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Title:      Inheritors (1936)
Author:     Brian Penton (1904-1951)
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0301271.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          September 2003
Date most recently updated: August 2004

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Inheritors (1936)
Author:     Brian Penton (1904-1951)







FOR CECIL MANN




At last the old man died
And left his sons a legacy,
Of hate and fear and broken pride,
To wear beneath their finery:
And the dream's lie, and the pain
Of the seed that dies to be born again.

--ANDREW PRYOR.



The characters in this book are fictional.  So are the
institutions, mines, banks, etc., named and described.

This is not to say that the book is a work of imagination.  On the
contrary.  To acknowledge the memoirs, travel books, histories,
letters, and manuscripts on which the author has drawn for the
details of background and period would require a big volume.  He
would like to confess his indebtedness especially to Sir Timothy
Coghlan's Labour and Industry in Australia, to Professor Shann's
Economic History of Australia, to Ann Williams' history of the
Vigilantes of San Francisco, which opens up a little known by-blow
of Australian affairs, and to the truly splendid pictures of life,
industry, and the eccentrics of the outback to be found in the
writings of C. E. W. Bean.



CONTENTS

PART I: THE FAMILY AT CABELL'S REACH

1.  The Old Man
2.  Brand
3.  Climacteric
4.  Excuse to Live
5.  Vain Challenges
6.  Ideal
7.  James Makes a Discovery
8.  Larry Finds his Mates
9.  The Young Bull and the Old Bull

PART II: BLACK MOUNTAIN

1.  The Dirtiest Trick
2.  The Rush
3.  Apprenticeship to Life
4.  Partners
5.  Sambo Looks for the Stores
6.  Waterfall
7.  Chisellers
8.  Father and Son
9.  Father and Daughter

PART III: THE NICE PEOPLE

1.  James Hoists his Colours
2.  Shows Them
3.  Pulls them Down
4.  Wanted--a St George
5.  Larry at the Crossroads
6.  Social Lie
7.  Succubus
8.  Lady or ----?
9.  A Noble Brother
10.  A Sad Tale
11.  A Puzzle for Cash
12.  Sad Tale Continued
13.  Diversion at a Vice-Regal Ball
14.  Pariah

PART IV: SHEARERS' WAR

1.  Trouble in the Air
2.  Fight for a Country
3.  Utopists and Others
4.  End of Waiting
5.  No Escape
6.  Larry Tries Again
7.  On the Run

PART V:  LOVE AND INTEGRITY

1.  Aurelia's Daughter
2.  Poor Sick Little Harriet
3.  Splendid Fellow Cash
4.  Change of Heart
5.  James Invents a Father
6.  Larry's Wander Years
7.  Hobo's Blessing
8.  Flanagan Again
9.  He Loves me; He Loves me Not
10.  Mother and Daughter

PART VI: PIONEERS!  O PIONEERS!

1.  Bad Conscience
2.  The Dutiful Son
3.  Poor Old Dad
4.  Blind
5.  James Takes over the Good Work
6.  Husband and Wife
7.  Beginning of the End
8.  Old Men Remember
9.  Return of a Prodigal
10.  Sad Tale Concluded



PART I: THE FAMILY AT CABELL'S REACH



CHAPTER ONE: THE OLD MAN


Under the ferocious heat of the Queensland midsummer afternoon the
iron roof cracked and strained.  The family sitting round the table
in the big dining-room of Cabell's Reach stared down anxiously at
their plates as though expecting the flimsy shell of rafters to
splinter over their heads.  About them lay the debris of
festivities into which fear had intruded, petrifying them with
their hands full of tinselled paper and the gewgaws vomited by bon-
bons.  Against the distress, anger, or resentment on their faces,
these wilted proclamations of "Peace and Goodwill" and "Merrie
Christmas" had the sardonic prominence of some monument of human
aspiration and piety left standing in a landscape rifted by war.

Derek Cabell, glaring at the bowed heads of his wife and children,
brought his fist down on the arm of the chair again and cried,
"Shams!  Makebelieves!  Lies, I tell you.  Lies, lies, lies, like
everything else in the country."  He sucked the breath back through
his lips and held it for another long silence before he growled,
"Christmas!  In a hog-pen--in a den of thieves, upstarts, scum!"

Emma, at the bottom of the table, pushed a wisp of hair from her
damp face, glanced at him impatiently, a trifle defiantly, reached
out to pull the fly-cover over the remains of the pudding, and
edged into her chair again, primly upright with her hands in her
lap.  Beside her Larry, their eldest son, lanky, morose, dark,
turned a cup of tea in his big hands, sunburnt, work-stained, with
the tar caked under the nails.  Next to Cabell, Larry's younger
brother James fidgeted a finger under his high, stiff collar,
opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it, brushed a speck
of confetti from the lapel of his coat, and concentrated his
disapproving stare on the wall.

For half a minute longer the only movement at the table was from
the youngest boy, Geoffrey.  His plump hand stabbed a fork into
pellets of bread and his washed-out little eyes flashed sly glances
towards his father.  The girl, Harriet, on her father's right,
pressed herself back in her chair, with one hand on the edge of the
table and the other at her throat.  Her eyes were fixed on her
father's hands, clutched round the arms of his chair, the knuckles
shining whitely.  In the grip of those hands she seemed to find the
essence of some terrifying proposition.  Her eyes widened looking
at them, and the heat flush deepened on her face.

Thus they awaited the next spasm of a familiar outburst--brought on
them, as always, by some trifle, some chance word--the bitterness
of which confirmed dim suspicions they did not want to have
confirmed, rumours that threw the shadows of a dishonourable past
across their young lives.  Fights, bloodshed, trickeries, shameful
liaisons, and all the inhumanities of a time when men had struggled
for a foothold in the new land--out of this dark drama their
parents had come, scarred and stained by it, twisted and
embittered.  Strange things were said of their father, Rusty Guts
Cabell, who arrived in this valley in 1847, forty-one years ago,
with a handful of sheep and cattle, slaughted the blacks, fought
everybody, dug himself in--very strange things that threatened to
burden them for life.  But still stranger things loomed
intimidatingly behind the personality of the old landtaker himself,
behind his outbursts of irascible protestation.  His shifty eyes,
always sliding sideways to door and window as though he expected
someone to come creeping on him, his secretive habits, the ugly
marks on his face, but above all the eagerness to justify himself,
which spoke through all his outcries against the country--these
things hinted at alarming mysteries, mysteries he seemed always
threatening to reveal, to concrete as inescapable facts, as
disgraceful episodes in their own personal histories, that would
shut them off for ever from their fellows and from all hope of
fulfilling life's bright promises.

To Cabell, glancing from face to face, their silent opposition and
dislike were as tangible as the dusty air in his lungs, as the
glare of sunlight beating in through the rattans on the veranda.
It exasperated and saddened him, made him want to take hold of them
and shake them, made him droop his head and sigh.

He laid his hand palm upwards on the table in a gesture of appeal
and muttered argumentatively, "There are two sides to every story--
if anybody took the trouble to trace it back."

But in the rigid mask he turned on them he left no chink through
which they might have pried out the forgivable motives of his life.
His left eye was blind and patched with a raw-hide leather patch,
the right peered out through lids narrowed to a slit by forty-six
years in the sun of a land where an iron roof ten miles away
flashes back cruel thumbs of light to gouge the eyeballs.  Forty-
six years of the bullocking labour that makes a man drain even the
muscles of his mouth for the extra ounce of energy to move a bogged
dray-wheel, for the extra spark of endurance to survive some
inhuman ordeal, had pressed his lips into a thin, tight line.  A
weal bitten into his cheek by a myall's spear dragged his mouth up
at the left corner into a mirthless, supercilious smile.  Healing
dry and hard, the wound had left a furrow of red cicatrice to stand
out, like a fresh raddle stain, against the pallor of his face and
the inky blackness of his beard.  No flesh remained to soften the
gaunt cheek-bones or the line of his jaw.  His neck rose out of his
collar like a bone, bleached and stiff.  And dominating every other
feature--underlining, with its hawklike immensity and truculence,
the calculating glance of his eye, the challenging twist of his
mouth, the hostile jut of his chin--his beak of a nose curved its
sharp bridge out and down, and its indrawn nostrils suggested
strain, expectation, and ceaseless irritability.

The father's words passed a slight stir round the table.  Harriet
turned her eyes away quickly.  Larry grunted.  Emma's impatience
leaked into her fingers, become suddenly busy among the litter of
food and plates on the table.  Geoffrey slumped deeper into his
chair behind his barrier of sly glances.  But reaching James the
stir became articulate.  He licked his lips, pushed his chair back
and said, "Well--if we've finished I'll go and write some letters."

He spoke out the brutal intolerance of their youth resenting the
dead hand of the past and the law which visited the sins of the
father upon his children.

Turning in his chair to focus his one eye, Cabell found a jaw as
obstinate as his own pushed out towards him.

"No, we haven't finished, you puppy," he snapped.  "You'll please
to hold your tongue and listen."

The boy tried to hide the nervousness of his hands in his vast
cravat.  "But we've heard it before," he said doggedly, "and it's--
it's . . ."  But he baulked at telling the old man that his life,
with its stories of violence and suffering, was unpleasant to the
ears of a new generation, a new and gentler code of ethics and
social decency.  His eyes wavered and he finished, ". . . so hot
sitting in here."

Cabell sniffed.  "Too hot for your namby-pamby hide, is it?  Well
you'll get broken in.  You'll sweat the starch out of that clerk's
collar the same as I had to."

The fresh young face, with full red lower lip and clear eyes and
rounded chin, seemed suddenly to hang at the end of a long vista of
years--his own face before this country had clawed it.  "Perhaps
you don't believe I was ever the spit of you.  Ask your mother
here.  Or that you'll ever be the spit of me now.  Wait and see."
He found malicious satisfaction in the thought.  This damned
generation, with its fancy clothes and soft hands and everything
made clear and easy for it, was beginning to put on airs and look
down its nose.  But it wasn't going to be all so clear and easy as
that.  They'd learn.  Even saints learnt.  Even kings.  Life was
bigger than men's little jumped-up notions of themselves.  It could
give.  It could take away.  It could make and break.  So, musing on
this, he had a moment's relief from the obscure annoyance which
rose in him whenever he looked at their young faces.  Yes, they
would grow old too.  "Chockablock with skite," he growled.  "I
know.  I was your age once.  Think you know it all, that you'll be
able to get through life better than anybody before.  Think you'll
come out at the other end without a spot on your dandy shirt or
some mark like this about you."  He tapped the scar on his cheek.
"Huh, you'll find out in good time.  I was young once too."

Young once!  The rush of memories jostling his senses dazed him.
He felt cold English sea mists blowing in his eyes--saw the yellow
burst of broom on Dorset hills in May--himself as ardent with
unadventured hopes. . . .  Then he was lying on a roadside watching
convicts in dirty yellow jackets tramp through a haze of red dust--
he was shouting at a roomful of men with unfriendly faces--fighting
for his life--driving sheep, driving bullocks, driving men--always
angry and fighting and driving.  The vision of nearly sixty years
flashed by in less than the instant it took him to run his finger
down the furrow on his cheek, and left him clutching the overhang
of the table-cloth, with his heart leaping in his chest, as though
he had just crossed a precipice and only now seen the risk he had
run.  He had to clear his throat to say, with slow conviction,
"You're lucky if you don't end up on the gallows.  Just damned
lucky--that's all."

In outraged silence they considered this verdict on his life.  It
wrung from James the courage to protest, "But many men HAVE lived
upright lives and died honest."

"Not many round these parts," Cabell answered.  "I've seen it from
the start.  I've seen Pat Dennis in chains and now his sons could
buy me five times over.  I knew the McFarlanes' old man when he was
nearly on his uppers, and Sir Michael Flanagan when he had hardly
two pennies to rub together.  You don't think they lined their
pockets by observing the Commandments, do you?"

James flushed.  "Sir Michael Flanagan is--well, I like him."

"You do?  Never heard you knew him; did he tell you what he did to
me?"

James swallowed, flushed deeper, and talked at his plate.  "You
told us that--about the land and . . . all that.  But . . . perhaps
there was some mistake . . . misunderstanding.  Anyway, it was
years ago, before I was born, or Harriet, or Geoffrey.  We don't
think . . ."  He tried awkwardly to find some place for his hands
on the table, finally thrusting them away in his pocket.

The old man drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair and cleared
his throat impatiently as he always did when somebody else talked
too long.  "Well?"

"We don't think anything that happened so long ago concerns us.
Not properly speaking.  Really, sir, it's not just--nor proper.
You can't ask us to go about and not talk to anybody who quarrelled
with you before we were born.  You quarrelled with so many, sir.
We think . . ."

"To the devil with what you think," Cabell roared.  "I'm telling
you now for good and all, Flanagan's a Dublin rat and a shyster.  I
won't have his name spoken in this house again, see."

The water drip, drip, dripping into the earthenware jar of the
filter on the veranda, the scraping of the yellow bone studs in the
starched front of Cabell's shirt as he breathed, counted off twenty
slow seconds while the eyes round the table fixed expectantly on
James.  Then Geoffrey chuckled.  His little eyes, sideways on his
brother, glinted with delight.

"It's not old Flanagan you like so much, eh, Jimmie?  Tell the
truth, you humbug."

James glared.  "Hold your tongue, you."

Cabell shifted his eye questioningly between them, caught the
flutter of Harriet's finger across her lips, James's answering
frown.  Secret signs.  Conspiracies in his own family "Here, what's
this?"

"Some joke of Geoffrey's.  Nothing."

Geoffrey smiled.  "What about you sitting out on the veranda with
her at the Todhunters' eh?  That wasn't nothing."

"That's a lie."

"Sitting with who?" Cabell demanded.  "Out with it, boy"

"Jennis Bowen," Geoffrey said.

"Oh, Geoffrey!" Harriet cried.  "You sneak!"

Cabell gave his daughter a worried glance, then demanded of the
table at large, "Well, who's Jennis Bowen?"

"The Bowens of Penine Downs, of course," Geoffrey told him.

"Flanagan's granddaughter."

James began to rise.

"Sit down.  Explain yourself," Cabell said.  James glanced guiltily
at the others.  "It's nothing, sir.  Really it's nothing at all.
Can't a chap talk to a girl and . . ."  But he stopped and burst
out rebelliously, "Of course I sat with her.  Why shouldn't I?  I
said I liked Sir Michael and I do.  And I like her.  I intend to
ask her to marry me as soon as I . . ."

Cabell rose.  "A conspiracy right under my nose.  And with
Flanagan!  The fellow who robbed me of my land.  God Almighty, what
next?"

"It's no conspiracy," James protested.  "I've been intending to
tell you since I came home.  About the mine too.  Really . . ."  He
gestured apologetically.  "I can't go on studying mines, sir.  I've
got no aptitude.  Sir Michael has promised--suggested--if I study
law. . . .  He says he would use his influence to get me into
politics.  He is sorry for that quarrel.  Genuinely sorry.  He
would push me out of friendliness for you."

"Shut your mouth."  The old man cleared a space before him with a
sweep of his arm.  "You've been intriguing with Flanagan, eh?"

"I haven't been intriguing with anybody," James said sulkily.
"Jack Bowen is studying at the University.  I met him there."

"He'd've been digging peat in Irish bogs if his grandfather hadn't
stolen the price of a fare to Australia.  Studying--bah!  To become
another politician and parasite like his grandfather, I suppose.
Politics!  Rubbish, boy!  What this country needs is engineers, not
log-rollers."

"Jack Bowen is a gentleman," James said bravely.

"A gentleman whose grandmother came out with her convict husband
and had him flogged to death."

There was a nervous shuffling round the table.  It voiced itself in
James's grimace and cry, "For heaven's sake, sir, can't we forget
all that?  We--we want to start a fresh leaf.  That's all over and
done with."

"Hmn, well."  Cabell glanced furtively down the table to his wife,
and rubbed his beard.  "Yes, yes.  But they're not good friends for
you, that mob," he said hastily, "putting crazy notions in your
head.  You go straight ahead studying the mine business and we
won't say any more about Flanagan.  Understand?"

"But sir . . ."

"Don't argue.  You don't understand.  The teat's hardly out of your
mouth.  But you ought to have the nous to see that there are
millions in that mountain--millions!"  A curious elation came into
his voice, a kind of ecstasy.  "Before many more Christmas Days are
gone it will be mine.  Enough to buy a Carnegie out, to make a king
crawl after you."

"But sir . . ."  James looked at his father and protests,
arguments, appeals melted in his throat, the passion of his own
desires in his heart, as he realized once more how completely the
old man's wilfulness and greed blinded and deafened him to all
arguments and appeals and all desires except his own tremendous
lust to get and to hold.

"But we've got to hurry," he was muttering.  "Don't you see how
they're raking the stuff out as fast as they can.  Listen!"  He
grabbed James's arm.  "Hear them?"

Faintly across the valley came, from time to time, the rumble of
distant explosions.

"Even to-day--Christmas Day--they waste no time.  They rob me day
and night."

"And enrich you too," James said, more to protest against his
father's insane phantom-mongering, greed, and hatred, to the
service of which his life was being enslaved, than to state a fact.

"A paltry seventh share.  When it's all mine by rights.  I came
here first, didn't I?  I made this valley so men could live in it?
On that very mountain I shot down a tribe of blacks."  He dug his
fingers into James's arm.  "But I'll get rid of them--if I have to
gamble everything I own."

Emma's face, tattooed with brown wrinkles, stiffened.  "Gamble the
Reach?  You couldn't be so mad."

Cabell glanced at her, at Larry, sitting with his elbows on the
table, and his sullen face, propped in his hand, staring down at
his cup.  "By God I would."  And as a sort of challenge he said,
"I'd do anything.  ANYTHING.  Haven't you said it often enough, you
two."

Harriet covered her face with her hands and burst into tears.  "Oh,
what a family!  Is there never to be anything except strife amongst
us?  Even on Christmas Day?"

In dismay, anxiously, Cabell gazed at the crown of her head where
the rift of parting split the shining masses of brown hair, reached
out and laid a hand on her shoulder.  "You don't understand, child.
One of these days you'll be worth your weight in gold a hundred
times.  Then you'll know."

Under his hand, his eye brooding over her, she shuddered--and under
the eyes of her mother and her brothers watching her jealously.



CHAPTER TWO: BRAND


Harriet was nineteen then.  She was delicate, with a pale,
transparent skin and no blood in her lips.  In the crude old house,
hewn from the bush with axe and paling knife, its walls buckled by
the heat, its rats and cockroaches, its smell of sheep and dust and
sweating men, her peculiar beauty was as strange as the English
flowers that blossomed with sickly haste in the garden.  Cabell had
planted them there, against the background of grey scrub and grey
immense distances, coaxed them out of the unfriendly soil, with the
absorption of a man who tries to evoke dreams of an unattainable
beloved from a stick of opium.  Just so had he tended his daughter,
till she bloomed with an exotic delicacy and refinement which
fulfilled some frustrated longing of his own.  Governesses had
taught her a language her brothers and her mother could not
understand, tastes they could not share, so that she lived amongst
them, under his infatuated eye, almost like a courtesan he had set
up in his house.  And as something of the kind, vaguely, they
thought of her--as the symbol of an ungovernable lust in the old
man which no loyalty to them and no sense of propriety or honour
could restrain.  "He'd do anything.  ANYTHING," they said, and saw
all their personal ambitions being sacrificed to her.

The words were Joe Gursey's.  "He's barmy as I am.  He'd do
anything.  ANYTHING."

There was no doubt about Joe.  He was barmy right enough.  One of
the hatters, bewitched by the nibbling, bleating sameness of sheep,
loneliness, and the blind stare of the bush.  There had been other
things--back in the days of The System, when he came out in the
bottom hold of the old Osprey to do a stretch for inciting cotton
workers in Manchester.  He used to talk about them to Larry, in the
storehouse at the bottom of the yard, where the semi-darkness,
scented with leather, tobacco, and rum, was streaked by the silver
of light in the cracks of the wall.  There he was a mere agitated
heap of rags behind the counter, muttering an incessant gibberish
of hatred and self-pity, from which would emerge before the eyes of
the young boy a picture of a man cruelly maltreated by the fates
and his own kind--a picture as vivid and incredible as the face,
pitted, twisted, starved, that thrust suddenly from the dim shape
in the corner and hung for an instant in the beam of sunlight
striking across the gloom.

"'Give him a hundred at half a minute,' says the Beak.  They liked
to make it last, see?  So they took me out in the yard and there
was a cove walking back from the triangle with the blood squelching
in his boots.  A dog was licking it off the triangle and there was
as many black ants as you'd see on a meat-safe.  One of the police
that was taking me stopped to pat the dog.  'That's Darky's dog, a
bloody fine ratter,' he says.  Then they tied me up.  I couldn't
see nothing in the sun for a while.  Then I saw where the flogger's
foot had worn a hole in the ground with the last bloke. . . .  That
was in Bathurst courtyard, fifty years ago.  The first red back I
ever got."  He spat.  "The sods!"  His curse startled the motes
swimming lazily in the beam of light.  They whirled upwards,
settled again.  He sank back into his corner and brooded with his
chin on his chest.  For the rest of the day he would brood there,
in his rat-hole of malodorous rags behind the counter, till the sun
began to set.  Then he would come out into the yard, blinking at
the light, dragging one leg behind, casting myopic glances about as
he sneaked to the gate, down the slope, and into the scrub.  He
would skulk there for days, muttering, squaring up to the trees,
coming down to the river at night like the wild cattle to drink,
hiding himself, trembling, whimpering at the sound of Cabell's
voice shouting at cattle and men.  But sooner or later he would be
back at the kitchen door, his cabbage-tree hat in his hand,
cringing, whining, "Won't you give a bite of tucker to an old timer
that never wished you anything but well, missus.  I been walking
around a long time, missus.  Spare something from the dogs."

Emma would bring him the food hastily and thrust it into his hands.

"Thank you kindly, ma'am.  It's good to think there'll be more like
yourself.  It must be fine always being the way you are."

Emma was always pregnant in those days.  She would shut him out
quickly and go back to her work, but his voice would keep on for a
minute or two, ingratiating, but somehow indefinably abusive.

"Nobody knows how you deserve the good things better than Joe
Gursey, missus.  Old Joe knows a thing or two.  Breeds a bit
himself, he does--breeds lice.  Ha ha."

Emma would stand with her eyes sideways on the floor till his feet
padded away in the soft dust and they heard the door of the
storeroom bang.  Then she would turn to Larry.  "You keep away from
that trash or I'll know why."

But he could not keep away.  The intense imaginative life with
which he solaced his loneliness between a silent mother and a
scowling father took stuff to feed on from Gursey's mad tales.
Back in the storeroom he found Joe chuckling to himself.  "Breeds a
bit himself, I told her.  Breeds lice.  Ha ha.  Ach, the
bloodsuckers."

He munched the food noisily between bony gums, muttering, ". . .
country soon be lousy with his brats--fattening on it--eating it to
the bone--then hop it--back to England--chuck the bone to the
scum. . . ."  His hand appeared in the limelight of the sun,
clutching a mutton bone.  "They'll crawl for it.  'Thankee kindly,
sir'--lift their lids--'thankee for chewing all the meat offa our
bone.  For stealing our land.  For emptying our rivers.  For
burning our timber.  Thankee kindly, sir.'"

Larry ducked, and the bone hit the wall and rattled the bottles on
the shelves.

Out in the yard a man was hard at work filling the water-butts at
the kitchen door.  The old water joey, Tom, stood on three legs
quivering the flies off his rump till the butts on the sleigh were
empty, then turned and plodded down the slope and into the river,
knee deep.  The man, with his trousers rolled up his thin
horseman's legs, followed slowly, flashing the tin dipper in the
sunlight.

Gursey sneered.  "Look at that poor gazook, Sambo.  He'd call your
old man God Almighty even if he starved him to death.  Thirty quid
a year and tucker--the same tucker and the same amount they used to
give us in the bug-house."  He hitched himself up to the counter to
peer through the door at the valley spread out before them in a
sweep of blue shadows and grey, still scrub.  Away in the distance,
up near the Three Mile, men were digging post holes.  Their minute
immobility magnified the hills and the open grassland.  Here and
there sheep, cattle, horses, and the slow smoke of scrub burning
off.

"A hundred thousand quids' worth, and what did we get?  Damn all."
His voice that was like a bad-tempered dog's yapping went up half
an octave.  "There were five of us come here with him--me, Sambo,
Cranky Tom, Old Dan, and a bloke named Penberthy who made a pile at
Ballarat later.  The blacks killed Tom and Dan.  Sambo's working a
dead horse, in debt to your old man for the duds he's wearing.  And
here's me."

He pushed his grey face into the sunlight as if to lay before Larry
irrefutable evidence of his father's avarice.  "It isn't the way he
kicked me out in the flood the night you was born, after I brought
him here in the first place.  And it isn't the way he walks round
me in the yard now as if he might catch something.  He knows what I
know--that there's nothing behind his aristocratic mug now but
fear.  No, it's none of that.  It's just that once, ten years
before you saw the light, he slammed the door of chokey on me for
life.  I nearly had my ticket and he put a trick on me to make me
escape.  And a man can't escape.  There's nothing left for the man
that tries to but watching and waiting to be grabbed.  That's what
he did to me.  For the sake of a thousand sheep.  He'd've done it
for less.  He'd do anything.  ANYTHING."

A hard lump was beginning to form in the pit of Larry's stomach.
He flew into sudden rages, hammering his horse with the handle of
his stock-whip, slashing at the piled bales of wool in the
woolshed.  After that he felt easier for a bit.  Now, as he
listened to Gursey, it was like the pain of dry vomit.  He felt he
had to get something out or stifle.  Pity for Gursey was not the
only thing.  He felt he had known this all the time, as though
Gursey was only blowing the ashes from his own smouldering fire.
Things he had forgotten came back to him, and things he did not
know he had seen: his mother standing in a doorway; his father
watching her for a moment, then brutally pushing her aside so that
her head cracked against the wall and her hair tumbled over her
face; his father shouting at his mother and threatening her in
words he could not understand; his father sneering at her, "You and
your family--dregs!  Scum!"  His father looking at him with glassy
eyes, never talking to him as a son, calling him in another room,
"Your brat!"  He was eighteen now and still growing, with Cabell's
nose and the sensual lower lip of the Cabells, his mother's shiny
jet hair, sunken, secretive eyes, and gipsy skin.

Gursey watched him intently.  "And why?  Why wouldn't he stick at
nothing, even at robbing the shirt off Sambo's back, even at
murder?  Because we're just dirt to him.  So EVERYTHING HE DOES TO
US IS RIGHT.  That's bred in his bone."  He tapped Larry's arm.
"Mind this, lad, there's only two kinds here--them who came free
and privileged to make a pile and spend it in England, and them who
came because they had to--lags and the offscourings England had no
place for but a stinking back-street tenement in Manchester."  His
ranting voice died wearily in the back of his throat.  "We reckoned
it would be a new heaven, but we didn't reckon with your old man,
and his like."

Larry began to see his father as the apotheosis of all evil as he
had learnt to understand it from the affairs of the little world
locked in between the two blue ranges of hills.  This much he got
from listening to Gursey--a moral principle of hate, a rationale
for the hard pain sprung in his vitals.

He spent more and more time in the storeroom, sneaked down every
night to sit in the corner, where the guttering candle threw the
blackest shadows, and listened while the men, strolling up for a
plug of Barrett's Twist or a packet of Holloway's Pills, lounged
about arguing, grunting, telling tales in high, laconic voices.

They had a sheet of old newspaper, and Jack Berry, the stockman,
was reading bits out of the advertisements, laboriously, his head
sideways, his eyes screwed up, the paper tilted at arm's length
towards the light.

"One brand new music-box for sale," he read.  "Plays 'Killarney,'
'Home Sweet Home,' 'Irish Jig,' etc.  Quick sale, two pounds."

Monaghan the rouseabout listened with his mouth open, in guileless
wonder, Sambo, lounging cross-legged against the wall, in sardonic
disbelief.

"Ye could buy one of them things yeself then," Monaghan said.  "Ye
could too."

"Set of Bengal razors.  Good as new," Berry read.  "Five pounds in
leather case with velvet lining and mirror in back."

"Velvet!"  Monaghan made a papery noise with his fingers in his
beard.  "Velvet, eh?  Only a fiver.  A man could buy that."

"Effects of the late Sam Goossens, of Spring Street, Fortitude
Valley.  One silver watch and chain, one suit white ducks, one
straw hat and pugaree, one pair new spurs, three pairs boots, size
nine, one picture in gilt frame, one Odd-fellow's apron.  Widow
will take twenty pounds to clear."

"Twenty quid!" Monaghan exclaimed, goggling at the hitherto
unsuspected richness of the commodity market.  "And here's me
knocked down twice that much in one go down Mother O'Connor's last
month.  Next cheque I'm taking it down to Brisbane and buy some of
them things.  Jist you make a note of them names, Jack."

"Wouldn't catch me wearing nothing offera dead man," Sambo mumbled.
"It ain't safe."

"Aw, I ain't scared catching nothing off a music-box."

"Ain't catching nothing," Sambo said.  "It's the bad luck."

"Jeez!"  Monaghan detected the snag in a too alluring proposition.

"Had a dog here once," Sambo said, "belonged to a bloke named Herb
Tutt.  Spanker the dog's name.  Collie mongrel.  Tail as long's yer
arm.  Dog died--haunted Herb to death."

The light washed into Monaghan's mouth, gleaming on the two hard
ridges of bone that had grown to replace teeth long wasted away,
danced shadows across Jack Berry's red face and naked, hairy chest,
painted Sambo and his splendour of a stockman, red shirt, speckled
handkerchief, Wellingtons, snow-white moleskins, and snake-skin
belt, flat on the darkness.

"Bloke died in the scrub off Pyke's Crossing road.  Swaggie found
five bob in his pocket.  Swaggie kicked the bucket down the Five
Mile.  Tells Herb about the five bob to ease his mind, but Herb's a
ignorant sort of bloke and don't know no better--pockets it.
Coupla days after comes riding in hell for leather.  Reckons
something's after him.  'That there Spanker,' he says.  'Keeps
sneakin' round behind me.'  A week later, riding home in the
moonlight with the boss, sees a man get up on the track just ahead
with his arms stuck out--AND YOU COULD LOOK RIGHT THROUGH HIM."

"Jeez, a ghost?"

"Ghost!  Ain't no sich thing.  But the boss, he near had a fit.
Near pulled the mouth offa his horse.  That old chestnut mare it
was.  'Who's that?' he says.  'Speak!'  And it don't say a word.
Just stood there, shivering like a mirage.  And the funny thing was
IT DIDN'T HAVE NO FACE."

Gursey's rasping cackle made Monaghan jump.  "He didn't wait to ask
twice, I'll bet me bottom dollar."

"Whatyamean?  Boss ain't scared no man."

Gursey winked.  "Supposing it wasn't a man?  Being like a mirage
and having no face to speak of."  He cackled again at a good joke.
"Might've been something the boss hadn't expected to see again this
side of nowhere.  Might well've been."

"Eh?" Monaghan said nervously, and they all looked at Joe,
questioning.

Joe frowned and slid back into his corner.  "Mind your own
business."

"Supposing!" Sambo jeered.  "It wasn't nothing but that bloke Tutt,
see.  We went back in the daylight and found him lying on his back
along the track, dead's mutton.  Maggotty.  Boss seemed pleased.
Said it was an option on something.  But I reckon it was that there
Spanker.  Herb shouldna et that dog's tail."

"Et a dog's tail?"

"Yeah, that's what he done.  Got swept away in the Fifty-one flood,
night young Larry here was dropped.  Got washed up a tree, hangin'
on to Spanker and a billy.  Up there four days, starving.  Always
reckoned Spanker kept waggin' his tail in his face to tempt him.
So he cuts it off, boils it in the billy, gives Spanker the bones
to eat, and drinks the broth himself.  Anyhow, Spanker went mad
from the flies after and bit a sheep and the boss put a blue pill
in him."  He nodded sagely.  "Always said that dog had a lot of
dinger in him."

Jack Berry picked up the paper again.  "Those unemployed blokes
been making it hot down Brisbane," he said, "pelting the police and
shouting, 'Bread or blood.'"

Gursey stirred.  "They'll make it hotter one day.  Shouting don't
scare these lousy landgrabbers."

Berry's heavy frame rolled on the tea case.  "You talk a bit
fierce, Joe.  You talk a bit too fierce!"

Gursey's head appeared over the edge of the counter again.  The
dancing shadows and the perpetual twitch in his cheek--relic of his
last flogging, he told Larry--blurred the outline of his face, but
his eyes were vivid.  "A bit fierce, you think?  Well you've got a
lot to thank them for, Jack Berry.  You've got your woman here
maybe?  Or didn't I hear the boss saying, 'Be damned if I'll
provide you with rations for wife and brat?'"  He laughed
scornfully.

"That's a fact," Monaghan said.  "Stone the crows, a bloke ought to
fork out an extra ten pounds of mutton when a bloke get's a chance
to do a line with a shielagh."

"I don't hold with agitators," Berry said stubbornly.

"D'you hold with them bringing in Chows to do your job?"

"No, I don't hold with Chows in a white man's country."

"D'you hold with kanakas and coolies?"

Berry wriggled.

"Huh, you don't hold with nothing, but you lickspittle just the
same."

"Never lickspittled to any man," Berry said.  "It's no business of
mine how he runs his affairs.  Let him pay up my cheque next year
and nothing else concerns me.  I'm going across the border to get
some of that selection land and get married."

"You've got a mind like a sheep, Jack Berry," Gursey sneered.  "For
one thing thinkin' he'll let you get off with a full cheque,
putting up the price of your snout and pickles the way he does
whenever you get a rise out of him.  And thinking there'll be any
land but stony ridges waiting for you in New South Wales.  Or d'you
expect the squatters to come and ask you to pick the eyes out of
their runs, eh?  You're just gettin' the willies dogging sheep,
Jack Berry.  That's the matter with you."

"I'm going, anyway," Berry said.  "I been wanting a place of my own
and there's a lot like me."

"Hope they got more guts'n you," Gursey said.  "Or they'll soon be
piggin' it on rice like the Chows."

Berry shook his head.  "Never get anywhere being so fierce, Joe.
We're all men and every man's got his rights."

"No, we ain't," Gursey said, "we're men and bosses.  Two different
races.  One's got his fist on the land and the other's just let
work on it.  That's where the difference comes in."

"Yes, men and bosses," he said, when they had gone, stumbling each
in turn over the doorstep on feet unused to walking the earth, "and
there can't be nothing in common between us but hatred.  We're not
even the same nation of people any more.  We belong here.  But
they're never done thinking of the day they'll be back in the Old
Dart with a deer park and a mansion.  So they go away and change
back and their children ride with both hands on the rein and look
at you as if you were a shape in the air like Tutt's mirage.
Absentees--throwbacks, still hanging on to the land and gutsing up
the profits, milking the country and us."

The thick hot darkness outside, coagulated under the shards of
black cloud gathering for the rainy season, shuddered with spasms
of sheet lightning that lifted a hill, a black silhouette of
grasping boughs, a glitter of tree-tops from the nothingness and
dropped it back--a world agonizing to be born.

Larry tried to think of England but he could think only of his
father talking about it, half-shouting at his mother with an
exacerbated intensity of grievance, glaring at him as though
England was all the strife and bitterness between them.

"But you belong here, Larry," Gursey was saying.  "Weren't you born
with a birthmark?"

Larry shook his head.  "No, Joe.  I haven't got no birthmark."

"You've got a brand," Gursey said.  "You've got a birthmark all
right."  He grinned.  "Inherited it from your ma, you did."

The rains came.  The brown of the valley turned yellow.

"Looks as if it might be a good year," Emma said.  "The dam's
running over."

Cabell, in his rocking-chair on the veranda, stared across the
flooded country-side.  "Let it," he growled.  After twenty-nine
years he was tired.  Ahead he saw only a procession of years as
monotonous as the dribble of rain-drops leaking from the roof.
Lambing--shearing--carting wool.  Lambing--shearing--carting wool.
Year in, year out. . . .

One night Larry woke and heard between the gusts of rain hissing on
the roof the peevish cry of a baby, the sound of his mother
twisting and groaning in the next room.  The other babies were
wailing in their crib.  Emma was forty-nine then.  She had a hard
struggle before she could cut the cord with her scissors and take
the baby to her breast.  A girl.  There were three babies now.
Larry watched his father fondling them.

"Harriet, that's what we'll call you, little one," Cabell said,
dandling the sickly newly-born.  "And when you grow up we'll send
you Home to kiss the Queen's hand and marry the handsomest man in
England."  And looking at Emma he repeated it defiantly.  "So we
will, by God."

"Your ma's done her dash," Gursey said.  "She won't drop no more."
He was lying in his bunk wrapped up to the ears in blankets.  His
gums chattered with ague and the tic leapt up in the chalky skin
hanging loosely on his skull.  His voice kept breaking back into a
hoarse whisper.  "But she never had more than one of her own kind
and that's you.  These others--he'll take care of them.  You see.
They'll be Cabells.  They won't have the brand on them."  He lifted
himself on his elbow and let the blankets fall.  "See?" he said.
"See the brand?"

Larry's eyes widened, looking down at the thin shoulders calloused
like the hide of a working bullock with the weals of many
scourgings.  "My mother!" he said scandalized.

"They stripped her in the streets of Sydney and the mob stood round
and watched her flogged.  She was a real devil, was Em Surface,
your ma."

He died the same night, leaving Larry the legacy of an inexpugnable
hatred that had kept him alive through sufferings unimaginable to
generations to come.  In Larry's brooding imagination his wrongs
and humiliations became the dark shadows of Emma's own story, which
she kept locked up behind her squawlike face.  He soon forgot
Gursey, but the pictures of floggings and starvings bit deeper into
his mind.  It was his mother he always saw in those pictures in
place of Gursey, and in place of the English mill owner, the
English judge, the brutal soldiery, the squatters using the
convicts like nigger slaves, he saw his father.  Pity, shame, and
hatred burnt him up--pity for his mother, frail in her simple blue
dress of a vanished fashion, with big, ugly hands hanging at her
sides, wrinkled face, everlasting patience--shame for his birthmark--
hatred for his father.

Cabell, on the homestead veranda, watched Sambo and Jack Berry
shovelling the damp clods on to Gursey's grave behind the woolshed.
"They're dying out.  The times are changing.  Maybe my luck will
change, too," he murmured to the child in his arms.  He was always
a great believer in omens.



CHAPTER THREE: CLIMACTERIC


"Bah!  It never changes," he muttered in the next breath.  He was
forty-seven then, suspended in the climacteric of scepticism that
is the spiritual malaise of middle age.  He could remember so many
years of promise, so many promising omens--shining baits to trick
him into optimistic drudgery.  "Like the carrot they hang in front
of the donkey to keep it jogging," he used to say.

Looking back on his life now he felt as though he had been risking
his neck to climb the wrong peak.  But the disillusion was too
profound for regret or self-reproach.  There was even a sort of
comfort in it, revealing as it did the process by which the blind
will of the seed, to flower and fruit and give forth seeds to
flower and fruit again, got itself fulfilled.  What was the use
fighting any more?  The aspirations men fought for were only the
lure of powers that breathed their incense from the luxuriant
vitality of the thing they had created, from the sweat and
suffering of men.  "Like the dung I put on the flowers to buck them
up," he told himself.  "That's what these silly damned notions
are."

Once he had tried to believe that it was his own will that had made
his life what it had been, even what he wished it had not been.
Then he had had to explain why, after nurturing it for twenty-three
years, he had suddenly renounced a dream of going Home to end his
days in the placid security of a little village by the sea.  If he
had not willed it so then he would have had to admit that such
things came about in the adventitious way of a world bereft of all
rhyme or reason, or that Emma, weaving her own ambitions into his
life, had trapped him, led him by the nose.  Had either of these
been true what could he have expected from the future?  Scarcely
less alarming than the potentialities of a madhouse given over to
the caperings of Chance, was the alternative which delivered him up
as a bond slave to Emma's will.  No, no, that could not be true.
It MUST not be true.  It had all been his own doing.  To prove this
he crushed out of his heart the resentment which festers from
defeated longings, made gruff overtures of friendliness, let a
spurious kind of intimacy grow up between them, half-ashamed after
years of estrangement.  Behind all this, really, was his desire to
forget what he had lost, to placate the still watchful schemer in
her eyes, to salvage his courage and battered self-respect.
Besides, he was tired.  He wanted a truce.  He wanted rest.

So Emma was pregnant again.  To him the children came as a
diversion in the arid monotony of a life from which the spur to
think and act had vanished.  To Emma they represented God alone
knew what blind urge of fertility ebbing to its close, what obscure
motive of triumph or revenge, or what merely provident expedient
against the unpredictable vagaries of his spirit.  But he accepted
these new responsibilities without any explicit comment, except a
vague expectation as her time drew near, a vague surprise when he
found her up and about the house again, as well as ever, and,
perhaps, a vague annoyance.  As the sight of Gursey, emerging from
his annual bout of fever, a little more wizened, a little more
cadaverous, but still vividly, ominously alive and full of spleen,
wrung a spurt of indignation from him.  But it passed, swift and
gestureless, leaving him, stretched out in his rocking-chair on the
veranda, to contemplate the valley with the blank, uncritical stare
of resignation.

His comfortable theory of triumphant wilfulness had given way by
then to an immense lassitude and indifference, for he had begun to
perceive, in his twenty-five years of hard graft, a constant
pattern of hope and disappointment, hope and disappointment--the
subtle disappointment secreted in success.  He was like a gambler
to whom the inevitability of mischance has been mathematically
demonstrated.  His power to project new plans, ambitions, wilted
before irrefutable logic, which tore the veils from his future and
showed him its years, days, hours, minutes spread out in the same
sterile and fore-ordained design.  He still bullied the men,
weighed their rations in skinflint ounces, haggled with carters,
cursed the shearers, but merely from habit and without zest.  He
ought, he told himself, to begin fencing properly like Miss
Ludmilla over at Ningpo, ought to build a new shearing-shed, ought
to do something about the offal dump.  But he did nothing, except
by fits and starts, sunk in a terrible stasis of boredom after a
generation of days filled every moment with action, dreams, and
conflict.  His cattle wandering off into the bush with the wild
scrubbers to return, within a few years, to shaggy, humpbacked
primitivism, the shed leaning eastwards from the winter westerlies
in rain-sodden, ant-eaten decrepitude, the rats obscenely squealing
and fighting around the offal dump in the dusk only served to
deepen the conviction that effort was wasted in a world given over
to inevitable decay.  The kangaroos began to come back and ravish
the pastures and the neighbours' fences.  There were quarrels.  He
didn't even want to quarrel.  Yes, he ought to do something, he
agreed.  He hired men to sink the post holes but forgot to hire men
to cut the posts, put it off till the holes had caved in.  The
dingoes came down from the hills again to prey on his sheep, the
blacks came back too.  He sent the poison cart out every day for a
month, then forgot about it for the next six.  One day he went down
to the blacks' camp and chased them all across the river with his
stock-whip; a week later they were crowding round the table where
he was salting meat, stealing bits under his nose.

"Aw, patch it up," he said when Sambo came to tell him that the
white ants were getting at the stockyard.

"Oughta see the yard they just put up over Black Rock," Sambo said.

"Iron bolts 'n' all.  Putting up a cement washpool too.  Got a ram
paid a hundred quid for."

"More money than sense," Cabell said.

"We usta have the best stockyard round here," Sambo said.  "Usta
have the best rams 'n' the best horses too."

"Damn you and your rams," Cabell flared with the irritability of a
sick man protecting the blessed coma of half-death from the lure of
a resurrection to life and suffering.  He brushed Sambo's equine
face, with its caricature expression of outraged pride, from the
empty, the mercifully inhuman field of his vision--that blue-grey
arc of sky and hills at the end of the valley where nagging
thoughts and all fretful sense of personal being dissolved in
vistas of immemorial unchange.

If Sambo's alarums had disturbed him at all it would have been only
for the moment.  The times conspired to bemuse him with a false
security.  They were bad years: rains were poor, banks dried up,
squatters who had borrowed heavily had to sell out and go looking
for a job.  Dirk Surface, Emma's brother, failed for a mortgage of
ten thousand and Winbadgery was sold.  Bellamy drank himself out of
Black Rock and one of the new agricultural companies bought it.
Down in Brisbane the Government was bankrupt, men were rioting for
bread.  By contrast Cabell, owing no debts and getting fairly good
prices for his wool--thanks to years of careful breeding--seemed
almost to progress.  At least no urgent cause for thought or action
came to rouse him from the trance in which he tried to forget the
debacle and horror of the past and to sterilize the future of all
motive to hope and struggle and be again disappointed.

Emma watched him, marked how his beard grew shaggier, how his teeth
blackened and broke away, how he wore trousers frayed at the heel,
saw the casual habits of inert and aimless reflection gaining upon
him.  Her eyes, blurred in their cavities of bone and wrinkles,
like the foreknowing eyes of an old cat, watched him sideways
through the doorway as she worked in the house, covertly under
their lids at the meal-table, her only comment the satisfied
silence of her catlike waiting.  One, two, three years went by.
Then, "You better quit wasting time and learn some real work," she
told Larry, sullenly, in the usual way of their intercourse.

Through the kitchen door and across the half-darkness of the living-
room they could see Cabell mummified in his chair.

"That drivel of Gursey's won't help you much when you're boss
here," she said.

"I won't ever be boss here, Gursey says."

"You'll be boss here.  One day.  You better get some real work and
learn how to be boss.  You'll want to do better than your uncle
Dirk."

"I won't be boss if I live to be a hundred, Gursey says."

"You'll be boss before you've learnt how to be if you don't start
soon."

They were husking corncobs.  Their heads were close together, his
skin fresh and clear like a dusty ivory--the gipsy blood of the
Surfaces--hers wrinkled in deep, tiny wrinkles, like taut wires
holding her jaw tight so that she to speak out of the corner of
lips scarcely movable.  They looked as if they were hatching a
plot, as if they knew it.

After a while Larry slunk out with lanky, loutish clumsiness, his
face, as always, bent sulkily to his feet plodding in the dust.  He
too had a crisis of age to fight through or be damned.  It took him
to the men's hut where the plump face of Berry's bride-to-be,
smudged with Berry's thumb print, smiled down, drifted him out
again to lounge over the fence and watch the sun sink into the gold
and opal Valhalla of gathering clouds, left him stranded in the
black chaos of night and his own frustration.  Turning back to the
house he saw his father's head cameoed against the light from the
living-room.  He hesitated, thinking of the long legs sprawled
across the top of the stairs where he must go.  The knotted dry
retch of anger came up in his stomach again, then he sheered off to
the back door.

But under Emma's eye and nagging he abandoned his life of pottering
about the backyard and the scrub, and rode out with the men.
Cabell saw him driving in horses for the muster, and at the muster
saw him swinging his whip easily in the thick of the dust and
moiling bullocks.  He was down at the washpool working the race and
through the shearing slaved at the woolpress with the dogged
industry of a paid hand.  He took the poison cart out again, hunted
the kangaroos with Sambo, put new posts in the stockyard, patched
the shed.

"A proper Currency Lad," Sambo said, approvingly.  "Give him a
paling knife and a bit of number nine wire and he'll build a humpy
fit fer Queen Victoria."

The genius of the bushman was in him.  He would fit a tyre on the
wagon, forge a horseshoe, turn a tea case into a piece of furniture
for his mother, break a horse, douche a sick cow, mend a saddle,
pull out a tooth for Jack Berry, carve his rosewood whip-handle and
inlay it with mother-of-pearl, kill the ration bullock, salt the
meat, tan the hide and make a pair of shoes out of it--all in the
day's work.

These glimpses everywhere he went of Larry working among the men as
one of themselves but with an undefined authority startled Cabell
under the swathes of preoccupation.  He did not understand why
until one day he rode down with a buyer from the meatworks to see
the men cut out a mob of fats.  There was one large bullock, a big
red brute, which the buyer particularly wanted, but it kept in the
centre of the mob and Sambo was a long while bringing it up to the
coachers, which were grazing a few yards from where Cabell and the
buyer sat watching on their horses.  Suddenly it sheered off and
made, head down, for the scrub by the river.  Cabell pulled his
horse around and galloped across to turn it but he was careless and
it swung aside and got past.  He sank his spurs and tried again,
and again it beat him.  He tightened his knees then and was riding
full tilt, angrily, at its shoulder when, in a flash of chestnut
horse and red shirt, a man rode past, cutting Cabell off from the
bullock and shaking him in the saddle, took the bullock like a
football from Cabell's toe, forced it round, and sent it with a
flick of the whip into the middle of the quiet mob.

"God blast you and damn you for a clumsy dog," Cabell roared, then
cantered out of the dust and saw Larry riding away, half-turned in
his saddle to look back.  The sweat and dust were caked on his
face, a mask to the shine of his eyes, from which the excitement of
riding had burnished the dull, sullen glaze.

They exchanged a quick glance, with the ground racing away between
them, then Larry rode back to the men, leaving Cabell to swallow
the dust from the chestnut's hoofs as he yelled, "Be more careful
where you're riding."

The buyer laughed.  "Bit too smart for you now, Cabell.  Getting
stiff like me.  Ah well . . ."

"What?  Getting stiff?  Me?"  Cabell frowned at an impertinence.

"Ah well, got to give the young'uns a chance," the buyer said.
"It's a young man's country.  They don't do the old man in with a
club like in some places I been--that's something."

But glancing round quickly at the valley, unchanged in its grey
antiquity since first he saw it thirty years ago, frozen in some
instant of past time, fossilized in time like a fern frond that was
green when this stone was a handful of living, breeding mould,
Cabell could not believe in his fugitive mortality, the sudden
image of himself laid out, the shiver of fear in his bones, the
wind of fear rising suddenly in his ears.  "Huh," he muttered.
"Huh."  But the wind, like the breathless, fierce wind in the
shell, persisted in his ears for days as he sat in his chair on the
veranda and watched Larry among the men in the yard, head and
shoulders above them now, strong as a young bull; as he watched him
eating at the table with eyes downturned, sulky and evasive eyes
like Emma's, face like Emma's, patinaed like Emma's, with a soft
black beard already beginning to lick sideways from his habit of
pulling at it with his right hand; as Larry passed him in the yard,
his hat pulled over his eyes which he kept fixed on his feet
striding along in eager search of the promising but elusive
destination for which youth is always setting out.

"Damn it all, I've got another thirty years' work in me."  Work?
And here a new resentment came to plague his long hours on the
veranda.  Work for whom?

That woman's brat--thought he'd gone through all that--chucked
England, exiled himself--just to provide for him.  That woman's
brat!  Well?  For what had he "gone through all that?"  A question
the tone of his disillusioned musings was not likely to solve.  A
rich station, ten thousand pounds' worth of freehold, fifty
thousand acres of leasehold, thirty thousand sheep, cattle and
horses--what was to become of all this when--well, one day he would
have to decide.  "That woman's" other brats, crawling about their
mother's feet in the kitchen, were just as little his, just as
discouragingly, when he thought of them, the symbol of aspirations
come to nothing.  He let his hand slide down his beard and lie
upturned and inert in his lap.  Oh, well, one of them would have to
get it.  And the brief revolt of the life in him against the daily
maturing death in him ebbed away, and the drumming in his ears
ebbed away, into the horizon where his thoughts, ambitionless,
automatic, decomposed in silence and haze.



CHAPTER FOUR: EXCUSE TO LIVE


A month later the girl was born.  She had brown eyes and a round
chin and a short, straight nose--unlike the others, her mother, or
Cabell except in the colour of her eyes.  But hers were darker than
his.  Stopping at Emma's door to take a casual look at the newly-
born--the last, he guessed, from Emma's drained lips and jaw gone
loose after a night's struggle--he was swept out of the room, where
the heat-and-rain-buckled timbers of the walls were like trees
still writhing from the brutal axe scars on them, back into a room
with damask curtains climbing to the sky-lofty ceiling of a
childhood memory.  Between himself and the direful immensity of the
room hung brown eyes and the reassuring smell of something known
and trusted.

"I'll be jiggered.  My mother had eyes like that."  He picked the
child up awkwardly and held it at arm's length.  "And a nose and
chin like that too.  No, that's Harriet's chin."

The child began to cry.

"Harriet, that's what we'll call you, little one," he said.  "And
when you grow up we'll send you Home to kiss the Queen's hand and
marry the handsomest man in England."

He had a vision of a young man dressed in the Cossack trousers and
Byronic cravat of the thirties, wooing a girl in the green gloom of
a lilac bower.  In this vivid picture he could see the medallion
holding the low neck of the girl's dress, the dark up-curling side-
levers on the young man's cheek, could hear the birds, smell the
lilac.  Not far away the sea shuffled the pebbles on the beach in a
long, slow, heavy surge like the pounding of his own heart.  Why,
yes, it was himself--that afternoon. . . .  Or had such a thing
ever really happened?  He shook his head--as if the confusion of
dream and reality could be so easily dissolved.

It was Emma's eyes looking up at him which turned the scent of
lilac into the smell of mud steaming under the floorboards, the
soft rush of the sea into the sound of the rain thrashing the iron
roof and making the river hiss and splutter as though each drop was
a globule of melted lead.  She looked at him through eyes smoky
with pain, like eyes of glass that had been breathed on, and closed
them again, leaving him in a muddle of angry emotion--exasperation
at the sight of her thin body persisting through yet another
ordeal, revulsion from the thought that here was just one more of
"HER brats," resentment when he remembered the sacrifices which
permitted her to look at him in that reproachful way, as though to
wish for anything apart from her wishes would be to rob her of her
just dues.  Ach, she was thinking of that sulky brute out there!
And his face hardened as he stared at Larry for a moment before
leaning over the bed to say, "So we will, by God."

But his life did not change.  He was content to dandle the child
and think, watching the valley and its sheep fulfil their yearly
cycle of breeding and wool-growing through seasons invariably fair,
"Oh, well, there'll be enough for her.  And I'll make my own will,
confound them."  The pleasurable malice of that thought, as he saw
Larry toughening into manhood and authority under the eager
watchfulness of Emma, reconciled him to the futility of the too
splendid hopes into which he had been betrayed the morning Harriet
was born.  But sometimes, in a pang of previsioned pain as he felt
these same hopes stirring again out of some inextinguishable core
of folly in his heart, he would not look at the child for days.  Or
was it that he did not put them away, that he had never put them
away, that hopefully he was trying not to hope, afraid to arouse,
by the merest whisper, the merest gesture of desire, the diablerie
of bad luck always impending. . . .

But something was astir in the country now.  He heard no more of
bankrupt squatters and mobs rioting for food.  The road that wound
in from the south, across the valley, and out to the north-east and
the Never-Never between Black Mountain and its sister at the end of
the valley forty miles away, was busy again with the coming and
going of wool drays, travelling cattle, people in search of land
and work, drovers, swagmen, and "lone lean bushmen on lean horses
with lean dogs trotting in their shadows."

A swaggie came to the kitchen to beg.  "I been walkin' round a long
time, missus.  Could ye spare me that much beef and tea ye wouldn't
miss it in the fine place ye've got here, bless ye!"

Emma went to get the things and he unloaded his bluey and sooted
billy and sat down on the doorstep.  The children gaped shyly from
their mother's skirt at his face like an old boot withered round
the two, still bright, brassy sprigs of his eyes, his cabbage-tree
hat with corks dangling from the brim to keep the flies off, his
clothes held together with bits of fencing-wire.

"Fine kids ye've got there, missus.  And I've got an eye for fine
kids.  Wasn't it me, Pat Doolan, cured a deaf and dumb kid they had
up Mulberry Creek on the Downs there that they never thought would
speak a Christian word.  'Git along wid ye,' says I, 'that's no
bewitch'un that.  It hasn't got the dead face of one on it.  'Tis
nothing more,' I says, 'than a kid ye've never spoke baby lingo to.
That and nothing more,' I says.  For the da and ma was Scotch
folks, missus, that never spoke a word to each other because of the
terrible loneliness that was over the place they was in and nothing
new happening from one shearing to the next."

Emma gave him his meat and tea.

"Bless ye, missus.  Thanks, now.  And would ye have a bit of snout
knockin' around the boss didn't have no use for?"

James ran across to the store to get some tobacco.  "But it ain't
the same up there no longer," the swaggie told Emma as he stowed
the meat away in his sack.  "With them putting down the track for
the steam horse, it's like being in the centre of town if you live
on the Downs.  Not like in days gone by.  With fences and suchlike,
and gentlemen jackeroos dressed up to the nines and smoking the
best Manilas after tea, and telegraph poles, and new houses, and
them bringing in new-chums fast enough to empty the Old Country.
And money to burn, missus."

"Is that the way it is?"

"That's the way it is.  I've been humping my drum up along the
Darling and Balonne and Condamine these ten years and never seen
such things."  James brought the tobacco.  "Thank ye, missus.
Thank ye now.  I'd be ashamed to nip ye for one thing more if it
wasn't for matches."

Emma gave him matches.  "You didn't hear tell of railways coming
out this way, did you?"

"Didn't I too?  Why, ain't they bringing a line in to Pyke's
Crossing.  There won't be enough Irish navvies to knock them hills
flat at fifteen bob a day.  Millions to chuck away, missus.
Millions. . . ."

Larry lounging behind the flame-tree in shyness of a stranger,
Cabell pottering about his rose-trees in the garden, listened to
the wheedling blarney of the swaggie, who went on for a long time
pouring into Emma's ears the tales of great new roads, great new
cities, of a great wave of prosperity looming, which fed her dream
of Larry's great future wherein her heart found recompense for its
old pain.  He talked of the gold pouring out of Gympie, the new
buildings in Brisbane, the toffs at the Melbourne Cup, the
steamships which came through the Suez Canal to Australia in a
third of the time the old Indiamen took.  He told them of houses
the rich squatters had built, "as big as an Englishman's castle in
Ireland," of land selling at a hundred pounds a foot in Brisbane,
of civilization spreading everywhere across the Continent, "even to
the banks of the Barcoo, even to the verge of the Nullarbor Plain."

And when he had shouldered his bluey and departed, plod-plod-
plodding, with the terrific persistence of a fly in a bottle,
towards a blue horizon always unfolding on a blue horizon, Cabell
and Larry stared down the road till he was no longer visible in
dust and distance.  The image he had evoked, of a teeming, fruitful
life lapping round the hills that shut them in, stirred both of
them and left them both frustrated--the one because he was young
and afraid, the other because he was no longer young and therefore
more afraid.

But more swaggies came, and bullock-drivers, the much-travelled men
of the bush, and the strange nomads who worked a while and wandered
on, stockman to-day, miner to-morrow, navvy, cook, or well-sinker
the day after, and they were all excited at the things they had
seen--steam trams in Sydney, telegraphs, railways.  They were germ
carriers, men on whom something like a fever was working--the fever
of a boom.

The landtakers, like Cabell, for whom the country would always be
alien, grey, inimical against the sharp image of England's
loveliness, were dying out and with them the weariness of those who
had had to fight too much.  The old hands like Gursey were going
too and with them the despair of those who had had to suffer too
much.  There was a new generation, and for the young life is always
full of promise, and death is a mirage, and wisdom, disillusion,
and despair have to be won afresh by every son.

After the dark years of the sixties the price of wool was shooting
up again.  They had at last discovered how to send meat to England.
People were clamouring for land.  "More land."  Investors were
clamouring for borrowers.  "Take our money."

"Oh, I've seen it all before," Cabell muttered to himself and it
was like a prayer to some fiend not to tempt and torment him any
more.  "Wasn't it the same in Fifty-one when they discovered gold?
In Sixty when they made a new State?  Didn't I let them pull the
wool over my eyes?  Bah, it never changes."

But it changed as he watched.  Merchants were opening up big stores
in the very street of Brisbane where, thirty years before, he had
seen convicts march to a flogging.  The telegraph had conquered the
Dead Heart of Australia.  Politicians were talking about filling
the empty spaces with a hundred million people.  Squatters were
borrowing easy money, fencing, cutting down costs, growing richer
than he could believe.  "No more droughts," everybody said.

"Why not let Larry boss the board at the next shearing?" Emma said.

"Larry?"

"He's old enough."

"And old enough to sign my cheques and pay the undertaker, I
expect."

"We won't live for ever."

"I'll live long enough to see that brat doesn't grab everything!"

Harriet was four years old now.  Her eyes were bigger and browner,
with a faint iridescence in the core of the iris--the spit of his
mother, he thought.  She was already frightened of him, his big,
black beard and the way his one eye, with the blood spot in the
white, like a second pupil, stared into hers.  He went down to the
offal dump and got some knucklebones and polished them and taught
her to play.  He took her out walking on his shoulder.  But
whenever she could she wriggled out of his hands and hid in Emma's
skirts.

"Governess, refined widow.  Newly arrived in Colony, seeks country
employment," he read.  "Best English references.  Mrs Alice Todd,
G.P.O., Brisbane."

He rode to Brisbane with the wool and found Mrs Todd extremely
refined and not too young--forty or so.  While she was packing to
join him at the coach for Pyke's Crossing he wandered round the
sprawling, busy town, lost his way in its streets crowded with
women in styles grotesque and unexpected, men in white ducks and
straw hats with pugarees.  On the top floor of the Town Hall he
found his old lawyer Samuelson, face still yellow and damp with
beads of viscous sweat as though he had just been sprayed with oil.

"Could a man borrow ten thousand?" Cabell asked.  "Don't say I want
it, but could he?"

Samuelson rubbed his hands.  "Get you twenty thousand on your
security.  When you want it, eh?"

"I don't want it.  And I've got to catch the coach now.  Good day."

Mrs Todd, jolting among her trunks and wicker baskets in the back
seat of the chuck-me-out, which was all he could hire in Pyke's
Crossing where the coach stopped, babbled her protests about the
heat, the dust, the flies, and the barbaric roughness of colonial
roads into a deaf ear.  He was looking ahead where the sun was
setting low down on the earth in a transparent haze of golden bars
and red dust rising from the mobs of cattle, the drays, and the
horsemen pressing north.  In this alchemy of light even the gums
and the muddy waterholes were transmuted to gold, even the flesh on
his hands.



CHAPTER FIVE: VAIN CHALLENGES


Cabell confided an idea to Mrs Todd.  "In two or three years' time
I'll send you home to England with the girl.  I've got a sister
down in Dorset.  This is no place for a girl to grow up in."

So Mrs Todd lived in hope.  She endured her yearly dose of blight,
like grains of hot sand in the eyes, her yearly dose of the shakes,
the appalling fecundity of little black ants, rats, flies, and
snakes.  More difficult to bear was the malice of Emma.

"That's nice lace you've got on your dress there," Emma said,
pointing down, and Mrs Todd looked and saw a band of fleas, two
inches wide, round the hem of her tarlatan skirt.

But she endured the fleas, consoling her loneliness in this
outlandish place with rambling stories of the way she had walked in
the fields around Hampstead when she was a girl, picking buttercups
in May.  In England it was always May.

Harriet clung to her.  Then she clung to Harriet, when five years
had passed and Cabell, sooty from a bushfire, stinking of foot-
rotting sheep, of the sweat of horses, stopped at the door of the
schoolroom to watch Harriet's little hands struggling up and down
the keyboard of the piano and say, "In two years' time I reckon you
ought to be about ready to go home to your Aunt Harriet with Mrs
Todd here."

Harriet sat on the high piano stool with her red-stockinged legs
dangling and looked down at her hands in her lap.  She had her
mother's trick of submission behind a dead face.  But Cabell saw
only her brown eyes and straight nose like his mother's--her
difference from the rest.  Two years.  Twenty-four months more.  He
picked her up and kissed her on the lax mouth.  "In ten years it
won't be me kissing you but some flash young new-chum, eh?"

When he was gone Mrs Todd burst into tears.  "He promised--he
promised . . ."  She did not change perceptibly, but by the end of
the year no longer worried the boys about holding their forks too
far down and the way they said "school," and "girl," about the
fleas on her skirt and the rats nesting in her boxes.  She gave up
laundering her stiff tarlatan and her innumerable white petticoats,
and, as though only the starch in them had supported her, collapsed
into a shape, like a cottage loaf, of three super-imposed spheres
of skirt, bust, and damp face.

She drank a lot of tea.

"You drink too much tea," Cabell told her.  "That's what's the
matter with you.  Look in the pot and you'll see what your insides
are like."

"It isn't all tea, Papa," Geoffrey said, ingratiating Cabell's
indifference towards his sons.  "There's a lot of Hollands in it
too."

"What's that?"

"Mummy gives it to her.  I saw."

Mrs Todd cowered.  "A lady needs something to sustain her."

"Even a LADY," Emma said, "that's been brought in to teach the
children their mother eats like a bullocky."  And a rare smile
moved her lips, silky and dry like the skin on an old scar.

So Mrs Todd departed next morning, protesting feebly the deceit and
injustice of Cabell.  Finally he lost his patience, picked her up,
bundled her head first into the buggy beside Sambo, then lashed the
horses across the rump and sent them careering down the hill.  The
buggy skidded, lurched, rattled over the bridge, and carried Mrs
Todd, ludicrously clutching her hat in one hand, Sambo with the
other, out of sight in the scrub.

Harriet went away from the window quickly and sat down in the
corner of the schoolroom pretending to sew her sampler.  But she
watched the door out of the corner of her eyes and her hands shook.
When her father came in, still angry, slamming the door, she
started to cry, with a detached, uncontrollable passion.  It was
not for Mrs Todd that she cried.  It was the sound of Mrs Todd's
dress ripping from waist to hem in the scuffle, the thud of
Cabell's whip-handle on the horses' ribs, and the wild scamper of
hoofs across the bridge which filled her with a sick fear.  That
image of her father abandoned in violence would never be wiped out.

"Harriet, little Harriet!  What's the matter?"  He bent over to
pick her up, but her body stiffened in his arms, her teeth clicked
together, and she vomited.

Emma nursed her for a fortnight.  When Cabell came near the bed she
edged towards her mother.  "Go away," Emma said, "you frighten the
child."

"By Christ," he said, "don't you try to turn that child against
me."

"Don't be a fool.  Go away.  You only make her worse."

He dashed off to Brisbane to get another governess, and the air in
the house seemed suddenly easier to breathe.

James ran wild.  He was ten years old, with a high-boned face,
freckled and gay, the Cabell nose and jaw, and the mischievous,
head-erect stare of a young wild bull.  Sitting at the window of
the schoolroom through the dusty afternoons he used to see Larry
riding about the valley.  He wanted to be like Larry, who could
stick any buckjumper, shoot a kangaroo from the saddle, or jerk a
steer off its feet with one gigantic throw.

He had soon become sick and tired of Mrs Todd's maunderings and the
futile labour of copying out her pothooks and hangers.  The smells
in the valley excited him, the smell of the grass burning, the
smell of cattle.  When the rain, breaking the long dry season, had
departed, the sky was a hazy saffron-blue, like a soft plush
cushion in which the whitewashed, red-roofed buildings of the
station had embedded themselves.  The shallow water lay about in
sheets of broken mirror with the grass growing out of it and a
strange, reversed world inhabited by dim birds.  In the midday heat
a musky smell came up from the flocks of glossy ibises standing
motionless in the water.  From relief after the long months of dust
and heat and the weeks of rain and mud he wanted to rush out and
throw himself on the ground, alive with new grass--feathery wild
parsnip, sweet marjoram, that scented his hands, pigweed with
sappy, red stalks.  His voice was hysterical.  He wanted to chatter
to his father, press himself close to his mother.  But the self-
absorbed lives of an adult world excluded him.  The personality of
his father looming grimly over their uneasy meals, of his mother
remote and busy among clattering pans, brooms, and torrid ovens, of
Mrs Todd dankly obsessed by her hard fate, kept him in rebellious
submission.

A day would come when the black shadows in the scrub and the lace
of sunlight on the lagoon at the Three Mile were irresistible.  Mrs
Todd would look everywhere, silently for fear of letting Cabell
know that he was wagging it, and not find him.  He was wandering
about in the bush looking for honey, or cat-fishing with Sambo,
listening to Sambo's stories of horses and dogs and blacks.

"Oughta see them myalls down the coast fishin'.  Got two first
fingers off.  Tie a bit of hair round them till they rot, then put
their dook in a bull-ants' nest and let the ants eat the flesh.
Better to hold the lines with they reckon."  Sambo spat in the
yellow water.  "Aw, but they ain't proper myalls.  Oughta seen them
me 'n' yer old man shot.  Burned 'em after--and the grease run out
like butter . . ."

"My father must've been--fierce," James said.

"Fierce?  By gum, if he went in a paddock with a sapling in his
hand all the horses'd jump the fence.  That's how fierce he was.
Just oughta see him stoush a bloke!"

"Can he fight?"

"Pity you wasn't here to see when he put Black Jem, the bushranger,
in his bunk and when he stoushed that bloke M'Govern."

"Who was he?"

"A bloke."  Sambo pulled his line in and baited it again slowly.
But his lower lip overlapped the upper for some time after it had
helped to solve the difficulty of making a lump of damper paste
stick on a hook.  "A FUNNY bloke," he said.  "Come up from the
south and started bossin' yer old man round.  Bossed me too!  Then
he mizzled."

"Did they have a fight?"

Sambo frowned.  "Of course.  Bloke don't mizzle in such a hurry he
leaves a three-year-old chestnut behind without being hoofed out.
Mind you, no one actually seen it.  Night the old humpy burnt down
it was, and yer old man was just gettin' better from bein' blinded.
Fell in a bush they reckoned.  That was funny too.  Never heard
of yer old man fallin' offera horse before.  Funny the way he
looked when we see that cove without any face down Ningpo way that
night just after.  And funniest of the lot a bloke leavin' that
chestnut . . ."  He was silent for some time, pondering.  Then he
shook his head and abandoned a mystery for an indisputable truth.
"Chestnut's best kinda horse.  Gimme a chestnut any day."

These stories scared James.  All at once the glitter of the day was
tarnished over.  "I better go home," he said.  He sneaked into the
house and hid in the room where he slept with Geoffrey, heard Emma
setting the table for dinner, Cabell washing his hands behind the
kitchen, heard them sitting down.  Silence, except for the flies
and the drip-drop-drip of water in the earthenware filter.

Then Geoffrey spoke up.  "Miss Todd couldn't find Jimmie this
morning.  But _I_ know where he is."

Nobody encouraged him.

"He's hiding in the bedroom, if you want to know."

"Sssh-shhh!  Eat your dinner," Mrs Todd said hastily.

It was not that they expected Cabell to get up and belt James.  He
did not expect that himself exactly.  He didn't know what he
expected.  He was terrified of a violence--rumoured, sensed in the
cringing of men when Cabell shouted--as vague and terrible as the
past from which came Sambo's stories.  The ugly scar on Cabell's
face, the patch on his eye, the other eye that seemed to
concentrate all the light that had once been in two, the ruckles of
purple flesh on his arm where a fire had scorched him, were a hint
of this past and of the terrific spirit which had endured it.  But
it was hidden away, buckled down, and that was what frightened
James most of all, for Cabell, biting his teeth on a retort to
Emma, thrusting his fist in his pocket when Larry answered him
back, seemed to be buckling down the devil in his heart.

All day he hid about the house.  The smell of the meat roasting for
tea made a painful hole in his stomach, but he was afraid to come
out and get the food Emma left about for him.  He was hiding among
the flower-pots at the end of the veranda now.  The sun was going
down.  Monaghan was bringing a mob of sheep across the flat: the
yap of the dogs and his shrill voice wailing "Hoy-hey," breaking
down into a rumble of bass snarls at the dogs, "Gedaway back, Blue.
Gedaway back, blast yeh," rose clearly through the froth of noises
marking the end of the day--the rhythmic creak-creak, creak-creak
of a wagon coming through the scrub, Sambo and Larry bailing up a
wild cow by putting a noose over its horns and hauling it in on the
windlass, the calf's frantic moaning, the rattle of buckets, the
tame magpie whistling in the garden, cockatoos squabbling like bad-
tempered old women, the dry patter-patter of sheep on dusty ground,
the clink of trace chains in the yard, cicadas, a stir of breeze in
the trees like leaves turning in a book, voices. . . .  This
excited chatter of men and animals and birds finishing another day
swirled round the house but did not enter it, as though the place
had a hard shell to protect the soft kernel of its silence, spongy,
rotten, yet ever threatening to give forth some monstrous,
unexpected foliage.

Cabell came up the steps and settled into the rocking-chair with a
sigh.  An oven door slammed in the kitchen and James heard the
clatter of his mother's big, greenhide boots in the passage.

She stood in the doorway watching the back of Cabell's head.  The
wrinkle-wires jerked in her face.

"Well, what d'you want?"

The silence, that always seemed about to burst and give forth some
rank growth, like the yellow nut-grass that sprang up in the
semidarkness under the house, clotted around them.

James shivered.  "They're going to have a row," he thought and felt
the earth tremble under him as if its pillars were being shaken.

"Well?"  Cabell turned in his chair.  "What the devil are you
standing there for?"

The sun flamed behind the silhouette of his skull for a moment, as
though trying to keep itself in the sky against the slow, pitiless
will of the night closing in upon it from the east, then sank into
the hills in an impotent fury of crimson light which left his face
ashen and pinched.  The wrinkle-wires relaxed and Emma laughed
abruptly.  "Oh, well, you can't go on for ever--no more than the
sun can.  And you can't take it all with you--that's certain."

"Bah!" he turned away.

She laughed again, without mirth.  "You had your chance and you
passed it.  Now it's too late, see.  TOO LATE."

"Stop your clack!"

"I won't stop my clack," she flared up.  "You seem to forget that
I'm not here on charity.  I EARNED it.  And Larry's my son.  To
hell with your fancies."

"To hell with you," he shouted, but lowered his voice and began to
argue, waving his hand against the washed-out blue of the western
sky.  "Christ, it didn't give you a lien over my thoughts and
feelings for the rest of my life.  I'm grateful for what you did
that night--whatever it was--but . . ."

"But--be damned.  I'm not talking about liens and gratitude.  I'm
talking of what is.  You know what happened.  I know what happened.
And nobody else knows."

The cow went on moaning bleakly for its calf.

"And so what?"

Emma was a long time answering.  "Nobody wants to die in their bed
more than I do," she said at last, "but Larry's my son.  He's
nearly twenty-seven.  It's time you gave him a chance.  If you
throw away what's his by right--what I earned for him that
night . . .  Oh, I don't know what I'd do."

He jumped up and the chair began to rock, with an increasing tempo,
as if moved by the vibrations of his anger--then stopped.  The
bodiless shadow jerked a cardboard arm across the dwindling arc of
light in the sky.  "Nonsense, woman.  You're obsessed.  Larry'll
get his due.  Why not?"

"Obsessed?"  Emma sniffed.  "And you?"

"The run's been going to ruin and now I'm putting things shipshape
again.  Is that anything to make a song about?"

"And the next thing you'll be up to your neck in debt with the
place overstocked, thinking to make a fortune and serve some barmy
idea you've got about Harriet.  Then there'll be a drought and
where will Larry be?  Or Harriet or anybody?"

"You talk as if I didn't make this place."

"You'd've made it different if I'd had a say.  And now I have."

"You can mind your own business."

"That's what I'm doing.  So watch yourself, Derek Cabell.  You're
not the only one with notions on this earth."

The darkness came in from the east like a tide, in long, slow,
peaceful waves.  A man marched up the slope under a load.  As he
approached the cowyard the cow bellowed again and tore at the rails
with her horns.  The man stopped to throw a stone at her and came
on.  It was Sambo.  He went round the back of the house and knocked
on the kitchen door.  "Where y'want this veal hanged up, missus?"
The sickly-sweet smell of fresh blood filled the house.

"You'd do anything.  ANYTHING," Emma said.  "And so would I."

Her feet clattered back to the kitchen and James lay shivering
quietly, crushed by the discovery of his world's instability in the
hands of adults, passionate, untrustworthy, given over to a
struggle in which HE counted for nothing.

Cabell was talking indignantly to himself, "Bleed me, would
she . . ."  But James did not want to hear.  He let himself over
the edge of the veranda and crept off to a new hiding-place.

When Cabell had gone to bed Emma dragged him out from under the
house where he had fallen asleep among the weeds and the big,
golden fungi.

He wanted to hang on to her and be caressed, but she dug bony
fingers into his arm and shook him till his teeth rattled.  "You
little fool!  D'you want him to SEE you and belt the hide off you?"

At the age of ten James lacked the key to the drama of his fears,
longings, and day-dreams.  Sometimes he saw himself rounding up a
mob of scrubbers single-handed and heard his father say, "That's
fine bit of work!"  Again, he dreamt that his father chased him
with a stock-whip and his mother got between them and snatched the
whip from Cabell.  But at the breakfast-table next morning, when
Cabell kept the impassive profile of scar, hooked beak, and eye-
patch turned to him throughout the meal, the sharp terrors of his
adventure died away in anticlimax.  He returned to the schoolroom,
subdued by the implacable indifference against which the challenges
of his awakening ego were hurled in vain.



CHAPTER SIX: IDEAL


Geoffrey was no comfort to his loneliness among these self-
engrossed adults.  He hated Geoffrey--his plump, clean face and
piggy eyes; hated him for the way he curried favour with Mrs Todd
by copying twice as many pothooks and hangers as James, for his
sneaking tittle-tattle, and for running unasked to fetch his
father's cigars and boots, so that Cabell had begun to expect it
and to repay him with a grunt from time to time.

He wanted to be like Larry--gruff and independent and unafraid.

The shearers had knocked off for the day.  "Who told them to?"
Cabell demanded.

"I did," Larry said.  "I told them."

"What for?"

"The wool's wet."

"What if it is?"

"Men can't work wet wool."

"Men can't work my----.  See here, you get those men back to work!"

"Men can't work wet wool."

"Men can work what I pay them to work.  When you pay them it'll be
time for you to say when they can't work."

Larry did not answer.  His face was swollen and heavy with
stubbornness.

"You get those men back to work.  D'you hear?"

He did not answer.

"D'you hear?"

James's teeth chattered.

Larry got up and went out.  They watched him ride up the valley
past the shearers' hut without stopping.  The shearers sitting at
the door listening to a man play his accordion waved as he passed.

Cabell grabbed his hat, rushed down to the shed, flung the
accordion away, and in ten minutes the men were back at work.

"From now on you're a paid hand here," Cabell told Larry.  "I give
all the orders here."

"Men ain't dogs," Larry insisted.  "They can't work wet wool."

James tried to make friends with Larry, but it was not easy.  Larry
was sullen and knew about two hundred words, which flowed only when
he was talking to his father.  Knowing Geoffrey, he was suspicious
when James hung round the door of the stockmen's hut in wet weather
watching him and the men padding their saddles, mending shoes,
frying pancakes, and playing "flip the sixpence."  They had a
chalked circle in the middle of the floor with a sixpence in it.
The game was to turn the sixpence over inside the circle with a
stock-whip.  James crawled about on the ant-bed floor recovering
the sixpence from corners.  Once he got too close and Larry's whip
took a sliver of skin off his cheek.  From his idea of his brothers
and their relation to Cabell, Larry expected James to run wailing
to his father.  He was surprised to see Emma shake James for five
minutes without finding how he came by the wound on his cheek.
Cabell did not even notice it.

"Want a whip?" Larry offered the next time he met James in the
yard.  "Might make you one some time."

James hung back.

"When I get time," Larry grumbled, retreating into his sulky shell
at once.

But the ice was broken.  He made the whip and let James help him,
showed him how to stretch the bullock-hide on a wheel and cut out a
circle, round and round, till there was one long thong which they
pulled out and straightened; how to make the sixteen strands, thick
in the middle, tapering at the end, so as to get a good belly; how
to scrape off the hair and pare the greenhide into beautiful, thin,
flat strings as pliable as a kid glove.  When the whip was finished
and greased, with a strip of red silk handkerchief in the end for a
cracker, Larry said, "Better not let HIM see it.  He'll take it off
you."

