the Cape, and
now the ship was almost under their feet, an awful sight to see. She
was rolling fearfully, going dead before the wind. Now and then she
would slop tons of water on her deck, and her mainyard would almost
touch the water. But still the dark clusters of men along her bulwarks
held steadfast, and the ship's head never veered half a point. Now it
became apparent that she would clear the reef by a hundred yards or
more, and Halbert, waving his hat, cried out,--

"Well done, Blockstrop! Bravely done, indeed! He is running under the
lee of the Cape for shelter. Her Majesty has one more ship-of-war than
I thought she would have had five minutes ago."

As he spoke, she had passed the reef. The yards, as if by magic, swung
round, and, for a moment, she was broadside on to the sea. One wave
broke over her, and nought but her masts appeared above a sheet of
white foam; but, ere the water had well done pouring from her open deck
ports, she was in smooth water, her anchor was down, and the topsail
yard was black with men.

"Let us come down, Sam," said Halbert: "very likely they will send a
boat ashore."

As they were scrambling down the leeward side of the cliff, they saw a
boat put off from the ship, and gained the beach in time to meet a
midshipman coming towards them. He, seeing two well-dressed gentlemen
before him, bowed, and said,--

"Good morning; very rough weather."

"Very, indeed," said Halbert. "Is that the Tartar, pray?"

"That is the Tartar; yes. We were caught in the gale last night, and we
lay-to. This morning, as soon as we recognised the Cape, we determined
to run for this cove, where we have been before. We had an anxious
night last night, I assure you. We have been terribly lucky. If the
wind had veered a few more points to the east, we should have been done
for. We never could have beaten off in such a sea as this."

"Are you going to Sydney?"

"No; we are in chase of a boat full of escaped convicts from
Launceston. Cunning dogs; they would not land in the Straits. We missed
them and got across to Port Phillip, and put Captain D---- and his black
police on the alert; and they have got scent of it, and coasted up
north. We have examined the coast all along, but I am afraid they have
given us the slip; there is such a system of intelligence among them.
However, if they had not landed before last night, they have saved us
all trouble; and if they are ashore we wash our hands of them, and
leave them to the police."

Halbert and Sam looked at one another. Then the former said,--

"Last night, about an hour before it came on to blow, we saw a boat
making for this very headland, which puzzled us exceedingly; and, what
was stranger still, we saw a man on the Cape, who seemed to be on the
look-out."

"That is quite possible," replied the midshipman; "these fellows have a
queer system of communication. The boat you saw must certainly have
been them; and if they landed at all they must have landed here."


* * * * *


I must change the scene here, if you please, my dear reader, and get
you to come with me on board his (I beg pardon, her) Majesty's ship
Tartar for a few minutes, for on the quarter-deck of that noble sloop
there are at this moment two men worth rescuing from oblivion.

The first is a stoutish, upright, middle-aged man, in a naval uniform,
with a brickdust complexion, and very light scanty whiskers; the
jolliest, cheeriest-looking fellow you are likely to meet in a year's
journey. Such a bright merry blue eye as he has, too! This is Captain
Blockstrop, now, I am happy to say, C.B.; a right valiant officer, as
the despatches of Lyons and Peel will testify.

The other is a very different sort of man;--a long, wiry, brown-faced
man, with a big forehead, and a comical expression about his eyes. This
is no less a person than the Colonial Secretary of one of our three
great colonies: of which I decline to mention. Those who know the
Honourable Abiram Pollifex do not need to be told; and those who do not
must find out for themselves. I may mention that he has been known to
retain office seven years in succession, and yet he seldom threatens to
resign his office and throw himself upon the country fewer than three
times, and sometimes four, per annum. Latterly, I am sorry to say, a
miserable faction, taking advantage of one of his numerous
resignations, have assumed the reins of government, and, in spite of
three votes of want of confidence, persist in retaining the seals of
office. Let me add to this, that he is considered the best hand at
quiet "chaff" in the House, and is allowed, both by his supporters and
opponents, to be an honourable man, and a right good fellow.

Such were the two men who now stood side by side on the quarter-deck,
looking eagerly at Sam and Halbert through a pair of telescopes.

"Pollifex," said the Captain, "what do you make of these?"

"Gentlemen," said the Secretary, curtly.

"So I make out," said the Captain; "and apparently in good condition,
too. A very well fed man that biggest, I should say."

"Ye-es; well, ye-es," said the Secretary; "he does look well-fed
enough. He must be a stranger to these parts; probably from the Maneroo
plains, or thereabout."

"What makes you think so?"

"Dear me," said the Secretary; "have you been stationed nearly three
years on this coast, and ask how a man could possibly be in good
condition living in those scrubby heaths?"

"Bad-looking country; eh?" said the Captain.

"Small cattle-stations, sir," said the Secretary, "I can see at a
glance. Salt beef, very tough, and very little of it. I shall run a
bill through the House for the abolition of small cattle-stations next
session."

"Better get your estimates through first, old fellow. The bagpipes will
play quite loud enough over them to last for some time."

"I know it, but tremble not," replied the undaunted Secretary; "I have
got used to it. I fancy I hear Callaghan beginning now: 'The unbridled
prodigality, sir, and the reckless profligacy, sir, of those
individuals who have so long, under the name of government----'"

"That'll do, now," said the Captain; "you are worse than the reality. I
shall go ashore, and take my chance of getting breakfast. Will you
come?"

"Not if I know it, sir, with pork chops for breakfast in the cabin.
Blockstrop, have you duly reflected what you are about to do? You are
about to land alone, unarmed, unprovisioned, among the offscourings of
white society, scarcely superior in their habits of life to the nomadic
savages they have unjustly displaced. Pause and reflect, my dear
fellow. What guarantee have you that they will not propose to feed you
on damper, or some other nameless abomination of the same sort?"

"It was only the other day, in the House," said the Captain, "that you
said the small squatters and freehold farmers represented the greater
part of the intelligence and education of the colony, and now----"

"Sir! sir!" said the Secretary, "you don't know what you are talking
about. Sir, we are not in the House now. Are you determined, then?"

The Captain was quite determined, and they went down to the waist. They
were raising a bag of potatoes from somewhere, and the Colonial
Secretary, seizing two handfuls of them, presented them to the Captain.

"If you will go," he said, "take these with you, and teach the poor
benighted white savages to plant them. So if you fall a victim to
indigestion, we will vote a monument to you on the summit of the Cape,
and write:--'He did not live in vain. He introduced the potato among
the small cattle stations around Cape Chatham.'"

He held out his potatoes towards the retiring Captain with the air of
Burke producing the dagger. His humour, I perceive, reads poor enough
when written down, but when assisted by his comical impassible face,
and solemn drawling delivery, I never heard anything much better.

Good old Pollifex! my heart warms towards him now. When I think what
the men were whose clamour put him out of office in 184-, I have the
conviction forced upon me, that the best among them was not worth his
little finger. He left the colony in a most prosperous state, and,
retiring honourably to one of his stations, set to work, as he said, to
begin life again on a new principle. He is wealthy, honoured, and
happy, as he deserves to be.

I cannot help, although somewhat in the wrong place, telling the reader
under what circumstances I saw him last. Only two years ago, fifteen
after he had left office, I happened to be standing with him, at the
door of a certain club, in a certain capital, just after lunch time,
when we saw the then Colonial Secretary, the man who had succeeded
Pollifex, come scurrying round the corner of the street, fresh from his
office. His face was flushed and perspiring, his hat was on wrong-side
before, with his veil hanging down his back. In the one hand he held
papers, in the other he supported over his fevered brow his white
cotton umbrella; altogether he looked harassed beyond the bounds of
human endurance, but when he caught sight of the open club-doors, he
freshened a bit, and mended his pace. His troubles were not over, for
ere he reached his haven, two Irishmen, with two different requests,
rose as if from the earth, and confronted him. We saw him make two
promises, contradictory to each other, and impossible of fulfilment,
and as he came up the steps, I looked into the face of Ex-Secretary
Pollifex, and saw there an expression which is beyond description. Say
that of the ghost of a man who has been hanged, attending an execution.
Or say the expression of a Catholic, converted by torture, watching
the action of the thumb-screws upon another heretic. The air, in short,
of a man who had been through it all before. And as the then Secretary
came madly rushing up the steps, Pollifex confronted him, and said,--

"Don't you wish you were me, T----?"

"Sir!" said the Secretary, "dipping" his umbrella and dropping his
papers, for the purpose of rhetorically pointing with his left hand at
nothing; "Sir! flesh and blood can't stand it. I resign to-morrow." And
so he went in to his lunch, and is in office at this present moment.

I must apologize most heartily for this long digression. The
Captain's gig, impelled by the "might of England's pride," was cleverly
beached alongside of the other boat, and the Captain stepped out and
confronted the midshipman.

"Got any news, Mr. Vang?"

"Yes, sir!" said the midshipman. "These gentlemen saw the boat
yesterday afternoon."

Sam and Halbert, who were standing behind him, came forward. The
Captain bowed, and looked with admiration at the two highbred-looking
men, that this unpromising desert had produced. They told him what they
had told the midshipman, and the Captain said,--"It will be a very
serious thing for this country side, if these dogs have succeeded in
landing. Let us hope that the sea has done good service in swallowing
fourteen of the vilest wretches that ever disgraced humanity. Pray, are
either of you gentlemen magistrates?"

"My father, Major Buckley, is a magistrate," said Sam. "This gentleman
is Lieutenant Halbert, of the Bengal Artillery."

The Captain bowed to Halbert, and turning to Sam, said,--"So you are
the son of my old friend Major Buckley! I was midshipman in the
'Phlegethon' when she took him and part of his regiment to Portugal, in
1811. I met him at dinner in Sydney, the other day. Is he in the
neighbourhood?"

"He is waiting breakfast for us not a quarter of a mile off," said Sam.
"Will you join us?"

"I shall be delighted; but duty first. If these fellows have succeeded
in landing, you will have to arm and prepare for the worst. Now, unless
they were caught by the gale and drowned, which I believe to be the
case, they must have come ashore in this very bay, about five o'clock
last night. There is no other place where they could have beached their
boat for many miles. Consequently, the thing lies in a nutshell: if we
find the boat, prepare yourselves,--if not, make yourselves easy.
Let us use our wits a little. They would round the headland as soon as
possible, and probably run ashore in that furthest cove to our right,
just inside the reef. I have examined the bay through a telescope, and
could make out nothing of her. Let us come and examine carefully.
Downhaul!" (to his Coxswain). "Come with me."

They passed three or four indentations in the bay examining as they
went, finding nothing, but when they scrambled over the rocks which
bounded the cover the Captain had indicated, he waved his hat, and
laughing said,--

"Ha, ha! just as I thought. There she is."

"Where, Captain Blockstrop?" said Halbert. "I don't see her."

"Nor I either," said the Captain. "But I see the heap of seaweed that
the cunning dogs have raked over her.--Downhaul; heave away at this
weed, and show these gentlemen what is below it."

The Coxswain began throwing away a pile of seatang heaped against a
rock. Bit by bit was disclosed the clean run of a beautiful white
whale-boat, which when turned over discovered her oars laid neatly side
by side, with a small spritsail. The Captain stood by with the air of
a man who had made a hit, while Sam and Halbert stared at one another
with looks of blank discomfiture and alarm.




Chapter XXXV



A COUNCIL OF WAR.


"This is a very serious matter for us, Captain Blockstrop," said Sam,
as they were walking back to the boats. "An exceedingly serious
matter."

"I have only one advice to give you, Mr. Buckley," said the Captain;
"which is unnecessary, as it is just what your father will do. Fight,
sir!--hunt 'em down. Shoot 'em! They will give you no quarter: be sure
you don't give them any."

A wild discordant bellow was here heard from the ship, on which the
Captain slapped his leg, and said,--

"Dash my buttons, if he hasn't got hold of my speaking-trumpet."

The midshipman came up with a solemn face, and, touching his cap,
"reported,"--

"Colonial Secretary hailing, sir."

"Bless my soul, Mr. Vang, I can hear that," said the Captain. "I don't
suppose any of my officer would dare to make such an inarticulate, no
sailor-like bellow as that on her Majesty's quarterdeck. Can you make
out what he says? That would be more to the purpose."

Again the unearthly bellow came floating over the water, happily
deadened by the wind, which was roaring a thousand feet over head.
"CAN you make out anything, Mr. Vang?" said the Captain.

"I make out 'pork-chops!' sir," said the midshipman.

"Take one of the boats on board, Mr. Vang. My compliments, and will be
much obliged if he will come ashore immediately! On important business,
say. Tell him the convicts have landed; will you? Also, tell the
lieutenant of the watch that I want either Mr. Tacks, or Mr. Sheets:
either will do."

The boat was soon seen coming back with the Colonial Secretary in a
statesman-like attitude in the stern sheets, and beside him that
important officer Mr. Tacks, a wee little dot of a naval cadet,
apparently about ten years old.

"What were you bellowing about pork-chops, Pollifex?" asked the
Captain, the moment the boat touched the shore.

"A failure, sir," said the Colonial Secretary; "burnt, sir;
disgracefully burnt up to a cinder, sir. I have been consulting the
honourable member for the Cross-jack-yard (I allude to Mr. Tack's N.C.,
my honourable friend, if he will allow me to call him so) as to the
propriety of calling a court-martial on the cook's mate. He informs me
that such a course is not usual in naval jurisprudence. I am, however,
of opinion that in one of the civil courts of the colony an action for
damages would lie. Surely I have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Buckley of
Baroona?"

Sam and he had met before, and the Secretary, finding himself on shore
and where he was known, dropped his King Cambyses' vein, and appeared
in his real character of a shrewd, experienced man. They walked up
together, and when they arrived at the summit of the ridge, and saw
the magnificent plains stretching away inland, beyond the narrow belt
of heath along the shore, the Secretary whispered to the Captain,--

"I have been deceived. We shall get some breakfast, after all. As
fine a country as I ever saw in my life!"

The party who were just sitting down to breakfast at the station were
sufficiently astonished to see Captain Blockstrop come rolling up the
garden walk, with that small ship-of-war Tacks sailing in his wake,
convoying the three civilians; but on going in and explaining matters,
and room having been made for them at the table, Sam was also
astonished on looking round to see that a new arrival had taken place
since that morning.

It was that of a handsome singular-looking man. His hair was light, his
whiskers a little darker, and his blonde moustache curled up towards
his eyes like corkscrews or a ram's horns (congratulate me on my
simile). A very merry laughing eye he had, too, blue of course, with
that coloured hair; altogether a very pleasant-looking man, and yet
whose face gave one the idea that it was not at all times pleasant, but
on occasions might look terribly tigerish and fierce. A man who won you
at once, and yet one with whom one would hardly like to quarrel. Add to
this, also, that when he opened his mouth to speak, he disclosed a
splendid set of white teeth, and the moment he'd uttered a word, a
stranger would remark to himself, "That is an Irishman."

Sam, who had ensconced himself beside Alice, looked up the long table
towards him with astonishment. "Why, good gracious, Captain
Desborough," he said, "can that be you?"

"I have been waiting," said Desborough, "with the greatest patience to
see how long you would have the audacity to ignore my presence. How do
you do, my small child? Sam, my dear, if ever I get cashiered for being
too handsome to remain in the Service, I'll carry you about and exhibit
you, as the biggest and ugliest boy in the Australian colonies."

Captain Desborough has been mentioned before in these pages. He was an
officer in the army, at the present time holding the situation of
Inspector of Police in this district. He was a very famous hunter-down
of bushrangers, and was heartily popular with every one he was thrown
against, except the aforesaid bushrangers. Sam and he were very old
friends, and were very fond of one another.

Desborough was sitting now at the upper end of the table, with the
Colonial Secretary, Major Buckley, Captain Blockstrop, Captain
Brentwood, and Doctor Mulhaus. They looked very serious indeed.

"It was a very lucky thing, Desborough," said the Major, "that you
happened to meet Captain Blockstrop. He has now, you perceive, handed
over the care of these rascals to you. It is rather strange that they
should have landed here."

"I believe that they were expected," said the Doctor. "I believe that
there is a desperate scheme of villany afloat, and that some of us are
the objects of it."

"If you mean," said Desborough, "that that man you saw on the Cape last
night was watching for the boat, I don't believe it possible. It was,
possibly, some stockman or shepherd, having a look at the weather."

The Doctor had it on the tip of his tongue to speak, and astound them
by disclosing that the lonely watcher was none other than the ruffian
Touan, alias George Hawker; but the Major pressed his foot beneath the
table, and he was silent.

"Well," said Desborough, "and that's about all that's to be said at
present, except that the settlers must arm and watch, and if necessary
fight."

"If they will only do that," said the Colonial Secretary; "if they
will only act boldly in protecting their property and lives, the evil
is reduced by one-half; but when Brallagan was out, nothing that I or
the Governor could do would induce the majority of them to behave like
men."

"Look here, now," said Barker, the host, "I was over the water when
Brallagan was out, and when Howe was out too. And what could a lonely
squatter do against half-a-dozen of 'em? Answer me that?"

"I don't mean that," said the Colonial Secretary; "what I refer to is
the cowardly way in which the settlers allowed themselves to be
prevented by threats from giving information. I speak the more boldly,
Mr. Barker, because you were not one of those who did so."

Barker was appeased. "There's five long guns in my hall, and there's
five long lads can use 'em," he said. "By-the-bye, Captain Desborough,
let me congratulate you on the short work you made with that gang to
the north, the other day. I am sorry to hear that the principal rascal
of the lot, Captain Touan, gave you the slip."

The Doctor had been pondering, and had made up his mind to a certain
course; he bent over the table, and said,--

"I think, on the whole, that it is better to let you all know the
worst. That man whom we saw on the cliff last night I met afterwards,
alone, down on the shore, and that man is no other than the one you
speak of, Captain Touan."

Any one watching Desborough's face as the Doctor spoke would have seen
his eyebrows contract heavily, and a fierce scowl settle on his face.
The name the Doctor mentioned was a very unwelcome one. He had been
taunted and laughed at, at Government-house, for having allowed Hawker
to outwit him. His hot Irish blood couldn't stand that, and he had
vowed to have the fellow somehow. Here he had missed him again, and by
so little, too! He renewed his vow to himself, and in an instant the
cloud was gone, and the merry Irishman was there again.

"My dear Doctor," he said, "I am aware that you never speak at random,
or I should ask you, were you sure of the man? Are you not mistaken?"

"Mistaken in HIM,--eh?" said the Doctor. "No, I was not mistaken."

"You seem to know too much of a very suspicious character, Doctor!"
said Desborough. "I shall have to keep my eye on you, I see!"


* * * * *


Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, more agreeable subjects
were being talked of. There sat our young coterie, laughing loudly,
grouping themselves round some exceedingly minute object, which
apparently was between Sam and Alice, and which, on close examination,
turned out to be little Tacks, who was evidently making himself
agreeable in a way hardly to be expected in one of his tender years.
And this is the way he got there:--

When Captain Blockstrop came in, Alice was duly impressed by the
appearance of that warrior. But when she saw little Tacks slip in
behind him, and sit meekly down by the door; and when she saw how his
character was appreciated by the cattle-dogs, one of whom had his head
in the lad's lap, while the other was licking his face--when she saw,
I say, the little blue and gold apparition, her heart grew pitiful,
and, turning to Halbert, she said,--

"Why, good gracious me! You don't mean to tell me that they take such a
child as that to sea; do you?"

"Oh dear, yes!" said Halbert, "and younger, too. Don't you remember the
story about Collingwood offering his cake to the first lieutenant? He
became, remember, a greater man than Nelson, in all except worldly
honour."

"Would you ask him to come and sit by me, if you please?" said Alice.

So Halbert went and fetched him in, and he sat and had his breakfast
between Alice and Sam. They were all delighted with him; such a child,
and yet so bold and self-helpful, making himself quietly at home, and
answering such questions as were put to him modestly and well. Would
that all midshipmen were like him!

But it became time to go on board, and Captain Blockstrop, coming by
where Alice sat, said, laughing,--

"I hope you are not giving my officer too much marmalade, Miss
Brentwood? He is over-young to be trusted with a jam-pot,--eh, Tacks?"

"Too young to go to sea, I should say," said Alice.

"Not too young to be a brave-hearted boy, however!" said the Captain.
"The other day, in Sydney harbour, one of my marines who couldn't swim
went overboard and this boy soused in after him, and carried the lifebuoy
to him, in spite of sharks. What do you think of that for a ten-year-old?"

The boy's face flushed scarlet as the Captain passed on, and he held
out his hand to Alice to say good-bye. She took it, looked at him,
hesitated, and then bent down and kissed his cheek--a tender, sisterly
kiss--something, as Jim said, to carry on board with him!

Poor little Tacks! He was a great friend of mine; so I have been
tempted to dwell on him. He came to me with letters of introduction,
and stayed at my place six weeks or more. He served brilliantly, and
rose rapidly, and last year only I heard that Lieutenant Tacks had
fallen in the dust, and never risen again, just at the moment that the
gates of Delhi were burst down, and our fellows went swarming in to
vengeance.




Chapter XXXVI



AN EARTHQUAKE, A COLLIERY EXPLOSION, AND AN ADVENTURE.


So the Captain, the Colonial Secretary, and the small midshipman left
the station and went on board again, disappearing from this history for
evermore. The others all went home and grew warlike, arming themselves
against the threatened danger; but still weeks, nay months,
rolled on, and winter was turning into spring, and yet the country side
remained so profoundly tranquil that every one began to believe that
the convicts must after all have been drowned, and that the boat
found by sagacious Blockstrop had been capsized and thrown bottom
upwards on the beach. So that, before the brown flocks began to be
spotted with white lambs, all alarm had gone by.

Only four persons, besides Mary Hawker herself, were conversant of the
fact that the Bushranger and George Hawker were the same man. Of these
only three, the Doctor, Major Buckley, and Captain Brentwood, knew of
his more recent appearance on the shore, and they, after due
consultation, took honest Tom Troubridge into their confidence.

But, as I said, all things went so quietly for two months, that at the
end of that time no one thought any more of bushrangers than they would
of tigers. And just about this time, I, Geoffry Hamlyn, having finished
my last consignment of novels from England, and having nothing to do,
determined to ride over, and spend a day or two with Major Buckley.

But when I rode up to the door at Baroona, having pulled my shirt
collar up, and rapped at the door with my whip, out came the
housekeeper to inform me there was not a soul at home. This was deeply
provoking, for I had got on a new pair of riding trousers, which had
cost money, and a new white hat with a blue net veil (rather a neat
thing too), and I had ridden up to the house under the idea that
fourteen or fifteen persons were looking at me out of window. I had
also tickled my old horse, Chanticleer, to make him caper and show the
excellency of my seat. But when I came to remember that the old horse
had nearly bucked me over his head instead of capering, and to find
that my hat was garnished with a large cobweb of what is called by
courtesy native silk, with half-a-dozen dead leaves sticking in it, I
felt consoled that no one had seen me approach, and asked the
housekeeper, with tolerable equanimity, where they were all gone.

They were all gone, she said, over to Captain Brentwood's, and
goodness gracious knew when they would be back again. Mrs. Hawker and
Mr. Charles were gone with them. For her part, she should not be sorry
when Mr. Sam brought Miss Brentwood over for good and all. The house
was terrible lonesome when they were all away.

I remarked, "Oho!" and asked whether she knew if Mr. Troubridge was at
Toonarbin.

No, she said; he was away again at Port Phillip with store cattle;
making a deal of money, she understood, and laying out a deal for the
Major in land. She wished he would marry Mrs. Hawker and settle down,
for he was a pleasant gentleman, and fine company in a house. Wouldn't
I get off and have a bit of cold wild duck and a glass of sherry?