James glanced at the house where his father sat in the rocking-
chair with Harriet on his knee.  He was tempted to tell Larry what
he had heard, to share with him the burdensome knowledge that some
awful disaster overhung their lives.  But shame at revealing, even
to Larry, that these demi-gods were capable of quarrelling and
cursing each other made him blush.  From some budding sense of
social prudence he turned away and mumbled, "Who, Papa?  Oh, he
wouldn't."

Larry was quick to feel the boy's evasion.  He turned away.  "Don't
suppose you'll ever have any use for it, anyway," he said,
"learning lessons from that old crow.  You and Geoffrey'll be like
them Jardines out Narrow Gut that live in Sydney and never come
near the place in case they get their hands dirty."

He stalked off, and James ran after him.  "I don't want to learn
from books," he said.  "I want to be a stockman like . . ."  He
stammered, blushed again, "like Sambo."

Larry glanced at him doubtfully, shyly.

So when Cabell was away getting another governess James ran wild in
the valley, and this incoherent friendship deepened--eager and
admiring on James's side, heavy, sullen, monosyllabic on Larry's.
They went shooting quail together in the dry thistles, went out at
night after scrubbers, laid baits for dingoes, hunted kangaroos.
Larry showed him how to tan a kangaroo pelt and make a knife-sheath
out of it afterwards.  On Sundays, when the stockmen prepared
themselves to appear in dandified glory on Monday morning, James
helped Larry polish his four-and-a-half-inch silver spurs and
concertina his Canton moles to remove every speck from them, and on
Monday morning at daybreak he would be down at the hut to see Larry
put on his new elastic-sided boots, greasing his feet with tallow
first because boots had to be a size too small so as to fit like a
glove.  The vitality of James's mind, wanting to know everything--
why cattle stampeded at the smell of blood, how to break a horse
in, how to make a cabbage-tree hat, why the sheep would not eat the
clover till it dried off--stirred Larry's gloomy, inturned
thoughts, and replaced, with a pride in knowledge he had not been
conscious of, a resentment against the kind of learning Mrs Todd
had been brought to drive into his brothers and sister--a learning
that was drawing them farther and farther from his mother and
himself.  Already James's accent was clipped and slightly
domineering, strange among the slurred, lazy voices of the men.
Geoffrey's was more so.  But it seemed less important to Larry when
he saw James trying to copy the way he rode or cracked a whip.

They were sitting down to dinner one day when the chuck-me-out
creaked wearily up the slope.  Cabell handed out a stocky, rawboned
woman in a gaberdine dust-coat.

The new governess.  "Miss Montaulk," he introduced her.

Her eyes looked fixedly just over Emma's head and her face, like a
jailer's, repudiated the stare, disparaging and hostile, which Emma
returned.  She discarded her coat, washed her hands, and ate her
meal without a glance at Emma.

As he was taking her to her room after dinner Cabell stopped at the
door and told James and Geoffrey, "You two had better get ready.
I'm taking you down to school in Brisbane to-morrow.  Miss Montaulk
can't be bothered with you."

When he returned Geoffrey bawled, "I don't want to go.  Don't make
me."

Cabell did not notice.  He was absorbed.  He seemed anxious, and
paced up and down the veranda looking out at the valley.  Emma grew
restless too, and snapped Geoffrey into silence.  She recognized
symptoms she had not seen for years.  Instead of lying down after
dinner with a paper and cigar, as he usually did nowadays, Cabell
went to the stable and saddled a horse.  Emma followed him.

"Where're you going?"

"Up the river.  Where d'you think?"

"What for?"

He climbed into the saddle and turned the horse towards her, but
she stood her ground.

"Well, if you want to know I'm going to look at some country I
bought."

"What country?"

"The scrub."

She stared.  "Going in for selling firewood?"  But she could not
hold her anger back.  "SO YOU'RE GOING TO START IT AGAIN!"

He spurred his horse and pushed her aside.

"Where did you get the money?" she yelled after him.

"Picked it up on the road."

"Thief!" she screamed.  "That's what you are.  Robbing your
children."

"I can look after MY children," he yelled back, and rode out of the
yard.

Now there was a revolution at Cabell's Reach.  Fencers and well-
sinkers were busy over the run.  A gang of Chinese came to ringbark
and burn off ten thousand acres of scrub, which carried the Reach
back to the boundary of Black Rock on the south.  Cabell brought in
new rams and culled over his flocks and shot the scrubbers.  Where
the delicate native grasses had been eaten out he planted rich
English grass.  His appearance changed.  He got a set of false
teeth, had his beard clipped, and began to wear the starched shirt,
low stiff collar, narrow black tie pinned with a golden horseshoe
and frock-coat which he wore to the end of his days, long after
such clothes were out of fashion.  He stopped thinking about the
past and its lessons, and the peace of a will resigned to death
departed from him.  If he sat down for five minutes he would start
to fidget.  "Wonder if those cattle are all right on that grass?"
He would send for Sambo.  "Think we better move those cattle?
Can't you smell a fire?"  His superstitions returned.  Thirteen
sheep in a pen or a ladder put up where he couldn't help walking
under it made him storm.  He dressed in a ritualistic order: tie,
collar and shirt first, then trousers, then waistcoat and coat,
then socks and shoes, and if anything compelled him to change the
order went round all day expecting the skies to fall.  His meanness
returned too.  His room at the end of the veranda was soon full of
scraps of iron, bits of leather, rusty nails, boards, sheep-skins,
and old clothes.

"Never know when it might come in useful," he grumbled.  He pared
shavings off the men's rations, and instead of giving them flour
worked out a combination of bran, pollard, and a third flour.
"Headstones," the men called the heavy black damper this made, and
threatened to strike, but Sambo laughed them out of it.  "What's
the matter with it.  It stays.  This fancy bread--you wouldn't know
you'd eaten it."

"He's cheating you," Larry said.

Sambo was indignant.  "Never been a better boss'n Rusty, and any
bloke calls him names gets a head put on him."

That year Cabell cut five pounds off Sambo's wages.  Yet Sambo's
faith was unshaken.

But the most significant development at the Reach was the wing he
built on to the rambling, low-roofed homestead.  Here Harriet lived
under the jailer's face of Miss Montaulk.  The room was walled with
rough slabs and overfurnished.  There was a grand piano, a Turkey
carpet, a pair of big, blue vases with sticks of pampas, gilded
mirrors, screens, a sofa, a suite of near-Sheraton, and lace
curtains.  All this display around a little girl with startled eyes
and pasty face seemed crazy, slightly evil; perhaps because the
magenta hills and sky pressing against the window and the
omnipresence of half-wild animals and men caked in mud and dust
revealed, through the room's lavish incongruity, a mind lost in a
fixed idea; perhaps because of the personality of Miss Montaulk, as
inevitably a part of its furnishings as the lock in the door
between the little girl and the life outside at which she was
always peering through the curtains.

"Bête!  Imbécile!"  Miss Montaulk scolded her.  "Leave prying and
do your lessons or God will make your wicked back smoke with his
branding-iron like those cattle down there."

She had a jagged, dull voice.  She spoke little, but always
irritably in a hissing accent, slightly foreign.  Crapulous,
untidy, and precise in niggling details, just like a jailer, she
was utterly unlovable.  Her hair, which hung in rat's tails over
her ears, had been dyed some time ago and since had grown three or
four inches, so that the top of her head seemed to be covered with
a dirty-white, inadequate skull-cap.  Her upper lip had a black
moustache, bristling and tough from treatment with depilatories,
and black hairs grew out of the moles on her neck.  She had a nose
like a pug dog's, with the nostrils turned out, and strong buck
teeth.  She was not old, thirty or so, but it was impossible to
imagine that she had ever been young, smelt young, or looked out
with any but repellant eyes, which peered fixedly at people with
quick appraisal, the eyes of an old bawd Cabell would have
recognized if he'd been a bit less innocent.

She was a French woman and a Protestant, she said, and had good
references.  But most important, she was repulsive--no child could
grow to like her--and she was capable, she assured Cabell, of
protecting a charge against disagreeable family influences.

"I want her to be fit to take the place that belongs to her when
she goes home in a few years' time," Cabell said.  "I want her to
play the piano, to converse--you know, all the fandangles."

Miss Montaulk understood.  "And you want her protected."  (She said
"brodected" and it had an ominous sound even to Cabell.)  "A girl
needs careful protection in this place.  The men!"  She shivered.
"So bold!  So animal looking!"

"She's only a child yet."

"But she will grow up.  And young ladies!  I've had experience."

He felt shy before her intense, questioning gaze.  "Ugly bitch," he
thought.  "Like a hungry snake.  Well, that's all to the good."  He
was thinking of Emma and Mrs Todd.

Now the silence of the house, buried in its grove of orange, plum
and peach-trees, was complete.  Emma lived in the kitchen (she
refused to have maids in the house), Larry with the men, Cabell
among the cattle and sheep.  Lost between these monomaniac, closed
worlds Geoffrey wandered aimlessly.  "I don't want to go to
school," he had kept blubbering.  "I'll do my lessons.  I won't
bother Miss Montaulk."

"All right.  All right," Cabell said testily.  He reflected once or
twice that Geoffrey was getting to look like one of his brothers,
John who used to ride with the Barminster and always stuck around
his father like a leech.  The same incessant whine and fat face.
"He'll come to nothing," Cabell thought and dismissed him from the
list of his potential enemies in the family and indulged him off-
hand.

But James went to school.

"I'll break the chestnut gelding in for you while you're away,"
Larry said.

"Oh, Sambo reckoned you wouldn't give that up for anything."

"I'll break it in before you come back Christmas."

James was overcome.



CHAPTER SEVEN: JAMES MAKES A DISCOVERY


James came back from school early in December.  Cabell forgot to
send any one to meet him at Pyke's Crossing so he borrowed a horse
from Danny O'Connor, proprietor of the Travellers' Rest, and rode
the two hundred miles alone.  He arrived at midnight on the fourth
day and went to his room without waking anybody.  Geoffrey
overslept himself as usual next morning, so James was unexpected
when he walked into the dining-room at breakfast-time.

Cabell looked up.  "You!  Of course, your holidays."

"Why, how did you get here?" Emma asked.

"I borrowed a horse."

Emma looked at Cabell.  "You even forgot the boy was due home!"

"I've been busy," he said.  "Anyway, that bit of a ride won't do
him any harm."  But a fugitive pang of remorse, as he noticed the
boy's slender, fine hands lying on the table, made him add, "Grown
a bit, haven't you?  Must've liked it down there?"

James's heavy lower lip pushed out.  "I didn't.  I hated it."

Cabell laughed.  "Tanned you, eh?  I bet you deserved it."

"I won't go back," James mumbled.  "I want to go to a new school."

"What's wrong with the school?  It's the best school, isn't it?
Ought to be at the price."

"I don't want to go to any school in Brisbane.  I want to go to
Sydney."

"Nonsense," Cabell said.  "What's the matter with you?"

"Didn't they give you enough to eat?" Emma asked.

James glanced resentfully from face to face, repudiating them all,
even Larry.  "I won't go back.  I don't care what you do to me."

Cabell pushed aside the stock-market summary which he was trying to
read.  "Damn it, boy, if they didn't thrash you and they didn't
starve you--they must have done something.  Did they give you a
report?"

James brought it out.

Cabell read and frowned.  "There now, that sounds pretty.
'Impudent, aggressive, rebellious, and has several times been
punished for rough and overbearing conduct towards his comrades.'
So you've been kicking over the traces, you young guttersnipe . . ."

"It's a lie," James burst out.  "They started first.  They called
me a . . ."  But the enormity of the insult and the hopelessness of
rousing sympathy in his father's stony face choked him.  He turned
his head down.

"Seems I should've paid a bit more attention to your manners before
sending you among decent folk," Cabell growled and picked up the
stock-market summary again.  When he rose from the table he left
the report crumpled beside his plate, forgotten.

Larry rose too.  "See you later, Jimmy.  I broke in that chestnut
all right."

James wiped his eyes on the back of his hand and said nothing,
buried in incommunicable sorrows.

When they were alone Emma leant over the table and asked, "Called
you names, did they?  Who?"

James turned his face away.  "Doug Peppiott."

"Peppiott."  Emma nodded.  "What did he call you?"

James scowled.  A flush of shame and anger wiped out the freckles
round his nose.  "Well what?"

But he would not answer.

"Anyway," Emma said, "you KNOW now.  As for the Peppiotts, they've
no call to put on side."

In the yard he found Larry waiting for him with the chestnut and a
brand new saddle and bridle.  "Get your whip and I'll take you over
the river and see the new Hereford bulls.  They're bonzas."  He was
excited seeing James again, and waited anxiously to hear what the
boy would say about the chestnut and the new saddle and bridle.

James ran his hand over the shining hot coat of the chestnut, then
turned away.  "I don't want to."

"Don't want to ride the chestnut!"

In the last nine months hardly a day had passed when James had not
fortified himself against the brutality and snobbery of boys
towards a stranger with the thought of this horse and his whip and
the life, so familiar, secluded, in the valley.  And now suddenly
he was sick with disappointment.  The horse was only a bony, grass-
fed hack after all, not the horse he had imagined.  Think of the
horses he had seen in the carriages that brought the day boys to
school--sleek and fat and high-stepping, in silver plated harness
with a coachman, in livery and a shining top-hat, on the box.  Doug
Peppiott's for example.  What would Doug say to this?

He felt unspeakably thankful that Doug Peppiott would never be able
to see it and say, "What, this the hunk of dog's meat you were
skiting about?"  But he flushed again, remembering what Peppiott
had said:  "Got a prize blood horse, have you?  Well so you ought
to.  Your old man pinched enough.  He nearly got into jail for it,
like your old woman."

He had retaliated furiously with his fists and more and more
outrageous proud lies.  "My father's the richest squatter in the
north.  He's got ten thousand cattle and a hundred thousand sheep."

"Go on, young Cabell, you're thinking of the number of stripes on
your old woman's back."

He had fought and lied heroically to the end.  And now he could no
longer lie.  With the horse before him his dreams of it evaporated.
He hated it now.  An undisguisable brumby, it symbolized all the
hollow pretences he had indulged in during the past year.  He was
ashamed of it, as he was ashamed of his father, ugly and rough,
compared with the men he had seen in Brisbane--Doug Peppiott's
father who wore a big, gold ring on his finger and had white hands;
the schoolmasters who talked in precise, soft voices.  As he was
ashamed of Larry, who talked and looked like an ordinary stockman,
who sucked his tea out of his saucer and picked up bones from his
plate with his fingers, who slouched along on slightly bow legs and
had never been to school.  As he was ashamed of the homestead with
its rough walls and battered furniture, when he thought of the
homes other boys had--big mansions with men working in the gardens
and servants and stables and coachmen.  As finally he was ashamed,
humiliatingly, cringingly ashamed of his mother, her difference
from the women who came to see their sons at school and left
behind, wherever they went, the scent of their perfumes; her hands,
with the broken nails, and the grime bitten into the coarse lines
of her fingers; her wrinkled face; her old-fashioned dress of faded
blue; and, worse than all, unforgivably worse, the things they said
about her.  All this the horse brought home to him again, as he
looked at it with the eyes of Doug Peppiott, the magically endowed
and fortunate Doug Peppiott who had a beautiful mother, a handsome,
rich, and kindly father, and a birthright to look down on the rest
of the world.

The freckles came out big and burning against the sudden pallor of
his face.  "No," he answered Larry.  "I don't want to ride it."

"Aw," Larry said, "you must be dog-tired, eh?  Ride it tomorrow."

"I don't want to ride it at all," James said, and hurried away.

Larry opened his mouth, then closed it tight.  Simple fellow, he
was dumbstruck at first, then broken-hearted, then angry.  He
thought that James was going out of the way to avoid him, but James
was avoiding everybody.  Oppressed by gigantic problems, he hung
moodily about the house, bereft of books and companions.  Each
morning he counted another day off the six weeks that were racing
him towards the moment when he would again be in that big, echoing
hall with the hard and scornful eyes of other boys looking him up
and down.  In his rebellious misery he was forced at last to make
conversation with Harriet, sitting at her window.

"What're you always sitting up there for?" James asked her.  "Why
don't you come down here and have a game?"

"Because I'm not allowed, that's why."

"What's stopping you?"

"The same thing that makes you go to school in Brisbane."

"Papa?  I'm not scared of him.  I won't go to school."

She looked at him gravely.  "What will you do?"

James kicked a cloud of dust out of the dry earth.  "I'll run
away."

She gazed over his head at the scrub.  Where ringbarkers had been
at work the trees were shedding their leaves.  The bark hung in
long tatters from the trunks, like the hide of a bullock bogged in
a waterhole during a drought and picked over by hawks and dingoes
and crows.  Underneath the white bones were beginning to show
through.  The trees writhed up into the sky, knotting their black
branches in death pain and clawing at the brass vault of the
heavens.  The birds were gone, all except the crows, cawing
invisible among the dying timber like the trees talking sadly
together.  The Chinamen, like vindictive underground creatures come
out of their darkness to destroy the earth, went about the scrub in
wide pantaloons swinging their axes and fleeing with frenzied
gabble from the earth-shaking fall of a big tree.  Their thin,
naked backs, shining sweatless in the sun, were yellow, like the
grass that grew under the house.  Their moaning cries frightened
her.  The dying trees frightened her.  It was like the landscape of
some ghastly fairy-tale.

"Aren't you afraid of Chinamen?" she asked.

"Of course not.  I'm not frightened of anything," James boasted.
"What can they do?"

"They take you away and hide you.  Then they burn the bottom of
your feet in a fire so you can't run away.  Then they take you to
China and sell you to an old Chinaman, Miss Montaulk says."  Her
precocious eyes glittered against her hollow face with its high
cheekbones and wide mouth.  "I wish they'd take HER and BURN HER
FEET RIGHT OFF!" she said passionately.

James was shocked.  While he gaped at her a hand wrenched her away
and the window slammed.

"For that," Miss Montaulk said, rapping her knuckles with a pencil,
"you shall not leave this room for three days."

Harriet snatched her hand away, grabbed the pencil, and stabbed it
into Miss Montaulk's arm.

Miss Montaulk exhibited her blood-stained sleeve to Cabell.  "A
wicked child," she said.  There was a joyful glint in her eyes.
They looked slightly crooked, like drunken eyes.  "You must allow
me to be more severe or one day she will do something. . . .  And
as for that evil boy . . ."

So James found himself under the care of Mr Shaftoe, who looked
after the station books, and kept the store, and filled in his
spare hours providing Geoffrey with the elements of a gentlemanly
education.  He was bald, with a fringe of red hair over his temple
like a thin scurf of rust, which was beginning to pit his bald
forehead with little rusty red freckles.  He had a fleshy pale
face, like soft wax, a pair of watery blue eyes, half a dozen red
hairs on his eyelids, and a brick-red, swollen nose.  His duck suit
was dirty, the trousers concertinaed up his thin legs.  He rarely
changed his shirt or laced his boots, but he kept half a dozen
strands of bear-greased hair punctiliously brushed across his crown
and was always fingering them delicately and uttering a deep "ah"
afterwards, as though from this vestige of better times he
extracted the moral strength to go on living in a hard world.  His
fate--barring a miracle--was to drift farther and farther west to
smaller towns and simpler people as civilization improved the
standard of cardsharpers and confidence men in the east.  Once
every three months he got a remittance from England and went to
Pyke's Crossing to blow it.  From Cabell he got no wages--they all
went in gin, of which he kept a bottle always uncorked on the table
beside him as he discoursed, in an urbane but slightly Cockney
voice, of bare-knuckle champions, Derby winners, cock-fights, and
wealthy, noble relations, to Geoffrey dozing over the table.

"Wake up," he would say, knocking Geoffrey's elbow off the table
and slapping his fat thighs with delight as the boy fell out of the
chair, "or you'll miss something.  Never want to sleep in a land of
opportunity.  Here, I'll deal you a hand."

He shuffled a pack of greasy cards and dealt five of them to
Geoffrey and five to himself.  Geoffrey picked up his cards.

"And now," Shaftoe said complacently, "I'll tell you what's in both
hands.  In yours--four jacks and a ten of sparklers.  What?  And
mine--a brace of spades and four one and onlys.  Ah."  He turned
his cards up.  "See, smart boy Albert Shaftoe.  But you wouldn't
want to play that one too many times."  He drained his glass and
yawned, gazing through the window at the yard littered with old
cart-wheels, horseshoes, and clinkers from the forge.  "What a
dickens of a life for Albert Brighthurst Shaftoe, fifth son of
Brighthurst Shaftoe, Bart., the old so-and-so."  He swaggered a
bit, then collapsed into his soft pointed belly and gulped another
gin.  'Pity you weren't a bit older, son.  I'd play you a game."

"I'll play," Geoffrey offered, reaching for the match box.  Shaftoe
frowned.  "I mean a real game.  For real shekels.  What d'you
think?  I don't suppose the old man would give you any.  No," he
sighed, "he wouldn't--the tight-wad.  Just like mine--the
methodistical old----"  He pushed the cards wearily away and poured
himself another drink.  "Mind you, where there's a will there's a
way, and yours truly didn't go unprovided for, not by a long chalk.
Oh, no."

Geoffrey watched him admiringly.  His friendly patter, his
mysterious tricks with cards and dice, his thrilling stories of
racehorses and fighters, his nods and winks and assumption of dark
knowledge stirred Geoffrey's lethargic imagination with the dim
picture of a world where nobody was lonely and everybody was rich
who knew how to be.  Assiduously he copied Shaftoe's English voice,
his winks and sighs, his contemptuous way of talking about Larry
and the hands--"Mere hinds, boy, and badly paid ones at that.  Not
worth boning"--even bear-greased his hair.

And occasionally he got a chance to see Shaftoe putting his
attractive theories into action, as when he condescended to fill in
a dull evening winning tobacco or Epsom-salt from Sambo, or when
some traveller called at the store and risked his spare change on a
game of euchre.  Then Shaftoe would jingle his pockets and give
Geoffrey a few shillings--and win them back.

James spent a month taking in wisdom from him.

"Lead with your left and cross with your right.  Good."  Shaftoe
took a couple of hits on the belt and returned to his gin-bottle.
"Pity there isn't somebody here your own weight.  I'd lay an even
dollar with Geoff--if he had a dollar."  He raised his glass.
"Well, here's to the day when he has!"

James returned to school, rebelliously but with an experimental
interest.  As he drove across the bridge beside Sambo they met
Larry riding in.  The sadness of leaving home for another adventure
in the unfriendly world made James remember the happy times they
had spent together--long, long ago it seemed to him, looking back
with a child's exaggerated sense of his scurrying days and
pleasures and his present unmitigable pains.  Now he was sorry for
the way he had behaved about the chestnut.  He leant out to say
good-bye, but Larry rode past with his head down.  "Stuck-up little
swipes the pair of them," Larry was thinking of his brothers.  "The
way they talk--like that limejuicer Shaftoe."

He hated Shaftoe, whose easy flow of words made him uncomfortable.
He thought Shaftoe was trying to take a rise out of him, and so he
usually was.

At the store of an evening the stockmen and boundary-riders
forgathered to goggle at Shaftoe's card tricks.  He offered a card
and a pencil.  "Now our gifted colleague, Mr Larry Cabell, will
oblige the company by inscribing his name.  Mr Cabell!"

Larry hung back outside the pool of lamplight which gapped with
unfathomable darkness their upturned mouths, like fledgelings at
Shaftoe's feet.

Monaghan shoved him forward.  "Go on, Larry.  He wants you to write
down your monniker."

"Go to hell."

"My ultimate colonial experience without a doubt," Shaftoe
chuckled, "but not to-night, Josephine."

"What's he say?" Monaghan asked.

"Aw, clean your ears."

Larry seized the pencil, wet the point with his tongue, and
laboriously, agonizingly, wrote his name, LARY CABELL.

Shaftoe took the card and examined it, screwing up one eye, then
the other, holding the card at arm's length, rubbing it on his
trousers, grimacing.  "Mercy sakes," he cried out at last.  "What's
this?  'I'm a Scandinavian cockatoo.'"  He blinked at Larry.  "Dear
me."

Sambo and Monaghan rocked on the tea cases, Geoffrey's squeaky
voice rising above the others.

Larry reddened.  "That's not there.  My name's there."

"Gentlemen!"  Shaftoe held up his hand.  "I put the case to you.  I
ask the young gent to write his name on a ten of hearts.  You see
him do so.  And the words you see him write, as you can read for
yourself, are 'I'm a Scandinavian cockatoo,' and now he has the
face, gentlemen, to deny it.  Is that a ten of hearts and is that
the gent's handwriting?"  He handed the card around.

Monaghan, with his tongue hanging out at the corner of his mouth
and one eye closed, pretended to read.  Larry snatched the card
from him and slowly spelt out "I'm a Scandinavian cockatoo,"
written in his own handwriting.  He threw the card on the counter.

"Don't trouble to beg pardon," Shaftoe said mockingly.

Monaghan's raucous laughter hooted up into the rafters while Larry,
confused and maddened by such inexplicable tricks, slunk back to
his corner and pulled his hat over his face.

"I don't believe Larry wrote that," Geoffrey piped up, "because he
doesn't know how to spell long words.  He doesn't even know how to
spell his name.  He never went to school."

"Sad," Shaftoe said.  "I daresay he spent his youth running after
those blackgins."

"Haw!  Haw!" Monaghan roared.  "Now I know where all them
crossbreds down Pyke's Crossin' come from, Larry.  Haw!  Haw!"

Larry slunk out.  In the darkness he stumbled over a bucket and
kicked it across the yard.  "Bastard," he muttered.  "Could he ride
a brumby or chuck a steer?  Skite."  He repudiated the whole brood
of them with their superior, easy, educated voices and manners.
Here was a world different from his, where the things most valued
were not the things he did best.  He had been used to hearing men
applaud him for the way he broke a horse or handled a mob of cattle
or sheared a sheep, but Shaftoe and Miss Montaulk and Geoffrey, and
now James, seemed to look down on him, and his father, with every
word, made it plain that from this mysterious other world to which
his brothers and sister belonged he was shut out, that Sambo and
Monaghan, not James and Geoffrey, were his proper mates.

"Who the hell cares about them piano tunes," he jeered to Sambo as
they hung over the fence one afternoon listening to Harriet
practise her pieces.

"Aw," Sambo protested.  "It's real pretty.  Like cow-bells a long
way off."

Larry nodded to the shearers' hut, whence came the wheezy chug-chug
of a concertina.  "That's the kind of music I like."



CHAPTER EIGHT: LARRY FINDS HIS MATES


The shearers were beginning to arrive.  They came, generally in
pairs, a man and his mate, from the north-west--big fellows in
flannel shirts and stained moles, with an oilskin, like a cavalry
pack, tied neatly across their saddles, and their packhorses laden
with frying-pan, smoke-blackened billy, patched tent-fly, and
newspapers trailing behind.  Their great yearly trek had begun,
from shed to shed, from the far Outside--where the stations were
little lonely townships in treeless plains of brown grass haunted
by mirages and the fear of men holding a perilous redoubt at the
caprice of burning skies--to the verge of the matted scrublands of
the coast, to the rolling grass seas of the Darling Downs, and,
beyond, across New South Wales, to the Alps, to the Southern Ocean;
and with them went a wave of excitement, keying up the flaccid days
with work to be done quickly, with fights and anxieties and the
tangible assurance, in the mounting piles of wool-bales, that the
struggles of the year had not been wasted.  Here the stir was just
perceptible.  Cabell was restless, worried about his sheep and the
way the men would handle them.  He rode around the stations telling
the riders when to bring their flocks in so that the shearers would
be kept busy and no time wasted, driving in cattle for rations,
going over the stocks in the storeroom to see that there was enough
flour and tobacco and tea for the coming rush and fixing with
Shaftoe the exorbitant prices at which these things were to be
sold, watching the sky incessantly, for fear of rain that would wet
the wool and leave the shed-hands, "a pack of day-labouring
idlers," on his books.  In a month's time it would all be over.
The last shorn sheep, astoundingly tiny and white, would be
trailing back to their paddock in long lines, ungregarious from
bewilderment at the brutal revolution in their placid lives.  The
shearers would be departing as they came, casual and aloof in their
nomadic detachment from any circle of familiar faces or any web of
local loyalties and affections, like sailors homeless, and pledged
like sailors only to their own clan and an endless wandering at the
skirts of the season.

Sambo, Monaghan, and Larry leant over the fence of the horse-
paddock watching the shearers ride in at sundown and turn their
horses out.  Sambo disliked shearers, as the home-keeping man
always dislikes the footloose soldiery which billets itself on him,
struts in his sight, and steals his women.  But for Larry the
shearers had the glamour of travellers in lands with strange names--
"Croajingolong," "the Snowy River," "back of Bourke,"--in
waterless plains where you wet your throat with the few drops of
water you could drain from the end of a sapling by burning it in
the fire, along the Darling where the sheep-dogs wear little
leather shoes to protect their feet from the bindi-eye, in the far,
red west where you wouldn't see a tree for miles.  Shearers went
anywhere they wanted, no boss, no nagging mother, and all mates
together.  They talked of beautiful barmaids in pubs far, far away.
Glamorous fellows!

On the homestead veranda Harriet and Miss Montaulk, and farther off
Emma, stood shielding their eyes against the level rays of the sun
and watching the shearers go down to their hut, as though these
were troops who had raised a siege on the place.  And so they had--
a siege of monotonous days and dusty sheep and monotonous dusty
faces.  Shaftoe came to the door of the store and rubbed his hands
briskly.  Geoffrey, at his heels, already impressed like a little
fat puppy with the personality of his master, rubbed his hands
briskly too.  The dogs trotted into the yard and barked, and the
sheep drying off from the washpool on the green river flats huddled
into a mob with a faint crepitation of alarm.  Shearing tomorrow!
The burden of the year's waiting, in momentary expectation of fires
or drought or disease, lifted from the station.

Cabell, riding home from the washpool, calculated, "Thirty thousand
at four pounds each and ninepence a pound--ought to cut close on
four thousand quids' worth."  He leant down and patted his horse
affectionately.

Sambo stretched his leathery neck over the rail and spat towards a
shearer who was taking the saddle off his horse and rubbing a
handful of grass over her back.  "Whatya call that for a horse?" he
asked, disparaging the man in the most final way he knew.  "Clothes
horse, is it?"

The shearer straightened his broad shoulders and said mildly,
"That's the cheapest horse to feed in Australia."

"Too thick in the hock," Sambo said.

"Anyway you haven't got the money to buy her."

"Me buy that dinger bait!  Whatya take me for?"

The shearer picked up the saddle and walked slowly over to the
fence.  "Some poor cow-chaser, I bet.  I thought so--Sambo."

They peered through the dusk.  "Berry," Larry said.  "Jack Berry."

"Whyn't you say so before?" Sambo growled.  "I took you fer one of
them bloody shearers."

"So I am."

"Still shearing another man's wool?" Larry said, remembering the
arguments in the storeroom twelve years before.

"That must be Larry," Berry said.  "A grown man, eh?  Well, yes.
I'm still shearing other men's wool.  My place down there didn't
turn out too good.  Got to keep the pot boiling."

"Gursey told you it wouldn't," Larry said.  "You got stony ridges
like he said, eh?"

"Perhaps I did.  Too many in before me.  But it's a big continent.
I'm taking a place near Pyke's Crossing now.  And what became of
Joe?  Died, eh?"

Larry nodded.

Berry shook his head.  "He was a bit too fierce.  You don't get
anything being too fierce."

"You don't get anything not being fierce either, by the looks of
it."

Berry laughed.  "Sounds as if Joe made a bit of a red-ragger out of
you down in that store."

Larry did not answer, glowering over Berry's shoulder at the
ringbarked trees that raised their frustrated boughs into the
limpid sky of the spring evening.  At the top of the slope the plum-
trees, domed in white, lay close to the earth with the placid,
pregnant stillness of blossom.  The scent of the honeysuckle came
down in heavy waves, as though it was the slow breathing of the
night.  On the hills the day lingered for a moment longer in a
terrific apotheosis, then the stars flickered out and the colour
drained suddenly away through these holes in the indigo sky.  The
despairing sadness of the young, always sensing, fearing the doom
of their own unfulfilment, made Larry walk away from the men and
shut himself into his room, slamming down the window to keep out
the gay skirling of the concertina, the babble of the shearers'
voices, and the tremulous suspiration of the scrub astir in the
moonrise.

The coming of the shearers had put him in this bad mood.  From
beneath the sluggish drift of years given over to his father's
obscure purposes they evoked, with their aura of adventurous
activity, a hectic picture of life beyond the valley--spacious,
ripe with opportunity.  It was a picture on which he had spent much
longing, but there beside him was his mother, always promising,
threatening, beseeching him to be patient and think of nothing but
the run and the day when he would be master of it, and there before
him was his father, tough and lasting as iron.  Caught between
their wills his own was bewitched, as in a dream: he was frantic,
not knowing what he wanted, only that he most agonizingly wanted.
At moments like this he hated them both, Emma as well as Cabell.

A murderous rage took hold of him as he worked at the woolpress
during the shearing and watched his father triumphantly asserting
his truculent personality against the strong and resentful
personalities of the men--all hating him, trying to work some
little point against him and all losing in the showdown.  Bitterly
Larry despised the tarboy for scampering eagerly down the line to
daub a wounded sheep when Cabell shouted for him, the lads who
swept up the tailings and pieces for the industrious clatter of
their brooms, the rouseabouts who carried the ruglike fleeces from
the floor to the classer's table and from the table to the press
when, in Cabell's presence, they ran to and fro and strained
themselves to hook the finished bale out and stow it away, instead
of loitering and poling on each other as they did when his eye was
not on them.  But for special hatred and contempt he marked any
shearer who cringed on to his sheep while Cabell stood over him and
roared, "That's my hogget you're mutilating, curse you.  Have a
care or I'll take a patch out of YOUR hide."

But few of them cringed.  They were not like the half-witted
shepherds whose spirits had been crushed under the incessant pitter-
pattering feet of sheep.  When he entered the shed they seemed all
to draw together behind a wall of deaf and dumb hostility.  Nothing
was heard under the long, low, half-dark roof, but here and there
the bleat of a sheep, the rattle of the blades, the creak of the
press, and the impatient stamp of his heels on the floor.  The
glassy boards, polished black by the grease of the wool, mirrored
the bars of the sun striking through cracks in the wall, a bony,
excoriated sheep, as it struggled to its feet before the shearer
thrust it down the shoot into the pen outside, the white curve of
Cabell's shirtfront, and the white faces of the men overworking
themselves to out-do each other, not for Cabell's sake but because
it was an honour to be ringer of the shed.  The light, which lay
like a sheet of brass across the door, locked them into a voiceless
gloom where the undercurrent of their hatred was as vicious as the
rasp of their shears in the thick fleeces.  It expressed itself in
the flick of an eye sideways as Cabell thumped past, in a stream of
spittle fired covertly at his heel, a murmur of voices as he left
the shed and a more significant silence as he returned.

At dinner-time, as the men were trailing off to their hut, Berry
went up to Cabell in the yard and said:  "You raddled ten of my
sheep this morning, boss.  What does that mean?"

Cabell hitched a bandanna handkerchief from his coat-tails and
wiped the grey salt of dry sweat from his lips.  "It means you
ought to be working in a butcher shop, not shearing good sheep."

Berry's broad, simple face, shiny red like a good honest apple,
stiffened a little at this blow to his pride.  He glanced down at
his shears, which he always carried with him in a greenhide sheath
because, he said, only half-jokingly, they lost their edge if left
out in the wind.  "But no man ever told me I was a bad shearer
before, boss.  I never took a second cut since I was a learner."

"I'm telling you now," Cabell said.  "The sheep in your pen were a
disgrace.  I'll pay you fifteen bob a hundred for to-day's lot and
perhaps you'll have a bit of care in future."

Berry rubbed his hands, soft from working in the greasy wool,
together.  "That's not what you agreed on, boss.  You agreed on
seventeen and six."

"And you agreed to shear my sheep like a man."

The others stopped at the door of the hut watching them.  Scenting
an argument Joe Goggs, the bush lawyer of the shed, bustled out and
wormed his sharp nose to the front.  "What's the matter, Jack?  He
can't sack you without cause."

Berry waved him quiet.  "It's not right nor true.  No sheep were
ever raddled with less reason."

Cabell's ever-ready temper flared.  "You take it to law and see if
it's not right."

"It's not right just the same," Berry said.  "And if the law says
so, more's the pity, for you as well as me, for it'll be helping to
set honest men against you."

"Hear.  Hear," Goggs shouted.  "Bloody squatters' law."

The men huddled closer together.  Loitering in the hot sun, the
flies darting at their faces, the glare beating into their eyes,
and their dinner-hour running away made them irritable.

"Hear.  Hear," they chorused.  Cabell put his handkerchief away and
faced them, menacing in his long, black coat, with the leather of
his eye-patch burning in the sun and the scar standing out like a
fresh wound on his cheek.

The men in the front ranks shuffled and they all stopped shouting,
except Goggs, who had no idea what the argument was about, only
that it was an argument.  "Jack ain't broke the agreement," he
began.  "We'll get a summons for wrongful dismissal. . . ."

Berry cut him short again.  "That being so I hope you'll give me my
cheque, Mr Cabell.  I wouldn't like to go on with a man who wasn't
satisfied with my work."

"And we're with you, Jack," Goggs shouted.  "Ain't we boys?  Let
him shear his own bloody sheep.  There's plenty more waiting for
us."  Cabell glanced round the ring of faces, distorted by the
painful glare, and spat deliberately into the dust at their feet.

"Have it your own way, men, but whoever takes a step off this place
before the cobbler is through those gates goes without a penny bit.
Understand?"  He turned and strode off up the slope.

The men made grumbling for the shed.  Berry shook his head and
shouldered through the crush at the door, followed by Goggs
demanding to know the rights of the matter.

Larry, standing in the yard, found himself clutching the pole they
used to prod sheep up the ramp to the catching-pens.  He threw it
aside, glared after his father, and walked across to the shearers'
hut.



CHAPTER NINE: THE YOUNG BULL AND THE OLD BULL


Greasy Bill, the cook, was draining a calabash of pumpkin into one
big tin dish and piling charred mutton chops into another.  He
skidded the dishes down the table and the men took their places and
scrambled with their knives for a share of the food.  The din of
blowflies was loud and savage.  The men scraped them off the mushy
pumpkin, spat them out with mouthfuls of tea.

The long, low hut was a noisome place for men to eat and sleep in.
The only ventilation was through wide gaps in the twisted slabs of
the walls.  Tiers of bunks ran round the shed.  They looked a few
inches shorter than most of the men, suggesting a horrible
proximity of faces and unwashed feet.  The walls went straight down
into the dirt floor, uneven, dusty, and flea-infested, where pools
of water in the corners nurtured the mosquitoes which began to
drone and torture human hides when the flies vanished at sunset.
The bunks were made of rough slabs covered with straw.  When there
were no shearers to live in the hut Cabell used it for calving
dairy cows, as clumps of cowhair on the sides of the bunks,
pancakes of dry cowdung on the floor, and a heap of ammoniac straw
near the door suggested.  The shearers called this hut, which was
their home for six weeks, "the black hole of Cabell's Reach," but
it was really no worse than most other shearers' huts.

"A proper pigsty," Jack Berry called it, glancing round a little
more fastidiously than usual and sniffing the clothes soaked in
sweat and the yoke of wool, dogs, a near-by latrine, and odds and
ends of garbage left lying about by men bound to the place only for
a season of backbreaking toil.  "Damned if I'd stable my nag in
it."

"Neither would Cabell," Joe Goggs said.  "See the new stables he's
building up there?  Cement floor bloody sight cleaner'n this
table."  Snowy Wagner, a hulking, sprawling, good-natured brute of
a man with a big blond beard and hazy blue eyes inherited from some
south German peasant ancestor, shouted through a mouthful of
pumpkin, "Cabell's not the worst.  What you ought to see's them
planter blokes down the coast--the way they treat their kanakas.
Wouldn't ask them to bog in the places they give a white man to
sleep in.  Seen a boss give a black bastard a lift when he'd passed
me by."

"Whatya expect?" Goggs said.  "Coons is cheap.  They'd knacker us
white bushmen if they got the chance and let them Chows and Jimmy
Tannas breed like rabbits."

"And this Cabell, he's the king-pin of the lot, you ask me," Greasy
Bill said through whiskers rat-tailed with soot and sweat.  "Mean
as a dunnekin rat."

"Greasier'n you, Bill," Goggs said.  "He's that greasy your eyes
slide off him."

"Yesty seen him sool the dogs on old Ike, the hawker," Bill told
them, "because he had a bag of flour to sell.  Three bob for a
fourpenny bar of soap and two pound ten for a bag of flour that
wouldn't be worth a quid in the Crossing--that what he's hittin'
yous blokes up."

"Yes, that's not right," Berry said.  "It's not honest."

"He ought to be took to law," Goggs said.  "It's against the
constitution."

"He is the law," Wagner said.  "Ever heard of a shearer who was a
J.P. or a member of parliament?  And dingo don't eat dingo."

Goggs banged his pannikin down.  "So ought we.  Ain't there more
shearers'n bosses.  We oughta strike.  He'd soon come running after
us when he seen the grass filling his wool with seed."

"He'd come running after you all right, with a troop of mounted
Johns.  That's how he'd come."

"You can't put twenty thousand bushmen in jail," Goggs said.  "We'd
soon run the squatters and bosses out the country.  You should've
been down the Eureka like I was.  We showed 'em something then."
He jerked his face at them as he spoke, like a dog snapping at the
air.  It was one of those shoddy, plebeian faces that seem to have
been jerrybuilt from odds and ends--eyes too small for the nose,
one cheekbone higher than the other, ears uneven and outsized for
the small bullet head, which bristled with closely shorn hair of a
nondescript colour, like wire.  He had a mongrel shifty gaze and
his voice a formless, mongrel tone as though words were not so
important for the ideas they conveyed as for the savage tone in
them.  He looked a nasty customer, snipping at the air with the
razor-sharp blades of his shears, not a simple yokel at all, but
the child of centuries of ill-nourished growth in the back alleys
of a great city.

Berry glanced at him and frowned.  "That's mad talk," he said.

"It's only talk," Wagner said.  "Shearers ain't fighters.  Being
ringer and dodging putting shears on the last wrinkled cobbler in
the pen--that's all interests them."

"You think it's mad, do you," Jerry Coyle said.  Sitting apart at
the end of the table with a book propped up before him he looked at
Berry over a half-eaten mutton chop smoking on his knife.  "Is it
mad to stop somebody robbing you?"

"I can look after my rights without any Eureka stockades, if that's
what you mean."

"YOU can look after your rights."  Coyle tore a mouthful of meat
off the chop and chewed it slowly.  They waited respectfully for
him to speak again.  A shrewd-head, they thought him.  He could
quote pages of Tolstoy and Marx and Donnelley and Winwood Reade,
trailed a packhorse-load of books from shed to shed across eastern
Australia.  But although they respected him, somehow they did not
like him.  He was not one of the mob, had no mate, was never seen
in the bush shanties knocking down his cheque, and never took part
in sentimental interludes of song and dance around the concertina
at night.  His face was lean, ascetic, his eyes grey and without
depth.  Their gaze stopped just short of you in a cock-eyed sort of
way.  He seemed to be thinking hard about something all the time--
about what you could not guess, for behind those eyes and toneless
voice his personality was evasive.  "You can't get to the guts of
Jerry Coyle," they said.  Like Goggs he was no simple child of the
bush.  He had fine features and small fine hands.  "Dead spit of
his old man."  Years ago old Jimmy Coyle was hanged for robbing a
bank and going back to hack the teller's head off with an axe.  An
old lag who had been transported at the age of eighteen for rioting
in Dublin, where he was a student.  A red-hot Tipperary man.  Well,
there was no hot blood in Jerry, they said.  He was as cold as a
lizard--went to see his old man hanged!

He fed the rest of his chop to the dogs sniffing round the men's
heels.  "You're no better set up to get your rights from Cabell and
his like than an abo is," he told Berry.  "They own the land--they
took it before you were born.  So they own the parliament.
Therefore they own the law.  You're just a wage slave.  You want to
walk out of here now, but you can't.  You're leg-ironed."

"What's to stop me?"

"Starvation."

"Well, a man's got to work."

"Sure.  For himself and society?  Or for some greedy big bug who
just had the luck to get here first and collar the land?  As long
as he's got that you haven't even got the right to work--except
when he says."

"That's right," Goggs said.  "We ought to strike and burn them all
out."

"We will strike--one day," Coyle said "when you get the brains to
know what to strike for."  He went across to his bunk, littered
with papers and books, and brought back a big volume.  "That's Karl
Marx.  Read it and you'll understand that it isn't only Cabell
who's responsible for you being a half-starved cocky on a stony
ridge, but a whole society of Cabells.  Landgrabbers and
Capitalists.  And behind them all the gunboats of England."

Berry pushed the book away.  "Gunboats," he said contemptuously.

"Sure.  Who d'you think owns this country?"

"The squatters, you just said."

"And what're the squatters?  The deputies of English money-lenders.
That's where all this dough's coming from that Cabell is spending
on fences and stables.  There's too much money in England since the
Germans began milking the French and got capital for themselves to
drive the English out of the world markets, so the English are
putting their spare rhino in here.  That's why I say gunboats.  A
few shearers with sparrow guns ain't enough.  We'll need every man
armed to win a war."

"War!" Berry snorted.

"And then what?" Wagner said.  "It'll be all rosy till you and me
start being bosses and the bosses start being shearers."

"It won't be like that at all," Coyle said.  "That's the English
way.  There's a history behind that--a long history of aristocrats
and serfs.  So we've got to drive the English right out of here and
do it our way."

"What's YOUR way?"

"Not MY way--the Australian way.  That's the way we eat here out of
a common dish.  The way the lags used to share a bit of rotten meat
with a bloke that had none.  The way a man goes into the bush with
his mate and they stick together."

"To hell with your schemes," Berry said with increasing
irritability.  "I want to own my own land."

"All right.  But to-morrow you'll be thinking my way.  Wait till
they bring in a few more Chows and kanakas and immigrants to cut
down your cheques."

"There's getting too many dagoes and new-chums in this country,
that's a cert," Wagner admitted.

"Just wait a bit then and they'll bring in more.  Like they took
shanty Irish into England.  Then you'll see the triangle back in
the streets and another hanging judge on the bench."

"Not in this country, by Christ," Goggs said.

"You've forgot how this country began," Coyle said.  "Ain't we the
sons of men and women it happened to.  I saw the scars on my old
man's back.  So did you, Goggs.  And Cabell's one of them that
helped to put 'em there.  He was an overseer where my old man was a
lag.  The sort who'd do anything to a man.  Because he's an
aristocrat, an English aristocrat--that is a bloke born with a
right to look down on you like dirt.  Don't you see--that's his
guts.  Getting the land isn't enough.  We've got to get rid of
everybody with that aristocratic superior guts before you can have
the proper mateship, like there was between lags, between diggers,
and between two men in the bush."

"Well, my old man wasn't flogged," Berry said.  "He came of his own
free will."

"He came because he couldn't stand it in England any more.  He came
because he was tired of the English way."

"The English way.  Bah, you can't get your old man's back out of
your head," Berry said.  "But that's finished.  It's all different
now."

"You think so?"  Coyle rooted in his pocket and brought out a
newspaper cutting.  "Listen to this.  'A beautiful place is England--
in a coal mine,'" he read.  "'This is how a miner evidences it.
"I have to hew coal one foot ten inches to two feet thick lying on
my side for hours, all but naked in some inches of water and a sort
of shower bath from the roof, picking and shovelling as best I can.
This is not the place to sit down and take lunch or dinner in, so
we work on except for having a sup of cold tea or a bit of bread
and water till it is time to leave the pit.  And I have been in
other mines so full of gas that the trail of the safety lamp left a
blue flame behind as you moved the light."'  That's the England,
home and beauty they're always cracking up," Coyle said.  "The
place where they transported blokes to Australia for asking for
just more than enough to buy dog's food for themselves and kids.
The place where they passed an Act of Parliament that when a man
left his work for three days he could be branded on the chest with
the letter B, and if he ran away they branded S on his cheek with a
red-hot iron.  And afterwards when they formed unions they had to
meet in the pitch dark and call each other by numbers instead of
names so that the police pimps wouldn't know them."  He smiled a
thin smile which tightened the skin on his face and sharpened his
sharp features.  "It wasn't much different from that a few years
ago here and it won't be any different if the Cabells have their
way.  Because they're tying their Jew-gold bonds of Empire round
this place and they'll make it another little England.  And that's
why we'll have to get rid of Cabell and England if we want to keep
Australia."

Wagner laughed.  "Stick your republics.  Three meals a day--that's
all I want."

But Berry flared up against Coyle's entranced gaze watching him
closely.  "The stink of the jailyard's on everything you say."

"Sure.  Sure," Coyle said quietly.  "That's what I'm telling you."

"To hell with you then.  It don't concern honest men."  He stood up
to leave the table, wiped his hand roughly over his face, sat down
again, and looked round in a dazed way at the company.

Coyle took out his pipe and began to fill it.  "Typhoid coming on,
Jack?  Must account for the rotten way you shore them hoggets this
morning."

When the last flock, bleeding at the noses, had bolted through the
gates and fled on jerky toy-legs back to its paddock, and the
shearers had taken their cheques and departed, leaving the viscous
silence of days as blank as the stare of the animal they rose and
set upon to ebb once more about the homestead, Berry remained
behind in the hut and sweated the flesh off his bones with typhoid.
On the box beside his bunk was a plate of greasy, untasted food, a
mug of water with two dead flies floating on it, and a candle in a
rum bottle.  Larry came in the evening and lit the candle.

When Berry could talk Larry argued with him.  "Wasn't it right what
Coyle said?  HIS shed made you sick, but will he make it up to you
for the cheque you lost at Black Rock?"

"It isn't right you talking about your old man that way," Berry
said.

"It's the bad ideas Gursey put in your head when you were a kid."

"Gursey was right.  He said I wasn't the same as my old man.  I'm
not.  I feel it here."  He pounded the pit of his stomach with his
fist.  "I won't ever be a squatter.  I'm on the men's side."

"No, no, one day you'll be a rich squatter."

"I'm damned if I will."

"He's your old man," Berry said.  "You can't go against your old
man.  It's not natural.  I don't blame Coyle.  His old man was a
trouble-maker and a convict.  It's in his blood.  But you--I mean--
I mean. . . ."

"I know what you mean," Larry mumbled.

He left next day because he was due at Boondarooba, fifty miles
along the road to Pyke's Crossing, and could not afford to lose
another thirty pounds.  The same day Cabell returned from a trip to
Brisbane with a pair of white Sumatran ponies, frisky and sleek
like kittens, and a little rubber-tyred gig, enamelled, with yellow
leather cushions.  It had been a good season and he had bought
Harriet a present.  "Cost me fifty quid apiece," Larry heard his
father telling the child, boastfully, anxiously, in an effort to
rouse her from the indifference which hung upon her like the
repellent starched petticoats.

"A hundred quid for those fancy horses and he did poor Jack Berry
out of half a dollar!"  Larry was filled with pity for Berry and
all his kind, cheated, like himself, by his father's greed.  He was
reading a book which Coyle had left with him--Progress and Poverty,
by Henry George.  He would have made little of its long words if
the hard, burning rage in his stomach had not illuminated it.  How
incontrovertibly right it made that rage seem.

He did less brooding now.  He liked to watch the bulls fighting
when they came down to drink--the young bull and the old bull.  The
young bull was quicker, the old bull more wily.  Their horns
crashed and locked and they circled, head to head, thrashing the
grass flat.  The cows, knee deep in the stream, their images
reflected on the slime-painted waters, lifted their heads and
watched and bellowed.

"War's the law of the system," Coyle had told him.  "War between
squatters and shearers, men and bosses, young and old, fathers and
sons, the bloody English way and our way."

The old bull manoeuvred the young bull till its feet were in the
mud of the bank, then threw up its head and sent the young bull
tail first into the water.  The cows splashed up on to the bank and
the old bull roared and cantered after them.

"He'll try that once too often, that old bull," Sambo said.  "He's
gettin' older 'n' weaker and the young'un's gettin' older 'n'
stronger.  One of these evenings soon he'll wonder what's hit him."

"Soon," Larry thought, looking at the gates of the sunset, unbarred
for some climactic advent.  "Sooner than he expects."

And then, in a way which nobody expected, which is the way of life,
came something to shatter the peace of the valley and the serene
maturing of Cabell's designs and Larry's.




PART II: BLACK MOUNTAIN



CHAPTER ONE: THE DIRTIEST TRICK


One afternoon early in the summer of 1883 Cabell was lounging
across the counter of Liam O'Connor's ironmongery store in Pyke's
Crossing talking over the prospects of the season with the
proprietor, whom he had watched grow from a tow-headed, pippin-
faced child, crawling about the dirt floor of a lonely shepherd's
hut across the Downs, into the prosperous burgess of a thriving
town, no more than a single, tumbledown grog shanty at a river
crossing when first he entered it thirty years before.  Fencing-
wire and rum had made its fortune and the fortunes of the two
hundred and eighty O'Connors, wives and offspring, second and third
generation, who owned every stick and stone and barrel along its
one dusty street.

True, there was a foreigner in the place, a wizened and infuriated
Scotchman named David Kyle, who had entrenched himself behind the
fly-blown window of a druggist's shop, at the promptings of some
suicidal impulse, to flaunt a yard of yellow ribbon on every 12
July and declare, wherever there was an O'Connor within earshot,
that he would never rest content till he had eaten a beefsteak off
the Pope.  To save him from the consequences of these demented
challenges the physical strength of many combined O'Connors was
often called for.  "We wouldn't have nothing happen to the boy,"
said Danny, head of the tribe and owner of its chief asset, the
Travellers' Rest, "for isn't he bound to marry an O'Connor one day
and quit larkin' about.  There ain't no one else to marry."  To
which the Scotchman retorted by singing "Boyne Water" in a noteless
voice of quavering fury.

It was this voice, shrieking through the suffocating stasis of
noon, which now roused Liam O'Connor from behind the counter and
made him exclaim, "That's the damn Scotchman.  He's been pickin' on
them Irish again."  He grabbed an axe-handle from the counter and
hurried out of doors where fifty other round and freckled faces
were blinking up and down the street, empty except for the horses
tethered outside the Rest, and the Scotchman approaching on feet
winged with dust plumes.  People shouted after him.  A man began to
pursue him, and one or two women, with their aprons thrown over
their heads against the sun.  As he drew nearer his wild yodellings
took form.  "Gold!" he was shouting.  "Gold!"

Liam ran into the street with his axe-handle raised.  "Stop or
I'll brain ye, madman."

The Scotchman hesitated and his strength drained out.  He collapsed
panting into Liam's arms and goggled over Liam's shoulder at
Cabell, still shouting "Gold!  Gold!" in his punctured falsetto.

A crowd gathered.

"Ye've been drinking then, have ye," Liam said, "or what is it?"

The Scotchman tottered on to his feet.  "Gold," he panted.  "I've
seen it.  The telegram--the sergeant sent it--to the Government in
Brisbane.  That furrin mon come in the morn--he's wi' the sergeant
noo--all the blinds down--he discovered it.  Gold!  Rich gold!
Maggie O'Connor's father, the postmaster--he showed me the telegram--
they're leavin' for Cabell Valley immediate--in secret--the
Government doesna want a rush made of it. . . ."

The gabble of voices broke out again.

"Where?" Cabell demanded.

"In yer ain country," Kyle said.  "In Cabell Valley."

"Impossible!" Cabell said, and outraged by the mere thought that he
could have laboured all his years away with a mine of gold
undiscovered at his feet, he added, "It's a damn lie.  I had a man
fossicking all over the valley.  Peters his name was.  You remember
Peters, Liam.  He was a friend of your mother.  He dug holes all
over the place and never discovered anything worth twopence."

"It's maybe just some blind of yours for leavin' the town and
givin' Maggie O'Connor the slip after all," Liam said, raising his
axe-handle.  "I've a mind to have the sergeant, me brother-in-law,
lock you up for safety."

But at this moment there was a rattle of hoofs at the end of the
street and four horsemen galloped by--the sergeant himself, two
troopers, and a man with a flowing white beard leading a packhorse
between them.

The crowd gaped, then scattered shouting to their wives and
families gathered in doorways, "Gold!  They're discovered another
Gympie."

Five minutes later the window of Kyle's shop was stripped of its
goods.  Ten minutes later his dilapidated buggy jolted out of the
yard and disappeared north in dust.  Half an hour later ten
horsemen left the Travellers' Rest in the same direction.  By this
time a Dooley who was married to an O'Connor had had it from a
Fagan, who was his third cousin and clerk in the bank, that a man
named Larsen had that morning deposited five hundred and sixty-nine
pounds' worth of gold-dust at the bank.  At sunset a wagon drew
away from Liam O'Connor's store loaded with picks and shovels, kegs
of nails, tents, axes, and a ton of odd tools.  At nightfall only
Father Joseph O'Connor and the many Mesdames O'Connor, Fagan,
Dooley, Farrel, O'Brien and O'Niell remained in the town.  The
coach for Brisbane, which Cabell had come to join, stood
unharnessed in the yard of the Rest, from the parlour of which
emerged the shrill chaotic flow of women's voices, birdlike in
their strange resemblance to reasonable speech.

Cabell loitered in the bar till it was dark, then called for a meal
and ate it in the corner of the big room, bleak with unaccustomed
emptiness and the reek of stale booze.  Twelve-year-old Teresa
O'Connor, deputy for her absent father, set the white enamel, two-
gallon pot of tea before him.

"Ain't you goin' to the gold rush, Mr Cabell?" she asked.

He gave her a malignant stare.  "What gold?  There isn't any, you
fool."

She snatched her hand from the pot.  "I mean the gold they
discovered at Cabell Valley."

"There isn't any gold I tell you," and when he had wiped the
smudged outline of her face from the blackboard of doorway with a
fierce sweep of his hand he repeated it to himself, "Duffer rush to
catch fools," denying with anxious obstinacy that all the
bitterness and disappointment and tragedy of those years might have
been spared him if he'd only struck a pick in the right place.

He was a young man when he went to the valley, nearly forty years
ago.  Why hadn't he discovered the gold then if there was any?  Was
there an inch of its ground he had not explored with bright eyes
always urgently seeking the key to unlock the door of his exile.
"I'd've been on to it like a shot."  And yet--what was more
eminently in the order of things as he had found them than that
this wealth, which could have bought him out of exile, should fall
into the hands of a pack of wasters who would use it to enrich
blackguard publicans.

He jumped up and shouted for Teresa.  "Get my horse.  I'll ride
across the Downs and catch the train."

But at the end of the street, where the bush began like a tidal
wave frozen into a wall of menacing green as it curled to crash
down and obliterate the town, he pulled his horse back on its
haunches and turned in the saddle.  Beyond the sporadic chirruping
of insects and the gusty rustle of the dry pepper-trees the houses
lay in hysterical darkness.  Over the place hung the rabid air of a
gambling-table . . .

The twitter of women's voices paused as he galloped past the Rest
again, splashed through the ford, and clattered away north into the
hushed night.

"He changed his mind then," Liam's wife said.

"He said there wasn't no gold," Teresa said.

"Nor there won't be none for nobody else now," her aunt said.

Forty miles out he came on David Kyle defending his possessions
across the body of his dead horse from a cavalcade of pressingly
helpful O'Connors.  His ginger side-levers bristled in the dawn
like the attenuated pale flames of righteousness.  "I'll no be
beholden to ye apostate rabble," he shrieked.

Cabell got twenty miles more out of his horse before it knocked up.
Then he had to walk ten miles to borrow another.  The infection had
spread fifteen miles on each side of the road.  Even the grog
shanties were emptying.  Trees were flat behind the haze of dust:
two hundred horsemen were ahead of him.  He passed a crowd of
pigtailed Chinese, one with a crate of fowls on his head.  With sad
fatalistic faces they trotted on as though entranced by an
approaching doom.  Here and there he overtook prospectors, loaded
with pick and shovel and rusty tin dish, lured from their
fossicking by the rumour of a find.  They went forward without
haste, disillusioned but helpless automata of hope.

He snatched a mug of tea with one of them at the roadside.

"If ta's gold there we'll all be in time for a pickin'," the man
told him.  "If ta's nowt what's the use abustin' your guts?"

But to Cabell it seemed that half the population of the state was
ahead of him and that they would have time to raze a mountain of
gold and melt and sell it before he could get on the spot.

"Bless ye, this isn't the rush," the miner said.  "Wait till ta
laads on Gympie and every other payin' goldfield up and down ta
country gets wind of it.  We'll see somethin' then.  Nothin' like a
whisper that some'un's found somethin' that looks somethin' like
gold to get those softies away from a good livin'."



CHAPTER TWO: THE RUSH


The gold was in one of the gullies among the foot-hills of Black
Mountain, a stone's throw from the hole in which Peters, after
prospecting for six years with undiminishable faith, had died and
rotted to a tiny white skeleton.  A creek, shrunk to a shallow
gutter in this dry season, twisted through the undergrowth of ferns
and vine.  Where the rush had halted it swelled into a wide lagoon
scaled with lotus flowers.  Big staghorns hung from the trees and
the maidenhair grew with a lush magnificence to the men's waists.
There was a musky trace of ibises on the stagnant air, heavy with
the scent of rotting gum-leaves and the intense, evanescent flowers
of the tropics.  Here no cool breeze ever penetrated through the
intricate overlapping of hills, from the midst of which Black
Mountain thrust a sugar-loaf head gashed bloodily and covered with
cancerous outcrops of black and red rock.  On a ridge of this
mountain, four hundred feet above the gully, Cabell had shot down a
tribe of blacks in the early days.  Since then not more than half a
dozen white men had come up the steep and stony seven miles from
the road, stockmen looking for lost horses or cattle gone wild in
the scrub.  Cabell's Reach was forty miles away and Narrow Gut, the
Jardine homestead and the nearest settlement, nearly ten.

Cabell arrived at eleven o'clock on the second morning after he
left Pyke's Crossing, but already the first excitement of the rush
was over.  Larsen had washed out three pans of dirt to satisfy the
sergeant that the field was payable and had marked the twenty-one
claims that were to be his reward.  Then, red-eyed from
sleeplessness, he sat on the edge of the shaft and watched a
hundred and fifty of the men who had gathered around him on the
road, with bland, impetuous trust, scampering for claims near to
his, cursing, quarrelling, hurling themselves into the treacherous
undergrowth, numbed by fear of losing their share.  Around them the
gully preserved its aloof, immemorial silence, in which the ferns
and palms had slept their graceful dancer's sleep long, long before
there were men to be tricked into mad activity by the illusion of
owning rare things.  But already, as a forewarning of a new order,
the sound of axes, the scent of trampled grass and flowers and
earth laid bare, fretted the edges of its tranquillity.

All this was over before Cabell arrived and found the vanguard of
the rush, still panting, bleeding, dazed, like somnambulists
roughly awakened from an almost fatal misadventure, seated on their
claims or standing hostile guard over the sticks driven into the
ground to mark their boundaries.  He hurried on and came out in the
little clearing which Larsen had made when prospecting and secretly
working his find in the previous two months.  There the sergeant, a
trooper beside him, was sitting on a pile of saddles and listening
to a dispute between two men.  The sweat, drying from his cheeks,
had left the dust in leprous patches.  It had soaked through his
boots, his cap, and the shoulders of his tunic.  His hands, holding
his unlighted pipe, lay heavily on his fat legs as he listened to
the wrangling of the men with the diffused stare of a horse asleep
on its feet.

Near by in the shade fifteen or twenty other people waited for the
sergeant to decide where they were to scramble for the privilege of
erecting their grog shanties and stores.  Six O'Connors,
representing almost every branch of trade and commerce, whose
supplies were slowly approaching by pack-horse and wagon, sat their
horses apart from the rest in a clannish solidarity of freckled
faces cast to the same grave mould.

But others were already doing brisk business.  Ike, the Syrian
hawker, an itinerant of boundary-riders' and shepherds' huts in the
valley, who had fallen in with the rush on his way to Narrow Gut,
was busily spreading a slab of tobacco, a bottle, two sticky
glasses, and a billy of water on a rock in the shade of a cabbage-
tree palm, and soon the men were crowding around to pay two
shillings for a nobbler of his vile, anonymous liquor and
threepence for a fill of their pipes.

Now that the first excitement was over the hunger and weariness of
the long, foodless scamper were savage.  Quart-pots bubbled over
the fires, the improvident many were going round trying to beg,
borrow, or steal the makings of a damper, a trooper was boiling a
mess of rice and raisins for the official breakfast.  Only one man
had brought a rifle.  He sold the loan of it to others and they
went off looking for birds to shoot.  Two or three were chopping
down a cabbage-tree palm for its succulent heart, but most who had
nothing to eat tightened their belts, dragged their saddles on to
their claims, and lay down to sleep out the hours till the first
packhorse came.  "Perhaps to-night," the O'Connors said.

Cabell pulled into the shade and looked around, wondering what to
do now that he had got himself here at such an expense of
horseflesh.  Vaguely he had expected to see the men carting the
gold away in great lumps under his nose, but all the gold in sight
was the few unimpressive grains of it in Larsen's dish, which lay
neglected beside the heap of police saddles, arousing a splutter of
tired curses from the sergeant's cook every time he stumbled over
it on his way to the fire.  The owner of it was kneading a damper
on the back of his shovel with gluttonous concentration, the
discoverer, one might have thought, of some infinitely precious
particle of sustenance in a world famished for food, not for gold.

Cabell became aware of his own hunger then, catching a whiff of
bacon frying and tea on the boil.  They belonged to a man in
bowyanged moleskins and cabbage-tree hat, who sat on his heels
quietly smoking a corncob pipe in the shade, swagman by the looks
of him.  He caught Cabell's eye on the billy as he hooked it off
the fire, took a second look at him, and said, "How about a mug,
mate?  Thirsty?"

Cabell climbed down and tethered his horse to the tree behind which
the swaggie was hiding these preparations for a good breakfast.

He poured Cabell a pannikin and took the billy for himself.

"Ain't you Cabell from up the valley?" he asked.

Cabell nodded.

"Thought I spotted you.  What d'you think of it, eh?"  He jerked
his thumb towards the clearing.  "You been here twenty, thirty
years . . ."

"Nearer forty," Cabell corrected sourly.

"All right, forty.  And the dirt's been here a couple of million
and it all has to be settled before 11 a.m. on 15 November 1883, or
whatever the day is."

"Twelve o'clock will be a bit too late for somebody."

"Don't you believe it.  I saw them washing off this morning.
There's a lot of gold around here.  But I doubt if there's much in
this gully.  Just shallow stuff, poor man's stuff."

"You've got a claim?"

"Not on your life.  No, sir.  I got no claim.  And don't want
none."  He buried his face in the billy and swallowed long draughts
of scalding tea.

"What're you here for then?"

The swaggie laughed.  He had an engaging laugh, deep from the pit
of his thick chest, which was burnt, like his face, the colour of
mahogany.  "God knows that," he said, wiping his mouth on the palm
of his hand and reaching for the bacon, "because it takes a man a
long time to learn nothing, I suppose, even when he started
learning it like I did at the age of twelve in a tough house like
the Sacramento."

"You were in California?"

"Yessir, I was.  In the blessed year of forty-nine.  That's why
you'll hear them call me Yankee Jack.  Yankee Jack Cash--that's my
monniker, but I was born in Surry Hills, Sydney, forty-six years
ago."  He lifted a rasher out of the boiling fat, dropped it into
his open mouth, then chewed it slowly with his mind on something
else, as though it was cold meat he was eating.  "Yes, Lucky Yankee
Jack," he said.  "Yet I been on every field from the Ovens to the
Towers and never raised more than enough gold to buy me a blind to
forget it.  No, gold ain't my lucky stone."

Cabell, waiting for his own tea to cool, paid a polite and drowsy
inattention.  The two miners were still wrangling with the peevish
and reiterative monotony of the tired.  The sergeant no longer
listened.  He was settling business with the tradesmen, who had
marked out their sites somewhere back in the scrub, and trying to
finish his arrangements for the rush to come and get a few hours'
rest.  Many of the men, spuriously exhilarated by food, were
beginning to sink shafts in their claims.  They were new hands at
the game.  Those who had been at a rush before either busied
themselves cutting bark for a gunyah or slept, or sat waiting for
someone to start work in the claim next door to see whether it was
worth digging up their own.

The heat flowed in glutinous waves from the high wall of the gully.
Flakes of light crystallized turned to butterflies in the shade.
Parrots, brilliant, episodic, fluttered among the trees and made a
sound like silver bells carelessly disturbed.  Dragonflies played
with their own images on the still lagoon, where lotus flowers,
crushed from the surface by miners dipping for a drink, burned
through the yet clear water as though behind glass.  For this last
moment in its long history the gully, henceforth to be known as
Larsen's Bakehouse, slept in Edenic serenity; and the men slept in
Edenic serenity, too, upon dreams of wealth.

Cabell, worn out now that he had rested a moment, gave in to the
tug of the earth's inertia and flopped his back against the tree.
"What were you lucky at then?" he asked, now for the first time
taking a good look at his host, garrulous and alike unaffected by
the stirring events around him and the over-powering heat of noon.

Behind his black beard, as solid with tight, close curls as a lump
of carved jet, his big mouth was constantly twitching with
vivacious amiability, like an energetic little animal eating its
way through a hard rock.  It was the only feature which moved in
that face, cut to an attractive monkey-ugliness, or rather moulded
out of brick-clay and baked hard.  His eyes were wide and hard and
looked straight out, impervious to the glare.  But they were really
not like eyes at all, they stared so hard and fixedly, more like
two thin sheets of coloured mica behind which his eyes were hidden.
Yet there was nothing cunning or secretive about him.  On the
contrary, the flat squat face was without depth or guile, unless in
its up-turned corners his mouth secreted a faint irony.

At a first glance a commonplace character of the bush, which
exposed itself in gestures of a simple and innocent frankness.  But
Cabell had had time to take a second glance over the rim of his
pannikin, and was puzzled to fix this man in any simple and
innocent class of bush life.  His voice was crisp and vigorous, not
the voice of a bushman drawling on and on over meandering tracks of
thought that petered out, sooner or later, in the vast, unchartered
wilderness of day-dream.  He had not the soft hands of a shearer,
the dandyism of a stockman or horse-breaker, the swagman's air of a
broken-spirited straggler from a defeated army for ever doggedly
retreating across the waste.  His boots were out at the toes and
mended with fencing-wire, but he wore a heavy gold ring on the
little finger of his left hand and a gold bracken-leaf tie-pin
jauntily in the silk handkerchief around his neck.  His hair was
brushed into an arrogant scythe of curl over the right eye and his
beard was neatly trimmed.

Cabell repeated the question, sharper with interest.  "What do they
call you lucky for then?"

Cash swallowed the last piece of bacon, wiped the pan around with a
piece of damper, swallowed that, and took out his pipe.  "Lucky not
to be stretched on a hundred-and-thirty-foot Oregon flagpole
erected in the name of liberty and justice," he said.

Cabell started.  "Oh?"



CHAPTER THREE: APPRENTICESHIP TO LIFE


"Yes," Cash said, glinting his teeth in an equivocal, apelike grin,
"justice was pretty rough in San Francisco, but we were a sight
rougher, and it took more than those cat-lap hicks from the East
knew to hold us.  There was maybe a couple of hundred coves from
this side the Pacific hanging round the El Dorado in Kearney Street
or hatching mischief in Sydney Valley or Little Chile.  Not many of
that mob was looking for a place to dig gold out with a shovel and
sweat.  They knew a better lay.  They were some of the flashest
bugs from London and all old fakirs.  Stuck together, too--been
mates in a hotter place.  If you wanted to get in a vault there was
plenty of bricklayers to tell you how, and plenty of blacksmiths to
cut a key for you, and plenty of clerks to tell you where the dough
was planted.  There was even a Sydney-sider looking after the
lawful property of the hard-working frock-coats of San Francisco.
If you couldn't make a do of it with all those outside pals there
was always a bumboat in cooee with a couple of willing Australian
arms to pull you off to an Australian ship."  He stroked his beard
where drops of grease from the bacon were beginning to harden in
waxen icicles and winked.  "Come the night when I wanted one of
those boats myself. . . ."

He shifted his hard stare from the fire to Cabell's face and
examined him coolly for several seconds.  "No saying what you
blokes in frockcoats will do when your pocket's been touched," he
said, and grinned derisively back at Cabell's tight mouth through
the gossamer of his pipe smoke.  "They took my old man up a lane
once and cut his ears off.  But he was a right smart cove and they
never laid hands on him again till the night I'm speaking of.  They
were coming back from church and caught him lugging the safe out of
old MacPherson's warehouse, with me holding the horse ready for
him.  All Vigilantes they were--hot for law and order and topping
off a few Sydney Ducks for an example.  But my old man had been
near stretched so many times he didn't set any store by threats.
'Just you keep your glib shut,' he says, 'and we'll be home in bed
in half an hour.  These fancy traps ain't got the bone to kill
their own chats.'  They'd got us into a house by that time.  'You
better confess,' they said, 'and we won't make it so hot for you.'
'Kiss me backside,' says me old man.  'We'll hang you,' they said.
'You couldn't hang wall-paper,' says the old man.

"And sure enough they looked a damn sight whiter round the gills
than he did.  'Look at 'em,' says the old man.  'They look the dead
speaking spit of hangmen, now don't they?'

"But I was listening to something else.  A sound like a beetle
crawling on paper.  It was getting louder.  I took a look behind me
through the window and saw the street outside crowded with people,
standing there not talking, just moving their feet impatient in the
dust.  'I wish we hadn't gone near that place to-night,' I says to
the old man.  'Aw, stop snivelling,' he says.  'I never been hanged
yet.'

"And things did change a bit brighter then because there was a bit
of a lull and one bloke blows his nose and says, 'Well, gentlemen,
if there's a reasonable doubt . . .'  He was a little fat cove who
kept a draper's shop and his collar had gone like a bit of wet
bread round his neck.  'I, for one,' he says, 'would never agree to
topping off a man unless. . . .'  But while they're hanging in the
wind up jumps a fellow called Barrett, a real nasty looking
bastard.  'What's the use beating about the bush,' he says.  'We
come here to-night to hang two men, I reckon.  Let's get down to
business.  Call the parson.'

"'But are we sure enough?' says the fat cove.

"'I'm sure of one thing,' says Barrett.  'If we don't we'll get
laughed out of town.'

"The little fat cove looked out the window--sounded as if there
might be two or three thousand beetles there now--and blew his
nose.  'Well, yes,' he says, 'perhaps for the public good . . .'

"And then I knew our number was up.  In comes the cushion-smiter
and starts trying to make my old man pray, but Barrett cuts him
short.  'That's enough talk.  Get the praying business over.  I'm
going to hand these men in half an hour.'

"'Not this youth, surely,' says the parson.  'He's so young.'

"'Younger the better,' Barrett says.  'Like bugs.'

"So he goes to the window and asks the crowd and the crowd yells,
'Yes, hang 'em both.  Chuck 'em down here.'

"'That's all right.  You'll see 'em hang,' Barrett says.  'In half
an hour at the Old Adobe.  Go and put a block and tackle on the
Liberty Pole.'

"With that they cheered and marched off.  It took 'em about fifteen
minutes to get clear and then Barrett turns round and says, 'Are
you ready, gents?'  So they grab hold of us and push us downstairs
and into the street.  There was a wind getting up.  I could smell
the sea strong.  'Wish to Christ you'd stayed in Australia,' I says
to the old man.  'What're you saying, you damned whelp?' says he.
'You know if I stayed in Australia I'd 'a' been hanged.'

"All the Vigilantes were crowding round us now, holding a rope
fence round us with about ten men on each side and in front, and
half a dozen outriders with carbines.  Barrett shoved his gun into
my old man's back.  'March!' he says.

"It must've been near two o'clock.  The crowd had lit torches.  You
could see the glow a mile off.  Suddenly the engine companies'
bells start to toll.  Up Sansome Street to California we went, then
up Clay and Montgomery to Portsmouth Square.  Then my heart come up
hot in my mouth.  I heard a cooee, and a mob from Sydney Valley
rushed out from the side of the street and start pulling the
outriders down.  But we went on and after a bit the outriders come
up and said they shot a man."

He paused to look in his pipe, knock the ashes out, and fill it
again.  The sun had moved the shade away from him and its flails
beat down on his back and bare head now.  He did not notice.
Sitting there unwearyingly on his heels he seemed, against the
background of his story, encased in an invisible mail of
imperviousness to, more than mere discomfort, all possible vagaries
of a reckless destiny.

Cabell, man of order and property, hardened against him,
instinctively recognizing the eternal soldier of fortune, race-
course tout to-day, jailbird to-morrow, and strutting gentleman of
brilliant means the day after, but through all of them glazed over
with this impervious, because contemptuous, fortitude to change and
disaster.  Still, he had had too many troubles in his own life not
to admire fortitude and envy it.  "Well, what then?" he said.

"One thing about that night," Cash said, "I got finished with
dying, if you know what I mean.  I mean I died fifty times crossing
Portsmouth Square, and after that living was like getting a second
run for your money.  It's just so much for nothing, so you don't
worry about losing it again.  That's why my old man took it so
easy.  He'd slept in the condemned cell twice and been pardoned.
I'd begun to hang back, but he only cursed harder.  The mob was all
around us.  They sounded like a lot of niggers singing--you know,
without a tune.  And then we come round the corner all of a sudden
and there was the hundred-and-thirty-foot Oregon flagpole and
another mob around it with torches, holding the rope ready.  We
stopped then, and Barrett tried to get hold of the noose, but the
cove that had it didn't want to give it up.  He held it in both
hands close to his chest and kept his eyes on me.  So they had to
crack him on the head with the butt of a gun to get it off him.

"Barrett looked at it and tried it, with the mob waving their
torches and yelling, 'Put it on, Barrett.  Don't waste time.  Put
it on the old bloke first.  Put a torch to him.  Burn the dog.'
And just at that moment somebody grabbed my shoulder.  It was the
little fat bloke, the draper.  He was hanging on to my shoulder
breathing hard.  His face looked like a lump of lard melting.  I
saw he was going to be sick and gave him one shove and he staggered
back and fell and they walked over him.

"When I looked round Barrett was holding the noose up over the old
man's head.  I thought, 'This is the stone end,' and stopped
feeling scared.  The mob, and the torches, and the horses rearing
and kicking hell out of the mob all got mixed up, and I felt a bit
lushy and as if it was nothing to do with me anyway.  Barrett had
hold of the old man by the beard and was pulling the noose on.
They'd made it a bit small so it took all the skin off his nose.
He put his hand up and felt his nose and yelled something, and then
he stumbled suddenly and went on his knees and somebody started to
shout, 'Look out.  He's escaping.  They got him by the legs.'  I
looked down, and sure enough there was somebody, some Sydney Duck,
had crawled up in the dark and got my old man by the boot and was
trying to pull him out under the rope fence, with Barrett white as
a sheet pulling the other end of the chit and my old man's head in
between with his tongue hanging out and wagging like a long, red
leaf--like the leaf round the end of a bunch of young bananas.  It
looked nearly six inches long and I expected to see his face turn
inside out any minute.  He was hanging on to the noose too and they
were jabbing at his hands with a torch trying to make him let go,
and then he let go and Barrett looked over his shoulder and yelled,
'Every lover of liberty and good order lay hands on the rope,' and
about fifty of them grabbed hold of the loose end and my old man
went up the pole like a rocket, hung with his legs in the light for
a moment while they got another grip, then disappeared into the
dark."

His pipe had gone out again.  He stowed it under his bowyang, and
drank a few mouthfuls of lukewarm tea from the billy.  The
afternoon was settling in now with a stir of birds rousing from the
midday heat and the rasp of insects, like the audible brazen clang
of the sunlight striking down on the rocky walls of the gully.

There was a commotion in the bushes and Ike, the hawker, appeared,
leading a miserable pantomime horse with a cloud of flies round its
head like a nimbus.

"Sold out, Ike?" Cash asked.

"Ah, Yankee, I sell too chip."  He began to whine in a thick,
slightly rancid voice.  "Zat's my trouble."