Certainly I would. So I gave my horse to the groom and went in. I had
hardly cut the first rich red slice from the breast of a fat teal, when
I heard a light step in the passage, and in walked my man Dick. You
remember him, reader. The man we saw five and twenty years ago on
Dartmoor, combining with William Lee to urge the unhappy George Hawker
on to ruin and forgery, which circumstance, remember, I knew nothing of
at this time. The same man I had picked up footsore and penniless in
the bush sixteen years ago, and who had since lived with me, a most
excellent and clever servant--the best I ever had. This man now came
into Major Buckley's parlour, hat in hand, looking a little foolish,
and when I saw him my knife and fork were paralyzed with astonishment.

"Why, what the Dickens" (I used that strong expression) "brings you
here, my lad?"

"I went up to Hipsley's about the colt," he said, "and when I got home
I found you were gone off unexpectedly; so I thought it better to come
after you and tell you all about it. He won't take less than thirty-five."

"Man! man!" I said, "do you mean to say that you have ridden fifty
miles to tell me the price of a leggy beast like that, after I had told
you that twentyfour was my highest offer?"

He looked very silly, and I saw very well he had some other reason for
coming than that. But with a good servant I never ask too many
questions, and when I went out a short time after, and found him
leaning against a fence, and talking earnestly to our old acquaintance
William Lee, I thought, "He wanted an excuse to come up and see his old
friend Lee. That is quite just and proper, and fully accounts for it."

Lee always paid me the high compliment of touching his hat to me, for
old Devon' sake, I suppose. "How's all at Toonarbin, Lee?" I asked.

"Well and hearty, sir. How is yourself, sir?"

"Getting older, Lee. Nothing worse than that. Dick, I am going on to
Captain Brentwood's. If you like to go back to Toonarbin and stay a day
or two with Lee, you can do so."

"I would rather come on with you, sir," he said eagerly.

"Are you sure?" I said.

"Quite sure, sir." And Lee said, "You go on with Mr. Hamlyn, Dick, and
do your duty, mind."

I thought this odd; but, knowing it was useless to ask questions of an
old hand, or try to get any information which was not volunteered, I
held my tongue and departed, taking Dick with me.

I arrived at Captain Brentwood's about three o'clock in the afternoon.
I flatter myself that I made a very successful approach, and created
rather a sensation among the fourteen or fifteen people who were
sitting in the verandah. They took me for a distinguished stranger. But
when they saw who it was they all began calling out to me at once to
know how I was, and to come in (as if I wasn't coming in), and when at
last I got among them, I nearly had my hand shaken off; and the Doctor,
putting on his spectacles and looking at me for a minute, asked what I
had given for my hat?

Let me see, who was there that day? There was Mary Hawker, looking
rather older, and a little worn; and there was her son Charles sitting
beside pretty Ellen Mayford, and carrying on a terrible flirtation with
that young lady, in spite of her fat jolly-looking mother, who sat with
folded hands beside her. Next to her sat her handsome brother Cecil,
looking, poor lad! as miserable as he well could look, although I did
not know the cause. Then came Sam, beside his mother, whose noble happy
face was still worth riding fifty miles to see; and then, standing
beside her chair, was Alice Brentwood.

I had never seen this exquisite creature before, and I immediately fell
desperately and hopelessly in love with her, and told her so that same
evening, in the presence of Sam. Finding that my affection was not
likely to be returned, I enrolled myself as one of her knights, and
remain so to this present time.

The Major sat beside his wife, and the Doctor and Captain Brentwood
walked up and down, talking politics. There were also present, certain
Hawbucks, leggy youths with brown faces and limp hair, in appearance
and dress not unlike English steeplechaseriders who had been treated,
on the face and hands, with walnut-juice. They never spoke, and the
number of them then present I am uncertain about, but one of them I
recollect could spit a great deal farther than any of his brothers, and
proved it beyond controversy about twice in every three minutes.

I missed my old friend Jim Brentwood, and was informed that he had gone
to Sydney, "on the spree," as Sam expressed it, along with a certain
Lieutenant Halbert, who was staying on a visit with Major Buckley.

First I sat down by Mary Hawker, and had a long talk with her about old
times. She was in one of her gay moods, and laughed and joked
continuously. Then I moved up, by invitation, to a chair between the
Major and his wife, and had a long private and confidential
conversation with them.

"How," I began, "is Tom Troubridge?"

"Tom is perfectly well," said the Major. "He still carries on his old
chronic flirtation with Mary; and she is as ready to be flirted with as
ever."

"Why don't they marry?" I asked, peevishly. "Why on earth don't they
marry one another? What is the good of carrying on that old folly so
long? They surely must have made up their minds by now. She knows she
is a widow, and has known it for years."

"Good God! Hamlyn, are you so ignorant?" said the Major. And then he
struck me dumb by telling me of all that had happened latterly: of
George Hawker's reappearance, of his identity with the great
bushranger, and, lastly, of his second appearance not two months
before.

"I tell you this in strict confidence, Hamlyn, as one of my oldest and
best friends. I know how deeply your happiness is affected by all
this."

I remained silent and thunderstruck for a time, and then I tried to
turn the conversation:--

"Have you had any alarm from bushrangers lately? I heard a report of
some convicts having landed on the coast."

"All a false alarm!" said the Major. "They were drowned, and the boat
washed ashore, bottom upwards."

Here the Doctor broke in: "Hamlyn, is not this very queer weather?"

When he called my attention to it, I remarked that the weather was
really different from any I had seen before, and said so.

The sky was grey and dull, the distances were clear, and to the eye it
appeared merely a soft grey autumnal day. But there was something very
strange and odd in the deadly stillness of all nature. Not a leaf
moved, not a bird sang, and the air seemed like lead. At once Mrs.
Buckley remarked,--

"I can't work, and I can't talk. I am so wretchedly nervous that I
don't know what to do with myself, and you know, my dear," she said,
appealing to her husband, "that I am not given to that sort of thing."

Each man looked at his neighbour, for there was a sound in the air now
a weird and awful sound like nothing else in nature. To the south
arose upon the ear a hollow quivering hum, which swelled rapidly into a
roar beneath our feet; there was a sickening shake, a thump, a crash,
and away went the earthquake, groaning off to the northward.

The women behaved very well, though some of them began to cry; and
hearing a fearful row in the kitchen I dashed off there, followed by
the Doctor. The interior was a chaos of pots and kettles, in the centre
of which sat the cook, Eleanor, holding on by the floor. Every now and
then she would give a scream which took all the breath out of her; so
she had to stop and fetch breath before she could give another. The
Doctor stepped through the saucepans and camp-ovens, and trying to
raise her said,--

"Come, get up, my good woman, and give over screaming. All the danger
is over, and you will frighten the ladies."

At this moment she had got her "second wind," and as he tried to get
her up she gave such a yell that he dropped her again, and bolted,
stopping his ears; bolted over a teakettle which had been thrown down,
and fell prostrate, resounding like an Homeric hero, on to a heap of
kitchen utensils, at the feet of Alice, who had come in to come see
what the noise was about.

"Good Lord!" said he, picking himself up, "what lungs she has got! I
shall have a singing in my ears to my dying day. Yar! it went through
my head like a knife."

Sam picked up the cook, and she, after a time, picked up her pots,
giving, however, an occasional squall, and holding on by the dresser,
under the impression that another earthquake was coming. We left her,
however, getting dinner under way, and went back to the others, whom we
soon set laughing by telling poor Eleanor's misadventures.

We were all in good spirits now. A brisk cool wind had come up from the
south, following the earthquake, making a pleasant rustle as it swept
across the plain or tossed the forest boughs. The sky had got clear,
and the nimble air was so inviting that we rose as one body to stroll
in groups about the garden and wander down to the river.

The brave old river was rushing hoarsely along, clear and full, between
his ruined temple-columns of basalt, as of old. "What a grand salmon-river
this would be, Major!" said I; "what pools and stickles are here!
Ah! if we only could get the salmon-spawn through the tropics without
its germinating.--Can you tell me, Doctor, why these rocks should take
the form of columns? Is there any particular reason for it that you
know?"

"You have asked a very puzzling question," he replied, "and I hardly
know how to answer it. Nine geologists out of ten will tell you that
basalt is lava cooled under pressure. But I have seen it in places
where that solution was quite inapplicable. However, I can tell you
that the same cause which set these pillars here, to wall the river,
piled up yon Organ-hill, produced the caves of Widderin, the great
crater-hollow of Mirngish, and accommodated us with that brisk little
earthquake which we felt just now. For you know that we mortals stand
only on a thin crust of cooled matter, but beneath our feet is all
molten metal."

"I wish you could give us a lecture on these things, Doctor," I said.

"To-morrow," said he, "let us ride forth to Mirngish and have a picnic.
There I will give you a little sketch of the origin of that hill."

In front of the Brentwoods' house the plains stretched away for a dozen
miles or so, a bare sheet of grass with no timber, grey in summer,
green in winter. About five miles off it began to roll into great
waves, and then heaved up into a high bald hill, a lofty down, capped
with black rocks, bearing in its side a vast round hollow, at the
bottom of which was a little swamp, perfectly circular, fringed with
a ring of white gum-trees, standing in such an exact circle that it was
hard to persuade oneself that they were not planted by the hand of
man. This was the crater of the old volcano. Had you stood in it, you
would have remarked that one side was a shelving steep bank of short
grass, while the other reared up some five hundred feet, a precipice of
fire-eaten rock. At one end the lip had broken down, pouring a torrent
of lava, now fertile grass-land, over the surrounding country, which
little gap gave one a delicious bit of blue distance. All else, as I
said, was a circular wall of grass, rock, and tumbled slag.

This was Mirngish. And the day after the earthquake there was a fresh
eruption in the crater. An eruption of horsemen and horse-women. An
eruption of talk, laughter, pink-bonnets, knives and forks, and champagne.
Many a pleasant echo came ringing back from the old volcano-walls
overhead, only used for so many ages to hear the wild rattle of
the thunder and the scream of the hungry eagle.

Was ever a poor old worn-out grass-grown volcano used so badly? Here
into the very pit of Tophet had the audacious Captain that very morning
sent on a spring-cart of all eatables and drinkables, and then had
followed himself with a dozen of his friends, to eat and drink, and
talk and laugh, just in the very spot where of old roared and seethed
the fire and brimstone of Erebus.

Yet the good old mountain was civil, for we were not blown into the
air, to be a warning to all people picnicing in high places; but when
we had eaten and drunk, and all the ladies had separately and
collectively declared that they were SO fond of the smell of tobacco in
the open air, we followed the Doctor, who led the way to the summit of
the hill.

I arrived last, having dragged dear fat old Mrs. Mayford up the
slippery steep. The Doctor had perched himself on the highest flame-worn
crag, and when we all had grouped ourselves below him, and while
the wind swept pleasantly through the grass, and rushed humming through
the ancient rocks, he in a clear melodious voice thus began:--

"Of old the great sea heaved and foamed above the ground on which we
stand; ay, above this, and above yon farthest snowy peak, which the
westering sun begins to tinge with crimson.

"But in the lapse of ten thousand changing centuries, the lower deeps,
acted on by some Plutonic agency, began to grow shallow; and the
imprisoned tides began to foam and roar as they struggled to follow the
moon, their leader, angry to find that the stillness of their ancient
domain was year by year invaded by the ever-rising land.

"At that time, had man been on the earth to see it, those towering Alps
were a cluster of lofty islands, each mountain pass which divides them
was a tide-swept fiord, in and out of which, twice in the day, age
after age, rushed the sea, bringing down those vast piles of water-worn
gravel which you see accumulated, and now covered with dense
vegetation, at the mouth of each great valley.

"So twenty thousand years went on, and all this fair champagne country
which we overlook became, first a sand-bank, then a dreary stretch of
salt saturated desert, and then, as the roar of the retiring ocean
grew fainter and fainter, began to sustain such vegetation as the Lord
thought fit.

"A thousand years are but as yesterday to Him, and I can give you no
notion as to how many hundred thousand years it took to do all this; or
what productions covered the face of the country. It must have been a
miserably poor region: nothing but the debris of granite, sandstone,
and slate; perhaps here and there partially fertilized by rotting seaweed,
dead fish and shells; things which would, we may assume, have
appeared and flourished as the water grew shallower.

"New elements were wanting to make the country available for man, so
soon to appear in his majesty; and new elements were forthcoming. The
internal fires so long imprisoned beneath the weight of the incumbent
earth, having done their duty in raising the continent, began to find
vent in every weak spot caused by its elevation.

"Here where we stand, in this great crack between the granite and the
sandstone, they broke out with all their wildest fury; hurling stones
high in the air, making mid-day dark with clouds of ashes, and pouring
streams of lava far and wide.

"So the country was desolated by volcanoes, but only desolated that it
might grow greener and richer than ever, with a new and hitherto
unknown fertility; for, as the surface of the lava disintegrated, a new
soil was found, containing all the elements of the old one, and many
more. These are your black clay, and your red burnt soil, which, I take
it, are some of the richest in the world.

"Then our old volcano, our familiar Mirngish, in whose crater we have
been feasting, grew still for a time, for many ages probably; but after
that I see the traces of another eruption; the worst, perhaps, that he
ever accomplished.

"He had exhausted himself, and gradually subsided, leaving a perfect
cup or crater, the accumulation of the ashes of a hundred eruptions;
nay, even this may have been filled with water, as is Mount Gambier,
which you have not seen, forming a lake without a visible outlet; the
water draining off at that level where the looser scoriae begin.

"But he burst out again, filling this great hollow with lava, till the
accumulation of the molten matter broke through the weaker part of the
wall, and rolled away there, out of that gap to the northward, and
forming what you now call the 'stony rises,'--turning yon creek into
steam, which by its explosive force formed that fantastic cap of rocks,
and, swelling into great bubbles under the hot lava, made those long
underground hollows which we now know as the caves of Bar-ca-nah.

"Is he asleep for ever? I know not. He may arise again in his wrath and
fill the land with desolation; for that earthquake we felt yesterday
was but a wild throe of the giant struggling to be free.

"Let us hope that he may not break his chains, for as I stand here
gazing on those crimson Alps, the spirit of prophecy is upon me, and I
can see far into the future, and all the desolate landscape becomes
peopled with busy figures.

"I see the sunny slopes below me yellow with trellissed vines. They
have gathered the vintage, and I hear them singing at the wine-press.
They sing that the exhausted vineyards of the old world yield no wine
so rare, so rich, as the fresh volcanic slopes of the southern
continent, and that the princes of the earth send their wealth, that
their hearts may get glad from the juice of the Australian grapes.

"Beyond I see fat black ridges grow yellow with a thousand cornfields.
I see a hundred happy homesteads, half-hidden by clustering
wheatstacks. What do they want with all that corn? say you; where is
their market?

"There is their market! Away there on the barren forest ranges. See,
the timber is gone, and a city stands there instead. What is that on
the crest of the hill? A steam-engine; nay, see, there are five of
them, working night and day, fast and busy. Their cranks gleam and
flash under the same moon that grew red and lurid when old Mirngish
vomited fire and smoke twenty thousand years ago. As I listen I can
hear the grinding of the busy quartz-mill. What are they doing? you
ask. They are gold-mining.

"They have found gold here, and gold in abundance, and hither have
come, by ship and steamship, all the unfortunate of the earth. The
English factory labourer and the farmer-ridden peasant; the Irish
pauper; the starved Scotch Highlander. I hear a grand swelling chorus
rising above the murmur of the evening breeze; that is sung by German
peasants revelling in such plenty as they never knew before, yet still
regretting fatherland, and then I hear a burst of Italian melody
replying. Hungarians are not wanting, for all the oppressed of the
earth have taken refuge here, glorying to live under the free
government of Britain; for she, warned by American experience, has
granted to all her colonies such rights as the British boast of
possessing."

I did not understand him then. But, since I have seen the living wonder
of Ballarat, I understand him well enough.

He ceased. But the Major cried out, "Go on, Doctor, go on. Look farther
yet, and tell us what you see. Give us a bit more poetry while your
hand is in."

He faced round, and I fancied I could detect a latent smile about his
mouth.

"I see," said he, "a vision of a nation, the colony of the greatest
race on the earth, who began their career with more advantages than
ever fell to the lot of a young nation yet. War never looked on them.
Not theirs was the lot to fight, like the Americans, through bankruptcy
and inexperience towards freedom and honour. No. Freedom came to them,
Heavensent, red-tape-bound, straight from Downing-street. Millions of
fertile acres, gold in bushels were theirs, and yet----"

"Go on," said the Major.

"I see a vision of broken railway arches and ruined farms. I see a
vision of a people surfeited with prosperity and freedom grown
factious, so that now one party must command a strong majority ere they
can pass a law the goodness of which no one denies. I see a bankrupt
exchequer, a drunken Governor, an Irish ministry, a----"

"Come down out of that," roared the Major, "before I pull you down.
You're a pretty fellow to come out for a day's pleasure! Jeremiah was a
saint to him," he added, turning appealingly to the rest of us. "Hear
my opinion, 'per contra,' Doctor. I'll be as near right as you."

"Go on, then," said the Doctor.

"I see," began the Major, "the Anglo-Saxon race--"

"Don't forget the Irish, Jews, Germans, Chinese, and other barbarians,"
interrupted the Doctor.

"Asserting," continued the Major, scornfully, "as they always do, their
right to all the unoccupied territories of the earth."

("Blackfellow's claims being ignored," interpolated the Doctor.)

"And filling all the harbours of this magnificent country----"

("Want to see them.")

"With their steamships and their sailing vessels. Say there be gold
here, as I believe there is, the time must come when the mines will be
exhausted. What then? With our coals we shall supply----"

("Newcastle," said the Doctor, again.)

"The British fleets in the East Indies----"

"And compete with Borneo," said the Doctor, quietly, "which contains
more coal than ever India will burn, at one-tenth the distance from her
that we are. If that is a specimen of your prophecies, Major, you are
but a Micaiah after all."

"Well," said the Major, laughing, "I cannot reel it off quite so quick
as you; but think we shall hardly have time for any more prophesying;
the sun is getting very low."

We turned and looked to westward. The lofty rolling snow-downs had
changed to dull lead colour, as the sun went down in a red haze behind
them; only here and there some little elevated pinnacle would catch the
light. Below the mountain lay vast black sheets of woodland, and nearer
still was the river, marked distinctly by a dense and rapidly-rising
line of fog.

"We are going to have a fog and a frost," said the Major. "We had
better hurry home."

Behind all the others rode Alice, Sam, and myself. I was fearful of
being "de trop," but when I tried to get forward to the laughing,
chattering, crowd in front, these two young lovers raised such an
outcry that I was fain to stay with them, which I was well pleased to
do.

Behind us, however, rode three mounted servants, two of Captain
Brentwood's, and my man Dick.

We were almost in sight of the river, nearly home in fact, when there
arose a loud lamentation from Alice.

"Oh, my bracelet! my dear bracelet! I have lost it."

"Have you any idea where you dropped it?" I inquired.

"Oh, yes," she said. "I am sure it must have been when I fell down,
scrambling up the rocks, just before the Doctor began his lecture. Just
as I reached the top, you know, I fell down, and I must have lost it
there."

"I will ride back and find it, then, in no time," I said.

"No, indeed, Uncle Jeff," said Sam. "I will go back."

"I use an uncle's authority," I replied, "and I forbid you. That
miserable old pony of yours, which you have chosen to bring out to-day,
has had quite work enough, without ten miles extra. I condescend to no
argument; here I go."

I turned, with a kind look from both of them, but ere I had gone ten
yards, my servant Dick was alongside of me.

"Where are you going, sir?" said he.

"I am going back to Mirngish," I replied. "Miss Alice has dropped her
bracelet, and I am going back for it."

"I will come with you, sir," he said.

"Indeed no, Dick; there is no need. Go back to your supper, lad. I
shan't be long away,"

"I am coming with you, sir," he replied. "Company is a good thing
sometimes."

"Well, boy," I said, "if you will come, I shall be glad of your
company; so come along."

I had noticed lately that Dick never let me go far alone, but would
always be with me. It gave rise to no suspicion in my mind. He had been
tried too often for that. But still, I thought it strange.

On this occasion, we had not ridden far before he asked me a question
which rather surprised me. He said,--

"Mr. Hamlyn; do you carry pistols?"

"Why, Dick, boy?" I said, "why should I?"

"Look you here, Mr. Hamlyn," said he. "Have you tried me?"

"I have tried you for twenty years, Dick, and have not found you
wanting."

"Ah!" said he, "that's good hearing. You're a magistrate, sir, though
only just made. But you know that coves like me, that have been in
trouble, get hold of information which you beaks can't. And I tell you,
sir, there's bad times coming for this country side. You carry your
pistols, sir, and, what's more, YOU USE 'EM. See here."

He opened his shirt, and showed me a long sharp knife inside.

"That's what I carries, sir, in these times, and you ought to carry
ditto, and a brace of barkers besides. We shan't get back to the
Captain's to-night."

We were rising on the first shoulder of Mirngish, and daylight was
rapidly departing. I looked back. Nothing but a vast sea of fog, one
snow peak rising from it like an iceberg from a frozen sea, piercing
the clear frosy air like a crystal of lead and silver.

"We must hurry on," I said, "or we shall never have daylight to find
the bracelet. We shall never find our way home through that fog,
without a breath of wind to guide us. What shall we do?"

"I noticed to-day, sir," said Dick, "a track that crossed the hill to
the east; if we can get on that, and keep on it, we are sure to get
somewhere. It would be better to follow that than go blundering across
the plain through such a mist as that."

As he was speaking, we had dismounted and commenced our search. In
five minutes, so well did our recollection serve us, Dick had got the
bracelet, and, having mounted our horses, we deliberated what was next
to be done.

A thick fog covered the whole country, and was rapidly creeping up to
the elevation on which we stood. To get home over the plains without a
compass seemed a hopeless matter. So we determined to strike for the
track which Dick had noticed in the morning, and get on it before it
was dark.

We plunged down into the sea of fog, and, by carefully keeping the
same direction, we found our road. The moon was nearly full, which
enabled us to distinguish it, though we could never see above five
yards in front of us.

We followed the road above an hour; then we began to see ghostly
tree-stems through the mist. They grew thicker and more frequent. Then we
saw a light, and at last rode up to a hut-door, cheered by the warm
light, emanating from a roaring fire within, which poured through every
crack in the house-side, and made the very fog look warm.

I held Dick's horse while he knocked. The door was opened by a wee
feeble old man, about sixty, with a sharp clever face, and an iron-grey
rough head of hair.

"Night, daddy," said Dick. "Can me and my master stay here to-night?
We're all abroad in this fog. The governor will leave something
handsome behind in the morning, old party, I know." (This latter was in
a whisper.)

"Canst thou stay here, say'st thou?" replied the old fellow. "In course
thou canst. But thy master's money may bide in a's pouch. Get thy
saddles off, lad, and come in; 'tis a smittle night for rheumatics."

I helped Dick to take off the saddles, and, having hobbled our horses
with stirrup-leathers, we went in.

Our little old friend was the hut-keeper, as I saw at a glance. The
shepherd was sitting on a block before the fire, in his shirt, smoking
his pipe and warming his legs preparatory to turning in.

I understood him in a moment, as I then thought (though I was much
deceived). A short, wiry, blackheaded man, with a cunning face--
convict all over. He rose as we came in, and gave us good evening. I
begged he would not disturb himself; so he moved his block into the
corner, and smoked away with that lazy indifference that only a
shepherd is master of.

But the old man began bustling about. He made us sit down before the
fire, and make ourselves comfortable. He never ceased talking.

"I'll get ye, lads, some supper just now," said he. "There's na but twa
bunks i' the hut; so master and man must lie o' the floor, 'less indeed
the boss lies in my bed, which he's welcome to. We've a plenty
blankets, though, and sheepskins. We'll mak ye comfortable, boys.
There's a mickle back log o' the fire, and ye'll lie warm, I'se warrant
ye. There's cowd beef, sir (to me), and good breed, no' to mind boggins
o' tea. Ye'll be comfortable, will ye. What's yer name?"

"Hamlyn," I said.

"Oh, ay! Ye're Hamlyn and Stockbridge! I ken ye well; I kenned yer
partner: a good man--a very good man, a man o' ten thousand. He was
put down up north. A bad job--a very bad job! Ye gat terrible
vengeance, though. Ye hewed Agag in pieces! T' Governor up there to
Sydney was wild angry at what ye did, but he darena' say much. He knew
that every free man's heart went with ye. It were the sword of the Lord
and of Gideon that ye fought with! Ye saved many good lives by that
raid of yours after Stockbridge was killed. The devils wanted a lesson,
and ye gar'd them read one wi' a vengeance!"

During this speech, which was uttered in a series of interjections, we
had made our supper, and drawn back to the fire. The shepherd had
tumbled into his blankets, and was snoring. The old man, having cleared
away the things, came and sat down beside us. The present of a fig of
tobacco won his heart utterly, and he, having cut up a pipeful, began
talking again.

"Why," said he, "it's the real Barret's twist--the very real article!
Eh, master, ye're book-learned: do you ken where this grows? It must be
a fine country to bring up such backer as this; some o' they Palm
Isles, I reckon."

"Virginia," I told him, "or Carolina, one of the finest countries in
the world where they hold slaves."

"Ah," said he, "they couldn't get white men to mess with backer and
such in a hot country, and in course every one knows that blacks won't
work till they're made. That's why they bothers themselves with 'em, I
reckon. But, Lord! they are useless trash. White convicts is useless
enough; think what black niggers must be!"

How about the gentleman in bed? I thought; but he was snoring
comfortably.

"I am a free man myself," continued the old man. "I never did aught,
ay, or thought o' doing aught, that an honest man should not do. But
I've lived among convicts twenty odd year, and do you know, sir,
sometimes I hardly know richt fra wrang. Sometimes I see things that
whiles I think I should inform of, and then the devil comes and tells
me it would be dishonourable. And then I believe him till the time's
gone by, and after that I am miserable in my conscience. So I haven't
an easy time of it, though I have good times, and money to spare."

I was getting fond of the honest, talkative old fellow; so when Dick
asked him if he wanted to turn in, and he answered no, I was well
pleased.

"Can't you pitch us a yarn, daddy?" said Dick. "Tell us something about
the old country. I should like well to hear what you were at home."

"I'll pitch ye a yarn, lad," he replied, "if the master don't want to
turn in. I'm fond of talking. All old men are, I think," he said,
appealing to me. "The time's coming, ye see, when the gift o' speech
will be gone from me. It's a great gift. But happen we won't lose it
after all."

I said, "No, that I thought not; that I thought on the other side of
the grave we should both speak and hear of higher things than we did in
the flesh."

"Happen so," said he; "I think so too, sometime. I'll give ye my yarn;
I have told it often. Howsever, neither o' ye have heard it, so ye're
the luckier that I tell it better by frequent repetition. Here it is:--

"I was a collier lad, always lean, and not well favoured, though I was
active and strong. I was small, too, and that set my father's heart
agin me somewhat, for he was a gran' man, and a mighty fighter.

"But my elder brother Jack, he was a mighty fellow, God bless him; and
when he was eighteen he weighed twelve stone, and was earning man's
wages, tho' that I was hurrying still. I saw that father loved him
better than me, and whiles that vexed me, but most times it didn't, for
I cared about the lad as well as father did, and he liked me the same.
He never went far without me; and whether he fought, or whether he
drunk, I must be wi' him and help.

"Well, so we went on till, as I said, I was seventeen, and he eighteen.
We never had a word till then; we were as brothers should be. But at
this time we had a quarrel, the first we ever had; ay, and the last,
for we got something to mind this one by.

"We both worked in the same pit. It was the Southstone Pit; happen
you've heard of it. No? Well, thus things get soon forgot. Father had
been an overman there, but was doing better now above ground. He and
mother kept a bit shop; made money.

"There was a fair in our village, a poor thing enough; but when we boys
were children we used to look forward to it eleven months out o'
twelve, and the day it came round we used to go to father, and get
sixpence, or happen a shilling apiece to spend.

"Well, time went on till we came to earn money; but still we kept up
the custom, and went to the old man reg'lar for our fairin', and he
used to laugh and chaff us as he'd give us a fourpenny or such, and we
liked the joke as well as he.

"Well this time--it was in '12, just after the comet, just the worst
times of the war, the fair came round, 24th of May, I well remember,
and we went in to the old man to get summut to spend--just for a joke
like.

"He'd lost money, and been vexed; so when Jack asked him for his
fairin' he gi'ed him five shillin', and said, 'I'll go to gaol but what
my handsome boy shan't have summut to treat his friends to beer.' But
when I axed him, he said, 'Earn man's wages, and thee'll get a man's
fairin,' and heaved a penny at me.

"That made me wild mad, I tell you. I wasn't only angry wi' the old
man, but I was mad wi' Jack, poor lad! The devil of jealousy had got
into me, and, instead of kicking him out, I nursed him. I ran out o'
the house, and away into the fair, and drunk, and fought, and swore
like a mad one.

"I was in one of the dancing booths, half drunk, and a young fellow
came to me, and said, 'Where has thee been? Do thee know thy brother
has foughten Jim Perry, and beaten him?'

"I felt like crying, to think my brother had fought, and I not there to
set him up. But I swore, and said, 'I wish Jim Perry had killed un;'
and then I sneaked off home to bed, and cried like a lass.

"And next morning I was up before him, and down the pit. He worked a
good piece from me, so I did not see him, and it came on nigh nine
o'clock before I began to wonder why the viewer had not been round, for
I had heard say there was a foul place cut into by some of them, and at
such times the viewer generally looks into every corner.

"Well, about nine, the viewer and underviewer came up with the overman,
and stood talking alongside of me, when there came a something sudden
and sharp, as tho' one had boxed your ears, and then a 'whiz, whiz,'
and the viewer stumbled a one side, and cried out, 'God save us!'

"I hardly knew what had happened till I heard him singing out clear and
firm, 'Come here to me, you lads; come here. Keep steady, and we'll be
all right yet.' Then I knew it was a fire, and a sharp one, and began
crying out for Jack.

"I heard him calling for me, and then he ran up and got hold of me; and
so ended the only quarrel we ever had, and that was a one-sided one.

"'Are you all here?' said the viewer. 'Now follow me, and if we meet
the afterdamp hold your breath and run. I am afraid it's a bad job, but
we may get through yet.'

"We had not gone fifty yards before we came on the afterdamp, filling
the headway like smoke. Jack and I took hold of each other's collars
and ran, but before we were half-way through, he fell. I kept good hold
of his shirt, and dragged him on on the ground. I felt as strong as a
horse; and in ten seconds, which seemed to me like ten hours, I dragged
him out under the shaft into clear air. At first I thought he was dead,
but he was still alive, and very little of that. His heart beat very
slow, and I thought he'd die; but I knew if he got clear air that he
might come round.

"When we had gotten to the shaft bottom we found it all full of smoke;
the waft had gone straight up, and they on the top told us after that
all the earth round was shook, and the black smoke and coal-dust flew
up as though from a gun-barrel. Any way it was strong enough to carry
away the machine, so we waited there ten minutes and wondered the
basket did not come down; but they above, meanwhile, were rigging a
rope to an old horse-whim, and as they could not get horses, the men
run the poles round themselves.

"But we at the bottom knew nothing of all this. There were thirty or so
in the shaft bottom, standing there, dripping wet wi' water, and
shouting for the others, who never came; now the smoke began to show in
the west drive, and we knew the mine was fired, and yet we heard nought
from those above.

"But what I minded most of all was, that Jack was getting better. I
knew we could not well be lost right under the shaft, so I did not
swear and go on like some of them, because they did not mind us above.
When the basket came down at last, I and Jack went up among the first,
and there I saw such a sight, lad, as ye'll never see till ye see a
colliery explosion. There were hundreds and hundreds there. Most had
got friends or kin in the pit, and as each man came up, his wife or his
mother would seize hold of him and carry on terrible.

"But the worst were they whose husbands and sons never came up again,
and they were many; for out of one hundred and thirty-one men in the
pit, only thirtynine came up alive. Directly we came to bank, I saw
father; he was first among them that were helping, working like a
horse, and directing everything. When he saw us, he said, 'Thank the
Lord, there's my two boys. I am not a loser to-day!' and came running
to us, and helped me to carry Jack down the bank. He was very weak and
sick, but the air freshened him up wonderful.

"I told father all about it, and he said, 'I've been wrong, and thou'st
been wrong. Don't thou get angry for nothing; thou hast done a man's
work to-day, at all events. Now come and bear a hand. T'owd 'ooman will
mind the lad.'

"We went back to the pit's mouth; the men were tearing round the whim
faster than horses would a' done it. And first amongst 'em all was old
Mrs. Cobley, wi' her long grey hair down her back, doing the work o'
three men; for her two boys were down still, and I knew for one that
they were not with us at the bottom; but when the basket came up with
the last, and her two boys missing, she went across to the master, and
asked him what he was going to do, as quiet as possible.

"He said he was going to ask some men to go down, and my father
volunteered to go at once, and eight more went with him. They were soon
up again, and reported that all the mine was full of smoke, and no one
had dared leave the shaft bottom fifty yards.

"'It's clear enough, the mine's fired, sir,' said my father to the
owner. 'They that's down are dead. Better close it, sir.'

"'What!' screamed old Mrs. Cobley, 'close the pit, ye dog, and my boys
down there? Ye wouldn't do such a thing, master dear?' she continued;
'ye couldn't do it.' Many others were wild when they heard the thing
proposed; but while they raved and argued, the pit began to send up a
reek of smoke like the mouth of hell, and then the master gave orders
to close the shaft, and a hundred women knew they were widows, and went
weeping home.

"And Jack got well. And after the old man died, we came out here. Jack
has gotten a public-house in Yass, and next year I shall go home and
live with him.

"And that's the yarn about the fire at the Southstone Pit."

We applauded it highly, and after a time began to talk about lying
down, when on a sudden we heard a noise of horses' feet outside; then
the door was opened, and in came a stranger.

He was a stranger to me, but not to my servant, who I could see
recognized him, though he gave no sign of it in words. I also stared at
him, for he was the handsomest young man I had ever seen.

Handsome as an Apollo, beautiful as a leopard, but with such a peculiar
style of beauty, that when you looked at him you instinctively felt at
your side for a weapon of defence, for a more reckless, dangerous
looking man I never yet set eyes on. And while I looked at him I
recognised him. I had seen his face, or one like it, before often,
often. And it seemed as though I had known him just as he stood there,
years and years ago, on the other side of the world. I was almost
certain it was so, and yet he seemed barely twenty. It was an
impossibility, and yet as I looked I grew every moment more certain.

He dashed in in an insolent way. "I am going to quarter here to-night
and chance it," he said. "Hallo! Dick, my prince! You here? And what
may your name be, old cock?" he added, turning to me, now seeing me
indistinctly for the first time, for I was sitting back in the shadow.

"My name is Geoffry Hamlyn. I am a Justice of the Peace, and I am at
your service," I said. "Now perhaps you will favour me with YOUR
name?"

The young gentleman did not seem to like coming so suddenly into close
proximity with a "beak," and answered defiantly,--

"Charles Sutton is my name, and I don't know as there's anything
against me, at present."

"Sutton," I said; "Sutton? I don't know the name. No, I have nothing
against you, except that you don't appear very civil."

Soon after I rolled myself in a blanket and lay down. Dick lay at right
angles to me, his feet nearly touching mine. He began snoring heavily
almost immediately, and just when I was going to give him a kick, and
tell him not to make such a row, I felt him give me a good sharp shove
with the heel of his boot, by which I understood that he was awake,
and meant to keep awake, as he did not approve of the strangers.

I was anxious about our horses, yet in a short time I could keep awake
no longer. I slept, and when I next woke, I heard voices whispering
eagerly together. I silently turned, so that I could see whence the
voices came, and perceived the hut-keeper sitting up in bed, in close
confabulation with the stranger.

"Those two rascals are plotting some villany," I said to myself;
"somebody will be minus a horse shortly, I expect." And then I fell
asleep again; and when I awoke it was broad day.

I found the young man was gone, and, what pleased me better still, had
not taken either of our horses with him. So, when we had taken some
breakfast, we started, and I left the kind little old man something to
remember me by.

We had not ridden a hundred yards, before I turned to Dick and said,--

"Now mind; I don't want you to tell me anything you don't like, but
pray relieve my mind on one point. Who was that young man? Have I ever
seen him before?"

"I think not, sir; but I can explain how you come to think you have.
You remember, sir, that I knew all about Mrs. Hawker's history?"

"Yes! Yes! Go on."

"That young fellow is George Hawker's son."

It came upon me like a thunderbolt. This, then, was the illegitimate
son that he had by his cousin Ellen. Oh miserable child of sin and
shame! to what end, I wondered, had he been saved till now?

We shall see soon. Meanwhile I turned to my companion and said, "Tell
me how he came to be here."

"Why you see, sir, he went on in his father's ways, and got lagged. He
found his father out as soon as he was free, which wasn't long first,
for he is mortal cunning, and since then they two have stuck together.
Most times they quarrel, and sometimes they fight, but they are never
far apart. Hawker ain't far off now."

"Now, sir," he continued, "I am going to tell you something which, if
it ever leaks out of your lips again, in such a way as to show where it
came from, will end my life as sure as if I was hung. You remember
three months ago that a boatful of men were supposed to have landed
from Cockatoo?"

"Yes," I said, "I heard it from Major Buckley. But the police have been
scouring in all directions, and can find nothing of them. My opinion is
that the boat was capsized, and they were all drowned, and that the
surf piled the boat over with sea-weed. Depend on it they did not
land."

"Depend on it they did, sir; those men are safe and well, and ready for
any mischief. Hawker was on the look-out for them, and they all stowed
away till the police cleared off, which they did last week. There will
be mischief soon. There; I have told you enough to cut my throat, and
I'll tell you more, and convince you that I am right. That shepherd at
whose hut we stayed last night was one of them; that fellow was the
celebrated Captain Mike. What do you think of that?"

I shuddered as I heard the name of that fell ruffian, and thought that
I had slept in the hut with him. But when I remembered how he was
whispering with the stranger in the middle of the night, I came to the
conclusion that serious mischief was brewing, and pushed on through the
fog, which still continued as dense as ever, and, guided by some
directions from the old hut-keeper, I got to Captain Brentwood's about
ten o'clock, and told him and the Major the night's adventures.

We three armed ourselves secretly and quietly, and went back to the hut
with the determination of getting possession of the person of the
shepherd Mike, who, were he the man Dick accused him of being, would
have been a prize indeed, being one of the leading Van Diemen's Land
rangers, and one of the men reported as missing by Captain Blockstrop.

"Suppose," said Captain Brentwood, "that we seize the fellow, and it
isn't him after all?"

"Then," said the Major, "an action for false imprisonment would lie
sir, decidedly. But we will chance it."

And when we got there, we saw the old hut-keeper, he of the colliery
explosion experiences, shepherding the sheep himself, and found that
the man we were in search of had left the hut that morning, apparently
to take the sheep out. But that going out about eleven the old man had
found them still in the yard, whereby he concluded that the shepherd
was gone, which proved to be the case. And making further inquiries we
found that the shepherd had only been hired a month previously, and
no man knew whence he came: all of which seemed to confirm Dick's story
wonderfully, and made us excessively uneasy. And in the end the Major
asked me to prolong my visit for a time and keep my servant with me, as
every hand was of use; and so it fell out that I happened to be present
at, and chronicle all which follows.




Chapter XXXVII



IN WHICH GEORGE HAWKER SETTLES AN OLD SCORE WITH WILLIAM LEE, MOST
HANDSOMELY, LEAVING, IN FACT, A LARGE BALANCE IN HIS OWN FAVOUR.


I pause here--I rather dread to go on. Although our course has been
erratic and irregular; although we have had one character disappearing
for a long time (like Tom Troubridge); and, although we have had
another entirely new coming bobbing up in the manner of Punch's
victims, unexpected, and apparently unwanted; although, I say, the
course of this story may have been ill-arranged in the highest degree,
and you may have been continually coming across some one in Vol. II.
who forced you to go back to Vol. I. (possibly sent back to the
library) to find out who he was; yet, on the whole, we have got on
pleasantly enough as things go. Now, I am sorry to say I have to record
two or three fearful catastrophes. The events of the next month are
seldom alluded to by any of those persons mentioned in the preceding
pages; they are too painful. I remark that the Lucknow and Cawnpore men
don't much like talking about the affairs of that terrible six weeks;
much for the same reason, I suspect, as we, going over our old
recollections, always omit the occurrences of this lamentable spring.

The facts contained in the latter end of this chapter I got from the
Gaol Chaplain at Sydney.

The Major, the Captain, and I, got home to dinner, confirmed in our
suspicions that mischief was abroad, and very vexed at having missed
the man we went in search of. Both Mrs. Buckley and Alice noticed that
something was wrong, but neither spoke a word on the subject. Mrs.
Buckley now and then looked anxiously at her husband, and Alice cast
furtive glances at her father. The rest took no notice of our silence
and uneasiness, little dreaming of the awful cloud that was hanging
above our heads, to burst, alas! so soon.

I was sitting next to Mary Hawker that evening, talking over old Devon
days and Devon people, when she said,--

"I think I am going to have some more quiet peaceful times. I am
happier than I have been for many years. Do you know why? Look there."

"I shuddered to hear her say so, knowing what I knew, but looked where
she pointed. Her son sat opposite to us, next to the pretty Ellen
Mayford. She had dropped the lids over her eyes and was smiling. He,
with his face turned toward her, was whispering in his eager impulsive
way, and tearing to pieces a slip of paper which he held in his hand.
As the firelight fell on his face, I felt a chill come over me. The
likeness was so fearful!--not to the father (that I had been long
accustomed to), but to the son, to the half-brother--to the poor lost
young soul I had seen last night, the companion of desperate men. As it
struck me I could not avoid a start, and a moment after I would have
given a hundred pounds not to have done so, for I felt Mary's hand on
my arm, and heard her say, in a low voice,--

"Cruel! cruel! Will you never forget?"

I felt guilty and confused. As usual, on such occasions, Satan was at
my elbow, ready with a lie, more or less clumsy, and I said, "You do me
injustice, Mrs. Hawker. I was not thinking of old times. I was
astonished at what I see there. Do you think there is anything in it?"

"I sincerely hope so," she said.

"Indeed, and so do I. It will be excellent on every account. Now," said
I, "Mrs. Hawker, will you tell me what has become of your old servant,
Lee? I have reasons for asking."

"He is in my service still," she said; "as useful and faithful as ever.
At present he is away at a little hut in the ranges, looking after our
ewes."

"Who is with him?" I asked.

"Well, he has got a new hand with him, a man who came about a month or
so ago, and stayed about splitting wood. I fancy I heard Lee remark
that he had known him before. However, when Lee had to go to the
ranges, he wanted a hut-keeper; so this man went up with him."

"What sort of a looking man was he?"

"Oh, a rather large man, red-haired, much pitted with the small-pox."

All this made me uneasy. I had asked these questions, by the advice
of Dick, and, from Mrs. Hawker's description tallying so well with his,
I had little doubt that another of the escaped gang was living actually
in her service, alone too, in the hut with Lee.

The day that we went to Mirngish, the circumstances I am about to
relate took place in Lee's hut, a lonely spot, eight miles from the
home station, towards the mountain, and situated in a dense dark
stringy bark forest--a wild desolate spot, even as it was that afternoon,
with the parrots chattering and whistling around it, and the
bright winter's sun lighting up the green tree-tops.

Lee was away, and the hut-keeper was the only living soul about the
place. He had just made some bread, and, having carried out his camp-oven
to cool, was sitting on the bench in the sun, lazily, thinking
what he would do next.

He was a long, rather powerfully-built man, and seemed at first sight,
merely a sleepy half-witted fellow, but at a second glance you might
perceive that there was a good deal of cunning, and some ferocity in
his face. He sat for some time, and was beginning to think that he
would like a smoke, so he got out his knife preparatory to cutting
tobacco.

The hut stood at the top of a lone gully, stretching away in a vista,
nearly bare of trees for a width of about ten yards or so, all the way
down, which gave it the appearance of a grass-ride, walled on each side
by tall dark forest; looking down this, our hutkeeper saw, about a
quarter of a mile off, a horseman cross from one side to the other.

He only caught a momentary glimpse of him, but that was enough to show
him that it was a stranger. He neither knew horse nor man, at least
judging by his dress; and while he was still puzzling his brains as to
what stranger would be coming to such an out-of-the-way place, he
heard the "Chuck, kuk, kuk, kuk," of an opossum close behind the hut,
and started to his feet.

It would of course have startled any bushman to hear an opossum cry in
broad day, but he knew what this meant well. It was the arranged signal
of his gang, and he ran to the place from whence the sound came.

George Hawker was there--well dressed, sitting on a noble chestnut
horse. They greeted one another with a friendly curse.

As is my custom, when recording the conversation of this class of
worthies, I suppress the expletives, thereby shortening them by nearly
one half, and depriving the public of much valuable information.

"Well, old man," began Hawker, "is the coast clear?"

"No one here but myself," replied the other. "I'm hut-keeping here for
one Bill Lee, but he is away. He was one of the right sort once
himself, I have heard; but he's been on the square for twenty years, so
I don't like to trust him."

"You are about right there, Moody, my lad," said Hawker. "I've just
looked up to talk to you about him, and other matters,--I'll come in.
When will he be back?"

"Not before night, I expect," said the other.

"Well," said Hawker, "we shall have the more time to talk; I've got a
good deal to tell you. Our chaps are all safe and snug, and the traps
are off. Only two, that's you and Mike, stayed this side of the hill;
the rest crossed the ranges and stowed away in an old lair of mine on
one of the upper Murray gullies. They've had pretty hard times, and if
it hadn't been for the cash they brought away, they'd have had worse.
Now the coast is clear, they're coming back by ones and twos, and next
week we shall be ready for business. I'm going to be head man this
bout, because I know the country better than any; and the most noble
Michael has consented, for this time only, to act as lieutenant. We
haven't decided on any plans yet, but some think of beginning from the
coast, because that part will be clearest of traps, they having
satisfied themselves that we ain't there. In fact, the wiseacres have
fully determined that we are all drowned. There's one devil of a
foreign doctor knows I'm round though: he saw me the night before you
came ashore, and I am nigh sure he knew me. I have been watching him,
and I could have knocked him over last week as clean as a whistle,
only, thinks I, it'll make a stir before the time. Never mind, I'll
have him yet. This Lee is a black sheep, lad. I'm glad you are here;
you must watch him, and if you see him flinch, put a knife in him. He
raised the country on me once before. I tell you, Jerry, that I'd be
hung, and willing, to-morrow, to have that chap's life, and I'd have
had it before now, only I had to keep still for the sake of the others.
That man served me the meanest, dirtiest trick, twenty years ago, in
the old country, that ever you or any other man heard of, and if he
catches sight of me the game's up. Mind, if you see cause, you deal
with him, or else,----" (with an awful oath) "you answer to the
others."

"If he's got to go, he'll go," replied the other, doggedly. "Don't you
fear me; Moody the cannibal ain't a man to flinch."

"What, is that tale true then?" asked Hawker, looking at his companion
with a new sort of interest.

"Why, in course it is," replied Moody; "I thought no one doubted that.
That Van Diemen's Land bush would starve a bandicoot, and Shiner and I
walked two days before we knocked the boy on the head; the lad was
getting beat, and couldn't a' gone much further. After three days more
we began to watch one another, and neither one durst walk first, or go
to sleep. Well, Shiner gave in first; he couldn't keep his eyes open
any longer. And then, you know, of course my own life was dearer than
his'n."