"That's all our trouble," Cash said.  "Still, if good rum was
cheaper than kerosene and lampblack I bet you'd still use kerosene
and lampblack.  You're just made that way."

The Syrian bobbed his head over a pair of intent, viperous eyes and
grinned, "Yis, Yankee."

"Where're you sneaking off to now?  Just stole something?"

"No, Yankee.  I jist go bringa bifsteks."  He waved down the gully.

"Plenty more come.  Plenty hungry.  I bringa bifsteks to-morrow."

"Public benefactor," Cash said.

"Yis, Yankee."  The Syrian flashed his vindictive glance between
them and went on.

"There's a shrewd-head," Cash said.  "You wouldn't catch him
swinging a pick after gold that mightn't be there.  They reckon he
owns a street of houses in Brisbane."  He leant forward and touched
Cabell's knee.  "You weren't thinking of navvying in this sweat-
house, were you?"

"I'm not here for the scenery," Cabell said.

"I always heard you were a shrewd-head too."  Cash laughed.  "But
perhaps you don't know goldfields like I do."  He nodded past the
tree.  "Look at those poor plugs digging.  How much gold d'you
think they've got?  Nothing.  And not likely to.  No, Cabell.  I
could lay you--both of us, that is--on to a better thing than
that."

Cabell jerked his head round with the exaggerated turn necessary to
focus his one eye.  The hard confidence in the eyes of the other
repelled and alarmed him, but attracted him too.

"My face mightn't appeal," Cash said, "but my name ought to.  Then
there's my luck."

"Yes," Cabell said, hedging, "but you didn't finish your yarn."

"Neither I did."  He swung back on his heels again.  "But there's
not much more.  While everybody was looking up at the pole, jerking
about like a rod with a big fish on it, someone reached over and
cracked me on the head with a torch and laid me out.  I felt a lot
of feet around me kicking and then I didn't know where I was till I
come to running down Clay Street for the lick of my life.  The
bells were still tolling.  I just kept on running towards the smell
of the sea . . ."

Cabell grunted.  "You were damned lucky."

"A lot are lucky," Cash said, "otherwise a lot more would go up the
pole."

"Eh?  Lucky?  Yes, yes, you're right there."

"So with my luck and YOUR luck we ought to get along," Cash said.
"Is it a deal?"



CHAPTER FOUR: PARTNERS


The partnership began with an innocent transaction in beef, mutton,
flour, tea, molasses, and tobacco.

"To-morrow," Cash said, "nobody will be thinking about gold except
to spend whatever they've got of it or expect to get on tucker.  By
breakfast they'll be ready to sell their grandmother to a Chow for
a handful of bird-seed."

So, with the aid of Cash, Cabell sold meat at eightpence a pound,
flour for two shillings a pint, and tea by the spoonful before Tim
O'Connor could bring a load of steer beef from Narrow Gut and the
packhorses arrived at sunset next day.  He rode home with two
pounds' weight of gold in his boot and his confidence in Cash was
much deeper.

Cash inspired confidence.  The miners liked him.  After a bit, when
the gold began to flow, the Cabell Valley Goldbuying Agency and
General Store opened its doors on Larsen Street with Cash as the
amiable and hard-fisted manager.  The place was always full with a
roaring crowd--men for the most part in cord trousers, red shirts,
and long California hats, the regular miners from Gympie, the
Palmer, and Charters Towers, from Ballarat and Bendigo, even from
New Zealand--wild spenders and simple fellows, simple as children,
craving bright gewgaws, eyeglasses, and drinks in silver-topped
bottles.

"True scales and rum pretty well all rum, that's what fetches 'em,"
Cash told Cabell.

"That fellow Kyle doesn't trouble himself much about whether his
scales are true or not," Cabell grumbled.  "I bet he makes a couple
of pennyweights on every ounce."

"One night they'll kick Kyle down Larsen Street into the lagoon,"
Cash said.  "Then you'll admit it was a lucky day you met me."

"What d'you mean?"

Cash only laughed.  Cabell's rampagings didn't worry him.
"Patience, man.  Who's raking it in as fast as you?"  He ran his
fingers through a pile of gold-dust which he was weighing and
packing into little chamois-leather bags for Cabell to take in the
night coach to the bank at Pyke's Crossing.  "Ten bob on every
ounce you buy, 200 per cent on everything you sell."

"Yes, yes."  Cabell walked to the door and looked out.  The ferns,
palms, and maidenhair were gone.  The trees were gone, cut down for
firewood or timber or bark.  Everything green was gone, and the
earth lay bare and mauled, wasting in an arid miasma of dust.
There was a kind of gratuitous evil in the hasty ugliness of the
scene--the holes, abandoned and half-filled with water by a shower
of rain, the muddy piles of sludge at the edge of the ochreous
lagoon, the clumsy mia-mias of bark and calico sprawling across the
slopes of the gully, more like kennels than human habitations, the
sardine tins and broken bottles at their doors, and the stench they
breathed of human sweat and human garbage--as though the place had
been mutilated, not by men strong and brave and steady in a decent
cause, but by terrified ravishers, clutching and demented.  The
beastly mark of this fear was on everything and everybody, on the
miners digging in the earth, afraid that they would not find gold,
afraid that the gold they found would peter out; on the faces of
men hearing about a new find up the gully, afraid to leave what
they had, afraid of missing something good.  It was as though a
jocular and infantile god of Chance had been given this square mile
of earth and the two thousand men on it to play with.  Under his
paw there could be no certainty, peace, or contentment.

The fear had bitten fatally deep into Cabell's susceptible heart.
Here was a store of riches momently dwindling, slipping through his
fingers--such wealth as he had never imagined within his reach.  So
easily to be come by, so easily to be lost.  Henceforth he would be
inescapably chained to this adventitious stone, plagued by the
thought that under the slow grass of his pastures gold might lie
waiting to enrich someone else, lacerated by regrets and a sense of
colossal injustice.

"Patience!  Damn it all, Cash, I've been walking round this stuff
for the best part of my life, drudging a few miserly quid off the
backs of sheep when I might have been . . ."  A vision of fields
ploughed into straight furrows rising peacefully to the skyline of
an English evening confronted him out of the broken earth.

"Might've been!" Cash said.  "What's the use thinking of might've
beens."

"I might've been a different kind of man, that's what I mean.  A
lot of things wouldn't have happened."  He gestured towards the
miners scurrying up and down the gully.  "I feel as if they've
robbed me of everything I wanted--confound them."

Cash stroked his beard.  A dribble of smoke seeped through it like
a rich, blue liquor he was wringing from the hair.  "Trouble with
you, Cabell, is you're . . ."  A word eluded him and he continued
to stare at Cabell's back and ponder.  "Blokes say you're hard as
nails--think of nothing but money.  But it might be better if you
did think of money just as money, I mean.  But you don't.  It's not
just money in your brain."

"No, no, it's not the money."

"You put me in mind of a bloke," Cash hitched his chair around.
"He was pretty tough too--had that reputation.  Men were civil to
him where men aren't usually civil, but behind his back they
reckoned he was mean.  Mean and inhuman.  No more feeling than
jerked beef's got juice.  A blackbirder out of the Mary River--that
was his line.  Chuck a cargo of coons in chains overboard as soon
as spit in the sea.  And all the time that bloke was in love with a
shielagh about half his age down in Sydney.  He hadn't even spoken
to her and she didn't know he existed.  Saw her in a theatre one
night and fell in love.  Only once, mind you, and he used to go and
stand outside her house for hours in the hopes of seeing her again.
He was a bank clerk on thirty bob a week, and she was Sir Somebody
Something's daughter.  So he chucked his job and went north to make
enough money to marry her.  Reckoned he had eight years.  He had a
crazy old ketch you nearly went through the deck of when you walked
about, leaked like a sieve.  I don't know how he bought it,
probably robbed the bank for a start.  Anyway he made money--hand
over fist.  I went one trip with him.  Nobody else would.  And he
told me about the tart in Sydney.  Tears come in his eyes.  This
bloke they called Bill the Body-Snatcher.  Imagine that.  The day
before I saw him go and shoot up a chief who wouldn't trade any
boys, and here he was blubbering about her 'beautiful raven locks,'
or something of the sort."

Cabell turned away impatiently.  He was getting used to Cash
pulling his leg.

"No, but wait a bit," Cash said.  "He went back to Sydney.  Sold
his boat and bought a new pair of flash duds and washed the smell
of coons off his hands.  And what'd he find?  Of course the
shielagh had married.  She had a right to, but he didn't think so.
He got into the house and beat up her husband and called her every
kind of bitch under the sun.  He would've done her in too, had hold
of her by the throat when they came in and rescued her.  She didn't
know who he was from Adam and nobody knew what he meant by saying
that she was responsible for him killing and enslaving decent
coons, so they put him in a rathouse.  But he wasn't mad.  He
wasn't sorry for what he'd done to her either, only wished he'd
done worse.  You couldn't get it into his head.  He was . . . ah
yes, infatuated.  That's it, infatuated.  That's what you put me in
mind of--an infatuated bloke."  He nudged Cabell gently.  "It's not
that tart over your place, is it?"

"What tart?"

"The one with whiskers.  I saw her the other day.  She looked at me
as if I made her mouth water."

"Ah," Cabell said brightening, "then you saw my little girl too,
did you?"

"That funny looking kid dressed up like . . ."  He checked himself.
"Yes, I saw her in the jinker.  Pretty."

"Too pretty for this hole," Cabell said.  "I'm sending her home to
England.  That's what I need money for now, if you want to know.
Not for myself--for her."

"Some bloke'll be lucky," Cash said, packing the last bag of gold
into a sweat-stained valise and snapping the lock on it.

"Yes," Cabell said, "some lucky young devil," and sighed.  Again
the grimy chaos of dirt and toiling men faded and left him staring
at the ever more vivid picture of a girl and a boy clinging to each
other under a canopy of lilac blossoms.

"That reminds me," Cash was saying, "you ought to keep an eye on
that other kid of yours."

"What other kid?"

"The little fat one.  He was down at the races with Shaftoe last
Saturday.  I don't like that kind of crook."

"I know.  I know," Cabell said.  Then his eye lighted on the bag
and he picked it up.  "How much?"

"About nine hundred quids' worth.  Buying's been good."

"Ah!"  He balanced the weight of it in his two hands, slightly
huddled, turning his predatory beak and staring eye from Cash to
the open door and back to the bag like an old jealous hawk.  "Ah!"

By the middle of February there were three thousand men on the
field.  Larsen's Bakehouse was a town now.  Twenty miles off across
the valley you could tell where it lay from the clouds of dust
always whorling redly up under Black Mountain.  In Larsen Street
there were ten grog shanties, four general stores, a bank,
butchers' shops, embowered in rusty leaves, one for each station in
the valley, and a post office where a wild-eyed postmaster received
the mailbags from the coach, dumped the contents into a heap on the
floor, and rushed back to his claim yelling, "Mail's in.  Help
yourself."

Burrowing, indomitable, destructive, like a plague of insects that
would soon eat the place out and depart, the men swarmed in the
gullies, along the vanishing, viscous creek, and about their
tentative homes and resorts.  Day and night the creak of drays,
caulked up lest a handful of their load escape, carrying dirt to
the creek; the crack of whips urging wagons and packhorses up and
down the stony road to the valley; the shouts of men; the
agglomerate mad roar in the pubs; the clang of blacksmiths' hammers
sharpening picks; the melancholy wails of drunken blacks enriched
by selling bark and firewood; the hysterical gabble of Chinese,
working over deserted tailings, since they were forbidden to take
up claims of their own, with the multitudinous and incomprehensibly
nourishing industry of white ants in a dry log; fights;
celebrations around a bucketful of champagne; and above everything
the rustle, like a quiet sea, of gravel in the cradles at the creek-
side.

These were the lawless days.  A fight on St Patrick's Day, which
began through Kyle strolling into the Miners' Arms, calling for
Scotch whisky, and whistling "Boyne Water" reflectively on his way
out, ended with everybody going down to set fire to Chinatown.
Next morning Sergeant Flaherty arrested Kyle on a charge of
feloniously wounding.  The Sergeant had lost the top joint of his
right-hand forefinger, and he gave evidence that Kyle had bitten it
off and swallowed it.  The O'Connors had to use their influence
again.

Two miners had an argument about a shovel and fought a duel around
a shed with shot-guns.  The fight went on all day until one of them
threw a jam tin with a plug of dynamite in it.  When they were both
recovered with brandy, the owner of the shed took them down and
threw them in the lagoon.

A miner came in and spread a rumour that he had found gold in a
gully about two days' journey away.  At once there was a rush to
the new prospect.  The miner looked over the deserted claims and
jumped the best.  Legally he was entitled to it, but a week later
the man who had left it returned with his friends, and the claim-
jumper would have been lynched only he took refuge in Cabell's
store.  Cabell recognized the man who had given him a cup of tea
when he was riding up from Pyke's Crossing.  Cash soothed the mob.
The claim-jumper's name was Custard, a north countryman with a
mean, pinched face and a cunning eye.  He knew a lot about mining
fields.  He told Cabell that hundreds of pounds' worth of gold was
being stolen from Larsen's claim and sold to the Chinese.  Cabell
gave him a job.  Soon Cabell was buying the stolen gold.

It was midsummer now.  The ragged shard of sky over their heads was
the colour of sand.  At midnight the rocks were still warm.  The
miners awoke and looked out and saw the stars.  Reassured they
dropped off to sleep again.  In the day a distant rumble paralysed
them, and they stood, faces uplifted, their uproar hushed with an
uncanny, insect-like spontaneity.  From across the ridges to which
they had driven it flowed the waiting silence of the bush, where
birds and cicadas were hushed like themselves in expectation of
something hovering behind the hills to the north-east.  And then,
more clamorous than ever, more fiercely burrowing, indomitable, and
destructive, they returned to work.  In the afternoon a black cloud
thrust an edge over the valley and withdrew behind Black Mountain
to make the stars shudder with the St Vitus's twitch of its
lightnings.

But at last, inevitably, the rain came--the cloud-burst of the wet
season that lifted rivers twenty feet in a night and turned the
bone-dry valley to an islanded lagoon.  Just before dawn the creek
broke through their dam and rushed down Larsen's Bakehouse like a
fury bent on cleaning the valley of their pollution.  At sunrise
the sky was cloudless, and the only assurance that they had not
heard it all in a bad dream was the broad ribbon of creek flowing
with a soft purr of satiated anger.  The piles of dirt that might
have made them rich men were gone, with a blacksmith's forge, the
road to the valley, and a few Chinamen.  Their sluices and cradles
had disappeared too and their shafts were flooded.  The rain seemed
to have washed a thick fur of rust off the sky but it had only
cleaned the air.

The grog shanties did good business that day.

The storm that night was longer and more savage.  It razed bark
humpies, pounded the roof off the Ningpo station's butcher shop and
left sides of beef buried in the mud a quarter of a mile away,
scoured the earth from the treeless gully as a knife cuts butter,
washed a side out of Cabell's slaughter-yard and stampeded fifty
prime stores into the hills, then settled down into its well-known
perpendicular drizzle, which eased off of an afternoon to let the
sun steam the marrow out of every living bone in Larsen's
Bakehouse.  The green bark walls of the humpies buckled like paper
in a fire and the town fell to pieces about its soaked and dejected
inhabitants.  Flour caked in its bags, tools rusted, the creek
crept farther across the gully, whirling more and more of the
precious unbound earth away, and finally an epidemic of fever
began.  The carpenter turned from making cradles to making coffins
and David Kyle from taking the miners down with crooked scales to
tramping the flooded gully night and day with physic for the sick,
a top-hat on his head and a Bible under his arm, to give a "decent
Chreestian burial" wherever it might be needed by the way.
"Earning merit," Cash said, against the time when there would be
more gold to buy.

Cabell earned merit too.  He got a drayload of beef through bog and
torrent and landslide, and half-starved miners and miners' wives
poured from the hovels and mobbed him, women in gunny-sacks for
skirts, children, men shaking with fever whom a few weeks before he
had seen in his store with nuggets and gold-dust, overbearing with
success.  The sight of them now scared him.  Not because he was
afraid they would rush his dray and rob the beef he expected to get
high prices for, but because of their abject lack of spirit to do
more than stumble along beside the dray and beg.  So potent was the
ever-imminent malice of Chance.  He trembled for his own fortunes.
To placate evil powers he distributed twenty pounds' worth of beef.

They cheered him.  "A thousand blessings go with ye," an old woman
called.

"Go to blazes," Cabell muttered, and drove on, calculating how much
more he would have to wring out of his customers to get back that
twenty pounds.



CHAPTER FIVE: SAMBO LOOKS FOR THE STORES


The store was locked up.  Cash, as usual of late, was over the road
at Joe O'Connor's Golden Sunrise, a rickety shack with a tattered
calico sign now rain-smudged.  The patrons were not making so much
noise today, and as he backed the wagon up to the door and took the
tarpaulin off, Cabell could hear Cash roaring out one of his yarns.

"I only had fever once," he was saying, "when I was gully-raking
with a mate in the mountains at the back of Richmond, down south.
We had a mob of horses planted.  Then me and my mate went down with
fever together.  I couldn't hardly move an eyelid and the only
living thing in fifteen miles was our dog.  We kept him starved and
chained up in the hut to make him savage.  And wasn't he, by
Christ!  Turn your back and he'd be up on it like grease lightning.
I must've been out to it about eight days.  I lost count.  Used to
stagger up and get a drink and tear my duds out of the mongrel's
teeth and fall down and lie there dreaming he was eating me.  And
by God when I came to and looked round damned if he hadn't.  Not
me, but my mate.  He'd slung his hook and the dog had chewed his
right leg clean off."

Their interest was lethargic.  He gave them up and lurched to the
door to look at the rain, like a great rat slowly eating the town
away.  Up the street a wagon, with a dead bullock beside it, was
bogged to the axletrees and abandoned.  Outside Kyle's Aberdeen
Emporium a youth was auctioning picks and shovels.  "'Ere ladies
and gents, we 'ave a bran' new pick, shovel, and cradle--never
turned an ounce of gold.  Carried all the way from Pyke's Crossing
on this 'ere bloke's back, ladies and gents.  A pick and shovel to
start a market garden with and supply the Chows with greens, ladies
and gentlemen.  'Ere's your chance."  A week ago a pick and shovel
would have brought twenty-five shillings the set.  Now no one would
bid even five.

Cash scowled at the wreckage of the town.  The scene, no longer
pregnant of that sensational action in which his spirit found its
only assurance of being, made him restless.  "Dead as meat," he
muttered, and staggered through the mud to the shelter of the
Goldbuying Agency, where he found Cabell, to whom all action, all
toil and sweat and violence, had long ago become slightly unreal,
dreamlike, against the conviction of the fantasies they served,
hard at work unloading his dray.  "Here," Cash said, "it's a
caution to snakes in this dump.  I'm clearing out.  Give me my
dough and we'll call it quits."

"Clearing out?"  Cabell's jaw went down.  Why, Cash was his lucky
token.  Hadn't he prospered more than ever before in his life with
this man at his side?  Besides, Cash's clearing out must mean that
the gold was nearly done.  "But there's a ton of gold here yet," he
protested.  "Larsen told me.  He says the top's hardly been scraped
off."

"To hell with the gold.  I've got enough.  I want a change of
scenery."

"I'll give you a cheque to-morrow," Cabell hedged.  He hoped Cash
might be sober and reasonable by then.  For, all other considerations
apart, the business would suffer if it lost Cash, a man knowing in
the ways and means of goldfields--how to spot dosed gold, how to
coax a miner with a tight fist on his bag of dust, whom to back
with credit, whom to watch.

"See you do," Cash said, then laughed and slapped Cabell's
shoulder.  "Old Rusty Guts, eh?  Well, I reckon you're not a bad
bastard, Cabell.  I've seen plenty worse and better thought of."

And there, strangely enough, was not the least of the reasons which
made Cabell regret losing Cash.  He liked nobody and nobody liked
him.  When he walked into a bar men stopped talking and looked
round at him.  He knew they called him skinflint and Rusty Guts,
and that there was a new generation in the land who had never known
the old days and therefore could never, never understand.  That
young prig James for example.  Dressed up like a sore finger and
going round the house with his nose in the air.  He'd been hearing
things from a parcel of nincompoops at school, and now he was
beginning to look down his nose at his father.  From the loneliness
of his shame and bad conscience Cabell took refuge in the robust
amorality of Cash, who had seen so much life and concluded that he
was not a "bad bastard" after all.  Not that he felt any affection
for Cash.  That pottery face and derisive eye invited no tributes
of gentle regard and Cabell was many, many stressful years past
feeling them, past feeling for anything except the kindly phantoms
of his brain; but he did feel a sort of gratitude to a man who
thought less badly of him than others.

Next day Cash was dead drunk on the floor of the Sunrise.  That was
better for Cabell's purposes than having him sober.  He remained
drunk for three weeks, and by that time the first stage in the
history of Black Mountain was past.  Discouragement, as rabid as
hope, had emptied Larsen's Bakehouse.  Even many of the regular
miners, who knew that there was gold in the place, had departed--a
strange legion tied, like Cabell, to no steadfast star and
therefore with no use whatever for gold when they found it.  A kind
of rakish joy in seeking moved their arduous lives, but the
treasure itself they fled from at the first excuse as though they
were afraid that it would seduce them to quiet days.  About fifty
of them were fossicking around the hills and another fifty were
waiting in the pubs for the flood to go down.  Apart from these
only Cabell, Larsen, Ike the hawker, Joe O'Connor, sole remaining
representative of his clan, John Flagg the warden, a couple of
troopers, some storekeepers, a horde of Chinamen, and Kyle--fixed
to the spot not by any faith in its potentialities now but, more
obstinately, by the efforts of O'Connors to lure him back to the
Crossing--were left under the sagging roofs of the mushroom town.
The rain had cleared and the river was still several feet deep over
the claims, though it had fallen enough for the old hands to come
back from their fossicking and start to potter about the debris
when the second phase of the story opened.

That was on a sunny day in April 1884, when Sambo and Monaghan were
riding across a spur of Black Mountain in search of the fifty prime
stores which had broken out of Cabell's slaughter-yard the night
the rains began.  They had pulled up in a fern gully, cooled by
waterfalls, to rest and light their pipes.

"They bin coming down here for a drink," Sambo said, examining some
cattle tracks in the rocky ground.  Then he bent and picked up a
piece of stone, about as big as his head, which had broken recently
from a weatherworn and moss-grown outcrop.  "Cripes!" he said,
letting the reins slither off his arm.  "Stone the crows!  Whatya
make of that, Mon?"

Monaghan took the stone and examined it, and instinctively held it
away from Sambo, reaching over to point at a delicate line of
reddish-yellow, veining its crystals like a chain of lightning.  "I
seed one of these here gold specimens down Larsen's," Sambo said.
"If that ain't one . . .  Here, give it here, I found it."

"What're you going to do with it?"

"Sell it.  Whatya think?  Boss'll give you a fiver for that."  He
gathered his reins and prepared to mount.

"Wait a bit," Monaghan said.  "There might be more."

So they tied the horses up and spent the afternoon chipping lumps
off the outcrop.  Some had gold in them but not much that they
could see.  The shadow of Black Mountain, intruding on their rapt
research, made Sambo look up and say, "Four o'clock!  Cripes!  Them
stores.  Boss'll be sore."

"To hell with the boss 'n' his stores," Monaghan said, then looked
at Sambo slyly.  "Unless you want to go and look for them.  I ain't
working for him no more."

"You ain't . . ."  Sambo gaped at a changed Monaghan.  The sagging
lines of his sun-blackened face had tightened as a rope tightens in
the dew.  His lack-lustre eyes, like the neglected knobs of a door
long closed on disused vacancy, were shining and alert, concealing
a cunning idea.  But at last it had dawned on Sambo too.  "Gawd
stiffen the crows.  Why, we could start a goldmine of our own!"

"We could," Monaghan admitted grudgingly.  "Suppose we DID both
discover it."

Sambo was in the saddle.  "We oughta be gettin' back soon's we find
them stores.  Tell the boss . . ."

"Tell HIM!  What for?"

"We don't know nothing about goldmines.  He'll put us wise."

"Here, wait a bit.  You're barmy.  Look, we'll take this," Monaghan
picked up the first piece of rock Sambo had found, "and we'll cover
all the rest over in case any of those prospector blokes come
bummin' around, and we'll go and tell the warden and no one else,
see?  Or by Jeez, Sambo, they'll grab it offen us like a dinger
grabs the lights offen a bogged cow."

Sambo glanced round and licked a leathery tongue over his lips.
"Cripes, Mon, but the boss'll be dead sore."



CHAPTER SIX: WATERFALL


Cabell WAS angry, but with a wordless, helpless anger when, called
from the Reach by an urgent message from Cash, he arrived on the
new field, which had depopulated Larsen's Bakehouse as completely
as the Bakehouse had depopulated Pyke's Crossing, and found
Monaghan, in top-hat, monocle, and new elastic-sided boots,
entertaining a select company of advisers to champagne in his tent.
The top-hat was once an accessory of David Kyle's "Chreestian
burials," and Monaghan had been overcome to discover that it could
be his for the mere trouble of signing an IOU.  He was sitting in
an arm-chair acquired on the same terms from the postmaster, and
his tent was stuffed with odds and ends of apparel, furniture, and
toilet articles wherewith he fulfilled a lifetime's yearning for
commodities hitherto as remote, in the fables of newspaper
advertisement, as the Grand Cham's treasure.

When Cabell walked into the tent he was waving an empty bottle and
declaiming his plans to a humble audience of shopkeepers:  "And
none of your lousy twist for me no more.  Nothing but the best
Manilas, see?  Then I'll get married and have a bloke come in and
shave me every day and . . . and . . ."

He blinked at Cabell and bobbed his head like a dog that expects to
be kicked, glanced round his possessions, so like the jumble of an
opulent dream, felt the dreamlike softness of the upholstery under
his buttocks, and half rose.  But the realistic smell of dust, in
the haze of which Cabell looked bodiless and without danger, the
rattle of shovels, the shouts, the crash of trees reassured him.
His nostrils closed and he pushed his chinless face out defiantly.
"Nor I won't eat no more of your maggoty burgoo neither!"

Cabell turned stiffly away and met the eyes of Sambo, modestly
drunk behind a heap of bottles.  He swung his long equine face from
side to side looking for a way of escape, then his jaw dropped and
his mouth opened as if habit had taught him that the best way to
take the bit was quietly.  "Them stores, boss," he said.  "They
musta got through the Pass.  I'll track 'em down to-morrow first
thing."

"So you're a miner now, eh, Sambo?"

"Something like that, boss.  I ain't rightly got the hang . . ."

"Huh.  What d'you think you're going to do with it?"

Sambo fingered the new handkerchief round his neck, looked at a
pair of new boots on his feet, a new hat on the heap of bottles,
considered cases of bottles unopened, and scratched his head for an
inkling of wants unsatisfied.  "I might buy a racehoss."

"A racehorse!  Jesus!"

Sambo twisted his handkerchief like a garrot round his neck.  "I
dunno then.  Was you thinking of something, boss?"

Cash steered Cabell into the open air, noisy with the new rush.
Here were only hard-bitten miners yet, and they were going to work
with deadly expertness to strip the ridge of its trees and ferns.
Already Joe O'Connor and Ike the hawker, had grog shanties in full
blast, and deformed hovels of bark and wattles marked the future
main street of Waterfall Town--Monaghan Street as it was to be
called.

"Steady now," Cash said, shaking Cabell roughly.  "Take a pull or
you'll cruel our pitch."

Cabell took a handkerchief out and wiped his face.  "Sambo!  Think
of it!  I remember when he'd never seen a two-story house, and
now . . .  He's going to buy a racehorse!"  He stared vacantly at
the tent.  "Yes, yes, that's the way it is."

"Stop moaning a second and listen," Cash said and shook a
preoccupied attention out of Cabell.  "There's a big rush coming,
understand?  Bigger than Larsen's.  Big money.  The day before
yesterday Sambo found a nugget with nearly five hundred quids'
worth of gold in it.  When the telegraph sends that round Australia
they'll come in thousands.  So you better take your finger out."

But Cabell was looking round Sambo and Monaghan's claim, a
prospector's claim of twelve men's ground running nearly two
hundred yards up the side of Black Mountain.  "And all to enrich
the first blasted crook that comes along and spins them a yarn!"

"Well?"  Cash grinned.  "Why shouldn't we be the first . . . ?"

As he had foretold, the news of Sambo's find brought a new and
bigger rush to the valley: miners who had resisted the first rush,
station hands, clerks from the city, their women and children,
their tykes and camp-followers, swept on by a snowball story of
nuggets lying about on the ground as big as a man's fist, as big as
a man's head--as big as hope and imagination.  Coming, they met the
despondent and footsore fugitives from the Bakehouse.  "Go back--
it's a duffer," these told them.  "The poor sods there are living
on grass."  And some did turn back, but most came on, and before
the winter had settled six thousand people were living at the foot
of Black Mountain, which rose from its gullies like an old
barnacled octopus asleep on fabulous treasure.

Almost from the start Waterfall was a more solid town than
Larsen's.  The masses of iron-stained stone cropping from the ridge--
most abundant in the Lost Stores Prospect but scattered over
nearly the whole mountain-side--which looked to the old miners like
quartz containing plenty of low-grade gold, promised the place a
long life.  Companies were forming and machinery was on the way to
extract this thin peppering of wealth, but in the meantime life
seethed about the almost daily finds of nuggets and free gold lying
in pockets on the spurs of the hills and their gullies.  For half a
mile along the erratic creek, dammed hastily with logs and stones
but nevertheless evaporating, seeping slowly away, men and women
and children were hard at work sinking and panning off.  Every one
had an assay to talk about, a glittering specimen with which to
tempt credit from storekeepers and effort from their own weary
bodies.  From the first streak of dawn till the quick night came
down they slaved with pick and shovel and pan, then sat up till the
early hours of the morning hammering the stone to dust in their
mortars, for there were no stampers on the field yet.  Their
shadows crouching on the hessian walls of the humpies or fierily
across a doorway, the incessant crunch, crunch, crunch of their
thousands of hands slowly turning the skeleton of the earth to
powder, made the dark gully seem like some strange Nibelung
underworld.

The road wound precipitously three miles from the valley, the last
half-mile out of Waterfall a perilous razorback which broke the
legs of bullocks and the hearts and whip-handles of their drivers.
The wreckage of many wagons was strewn about and many dead
bullocks, bloated and hived with blowflies.  Precisely at four
o'clock every afternoon, as the mercifully early shadow of Black
Mountain was spreading across the blistered town, Cobb and Co.'s
coach toiled up that boulder-strewn rampart, past the Chinese
market gardens--a mirage of incredible green against the barren
hills--through China-town--set in pariah isolation but breathing a
pleasant perfume of samshoo and joss-sticks on the dust-clogged
nostrils of the poor devils in the coach--past the hessian and bark
and packing-case houses of the outer suburbs, furnished, many of
them, with piano and sewing-machine, glazed with windows of piled
bottles--turned the summit into Monaghan Street and completed the
last two hundred yards of its two-hundred-mile dash from Pyke's
Crossing with a bravura gallop past David Kyle's Aberdeen Emporium
and Mortuary, past the Ningpo Butchery, Peter O'Connor's Shamrock
Hotel, Liam O'Connor's Hardware Store, Joe O'Connor's Golden
Sunrise, Jake O'Connor's Auction Mart, the Bank, the Police Station
and Lock-up, the Cabell Valley Goldbuying Agency and General Store,
Aloysius O'Connor's Produce Exchange, Ike the hawker's Queen
Victoria Tavern, Shaftoe's Billiard Parlour and Gymnasium,
McFarlane's Butcher Shop, the Grand Opera House--with a poster of a
waxworks outside--the Stock Exchange, and the Post Office to draw
up, in an all-obscuring cloud of dust, like a pack of red devils
that had been chasing it for nearly two days and had at last caught
and swallowed it, in front of the Grand Central Hotel of Danny
O'Connor.

Grey with grime and weariness the travellers climbed stiffly out
and staggered into this the town's choicest resort--a rambling iron
building with a long, low roof, which collected the thirsty heat of
the day and held it, an adjunct to a bar trade which roared on till
early morning, like an oven.  How Danny found room for this
unending flow of visitors, new hopefuls, travellers from far lands,
investors, salesmen for mining machinery, shady company promoters,
newspaper correspondents, or the merely curious, was one of the
town's major mysteries.

Danny winked.  "Now haven't ye never heard tell of the Yankee plan
by which you put the first mob to sleep then stand them up in the
corner.  They don't take up so much room that way.  Then you put
the next mob off and stand them up till ye've got 'em all stowed
away as snug as sardines."

The visitors arrived at the climax of a day of whispers, rumours,
finds.  From the stout slab walls of the Stock Exchange across the
street emerged the roar of the late afternoon trade, the fierce,
angry, frantic, outraged, waspish, despairing wails of brokers
selling "Hit or Miss," "Southern Cross," "Kyle's No Liability,"
obliterating even the clatter of pots, the steady noise of guzzle,
badinage, quarrel, and conversation in the Grand Central bar, and
the moiling struggle about the window of the post office next door
where the mailbags from the coach were just being opened.

Perhaps, while they waited for the coachman to finish his phlegm-
cutter and unload their baggage from the boot, they would see a
gentleman in an unexpected top-hat and a still more unexpected
carriage and pair, passing up the street with a florid and amiable
looking lady at his side.  Driving from the back seat with the box
vacant he looked like a drunken coachman taking the cook for a
drive--generally pleased with himself but slightly oppressed by
anxiety about time, for he kept drawing a tremendous gold watch
from his pocket and studying it with puzzled concentration.

"That's Monaghan, the man that found the first nugget," Danny would
tell them.  "Now owns a quarter-share in the Lost Stores.  And
that's German Lizzie, his wife, that was one of my best barmaids.
And that's a coach he paid a hundred quid for to Miss Ludmilla,
from over Ningpo, who had it from her father, the Colonel.  And the
day Monaghan and Lizzie was married in it the boys put golden shoes
on his horses and chained him and his missus together with a golden
chain."

They certainly would see Cash, bustling out of the Exchange when
the day's business closed and the crowd transferred itself across
the street to moisten its rasped throats at the Grand Central.  And
as he passed, slapping Danny's back or stopping to hitch his
trousers and look at the new arrivals if there were any ladies
among them, Danny would whisper behind his hand, "Now there's a
feller!  Owns a quarter-share in the Lost Stores with Cabell from
over the Reach.  And there's another feller."  And he would nod
over that two or three times with one eye closed.  "As me old
mother used to say, 'A man that's got as much as that one on his
brain-pan,' says she, 'and don't never touch liquor will be
hollerin' for a blanket to keep him warm in hell.'"



CHAPTER SEVEN: CHISELLERS


He felt no bad conscience when he set about chiselling Sambo and
Monaghan out of their claim, anyway.  It was almost a crusade of
righteousness.  But before he had gone far he found himself up
against a spirit as dogged as his own, righteous too, but in a way
Monaghan was more likely to understand.

"Ha'e no truck wi' the cut-throats," Kyle told him, "or sure as
your name's Monaghan they'll strip ye of every brass farthin' bit.
Why, isna tha mon Cabell known for a dirty, horse-stealin', wife-
beatin', goddam rascal from one end the country to the ither?  Ask
Dugald McFarlane.  Didna Cabell no steal mares from his old mon and
try for to drive him off his verra hearthstane by legal chicanery?
And wasna it no clearly revealed in the courts of law at the time
that he was mixed in with Black Jem the bushranger?  Och noo mon,
ye'd save ye'self a lot of heartburning by gi'in' ower yer purse to
the blackguard wi'out more ado if ye've got it in mind to let him
back ye in the claim."

That was the first stage of the fight.  Who was to put up the money
for working the big Lost Stores claim?  Wages had to be paid,
powder and fuse and food bought, and finally expensive machinery.

"Noo, I'm no a bloodsucker," Kyle said.  "I'll gi'e ye two thousand
pounds for one half-share in the claim."  Considering Sambo and
Monaghan athwart his thin, red nose he stroked his ginger
dundrearies.  Renowned whiskers these, said to be worth a couple of
thousand a year to Kyle.  When he was buying gold he fingered the
fine dust and hummed and hawed about the quality and the risk of
its being dosed--and stroked his well-oiled side-whiskers.  They
said he washed a couple of pennyweights of gold out of those pale,
aspiring flambeaux after every customer.  "Mind ye, it's no so
certain there's a muckle gold in yer claim," he told Monaghan.  "Ye
havena no jewellery shop here like is in the Hit or Miss or the
Black Crow.  A prudent mon wudna look for more than an ounce to the
ton from that red stane."

Cabell and Cash had Sambo in a corner.  "Let Monaghan let that
Scotch bastard in and you're as good as done for," Cash told him.
"See what he did to those poor ginks he backed up the gully--backed
them right out and put his own name over the mine."

Torn between loyalty to Cabell and loyalty to his mate, Sambo could
only keep repeating, "I dunno, boss.  Gawd, boss, I dunno."

Their haggling ended in the Lost Stores Goldmining Company Ltd
posting its name at the Stock Exchange.  It had a nominal capital
of ten thousand pounds in ten thousand one-pound shares, a quarter
held by Monaghan, a quarter by Sambo, a quarter by Kyle, and a
quarter by Cabell and Cash.  With four thousand pounds to spend the
company put a dozen men to work, sinking shafts, timbering,
building log stages for the windlasses, and piling up heaps of
mullock, carefully stockaded against thieves, in readiness for the
stampers, which were on their way.  Cabell fretted to see the gold
hidden from his eye in these heaps of stone.  He was always
crawling about in the stockades, fingering bits of stone, chipping
them.

Cash laughed.  "Looking for something?"

"It might be a duffer after all, Cash.  I don't see a trace of
gold."

"Because you're looking in the wrong place," Cash said, pointing up
the street to the Stock Exchange.  "That's where our gold is."

In those early days of Black Mountain, when there was still much
free gold to be found, the real centre of the field was the
Exchange.  Shares rushed up and down between sixpence and two
pounds or more.  The look on a miner's face, a wink, a whisper was
enough.  At nine o'clock in the morning the news that the
exploratory drive in Hit or Miss had opened a likely-looking piece
of dirt sent Hit or Miss to twenty shillings in a few minutes, but
when at four o'clock in the afternoon there was no sign of gold in
the buckets coming up the shaft Hit or Miss began to fall, and
after the Exchange closed the selling went on in the street and in
the bar of the Grand Central till Hit or Miss were hardly worth
buying for shaving-paper.

Cash was a hard gambler, an unwearying collector and distributor of
tips and clues at Danny O'Connor's bar.  This it was which held him
to Waterfall, the swift, daily dramas of the Exchange, not the
prospect of wealth to be acquired by a long and laborious
development of the Lost Stores property.  But Cabell held back from
a dangerous game.  There was not much of the adventurer in Cabell.
His dreams were not of money but of a great mine which would
swallow all the other mines and belong to him.  He saw its
batteries, windlasses, sluices, chimneys, shafts, windmills, engine-
rooms covering the hillside, and himself the man of power, owning a
mountain of gold, with bankers, politicians, capitalists,
promoters, and "all that mob in Brisbane" kotowing abjectly.  And,
of course, Harriet marrying the kind of man such wealth would
entitle her to.  Yes, dear little Harriet: it was all for her.

"No gambling for me," he said.  "Look at Larsen.  He came from the
Bakehouse with eight thousand quid and now he's a wages man for
Miss Ludmilla."

"Pooh, this is no gamble," Cash said.  "It's a drummond.  Look,
tomorrow we'll sell a thousand Stores."

"We'll do no such thing.  Kyle will buy them."

"Not him.  Not at the price they are.  He's got too many irons in
the fire."

"But I want to buy shares, not sell them."

"All right.  We'll buy some later."  He took out a pencil and
paper.  "Look.  We sell a thousand.  Say at eighteen bob.  Then I
oil up the mob at Danny's and we'll slam in another thousand and
they'll come down with a bump."

"Well?"

"Well what?  Buy them back of course.  Say they go down to ten bob.
It might shake Monaghan out of a few if the market started to jump
a bit.  Or even old Kyle.  He'd gamble on the sunrise."

They sold a thousand.  Stores was not sensational stock, but it was
known to have a lot of low-grade ore scattered through the claim
and a fair dividend in the mullock heaps, and its machinery was due
any day.  They were good for anybody who didn't mind waiting.
Eighteen and sixpence a share they brought.

In Danny's Cash received the news that somebody had just unloaded a
thousand Stores.  "Must be Kyle," he said and frowned.

Next day he sold a thousand and let everybody know he was doing so.
The price came down to seventeen and six.  "What's the use sitting
on your rhino like an emu," he told Danny.  "Between ourselves,
strictly, they just got word the stampers won't be here before
Christmas."

"There now," Danny said, "and you told me they'd be crushin' next
month and here's me hanging on to five hundred of them things I
give Monaghan a pound each for."

"Well, we've got fifteen hundred more to unload before the news
gets round."

In the afternoon Stores slumped to twelve and six, sellers.  Cash
and Cabell bought back fifteen hundred and the market rose to
sixteen shillings.  They picked up the other five hundred in dribs
and drabs within a week at an average of eighteen to nineteen.

"There you are," Cash said, handing back the scrip.  "Two-fifty
quid for damn all."

Cabell was relieved to have his shares again.  "Never more," he
said.

"Never's a big word," Cash said.  "Wait."

A week later the Lost Stores announced that it had laid open a rich
vein of gold giving seven ounces to the ton in the drive from No. 1
to No. 2 shaft.  Stores leapt to fifty shillings, no sellers.

Cabell stood all day at the head of the shaft watching bucket after
bucket of yellow-veined stone come up.

Cash drew him aside.  "It won't last, so you needn't kid yourself.
Let us get rid of a thousand while the selling's good."

They sold a thousand.  Kyle sold a thousand and Monaghan sold a
thousand.  Next day the buckets brought up less and less gold and
at last the same old red stone.  Kyle persuaded Monaghan to sell
another thousand, and himself sold a thousand short at thirty
shillings.  At twenty-five shillings Monaghan wanted to buy back,
but Kyle told him to hold on till they reached a pound, and himself
bought back Monaghan's thousand for a cover and at twenty-two
shillings the thousand he had sold at fifty, thus finishing with a
profit of sixteen hundred pounds and his own block intact.  There
were now two thousand five hundred shares on the market.  Cabell
and Cash held fifteen hundred, Kyle and Sambo their original quota,
and Monaghan, who was four thousand pounds in pocket, most of which
he owed to Kyle for money advanced and goods purchased, none.  But
at twenty shillings he got back five hundred, and as the market was
weak decided to wait and see about the rest.  Cash and Cabell were
about three thousand pounds up, having speculated energetically all
the way down the scale from fifty shillings.  Cabell wanted to
square up now, but Cash persuaded him to wait and see too.

Sure enough, Stores went down to nineteen when the Exchange opened
next morning, but the market was still weak so Monaghan put off
buying a bit longer.  At sixteen shillings Cabell overruled Cash
and began to buy in, but unexpectedly there was hot competition.
The price went back to thirty shillings, no sellers.  On the way he
bought five hundred.  He was now five hundred short and very angry.

Cash was puzzled.  Why the rush on Stores?  Nothing unusual had
happened in the mine.  The buckets were bringing up the usual red
stone.

"If I'm right, Monaghan was two thousand short when we started to
buy.  That makes two thousand five hundred on the market.  Who's
got them?  Kyle?  No, he would have sold on the way up to thirty
bob.  He knows there's nothing to back the rise up."

"I told you.  Curse your schemes."

"Keep your hair on.  Anybody'd think you'd just been ruined."

Cabell's eye bulged.  "My--your luck must be changing."

"Don't worry," Cash cheered him.  "Somebody's caught somebody
short.  Wait till there's another big find somewhere.  That'll
bring Stores down."

Cabell clung desperately to his easy, impervious optimism.  But
they did not pick up the outstanding shares, and the price, instead
of falling, climbed slowly on the strength of a number of puzzling,
vague rumours that unexpected developments were to be looked for at
the Stores and that somebody was trying to buy Sambo and Monaghan
out.

Sambo denied it.  Then his eyes drooped and he confessed, "She made
me promise to keep it dark, boss."

"She?"

Sambo beat about the bush a bit longer, then it came out.  Miss
Ludmilla had offered him ten thousand pounds for his shares and he
had sold them.  "That bloke Shaftoe reckoned he knew where to get a
roan filly'd win the Melbourne Cup if I had the dough to train it."

"Ten thousand pounds!"  Cash and Cabell were both flabbergasted.

"She's off her nut," Cash said.  "That's what happens to these old
tarts that don't marry.  But just wait till we start crushing next
month and she finds out we haven't got a lot of nuggets hid away
under the mullock heap."  He rubbed his hands.  "There'll be some
nice short selling then."  He was wrong.  Ludmilla and Larsen came
to the weekly meeting of shareholders.

"Welcome," Cash said.  "You must hold about half the shares in this
concern."

"Yes," Ludmilla said.  "Just five thousand."

She was a big woman of middle age, with big pleasant eyes and a
hard mouth.  Her body was gaunt mannish, her complexion weather-
beaten, but she had tiny hands and feet.  Men laughed at her behind
her back but they were afraid of her bitter tongue and her temper
on a hair-spring.  They told how she took on a new-chum to jackeroo
at Ningpo years ago and married her sister Aurelia to him--at the
point of the gun, they said.  Observing how she bristled when
Cabell was near and how, in her presence, he was fidgety, almost
furtive, the knowing ones winked.  There had been queer doings in
the earlies.

"Why?" she asked Cash.  "Would you like to buy us out?"

"Well--how much?"

"Fifty thousand."
Kyle grabbed his whiskers in both hands.  "Woman, ye're crackit."

"Will you sell out then?"

"Weel and I might.  What wud ye . . ."

Monaghan jumped up.  "I . . ."

Kyle pulled him down.  "Hold yer peace.  It's a most palpable
deceit, Mon."  Then to Ludmilla, "Wud ye let this yin and me retire
to consider the matter?"

Ludmilla nodded and they went outside.

"If you're handing out any more charity, Miss Ludmilla . . ." Cash
said.

Cabell nudged him.  "Shut your mouth."

Ludmilla smiled sourly.  "I've bought things from Mr Cabell before.
Sheep."

Cabell licked his lips.

"Yes, he'll tell you about it.  I suppose he's told you already,"
she said, challenging them.

"No, no, Ludmilla," Cabell said hastily, "not a word."

She laughed.  "Oh, it wouldn't trouble me."  But her eyes shifted
timidly between them as if she expected to catch them laughing.

The door opened and their attention turned to Monaghan and Kyle who
came back looking pleased.  Monaghan picked up his hat from the
table and went out again.  When the door had closed Kyle said, "Noo
I control three thousand shares.  Will ye gi'e a price for the
lot?"

"Ja," Larsen said, "eighteen t'ousand."

Kyle's mouth came open, then set tight.  "I'll no sell them," he
said and sat down.

"Very well," Ludmilla said.  "If you won't you won't.  And you?"
She looked at Cabell.

"Not at any price."

"Good.  Now listen.  Mr Larsen here has made a discovery which may
cause this company to change its plans.  He has found that your
battery of stampers will be quite unsuitable for treating the stone
in the mine, which is much richer than you suppose.  He has been
able to have specimens treated in the laboratory by a method of his
own and believes that if this method is tried out on a big scale it
will bring you six ounces to every ton of rock.  Isn't that so?"

Larsen nodded his white head.

She silenced their incredulous outcry with a wave of her hand and
went on, "Mr Larsen and I, as joint shareholders of all rights in
this process and of the largest number of shares in the company,
want to have a new company formed with at least half a million
shares.  We will take two hundred and fifty thousand and each of
you will get ten shares for every share you hold.  The rest will go
on the market.  We'll need every penny we can get.  The plant will
be expensive."

They were silent for a while, then Cash asked, "What's to prove
this?"

Larsen brought out a paper and handed it to Ludmilla.  She unfolded
it and laid it on the table.

Kyle and Cabell read over Cash's shoulder:


This is to certify that treatment of the stone, submitted by Lars
Larsen, in the modified Wheeler pans resulted as follows:

     1.  Brown haematite                       3 oz.   6 dwt.
     2.  Red ditto                             6 oz.  16 dwt.
     3.  Aluminous sinter                      3 oz.  15 dwt.
     4.  Stalactite brown haematite            6 oz.  11 dwt.
     5.  Silicious sinter veined with quartz   4 oz.   5 dwt.
     6.  Mixed mass of ironstone and silica    6 oz.   3 dwt.
     7.  Ironstone silicious sinter           10 oz.  14 dwt.
         AVERAGE                               6 oz.   1 dwt.

A specially selected mass of silicious red stone yielded up to 20
oz. when treated separately.


"It's a trick," Kyle said.

"Well, sell and get out," Ludmilla said.  Cabell grabbed Kyle by
the shoulder.  "I'll give you twenty thousand."

Kyle walked around the table two or three times, then sat down
again.

"Nae, I'll abide and consider."

Ludmilla drew her gloves on.  "Consider well then.  We'll see you
tomorrow."

It was hard to keep a secret in that rumour-stricken place.  That
Sambo had been paid four pounds each for his shares and that
Monaghan had sold out to Kyle was soon common gossip.  Stores leapt
to six, seven, eight pounds and stopped there, with nobody selling.
The whisper went round that Larsen and Ludmilla had found a way to
extract fabulous quantities of gold from the red stone.  Some of
the other claims, particularly those along the same ridge as the
Lost Stores, had red stone, too, but not so much.  They sent
specimens to Brisbane and found that it did contain gold in
unsuspected alloy, but that the process of extracting this gold
would be complicated and expensive.

But Kyle had found that out for himself.  He returned from a visit
to Brisbane in a hurry to sell before the news broke.  He got
thirty thousand pounds from Cabell for his three thousand shares,
and when he had the money safely in his pocket showed Cabell the
letter in which the experts reported that by no process known to
metallurgy could more than thirty per cent of the gold be
profitably recovered.

Reassured by Cabell's look of dismay, he could not forbear selling
a thousand shares forward to Liam and Danny O'Connor, certain that
Cabell would have to sell as soon as he made public what he knew
and Stores collapsed.

They did collapse for a day or two, but Cabell did not sell.  He
was in so deep that he could only cling hopefully to his link with
Cash's fortunate destiny and Cash said, "Don't sell.  Ludmilla
wasn't spinning a yarn.  Larsen's got the goods."

This miscalculation led to a rapid, dramatic change in Kyle's
affairs.  As he could not meet his obligations to the O'Connors he
was utterly at their mercy.  They held a family conference which
resulted in Kyle's repaying nine thousand pounds plus interest to
Liam and Danny and taking a trip to Pyke's Crossing.  Three weeks
later he returned with a wagonload of furniture and Maggie
O'Connor.  The wedding breakfast lasted a week and suspended all
operations on the field, because Liam O'Connor filled the water-
tank with rum and each morning the guests, staggering out to drink
themselves sober on water, renewed their intoxication until the
tank ran dry.

Cabell now held five thousand of the ten thousand Stores and had
laid out fifteen thousand pounds in buying up shares in all the
claims along the ridge where there was any show of the precious red
stone.  His plan was to offset his bargaining disadvantage with
Ludmilla and Larsen by offering these shares as the basis of a new
amalgamation when the time came to float the company.  But when
that time arrived, after nearly twelve months' haggling and
intrigue and backing and filling, he found that Ludmilla and Larsen
held a controlling interest in these companies.

In the winter of 1887 Waterfall Amalgamated issued its prospectus.
It was capitalized at seven hundred and fifty thousand, in one-
pound shares, one hundred and fifty thousand held by Ludmilla, one
hundred thousand by Larsen, one hundred and twenty-five thousand by
Cabell, seventy-five thousand by Cash.  Three hundred thousand went
on the market.  It was the height of the boom and they sold at a
premium.

Cabell extended the mortgage on the Reach and bought ten thousand
more shares.  He had now cleaned out every penny he had saved and
owed twenty thousand pounds beside, but he owned a station worth a
hundred and fifty thousand pounds at a moderate estimate and one
hundred and thirty-five thousand shares.  He was scared, never had
a full night's rest, but extravagant dreams of power and affluence
never lifted from his brain.  Why shouldn't he drive out Larsen and
Ludmilla, put in his own men, Cash as manager, James, Custard,
people he could trust or dominate?  They said there were millions
of pounds' worth of gold in the ridge.  With that behind him he
could become as rich as Carnegie--beyond all reproach and contempt.
Why, already they were beginning to bow and scrape, "that mob in
Brisbane."



CHAPTER EIGHT: FATHER AND SON


They detested him, but they bowed and scraped just the same.  Even
the big men, politicians and bankers, thought it was worth while
cringing to placate his arrogance and unfriendliness.  Indeed that
hard, ugly front only deepened their respect for him as a man of
ruthless power, a popular view of his character confirmed by an
incident which happened at the Reach about this time and was talked
of throughout the country.

Three years had passed since Cabell's quarrel with Berry.  In those
years the big national groups of shearers and miners had become
more and more aware of their solidarity, more and more annoyed by
the tight grip the squatters kept on the land and the tremendous
prosperity of men like Cabell.  There had been small strikes in
mines and shearing-sheds.  Newspapers were born to sharpen and
define the men's hatred, which was as old as the first convict and
the first migrant who came out under hatches because they had no
choice and knew that whatever of the good things of life they were
to have they must get from the soil of the new land.  Not many of
the old lags were left, but their sons were there, the Coyles and
Goggses and Larrys, heirs to their parents' hatred, disgrace, or
hopes of a new and freer life, of their parents' stories about the
ugliness, injustice, poverty, and despair of life at home.  This
generation had grown up in the bush and saw its stark and graceless
beauty against no memory of English lanes.  All they knew about the
Old Country was that it had famines, poorly paid workers, slums,
unconquerably vested powers, hanging judges, and an aristocracy
with a "birthright to look down its nose."  Australia seemed a
fine, free place beside this, and they were determined to keep it
so.  In the prosperity of these years they thought they saw the
earthly paradise dawning which their fathers had hoped for and not
lived to enjoy.  But at the same time it was borne in upon them
more clearly than ever that all this wealth was enriching not
themselves but men like Cabell who, because of HIS memories, would
always be alien to Australia, and therefore hostile to what they
wanted the country to be--an Englishman at heart however the land
had changed him, however crude and un-English he had become on the
surface, an Englishman in the intimate, secret chambers of
imagination where alone a man lives his life.  And this was the
difference between the two states of mind--one was orientated
towards Australia and the other towards England, one impatiently
towards the future, the other regretfully towards the past.  The
difference had become very clear in the last few years.  The
squatters were sending their children Home to schools and
universities or even themselves going to live there, like the
Jardines of Narrow Gut who left a manager on the property and
reappeared at rare intervals, astoundingly white of skin and
immaculate of dress, to stay awhile till the mosquitoes and boredom
drove them back to England.  But the sons of the lags and the
immigrants were a hard-bitten proletarian stock raised in mining-
camps and shepherds' huts and the homesteads of poverty-stricken
selectors, and had no use for "these Nancy English ways."  Their
genius was for using their hands and enduring heat, thirst, and
bullocking graft, a sardonic contempt for anybody unlike
themselves, and a strange gift for mateship, which Coyle said was
their legacy from the jailyard and men sticking together in the
bush.  They were dug into the country, and their struggle with the
bosses was taking on the grand outlines of a nationalistic crusade.

True, a part of Cabell, too, was well and truly dug into the
Australian soil.  The bush was no longer repulsive to him as once
it had been.  When business took him away to Brisbane he was always
restless to get back to the Reach.  The first glimpse of the
homestead roof among the orange and peach-trees never failed to
give him a pleasant sense of homecoming.  Against the crudities of
an ungracious life he had grown a crude hide to protect himself.
Equally as any native-born he was impatient with new-chums "who
can't work, can't ride, and can't stand in the sun without getting
sunstroke."  And finally no old lag had been more utterly shut out
of England than he.  But these changes in his character had not
touched the inner life of his fantasy, which everything he did must
somehow serve before he could get the energy to do it.  Himself in
a mirror was another man--a disreputable fellow whose life he did
not want to think about.  All he cared for was planning Harriet's
future and how she should go back to England and marry a handsome
young man and become a great lady--"just to show them what a
'voluntary jailbird' could do."  He thought of that with a joyous
expectation, as though it was himself who was to inherit, after so
many years, the fruits of his hard work and tribulation.  Out of
these thoughts and expectations came his resolve to be rich and
powerful, the meaning of life, the very urge to live.

Only one obstacle frightened him--Emma.  For thirty-seven years she
had been fighting him with a cunning, conscienceless obstinacy as
effective as his own--more effective since everything she wanted
(though he didn't like to admit this) had come to pass: he had
married her, provided for her brother, bought land, had not
returned to England, and had given her children.  "HER brats."  And
now through one of these brats she was trying to overreach him
again.  She was determined that Larry should be master of the
Reach.

He did not understand that thereby she sought to fulfil a fantasy
of her own which gave HER the power to go on living and lighted a
little torch of warm light in the darkness of HER life.  To see
Larry a great man, looked up to--her son, Emma Surface's son--would
wipe out her humiliations, but if she failed what would her life
have been but just humiliations?  Watching Larry grow up she looked
out anxiously for a sign that the old leaven of Surface
recklessness was still at work--the recklessness she had had to
fight in her father, in Dirk, her brother, in her cousin, Black
Jem, which she felt in her own passionate heart.  And sure enough,
there it was--making him risk his neck on wild horses, making him
go out of his way to anger his father, making him sullen and
restless under her strong hand, less and less like a solid,
respectable flock-master every day and more and more the friend of
Coyle and "that trash."

Larry was thirty-seven years old now.  He looked the dead image of
Black Jem as she had last seen him, despite his Cabell nose and
mouth.  Like Black Jem he drank for hours without getting drunk,
merely staring at the floor with puffy, sulky face.  If you asked
him what he was thinking about he didn't know, really didn't know,
but suddenly he would go out and pick a fight and either be half-
killed defending himself against a barful of men or have to have
his fingers prised off some poor devil's throat.  The only time his
face lighted up was when the shearers were around.

But Emma remonstrated angrily.  "You keep away from the shearers'
hut.  It's no place for you."

"Why, what's wrong with it?"

"The trash inside--that's what.  You keep away."

"They're my mates."

"They're trash.  You keep away or they'll get you in trouble."

"They're my mates.  They're not trash.  HE'S the trash and it's him
the trouble's coming to, one day. . . ."

"That's none of your business, all that nonsense they talk.  You
don't listen to it.  You're not a shearer--a lousy good-for-nothing
set of tramps."

"I'm just the same as one.  I'm not a boss."

"But you WILL be."

"I don't want to be.  I'd rather hump my drum.  And I will too one
of these days."  He looked at her.  "It's no good rousing.  I'm
going.  There are places I want to see and--things."

"You want a wife," Emma coaxed him.  "Some nice girl like Florrie
Heffernan, the manager's daughter over at Black Rock."

He blushed and stammered.  "I don't want no wife.  I'm going on the
wallaby."

"Oh, Larry, Larry," she cried out.  "You ungrateful fool.  What
d'you think I've waited for all these years.  To see you cadging
snout at homestead doors?"

The vehemence of her cry startled him.  He looked up again shyly.
How frail and helpless she seemed against the background which her
words conjured up, of scourgers, jailers, drunken squatters.  His
lips, thick with stubbornness, smiled suddenly, and he rubbed a
hand across the knuckles of his fist.  "You should've seen the old
bull this morning.  That Hereford near tore the ribs out of him.
He's over the back there now licking himself, and the Hereford's
with the cows."

Emma narrowed her eyes.  "You keep away from the shearers' hut, I
tell you.  It won't be him who licks the wounds.  He's dealt with
harder men than you or any of them."

But Larry was with the shearers that morning in 1889 when they came
down to the washpool and clustered in a silent circle round Cabell.

Coyle stepped out.  "We want a word with you, boss.  It's about
what you're going to pay this season."

"I'll pay the usual if you come up to scratch.  Don't worry."

The men shifted their feet in the dust.  "Haw will yer?" Goggs
said.  "Very kind of yer."

Coyle turned his empty eyes and Goggs fell back.  "Righto, you go
him."

"It's like this," Coyle explained.  "The boys think they're due for
something more."

Cabell glanced round, recognizing some of the men who had been
shearing at the Reach for years--Goggs, Wagner, Greasy Bill, and,
in the back rank, Berry picking anxiously at his thumbs, and Larry.
"You think so, eh?  Well, you're wrong.  I pay the same."

The disarticulated features of Goggs's mongrel face collapsed in a
heap around his mouth.  "What'd I tell yous?  No use wasting words
on a dingo."

Cabell took a step forward and Goggs got behind Coyle.  A stir of
alarm passed through the crowd.

Berry's voice turned their eyes.  "After all, boss, you've had a
good year and got more coming.  The boys don't want much."  He
plucked nervously at the buttons on his shirt.  "Only what's a fair
thing."

"A good year!  A fair thing!" Cabell snorted.  "D'you think I've
been slaving here for forty years to give it away to you.  Get to
work or get out.  Shearers aren't wanting."  He looked about for a
break in the ranks but they stood solidly together, encompassing
him with their mob hostility, which irritated him.  He made
straight at Goggs.  "Get out of my way."

But Coyle pulled him back.  "A word before you go," he said in his
quiet, reasonable voice.  "If you don't fork out this year you'll
have to next.  There'll be a union of shearers next year and they
might say all hands off your wool.  The carters wouldn't cart it,
the wharfies wouldn't ship it.  You're short-sighted."

Cabell pushed him aside.  "Oh-ho.  Threaten me, eh?"

Coyle smiled.

The thin, mirthless smile struck a spark in Cabell's memory.
"You're the spit of your old man, Coyle," he said.  "A bad egg.
You can get off this place now.  You're leading these poor fools by
the nose."

"That's all right.  I was going."

"And the rest of you get back to work," Cabell said, and while they
were waiting for something to happen pushed his way out.

Goggs spat angrily.  "You shyster," he yelled.  "Who robbed his
mates?  Who pinched their goldmine?"

His infuriated squeak stirred the men out of their anti-climax.
They turned to watch Goggs run after Cabell shouting, then
followed.  "Yes, who skinned Sambo?" they took it up.

"Who robbed his mates?"

Cabell got on to his horse and rode off without haste.  His stiff
shoulders flung their insults back, maddening them.

They were running on each side of him now.  From the tail of his
eye he could see Larry out on the right wing, striding along,
saying nothing, watching him with a grin of venomous satisfaction.
Every now and then he stopped and tried to shake off Berry's hand
and trotted on again to catch up with the mob.

At the gate, as he bent to lift the catch, a lump of hard cowdung
hit Cabell stingingly on the side of the face.  In a spurt of rage
no longer to be repressed he turned his horse and galloped into the
crowd knocking the men over and scattering them in all directions.

At a safe distance they halted and drew together again.  "Yah, you
bastard, if we had you off that horse!" Goggs yelled.

Cabell went after Goggs.  He caught the flying figure by the slack
of the shirt, dragged it round in a circle, climbed off, stood it
on its feet, and laid it flat with one swingeing blow between the
eyes.

The men ran up babbling and clustered around them.

Goggs rose dizzily and smeared the stream of thick blood over his
face.  "Who yer--hit one yer own size."

Cabell had his fist raised for a second blow when a strong hand
seized his wrist from behind and jerked him away.  It was Berry.
"There," Berry said.  "You've given him enough."

Cabell saw the big moon-face through a red haze, swung his fist up,
and sent Berry staggering into the arms of Larry.  Something
snapped in the pit of Larry's stomach and the hard aching pain of
hatred came up into his throat like vomit.  He'd hit Berry, even
Berry, who'd always stuck up for him and held the men back.  The
rotten, unjust dog!

He pushed Berry aside, and while Cabell was turning his face, tense
with anger, around the semicircle of faces, planted his fist on his
father's mouth.  Only when he gazed down at his father, spread-
eagled among the men's legs, did Larry realize that he had moved at
all.

"Larry!" the men roared, and fell away.

Berry took a step forward, but Coyle restrained him.  "Leave them.
They've been waiting for this."

Cabell rose, licked his lips, pulled his cuffs back, and came
slowly towards Larry, his head thrust out and sideways to focus his
eye, the patch, slightly skew-whiff on its string, revealing the
purple, ball-less gash of his blind eye-socket.  The red blood-spot
in the white of his eye seemed to glow and grow like a live coal
and the scar on his cheek was like a lick of flame.

"Stop them," Berry shouted.  "He's too old.  Larry will kill him."

"Let him," Coyle said softly.

But Larry backed away, intimidated by his father's white,
speechless fury and the slow, animal persistence of his advance.
Cabell followed him round and round the ring through ten long
seconds, then sprang across the space between them and socked a
vicious one-two on to Larry's face.  It was enough to have laid him
out for a long time, but he swung back and the fists just grazed
his jaw, ripping the skin as though Cabell had drawn two pieces of
raddle across his cheeks.  Larry fell on his knees and stayed
there, not shirking but trying to control the trembling in his
hands and knees.

Goggs pushed through the crowd with a hat full of water.  "Here,
take a drink, Larry."  He splashed Larry's face.  "And don't let
him close on yer."

Cabell was waiting with his fist drawn back, ready to hit.  His lip
was swollen from Larry's blow.  The sight of it gave Larry the
strength to rise.  The men cheered and pressed in.

"Go it, Larry."

"Stick it into him, Larry."

"Dump the bastard."

"Look out for his dirty left."

They met in a fleshy slash of fists, conscious of nothing except
their unbearable detestation.  Through Larry's brain, as he sparred
and swung and threw himself on his father's tireless battery, raced
images of insults nearly thirty years old. . . .  "YOUR brat.
Dregs.  Scum of the earth."  Cabell pushing his mother aside.
"Take it you're a paid hand here . . ."  A feeling of relief,
release, joy swept him.  "I can beat him and go away," he thought.
And in an interval, when he stood back from battering his father's
head, the revelation came to him, "I couldn't go away TILL I'd
beaten him."

They rushed together again.

"His eye," Coyle shouted, in a piercing, unrecognizable yell above
the men's voices.  "Hit him in the eye.  Blind him."

Larry smashed through his father's guard and sent him staggering
among the men, followed, and pounded at his body.

Suddenly the men stopped shouting.  They felt, all at once, that
this fight did not concern them at all, that it tapped sources of
hatred beyond their understanding, which would not be satisfied
with a bloody nose or a black eye.  Their own hatred cooled.  The
brutal abandon of father and son shocked them now.

"Stop them," Berry shouted, struggling away from Coyle.  "It's gone
far enough."

But just then, measuring Larry's onrush, Cabell landed squarely on
his jaw and spread him out, unmoving, in the dust.  The men looked
down, appalled, at the bleeding wreck of Larry's face, then at
Cabell, also bleeding freely and waiting for Larry to rise.

"Jesus, your own son!" Wagner said.

Their shouting broke again in jeers of disgust.  "Swiped his own
son!"

"Tried to murder him!"

"What a swine!"

Lumps of cowdung began to fall in the ring and break upon his face
and bare head.

Berry held up his hands.  "Boys!  Give him best.  He hit him
square."

Cabell turned on them.  "Who wants best?  I'll fight any man here."
He looked round for the biggest.  It was Wagner.  "I'll fight you."

Wagner grinned.  "No, you won't.  I'll wait for the Utopia and
summons you for back pay."

"You!" he shouted at Coyle.  "Come out here, you crawler.  I'll
give five pounds for a hit at you."

"Wait a bit," Coyle said, "and I'll give you a chance for nothing."

"You then," Cabell roared at Greasy Bill.

"I get enough fight cookin'," Bill said.

Crouching before them, the blood pouring down his shirt front, he
looked like a bull baited half-mad.

"Get out.  Get to hell," he said.  "I'll shear without you."

They carried Larry to the river and brought him round, and an hour
later rode past the homestead and out the gates, boo-hooing as they
went.

For miles around they raddled on sheds and fences:


                  DON'T SHEAR AT CABELL'S REACH
                  HE TRIED TO MURDER HIS OWN SON
                  WHAT WOULD HE DO TO A SHEARER?



CHAPTER NINE: FATHER AND DAUGHTER


"Even your own son!" Emma said.  "And now you'll kick him out, will
you?  WILL you?"

"Bah."  He jerked the rocking-chair away and raised his paper
between them, but the menace of her anger, like the sensed presence
of a snake in a dark room, made him put it down and look at her
uneasily.

Twisting her apron into a rope between her brown hands she was
leaning over him with an expression of such viperous threat in her
eyes and the sprung wrinkles of her mouth that he started back.
"There's only one way to deal with a man like you," she said,
summing up a long train of thought.

His alarm became audible in the rustle of the paper on his lap.
"Do your damnedest," he muttered, but as though in her eyes, sunk
into her head under the weight of their evil knowledge, he read
what that damnedest would be, he shot his hand out and caught her
arm.  "What I mean . . ."  He waved towards the shearers' hut.
"You know yourself, he's been getting thick with Coyle and Goggs
these last four or five seasons, and what are they out for but to
work up troubles for me."

She shook his hand off.  "And whose fault was that?  If you'd
treated him right and not driven him into their arms he'd've been
different.  But you did it on purpose--to destroy him, like you're
trying to destroy the others.  Letting Geoffrey go down to Brisbane
with Shaftoe and his racecourse crooks."  She put her hand out
appealingly.  "Can't you see?  You're like what you said about your
own father--that he was to blame for your brothers being wasters
and you being what you were.  And now you're to blame for Larry
being mixed up with a lot of bad eggs instead of--oh, doesn't the
world ever get any better?"  She leant against the railing and beat
her fists together in a kind of exasperated despair.  Her apron,
released, writhed to the ground, spending the energy her hands had
twisted into it, and lay in still folds about her body, drably
creased like her face, which sagged with sudden discouragement.
She let her hands fall limply into her lap.  It was as though claws
had dragged across her face, scarring it with wrinkles.  She looked
old.

The energy seemed to have flowed into him.  He threw the paper
aside.  "He didn't need me to make a blackguard of him.  He was one
by birth.  YOUR brat."

A slight convulsion round her mouth turned into an ironic smile.
"YOU can say that!  YOU can call somebody else a blackguard!  Why,
you couldn't even call Black Jem . . . you couldn't even call
another man a"--she leant over and whispered at his upturned,
gaping face--"A MURDERER."

"Eh?"  He bent and picked the paper up and folded it slowly,
watching her.

She smiled again and nodded.  "You must forget that sometimes, or
you wouldn't be so free with your tongue.  Men weren't just made
convicts for that, you know.  They were . . ."

He waved his hand in front of her mouth.  "I know.  I know."

But she insisted, with slow, malicious, ruthless pleasure,
"Hanged."  And, her voice rising, her two hands about her scraggy
throat, repeated it, "Hanged--hanged--hanged!"

He beat the air with both hands, looking fearfully around while she
bent over him laughing.  "They hanged them.  They were worse than
the common thieves.  They were the lowest of the lot.  And they
hanged them."

She spluttered into silence against his hand, pushed roughly over
her mouth.  But he could not cover her eyes, vindictive and evilly
knowing.  He took his hand away, felt for the chair, and sat down
again.

She nodded.  "You just remember THAT."

The evening was settling.  From the other end of the house came the
subdued sound of a piano and a clear, low voice singing.


          Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
          Weiss, was ich leide.
          Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
          Weiss, was ich leide.
          Allein und abgetrennt
          Von aller Freude,
          Seh ich ans Firmament
          Nach jener Seite.
          Ach! der mich liebt und kennt
          Ist in der Weite.


The sad melody ended on a discord and a murmur of harsh protest.
Emma sniffed.

Cabell's shifty eye met hers.  "I never said I was going to kick
him out, did I?" he said.  "Only keep him out of my sight, that's
all."

Miss Montaulk nodded over her embroidery frame.  "A very nice song,
Harriet," she said, as Harriet's voice died away.  "Your father's
favourite."

Harriet grimaced, brought both hands down flat on the keyboard, and
rose.

Miss Montaulk jerked up her stubbled jailer's face.  "Harriet!
What are you doing?  Sing.  Your father will be listening."

"I don't want to sing."

"Go back to the piano and sing your father's favourite song,
Harriet," Miss Montaulk said.  "Ach, you do not deserve the love of
such a father.  You are a wicked girl.  It is beautiful the way he
loves you.  When he strokes your arm at the piano there it is
beautiful to see.  He looks almost--handsome.  You will never have
such a pure sweetheart as your father, Harriet."  She licked her
lips.  "They'll paw you, the others.  Ugh!  It's horrible to think
of."  She sat thinking of it and shaking her head.

Harriet shuddered and moved away to the window.

With bright eyes appraising the thin, girlish figure burgeoning
breasts and hips, Miss Montaulk watched her, then frowned.
"Harriet, you're not wearing your dress right again, you
disobedient child.  It should hang below your shoulders, not on
them.  You know your father admires your neck."

Harriet crossed her arms on her breast and pulled the dress higher.
"I won't wear it like that.  I won't.  I don't like it."

The bright, probing, pricing eyes swept her from head to foot.
"Modesty is all very well, Harriet.  But he IS your father.  If
you're afraid to show your shoulders to your father what will
happen when you have a husband?"  She laughed her grating, derisive
cackle.  "Husbands don't stand on ceremony, child."

She went on, cracking her smooth mask of rouge and powder, while
Harriet sank into the chair at the window.  For a moment the girl
stared at her reflection in the window-pane--the long flat planes
of her sallow cheeks, shadowed slightly in the hollows of her deep,
intent eyes, her wide red mouth, her heavy eyebrows.  "I'm not
beautiful," she told herself, remembering the regular features and
creamy complexions of the beauties she read about in novels.  The
thought pleased her at this moment.  "I'm ugly.  Loathsome."  She
stretched her mouth between her fingers and pressed her nose flat
and disordered her wavy hair to make the image in the window-pane
more unbeautiful still.  "I'll go to England and nobody will marry
me and I'll be able to live all by myself like Aunt Harriet."

Her eyes escaped past the reflection on the window to the steep
wall of the southern range.  In the light of the setting sun the
hills were burning up in a purple fire, glowing, shimmering like a
coal.  Then the glow faded and they were ashen black against the
sky, with the white stark skeletons of the ringbarked trees
wandering about the dusk like sentinels watching her.

"No, I won't go to England," she told herself, confronted suddenly
by a picture of her father sitting beside her in a bower of lilac
blossom with a great castle in the background where she would soon
be taken and shut up in a high tower behind barred doors.  "I'll
run away."  She imagined herself slipping out of bed in the night,
careful not to disturb Miss Montaulk repulsively asleep under a
flannel night-cap, dressing, tiptoeing out to the stable, and
galloping away down the winding tape of road, away, away. . . .

"Where to?"  She relaxed in her chair and stared again,
disconsolately, at the darkening wilderness.  These childish
fancies would no longer serve.  For nearly eighteen years she had
been gazing out of this window--watching the clouds of red and blue
butterflies that came to play over the purple flowers of the
lucerne on the flats, imagining herself one of them that would soon
rise and flutter away into the scrub, high above the murderous
reach of the Chinamen, escaping, gone; imagining herself a thistle
ball torn from the dry, hot earth by the wind and whirled away into
the cool blue.  Sitting up in bed at dawn to watch the coach for
Pyke's Crossing go by with a thud of hoofs, she had pretended that
it was carrying her off on an endless journey of escape.  In the
winter, when the westerlies fell and the day was like a big shining
crystal, she would make-believe that there was no one except
herself in the glittering, clean world.  And in the fever time when
the rains came, throbbing against the iron roof at night like the
beat of her own sick blood, she would lie in bed and let her
imagination go--how she would burn Miss Montaulk with a branding-
iron, tie her in barbed wire and drag her across the valley behind
a horse, throw her into the cactus plant which Mr McFarlane had
planted on his ridge.  Thus she had tried to revolt against the
will of her father, which lay over her life like a kind of fate,
shaping her, for some obscure end of his own, to a personality
foreign and friendless in her home.  What this end was she sensed,
in a rush of anxiety and distaste, when he came eagerly to see her
at the end of each day and sat brooding over her as she played the
piano, when Miss Montaulk fussed about preparing her for these
visits like a knowing old cocotte.

Obliquely, in the hothouse intimacy of their lives, she had learnt
a lot from Miss Montaulk--things, supplemented by the hints of
novels (she had glanced into the Paul de Kocks Miss Montaulk
stuffed behind sofa cushions), which alarmed her for a future where
some mysterious evil awaited her.

"Men.  Ugh!"  Miss Montaulk's eyes seemed to swell in her head.  "I
can hardly tell you what I've seen.  Girls your age--nice girls all
shut up in a room with the soldiers outside banging on the door.
That was in the war of 1870.  I was only a girl myself and some
might have thought I was pretty."  She leered and wriggled, giving
out that faint odour of corruption, like stale flowers, which
always made Harriet hold her breath and turn her head away.  "At
last the door began to give and they looked in--big drunken
soldiers with black beards.  And the things they said!  One of them
reached through the broken panel and touched me.  I feel it now--
that hand.  Fortunately an officer came along and we were saved."

"Would they have killed you?"

"It would have been worse than that," she whispered, her eyes
dancing, glittering, "WORSE THAN DEATH."

Harriet shivered and wondered.  Her thoughts were less distinct
than her feelings, which concreted themselves in a dream that began
soon after she discovered what "becoming a woman" meant.  She
dreamt that she woke up and found her father leaning over the bed.
There was blood on his beard.  She screamed and tried to get away,
but Miss Montaulk held her down while her father kissed her.  She
tried to push his face away, and, when she awoke, so vivid was the
feel of the clammy beard on her fingers that she had to get up and
wash her hands before she could sleep again.  Sometimes it was not
her father who kissed her but one of the repulsive mad old
shepherds.

Since this dream had begun, her fantasies at the window had become
less and less satisfying till to-night, in sudden disillusion, she
saw how childish they were.  "Yes, where could I run to?" she
asked, and there was no answer.  She put her hands over her face
and began to cry softly.

Long after the sticky tears had dried on her fingers she sat there
with her face in her hands, afraid to look up and see the familiar
hills and ringbarked trees mocking her.  "I WILL run away.  I will.
I will," she kept saying to herself, but only because there was
nothing else to say.

From the other end of the house came the buzz, like a wasp
disturbed, of angry voices, ending on the clatter of an overturned
chair, the slamming of a door, and her mother laughing.

A clear picture of her mother, in the faded blue dress of an old
fashion, full in the skirt and tight about the waist and fallen
breasts, came to her.  From some infantile memory of them she
recovered a sensation of the reassuring strength in the brown hands
holding her close to those skirts, clean smelling and capacious to
hide behind.  That was years ago before Miss Montaulk came to dress
and bathe her and take command of her life.  There had been a rift
between them since.  Harriet had learnt to speak French and
Italian, play the piano, sing, paint watercolours, and eat little
mouthfuls of food.  She wore a different silk dress every day of
the week, and when she went out in her gig walked across the dusty
yard in mincing steps and carried a parasol to keep the sun off her
complexion.  Now her mother hardly ever glanced at her.  When she
did it was with such a strange look in her dark, deep-set eyes that
Harriet was compelled to give back a stare of bewildered defiance.
Yet how she yearned to be taken back into the security of her
mother's arms, to be comforted by the low voice, in the sad tones
of which spoke a heart wise from terrible experience.  On the vague
rumours of that experience, got mostly from James, she speculated
now, not as at first with shame, but with admiration for the
strength which had endured so much suffering.  She thought of the
convict ship, the jailyard, the whipping-post, and Black Jem, as
James had pictured them with the brutal over-emphasis of his
offended pride, and her own troubles seemed paltry.  Her mother,
who had come through these things, who could, as Harriet had often
seen, silence her father's testy humours with a glance, appeared to
her now a woman of superhuman power--the only being before whom she
had seen her father's eye falter and turn away.