"My God! That's worse than ever I did!" said Hawker.

"But not worse than you may do, if you persevere. You promise well,"
said Moody, with a grin.

Hawker bent and whispered in his ear; the other listened for a time,
and then said,--

"Make it twenty."

Hawker after a little consideration nodded--then the other nodded--
then they whispered together again. Something out of the common this
must be, that they, not very particular in their confidences, should
whisper about it.

They looked up suddenly, and Lee was standing in the doorway.

Hawker and he started when they saw one another, but Lee recovered
himself first, and said,--

"George Hawker, it's many years since we met, and I'm not so young as I
was. I should like to make peace before I go, as I well know that I'm
the chief one to blame for you getting into trouble. I'm not humbugging
you, when I say that I have been often sorry for it of late years. But
sorrow won't do any good. If you'll forgive and forget, I'll do the
same. You tried my life once, and that's worse than ever I did for you.
And now I'll tell you, that if you want money to get out of the country
and set up anywhere else, and leave your poor wife in peace, I'll find
it for you out of my own pocket."

"I don't bear any malice," said Hawker; "but I don't want to leave the
country just yet. I suppose you won't peach about having seen me here?"

"I shan't say a word, George, if you keep clear of the home station;
but I won't have you come about there. So I warn you."

Lee held out his hand, and George took it. Then he asked him if he
would stay there that night, and George consented.

Day was fast sinking behind the trees, and making golden boughs
overhead. Lee stood at the hut door watching the sun set, and thinking,
perhaps, of old Devon. He seemed sad, and let us hope he was regretting
his old crimes while time was left him. Night was closing in
on him, and having looked once more on the darkening sky, and the fog
coldly creeping up the gully, he turned with a sigh and a shudder into
the hut, and shut the door.

Near midnight, and all was still. Then arose a cry upon the night so
hideous, so wild, and so terrible, that the roosting birds dashed off
affrighted, and the dense mist, as though in sympathising fear,
prolonged the echoes a hundred fold. One articulate cry, "Oh! you
treacherous dog!" given with the fierce energy of a dying man, and then
night returned to her stillness, and the listeners heard nothing but
the weeping of the moisture from the wintry trees.


* * * * *


The two perpetrators of the atrocity stood silent a minute or more,
recovering themselves. Then Hawker said in a fierce whisper,--

"You clumsy hound; why did you let him make that noise? I shall never
get it out of my head again, if I live till a hundred. Let's get out of
this place before I go mad; I could not stay in the house with it for
salvation. Get his horse, and come along."

They got the two horses, and rode away into the night; but Hawker, in
his nervous anxiety to get away, dropped a handsome cavalry pistol,--a
circumstance which nearly cost Doctor Mulhaus his life.

They rode till after daylight, taking a course toward the sea, and had
gone nearly twelve miles before George discovered his loss, and broke
out into petulant imprecations.

"I wouldn't have lost that pistol for five pounds," he said; "no, nor
more. I shall never have one like it again. I've put over a parrot at
twenty yards with it."

"Go back and get it, then," said Moody, "if it's so valuable. I'll camp
and wait for you. We want all the arms we can get."

"Not I," said George; "I would not go back into that cursed hut alone
for all the sheep in the country."

"You coward," replied the other; "afraid of a dead man. Well, if you
wont, I will: and, mind, I shall keep it for my own use."

"You're welcome to it, if you like to get it," said George. And so
Moody rode back.




Chapter XXXVIII



HOW DR. MULHAUS GOT BUSHED IN THE RANGES, AND WHAT BEFEL HIM THERE.


I must recur to the same eventful night again, and relate another
circumstance that occurred on it. As events thicken, time gets more
precious; so that, whereas at first I thought nothing of giving you the
events of twenty years or so in a chapter, we are now compelled to
concentrate time so much that it takes three chapters to twenty-four
hours. I read a long novel once, the incidents of which did not
extend over thirty-six hours, and yet it was not so profoundly stupid
as you would suppose.

All the party got safe home from the picnic, and were glad enough to
get housed out of the frosty air. The Doctor, above all others, was
rampant at the thoughts of dinner, and a good chat over a warm fire,
and burst out, in a noble bass voice, with an old German student's song
about wine and Gretchen, and what not.

His music was soon turned into mourning; for, as they rode into the
courtyard, a man came up to Captain Brentwood, and began talking
eagerly to him.

It was one of his shepherds, who lived alone with his wife towards the
mountain. The poor woman, his wife, he said, was taken in labour that
morning, and was very bad. Hearing there was a doctor staying at the
home station, he had come down to see if he could come to their
assistance.

"I'll go, of course," said the Doctor; "but let me get something to eat
first. Is anybody with her?"

"Yes, a woman was with her; had been staying with them some days."

"I hope you can find the way in the dark," said the Doctor, "for I can
tell you I can't."

"No fear, sir," said the man; "there's a track all the way, and the
moon's full. If it wasn't for the fog it would be as bright as day."

He took a hasty meal, and started. They went at a foot's pace, for the
shepherd was on foot. The track was easily seen, and although it was
exceedingly cold, the Doctor, being well wrapped up, contrived, with
incessant smoking, to be moderately comfortable. All external objects
being a blank, he soon turned to his companion to see what he could get
out of him.

"What part of the country are you from, my friend?"

"Fra' the Isle of Skye," the man answered. "I'm one of the Macdonalds
of Skye."

"That's a very ancient family, is it not?" said the Doctor at a
venture, knowing he could not go wrong with a Highlander.

"Very ancient, and weel respeckit," the man answered.

"And who is your sheik, rajah, chieftain, or what you call him?"

"My lord Macdonald. I am cousin to my lord."

"Indeed! He owns the whole island, I suppose?"

"There's Mackinnons live there. But they are interlopers; they are
worthless trash," and he spit in disgust.

"I suppose," said the Doctor, "a Mackinnon would return the compliment,
if speaking of a Macdonald."

The man laughed, and said, he supposed "Yes," then added, "See! what's
yon?"

"A white stump burnt black at one side,--what did you think it was?"

"I jaloused it might be a ghaist. There's a many ghaists and bogles
about here."

"I should have thought the country was too young for those gentry,"
said the Doctor.

"It's a young country, but there's been muckle wickedness done in it.
And what are those blacks do you think?--next thing to devils--at all
events they're no' exactly human."

"Impish, decidedly," said the Doctor. "Have you ever seen any ghosts,
friend?"

"Ay! many. A fortnight agone, come to-morrow, I saw the ghost of my
wife's brother in broad day. It was the time of the high wind ye mind
of; and the rain drove so thick I could no see all my sheep at once.
And a man on a white horse came fleeing before the wind close past me;
I knew him in a minute; it was my wife's brother, as I tell ye, that
was hung fifteen years agone for sheep-stealing, and he wasn't so much
altered as ye'd think."

"Some one else like him!" suggested the Doctor.

"Deil a fear," replied the man, "for when I cried out and said, 'What,
Col, lad! Gang hame, and lie in yer grave, and dinna trouble honest
folk,' he turned and rode away through the rain, straight from me."

"Well!" said the Doctor, "I partly agree with you that the land's
bewitched. I saw a man not two months ago who ought to have been dead
five or six years at least. But are you quite sure the man you saw was
hung?"

"Well nigh about," he replied. "When we sailed from Skye he was under
sentence, and they weren't over much given to reprieve for sheep-stealing
in those days. It was in consequence o' that that I came here."

"That's a very tolerable ghost story," said the Doctor. "Have you got
another? If you have, I shouldn't mind hearing it, as it will beguile
the way."

"Did ye ever hear how Faithful's lot were murdered by the blacks up on
the Merrimerangbong?"

"No, but I should like to; is it a ghost story?"

"Deed ay, and is it. This is how it happened:--When Faithful came to
take up his country across the mountains yonder, they were a strong
party, enough to have been safe in any country, but whether it was food
was scarce, or whether it was on account of getting water, I don't
know, but they separated, and fifteen of them got into the Yackandandah
country before the others.

"Well, you see, they were pretty confident, being still a strong mob,
and didn't set any watch or take any care. There was one among them
(Cranky Jim they used to call him--he as told me this yarn--he used
to be about Reid's mill last year) who always was going on at them to
take more care, but they never heeded him at all.

"They found a fine creek, with plenty of feed and water, and camped at
it to wait till the others came up. They saw no blacks, nor heard of
any, and three days were past, and they began to wonder why the others
had not overtaken them.

"The third night they were all sitting round the fire, laughing and
smoking, when they heard a loud co'ee on the opposite side of the
scrub, and half-a-dozen of them started up, and sang out, "There they
are!"

"Well, they all began co'eeing again, and they heard the others in
reply, apparently all about in the scrub. So off they starts, one by
one, into the scrub, answering and hallooing, for it seemed to them
that their mates were scattered about, and didn't know where they were.
Well, as I said, fourteen of them started into the scrub to collect the
party and bring them up to the fire; only old Cranky Jim sat still in
the camp. He believed, with the others, that it was the rest of their
party coming up, but he soon began to wonder how it was that they were
so scattered. Then he heard one scream, and then it struck him all at
once that this was a dodge of the blacks to draw the men from the camp,
and, when they were abroad, cut them off one by one, plunder the drays,
and drive off the sheep.

"So he dropped, and crawled away in the dark. He heard the co'ees grow
fewer and fewer as the men were speared one by one, and at last
everything was quiet, and then he knew he was right, and he rose up and
fled away.

"In two days he found the other party, and told them what had happened.
They came up, and there was some sharp fighting, but they got a good
many of their sheep back.

"They found the men lying about singly in the scrub, all speared. They
buried them just where they found each one, for it was hot weather.
They buried them four foot deep, but they wouldn't lie still.

"Every night, about nine o'clock, they get up again, and begin co'eeing
for an hour or more. At first there's a regular coronach of them, then
by degrees the shouts get fewer and fewer, and, just when you think
it's all over, one will break out loud and clear close to you, and
after that all's still again."

"You don't believe that story, I suppose?"

"If you press me very hard," said the Doctor, "I must confess, with all
humility, that I don't!"

"No more did I," said Macdonald, "till I heard 'em!"

"Heard them!" said the Doctor.

"Ay, AND SEEN THEM!" said the man, stopping and turning round.

"You most agreeable of men! pray, tell me how."

"Why, you see, last year I was coming down with some wool-drays from
Parson Dorken's, and this Cranky Jim was with us, and told us the same
yarn, and when he had finished, he said, 'You'll know whether I speak
truth or not to-night, for we're going to camp at the place where it
happened.'

"Well, and so we did, and, as well as we could reckon, it was a little
past nine when a curlew got up and began crying. That was the signal
for the ghosts, and in a minute they were co'eeing like mad all round.
As Jim had told us, one by one ceased until all was quiet, and I
thought it was over, when I looked, and saw, about a hundred yards off,
a tall man in grey crossing a belt of open ground. He put his hand to
his mouth, gave a wild shout, and disappeared!"

"Thank you," said the Doctor. "I think you mentioned that your wife's
confinement was somewhat sudden?"

"Yes, rather," replied the man.

"Pray, had you been relating any of the charming little tales to her
lately--just, we will suppose, to while away the time of the evening?"

"Well, I may have done so," said Macdonald, "but I don't exactly mind."

"Ah, so I thought. The next time your good lady happens to be in a
similar situation, I think I would refrain from ghost stories. I should
not like to commit myself to a decided opinion, but I should be
inclined to say that the tales you have been telling me were rather
horrible. Is that the light of your hut?"

Two noble colley dogs bounded to welcome them, and a beautiful bare-legged
girl, about sixteen, ran forth to tell her father, in Gaelic, that the
trouble was over, and that a boy was born.

On going in, they found the mother asleep, while her gossip held the
baby on her knee; so the Doctor saw that he was not needed, and sat
down, to wait until the woman should wake, having first, however,
produced from his saddle two bottles of port wine, a present from
Alice.

The woman soon woke, and the Doctor, having felt her pulse, and left
some medicine, started to ride home again, carrying with him an incense
of good wishes from the warm-hearted Highlanders.

Instead of looking carefully for the road, the good Doctor was soon
nine fathoms deep into the reasons why the mountaineers and coast folk
of all northern countries should be more blindly superstitious than the
dwellers in plains and in towns; and so it happened that, coming to a
fork in the track, he disregarded the advice of his horse, and, instead
of taking the right hand, as he should have done, he held straight on,
and, about two o'clock in the morning, found that not only had he lost
his road, but that the track had died out altogether, and that he was
completely abroad in the bush.

He was in a very disagreeable predicament. The fog was thicker than
ever, without a breath of air; and he knew that it was as likely as not
that it might last for a day or two. He was in a very wild part of the
mountain, quite on the borders of all the country used by white men.

After some reflection, he determined to follow the fall of the land,
thinking that he was still on the water-shed of the Snowy-river, and
hoping, by following down some creek, to find some place he knew.

Gradually day broke, cold and cheerless. He was wet and miserable, and
could merely give a guess at the east, for the sun was quite invisible;
but, about eight o'clock, he came on a track, running at right angles
to the way he had been going, and marked with the hoofs of two horses,
whose riders had apparently passed not many hours before.

Which way should he go? He could not determine. The horsemen, it seemed
to him, as far as he could guess, had been going west, while his route
lay east. And, after a time, having registered a vow never to stir out
of sight of the station again without a compass, he determined to take
a contrary direction from them, and to find out where they had come
from.

The road crossed gully after gully, each one like the other. The timber
was heavy stringy bark, and, in the lower part of the shallow gullies,
the tall white stems of the blue gums stood up in the mist like ghosts.
All nature was dripping and dull, and he was chilled and wretched.

At length, at the bottom of a gully, rather more dreary looking, if
possible, than all the others, he came on a black reedy waterhole, the
first he had seen in his ride, and perceived that the track turned
short to the left. Casting his eye along it, he made out the dark
indistinct outline of a hut, standing about forty yards off.

He rode up to it. All was as still as death. No man came out to welcome
him, no dog jumped, barking forth, no smoke went up from the chimney;
and, looking round, he saw that the track ended here, and that he had
ridden all these miles only to find a deserted hut.

But was it deserted? Not very long so, for those two horsemen, whose
tracks he had been on so long, had started from here. Here, on this
bare spot in front of the door, they had mounted. One of their horses
had been capering; nay, here were their footsteps on the threshold.
And, while he looked, there was a light fall inside, and the chimney
began smoking. "At all events," said the Doctor, "the fire's in, and
here's the camp-oven, too. Somebody will be here soon. I shall go in
and light my pipe."

He lifted the latch, and went in. Nobody there. Stay--yes, there is a
man asleep in the bed-place. "The watchman, probably," thought the
Doctor; "he's been up all night with the sheep, and is taking his rest
by day. Well, I won't wake him; I'll hang up my horse a bit, and take a
pipe. Perhaps I may as well turn the horse out. Well, no. I shan't wait
long; he may stand a little without hurting himself."

So soliloquised the Doctor, and lit his pipe. A quarter of an hour
passed, and the man still lay there without moving. The Doctor rose and
went close to him. He could not even hear him breathe.

His flesh began to creep, but his brows contracted, and his face grew
firm. He went boldly up, and pulled down the blanket, and then, to his
horror and amazement, recognised the distorted countenance of the
unfortunate William Lee.

He covered the face over again, and stood thinking of his situation,
and how this had come to pass. How came Lee here, and how had he met
his death? At this moment something bright, half hidden by a blue shirt
lying on the floor, caught his eye, and, going to pick it up, he found
it was a beautiful pistol, mounted in silver, and richly chased.

He turned it over and over till in a lozenge behind the hammer he
found, apparently scratched with a knife, the name, "G. Hawker."

Here was light with a vengeance! But he had little time to think of his
discovery ere he was startled by the sound of horses' feet rapidly
approaching the hut.

Instinctively he thrust the pistol into his pocket, and stooped down,
pretending to light his pipe. He heard some one ride up to the door,
dismount, and enter the hut. He at once turned round, pipe in mouth,
and confronted him.

He was a tall, ill-looking, red-haired man, and to the Doctor's
pleasant good morning he replied by sulkily asking what he wanted.

"Only a light for my pipe, friend," said the Doctor; "having got one, I
will bid you good morning. Our friend here sleeps well."

The new comer was between him and the door, but the Doctor advanced
boldly. When the two men were opposite their eyes met, and they
understood one another.

Moody (for it was he) threw himself upon the Doctor with an oath,
trying to bear him down; but, although the tallest man, he had met his
match. He was held in a grasp of iron; the Doctor's hand was on his
collar, and his elbow against his face, and thus his head was pressed
slowly backwards till he fell to avoid a broken neck, and fell, too,
with such force that he lay for an instant stunned and motionless, and
before he came to himself the Doctor was on horseback, and some way
along the track, glad to have made so good an escape from such an
awkward customer.

"If he had been armed," said the Doctor, as he rode along, "I should
have been killed: he evidently came back after that pistol. Now, I
wonder where I am? I shall know soon at this pace. The little horse
keeps up well, seeing he has been out all night."

In about two hours he heard a dog bark to the left of the track, and,
turning off in that direction, he soon found himself in a courtyard,
and before a door which he thought he recognised: the door opened at
the sound of his horse, and out walked Tom Troubridge.

"Good Lord!" said the Doctor, "a friend's face at last; tell me where I
am, for I can't see the end of the house."

"Why, at our place, Toonarbin, Doctor."

"Well, take me in and give me some food; I have terrible tidings for
you. When did you last see Lee?"

"The day before yesterday; he is up at an outlying hut of ours in the
ranges."

"He is lying murdered in his bed there, for I saw him so not three
hours past."

He then told Troubridge all that had happened.

"What sort of man was it that attacked you?" said Troubridge.

The Doctor described Moody.

"That's his hut-keeper that he took from here with him; a man he said
he knew, and you say he was on horseback. What sort of a horse had he?"

"A good-looking roan, with a new bridle on him."

"Lee's horse," said Troubridge; "he must have murdered him for it. Poor
William!"

But when Tom saw the pistol and read the name on it, he said,--

"Things are coming to a crisis, Doctor; the net seems closing round my
unfortunate partner. God grant the storm may come and clear the air!
Anything is better than these continual alarms."

"It will be very terrible when it does come, my dear friend," said the
Doctor.

"It cannot be much more terrible than this," said Tom, "when our
servants are assassinated in their beds, and travellers in lonely huts
have to wrestle for their lives. Doctor, did you ever nourish a passion
for revenge?"

"Yes, once," said the Doctor, "and had it gratified in fair and open
duel; but when I saw him lying white on the grass before me, and
thought that he was dead, I was like one demented, and prayed that my
life might be taken instead of his. Be sure, Tom, that revenge is of
the devil, and, like everything else you get from him, is not worth
having."

"I do not in the least doubt it, Doctor," said Tom; "but oh, if I could
only have five minutes with him on the turf yonder, with no one to
interfere between us! I want no weapons; let us meet in our shirts and
trowsers, like Devon lads."

"And what would you do to him?"

"If you weren't there to see, HE'D never tell you."

"Why nourish this feeling, Tom, my old friend; you do not know what
pain it gives me to see a noble open character like yours distorted
like this. Leave him to Desborough,--why should you feel so deadly
towards the man? He has injured others more than you."

"He stands between me and the hopes of a happy old age. He stands
between me and the light, and he must stand on one side."

That night they brought poor Lee's body down in a dray, and buried him
in the family burying-ground close beside old Miss Thornton. Then the
next morning he rode back home to the Buckleys', where he found that
family with myself, just arrived from the Brentwoods'. I of course was
brimful of intelligence, but when the Doctor arrived I was thrown into
the shade at once. However, no time was to be lost, and we despatched a
messenger, post haste, to fetch back Captain Desborough and his
troopers, who had now been moved off about a week, but had not been as
yet very far withdrawn, and were examining into some "black" outrages
to the northward.

Mary Hawker was warned, as delicately as possible, that her husband was
in the neighbourhood. She remained buried in thought for a time, and
then, rousing herself, said, suddenly,--

"There must be an end to all this. Get my horse, and let me go home."

In spite of all persuasions to the contrary, she still said the same.

"Mrs. Buckley, I will go home and see if I can meet him alone. All I
ask of you is to keep Charles with you. Don't let the father and son
meet, in God's name."

"But what can you do?" urged Mrs. Buckley.

"Something, at all events. Find out what he wants. Buy him off,
perhaps. Pray don't argue with me. I am quite determined."

Then it became necessary to tell her of Lee's death, though the fact of
his having been murdered was concealed; but it deeply affected her to
hear of the loss of her old faithful servant, faithful to her at all
events, whatever his faults may have been. Nevertheless, she went off
alone, and took up her abode with Troubridge, and there they two sat
watching in the lonely station, for him who was to come.

Though they watched together there was no sympathy or confidence
between them. She never guessed what purpose was in Tom's heart; she
never guessed what made him so pale and gloomy, or why he never stirred
from the house, but slept half the day on the sofa. But ere she had
been a week at home, she found out. Thus:--

They would sit, those two, silent and thoughtful, beside that unhappy
hearth, watching the fire, and brooding over the past. Each had that in
their hearts which made them silent to one another, and each felt the
horror of some great overshadowing formless calamity, which any instant
might take form, and overwhelm them. Mary would sit late, dreading the
weary night, when her overstrained senses caught every sound in the
distant forest; but, however late she sat, she always left Tom behind,
over the fire, not taking his comfortable glass, but gloomily musing--
as much changed from his old self as man could be.

She now lay always in her clothes, ready for any emergency; and one
night, about a week after Lee's murder, she dreamt that her husband was
in the hall, bidding her in a whisper which thrilled her heart, to come
forth. The fancy was so strong upon her, that saying aloud to herself,
"The end is come!" she arose in a state little short of delirium, and
went into the hall. There was no one there, but she went to the front
door, and, looking out into the profoundly black gloom of the night,
said in a low voice,--

"George, George, come to me! Let me speak to you, George. It will be
better for both of us to speak."

No answer: but she heard a slight noise in the sitting-room behind her,
and, opening the door gently, saw a light there, and Tom sitting with
parted lips watching the door, holding in his hand a cocked pistol.

She was not in the least astonished or alarmed. She was too much TETE
MONTEE to be surprised at anything. She said only, with a laugh,--

"What! are you watching, too, old mastiff?--Would you grip the wolf,
old dog, if he came?"

"Was he there, Mary? Did you speak to him?"

"No! no!" she said. "A dream, a wandering dream. What would you do if
he came,--eh, cousin?"

"Nothing! nothing!" said Tom. "Go to bed."

"Bed, eh?" she answered. "Cousin; shooting is an easier death than
hanging,--eh?"

Tom felt a creeping at the roots of his hair, as he answered,--"Yes, I
believe so."

"Can you shoot straight, old man? Could you shoot straight and true if
he stood there before you? Ah, you think you could now, but your hand
would shake when you saw him."

"Go to bed, Mary," said Tom. "Don't talk like that. Let the future lie,
cousin."

She turned and went to her room again.

All this was told me long after by Tom himself. Tom believed, or said
he believed, that she was only sounding him, to see what his intentions
were in case of a meeting with George Hawker. I would not for the world
have had him suppose I disagreed with him; but I myself take another
and darker interpretation of her strange words that night. I think,
that she, never a very strong-minded person, and now, grown quite
desperate from terror, actually contemplated her husband's death with
complacency, nay, hoped, in her secret heart, that one mad struggle
between him and Tom might end the matter for ever, and leave her a free
woman. I may do her injustice, but I think I do not. One never knows
what a woman of this kind, with strong passions and a not over-strong
intellect, may be driven to. I knew her for forty years, and loved her
for twenty. I knew in spite of all her selfishness and violence that
there were many good, nay, noble points in her character; but I cannot
disguise from myself that that night's conversation with Tom showed me
a darker point in her character than I knew of before. Let us forget
it. I would wish to have none but kindly recollections of the woman I
loved so truly and so long.