Again she was tempted to go and throw her arms around her mother
and put the shield of the still, wise face between herself and the
rest of the world, but the impulse died among discouraging memories
of that face watching her scornfully, as she drove out in her gig
of an afternoon, from the window of the kitchen where Emma lived
with shining pots, and black iron kettles singing over a torrid
fire, and tables scrubbed as white as sand.

Only once had she tried to break down the barriers.  That was over
a year ago, on the day her father returned from Brisbane with a
necklace made of little nuggets of solid gold strung together with
pearls between.  He had frightened her as usual with the over-
emotional intensity of his words, which always became more pressing
the more they chilled her.  She was just then struggling with the
morbid, pernickety self-disgust of her adolescence.  She turned her
nausea upon him with a sudden loathing for the rank male smell of
his clothes, his sour breath, and the astringent silky flesh on his
ageing cheek.  When he was gone all her bottled-up longing for
somebody to caress and pity her and take off her mind the load of
fears which were becoming unbearable to her loneliness drove her to
the kitchen.  Her mother was there occupied, as usual from early
morning to late at night, over one of the thousand trivial tasks
her restless energy created to exhaust itself upon.

"Mother . . ."  She hesitated before the old woman's unwelcoming
stare, which fastened at once upon the necklace, where Cabell had
doubled it in a heavy rope around the girl's thin neck.  She began
to whimper, "I'm frightened, Mother . . . I . . ."

Emma watched her coldly.  "Frightened?  What of?"

"I--I want . . ."  But she did not know what she wanted or why she
was frightened.  Her whimpering turned to tears.

Emma wiped her hands on her apron and came around the table, and
almost shyly put her hand on the girl's shoulder, but at the same
moment a heavy step sounded in the passage and Miss Montaulk
appeared.

"Harriet!  Whatever are you doing in this place?  Your father would
be so . . .  Why, what's happened?"

"Nothing's happened," Emma said harshly.  "Except the girl's green-
sick.  Take her away and give her a dose of calomel."

Harriet opened her eyes and stared through the window at the
thickening darkness to blot out this memory of a fiasco.  No, there
was nobody to help her, to like her, or to understand.

Miss Montaulk was lighting the lamp and preparing the room for
Cabell's evening visit.  As the lamp burned up Harriet saw the
reflection of her own face shining on the window-pane once more,
vividly now.  Her eyes, softened by tears, stared sadly back at
her.  Her disordered hair fell in curls around her cheeks, warm
against the blackness of the night.  Her dress had slipped down
from one shoulder and the light falling upon it was like a radiance
of her own skin.  She shrugged the dress off the other shoulder,
revealing the white spread of her wide, young breast, turned her
head critically from side to side, patted the curls back into
place, and smiled.

It was at a memory of her brother James that she smiled.  The day
he arrived home on his last vacation he had come to the window and
called her.  He was excited.  "Is SHE there?" he asked.

"No--why, Jimmy, what's happened to you?"  A year's growth in
James, a budding moustache of black down, a change from untidy
clothes to a tailored suit, high white collar, and bulging cravat
did not fix her immediate awareness of his change from youth,
skulking nervously at the window, to manhood, flushed and
triumphant and pleased with itself.

"Jimmy, you look like--like something out of a book."  She had
never seen such a man before, so well-dressed, so dashing.

He covered his moustache shyly with his hand, then laughed.
"Harriet, I've got something to tell you."  He looked at her
doubtfully.  "You'll keep a secret, won't you?"

"Who should I tell?"

"I wouldn't want HIM to know.  Not yet.  Later . . ."  He pushed
out his jaw, which was beginning to show a line as hard as
Cabell's.  "I don't care later.  He can go to the Dickens."

"He's going to make you an engineer and work at the mine.  Has he
told you yet?"

"Yes, he told me, but . . ."  James frowned.  "I don't want to be
an engineer.  I want to study law and go in for politics and have a
station of my own and breed horses.  That's what I'm going to do.
I AM."

She was impressed again by the quality of his new manliness.  The
recklessness of the young boy, who used to alarm them by staying
away from meals and defying his father, was still a twinkle of
light in the depths of his violet eyes, a wild simmer of excitement
in his laughter and in his nervous hands, but his eyes had steadied
and his voice was deeper and subdued and his hands gestured and
folded themselves gracefully instead of wandering aimlessly about
his person like lost animals.  Harriet no longer felt superior, as
before she had always been, looking down on him from the window and
her precocious foreknowledge of life as Miss Montaulk's pupil.

"Will you?" she said.  "Oh, Jimmy, won't he be angry?"

"He'll be angry all right," James glanced round with a fugitive
return to the skulking indecision of boyhood.  But his defiance
recovered itself at once.  "But that's nothing.  That's only a flea-
bite.  Wait till I tell him that I'm going to marry . . ."

"Marry?" she said sharply.

He blushed to the ears.  "Aw, Harriet, wait till you see her.
You've never seen anything so beautiful, so . . ."

"I've never seen anything at all," Harriet snapped, "except Papa
and Mama and old Montaulk and sheep and . . ."  She paused, a lump
of self-pity in her throat.  Then all at once she realized that
this it was which had changed James, this fabulous experience of
love she had read about in books, which haunted her own life in the
elliptical gossip of Miss Montaulk and her father's talk of the
future.

She grimaced, horrified now, slightly disgusted by the hot
eagerness of his words, remembering how, when driving once with
Miss Montaulk, covertly under the brim of her hat she had seen a
bull and a cow.  "Filthy!  Abominable!" Miss Montaulk had said when
they were past.  "To think that men are like that too!"

James reached up and touched her arm.  "I met her at Doug
Peppiott's father's.  He had a house in Sydney for the races and
she was down with her mother.  She's so beautiful--it's like being
drunk to look at her."

Harriet drew her arm away.  "Who is she?"

"Her name's Jennis--Jennis Bowen.  Her father used to own Penine
Downs.  He's dead now.  Sir Michael Flanagan's her grandfather."

Harriet smiled scornfully.  "You booby.  Do you think Papa would
let you marry Sir Michael Flanagan's granddaughter?  Why, he's
always talking about him.  They had a quarrel."

James thrust his hands in his pockets and kicked up a tuft of
grass.  "I know.  It was about some land.  That's when all that
came out about Mother and Black Jem and all.  Everybody remembers
it.  It's awful.  You can hardly hold your head up in Brisbane.
You never know when somebody's going to come out with something
else about him, something . . ."  He glanced up under his black
eyebrows, "SOMETHING YOU'D NEVER LIVE DOWN."

In troubled silence they speculated upon the secrets, the
potentialities of their father's face, on which the scars were like
hieroglyphs with some bizarre meaning if one could read them.
"What d'you mean, Jimmy?" Harriet asked nervously.

"Oh--"  James drove the phantoms of the ugly past behind him, "I
don't know.  I don't care.  It's got nothing to do with us.  We're
not responsible.  We weren't born.  What's it matter what he did or
who he quarrelled with?  It's none of our business.  I don't care
if he had a court case with Sir Michael.  That's over twenty-three
or more years ago.  I'm going to marry Jennis Bowen and do what I
like.  I don't want anything from him . . ."

Harriet had been deeply impressed by the change which the beauty of
a mere girl had worked in her brother, making him look forward to a
fight with his father and a new, independent life.  At first she
had not been able to think of it because she could not think of him
kissing the girl without feeling her own flesh creep and tingle,
and could not recall his excited rapture without recalling also the
excitement of the bull on heat.  But now, looking at her image in
the window-pane, struck, in the sudden dissolution of her fancies,
by the reality of her own personal being, and understanding that
through this alone, not through any chance or miracle or the
kindness of any one in her little world, was she likely to be
rescued from the mad fatality of her father's will, she thought
about the metamorphosis of James without shrinking and with such an
immediate perception of all it involved that she seemed to have
been thinking of it for a long time.  Perhaps it was that very
thinking, at work in some corner of her mind, which had destroyed
her fancies and shown her that her only power was in her own body
and herself.

The discovery presented itself far less explicitly--merely as a
simple question, "Will any one ever fall madly in love with ME?
Madly enough not to be afraid of--anything?"  And doubt of her
ability to inspire in any man the tempest of feeling that had
overwhelmed James when he talked of Jennis Bowen made her lean
forward and examine fearfully her reflection in the glass.  Oh, if
only her mouth were smaller and her eyes wider and her nose a
little less sharp and there were a bit more colour in her cheeks!
Yes, she must be terribly, terribly ugly, for had not James said,
"By George, Harriet, you don't know what beauty is until you see
her.  All other girls look like wet hens."

Chin in hand she considered this gloomily for some time, then
tossed her head.  "Well, there are other men," she thought.  "They
mightn't think so."

What men?

The question plunged her chin into her hand again.  The McFarlanes?
Those tow-headed, bandy dullards!  The Jardines?  Why, she never
saw them!  Who else?  There was nobody else, except her brothers
and the shearers once a year--and oh, yes, Mr Cash.

Her forehead puckered.  Thinking of Cash she forgot herself and her
problems, for Cash was a problem in himself.  Did she like him?
She didn't know.  He was so full of bluster and laughter and noise,
she was a bit scared of him sometimes.  Then he had that irritating
way of talking to her as if she were a child who couldn't
understand.  And he was different from anybody she had ever seen.
In what way different she could not say--that was the puzzle about
him.  But different in the same way that a person in a book was
different from a person in life--clearer, more real, more solid (of
a piece, she thought, like ivory which was ivory all through,
whereas there was nothing in the middle of a bone but some spongy
stuff, and that's what most people seemed like, people like Mr
Shaftoe or Miss Montaulk), and always fresh and--yes, exciting.  He
told them stories about shipwrecks, and fights, and running guns to
Venezuela in a revolution, and blackbirding, and the time when a
schooner he was on caught fire and when he went down to loose the
kanakas somebody accidentally closed the hatch so that he couldn't
get out and the kanakas went mad and began to trample each other in
the dark, smoky hold.  Even horrible things sounded funny when he
told about them, not like the stories her father told, which always
depressed or frightened her.  She decided that it was because Cash
never felt any regrets about anything, and so it sounded all right,
whereas her father always looked guilty and made you uneasy about
him.  Everybody liked Cash.  Larry came to dinner to hear him, Emma
laughed a little, and even Cabell, she noticed, took his advice and
depended on him a lot.  That made Harriet think of him as the only
person beside her mother who was not afraid of Cabell.  Still she
couldn't be sure about liking him herself: he was so big and
unusual in the little monotonous world her father had built up
around her.  She did like the laughter wrinkles round the corners
of his eyes though, she thought, and catching herself thinking so
she made a face.  "Pooh, as if he'd do!  He's old," and she
dismissed him from her mind.

Who else then?  Somebody like James--handsome and young and brave.
No, there was nobody.  And it came to her, as the essence of her
misery, that there would never be any man except her father,
jealously watching over her and excluding every one else because
every one was frightened of him.

A shadow on the pane lifted her chin from her hands.  She glanced
up and saw the wraith of her father staring at her.  He had come in
quietly and tiptoed across the carpet.  She pulled the dress over
her shoulders and rose to face him.

"Did I startle you, dear?" he said anxiously.  "I'm sorry."

She did not reply.  Her breath moved the hand at the neck of her
dress, and the bracelets and rings he had loaded on her sparkled in
the light.  Her fingers were too thin and she kept working the
rings back on with her thumb.

"Poor child.  Your nerves must be on edge.  It's the heat."

"No," she said quickly, snatching the breath to repudiate his
sympathy as though afraid it would commit her to a deeper liaison.
"I'm perfectly well.  Perfectly well indeed."  She did not look at
him directly but watched his feet come slowly across the space
between them, knowing that in three seconds he would take her face
in his hands, turn it up, and kiss her.  She could not bear to look
up and see his one intent eye, his beard, his scar, his twisted
mouth--ogresque in a memory, vivid and terrifying since early
childhood, of his face as he bent over her.

He stroked her hair, traced the line of her jaw with a rough
forefinger, and raised her face.  His lips brushed her forehead.

Harriet opened her eyes and glanced at him quickly.  Then her eyes
fixed on his beard and widened.  "Oh."  Her breath, held against
the rank smell of his body, escaped in a startled gasp.

He grabbed at his beard.  "What's the matter?"

"There's blood on it!"

He glanced into the mirror on the wall.  "Confound it.  I thought
I'd got it clean."  He rubbed a handkerchief across his face.
"There, is that better?"

But she was sidling away from him, pale with an inexplicit fear
that was the fear of her dream returning irresistibly upon her.

"Why, Harriet child, nothing to be upset about.  I couldn't help
it."  He drove her back to the piano stool.  "It was his fault.  I
couldn't stand there and let him belt me, could I?"

She saw he had been fighting.  This reasonable explanation for the
blood on his beard calmed her, and she breathed freely again,
gazing at the carpet.

"Could I?" he repeated, and when she did not agree he burst out,
"Damn it, you ALL seem to think I'm some kind of a monster.  Even
you!"

Her silence, parrying his appeal as though she feared that a word,
a gesture, of denial would involve her in some unwholesome compact
of emotion, loosed a torrent of reproach.  "Even you, Harriet.  You
believe them when they say I'd do anything.  Somebody's been
telling you lies about me.  Your mother?  James, eh?"

She shook her head.  "Oh, no."

"Lies," he growled.  "Lies, lies, lies.  All lies.  They say I
tried to steal land off McFarlane, duffed horses, robbed Miss
Ludmilla, cheated Sambo.  And now she says I . . ."  He wiped his
hand across his lips and went tramping round the room.

Harriet did not look up.

This unjust judgment of silence infuriated him.  He stopped in
front of her.  "You all look down on me--you and James and all the
rest.  Huh.  You don't know what it was like here forty years ago.
Say a man held a gun at YOUR head.  What would YOU do?  Sit there
and let him pull the trigger?  And say you didn't?  Would it
be . . ."

She preserved a dead face, trying not even to hear him.

He gestured helplessly.  How could one explain and justify to the
blind and unjust.  "You couldn't understand," he said quietly.
"You'd have to trace it all back to the beginning."

He walked over to the table, sat down, and wedged his face between
his hands.  "I was as clean skinned and innocent as you in the
beginning," he muttered, gazing over her head at the square plaque
of darkness and the stars sweeping away beyond.

There was a jingle of tiny, muted bells.  A moth was fluttering
under the frosted shade of the lamp at his elbow.  Bells . . . the
clang of ships' bells coming out of the sea mist, himself a boy
with his face pressed against the cold window to watch the beacon
glow on Tenterburn Hill and the ghostly topsails of a ship fighting
away from the Cliffs--church bells on Sunday morning and the rustle
of starched dresses in High Street, the lavender smell of his
mother's gloves--the bell calling him once more to the ordeal of a
meal-table shared with quarrelsome brothers and a father crude and
violent and contemptuous . . . .

The jingling ceased in an upflaring of the steady light and a
sizzle of burnt wings.  He started, looked at the lamp, and sighed.
"Yes," he said, "I was young like you.  Then I did something.  If
you understood everything--the years, struggling, thinking,
waiting . . ."  His teeth clicked.

He looked at her, but the stubborn uncompassion of her eyes held
him off.  "You!" he said bitterly.  "Where would you be?"

"Oh, for goodness sake, Father," Harriet said, flashing her rings
at him.  "I don't want to understand.  It's not fair.  I want to go
away.  Send me away from here.  Why do you always promise and never
send me away.  Send me to England."

"Harriet!  Child!  Dear!"  He jumped up, went to the piano and put
an arm round her shoulder.  "Why, you're shaking like a leaf.  Did
I scare you?"

"Scared--no.  I'm angry," Harriet said.  "It's monstrous."

"Monstrous?  Why, child, what d'you mean?"

"Oh, I don't know," Harriet said and her lips began to tremble.
"It's the way you want everything.  Oh, I can't explain."

"Me want everything!  But only for you, darling.  In a year's time--
two years--I'll be as rich as Carnegie.  You'll be an heiress to
millions.  They'll all want to marry you--fine young men, like I
was.  Believe me, dear, I was--young, handsome, in Owerbury. . . ."

She struggled against his arm, crushing the breath out of her, then
gave up struggling and went lax against him.  In a flat voice she
said, "You'll never send me away.  You'll keep me locked up till
I'm old and ugly like Montaulk.  Never seeing anything but sheep--
like a prisoner . . ."

"Good heavens, girl, what're you saying?  After all, you're barely
eighteen."

"Yes, and I've never been out of the valley--not even to Brisbane."
She freed herself and went to the window.

Cabell was startled by this sudden rebellion of a girl who had been
so gentle, so unresisting, so like his mother, he had always
thought.  Now, as she stood by the window watching him sideways
with the shadows in her long eyes he saw, for an instant, a
resemblance to Emma, but pushed the idea away.  "You're a bit
overwrought," he said.  "Perhaps a change would do you good.
As a matter of fact I was thinking I might take a house in
Brisbane. . . ."

She looked at her reflection in the mirror and shrugged.




PART III: THE NICE PEOPLE



CHAPTER ONE: JAMES HOISTS HIS COLOURS


Everything came to a head between Cabell and James after Geoffrey
let the cat out of the bag at the Christmas dinner of 1889.  Or
rather James had his chance to bring it to a head.  He puttered
aimlessly about the place, pouring out his grievances to Harriet,
or in one of his old hideouts along the river framing over and over
the arguments with which he was going to shout his father down and
prove how futile it was to make an engineer out of him or to try to
prevent him from marrying Jennis Bowen.

But these powerful reasons and angry words, which welled up so
fluently when he was alone that he had to talk them aloud to the
trees, seemed feeble when Cabell was near and he felt, like a
palpable chill, his father's blank indifference.  Cabell often took
him aside now and talked to him, but just as he might have talked
to a clerk.  "You get finished with your studying quick.  By that
time I'll be ready to use you."  He talked too of Ludmilla and
Larsen and of the way he would drive them out of HIS mine.  James
listened and despaired.  How could he hope to prevail where so many
had been beaten.  Again, as in childhood, he looked at the battered
face and read there how his father had suffered and fought,
committed crimes perhaps, and emerged from all ordeals with energy
and purpose unspent.

He went to Harriet.  "I'm going away to-morrow."

"What, you've had it out with him?  Oh, Jimmy!"  She took his arm
and huddled against him.  "What did he say?"

"I didn't have it out--no.  What's the use.  He only yells."

"But you're not going back to Sydney!  You're going to do what you
said and marry Jennis."

James scowled.  "Yes, I will.  And I won't study till he's ready to
use me.  I'm damned if I will."

"Ah Jimmy!"  She turned up to him eyes bright with admiration and
the appeal of her own hopes.  "But what will you do?  He won't give
you any money!"

"I don't suppose so," James said, worried.  Then he threw himself
into a chair and buried his face in his hands.  "Damn him!"

"Then you'll have to go and tell Sir Michael everything straight
away," Harriet said briskly.  "Tell him what an unreasonable man
Papa is.  He'll help you.  He said he would, didn't he?  He said
he'd help you to learn the law and go in for politics."

"Yes, he said so."

"That's all right then.  You'll get a position and be able to marry
Jennis."

"Oh, I suppose so."

"You only suppose so.  But haven't you made up your mind?  Oh," she
cried, "if I was a man and I wanted to marry a girl and Papa said I
couldn't I'd--I'd buy some sheep and go out into the bush and start
a station and get rich.  Why, like Papa did!"

James smiled sourly.  "That was all right for him.  Look at the
kind of man he is.  He never thinks of anything but sheep and gold-
dust.  Besides, there wasn't anything else then.  Now it's
different.  There are more nice people now.  Like Doug Peppiott's
father and Sir Michael Flanagan and all the people they have at
their houses.  You haven't got to show you're a man by fighting and
swearing and talking about sheep.  You don't understand.  You
haven't been in Brisbane and Sydney.  It's civilized there."

"I wouldn't care," Harriet said, "if I was in love.  I wouldn't
care about anything."

"Rot!  You don't know what you're talking about."  Then he glanced
up quickly and said, "And you don't want to go talking like that in
front of people in Brisbane when you go."

"Why?"

"A girl oughtn't to--that's why.  It's only a certain kind of girl
talks like that."

"I must be a certain kind of girl then."

"You don't know what you're saying," James grumbled.  "And I jolly
well hope you don't go on talking like that in front of nice
people.  It's bad enough having Geoffrey down there running about
the town."

Harriet laughed and put her arms around him.  "I won't run about
the town.  I'll sit at home waiting for someone to come and propose
to me.  And if they love me enough I don't care where they take me
or how much money they've got."

"A fat lot of need YOU'LL have to worry about money," James said
resentfully.

Next day he left for Brisbane--two hundred and fifty jolting dusty
miles by coach and another hundred in a tiny oven of a railway
carriage, which he shared with a couple of drunken squatters from
the Outside.  They had a barrel of beer in the compartment and
wanted him to drink with them.

"First time been Brisbane twelve years," one of them confided,
thrusting a tankard under James's nose.  "No women, no nothing but
sheep and gins.  Out Never-Never.  Got fifteen thousan' quid blow
in.  Goin' have bender.  Me 'n' mate.  You come along young plo'."
The train lurched and he spilled half the contents of the tankard
into James's immaculate lap.

James removed himself to the other end of the carriage and
carefully sponged the spots off his clothes, thinking, "Twelve
years and nothing but sheep.  I couldn't.  No, I COULDN'T.  I might
get just like HIM."

He took a room at the Royal Hotel in Queen Street, cleaned and
dressed himself carefully, and set out for Sir Michael Flanagan's
house on Bowen Terrace.  The streets were full of well-dressed men
and women, cabs and carriages and smart gigs.  He looked nervously
sideways at a reflection of himself in a shop window, appraising
his clothes.  Yes, they compared, he thought, pleased with himself,
and covertly adjusted the set of his coat.  Men passing waved to
him and ladies bowed.  He began to feel a little more confident.
These people liked him.  He was one of them.  They would help him
because of that and because they were generous.  So everything
would surely turn out all right.

A voice hailed him from the kerb.  "Hey, young fella me lad!"  It
was Doug Peppiott, lounging in a flash-looking run-about with a
pair of beautiful grey horses straining at the reins, which he held
in his yellow-gloved hands so as to show off the fine arch of the
horses' necks.

James hurried over and greeted him.

"Steady!" Peppiott said.  "You'll scare the nags.  They're a bit
hot standing."

"What a match!" James said.  "Where did you get them?"

"Picked 'em up off old Lord Bacon when we were down Sydney,
Christmas.  He wanted to give 'em to me, but the Pater wouldn't
stand for it.  Not a bad old boy.  Cottoned on to me like a long
lost."  He gave the end of his red moustaches a flourish.  "Matter
of fact, he's going to give me some tickets for soup when I go Home
to Oxford later in the year."

"You're going to Oxford?"

"Pater's idea.  Just as soon stay and buy a place and start
breeding nags myself.  But it ought to be fun knocking about with
the Johnnies for a couple of years."  He glanced at James to see
how he was taking this, and was pleased to see him taking it very
badly.  "Better than making stinks and mud-pies in a goldmine, eh?"

James frowned at him.  He was bigger than James, with a full,
florid, good-looking face, belittling grey eyes, and a drawling,
scornful voice.  A typical good fellow, a well-flushed, breezy
young man about town--first-class polo player, dashing fellow on
the cricket field (he had knocked up fifty against a visiting
English team), generous spender, leader of wild pranks in town (he
threw a piano downstairs in the Royal Hotel one night when somebody
complained about the noise he was making), sentimental baritone
balladist in great demand at "evenings," and hero to his mother and
to the ladies of Frogs' Hollow.  In his spacious gestures and easy
smiles spoke that assurance of a fortunate destiny for which James
had always envied and, furtively, hated him.  Since James's first
year at school when Peppiott had hounded a merciless pack after him
with the story of Cabell's early days he had become, in James's
eyes, a symbol for all those who had no skeletons in the cupboard
and therefore could afford to judge and despise others.  How he had
always wanted to be like Doug Peppiott--and how his heart seethed
with spite against him.  But he bit his tongue whenever it tried to
speak out because he was afraid of the pack which Peppiott was born
to lead.  To stand in well with them, to be accepted as one of
them, was all he desired.  If someone had told him that as he stood
there envying Peppiott, Peppiott was envying him for having a
father who, all agreed, would soon be one of the richest men in
Australia, James would not have believed it.  Peppiott looked
bigger and handsomer and more self-assured than ever as he gazed
down from the runabout with the two proud-looking horses fretting
against his strong hands, and James felt shabby and small.  To make
up for his sense of this he said manfully, "I'm not going into the
mine.  I've made up my mind."

Peppiott laughed.  "We know all about that.  I ran into Geoff down
in Queenie's last night and he told us what your old man said about
Flanagan and his granddaughter.  He must be a bit of a doer, your
old man.  Is it true he makes the miners strip starbolic naked in
front of him to show they ain't pinching any of his gold?"

James tried to glare, but Peppiott's sarcastic eyes were too much
for him.  "I'm not going into the mine," he snapped.  "Geoffrey
doesn't know what he's talking about."

Peppiott chuckled.  "You want to be careful," he said, "or your old
man'll be towelling you up as he did your brother Lar . . ."  He
stopped, confused, and turning, James found that Peppiott senior
had come up while they were talking and was now frowning at his
son.

James's only desire was to get away from them, but Peppiott senior
seized his hand and pump-handled it.  "James!  What a pleasure."
He pronounced it pless-shaw, unctuously, crouching slightly as
though to drop these two little drops of oil on to the back of
James's hand.  He was tall and thin with a long, thin face set in
rat-skin dundrearies.  His head was long and narrow, like a melon,
and he wore his sparse patent-leather hair brushed straight back
and parted in the middle.  He lifted a pair of gold-rimmed
spectacles to the bridge of his sharp nose, then let them swing on
their ribbon.  "No i-deah you were down, my dear fellow.  On your
way somewhere?  Let us drop you."

"There isn't any room with these high-flyers," Doug grumbled.
"He'd rather walk."

"Walk in this heat?  What rot.  You move over."  He moved over and
Peppiott bundled James in and wedged his thin buttocks down between
them.

The horses pranced and shied and swung out into the traffic.

"I hear a rumour that your father is taking old Judge Bullenough's
house at New Farm.  Is it true?" Peppiott senior asked.

"I did hear something," James mumbled.

"It would please me," Peppiott said, "if it gave me an opportunity
to renew my acquaintance with your father.  I knew him years ago.
A re-MARK-able man.  He deserved to get on.  I suppose he will
bring your sister down for a little amusement?"

"I suppose so."

"Ah.  We must see that she is not disappointed."

"Mother coming too?" Doug put in.

Father and son exchanged looks.  "Mind where you're driving you
dam' fool," Peppiott said, spitting drops of venom, not oil, into
his son's ear.

Angry and embarrassed James lifted himself half out of the seat.
"You can put me down here," he said.  "It's not far to walk."

But Peppiott held him back.  "No, just a moment, James.  I have
something to ask you--if you don't think it would be impertinent of
an old man who has seen you grow up and come to look on you as--
well, you've been about with Douglas so much that it is almost as
if you were my own son."

James blushed.  "Not at all, sir.  Anything . . ."

"It was about Jennis Bowen, my dear boy.  Douglas tells me that
you've quarrelled with your father."

"As a matter of fact--yes."

Peppiott put his spectacles on and turned to look at James.

"Ah, James, I'm sorry to hear it.  Very sorry indeed.  Of course,
crabbed age and youth, as the Bard says . . .  But your father had
great provocation, my boy.  I suppose it's on account of the land
Sir Michael . . ."

"Yes, he's still pretty mad about that," James said.  "In fact,
he's pigheaded."

Peppiott tut-tutted.  "Adamant, you say?  Quite adamant?"

"Quite."

Peppiott patted his knee.  "Needless to say I'm extremely sorry for
your sake, James, but I cannot help thinking it is for the best.
Your father is a--sage man.  You must let him guide you.  Be sure
he sees through Flanagan.  I believe Sir Michael asked you to make
overtures to your father?  Is it true?"

"He asked me to let Father know that he was sorry for what had
happened."

"He specially asked you to say that?"

"Yes, he was genuinely sorry.  He didn't have anything else in
mind, I'm certain of it," James said quickly.  "He liked me, and he
said . . ."

Peppiott laughed drily.  "I daresay he was sorry.  And you told
your father."

"I tried to, but he wouldn't listen."

"Ah!"  Peppiott rubbed his hands together.  "Ah!  It was only to be
expected.  Flanagan did him a great wrong."

James was put out to hear Peppiott defending his father like this
and casting doubts on Flanagan's motives.  "I don't know," he said,
"but it seems to me that what happened all that time ago shouldn't
interfere with . . ."

"My dear James!"  Peppiott pressed his fingers in a limp, dry
hand. "Take my word for it, what Flanagan did was unforgivable.
Perhaps if your father had taken my advice--I was his solicitor
at the time, you know--the matter would have turned out more
agreeably, but . . ."  He sighed.  "A very self-willed man.  A
very re-MARK-able man."

They were at the gate of Flanagan's house.  Peppiott held on to
James's hand and bent over it to dribble a few more drops of oil on
to its palm.

"James, old fellow, let a disinterested well-wisher advise.  Beware
of this specious affability of Flanagan's.  All he is after is your
father's money."

"I'm much obliged, sir.  Thank you, sir," James stammered, tugging
at his hand.  It slipped out of Peppiott's fingers as though it
were now too greasy to hold, and James stumbled backwards off the
step of the runabout.  Angrily he wiped his hand on his trousers as
he hurried through the gates.  Was the whole world in league with
his father to thwart and torment him?  Well, Flanagan wasn't anyhow--
that much he extracted from Peppiott's speech.  Flanagan was his
father's enemy, Peppiott said.  Encouraged a little he went briskly
up the drive.

As he stepped on to the veranda the French lights opened, letting
out a clamour of voices and laughter and glasses tinkling, and
Flanagan, a paunchy, bouncing man, emerged.  "I see ye come up the
garden," he said.  "My, it's a treat to set eyes on ye again."

James looked at him anxiously, but before he could speak Flanagan
whisked him off the veranda into the room where a number of other
paunchy men were standing about a table of drinks.

"Gentlemen," Flanagan said, pushing him forward, "meet a young
fellah ye're going to hear a lot more about one of these days,
Mister Jimmy Cabell.  Old Cabell's son."

They welcomed James with lusty handshakes, backslaps, and words of
congratulation for he knew not what.  A few names he recognized--
Fleck, a member of the Cabinet, Grose, a banker, Carney, a rich
squatter, and one of the Dennis brothers, who were said to own half
the land on which Brisbane was built.

Again he was irritated.  They were TOO friendly.  "Cabell's son,
eh?" they said, and he scowled and mumbled.  The power of his
father's ego seemed to extend even here, crossing and dwarfing his.
He was relieved when they took themselves off and left him alone
with Flanagan.

Flanagan pulled a chair into the open doorway and pressed him into
it.  "I know it isn't me ye've come to see," he said, patting
James's cheek affectionately, "but ye can spare an old friend a
minute, now can't ye?"

"As a matter of fact . . ." James began and stopped.  Thinking of
what Peppiott had said he looked at Flanagan doubtfully, trying to
estimate what lay behind the soft, beguiling brogue and pink fat.
But whatever it was beside sheer kindliness James's inexperienced
eye could not discover.  Obesity had long erased everything except
an expression of complacent affability from Flanagan's face.  The
fat was like a vast bed of quicksands into which he was rapidly
sinking.  It had engulfed all but the tip of his nose, a glint of
his eyes, a signet ring on the little finger of his left hand.  He
panted desperately and clutched the arm of the chair as though
making a last frantic effort to save himself from being swallowed
up once and for all.  Here was no sign of the greed and cunning
Peppiott had warned him against.  His father was greedy and cunning--
you could see that at a glance: he looked like a weather-beaten,
hungry hawk.  But these blue eyes expressed only a pathetic
eagerness to be friendly.  James thought so anyway.  "I did come to
see you," he said, rubbing his hands nervously on his knees.  "You
see--I . . ."

"Out with it," Flanagan said.  "I'm your friend.  Ye know that,
Jimmy.  It's a rumpus with your da, eh?"

"Yes, that's it."

"I thought as much.  He's a quick-tempered man, too.  Who knows if
I don't.  But what's he at ye about?"

"It's about--everything.  First he wants me to be a mining engineer
and I don't want to.  I don't like mines.  I'd rather do what you
suggested."

"Ye told him that?"  Flanagan paused in lighting a cigar and
watched James over the match.

"I tried to.  But he wouldn't listen.  He said I'd got to study.
Oh, it's no use arguing.  I just packed up and came here."

"Huh."  Flanagan jerked the match through the door and grunted
noncommittally again.  "Huh."

The sound curdled James's blood.  "You told me you'd help me, Sir
Michael--put me in the way of studying law and getting into
politics.  You will, won't you?"

Flanagan put out a webbed hand and patted James's knee.  "Sure,
sure, Jimmy.  Who would I help if it's not one that's not much
short of being me own son."  He laughed, spreading about James a
prosperous scent of whisky and cigar smoke.  Then the laugh ceased
abruptly, like a stage laugh, killing the half-born smile of relief
on James's lips.  "But now let us get at the rights of the
business.  Ye've cleared out, ye say?  Have ye done it on your own
bat or did he kick you out?"

"Oh, no, I just came straight here to see you because I knew
you'd . . ."

"Of course."  Flanagan wriggled forward on his chair and made a
strenuous effort to force himself to the surface of his fat.  A
faint smile emerged and sank again immediately.  "But ye'll
understand, Jimmy, I didn't have no idea your da was all that set
on making an engineer out of ye, and I wouldn't like to be coming
in between a young man and his da.  Now . . ."  He waved James's
protests aside, "Listen to me--an old man with no axe to grind.
It's no use going against that fellah.  Ye'll get the worse of it.
If it's an engineer he wants ye to be, an engineer ye'd better be
or by the Holy he'll cut ye off without a shilling."

"But I don't want a shilling from him," James said.  "That's why
I've come to you.  I'm willing to work hard.  I'll study and become
a lawyer some day and then--perhaps--I'm young yet--but in a few
years' time--oh, you know I'd like to marry Jennis, sir."

"Sure, I know it--and mighty proud of it too.  She's head over
heels, she is, ye lucky young scamp."  He kicked playfully at
James, but became serious and confidential again at once.  "Still
and all, Jimmy, I been thinking about that law business and
politics.  It's a dirty game.  What's more, it would eat up a wad
of your time studying, whereas what's the prospects in the mine
business?  A couple more years in Sydney and ye're well enough off
to marry and yer own boss."

"My own boss!"

"Come now," Flanagan said shyly, "we aren't going to live much
longer, us old'uns.  Your da's had a hard life of it.  Come the day
ye'll be a big man up there--and down here too--and that right
soon.  It's worth waiting."

In his exasperation James pounded the arm of the chair.  "But can't
you understand, Sir Michael?  It's not the mine.  It's everything.
He wants it all.  He treats me like a paid hand.  He only wants to
use me for his own purposes.  And he won't let me marry Jennis.
And--and he'll never die."

"Did he tell ye that--about Jennis?"

James nodded.

Flanagan let go the arms of the chair and flopped backwards, as
though abandoning himself at last to the treacherous swamp of pink,
perspiring flesh.  It closed slowly over his mouth and eyes.  He
sighed.  James watched him, hopefully at first, and as the seconds
lengthened into minutes with increasing irritation.  It seemed
incredible that such massive inertia could persist against the cry
of his urgent needs.  He shuffled his feet.

Flanagan opened one eye at last.  "Oh, he'll get over that," he
said.  "I'll be seeing him.  I've got propositions that'll interest
him more than keeping up a bit of a quarrel.  Just ye take a pull
on your patience."

"It's not a matter of patience," James said.  "He'll never listen
to reason.  If I have to give into him about this I'll have to give
into him about Jennis too.  He'll just make a packhorse out of me."

Flanagan shook his head.  "Now, Jimmy, my boy, it's not right to be
talking about your da that way.  He's tough, I grant ye, but he's
your da."

The tone of his voice, the words so much like Peppiott's, struck
James's heart cold.  "They're all against me--they're all
frightened of him," he thought.

Flanagan considered him.  "I see just what ye're thinking now,
Jimmy--what a friend I turned out to be, eh?  I've never been
thinking better of your interests if you want to know.  Ye can't
turn your back on money--least of all in these parts.  It'll buy ye
anything mortal.  And while I'm on that," he pulled himself gasping
to the edge of his chair again and leant forward, "be careful of
that Peppiott gang.  They're a two-faced lot.  Pretending to be
your friends and thinking of nothing but how they can use ye to go
crawling to your old man."  He nodded shrewdly.  "Peppiott done
some things perhaps your father never heard of.  Ye'll be wise to
give 'em a wide berth."

"I suppose they're after my father's money," James said bitterly.

Flanagan slapped his knee.  "Got it in one."

"Not in one," James said.  "It took me a long time to find out how
important my father's money made me."  He jumped up, his lips
quivering at the corners, and took his hat from the table.

Flanagan's knowing blue eye took in everything.  He rose slowly and
put his arm round James's shoulder.  "We won't say nothing more
about it for the time being, my boy.  But ye'll understand and
thank me some day.  Now ye just run along and say how-d'ye-do to
Jennis.  I bet she's been sitting on pins and needles up there
waiting for us to stop talking this nonsense we call business."



CHAPTER TWO: SHOWS THEM


Jennis was in the drawing-room upstairs.

Lolling back on the sofa in a sensuous liquefaction of bones she
gazed down at the garden and fanned herself.  Her blue eyes were
lost in a daydream which held them wide and wondering, parted her
full lips, and stirred her body with sad little sighs.  Sometimes
she almost stopped breathing for a few seconds and the pupils of
her eyes would dilate and the tip of her red tongue come out
between her lips.  Suddenly a mighty, shuddering breath swelled her
heavy breasts through swathes of petticoat and starched piqué, and
she glanced round discontentedly at the half-finished water-colour
on the easel before her, the half-finished crochet-work on the head
of the sofa, the book open on her lap, and the clock eating its way
through the day with such aggravating unhurry.  She pouted then and
sank back into the cushions, soon to be absorbed again in visions
that moved to and fro in the cool shadow of the bamboos.  The scent
of the frangipanni, the pulsing waves of heat, like an excited
breath on her cheek, the brown arms of the gardener, and the
glittering thrust of his scythe in the grass wove through these dim
fancies, which relaxed her body and thrilled it with a pleasant
sense of expectation.

The sound of a step on the stairs made her start guiltily.  She
looked around and saw James coming down the passage, brushed the
creases out of her dress, patted the heavy pile of her blonde hair,
and through the corner of her eyes, while apparently gazing at her
hands folded in her lap, watched him enter.

"Jennis!"  He hurried across the room and took her hand and kissed
it.  "I thought I'd never get to you."

"Jimmy!"  She uttered a little, high cry which, coming from such a
strong bosom, gave James the delicious feeling that she was quite
overcome with passion at the sight of him.  The stiffness liquefied
out of her bones again and her lips came damply apart and her hand
seemed to melt between his.  He clung to it, amazed by the softness
of its flesh, which lay heavily in his palm, firing, confusing, and
slightly terrifying him with its complete acquiescence.  Before he
could check himself he was filling it with kisses, bending it over
his mouth, and hungrily breathing its faint odour of her body.

Sunk in the cushions she watched him with eyes expressionless,
almost stupid, as though his mouth had drawn all her life into her
hand.  Occasionally she uttered another of her faint, expiring
cries which sounded like "Don't," or "Oh," but did not try to take
her hand away.

"Jennis, I love you terribly," James said.  "I won't give you up.
I want to marry you.  And you want to marry me, too, don't you?
Jennis!  Don't you?"

He had to call her twice before he saw a glint of consciousness
return to her eyes, which wandered vaguely over his face as she
licked her lips and whispered, "Yes, of course."

Now that he saw her again, her white neck, the thick, silky loops
of hair, the swell of her breast, heard her voice, so gentle and
shy, felt in the unresisting tenderness of her hand the assurance
that all this loveliness wanted to be his, the worries of the last
few weeks dissolved in a flash.  That he had ever for a single
moment thought of allowing his father to bully him out of marrying
Jennis seemed unbelievable.  Would he cut his throat if his father
said so?  And to lose Jennis would be worse than cutting his
throat.

Yes, he decided, in a burst of courage and optimism, Harriet was
right.  He must make a life for himself, and since nobody seemed
ready to help him he must go out in the bush and carve a place of
his own.

"But would you leave here--all this . . .?"  He glanced round the
room, overfurnished with carpets and tapestries and gloomy pictures
in gilt frames and hundreds of dusty odds and ends in mammoth
cabinets.  "Would you be able to live in the bush with me?  On a
station?"  He watched her anxiously as she roused from the
delicious hypnosis of having her hand fondled and crushed between
his hard fingers.

"Yes, of course," she said.

"But the bush!  No theatres.  No dances.  Nothing.  Perhaps for
years."

"I like being in the bush.  We always go to Penine Downs in winter.
It's nice."

"That's not the bush.  It's no different from being here.  You've
got servants and everything, just the same as here."

"Yes, of course."

"But what if there weren't any servants?"

She was puzzled, but gave up trying to understand, and wriggled her
hand in his to remind him that it was waiting to be kissed.

He turned the palm up and looked at it.  The thought that it was
like a white, soft body lying there waiting for him to take it made
his cheeks burn.  "It's so soft," he said.  "Could it learn to cook
and scrub and . . ."

Her eyes widened.

"Oh, you don't understand.  I might have to start at the bottom
like my father did."

"But Grandpa says that you'll have a lot of money.  He says your
papa will be one of the richest men in Australia."

"Yes, but . . ."  James was stumped for words to explain the
incredible fact that his father did not want him to marry her.
"Look, Jennis, suppose I had a row with my father and he wouldn't
give me any money--would you run away and marry me and live out in
the west?"

The look in his face alarmed her.  She stiffened her back and
withdrew her hand.  "Run away?  Oh!"

"I'd soon make money for you," James said quickly.  "I'd soon be
rich.  You'd have everything--servants and all.  I'd be a thousand
times richer than him."

His eagerness, burning in his eyes, sent pleasant little shivers
through her.  She looked at him admiringly.  "Oh, would you?"

"You bet I would.  I'd do anything for you.  I'd go through
anything."

"Oh!"  She gave him her hand again and abandoned herself to the
pleasure of his mouth nuzzling her sensitive palm.

"You wouldn't give me up?  No matter what happened?"

For her it was almost impossible to imagine that anything could
happen except the dull, repetitive march of days swirling
harmlessly past the serene tower in which she dreamed vaguely and
excitingly of a young man filling her hand with kisses.  "No, of
course not."

"And you'd marry me--even if everybody tried to stop you?"

"Of course."  But why did he waste so much time talking?

A carriage crunched up the drive and they heard a minute later her
mother's agitated step climbing the stairs.  He planted a last kiss
in her palm before they moved apart, just in time.  Mrs Bowen burst
in on them, red in the face, out of breath, and plainly very angry.

"So you ARE here?" she said to James, who jumped to his feet and
bowed awkwardly.

"I just dropped in.  Sir Michael said I might."

"Sir Michael!"  She snorted and looked around.  "Where's that fool
Griswell?" she demanded.  "Jennis!"

Jennis stirred and looked around too.  "Oh, Griswell.  I don't
know.  Perhaps she went shopping."

"You sent her."

"No, Mother."

"You did.  Don't deny it.  You sent her out so you could sit here
and compromise yourself with this young man--you deceitful little
hussy you.  In front of EVERYBODY.  Making a public scandal of
yourself.  The talk of the town--that's what you are."

She slammed the door and rushed between them--a plump little middle-
aged woman with blinking, myopic, blue eyes, Flanagan's button
nose, a kind, fat face, a collection of innumerable trinkets,
chains, cameos, and brooches flashing and tinkling to the rise and
fall of her enormous bosom, and the distracted air of one who
thinks she is being left behind in the rush of events and generally
ends by being well ahead of them.  She lived in a perpetual itchy
awareness of cabals and whisperings, plots, counter-plots,
factions, and social mines, which excited her to such frenzied
plotting on her own account that she usually managed to create the
scandal she suspected and feared.  Her grand delusion was her
shrewdness and discretion, for she was really as indiscreet and
innocent as a child.

True, there was plotting and whispering enough to appall the
stoutest and purest heart in the little hierarchy of wealthy
squatters and citizens who had become the leaders of society since
the early days.  The virtues of yesterday, when the wild, empty
country had yielded itself only to the strong, were the skeletons
in the cupboards of to-day.  Out of the wealth which the tough and
sometimes dishonest pioneers had got together the social graces
were beginning to blossom.  It was just one of life's little
ironies that those who had the best means to cut a figure had also,
very often, the least presentable of historical backgrounds to
strut against, which made them no less anxious to strut.

With the past so painfully recent, with the gaunt pioneers, more
than ever appalling in their old age, still haunting the scene, the
skirmishes of social life in a little community were bitter.  Money
plus a clean history, with a titled second cousin somewhere in
England, was unassailable.  But some had money and convict
ancestors, and others had money and no convict ancestors but were
drunkards, or had broods of half-caste children on the escutcheon,
or were reputed cattle-duffers, or had been indicted for selling
sly grog on their runs, or had illiterate or low-born fathers or
mothers at the roots of the family tree.  All such drawbacks were
eagerly canvassed and thrashed out and magnified over bars and tea-
tables, as they would be for another generation till time and
intermarriage had effaced the harsh outlines of the landtakers'
ambiguous lives, of which only the effect would survive in
stringent libel laws, a submerged sense of shame and inferiority,
and an anxious abasement to all forms of gentility that would
amount almost to a national disease.

James, who lived in constant dread of disclosures about his father,
felt his legs go weak when Mrs Bowen began to use such words as
"scandal," and "the talk of the town," which were the currency of
his nightmares.  He took a few steps towards the door and said,
"I'd better be going.  I only dropped in for a minute."

But, bubbling and outraged, Mrs Bowen turned on him.  "You stay
where you are, young man.  You make all the trouble, then you think
you can just run away.  Indeed.  Where will you run to?  The public
house, I suppose, and tell all those good-for-nothings your friends
what a fine fellow you are, bringing disgrace on this poor
girl . . ."

"I don't understand."

"Now don't lie to me, James Cabell.  I know all.  Deny that puppy
Douglas Peppiott is your friend."

"He is my friend, yes."

"A fine friend!  A harum-scarum hooligan.  A nice one to talk.
With his family.  A grandfather who took a stockwhip to his wife
and then drowned himself if you please, and a grandmother who . . .
well never mind."  She leapt at Jennis.  "What are you listening
for, you wicked eavesdropper?  Have I wasted all my love and care
to raise a girl who listens at keyholes as well as leads young men
on to make a fool of her?  Leave the room at once.  I've got
something to say to this--creature.  And don't listen at the door."

Undisturbed by her mother's reproaches and flurried scurrying to
and fro, to which she was used, Jennis obediently gathered together
her book, crochet-work, handkerchief, and fan, rose, brushed her
dress, and trailed leisurely from the room, smiling at James as she
passed and for a moment blotting from his agitated spirit
everything except his urgent desire.  It swept over him when he saw
the door close on her as a fear that he had seen her for the last
time, and gave him the strength to say, "Mrs Bowen, there's
something I want to tell you.  It's about Jennis and me."

Mrs Bowen bounced off the sofa and plunged at him, seized the lapel
of his coat, and shook him.  "Never you dare to mention my daughter
again.  Making her name a byword in low places with your plots and
schemes.  That's what you've done.  MY daughter.  She could hold up
her head with any of you.  There's no convict blood in her."

She bounced back on to the sofa and smouldered and panted for some
time while James hopped from one foot to the other and cursed the
Peppiotts and cursed his father and sweated in anticipation of some
awful revelation.

"That Lucy Peppiott," she muttered.  "'I ought to warn you' she
says.  'They say James Cabell is going to elope with Jennis.
Douglas heard it at a place called Queenie's.  It's all over
town.'"  She plunged at James again.  "Queenie's?  What's
Queenie's?  A--a place?"

"It--it's a bar in the Royal Hotel," James gulped.

"And that Peppiott woman had the cheek to say my daughter's name
had been mentioned IN A BAR!  With Mrs Astley looking on and
smirking, mind you.  Why, everybody knows what SHE came from.  HER
grandmother was nothing but a London fly-by-night and her father
was that old Curry who got rich stealing other people's sheep.
Once his wife had to publish her marriage certificate in all the
Brisbane papers.  He was a crow-minder in the old days and many's
the time my mother saw him being flogged at the tail of a cart in
Queen Street when she . . ."  She stopped and wriggled on the sofa,
then went a shade redder and looked at James more angrily than
ever.  "Well?  What're you grinning at?"

"I'm not," James said miserably.

"You're thinking of that nasty, vindictive story about my mother
bringing her first husband Duffy in to be flogged.  Don't deny it."

"I . . ."  James gulped.  "I . . ."

"It's a nasty, vindictive lie of your father's.  He'll hear from my
solicitors about it.  My mother was a lady and her first husband--
he was sent out for--for stealing a loaf of bread."

James hung his head.

"You don't believe me?  Oh, I know you think you'd be conferring an
honour on Jennis, don't you?  Yes, I heard what your father said
about it.  Or was it you said it in Queenie's?"

"I never said anything in Queenie's."

"Well let me tell you . . ."  She took hold of his lapel again and
nearly pulled the coat off his back.  "If it was true, all the
honour would be on the other foot, young man, because Jennis hasn't
got any of Duffy's blood in her and everybody knows who your mother
was--and what your father was too, for that matter."

James felt the room disappear in a sheet of flame.  He came out of
the haze to find Mrs Bowen squeezing his hands against her bosom
and patting his cheek and crying, "Oh, my poor boy!  What a wretch
I was to say such things.  It's not true.  Your mother's a fine
woman.  And that's just what I felt like telling those two women
this afternoon.  'You've got two lots of convict blood in you, Mrs
Astley.'  That's what I wanted to say . . .  Oh, there I go again."
She fussed around him, clucking and bubbling, and pushed him on to
the sofa.  "Sit down, dear, and take it calmly now.  Just tell me
the truth.  I only want to help you.  There.  There."

But as soon as he opened his mouth and said, "I only know I love
Jennis and . . ." she jumped up again and screamed, "There you are.
I knew it.  You WERE plotting to run away with the poor innocent
girl and bring disgrace on us.  You can't deny it.  Lucy Peppiott
told me.  Thank God I've got a few friends left with all this
backbiting and scheming going on.  And vipers coming into the house
and biting the hand that feeds them.  Ah, blood will out!"

"I wasn't plotting to run away at all," James protested.  "I mean,
I want to marry Jennis some day.  You knew that, Mrs Bowen.  But my
father says . . ."

She swelled over him.  "What does he say?"

He hesitated, understanding at last that just this it was which had
upset her--that his father should have forbidden him to marry
Jennis.  "He won't let me.  That's all. . . ."

She snapped her lips together and looked him up and down.  Then she
collapsed on to the sofa and began to laugh, rocking to and fro,
her big bosom rattling its trinkets, and the tears running down her
cheeks, while James stared uncomfortably at the carpet.  "Well of
all the funny things!  Derek Cabell won't let you marry MY Jennis,
MY daughter.  Doesn't think she's good enough for him.  And what
did he marry?  And what did his brother-in-law Dirk Surface marry?
And what's that same ragamuffin now--a butcher boy in Sydney.  Did
you know that?  A common butcher boy!"  (This was not quite true,
and Mrs Bowen knew it as well as James.  Dirk Surface, after
leaving Winbadgery in 1867, had gone to Sydney and, nagged on by
his wife, had become a very successful merchant.  Starting with a
butcher's shop he now owned many butcher shops and had interests in
meat canneries and freezing works and other enterprises of the same
kind.  But it suited Mrs Bowen to distort these facts.)  She went
off into unreal shrieks of laughter again till James could bear it
no longer.

"Mrs Bowen, please," he said.  "My father's old and obstinate. . . ."

"Obstinate?  He's wicked--criminal.  And you can go straight back
and tell him from me that I wouldn't have any of his sons marrying
my Jennis if he WOULD let them, if he came crawling on his knees.
Tell him that.  And let me tell you that my Jennis could marry
anybody she liked.  Not ragtag and bobtail, but real gentlemen.
When we were in Sydney last year Lord Clanmorice's son, the
Governor's aide, came to see her every day.  Yes, every day.
That's the kind of husband my Jennis will have.  And now you take
your hat and don't let me see your face in this house again.  'A
bog-trotter,' indeed.  Isn't that what your father called my
father?  'Her grandfather stole his fare to Australia.'  Didn't he
say that?  Don't lie now."

"Oh, Mrs Bowen," James cried, rising from her wrath.  "I'm not
responsible for what he says.  I've finished with him.  I'm going
to work."

"Work at what?  Horse-racing and gambling and drinking like your
brother?"

"No.  I'll go out into the bush and take up land, and I thought
that some day I might--if Jennis still wanted to--and I'd made
enough money . . ."

"What, my Jennis in the bush!  A cockatoo farmer's wife!  Milking
cows and breeding brats!  So that's your plan!  Here," she dashed
across the room, snatched his hat off the table, dashed back,
lugged him to his feet, and hustled him to the door.  "Leave my
house at once.  The bush!  What impudence!  She speaks French and
plays the piano!  Get out at once.  Get out!"

James went clumsily, and benumbed by his thoughts hurried blindly
down the stairs.  As he opened the front door he heard a patter of
feet behind and Mrs Bowen panted along the passage.

She took his hand.  "Jimmy, forgive me.  I'm upset by those women.
You're a good boy."  She pulled his head down and kissed it.
"Perhaps if you made money enough to keep Jennis like a lady, well--
I'll see she waits a couple of years for you, anyway."

A couple of years to make his fortune!  James opened his mouth to
protest but she slammed the door.



CHAPTER THREE: PULLS THEM DOWN


James hurried away from the house where lights were beginning to
appear against the dusk.  He was lonely and full of self-pity now.
The egotism of his youth, which had sent him to Flanagan with the
bland assurance that the wily old politician would help him out of
sheer affection, had had a sad blow.  In the last two hours James
had learnt something important--that life does not shower its gifts
on the deserving.  A simple and obvious fact, perhaps, but every
one has to find it out for himself.  James was very upset.

As he slouched along between big houses where the lamps behind open
windows shone on tables laid for the evening meal he felt that no
man had ever been so shamefully deserted and betrayed.  Every one
except himself had money and freedom to do what they wanted, marry
whom they loved, go where they wished; but he, if he was to get
what he wanted, must spend the best years of his life slaving like
a nigger in the bush and turning himself into a bumpkin like those
fellows he had seen in the train.  No, it wasn't right, and James
revolted against the idea that the only alternative to doing this
difficult thing was submission to his father.  Life could not be so
hard, so cruel.  There must be some way if only he could think of
it.  More and more depressed he strolled up and down Queen Street,
thinking and finding fewer and fewer arguments to deny that he must
either go west and make his own way or crawl ignominiously back to
Sydney.  Yes, it would be ignominious.  What explanation could he
give to Harriet, to Mrs Bowen, except that he was not up to doing
what he had boasted he would do.  He thought of Harriet's scornful
eyes.  Oh, hell!  Oh, hell.

James did not know it, but he was passing at this moment the very
spot where his father had sat by the roadside forty-seven years
before, struggling with the same thoughts in the same crisis of his
young life, when he had to choose between returning to England at
the bounty of his aunt or fighting a tough country and its tough
people for a bounty of his own.  Like his father, James tried to
shelve a decision by crossing the street to the Royal Hotel.

At this hour the bar over which Queenie, the town's most regal
demimondaine presided in a gown of sequins cut low into her
breasts, was always full of bloods young and old--squatters in town
for a race-meeting, a wool-sale, or a spree, fat business men in
side-whiskers and pugareed straw hats, racketing young men about
town, and citizens with white suits stained by the dust and sweat
of the day, to all of whom, in this bebustled era of sanctified
wives and pure sweethearts, the raucous humanity of barmaid and
whore was a blessed release.  Essentially the same mob Cabell had
seen and cursed the day he came in here with Flanagan, but half a
century sleeker and richer.  Money was plentiful, drinking on a
tremendous scale.

James entered the bar with the abashed shyness of a sober man among
drunks, and looked around hoping to see Peppiott or Geoffrey and
find some excuse for picking a quarrel with one of them.  Peppiott
was not there but Geoffrey was, plump and important beside Shaftoe,
at the centre of a crowd drinking champagne out of beer schooners.
They had just come in from the races, and the ex-mentor, ex-
storekeeper, ex-gymnasium proprietor, now resplendent in clothes of
a horsy cut, with a gold watch-chain on his fallen paunch, a
diamond ring on his finger, and a grey billycock tipped on to the
back of his rusty head, was holding forth on the afternoon's sport
to a gathering of thirsty pub-crawlers who had accepted the
invitation to crack a bottle with him.  Echoing his curses,
shadowing his gestures, and backing up his rowdy boasts Geoffrey
revealed more than ever the idiotic resemblance of a poodle to its
master.  He too wore a grey billycock tipped back, thumbed the
armholes of a check waistcoat, and had a watch-chain and the
beginnings of a little pointed belly.

James elbowed into the crowd, their faces swollen and greasy in the
hot lamplight.  Standing beside Shaftoe he saw one of the squatters
who had come down in the train with him--the man who brought
fifteen thousand to blow in town after ten years in the Never-
Never.  He was very drunk and promised to be drunker, for as often
as he emptied his glass Shaftoe filled it again.

"Yes, gentlemen," Shaftoe was saying, "we as good as had twenty
thousand quid in the old stocking when they came into the straight.
The mare was a length in front and going strong.  Then something
happened.  She just dropped out of the race as if she started
running backwards.  It wasn't the boy's fault--I'll say that.  He
rode her like Old Nick, but she finished second last and--bang went
four thousand.  Well," he drained his glass, "Shaftoe can take a
licking.  Another bottle of pop, Queenie, and we'll toast the
winner."

"Another bottle of pop, Queenie," Geoffrey's squeaky voice piped.

Queenie brought the champagne and Shaftoe filled the out-stretched
glasses, with special attention to the drunken squatter.  "To the
winner, God bless him!"

"God bless the winner," Geoffrey chimed in, flushed with drink and
gambolling around Shaftoe's heels.  He caught James's eye and
winked.

James turned away in disgust and found Cash behind him, smiling.

"Not drinking?" Cash said.

"With them!"

"Have one with me."

"I don't want to drink," James said.  His desire for companionship
was gone.  He felt too miserable.

Cash looked at him.  "You look as if one wouldn't do you much harm.
But come and watch me drink, anyway."

James tried to protest, but Cash put a strong hand under his arm
and pushed him up to the bar.  "Besides," he said, "we're the only
cold-sober men here, our friend's been so free with his tipple to-
night.  Great sportsman, eh?"

James grunted.

"Go on now, you don't see many shouting champagne when they lose."
He banged the bar.  "Queenie, dear, a rum."

Queenie sorted herself from the bevy of minor Queenies behind the
bar, took the bottle from the shelf, and sailed massively towards
them, pursued by yearning eyes, deftly evading eager paws, and
sending back an impartial flash of gold-filled teeth.  She had an
eye like a piece of agate under the bang of golden hair and a voice
accustomed to shouting down obstreperous cattlemen and miners, but
both became liquid and warm when she looked at Cash and said,
leaning her dimple towards him:  "Oh, Mister Ca-ash.  I am glad to
see you.  Where've you been hiding all this time?"

"Not hiding, Queenie, my love.  Only down to Melbourne on business.
I just got off the boat."

"I suppose you saw a lot of pretty girls in Melbourne," Queenie
said wistfully, glancing at her reflection in the mirror, framed
with fat gilt nymphs and cupids, over the bar.

"Nothing I liked as good as you, Queenie."  He patted her cheek.

"Oh Mister Ca-ash!"  She rolled her eyes and cuffed him
affectionately.

Urgent voices called her and she went off, her gaze lingering.

Stroking his beard Cash speculated on her rich curves.  "Love's a
damn funny thing now, don't you think, Jimmy?"

James grunted again and turned away from the bar.  "I don't know
anything about it.  And I'd better be getting along."

Cash held him.  "Wait a minute now, mate.  Did I say something?"
He studied James at arm's length, his eyes concealed under their
mica shields.  "Well, if you're in that much of a hurry, I won't
keep you, but here, before you go.  Will you help an old friend?"

"Help who?"

"Sambo."

"What's wrong with him?"

"He's lying down in some drum in Frogs' Hollow with d.t.'s--skinned
alive with his guts burnt out by this tipple they've been helping
him knock his cheque down on."

"Who has?"

"Shaftoe--who d'you think?"

"But I thought Sambo got ten thousand for his share in the mine."

Cash finished his drink and wiped his beard on a big, navvy's
handkerchief.  "That's true.  And Shaftoe brought him down here and
helped him off with it.  They bought a racehorse and Sambo paid
Shaftoe to get it trained.  It ran to-day.  Where did Shaftoe get
four thousand quid to lose on it?  It was Sambo's of course.  Only
it wasn't exactly as Shaftoe said.  Sambo lost and Shaftoe won.
The horse ought to've come in but they had a crook jockey and now
the bookie, who was only another one of Shaftoe's outside pals,
will get the horse too.  He took a note on the horse against an
extra five-hundred-quid bet."

James was horrified.  "My brother Geoffrey helped to do that!"

"No.  He hasn't the nous.  But he's picking it up.  Cogged dice and
marked cards and how to split a pound note--he'll know it all by
the time your old man gets tired of paying his bills and kicks him
out."

James slumped against the bar.  A crooked brother as well as an ill-
famed father and convict mother.  "But what can I do?" he asked,
throwing himself on the quiet savoir-faire he felt in Cash as the
last remnant of his own confidence to deal with the apparently
depthless cunning and evil of the world collapsed under this new
blow.  All at once the young manhood was gone out of him, and he
was again a nervous, frightened boy with sensitive mouth and
uncertain eyes.

He made a curious contrast to Cash, squat, ugly, and sunburnt, with
a stub of black cigar gripped in white teeth shining through his
amiable mouth and rocklike beard.  Everything about Cash was
rocklike: he was like a squat, ugly rock over which many storms had
beaten, weathering it to a core of impervious metal.  Yet he was
handsome, too, in a way.  Vigour transfused his monkey-face, and
even the stiff clothes and hard little hat of his new prosperity
took a romantic flow and swagger from his energetic gestures.

Remembering the fat inertia of Flanagan, the oily piety of
Peppiott, James grasped at a hope that Cash would understand how to
help him and not be afraid.  "What CAN I do?"

Cash shifted the cigar across his mouth.  "One thing I'd like you
to do right away, is hold my coat while I hammer that sixpenny
bludger, but I wouldn't like to mess up Queenie's bar.  You can do
this though--you can take Sambo back to the Reach when I lay hands
on him and get him sobered up to-morrow.  I'd do it myself but I
got business for your old man."

He watched James closely as he said this and through the long
silence before James blurted out, "I'm not going back to the
Reach."

"No?  Oh, of course, you're on your way to Sydney."

"I'm not going to Sydney either."  James frowned at the bar.  "He
wants to make me an engineer so that he can use me to make money
for . . .  Oh, whatever he wants it for.  And I'm not going to."

"What d'you aim to do then?  You're not going to hang round here
like your brother?"

"I don't know what I'm going to do."

"Maybe you got a job fixed up, eh?  With one of your swell
friends?"

"What friends?"

"Flanagan.  I heard you were thick."

"I wouldn't take anything from him.  I'll make my own way.  I'll go
out west.  I'll take up land.  And--and I'll show HIM."  Tears
shone in James's eyes.

Cash whistled, then slapped James heartily on the back.  "That's
the way to talk.  To hell with the lot of them."  He winked.  "Now
I'll tell you something.  Coming up to-night from the wharf I ran
into your cobber, Peppiott, and he told me you'd had a barney with
the old man and cleared out and gone to Flanagan's.  I'm glad you
didn't let that old welsher pull the wool over your eyes.  He's
only using you to get in with your old man.  But you saw through
that."

"I suppose he was," James said with a long face.

Cash rubbed his hands.  "I thought for a minute--fact is, I planned
to get you out of town by sending you back home with Sambo before
your old man found out where you was and come after you with a gun.
I ought've known you better.  You were always a game chicken by all
accounts, with too much spunk for knuckling down at the Reach."

"But what am I to do?" James repeated.  "He'll stop my allowance."

"You'll find plenty.  You've got two hands.  You don't need an
allowance."

"But I want to get married.  Not now--in a few years' time."

"It'll cost you a quid for a parson."

"But--she's a lady, don't you see?"

"Aw, a lady.  I don't know much about ladies," Cash admitted.

The doubt in his voice pleased James--he did not know why.  All at
once a light broke on his troubled mind.  "You see it's not so much
the mine I object to.  It's because he doesn't want me to marry
Jennis Bowen.  But perhaps if I went west I couldn't marry her
either, whereas if I stayed here I could--well I could go on
arguing with him and he might give in.  You see, I couldn't take a
girl like that into the bush, could I?  She's never done a hand's
turn in her life.  Oh, she'd go all right but--it would be sort of
selfish, wouldn't it?  That's what's worrying me.  If I'd only got
myself to think of it would be different."  This point of view,
though new, was yet so plausible that James decided at once that it
really was the core of his problem and that he had been thinking
about it all the time.

But Cash understood and smiled.  "Now, Jimmy, don't let it get you
scared at the start.  The world makes a big noise but it's nothing
to be scared of.  A bit like Shaftoe--a hell of a thing if you
don't crack it at the start to show who's boss.  Let it get you on
the run and you're done for.  That young Peppiott, now he'll be on
the run all his life.  No guts--a proper sheep.  Take your sister--
a different proposition.  Got enough spunk for two, that one.  You
can see it in her eye.  And a regular little lady, eh?  If it was
her you were for marrying you'd have nothing to worry about.  She'd
see you through.  I reckon a regular lady might have white hands
but as much gumption as the next one if you happened to be her
fancy."

Suddenly, irrationally, James felt annoyed with Cash.  The fellow
was supposed to be his father's closest friend, and here he was
urging him to disobey his father, backing him up anyhow.  If he was
a true friend he'd tell him to go to Sydney and no nonsense which,
James admitted, not explicitly, but with a prevision of the
enormous relief he would feel if someone were to FORCE that
decision upon him, would be one way out.

Cash lighted the stub of his cigar and puffed at it.  "Take your
old man.  He's different again.  He's got guts--one kind of guts.
He can fight all right, ain't scared of anything or anybody, but
there's another kind of courage and he hasn't got it."  He studied
the end of his cigar, framing a difficult exposition.  "The way I
figure it, a bloke's got to make a clean break and tell everybody
to go to hell.  He's got to do that often, and not only just say
it, like perhaps your old man done, but mean it.  Because there are
things you can and things you can't have, and the quicker you get
over feeling sorry for yourself the better.  It's up to a man.  You
don't live at all, hankering.  You're in one place and your brains
in another, 'whoring after strange tarts,' as the parson says.
Well, strange tarts are all right, but so's all tarts.  Now your
old man, he never made a clean break.  Them brothers of his for
example: he never got over them living on the fat of the land while
he was grafting here.  Of course he reckons he hates his brothers,
but hate and envy is pretty close and if he could've been like one
of them he would.  So all the time here he's been ashamed of
himself as if there was a part of himself still in England watching
the part of him here.  And that's real bad--being ashamed.  It gets
you on the run.  You've got to have a special kind of courage to
accept what you are and not care what anybody says about it, not
try to buy them off with money or make up to yourself for feeling
ashamed by thinking how rich you are and how blokes belly-crawl to
you.  Most men ain't got that kind of courage.  They're sheep.
They belong to a mob.  Well, maybe you've got it."  He held James
off at arm's length again and examined him doubtfully.  "You've
certainly got a lot of the old man in you.  Yes, you must be the
dead rink of what he was.  But maybe you've got something from your
ma too."

James scowled.  "I'm not like him a bit.  Anyway, I couldn't do the
things he's done."

"What things?"

"Well, you know.  Look at him.  He must have done--well . . .
terrible things."

"He done what he had to so as to live," Cash said.  "You'd do the
same."

James was indignant.  "That's rot.  I'd never become like him.
Never."

Cash spread his hands.  "Oh, yes you might.  But I was saying--
maybe you've got both kinds of courage.  Maybe you've got his
courage to do anything and maybe you've got something from your ma,
something that pulled her through what she had to put up with
when . . ."  He gestured apologetically.  "Say, something that a
woman gets when she's been on the outer.  Besides, she was half a
gipsy, wasn't she?  There's a lot more wolf than sheep in gipsies.
She was a reckless one they reckon, Emma Surface was."

"I--I--that's all a lie," James exploded, blushing to the ears and
glancing about nervously to see if anybody had heard what Cash
said.

"Aw, it's nothing to be ashamed of," Cash told him.  "Your ma's a
fine woman.  You ought to be mighty glad if you take after her."

James was not mighty glad.  The suggestion outraged him so that he
could not speak for the moment.  With horror he thought of Mrs
Bowen.  What would she say if she heard that her prospective son-in-
law had the qualities of a gipsy in him?  What would Doug Peppiott
say?  What would everybody say?  James shuddered inwardly and tried
to put the hideous proposition aside, but it was a possibility he
had never considered before and its novelty overwhelmed him.  Good
God, could he really have inherited something from his mother,
something low and disgraceful which allied him with a tribe of
pilferers and fortune-tellers?

The crowd stirred around them.  James looked up and saw Shaftoe and
Geoffrey and their friends going out.  Shaftoe was singing, arm in
arm with the squatter now hopelessly drunk.  Good God, James
thought, that's what makes Geoffrey hang around with touts like
Shaftoe.  It's the gipsy blood in him.  Good God, and that's what
makes Larry hang around with shearers.

Cash, oblivious to the train of thought he had started in James,
completed the idea.  "If you have the guts to want to make a break
it's your ma you've got to thank for it, Jimmy.  It's her give you
what young Peppiott hasn't got, I bet--the courage to chuck up
something solid for, well, for a tart say, or because you like the
sound of a name like Cartagena, or because a good-looking ship is
leaving port, or mostly because you know somewhere under your belt
that you won't be a man if you don't."  He stretched his arms and
took a deep breath.  "Reckon I'll be getting a move on myself again
soon.  Only it's something I've never tried before, wearing these
flash duds and giving ten-quid notes to barmaids.  When that's worn
out I'll hop it.  Saw a bit of a schooner down in Sydney.  She set
me thinking."

James stamped circles on the wet bar top with Cash's glass.  "Who
said anything about going to Cartagena?" he mumbled.  "I'm not a
tramp and vagabond."

"A man's a poor stick that hasn't got a bit of the tramp in him,"
Cash said, "like a woman who hasn't got a bit of the whore."  Still
unaware of the devastating effect his words had had on James, he
slapped the boy's back cheerfully and pulled out a roll of notes.
"Now how much dough do you want?"

"No, no, I don't want any."

"That's all right.  I'll be around in the morning first thing.
You'll need plenty if you're going off on your own.  We'll talk
about it."  He stripped a note from the wad, called Queenie, and
pushed it down the low neck of her dress.  "So long, darling, I'll
be seeing you.  Till to-morrow, Jimmy."  He made a straight line to
the door, followed by the mutter of drunks he disturbed.

Queenie, watching him, sighed.

James's annoyance spurted again.  "Arrogant beast.  Thinks he's no
end of a fellow when he's no better than a tramp.  Probably worse."
Yet in his heart he envied Cash's swaggering confidence that
nothing in the world could harm, or thwart, or deny him.  If only
HE could tell them to go to hell . . .  Then he thought of Doug
Peppiott becoming a wealthy and distinguished citizen, Harriet
enjoying all his father's money, while he . . .  "Good God, if it
was true what Cash said I might go to the dogs like Larry and
Geoffrey."

He went out into the streets and walked about, thinking:  "If I go
back to Sydney I'll be giving into him for ever.  I'll lose Jennis.
If I don't go I'll lose--something solid.  Yes, it is solid.  Cash
is right there.  See how Flanagan and Peppiott were this afternoon.
'You can't turn your back on money. . . .  It'll buy you anything,'
Flanagan said.  Yes, if I was rich nobody would dare to talk to me
like Mrs Bowen did or like Cash."

But far down in James's heart a voice protested that nothing could
be bought and much could be sold.  It was a fading voice, its
taunts, its battle-cries, its reckless urges suffocated by an old
shame and fear which the day's events had sharpened afresh.

He arrived back at the hotel in the early hours, so weary that his
mind accepted without more protest the assurance, "After all, if I
do go to Sydney for another year, I'll still have time to fight it
out.  Jennis will wait.  And, who knows, Flanagan MIGHT make it up
with him.  If he tries to stop me then--I'll show him!"

The hotel was in an uproar.  The drunken squatter, nearly sober
now, was clutching his trousers and waving his belt and shouting:
"I've been robbed.  I had three thousand pounds in my belt last
night."

Geoffrey and Shaftoe and a crowd of guests in night-shirts were
standing around asking questions.  He did not remember anything, it
seemed.  He had slept with some woman. . . .

Shaftoe shook his head waggishly.  "A woman--aha!  Was she worth
three thousand?"

Everybody laughed and went back to bed, leaving the squatter to go
on searching in his belt.

Geoffrey saw James and retreated hastily behind Shaftoe.  He looked
frightened in contrast to his perky self-assurance earlier in the
night.  So James thought, and himself became frightened.  But he
told himself firmly that Cash was making him imagine things.
Ignoring a breezy greeting from Shaftoe he hurried past to his
room.

"Does your mother know you're out?" Shaftoe called after him, and
Geoffrey squeaked, but forlornly, "Does your mother know you're
out?"

From Sydney James wrote a long letter to Harriet.  ". . . I WILL
marry Jennis.  He jolly well can't bully me.  I'll show him. . . ."



CHAPTER FOUR: WANTED--A ST GEORGE


Harriet did not reply.  She was angry with James and busy with the
changes in her own life.  Cabell had kept his promise and brought
her to Brisbane, where conspiratorial conferences with lawyers and
bankers and brokers kept him busy.

They lived in an old half-stone, half-timber house on the bank of
the river at New Farm, with an army of servants though no one
except Cash or Geoffrey ever entered the place, and Harriet was as
much a prisoner as before under the vigilant eyes of Miss Montaulk
and her father.  Some ladies called and left their cards, under
orders from their husbands no doubt, for every one was anxious to
catch Cabell's eye with some project or other, but none of them saw
Harriet except when her father paraded her in the streets and the
Botanic Gardens of a late afternoon behind two high-stepping
horses.  So she remained as friendless as ever.

At first she did not mind, new sights and sounds bewildered and
thrilled her so much.  She was content to wander all day in the big
garden, laid out half a century before by the convict servants of
the military officer who built the house, discovering the
incredible beauty of magnolias and crepe myrtle and English violets
and the hyacinth which packed the river for miles after rain, to
lie on the grassy bank and watch ships come in with sides rusty
from long voyages, to drive in the streets and see the traffic,
three story buildings, shop windows, crowds on the pavements, to
admire from afar the men and women, more splendidly dressed than
she could ever have imagined, driving and promenading in the cool
of the afternoon.

The boom was at its peak.  Everywhere new buildings, new houses,
new streets, and the delighted bustle of prosperity.  To Harriet,
fresh from the sleepy life of the valley, the vitality of the busy
little town was like a gust of fresh, cold wind.  Crowds of
immigrants arriving at the Depot, crowds fighting on the steps of
the General Post Office when the English mail came in, crowds
getting into a theatre, crowds on a bus going home at night, crowds
in the Gardens on Sunday, crowds outside an auction room. . . .
"Don't stare, child," Miss Montaulk was saying every minute they
were out.  And then the crush in the streets--exciting but
terrifying.  A dozen times she shut her eyes so as not to see
somebody mangled under the spanking hoofs of bus horses.  How could
any one live in such a torrent of wheels--slow bullock drays,
bright-painted advertising vans heralding a concert or a new brand
of bath soap, dog-carts bowling along as fast as the wind with
drivers in kid gloves, a smart curricle with a footman in silk
stockings and a coat of arms on the side.  A lady leant out and
bowed to her but Cabell whipped up his horses and dashed on.

"Who was that, Father?"

"A woman called Peppiott."

"What does the coat of arms on the side mean?"

"Don't ask me.  When her father bought a carriage years ago, the
first time he went out in it he got up behind by force of habit."

As they drove on up Queen Street men on the pavement raised their
hats but Cabell paid no attention.  "That's the Town Hall," he
said.  "Holds three thousand people.  When I came here gum-trees
were growing there.  And that's where I was sitting the day I saw
Flanagan's wife waiting for her husband to be flogged.  There were
all convicts and soldiers here then--no place for nincompoops in
billycock hats I can tell you."

Harriet, watching the lady in the curricle as it drew up beside
them again and passed, and the young man, very good-looking, who
sat beside her, was not listening.

Cabell glanced round and grunted.

"Oh, were you speaking to me, Father?"

"Never mind," he grumbled.  "It's time we went home."

"Oh, but it's early yet."

"Now, Harriet, you mustn't contradict your father."

Cabell turned the horses and they went home.

Harriet began to feel discontented again.  The seethe and swirl of
the place, crude, vital, intoxicating, which had amused her at
first, now made her loneliness harder to bear.  As the night came
on she heard the whisper of gay doings--a band in the house across
the river, a steamer decorated with Chinese lanterns going down to
the Bay, a housemaid struggling with one of the grooms in the
shadow of the stables. . . .  Harriet looked enviously at the buxom
servant girl, swinging confident hips, when she came to wait on the
table at dinner-time, and was so rude to her that Cabell stared and
asked her if she was not well?  After dinner she wept a little in
her room, then sent for the girl and gave her one of her new
dresses.  The girl looked startled, especially when Harriet threw
her arms round her and kissed her.

For an hour she sat on the bed looking at her wardrobes stuffed
with new clothes, silks and velvets which rustled excitingly to the
touch.  When she put one on and swayed its flounced skirt before
the mirror her blood burned with eagerness to show herself off.

Miss Montaulk came in.  "Why, Harriet, whatever are you doing?"

"Leave me alone, you old cat."

Miss Montaulk smirked.  "Vanity and bad-temper, they are both
terrible sins, Harriet.  You should struggle against them.  Your
father is waiting in the drawing-room for you."

"I'm not going down."

"Ingratitude is even worse than vanity and bad-temper."

Harriet went down.  There was nowhere else to go.  Through a long,
dull evening she played the piano, now carelessly and without
interest, now angrily, taking her feelings out on the keyboard till
the flowers on the lid shed their petals and the candles spilled
hot wax on to her hands; then, tired, she drifted into a melancholy
fragment of Chopin and played it well because it suited her mood,
played it over and over, while her father sat on the veranda and
smoked and hatched his schemes, and Miss Montaulk's eyes glittered
like the swift crochet-needle in her hand.

So it was every evening, unless Geoffrey came in to wheedle some
money out of Cabell, who never seemed to notice that he was half-
tight and either gave him a handful of money without counting it
and told him to get to the devil, or clouted him and refused to
give him a penny until he did some work.  But Geoffrey knew that he
only had to wheedle long enough and take enough clouts to get what
he wanted.  Sooner or later Cabell would get tired of clouting and
growling and give him the money to get rid of him.

"He'll come to a bad end that boy," Miss Montaulk said.

"Serve him right."

Geoffrey brought news of the great world, a ball in the Exhibition
Hall, a levee at Government House, a race-meeting, a polo
gymkhana. . . .  He winked.  "Aren't the chaps breaking their necks
to meet you?"

"What chaps?"

"Oh, chaps.  Doug Peppiott was asking me."

"Is he tall, very brown, with a moustache."

"A ginger moustache--yes, that's him.  He was asking me questions
about you."

Harriet blushed.  "He's very good-looking," she said ingenuously.

"Watch your step, Sis, he's a heart-breaker."  He chucked her under
the chin.  "See you later."

He waddled off importantly down the drive and out through the big
iron gates.  Oh, for somebody to scale those iron gates!  It
happened in books, anyway.

She was passing the time by trying on a new dress in her room one
afternoon when she heard the gates open and the weary clop-clop of
a cab horse come up the drive.  Looking out she saw Cash get down
and run up the front steps.  He had just returned from the mine and
called to see her father, who was out.  Impulsively, after glancing
at herself in the mirror and touching the little kiss curl over her
ear, she hurried downstairs into the hall.