For the secret must be told sooner or later,--I loved her before any
of them. Before James Stockbridge, before George Hawker, before Thomas
Troubridge, and I loved her more deeply and more truly than any of
them. But the last remnant of that love departed from my heart twenty
years ago, and that is why I can write of her so calmly now, and that
is the reason, too, why I remain an old bachelor to this day.




Chapter XXXIX



THE LAST GLEAM BEFORE THE STORM.


But with us, who were staying down at Major Buckley's, a fortnight
passed on so pleasantly that the horror of poor Lee's murder had begun
to wear off, and we were getting once more as merry and careless as
though we were living in the old times of profound peace. Sometimes we
would think of poor Mary Hawker, at her lonely watch up at the forest
station; but that or any other unpleasant subject was soon driven out
of our heads by Captain Desborough, who had come back with six
troopers, declared the country in a state of siege, proclaimed martial
law, and kept us all laughing and amused from daylight to dark.

Captain Brentwood and his daughter Alice (the transcendently
beautiful!) had come up, and were staying there. Jim and his friend
Halbert were still away, but were daily expected. I never passed a
pleasanter time in my life than during that fortnight's lull between
the storms.

"Begorra (that's a Scotch expression, Miss Brentwood, but very
forcible)," said Captain Desborough. "I owe you more than I can ever
repay for buying out the Donovans. That girl Lesbia Burke would have
forcibly abducted me, and married me against my will, if she hadn't had
to follow the rest of the family to Port Phillip."

"A fine woman, too," said Captain Brentwood.

"I'd have called her a little coarse, myself," said Desborough.

"One of the finest, strangest sights I ever saw in my life," resumed
Captain Brentwood, "was on the morning I came to take possession. None
of the family were left but Murtagh Donovan and Miss Burke. I rode over
from Buckley's, and when I came to the door Donovan took me by the arm,
and saying 'whist,' led me into the sitting-room. There, in front of
the empty fireplace, crouched down on the floor, bareheaded, with her
beautiful hair hanging about her shoulders, sat Miss Burke. Every now
and then she would utter the strangest low wailing cry you ever heard:
a cry, by Jove, sir, that went straight to your heart. I turned to
Donovan, and whispered, 'Is she ill?' and he whispered again, 'Her
heart's broke at leaving the old place where she's lived so long. She's
raising the keen over the cold hearthstone. It's the way of the
Burkes.' I don't know when I was so affected in my life. Somehow, that
exquisite line came to my remembrance,--


"'And the hare shall kindle on the cold hearth-stone,'


"and I went back quietly with Donovan; and, by Jove, sir, when we came
out the great ass had the tears running down his cheeks. I have always
felt kindly to that man since."

"Ah, Captain," said Desborough, "with all our vanity and absurdity, we
Irish have got good warm hearts under our waistcoats. We are the first
nation in the world, sir, saving the Jews."

This was late in the afternoon of a temperate spring day. We were
watching Desborough as he was giving the finishing touches to a
beautiful watercolour drawing.

"Doctor," he said, "come and pass your opinion."

"I think you have done admirably, Captain," said the Doctor; "you have
given one a splendid idea of distance in the way you have toned down
the plain, from the grey appearance it has ten miles off to the rich,
delicate green it shows close to us. And your mountain, too, is most
aerial. You would make an artist."

"I am not altogether displeased with my work, Doctor, if you, who never
flatter, can praise it with the original before you. How exceedingly
beautiful the evening tones are becoming!"

We looked across the plain; the stretch of grass I have described was
lying before one like a waveless sea, from the horizon of which rose
the square abruptsided mass of basalt which years ago we had named
the Organ-hill, from the regular fluted columns of which it was
composed. On most occasions, as seen from Major Buckley's, it appeared
a dim mass of pearly grey, but to-night, in the clear frosty air, it
was of a rich purple, shining on the most prominent angles with a dull
golden light.

"The more I look at that noble fire-temple, the more I admire it," said
the Doctor. "It is one of the most majestic objects I ever beheld."

"It is not unlike Staffa," said Desborough. "There come two
travellers."

Two dots appeared crawling over the plain, and making for the river.
For a few minutes Alice could not be brought to see them, but when she
did, she declared that it was Jim and Halbert.

"You have good eyes, my love," said her father, "to see what does not
exist. Jim's horse is black, and Halbert's roan, and those two men are
both on grey horses."

"The wish was parent to the thought, father," she replied, laughing. "I
wonder what is keeping him away from us so long? If he is to go to
India, I should like to see him as much as possible."

"My dear," said her father, "when he went off with Halbert to see the
Markhams, I told him that if he liked to go on to Sydney, he could go
if Halbert went with him, and draw on the agent for what money he
wanted. By his being so long away, I conclude he has done so, and that
he is probably at this moment getting a lesson at billiards from
Halbert before going to dinner. I shall have a nice little account from
the agent just now, of 'Cash advanced to J. Brentwood, Esq.'"

"I don't think Jim's extravagant, papa," said Alice.

"My dear," said Captain Brentwood, "you do him injustice. He hasn't had
the chance. I must say, considering his limited opportunities, he has
spent as much money on horses, saddlery, &c., as any young gentleman on
this country side. Eh, Sam?"

"Well sir," said Sam, "Jim spends his money, but he generally makes
pretty good investments in the horse line."

"Such as that sweet-tempered useful animal Stampedo," replied the
Captain, laughing, "who nearly killed a groom, and staked himself
trying to leap out of the stockyard the second day he had him. Well,
never mind; Jim's a good boy, and I am proud of him. I am in some hopes
that this Sydney journey will satisfy his wandering propensities for
the present, and that we may keep him at home. I wish he would fall in
love with somebody, providing she wasn't old enough to be his
grandmother.--Couldn't you send him a letter of introduction to some
of your old schoolfellows, Miss Puss? There was one of them, I
remember, I fell in love with myself one time when I came to see you;
Miss Green, I think it was. She was very nearly being your mamma-in-law,
my dear."

"Why, she is a year younger than me," said Alice, "and, oh goodness,
such a temper! She threw the selections from Beethoven at Signor
Smitherini, and had bread and water-melon for two days for it. Serve
her right!"

"I have had a narrow escape, then," replied the father. "But we shall
see who these two people are immediately, for they are crossing the
river."

When the two travellers rose again into sight on the near bank of the
river, one of them was seen galloping forward, waving his hat.

"I KNEW it was Jim," said Alice, "and on a new grey horse. I thought he
would not go to Sydney." And in a minute more she had run to meet him,
and Jim was off his horse, kissing his sister, laughing, shouting, and
dancing around her.

"Well, father," he said, "here I am back again. Went to Sydney and
stayed a week, when we met the two Marstons, and went right up to the
Clarence with them. That was a pretty journey, eh? Sold the old horse,
and bought this one. I've got heaps to tell you, sister, about what
I've seen. I went home, and only stayed ten minutes; when I heard you
were here, I came right on."

"I am glad to see you back, Mr. Halbert," said Major Buckley; "I hope
you have had a pleasant journey. You have met Captain Desborough?"

"Captain Desborough, how are you?" says Jim. "I am very glad to see
you. But, between you and I, you're always a bird of ill omen. Whose
pig's dead now? What brings YOU back? I thought we should be rid of you
by this time."

"But you are not rid of me, Jackanapes," said Desborough, laughing.
"But I'll tell you what, Jim; there is really something wrong, my boy,
and I'm glad to see you back." And he told him all the news.

Jim grew very serious. "Well," said he, "I'm glad to be home again; and
I'm glad, too, to see you here. One feels safer when you're in the way.
We must put a cheerful face on the matter, and not frighten the women.
I have bought such a beautiful brace of pistols in Sydney. I hope I may
never have the chance to use them in this country. Why, there's Cecil
Mayford and Mrs. Buckley coming down the garden, and Charley Hawker,
too. Why, Major, you've got all the world here to welcome us."

The young men were soon busy discussing the merits of Jim's new horse,
and examining with great admiration his splendid new pistols. Charley
Hawker, poor boy! made a mental resolution to go to Sydney, and also
come back with a new grey horse, and a pair of pistols more resplendent
than Jim's. And then they went in to get ready for dinner.

When Jim unpacked his valise, he produced a pretty bracelet for his
sister, and a stockwhip for Sam. On the latter article he was very
eloquent.

"Sam, my boy," said he, "there is not such another in the country. It
was made by the celebrated Bill Mossman of the Upper Hunter, the
greatest swearer at bullocks, and the most accomplished whipmaker on
the Sydney side. He makes only one in six months, and he makes it a
favour to let you have it for five pounds. You can take a piece of bark
off a blue gum, big enough for a canoe, with one cut of it. There's a
fine of two pounds for cracking one within a mile of Government House,
they make such a row. A man the other day cracked one of them on the
South Head, and broke the windows in Pitt Street."

"You're improving, master Jim," said Charles Hawker. "You'll soon be as
good a hand at a yarn as Hamlyn's Dick." At the same time he wrote down
a stockwhip, similar to this one, on the tablets of his memory, to be
procured on his projected visit to Sydney.

That evening we all sat listening to Jim's adventures; and pleasantly
enough he told them, with not a little humorous exaggeration. It is
always pleasant to hear a young fellow telling his first impressions of
new things and scenes, which have been so long familiar to ourselves;
but Jim had really a very good power of narration, and he kept us
laughing and amused till long after the usual hour for going to bed.

Next day we had a pleasant ride, all of us, down the banks of the
river. The weather was slightly frosty, and the air clear and elastic.
As we followed the windings of the noble rushing stream, at a height of
seldom less than three hundred feet above his bed, the Doctor was busy
pointing out the alternations of primitive sandstone and slate, and
the great streams of volcanic bluestone which had poured from various
points towards the deep glen in which the river flowed. Here, he would
tell us, was formerly a lofty cascade, and a lake above it, but the
river had worn through the sandstone bar, drained the lake, leaving
nothing of the waterfall but two lofty cliffs, and a rapid. There again
had come down a lava-stream from Mirngish, which, cooled by the waters
of the river, had stopped, and, accumulating, formed the lofty
overhanging cliff on which we stood. He showed us how the fern-trees
grew only in the still sheltered elbows facing northward, where the
sun raised a warm steam from the river, and the cold south wind could
not penetrate. He gathered for Mrs. Buckley a bouquet of the tender
sweetscented yellow oxalis, the winter flower of Australia, and showed
us the copper-lizard basking on the red rocks, so like the stone on
which he lay, that one could scarce see him till a metallic gleam
betrayed him, as he slipped to his lair. And we, the elder of the
party, who followed the Doctor's handsome little brown mare, kept our
ears open, and spoke little,--but gave ourselves fully up to the
enjoyment of his learning and eloquence.

But the Doctor did not absorb the whole party; far from it. He had a
rival. All the young men, and Miss Alice besides, were grouped round
Captain Desborough. Frequently we elders, deep in some Old World
history of the Doctor's, would be disturbed by a ringing peal of
laughter from the other party, and then the Doctor would laugh, and we
would all join; not that we had heard the joke, but from sheer sympathy
with the hilarity of the young folks. Desborough was making himself
agreeable, and who could do it better? He was telling the most
outrageous of Irish stories, and making, on purpose, the most
outrageous of Irish bulls. After a shout of laughter louder than the
rest, the Doctor remarked,--

"That's better for them than geology,--eh, Mrs. Buckley?"

"And so my grandmother," we heard Desborough say, "waxed mighty wrath,
and she up with her goldheaded walking stick in the middle of
Sackville Street, and says she, 'Ye villain, do ye think I don't know
my own Blenheim spannel when I see him?' 'Indeed, my lady,' says Mike,
''twas himself tould me he belanged to Barney.' 'Who tould you?' says
she. 'The dog himself tould me, my lady.' 'Ye thief of the world,' says
my aunt, 'and ye'd believe a dog before a dowager countess? Give him
up, ye villain, this minute, or I'll hit ye!'"

These were the sort of stories Desborough delighted in, making them up,
he often confessed, as he went on. On this occasion, when he had done
his story, they all rode up and joined us, and we stood admiring the
river, stretching westward in pools of gold between black cliffs,
toward the setting sun; then we turned homeward.

That evening Alice said, "Now do tell me, Captain Desborough, was that
a true story about Lady Covetown's dog?"

"True!" said he. "What story worth hearing ever was true? The old lady
lost her dog certainly, and claimed him of a dogstealer in Sackville
Street; but all the rest, my dear young lady, is historic romance."

"Mr. Hamlyn knows a good story," said Charley Hawker, "about Bougong
Jack. Do tell it to us, Uncle Jeff."

"I don't think," I said, "that it has so much foundation in fact as
Captain Desborough's. But there must be some sort of truth in it, for
it comes from the old hands, and shows a little more signs of
imagination than you would expect from them. It is a very stupid story
too."

"Do tell it," they all said. So I complied, much in the same language
as I tell it now:--

You know that these great snow-ranges which tower up to the west of us
are, farther south, of great breadth, and that none have yet forced
their way from the country of the Ovens and the Mitta Mitta through
here to Gipp's-land.

The settlers who have just taken up that country, trying to penetrate
to the eastward here towards us, find themselves stopped by a mighty
granite wall. Any adventurous men, who may top that barrier, see
nothing before them but range beyond range of snow Alps, intersected by
precipitous cliffs, and frightful chasms.

This westward range is called the Bougongs. The blacks during summer
are in the habit of coming thus far to collect and feed on the great
grey moths (Bougongs) which are found on the rocks. They used to
report that a fine available country lies to the east embosomed in
mountains, rendered fertile by perpetual snow-fed streams. This is the
more credible, as it is evident that between the Bougong range on the
west and the Warragong range on the extreme east, towards us, there is
a breadth of at least eighty miles.

There lived a few years ago, not very far from the Ovens-river, a
curious character, by name John Sampson. He had been educated at one
of the great English universities, and was a good scholar, though he
had been forced to leave the university, and, as report went, England
too, for some great irregularity.

He had money, and a share in his brother-in-law's station, although he
never stayed there many months in the year. He was always away at some
mischief or another. No horse-race or prize-fight could go on without
him, and he himself never left one of these last-mentioned gatherings
without finding some one to try conclusions with him. Beside this, he
was a great writer and singer of comic songs, and a consummate
horseman.

One fine day he came back to his brother's station in serious trouble.
Whether he had mistaken another man's horse for his own or not, I
cannot say; but, at all events, he announced that a warrant was out
against him for horse-stealing, and that he must go into hiding. So he
took up his quarters at a little hut of his brother-in-law's, on the
ranges, inhabited only by a stockkeeper and a black boy, and kept a
young lubra in pay to watch down the glen for the police.

One morning she came running into the hut, breathless, to say that a
lieutenant and three troopers were riding towards the hut. Jack had
just time to saddle and mount his horse before the police caught sight
of him, and started after him at full speed.

They hunted him into a narrow glen; a single cattletrack, not a foot
broad, led on between a swollen rocky creek, utterly impassable by
horse or man, and a lofty precipice of loose broken slate, on which one
would have thought a goat could not have found a footing. The young
police lieutenant had done his work well, and sent a trooper round to
head him, so that Jack found himself between the devil and the deep
sea. A tall armed trooper stood in front of him, behind was the
lieutenant, on the right of the creek, and on the left the precipice.

They called out to him to surrender; but, giving one look before and
behind, and seeing escape was hopeless, he hesitated not a moment, but
put his horse at the cliff, and clambered up, rolling down tons of
loose slate in his course. The lieutenant shut his eyes, expecting to
see horse and man roll down into the creek, and only opened them in
time to see Jack stand for a moment on the summit against the sky, and
then disappear.

He disappeared over the top of the cliff, and so he was lost to the ken
of white men for the space of four years. His sister and brother-in-law
mourned for him as dead, and mourned sincerely, for they and all who
knew him liked him well. But at the end of that time, on a wild
winter's night, he came back to them, dressed in opossum skins, with
scarce a vestige of European clothing about him. His beard had grown
down over his chest, and he had nearly forgotten his mother tongue,
but, when speech came to him again, he told them a strange story.

It was winter time when he rode away. All the table lands were deep
with snow; and, when he had escaped the policemen, he had crossed the
first of the great ridges on the same night. He camped in the valley he
found on the other side; and, having his gun and some ammunition with
him, he fared well.

He was beyond the country which had ever been trodden by white men, and
now, for the mere sake of adventure, he determined to go further still,
and see if he could cross the great White Mountains, which had hitherto
been considered an insurmountable barrier.

For two days he rode over a high table-land, deep in snow. Here and
there, in a shallow sheltered valley, he would find just grass enough
to keep his horse alive, but nothing for himself. On the third night he
saw before him another snow-ridge, too far off to reach without rest,
and, tethering his horse in a little crevice between the rocks, he
prepared to walk to and fro all night, to keep off the deadly snow
sleepiness that he felt coming over him. "Let me but see what is beyond
that next ridge," he said, "and I will lie down and die."

And now, as the stillness of the night came on, and the Southern Cross
began to twinkle brilliantly above the blinding snow, he was startled
once more by a sound which had fallen on his ear several times during
his toilsome afternoon journey: a sound as of a sudden explosion,
mingled, strangely too, with the splintering of broken glass. At first
he thought it was merely the booming in his ears, or the rupture of
some vessel in his bursting head. Or was it fancy? No; there it was
again, clearer than before. That was no noise in his head, for the
patient horse turned and looked toward the place where the sound came
from. Thunder? The air was clear and frosty, and not a cloud stained
the sky. There was some mystery beyond that snow-ridge worth living to
see.

He lived to see it. For an hour after daybreak next morning, he,
leading his horse, stumbled over the snowcovered rocks that bounded
his view, and, when he reached the top, there burst on his sight a
scene that made him throw up his arms and shout aloud.

Before him, pinnacle after pinnacle towered up a mighty Alp, blazing in
the morning sun. Down through a black rift on its side wound a gleaming
glacier, which hurled its shattered ice crystals over a dark cliff,
into the deep profound blue of a lake, which stretched north and south,
studded with green woody islets, almost as far as the eye could see.
Toward the mountain the lake looked deep and gloomy, but, on the hither
side, showed many a pleasant yellow shallow, and sandy bay, while
between him and the lake lay a mile or so of park-like meadow land, in
the full verdure of winter. As he looked, a vast dislocated mass of ice
fell crashing from the glacier into the lake, and solved at once the
mystery of the noises he had heard the night before.

He descended into the happy valley, and found a small tribe of friendly
blacks, who had never before seen the face of white man, and who
supposed him to be one of their own tribe, dead long ago, who had come
back to them, renovated and beautified, from the other world. With
these he lived a pleasant slothful life, while four years went on,
forgetting all the outside world, till his horse was dead, his gun
rusted and thrown aside, and his European clothes long since replaced
by the skin of the opossum and the koala. He had forgotten his own
tongue, and had given up all thoughts of crossing again the desolate
barriers of snow which divided him from civilization, when a slight
incident brought back old associations to his mind, and roused him from
sleep.

In some hunting excursion he got a slight scratch, and, searching for
some linen to tie it up, found in his mi-mi an old waistcoat, which he
had worn when he came into the valley. In the lining, while tearing it
up, he found a crumpled paper, a note from his sister, written years
before, full of sisterly kindness and tenderness. He read it again and
again before he lay down, and the next morning, collecting such small
stock of provisions as he could, he started on the homeward track, and
after incredible hardships reached his station.

His brother-in-law tried in vain with a strong party to reach the lake,
but never succeeded. What mountain it was he discovered, or what
river is fed by the lake he lived on, no man knows to this day. Some
say he went mad, and lived in the ranges all the time, and that this
was all a mere madman's fancy. But, whether he was mad or not then, he
is sane enough now, and has married a wife, and settled down to be one
of the most thriving men in that part of the country.

"Well," said the Doctor, thrusting his fists deep into his breeches
pockets, "I don't believe that story."

"Nor I either, Doctor," I replied. "But it has amused you all for half
an hour; so let it pass."

"Oh!" said the Doctor, rather peevishly, "if you put it on those
grounds, I am bound, of course, to withhold a few little criticisms I
was inclined to make on its probability. I hope you won't go and pass
it off as authentic, you know, because if we once begin to entertain
these sort of legends as meaning anything, the whole history of the
country becomes one great fogbank, through which the devil himself
could not find his way."

"Now, for my part," said mischievous Alice, "I think it a very pretty
story. And I have no doubt that it is every word of it true."

"Oh, dear me, then," said the Doctor, "let us vote it true. And, while
we are about it, let us believe that the Sydney ghost actually did sit
on a three-rail fence, smoking its pipe, and directing an anxious crowd
of relatives where to find its body. By all means let us believe
everything we hear."

The next morning our pleasant party suffered a loss. Captain Brentwood
and Alice went off home. He was wanted there, and all things seemed so
tranquil that he thought it was foolish to stay away any longer. Cecil
Mayford, too, departed, carrying with him the affectionate farewells
of the whole party. His pleasant even temper, and his handsome face,
had won every one who knew him, and, though he never talked much, yet,
when he was gone, we all missed his merry laugh, after one of
Desborough's good stories. Charley Hawker went off with him too, and
spent a few hours with Ellen Mayford, much to his satisfaction, but
came in again at night, as his mother had prayed of him not to leave
the Major's till he had seen her again.

That night the Major proposed punch, and, after Mrs. Buckley had gone
to bed, Sam sang a song, and Desborough told a story, about a
gamekeeper of his uncle's, whom the old gentleman desired to start in
an independent way of business. So he built him a new house, and gave
him a keg of whisky, to start in the spirit-selling line. "But the
first night," said Desborough, "the villain finished the whisky
himself, broke the keg, and burnt the house down; so my uncle had to
take him back into service again, after all." And after this came other
stories equally preposterous, and we went rather late to bed.

And the next morning, too, I am afraid, we were rather late for
breakfast. Just as we were sitting down, in came Captain Brentwood.

"Hallo," said the Major; "what brings you back so soon, old friend.
Nothing the matter I hope?"

"Nothing but business," he replied. "I am going on to Dickson's, and I
shall be back home to-night, I hope. I am glad to find you so late, as
I have had no breakfast, and have ridden ten miles."

He took breakfast with us and went on. The morning passed somewhat
heavily, as a morning is apt to do, after sitting up late and drinking
punch. Towards noon Desborough said,--

"Now, if anybody will confess that he drank just three drops too much
punch last night, I will do the same. Mrs. Buckley, my dear lady, I
hope you will order plenty of pale ale for lunch."

Lunch passed pleasantly enough, and afterwards the Major, telling Sam
to move a table outside into the verandah, disappeared, and soon came
back with a very "curious" bottle of Madeira. We sat then in the
verandah smoking for about a quarter of an hour.

I remember every word that was spoken, and every trivial circumstance
that happened during that quarter of an hour; they are burnt into my
memory as if by fire. The Doctor was raving about English poetry, as
usual, saying, however, that the modern English poets, good as they
were, had lost the power of melody a good deal. This the Major denied,
quoting:--


"By torch and trumpet fast array'd."


"Fifty such lines, sir, are not worth one of Milton's," said the
Doctor.


"'The trumpet spake not to the armed throng.'


"There's melody for you; there's a blare and a clang; there's a----"


I heard no more. Mrs. Buckley's French clock, in the house behind,
chimed three quarters past one, and I heard a sound of two persons
coming quickly through the house.

Can you tell the step of him who brings evil tidings? I think I can. At
all events, I felt my heart grow cold when I heard those footsteps. I
heard them coming through the house, across the boarded floor. The one
was a rapid, firm, military footstep, accompanied with the clicking
of a spur, and the other was unmistakably the "pad, pad" of a blackfellow.

We all turned round and looked at the door. There stood the sergeant of
Desborough's troopers, pale and silent, and close behind him, clinging
to him as if for protection, was the lithe naked figure of a black lad,
looking from behind the sergeant, with terrified visage, first at one
and then at another of us.

I saw disaster in their faces, and would have held up my hand to warn
him not to speak before Mrs. Buckley. But I was too late, for he had
spoken. And then we sat for a minute, looking at one another, each man
seeing the reflection of his own horror in his neighbour's eyes.




Chapter XL



THE STORM BURSTS.


Poor little Cecil Mayford had left us about nine o'clock in the morning
of the day before this, and, accompanied by Charles Hawker, reached his
mother's station about eleven o'clock in the day.

All the way Charles had talked incessantly of Ellen, and Cecil joined
in Charles's praises of his sister, and joked with him for being
"awfully spooney" about her.

"You're worse about my sister, Charley," said he, "than old Sam is
about Miss Brentwood. He takes things quiet enough, but if you go on in
this style till you are old enough to marry, by Jove, there'll be
nothing of you left!"

"I wonder if she would have me?" said Charles, not heeding him.

"The best thing you can do is to ask her," said Cecil. "I think I know
what she would say though."

They reached Mrs. Mayford's, and spent a few pleasant hours together.
Charles started home again about three o'clock, and having gone a
little way, turned to look back. The brother and sister stood at the
house-door still. He waved his hand in farewell to them, and they
replied. Then he rode on and saw them no more.

Cecil and Ellen went into the house to their mother. The women worked,
and Cecil read aloud to them. The book was "Waverley;" I saw it
afterwards, and when supper was over he took it up to begin reading
again.

"Not that book to-night, my boy," said his mother. "Read us a chapter
out of the Bible. I am very low in my mind, and at such times I like to
hear the Word."

He read the good book to them till quite late. Both he and Ellen
thought it strange that their mother should insist on that book on a
week-night; they never usually read it, save on Sunday evenings.

The morning broke bright and frosty. Cecil was abroad betimes, and went
down the paddock to fetch the horses. He put them in the stock-yard,
and stood for a time close to the stable, talking to a tame black lad,
that they employed about the place.

His attention was attracted by a noise of horses' feet. He looked up
and saw about a dozen men riding swiftly and silently across the
paddock towards the house.

For an instant he seems to have idly wondered who they were, and have
had time to notice a thickset gaudily dressed man, who rode in front of
the others, when the kitchen-door was thrown suddenly open, and the old
hut-keeper, with his grey hair waving in the wind, run out, crying,--
"Save yourself, in God's name, Master Cecil. The Bushrangers!"

Cecil raised his clenched hands in wild despair. They were caught like
birds in a trap. No hope!--no escape! Nothing left for it now, but to
die red-handed. He dashed into the house with the old hut-keeper and
shut the door.

The black lad ran up to a little rocky knoll within two hundred yards
of the house, and, hiding himself, watched what went on. He saw the
bushrangers ride up to the door and dismount. Then they began to beat
the door and demand admittance. Then the door was burst down, and one
of them fell dead by a pistolshot. Then they rushed in tumultuously,
leaving one outside to mind the horses. Then the terrified boy heard
the dull sound of shots fired rapidly inside the building (pray that
you may never hear that noise, reader: it always means mischief), and
then all was comparatively still for a time.

Then there began to arise a wild sound of brutal riot within, and after
a time they poured out again, and mounting, rode away.

Then the black boy slipt down from his lair like a snake, and stole
towards the house. All was still as death. The door was open, but, poor
little savage as he was, he dared not enter. Once he thought he heard a
movement within, and listened intently with all his faculties, as only
a savage can listen, but all was still again. And then gathering
courage, he went in.

In the entrance, stepping over the body of the dead bushranger, he
found the poor old white-headed hutkeeper knocked down and killed in
the first rush. He went on into the parlour; and there,--oh,
lamentable sight!--was Cecil; clever, handsome little Cecil, our old
favourite, lying half fallen from the sofa, shot through the heart,
dead.

But not alone. No; prone along the floor, covering six feet or more of
ground, lay the hideous corpse of Moody, the cannibal. The red-headed
miscreant, who had murdered poor Lee, under George Hawker's directions.

I think the poor black boy would have felt in his dumb darkened heart
some sorrow at seeing his kind old master so cruelly murdered. Perhaps
he would have raised the death-cry of his tribe over him, and burnt
himself with fire, as their custom is; but he was too terrified at
seeing so many of the lordly white race prostrated by one another's
hands. He stood and trembled, and then, almost in a whisper, began to
call for Mrs. Mayford.

"Missis!" he said, "Miss Ellen! All pull away, bushranger chaps. Make a
light, good Missis. Plenty frightened this fellow."

No answer. No sign of Mrs. Mayford or Ellen. They must have escaped
then. We will try to hope so. The black boy peered into one chamber
after another, but saw no signs of them, only the stillness of death
over all.

Let us leave this accursed house, lest, prying too closely, we may find
crouching in some dark corner a Gorgon, who will freeze us into stone.


* * * * *


The black lad stripped himself naked as he was born, and running like a
deer, sped to Major Buckley's before the south wind, across the plain.
There he found the Sergeant, and told him his tale, and the Sergeant
and he broke in on us with the terrible news as we were sitting merrily
over our wine.




Chapter XLI



WIDDERIN SHOWS CLEARLY THAT HE IS WORTH ALL THE MONEY SAM GAVE FOR HIM.


The Sergeant, as I said, broke in upon us with the fearful news as we
sat at wine. For a minute no man spoke, but all sat silent and horror
struck. Only the Doctor rose quietly, and slipped out of the room
unnoticed.

Desborough spoke first. He rose up with deadly wrath in his face, and
swore a fearful oath, an oath so fearful, that he who endorsed every
word of it then, will not write it down now. To the effect, "That, he
would take neither meat, nor drink, nor pleasure, nor rest, beyond what
was necessary to keep body and soul together, before he had purged the
land of these treacherous villains!"

Charles Hawker went up to the Sergeant, with a livid face and shaking
hands; "Will you tell me again, Robinson, ARE THEY ALL DEAD?"

The Sergeant looked at him compassionately. "Well, sir!" he said; "the
boy seemed to think Mrs. and Miss Mayford had escaped. But you mustn't
trust what he says, sir."

"You are deceiving me," said Charles. "There is something you are
hiding from me, I shall go down there this minute, and see."

"You will do nothing of the kind, sir," said Mrs. Buckley, coming into
the doorway and confronting him; "your place is with Captain
Desborough. I am going down to look after Ellen."

During these few moments, Sam had stood stupified. He stepped up to the
Sergeant, and said,--

"Would you tell me which way they went from the Mayfords'?"

"Down the river, sir."

"Ah!" said Sam; "towards Captain Brentwood's, and Alice at home, and
alone!--There may be time yet."

He ran out of the room and I after him. "His first trouble," I
thought,--"his first trial. How will our boy behave now?"

Let me mention again, that the distance from the Mayfords' to Captain
Brentwood's, following the windings of the river on its right bank,
was nearly twenty miles. From Major Buckley's to the same point, across
the plains, was barely ten; so that there was still a chance that a
brave man on a good horse, might reach Captain Brentwood's before the
bushrangers, in spite of the start they had got.

Sam's noble horse, Widderin, a horse with a pedigree a hundred years
old, stood in the stable. The buying of that horse had been Sam's only
extravagance, for which he had often reproached himself, and now this
day, he would see whether he would get his money's worth out of that
horse, or no.

I followed him up to the stable, and found him putting the bridle on
Widderin's beautiful little head. Neither of us spoke, only when I
handed him the saddle, and helped him with the girths, he said, "God
bless you."

I ran out and got down the slip-rails for him. As he rode by he said,
"Good-bye, uncle Jeff, perhaps you won't see me again;" and I cried
out, "Remember your God and your mother, Sam, and don't do anything
foolish."

Then he was gone; and looking across the plains the way he should go, I
saw another horseman toiling far away, and recognised Doctor Mulhaus.
Good Doctor! he had seen the danger in a moment, and by his ready wit
had got a start of every one else by ten minutes.

The Doctor, on his handsome long-bodied Arabian mare, was making good
work of it across the plains, when he heard the rush of horses' feet
behind him, and turning, he saw tall Widderin bestridden by Sam,
springing over the turf, gaining on him stride after stride. In a few
minutes they were alongside of one another.

"Good lad!" cried the Doctor; "On, forwards; catch her, and away to the
woods with her. Bloodhound Desborough will be on their trail in
half-an-hour. Save her, and we will have noble vengeance."

Sam only waved his hand in good-bye, and sped on across the plain like
a solitary ship at sea. He steered for a single tree, now becoming
dimly visible, at the foot of the Organ hill.

The good horse, with elastic and easy motion, fled on his course like a
bird; lifting his feet clearly and rapidly through the grass. The brisk
south wind filled his wide nostrils as he turned his graceful neck from
side to side, till, finding that work was meant, and not play, he began
to hold his head straight before him, and rush steadily forward.

And Sam, poor Sam! all his hopes for life now brought down to this: to
depend on the wind and pluck of an unconscious horse. One stumble now,
and it were better to lie down on the plain and die. He was in the
hands of God, and he felt it. He said one short prayer, but that
towards the end was interrupted by the wild current of his thoughts.

Was there any hope? They, the devils, would have been drinking at the
Mayfords', and perhaps would go slow; or would they ride fast and wild?
After thinking a short time, he feared the latter. They had tasted
blood, and knew that the country would be roused on them shortly. On,
on, good horse!

The lonely shepherd on the plains, sleepily watching his feeding sheep,
looked up as Sam went speeding by, and thought how fine a thing it
would be to be dressed like that, and have nothing to do but to ride
bloodhorses to death. Mind your sheep, good shepherd; perhaps it were
better for you to do that and nothing more all your life, than to carry
in your breast for one short hour such a volcano of rage, indignation,
and terror, as he does who hurries unheeding through your scattered
flock.

Here are a brace of good pistols, and they, with care, shall give
account, if need be, of two men. After that, nothing. It were better,
so much better, not to live if one were only ten minutes too late. The
Doctor would be up soon; not much matter if he were, though, only
another life gone.

The Organ hill, a cloud of misty blue when he started, now hung in
aerial fluted cliffs above his head. As he raced across the long glacis
which lay below the hill, he could see a solitary eagle wheeling round
the topmost pinnacles, against the clear blue sky; then the hill was
behind him, and before him another stretch of plain, bounded by timber,
which marked the course of the river.

Brave Widderin had his ears back now, and was throwing his breath
regularly through his nostrils in deep sighs. Good horse, only a little
longer; bear thyself bravely this day, and then pleasant pastures for
thee till thou shalt go the way of all horses. Many a time has she
patted, with kind words, thy rainbow neck, my horse; help us to save
her now.

Alas! good willing brute, he cannot understand; only he knows that his
kind master is on his back, and so he will run till he drop. Good
Widderin! think of the time when thy sire rushed triumphant through the
shouting thousands at Epsom, and all England heard that Arcturus had
won the Derby. Think of the time when thy grandam, carrying Sheik
Abdullah, bore down in a whirlwind of sand on the toiling affrighted
caravan. Ah! thou knowest not of these things, but yet thy speed flags
not. We are not far off now, good horse, we shall know all soon.

Now he was in the forest again, and now, as he rode quickly down the
steep sandy road among the braken, he heard the hoarse rush of the
river in his ears, and knew the end was well-nigh come.

No drink now, good Widderin! a bucket of Champagne in an hour's time,
if thou wilt only stay not now to bend thy neck down to the clear
gleaming water; flounder through the ford, and just twenty yards up the
bank by the cherry-tree, we shall catch sight of the house, and know
our fate.

Now the house was in sight, and now he cried aloud some wild
inarticulate sound of thankfulness and joy. All was as peaceful as
ever, and Alice, unconscious, stood white-robed in the verandah,
feeding her birds.

As he rode up he shouted out to her and beckoned. She came running
through the house, and met him breathless at the doorway.

"The bushrangers! Alice, my love," he said. "We must fly this instant,
they are close to us now."

She had been prepared for this. She knew her duty well, for her father
had often told her what to do. No tears! no hysterics! She took Sam's
hand without a word, and placing her fairy foot upon his boot, vaulted
up into the saddle before him, crying,--"Eleanor, Eleanor!"

Eleanor, the cook, came running out. "Fly!" said Alice. "Get away into
the bush. The gang are coming; close by." She, an old Vandemonian,
needed no second warning, and as the two young people rode away, they
saw her clearing the paddock rapidly, and making for a dense clump of
wattles, which grew just beyond the fence.

"Whither now, Sam?" said Alice, the moment they were started.

"I should feel safer across the river," he replied; "that little wooded
knoll would be a fine hiding-place, and they will come down this side
of the river from Mayford's."

"From Mayford's! why, have they been there?"

"They have, indeed. Alas! poor Cecil."

"What has happened to him? nothing serious."

"Dead! my love, dead."

"Oh! poor little Cecil," she cried, "that we were all so fond of. And
Mrs. Mayford and Ellen?"

"They have escaped!--they are not to be found.--They have hidden away
somewhere."

They crossed the river, and dismounting, they led the tired horse up
the steep slope of turf that surrounded a little castellated tor of
bluestone. Here they would hide till the storm was gone by, for from
here they could see the windings of the river, and all the broad plain
stretched out beneath their feet.

"I do not see them anywhere, Alice," said Sam presently. "I see no one
coming across the plains. They must be either very near us in the
hollow of the river-valley, or else a long way off. I have very little
doubt they will come here though, sooner or later."

"There they are!" said Alice. "Surely there are a large party of
horsemen on the plain, but they are seven or eight miles off."

"Ay, ten," said Sam. "I am not sure they are horsemen." Then he said
suddenly in a whisper, "Lie down, my love, in God's name! Here they
are, close to us!"

There burst on his ear a confused sound of talking and laughing, and
out of one of the rocky gullies leading towards the river, came the men
they had been flying from, in number about fourteen. They had crossed
the river, for some unknown reason, and to the fear-struck riders it
seemed as though they were making straight towards their lair.

He had got Widderin's head in his breast, blindfolding him with his
coat, for should he neigh now, they were undone, indeed! As the
bushrangers approached, the horse began to get uneasy, and paw the
ground, putting Sam in such an agony of terror that the sweat rolled
down his face. In the midst of this he felt a hand on his arm, and
Alice's voice, which he scarcely recognised, said, in a fierce whisper,--

"Give me one of your pistols, sir!"

"Leave that to me!" he replied in the same tone.

"As you please," she said; "but I must not fall alive into their hands.
Never look your mother in the face again if I do."

He gave one more glance round, and saw that the enemy would come within
a hundred yards of their hiding-place. Then he held the horse faster
than ever, and shut his eyes.


* * * * *


Was it a minute only, or an hour, till they heard the sound of the
voices dying away in the roar of the river? and, opening their eyes
once more, looked into one another's faces.

Faces, they thought, that they had never seen before,--so each told
the other afterwards,--so wild, so haggard, and so strange! And now
that they were safe and free again--free to arise and leave their
dreadful rock prison, and wander away where they would, they could
scarcely believe that the danger was past.

They came out silently from among the crags, and took up another
station, where they could see all that went on. They saw the miscreants
swarming about the house, and heard a pistol-shot--only one.

"Who can they be firing at?" said Alice, in a subdued tone. They were
both so utterly appalled by their late danger, that they spoke in
whispers, though the enemy were a quarter of a mile off.

"Mere mischief, I should fancy," said Sam; "there is no one there. Oh!
Alice, my love, can you realize that we are safe?"

"Hardly yet, Sam! But who could those men be we saw at such a distance
on the plain? Could they have been cattle? I am seldom deceived, you
know; I can see an immense distance."

"Why," said Sam, "I had forgotten them! They must be our friends, on
these fellows' tracks. Desborough would not be long starting, I
know."

"I hope my father," said Alice, "will hear nothing till he sees me.
Poor father! what a state he will be in. See, there is a horseman close
to us. It is the Doctor!"

They saw Dr. Mulhaus ride up to one of the heights overlooking the
river, and reconnoitre. Seeing the men in the house, he began riding
down towards them.

"He will be lost!" said Alice. "He thinks we are there. Call, Sam, at
all risks."

Sam did so, and they saw the Doctor turn. Alice showed herself for a
moment, and then he turned back, and rode the way he had come. In a few
minutes he joined them from the rear, and, taking Alice in his arms,
kissed her heartily.

"So, our jewel is safe, then--praise be to God! Thanks due also to a
brave man and a good horse. This is the last station those devils will
ruin, for our friends are barely four miles off. I saw them just now."

"I wish, I only wish," said Sam, "that they may delay long enough to be
caught. I would give a good deal for that."

There was but little chance of that, though; their measures were too
well taken. Almost as Sam spoke, the three listeners heard a shrill
whistle, and immediately the enemy began mounting. Some of them were
evidently drunk, and could hardly get on their horses, but were
assisted by the others. But very shortly they were all clear off,
heading to the northwest.

"Now we may go down, and see what destruction has been done," said
Alice. "Who would have thought to see such times as these!"

"Stay a little," said the Doctor, "and let us watch these gentlemen's
motions. Where can they be going nor'-west--straight on to the
mountains?"

"I am of opinion," said Sam, "that they are going to lie up in one of
the gullies this evening. They are full of drink and madness, and they
don't know what they are about. If they get into the main system of
gullies, we shall have them like rats in a trap, for they can never get
out by the lower end. Do you see, Doctor, a little patch of white road
among the trees over there? That leads to the Limestone Gates, as we
call it. If they pass those walls upwards, they are confined as in a
pound. Watch the white road, and we shall see."

The piece of road alluded to was about two miles off, and winding round
a steep hill among trees. Only one turn in it was visible, and over
this, as they watched, they saw a dark spot pass, followed by a crowd
of others.

"There they go," said Sam. "The madmen are safe now. See, there comes
Desborough, and all of them; let us go down."

They turned to go, and saw Jim coming towards them, by the route that
Sam had come, all bespattered with clay, limping and leading his new
grey horse, dead lame.

He threw up his hat when he saw them, and gave a feeble hurrah! but
even then a twinge of pain shot across his face, and, when he was
close, they saw he was badly hurt.

"God save you, my dear sister," he said; "I have been in such a state
of mind; God forgive me, I have been cursing the day I was born. Sam, I
started about three minutes after you, and had very nearly succeeded in
overhauling the Doctor, about two miles from here, when this brute put
his foot in a crab hole, and came down, rolling on my leg. I was so
bruised I couldn't mount again, and so I have walked. I see you are all
right though, and that is enough for me. Oh my sister--my darling
Alice! Think what we have escaped!"

So they went towards the house. And when Major Buckley caught sight of
Alice, riding between Doctor Mulhaus and Sam, he gave such a stentorian
cheer that the retreating bushrangers must have heard it.

"Well ridden, gentlemen," he said. "And who won the race? Was it
Widderin, or the Arabian, or the nondescript Sydney importation?"

"The Sydney importation, sir, would have beaten the Arabian, barring
accident," said Jim. "But, seriously speaking, I should have been far
too late to be of any service."

"And I," said the Doctor, "also. Sam won the race, and has got the
prize. Now, let us look forward, and not backward."

They communicated to Desborough all particulars, and told him of the
way they had seen the bushrangers go. Every one was struck with the
change in him. No merry stories now. The laughing Irishman was gone,
and a stern gloomy man, more like an Englishman, stood in his place. I
heard after, that he deeply blamed himself for what had occurred
(though no one else thought of doing so), and thought he had not taken
full precautions. On the present occasion, he said,--

"Well, gentlemen, night is closing in. Major Buckley, I think you will
agree with me that we should act more effectually if we waited till
daylight, and refresh both horses and men. More particularly as the
enemy in their drunken madness have hampered themselves in the
mountains. Major, Doctor Mulhaus, and Mr. Halbert, you are military
men--what do you say?"

They agreed that there was no doubt. It would be much the best plan.

"I would sooner he'd have gone to-night and got it over," said Charles
Hawker, taking Sam's arm. "Oh! Sam, Sam! Think of poor Cecil! Think of
poor Ellen, when she hears what has happened. She must know by now!"

"Poor Charley," said Sam, "I am so sorry for you. Lie down, and get to
sleep; the sun is going down."

He lay down as he was bid, somewhere out of the way. He was crushed and
stunned. He hardly seemed to know at present what he was doing. After a
time, Sam went in and found him sleeping uneasily.

But Alice was in sad tribulation at the mischief done. All her pretty
little womanly ornaments overturned and broken, her piano battered to
pieces, and, worst of all, her poor kangaroo shot dead, lying in the
verandah. "Oh!" said she to Major Buckley, "you must think me very
wicked to think of such things at a time like this, but I cannot help
it. There is something so shocking to me in such a sudden
BOULEVERSEMENT of old order. Yet, if it shocks me to see my piano
broken, how terrible must a visitation like the Mayfords' be. These are
not the times for moralizing, however. I must see about entertaining
the garrison."

Eleanor, the cook, had come back from her lair, quite unconcerned. She
informed the company, in a nonchalant sort of way, that this was the
third adventure of the kind she had been engaged in, and, although they
seemed to make a great fuss about it; on the other side (Van Diemen's
Land), it was considered a mere necessary nuisance; and so proceeded to
prepare such supper as she could. In the same off-hand way she remarked
to Sam, when he went into the kitchen to get a light for his pipe,
that, if it was true that Mike Howe had crossed and was among them,
they had better look out for squalls; for that he was a devil, and no
mistake.

Desborough determined to set a watch out on the road towards the mouth
of the gully, where they were supposed to be. "We shall have them in
the morning," said he. "Let every one get to sleep who can sleep, for I
expect every one to follow me to morrow."

Charles Hawker had laid down in an inner room, and was sleeping
uneasily, when he was awakened by some one, and, looking up, saw Major
Buckley, with a light in his hand, bending over him. He started up.

"What is the matter, sir?" he asked. "Why do you look at me so
strangely? Is there any new misfortune?"

"Charles," said the Major, "you have no older friend than me."

"I know it, sir. What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to stay at home to-morrow."

"Anything but that, sir. They will call me a coward."

"No one shall do so. I swear that he who calls you a coward shall feel
the weight of my arm."

"Why am I not to go with them? Why am I to be separated from the
others?"

"You must not ask," said the Major; "perhaps you will know some day,
but not yet. All I say to you is, go home to your mother to-morrow, and
stay there. Should you fire a shot, or strike a blow against those men
we are going to hunt down, you may do a deed which would separate you
from the rest of mankind, and leave you to drag on a miserable guilty
life. Do you promise?"

"I will promise," said Charles; "but I wonder----"

"Never mind wondering. Good night."

The troopers lay in the hall, and in the middle of the night there was
a sound of a horse outside, and he who was nearest the door got up and
went out.

"Who is there?" said the voice of Captain Brentwood.

"Jackson, sir."

"My house has been stuck up, has it not?"

"Yes, sir."

"And my daughter?"

"Safe, sir. Young Mr. Buckley rode over and caught her up out of it ten
minutes before they got here."

"Long life to him, and glory to God. Who is here?"

The trooper enumerated them.

"And what has become of the gang?" asked the Captain.

"Gone into the limestone gully, sir. Safe for tomorrow."

"Ah, well, I shall come in and lie in the hall. Don't make a noise.
What is that?"

They both started. Some one of the many sleepers, with that strange
hoarse voice peculiar to those who talk in their dreams, said, with
singular energy and distinctness,--

"I will go, sir; they will call me coward."

"That's young Mr. Hawker, sir," said the trooper. "His sweetheart's
brother, Mr. Mayford, was killed by them yesterday. The head of this
very gang, sir, that villain Touan--his name is Hawker. An odd
coincidence, sir."

"Very odd," said the Captain. "At the same time, Jackson, if I were
you, I wouldn't talk about it. There are many things one had best not
talk about, Jackson. Pull out the corner of that blanket, will you? So
we shall have some fun to-morrow, up in the pass, I'm thinking."

"They'll fight, sir," said the trooper. "If we can bail them up,
they'll fight, believe me. Better so; I think we shall save the hangman
some trouble. Good night, sir."