He was already there talking to the maid, who was giggling and red
in the face.  But Harriet had no time to notice this, for she
arrived at the bottom of the stairs in such haste that she
stumbled, caught her foot in the hem of her dress and would have
fallen if he had not caught her up, lifted her, and set her on her
feet.  "Upadaisie, girly.  Want to break your neck?"

She was annoyed with herself.  "I--I--what are you holding on to me
for?" she said, trying to free her arm.  "I've got two legs,
haven't I?"

"I like that!" Cash said, laughing.  "You fall fair in a man's
arms, then blame him for having them there."

"I didn't fall," she said indignantly.

He glanced up the stairs.  "Were you making a bolt from that old
fire-eater?"

She put her nose in the air and hurried past him into the drawing-
room, thinking:  "There, you made a fine fool of yourself.  Now
he'll think you only ran down to show yourself off to him."  She
rushed at the piano and pummelled the keys till her ears were cool.

It was a beautiful afternoon.  The bougainvillea was in flower
along the fence, like a tremendous Persian carpet hung out to air.
A breeze from the river distilled the oversweet smell of pine-
apples ripening on a string along the veranda.  She began to sing
without thinking what she sang:


          Alas, my love, you do me wrong
          To cast me off discourteously.
          And I have loved you so long,
          Delighting in your company.


"Pretty," he shouted, "pretty."

She started round on the stool.  He was leaning against the door,
his arms folded and his hat on the back of his head.

"I didn't know you were listening," she said coldly, rising.

"Don't move.  You make a pretty picture."  Against the cascade of
green passion-fruit vine falling across the veranda her pallor and
white dress were a cool vision for a hot man.  "You sing nice too.
Your pa told me."

Harriet smiled.

"Ah well," he said, "listening to little girls sing about their
sweethearts won't feed the pigs.  I'm off.  Tell your pa I called."

Harriet's ears burned again.  "Little girl," she hissed at the
piano, and pounded the keys till Miss Montaulk called down the
stairs, "Please have a little consideration, Harriet.  My poor
head . . ."

Her fury passed.  "I suppose I am a frumpy little girl really," she
told herself.  She returned to her room and studied her face.  Yes,
a skimpy, frumpy little girl.  "And I'll never be anything else,"
she said aloud, flying into a passion again, tearing her dress off,
and stamping its fresh organdie under her heel.  "I'll just wither
up like a passion-fruit and HE'LL keep me here, pretending I'm only
a little girl and don't need a husband, and that's all he wants."
She threw herself on the bed and punched and bit the pillow and
cried.

After this, the first time Cash had spoken more than ten words to
her directly, he never came to see Cabell without looking in at the
drawing-room to say hallo and tell her how pretty her dress was.
But much as Harriet looked forward to the little break in her
tedious life, Cash always seemed to rub her up the wrong way, so
that she was tossing her head and flashing her eyes at him all the
time he was with her--"like a match spluttering," he said.  He
enjoyed the sight and always departed laughing.

"Men must be awful fools," she told Miss Montaulk.  "He thinks I'm
a little girl."

"So you are, my dear, or you should be very glad men think so.
You're safe as long as they look at you that way."

"Who wants to be safe?" Harriet said.  "And I'm not a little girl.
I'm as much a woman as--as Emma Bovary was."

"Goodness!"

"Yes, I am.  I'm just like her.  I've got the same feelings.  I
could do the same things.  I could be terribly, TERRIBLY wicked."

Miss Montaulk's long upper lip came down over her buck teeth.  "I
should say you were!  A girl who could understand what that book
was about--and say so!"

At last a little incident happened to open Cash's very dull eyes.
He arrived one day when Cabell was out and sat in the drawing-room
to wait.  He kept his hat on as usual and his fat, black cigar in
the corner of his mouth.  Soon the stagnant air was so heavy with
smoke that Miss Montaulk had to go out on the veranda and choke it
up.

"After that I reckon I'm as good as St George that smoked the
dragon out and carried off the maid.  What d'you say?"

"I don't believe there are any St Georges."

"You wait.  You'll be carried off."

"I was only thinking of my brother James," Harriet said quickly.
"He says he's in love with a girl and Papa is against it, and he's
too frightened to run away and marry her."

"So you've been giving him advice too.  It's easier to preach than
to do."

"Men must be awful cowards then," Harriet said.  "If I was a man
and I loved a girl I wouldn't care what people wanted."

He considered her, trying to make up his mind how much she knew
what she was talking about.  Her candid eyes of a young girl,
serene, icy, humourless, with the colour hard and sharp on
immaculate whites like fresh paint, stared back at him.  "Such
things happen in fairy-tales," he said, smiling.  "Not in life."

"If I was a man it would happen."

"Then it's a mercy to fathers that you're only a little girl."

She bridled.  "I'm not a little girl.  I'm a woman.  Don't you
think I understand?  Perhaps I understand better than you.  If any
man ever falls in love with me you'll see whether it only happens
in fairy-tales."

Cash was silent and thoughtful.  Her words and the passionate way
she spoke them laid open the drama, only vaguely suspected before,
between Cabell and his daughter--in fact, the whole family.  "Poor
devil," he thought, "he's brewing a shinnanikan for himself."
Then, looking again at those untouched eyes, that girlish, slight
figure with the almost transparent hands, and her face burning with
an indignation which always reminded him of the ineffectual brief
fury of a match, it was for her he felt sorry.  "Don't want to go
expecting too much," he said.  "Damn hard place to get your own way
in, the world.  You want a hide like a rhinoceros."

Harriet tossed the world over her shoulder with a confident flick
of her wrist.  "I'm not afraid of it."

"No, that's the trouble.  I reckon Jimmy wasn't afraid of it till
the time came.  Oh well, I suppose it depends on the man."

"Depends on the man!" she said contemptuously.  "I'd wait till I
died if I depended on a man.  They shake in their shoes when he's
about, the ninnies."

Cash laughed.

She noticed again how pleasant the laughter-wrinkles at the corners
of his eyes were and how strong the hands, covered with little
black hairs, lying on his knees, but she demanded angrily, "What
are you laughing at?"

"You're such a thorough-going little spitfire I reckon you'd be
equal to carrying off St George and dragon and all."

"You're making fun of me."

"Not at all.  I . . ."

"Yes, you're making fun of me because you're a man and you want to
think all women are just little girls.  Like David's Dora.  Oh, how
I detest her--simpering little fool.  Or else like the sticks in
Sir Walter Scott's novels.  And they're not.  Or if they are I'm
not.  So there."

He chewed his cigar in silence again, slightly abashed.  "How old
are you, Miss Harriet?"

"Nineteen."

"Yes, yes, you're a grown-up woman all right," he said,
apologetically and as though it had just dawned on him.

Harriet went very red, but conquered an impulse to turn her eyes
away and hide her hands behind her.  They had begun to misbehave in
an unaccountable, idiotic way.

"I daresay your pa'll be sending you home to England soon now,"
Cash said.

Harriet did not answer.  Her father and all his schemes and false
promises seemed suddenly remote.  She felt happy and mischievous.
"Would you miss coming here to laugh at me?"

"I'd miss seeing you right enough," Cash said.  "You bet I would."

"But aren't you afraid I might run away with you, Mr St George?"

"If I was twenty years younger you wouldn't be game to ask that."

"Oh, wouldn't I?"  Her eyes shone at him through their long, brown
lashes.

He patted her hand and rose.  "Now you're laughing at ME," he said.

She stood up and they both laughed gaily.

Then he was laughing alone and she was forcing herself to smile
while her eyes circled the floor.  Before she knew what she was
doing she was on her way up the stairs to her room.  She threw
herself on the bed and hid her face.  "How shall I ever look at him
again.  Oh, I was terrible--bold."

When she returned to the drawing-room Miss Montaulk was busily
fanning his cigar smoke out of the air.  "What were you talking
about?" she demanded.

"Nothing," Harriet said with guilty haste.  "Oh, nothing at all."

"That's untrue.  You were talking about men and women.  I heard."

"And you were eavesdropping?"

"I was doing my duty.  I shall speak to your father about him
coming in here.  He's the kind of man who knows bad women."

"Oh!"  Harriet's face stiffened.  "That's a lie."

"You little fool," Miss Montaulk said, her eyes shining with the
same virgin, happy brightness as Harriet's in the cracked mask of
rouge and powder.  "You've fallen in love with him."

"Why, he's old enough to be my father," Harriet said quickly.

"I'll see that your papa puts a stop to it, anyway."

But there was no need for her to trouble.  Harriet ended those
visits herself.

The next afternoon was a Sunday.  Cabell took them for a walk in
the Botanic Gardens.  They passed Cash escorting a lady, who clung
to his arm with possessive affection.  She was a big, red-haired
woman dressed in purple silk with a purple ostrich feather trailing
a yard behind her hat, and much jewellery.  She waved to Cabell.

"Who was that with Mr Cash?" Miss Montaulk asked.

"Some lady friend."

"Lady?  A creature.  He's a nice kind of gentleman to allow in the
house with a young girl, I must say!"

Cabell gave Harriet a startled look.  Her face was blank and
guileless, a trifle pale.  Alone with Miss Montaulk he said, "I'm
surprised to hear you talking that way in front of a child like
Harriet.  Of course she doesn't understand, but . . ."

Her big teeth snapped hungrily at his ear.  "Haven't you seen how
she always dresses herself up when he comes?"

Cabell watched, but whenever Cash was about Harriet stayed in her
room.  When he came to dinner she had a headache and excused
herself.

"I thought you liked Cash," Cabell said.

"I think he's odious--vulgar," Harriet replied indignantly.

Cabell was satisfied.  Miss Montaulk reserved her opinion.  Then a
new development in his tangled family affairs drove the matter from
Cabell's mind.



CHAPTER FIVE: LARRY AT THE CROSSROADS


The manager at the Reach wrote begging Cabell to come back quickly.
The shearers were giving trouble and all the wool would be ruined.

He was a decent young fellow named Bellamy, a wool-classer by
trade, and Cabell had given him the job for his usual double-headed
reason--because he remembered Bellamy's mother as a gay young girl
in the early days of the valley before the bush had broken her
spirit, and because he counted on Larry and Emma's old regard for
the Bellamys to keep the peace at the Reach while he was away.  But
he was wrong.  Between the lines of the letter it was easy to see
that six months of fighting the passive resistance of Larry and
Emma had broken Bellamy's nerve.

He closed the house up and hurried back to the station with Harriet
and Miss Montaulk to find things even worse than he expected.  The
first big strike in Australia, a maritime strike, was just
starting.  He saw its insolent manifestos placarded on trees and
fences all the way from Brisbane.  As the coach was galloping out
of Pyke's Crossing some shearers hooted him.  He recognized Goggs.

Bellamy looked done up.  "The washers've been here for five days.
They won't do a hand's turn till they get another sixpence."

"Shear in the grease."

"The shearers won't sign on unless you pay the washers."

"What'd you do with them?"

"I tried to argue, but . . ."

"You milk-sop, what's the use arguing.  Bang their heads together."

"There are forty heads all told," Bellamy said dryly.

"I'll soon fix them.  This is Larry's doing."

"No, it's not Larry.  It's more than that.  It's something that's
sprung up all over the country.  They're forming a union.
Organizers are going around everywhere.  There's one in the valley
now.  He holds meetings.  It's like a Methodist revival."

"Who is he?"

"A fellow named Coyle."

"Coyle, eh?" Cabell said, got his whip, and rode out to the camp
where the washers and shearers had established themselves.  They
were derisive.  He wasted no more words but hurried to Pyke's
Crossing, combed the pubs, hired every available horse, and at the
end of ten days had a new gang of shearers at work.  Then he sacked
Bellamy and brought in Custard, the north countryman he had saved
from being lynched at Larsen's Bakehouse, to be manager.

Still things did not go well.  On the fourth day of the shearing,
when Cabell was busy going over the books in the store, he heard
shouts.  The shearers had knocked off and were crowded around a man
delivering a speech.  Recognizing Coyle, Cabell got his gun,
whistled up the kangaroo dogs, and set off to see what was afoot.

The men saw him coming with the gun and the dogs, and some of them
made for the shed, calling "Look out, here's Rusty."

"What're you scared of," Coyle said.  "A man with a gun against
twenty of yous, against twenty thousand of yous?  You're scared
because you don't know how to stick together, as mates should; and
that's what I'm here to tell you.  Join the union, boys, and don't
scab on your mates no more, and it won't be long before he's
looking down the barrel of the gun, not you.  As mates we stand, as
scabs we fall--that's the ticket."

Cabell went up to the fence.  "Coyle, come down before I pull you
down."

"You know me and you know him," Coyle said.  "Will you stand by and
let a mate . . ."

But Cabell had him by the boot, and he came down on his back in the
dust.  He rose slowly, brushing his coat and looking at Cabell with
his dead, cold, truncated look, like a sleep-walker or a blind man.

"You know what I told you last time if I saw you on my property
again?"

"It's not your property.  It's everybody's.  You only stole the use
of it."

Cabell called the dogs to heel.  "See that gate?"  He nodded to the
front gate, a good quarter of a mile away.  "I'll give you a minute
and a half to get there before I let the dogs go."  He pulled his
watch out.  "Get!"

Coyle picked up his swag and already running waved to the men,
"I'll be back, mates."  He had fifty yards to go when Cabell, true
to his threat as Coyle knew he would be, sooled the dogs after him.
They vanished into the long grass and appeared on the flat, their
hunched backs red in the sun.  Coyle was astride the gate as the
dogs reached him and leapt snapping at his legs.  He kept them off
with his swag and fell away safe into the road.

Intimidated, the men returned to work, Cabell to the store.

Emma was waiting for him.  He tried to pass her without speaking
but she caught his sleeve.  He was surprised, seeing her so close
for the first time in a long while, to notice how she had aged.
The skin which used to be moulded tightly to her jaw and cheek-
bones now hung in spongy bags.  Her shoulders sagged.  It was as
though some vital sinew had snapped, as though her face had been
broken into little pieces and put together again carelessly.  He
freed his arm but she followed him to the counter where his books
lay open.

"I've never asked you for but one thing, Derek," she said, "and
I've given many."

He said nothing.

"Now I want to ask you again--I'll go down on my knees if you like--
to make Larry manager at the Reach if you must have a manager."

"You must be barmy."

"Perhaps I am.  But think of all that's happened in these years.
It's not much to ask."

"Holding a gun at my head again, eh?"

"No, no," Emma said quickly.  "I'm not even asking it as a right.
I'm only begging.  You're too rich and powerful for me ever to hurt
you now.  But surely there's enough for every one--for Harriet and
the rest.  Be merciful."

"If I hadn't been merciful he'd be humping his drum."

"It was that Coyle.  You know that."

"Coyle's his friend, isn't he?"

"Yes, but that's what I'm asking you.  You can save him from them.
Otherwise God knows what wickedness they'll lead him into.  This
strike and the union and all--it's gone to his head.  But how can
you blame him.  What else have you given him to hope for?"

"He's made his own bed," Cabell muttered.  "Let him lie on it."

"Oh, we've all done some wrong, haven't we?  If you and I had to
pay for what we've done we'd never be through."

He looked at her suspiciously again.  "You are threatening."

"What would be the use?  It's not your hurt, it's my own peace I'm
after.  Give Larry this chance and I'll die blessing you, Derek.
You want to get something for Harriet you've never been able to get
for yourself, don't you?  It's the same for me.  If Larry's set up
I'll know that what we did that night wasn't such a sin.  If he
just drifts off with Coyle and ends up in jail what was the purpose
of it?"

"A damn-fool question," he said, eyeing her shiftily.

"I was a damn fool not to ask it of myself at the time."  Anger
tightened her stooped shoulders and the lax lines in her face.
"When I stood in the doorway, and the flames all around you, and
M'Govern choking the life out of you, both doomed and blind as
bats, I might have stopped to ask it then and been a sight richer
now and nobody else the wiser.  But," she sighed and stopped again,
"I didn't.  And if there's any justice you'll remember now.  If you
don't--oh, how can you expect better for yourself than you're
giving me.  It's the same life has us both in its hands, and if it
lets you do the dirt on me it will let somebody else do the dirt on
you too.  Don't you see that?"

"Don't you get putting the hoodoo on me," Cabell mumbled, then
roared, "I won't make him manager.  So stop jawing.  I've got work
to do."

"I didn't think you would," Emma said at last, breaking a long
silence through which his pen scratched furiously.

He watched her under the brim of his hat as she went back to the
house, dragging in the dust her heavy greenhide boots which took a
fantastic shape from the callouses on her feet.  The sight gave him
a queer feeling in the stomach.  "That's the first time I've heard
her speak like that in years," he thought, "the first time I've
ever seen her without fight in her!"  Then he realized, all at
once, that the vital spark of Emma's life was going out.

He had seen death in many forms, strange and terrible, but its
reality had never been so vivid as when he whispered to himself
now, "SHE MUST BE DYING."  Emma dying!  The thought that she whose
energy for hate and hope had seemed inexhaustible, who had
struggled against and beside him for forty years, would soon cease
to be, made his hand drive the pen through the page before him.
"Well, everybody's marked for it sooner or later," he told himself,
but the queer feeling in the pit of his stomach persisted.  Whether
it was pity, remorse, or fear he felt would be difficult to say.
His emotions were all mixed up and kept taking his mind away from
the figures in the ledger.

At last he laid his pen down and went to the window.  Before him
spread the valley--HIS valley.  The boundary-fence wobbling away
through the tawny grass, sheep coming in to be shorn, returning to
their paddocks, cattle dozing in the river, horses tail to tail
under the trees, the noise of the shearing, men burning off across
the flats, their smoke like monsters materializing from the weird
forest of ringbarked gums, the ratta-tat of hammers preparing the
drays for the wool trip, the thunder of a mob of draught-horses
invisible in a cloud of dust coming up the valley, like a storm low
down on the earth--yes, everywhere abundant fulfilment of his
strength and desire.

He took a deep breath, moved by the only happiness, the retrospect
of obstacles overcome.  "To win--that's everything.  That's living.
Life's for the winners, not the losers.  They kotow to me now,
because I'm a winner.  I've beat the bush.  I've beat 'that mob' in
Brisbane.  Damn it, I'll live to a hundred."  He returned to the
counter and set to work energetically on his ledger once more.

But soon the pen went dead in his hand again, and for a long time
he stared frowning at the page as he heard Emma's tired voice
speaking the threat which of all threats frightened him most.
". . . if it lets you do the dirt on me it will let somebody else
do the dirt on you too . . ."

"Who's done the dirt on her?  I married her.  I got her shot of
Black Jem.  I helped her brother."

Then he remembered with a chill of resurrected fear how that night
he lay in the yard with his head in her lap while the flames
crackled through the house showering sparks, like vicious ants,
upon them, and how, knowing what she had done for him, against her
desire and interest, he had sworn to make it up.  But what had he
done?

"What does she expect me to do?  Hand-feed him?  I had to make MY
own way."  He said it aloud but, his confidence rapidly giving out,
did not believe it.  Not he, not his masterful will, but a hundred
and one lucky chances were responsible for his success.  Luck and
Emma--yes, he owed them both his life.

He admitted that grudgingly with a resentful underthought, "If it
was any other time but now . . . all this mining business coming
ripe!  The bitch!"  Under his pity and remorse he cursed her, as
though all her humility was just put on to prejudice fate against
him.

Sambo and Larry came up the slope, Sambo holding forth.  They
passed the window without noticing him, the one so intent on
listening, the other on expounding the unimaginable felicity of
life in the Land of Cockaigne, known otherwise as Frogs' Hollow.

". . . never drink nothin' but booze outa bottles with gold paper
round the top.  And the tarts!  Jeez, Larry.  There was one there
like a regular pitsher.  Oughta seen her.  Couldn't stand still a
minute.  Haw-haw, wasn't she a doer!  And every bed in the house
had a feather mattress!  Then you oughta see the museum.  Skeletons
in glass cases and . . ."

"All right," Cabell thought, and deeper down he thought, "I won't
let them get the better of me.  Just wait till I've finished in
Brisbane."

He went across the yard to where Larry was preparing to chop some
wood for Emma.  "Here, you."

Larry looked up and let the axe swing at his side.

"Your mother's been talking about you being thick with the scum
down there."  Cabell jerked his head towards the shearers' hut.
"She's worried."

"They're not scum.  They're men."

"They're not the sort of men for anybody with my name to be mixed
up with.  That fellow Coyle--his father hanged and so will he."

"They're men the same as I am.  They're not convicts and that's
what you can't get out of your head.  You think you can treat them
the same as you did in Moreton Bay.  They're free men like you."

"Just the same you're too thick with them.  I been thinking," he
paused but made himself go on, "one of these days I might make you
manager."

"I don't want to be manager," Larry said like a shot.

"Oh?  You don't, eh?"

"No.  I'm not a boss.  I'm a man, same as them.  They're my mates.
You can keep your job."

"Suits me down to the ground.  I only offered for your mother's
sake.  She thought it might save you from where you belong."

"For Mother's sake!"  Larry spat.  "A hell of a lot you'd do for
Mother's sake."

Cabell put his fists in his pocket.  "That settles it then.  You go
to hell your own way."

But Emma, watching through the kitchen door, ran out into the yard.
"Don't go, Derek.  For God's sake."

He paused on his way back to the store.

"He doesn't know what he's saying," Emma cried.  "He's a fool and
they've twisted him round their fingers."  She took hold of Larry's
arm and shook him.  He did not resist but looked at her with an
obstinate frown.  "Can't you understand?  He's offering to make a
boss of you, a manager?  What're you sulking for?"

"I heard him.  I don't want any favours.  I'm satisfied as I am."

"Satisfied to be a lousy hand when you can be a gentleman!  You're
out of your mind.  What do you think I've slaved for but this?  But
you're pig-headed.  You don't mean it.  You're angry because he
thrashed you.  But can't you understand--it's ME you're hurting,
not him."

"I don't want to hurt you, Ma," Larry mumbled.  "Only I know
better.  And as for the thrashing," he glared at Cabell, "he
needn't crow about that.  He'll get it in the neck.  Before long
there won't be any bosses here."

Emma sneered.  "What will there be then?  Blackfellows and dingoes
again?"

"There'll be a bushman's republic.  Like Gursey said."

Cabell laughed.

"You'll laugh on the other side of your face," Larry shouted.  "You
can't stop men joining the union.  There'll be a hundred thousand
bushmen with rifles.  Laugh at that."

"I heard that yarn in a convict settlement nearly fifty years ago,"
Cabell said and laughed again.

Larry watched his father's back-thrown head and open, bitter mouth.
Across the sunset stillness of the valley Cabell's laughter sounded
challenging and contemptuous.

Suddenly it stopped.  The last ray of the sun flickered on the
bright head of the axe and flickered again as the axe fell with a
clatter among the wood and Larry turned and strode across the yard.

He was already climbing the fence to the cowyard when Cabell,
stumbling backwards, brought up against the wood-block.  "You
murdering bastard.  I'll teach you."  He picked up a piece of wood
and flung it at Larry's head.  It struck him between the shoulder-
blades and sent him sprawling on the air.  He picked himself up and
trudged off, shoulders slightly hunched, without a glance back.

Emma sat on the wood-block with her head in her hands and wailed
gently, rocking from side to side.



CHAPTER SIX: SOCIAL LIE


When the shearing was over and the station quiet once more Cabell
took Harriet back to Brisbane.  Life changed for her again.  The
gates were opened and people came to the house at all hours.  True,
most of them were dull business men, but they did not seem dull to
her.  They made a fuss of her, and for the first time she knew what
it was to be treated as a grown-up and charming young woman, for to
Harriet even banal compliments sounded original.  Gradually the
wives and daughters of these lawyers and politicians and bankers
and contractors began to insinuate themselves past the basilisk
stare of Cabell, and Harriet found herself the centre of twittering
tea-parties.  She did not get along with the women quite so well.
She was too excited about them, too eager, and too inexperienced in
society.  Perhaps she scared them.  They retreated from her wild,
gauche enthusiasms behind polite smiles which she took for signs of
encouragement and affection until, led on to talk of herself with a
too egocentric unreticence, even the polite smiles vanished and she
found herself at bay before their downcast, or amused, or
disapproving eyes.  Then she lost her nerve and her balance, and
defended herself with wilder and more gauche talk that was
sometimes downright rude.  She asserted the rights of women to run
away from their fathers, emulate Emma Bovary, smoke cigars, ride
bicycles, play tennis, earn their living and any other bizarre
proposition which came into her mind and seemed likely to annoy
them.  But they were not annoyed.  That was the most irritating
part of it.  They looked at each other and giggled or frowned, but
at last they all cooed together.  What a quaint girl she was!  What
a little blue-stocking!  But of course she did not mean any of it.
She was too nice.  Oh yes she was.  Too nice.  She was on their
visiting lists so of course she MUST be too nice to believe, or
even to understand what she was talking about.  A little half-
witted maybe, but certainly quite nice.  In vain, passionately,
Harriet tried to draw closer to them; this passion it was which
held them off.  Away from the house they smirked, gossiped.  What
could you expect from a girl whose mother was a so-and-so!  But
they continued to call because their husbands made them.  Cabell
was now an important business man in Brisbane.

Peppiott had introduced him to the fascinating game of land-
booming.  The workers in the towns were prospering.  They wanted
houses and land--a stake in the country.  Suburban property that
was virgin bush less than half a century ago and worth hardly a
pound an acre, auctioned for a hundred pounds an acre and more now.
You got an option over an estate and on the option you borrowed
money and on the money you floated a company to buy the land.  You
divided the land and sold it on time payment and out of the
proceeds, including future payments, declared a handsome dividend.
The price of your shares went up and you sold out.  Then you formed
a land bank and lent the land company money to buy more land.  That
was the process.  It captivated Cabell at once.  With Peppiott,
Samuelson his old lawyer, and Cash, he began a series of complex
financial wanglings.  Peppiott was well in with the Government,
which lodged its borrowings from abroad with the Queensland
Incorporated Bank.  With Peppiott's help Cabell borrowed this
money, which was supposed to be used for railways and other such
developmental works, against his shares in Waterfall on a margin of
seventy-five per cent of the shares' stock-exchange value.  The
nominal value of each share was one pound, and the mine had yet
produced very little gold.  Journalists came to the house to dine.
They heard the inside story of Larsen's new works soon to be
opened, of the marvellous assays and the inexhaustible abundance of
the red stone which gave six ounces to the ton.  This was all quite
true, except that Larsen was disappointed with his works: two
ounces was all he could get.  But the articles about Waterfall, the
Mountain of Gold, which appeared in the newspapers every day hinted
at nothing of the sort.  Waterfalls rose slowly but surely--six,
eight, ten pounds.  Cabell's liabilities rose too, but so did his
wealth.  He bought fabulously expensive real estate in the heart of
the city.  One block, for which he paid eight thousand at nine
o'clock in the morning, he sold for ten thousand at four in the
afternoon.  After that he bought everything he could lay his hands
on, in Sydney and Melbourne, and refused to sell.  The excitement
of the boom had got hold of him properly now.

Cash was a bit doubtful.  "You better take a pull on yourself.
You're getting in too deep."

"You're a fine one to talk."

"Yes, but I don't like this gambling in the dark."

"What's dark about it.  The country's developing.  That's all."

"The money's not coming out of the country.  It's coming in.  And
what happens if the Government can't borrow and the bank can't
lend."

"Only a bit longer and I'm finished," Cabell said.  "I'll soon be
ready to tackle Larsen and Ludmilla.  Give me a few more months to
sell this land and we'll bring Waterfalls down and I'll buy in."

"Haven't you got enough?  You must be worth a million or more."

Cabell chuckled.  "I'll be the richest man in the southern
hemisphere.  You'll see them crawl then.  That slimy dog Peppiott--
you wouldn't think he refused to do business with me once.  I
wasn't good enough.  And look at this."  He showed Cash a bundle of
papers--mortgages over McFarlane's run.  "Samuelson bought them up
for me.  A pretty stiff price, but worth it.  I'll make them dance.
And when Harriet goes to England!  By God, I'd like to see their
faces in Owerbury then."

"I suppose it's some satisfaction."

"Were you kicked out of your home by a lot of bloodsucking brothers
and called a 'voluntary jailbird'?  Have you had dirt chucked at
you in court?"

They formed the Northern Land Investment Bank and the Land
Investment and Building Corporation to borrow money from the bank,
and buy and sell land, and, according to a prospectus drawn up by
Peppiott, "to enable the industrious and thrifty classes to
participate in the distribution of real estate or secure
participation in the large profits made by buying land in big
quantities and selling same in moderate sized farms or allotments."

Cabell took Harriet to the Corporation's first big sale.  Thousands
came in buses provided free by the Corporation.  From marquees on
the ground a free lunch was served and boundless free champagne.  A
band played "Advance Australia Fair" to open the proceedings, then
Peppiott made a speech.  "This is no mere sale of land for profit.
Brother citizens of this great, free nation, it is a gesture of
faith which we owe to our country and the prosperity of her future
to take unto ourselves some portion of our precious native
soil . . ."

Then the bidding commenced.

After the sale Peppiott gave a dinner at his house.  It was a
splendid affair, with footmen and "the nicest people," as Mrs
Peppiott promised Harriet, and much gold plate embossed with the
scroll and leaping stag Harriet had seen on the curricle--the coat
of arms of the Earls of Peppiott, to which "Albert is most
intimately connected," Mrs Peppiott explained.  Champagne flowed
again, and they toasted "This Great Land of Ours," very lovingly,
for it had been a highly successful sale.  In replying to the toast
as a member of the Government, Peppiott was seized by a vision of
the country fifty years hence, with a population of a hundred
million people, cities as big as New York and Chicago, hundreds of
thousands of miles of railway developing its resources--a future
full of successful land sales.

Hearty applause.

Dr Barnett said cantankerously, when the clapping died down,
"Railways aren't development.  That's only politicians' talk."  He
was a little man with white hair, a burnt-out yellow face, and a
temper gone sour in the tropics, where he cultivated sugar and
conducted a political battle to have the coastal strip of
Queensland turned into a separate state and allowed to become a
stronghold of benignly autocratic gentlemen ruling over kanaka
slaves.

They looked at him respectfully.  He belonged to "one of the oldest
families" (no convict blood), had been to Cambridge, and was
separated from succession to the Viscounty of Durlake only by a
bachelor suffering from chronic indigestion.  "Development is not
railways and it's not roads," he repeated in the voice of a man who
is used to being listened to with respect.  "It's not a big
population either.  The most civilized people in Europe have the
smallest population and the fewest railways and the worst roads.
Norway is a civilized country.  This will be when people begin to
live IN it, not ON it, like an army of occupation."

"You mean culture," Mrs Peppiott guessed.  She was a big, toad-like
woman with a pendulous, floppy toad gullet and a laborious toadlike
way of breathing and a toadlike darting tongue and toadlike bulging
eyes.  "Spiritual things--music, poetry, the drama."  She turned
her eyes up under eyelids crusted with tiny warts, just like a
toad's.  "How one yearns for them among the Philistines.  How one
labours to make the people understand and appreciate.  But will
they ever, dear doctor?  Everything's so coarse and vulgar.  It's
not like Italy, is it?  So redolent of the past.  The Caesars!  The
Borgias!  The air is full of poetry and romance.  But here--no
past, no memories."

A long pause followed this apostrophe, a very awkward pause, while
every one was thinking about the past--Mrs Peppiott's--and
wondering if she knew as much as they about her father, who came
out in chains.

"We've got the pioneers," Peppiott snapped at her.

"Ah, yes, the pioneers, the glorious pioneers!"  It went round the
table like a sigh of relief, and everybody looked at the two
representatives of that already legendary band of brothers and
looked away quickly again.

One of them, sitting between Harriet and Mrs Peppiott, was an old
man named Purvis, whose father had settled on the land which had
been sold that afternoon.  He was fabulously rich in real estate,
but if it had not been necessary to wheedle and placate him so that
Peppiott's brother citizens should be enabled "to take unto
themselves more portions of their native soil," he would not have
been invited to dine here among nice people, for he smelt strongly
of stables, ate with his fingers, and called crapulously for rum
with his soup.  He took no part in the conversation at the table,
dividing his attention between shovelling food and gaping at the
footmen's legs.  Served with snipe, he protested, "'Ere, lad,
what's thisn?  I don't eat sparrers."

"It's snipe, dear Mr Purvis," Mrs Peppiott explained.  "My
husband's cousin--the Earl, you know--sent the birds to us.  Do
taste them."

"Nothin' but the parson's nose ter taste," Purvis growled, but he
put a snipe in his mouth and chewed it noisily, and he did swallow
it, which was better than anybody expected from the look of disgust
on his face.

This was all extremely distressing to Sir Alexander and Lady
Todhunter, for Sir Alexander, who was Mr Purvis's grandson, was one
of the nicest of nice people, so nice that he could not stand
living in Australia for more than six months at a time.  The rest
of the year he appeared, from hints he dropped, to spend shaking
hands with the Prince of Wales, the Marquess of Queensbury, Lord
Lonsdale, and other peers of the realm.  Nobody believed him, but
it was true.

The other glorious pioneer was Cabell, sitting near Peppiott in his
shiny frock-coat and old-fashioned stiff shirt, and fumbling
furtively among an unaccustomed variety of forks and glasses.  How
diminished he looked beside these people, Harriet noticed with
surprise.  Opposite him sat Doug Peppiott, his broad, handsome face
with a cameolike profile radiating health and youthful self-
confidence.  To Harriet, comparing them, the young man seemed twice
as big as her father, twice as strong, and twice as certain of his
way through life.  She saw the old man in a new light, in a
situation he did not dominate.  He looked lonely and rather
pathetically out of it listening to these strangers' chatter about
people and things he had lost all touch with, and several times she
saw him blink at the table, the silver, the food, the footmen, as
though he wondered if he was dreaming.  Once, in talking to Sir
Alexander Todhunter, he began to describe how the coach ran from
Owerbury to Plymouth, but Sir Alexander waved loftily and said, "My
dear fellow, there's been a railway there for the last twenty
years."  "Oh?  Oh?" Cabell muttered, and after that had nothing to
say, twiddled his thumbs in his lap between each course, and "Yes-
ma'amed" Mrs Peppiott with strange meekness.  When he upset the
salt, Harriet saw him reach out to take a pinch and throw it over
his shoulder, then pull his hand back and look around guiltily as
if he expected someone to laugh.  She was touched.  It showed her
how ill at ease he was, for she knew he would worry all night about
that salt, so superstitious was he.  "Poor Papa," she thought for
the first time in her life, understanding, in this flash of
sympathy, quite a lot of things about the old man which before had
seemed so unreasonable--his unremitting hatred for "that mob in
Brisbane," which had insulted him once, his arrogance, his rambling
threats about "making them crawl."  And they weren't crawling,
Harriet saw, glancing round the table.  When Dr Barnett spoke about
the railways Cabell had stirred to say something, but young John
Dennis interrupted him rudely and every one listened to Dennis and
took no notice of Cabell at all.  And that was what touched Harriet
most deeply, because he was so sure that everybody in Brisbane was
now at his feet begging forgiveness for what they had done to him.
"Poor Father," she thought again.  "He's silly.  He shouldn't come
to Brisbane.  They're only making use of him and laughing behind
his back."  She had just intercepted a look of pained, fastidious
distaste, quite involuntary, which Lady Todhunter cast towards his
string tie and bone studs when Peppiott spoke of the pioneers.  She
glared at Lady Todhunter and Lady Todhunter thought the little
country girl was gazing at her with the awe she was used to from
little country girls, and smiled condescendingly.

"Yes, the glorious pioneers," Dr Barnett agreed.  "They were
gentlemen and lived like gentlemen."

Nobody disputed it.  They were all children of pioneers.

"But the confounded politicians changed all that by stopping
transportation."  Dr Barnett, insensitive to a slight bristling at
various parts of the table, sipped his wine, shot his cuffs, and
prepared again to be listened to with respect.  "It was a golden
age," he assured them.  "A squatter was lord of the manor and the
arbiter of his people's fate.  His convict servants were like his
peasants, on the whole better treated than peasants in Ireland.  In
time they would have learnt to live in the country, which would
have grown slowly and graciously on its own resources without any
help from the London Jews.  But along come your damned Liberals and
humanitarians and turn Jack the jailbird loose to be as good as his
master, and the country's in the hands of the dregs of humanity,
and you, with your confounded development, draw them all to
Brisbane and Sydney and Melbourne to nurture themselves in useless
occupations and become a race of city-rats."  He took another sip
of wine and commenced to develop a picture of Australia as it would
have been if convicts were still transported to be the servants of
squatters.  A nation of aristocrats and landed gentry, like the
Ireland of Charles Lever, he thought.  It was his favourite topic.
He could afford it to be.

For others present, however, the topic did not brighten a dinner-
table.  Peppiott made an effort to turn the conversation by
proposing "Our Glorious Pioneers" and delivering a little speech
about the debt they all owed to such men as "our dear friend
Cabell"--he let fall a little drop of oil precisely on the top of
Cabell's head--and "our dear old and highly respected neighbour,
Joshua Purvis."

Old Purvis had stopped feeding and was beginning to sit up and take
notice.  "Blamed hot in here," he grumbled, took his coat off, hung
it on the back of the chair, and sat down again.  "That's better.
What's that you're sayin' about me, Peppiott?"

"We were remarking upon the debt we owe to those, including
yourself and our old friend Cabell, who opened up this great land
of ours."

Old Purvis finished his rum and smacked his lips.  "Ah, them were
the days.  Them were the days, eh Cabell?  Nothin' here but blacks,
and a durn sight better neighbours than some white folks they were.
Pity we shot 'em all off."

"Shot them?" Mrs Peppiott said.  "Oh, how dreadful.  The poor
defenceless creatures.  And so interesting.  You must come to a
meeting of our Aborigines Protection League.  You know they prove
all about the missing link.  So invaluable to science."

"I don't know nothing about that," Purvis said.  "I know your old
man shot 'em the same as we all did."  He chuckled.  "I mind the
time he tied a gin up to a cart-wheel and . . ."

"Yes, yes," Peppiott said, "Mrs Peppiott merely means that it's a
pity the exigencies of the times compelled the white man to take
such extreme measures against a people so unique."

"Exigencies of the times, you call it?  We called it shortage of
wimmen.  I mind the day . . ."

"Do have some more wine, Mr Purvis," Mrs Peppiott put in.

"A drink.  Well, I wouldn't spit in it."

A servant began to fill his glass, but he snatched it away.

"'Ere, lad, none of that cat-lap for me.  I want something to cut
the phlegm.  This here," he nodded towards his grandson while
avoiding the outraged Sir Alexander's bulging eye, "he nearly did
me in with stuff like that.  Something he brought home from France.
Might be all right for a skinny Frenchman, no good for a man.  Like
most of the things he brought home with him."  This was taken to
refer to Lady Todhunter, especially as it was underlined with
obscure grunts about boots, chimneypots, and collars, a tyranny
Lady Todhunter had imposed on the old man.  "But I was sayin' . . ."

Sir Alexander cleared his throat and Mr Purvis kept his eye fixed
on Mrs Peppiott, which was as far as he could remove it from the
eye of Sir Alexander.

"I was sayin' I mind the day my old man pegged it.  Went out to
look for a cow and a tree fell on him.  It was burnin' in the butt
and it kept on burnin' and burnt him in two halves.  Well, I was
sayin' wimmen was short, and by gum we'd hardly got the two halves
of the old bloke under the ground before the fellers start come
ridin' in from fifty miles around, and inside a month the old girl
was in harness again.  Yes, in the family way once a year--that was
the order in them days.  Now a dandy young gal like you," he told
Harriet, "you'd bin a ma three times over by your age."

"Mr Purvis!  How can you!"  All the ladies were shocked.

All except Harriet, who rather liked Mr Purvis's faded blue eyes.
She smiled encouragingly.  "Oh, I wish I'd been there."

"Well, you'd've married a man.  Not one of them sore-fingers you
see about," old Purvis said and chucked her under the chin.  "By
gum, I'd married you meself."

Harriet laughed and old Purvis laughed and laughed so heartily that
he disorientated himself and accidentally let his eye contact with
his grandson's.  And that was the end of old Purvis.  He licked his
lips, grumbled something to himself about "'igh society," felt to
see if his collar was on, and got under the table on the pretence
of unlacing a tight boot.

Mrs Peppiott took advantage of the lull to move the ladies into the
drawing-room.  When they were all settled to coffee on the veranda
she piloted Harriet to a corner.  "Oh, I do hope you weren't
offended with Mr Purvis, darling.  He's SO coarse.  But they had no
advantages in those days.  Nothing to elevate the spirit.  I think
only the spiritual things matter, don't you?  The sweet strains of
music, for example.  How I love it.  When I hear Douglas sing--oh,
he has a divine voice!  Now wouldn't it be lovely if you sang a
duet together.  Something really classical.  One of those heavenly
duets of Sir Arthur Sullivan.  I'll speak to Douglas about it.  But
about Mr Purvis, darling, I must apologize.  Of course you did your
best . . ."

"There's nothing to apologize for," Harriet interrupted.  "I liked
Mr Purvis."

"Yes, yes, of course you were splendid.  An extremely awkward
moment for the poor Todhunters.  Of course, Sir Alexander is a
wonderful man--to think he has risen from that.  But now, darling,
I'm going to give you a TEENY WEENY word of advice.  You mustn't
encourage such talk.  I hope you won't be offended at my saying so,
darling, but I wonder you didn't blush.  You took it so calmly--
those awful words.  But then I suppose you didn't know what they
meant."

"What words?  In the family way?  Why, they're in Shakespeare."

"In Shakespeare?  Oh, I'm sure they're not."

"Well, something like them.  I can show you."

"They're certainly not in OUR copy of Shakespeare.  And, anyway,
they're not nice words, are they?  When she hears such words a
young lady must pretend she doesn't know what they mean.  You know,
darling, a lady has to be SO careful.  So MANY spiteful eyes."  She
glanced at the other ladies on the veranda.  "Vipers," she
whispered.  "They'll spread it all over the place that you know
more than a young girl should.  And one day a nice young man will
want to marry you and I'm sure--I hope you'll forgive an
interfering old woman, dear, but when I look at you, poor,
motherless little thing . . ."

"I've got a mother.  What do you mean?" Harriet said surprised.

"Yes, yes, of course," Mrs Peppiott had repressed the fact that
Harriet had a mother.  "I mean here in Brisbane.  You must be so
lonely.  Your father's such a busy man, isn't he?"

"I can look after myself.  I'm not a child," Harriet said, touched
on her tender spot.

Mrs Peppiott smiled wryly--Harriet was certainly making things very
difficult--and changed the subject, or, rather, assaulted her
object from a new angle.

"Douglas tells me that your brother, Geoffrey, is going into the
bank."

"Yes, he had some trouble with a girl and Father had to buy her
off, so he gave Geoffrey a terrible clout and made him go to work,"
Harriet said frankly.

Mrs Peppiott was very pleased to glean this information, though
startled by Harriet's complete lack of decent family reticence.
But she had given enough advice for the moment and decided to leave
a lecture on family honour to the future.  "And your brother
James?" she asked sweetly.

"He's in Sydney."

"SO providential he was brought to his senses, wasn't it, dear?"
Mrs Peppiott simpered.  "It would have been most unfortunate if
he'd persisted and perhaps married into that dreadful Flanagan
family."

"Who, Jennis Bowen, do you mean?  But he will marry her.  He's
terribly in love with her."

"Your father would surely not allow it."

"What's it got to do with him?"

Mrs Peppiott's eyes widened with slow, toadlike astonishment.
"You're not suggesting that they would--elope?  Without your
father's consent?  Oh, what a scandal!"

"I HOPE they will," Harriet said.  "I'm going to offer James all my
jewellery to help him and if he doesn't I shall never, never speak
to him again."

Mrs Peppiott croaked hoarsely with amusement.  "WHAT a romantic
child you are, Harriet, my love."

"I'm not romantic and I'm not a child," Harriet said fiercely.

"Ah, Harriet," Mrs Peppiott said, coming nearer and lowering her
voice again, "you ARE romantic.  VERY romantic.  One WOULD almost
think that you were in love yourself."

"Perhaps I am."

Mrs Peppiott darted her little green tongue and watched closely,
shifting a little, as a toad watches a suspicious movement in the
grass.

"Do tell me, sweet?  Who is it?  I'd be very interested and
sympathetic."

Harriet clutched desperately for a name.  "It MIGHT be Mr Cash."

"Mr Cash!"  Mrs Peppiott let out a horrified croak.  "Oh, that's
impossible.  A common man like that."

"What of it?  My mother was a common woman--a convict.  And so
was . . ."  Mrs Peppiott's comment on Cash had piqued her, and her
tongue, which had not yet learnt its way in society, had nearly run
too far.

Mrs Peppiott sprang from the sofa and landed in front of her with a
damp, froggy flop.  "I feel it my duty to tell your father of this.
I'm sure he knows nothing about it."

Her unexpected anger startled Harriet.  "Oh, no, you needn't.  It's
not true," she said quickly.  "I was only pretending.  I'm not in
love with anybody.  How could I be?  I don't know anybody."

Mrs Peppiott dropped on to the sofa and patted her hand.  "Forgive
me, dear.  You frightened me.  You see, you're such a nice young
girl, and I wouldn't like to see a nice young girl have her
reputation spoilt by . . .  Yes, yes, I know.  But you wait.
You'll fall in love with a NICE young man and have a NICE wedding
and it will all be NICE.  I'm sure it will."

Harriet grimaced.  "I don't want a nice young man."

"Now that's not nice, Harriet," Mrs Peppiott rebuked her.

Niceness!  The word, which she realized suddenly was always on the
lips of Mrs Peppiott and the other women who called at her father's
house, irritated her, and she decided, in revulsion against them,
that she loathed niceness more than anything else.  It was like an
invincible armour, this niceness behind which they smirked and
gossiped, and neither her eager frank advances nor the bolts of her
rage could penetrate it.  After she had somehow betrayed herself,
as now she had done with Mrs Peppiott, they cooed over her with a
triumphant, kindly niceness, as though she was really some sick or
abnormal or pariah thing and the most charitable way to treat her
was as a child, a foolish child.  They made her feel ashamed,
despite herself, and more obstinately angry.

"I'm not nice," she told Mrs Peppiott, "and I don't want to be."

Mrs Peppiott shook her head and her loose gullet flopped the
opposite way.  "You ARE very, very contrary, but I'm SURE you're
quite nice just the same."

"I'm not.  I'm nasty.  What you mean by nasty.  I was born nasty.
And I'm glad.  My father's nasty.  And my mother's nasty."

"Your father is really a very nice man when one gets to know him.
He has extremely good connexions in England.  His third cousin is
Lord Felsie."

"He's nasty," Harriet insisted.  "He has done nasty, terrible
things."

"How can you use such words?" Mrs Peppiott said hastily.  "It's not
nice to bring up the past like that."

"It's there whether you bring it up or not," Harriet said.  "Like a
rich cake you can't digest," she added with gratuitous nastiness.

"It's not nice to talk about it.  It doesn't concern us.  The
present is quite nice, quite different."

"The present isn't nice at all," Harriet snapped.  "Look what my
father and Mr Peppiott are doing--using money which doesn't belong
to either of them.  Father explained it to me.  Is that nice?"

"Really, you do say some extraordinary things, Harriet.  I'm sure
your father and Mr Peppiott are doing no such thing."

"They are.  You know they are.  Everybody knows.  Just as everybody
knows our fathers or mothers or both were convicts and did nasty,
NASTY things.  And that Sir Michael Flanagan married a convict's
wife when she had had her husband flogged till he died.  And that
Jennis Bowen's father died through drinking too much.  And that old
Mr Curry was nearly hanged although his grandson went to Oxford.
And that Sir Alexander Todhunter's grandfather eats with his
fingers.  And yet you all pretend that we're nice and that
everything is and always was nice and that nothing but nice things
have ever happened.  It's not true.  It's a lie."

Mrs Peppiott quavered before the storm, but she compressed her lips
to hide punishment, and when Harriet had finished returned,
indefatigably smiling, to the fray.  "There, there, my precious.
You excite yourself.  Just let me get my smelling salts. . . ."

Harriet sulked.  Then she felt remorseful and tried to answer Mrs
Peppiott's undaunted niceness with a pumped-up niceness of her own.
But in her heart she hated Mrs Peppiott and her lying niceness.
Obscurely she felt that it was a lie against a part of herself, her
most passionate, most precious, most living self.  It was a lie
which had eaten into the hearts of Mrs Peppiott and her kind and
sucked the blood out, so that they were animated now only by its
lying formulas.  She had seen the process at work in James.  There
had been a fine fire of recklessness and honesty in James and then
it was gone.  The dead, lying formulas she heard so often on the
lips of Mrs Peppiott and her friends, which struck her forcibly
because although Miss Montaulk used many of them they had seemed
unreal in the isolated life of the valley, crept more and more
frequently into James's letters.  "One must avoid scandal," "One
must not make a show of oneself," "One must remember one's duty to
one's family--parents--society," and much more of the same sort, so
unlike the James who was going to marry Jennis despite his father
and make his own way in life, that Harriet began to fear for
herself, for the blind, reckless, passionate desire to live,
through which alone, she felt, she would have the strength to
escape from her father's stubborn will.  What, she asked herself,
had happened to James?  And studying the people who came to the
house, contrasting old Mr Purvis and Sir Alexander Todhunter,
Peppiott and what Cabell had told her about his father, she decided
that it was a fear and a consuming shame of the past which made
them hide behind this lie about niceness, the same fear she had
seen in James and felt in herself.  A horrible, lurking fear of the
past was in them, not only of the brand of convictism but of the
spirit of convictism and the wild recklessness of the old hands
from which many savage deeds had come.  They were afraid of that
crude, reckless spirit their fathers had handed on to them and they
tried to kill it in themselves and others.  And when they couldn't
kill it they pretended that it was not there, as when they
pretended that she was a little mad, and that Cabell was really a
nice man, and that nothing had really happened in the past which
was not nice, and that all convicts had been sent out for stealing
a loaf of bread.  And having killed it or pretended that there had
never been a savage reckless spirit in the country, and that
everything had always been as nice as it was in England, and they
themselves as nice as they would have been if their fathers had
stayed in England instead of coming to fight for a hold on a new
land, they got paunchy and withered, like Peppiott, and a smug mask
covered their faces.  But what was behind the mask when you had
killed this crude, reckless part of yourself that must be there,
because your father and mother could not have come here and
conquered the country without being or becoming crude and ruthless
and strong?  Why, nothing except the lie that they had been nice
people and so you were the inheritors of niceness--that and a
consuming fear and shame.  When she lost her temper she had seen a
beseeching look in Mrs Peppiott's eyes, as though she was crying
out, "No, don't say it.  Please don't say it."  She had noticed the
same look many times in their eyes when an old landtaker was in the
room and insisted upon telling his dark, crude stories of the past.
Comparing the landtakers with their children, Harriet could not
help thinking that the wild, cruel, ruthless, reckless spirit of
the old men was much finer than anything with which their sons had
replaced it.  Anyway, they had lived, and Harriet felt that if you
made Mrs Peppiott's niceness your ideal you didn't live, couldn't
live.  You must turn against yourself.  She was frightened of her
father and she hated him, but he was really finer than James
whatever he had done, because rather than kotow to HIS father he
had gone out into the bush and carved a place for himself, whereas
James was too weak or afraid.  He would take his father's nasty
money while coming to terms with the nice people who hated and
despised Cabell.  In her youthful ardour Harriet could not
understand why the world should not be absolutely frank and honest
and unashamed.

So after the dinner at Peppiott's she decided that she had had
enough of nice people.  She avoided the men who came to see her
father, and was disgusted with herself for ever having felt that
she could like such fat, dull dolts.  To the ladies she was so rude
that they soon stopped calling, except the more determined ones who
had an axe to grind, like Mrs Peppiott.  Her wide mouth went a
little grey at the corners and took on a permanent pout.  She slept
badly, and dreamt badly, and day and night felt a dull ache in her
breast.  It was the pain of her pent-up energy, love, and desire,
which were like a vine hungrily groping in a void for something to
take hold on.  Her body, thinner than ever, began to look like a
vine, and in her hands, white and thin and restless, was the
twisted agony of vine tendrils, and in her eyes a lurking succubus
look which frightened the men on whom it rested.

It frightened Doug Peppiott the first time he was left alone with
her--one day when he drove his father to the house and stayed in
the drawing-room with Harriet while Peppiott and Cabell went to
confer.

He sat opposite her on the sofa, looking down at his crossed legs,
which bulged muscularly in their tight trousers, with an expression
of sulky discontent on his face.  His big eyelids hid his eyes,
drawing between them a curtain through which she tried to peer.  He
could feel her eyes probing him, and under his disgust of her thin
body and wide mouth and pale gaunt face, and his anger at having
his life upset by his parents' determination that he should marry
her, he felt little stabs of fear.  He sensed the hungry succubus
in her and his manhood, which was not very manly but rather spoiled
and softened by maternal pampering, was scared.  Little shivers ran
up and down his flesh as though he could feel the tendrils of her
spirit groping over him for a place to fasten on.  Summoning all
the resources of his supercilious, masculine silence he tried to
cover himself from her witchlike, probing eyes.

"You went to school with Jimmy, didn't you?" she asked.

"Yes," he said.

"He often talks about you."

Again a long silence, while he stared at his knees and burned with
resentment.  He thought how her father's money had interfered with
his dreams of a good time in England, corrupting even his indulgent
mother, and he turned his resentment against her.  He would not be
polite and talk, damn her.  His indifference, his downcast eyes and
silence fascinated Harriet.  She mistook them for strength and deep
masculine mystery.

"Do you work with your father?" she asked.

"No."

"You live in Brisbane?"

"Of course."

"Oh!"  She was rebuffed.  Her quick temper came up.  "Why don't you
talk?  Have you got a toothache?" she attacked, in her usual blunt
way.

Such direct methods shook him.  He glanced at her.  "No."  And
added morosely, "I don't want to talk, that's all."

"What did you come for?"

"My father brought me?"

"By the hand?"

He glared at her, colouring.

"I hope you won't come again, anyway."

He rose, very offended.

"Oh," Harriet said, "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean it.  Please don't
go."

He remained standing stiffly, a little foolish.

Impulsively she took his hand and pulled him back on to the sofa.
"Please forgive me, Mr Peppiott.  I didn't know I could be so rude.
Of course you must come again.  Please promise."

"No need to apologize," he grumbled, freeing his hand from her hot
fingers.

"But you must forgive me.  REALLY forgive me."

"There's nothing to forgive."

"But you must say it.  Do."

"Very well.  If you insist.  I forgive you."

"Thank you," Harriet said humbly, "but I'll never forgive myself.
Now let us talk about something else.  Where are you going to work?
Jimmy's going to the mine, you know.  At least, Father wants him
to.  I suppose you'll learn law with your father."

He hesitated, then with startling violence, looking at her
accusingly, said, "I'm going to England."

"How lovely."

"Yes, I am, and nobody's going to stop me."

She studied his face, with the clipped, red, military moustaches,
which didn't seem quite to belong.  The face, the soft chin, and
soft, spoilt mouth didn't quite come up to their fierceness.  But
Harriet, mistaking a sulky swelling of the lips for resolution,
thought it was the strongest face she had ever seen.  "I think I
understand.  Your father doesn't want you to go."

"Yes," he said.  "But how did you know?"

"Oh, I think all old people must be alike.  They want to rule.
It's the same with my father and James."

"Anyway," he repeated, as if delivering her an ultimatum, "I'm
going."

"That's right," she said eagerly.  "You go.  You must go.  Don't do
what James is doing--keep putting it off until it may be too late."

The study door opened.  They looked at each other.

"Have you got the money to go?" she whispered.

"Money?  No--but . . ."

"You'll have to go as a sailor then?  How exciting!"

"A sailor?  Me?  Don't be silly."

"Why not?  You want to go to England, don't you?  You haven't got
the money."

Her words summed up all the futility of his little rebellion.  He
had no money.

Peppiott and Cabell were coming down the hall.

Harriet pressed his hand.  "But come again, won't you, and tell me
all?"

He felt gooseflesh pains spread over his hand.  "Yes," he said
sourly, "I'll come again."



CHAPTER SEVEN: SUCCUBUS


Peppiott and Cabell were very thick now and Peppiott dropped in
three and four times every day.  As Mrs Peppiott had spied out the
land he always brought Doug in the afternoon when Miss Montaulk was
upstairs taking her nap.

But Cabell was not blind.  He had watched Harriet so closely for so
long that he was aware at once of a great change in her.  She had
become curiously still, concentrated, like a cat at the first faint
nibble of a mouse in the moulding.  The look of discontent had gone
from her face which seemed to alter its very form, so that one
became aware of features one had not noticed before--the deep
cavities of her eyes, the ripe sensuousness of her mouth.  Her body
was less angular, more supple, but clenched, sprung.  All her
restless energy had disappeared.  She lounged in the drawing-room,
unmoving for hours, like a cat waiting with awful, confident
patience.  So, though she no longer spent the day rushing from
piano to bookcase, to garden, and back to the piano, irritable with
unconsumed energy, she seemed more fiercely energized than before.
Her eyes were brittle and pointed with light, as if all her
strength were concentrated there in a hypnotic willing.  Of what?
Cabell wondered.

At first the change pleased him.  She submitted when he caressed
her, listened when he spoke.  Then he realized that this was
because she thought of something else all the time, and that when
she looked at him she did not see him, saw nothing.  He had noticed
Doug Peppiott's visits, which he had to put up with because he
could not get along without Peppiott's help, but it never occurred
to him that she might have fallen in love--with all the naïve
ardour of her inexperience and a hungry desire to spend affection
for which she had never had any object.  At least, he refused to
admit the possibility.

He needed much less to make him jealous: the mere idea that she was
friendly with a stranger, another man, was enough for that.  She
hadn't got two words to say to her father, yet she seemed to
chatter away for hours to that young whelp.  What about?  He tried
to question her but her eyes filled with a secretive look he did
not like at all and she answered evasively.  So one afternoon,
instead of leaving the study with Peppiott, he made an excuse to
slip out alone and tiptoed down the passage.  The house was silent,
except for Miss Montaulk's snoring and the chitter of birds in the
garden.  But beyond this noise and this silence a deeper, vibrant
silence flowed from the drawing-room, the nervous silence of an
animal sprung in patient watching and waiting.  The room might have
been empty for all the sound that came from it, but he knew it was
not empty, as a man, entering a dark room, sometimes knows that a
cat is waiting and watching there, even before he sees its eyes,
glowing with still, brittle fire in the blackness, blind to
everything except their own invisible desire, eyes no longer but
organs of a pitiless, mesmeric will which stagnates the air and
holds walls and furniture in a trance of cruel, watchful waiting.

He paused in the doorway with one hand on the door-jamb, fixed by a
strange scene.  They were sitting on the sofa, Peppiott at one
extreme end, Harriet at the other.  Peppiott sat erect and stiff
with his arms folded, gazing away from her through the open doors
to the garden.  He looked as though he had just been offended in a
quarrel and was refusing to be coaxed out of his rage.  A heavy
frown creased his forehead and drew his thin, red brows together.
Harriet was looking at him.  She lay back in the cushions, her body
paralysed, as though every atom of strength had gone from it,
sucked into her eyes.  Her face was pale and her hands, palm
upwards in her lap, were white and boneless like the hands of a
person in a faint.  But in her eyes was the condensed fire of her
being.  Under their brows, black as jet against her bloodless face,
they seemed to give forth palpable heat.  Though Cabell was almost
in the line of her vision she did not stir, absorbed in her
concentrated gazing.  There was nothing tender in her gaze.  It was
domineering and unmerciful.  It astounded Cabell, revealing in his
petulant child a woman of unsuspected power.  Fleetingly, her
stillness, her deep-set eyes, and in those eyes an enigmatic
expression of resolve, almost of cunning, reminded him of Emma.

"Here, what's wrong with you, girl?" he demanded.

Peppiott leapt as though a gun had gone off in his ear, but seeing
Cabell a look of relief wiped the frown from his face and he
smiled.  "Oh, sir, you startled me."

But Cabell was watching Harriet, who turned without a flicker of
change in her expression.  "Are you sick?"  He went over and shook
her.

"Of course not," she said quietly.  "Why?"

"Look as if you'd just seen a ghost."

She shrugged impatiently.  "I was only thinking."

Cabell turned and looked at Doug.  "Waiting for your father?" he
snapped.

"Yes, sir.  Yes."

"He'll be busy for an hour.  We'll drive him home.  You needn't
stay."

"Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.  Thank you," Doug said with puzzling
alacrity, then positively darted from the room without a glance at
Harriet.  There was something absurdly mouselike in the way he
scampered out.

Cabell went on to the veranda and watched him drive away.  He
looked potent, handsome, driving the two grey stallions, moving in
the aura of their high-stepping pride.

He came back into the room.  "There's something funny going on
here.  What is it?"

"Funny?"  The glow had gone from her eyes, but they were still
intent, with a secret thought concealed in their depths and the
ruckle between her heavy eyebrows.  Again, he saw the likeness to
her mother, who also had guarded a ruinous secret behind her eyes.

"Miss Montaulk ought to be here when people come," he grumbled.
"It's not proper."

She did not reply.  She seemed to purr over her secret thought,
half-asleep.

She had never been more widely awake, more tensely alert in every
groping tendril of her vinelike spirit.  Indeed, she seemed only
now to have awakened from a long coma in which she had dreamt of
her father and his schemes.  She had believed that she was somehow
doomed to be his prisoner for ever, that nothing in the world was
strong enough to defeat his obstinate will, but as she compared him
with Doug Peppiott she saw that he was not like an eagle at all
really, that he was just a weak, cantankerous old man.  For
Peppiott was young and she was young--young and resolute and
strong.  Oh, she could do anything if only--if only Doug would love
her and help her.  And he WOULD love her!  Yes, she would MAKE him
love her.

So she watched him anxiously for a sign, but he gave none.  Her
anxious, shameless watching seared him.  What kind of a girl was
this?  A decent, modest girl, a nice girl, wouldn't look at a man
in that hungry way.  What you heard about her must be true--that
she knew a bit too much.  So he kept as far off as he could, and in
his remoteness she thought there was some hard, mysterious
masculine strength when there was nothing but plain funk--funk of
what people would say if he married a girl like that, and, deeper
down, a worse funk of he knew not what, a funk of being swallowed
up.  It was fantastic.  He didn't try to analyse it.  But there it
was.  He wished, if his mother was determined to marry him, she
would pick on somebody else--Lady Todhunter's sister, for example,
a real lady, or Jennis Bowen.  But this one--ugh!

His neck bulging in its tight collar, his mouth cut in a full,
fleshy, sensual bow, his eyes half-covered superciliously in their
heavy lids, his brown, athletic hands--these fascinated her as the
attributes of a mysterious, male power.  Exigently, shamelessly,
she pried into the mystery.

"What are you thinking of now?"

"I wasn't thinking of anything."

"But you must be thinking of something."  And hastily, as he
frowned, she added, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I'm always bothering you."

He was most uncomfortable when she humbled herself like that
suddenly, a subtle snare to put him in the wrong and force him to
reassure her.  The cunning devil!  He refused to answer.  So they
sat in silence again with the length of the sofa between them, and
he determined, if he was to marry her, to give her nothing, not
even a kind word.  And all the time he could feel her eyes, active,
witchlike, and the feeling was intolerable.  He had to look around
to see what she was doing, as though he expected to catch her
making passes over him.  But she was only watching him, waiting for
a sign, and when she caught his glance she thought it was a sign of
relenting and began again.

"Why didn't you come yesterday?"

"My father didn't require me."

"What did you do?"

"Various things.  I don't remember."

"Who did you speak to?"

"A lot of people.  What does it matter?"

"But WHO?  I want to know everything about--" she hesitated,
"everything."

"Well, I told you once--I don't remember."  This domineering
curiosity, this patient, shameless prying angered, then bewildered
him.  What would she say next?  What was she up to?  What did she
want?  He knew only two kinds of women, ladies and whores.  He
preferred whores because a man could get his fun out of a whore
without being bound to give anything of himself except a little
money.  But a woman like this one, as shameless and passionate
("hot" was his word) as a whore, as possessive as the kind of girl
who had a right to expect you to marry her, he had never known.  He
resented the helplessly passive role he had to play.  Against a
whore you could assert yourself by paying up and clearing out.  A
decent girl never put a man in a corner like this: she just sat and
waited to be asked, strictly observing all the formulas and
conventions which nice girls knew.  He would have liked to assert
himself by walking out of the house, since she apparently did not
know the formulas, or anyway did not pay the respect to them that
any girl good enough to be his wife would pay, but where could he
go without throwing up all he valued.  He kept saying to himself,
"I won't marry her.  I'll get a jackerooing job.  I'll go to
England and become a professional cricketer," but he sat there and
submitted resentfully to her exigent questioning.

"Did you call on anybody?"

"I suppose I did."

"Who?  Tell me about them."

"I went to see a horse."

"Was it good?"

"Good enough."

"Who owns it?"

"Jack Bowen."

"Oh, isn't that Jennis Bowen's brother?"

"Yes."

"Did you see her?"

"Of course."

"She must be beautiful.  Is she?"

"They say so."

"But do YOU think she's beautiful?  Do you?"

"Yes, I do," he said spitefully.

"Oh."  Harriet's voice was small.  "Oh, I wish I was beautiful."

He said nothing, enjoying the long, awkward silence.

When he glanced round cautiously again her eyes were damp.  He
looked away quickly.

"I know I'm not beautiful," she said humbly, "but am I ugly?  Very,
very ugly?  As ugly as Miss Montaulk?"

"I've never noticed her."

"I wish I was so beautiful that somebody would fall in love with me
as James fell in love with Jennis."

"You read too many novels," Doug said sententiously, repeating what
his mother said.

"But don't you believe in love?"

He shrugged.

"I believe in it," Harriet said raptly, and he could feel her
rapture, like the hot waves of perfume that flowed in from the
garden.  "If a man loved me I'd do anything at all for him.  I'd go
anywhere with him.  Have you read Manon Lescaut?  That's the way
I'd be.  Oh, you couldn't ask too much of me if you loved me--I
mean one couldn't."

He could not listen to this without being moved.  When he thought
about having her as a wife and all his friends saying God knows
what about her this wild talk made him feel as though he was being
suffocated, but when he forgot that for a moment little wires began
to tighten and vibrate in the pit of his stomach.  "Say I didn't
have to marry her after all."  He turned around.  Their knees
touched and a sharp barb of fire ran up his thighs.  She lay among
the cushions, limp, her eyes dilated, cheeks flushed, lips damply
apart.  He saw the hard nipples of her breasts take shape through
the thin voile of her dress.  "If she was just a tart!"

Harriet's heart was beating against her throat.  The way his face
had suddenly relaxed frightened her, but made her happy too.
Perhaps it was the sign she had been waiting for!

But he turned away abruptly, wiped his face on his handkerchief,
folded his arms, and stared out at the garden.

Then Cabell came in and Doug went for his life.  "For his life,"
that was just how he thought of it, too.

Peppiott arrived home pleased with himself.  Things were going
well.  Cabell had come back from the drawing-room looking worried.
Peppiott understood.  "He wants to tell me not to bring Doug, but
he's afraid to offend me.  He can't afford it."  But he said to
Doug, "You be careful what you're doing there.  We mustn't make any
mistakes."

"I'm not doing anything," Doug said.  His face was puffed up and
red with anger.  After this afternoon he felt desperate.

Peppiott winked across the dinner-table.  "Tell that to the
marines, my boy.  He must nearly have caught you red-handed."

"I wouldn't touch her with a ten-foot pole," Doug flared.

"Douglas!"  Mrs Peppiott rolled her green toad eyes.  "How can you
say such things about a girl who's going to be your wife--and the
mother of your children."

"She's not going to be my wife.  I wouldn't be seen with her
in . . ."  He nearly said Frogs' Hollow but he was supposed to be
innocent of Frogs' Hollow and all its works, so he substituted,
"the street."

The thin glaze of amiability dried off Peppiott's face.  "And pray,
sir, who says she will not be your wife?"

"I do."

Peppiott fingered his rat-skin whiskers.  "In that case, you will
explain perhaps how you propose to earn a living when you leave
this house, which I shall trouble you to do as soon as I am
convinced that you mean what you say."

"Of course he doesn't mean it," Mrs Peppiott intervened between
them hastily.  "He couldn't mean it, could you Douglas?  All this
Papa is doing for Cabell is for you really, your future."

"But she's impossible, Mother.  You don't know her."

"A little undisciplined, perhaps," Mrs Peppiott conceded, nodded
and smiled, "but we can see to that later.  The poor child needs a
firm hand."

"She's--she's--" he gulped the word two or three times before he
spat it out at them, "she's hot--hot as mustard."

"Goodness gracious, Douglas, what ARE you saying!"

"She's not a lady.  That's what I mean."

"But, Douglas, what do you know about such vulgar things?
Surely . . ."

He cringed behind the soup tureen.  "No, of course not.  Only she's
not like other girls.  She doesn't seem right somehow."

"Fiddlesticks," Peppiott snorted.  "She's spoilt.  Your mama will
soon instruct her."

"Besides," his mama said, stroking his hand, "do you think we would
ever permit you to bring anybody into the Peppiott family who was
not quite, quite proper?  Her father is most intimately connected
with the Felsies and her uncle was a bishop in England."

"What about her mother?"

"What about her mother?" Peppiott snapped.  "Her father made three
thousand pounds on the stock exchange to-day."

Mrs Peppiott's eyes bubbled out from under their scaly lids.  "Why,
Douglas, you'll be a millionaire.  You'll be able to do whatever
you like."

"Will I?" Doug muttered.  "You don't know what she's like.  The
image of her grasping old man."

"But I know what my dear Douglas is like," Mrs Peppiott croaked,
"and the girl who is good enough to be his wife couldn't possibly
be a mercenary girl.  Nothing so vulgar and sordid could interest a
Peppiott woman!"



CHAPTER EIGHT: LADY OR--?


The next time Doug came Miss Montaulk was sitting in his place on
the sofa, and there she continued to sit, her inflexible face
between them, while watching him with a knowing, almost skittish
eye.  Twice she chuckled aloud and shook her frowsy head over her
sewing.  Doug was on pins and needles.  The blatant immodesty of
these two women shocked him, the way they showed what was in their
minds, Harriet her wish to be alone with him, Miss Montaulk that
she knew and more.

Engrossed in their battle they took hardly any notice of him, and
after a few inane words about the weather he rose to leave.

Harriet rose too and went to the door with him.

"Now, Harriet, where are you going?"  Miss Montaulk put her needle
aside and waddled after them.

But Harriet clutched Doug's arm so hard that he winced, and hustled
him into the passage.  "Here, quick," she whispered and pressed
something into his hand, then scampered up the stairs as Miss
Montaulk appeared in the door.

An arch smile, implicating him in some evil conspiracy, brought
wrinkles up from under the powder and rouge which gave her face its
air of disillusioned and unwearying lust.

He shuddered and fled, so upset by it all that he was in the trap
and trotting down the drive before he remembered the hard little
ball of paper in his hand.  He opened it and read, in Harriet's
thin writing.


Don't come to the house any more.  Father has set this woman to
watch us.  It is terrible.  I'll go out of my mind if I have to put
up with his spying much longer.  If you climb the fence at the
bottom of the garden where the camphor-laurels are you'll find me
any afternoon at three.  They won't think of looking for us there.


A big H was scrawled across the bottom of the page.

He had to read the note twice before he understood, then he
crumpled it into his pocket and whipped the horses, so that he came
out of the drive into the road on one wheel, as though in flight.

She was actually asking him to meet her in secret--a girl who was
supposed to be decent enough for his wife.  "By jove, she IS hot!"
At once he thought of all his friends, the men in his club, the
racing men, the polo men, the squatters--the salt of his little
world, his aspiring little world, where scandal ran like fire in
the wind.  "Why, that lie about Grandmother might come true."  His
personal honour bridled, as though she was already his wife and had
already caused him some disgrace.  He pulled the horses into a trot
and brought the note out of his pocket again.  Yes, it was clear
enough: she must be barmy or a slut.  Anyway, there was this
comfort in it, he told himself on second thoughts, her note would
settle the wretched business.  Even his mother would see what kind
of a girl she was now--and perhaps he wasn't even the first!

That idea had a queer effect upon him.  Instead of making him more
angry it sent a wave of hot blood to his temple and started the
little wires vibrating in his stomach again.  He saw Harriet lying
in the sofa cushions, running up the stairs with her dress above
her slim calves, felt her fingers burning on his wrist.  By jove,
suppose he didn't have to marry her.  What about an assignation
under the laurels then?

He reined the horses and looked along the road.  It was empty.  He
fingered his moustache, grinned, shook his head, and finally drove
back past the iron gates.  There were the camphor-laurels, close to
the fence at the bottom of the lane dividing the garden from a
banana plantation.  He glanced about.  You could leave a horse over
there and always reach it quickly in case . . .  A bit of a risk
for him, but still . . . what a go for a man!  "And why shouldn't
I?  There've been others.  Just think what everybody says about her--
the way she talked to old Purvis.  She knows a thing or two."  Ah,
but what if he had to marry her after all, after that, when perhaps
he'd found out he wasn't the only one?  No, no, his mother would
get him out of it as she had always got him out.  There'd be no
more talk of marriage when she knew--she was so pure.

For three days Harriet waited under the camphor-laurels, so still
in her concentration of willing and waiting that the little green-
eyes and red-heads fluttered around her as though she was stone, to
flee in a sudden throb of wings when at last her patience gave out
and she crumpled into the white spread of her skirts and wept
bitter tears.  As the sun was going down across the river she
returned to the house, with the resignation of a sufferer facing an
inevitable, futile pain, to count the hours of yet another night.

On the fourth day he was already there when she arrived, half-
hidden behind the hedge of bougainvillea, like a rabbit ready to
dash to earth at the first alarm, and skulking into himself with
bad conscience.

She stopped, seeing him, and went pale.

"Look here, I don't like this," he began, indignant out of a vanity
wounded by the humiliation of climbing back fences and having to
wait half an hour with his heart leaping up his throat at every
crackle among the trees.  "It's not right.  If anybody saw me . . ."

She had to struggle with an unexpected shyness, which made her legs
wobble and her mouth go stiff, as in a cold wind.  All she could do
was utter an inarticulate sound of joy, a cry of relief after all
her hours of waiting that sounded not joyful at all but rather sad.
It startled a flight of birds out of the nearest tree and seemed,
to Doug, to shriek through the sleepy afternoon.

"I say, a bit softer, can't you?"  He paused on his way from the
hedge to the trees, where the shadow lay like a black wool carpet
on the lawn, reluctant to leave his rabbit hole altogether.
"Yelling like that--you'll have the whole pack of them down on me
in a minute."

She glanced over her shoulders.  "There's no one.  She's gone to
sleep in the drawing-room."

"Where's your father?"

"He's not home."

"Huh."  He got himself, with a quick creeping movement, into the
cover of a tree, took off his hat, and wiped his forehead.  "I tell
you this is a devil of a risk for me.  What's the idea?"  For the
moment he had forgotten what his idea was.

She did not reply.  She turned her head away from him and gazed
down at the rusted clover flowers trampled by some fury.  That she
was the fury, this shy slip of a girl, was inconceivable.  Even to
her it was inconceivable because all pain, the merest possibility
of pain and anger in the world, seemed inconceivable now that by
coming he had given her the sign for which she had waited so long.
At last she could speak and let out the love that for years she had
shackled down and starved in her heart.  But for the moment she was
content not to speak, even to know nothing of her joy in the
lifting of a shadow from her life, as a man is content to sit down
within sight of the track he has searched for through frantic hours
and to be free a while of any emotion, even thankfulness.

When she did answer him, saying in a low voice, "I wanted to see
you alone," it was without knowing that she had spoken.  Her eyes
were intent on the swift flight of the little birds, which she
seemed to be seeing for the first time, and she thought to herself
how pretty they were, how pretty their thin, quick little legs and
clean white beaks, how fair and good the whole world.  Her voice
went on speaking, with ventriloquial remoteness, and she listened
to it with surprise.  "I waited and waited.  I thought you'd never
come."

"I was too busy."

"I counted a million million seconds," Harriet said, "and all of
them years."  She sighed, and to her the whole garden seemed to
sigh in sympathy, a long suspiration of leaves and flowers in a
gust of breeze from the river which saturated the air with scent of
honeysuckle.  With the egotism of the happy lover she saw the world
remade to be the perfect mirror of her mood.  Never, never again
would there be storms or night or wild winds--only, for ever and
ever, this serene afternoon enclosed in the misty-blue summer sky,
a wall of luminous flowers and leaves, and a river flickering
glassy nipples of sunlight.  "Of course, I knew you'd come."

"If I'd had any sense . . ."  He craned his neck round the tree to
find out how far they were from the house.

"Yes, I was sure," Harriet said.

"How were you sure?" he said.  She was too sure, too damned sure.
Again he had that fantastic fear of being swallowed up by something
in her eyes.  "She's a bloodsucker like her old man," one of his
friends had said.  Yes, by jove, that's just what she was.  He
wasn't given to flights of superstitious fancy, but he felt uneasy
watching her take it all so calmly, so assuredly, and saying, with
a secretive little smile, "Oh, I knew.  You always know when you're
in love.  It wasn't doubting you made the time so long but just
because you weren't here.  Didn't I kiss the ground where you're
standing now--because I knew you'd stand on there soon.  I KNEW."

He pumped up an awkward gallantry.  "You needn't have wasted them
on the ground."  But the mood left him at once.  The enormity of
his danger here in old Cabell's garden was beginning to dawn on
him, and the wires vibrated no more in his belly.  This sort of
thing was a durn sight safer in Frogs' Hollow.  Still, he could not
quite bring himself to make a bolt for it, scrambling over that
fence like a fool in front of her.  Besides, a man would kick
himself after: a girl didn't throw herself at your head like this
every day of the week.  He moved away irresolutely and picked up
his hat, wiped a patch of dust off the nap on his sleeve.

When he looked around she was standing beside him, smiling up into
his face with an expression of happy surrender.  She put her hands
on his shoulders and drew herself close till he could smell the sun
heat in her dress and feel her quick breath, coming from half-open
lips, on his cheek.

"There," she said, vexed.  "I knew I wouldn't be able to reach you
even on tiptoes."

He averted his face in a youthful, gawky shame of being so
intimately handled by a girl, but she slipped her hands round his
neck, laced her fingers, lifted herself off the ground, and kissed
him.  Her lips were as hard and naïve as a child's.  For a moment
she pressed her cheek against his, then lowered herself and knelt
at his feet with her breast against his knees.

"I say!" he protested, and grabbed at his tie, which she had
knocked skew-whiff on its column of starched linen.  "Get up, can't
you.  Someone might come."

"Let them.  You're not frightened, are you?"

"Not exactly--no."

"You're not even frightened of HIM?"

"Your father?  No--but all the same . . ."

"Oh, how can I ever be grateful enough.  If only I was more
beautiful."

"Grateful for what?" he asked nervously.

"For things I could never count up.  Because of you just existing.
And because you've saved me, yes SAVED me."

He did not understand this at all.  For that reason it scared him
more--but particularly because it sounded mad and exaggerated.  He
felt as though he was sober and sensible in the company of a wild
drunk who had taken the reins from him and flogged the horses
towards a precipice while assuring him that the air would support
them.  He did not pause to analyse his emotions so precisely.  They
summed themselves up for him as a doubt, once more, of his ability
to get out with his life if he let this girl, whom neither shame
nor propriety could restrain, drag him down into the vortex behind
her eyes.  He could feel hot waves of emotion throbbing into his
thighs where her breasts crushed themselves against him, stirring
him deep under the skin, deep under the layers of his mind where he
could enjoy life and master it, enjoy her and master her as he had
intended, by giving no more and going no farther than any common
sensible fellow would.

"Let me go," he said in a terrified voice, so pale that his fierce
red whiskers looked more than ever idiotically stuck on.  "I've got
to go.  It's late."