So Captain Brentwood lay down beside the trooper, and slept the sleep
of the just among his broken chairs and tables. The others slept too,
sound and quiet, as though there were no fight on the morrow.

But ere the moon grew pale they were woke by Desborough, tramping about
with clicking spurs among the sleepers, and giving orders in a loud
noise. At the first movement, while the rest were yawning and
stretching themselves, and thinking that battle was not altogether so
desirable a thing on a cold morning as it was overnight, Major Buckley
was by Charles Hawker's bedside, and, reminding him of his promise, got
him out unperceived, helped him to saddle his horse, and started him
off to his mother with a note.

The lad, overawed by the major's serious manner, went without debate,
putting the note in his pocket. I have seen that note; Sam showed it to
me the next day, and so I can give you the contents. It was from Major
Buckley to Mary Hawker, and ran thus:--

"I have sent your boy to you, dear old friend, bearing this. You will
have heard by now what has happened, and you will give me credit for
preventing what might come to be a terrible catastrophe. The boy is
utterly unconscious that his own father is the man whose life is sought
this day above all others. He is at the head of this gang, Mary. My own
son saw him yesterday. My hand shall not be raised against him; but
further than that I will not interfere. Your troubles have come now to
the final and most terrible pass; and all the advice I have to give you
is to pray, and pray continually, till this awful storm is gone by.
Remember, that come what may, you have two friends entirely devoted to
you--my wife and myself."

Hurriedly written, scrawled rather, as this note was, it showed me
again plainer than ever what a noble clear-hearted man he was who had
written it. But this is not to the purpose. Charles Hawker departed,
carrying this, before the others were stirring, and held his way
through the forest-road towards his mother's station.

This same two days' business was the best stroke of work that the Devil
did in that part of the country for many years. With his usual sagacity
he had busied himself in drawing the threads of mischief so parallel,
that it seemed they must end in one and only one lamentable issue;
namely, that Charles Hawker and his father should meet pistol in hand,
as deadly enemies. But at this last period of the game, our good honest
Major completely check-mated him, by sending Charles Hawker home to his
mother. In this terrible pass, after this unexpected move of the
Major's; he (the Devil, no other) began casting about for a scoundrel,
by whose assistance he might turn the Major's flank. But no great rogue
being forthcoming he had to look round for the next best substitute, a
great fool,--and one of these he found immediately, riding exactly the
way he wished. Him he subpoenaed immediately, and found to do his work
better even than a good rogue would have done. We shall see how poor
Charles Hawker, pricking along through the forest, getting every moment
further from danger and mischief, met a man charging along the road,
full speed, who instantly pulled up and spoke to him.

This was the consummate fool, sent of the Devil, whom I have mentioned
above. We have seen him before. He was the longest, brownest, stupidest
of the Hawbuck family. The one who could spit further than any of his
brothers.

"Well, Charley," he said, "is this all true about the bushrangers?"

Charles said it was. And they were bailed up in the limestone gully,
and all the party were away after them.

"Where are you going then?" asked the unfortunate young idiot.

"Home to my mother," blurted out poor Charles.

"Well!" said the other, speaking unconsciously exactly the words which
the enemy of mankind desired. "Well, I couldn't have believed that. If
a chap had said that of you in my hearing, I'd have fought him if he'd
been as big as a house. I never thought that of you, Charley."

Charles cursed aloud. "What have I done to be talked to like this?
Major Buckley has no right to send me away like this, to be branded as
coward through the country side. Ten times over better to be shot than
have such words as these said to me. I shall go back with you."

"That's the talk," said the poor fool. "I thought I wasn't wrong in
you, Charley." And so Charles galloped back with him.

We, in the meantime, had started from the station, ere day was well
broke. Foremost of the company rode Desborough, calm and serene, and on
either side of him Captain Brentwood and Major Buckley. Then came the
Doctor, Sam, Jim, Halbert, and myself; behind us again, five troopers
and the Sergeant. Each man of us all was armed with a sword; and every
man in that company, as it happened, knew the use of that weapon
well. The troopers carried carbines, and all of us carried pistols.

The glare in the east changing from pearly green to golden yellow, gave
notice of the coming sun. One snow peak, Tambo, I think, began to catch
the light, and blaze like another morning star. The day had begun in
earnest, and, as we entered the mouth of the glen to which we were
bound, slanting gleams of light were already piercing the misty gloom,
and lighting up the loftier crags.

A deep, rock-walled glen it was, open and level, though, in the centre,
ran a tangled waving line of evergreen shrubs, marking the course of
a pretty bright creek, which, half hidden by luxuriant vegetation, ran
beside the faint track leading to one of Captain Brentwood's mountain
huts. Along this track we could plainly see the hoof marks of the men
we were after.

It was one of the most beautiful gullies I had ever seen, and I turned
to say so to some one who rode beside me. Conceive my horror at finding
it was Charles Hawker. I turned to him fiercely, and said,--

"Get back, Charles. Go home. You don't know what you are doing, lad."

He defied me. And I was speaking roughly to him again, when there came
a puff of smoke from among the rocks overhead, and down I went, head
over heels. A bullet had grazed my thigh, and killed my horse, who.
throwing me on my head, rendered me HORS DE COMBAT. So that during the
fight which followed, I was sitting on a rock, very sick and very
stupid, a mile from the scene of action.

My catastrophe caused only a temporary stoppage; and, during the
confusion, Charles Hawker was unnoticed. The man who had fired at me
(why at me I cannot divine), was evidently a solitary guard perched
among the rocks. The others held on for about a quarter of an hour,
till the valley narrowed up again, just leaving room for the walk
between the brawling creek and the tall limestone cliff. But after this
it opened out into a broader amphitheatre, walled on all sides by
inaccessible rock, save in two places. Sam, from whom I get this
account of affairs, had just time to notice this when he saw Captain
Brentwood draw a pistol and fire it, and, at the same instant, a man
dashed out of some scrub on the other side of the creek, and galloped
away up the valley.

"They have had the precaution to set two watches for us, which I hardly
expected," said Captain Desborough. "They will fight us now, they
can't help it, thank God. They have had a short turn and a merry one,
but they are dead men, and they know it. The Devil is but a poor
paymaster, Buckley. After all this hide and seek work, they have only
got two days' liberty."

The troopers now went to the front with Halbert and the other military
men, while Sam, Jim, and Charles, the last all unperceived by the Major
in his excitement, rode in the rear.

"We are going to have a regular battle," said Jim. "They are bailed up,
and must fight; some of us will go home feet foremost to-day."

So they rode on through the open forest, till they began to see one or
two horsemen through the treestems, reconnoitering. The ground began
to rise towards a lofty cliff that towered before them, and all could
see that the end was coming. Then they caught sight of the whole gang,
scattered about among the low shrubs, and a few shots were fired on
both sides before the bushrangers turned and retreated towards the wall
of rock, now plainly visible through the timber. Our party continued to
advance steadily in open order.

Then under the beetling crags, where the fern-trees began to feather up
among the fallen boulders, the bushrangers turned like hunted wolves,
and stood at bay.




Chapter XLII



THE FIGHT AMONG THE FERN-TREES.


Then Desborough cried aloud to ride at them, and spare no man. And, as
he spoke, every golden fernbough, and every coigne of vantage among
the rocks, began to blaze and crackle with gun and pistol shot. Jim's
horse sprung aloft and fell, hurling him forcibly to the ground, and a
tall young trooper, dropping his carbine, rolled heavily off his
saddle, and lay on the grass face downward, quite still, as if asleep.

"There's the first man killed," said the Major, very quietly. "Sam, my
boy, don't get excited, but close on the first fellow you see a chance
at." And Sam, looking in his father's face as he spoke, saw a light in
his eyes, that he had never seen there before--the light of battle.
The Major caught a carbine from the hands of a trooper who rode beside
him, and took a snap shot, quick as lightning, at a man whom they saw
running from one cover to another. The poor wretch staggered and put
his hands to his head, then stumbled and fell heavily down.

Now the fight became general and confused. All about among the fern and
the flowers, among the lemanshrubs, and the tangled vines, men
fought, and fired, and struck, and cursed; while the little brown
bandiroots scudded swiftly away, and the deadly snake hid himself in
his darkest lair, affrighted. Shots were cracking on all sides, two
riderless horses, confused in the MELEE, were galloping about neighing,
and a third lay squealing on the ground in the agonies of death.

Sam saw a man fire at his father, whose horse went down, while the
Major arose unhurt. He rode at the ruffian, who was dismounted, and cut
him so deep between the shoulder and the neck, that he fell and never
spoke again. Then seeing Halbert and the Doctor on the right, fiercely
engaged with four men who were fighting with clubbed muskets and
knives, he turned to help them, but ere he reached them, a tall,
handsome young fellow dashed out of the shrub, and pulling his horse
short up, took deliberate aim at him, and fired.

Sam heard the bullet go hissing past his ear, and got mad. "That young
dog shall go down," said he. "I know him. He is the one who rode first
yesterday." And as this passed through his mind, he rode straight at
him, with his sword hand upon his left shoulder. He came full against
him in a moment, and as the man held up his gun to guard himself, his
cut descended, so full and hard that it shore through the gunbarrel as
through a stick, and ere he could bring his hand to his cheek, his
opponent had grappled him, and the two rolled off their horses
together, locked in a deadly embrace.

Then began an awful and deadly fight between these two young fellows.
Sam's sword had gone from his hand in the fall, and he was defenceless,
save by such splendid physical powers as he had by nature. But his
adversary, though perhaps a little lighter, was a terrible enemy, and
fought with the strength and litheness of a leopard. He had his hand at
Sam's throat, and was trying to choke him. Sam saw that one great
effort was necessary, and with a heave of his whole body, threw the
other beneath him, and struck downwards, three quick blows, with the
whole strength of his ponderous fist, on the face of the man, as he lay
beneath him. The hold on his throat loosened, and seeing that they had
rolled within reach of his sword, in a moment he had clutched it, and
drawing back his elbow, prepared to plunge it in his adversary's chest.

But he hesitated. He could not do it. Maddened as he was with fighting,
the sight of that bloody face, bruised beyond recognition by his
terrible blows, and the wild fierce eyes, full of rage and terror,
looking into his own, stayed his hand, and while he paused the man
spoke, thick and indistinctly, for his jaw was broken.

"If you will spare me," he said, "I will be King's evidence."

"Then turn on your face," said Sam; "and I will tie you up."

And as he spoke a trooper ran up, and secured the prisoner, who
appealed to Sam for his handkerchief. "I fought you fair," he said;
"and you're a man worth fighting. But you have broken something in my
face with your fist. Give me something to tie it up with?"

"God save us all!" said Sam, giving him his handkerchief. "This is
miserable work! I hope it is all over."

It seemed so. All he heard were the fearful screams of a wounded man
lying somewhere among the fern.

"Where are they all, Jackson?" said he.

"All away to the right, sir," said the trooper. "One of my comrades is
killed, your father has had his horse shot, the Doctor is hit in the
arm, and Mr. James Brentwood has got his leg broke with the fall of
his horse. They are minding him now. We've got all the gang, alive or
dead, except two. Captain Desborough is up the valley now after the
head man, and young Mr. Hawker is with him. D--n it all! hark to
that."

Two shots were fired in quick succession in the direction indicated;
and Sam having caught his horse, gallopped off to see what was going
on.


* * * * *


Desborough fought neither against small nor great, but only against one
man, and he was George Hawker. Him he had sworn he would bring home,
dead or alive. When he and his party had first broken through the fern,
he had caught sight of his quarry, and had instantly made towards him,
as quick as the broken, scrub-tangled ground would allow.

They knew one another; and, as soon as Hawker saw that he was
recognised, he made to the left, away from the rest of his gang, trying
to reach, as Desborough could plainly see, the only practicable way
that led from the amphitheatre in which they were back into the
mountains.

They fired at one another without effect at the first. Hawker was now
pushing in full flight, though the scrub was so dense that neither made
much way. Now the ground got more open and easier travelled, when
Desborough was aware of one who came charging recklessly up alongside
of him, and, looking round, he recognised Charles Hawker.

"Good lad," he said; "come on. I must have that fellow before us there.
He is the arch-devil of the lot. If we follow him to h-ll, we must
have him!"

"We'll have him, safe enough!" said Charles. "Push to the left,
Captain, and we shall get him against those fallen rocks."

Desborough saw the excellence of this advice. This was the last piece
of broken ground there was. On the right the cliff rose precipitous,
and from its side had tumbled a confused heap of broken rock, running
out into the glen. Once past this, the man they were pursuing would
have the advantage, for he was splendidly mounted, and beyond was clear
galloping ground. As it was, he was in a recess, and Desborough and
Charles, pushing forward, succeeded in bringing him to bay. Alas, too
well!

George Hawker reined up his horse when he saw escape was impossible,
and awaited their coming with a double-barrelled pistol in his hand. As
the other two came on, calling on him to surrender, Desborough's horse
received a bullet in his chest, and down went horse and man together.
But Charles pushed on till he was within twenty yards of the
bushranger, and levelled his pistol to fire.

So met father and son the second time in their lives, all
unconsciously. For an instant they glared on one another with wild
threatening eyes, as the father made his aim more certain and deadly.
Was there no lightning in heaven to strike him dead, and save him
from this last horrid crime? Was there no warning voice to tell him
that this was his son?

None. The bullet sped, and the poor boy tumbled from his saddle,
clutching wildly, with crooked, convulsive fingers at the grass and
flowers--shot through the the chest!

Then, ere Desborough had disentangled himself from his fallen horse,
George Hawker rode off laughing--out through the upper rock walls into
the presence of the broad bald snow-line that rolled above his head in
endless lofty tiers towards the sky.

Desborough arose, swearing and stamping; but, ere he could pick up his
cap, Sam was alongside of him, breathless, and with him another
common-looking man--my man, Dick, no other--and they both cried out
together, "What has happened?"

"Look there!" said Desborough, pointing to something dark among the
grass,--"that's what has happened. What lies there was Charles
Hawker, and the villain is off."

"Who shot Charles Hawker?" said Dick.

"His namesake," said Desborough.

"His own father!" said Dick; "that's terrible."

"What do you mean?" they both asked, aghast.

"Never mind now," he answered. "Captain Desborough, what are you
going to do? Do you know where he's gone?"

"Up into the mountain, to lie by, I suppose," said Desborough.

"Not at all, sir! He is going to cross the snow, and get to the old
hut, near the Murray Gate."

"What! Merryman's hut?" said the Captain. "Impossible! He could not get
through that way."

"I tell you he can. That is where they came from at first; that is
where they went to when they landed; and this is the gully they came
through."

"Are you deceiving me?" said Desborough. "It will be worse for you if
you are! I ain't in a humour for that sort of thing. Who are you?"

"I am Mr. Hamlyn's groom--Dick. Strike me dead if I ain't telling the
truth!"

"Do you know this man, Buckley?" said Desborough, calling out to Sam,
who was sitting beside poor Charles Hawker, holding his head up.

"Know him! of course I do," he replied; "ever since I was a child."

"Then, look here," said Desborough to Dick; "I shall trust you. Now,
you say he will cross the snow. If I were to go round by the Parson's I
shouldn't get much snow."

"That's just it, don't you see? You can be round at the huts before
him. That's what I mean," said Dick. "Take Mr. Buckley's horse, and
ride him till he drops, and you'll get another at the Parson's. If you
have any snow, it will be on Broadsaddle; but it won't signify. You go
round the low side of Tambo, and sight the lake, and you'll be there
before him."

"How far?"

"Sixty miles, or thereabouts, plain sailing. It ain't eleven o'clock
yet."

"Good; I'll remember you for this. Buckley, I want your horse. Is the
lad dead?"

"No; but he is very bad. I'll try to get him home. Take the horse; he
is not so good a one as Widderin, but he'll carry you to the Parson's.
God speed you."

They watched him ride away almost south, skirting the ridges of the
mountain as long as he could; then they saw him scrambling up a lofty
wooded ridge, and there he disappeared.

They raised poor Charles Hawker up, and Sam, mounting Dick's horse,
took the wounded man up before him, and started to go slowly home.
After a time, he said, "Do you feel worse, Charles?" and the other
replied, "No; but I am very cold." After that he stayed quite still,
with his arm round Sam Buckley's neck, until they reached the
Brentwoods' door.

Some came out to the door to meet them, and, among others, Alice. "Take
him from me," said Sam to one of the men. "Be very gentle: he is
asleep." And so they took the dead man's arm from off the living man's
shoulder, and carried him in; for Charles Hawker was asleep indeed--in
the sleep that knows no waking.


* * * * *


That was one of the fiercest and firmest stands that was ever made by
bushrangers against the authorities. Of the latter five were shot down,
three wounded, and the rest captured, save two. The gang was destroyed
at once, and life and property once more secure, though at a sad
sacrifice.

One trooper was shot dead at the first onset,--a fine young fellow,
just picked from his regiment for good conduct to join the police.
Another was desperately wounded, who died the next day. On the part of
the independent men assisting, there were Charles Hawker killed, Doctor
Mulhaus shot in the left arm, and Jim with his leg broke; so that, on
that evening, Captain Brentwood's house was like a hospital.

Captain Brentwood set his son's leg, under Dr. Mulhaus' directions, the
Doctor keeping mighty brave, though once or twice his face twisted with
pain, and he was nearly fainting. Alice was everywhere, pale and calm,
helping every one who needed it, and saying nothing. Eleanor, the cook,
pervaded the house, doing the work of seven women, and having the
sympathies of fourteen. She told them that this was as bad a job as
she'd ever seen; worse, in fact. That the nearest thing she'd ever seen
to it was when Mat Steeman's mob were broke up by the squatters; "But
then," she added, "there were none but prisoners killed."

But when Alice had done all she could, and the house was quiet, she
went up to her father, and said,--

"Now, father, comes the worst part of the matter for me. Who is to tell
Mrs. Hawker?"

"Mrs. Buckley, my dear, would be the best person. But she is at the
Mayfords', I am afraid."

"Mrs. Hawker must be told at once, father, by some of us. I do so dread
her hearing of it by some accident, when none of her friends are with
her. Oh, dear! oh, dear! I never thought to have had such times as
these."

"Alice, my darling," said her father, "do you think that you have
strength to carry the news to her? If Major Buckley went with you, he
could tell her, you know; and it would be much better for her to have
him, an old friend, beside her. It would be such a delay to go round
and fetch his wife. Have you courage?"

"I will make courage," she said. "Speak to Major Buckley, father, and I
will get ready."

She went to Sam. "I am going on a terrible errand," she said; "I am
going to tell Mrs. Hawker about this dreadful, dreadful business. Now,
what I want to say is, that you mustn't come; your father is going with
me, and I'll get through it alone, Sam. Now please," she added, seeing
Sam was going to speak, "don't argue about it; I am very much upset as
it is, and I want you to stay here. You won't follow us, will you?"

"Whatever you order, Alice, is law," said Sam. "I won't come if you
don't wish it; but I can't see----"

"There now. Will you get me my horse? And please stay by poor Jim, for
my sake."

Sam complied; and Alice, getting on her riding-habit, came back
trembling, and trying not to cry, to tell Major Buckley that she was
ready.

He took her in his arms, and kissed her. "You are a brave, noble girl,"
he said; "I thank God for such a daughter-in-law. Now, my dear, let us
hurry off, and not think of what is to come."

It was about five o'clock when they went off. Sam and Halbert, having
let them out of the paddock, went in-doors to comfort poor Jim's heart,
and to get something to eat, if it were procurable. Jim lay on his
bed tossing about, and the Doctor sat beside him, talking to him; pale
and grim, waiting for the doctor who had been sent for; no other than
his drunken old enemy.

"This is about as nice a kettle of fish," said Jim, when they came and
sat beside him, "as a man could possibly wish to eat. Poor Cecil and
Charley; both gone, eh? Well, I know it ain't decent for a fellow with
a broken leg to feel wicked; but I do, nevertheless. I wish now that I
had had a chance at some of them before that stupid brute of a horse
got shot."

"If you don't lie still, you Jim," said Sam, "your leg will never set;
and then you must have it taken off, you know. How is your arm,
Doctor?"

"Shooting a little," said the Doctor; "nothing to signify, I believe.
At least, nothing in the midst of such a tragedy as this. Poor Mary
Hawker; the pretty little village-maid we all loved so well. To come to
such an end as this!"

"Is it true, then, Doctor, that Hawker, the bushranger, is her
husband?"

"Quite true, alas! Every one must know it now. But I pray you, Sam, to
keep the darkest part of it all from her; don't let her know that the
boy fell by the hand of his father."

"I could almost swear," said Sam, "that one among the gang is his son
too. When they rode past Alice and myself yesterday morning, one was
beside him so wonderfully like him, that even at that time I set them
down for father and son."

"If Hamlyn's strange tale be true, it is so," said the Doctor. "Is the
young man you speak of among the prisoners, do you know?"

"Yes; I helped to capture him myself," said Sam. "What do you mean by
Hamlyn's story?"

"Oh, a long one. He met him in a hut the night after we picnic'd at
Mirngish, and found out who he was. The secret not being ours, your
father and I never told any of you young people of the fact of this
bushranger being poor Mrs. Hawker's husband. I wish we had; all this
might have been avoided. But the poor soul always desired that the
secret of his birth might be kept from Charles, and you see the
consequences. I'll never keep a secret again. Come here with me; let us
see both of them."

They followed him, and he turned into a little side room at the back of
the house. It was a room used for chance visitors or strangers,
containing two small beds, which now bore an unaccustomed burden, for
beneath the snow-white coverlids, lay two figures, indistinct indeed,
but unmistakeable.

"Which is he?" whispered the Doctor.

Sam raised the counterpane from the nearest one, but it was not
Charles. It was a young, handsome face that he saw, lying so quietly
and peacefully on the white pillow, that he exclaimed--

"Surely this man is not dead?"

The Doctor shook his head. "I have often seen them like that," he said.
"He is shot through the heart."

Then they went to the other bed, where poor Charles lay. Sam gently
raised the black curls from his face, but none of them spoke a word for
a few minutes, till the Doctor said, "Now let us come and see his
brother."

They crossed the yard, to a slab outbuilding, before which one of the
troopers was keeping guard, with a loaded carbine, and, the Sergeant
coming across, admitted them.

Seven or eight fearfully ill-looking ruffians lay about on the floor,
handcuffed. They were most of them of the usual convict stamp, dark,
saturnine looking fellows, though one offered a strange contrast by
being an Albino, and another they could not see plainly, for he was
huddled up in a dark corner, bending down over a basin of water, and
dabbing his face. The greater part of them cursed and blasphemed
desperately, as is the manner of such men when their blood is up, and
they are reckless; while the wounded ones lay in a fierce sullen
silence, more terrible almost than the foul language of the others.

"He is not here," said Sam. "Stay, that must be him wiping his face!"

He went towards him, and saw he was right. The young man he had taken
looked wildly up like a trapped animal into his face, and the Doctor
could not suppress an exclamation when he saw the likeness to his
father.

"Is your face very bad?" said Sam quietly.

The other turned away in silence.

"I'll tie it up for you, if you like," said Sam.

"It don't want no tying up."

He turned his face to the wall, and remained obstinately silent. They
perceived that nothing more was to be got from him, and departed. But,
turning at the door, they still saw him crouched in the corner like a
wild beast, wiping his bruised face every now and then with Sam's
handkerchief, apparently thinking of nothing, hoping for nothing. Such
a pitiful sight--such an example of one who was gone beyond feeling
pity, or sorrow, or aught else, save physical pain, that the Doctor's
gorge rose, and he said, stamping on the gravel,--

"A man, who says that that is not the saddest, saddest sight he ever
saw, is a disgrace to the mother that bore him. To see a young fellow
like that with such a PHYSIQUE--and God only knows what undeveloped
qualities in him, only ripe for the gallows at five-and-twenty, is
enough to make the angels weep. He knows no evil but physical pain, and
that he considers but a temporary one. He knows no good save, perhaps,
to be faithful to his confederates. He has been brought up from his
cradle to look on every man as his enemy. He never knew what it was to
love a human being in his life. Why, what does such a man regard this
world as? As the antechamber of hell, if he ever heard of such a place.
I want to know what either of us three would have been if we had had
his training. I want to know that now. We might have been as much worse
than him as a wolf is worse than an evil-tempered dog."