She obeyed and smiled.

He almost sprang away, but stopped.  Her smile held him, the
humility and obedience of it, lured and scared him.  "She'd be up
to anything.  That's a fact."  And yet . . .  Why so ready to give
in so suddenly?  His slow brain sensed a trap.  Still he could not
tear himself away.  "She knows a thing or two.  By jove, a chance
of a lifetime."

Fumbling his watch-chain with one hand, the loose change in his
pocket with the other, he watched her, a foot advanced towards the
hedge to plunge him head first into covert if she moved.

She did not move.  Stretched out on the grass with her head in her
hands she gazed into the trees.  Her dress, caught tightly around
her legs, exposed her little slippers of blue satin, her ankles, a
few inches of openwork stockings, and the firm line of her thighs
and hips.  Her breasts threw themselves upwards triumphantly,
printing each tiny shudder of her breath upon the thin bodice.  Her
long hair, which she wore loosely on her neck, had come unfastened
in her struggles and lay in ropes across her throat and bare arms.
Threads of gold fire ran through it, radiant, shifting, impalpable,
as though it was a mass of antennae she had put out to suck the
vitality and warmth from the air.  So too seemed her staring eyes--
not observing, but drinking in from the sky the essence of its
light.

He perceived again how deceptive the slender fraility of her body
and bloodless skin were.  There was about her, just then, an awful
receptivity which made her like an image of the earth itself, the
passive, secretive earth which swallows all things and thirsts for
more.  She did not move, yet every fibre of her flesh seemed to
quiver and pulsate like a live ember.  Perhaps it was an illusion
caused by the dapple of light reflected from the river across her
face and arms or by the fit of the shivers which passed through
him.

But she was alluring and he was very young and very susceptible.
He wanted to run, but his knees gave way and seated him on the
grass beside her.

"Saved you?  What are you getting at?  I haven't done anything
except come here--as YOU said."

She turned on her side and rested her head in her crooked arm.  "Do
you ever read poetry?"

"Hardly!"

"Do you know a poem, I don't remember who wrote it, that says:


          Western wind when wilt thou blow,
          The small rain down can rain?
          Christ, if my love were in my arms
          And I in my bed again!


Do you?"

"No."

"You've never been lonely, have you?  You've never lain in bed at
night and thought that there wasn't a single person in the world
who loved you or you loved?  That's what I was like till now."

"I thought your father never thought of anything else, James said
so."

"Him!  You don't know him.  It's not me he loves.  It's something
else.  It's something the sight of me helps him to remember or
forget.  I don't know which.  But I know he'd do anything, even
keep me locked up like a prisoner for the rest of my life, if it
pleased him.  It wouldn't matter if it pleased me.  He'll never
send me to England.  He'll never send Miss Montaulk away.  I was
giving up hope when you came."

"Me!"

Harriet put her hand on his.  "Yes, you.  I'd read about people in
love--terribly in love.  Tristram and Iseult, Troilus and Cressida,
Romeo and Juliet, Emma Bovary.  I thought about it and thought
about it and nearly went off my head thinking about it.  Because I
could never imagine it happening to me--up there in the bush with
nobody but a lot of barmy hatters and old men.  And even they went
for their lives when they saw me coming."  She laughed.  "You
should have seen them.  It wasn't very flattering.  I began to
think I was the original ugly duckling.  But I suppose if I'd been
as beautiful as Venus they wouldn't have let me get within shouting
distance--they're all so frightened of him."

She explored his arm under the cuffs.  "You're so strong.  Brave
too.  Like a knight--like Ingelarius who fought and killed Gontra
for the honour of the Lady of Gastinois."

"Never heard of him," he growled.  That little extravagance cooled
him down again.  By jove, if her brother Geoffrey heard her say
something like that it'd be all over the town in five minutes.  By
jove, a man'd be laughed out of the place.

"Yes, it's in Brantôme.  When I read it I wished I could find an
Ingelarius.  I knew there was one somewhere, but how was I to find
you.  I never saw a soul.  So I made him bring me to Brisbane.  He
didn't want to.  If he'd thought of it he would have built a tower
and a keep.  But that was hardly necessary with a hundred and fifty
thousand acres of paddock and scrub around me.  He could have kept
me there till I dried up like Montaulk.  I was desperate, I tell
you."  Her mouth flattened on her teeth.  "I could have killed
him."

He looked shocked.

Harriet laughed gaily.  "Oh, don't worry.  He's very much alive.
He'd like to eat you--if he dared.  But he doesn't.  Didn't you see
the other day when he came into the room?  He wanted to say
something, but he was frightened of you.  He must be."

"You haven't been telling him anything?"

"Don't be silly.  As if he didn't know everything without me
telling him.  I can tell from the way he looked.  He only had to
see me looking at you--it must have been plain enough."

"What're you getting at?  What was plain?"

She was surprised.  "Why, that I'd found my Ingelarius."  She
smiled.  "I knew from the first moment I saw you that I needn't
look any farther.  I was like that poem of Tennyson:


          My whole soul waiting silently,
          All naked in the sultry sky,
          Droops blinded with his shining eye:
          I WILL POSSESS HIM OR WILL DIE."


She repeated the last line to herself with a slow, and to Doug's
ear, deadly emphasis, "I WILL POSSESS HIM OR WILL DIE.  Yes, that's
what I was like.  How I waited and waited--for a sign.  I'd say you
were cruel only now that you've given it I can't remember how
terrible it was."

"Gave you what?  What sign?"

"You came here.  Wasn't that a sign?" she said, surprised again.
"A sign of courage for one thing.  I'd have waited till I was an
old maid before anybody else had the courage to stand up against
him.  Not only against him--against all the rest of them.  They're
afraid of their own shadows.  You wouldn't catch them climbing a
fence to see a girl they loved, even if she had a different kind of
father from mine.  They'd rather go without love--if it wasn't the
nicest kind of love, as in a coloured picture."

"There's nothing really improper about it--just sitting here," he
said quickly, to excuse himself to that world which her words
brought to mind with such dreadful clarity.

"Oh, what if there is?  I'd rather be the worst woman in the world
than like . . ."  She frowned and considered a moment.  "Your
mother wants me to marry you, doesn't she?"

"Eh?  I--really I don't . . ."

"Oh, yes, she does.  Your father too.  But of course it's
impossible.  That is, the way they want it.  He'd never, never
consent.  And anyway, I wouldn't.  If it was anything arranged by
them--why," she looked at him searchingly as a doubt began to
intrude upon her self-centred and fantastic preconceptions, "why
I'd suspect even you at once."

"You mean . . ."  He sat bolt upright.  "He wouldn't let you marry
me?  No matter what my father did for him?"

"He hates your father."

"And you?  What about you?"

She looked at the tall stems of shivery-grass which trembled in
unfelt currents of air, plucked one, and held it up.  "I feel like
that sometimes.  I'm frightened.  Even now I'm frightened all at
once, even with you."  She searched his face again, peering into
every feature.  "If I could only be absolutely sure . . ."

"Sure of what?"

"That you wanted me.  Do you?  Oh, I know you came.  But now I'm
frightened again.  How CAN you want me--ugly me?  Do you?"

It was his cue.  He braced himself, then caught her eye and
weakened.  "Well--er--yes. . . ."

"Ah!"  She bent and kissed his hand.  "Then we can do anything.
I'll think of a way."  She smiled, a trifle grimly.  "And won't
your nice mother be upset and all her nice friends.  I'd love to
see their faces when . . ."

He freed his hand and stood up.  "I'm really--I've got to go. . . ."
He was not sure what he was saying but he was sure that she was
mad and that his life, his future, his good name depended on the
speed with which he got over the fence and to his horse and far
away.  "Thank God I didn't touch her.  She can't hold anything over
me."

"Yes," she said, "you'd better go."  She turned to the house,
listening.  "I think I can hear someone."

He dashed into cover behind the tree and peered out.  "Jesus, it's
your father and Geoffrey.  Will they come here?"

But they went into the house and a door slammed on the uproar of
voices, Geoffrey's thinly whining, Cabell's threatening.

He looked round for his hat, but Miss Montaulk calling, "Harriet!
Harriet!  Your papa wants you," sent him hatless into the
bougainvillea.

Harriet ran after him.  "Don't come here again," she said, "or to
the house either.  They mustn't suspect.  I'll find a way."

He was gone, ripping his cuff on a loose paling, swishing in the
long grass of the lane.

Harriet detached from the fence a small piece of thread torn from
his sleeve, kissed it, put it away in her bodice, and softly
singing to herself, but with a ruckle of thought between her
eyebrows, returned to the house.



CHAPTER NINE: A NOBLE BROTHER


Miss Montaulk was coming across the lawn to look for her.

"So there you are.  Your papa wants you in the library at once.
He's very upset."  She paused and eyed the flush on Harriet's
cheeks and the disorder of her hair.  "Whatever have you been
doing, girl?"

Harriet passed without speaking and went into the house.

Miss Montaulk followed, but at the veranda she changed her mind and
waddled back to the garden, peeping under bushes and sniffing
noisely through her splayed nostrils of a moral bulldog.

Geoffrey was lurking in the passage near Cabell's door.  Dazed by
sunlight Harriet stumbled into him before she saw the smudge of his
pasty face.

He grabbed her arm.  "Harriet, where the Dickens were you?  I've
searched the bally house.  The old man's got a maggot--yelling for
you like Mary's little lamb.  Done in some dough by the looks of
it.  The old muck worm--serves him right!"

Harriet went on up the stairs, but Geoffrey ran ahead and blocked
her way.  "Just a minute, old girl.  I'm in a hole.  I wouldn't ask
you, only the old man's clean off his nut.  I thought he was going
to fetch me a crack a minute ago.  All I want--you can soft sawder
him out of a million if you want, and I've got to have a hundred
before to-morrow afternoon."

"Ask him yourself."

"Aw, you know what he's like.  Expects me to live on the smell of
an oil rag lately.  Fact is, I've had a run of stinking luck.  It
might be awkward at the bank.  Go on, Sis, he's corn in Egypt to
you.  Work the oracle for an old pal."  He winked long and slyly so
that for some seconds only one little black aperture of an eye
remained in the white slab of his face, as featureless as a bladder
of lard.  "By the way, I know somebody who's dead nuts on you."

She started.  "Who?  What do you know?"

He winked again.  "Wouldn't YOU like to know.  A real, live
Lochinvar.  Ha ha.  Saw him nearly dong a bloke in Queenie's the
other night for saying something about you."

Harriet's face lighted.  "You mean he hit somebody?  For me?"

"He didn't have to.  He just took a look at the bloke and made him
say, 'Miss Cabell's the only real and proper lady in this town and
I'm not a fit dog to lick her boots.'  The bloke didn't make any
bones about it.  Cash looked nasty."

"Cash!" Harriet said, disappointed.

"There you are.  I told you, Sis.  I could've made you promise to
put the bleeders in the old man first.  Aw, Sis . . ."

The opening of the library door cut him short.  He drew away out of
sight as Cabell looked up and said, "Ah, there you are, dear.  Come
down.  I want to talk to you."

He waited at the door and shut it behind her.  His hair was
tangled, his face grey.  On the floor lay his coat with the sleeves
inside out and his collar where he had ripped it off and thrown it
down.  He put his arm round her waist and pushed her across the
room, littered with papers from drawers torn out of his desk and
piled higgledy-piggledy against the wall.

Harriet sat down under the window and he sat down beside her.  He
looked at her for a while, gravely, then said:  "You love your
father, don't you, Harriet?"

She kept her eyes on the floor.  One glance had been enough to tell
her that some trouble had descended on him out of the blue, and
that he was about to attack her with one of his violent appeals for
love and sympathy which were like a tidal wave of a greedy sea in
which she was doomed to perish if she did not fight.  For an
instant she was shocked by the haggard lines--deeper than the scar--
which had appeared all at once on his face, but she screwed her
pity back and tried to evoke from the involuted rose of the carpet
a picture of Doug Peppiott lying beside her on the grass less than
fifteen minutes ago.  Against her flesh she imagined she could feel
the wisp of thread he had left behind, a token of his love and
daring to which she clung with one fist doubled on her breast.

"You love your father, don't you, Harriet?" he repeated, and went
on quickly, "Why do I ask?  I know you do.  Hate begets hate.  Love
begets love.  I've hated men all my life in this plague spot and
you're the only one I've ever loved."  He fingered the string of
black tie which had remained about his neck when he tore the collar
from under it, rose, and walked the length of the carpet with his
hands behind his back.  "Harriet, say I was to tell you I'd lost a
pile of money, that most likely I'd lost everything--what would you
do?"

She glanced up and looked away at once from his bare throat, thin
and scraggy with age.

"Would you want to leave me?"

The injustice, the cunning of the question, made her frown.  "Have
you lost money?"

"Maybe I have.  But say I was to lose everything--the valley and
all--but nobody knew about it yet, so there was time for you to be
hooked up with one of these nincompoops like Peppiott before it all
came properly to light.  That's what's in their minds, I don't
doubt.  And they've got money.  They could give you everything I've
given you.  Would you?"

"For money?" Harriet said scornfully.  "No."

"Ah, I knew it."  He stopped and laid his hand on her head.  "I
knew I could trust you."

"But isn't there anything except money?" she said.  "I wouldn't
marry for money, but if I loved . . ."

"Yes--love.  Precious little of it I've had these many years, and
now it's likely to be all I have left because," he sat down and
took her hand, "by this time next week I mayn't have a red cent in
the world."

"But that can't be.  The mine?"

"Yes, yes.  It's possible.  Something happened.  There's been a
collapse in the Argentine and Baring's went bust. . . ."  He
explained it to her briefly, how the apparently inexhaustible
springs of money flowing in from abroad had suddenly dried up and
how, vaguely understanding the tentative thing their booming land
and share values were resting on, people were stupefied for a
moment, then panic-stricken and began to sell, sell, sell.  Shares
tumbled, Waterfall with the rest.  At first Cabell did not see the
trap he was caught in.  He refused to part with his Waterfalls.  He
believed in their value.  Nothing could shake his conviction.  It
was only a small panic.  Everything would be right.  At any moment
Larsen would find out the solution needed in the vats to extract
unheard of quantities of gold and Waterfalls would be worth fifteen--
twenty pounds each.  Meanwhile, Waterfalls went down and down.
When they reached five pounds the bank called for more margin for
his loans, which amounted to nearly five hundred thousand pounds,
and at the same time cut the margin they were allowing him from
seventy-five to fifty per cent.  His Waterfalls were worth six
hundred and seventy-five thousand and the bank held also a mortgage
for fifty thousand over the Reach, which gave them security for
twenty thousand less than his loans.  He tried to sell some of the
land he had bought in the city and in Melbourne and Sydney, but
everybody else seemed to have land for sale.  He offered a block
for which he had paid fifty thousand pounds a month ago and refused
sixty-five thousand last week.  Even at a quarter of that it was
not saleable now.  At boom values his assets in land were worth
three hundred thousand pounds, his shares and debentures of the
Land Investment Company and its bank one hundred and fifty
thousand.  The bank accepted these deeds and shares, devalued sixty
per cent, as collateral for his loans, along with the Waterfall
shares, which were still falling.  When the shares were four pounds
the bank called him to a grave conference.  He must reduce his
loans by half.  His land was unsaleable, his land shares were
unsaleable and meanwhile the bank had devalued both another twenty
per cent, the Reach was mortgaged to the hilt, he had borrowed
everything Cash had to lend and called in every loan he had made.
There was nothing left for it except to sell.  He put ninety
thousand of his precious Waterfalls on the market and got barely
three hundred thousand.  That had happened to-day.  If Waterfalls
slumped below three pounds he was done for.

His meek resignation to a blow which had come so suddenly that even
yet, though he talked of it, he could hardly believe it, deserted
him.  "Done for.  Yes, it is impossible.  If there's a God in
heaven.  To lose a lifetime's work in a few hours!  At least," he
added quietly, letting his hands hang limp between his knees, "it
sounds impossible.  But it's not.  It's life--which only gives so
as to take away, only jockeys you up with hopes so as to disappoint
you, makes you proud so it can make you eat dirt after, sends you
to live on a mountain of gold so you'll see others fattening on it
when you've worked your hands to the bone opening the way for them.
That's the lousy thing life is.  But you'll know nothing about it.
I'll save enough for that.  If need be I'd shut you up in a
convent."

"You wouldn't," Harriet said.  "You didn't shut yourself up.  You
must have found something worth living for.  I'm going to find it
too."

"You can't find shadows.  That's all there is."

"Love's not a shadow," she said and pressed her hand hard into her
breast.

"That's true.  Pain's real enough."

"Love I said.  Love is not pain--it's joy."

"In books," he said, "not in life.  I loved my mother and my
sister, and the gorse on the hills at Home in the springtime, and a
girl--something like you she was."  He spread his hands.  "A lot of
joy that was to me when the time came to leave them and the years
went past--five, ten, fifteen, twenty--and I knew I'd never set
eyes on them again.  And loving my daughter's a pretty bitter pill
when I think she might be left without a penny in the world."  He
paced the carpet again.  "The plans I had for you!  D'you think
there's much joy watching them go by the board?  To have had you
married to an English gentleman--that would have shown these
upstarts a thing or two, that would have been a real joy!"

"Joy for you," Harriet said.  "What about me?"

"For you too."

"Because it cleaned off some old score that never had anything to
do with me, must it be my joy?  Must I fall in love with somebody
because it serves some end for you?  No, Father, love's not like
that.  I might fall in love on my own account.  What then?  Suppose
it was somebody you didn't like?"

"You're angry," he said, surprised.  "Did I say something?"

"You're so unjust," Harriet said.  "You make me out odious and
selfish if I don't want to pay with my life for all you've suffered
in the past.  You treat me as if I was a sheep you'd bred for a
purpose--your purpose.  Oh, I know it doesn't sound very clear but
that's how I feel."

He laughed.  "It sounds very foolish."

"It isn't foolish.  If I was to tell you I wanted to marry somebody
now, somebody whose father you hated, you'd try to stop me even if
it broke my heart.  And if I ran away with him you'd curse me,
wouldn't you, as if I'd done something monstrous when really it
would be all your own doing.  I . . ."

"What're you harping on love for all the time?" he asked irritably.
"You haven't gone and . . ."

She tried to meet his eye but couldn't.

"Oho!  So you have, eh?"  Another man might have entered the room
and spoken.  The haggard lines had vanished from his face, as
though they had been drawn there in grease paint.  The blood glowed
up again under his scar.  His head tipped alertly back and
sideways, and the bag of dry skin tightened away under his jaw.

Harriet wanted to speak out the truth, but his feet, crossing the
carpet in four tremendous strides, frightened her.  "No, no.  I
only meant James.  You wouldn't let him marry Jennis Bowen."

"That Irish spawn.  I should think not.  So that's what's biting
you, is it?"  He grunted with relief and again tried to free his
throat of the limp, string tie, but succeeded only in tightening
it.  "Calf love.  You fill your heads with a lot of poppycock out
of books."  He went to the window, threw it open, and took a deep
breath.

The rustle of leaves in the garden, the croaking of frogs along the
river, the piping and flutter of birds settling for the night
became audible, and the stagnant air of the room stirred against
their faces.  "Playing at life," he said.  "Well, I'll keep you
playing as long as I can."

The gleam of sunset faded slowly from the windows and the dark face
of the furniture.  Harriet pressed closer to her breasts the
burning thread from which she took courage and resolution again.

Footsteps sounded on the veranda.  Miss Montaulk.  Her brisk rat-ta-
tat on the door roused them from deep thought.

Without waiting to be invited she came in, breathless, with a
flurry of starched petticoats, which at once suffocated the fresh
evening smells with the stuffy smell of dead flowers.  In the
middle of the room she stopped, one hand behind her back, her eyes,
on which the last reflection of the red sky glittered, turning from
Cabell to Harriet and back to Cabell.  Against the dusk her face
had a phosphorescent glow, as though illuminated from within by her
malice, which conquered, in the flicker of a smile at Harriet, even
her wish to look portentous.

Harriet jumped up, clairvoyantly forewarned.

"Stay where you are, you wicked girl," Miss Montaulk said solemnly.
"Your sins have found you out."

Harriet reached to support herself and took hold of the whatnot at
the head of the sofa, a flimsy affair of bamboo loaded with Doulton
bowls, Chelsea figures, and Satsuma tea-sets.  A faint musical
rattle of delicate china moved the silence.

"What's wrong?" Cabell said.  "You're shaking."

Miss Montaulk grinned, savouring her power to prolong pain, then
whipped her hand from behind her back and presented to them, at
arm's length, a grey sphere of something, unidentifiable in the
dusk till Cabell had peered at it a second or two.

"A hat?" he said.  "What about it?"

"A MAN'S hat!" Miss Montaulk said with appalled emphasis.  "I found
it in the garden.  Ask her.  Perhaps she can explain how it got
there."

Harriet said nothing.  At first glimpse of the hat the tinkling of
china ceased and her face set against them.

It was Cabell who brushed the proferred exhibit aside.  "I suppose
it belongs to the gardener."

"Gardeners don't usually wear hats with satin linings."  Miss
Montaulk pushed it into his hand.  "Look."

In the faded light he examined it--a fragment of a personality
forlorn in dismemberment yet somehow audacious in its persisting
odour of expensive pomade reeking through Miss Montaulk's stale
smell and his own dry frowst of an old man.  In his gnarled hands
its rakish contours were undeniably revealed as a dashing mode, an
element of youthful and self-conscious arrogance.

"Whose is it?"

Miss Montaulk hunched her shoulders.  "I found it under the
laurels.  Harriet was there.  To-day and yesterday--every day this
week till sunset.  The grass had been trampled flat.  It's been
LAIN on," she whispered.

"You don't mean that somebody's been in?"

"Yes, they climbed the fence and met her under the laurels."  Miss
Montaulk folded her hands across her stomach, her upper lip across
the lower, and nodded.  "The gardener was working in the
plantation.  He saw a man run out of the lane half an hour ago--
WITHOUT a hat."

"Harriet, is that true?" Cabell said softly.  She looked at them
haughtily and answered nothing.

"I'm asking you is it true?" he thundered.  "Eh?  So it is.  You've
been meeting some hooligan, have you?  It wasn't James biting you
after all, eh?  Answer me, damn you."

But the white irradiance of her dress sank away from him under the
rising darkness, leaving her as elusive and unassailable as a
ghost.

"Don't stand there.  Light the lamp," he shouted at Miss Montaulk.
"I'll get to the bottom of this."

He threw the hat on to the sofa and lit a match himself.  The lamp
guttered under its canopy of frosted glass but its light helped
only to confound him.  He blinked helplessly at his table, on which
the litter of papers recalled the tangle of his affairs demanding
an urgent and single-minded attention, at Harriet whose face, still
shadowed, seemed proof against all light, against any appeal,
strategy, or force he could use.  As the only thing in the room
amenable to his will, he turned on Miss Montaulk.  "You get to hell
out of here, you simpering old scarecrow," he yelled, and assisted
her departure with a shove which spread-eagled her on the door.
She pulled it open and fled into the passage, where she stumbled,
squealing, over something.

Cabell returned to Harriet.  "Now the truth.  Who owns that hat?"

It hung over the arm of the sofa, rakishly across the pricked ear
of a grinning, bearded satyr embossed on the wood with ironic
little eyes of mother-of-pearl.

"I know nothing about it," Harriet said coolly.

"You know nothing--nothing," he mimicked furiously.  "Well what
were you doing in the garden?  Explain me that."  He shook two
fists in her face, and for want of anything better laid them on his
own throat, tearing at the bedraggled tie until the veins swelled
up blue and knotted under his ear.  It snapped suddenly and his
fist swept down within an inch of her face, but she did not move.

"You didn't forbid me to use the garden," she said.

"I didn't forbid you anything, confound it," he said.  "Anybody'd
think I kept a whip up my sleeve.  But a man--some blackguard he
must be, sneaking over back fences like that.  By God I'll break
his legs."

"I know nothing about any man," she repeated in a dead voice, which
seemed to come through layers of defunct space he could no more
hope to penetrate than the space around the moon.

As though he feared she would elude him where she stood, melt from
his anger and his longing into the black darkness which lapped
against the circle of the lamp, he took her face firmly between his
two hands and drew her into the light.  For a long while he studied
her, turning her head from side to side to drive away the shadows
lurking in the sockets of her eyes and concealing the two fixed,
glimmering points of her pupils, in the depths of which, as in the
hazy depths of the sea, moved shapes that could never be driven or
coaxed out into the light of the day.  "Ach, you slut," he said,
and pushed her from him.  "The dead spit of your mother.  Sly as a
dingo."

She staggered, clutched the whatnot, and fell in a deafening crash
of egg-shell china.

She was on her feet at once.

In silence they stared at the debris of a laborious collection, as
if amazed at the variety of useless objects which had been hidden
away in the shelves--cups and saucers, willow pattern plates, toby
jugs, bowls depicting hunting scenes and merry English Christmases,
crackleware teapots, plaited glass amulets from the islands, lumps
of coral, pieces of jade, Chinese house gods, crystal goblets,
etched decanters, storks and barnyard fowls blown in wafer glass.
Somewhere in a far corner of the room a piece of crockery gyrated
madly, faster and faster, settling at last with a musical ring on
the polished boards.  The sound had the pathetic finality of a
fragile thing fighting a hopeless battle against a blind, brute
force, a blind, brute fate.

The opening of the door roused them.  Geoffrey was looking in.  The
expression of innocent preoccupation on his face, disclaiming any
knowledge of unusual goings-on in a room from which voices and the
sounds of violence had just emerged to echo round the garden and
scare the birds off their perches, was an assurance of deceit.  But
Cabell was in no mood to speculate on the motives of a son whose
reality he had always been able to bribe away with a handful of
small change.  "What d'you want?  Get out of here."

"I want my hat," Geoffrey said mildly.

"Your what?"

"Hat," Geoffrey repeated, his eyes searching the room with an
astounding uninterest in the disorder, and lighting at last on the
wretched thing, aslant across the mocking, satyr face.  "Ah, there
it is.  Could've sworn I saw her lugging it in here."  He swaggered
across the room and picked it up, apt pupil of a man who lived on
his wits and hide.

"That's not your hat," Cabell said.

"What?"  Geoffrey was amazed.  He examined the lining.  "Yes, it
is.  Brewster and Co., High Holborn, London.  Look.  Of course it's
mine."  He put it on.  Jauntily it sloped towards his left ear,
capping perfectly the tight trousers, loud waistcoat, patent-
leather shoes, and the flower in his buttonhole--the finishing
touch to a gay, knowing, smart young dog.

"What's it doing in the garden then?  You came in with me."

"A man puts his hat down for a minute and that old tabby runs off
with it," Geoffrey said indignantly.  "I was looking for Harriet.
YOU wanted her.  I thought she might be over in the plantation, so
I hopped the fence and went up the lane.  When I came back there
was Montaulk scooting up the garden with my cady, the old battle-
axe.  Why, what's the matter?"  He affected surprise, then injury.
"A man tries to help and all a man gets is . . ."  Mumbling he
shuffled crabwise from the room and slammed the door.

"Hmn."  Cabell closed his mouth with the back of his hand, then
picked up the whatnot and began piling bowls and saucers into its
shelves.  "Made a bit of a mess here," he growled.  "All this stuff--
no damned use either."

Harriet moved towards the door.

"Here, wait a minute.  No good going off in a huff.  I'm sorry.  My
tongue ran away with me again."  He straightened his back and
gestured towards the table.  "Got plenty to worry about.  You might
try and have a bit of understanding.  At my age a blow like that
knocks you off your feet."

Harriet fled from the sight of his rumpled aged figure groping
blindly among the broken china and from the sense of her own wrong
against him.

But he reached the door first.  "Don't be impatient with your
father, dear.  I'll make it up to you.  I'll buy you something."

"I don't want anything.  Let me go please, Father."  She felt that
if she had to stay there any longer looking at him she would break
down and confess, and that would be the end of everything.

"Well, perhaps you'd like to go to the Governor's ball, eh?
Peppiott said something.  I said I'd think about it.  They'll all
be there, all 'that mob.'  Yes, it's about time you showed yourself
off somewhere.  It's true I'm a selfish old man.  But before you
go, Harriet"--he turned her round--"you forgive me, don't you?"

"Oh, yes, yes.  My head aches.  Please let me go."

She sped down the passage and up the stairs.  Through the banisters
she caught a glimpse of his face uplifted, his scraggy neck, his
hands hanging at his sides.  She threw herself on her bed and wept.
"Oh, if only Doug would come now and carry me a long, long way away
without any argument or questions--cut all these threads . . ."
Then she became still, sniffing a little, thinking.  "But how?
They might kill each other."  She lay there for half an hour
turning wild plans over in her head.

She was washing tear marks off her face when Geoffrey knocked and
slid through the half-open door with a blackmailer's furtive but
relentless determination.

He listened with one ear against the panel to the buzz of voices
downstairs.  "They're safe.  He's blowing the tripes out of her.
Wouldn't do for them to see us laying our heads together, y'know."
He seated himself on the bed and thumbed the arm-holes of his
waistcoat.  "Pretty smart, eh?  Left the old box of tricks
standing, what?"

"I suppose you were listening at the keyhole," Harriet said
contemptuously.

"When I see a wench in trouble I stick at nothing, especially when
she's a man's sister and caught red-handed you might say."

"I wasn't caught at anything.  It was all a misunderstanding."

Geoffrey winked.  "Of course.  And two and two make five and pigs
fly.  But let us talk about something more interesting.  My hundred
quid--did you ask him?"

"No, I didn't."

"No?"  Geoffrey was incredulous.  "Well that's cold gruel for you.
But you will?  Now you've got him on toast?  I need your help, Sis,
y'know, JUST AS MUCH AS YOU NEED MINE."

"Yes, I do need your help," Harriet said, "I will get your money.
But you must do something.  You must sell my jewels for me?"

"Sell your jewels?  What for?"

"It's the only way you'll get your money.  I won't ask Father for a
penny."

"But he's lousy with it."

"Never mind.  Will you do it?"

"I'll want fifty extra."

"Very well, but I've got to have the money before the Governor's
ball."

"I'll see a bloke about it to-morrow," Geoffrey promised.
"Anything to oblige a bloke's sister."



CHAPTER TEN: A SAD TALE


They went to the ball.  Harriet was dazzled.  The light blazing
down from chandeliers upon the jewels and dresses of the women, the
elegant, low-cut white waistcoats and white ties of the men, the
music, the excited chatter, the Chinese lanterns in the garden--in
all her fancies of brilliant life she had never imagined anything
like it.  For a moment it frightened out of her head the plans she
had hung upon this night.

It was the social event of the year.  To that select few it brought
together--squatters from the west, planters from the north, leading
lights of law and medicine who passed for learned men in the
antipodes, wealthy merchants, and especially their wives and
daughters--it was, more than a social event, the fulfilment of an
aspiration, an ideal.  The representative of Her Majesty, upon
whose head lay the halo of a very trying demi-godliness, received
them as his own kind on terms of perfect, if strenuous, equality.
To those who suffered obscure heartburnings about the past the
touch of His Excellency's fingers had the soothing force of an
episcopal laying on of hands.  To those whose imported ormolu
cabinet concealed the skeleton of an old landtaker who had amassed
property but never learnt to write his name, the stairs up which
they climbed towards his Excellency, waiting with tactfully
familiar smile at the top, were the last difficult ascent from
purgatory.  In those like Cabell, who were deeply weathered by a
raw life but nevertheless had kept intact some inner, imaginative
tie with the Old Country, it awakened bitter-sweet memories of a
lost world.

"Where're your jewels?" he demanded after a glance round the room,
where many heads turned to stare at the extraordinary picture they
made in the doorway--his grey face with the purple scar and the eye-
patch of rough leather, lowering eyebrows and peppered beard,
Harriet pale and nervous in white tulle with a pink tunic, pink
slippers, a single pink rose in her hair, and a band of black
velvet round her throat emphasizing the heavy blackness of her
eyebrows and the deep, black setting of her eyes.

"I didn't want to wear them," she said quickly.

"What d'you think I bought them for?  All these ninnies eyeing you
off."

But before he could say more Peppiott bustled across the parquetry
and welcomed them.  "How auspicious.  We were just talking about
you.  His Excellency is all agog."

"Talk of the devil, eh?" Cabell said, out of feelings painfully
mixed, pleasure in the spectacle of the ball and people watching
him with sidelong, respectful eyes--one of his fancies come true--
and the worried thought that in two days' time, to-morrow perhaps,
he might be bankrupt.

"Devil!  No, angel," Peppiott said fatuously, touching Harriet's
hand with the rat's hair of his moustache.  "A veritable angel!"

Cabell snorted and gave Harriet his arm, and they followed Peppiott
across the floor to where Lord Alford was standing among a number
of ladies and gentlemen looking on at the dance and lankly, wearily
attending to a plump little woman whose widow's weeds were
decorated like a Christmas-tree with chains, cameos, brooches, gold
bows, and lockets.  Mrs Bowen, he recognized.  Seeing him she
ceased talking and her face took on an expression of injury and
scorn.

Peppiott presented them.  "His Excellency was acquainted with your
brother, the Colonel."  He cringed between them and talked for all
to hear.  In view of an event which he hoped was maturing to a
happy conclusion he was anxious, with everybody here who mattered,
to bring to light certain creditable facts about the high
connexions of this man who looked so sinister and had such a
disreputable record.  "Isn't that so, Excellency?" he prompted when
Alford, not responding, continued to stare at Cabell with a look of
doubt, while pensively stroking the silky, brown dragoon whiskers
which hung, like unravelled ropes' ends, over his chin.  Clearly
that old eager face had taken the wind out of his sails.  Under his
scrutiny it became even more barbarously unlike what he had
expected in a brother of the foppish Colonel Victor Cabell, of the
Hussars.  Just so Cabell read his face, and nervously rubbed his
hands together, shrinking slightly from his tall, stiff erectness
as if he wished to withdraw into the shell of his starched shirt.
He glanced quickly, furtively, to right and left, saw Mrs Bowen
again and behind her Flanagan, with the cross of his knighthood
dangling from his collar, wondered how many more were here who
remembered back twenty-six years and what they'd been saying about
him.  Yes, there was Dennis's grandson, peering haughtily across a
flat, Irish nose.  "You can't alter the brand of five centuries in
the bog with five years at Harrow, you puppy."  And as it came back
to him how they had had him down then, he thought again how they
would have him down to-morrow unless this damnable share business
righted itself.  That put him on his mettle again.  He straightened
his back, bowed, and turned to go.

Alford came out of his trance.  "Of course.  Of course.  The old
Colonel.  Devil of a fellow.  I knew him."

"Devil of a fool," Cabell shot back.

The awkward silence put on him the onus of justifying this rude
retort.  "Fell off a horse and broke his neck," he said, as if
defining an ultimate human degradation.

Alford succeeded at last in twisting his whiskers to a point.  For
a moment they elevated themselves gracefully, then exploded apart,
tickling his nostrils and causing him to vent a prodigious damp
sneeze.

It was the great preoccupation of his life to make those grand
moustaches stand up in martial points, but he never did quite
succeed.  While engaged in momentous public business, such as
turning the sod of a new railway, laying a foundation-stone,
opening Parliament, or presiding over the Executive Council, he
would suspend proceedings to make a last, desperate assault on
them, holding his breath as, with sad cockeyes, he watched them
come slowly apart.  A baffling figure of a man this spindle-backed
aristocrat upon whom his guests looked with mingled contempt and
abject reverence.  He was known to wear stays and pass the time
playing the piano with one finger, embroidering tea-cosies, and
reading the sermons of Dr Spurgeon.  He was known also to have got
himself into hot water with the Queen for leading a harum-scarum
night ride of her guardsmen across Kent, breaking the legs of six
horses and the necks of two men, and, when shipped off to the
Sudan, to have caused a mob of dervishes to abandon stores, arms,
and horses by creeping into their camp at night and singing "God
Save the Queen" in his high, cracked voice.  He performed his
official duties with the utmost punctilio, but frequently went
straight from a church service or a meeting of the Council to an
illegal prize fight on the river-bank at South Brisbane.  In
conversation he had no mean between talking like an imbecile and
talking like an official document, but on rare occasions he did
stutter out a sensible observation and at once got very red and
tried to hide himself by spreading his whiskers over his face.

After the sneeze he looked shaken, defeated.  He blew his nose and
sighed.  "He had a packet of fun while it lasted, the old dog," he
said.

"A fool and his fun are soon parted," Cabell said severely, "and
his family left to foot the bill."

"Demmit, you don't expect us all to leave England, home, and beauty
and become pioneers, do you?"

There was a titter, slightly disapproving, but indulgent since the
remark seemed to be at Cabell's expense rather than colonials in
general.

"Demned hard life," Alford complained.  "Demned heroic, of course."

Cabell bowed again.  "In its unspectacular way, your Excellency.
There were no tigers, as I remember your father," he nodded to
Peppiott, "telling me some forty-five years ago when I was a
limejuicer and Sir Michael Flanagan here was . . ." the company,
horrified at a threat in his eye, held its breath, ". . .  a mere
young, ambitious man."

Lord Alford put his eyeglass in and turned on his style of an
official pronunciamento, "Let me assure you, sir, Her Majesty is as
fully cognizant of the difficulties and heroism of her early
colonists in this state as of those which history will record in
any part of her Empire . . ."

"It shows the greatest generosity to have kicked us out in our
youth and to hail us as heroes in our old age, my lord," Cabell
said when the applause died down.  "I am told the sun never sets on
Her Majesty's Empire.  When it is setting on one of those heroes
you mention it must be something to know that he gave his hot blood
to achieve the ideal of some gentleman in Whitehall.  A perpetually
youthful empire confided for safe-keeping to such gallant fellows
as my brother!  He would not begrudge them their medals and
pensions."

Peppiott remained cringing between them with a frozen gesture of
dismay, waiting for the roof to fall in.  But Alford applauded
enthusiastically.  "A demned fine sentiment, sir."  They looked
doubtfully at his face, but it was opaque--with stupidity or
diplomacy.  You could never tell which.

"Hear!  Hear!" Flanagan gasped suddenly, richly from the bottom of
his morass.

Cabell gave him a baleful stare.  In the politician's blue eyes,
like two little bits of glass dropped into a basin of soft pudding
mixture, there was a malign twinkle which he knew well.  Or at
least he told himself there was, thinking, "If I fall that dingo
will be the first on top of me."

"Yes, there's surely some truth in the saying that we left our
country for our country's good," he said.  "Sir Michael will vouch
for it."

Mrs Bowen's chains rattled.

"Yes, indeed, ma'am," Cabell said brutally, "and you'd have thought
so yourself, too, if you had seen us then--the morning I first set
eyes on your mother.  She was a Mrs Duffy at the time.  You
remember the day, Flanagan?  Not a stone's throw from here.  She
was sitting on a horse calmly watching the flogger taking the skin
off some ruffian's back.  Remarkable how even a woman became
hardened to sights that would have made you swoon, ma'am.  Some
servant of hers she'd brought in strapped to her stirrup-iron.  His
name I don't remember.  Ah, yes."  He smiled at her with the bitter
sneer in the corner of his mouth, where the scar dragged it up.
"We were on our way to a grog shop kept by an old lag.  What was
his name again?"  He looked the group over and settled his eye on
young Dennis, bulging crimson out of his collar and looking fit for
murder.  "Dennis.  Patrick Dennis.  Yes.  I remember you remarking
that the lady had ten thousand sheep, Flanagan--and was a woman at
that!"

His voice, loud and jeering, rose clearly above the music and the
patter of the dancers' slippers, and ceased in murmur of
deprecating "hem-hems."

Lord Alford smiled naïvely round the semicircle of glum or startled
faces.  That smile was malignant if it was not inane.

Mrs Bowen's kindly eyes shone in tears of vexation.  "You give Lord
Alford a very false, coarse impression of our country," she said in
a husky voice.

They looked at her and half-smiled, but drew together with a
subdued protest as Cabell said, "You've got a short memory, ma'am,
if you think it was always as gentlemanlike as this."  He nodded at
the dancers.  "There's a few there whose fathers and grandfathers
could have told a coarser tale than mine."

By a slight movement they left him standing at bay before them, an
outlandish figure with a slip of a girl at his side.  Harriet,
feeling their hostility, drew closer and slipped her hand under his
arm again.  She knew what was biting him, what fear of imminent
failure and shame, what freshened pang of the past's futile guilt
and disgust.  Never before had she understood so well how lonely he
was with his memories and irreconcilable heart, torn by impossible
longings, by foolish pride, by hatred of the man life had made him
and arrogant satisfaction in the brutalities of that crude fellow.
Understanding, she felt ashamed of herself.  For it was her
deceitfulness which brought him here among old enemies, when he was
least in the mood to face them, so that she might kill the last
hope he had.  He seemed pathetically gullible to her then, an
ineffectual, a pitiable old man.  She felt angry with him for being
so, as though he did it on purpose to make her feel sorry for what
she was about to do.  "Father!" she whispered, "Don't!  Please!"
and looked around at the dancers in the hope of finding someone to
come and take him off her hands.  She had seen Cash as they
entered, leading a lady out on to the floor, and now he passed,
waltzing like a bear--an unfamiliar Cash, in evening clothes like a
performing bulldog dressed up in velveteen pants.  He read the
anxious look in her eye, and the next time round led his partner up
to the group.  It was Miss Ludmilla--could not very well have been
anybody worse in Cabell's present frame of mind.  "The bitch who
stole my mine."  He saw her and sent her a sour greeting.

Dr Barnett was expostulating with him.  "We weren't all jail
litter, you know, sir.  There were some gentlemen who tried to keep
the torch burning.  Up on the Downs my father used to ride a
hundred miles two or three times a year to drink sherry and sing
the Gaudeamus with friends who could turn a Latin rhyme as easily
as they could turn a steer."

"Or flog a convict servant," Cabell said dryly.  "Or order him to
be flogged if they didn't care to dirty their own gentlemanly,
white hands.  It's not what men were but what they became, Dr
Barnett, with all due respect to your father."

"My father, and many another like him remained an English gentleman
to his dying day," Dr Barnett replied in his thin, cultivated
voice.  "He was such a stickler for tradition he'd put a frock-coat
and stock on every night for dinner, even if he had to take them
off afterwards to fight a bushfire.  You might almost say he was
more English than the English."

Lord Alford unexpectedly applauded.  "More English than the
English!  Demned fine sentiment.  True too.  Chap feels like a low
cockney among you sometimes.  Such ladylike ladies and such
devilish gentlemanly fellows--hang it, you're paragons."  The
vacuous amiability of his weak, green eyes, twinkling under
hairless brows, acquitted him of any irony.

They laughed at him to relieve a tense situation.

"There were frock-coats and stocks enough," Cabell mumbled.  "A man
might go mad, like Brummell, and wear a cravat in the back streets
of Caen to convince himself that he was still cutting a figure.
I've heard he did.  My father knew him well."

"Mr Cabell, sir," Dr Barnett said severely, "are you speaking with
a double entente?"

"Oh, I didn't know your father," Cabell said.  "He was no doubt as
good as his velvet stock.  I'm thinking of other men.  For
example," he glanced at Ludmilla, "there was a colonel . . .  Well,
a man of consequence.  He came out under some cloud and went into
the bush.  Built himself a Tudor mansion out of slabs and bark and
mud, and soon believed he was still in England.  I suppose he had
to believe it had never happened--whatever it was that brought him
out.  Anyway, there he was, a stickler for tradition with his frock-
coat and his cravat and a lot of other fandangles beside, a hundred
miles from nowhere, and his two girls (they had the proper roses in
their cheeks when they came), and his wife, a fine woman, pining
for the sound of a human voice.  But he wouldn't have a man on the
place.  Nothing less than a duke was good enough to marry them he
thought, and there were damnably few dukes in the Never-Never.  It
was pretty terrible to watch that old fool pretending he was in his
deer park at home, that nothing had changed, no bridges been burnt,
and he might be called any minute to hop in his carriage and go up
to kiss the Queen's hand.  And all the time the three women playing
up to him, stiff as boards, but losing the roses bit by bit and
never hearing anything but his barmy rant or seeing a soul but wild
blacks."

"Poor girls!" Mrs Bowen murmured impulsively.  "What a sad tale!"
Then realizing who told it she sniffed scornfully.

"A most sad tale," Ludmilla said in a mocking voice.

Cabell bowed and she made him an old-fashioned curtsy in reply.

"Why don't you finish it?" she said.  "It surely didn't end there
with the ladies sitting up stiff and withering slowly away."

"No, it didn't.  That's true."

"Well, what became of them, pray?"

"Yes, confound it, you can't leave the ladies sitting up," Alford
said, in high fettle again at getting one side of his moustache
twisted.

"The first," Cabell said, with a glance at Ludmilla's sunbitten
face, "she married when the old fellow blew his brains out and the
mother, fine lady, died of a broken heart.  The other . . ."

"Well?" Ludmilla prompted.

"Well, she was a pretty, soft bit of a girl and she turned into a
regular, tight-fisted old maid.  Might have made some man a good
wife, too.  If you'd known her then and saw her to-day you'd
understand how much wearing a stock every night at dinner means
after a few years in this country.  It doesn't mean more than stage
scenery or the bit of hair a man hangs on to in mind of the
sweetheart he's lost."

"Oh, la, Mr Cabell," Ludmilla laughed "you're an indifferent bad
storyteller.  You leave out all the other characters."

"There were few others in that place."

"Aye, but those few wicked and greedy enough, I warrant, to excuse
even a pretty, soft bit of a girl becoming tight-fisted in defence
of her own."

Cabell shrugged, grunted.

Mrs Peppiott smirked into the long pause, wagging a roguish
forefinger at Cabell, in an effort to make peace.  "You're too
downright hard on us, Mr Cabell.  Mr Trollope was kinder.  He
praised us most lavish, and he'd just come from the Old Country
with a fresh eye.  The scenery, he said, was more romantic than
he'd visited, even on the Rhine.  Have you read him?"

"I fear not, ma'am," Cabell said in a tired voice.  The fight was
gone out of him.  His face looked pinched and grey.

Lord Alford put the finishing touch to his whiskers and stared at
the company with smug satisfaction.  "Demned useful country for
writers," he said.  "When they don't know what to do with a
character they ship him off to Australia.  The country must be full
of Micawbers and Lady Masons if these scribbling johnnies . . ."
He broke off and snatched his eyes away to stare down his nose
while his whiskers writhed and fell heavily across his chin.  His
face stretched, his mouth opened, and he sneezed three times.

Discreetly they averted their eyes while he blew his nose.

The dance was ending.  People crowded past towards the veranda
where one could catch a breath of cool air.  The group around
Alford gratefully seized an excuse to break up.

Cabell bowed to the Governor and turned to go, but Ludmilla caught
his arm.  "A moment," she said quickly.  "I wanted to see you."

He turned back.

"No, not here.  Give me your arm and take me where I can breathe."

He looked round for Harriet but Cash had come up to talk with her.
The crowd, pushing towards the door, swept them away.

"I have a story to tell, too," Ludmilla was saying.  "Even more
curious than yours about the soft, pretty girl.  It concerns a man
who was a millionaire yesterday and to-morrow--a bankrupt,
perhaps?"

"Eh?"

"You're interested?  Find me a quiet place and I'll tell you."



CHAPTER ELEVEN: A PUZZLE FOR CASH


Cash pushed a shoulder between Mrs Peppiott and Harriet, and
steered Harriet away with a firm hand.

She protested, looking back for her father, but he made a bee-line
through the crush, half-dragging her behind.  Out on the veranda he
found an unoccupied lounge and bumped her on to it.

"Oh, Mr Cash!" she said, rubbing a red thumb-print on her white
arm.

"Can't rescue a wench from a dragon without leaving a bit of a
bruise," he replied irritably.

It was unusual for Cash to be in a bad temper.  Harriet looked at
him curiously.  His big, brown face was gloomy and reproachful.  It
annoyed her more.  "Well, I'm not one of your--creatures."

"My creatures?"

"Whatever her name is.  That red-headed person."

"Oh," he said.  "Of course."  He snapped his fingers as though a
riddle had been solved for him, brightened, then gloomed again at
her thoughtfully.  "No, you're not a Queenie.  You're a lady--that
is, a blamed puzzle."

She tossed her head.  "I thought nothing was a puzzle to you?"

"I thought so myself.  I suppose I'd never met a real, live lady
before."

"I'm sorry I can't return the compliment."

His red mouth, dead in the crevice of his beard, turned its corners
down and he nodded slowly on a just retort.  "I guess you're right
there, Miss Harriet.  I wasn't born and bred in a long coat."

Laughter and the chit-chat of happy people attracted their
attention to young Sylvester Dennis, holding forth in a drawling
voice to a group of "dear young ladies."  He was telling them an
entertaining story about his return from school in England to one
of his father's stations.  Of course it was too bally ridiculous,
but he couldn't tell a sheep from a goat.  And what a bally row
there'd been when he took down a photograph of some odd creature to
hang up a print of his favourite Rossetti and it turned out to be
the old governor's prize pet stud ram.  He had "sustained existence
in the wilds" for several weeks before he fled.  "My dears, another
week of it and I'd have been maimed for life, stretching my mouth
to drink out of those cups, thick as the side of an ironclad, you
know."

"No, I haven't got any of that blood in me," Cash said.  He walked
to the railings and spat viciously into the garden, where the
bobbing Chinese lanterns threw a soft, ruby light on flowers and
promenading couples.

Harriet speculated on the silhouette of his shoulders, so
staunchly, comfortingly broad.  "Oh, don't let us quarrel, Mr Cash.
Perhaps I'm not as much of a lady as you think."

"Oh yes, you are," he said anxiously, turning.  "You were bred up
with a thin skin.  It's meant for the drawing-room and don't stand
up to kicks.  What wouldn't bruise a, say, Queenie, would kill you.
Like it killed your old man in a way.  He was a gentleman, a thin-
skinned toff."  He bent over her.  "Oh, don't make any mistake
about that, Miss Harriet.  Fire burns soft hands worst and the mud
sticks harder to them."

Harriet tried to laugh him away.  "You've got a high opinion of my
skin and a mighty low one of my discretion, Mr Cash."

He straightened, scowling.  "I think you're a young fool.  You know
nothing outside of books.  You'll land yourself in a pretty mess."

"I don't understand you," Harriet said faintly.  "Indeed, I don't."

"You don't, eh?  Well, where are your jewels?"

She clapped her hand to her throat.  "I--I--why, what is that to
you?  My jewels are at home."

"Not stolen?" he said, as if he wished they were.

"Certainly not."

"They were there when you came out?  You saw them?  Eh?"

Harriet's eyes shifted, then she recovered and stared back.  "Yes,
they were."

He looked hard into those cold, clear, untouched eyes and sighed.

"Well, well.  I guess you got the bit between your teeth.  I don't
see how I could turn you without making you hate me more."

Harriet rose with a thin pretence of righteous indignation.  "I
don't understand you at all.  You're saying such horrible things.
I'll tell my father."

Cash waved impatiently.  "Sit down.  Enough of this roundabout
talk.  I'm no hand at it.  Fact is, young Geoffrey told me about
the hat and your bust-up with the old man and . . ."

Harriet held up her hand.  "Oh, don't please!"  She looked about
nervously.

The group around Sylvester Dennis had grown.  Dr Barnett, waving
his hands, discoursed.  The Romans had left their blood in Britain.
We were lineal descendants of that race of adventurous, colonizing
Caesars.  Our mission came straight down from Romulus and Remus.
Consider the thin-jewelled, high-beaked Australian face--pure Roman
patrician.  "And now all the Romans have left England to settle the
hardest countries on the earth.  So England's decline has begun.
Tomorrow the Empire will rule . . ."  His exasperated falsetto,
earnestly exculpating some unmentioned sin, dominated them.
Flanagan, attentive behind a big cigar sunk in his fat, Mrs
Peppiott moving her stays with the steady, breathless pant of a
toad, murmured applause.

Mrs Bowen, always in a bustling flurry even when standing still,
clapped her hands.  "Just what I've always thought, but never in
such beautiful words, Dr Barnett.  Only I didn't think it was the
Romans.  I thought it must be the blood of the Irish kings."  She
put it to Lord Alford.

"Demned difficult question.  Have to admit my family history
bit vague before Indian Nabobs.  Never heard a Roman Emperor
mentioned . . ."

"I spoke only in a general, racial sense," Dr Barnett said testily.

Cash smiled.  "Somebody's got the doctor's goat to-night.  Your
father, eh?  I heard him shouting."

"Oh, he's terrible to-night," Harriet said.  "He makes them hate
him, then he wants all your sympathy."

"Poor devil!  If he's a bit worse than usual there's a reason.  You
know, don't you?"

"Yes, he told me something--about the mine and all that.  Oh, but
Mr Cash, who is to blame?  Not I?  I have never asked to be made
the richest girl in Australia, or sent to England, or married to a
duke--and all the rest of it.  Is it my fault he's ruined himself
trying to get too much?  Is it fair?"

Cash watched her slyly.  "Ask yourself, Miss Harriet."  He prodded
his chest.  "Everybody knows what's fair and what isn't in here."

"It's not fair.  It's cruel, odious tyranny!"

"But just say you went and left him.  You told me once you would if
you ever fell in love with a man he wouldn't have.  It might be the
last straw just now.  It might kill him.  It'd be a bit of a
problem then to say what was fair and what wasn't.  You'd be asking
yourself that question to the end of your days."

"And if I stayed?  And he was poor and old?  He would live for
years and years and years.  What would become of me?  Haven't I any
rights too?"

"As I see it," Cash said, gently, cunningly persuasive, "a lady or
a gentleman is one who has the rights and doesn't press them too
hard."

"One who gives for others to take?"  She glanced up and caught the
sly look in his eyes, bared for a moment of their mica shields.
There was eagerness and fear in them, too.  "Oh, Mr Cash," she
said, "I don't think you speak for my father at all . . ."  She
stopped, confused.  "I mean--why do you say these things when it's
nothing to you.  You would leave him to-morrow without a second
thought.  You know you would.  You told me."

Cash plucked at his beard.  "That's true, Harriet.  I'm a fraud.
I'd leave him--if I could.  I've been thinking of a change of
scenery for a long time, but--damn it--damn it . . ."

The music was beginning again.  The group at the other end of the
veranda drifted back to the ballroom, Dr Barnett still prattling.
Wentworth had had the idea of founding an Australian peerage.  It
would be a bulwark against the menace of these democratic elements
and a safeguard to British traditions in a far-flung outpost.  The
idea had their unanimous approval.

"The Marquis of Indooroopilly!" Alford said.  "A demned resonant
title."

Harriet was on her feet.  "You'll betray me.  You'll tell Father."

"I won't betray you," Cash said.  "I won't have to.  He will."  He
nodded towards the door.  Doug Peppiott was standing there beside
his father.  He looked sulky.

Mrs Peppiott, left by the exodus, came swiftly between them.  "Now,
now, Harriet, my love.  This is a nice way to enjoy your first
ball.  Come.  Let the world see your pretty face."

Harriet hung back.  Oh, what if she was wrong about him after all.
What if he laughed at her and told everybody, so that they all
laughed--all these fine, nice ladies and gentlemen!  She looked
around at Cash.  But Mrs Peppiott had a firm grip on her this time.

Cash, leaning against the railings, put a cigar in his mouth and
watched Doug Peppiott lead her out to dance.  After a while he spat
a chewed, sodden rag of tobacco leaf into the garden.



CHAPTER TWELVE: SAD TALE CONTINUED


Ludmilla led Cabell out into the garden and across the lawn to a
seat away from the lanterns and the crowd.

He showed signs of bluster but she cut him short.  "Sit down, Derek
Cabell.  I've a long story to tell."

He sat down tentatively on the edge of the hard rustic seat, the
stiff line of his back and the white front of his shirt etched
against the glow from the lanterns.

"Shall I commence from the beginning?"

He did not encourage her.

"Well, suppose we start in 1851, when an English gentleman and his
wife and two daughters--'pretty, soft bits of girls, with the
proper roses in their cheeks'--set out from Brisbane with two
bullock-wagonloads of goods for the Never-Never."  Her voice
dropped the lilt of badinage.  "After ten weeks of hell they
arrived in a valley where others had already settled.  One of them
was a young Englishman from a good family.  At least he had been an
Englishman but he had changed . . ."

"You damn soon changed yourself."

"We'll come to that.  You had your say, let me have mine."

"A damned long rigmarole.  What's the point?"

"There's a point, all right.  You'll feel it," Ludmilla said with a
throaty laugh, like a man's.

Upon the veranda between the colonnades a burly figure leant out
and spat on to the lawn.  Cash.  "Get it over then.  I can't leave
Harriet."

"Now there's a pretty, soft bit of a girl," Ludmilla said.  "How
tragic if SHE were left to shift for herself in a hard world."

"She won't be."

"Don't be so sure.  We're a spiteful lot.  Take that young
Englishman.  He was full to the back teeth with spite.  Because the
world had humiliated him and given him some hard knocks he wanted
to make it hard for others.  He wanted to throw mud on the honour
of that fine old English gentleman and see him brought down--so
that his own smarting pride would be satisfied.  He used to go and
taunt his neighbour till the old man was driven to some ridiculous
act, and then he went home laughing up his sleeve.  Oh, I
understand how that young Englishman felt," she whispered.  "I came
to feel the same way myself."

Cabell's mouth made a black gap in the grey blur of his face.

"Ludmilla!  You're stone crazy," he said at last.  "No such thing
happened.  I respected your father, but he was mad--mad as a
hatter."

"Who sent him mad?  You--with your taunts and gibes, telling him
that the country would break and swallow him and he'd never see
England again."

"I was trying to knock some sense into him.  He was living in a
fool's dream.  I saw how things were going with you."

"You did it because you hated him--for his pride and for showing
his contempt when you sent your convict wife's brother to ask,
insulting brute, that I should marry him.  A Southampton water-rat
who turned round and married a Chinaman's woman!  Deny you weren't
mad with spite when you heard Father had whipped him out of the
house.  You can't."

"Ludmilla!" Cabell protested, not so much against the untruth of
what she said as against the spite it laid open in her own heart.
"You've let things go bad in your mind."

"What things?"  She caught his hand and pressed it.  "Go on, say
them."

"You know what things."

"I know what lies, what filthy lies.  About my father stealing
regimental funds and about Aurelia.  Your inventions."

Cabell sighed.

"It WAS a lie.  Admit it.  Admit it was a lie--about Aurelia."

"That's something only three living people know.  You and Aurelia
and me.  I've never put it in words."

"That's another lie.  You told everybody."

"I swear I never told a soul."

"What about Farrar?  He was going to marry Aurelia and you told him
that lie and he cleared out.  You can't deny that."

Cabell stirred.  "His name wasn't Farrar.  It was M'Govern.  He was
a blackguard.  I wonder you didn't guess it.  You ought to be
damned glad he--cleared out."

"He was at your place for weeks.  He sent insulting messages.  Oh,
don't pretend you didn't put him up to it."

"I told him nothing," Cabell said, with anger suppressed.  "And
anyway he's dead and all that business is dead with him."

"It's not dead while you and your spite could resurrect it.  You'll
never forget that my father signed an affidavit against you when
Flanagan and McFarlane took your land.  Well, I've got spite too,
Derek Cabell, as nasty and vengeful as your own."

"Come to the point, damn it, Ludmilla."

She laughed again.  "That's the point, Derek.  Just that."

Cabell glanced up at the house.  Cash was waving a fist, arguing,
but only the thin, falsetto voice of Dr Barnett, wordless and
annoyed, reached them.  Cabell's shoulders stooped against the
light.  "You mean you've lived to crow, eh?  I suppose Cash told
you."

"I mean I could crow."  She clucked her tongue.  "There's no better
moment for rubbing the gall in than when a man's down.  YOU know
that."

The music struck up again.  The couples crunched back to the house
along the gravel paths, leaving the butts of cigars in the dark
shadows of the trees.

Cabell jumped off the seat.  "Enough of your bitchery, Ludmilla.
Out with it--what d'you want?"

She plucked at the tails of his coat.  "Sit down, sit down, man,
and stop your eternal bellowing.  I didn't come here to torment you
but to make friends."

He sat down, starched again, unconvinced.

"Why not?" Ludmilla said.  "We've both got more to gain from
sticking together than from falling out and that's the arrangement
which makes the best friends.  And besides, well, I like you in
spite of everything.  Because you're my own kind, I suppose.  We've
got a lot in common, if it's only regrets."

"That's a fact," he murmured.  "I've always been sorry for you."

"It wouldn't have stopped you from trying to make mincemeat of me.
Oh, don't bother to conceal it.  I knew you had designs on the
mine."

"My God, Ludmilla, I came here first and opened the place up."

"You're a pig-headed old fool," Ludmilla said, touching his hand,
"but I understand what you mean.  Oh, only too well.  A stroke of
luck which comes twenty years too late is a bitter pill--worse than
no luck at all."

"It's not for myself.  I've lost the taste for what money buys.  Up
there," he nodded towards the house, "I'm all at sea.  They
wouldn't believe it if you told them I came from a good family.
Alford didn't."  He was lost in thought for a minute or two,
fingering his scar.  "But there's Harriet . . ."

"And what about James?"

"James?" he said, as if he had to recall that James was his son.
"Oh, he's in Sydney learning to be an engineer."

"He's a steady lad.  I had a good look at him the last time he was
home."

"He's a pup.  Like the rest of them--thinks we should've opened the
country with kid gloves on."

"Oh, let them bury the past," Ludmilla said.  "Maybe it's more
painful to them than to us even."

"If they can," Cabell said grimly.

"They can.  They will.  They must.  They can't live in spite and
hatred and regret as we've done.  And that's what I brought you out
here to talk about.  I've got a niece, Aurelia's daughter.  She's
just coming back from a finishing school in England.  It's time she
had a husband.  Why shouldn't she marry James."

"Aurelia's daughter!"

"Isn't he Cabell's son?"  But she calmed herself.  "Now you listen
to me.  He SHALL marry Julia.  Next year.  Then he'll go to work at
the mine and learn how to control what will come to him and Julia
when we're gone.  I'll see you through the mess you've got yourself
into.  Larsen will retire.  He's getting too old and, anyway, he's
not got the head for the business it's become--too simple and
honest.  You'll be chairman of the company as you wanted.  And I--
I'll take a rest.  I'm over fifty now.  There are troubles ahead.
Sooner or later the boom will burst properly.  The unions will be
troublesome.  I'm sick and tired of it.  I'd like to go and see the
Old Country while I've time."  Her voice was a little faded all at
once.  "I'm not holding any gun at your head, Derek.  Say yes and
you'll take a load off my shoulders.  They were never expected to
carry such loads, you know."

Cabell did not answer at once.  She saw his grey face turn and peer
at her.

She smiled.  "Suspicious old Rusty Guts.  You can't believe I
haven't got something up my sleeve."

"It all sounds mighty fine, but dash it all, woman, a minute
ago . . ."

"If it needs explaining," Ludmilla said, "then first of all I'd
rather have the devil I know than the devil I don't, and you've got
a head for business.  Everybody says that.  That's one thing.  Then
there's the bad old past.  Only one man can help Julia to bury that--
you.  If she marries James I can trust you to bury it deep.  See,
I'm frank, aren't I?  And the third thing is I like you, because we
both got something from life we didn't bargain for.  Has it ever
struck you," she said, mocking again, "that we might have met and
married each other if we'd stayed in England.  Or even here, if you
hadn't already . . ."

"That's true enough, too."

The garden, festive but deserted, looked forlorn with the stars and
the darkness taunting its flimsy lanterns.  Under the music the
drumming of frogs in the black lily-pond was harsh and lonely.

Ludmilla sighed.  "Well, it's no good bemoaning.  Let us finish
this off and see how Harriet's enjoying herself.  Is it yes or no?"

"When d'you want me to tell James?"

"As soon as you like."

"I'll send for him at once."

"Perhaps they could go to Europe for their honeymoon," Ludmilla
said.  "James wouldn't refuse that."

"He won't refuse."

They returned to the house arm in arm.

Ludmilla looked up at the stars.  Their tremulous summer light
blurred the hard angles of her face.  "The Southern Cross," she
said sentimentally.  "He's seen some wicked things.  May what we've
done tonight wipe some of them out!"

"Amen!" Cabell said piously, but he was thinking of other things.
His step had a spring in it and his lips the shadow of a friendly,
forgiving smile as he re-entered the ballroom.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN: DIVERSION AT A VICE-REGAL BALL


Holding herself close to Doug with her vinelike arms, Harriet cried
excitedly through the music, "I've found a way.  You won't laugh at
me, will you?"

On the contrary.  "Don't hang on like that.  They're all looking at
you," he said.

It was true.  In the corners the wallflowers and dowagers were
whispering behind their fans.  There she was--Cabell's daughter,
that one dancing with young Mr Peppiott.  Haven't you heard?  The
Peppiotts are breaking their necks to make a match of it.  Of
course he's got money, the old miser.  Mrs Peppiott tries to make
out he's related to a peer, but you only need to see him.  Such a
bushwhacker--and such coarse language.  The way he was talking to
dear Lord Alford just now!  Well, he married a convict woman, you
know, and they say Black Jem the bushranger was some relation.

"He started off with a handful of sheep he stole," Mrs Bowen said
shrilly.  "He nearly went to jail.  And now they put on airs."

"Dummodo sit dives barbarus ipse placet," Sylvester Dennis remarked
cynically.

Through the clairvoyance of his fellowship with them Doug divined
accurately what they were saying.  He reddened and sweated.  "Don't
look at me like that."

"What's the matter?"  Harriet hung on to him more tightly and
looked at him more distractedly than ever.  "Why are you angry?"

"People.  You're not in the backblocks."  He pushed her away again.

People!  Harriet looked quickly around at the fine, nice,
depreciative ladies and gentlemen whose sneers could stand even her
father at bay.  Their glittering array in jewels and fashionable
clothes, their easy, confident voices, the solidarity expressed in
the smiles and nods they exchanged, and their cold, critical eyes
made Harriet think, "Perhaps I am only countrified and silly after
all."  She demanded reassurance.  "You do love me, don't you,
Doug?"

He whirled her across the floor till she was breathless and the
floor and the faces lurched giddily in her eyes.  She steadied
against him, dropping her dress to take hold of the lapel of his
coat.

"Let go," he snapped.  "Leggo.  Leggo."  His heavy lips curled back
from his teeth and his spoilt, good-looking face ruckled up as
though he was going to cry.  It was an unobtrusive struggle as he
prised her fingers off and pushed her to the length of his long
arms, but it seemed to him that all the ladies around the wall
simpered and whispered more animatedly and even the footmen in
plush breeks raised their eyebrows.

He was in a wretched state of nerves when the music did at last
pause to rest the dancers, stranding him, by malicious chance, near
Mrs Bowen and her friends.  They chattered among themselves.  Doug
tried to look dignified and unaware as he walked Harriet from the
floor, but his nerve went and he scampered the last few steps to an
empty alcove.

"What's the matter?" Harriet said.  "You seem so . . ."

He turned on her.  "They're talking about you."

"Oh, don't worry about them.  It's because Father upset them to-
night.  They're jealous of him too."

"The swine.  Doesn't he know how to behave?  It's me his rotten
tongue injures.  Me!"

"How?"

"Never mind."

Harriet shook her head sadly.  "Don't say hard things, please.  He
doesn't concern us."

Spoilt anger contracted his face again.  "Doesn't he?  My father
spends his life toadying to him."

"Yes, yes, I know.  They poison everything with their greed.  Even
love--if you let them."  She went up close to him.  "But that
doesn't matter to us.  Let them scheme and let all the rest say
what they like . . ."  She broke off to look through the arch of
the alcove at the dancers clustered in little immaculate groups,
fanning themselves and waiting for the music to start again.  "Oh,
I know--they're hateful, terrible," and impulsively she said, "Take
me away, Doug.  Please.  A long way away."

"Take you where?"

"Anywhere.  I don't care."

His eyes focused sharply.

"I told you I'd find a way.  I have.  I sold my jewels."

He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his face,
watching her over his hand.  "What on earth for?"

"You had no money.  You told me once.  So I sold them for two
thousand pounds.  Here"--she put her hand into her bodice and
pulled out a wad of bank notes and offered them--"you take it.  Now
we can go away--to England if you want."

He looked at the notes and looked at her and lowered his
handkerchief from his flaccid mouth.  "You MUST be off your head,"
he said with dispassionate conviction.  "You want to run away?"

"Yes, yes.  Here, take it."

He took the wad and examined it.

"There, nothing matters now.  We can go.  I've planned it all out.
I've packed my bag.  We can slip out through the garden after this
dance and get a hansom and get my clothes.  Then we can get your
clothes.  The boat for Sydney sails at midnight.  They'll never
catch us."

His face, heavy with the stupidity of the thoroughly ordinary man,
which she had mistaken for the visor of some profound masculine
assurance and power, began to twitch like the hide of a horse
tormented with flies.  "So that's what you were hinting at.  You
want to run away with me because you think your old man won't let
us marry."  His conceit got the better of him.  He threw back his
head and laughed.

"Oh!"  The whole cast of Harriet's uplifted, hysterical face
changed.  Her mouth tightened, her cheeks flattened, and her eyes
retreated into dark shadows.  Her little trick of dropping her head
when alarmed caused this change, which made visible her spirit
coiling away from him in secret, intent hostility.  "Don't laugh at
me, Doug.  Don't you dare."

He stopped laughing and shuffled back a pace.  "Good Lord," he
said, seeing the matter in another light, "you worked all this out
yourself."  It was a fresh proof of her shameless, reckless
wilfulness--or her madness.  Then dimly he began to understand that
he had nothing to be conceited about, that all this was not done
for love of him, that he just happened to be the first man who came
along and she had seized him and used him for her own purposes.
Her white, tight face and hidden eyes, concealing God knew what
else, scared him again.  "Now don't be silly, Harriet.  Don't start
making a scene.  I only laughed because . . ."

"I told you I'd find a way.  It's the only way.  If we don't go now
I don't know what will happen to me."

The music started up and the dancers moved off, stirring eddies in
the torpid, perfumed air.  He took her arm.  "Come and dance.
We'll talk about it after."

"No, no, Doug.  There's no time.  If Father gets hold of me he
won't let me out of his sight again all night.  Besides--Mr Cash
might tell him."

"Tell him what?"

"That we're going to run away."

"You didn't tell Cash that?"

"No, but he knows.  Geoffrey must have told him.  You see, Geoffrey
sold the jewels for me and he must have guessed."

Doug gripped her arm.  "You little . . .  You've told everybody.
You're trying to blackmail me."

"Oh, no, Doug.  I didn't."

"You knew Geoffrey would."

Harriet's eyes sank back into their shadows.  "What if he does?
We'll be gone."

"Haven't you any shame?  God Almighty, think of people.  What'll
they be saying?  And I've got to marry you."

Harriet said nothing.

He groaned.  "You've ruined my life.  They'll never stop talking."

"But we won't be here," she insisted doggedly.  "We'll start a new
life."  Her mouth was wry and quivering.  "Don't you see?  It's the
only way for us.  If you won't--I'll go and throw myself in the
river."

"Ah, you bitch.  You spiteful bitch.  I believe you would.  Just to
make them talk and talk and talk."

She shook her head.  "Oh, Doug, how can you say that?  Don't you
love me any more?"

"Love you?  Jesus!  Love you?  Of course I don't.  Get it into your
thick head.  I don't give a damn for you.  I would've been in
England now if it wasn't for you and your father's dirty money.
Oh, I'll marry you.  Don't worry.  You won't need to run away for
that.  Next time your father wants a favour they'll fix it up
between them, and I'll be the mug.  But don't think you'll be on a
bed of roses.  Just wait.  I'll teach you better ways, you--you
whore."  In the climax of his fury he lifted his fist and threw the
wad of notes at her face.  It struck her cheek and ricochetted off,
through the arch, into the ballroom.

The dance had ended and the floor was empty now.  The notes, tied
with a red ribbon, lay there, presenting to the world evidence of a
bizarre drama proceeding in the alcove.  A hush in the chatter on
the other side of the arch told them that the world had observed
and was amazed.

Sobered, horrified, Doug took a step towards the room to retrieve
the packet but turned back as Harriet burst into tears.  "N-n-n-
no," he stuttered, and clapped a hand over her mouth.  "Don't make
a scene.  Shhhh!  What's the matter?  I didn't mean it.  For
Christ's sake.  Look at me, I do love you.  Yes, anything you like.
Only stop that row. . . ."

But the tears flowed irresistibly, dry, racking, and noisy.

"Oh, you--you--"  He shook her, giving her grief a ridiculous sound
of strangulation.

"Oh, pardon me."  A sweet voice in the doorway spun him on his
heel.  It was Mrs Bowen, proffering the bundle of notes.  "Am I
intruding?  I think this belongs to you?  No?"

Faces, malevolent in their astonishment and inquisitiveness,
gloated over her shoulder.  Doug, wiping his tear-wet hand on the
leg of his trousers, glared for a moment before his reflexes got to
work and plunged him feebly out of the alcove, out of the ballroom,
with the vague, comforting thought that, somewhere near, the dark
river waited to swallow his dishonour and absolve him from the
ordeal of ever meeting those eyes again.  On the steps he passed
Cabell, whose stern gaze, following his flight, sent him on more
precipitately than ever.

Harriet ran after him, but at the arch she stopped, confronted by a
bright, hard, simpering world she had forgotten.  She glanced
around the circle of faces, half-averted, noting here an open
mouth, there a grin, here a stare of mystification.  Bedraggled
with grief she slunk back into the half-light of the alcove.  At
once they turned their backs and the chatter started, with
artificial gusto, again.

A hand on her arm made Harriet turn a defiant face streaked with
tears.  Mrs Bowen was at her elbow.  She was holding the notes
between thumb and forefinger.  Her eyes pried at Harriet, seeming
to say, "I can see you're in some awful disgrace, young lady.  Be
sure I'll find out what it is."

"Dear Miss Cabell," she began in her fussy, shrill voice, but
before she got another word out a hand, sweeping up from Harriet's
skirt, slapped her smartly across the face.

Mrs Bowen gave a startled yelp and dropped the notes.  The chatter
ceased and the gaping, mystified, derisive, and scandalized looks
of the guests turned on them again.

Incredulously Harriet watched the white print of her hand emerge
from the burning red of Mrs Bowen's cheek.  Then the cheek turned
white and the mark of the hand rose in livid red.

Harriet began to moan gently like a child, glancing right and left
across the room.  Her father had just come in with Ludmilla.  He
was smiling.  She stepped back and blundered into Sylvester Dennis.
He shuffled quickly out of the way and looked at her over the
shoulder of Dr Barnett, who was talking in a determinedly loud
voice about nobody knew what.

People craned their necks to discover the origin of that
unmistakable clap of hand against face.

Harriet stumbled forward a few paces, then she saw Cash hurrying
down the room, covered her face with her hands, and ran blindly
into his arms.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN: PARIAH


Needless to say, Doug did not drown himself, but he sincerely
wished he had when Cabell arrived at the Peppiott house next
morning and demanded his body for a public flaying.  The sound of
Cabell's riding-whip lashing the French polish off the table in
Peppiott's library astounded the neighbours for an hour.  "I'll
have no truck with you any longer," Cabell shouted as he went, "and
I'll put you out of business if it's the last thing I do."

Now Mrs Peppiott's tongue got to work.  It seemed that the rumours
about a match-making were too, too ridiculous for words.  A
Peppiott marry one of that brood!  The truth of the matter, though
it went against her grain to say such things of any women, was that
"that girl"--well, you know what her mother was!  She had just
flung herself at Douglas's head, the poor boy.  Wrote him letters
trying to make assignations with him and he, like any honourable
man, tried to draw a decent veil.  And the well-thumbed note was
handed round and gloated over till it fell to pieces.  Doug emerged
as an accredited moral martyr.  Nevertheless he soon vanished to a
station in the torrid west to work out his destiny as a jackeroo.

There was a second faction in this whispering, recruited not from
the friends of Cabell which would have made a very thin, red line,
but from those who felt that Mrs Peppiott was extracting too much
lustre from the affair.  The leader was Mrs Bowen who hated Mrs
Peppiott so much that she forgave Harriet for slapping her face
and, through some queer mental process, even came to believe that
no such thing had happened.  "It's all that gossiping woman's
invention.  Of course she has to try to cover up her young
profligate's tracks.  Well, we all know what HIS grandmother was.
Highest moral principles!  What about the time the housekeeper
grabbed the tails of his coat and pulled it off his back when he
was scrambling over the fence!"

This certainly helped to keep the smugness of the Peppiotts in
bounds but did not do much for poor Harriet's reputation.

James arrived back in the middle of the bother.

Cabell took careful stock of him for the first time--his long face
with premature wrinkles of worry round the mouth, his nervous eyes
which never returned his father's gaze for long, his sensitive
mouth with the heavy, sensual lower lip of the Cabells, white
hands, and unobtrusively dandified clothes, and though annoyed at
what he saw, muttering, "You look like a new-chum," he thought to
himself, "A stuck-up young prig.  Doesn't want to dirty his hands
with work.  He'll give no trouble."

More kindly than he had ever spoken to James before, he said,
"You've done well at the University.  I'm pleased with you.  Now I
want you to do something for me."

James looked at him doubtfully.  He had obeyed his father's
telegram, ordering him to return, with severe misgivings.  "He's
not going to boss me about.  I won't stand for it."  But somehow,
having lost the battle once put James at an awful disadvantage.
What was the use fighting with him?  He was sure to win.

"I want you to marry Miss Ludmilla's niece."  He waved James
silent.  "Aurelia Considine's daughter, she is, and a good-looking
girl.  She's just come back from England a topnotch lady.  Ludmilla
and her sister are people of consequence.  Not like this ragtag and
bobtail plutocracy.  Your own kind."

"But Miss Ludmilla . . . ?"

"Yes, yes, she wants it too.  Had her eye on you a long time and
thinks you're a good stamp of a lad.  So she should.  You're a
Cabell, aren't you?  The dead spit of one."

James blushed.  It was the first time he had heard his father speak
to him as a son he was pleased to have.  If Cabell had applied all
his cunning to the problem he could not have dealt a more deadly
blow to the heart of James's rebellion, which had begun to build
its fantasies of grievances years ago when James was a boy playing
truant from school and missing meals with the half-conscious
purpose of provoking some notice, even unfavourable notice, from an
indifferent father.  As he grew older and saw Harriet being spoiled
and himself used to spoil her, these fantasies developed into
elaborate dreams of self-assertion and revenge.  Sometimes he saw
himself as a great politician like Flanagan, sitting at his table
in the ministry listening to a plea from his father, as Cabell had
often pictured the scene between himself and Flanagan when Flanagan
took his land away, and harshly refusing to do what his father
wanted, heaping on him bitter reproaches for all the wrongs he had
done his son.  At other times he came home rich and powerful and
found his father old and poor and with noble magnanimity forgave
him everything and lifted him up and comforted him.

As James looked at his father now he almost felt as though one of
those fantasies had come true.  Cabell was sitting at his table in
the study with his head in his hands.  The pouches were heavy under
his eyes and the arms sticking out of his shirt-cuffs looked
withered and weak.  He seemed crushed.  A lot of grey hairs had
come out in his beard and his shaggy eyebrows since last James saw
him.

His unexpected warmth released a strange swell of emotion in
James's throat.  For a moment he could not speak.

Cabell roused himself.  "The fact of the matter is, Ludmilla's
getting on.  She wants us to take over her interest in the mine and
look after it."

If he had said "me" instead of "us" James might have been offended
and the delicate woof of their relations set spinning in another
pattern, but again the subtle, if unconscious, cunning of Cabell,
in talking as if they were men and partners together, disarmed him.

"As far as that goes, I'm getting on myself," Cabell said with a
sigh.

"Oh no, sir.  You're good for another twenty years."

"Eh?  You think so?  Don't notice any grey hairs?"  Cabell was
pleased.

"No, sir," James lied.

A troubled expression crossed Cabell's face.  "Time tells, lad.
There's your mother--a brave woman, but she's breaking up.  Nobody
can stand the kicks for ever.  Your brother Larry's playing the
devil.  And young Geoffrey's going to the dogs with racehorses and
drink.  And now your sister . . ."  He sighed again.  "God knows,
James, I hardly expect that one of you won't want to betray and
pester me."

"I'll do my best, sir," James said, moved deeply now by his
father's confidences, which singled him out from a family of broken
reeds to help carry heavy burdens.

Cabell rose stiffly, his old joints creaking, and enveloped James
in his sour fust.  "That's a good lad," he said, wringing James's
hand.  "We'll fix things to suit everybody.  If you marry Julia
Considine I'll tell you what I'll do--I'll send you for a trip
round the world.  Stay away as long as you like.  I won't be asking
you to put your nose to the grindstone right off.  Go and enjoy
yourself.  I'll be here to keep an eye on things a few years yet."

Noble Father!  James felt a different man when he came out of the
study--as indeed he was.  And yet--there was Jennis Bowen.  James
loved Jennis, though not perhaps with the same impetuosity as
before he had that conversation with Cash.  Cash had dropped a
little drop of poison into James's sensitive mind.  He told James
that he had inherited some wild and reckless quality from his gipsy
mother, that he was as his father must have been before he became
what he was--a violent old man with a battered face who had done
things James was ashamed of.  James laughed at the idea now, but it
kept popping out in his mind at all sorts of odd moments, as he was
dozing off to sleep, or reading a book, or in the middle of a
conversation, so that he was always worriedly asking himself, "Can
it be true?  Could I do those things?  Could I disgrace myself as
he has done?" and though he always answered, "No, of course not,"
he began to develop an exaggerated fear of his own potentialities
for evil and a potent sense of guilt every time he detected in
himself, as he often did, emotions which the nice kind of people,
who were unlike his father or his mother, did not seem to have.
One of these emotions was his desire for Jennis, which filled his
brain with memories of her soft, full breast, and soft, white neck,
and her soft, acquiescent hand lying in his.  These thoughts, and
the struggle he put up against them, and the fear and guilt they
filled him with, accounted for the new hard lines of worry and
repression around his mouth.  He tried to smother his feelings,
which he thought must be abnormal, and did succeed up to a point,
for he had strength like his father and turned this strength in
upon himself; but he still loved Jennis and wanted to marry her,
more than ever because he felt guilty about his feeling, for nice
people seemed to believe that marriage made such feelings right.
How he was going to marry her James did not know, for that brought
up again the problem of going out into the bush to make a fortune
for himself, so James had just gone on hoping for a reconciliation
between Cabell and Flanagan; but no reconciliation had happened,
and now his father wanted him to marry Julia Considine.  James
began to feel resentful and rebellious again.  The old man had been
very decent about it, but dash it all, why should he marry a girl
he'd never seen?  And what for?  To please Ludmilla and let his
father get control of the mine, because that was all it amounted
to.  And James admitted doubt about his father's sudden
friendliness.  "In the end Harriet will get everything just the
same."

He wandered into the drawing-room.  Miss Montaulk was there alone.
"Where's Harriet?"

"She's locked up in her room."

"Locked up?  Why?"

Miss Montaulk's wide, virgin eyes went up in pious, virgin horror.
"She disgraced herself."

"What d'you mean?"

"She tried to run away with a man."

"What?  What man?"

Miss Montaulk told him with lavish, loving detail.  The assignation
in the garden--the letter--the hat--the scene at Government House--
the scandal.

"I always said she was bad," Miss Montaulk confided.  "She gets it
from your mother.  Your brother Geoffrey's the same.  And your
brother Larry--just like your mother's cousin who was a bushranger,
everybody says.  And you--you had some scandal with a girl, too,
didn't you?"

James shut himself up to think about the awful calamity.  First he
thought of what Miss Montaulk had said, confirming all his worst
fears.  Yes, there must be something in them, something bad,
inherited from his mother and from his father who had been
corrupted by life in the early days.  This proof of it was so
sensational that James turned with disgust against his own
passionate, illicit feelings.  He must kill this corruption in
himself.  He must.  He must.

Then he thought about the scandal and how everybody would be
whispering, simpering, pointing fingers, and in a rush of grateful
feeling for a pitfall narrowly avoided, he realized that it might
have been about him they were whispering if he had run away with
Jennis.  But this was nearly as bad--his own sister, writing
letters, making assignations!  Would he ever live it down!

Then, as he paced his room, another thought came to him.  Of
course, this was what Father meant when he spoke about Harriet
letting him down.  Of course.  And that was why he looked so old
and tired.  And that was why he was so changed towards James.  It
wasn't a trick.  He meant it.  He was turning to James for
sympathy.  James's heart swelled again.  Poor old devil!  He'd
built so much on Harriet and she'd failed him.  She'd failed them
both, the little beast!  Very soon this great discovery that his
father had turned away from Harriet to him made James forget that
but for the grace of God he might have been the one in trouble, and
filled him with a mighty moral indignation.

He went to Harriet's room and knocked urgently on the door.

"Who's that?" her hostile voice answered.  "Go away.  I don't want
to see anybody."

"It's me--James.  Don't be a fool.  Open the door."

"I don't want to speak to you."

"I can understand that," he hissed through the panel.

The door flung back and Harriet confronted him with her jaw out and
her eyes blazing.  "What d'you want?  I'm not frightened.  Say what
you like."

The maid sweeping the passage moved her broom energetically in one
spot and looked out of the corner of her eyes.  "Don't scream,"
James said and skipped into the room, but as soon as the door was
shut he raised his voice.  "What's all this about you and Doug
Peppiott?"

"Mind your own business."

"It is my business.  I'm your brother."

Harriet's face was bony and ugly with defiance.  "I don't have to
account to you.  I don't have to account to anybody.  Leave me
alone."

"You've disgraced us," he said, and added grandly, "You've broken
father's heart."

She laughed.  "What's that to you?  You were going to marry Jennis
Bowen against Father's will, only you hadn't the courage."

"There's such a thing as duty.  I hadn't considered that."

"Well, I considered everything.  I always told you what I'd do if I
fell in love and Father tried to stop me.  I sold my jewels and I
was going to run away with Doug if you want to know.  There, I
don't care who knows."

"It's a good job he had a shred of decency," James said, then
thinking of the stories he demanded, "Is it true you wrote him a
letter making an assignation?"

Harriet reddened.  "How did you know that?"

"Everybody knows.  He gave it to his mother and she's showing it
all over the town."

"Oh, he couldn't have done that?" Harriet said, and the colour
ebbed from her face again.  Some foolish hope against hope this
destroyed, some last obstinate illusion, leaving her nothing behind
which to hide from the jeering face of the world.  She put her hand
on her breasts where she still kept the shred of cloth Doug had
left on the fence.  "Oh, no, he couldn't."

"Of course he did.  You behaved like a common tart.  He had to save
his face.  So they've made your name mud."  The defiance flagged in
her eyes, which filled with tears, and his own strength and
vindictiveness grew, fed by his eloquent picture of her disgrace
and her weeping confession of it.  "They're talking about you in
bars, I don't doubt.  The servants are talking about you.  And
probably the women in Frogs' Hollow."

"I don't care," she said brokenly.

"They're saying the filthiest things.  God knows how true they are.
You'll never be able to hold your head up again, anyway."

"I don't care," she repeated over and over miserably.  "I don't
care."

"I don't suppose you do, you selfish little beast.  You don't care
what WE have to put up with.  You don't care about Father.  You've
taken ten years off his life.  You might have remembered how he
spoilt you.  You might have had the decency to remember that he's
surrounded by enemies who only wait for an opportunity to invent
new slanders against him.  You didn't think what he'd feel going
about town with people pointing fingers at his back.  You let him
down.  That's what you did.  Let him down!"

"I don't know what you're saying, Jimmy," Harriet protested, "but I
didn't do anything wicked."

"Pleased to hear it," James said, "but nobody else will believe
it."

Harriet leant against the wall and wept through her fingers, bowed
before James's wrath.  Her self-respect crumbled to pieces.  "Oh, I
must be wicked.  I must be.  I must be," she wailed, trying to coax
some sign of pity and forgiveness with her grief.

But James turned his back.  "I leave that to your conscience."  He
opened the door, and after an anxious glance up and down the
passage, strode out.

Harriet wept all day and all night, not in her tempestuous way but
with a miserable, prideless ooze of tears, while over her swept
ghoulish memories of her abasement, revived by James.  All the
convictions she had stood by so staunchly went with her self-
respect.  She grovelled in her unworthiness, lacerated herself with
Miss Montaulk's old tirades about the vileness of men and women.
Even the girls in Frogs' Hollow looked down on her, James said.
She was lower than Queenie even.  "I must be putrid, filthy," she
told herself, turning her passion in on herself now as James, also
frustrated, had turned his strength.

On the second day after James's interview, when the maid carried
down another untouched tray of food, Cabell was frightened out of
his resolve to be offended till Harriet chose to come and ask
forgiveness for "betraying his confidence," as he had put it to her
during the stormy scene after the ball.  He hurried to her room and
demanded, with threats and entreaties, that she should open the
door, but the only answer he got was the sound of her weeping.
Finally he sent for an axe and battered the door in.

Harriet was sitting up in bed with her legs doubled under her, hair
down, dress torn, one stocking concertinaed round her ankle,
staring vacantly out of hollow, ringed eyes from which all colour
had faded.  The lustre had gone from her hair, her skin was yellow.
Her tears had dried up and a harsh sob, like a hiccup, shook her
every few seconds.  She took no notice of her father till he sat
down on the bed and said, "I was a mongrel talking like that.  Come
and be like you were before."  Then she lowered her head and the
tears flowed in an unquenchable drip-drip-drip on her folded hands.

He sent for a doctor, who said diplomatically, "I don't know what's
the matter.  She's had a nervous shock.  Get her away from town and
when she's well send her on a long trip where she'll see something
new.  A little port wine and iron will help."

"I'll take her back to the valley and send her home to England next
year," Cabell said, and urged on by the doctor's serious, "You
couldn't do better, except find her a husband.  Women are--er--
flesh and blood, too, you know," he sat down and wrote a letter
to his sister in Owerbury, breaking nearly thirty years' silence.
He asked whether she would take Harriet in at Owerbury and see
she was "piloted where she might find some young fellow with a
bit of gumption and gentlemanliness about him, if the two go
together . . ."

Miss Montaulk was packing.  They were due to leave in a few hours.
Harriet nerved herself to go downstairs for a last walk in the
garden.  As she entered the drawing-room, where the maids had
already put dustcovers on the furniture, reminders of her shame
rushed at her.  She shut her eyes and hurried towards the veranda.

She was stumbling blindly across the disordered floor with one hand
stretched out when she heard a footstep.  She halted and a rough
hand closed over hers and pressed it.  She opened her eyes.  Cash
was standing before her.

"Having a game of blind-man's-buff?" he said with a strenuous
effort at a chuckle, then looked almost hang-dog.  "I was waiting
for your father.  If I'm in the way I'll push off.  I . . ."  He
licked his lips till they shone with spittle.

Harriet stood off and stared at the floor, not wishing to speak but
unable to run away.

"Here, I brought this."  Cash pushed a parcel into her hands.
"Your jewels.  I thought your pa might be asking to see them.  It
was me advanced Geoffrey the money.  I thought he might have stolen
them and I didn't want to see you lose them and him get into hot
water.  I misjudged him for once."

"You mean you misjudged me."

"No, no, Miss Harriet."

"You despise ME now.  You didn't think I could be so low, so mean.
Oh, yes, you said it the other night.  You said I was doing
something mean to Father."

"Me despise you.  God's truth, Miss Harriet, how could I look down
on any one.  I've been as low as a snake's belly in my time."

But Harriet's mind was made up.  They all despised her, even Cash.
From Mrs Peppiott to Cash, she thought, putting Cash at that base
extreme as she recalled Mrs Peppiott's horror when once, in a
pique, she had said that she might be in love with a man and that
man Cash.  And remembering how she had run to him after the fiasco
of the ball she stamped and cried, "You helped me to make a show of
myself the other night.  You let me throw my arms around you.  I
suppose they thought I was one of your Queenies."

But Cash, who certainly knew nothing about "thoroughbred ladies,"
tried to comfort her by saying heartily, "To hell with the whole
dingo pack of them.  Who cares what a Government House push thinks--
it makes no difference to me," and stood staring, sadly puzzled,
up the stairs long after she had fled back to her room.




PART IV: SHEARERS' WAR



CHAPTER ONE: TROUBLE IN THE AIR


One evening Coyle and Larry were talking at the gate.

"Still working for your old man, Larry?" Coyle said with his thin
smile.  "He thrashes you like a dog and you still graft to fill his
pockets."

"It's my ma," Larry said morosely.

"And because of your ma you'll help skin your mates.  Or what you
call your mates."

"They are my mates."

"Garn.  Wait till the strike and he brings in scabs.  Where'll you
be?  With your mates or with the scabs because your ma wants you to
be?"

Larry rubbed his big, cross-grained hands on the top bar of the
gate.

"You'll be with the scabs and the kanakas and Chows."

"What Chows?"

"Think too high of your old man for that, eh?  Well, what does the
new agreement say?  Labour's got to be free.  That means no union
labour need apply.  No jobs for those you call your mates, for
Berry and Goggs and Wagner.  Let them starve.  That's the idea.
The free labour he wants is the free labour he had in the convict
days--labour you don't pay for."  His quiet voice was almost
caressing.  "But he won't get that far, don't worry.  Something
will happen to him soon."

Larry looked into the blue, dazed eyes.  "What?"

Coyle winked.  "Something fatal.  To him and all his gang of land-
jobbers and log-rollers."

Larry shivered.  Coyle's lost gaze, the gentleness of his voice, so
reasonably emphatic of an irrevocable dedication to hate, brought
gooseflesh out on Larry's back.  Against his will he smiled.  He
felt himself sinking into an agreeable hypnosis which yielded him
up to a mind that found words to express the deep, unspoken desires
of his own blood.  "How?" he half-whispered, as though there were
other ears than the ears of Coyle's horse, grazing along the fence,
to hear them.

"If I told you there'd be no going back?"

"I'm not a scab."

"Listen, then."  Coyle began to roll a cigarette.  "There's only
one way.  New agreements and sending men to parliament--that's no
use while your old man lives.  He can give us bread and take it
away.  He can bring in enough immigrants to have us working for
rations, like the old lags, and if we kick he can bring in coolies
by the million from China and India.  And he will.  Wait till the
boom busts and it's harder to make profits.  It'll be the triangle
and redcoats again, if he has his way.  And is that the bushman's
way?  No.  But it's his way, because he's a different blood and
flesh from us.  Look at your brothers and sister--and you.  Can't
you see a difference.  Flash duds and carriages and umbrellas to
keep their complexions from getting spoiled--that's not us, that's
not Australia.  That's England."  He gestured at the landscape,
baked white by the early summer heat, which shimmered on roofs and
trees and the backs of the cattle.  "Where do satin shoes and silk
dresses fit in here?"

Larry repeated the words which the fanatical oratory of old Gursey
had fixed in his mind, "There are only two kinds--men and bosses."

"That's right.  Two ways--the English way and our way.  Our way is
the Australian way and they'll never learn it because they've got
English skins and English eyes and the sun hurts them and the bush
scares them.  They hate it and so they'll do any dirt on it and on
us who belong to it.  They want England and a soft life and art and
all that bullsh, and it's us who pay for it."

His matter-of-fact voice swayed Larry more than any flight of
rhetoric could have done.  He felt, as he always felt when Coyle
spoke to him, as though a great light had broken on his darkness,
dissolving the doubts with which his mother's nagging and
beseeching confused him.  Impatiently, twisting his beard, he
waited for Coyle to come to the point.

"That's England, see?  Aristocrats, and a soft life, and blokes in
kid shoes, and paying ten thousand pounds for an oil painting like
a chap named Todhunter in Brisbane did the other day.  And this is
Australia--the bush, and graft, and your mates, and a man proving
what he is by what he can do, not by who his grandfather was or how
much he's got in his roll, and the wind off open, empty spaces that
scares them behind their painted pictures of England.  The two
don't mix, see?  One battens on the other.  And that's why we've
got to get rid of all that flesh and blood like your old man."

"How?" Larry said, hardly aware that he spoke.

"Ever heard tell of a man named Stelkski, Rudolph Stelkski?  There
was a bloke, Gross, in Pennsylvania, a steel boss.  His hands lived
worse than rats.  A couple of years ago Stelkski walked into his
office and shot him.  Ever heard of anarchists and the bombs they
threw in Chicago?  That's how.  By the extremest means."

"Did it change much when this joker was shot?"

"No, not much yet.  They ain't followed it up yet.  But it'll be
different here.  We've got ten thousand loyal bush-men, all sharp-
shooters.  We'll have twenty thousand quids' worth of ammunition
planted along the central railway.  When it's time we'll strike and
grab the railway and take over the telegraph and stop news getting
out, go to Rockhampton and declare a commune in Central Queensland.
When the unionists outside hear they'll chuck in their bundle and
that'll be the end of the silken bonds of empire and Lord
Muckstein's steady five per cent."

"Say they don't chuck in their bundle."

"They'll come and shoot us down like rabbits.  Scared, are you?"

"I ain't scared."  Larry bit his nails.  "When will it be?"

"I'll be around seeing you," Coyle promised . . .

When Larry went back to the yard Emma put her head out of the
kitchen doorway and demanded, "What were you doing with Coyle?"

"Talking.  What d'you think?"

"Talking about what?"

"Talking."

"He'll talk your head into the cheat," Emma shrieked after him as
he clumped away.

A month later Cabell came home with Harriet and James and found
Emma wailing.  Larry had cleared out.

"Where to?"

Emma did not know.  He had gone off with Coyle two days before.
"It's all because of the union and the books Coyle gave Larry to
read, where it says that if the men turned round and murdered the
bosses it would be the best for everybody."

"Don't worry.  He'll get tired of humping a bluey and come back,"
Cabell said.

"Yes, he'll come back, the fool."

"What d'you mean?"

"Have you forgotten the afternoon at the wood-block?"

Cabell remembered Larry's face behind the swinging axe and
understood why Emma kept wailing, "I'd rather he died than came
back."

He scoured the run, feeling an uneasy need to know where Larry was.
Nobody had seen him.

"He's got bad blood in him, bad Surface blood," Emma kept wailing.
"He'll get in trouble."

Cabell took his gun down and cleaned it.

They were jumpy times.  People said that the boom was over, that
what had happened in the Argentine would happen here.  There would
be unemployment, misery, and revolution.  The unions had been
building up fighting funds for fifteen prosperous years.  Their
newspapers said that the new shearing agreement was the squatters'
effort to make up for losses in the recent panic--the thin edge of
the bosses' wedge.  It was time for a showdown.



CHAPTER TWO: FIGHT FOR A COUNTRY


Cabell had been back at the Reach a month when the papers from
Brisbane announced:


                       SHEARERS DECLARE WAR
                 UNIONISTS REPUDIATE NEW AGREEMENT
               ARMED CAMP OF 1000 MEN AT BARCALDINE
                GRAVE THREATS TO LIFE AND PROPERTY


A week later a posse of union shearers rode into the valley and
pitched camp at the gates of the Reach.  There were thirty or forty
of them, all with rifles.  They were on the government reserve so
Cabell could not interfere with them.  Custard went down to see
what they were up to and discovered that Larry and Coyle were
there, as well as Berry and Wagner and Goggs and Paddy Doolan, and
a number of men who had been coming to the valley on and off for
years.

Cabell was now almost ready for the shearing and waited only for
men.  But they did not offer themselves.  Horsemen from the camp
picketed the roads and herded in everybody who looked like a
shearer or a shedhand on the way to work.  Many of these had no
union tickets but the unionists threatened to duck them in the
river so they stayed in camp.  At the end of a week two hundred
tents were pitched along the road.  Dugald McFarlane came over and
threatened to have the law on Coyle if he stopped men shearing his
sheep, but they hooted him and pelted him with cowdung and he rode
away again.  The manager from Narrow Gut did no better.

"They'll starve and manure the roadside before I ask them to work
for me," Cabell said and sent Custard to the telegraph station at
Pyke's Crossing with a message telling his agent in Brisbane to get
fifty non-union men from New South Wales for the shearing at the
Reach and Ningpo.

But next morning Sambo came in to say that some men wanted to talk
to him at the gate.  He went down and found Berry leading a small
deputation.

"We're moderate men," Berry said.  "We don't want to make trouble
if you'll meet us half-way."

"Are you in the union?"

"Yes."

"You can go to blazes then."

"We're only asking a decent thing."

"Leave the scum you're with and I'll talk to you."

"A man can't leave his mates."

"Then rot."

"Have a care," Berry said.  "You'll drive peaceable men desperate.
You've made an enemy of your own son."

Cabell glanced across the road where a bigger group was standing
around Coyle watching the deputation.  He had already seen Larry's
clumsy figure rising above the crowd and felt, without meeting
them, his son's eyes fixed on his face with the sharp, malicious
gaze of a man looking for somewhere to aim a blow.  They brought
back the feeling of uneasiness and he turned away as he muttered,
"From this on he's no son of mine.  I hope he gets what he
deserves."

The men jeered.  "Save your breath, Berry," Goggs shouted.  "He's
that stingy he'd skin a crow for its hide and boil it down for
dripping."

They laughed.  They were enjoying the strike as a break in their
wandering life.  The beautiful summer day, their comradeship in a
common cause, their easy success in holding up the shearing put
them in a good mood--all except Coyle, who watched them with his
soft, vicious eyes, saying nothing.

Cabell spat in the dust to end the talk, but Berry caught his
sleeve.  "We only want to live and let live," he said.

"Who's stopping you?"

"It's not living when you can raddle a man's sheep and sack him on
the spot and he can't leave without losing his money.  That's not
what we're in Australia for."

"What about magny charter," Goggs said, pushing out his lop-sided
face.  "That's the law for every British subject.  Your agreement's
ultra wirey."

Cabell freed his arm.  "You're a rabble.  You want something for
nothing.  If you had the guts you could be as well off as me."

They laughed again incredulously.

"I'll tell ye what," Paddy Doolan shouted, wagging a black
forefinger.  "Nobody ought to have no more than a pound a week
each, and that's how it's goin' to be for every son-of-a-gun after
the strike."

"Hear!  Hear!  That's right.  Everybody ought to have a pound a
week and no more."

"Oho," Cabell said, "and who's to pay the pound a week?"

They looked at Doolan, who looked anxiously at Coyle, who shrugged
contemptuously and turned away.  Doolan scratched his head.  "I
suppose ye pay yerself, don't ye?"

At this inadequate reply their simple faces clouded.

Cabell sniffed.  "Where's your brains?  You'll let these spielers
from the union pull your legs right off.  D'you think I got what I
got sitting on my backside on the side of the road?  No, I worked
from sunrise to dark and half the night as well.  I drove my wool
to Brisbane on my lonesome when there wasn't any road to follow.  I
fought blackfellows.  Bushfires nearly burnt me out.  The dingoes
killed my sheep.  I nearly went off my nut with the loneliness.
Other men tried to rob me.  I forgot the taste of any kind of
tucker except salt horse, or the feel of good linen on my back.
And in time I got rich.  You talk about YOUR country.  Isn't it MY
country too?  Didn't I carve my home in it?"

They were silent when his passionate voice ceased.

Berry nodded.  "Give us a fair thing and we'll start in shearing at
once."

"Ay," Doolan said, his eyes moist, "it's a great pioneer ye've
been.  I'll say that.  And many's the fine leg of mutton yer missus
has slipped in my swag.  I'll say that too, bless ye."

"Well then."  Cabell could see that some of the men were beginning
to waver--Doolan, weak and sentimental, Wagner, a big easy-going
fellow who looked round to see what the others were doing, Berry,
who was anxious to find a peaceful way out, and most of the men who
were not unionists.  They separated themselves from the group round
Coyle and moved across to the gate.  Cabell lifted the latch and
threw it open.  But Coyle turned snarling, "Scabs, are you?  He
soft-soaps you for five minutes and you go crawling off to sign his
dirty agreement."  He shut the gate and sprang on to the post.

The word "scab" sent them back into the mob, but when he spoke
again it was in his usual soft, dead monotone like a voice
chanting.  "You soon forget what you're fighting for.  Not against
raddling, as Berry says.  Not for a few more bob a week.  It's for
the right to live in your own country.  That's what.  He wants
freedom of contract--freedom to employ scabs from Italy and Germany
and England and India and China.  His country he calls it.  It
never was his country.  England's his; that's where he's always
aimed to end up when he'd sucked the marrow out of this."

"That's right," Goggs said.  "Look how he's bred up his son in
stiff cuffs a yard long.  Not much Australian about him.  Nor his
daughter neither."

Coyle looked at Cabell with his thin, vicious, sardonic wraith of a
smile.  "You ought to get a putty medal, loving Australia like you
do.  But don't make any mistake, mates.  If we went with fire-
sticks from Port Phillip to the Gulf and left the whole country
in mourning we couldn't do it as much dirt as him and his
squattocracy.  Look at history.  Was it workers who divided Poland?
Was it workers who sold seats in the House of Commons?  Was it
Labour who drove your fathers and grandfathers out of Ireland and
England and Scotland?  Mates, you've got the blood of posterity in
your hands now, and if you lose your nerve you'll be cursed till
Kingdom Come.  Do you want to see your women working in the
paddocks like some of you seen in England?  Do you want to see your
kids stunted in mind and body like they are in the Black Country
you've heard about?  Well, get rid of him if you don't--him and his
aristocratic guts that thinks everything he does to us is right."

The crowd murmured.  Their good humour was gone now.  He spoke to
ancient grudges buried deep in the hearts of these sons of old
lags, old chartists from England, old socialists from Germany,
communists from France, carbonari from Italy, and refugees from the
ugly hopelessness of industrial towns and starving villages.  Their
faces, powdered grey with the dust, turned towards Cabell.

He shouted against the palpable vibrations of their hostility, "He
twists your tail and down you go.  You'd believe him if he told you
I put dingo poison in the legs of mutton I gave you, eh Doolan?"

"Sure, boss, you filled my tucker-bag more than once.  I'll say
that for ye . . ."

"A lousy leg of mutton!" Coyle said.  "D'you know what Pope Gregory
said?  'Let them know that the earth from which they sprung belongs
to all men in common and therefore the fruits she brings forth must
belong to all.'  That's the words of the Pope."

"Well, if the Pope said that," Doolan said helplessly, "well, you
wouldn't be asking a man to go against his religion, boss?"

"You better try and get it," Cabell said laughing.

"That's all right you laughing," Coyle said.  "You'll sing a
different tune when we come in six weeks' time and your sheep still
unshorn."

Cabell turned back to the house.  "Next time you come you better
bring a few shutters with you," he sang out over his shoulder.

"What?  Will you shoot?" Doolan asked nervously.

"My oath I'll shoot."

Coyle nodded, satisfied.  "There you are," he said, with his eyes
on Larry.  "That's the kind of man you're up against.  Now will you
believe me a bullet's the only thing he understands?"

Larry watched his father's stiff back march up the slope to the
homestead.  On the veranda stood his mother with one hand shading
her eyes against the sun--looking for him in the crowd, he knew.
He raised his hand to wave but put it back in the pocket of his
moleskins.  What was the use?  For the first time he realized that
his old life in the valley, among the horses and cattle he knew and
understood better than men, was finished for good, and he felt sad
and savage.  "A bullet's too good for him," he thought, but as he
looked at that back he felt doubtful and more savage, more sad.



CHAPTER THREE: UTOPISTS AND OTHERS


"Murder's murder," Berry said, breaking the tranced silence.

They looked at him with surprise and hostility.

"You shut your gob," Goggs said.  "It was you went bumming to
Cabell."

But his broad red face which they knew so well was unimpeachable.
"I'll stay here till we eat grass, but I won't do murder."

His voice had broken the spell Coyle put on them.  The compact,
grey anonymity of their uptilted faces changed into a dozen
contradictory expressions of doubt, scorn, disapproval, despair,
fear, and amusement, re-establishing their normal character of
bushmen sardonic and aloof from leadership in an independence
forged by a land whose unpredictable moods a man must generally
face alone.

"It's not murder when you kill a mad dog," Coyle said, lifting his
voice, as he felt them slipping away.

"They mightn't call it murder either on my slab," Wagner said.

"Why should it be YOUR slab?"

"Why shouldn't it?" Wagner drawled down from six inches above the
tallest head.  "Even a bloody counter-jumping Saturday-afternoon
militiaman couldn't miss me.  Jesus, if I been saving myself up
from dying of thirst and being overtook by bushfires to be
stiffened by one of them city blokes it'd be hard."

"There isn't a handful of traps or militiamen within a hundred
miles," Coyle said.  "Before they could come we'd smash the railway
and saw through the bridges and pull the telegraph down."

"No, no," Berry interjected.  "That's mad talk.  Violence ain't
called for."

"Ain't it?  And what when he begins marching in scabs?"

"There's constitutional means if the strike fails," Berry said,
evasively.  "Perhaps we could send a deputation to the politicians
the squatters elect, d'you mean?"

"No, we could work to send men of our own kind.  If we had a few
shearers in parliament . . ."

"Ifs won't feed your mates' wives nor pay the instalment money on
your farm at the end of the season if he wins."

Berry hung his head.

The men began to argue.  "What I reckon, there's enough gold and
silver in the blessed place to give every one a pound a week for
his life," said Paddy Doolan, who had been thinking this seductive
proposition over again and had seen through all the flaws at last.
"I once heard a bloke say there was millions in Waterfall alone."

"How y'going to get your divvy if it's in Waterfall?" Wagner wanted
to know.

"Eh?  Suppose ye dig it out for yeself.  No, no, that ain't right."
He fell back into deep thought.

"I agree with Berry," said a wizened old man with china-clear eyes
and a dribble of uneven beard stiff and stained with tobacco juice,
like a dirty stalagmite.  "Evolution's the best way to justice, not
revolution."

Coyle snorted.  "If it took the monkey a couple of million years to
become a man how long d'you think it'll take Rusty?"

"You don't understand the human heart, Coyle," the old man said
quickly, stuttering and jumbling all his words together nervously
in his anxiety to make himself clear, before the sardonic disbelief
which came into their eyes when they looked at him found words
to jeer him down.  "Look at me.  I was more evil than he has
ever been.  I was a bully and a swaggerer.  I debased men and
women . . ."

"'Arf yer luck with the women, Budge," Goggs said.

Budge waited till their laughter died, slipping his high, fine
voice in under it like a knife which cut the guffaws from their
lips and left the sound to wander bodiless across the echoing bush.
"Yes, it was so.  I was an officer, like my father and my
grandfather before me.  I was brought up to be a braggart and a
violent bully.  I spent money like water and never asked where it
came from or cared about the souls who were brutalized in keeping
my pockets full.  But a day of reckoning came.  I killed a man in
cold blood, a good honest man.  I insulted him and forced him to
fight a duel with me and I shot him dead."

"They oughta hanged you," Goggs said indignantly.  "That was
straight-out murder."

"Yes, my friend, but I had powerful relations.  They got me out of
the country and hushed it all up.  After a year or two I could have
gone back, but I had changed.  I don't know what happened, but I
saw all at once how stupid my life had been and the lives of all my
kind, how stupid and cruel.  I only wanted to escape from
everything that reminded me of it.  So I came here to a new country
to work with my hands and perhaps build up something better."

"You oughta joined the Salvation Army," Coyle said.

"But it's possible, don't you see?" Budge said, turning his face
around the circle of their aloof and bantering disregard like a
weak candle-flame licking at a stone wall.  "Men can change
suddenly.  The world can change."

"Even dingoes?"

"Yes, you should read Fourier.  Even tigers can change.  Man lived
in a Golden Age once.  If they could change to being evil and
unhappy why shouldn't they change to being decent and happy?
Everybody wants to be decent and happy, but they don't know how.
Even before the duel I was often disgusted with myself.  But it
seemed impossible that anything should change.  'I didn't make
myself,' I used to say.  'It was ordained from the beginning.'  But
I was wrong.  I did change."

"And somebody stepped into your shoes and went on lining their
pockets from the sweat of the poor bastards in your old man's
mines, and the world went on as before."

"Only because they hadn't learnt to understand as I'd learnt.  They
must be shown.  This is a new, fresh soil where you can build up
something because everybody isn't discouraged by seeing the castles
and jails and battlefields which tell them how old evil is in the
world.  Look."  He picked up a handful of the road dust.  "When I
cut myself I rub this dirt on the cut and it heals it, because it
is clean dirt, not like the dirt in the Old World, full of disease
and evil, which kills you when it gets in a wound.  Here there is
none of man's filth in the soil.  The Garden of Eden and the reign
of love on earth would grow here again if we wished it."

"Hear!  Hear!" Berry said.

"You don't build anything with love," Coyle said, "you only build
with hate.  When you hate, that is, till you feel as if you'd
swallowed a coupla black snakes--that's when you want to build.
You ought to be wearing a back-to-front collar--that's your line,
Budge."

The noisy argument broke out again.  "If you want to know what I'd
do . . ."  "What that bloke Winwood Reade reckons . . ."  "Tom
Paine says . . ." and they straggled back to camp banging red fists
into their soft shearers' palms, bellowing sarcastically at each
other's plan for salving the pains of the world, and, with the
assistance of strange geometrical designs drawn in the dust to
assist the agonizing process of exposition, putting forth counter
schemes and philosophies evolved from the works of Darwin and
Spencer, Paine, Bellamy, and Mill which they had read by the light
of camp-fires and slush lamps and pondered over in the long, day-
dreaming hours of lonely wandering.

Larry would have liked to have a say, but he was too shy and could
only nod, even when he did not agree.  He was deeply impressed by
what Budge had said.  He did not know why, but the theory that
everything could be made to work out happily without any fighting
appealed to him strongly just now, as he began to realize what an
irrevocable leap he had taken.  Coyle caught his arm and beckoned
him away.  Turning from Budge to Coyle Larry felt his heart sink,
as though the blue, dimmed eyes, like a drunk's eyes in their
truncated gazing upon a void, reminded him of some unpleasant thing
he had forgotten he must do.

"Don't waste time listening to them," Coyle said.  "They're all
talk."

"They reckon it will be settled without any shooting," Larry said
anxiously.  "D'you reckon?"

"That's what THEY think."

Larry looked at him questioningly.  He did not answer, but led the
way through the camp, in the designless muddle of its tents, brush
shelters, and bark lean-tos revealing once more the bushman's
undisciplinable anarchism.  Outside each tent was a neat pile of
the shearers' goods, saddle and bridle, folded blue blanket, billy,
tin plate, pannikin, knife, and a few books.  In the middle of the
camp they had built a big cairn of red rocks to support a gum
sapling from which fluttered a red flag with the Southern Cross in
white stars.  In the shade of the cairn Goggs and some of his mates
were settling down to play away their strike pay at euchre.

Larry and Coyle saddled up to go out and relieve the picket.  When
they were away from the camp Coyle took a letter from his pocket
and handed it to Larry.  It was from the Central Strike Committee,
addressed to the Committee of the Queensland Shearers' Union Strike
Camp at Cabell's Reach, per Jerry Coyle, Organizer, and read:


COMRADES,

You will not be surprised to hear that the squatters are engaging
scabs from the sweepings of Bourke Street and the various well-
known resorts of thugs, touts, bludgers, and larrikins in Sydney to
come and break your strike.  The first batch is due in Brisbane
within a couple of weeks, and part of it will be sent to your
district.  The squatters hired bullies, the police, will escort
them from the railhead with orders to get them to work, dead or
alive--meaning you, comrades.  We need not teach you your duty to
your thousands of union mates whose fight will be jeopardized if
these scabs get through . . .


"Have you told them?" Larry asked.

"What d'you take me for?  The camp'd be half-empty now and your old
man's shearing in full blast.  They'll find out soon enough--and
then you see whether there'll be any shooting."



CHAPTER FOUR: END OF WAITING


The men stayed in a good holiday mood for another four weeks.  They
spent the time gambling away their strike pay, getting drunk,
arguing about the form and quality of their Utopia, picketing the
roads, and assuring each other, "We got the sod beat."  Coyle did
not interfere.

These were the last hot lazy days of the dry season when the clear
air makes visible the hard edges of things from miles away, giving
men a fictitious belief in the world's unduplicity, their power to
see and foresee.  Even moonless nights were lighted by the blue,
summer starshine.  To imagine a break in the procession of perfect
days was impossible under their spell.  Optimism was as
irresistible as sleep.  Languor took away their bitterness.
"Rusty'll come round in a day or two," they said.  "The seed's
getting in his wool bad."

But Larry knew better than they the obstinacy of his father, that
each day brought them nearer not to peaceful victory but to a
fight.  He had Coyle's assurance for that, too.  "Just wait," Coyle
said, "till the scabs come."

The long empty days had sapped Larry's courage.  Coyle's promise of
a short, sharp, irresistible rising had swept him off his feet, but
now that he had to wait he began brooding over his mother's
warning, "It won't be him licks his wounds.  He's dealt with harder
men than you."  So when Coyle talked to him about the fight that
was to come he found himself wishing that it would never come and
that it would come quickly.  Fear swelled his hatred, and hatred,
inspiring long reveries of violence which always petered out in
some memory of his father triumphing, fermented his fear.  The men
left him alone.  He was moody and savage, given to bursts of bad
temper and sudden pig-headed recklessness.

One night he startled everybody by raiding the homestead vegetable
garden under the window of Cabell's room.  Hugging an armful of
carrots and worm-eaten cabbages he crouched under the flame-tree
and stared through the window into the lighted room where his
father sat at his table writing.  "A man could put a blue pill
right through his head from here."  The beat of his heart thundered
on the quiet night.

Suddenly Cabell raised his head and looked straight into Larry's
eyes, slipped his hand under the papers on the table, and drew out
a revolver.  Larry stopped breathing as he watched his father rise,
cock the revolver, and walk quickly to the window.  For several
minutes then they were within an arm's length of each other as
Cabell, leaning out, sniffed suspiciously and turned his head from
side to side, searching the darkness.  Larry felt in his hand the
long butcher's knife he had brought to cut the cabbages.  "A man
could cut his head off."  He worked his hand free and braced
himself against the wall.  As though offering his throat to the
knife, tempting Larry to some fatal foolishness, Cabell leant
farther out.  But Larry began to shiver.  He saw the light on the
barrel of the gun as it turned slowly with Cabell's eye, and before
he knew what he was doing he was thrashing wildly through the
garden and down the slope.  A shot and a shout followed him, which
started the dogs and brought the shearers from their blankets to
the fireside, where they were crowding nervously when Larry ran in
with the cabbages.

Berry was angry.  "Wonder he didn't plug you, you fool."

His reaction from that mad enterprise was to saddle his horse as
soon as the camp was asleep and ride off towards Pyke's Crossing.
"A man needn't see any of them again."  A hundred yards from the
camp he looked back at the fitful light of the fire on tents and
sleeping men.  It seemed to him that the vast hall of the night was
uninhabited except for these few men and untroubled except for
their sorrows, that if he was to ride out of the valley he would
leave all worry and danger behind.  Already his heart was lighter.
He sank his spurs and cantered towards the hills, but as the road
began to climb that rampart behind which he had lived for forty
years, his chin fell, the reins loosened, and the horse dawdled.
What would his mates say?  They'd think he was funked.  "I'm not
funked."  He repeated it over and over, but rode on.  As the dawn
was breaking he crossed the last spur of the range, whence he could
see the valley on one side and on the other the white, winding road
which lost itself in mysterious blue distance--the world outside
the valley.  Pieced together from the gaudy anecdotes of Sambo and
other travellers this world presented itself to his imagination as
a tableau of bold, urgent women, dishonest men, and hostile city
folk expert in laying traps for the bushmen--inviting but
forbiddingly immense as he saw it now in the cold light of the
morning beside the compact, familiar landscape of the valley.  HIS
valley.  "Yes, by rights it should belong to me, but he's cheating
me out of it--me and Ma."  His horse turned back towards the Reach
and whinnied for home, and feeling no pull on the bit began to
descend the hills.

Coyle grinned when he rode in.  "So you tried to run?"

"Who said?"

"Oh, yes, you did.  But you couldn't, could you?"

"I ain't funked," Larry flared, "if that's what you mean."

"Ain't you?"

Larry took him by the shoulder and shook him till he had shaken
some of the exasperation out of himself, then went and sulked alone
down by the horselines.  In the afternoon he disappeared again and
returned at sunset with half a dozen of Cabell's primest fat
wethers for the cook.

Berry gloomed over this latest recklessness.  "That's not right,
Larry, pinching sheep in daylight.  It's suicide, that's what it
is."

And seeing the frightened looks on their faces Larry was frightened
again, too.  So he passed those weeks between terror and
impatience, between looking for danger and dreaming frightened
nightmares of his father, between longing to serve his mates with
some sacrificial deed and loathing them for having brought their
struggle into his peaceful life.

Then the atmosphere of the camp changed.  "What's it matter to him
if he loses his wool?" they said.  "He's got plenty to fall back
on."  The short season when they earned most of their money was
more than half gone.  The weak ones began to waver and talk about
their wives and kids and their selections on which payments would
soon be due.  The strong determined ones said nothing but eyed the
sky twitching with the reflection of distant lightning.  The rains
were coming.

Budge tried to inspire them.  "We can't lose, mates, unless men
turn round and go back to monkeys.  What we stand for is right and
justice and a better world, and life has been moving towards that
for a long time."

"Meaning," Coyle said, "that in two thousand years yous'll be
looked on as they look on the Christian martyrs now."

"We are martyrs.  If we leave our bones at the gate it's we who
win."

"I know a better lay."

They looked at him.

"To leave HIS bones."

"No, no," Berry said.  "We're honest men.  Right is might, as Budge
said."

His obstinate conviction of it roused them.  They cheered.  But
Coyle's moment was ripe.  He held up his hand.  "Before you break
into hymns led by Brother Budge, I got a telegram from Brisbane
here."  He read it while they clustered round him in an anxious mob
with the flag stretched out above them on the wind that was daily
bringing the rains nearer.  "Seventy scabs leaving for Cabell Reach
with police escort.  Expect them early next week."

"That's NOW--to-day or to-morrow," Coyle said.  "By this time next
week he'll be shearing unless . . ."

Budge's voice, protesting the invincibility of a just cause, was
drowned in their gabble.  He continued to shriek and wave his arms
till Goggs took hold of him and knocked him down.  The mob closed
blindly over him and drew nearer to Coyle.

"It's no use pulling the wool over your eyes, mates," Coyle said.
"The strike's up the spout.  While you've been sitting on your
behinds listening to Berry and Budge the squatters' banks have been
buying scabs by the shipload from Sydney and Melbourne--city thugs
who will soon drive you bushmen out of your own country.  Now
they're calling up the militia and sending Gatling guns to turn on
you.  You wouldn't listen to me before.  Will you wait till it's
too late?"

"We'll lynch the cows."

The spirit of the camp changed again.  The prospect of a fight with
police and strike-breakers refreshed their dying resolve.  Even
Berry said, "No city scab will take the bread out of my kid's mouth
while I got two fists."

"Fists?" Coyle said.  "Haven't you got a rifle?"

But here another interminable argument began.  Some were for
ambushing the scabs in the hills and shooting them down or
stringing them up to the nearest trees.  They were the real
footloose bushmen, half-savage nomads like Goggs and Coyle,
children of old lags born in little outstation or bush slum and
turned adrift to fight a traditional enemy as cattle-duffers or
bushrangers or unionists.  Others thought the scabs should be
kidnapped and brought to camp and restrained from working and
reasoned with.  They were a new kind of bushman, like Berry and
Budge, who had families and selections and less hate than Coyle and
Goggs.  On their argument that night turned the future of a
movement, perhaps the future of a nation.

Larry, sitting apart at the camp-fire, listened, frowning as his
slow brain tried to cope with their talk.  In all his life he had
not heard so much talk as in these past five weeks--philosophy,
economics, tales of injustice, schemes for reforming the world, the
guttersnipe rage of Goggs against "them bloody toffs your sister
and brothers," Budge's semi-mystical maunderings about the soil and
how the sword should not sleep in a man's hand until he had rebuilt
Jerusalem, Coyle's ironic confidences which tangled him deeper and
deeper in an undefined, perilous, but agreeable conspiracy.  All
this confused and at times exalted him, made him feel that whatever
he did in the cause of these men would be right and promised, in
some vague way, a fulfilment of the hollow pain of frustration
which had tormented him since long ago when he learnt the impotence
of his anger against his father's hard will and hard fists.

To-night their talk, wilder than usual because of the coming fight,
made his blood burn, and the firelight flickering on his face was
like a flame within him.

"What about you?" Coyle said.

"I'll fight.  By Jesus, yes."

"Everything depends on you," Coyle said.

"Me?"

"On you and me and half a dozen.  Because none of the selectors
will fight.  But if we fight and something serious happens
everybody's in it and they'll have to fight for their lives, and
that'll light a brand that will set the whole country on fire,
because every unionist on strike is waiting and none of them is
game to start.  They want somebody like Stelkski to show them that
their tyrants ain't invulnerable, like he did by murdering the
biggest and strongest tyrant of the lot.  And who's the biggest and
strongest tyrant here, eh?  Your old man."

The light sprang into Larry's eyes as he raised his head, then his
head dropped and his eyes were dull.

"What of it?" Coyle said.  "You ain't put off by a word?  Murder
and fire's the way of revolution.  Robespierre and Marat didn't get
rid of tyrants by twiddling their thumbs.  Once we start we'll go
through the country like fire in dry thistle, and there won't be
any left to call it murder and arson."  For an instant the light
glowed in his own dead, dim, unfocused eyes, like a mysterious will-
o'-the-wisp in the windows of a house over which the shadow of some
mad deed has fallen, confirming people's fear that evil and hatred
do not die.  "We got a lot to be conscience stricken about, ain't
we?  A hell of a tender-hearted bloke your old man was when he had
life and death power over people like my old man--and your ma."  He
spoke with a harsh and exigent impetuosity as though not he, whose
voice was always gentle, was speaking but some imprisoned tenant of
his heart who fought to get free.  The muscles of his guarded face
relaxed and his jaw came loose, giving him the flaccidly imbecile
expression of a drunk which, since he had no liquor in, was very
unpleasant to see.  "It's all lawful in a revolution.  Let these
smarmy women in silk dresses like your sister get a taste of what
your old woman had when she was hired out to drunken squatters."
He grinned into the fire, shuddered, then wiped his hand roughly
across his face.  When he spoke again it was with his usual
quietness, his eyes gone dead.  "Anyway, who said it was murder--
it's self-defence.  We're fighting for our rights, ain't we?  We're
fighting for posterity."

Larry spent a restless night in his blanket under the stars
listening to the curlews and trying to sort out the ideas which
buzzed so noisily in his brain that once or twice he thought he was
still sitting at the fire with the shearers arguing around him.  He
thought of his father and the scabs and of Berry and Budge and all
the rest with whom he shared this new religion of mateship--it was
no less than a religion to them in those days--and the idea that
his father would win and rob them of the simple rights they
demanded made him stiff with anger.  Falling off to sleep he dreamt
that he was fighting James.  Huddled in the corner of the room was
a naked woman--Molly Heffernan from Black Rock.  He was just about
to kill James when his father came in with policemen.  They took
him outside and he saw himself hanging there on a gallows with a
lax grinning jaw and dull, dispersed eyes.  He awoke trembling, and
thought at once of his mother with a choking sense of wretchedness
and guilt.  He remembered what she had planned for him, and how
differently it had turned out!  "It will kill her," he kept
repeating.

Then he tried to tell himself that maybe it wasn't true about the
scabs.  Maybe there wouldn't be a fight.  Perhaps the strike would
end soon and his father go back to Brisbane and not say anything if
he returned to the Reach. . . .  But the idea that some final
conflict between his father and himself was unavoidable now became
so strong that he gave up struggling against it at last, and even
found a kind of torpid, fatalistic peace in resigning himself.
Till the dawn broke on the valley, with an instantaneous white
blaze of heat, he lay thinking over the events of his life--
Gursey's harangues, the injustices done to Berry, the talk he had
heard in the shearers' hut, the fight with his father, the
estrangement between himself and his brothers, his disinheritance--
which had brought him to this point where he must either go
docilely off and let his father have it all his own way or fight it
out once for all.  He thought of these things without emotion,
except perhaps a little self-pity and a certain naïve amazement at
the discovery that a process of destiny had been at work within him
for so many years unsuspected.  Even the thought, "It won't be him
licks his wounds," which ran across all other thoughts, awoke only
a queer feeling of relief that this day would put an end to the
knot of pain in his belly.



CHAPTER FIVE: NO ESCAPE


The camp awakened early and went on with its argument.  Just before
noon an excited picket galloped in to say that a crowd of mounted
troopers were coming up the road, and soon afterwards two men came
out of the scrub on tired horses--one a trooper with a carbine in
the saddle holster and a sword at his belt, the other Cash, who
waved to the men as he passed and got their hoots and catcalls in
reply.

Half an hour later they rode out of the Reach with Cabell and
James.  The men ran from the camp and hooted again.  Cabell was
carrying a stock-whip.  He cracked it low over the shearers' heads,
and for a while their arguing ceased and they were thoughtful.  In
that mood Coyle got them out on to the road, a silent, surly
rabble, a few on horseback, some with rifles, some with sticks, but
most on foot with only their bare, clenched fists.  In Larry's belt
was a revolver which Coyle had given him.  With Coyle he rode in
front of the mob.  Behind the horsemen came Budge running backwards
with his arms outstretched, trying to make the mob stop and listen.

Suddenly Goggs pulled his horse in.  "Look.  There they are."
About three miles away a cloud of dust rose over the scrub.  "There
must be a coupla hundred traps," Goggs said anxiously, looking
round at the men.  They seemed a tiny mob bunched together on the
side of the road, and Goggs began to turn yellow under his sunburn.
"I reckon they ain't got orders to shoot over our heads neither."

Budge jumped on to a stump.  "Men," he yelled, "think what you're
doing.  Some of you may be killed."

"We're done for anyway, if we let the scabs past," Coyle said.

"We're not done for while the vital spark is in us," Budge said,
"but whatever happens to the scabs won't profit you or your wives
and kids when you've got a heartful of lead.  Look around, mates,
it might be the last sight of the earth you're getting.  Life's
something you don't get two bites at."

"Aw, shut your mouth, Budge," Larry said, but he turned in his
saddle to look at the valley where Budge pointed, insubstantial,
inaccessible, behind the dust and the yellow shimmer of heat.
"It's like Coyle says," he muttered, tugging his beard sideways,
"you can't lose more than you've lost, so what's the use talking."

"But nothing's lost," Budge insisted.  "Suppose we lose this strike--
we'll still have our lives and our ideals.  We can go somewhere
else and start again where there are no squatters.  South America
wants settlers.  They'll give us land.  It's a republic there
already.  They've thrown off the yoke.  They'll take us like
brothers. . . ."

"The right kind of brothers for you," Coyle said.  "Dirty dagoes."
But Larry's imagination leapt at an eleventh hour hope.  South
America.  A new life thousands of miles away.  Was it possible?

"Like the Owenites in America I told you of," Budge was saying.
"All men are mates there.  Nobody owns the land.  Greed and hatred
are forgotten.  Why shouldn't we do the same?  Be patient a bit
longer, mates, and if we lose this strike through the iniquity of
the bosses, come to South America where such evil powers have been
driven away."

Coyle laughed.  "Come to Jesus, you mean."  And seeing how Larry
still hung on Budge's words demanded, "What d'we want, cadging land
from dagoes when we already got land here that's ours by a right it
only needs the guts to take.  We ain't cowards to give up our swag
to Cabell on the off-chance of smoodging charity from strangers."

"That's right," Berry said reluctantly.  "This is our country, win
or lose."

"To hell with South America," the mob growled.

But Coyle could not get them any farther along the road.  They sat
down in the thin shade of the roadside and watched the dust slowly
smoking towards them.

Coyle gave up ranting and joined Larry, who had ridden apart from
the rest.  He sat with his chin on his chest, chewing his nails.
As Coyle came up and slapped the rump of his horse he started.

"Thinking of running off with Brother Budge to Paraguay?"

"Leave me alone."

"You couldn't, you know."  He leant his vicious wedge of a face
close to Larry's.  "You've been here forty years and you've never
cleared out, though I'll bet there wasn't a day you didn't think of
it.  What kept you?  Because you're tied to your ma's apron
strings?  Ah no, it's your old man you're leg-roped to, and not
with filial love, neither."

The horses pricked their ears and faced up the road towards a
jingle of trace chains.  The dust was scarcely half a mile beyond
the bend of the road now.  Some of the men rose.

"What I reckon," Goggs said, "if there's a lot of traps we oughtna
do nothing."

Nobody paid him any attention.  He got off his horse and kicked it
savagely, gratuitously in the belly.

"Oh, no," Coyle went on in a low voice, hurriedly, "love don't tie
you up but hatred does.  When you get your knife in a man you can't
think of nothing else eating, drinking, or sleeping.  You might get
as far away as Pyke's Crossing, but you couldn't get away from the
thought that he was still walking the earth and filling up on the
best of everything.  That'd stick in your throat and poison every
breath you drew until--he didn't walk the earth no more.  Ah, no,
Larry," he said, catching hold of Larry's arm as he tried to turn
away, "I'm telling you something for your own good.  If you clear
out on us now you'd curse yourself for a yellow bastard to the end
of your days for chucking away a chance to even up your own and
your ma's score."

"Who's chucking any chance away?"

"That's the way to talk."  Coyle patted him on the back.  "Besides,
see here.  We've got four hundred men with a hundred rifles and
revolvers, and soon there'll be a lot of dust.  Who'd know where a
bullet came from?"

"Ach," Larry said impatiently, "nobody'll shoot him.  If you was to
put the muzzle up against his heart and pull the trigger you
wouldn't hurt him.  He's always won.  He always will."

At this moment the procession of coaches, carts, and buggies,
escorted by four mounted troopers, James, and Custard, came round
the bend.  They were moving slowly.  Cabell was saving the horses
for a last dash past the shearers' camp.  He was riding in front
with Cash.

The men roared, "Here they are," then ran stumbling, jostling each
other down the road.  A flight of cockatoos rose from the trees,
like a handful of torn paper thrown into the air, circled, and fled
screaming.  High above the squeak of the axles, the shout of the
men, the cracking of whips, Larry heard his father's voice
threatening, "Back you dogs," and two shots whistled overhead.  He
glanced at Coyle, grinned sheepishly, and fell to brooding again
without any interest in the scampering, yelling mob of his
comrades, soon lost in the dust.

Coyle shook him.  "Wake up, Larry.  Ain't you coming?"

He looked around.  All the shearers were gone except Budge, sitting
on the stump with his wispy head in his hands, and Goggs intently
fumbling at his saddle.  "What you think of that?" Goggs
volunteered indignantly, "Me bloody surcingle's bloody well gone
and bust on me."

Larry watched him vaguely, then tore his arm from Coyle and walked
his horse into the middle of the road.  Coyle trotted after.

With a stampede of hoofs the coaches emerged from the dust four
hundred yards away.  Cabell was belting the horses of the leading
coach with his whip, every now and then swinging the lash at the
shearers on horseback who were trying to get at the horses to pull
them in.  The coaches swung crazily from side to side in the ruts.
A man had got on to the footboard of one and was half-way through
the window trying to reach the passengers inside to drag them out.
A trooper was beating him on the back with the flat of his sword.
Volleys of sticks and stones poured on the trooper.  His cap was
gone and his cheek was covered with blood, as though somebody had
smashed a tomato over his eye.

Larry, in the middle of the road, dully watched the horses come
with frightened, upflung heads.  He saw his father, whip in one
hand, revolver in the other, galloping straight at him, waving him
out of the way.  Holding his ground before that juggernaut
approach, his confused wits were lighted by a spurt of complacent
satisfaction in disobeying his father's urgent command.  "Thinks
he'll make me move.  Well, he can go round ME this time."  His
horse shied and tried to turn, backed a few steps, jibbing
violently.  He cursed it and buried his spurs.  Shaking its head it
began to trot forward, crabwise and pigrooting.  As soon as he felt
the horse moving under him he was revitalized with a kind of
irresponsible abandon.  He sank his spurs again and again, whipped
his hat off and thrashed the horse's rump with it.  The horse
sprang into a gallop straight for the racing coaches.  Thirty yards
off he saw the black barrel of his father's revolver and the
grimace on his face as he yelled, "Out of the way you son of a
bitch" and raised his hand.  Larry jabbed in the spurs again and
shut his eyes, thinking no more, but conscious of a rush of warm,
grateful blood, like a man who has taken a dangerous jump and found
it not so hard.  Riding blind, with the wind whipping his ear-drums
as he counted "One!  Two!  Three!" waiting for the shot, he had a
sensation of dreamlike flying.  But Cabell had raised the whip, not
the revolver, and brought it down screaming as Larry opened his
eyes and thought, "If he doesn't shoot now I'll break his neck.  He
can't turn on that crock."  The lash curled round his belly,
ripping the shirt across his back, and flicked the horse's eyes.
It threw up its blinded head and seemed to rear on air, came down
heavily on stiff legs, stumbled, twisted in the dust, and rushed on
again, too maddened by fear and pain to feel the pull on the left
rein as Larry tried to turn it back towards his father.  They
passed, smashing boot against boot, flank against flank, each
glimpsing the uncovered teeth of the other, a look of astonishment
and outrage on Cabell's face, of stupid bewilderment on Larry's.
"You'll have to do it all again," was his first chagrined thought
as he saw the road clear for twenty yards ahead of him, then the
leaders of the coach, with open, foaming jaws, and the driver on
the box, cursing, leaning back on the reins, with terrified face,
trying to pull them in.  "What's the use?  I couldn't touch him."
Still spurring the torn ribs of his horse he closed his eyes again
and flew on, opening them to a vision of horses pawing the air
above him in the instant before he struck and fell in a grinding,
shrieking cataclysm of overturned coach and fallen, kicking horses.

He wasn't even dazed.  His horse went down and he fell sideways but
his boot caught in the stirrup, and when the horse sprang up and
pounded its way clear of the coach-horses, struggling in the tangle
of their harness, with the coach and the coachmen and baggage on
top, it dragged him clear and ten yards from the mêlée before his
boot came off.  For ten seconds he lay sprawled in the dust,
gasping, before the men ran up, their animus suspended a moment, to
look expectantly at his blood-spattered face.  He rose and shook
himself.

They cheered.  "Good old Larry."

"Reckless fool," Berry said, brushing him down.

The coachman crawled into the road and shook his fist.  "Just ye
wait till yer da catches ye."

"To hell with his da.  We'll put a head on him."

But they went for their lives as soon as Cabell galloped up,
pulling his horse on to its haunches, and laid about him with the
whip.  Cash was beside him.  He grabbed hold of the hand in which
Cabell gripped his revolver.  In silence they struggled, till Cash
wrenched the revolver away and threw it into the bush, but he
continued to hold Cabell as he shouted to Larry, "Run, or he'll do
you in."

In his father's contorted face Larry saw the uselessness of running
away.  He felt in his belt.  The revolver Coyle had given him was
gone.  It lay in the dust near the overturned coach.  He moved
towards it looking back, but before he reached it his father broke
free and rode at him, clubbing the heavy handle of his whip.  Larry
groped quickly for a stone and flung it as Cash threw all the
weight of his big back against the shoulder of Cabell's, forcing it
round.  Cabell fell half out of the saddle and dropped his whip and
the stone hit Cash fair in the centre of the forehead.  He slumped
over the horse's neck and it galloped away with him, pigrooting
with fright, towards the station.  James went after it.  At the
same moment one of the troopers rode on Larry from behind and
stretched him out with a blow across the head from the flat of his
sword.  He fell face down with his arms out.

"They've killed him," Berry shouted.  The men rallied and ran
forward, driving Cabell and the troopers with stones.

Cabell was unarmed, the troopers hopelessly outnumbered, but they
managed to keep the strikers off until Custard got the carts and
buggies which had escaped the collision on the move again.  They
withdrew them, pursued by the shearers on horseback while the mob
dragged the scabs out of the wrecked coaches.  There were twenty of
these, all badly shaken and scared.  Confronted by four hundred
angry men they made no difficulties about returning to the camp and
signing the union pledge, especially as they were offered free
board and lodging and, from Paddy Doolan, "a pound a week for life"
if they helped to win the strike.



CHAPTER SIX: LARRY TRIES AGAIN


Larry came to with a bad heachache, but he was hardly aware of it,
for he awakened to the bleak prospect of a renewed fight with his
father.

He was the hero of the camp.  The shearers believed that he had
ridden into the coach deliberately to stop it.  The fuss they made
irritated him: in his heart he damned himself for a coward.  He
could not look Coyle in the eye, but if Coyle had reproached him
Larry would have knocked him down.

"You better not hang round," Coyle merely said.  "Better get your
horse and mizzle over the border before the Johns come down."

"Who said I'd run away."

"You might as well.  Your old man's won."

The shearers pooh-poohed.  They were very pleased with themselves.
"We taught him a thing or two," Goggs said.  "He knows the kind of
men he's up against now."

"A fat lot you've all got to crow about," Coyle said
contemptuously, "after having the tripe scared out of you by
fifteen traps.  You think because you've roped in a few scabs
you've won the strike.  What about the ones that got past?  They'll
start shearing the day after to-morrow."  "We'll talk to them in
the morning," Berry said.  "We'll go up first thing."

"They're working men like ourselves.  They'll understand," Budge
said.

"Talk!"  Coyle sneered.  "You won't get five yards past the gate.
By tomorrow the Johns will be rested and drawn up on the slope
ready to shoot the first man over the fence."

"Jesus, d'you reckon?" Goggs said.

Coyle looked at Larry.  "Of course, if we hit quick and hard to-
night, while they're busy licking the blood off and don't expect
us, we might make up for mistakes.  If we did something to put the
fear of God in every squatter--but what's the use of talking."

"What's in your mind?" Larry said, eyeing him darkly.

"First we ought to raid the shed and get those scabs.  Then we
ought to burn the shed to stop him shearing.  That for a start."

"That's arson.  That's criminal," Berry said quickly.

"You're right, Berry," Goggs said.  "It's trespassing too."

The rest assented.  "We done enough to-day."

"And you, Larry?  You think you done enough too?"

Larry twisted his beard till the flesh came up in white ulcers on
his chin.  "I'll go with you."

"You're mad," Berry said.  "You're just talking."

"Who said so?" Larry fired.  "I'll burn his bloody shed for him."

They shook their heads.  "The less you tempt the devil in your
father the better," Berry said.  "He came near finishing you off to-
day."

"Anybody'd think he wasn't a man, an old man, and half-blind at
that," Larry shouted.  "What're you scared of?"

They shifted and muttered ashamedly.

"Sure, he's only mortal man," Doolan said.  "Didn't ye see that
other fellow holding him with one hand like a babe?"

"Sure.  That's right.  We had him beat there."  They began to cheer
up and taste the excitement of the fight again.

Coyle watched till they were going well, then stood up.  "Come on,
Larry.  We'll go alone.  They're all talk."

Larry rose slowly and followed him.

"Wait a minute," Berry said.  "If you're going we'll come with
you."

The men shifted again.  "Aye, we'll come."

Berry and Wagner and two or three others joined them.  Budge
groaned and joined them too.  Paddy Doolan crept out of the
firelight and stood close behind Larry looking round nervously at
the darkness.  Then everybody stood up, and Goggs said he'd go too,
but shouldn't somebody watch the prisoners and if they insisted
he'd risk having his throat cut and stay.  But he changed his mind
when Coyle began to organize a raiding party and called for
volunteers to watch in the garden for alarms at the homestead, with
nothing more dangerous to do than whistle three times when they
heard a stir and run for their lives.  He was assigned for the job
with Paddy Doolan, and from the rest Coyle chose himself, Larry,
Wagner, Berry and Budge ("Just so you won't feel tempted to whiddle
after," he told Budge), to creep into the shearing-shed, saturate
the walls with tar and kerosene, and set fire to it before rushing
the hut where the scabs were.  They were to bail the scabs up and
signal for thirty men who had surrounded the hut to close in and
hustle them back to camp.  If the scabs resisted they were to take
one man and make a quick example of him.

"How?" Budge wanted to know.

"Wait and see," Coyle said, enjoying with his bitter smile Budge's
helpless misery.

It was close on eleven o'clock by the time they were ready to
start.  The night was starless and stifling.  Sheet lightning
illuminated the fat clouds but did not penetrate the solid
blackness of the earth.  The lights in the homestead shone through
a halo.

The raiders lay along the fence in the dry grass waiting for Cabell
and the policemen to turn in.  They were tramping about the veranda
making up beds.  Half an hour crawled by while Larry chewed the end
of his beard and Budge listened to the thunder in the hills,
"marching nearer with the rain," he told himself hopefully.  The
only light left was in Cabell's room.  They heard him come out on
to the veranda and knew that he was looking down at the camp where
the fires were dying peacefully.  Then he returned to his room, the
light went out, and the homestead slept.

A faint stir in the air started the trees whispering and showered
sparks from Berry's pipe.  Thin threads of fire zigzagged across
the grass.  Berry smothered them hastily.

Coyle nudged Larry.  "Time to go."

They climbed the fence and followed the dark shape of Larry, who
went ahead slowly, whistling now and then to call in the dogs which
came sniffing at a familiar smell and wagged their tails as soon as
they recognized him.  Here, at the foot of the slope where the
homestead lot ended, Goggs and Doolan hid themselves.  Two hundred
yards farther on, a hundred yards from the shed and the hut, the
men who were to wait for the signal lay down in the grass and the
others went on, stepping high lest the swish of grass on their
boots disturb anybody on guard in the hut.  The wind came in a
sudden, violent gust, beating the grass flat, hissing in the trees,
and blinding them with dust, and under cover of the noise they
reached the shed and circled it to make sure that no one was
watching.

At the door they stopped and Larry went ahead to find the tar and
kerosene stored in the shed for disinfecting wounds in the sheep.

Budge caught the back of his shirt.  "Don't do it, Larry.  It's
only yourself you'll injure.  It's only more strife and hatred
you'll create."

Larry turned quickly and hit him across the mouth, then dived into
the viscous, greasy darkness of the shed.  But alone under the
echoing roof, with rats scampering about his feet and boards
creaking at every movement, he hesitated with his back to the wall,
convinced that he saw the huddle of his father's form behind the
press.  His legs edged him back to the door, but he turned before
he reached it and with the same sense of joyous abandon he had felt
that afternoon when riding at the muzzle of his father's revolver
walked across to the press thinking that every step might be his
last.  There was no one behind the press, of course, only a heap of
rotting skins.

Ashamed of himself he went back to the locker quickly and set to
bursting open the door.  Muttering to himself, "I'll burn the
bastard's shed for him," he tore his nails on the staple as he
wrenched at it with a vindictive pleasure even in his pain.  But a
clap of thunder, breaking directly overhead, made him spin on his
heel, and several seconds passed before he realized that he was
holding his revolver.  Coyle's voice urgently whispering, "Larry!
Larry!" and in the next flash of lightning a glimpse of his
companions at the door, brought back his breath.  "Get a move on,"
Coyle said, "it's going to rain."

At the next attempt he broke the lock and in a few minutes was
rolling the drums of tar out of the locker.  Five minutes later
they hustled each other through the door again.  The flames climbed
over the skins with a low zooming and reflected themselves on the
grease-polished floor.  Coyle stayed, leaning in at the door to see
them lick the wall and catch the oozing stalagmites of tar.
Bending low against the wind the five of them ran to the hut.

They had brought neck-cloths to cover the lower part of their
faces, and this done hastily, they crept to the door, Coyle first,
then Larry, then Wagner, with revolvers ready, and at the rear
Berry and Budge.

The hut was in darkness.  The sound of fifty weary men snoring,
tossing, moaning in a heavy sleep told them they were not expected.
They entered.  Coyle pushed Larry against the window and Wagner
towards the door, and himself groped across the table for the slush
lamp.  A bottle rolled and smashed on the form.  Loud snoring in
the bunk near the window ceased and blankets rustled.  A flash of
lightning, illuminating a thousand chinks in wall and roof, shone
on startled eyes and a hand poising a piece of bright metal.

"Drop it," Coyle whispered.

Before he finished, as the thunder fell, they heard, under its
obliterating roll, the thin piping of a police whistle.  Larry
grabbed and caught a handful of hair, smothering a second blast.
In the next flare of lightning he saw he had a man by the beard and
when Coyle got the lamp alight they found that it was Custard.  He
jerked his beard from Larry's damp fingers and darted a hand
towards the whistle which had fallen between them, but a jab from
Larry's knee laid him groggily on the bunk and Coyle put the
whistle in his pocket.

Immediately the room was full of men, grouped around the table in a
half-moon of surprised faces and pasty-white legs protruding from
shirts.

"Get back."  Coyle flourished his gun and they pushed away from the
table.

Wagner began to laugh and pointed to a pair of spindle shanks in
the front row.  The owner huddled up and pulled his shirt-tails
down.  "'Ere, what's the joke?"

"Just thinking what'll you do holding one of Rusty's prize stud
rams with them pair of loins.  It'll run clear off with you."

"Come off it," Coyle said.  "We ain't here merrymaking, men, as you
can guess.  We're a deputation from the camp down there.  We're
sent to take you back with us.  The hut's surrounded.  If you come
quiet nobody'll hurt you."

"Not in the least," Budge put in.  "We're all brothers, we must
stand together."

"That's all right.  If you don't come quiet you'll carry a mark to
remember us affectionately by a long time."  He motioned to Larry.
"Call the boys."

Larry leaned out the window and whistled and received a faint
whistle in reply.

"There.  Are you coming--like loving brothers?"  The handkerchief
on his face moved and Larry knew that he was smiling.

The men commenced to pull their trousers on and gather their swags
together, looking at each other and helplessly at Custard, who
stood with his back to the bunk rubbing his jaw.  "Stay where
th'art," he growled.  "They can't touch thee.  It's nowt but a
bluff."

To answer him the wind puffed in a haze of black smoke and the
stench of burning tar.  Between the almost constant thunder the low
roar and crackle of the flames was becoming louder.  He looked out
and saw the shed on fire, stopped rubbing his jaw, and grinned
maliciously at Coyle.  "Tha'll get ten years for this.  Just wait
till boss and Johns see they flames."

Coyle weighed his revolver.  "We're waiting."

"No, no," Budge said, beating his hands together.  "Hadn't we
better go before worse befalls?"

Coyle strolled over to the window.  Tongues of flame, like tattered
flags, fluttered from the cracks in the wall of the shed.  Here and
there across the paddock to leeward sparks were starting the tinder-
dry grass.  He felt Larry shivering beside him.  "Buck up," he
said.  "You don't want to have to try a third time, do you?"

"Leave me alone."

An impatient whistle came from the dark windward side of the shed.
They saw the dim shapes of men closing in.  Coyle whistled back and
returned to the table.  "All right, men.  It's time to go.  Out the
door and straight for the trees behind the shed and the one who
tries any tricks gets a pill."  He pushed the nearest man towards
the door and the others like sheep herded after.

But Custard pushed Coyle aside and held up his hand.  "Stand
still," he shouted.  "It's a gammon.  What's five to fifty?  Let
they carry thee aht."

"A gammon is it?"  Coyle pushed his gun into Custard's ribs.  "Does
that feel like a gammon?"

Budge pulled the revolver away.  "Don't do it.  It's not needed.
They're going quietly.  Aren't you, mates?  Nobody will hurt you.
We don't come with hatred.  We go down on our knees.  Come and
fight with us for our common cause in the brotherhood of man."  In
his excitement he let the neck-cloth slip from his face, uncovering
the tattered beard and childish blue eyes.  He looked so absurdly
harmless now and his nervousness, exposed by his twitching lips and
trembling hands, was so plain that the scabs began to think it
might be a gammon after all.  They drew back from the door and
collected behind Custard.

The man with the spindle shanks shook his fist.  "'Ere, who're you
callin' brother?  We ain't your brothers.  You better get out of
'ere afore we chucks you out."

"That's the ticket.  Chuck 'em out."

Coyle turned his gun.  "Through the door, you swabs."

No one moved.

"They won't," Custard said.  "Tha'd best go thyself before boss
wakes up."

"They won't, eh?"

"Na."

"Right, you crawler," Coyle said.  "We'll learn you a lesson."  As
he spoke he swung his boot hard into Custard's groin.  The man
doubled with a hoot of pain and Coyle struck him down unconscious
with the butt of his gun.

"Please," Budge cried, addressing Coyle and the scabs by turn.
"Please go quietly, brothers.  Please, Coyle, don't.  In the name
of humanity . . ."

Coyle had picked up the bottle which had fallen from the table.
There was a jagged saw edge on it where the neck had broken off.
"Watch.  Watch closely, scabs, and see how you are branded for
life," and kneeling beside Custard he ripped the sharp edge of
glass down Custard's back, tearing the shirt and four instantly red
weals in the flesh, from the nape of his neck to his belt.  "That's
our gammon for you."  He flung the bottle under the table and stood
up.

"'Ere!  'Ere!" the man with the spindle shanks said disapprovingly,
then his jaw dropped and his tongue hung out.

Berry was the first to find his voice.  "That's a dirty trick to
put on us, you murdering rascal," he roared.  "D'you want to get us
all hanged?"

Coyle pushed his hat on to the back of his head, and Berry saw his
eyes with the mad will-o'-the-wisp light in them as Larry had seen
them the night before.  He turned to Budge and Wagner.  "Come on.
Let us get out before it's too late.  It's not what we came for."

Only Larry seemed unmoved by what had happened.  He was half-turned
from them, listening.  "Hist.  I heard a whistle."

He heard it again, clearly, then a shot, then a man shouting, then
the sound of many feet running.  He looked out and saw the men who
had surrounded the hut fleeing past the shed.  When he glanced
round again Berry and Budge and Wagner were gone too.

He went through the window head first, but before he was around the
shed, which sowed hot sparks upon his face as he ran, Coyle caught
and held him.  "Look."

Larry looked back and there was his father, running towards them in
his night-shirt.

Coyle's fingers closed on Larry's wrist.  They were stone cold.
"If you don't shoot now you might as well shoot me and yourself."

Larry tried to get free and they struggled.  He battered Coyle's
head and face with his free fist, but Coyle held him, watching over
his shoulder till Cabell was hardly twenty feet away.  "Now.  Shoot
him or he'll shoot you in the back," and tried to spring from
between them, but Larry caught him round the waist and lifted him
from the ground and threw him straight at his father's feet.
Cabell fell, and looking back as he ran Larry saw them wrestling.



CHAPTER SEVEN: ON THE RUN


The men were crowded round the dead camp-fire when Larry came in.

"Where's Coyle?" they demanded.

"I don't know."

"Which way did he go?"

"I don't know, I tell you."

"All right.  Keep your shirt on.  Only they've got Goggs."

They sent out a party to reconnoitre for Coyle along the fence but
there was no sign of him.  Coyle was gone too.

Larry sneaked off and rolled himself in his blankets.  For a long
time he heard the men arguing whether they ought to go up and
rescue Goggs and Coyle, but there was no one to lead them and
anyway they'd had enough for one day.  The burning shed, the fire
in the grass, the noise of the men fighting it and of frightened
animals, and the lurid glare of clouds and the window-panes of the
homestead scared them for what they had done.  "There'll be hell to
pay for this," said those who had not helped to spread the tar or
light the blaze.  At last the rain came, just as it seemed the fire
must sweep through the dry valley and consume every stick and
living thing.  The storm lasted long enough to save all except a
square mile of grass and the shed, which burned merrily to the
stumps, then rumbled off to the south.  The stars came out, and the
shearers went miserably to bed on the wet ground and uneasy
thoughts of the day to come.

Larry's head ached and the whip-burn across his back was like a
tight, hot wire cutting him in two.  He was feverish.  He hoped
that Coyle was dead, but he would doze off and dream that Coyle
came back and in front of everybody accused him.  "This man was my
mate and he did the dirty on me . . ."  In the bushman's simple
values the scab, the betrayer of mateship, was the only criminal.
Scabs, and Chows, and kanakas, they were the same blood.  He dozed
again and dreamt that he had crept up to the homestead and rescued
Coyle, awoke and lay thinking how it could be done, thinking of his
father and the police.  "Perhaps he's dead, anyway."

It was the black, chilly hour before dawn.  Berry came and shook
him.  "You're wanted."

He had to repeat it several times before Larry understood.

"Your mother.  She's waiting on the road."

The air, still again, was heavy with the smell of burning.  "I
don't want to see her.  Tell her to go away."

Berry would take no such message, and Larry had to go.

She was waiting for him near the gate, very small and bowed in the
tight wrapping of her shawl.  As he came up she took the shawl from
her face and in the starlight he saw the changed expression which
Cabell had noticed, as though her face had been broken in pieces
and put together with a different look.

It was nearly four months since she had last spoken to him and all
that had happened since was between them.  Her hopes of seeing him
a wealthy and respected man were ended now and with them everything
she lived for.  She could not be tender with him: he had sacrificed
her to a cause for which she had, because of those hopes, no
sympathy.  Looking at him now, at his face, the real, surly,
Surface face, she thought, for all its fine features--black and bad
and obstinate--she almost hated him, as the embodiment of that
black, bad, and obstinately spiteful spirit which in her father,
her cousin, her brother, and herself had caused her unhappiness.
And he almost hated her too, as she shook her head at him, for he
knew what was in her mind.  He hated her in self-defence against a
feeling of remorse and because he hated himself and everybody else.

"What d'you want?"

"You've made a pretty mess of things," she began.

"Shut up.  If you've come to rouse I'm going back."

She hissed a breath back through her lips.  "Yes, go back to your
trash.  It's where you belong.  And more fool me for ever thinking
different."

"Aw, go to hell, will you?"  He turned and fled.

At the edge of the camp she caught up with him.  "Wait.  You can't
stay here.  I came to tell you that they caught Goggs and Coyle
last night.  Your MATES."

"Well?" he said anxiously.

"What d'you suppose?  Goggs split on you."

"I don't care."

"You don't care?  Are you mad?  Do you think it's nothing to go to
jail for ten years."  She breathed resentfully.  "Thank God I won't
be here to see you when you come out."

"Who says I'll go in.  Just let him try . . ."  But the threats
stuck in his throat.  He was ashamed to make them.

"Oh, don't deceive yourself.  You've done enough to be sent up for
twenty years, enough to be hanged in the old days.  And you needn't
build any fine hopes on his mercy.  If he'd had a gun last night
he'd've shot you."

"He didn't have no gun?"

"No, lucky for you.  Why, what's the matter?"

"Nothing," Larry said.

Up at the homestead a rooster crowed.  The horses in the horselines
shook themselves.  A wash of opal light was beginning to separate
earth and sky in the east.

"I'll have to go now," Emma said.  "Here, take this."  She put a
small package in his hands.  "There's fifty sovereigns.  They'll
help you on your way till you find work."

He would have been surprised to know that those sovereigns came
from his father's pocket barely an hour ago.  True, it was no act
of kindness on Cabell's part.  He was afraid of Emma.  ("You let
the police lay hands on Larry and I'll tell what became of
M'Govern.")  But he was afraid of Larry too.  He remembered the
look on Larry's face as they were riding at each other the day
before.  Now he had destroyed four thousand pounds' worth of
Cabell's property and mutilated Custard in a diabolical way.  He
had no doubt that Larry had done this, as some kind of a sign, a
threat to himself.  The devil was in the fellow and down there he
had four hundred men behind him.  What couldn't he do before the
police had time to get reinforcements?  The same thought worried
Emma.  If Larry killed his father how could she save him?  Or
Cabell might kill Larry in self-defence.  So they agreed: she must
get Larry out of the valley.

Larry refused.  He would not leave his mates.  He pushed the money
into her shawl.

"You're daft.  In the morning the police will come down and arrest
you--and Berry and Budge and all the others.  Don't fool yourself,
they know everything."

"I won't go.  I can't go."

Men had been hovering around them for some time.  They came up.
Berry and Budge were there.  "Is something wrong?" Berry asked.  "I
heard you say my name.  Nobody's gone and . . ."