A beautiful colley came up to the Doctor and fawned on him, looking
into his face with her deep, expressive, hazel eyes.

"We must do something for that fellow, Sam. If it's only for his name's
sake," said the Doctor.


* * * * *


That poor boy, sitting crouched there in the corner, with a broken jaw,
and just so much of human feeling as one may suppose a polecat to have,
caught in a gin, is that same baby that we saw Ellen Lee nursing on the
door-step in the rain, when our poor Mary came upon her on one wild
night in Exeter.

Base-born, workhouse-bred! Tossed from workhouse to prison, from prison
to hulk--every man's hand against him--an Arab of society. As
hopeless a case, my lord judge, as you ever had to deal with; and yet I
think, my lord, that your big heart grows a little pitiful, when you
see that handsome face before you, blank and careless, and you try,
fruitlessly, to raise some blush of shame, or even anger in it, by your
eloquence.

Gone beyond that, my lord. Your thunderbolts fall harmless here, and
the man you say is lost, and naturally. Yet, give that same man room to
breathe and act; keep temptation from him, and let his good qualities,
should he have any, have fair play, and, even yet, he may convert you
to the belief that hardened criminals may be reformed, to the extent of
one in a dozen; beyond that no reasonable man will go.

Let us see the end of this man. For now the end of my tale draws near,
and I must begin gathering up the threads of the story, to tie them in
a knot, and release my readers from duty. Here is all I can gather
about him,--

Sam and the Doctor moved heaven, earth, and the Colonial Secretary, to
get his sentence commuted, and with success. So when his companions
were led out to execution, he was held back; reserved for penal
servitude for life.

He proved himself quiet and docile; so much so that when our greatest,
boldest explorer was starting for his last hopeless journey to the
interior, this man was selected as one of the twelve convicts who were
to accompany him. What follows is an extract which I have been favoured
with from his private journal. You will not find it in the published
history of the expedition:--

"Date--lat.--long.--Morning. It is getting hopeless now, and to-morrow
I turn. Sand, and nothing but sand. The salsolaceous plants, so
long the only vegetation we have seen, are gone; and the little
sienite peak, the last symptom of a water-bearing country, has disappeared
behind us. The sandhills still roll away towards the setting
sun, but get less and less elevated. The wild fowl are still holding
their mysterious flight to the north-west, but I have not wings to
follow them. Oh, my God! if I only knew what those silly birds know. It
is hopeless to go on, and, I begin to fear, hopeless to go back. Will
it never rain again?

"Afternoon.--My servant Hawker, one of the convicts assigned to me
by Government, died to-day at noon. I had got fond of this man, as the
most patient and the bravest, where all have been so patient and so
brave. He was a very silent and reserved man, and had never complained,
so that I was deeply shocked on his sending for me at dinner-time, to
find that he was dying.

"He asked me not to deceive him, but to tell him if there was any truth
in what the gaol-chaplain had said, about there being another life
after death. I told him earnestly that I knew it as surely as I knew
that the earth was under my feet; and went on comforting him as one
comforts a dying man. But he never spoke again; and we buried him in
the hot sand at sundown. The first wind will obliterate the little
mound we raised over him, and none will ever cross this hideous desert
again. So that he will have as quiet a grave as he could wish.

"Eleven o'clock at night.--God be praised. Heavy clouds and thunder to
the north.--"

So this poor workhouse-bred lad lies out among the sands of the middle
desert.




Chapter XLIII



ACROSS THE SNOW.


Hawker the elder, as I said, casting one glance at the body of his son,
whom he knew not, and another at Captain Desborough, who was just
rising from the ground after his fall, set spurs to his noble chestnut
horse, and, pushing through the contracted barriers of slate which
closed up the southern end of the amphitheatre where they had been
surprised, made for the broader and rapidly rising valley which
stretched beyond.

He soon reached the rocky gate, where the vast ridge of schist,
alternating with the limestone, and running north and south in high
serrated ridges, was cut through by a deep fissure, formed by the never
idle waters of a little creek, that in the course of ages had mined
away the softer portions of the slate, and made a practicable pass
toward the mountains.

He picked his way with difficulty through the tumbled boulders that lay
in the chasm; and then there was a cool brisk wind on his forehead, and
a glare in his eyes. The chill breath of the west wind from the
mountain--the glare of the snow that filled up the upper end of the
valley, rising in level ridges towards the sky-line.

He had been this path before; and if he had gone it a hundred times
again, he would only have cursed it for a rough, desperate road, the
only hope of a desperate man. Not for him to notice the thousand
lessons that the Lord had spread before him in the wilderness! Not for
him to notice how the vegetation changed when the limestone was passed,
and the white quartz reefs began to seam the slaty sides of the valley
like rivers of silver! Not for him to see how, as he went up and on,
the hardy Dicksoniae, still nestled in stunted tufts among the more
sheltered side gullies, long after her tenderer sister, the queenly
Alsophylla had been left behind. He only knew that he was a hunted
wild beast, and that his lair was beyond the snow.

The creek flashed pleasantly among the broken slate, full and turbid
under the mid-day sun. After midnight, when its fountains are sealed
again by the frosty breath of night, that creek will be reduced to a
trickling rill. His horse's feet brushed through the delicate
asplenium, the Venus'-hair of Australia; the sarsaparilla still hung in
scant purple tufts on the golden wattle, and the scarlet correa lurked
among the broken quartz.

Upwards and onwards. In front, endless cycles agone, a lava stream from
some crater we know not had burst over the slate, with fearful clang
and fierce explosion, forming a broad roadway of broken basalt up to
a plateau twelve hundred feet or more above us, and not so steep but
that a horse might be led up it. Let us go up with him, not cursing
heaven and earth, as he did, but noticing how, as we ascend, the
scarlet wreaths of the Kennedia and the crimson Grevillea give place to
the golden Grevillea and the red Epacris; then comes the white Epacris,
and then the grass trees, getting smaller and scantier as we go, till
the little blue Gentian, blossoming boldly among the slippery crags,
tells us that we have nearly reached the limits of vegetation.

He turned when he reached this spot, and looked around him. To the west
a broad rolling down of snow, rising gradually; to the east, a noble
prospect of forest and plain, hill and gully, with old Snowy winding on
in broad bright curves towards the sea. He looked over all the beauty
and undeveloped wealth of Gipp's Land, which shall yet, please God, in
fulness of time, be one of the brightest jewels in the King of
England's crown, but with eyes that saw not. He turned towards the
snow, and mounting his horse, which he had led up the cliff, held
steadily westward.

His plans were well laid. Across the mountain, north of Lake Omeo, not
far from the mighty cleft in which the infant Murray spends his youth,
were two huts, erected years before by some settler, and abandoned.
They had been used by a gang of bushrangers, who had been attacked by
the police, and dispersed. Nevertheless, they had been since inhabited
by the men we know of, who landed in the boat from Van Diemen's Land,
in consequence of Hawker himself having found a pass through the
ranges, open for nine months in the year. So that, when the police were
searching Gipp's Land for these men, they, with the exception of two or
three, were snugly ensconced on the other water-shed, waiting till the
storm should blow over. In these huts Hawker intended to lie by for a
short time, living on such provisions as were left, until he could make
his way northward, on the outskirts of the settlements, and escape.

There was no pursuit, he thought: how could there be? Who knew of this
route but himself and his mates? hardly likely any of them would betray
him. No creature was moving in the valley he had just ascended; but the
sun was beginning to slope towards the west, and he must onwards.

Onwards, across the slippery snow. At first a few tree-stems, blighted
and withered, were visible right and left, proving that at some time
during their existence, these bald downs had either a less elevation
or a warmer climate than now. Then these even disappeared, and all
around was one white blinding glare. To the right, the snow-fields
rolled up into the shapeless lofty mass called Mount Tambo, behind
which the hill they now call Kosciusko,--as some say, the highest ground
in the country,--began to take a crimson tint from the declining sun.
Far to the south, black and gaunt among the whitened hills, towered the
rounded hump of Buffaloe, while the peaks of Buller and Aberdeen showed
like dim blue clouds on the furthest horizon.

Snow, and nothing but snow. Sometimes plunging shoulder deep into some
treacherous hollow, sometimes guiding the tired horse across the
surface frozen over unknown depths. He had been drinking hard for some
days, and, now the excitement of action had gone off, was fearfully
nervous. The snow-glint had dizzied his head, too, and he began to see
strange shapes forming themselves in the shade of each hollow, and
start at each stumble of his horse.

A swift-flying shadow upon the snow, and a rush of wings overhead. An
eagle. The lordly scavenger is following him, impatient for him to drop
and become a prey. Soar up, old bird, and bide thy time; on yonder
precipice thou shalt have good chance of a meal.

Twilight, and then night, and yet the snow but half past. There is a
rock in a hollow, where grow a few scanty tufts of grass which the poor
horse may eat. Here he will camp, fireless, foodless, and walk up and
down the livelong night, for sleep might be death. Though he is not in
thoroughly Alpine regions, yet still, at this time of the year, the
snow is deep and the frost is keen. It were as well to keep awake.

As he paced up and down beneath the sheltering rock, when night had
closed in, and the frosty stars were twinkling in the cold blue
firmament, strange ghosts and fancies came crowding on him thick and
fast. Down the long vista of a misspent, ruined life, he saw people
long since forgotten trooping up towards him. His father tottered
sternly on, as with a fixed purpose before him; his gipsy-mother,
Madge, strode forward pitiless; and poor ruined Ellen, holding her
child to her heart, joined the others, and held up her withered hand as
if in mockery. But then there came a face between him and all the other
figures which his distempered brain had summoned, and blotted them
out; the face of a young man, bearing a strange likeness to himself;
the face of the last human creature he had seen; the face of the boy
that he had shot down among the fern.

Why should this face grow before him wherever he turned, so that he
could not look on rock or sky without seeing it? Why should it glare at
him through a blood-red haze when he shut his eyes to keep it out, not
in sorrow, not in anger, but even as he had seen it last, expressing
only terror and pain, as the lad rolled off his horse, and lay a black
heap among the flowers? Up and away! anything is better than this. Let
us stumble away across the snow, through the mirk night once more,
rather than be driven mad by this pale boy's face.

Morning, and the pale ghosts have departed. Long shadows of horse and
man are thrown before him now, as the slope dips away to the westward,
and he knows that his journey is well-nigh over.

It was late, afternoon, before, having left the snow some hours, he
began to lead his horse down a wooded precipice, through vegetation
which grew more luxuriant every yard he descended. The glen, whose
bottom he was trying to reach, was a black profound gulf, with
perpendicular, or rather over-hanging walls, on every side, save where
he was scrambling down. Here indeed it was possible for a horse to keep
his footing among the belts of trees, that, alternating with
precipitous granite cliff, formed the upper end of one of the most
tremendous glens in the world--the Gates of the Murray.

He was barely one-third of the way down this mountain wall, when the
poor tired horse lost his footing and fell over the edge, touching
neither tree nor stone for five hundred feet, while George Hawker was
left terrified, hardly daring to peer into the dim abyss, where the
poor beast was gone.

But it was little matter. The hut he was making for was barely four
miles off now, and there was meat, drink, and safety. Perhaps there
might be company, he hoped there might,--some of the gang might have
escaped. A dog would be some sort of friend, anything sooner than such
another night as last night.

His pistols were gone with the saddle, and he was unarmed. He reached
the base of the cliff in safety, and forced his way through the tangled
scrub that fringed the infant river, towards the lower end of the pass.
Here the granite walls, overhanging, bend forward above to meet one
another, almost forming an arch, the height of which, from the river-bed,
is computed to be nearly, if not quite, three thousand feet.
Through this awful gate he forced his way, overawed and utterly
dispirited, and reached the gully where his refuge lay, just as the sun
was setting.

There was a slight track, partly formed by stray cattle which led up
it, and casting his eyes upon this, he saw the marks of a horse's feet.
"Some one of the gang got home before me," he said. "I'm right glad of
that, anything better than such another night."

He turned a sharp angle in the path, just where it ran round an abrupt
cliff. He saw a horseman within ten yards of him with his face towards
him. Captain Desborough, holding a pistol at his head.

"Surrender, George Hawker!" said Desborough. "Or, by the living Lord!
you are a dead man."

Hungry, cold, desperate, unarmed; he saw that he was undone, and that
hope was dead. The Captain had an easier prey than he had anticipated.
Hawker threw up his arms, and ere he could fully appreciate his
situation, he was chained fast to Desborough's saddle, only to be
loosed, he knew, by the gallows.

Without a word on either side they began their terrible journey.
Desborough riding, and Hawker manacled by his right wrist to the
saddle. Fully a mile was passed before the latter asked, sullenly,--

"Where are you going to take me to-night?"

"To Dickenson's," replied Desborough. "You must step out you know. It
will be for your own good, for I must get there to-night."

Two or three miles further were got over, when Hawker said abruptly,--

"Look here, Captain, I want to talk to you."

"You had better not," said Desborough. "I don't want to have any
communication with you, and every word you say will go against you."

"Bah!" said Hawker. "I must swing. I know that. I shan't make any
defence. Why, the devils out of hell would come into court against me
if I did. But I want to ask you a question or two. You haven't got the
character of being a brutal fellow, like O----. It can't hurt you to
answer me one or two things, and ease my mind a bit."

"God help you, unhappy man;" said Desborough. "I will answer any
questions you ask."

"Well, then, see here," said Hawker, hesitating. "I want to know--I
want to know first, how you got round before me?"

"Is that all?" said Desborough. "Well, I came round over Broad-saddle,
and got a fresh horse at the Parson's."

"Ah!" said Hawker. "That young fellow I shot down when you were after
me, is he dead?"

"By this time," said Desborough. "He was just dying when I came away."

"Would you mind stopping for a moment, Captain? Now tell me, who was
he?"

"Mr. Charles Hawker, son of Mrs. Hawker, of Toonarbin."

He gave such a yell that Desborough shrunk from him appalled,--a cry
as of a wounded tiger,--and struggled so wildly with his handcuffs
that the blood poured from his wrists. Let us close this scene.
Desborough told me afterwards that that wild, fierce, despairing cry,
rang in his ears for many years afterwards, and would never be
forgotten till those ears were closed with the dust of the grave.




Chapter XLIV



HOW MARY HAWKER HEARD THE NEWS.


Troubridge's Station, Toonarbin, lay so far back from the river, and so
entirely on the road to nowhere, that Tom used to remark, that he would
back it for being the worst station for news in the country. So it
happened that while these terrible scenes were enacting within ten
miles of them, down, in fact, to about one o'clock in the day when the
bushrangers were overtaken and punished, Mary and her cousin sat
totally unconscious of what was going on.

But about eleven o'clock that day, Burnside, the cattle dealer,
mentioned once before in these pages, arrived at Major Buckley's, from
somewhere up country, and found the house apparently deserted.

But having coee'd for some time, a door opened in one of the huts, and
a sleepy groom came forth, yawning.

"Where are they all?" asked Burnside.

"Mrs. Buckley and the women were down at Mrs. Mayford's, streaking the
bodies out," he believed. "The rest were gone away after the gang."

This was the first that Burnside had heard about the matter. And now,
bit by bit, he extracted everything from the sleepy groom.

I got him afterwards to confess to me, that when he heard of this
terrible affair, his natural feeling of horror was considerably alloyed
with pleasure. He saw here at one glance a fund of small talk for six
months. He saw himself a welcome visitor at every station, even up to
furthest lonely Condamine, retailing the news of these occurrences with
all the authenticity of an eye witness, improving his narrative by each
repetition. Here was the basis of a new tale, Ode, Epic, Saga, or what
you may please to call it, which he Burnside, the bard, should sing at
each fireside throughout the land.

"And how are Mrs. and Miss Mayford, poor souls!" he asked.

"They're as well," answered the groom, "as you'd expect folks to be
after such a mishap. They ran out at the back way and down the garden
towards the river before the chaps could burst the door down. I am
sorry for that little chap Cecil; I am, by Jove! A straightforward,
manly little chap as ever crossed a horse. Last week he says to me,
says he, 'Benjy, my boy,' says he, 'come and be groom to me. I'll give
you thirty pound a-year.' And I says, 'If Mr. Sam----' Hallo, there
they are at it, hammer and tongs! Sharp work, that!"

They both listened intensely. They could hear, borne on the west wind,
a distant dropping fire and a shouting. The groom's eye began to kindle
a bit, but Burnside, sitting yet upon his horse, grasped the lad's
shoulder and cried, "God save us, suppose our men should be beaten!"

"Suppose," said the groom, contemptuously shaking him off; "why, then
you and I should get our throats cut."

At this moment the noise of the distant fight breezed up louder than
ever.

"They're beat back," said Burnside. "I shall be off to Toonarbin, and
give them warning. I advise you to save yourself."

"I was set to mind these here things," said Benjy, "and I'm a-going to
mind 'em. And they as meddles with 'em had better look out."

Burnside started off for Toonarbin, and when halfway there he paused
and listened. The firing had ceased. When he came to reflect, now that
his panic was over, he had very little doubt that Desborough's party
had gained the day. It was impossible, he thought, that it could be
otherwise.

Nevertheless, being half-way to Toonarbin, he determined to ride on,
and, having called in a moment, to follow a road which took a way past
Lee's old hut towards the scene of action. He very soon pulled up at
the door, and Tom Troubridge came slowly out to meet him.

"Hallo, Burnside!" said Tom. "Get off, and come in."

"Not I, indeed. I am going off to see the fight."

"What fight?" said Mary Hawker, looking over Tom's shoulder.

"Do you mean to say you have not heard the news?"

"Not a word of any news for a fortnight."

For once in his life, Burnside was laconic, and told them all that had
happened. Tom spoke not a word, but ran up to the stable and had a
horse out, saddled in a minute, he was dashing into the house again for
his hat and pistols when he came against Mary in the passage, leaning
against the wall.

"Tom," she whispered hoarsely. "Bring that boy back to me safe, or
never look me in the face again!"

He never answered her, he was thinking of some one beside the boy. He
pushed past her, and the next moment she saw him gallop away with
Burnside, followed by two men, and now she was left alone indeed, and
helpless.

There was not a soul about the place but herself; not a soul within ten
miles. She stood looking out of the door fixedly, at nothing, for a
time; but then, as hour by hour went on, and the afternoon stillness
fell upon the forest, and the shadows began to slant, a terror began to
grow upon her which at length became unbearable, and well-nigh drove
her mad.

At the first she understood that all these years of anxiety had come to
a point at last, and a strange feeling of excitement, almost joy, came
over her. She was one of those impetuous characters who stand suspense
worse than anything, and now, although terror was in her, she
felt as though relief was nigh. Then she began to think again of her
son, but only for an instant. He was under Major Buckley's care, and
must be safe; so she dismissed that fear from her mind for a time, but
only for a time. It came back to her again. Why did he not come to her?
Why had not the Major sent him off to her at once? Could the Major have
been killed? even if so, there was Doctor Mulhaus. Her terrors were
absurd.

But not the less terrors that grew in strength hour by hour, as she
waited there, looking at the pleasant spring forest, and no one came.
Terrors that grew at last so strong, that they took the place of
certainties. Some hitch must have taken place, and her boy must be gone
out with the rest.

Having got as far as this, to go further was no difficulty. He was
killed, she felt sure of it, and none had courage to come and tell her
of it. She suddenly determined to verify her thoughts at once, and went
in doors to get her hat.

She had fully made up her mind that he must be killed at this time. The
hope of his having escaped was gone. We, who know the real state of the
case, should tremble for her reason, when she finds her fears so
terribly true. We shall see.

She determined to start away to the Brentwoods', and end her present
state of terror one way or another. Tom had taken the only horse in the
stable, but her own brown pony was running in the paddock with some
others; and she sallied forth, worn out, feverish, halfmad, to try to
catch him.

The obstinate brute wouldn't be caught. Then she spent a weary hour
trying to drive them all into the stockyard, but in vain. Three times
she, with infinite labour, drove them up to the slip-rack, and each
time the same mare and foal broke away, leading off the others. The
third time, when she saw them all run whinnying down to the further end
of the paddock, after half an hour or so of weary work driving them up,
when she had run herself off her poor tottering legs, and saw that all
her toil was in vain, then she sank down on the cold hard gravel in the
yard, with her long black hair streaming loose along the ground, and
prayed that she might die. Down at full length, in front of her own
door, like a dead woman, moaning and crying, from time to time, "Oh, my
boy, my boy."

How long she lay there she knew not. She heard a horse's feet, but only
stopped her ears from the news she thought was coming. Then she heard a
steady heavy footstep close to her, and some one touched her, and tried
to raise her.

She sat up, shook the hair from her eyes, and looked at the man who
stood beside her. At first she thought it was a phantom of her own
brain, but then looking wildly at the calm, solemn features, and the
kindly grey eyes which were gazing at her so inquiringly, she pronounced
his name--"Frank Maberly."

"God save you, madam,," he said. "What is the matter?"

"Misery, wrath, madness, despair!" she cried wildly, raising her hand.
"The retribution of a lifetime fallen on my luckless head in one
unhappy moment."

Frank Maberly looked at her in real pity, but a thought went through
his head. "What a magnificent actress this woman would make." It merely
past through his brain and was gone, and then he felt ashamed of
himself for entertaining it a moment; and yet it was not altogether an
unnatural one for him who knew her character so well. She was lying on
the ground in an attitude which would have driven Siddons to despair;
one white arm, down which her sleeve had fallen, pressed against her
forehead, while the other clutched the ground; and her splendid black
hair fallen down across her shoulders. Yet how could he say how much of
all this wild despair was real, and how much hysterical?

"But what is the matter, Mary Hawker," he asked. "Tell me, or how can I
help you?"

"Matter?" she said. "Listen. The bushrangers are come down from the
mountains, spreading ruin, murder, and destruction far and wide. My
husband is captain of the gang: and my son, my only son, whom I have
loved better than my God, is gone with the rest to hunt them down--to
seek, unknowing, his own father's life. There is mischief beyond your
mending, priest!"

Beyond his mending, indeed. He saw it. "Rise up," he said, "and act.
Tell me all the circumstances. Is it too late?"

She told him how it had come to pass, and then he showed her that all
her terrors were but anticipations, and might be false. He got her pony
for her, and, as night was falling, rode away with her along the mountain
road that led to Captain Brentwood's.

The sun was down, and ere they had gone far, the moon was bright
overhead. Frank, having fully persuaded himself that all her terrors
were the effect of an overwrought imagination, grew cheerful, and tried
to laugh her out of them. She, too, with the exercise of riding through
the night-air, and the company of a handsome, agreeable, well-bred man,
began to have a lurking idea that she had been making a fool of
herself; when they came suddenly on a hut, dark, cheerless, deserted,
standing above a black, stagnant, reed-grown waterhole.

The hut where Frank had gone to preach to the stockmen. The hut where
Lee had been murdered--an ill-omened place; and as they came opposite
to it, they saw two others approaching them in the moonlight--Major
Buckley and Alice Brentwood.

Then Alice, pushing forward, bravely met her, and told her all--all,
from beginning to end; and when she had finished, having borne up
nobly, fell to weeping as though her heart would break. But Mary did
not weep, or cry, or fall down. She only said, "Let me see him," and
went on with them, silent and steady.

They got to Garoopna late at night, none having spoken all the way.
Then they showed her into the room where poor Charles lay, cold and
stiff, and there she stayed hour after hour through