"Goggs split on you, and the police are coming at sun-up."

Berry glanced at the eastern sky.  It had lifted itself from the
ragged hills and the birds were waking.  "It's what I more than
half-expected from a bad night's work," he said.

"No use talking pious now," Emma said.  "That won't serve in the
dock.  You'd better get on your way and take Larry with you."

"Much obliged to you, missus.  Much obliged.  If you'll wait till I
roll my swag up, Larry . . ."

"I'm not going."

"Not going?"

Larry gestured angrily, but when he spoke it was in rather a
forlorn voice, "Where would I go?"

"You're still a young man," Berry said.  "If you're driven out of
this you could make a place of your own.  You can come to my place.
There's room for a mate."

Larry almost groaned, looking at the eager, sympathetic faces of
the men and wondering what they would say when they knew.  They
were all talking at once, trying to persuade Larry to clear out.
"You've done enough for the cause, Larry."

"Aye, nobody done more."

"You'd best come to South America with me," Budge said.  "It's a
losing fight here.  Now I know that there's too much bitterness
between men for Jerusalem ever to be built on this soil.  The place
began with cruelty and hatred and time has only increased it.  Your
father'd be a kinder man if he'd never had convicts to flog, and
we'd never have done the devilish things we did last night if we
hadn't had the fear and poison of the evil old days in our blood.
Will you come?"

"No."

They could see each other's faces clearly now.  Emma saw that no
words would move him.  She drew the shawl over her head and turned
impatiently away.  But at the roadside she looked back and said,
"Goodbye, Larry."

He watched her clump heavily over the bridge and up the slope in
her outsized, ugly boots, and wished that he had answered her.

When Berry and Budge and Wagner and most of the others who had
taken part in the raid were gone, the spirit of the camp began to
go to pieces.  The strike was as good as over and all hopes of the
great bushmen's revolution and the Utopia of underdogs which men
had talked about since the First Fleet landed its cargo of unhappy
outcasts at Botany Bay a hundred years before.  The scabs and the
quieter men drifted away from the camp, shearing began, the rains
came, and only the little group of homeless bushmen remained to
defy the police.  Then the rains washed their camp away, more
police and soldiers arrived, and they scattered over the country-
side in bands, burning fences and gates and grass and beating up
stray police and infantrymen and scabs.

Larry went with one of these bands and did great damage to his
father's property, but the soldiers drove them out of the valley at
last, and one by one his mates left him till he found himself alone
in Pyke's Crossing one night with a tired horse and a heart sick of
its own futile reproaches.  He blamed himself for the misery of the
shearers he met every day tramping home without work or money.  If
he had not been a coward, how different the end of the strike might
have been.  He had Coyle's word for it.

Larry would have derived no comfort from reflecting that there were
thousands of other men in the strike, which had spread over an area
bigger than Europe, and that they had all caved in before the power
of squatters and police and soldiers when the time came.  His mind
was incapable of seeing the struggle as anything but a struggle
between himself and his father, the apotheosis of all the evil
which the word squatter meant to the bushman, between the
contemptuous, tyrannical "aristocratic mug" in his father and that
passionate feeling of injury and injustice nurtured by Gursey and
Coyle, his dealings with his brothers, and his pity for his mother.
When it came to the point he had been afraid of his father and had
let his mates down.  His personal integrity was deeply outraged,
his pride was gone, and he thought everybody looked sideways at
him.

He went and got drunk.  When he sobered up a month later he heard
that Coyle had gone to jail for three years.  He got drunk again
till his credit ran out, then rode away westwards to the Never-
Never.




PART V: LOVE AND INTEGRITY



CHAPTER ONE: AURELIA'S DAUGHTER


And the irony of it was, Cabell gained on the strike.  His wool was
not worth much by the time the scabs got it off and he had to build
new fences and a new shed, but the loss the McFarlanes suffered
along with the other squatters gave him the chance, a few months
later, to foreclose on their ninety thousand acres of good land and
thirty-five thousand sheep.  He was only sorry that old McFarlane
was not alive to see him march into the homestead and take
possession, but then there might have been no marching in, for that
dour shell-back would not have yielded to the excitement of the
times and overborrowed to build fancy washpools and an elegant
house and send the children home to Edinburgh for their education.

While this affair was maturing, Ludmilla returned to Ningpo to get
ready for Julia and her mother, whose visit the strike had delayed,
and Cabell and Ludmilla began sparring over the details of the
arrangement they had made at the Governor's ball.  Larsen resigned
from the chairmanship of the mine, and Cabell became chairman pro
tem. till the annual meeting of shareholders could put him into the
chair in the regular way.  The wedding they fixed for a week before
the meeting.

Ludmilla's plan was to send the couple to England for their
honeymoon, she and Cabell to share expenses, and to settle on them
the Ningpo property and all her shares in Waterfall, reserving only
a small income for herself and Aurelia.  Cabell was to have control
of this property till they agreed that James was competent to look
after it.  On the same terms he was to settle a hundred thousand
pounds' worth of the land he had bought in Brisbane and Sydney and
Melbourne.

Cabell was very satisfied when the parleys were finished,
considering that he still possessed the land he had given away as
well as all that Ludmilla possessed--or would when she left for the
Old Country and gave him a power-of-attorney over her goods.  The
idea that James would ever interfere in the control of this
property he did not consider for a moment.  James was "a prig and a
fool and a milksop"; he would go to England and stay there like
most other rich colonials who went abroad.  Cabell wrote off a debt
of fifty thousand pounds which Ludmilla had lent to help him out.

Now he controlled half the best land in the valley and a rich
goldmine.  His dreams of money and power took a fresh lease of
life.  The panic of selling in Brisbane and down south had died
away.  Shares were rising, speculators nibbled at the real estate
market, the defeat of the shearers cheered investors, bankers
became more genial, and people decided that the boom was as solid
as ever.  He began to play the market again, but cautiously this
time.  Experience had taught him.

Aurelia arrived with her daughter at last and Cabell waited
impatiently for a call to present himself and James, but at the end
of three days he lost patience and carried James off to meet his
bride.  James had dressed himself carefully, and Cabell was pleased
with him.  "There were Cabells a couple of generations before this
Ningpo mob was thought of," he growled as they rode up the drive to
the homestead, a trifle peeved that he had to show how eager he was
to have the marriage settled.

Ludmilla came out on to the steps to receive them.  "We're still in
a mess unpacking," she said, not very warmly.

"We won't stay if you're busy.  We were just passing."

"No-o," Ludmilla said.  "Come in and I'll get you some tea."  She
frowned.  "But Aurelia's indisposed, you see.  You'll have to
excuse her."

She left them sitting on the veranda for a long time, so long that
they became uneasy, feeling an atmosphere, nervous and unwelcoming,
in the house.  Suddenly a querulous voice spoke within, and they
heard Ludmilla answer soothingly.  A woman laughed.  A door banged.
Ludmilla's footsteps returned along the passage.

Cabell cleared his throat and commenced to talk about the bad
shearing done on some sheep that were grazing around the house.

Ludmilla appeared.  She too seemed uneasy.  She gave James a severe
look before she said, "Julia will be here in a moment.  Of course,
we weren't expecting you."

She sat down at the wicker tea-table and the maid brought the tea.
Cabell repeated what he had said about the sheep, and while they
were talking about the shearers and the recent troubles the fly-
proof door opened again and Julia stepped on to the veranda.

Cabell and James rose and Ludmilla, blushing and awkward all at
once, introduced them and fiddled with a bow at the neck of her
dress, which looked like a sugar-bag beside her niece's beautiful
tea-gown.  Julia bowed in an off-hand way, a decidedly off-hand
way, as though they were old acquaintances or nobody in particular,
like servants, and took a seat near the railings.

"A deuced boneshaking torture that coach ride from the Crossing,"
Cabell muttered.  "I don't wonder your mother's done up."

"Oh, that's nothing," Julia laughed.  It sounded a shockingly hard
laugh.

Ludmilla became interested in the inside of her cup, as though she
had lost her grip on the situation for a moment, and Cabell,
rebuffed, threw back his head, and with the shameless unreticence
of the old looked Julia up and down.

Serenely unconcerned she turned away to the canary tweet-tweeting
in its cage on the veranda post.

She was tall, "a bit underfleshed like her mother," he thought, but
handsome in a glassy way.  Her lips were thin and well-shaped and
beautifully balanced by her thin, straight nose, thin sloping
eyebrows, and fine, long, grey eyes.  "A thoroughbred," Cabell
decided, and turned to look at James, who sat on the edge of his
chair with his hardhitter between his knees, his toes turned in,
and a gawky shyness on his face.  "What's the matter with the
fool?" Cabell wondered, annoyed to have his son cutting such a
wretched figure beside Julia's calm detachment.

James himself could not have said what was wrong, but one look at
Julia had made him wish himself a thousand miles away.  As Ludmilla
introduced them Julia had passed him a quick glance in which, it
seemed to James, she had said quite plainly, "So you're the 'fine
stamp of a lad' I've been brought here to marry!" commenting upon
him with the faintest twitch of a smile at the corner of her lips.

By a stroke of intuition he had penetrated Julia's thoughts
accurately.  In her eagerness to paint Julia's future in the
brightest colours Ludmilla had rather overstressed the manly charms
and virtues of James.  Not that Julia was disillusioned now.  She
could have preserved few illusions with a mother like Aurelia.
When Ludmilla had said, routed like James by her air of a grand
lady, "Oh, I hope you won't be disappointed," Julia had replied,
raising her eyebrows with surprise, as though such a considerate
thought was unexpected, "The fatted calf is not disappointed if you
kill it with a woodchopper instead of a jewelled scimitar, Auntie
dear."

"Oh, but no," Ludmilla had protested.  "If you don't like him you
don't have to marry him.  Choose for yourself."

"Beggars can't be choosers," Julia replied uncompromisingly, while
belittling her bitterness with that ambiguous little smile.  "Only
don't expect me to lose my head over this paragon on sight, will
you, Auntie?"  And with a toss of her head, which had learnt to
hold itself so proudly under a heavier burden than Ludmilla
proposed to lay upon it, she discouraged her aunt from prying any
further in search of whatever private wishes or whims she might
guard under her astringent, equable and always slightly sarcastic
surface.  Before that dignity and sarcasm Ludmilla quailed whenever
she thought of bringing the subject up again so as to assure Julia
that she did not want to FORCE her into an unsuitable marriage.  As
though Julia could be forced into anything!  As though anything she
did could be unsuitable!  That was to be thoroughly understood
between them.  To suggest otherwise would, Ludmilla felt, be a
terrible breach of good taste.

So with a little trick of turning everything into a jest and, when
pressed too hard, of blanking her eyes and mind and stupidly
misconstruing, which forced poor Ludmilla into the most awkward
explanations, Julia kept her aunt, as she kept everybody, at a
distance.  After three days of this and Julia's elegance, fresh
from the English dressmaker and the English finishing school,
Ludmilla was beginning to feel dowdy and inferior and even,
forgetting what good intentions she had in view, as though her
plans were a sharp piece of business at Julia's expense.  She would
have changed them if she could have done so without explaining that
she was ashamed of herself and if she had not already gone too far
with Cabell.  But on one point she was decided: however much Cabell
and James had to suffer for it Julia should not feel at any
disadvantage as Aurelia's daughter, because what hurt Julia's
feelings, Ludmilla had discovered, came back upon her with
interest.

That was the reason why she had sent no word to the Reach and had
received them so coldly, for Aurelia's indisposition was only an
amiable state of boozy befuddlement.  Impossible to let them see
Aurelia, equally impossible to take Aurelia's bottle away or shut
her up in her room till she was sober.  Julia's austerity and
innocent aplomb admitted not the slightest doubt of any but the
most ladylike habits in her mother.  When she said, in her casual,
bantering way, "Oh, coaches always make Mamma dizzy, you know,"
Ludmilla had to agree.  She gushed sympathy over her sister while
Julia watched them with amusement, perversely pricking her own and
Ludmilla's pretence now and then with equivocal remarks about the
"peculiar odour" in the room, fastidiously wrinkling her nose while
Ludmilla sniffed and denied that there was any smell, and Aurelia
thickened the air with the breath of whisky.  Very soon Ludmilla
was hiding empty bottles so that Julia should not be cruelly
disillusioned, but so expert was Julia at this little game that
Ludmilla could never be sure whether Julia was taken in or was
laughing at her, and by turns felt guilty and foolish.

So while Cabell noisily sucked his tea up, and Julia fed a piece of
sugar to the canary, and James's cup stood untouched on the table,
Ludmilla fidgeted with the lid of the teapot, kept one ear cocked
for sounds within the house, and wished that Cabell would come to
the end of his long-winded story about the days when his wagon cut
the first track from Pyke's Crossing and would take himself off.

He finished at last, put his cup down, and looked at the sun.
"Time we were making tracks."  He stretched his legs and rose.

But it was too late.  Shuffling footsteps in the passage preceded
an explosive opening of the door and Aurelia catapulted on to the
veranda, corkscrewed towards them, missed a step, and in the hands
of the good angel which looks after drunks settled more or less
gracefully into a chair.

James and Ludmilla jumped up, but Julia seemed to see nothing
remarkable in the way her mother appeared on the scene, merely
glanced round and went on feeding the canary.

"Aurelia!" Ludmilla said crossly, but at once squeezed out a smile
and asked, "Do you feel better then, dear?"

"No, I feel worse," Aurelia said.  "What do you expect when you
keep me cooped up in this place while you creep off and entertain
company."  Her voice drooped and tears filled her eyes, magnifying
the raw-red rims and the mesh of bloodshot veins.  "I'm very sick,
you know," she informed Cabell.  "Very poorly.  Ever since my poor
husband died."

Cabell looked the amazement he felt.  Was this Aurelia, the slight,
silent girl whose hidden glances had been her only tragic speech?
Even twenty years seemed hardly enough to account for this fat,
this sodden, debauched face, with the jowls that hung down like
drops of wax on the end of a candle.  Slumped in her chair she
looked like something that had been floating about in the sea for
some time--waterlogged.  Moisture oozed from her, in tears, in
sweat from the wrinkled bags of fat round her neck and from the
backs of her fat hands.

Cabell mumbled an apology for disturbing her, Ludmilla struggled
with her tongue, trying to cough out words like a cat trying to be
sick, James's eyes rolled from face to face, Julia, coaxing the
canary to sing with pursed up lips, detached herself from them, as
though she was a tactful visitor who wished to spare their
feelings.

A loud, guttural, indecent hiccup broke the silence.  Aurelia
patted her mouth and began to complain again.  "Aren't you going to
introduce your friends?  Or are you trying to disown me like this--
oh, ungrateful girl.  I hope you haven't got any children," she
said to Cabell.  "I don't know what they're coming to.  We were
brought up to honour our parents, but SHE only sneers.  No sympathy
for her poor mother.  Would you believe it?"

"But Aurelia, you remember Mr Cabell."

"Mr Cabell?"  Aurelia blinked.  "Of course."  She lowered her eyes
to his legs, stiffly astride in his usual stance of a horseman
balancing himself on the unstable earth, and an absurdly depraved
look, which turned out the damp, red inside of her lips, crossed
her face.  "Oh, my!  Mr Cabell, fancy meeting you again.  You were
such a naughty man.  What excuses you used to make up to come here,
until Father chased you away with a whip.  And such looks you gave
me.  Oh, I knew.  I knew," she giggled.

"Aurelia!  Don't be so foolish."

Aurelia oozed gently again.  "There she goes.  She won't let me
open my mouth--the harsh, cruel, uncharitable . . ."  Her voice
drivelled away into snuffling, incoherent reproaches.

James's eye turned irresistibly to Julia, still playing happily
with the canary, and he blushed to the ears for shame, not shame of
Julia but of himself, such as one feels when the juggler makes a
mess of his trick in a crowded theatre.  He felt he had no right to
be there, was guilty of a sneaking insult to Julia for which she
would never forgive him.

How he got off the veranda and on to his horse he could never
remember, except that in the process he bumped against the table
and upset his cup of tea on to Ludmilla's lap.

"It's nothing.  It's nothing," she screamed when he went down on
his knees to wipe the tea off her skirt.  "Go along.  Your father's
waiting for you."  And as he persisted she kicked him on the shin.

Next day Cabell received a note from Ludmilla:


I suppose you think you stole some kind of a march on me yesterday,
coming when you weren't expected and Aurelia was DRUNK (She had
underlined the word so violently that the pen had torn the paper.)
But if that's how you feel we had better call the bargain off.
Anyway, James is not going to marry Aurelia.  I shall take her off
Home with me when I go, and they need never see her again.  The
poor thing is sick.  That's how her misfortune came on her.  If you
wish it we'll call next Wednesday for dinner.  But your wife must
be there, so that Julia can see for herself that James has no room
to laugh up his sleeve.  I absolutely INSIST on this.  Otherwise I
shall cancel everything.


They went to the Reach on Wednesday, without Aurelia, and Emma sat
down with them to the agonizing meal.  Agonizing to Ludmilla
because she was torn between wondering what, behind her
indifference, Julia thought of Emma's sad, wizened face, and a
disappointment that Emma was not worse, made no disgusting or
absurd show of herself to balance the scene with Aurelia.
Agonizing to James because he was ashamed of his mother and felt
that Julia knew he was ashamed and was laughing at him for it, so
that he felt ashamed of his shame.  Agonizing to Cabell because he
could see Ludmilla was angry and feared for his schemes.  Agonizing
to Harriet because of Julia's cool, unharassed beauty, set off in a
simple white muslin frock and big sun-bonnet, which must, she
thought, reflect a pure and noble mind that would be horrified to
know what sort of a girl Harriet was.  Agonizing to Emma because
she saw in Julia the woman she had hoped that Larry, HER Larry,
would marry.  And agonizing finally to Julia, though she showed no
sign of it, because she had to choose between letting them shovel
her on to a man who would marry her only to please his father,
apparently, and continuing to walk the earth for an indefinite time
to come with a drunk and flirtatious old woman tacked on.

So it was a joyless meal, heavy with unspoken thoughts.  On the way
home Julia asked, "When is it scheduled for the young man to pop
the question, Auntie?  I'm suffocating with excitement."

"Oh, it's not like that," Ludmilla disclaimed quickly.  "If you
don't like him you only have to say so.  Perhaps when you get to
know each other . . ."

"We know the worst about each other.  That's something."

The ice was broken.  There were picnics, a visit to the mine, a
cattle muster . . .  Julia was mildly interested, thawed a little.

James set his jaw, did his duty, proposed, and was accepted.  He
told himself that he was very pleased to be doing his duty, making
up for the unhappiness Harriet had caused his father, but
comparisons between Julia, hard, sarcastic, detached, and Jennis,
so pliant, so loving, so tender, were not always to be suppressed
and they made duty very hard.  The harder it was the more virtuous
James felt, the more superior to his errant sister, and the more
confident of his power to stifle sooner or later the devils which
danced in his heart.

He was married at the end of the winter and the happy couple left
at once for England.



CHAPTER TWO: POOR SICK LITTLE HARRIET


Cabell permitted himself to feel satisfied.  James was married,
Ludmilla was gone, he was chairman of the mine, the McFarlanes were
getting ready to leave the valley, his ventures on the market were
prosperous, Emma his old enemy had given up fighting, Larry had
disappeared into the west whence men did not generally return, and
Harriet, his dear little Harriet, had changed into the gentle,
loving, dependent daughter he had always wanted her to be.

Poor Harriet.  She had swallowed a great deal of port wine and
iron, but it did not seem to set her up as the doctor promised.
Then under Miss Montaulk's treatment she had swallowed a great deal
of cod-liver oil with no better results.  She continued pale and
ready to weep at the first hard word.  Compared with the rapt vivid
creature she had been in Brisbane she looked as bleak as the
charred remains of last night's splendid fire.  She sat about the
house, round-shouldered and listless, staring sightlessly at the
floor for hours on end.  Not boredom oppressed her now, as once it
had done, but an inexhaustible flow of fresh thoughts, for no
matter how long she dwelt on it the memory of her fiasco in
Brisbane, of Doug Peppiott's horror and anger and abuse, of James's
high-minded indignation never lost its edge.  She must go over it
again and again, from the first time she met Doug till she ran
across the ballroom with everybody gaping and, when she was gone,
whispering about the depraved things she had done.

As she lay in bed on the night the shed was burnt she heard her
father say to her mother, "It's your blood in him coming out, your
dirty, gipsy, jailyard blood," and she told herself, "Yes, yes,
that's true.  It's in me too, her wicked blood.  Perhaps I'll do
something worse and be sent to jail."  A dreary kind of humility
replaced the pride in these stigmata with which she used to assert
herself against the good ladies of Brisbane.  "My mother and my
grandmother and my grandfather and all my mother's ancestors were
depraved people.  Doug couldn't have loved me any more than he
could have loved a blackgin."

Cabell of course was full of tender, anxious sympathy.  To tempt
her appetite he had fish and turtle steaks brought in blocks of ice
from the coast; succeeded, after years of opposition from Emma, in
engaging a Chinese cook for the homestead, and immediately scared
three of them away with his ravings when they could not make
Harriet eat.  Two or three times a month he brought a doctor from
Brisbane and for some time kept a trained nurse in the house to
take her temperature every few hours and report every day upon the
smallest variations in her health.  All the time he was running in
and out of her rooms asking how she felt, did she want anything,
would she like the blind down, up, the window open, shut, had she
taken her medicine, had she drunk her port wine, putting a hassock
under her feet, a cushion under her head, sniffing for draughts,
bringing a fan, a shawl, fussing, petting and waiting on her hand
and foot.  How pale and delicate she was--as his mother had been,
like a ghost.  He insisted on it: she was ill, very ill.  She
mustn't excite herself, mustn't read too much, mustn't think,
mustn't do anything except lie there--and be ill.  In his room he
tramped up and down half the night worrying because she had not
eaten enough at dinner, because he had heard her tossing
sleeplessly on her bed when he tiptoed to her door, or because Miss
Montaulk told him that she had been crying again.  Poor little
Harriet.  Poor sick little Harriet.

Worrying, fussing, tiptoeing, and muttering over her sad state--he
had never been so content.  The wretched look which came into her
eyes when he told her that he would give half his fortune to see
her as happy as she had been in Brisbane and she remembered again
that she had betrayed him in front of his enemies--how it cut him
to the heart and how its abject appeal for forgiveness delighted
him.  What a pitiable sight to see her melt into tears and what a
joy to see her hang on his words of comfort and his promise of
happiness in the future.  No more bad temper, no more shrinking
away, no more distrust, opposition, and ingratitude.

"A change of heart," he called it, sensing the profound collapse of
that hard, inner core of her wilful spirit which had been the
backbone of her integrity, of her struggle against his efforts to
fulfil through her longings defeated by life.  Now when he talked
for hours about sending her home to Owerbury to marry and become a
great lady she did not look at him sceptically, or frown and say
that he wanted to use her only for some selfish purpose, or that
she did not wish to marry the young man with the Byronic side-
levers and the fine, dark face who would take her walking across
the yellow moors in May as once, long, long ago, he had walked with
a girl.  When he described how she would lord it over his family,
show off her jewels, and "make that mob in Brisbane bite themselves
with envy," she did not protest that she had other ideas for
herself.  Pliant, submissive, she listened while he planned her
life with a wild outpouring of day-dreams which satisfied him only
to be spoken.

This was what he had always wanted of her, her submissive presence
around which he could erect fantasies of that "handsome young
man's" love in the lilac arbour of Owerbury come true and of his
triumphant return to the family that had cast him out; but this she
had always denied him by demanding action, the enemy of his
fantasia.  Now she demanded nothing and let him dissolve her in his
day-dreams, which dissolved also the harsh realities of his own
being until, through a curious dissociation of his personality,
emerged that part of him which a hard life had frustrated, injured,
and repressed.  In a room filled with the scent of heliotrope,
which he liked her to use because it reminded him of his mother,
this young Englishman lived and breathed again.  Ludicrous sessions
of self-hypnosis they were, when the phantoms of desire and memory
seemed more real than the real things in the room, and he even
talked in a stilted way which belonged to that period of his life--
ludicrous and rather terrible, for there were the germs of madness
in it.

Harriet had dimly understood how he extracted the force to live
from the ideas he built around her future and had resented it,
perceiving that these ideas were illusions from which she could
expect nothing while they put on her the heavy charge of fidelity
to him before herself, so that if she asked for anything which
broke the illusion he accused her of ingratitude.  But now she
listened with a different mind, a mind which was losing its self-
respect.  She was badly scared.  She saw herself hedged in by
smirking, gossiping people.  She wanted to placate these people, to
be forgiven.  They had magical powers; if they said a thing was
nice it became nice whatever it had been before, and if they said
that she was nice all the whorishness in her, all the nasty, gipsy,
jailyard blood would be gone.  So she listened to her father's
promises that some great gentleman would marry her and that every
Mrs Bowen and Mrs Peppiott would envy her place in the world, and
she tried hard to believe it.  Thus she had come to desire the very
thing which, in the first flush of her naïve and youthful frankness
discovering the meanness and lies and petty vanities of society,
she had revolted against--the cloak of money, or a title, or a high
position to cover the un-nice past and the un-nice little secrets
in oneself.  The desire was eating into her, slowly corrupting the
passion which had vitalized her before, till she was ready to give
herself up to any man, old, repulsive, she did not care what, as
long as he could spread the cloak of that social lie over her and
protect her from the universal contempt which James had so
eloquently described.  As for love, her old romantic ideal and
criterion, she thought of it with shame and disgust, as if it was
some sort of filthy disease she had had.  Her emotions did a
complete about-face.  She began to hate her mother, who was
declining rapidly into decrepit senility, and soothed herself with
snobbish reflections, worthy of Mrs Peppiott, on her relationship
to the Lords of Felsie.  Where the process would have stopped God
knows.  Cabell would have gone on play-acting the little comedy of
the young man and the young girl in the lilac arbour to his dying
day, and the only satisfaction Harriet could have had was an old
maid's sad, sentimental satisfaction in an illusion.  But fate was
kind to her.  One afternoon James and Cabell carried Cash home with
a broken leg, a broken arm, two broken ribs, and concussion.

His horse had dragged him half a mile through the scrub before
James caught it, and he was alive only by the grace of his good
luck and constitution, but just alive, it seemed for two months
while Harriet spent several hours each day at his bedside sponging
his face with vinegar and fanning the flies away.  She did this in
her role of a humble person which about this time had led her to
seek consolation in certain pious works belonging to Miss Montaulk
where she read of saints who had shriven their sinful souls with
menial offices for the sick.  Fugitively she even thought of
becoming a nun or going on a pilgrimage, but decided that looking
after Cash was a good substitute.  "It's nearly the same as abasing
yourself like St Seraphina.  He's such a frightfully common man.
He goes with barmaids."  This was supposed to evoke a feeling of
merit, to soothe and elevate her tireless conscience, but it
produced suddenly a reaction of most unsaintly anger, a salutary
anger which put colour into her cheeks and light into her dull
eyes.  "He is the most disreputable man in Brisbane and even he
looks down on me."  How dared he!  Why, the beam in his eye was
much, MUCH bigger than the mote in hers!  The feeling that you have
been unjustly put upon, that you are really not the worst but only
the second worst person in the world is a grain for pride.
Thinking angrily of her right to be annoyed with such a hypocrite
and preparing haughty speeches with which to crush him as soon as
he was fit to be crushed, Harriet thought less of her own depravity
and that unassailable abstraction of virtue, the Nice People of
Brisbane.

She never delivered these speeches.  When he was well enough to
recognize her and understand that she had been sitting beside his
bed through half the summer, he was so grateful that she hadn't the
heart.

"You shouldn't be doing this," he said.  There was scarcely a
whisper of his voice left.

"Why not?"

"It's nurse's work."

"Haven't I done it well enough?"

"It's not that.  It's not proper for you--a lady."

Harriet blushed.

"You shouldn't be thinking of that lot down there," he said after a
long pause.

"Who's thinking of what?" she bridled.  "And anyway, how could you
tell a lady from a--a Queenie?"

He fell back on the pillow and groaned and sweated.

She was sorry she had spoken sharply, he was so ill, but she tried
not to show it as she bathed his face and neck.  He looked at her,
closed his eyes, and groaned again.  Here was genuine humility.  "I
can't understand your father letting you.  You ought to be
practising at the piano or something."

"Oh, nonsense," she said, but she was pleased.

The nurse who had looked after Harriet when she returned from
Brisbane was looking after Cash, but she did not get along with
Miss Montaulk, and as soon as he was on the mend she packed up and
left.  Miss Montaulk, now official housekeeper at the Reach, took
over the nursing, but Cash did not get along with her either, so
most of the nursing fell to Harriet.  Luckily Cabell was away in
Brisbane.

Imperceptibly her days filled with somebody else's problems.  She
had to watch the clock and see that he had his powders at the right
time, and keep watch on him for the doctor who came from Waterfall
every second day, and quarrel with Miss Montaulk over the food she
sent in.  Then she had to be sure that he slept at the right time,
that he did not talk too much, that the mosquito-nets were drawn
properly at night and the room aired.  By slow degrees she became
extremely officious over Cash, who protested more, as his strength
improved, that she should leave Ah Lung, the new house-servant, to
look after him and return to her own sublimer affairs.  She always
won the quarrels which followed these protests, and enjoyed winning
them.  Her domineering will came to life again and belief in
herself fed on his helpless dependence.  Each day brought its
little victory and each little victory gave her confidence against
the gloomy thoughts that fumed around her pillow at night.  To make
this giant of a man who had been everywhere and seen everything,
who was so important among the greatest people in Brisbane, submit
to having his hair brushed or being fed with a spoon, to see him
looking at her afterwards like a guilty lapdog, started a feeling
of conceit which revealed, more than all her tears, how bitterly
hurt she had been.  The stages by which she had raised Cash from
absolute pariahdom to a position of such glory in the land were
unconscious, but his price kept on going up and up as it raised her
own.  She remembered how people like Peppiott senior ran after him
for advice and assistance and how her father had always depended on
him; she forgot Queenie.  He looked up to her--that was enough.
And when he protested, called her a lady, said he wasn't worth all
her trouble, she could trust him.  Yes, absolutely.  He wouldn't
lie to her, or whisper and smirk behind her back, or like James,
feeling forlorn on the eve of his wedding, come to her and
apologize for the hard things he had said merely, as she knew,
because he wanted sympathy in return.

So Cabell, returning from Brisbane, found her less sallow and
miserable and attentive, and was put out.  She was continually
running away to see if Miss Montaulk had remembered to take Cash's
temperature or bring his tea or mix his medicine.

"That's no business of yours.  That's a Chow's work."

"Florence Nightingale did it," she said, and with such defiance,
when he was used to seeing her hang her head dumbly, that he found
nothing more to say, but he thought a lot and as a result privately
damned Cash for bringing his broken limbs to the Reach.

"Your father's angry," Cash said.  He knew that when he saw Cabell
staring at the chair where Harriet now sat all day and her fan on
the table among the medicine bottles.  "He's right, too."

"Oh, well," she said.  She had put on weight and the dark rings had
gone from her eyes.  Her mind was easier too--not happy by any
means but less active.  After a day's working and wrangling and
wondering whether the jelly would set in time for his dinner she
went straight to sleep without remembering that it was at this hour
seven months, two weeks, and three days ago that she did the
dreadful thing which had outraged the Nice People and branded her
for life.  She did not think about it, but she had not forgotten.

Cash gazed for some time at the white line of parting on her head
bent over her needle.  She was mending the shirt he had worn on the
day of the accident.  "You'll be getting ready to go to England
now?"

Harriet said nothing.

"Your father says it's only a matter of months now--as soon as he
gets a letter.  You'll be glad, I daresay."

"Glad?  Yes--well, yes."

"He thinks it's time you were married.  Some handsome young chap,
he says--some Lord Tomnoddy."  He got some of his old banter into
his voice, but became confused suddenly and reached for the cigar-
box on the table.

Harriet frowned at him.  He withdrew his hand quickly.  "I've only
had one to-day," he grumbled.

"Why a Lord Tomnoddy?" she said.

"A gentleman, I mean."

"What do you think I ought to marry--a tinker?"

"Good God, Miss Harriet, don't be angry.  I was only talking."

Her eyes filled.  "I suppose that's the only kind of gentleman who
would marry me--a fool."

He tried to laugh but he looked very miserable under his turban of
bandages with his face ossified in plaster.

"Oh, you know what I mean.  You know what happened.  I disgraced
myself for ever."

He turned his head away and watched her out of the corner of his
plated eyes.  "You're not still thinking of the fellow down there?"

She looked as if she was hesitating whether to jump up and leave
the room or slap his face, then her eyes hardened as though the
tears had frozen to a thin layer of ice upon them.  "Yes, I think
of him, but not the way you mean!"

Her mouth widened and her eyes sank deeper into their sockets, and
Cash noticed that her mouth and eyes had changed since he saw them
last in Brisbane.  The eyes had lost the sharp, cold clarity of
iris and white, as though something had touched and smudged them.
The lips had lost or gained something too.  The sensuous, soft pout
was gone.  They lay flat against her teeth and the muscles at the
corners of her mouth quivered as though she was trying to stop
herself from speaking.  But the words forced themselves out, hardly
audible at first, then in a strident flood, "I've thought of him
and them night and day, and I hate them, hate them, hate them," she
said.  "I hate everything about them--their white hands, their
voices, their clothes, the way they smile, the way they eat, the
way they walk.  I hate their shoes that never get dusty.  I hate
their faces that never get red and wet from the heat and their
heads that never get a hair out of place.  I hate the way they call
sweat 'perspiration,' and a smell 'an odour'--and all that.  I hate
their goodness and I hate--oh, how I hate--the way they know
they're good."  Her voice trembled and she raised it to steady it.
"How would one of them ever marry me?  My mother was Emma Surface,
the convict, and my grandmother was a gipsy, and I'm like my
mother.  What I did proves it--I'm--I'm a slut."

Without moving his eyes from her Cash groped for a cigar from the
table, put it in his mouth, and drew energetically.  A puzzled
expression settled on his face.  He took the cigar from his teeth
and looked at it sharply, reached for the matches and got it
alight.  But he seemed puzzled still.

Harriet's needle prick-pricked the silence.  She glanced at him
suspiciously.  "I know what you're thinking--that it's sour grapes.
Don't you dare!"  She pushed her needle at him.  "I hate all men.
I hate everybody.  I don't want to marry."

Cash let the tasteless cigar go out.  The smoke lay in a stagnant
fuzz on his chest, and when he nodded two or three times clung to
his beard, seeping through the tight curls as though he had dipped
his chin in a dish of wax.  He raised his head as she spoke, and
now he lowered it into the pillow again as though he would never
lift it any more.

"There, she doesn't want to marry."

There was no need for her to forbid him to question her.  His
simple man's romantic conception of a lady ensured that he would
take whatever she said at its face value.  A lady--a rare creature.
What that he had learnt from the caprices of girls who welcomed
sailors home or helped a bushman to knock a cheque down could help
him to elucidate a puzzle as far removed from his experience as an
angel from gross flesh!  Soft and childish and innocent one minute,
wilful and resolute the next, now hostile, now friendly, now cold,
now passionate, and always surrounded by a dazzling aura of mystery--
what was a man to make of it?  He had long wondered about ladies--
señoritas with white faces and black eyes looking down from grilled
windows, always cool, always untroubled in a land of incessant heat
and trouble; English ladies walking among the crowds in Hyde Park
with undiminishable dignity.  What were they--women or what?  And
their remoteness, their incomprehensibility, lent them, beyond the
promise of their careful beauty, the same irresistible fascination
which drew him to places with strange names and baited the future
of his episodic life with an assurance, ever renewed and ever
belied, of lasting romantic excitement.

"There, she doesn't want to marry.  That settles it."  He turned
the cold cigar in his mouth.  "She's young enough to be your
daughter anyway, you fool.  A fine one to lecture anybody on
infatuation you are.  That cove up on the Mary River blackbirding
coons for love of a tart he'd never spoken to, he'd got nothing on
you.  It must be old age creeping on, and softening of the brain.
You married to a piano-playing, French-speaking lady!  Come on now,
own up--is that what you had in mind?  Is that what you've been
choking yourself in boiled shirts for, and acting in front of
mirrors to look like Lord Alford, and learning up long words?
Lucky for you, Jack Cash, you didn't put your foot in it!"  He
jeered for half an hour with the careful over-emphasis of a man who
has just almost made a fool of himself until, having reminded
himself of the days when "you hadn't a seat in your pants down in
Surry Hills," when "you were a bum in New York," when "you lay in
Cartagena jail and passed the time catching your lice," the
distance between Jack Cash and Harriet Cabell seemed so nearly
astronomical that grieving about it was absurd.  "That schooner's
more in your line," he told himself, and recovery set in at once
with a vision of escape from boiled shirts, board meetings, worry
about stock markets and wearing efforts to call a spade anything
except a spade, into blue seas and lands of new adventure.  He
felt, contemplating such vast freedom with a stir of his old hunger
for the fresh scenes and action which were his assurance of being,
even a relief that he had been saved from a difficult and dangerous
role.  "I've kept my head out of the bail for thirty years.  What
would I be doing with a wife now?"  And not only a wife but a lady!
"Boiled shirts, chimney-pot hats, and watching your step every inch
of the way till your dying day.  No, that's not your lay, my lad."
Yet, as he squinted at her from the corner of his eyes, he could
not quite smother a regret that he must pass by this adventure, the
greatest perhaps with which life had tempted him.

Harriet was annoyed with herself because she knew that she had told
him a lie, realizing for the first time how important it was to her
that the truth should be kept intact between them.  She wanted
then, badly wanted, to tell him everything--how she meant fear
instead of hate when she spoke of the people in Brisbane and how
she longed above anything else to be married and respected and safe--
but when she raised her eyes and met his she could not say it, she
felt ashamed.  How could she tell him that after all her boasts,
after what she had said about James?  How could she confess that
she would be grateful even to a Lord Tomnoddy for marrying her?
She threw the half-sewn shirt on the bed.  What right had he got to
talk about "Lord Tomnoddies" anyway?  "That's the second cigar this
morning," she said severely.  "You know what the doctor told you."

"Damn the doctor," Cash said.  He felt easier then and laughed, and
Harriet laughed too.  "What nice wrinkles at the corners of his
eyes: he'd never hold anything against you."  She jumped up and got
the matches from the table.  "Here, let me light it, and we won't
tell the doctor--this time."

Cash winked.  "And we won't let on it's no use him coming here
making eyes at you because you hate all men and you're going in for
an old maid."

Harriet patted his pillow.  "I didn't mean exactly that."

"No?"

"I like some people very much.  Bill Lavery the coachman and Sambo--
oh, and a lot of people like that."

"They're the best kind of people there are."

"Yes," she said thoughtfully.  "That's true.  Why?"

"I don't know why.  Perhaps because they're such damn fools.  Sambo
got a mouth-organ and an electric belt for curing his rheumatism
out of his share of the mine and he's satisfied, but your old man's
not satisfied with only owning nearly half of it.  When you can't
be satisfied with what you've got you're a nuisance to everybody
and a bigger fool than the fool."  He was talking to himself, not
to Harriet, but she glanced at him, sensing double meanings, took
up his shirt and sewed again, frowning.

He came to the end of a long heavy pondering with a sigh.  "Oh,
well, I'll soon be sound and on my way again."

"Oh, doctor said you couldn't move for three weeks," she said
quickly.

"Be patient."

"It's not that.  I'm glad.  I mean--it's so dull here."

"You'll remember me, then?"

"I might manage.  If I try hard till I see you again."

"That'll be a long time.  I'll have a grey head--if it's not been
turned into Dyak currency."

"Oh?"

"I'm going away," Cash said.  "I've had my eye on a schooner in
Sydney for the last two years.  Damn it, I should've made a break
before.  It's easy to give Jimmy advice."

"Oh, you're going away," Harriet said.  "Oh, I see."  But she did
not see anything except the empty sweep of paddocks and her father
riding home across them in the dusty afternoon sun.  Soon he would
send for her and she would have to go and listen to his day's list
of complaints, she thought, impatience breaking upon her long
forbearance, a reawakened scepticism deprecating in advance the
promises he would repeat, "like a parrot."  Oh, she was tired of
his talk, she realized, tired of his specious promises which meant
nothing at all, perhaps.  All her life she had been listening to
them, ever since Miss Todd came, and thinking of her first
governess, who used to say, "In six months' time we'll be picking
buttercups in England," a flash of understanding illuminated that
dumpy lady's sudden, mysterious collapse.  Of course, she had lost
faith in Cabell's promises, his tireless "Two years from now you'll
take Harriet home to Owerbury."  Lost faith in his promises and
taken to drink.  She remembered the red face, tear-stained, pressed
against hers, murmuring, "He promised me.  I trusted him."  "More
fool her," Harriet thought, "and more fool me too, I suppose."  She
turned away from the window and sewed again.  "That will be nice
for you, won't it?  You like adventures," she said.  She thought of
those adventures, endowing them with more courage and romance than
perhaps they had, of the air of freedom he breathed into her narrow
life, of the rocklike assurance which surrounded him and gave her,
in his presence, a feeling of absolute trust.  Why, had she not
been building herself up on that trust these last weeks? she asked.
And when he was gone--what then?  Whom could she trust as she
trusted him.  Nobody.  Not a soul.

Cash laughed.  "Oh, adventures are all right, as long as I can
scare young ladies with them after."

She looked at him quickly, looked away, and drooped over her
sewing.  A question was dinning in her mind--a hideous question.
Oh, yes, it was hideous.

Cash stared at the ceiling.  "You like adventures, don't you?"  He
tried to recapture that liking, but it would not come.  He saw only
the fly-spotted ceilings of a hundred brothels, smelt the stink of
mildewed blankets in leaky fo'c'sles, the back streets of towns
with splendid names, tasted bad food, bad drink, sweat in the
mouth, and an accumulated and long-suppressed disillusion.  He was
alarmed.  Age?  No, only convalescence.

Anyway, just to prove that the future was not as bad as it looked
he began to whistle.

Harriet looked at him reproachfully.

Thereafter she spent less time by his bed, hardly spoke, and seemed
depressed and nervous.  "Her old man must be giving her hell for
sitting in here," Cash decided and hurried his departure.  In less
than three weeks he was gone.

Cabell was relieved to see the last of him.  It was he who got
hell.  He hardly dared open his mouth, Harriet's temper was so
touchy.  God and damnation, was it possible the girl had fallen in
love with Cash now?  "I'll get rid of the fellow!"  But he did not
mean it.  Cash was too useful . . .

In his mail, these days voluminous with business letters, begging
letters, prospectuses, reports, he found an envelope postmarked
Dorchester.  It was from his nephew David, his brother David's son.
"A puffed-up turkeycock of a fellow that!"


DEAR SIR,

I took the liberty to open your letter, and observing from its
contents that you are not aware of my Aunt, your sister's death two
years ago, on the eve of her seventieth birthday, I hasten to
inform you of that melancholy event.


Harriet dead!  Harriet seventy years old!  Incredible.  He had to
stop reading the letter to imagine Harriet, his apple-cheeked
sister, as an old woman.  Time stands still in the exile's
homeland.  The mist, the wave breaking on the beach, a man bent
over a torn fishing-net, a spray of pear blossom scattering on the
wind--all this has been enchanted by his last glimpse of it as he
looks back, fixed for ever in memory where seasons do not change
nor men and women grow old.  Harriet dead!  Well, well, well!  He
read on:


My Aunt often spoke of you and would have been very pleased to have
your news.  She left us your portrait sent from Sydney and this has
been put in the Album beside the portraits of my uncles.

My wife and myself hope that you will not allow the regrettable
death of Aunt Harriet to interfere with your plans for sending your
daughter to Owerbury.  We should be only too pleased to take her
under our care and to introduce her to such amenities as a quiet
country life, varied by an occasional visit to London, affords.

Hoping to hear more from you on this matter,

I am, sir,

Yours sincerely,

DAVID CABELL.


Cabell snorted.  "Let that fop look after my daughter?  Never."
But he showed Harriet the letter, hoping to reopen through it their
sessions of quiet communion.  "You'll soon be gone, soon be
married," he said, slipping his arm round her waist.

"What, to some Lord Tomnoddy?"
"To some gentleman--some man of your own class."

"My own class, what's that?"

"Why, an English gentleman, of course.  Something a cut above
Australia."

"It's not my class then.  It can't be."

"What're you getting at?"

"I mean I don't want to marry a Lord Tomnoddy."

"Who d'you want to marry?" he asked sharply.

"Oh, I don't know.  I don't want to talk about it."  She wriggled
away from him.

"You've changed a bit in the last few weeks."

"Yes, thank God."

"Huh," he growled, taking himself off in a pet.  "We'll see about
that."



CHAPTER THREE: SPLENDID FELLOW CASH


The new year came--Cabell's greatest year when he ruled over the
valley's best land, saw a fierce, quick panic end the boom and the
fortunes of many old enemies in Brisbane, and began the
reconstruction that was to make Waterfall one of Australia's
wealthiest goldmines.

Under easy-going old Larsen development had been slow.  He had
built a confused pickle of works around the mountain and was
satisfied when only fifty per cent of the gold went out into the
river with the yellow flood of tailings.  But Cabell lay awake at
night thinking of the gold he lost and small boys and Chinamen
found gilding the roots of grass along the riverbank.  He brought
chemists and metallurgists from Germany and America and soon had a
method of treating the stone which gave five instead of three
ounces and lowered the cost of production from an ounce to half an
ounce per ton.  He built new works, new batteries, new dams to
store water during the dry season so that the digging, crushing,
sluicing, baking, and smelting of his gold need never cease.  When
the new works were opened Waterfall's output would rise from five
thousand to eight thousand five hundred ounces per week or one
million eight hundred thousand pounds' worth of gold per year.  Now
he saw a dream come true.  The mountain was covered with burrowing
men, drays and wagons carting the stone, with chimneys, furnace
sheds, chutes, truck-lines, boiler-rooms, and cranes, and he was
master of it all.

The huddle of shacks and matchboard shops solidified into a town
where people would be born, grow old, and die.  The court-house and
the post office changed their slabs for stone.  Pepper-trees were
planted in the street to give shade to the next generation.
Ludmilla had bought a library for the school of arts, Larsen built
an Oddfellows' hall.  A cemetery straggled across the ridge from
Larsen's Bakehouse.  The old Stock Exchange became a kirk and
manse, and next door the O'Connors built a Roman Catholic church
three feet higher, so David Kyle, the Mayor, renamed the main
street William of Orange Place; but it continued to be called
Monaghan Street in honour of the marker and floor-sweeper in
Shaftoe's old billiard-saloon--a sad fellow whose wife was now Mrs
Mavrodelos, Ike the hawker's wife, and mother of a multiplying
litter of yellow children with eyes like little black flies.  It
was a red town with red-skinned people breathing red air through
which, from year's end to year's end, you could look straight into
the eye of the sun.  The heat was like a barber's towel over your
face.

Occasionally Sambo drove a mob of cattle up to the slaughter-yard
and goggled at the mountain from which they had blasted away the
sugarloaf top.

"Stone the crows!"

"Weren't you the bloke that discovered the first nugget?" they
asked him in Danny's bar.

"Whatya talking about?  I was the bloke that shot the blacks on
this here identical spot and incinerated them single-handed!"

When Cabell was in town they hoisted a flag over the Assay Office,
where he ate and slept among piled ingots of gold worth four
hundred pounds each.

Cash wrote from Brisbane, where he had returned from convalescing
in the south.  He had an urgent matter to discuss but did not feel
up to a two-hundred-mile jolting in the coach.  Would Cabell meet
him at the Royal Hotel?

Cabell went to the meeting prepared to knock Cash down as soon as
he began to propose that Cabell should let him marry Harriet.  With
the barest civility he greeted Cash in the lounge.  "Good day.
How's your arm?"

"Right as a trivet."

"Huh."

"I reckon that whack on the head did me good.  Nothing like a
couple of months in bed to remind a man that he's got legs and arms
and make him want to use them."

"And nothing like a pretty nurse to make a man forget he's fifty
years old, eh?"

Cash laughed, but soon stopped laughing and shook his head.  "I'm
not likely to forget that."

They found a retired corner among the potted palms and sat down.
Cabell took a cigar from his case and bit the end, eyeing Cash
closely all the time as if he expected the fellow to spring on him.
The spring had gone out of Cash.  Illness had taken weight off him.
The vigorous little animal of a mouth had given up burrowing
through his beard and lay discouraged and bloodless in its crevice.

It was Cabell who sprang.  "I'm going to take Harriet back to
England."

Cash looked up quickly.  "You're going back to England?"

"Why not?  Emma's on her last legs.  As soon as she's gone and I
get things running properly here there's no reason why I shouldn't
take a trip.  I'll go back and buy Owerbury and see Harriet settled
there with a husband."

"Have you told Harriet?"

"What d'you mean?"

"Don't do it, Cabell."

"Upon my word, Cash . . ."

"Don't do it.  A girl's got a right to her own life and to picking
a husband for herself--if she wants one.  You can't expect them to
be cooks and bottle-washers to their fathers for ever.  Send her to
England if you want, but don't go with her.  Let her get herself a
man and a bit of peace.  She certainly needs that."

"Upon my word, Cash, you've got a hide.  What's your interest in
Harriet's future?"

"A lot."

He put the cigar between his teeth and showed his teeth gripped on
it.  "The interest of being a good friend--to her and to you too,"
Cash said quietly.  "Now quit looking at me like that, Cabell.
It's not the first time I've told you you're a fool--to yourself
more than anybody else in the long run.  You won't keep Harriet
down.  Not with all the snooping duennas in the world.  She's got
as much lead in her pencil as you.  You'll only break her heart or
your own."

"By God, Cash, you speak with feeling!"

"Sure.  I got a lot of feeling for Miss Harriet.  A fine girl."  He
lit a match and put it to the end of Cabell's cigar, blew it out,
turned the charred stick thoughtfully in his big fingers, sighed.
"A man could settle down and be pretty content with her."

"Well?"

"Well what?"

"Are you trying to tell me you're the man?"

"Me!  Miss Harriet marry me!  You're off your rocker.  Harriet's a
lady and me--I'm a hobo, and an old one at that."

Cabell fanned a rift in the smoke and tried to see what those mica
shields hid.

"A hobo," Cash repeated, "dyed in the wool and bred in the bone."
He stirred, stretched his shoulders, grinned.  "And that's what I
brought you down to talk about.  The long and short of it's this,
Cabell, sticking round here's getting on my nerves.  I want to push
off.  You're too big to need me any more, so let us wash it up.
What d'you say?"

"Where're you pushing off to?"

Cash could not help laughing at the obstinate doubt in his eye.
"Not to England.  I'm not going to set up for a Marquis of
Milparinka and run off with the heiress from the colonies.  I'm
going up north to have a look at the cannibals with the only wife
I'll ever have.  See, isn't she a beaut?"  He opened his wallet and
took out a photograph.  It was of a big white schooner lying over
on her beam ends with Sydney Heads in the background.  "I bought
her last month, and as soon as she's ready for the sea and you say
the word I'm off."

Cabell examined the picture, looked shiftily at Cash, then smiled
apology and relief.  Not till now that he saw how far his
suspicions were out did he realize how afraid he had been.  Doug
Peppiott and Cash--they were two very different propositions.  He
had come prepared to blast Cash to hell, but not sure by any means
that he could do it.  Ungrateful dog that he was to think of such
things--and of a man he owed so much!  A splendid fellow.  A
splendid, honest fellow.  "I don't know what to say," he began.
"I'd never be so big I could do without you--the only fellow I've
met in fifty years who hasn't tried to do me down.  Lucky Jack
Cash, eh?  It's helped me, your luck."

"Lucky in some things," Cash said, as if it was an affliction.
"Lucky with money."

"Oh, aye."

In a burst of comradely affection Cabell put an arm around Cash's
shoulder.  "No, I can't let you go.  There are big things in the
wind.  I can smell them.  This new loan's going to fail in London.
There'll be a hell of a crash, and this time we'll be on top of the
storm.  We'll be millionaires five times over.  The Dennises are in
the soup already and so is Flanagan.  See, read that."  He opened a
copy of the morning paper and pointed to a paragraph.

Cash took it and read:


                       IMPORTANT ENGAGEMENT
                        OLD FAMILIES UNITED

The engagement is announced of Miss Jennis Bowen, well-known
daughter of Mrs Bowen and granddaughter of Sir Michael Flanagan, to
Mr Douglas Peppiott, son of Mr and Mrs Albert Peppiott, of Moray
Street, New Farm.  The wedding, which is expected to take place
shortly, will unite two of our oldest families.  The marriage gains
added interest from the fact that Mr Peppiott and Sir Michael, who
have sat on opposite sides of the House for some time, recently
joined the new Coalition Ministry . . .


"It'll unite Flanagan's bankruptcy to Peppiott's fortune," Cabell
chuckled.  "That's my guess.  He's as cunning as a garbage-rat,
Flanagan.  They reckon it was him who got Peppiott into the
Cabinet."

Cash was silent, pondering over the paragraph.

It flashed into Cabell's mind that he was thinking of Harriet and
Doug Peppiott.  He took his arm from Cash's shoulder.

Cash put the paper down.  "It's no good," he said gloomily.  "I've
made up my mind.  I'm going."

"How soon?" Cabell said.

"Early after Easter."

"Ah," Cabell said.  "Time's short with you then."  His suspicions
were alive again.  ("He's wondering what effect this will have on
Harriett," he decided.  "He wants to change his mind.")  "You won't
even have time for a trip to the Reach."

"That's the point," Cash said, rousing himself once more.  "I want
to ask you a favour and make you an offer.  I've got eighty
thousand quids' worth of assets--fifty thousand in Waterfalls and
odds and ends.  It's not much beside your hoard, but it needs
watching and I'm sick of the game.  So I want to put by enough to
see me through the rest of my days--in some steady way that doesn't
keep you on the hop."

"Consols?"

"Something like that.  But first of all I want to make Miss Harriet
a present--a wedding-present if you like.  So I've turned over half
the Waterfalls in her name."  He took a paper from his pocket.
"Give her this from me.  It's the lawyer's claptrap.  I'm sorry I
haven't the time to give it to her myself."

"But she'll never need . . ."

"Yes, I know it's only a fleabite beside what you'll leave her, but
just in case--I mean, why the hell shouldn't I?"

"It's devilish handsome of you," Cabell said uncertainly, wondering
what was behind such generosity, what it would do to Harriet.  He
folded the paper and put it in his pocket.  "Too bad you cannot
come to the Reach and let her thank you herself."

"Impossible," Cash said quickly.  "But I'll drop her a note before
I leave.  A hobo's blessing, eh?  Ha-ha.  Hmn."

"Hmn."

They were both silent and shifty for a while, then Cash said
briskly, "Well that's half the Waterfalls.  You can have an option
on the rest.  And now for the favour.  My assets'll need careful
selling.  How about doing it for me?  You'll have a finger in the
pie and my lawyer will give you a hand.  Otherwise I'll have to put
my trip off a couple of years."

"Not at all.  Not at all."  Cabell leant eagerly across the table.
"You do me an injustice to doubt it . . ."

So it was arranged.  Cabell was to buy the Waterfalls for twenty-
five thousand pounds and purchase consols with the money--at his
convenience.  The rest of Cash's property, shares, a couple of
mortgages, and some land, he was to realize on as the chance turned
up.  Cash signed the papers making Cabell and his lawyers joint
trustees and left for Sydney to oversee the fitting out of his
ship.

A splendid fellow!  If Harriet had any nonsense in her head she'd
soon get over it now.



CHAPTER FOUR: CHANGE OF HEART


Harriet had already made strenuous efforts to get over it.  Fifty
times a day she told herself that she did not, could not love Cash,
and once a day, as she was falling off to sleep, she admitted that
she did.

Harriet, as her father noticed, had changed again, not back to the
old Harriet with the cold, clear, confident, untouched eyes of a
spoilt child who thought that worlds could be remade by her whim,
but into a woman more strikingly like Emma than ever, the
dangerous, sly, stubborn Emma he remembered.  She looked at him
tearfully no longer, neither did she fly into peevish tempers when
he argued with her.  She listened.  She let him put his arm around
her.  But whether she heard or felt there was nothing on her face
like a sallow wax mask to show.

"You're not human.  If somebody cut you, you wouldn't bleed."

It was as though all that flux of passionate feeling had turned to
lava, stiffening her.

The change dated from the moment when Cash startled her with the
news that he was going away and she realized what an emptiness of
days lay ahead.  Maybe for ever, he said.  She was barely conscious
of the cold reply she made.  She was thinking that there would be
nobody left whom she could trust as she trusted him, and as she
thought of that feeling he gave her of absolute safety behind his
rocklike body, his serene, tolerant mastery of a difficult life, a
hideous idea presented itself--that she loved Cash, that she had
started to love him the first day he came to the Reach ten years
ago, when he used to call at the house in Brisbane and she put on
her new dresses to show him, and that jealousy of Queenie had cut
the flow of her love and turned it towards Doug Peppiott.  Hideous!
Oh, yes, it would be hideous if it were true because what would
become of her when he was gone?  It was on the tip of her tongue to
say, "You can't go.  You can't let Father send me to England to
marry a man I won't ever be able to love."

She searched his eyes for some sign that he would understand, but
Cash's eyes gave no signs.  The hard core of the iris returned only
the image of her own face.

She turned her head away quickly and bit her tongue.  Thank
heavens, she hadn't let it commit her.  Clearly he didn't care a
button.

"You like adventures, don't you?"

"As long as I can scare young ladies with them after."

Young ladies.  Not her, not any particular young lady.  Just one of
a kind.  That's all she was to him--a young Lady Tomnoddy.  And it
was true, too!  He'd seen through her and he despised her as
suddenly she despised herself for wanting to be the wife of a man
he could talk about so witheringly.

She glued her eyes on her sewing and he began to whistle softly to
himself.

"See, he's happy now because he's going away.  Oh, I wish I was in
his place and he was in mine.  I'd break my arms to stay."

Now when she sat by his bed she spoke hardly a word.  She had
plenty to say and she counted the days that remained as though
there would be no more for her after, but she waited for him to
speak first.  Every time he opened his mouth her heart stopped
beating.  Why? she asked herself angrily.  Wasn't it plain as
daylight that he would never say THAT?  And yet--the way he had
talked to her at the ball: hadn't he seemed to mean something quite
different from what he was saying.  What had he said?  She could
not remember, except that he had tried to stop her from going to
Doug Peppiott and had confessed, hadn't he, that he wasn't really
so concerned for her father.  Could he have been jealous?  No, that
was absurd.  He would not merely have talked to her--not he.  He'd
have dealt with Peppiott as, she admitted now, she would have liked
to deal with Queenie the day she saw them in the gardens.  Perhaps
it was only for her father's sake he spoke, and because he liked
her and was sorry for a silly girl.  And yet--the way he had talked
last week about her going to England: did THAT mean something?  No,
it only meant that he thought Tomnoddies were fools and so was she.

Still hoping but pretending that she did not, that the new, burning
pain of love was a fancy, telling herself that she only wanted to
marry an English gentleman and have the Peppiotts and the Bowens
crawling at her feet, pumping up a feeling of indignation at the
idea that he, such a common man, should dare to talk about Lord
Tomnoddies, she counted the last few days, the last few hours and
the last few minutes as they stood on the veranda in the early
morning and he offered her his hand.  "Good-bye, Miss Harriet.
I've got some deep scars to remember you by."

She wanted to throw her arms around him and say, "Take me with you.
I'm not spoilt.  I'm not silly.  I'm not a lady any more if that's
why you can't love me.  I'm lower than Queenie.  I've got my
mother's blood in me, and I'm glad."

She hung on to his fingers when he tried to release her hand.  "Oh,
Mr Cash . . ."  But she could get no farther.

"Shake a leg," Cabell said testily.  "You can't keep the coach
waiting."

Then he was gone, and the house was deadly, dully silent again.
The air in it suffocated her.  She went for long rides alone.  "I
was a coward," she told herself.  "I should have confessed.  What
if I did make a fool of myself?  It might have been worth while."

The valley turned brown in the summer sun with great patches of
bare red earth in the dry grass.  The inhumanness and poverty of it
soothed her after the orgy of misery and her father's too opulent
dreams.  In the aromatic, silent scrub she felt that she was being
washed clean of these overheated emotions.  Now she hammered her
way back through the wreckage of her integrity and tried to recover
some of that brave self-assurance she had felt, and which she
believed Cash had seen and admired, the day she made him understand
that she was a little girl no longer.  Of course she did not
recover it.  It had broken itself against the unsympathetic backs,
the derisive smiles, the shocked grimaces of the Nice People.  She
must build herself a new pride, stronger than the old one because
now she knew the power of the Nice People and the shame of her own
momentary capitulation to them.  That new pride was already born.
It was born the moment she heard Cash talk of Lord Tomnoddies.

The word had sardonic overtones for an Australian ear.  It was a
caricature of all pretence, incapacity, unmasculinity--what Harriet
had felt when comparing James and her father, Todhunter and old
Purvis.  Now she realized with shame that the ideal husband she had
dreamt of these last few months was a mingling of all the most
pretentious, incapable, unmanly qualities of her brother and old
Purvis's grandson, and her pride, born as a revulsion from her own
pretences, weakness, and corrupted feminine integrity which had
seen their imago in James and Todhunter, sent her to seek her imago
in Cash, the diametrical opposite of all Nice People and all
phantoms.  As she had tried to make herself worthy of the Nice
People by reflecting that the Lords of Felsie were her cousins, she
now tried to make herself worthy of Cash by telling herself that
she was Emma Surface's daughter, closer to Cash than to the Lords
of Felsie, heir to her mother's quiet, passionate strength which
Cash admired.  She saw, too, in her father, the old landtaker
qualities she was happy to think were bred in her bone, not
qualities brought from Owerbury, but those forged in his long
struggle with the land.  Thus, paradoxically, she felt more
affection and respect for him as she turned away from him again and
perceived, at the same time, the pathos of his divided spirit,
damned to lie with ghostly loves and fight for certain failure,
which had nearly been the tragedy of her own.  In this new change
of heart, this requickening of desire for life and love which had
seemed to be dead, she understood, what she had guessed before,
that the niceness of the Nice People, the flight from crudities,
was a corroding lie against their most precious selves, most
precious because most passionately living and, anyway, inescapable
except by suicide.  That suicide she had nearly committed, that
corroding lie she had let into her own heart, and asking herself
what would have become of her if Cash had not turned up, she was
horrified by the answer that in the fullness of time she would have
grown into an old maid like Miss Montaulk.  But what now?  What
better fate was in store for her?  She lay on the dry, red earth
and wept.  "Oh, come back, come back and take me away!"

When she rode into the homestead yard Cabell was waiting on the
veranda for her--always waiting and prying.  Half a dozen times a
day as she sat in her room she heard the door open softly and knew
that he had crept down the passage to see what she was doing.  If
she was five minutes late for a meal he was running about the house
shouting for her, and every time they met he tormented her with
questions, "Where had she been?"  "Who did she see?"  "What was she
thinking of?"  "Was she tired?"  "Was she happy?"  "Did she want
anything?"--indefatigably solicitous and distrustful.  She knew it
was none of these questions he wanted answered--that the real
question in his eye was about Cash.  "Do you love Cash?"  "Are you
hatching some plot?"  "Do you want to kill me with another
treacherous blow?"  That was what he was asking.

At every meal he ranted.  Cash was a vagabond--a blackguard--an
upstart--a vulgarian--a swine he'd picked out of the gutter--had
nearly been hanged--kept low women . . .

She listened without hearing, impenetrable.

He rapped the table.  "You're not eating again.  Why?  Tell me
that.  Skylarking all over the place one day and looking like a wet
hen the next--what's the reason for it?  Am I a bad father?  Do I
deny you anything?  Haven't I spent twenty-two years planning and
grafting for you?  And now you sulk.  What for, eh?  That's what
I'd like to know."

The next instant he was leaning across the table to pat her hand,
murmuring, "Don't be angry with me, darling.  I'm an old fool.
Only I can't stand seeing you . . .  Eat now--just this piece--just
to please me . . ."

She took her hands away and rose from the table.

"You refuse to please ME, eh?" he shouted after her, "but you're
quick off the mark when it comes to pleasing other men, making
clandestine appointments or sitting on the side of their beds."

She closed the door and he put his head in his hands and groaned.

The year passed.  Cabell was away a good deal of the time, at the
mine and in Brisbane, and Harriet had some peace, except for the
incessant spying of Miss Montaulk, who kept a minute account of her
activities and apparent state of mind.

At the New Year Harriet took stock of the situation and made some
resolutions.  She kept telling herself that Cash was gone for ever,
but she tried not to believe it.  Well, she must believe it and,
what was more, she must get over it.  She would grow old in the
valley, old and ugly--very well, she must resign herself to that,
too.  No more love and no more thinking about love.  She must
imagine that she had a little stone in her breast instead of a
heart.  She MUST.  Ah, it was hard.  Her heart would beat and send
hot blood into her veins, but if she tried, if she told herself
every day, "I do not love him," she would conquer it at last.

She found little jobs round the house helping Miss Montaulk, she
set to work learning the difficult Beethoven Sonatas she had never
been able to play, and whenever the thought of Cash broke through
she worked harder and played harder till she was ready to drop.  "I
don't love him," "I don't love him," she repeated mechanically to
the rhythm of her music and her needle.  She had settled that in
her mind, but she could not settle it in her young fractious body.
She did not despair: she believed in the firmness of her mind and
the dulling, deadening touch of the long years to come.

Cabell returned from Brisbane in an almost hilarious mood.  He
brought a load of presents, more useless jewellery for Harriett, a
dress for Miss Montaulk, a pair of silver spurs for Sambo, even a
shawl for Emma.  As he was unpacking Miss Montaulk came to his room
with her report.  He drove her away.  "Stow your gossip, woman.
You must make the girl feel like a criminal, always snooping on
her!"

At lunch he chattered and chuckled about the doings in Brisbane--
the plight of Flanagan and the Dennises, the imminence of great
disaster for every one else and splendour for himself.  He did not
notice, or refused to notice, that she hardly touched her food.
Eagerly she waited for some mention of Cash.  Surely he hadn't left
yet, without a word!  But Cabell's good humour was a bad sign.  The
questioning look had left his eye.

She listened to his rigmarole about the stock market, the loan
market, the real estate market, her teeth buried in her under lip
to stop her from crying out, "But tell me about Cash.  Is he well?
Is he in danger like Flanagan?  Does he look happy?"  But when the
table was cleared and Cabell said, smiling, "Now I've got some real
news--about Cash," she wanted to run away and stop up her ears.
She didn't think she could hear that Cash was gone, gone for ever,
without bursting into tears.

"A splendid fellow," Cabell said.  "One of the best.  I did him
wrong talking as I did.  That's how it always is--a man never
realizes who his best friend is till he's gone."

"Gone?"

"Gone from our ken.  Always was a rolling stone, you know.  Now
he's off again.  He's got hold of a schooner and sailed for God
knows where."

"Oh!  He's sailed?"

"Yes," Cabell lied.  "He's sailed."

He watched her through the smoke of his cigar, but saw nothing on
her petrified face, though to her it seemed to twitch and burn with
tell-tale signs.  "That's his way, you know.  Here to-day--gone
tomorrow.  Not the kind of man you can count on.  A wife in every
port and a couple on board as well.  Ha-ha!  But a generous fellow,
mind you.  Devilish generous.  He left you a little present."

"Me?"

"Yes, twenty-five thousand quids' worth of Waterfall shares to put
in your stocking."  He gave her the papers.  "Not so little either,
but a drop in the ocean of what I'll leave you."

"Oh, but didn't--could he afford it?" Harriet said, changing her
sentence in the middle.

"Don't worry about that.  He's well lined his pockets.  I'll soon
be paying twenty-five thousand into his account at the Queensland
Incorporated, and I've got another thirty thousand worth of shares
and land to realize on for him."

"But didn't he . . ."  She twisted the paper in her hands and
stopped again.

Cabell rose.  "Come now.  Enough of Cash.  I'm going over to
Ningpo.  Get your hat and we'll ride down the river."

"Oh, but didn't he send any message?"

"What message should he send?"

"Didn't he say anything--anything at all?  About his present, I
mean."

"He said it was to be a wedding-present.  Something of the sort."

"I'll never need it then."

"And why not?"

"Because I'll never be married."

He laughed.  "What d'you think I'm going to do with you?  Shut you
up with the nuns.  Now, no nonsense, girl.  You'll be married when
we find you a decent young fellow.  I was thinking," he looked at
her slyly, "I might take you Home myself in a couple of years'
time, if everything goes well.  I'd buy Owerbury.  It must be
crippled with debt.  And settle you in there with your husband.
Now, how does that sound?"

"I wouldn't go."

"Rubbish.  Of course you'd go.  Last year you said . . ."

"I don't care what I said last year.  I was mad.  I don't want to
marry any of your young men.  I won't.  You can't make me.  You can
stop me having the man I want but you can't force me to marry one I
don't want."

"Who the hell do you want to marry?  Or don't you want to marry?
Or what the devil do you want?"

"I want to marry the man I love.  Not the man you know I CAN'T
love."

"Oho.  And who's the man you love?"

Harriet looked at the dead centre of his eye.  It was not like
Cash's eye--it quailed under her gaze and pleaded for mercy.  "Jack
Cash," she said.

"So!" he said.  "I was right then.  You were carrying on in there--
like--like Florence Nightingle, eh?  A little ministering angel,
eh?  Like a bitch!"

Tears ran down Harriet's cheeks into the corners of her mouth, but
she kept her voice firm.  "Say what you wish.  It doesn't matter.
Nothing matters.  I love Cash.  I've always loved him.  I always
will."

Cabell grinned, but his voice was not as steady as Harriet's.
"Always, eh?  But you flung yourself at Peppiott's head just the
same.  A fine story I can tell you about him.  He's going to marry
Flanagan's granddaughter."

"I was ready to fling myself at any man's head," Harriet retorted,
"if only he could rescue me from you."  She dried her eyes on her
sleeve.  "Oh, you needn't worry.  I'll never try again.  You've
finished me as you've finished James.  It's what you wanted, I
suppose, for some beastly reason.  But you can't kill me and keep
my love at the same time, don't you understand?  I'll never care
anything for you any more.  I hate you."

"Harriet!  You're angry.  You don't know what you're saying."

"I'm not angry," Harriet said.  "I don't think I'll ever feel even
anger again," and she covered her face in her hands and ran out of
the room.

When that fit was over she reviewed the situation once more.  Why
did Cash give her this money?  She would never need it--he knew
that.  For a wedding-present?  Oh, the fool--didn't he have any
eyes?  Or was it--could it be a sign?  She laughed at herself.  A
fine sign from a man already miles at sea.  No, enough of looking
for signs and enough of snivelling.  Cash was gone--months ago.  He
might as well be dead.  That was a fact and you couldn't alter
facts.  She must give up fighting, resign herself.  James had done
it and so, by clearing out, had Larry.  Poor James!  What would he
feel when he heard about Jennis?  Or did one really outlive this
dull, burning pain?



CHAPTER FIVE: JAMES INVENTS A FATHER


James would have been extremely annoyed and a little puzzled to
know that his sister pitied him, for James was thoroughly taken in
by his public pretence of dignified, perhaps a trifle smug,
contentment.  As he saw himself he was very happy to be fulfilling
his duties to his father and, on this ground, was stoically
prepared to fulfil his duties to Julia too.  Passengers on ships
and guests in hotels thought that the young Mr and Mrs Cabell were
an ideally assorted couple, rather undemonstrative for newly-weds,
but that was in the best taste.  They did detect occasionally a
slight taste of vinegar in the young wife's conversation, a spark
of unquenched fire in her eye, but her husband never seemed to
notice it and, if he did, never let it ruffle his genteel temper.
A strong fellow that--he could afford to let her chafe at the bit
for a while as young wives often do: his firm hand would break her
in.  So James took in society as well as himself, as well as
Harriet, for the poor devil was far from resigned, far from content
in the narrow path of filial duty along which Cabell was trotting
him.  In the depths of James's heart the devils still danced.
Would they ever dance themselves out?  That was the question.  Not
if James could help it.

His mouth, once a happy, generous mouth had set tighter, and his
eyes, bridged by a deep wrinkle between the eyebrows, had the dull,
worried, preoccupied gaze of a man who feels a cancer growing in
his vitals and cannot, does not wish to locate it.  Lines were
deepening on his forehead and about his mouth.  On his twenty-sixth
birthday he was solemn, wooden, seigniorial.  Certainly not a man
to pity, not a man who would wake up at night from painful dreams
to pity himself.  Yet he often did--but only at night, when the
thought that he might have married a woman he loved instead of
tying himself for a lifetime to this sarcastic vixen Julia, and
that his father had used him without caring a tinker's cuss what
became of him, broke through his guard.  In the daytime that guard
was impregnable.  His devils were locked up, his mask was down, and
he moved discreetly, indecipherably among his fellows, reassured by
their respect and the high esteem in which filial duty and self-
abnegation were universally held.  In the day-time James was
satisfied with himself and before long, no doubt, would be
satisfied with himself at night too.  The only thorn in his
satisfaction was Julia's tongue.  Even his daytime armour could not
quite protect him from that.

Julia was not a bitch--yet; but she was in a fair way to become
one.  The wedding over, her scandalous mother out of sight, and a
new life opening before her, she had been happy and prepared to
fall in love with James.  She was young, as attractive as Jennis
Bowen, with a sight more intelligence and spirit.  She had passion
too, a queer, romantic, tender passion which had already begun to
reach out towards him.  She was, he would have been astonished to
discover, grateful for the tactful way he had done his love-making
and looked upon him as a deliverer now that all the awkward moments
were passed.  If only he would make an effort to be cheerful and
human she would uncover a personality very different from the one
which terrified him so.  It was up to James, but James was not up
to the job.

On the morning after the wedding at Ningpo, when the coach was
carrying them out of the valley on the first lap of their
honeymoon, Julia sighed and said, "Thank heavens, that's over.
Weddings are detestable, aren't they?  Now for the next stage."

She did not mean that she would thank heaven when the equally
detestable honeymoon was over but that was how James understood
her.  He did not reply but stared gloomily at the dawn breaking
over miles and miles of flooded country-side.  It was the worst
season to travel.  The roads were almost impassable, bridges shaky,
hills scoured, and mud knee deep.  He was to be shut up in this
jolting, stuffy box of a coach with Julia for three, perhaps six,
days, and all because his father refused to wait another month to
become chairman of the mine.  In the grey light Julia saw him frown
and loose a dejected breath as he wondered how many times he would
have to crawl out into the rain to help the coach over a bog and
what Julia's comments on his bedraggled appearance would be.

Julia felt snubbed, but she would not let herself be discouraged.
She suspected that James and she had a great deal in common; that
he was just as glad as she to see the last of the valley and the
people in it.  His terrible father--how he bullied James and how,
she guessed, James disliked him.  And that extraordinary old
mother, with her lurking eyes, who had never spoken one word to her--
an old convict woman with stripes on her back, her own mother had
told her.  She had watched James in this family circle and knew
that he felt as ashamed before her as she had felt before him.  If
they could show their cards and confess that neither had more
reason than the other to be ashamed surely they could clear the
air.  He was so stand-offish!  Why, he had kissed her only once,
when the wedding service forced him to, and then his lips had
scarcely brushed against hers.

"I mean it's a relief to be away from one's relatives," Julia said,
feeling her way cautiously.  "They're such a bore.  You've no idea
what a nuisance Mother was when we travelled."

Mention of Aurelia jolted him.  It was the last subject he wanted
to discuss: for one thing it usually stimulated Julia's tongue to
sharp, oblique reprisals; and for another it reminded him that
marriage had added the bibulous old harridan to his load of family
disgrace.  "Yes, yes," he muttered, "you told me--she gets dizzy in
coaches."

"She gets dizzy anywhere," Julia admitted nobly.

"Some people are like that," James said quickly.  "I knew a man--
it's bile."

Julia laughed and laid her hand on James's knee.  "You're a dear to
pretend, James, but now we can be honest, can't we, and make a
mutual confession?"

"A mutual confession?"  James tried to look politely surprised but
only looked horrified.

"Oh well, you know what I mean.  We didn't make our parents, so
it's perfectly ridiculous to pretend that we're responsible for
their odd ways."

James sensed a treacherous thrust maturing behind Julia's
suspicious open-heartedness, and stiffened himself to receive it.

"It's not my fault Mother drinks like a fish and behaves like a you-
know-what."

"Indeed!" James said feebly, "your mother is a most excellent
woman."

"A most excellent fiddlesticks, James.  She's an old rake, and
that's putting it mildly.  She's always drunk, she flirts
outrageously, she takes off her clothes in public if you don't
watch her, and there isn't a respectable hotel in any French or
English watering place she hasn't been asked to leave."

James crumbled.  "Good Lord, Julia, what are you saying?"

"The simple truth, my dear.  See, I've owned up."

"I don't believe it," James said and the words comforted him.  Yes,
it was unbelievable--just another of Julia's dirty tricks to make
him squirm.  A week ago he could set the skeletons in Julia's
cupboard against the skeletons in his own, but now they were all in
his own!  "Really," he said, getting his spine up again with an
effort, "I admire your mother.  Woman of the world--little
eccentric--sad bereavement--but dash it all Julia, it's not nice
talking like that about our--your relatives."

Julia's eyes widened.  For a moment she thought that James must be
a tremendous simpleton, but she saw what heavy weather he made
defending her mother and credited him with generous feelings on her
account.  "That's nice of you, dear," she said, with a tender
smile, "but there's no need for us to feel like that about each
other if we're honest in the beginning.  Now, I don't care a hang
about Mother's eccentricities, as you're sweet enough to call them,
if you won't look as if you've got all the sins in the Newgate
Calendar on your conscience every time somebody talks about YOUR
father or mother . . ."

James's spine stiffened without an effort this time, as though
Julia had stuck one of her hat-pins into him.  "My father is a very
excellent man, and my mother . . ." he began, but broke down.

"Oh, I don't mean to say--I mean, I liked your mother, James, I
really did.  There's something about her . . ."  Then Julia broke
down too.  This was not at all what she wanted to say.  She wanted
to be honest and she wanted James to be honest, so what was the use
beginning with an obvious lie.

It was such an obvious lie that it maddened James.  "That's not
true.  You looked down on my mother," he said, blushing.  "You know
what she was.  But let me tell you . . ." he took a deep breath,
"my mother is a fine woman just the same and my father is a
gentleman.  And my sister--I know you're thinking about the
disgusting business in Brisbane last year (Julia was thinking no
such thing.  She had never heard a word about Doug Peppiott and
had hardly noticed Harriet), but it's no concern of yours.  And
anyway . . ."  He floundered, gulped, "I don't wish to discuss the
matter further."

Julia had no more wish to discuss it either.  She saw that she had
put her foot in badly and was vexed with herself and with James.
She retreated into her elegant shell, though not so far that James
would have failed to coax her out if he had tried.  But a coach
jolting over washed-out roads is not a place to nurture sweet
temper in a man who believes that he has a grievance.  James's
belief that he had been cruelly put upon seethed stronger and
hotter at each bone-rattling pothole.  Fat, damp, hungry flies
buzzed and bit, the slush washed up through the floor of the coach,
breathing the steamy air was like trying to chew hot cotton-wool.
He was aware that he cut an absurd figure as he tried to sit
upright and dignified in the extreme corner of the seat, gasping,
sweating, his hat jerking over his nose every time the coach swayed
and plunged, but look dignified he must: it was the only defence
against the arrows in Julia's eyes.  There happened to be no arrows
in Julia's eyes just then, but James did not look at them too
closely.

In the four and a half days they took to reach the railhead he got
out into the mud and rain twenty-eight times to plod up a hill or
help the coachman and outsides with a fallen horse or put his
shoulder to the wheel.  It was a beginning to test the fortitude of
the most devoted honeymooners.  They spent six more days in trains
and hotels before they reached the seclusion of their staterooms on
the S.S. Austral, and by that time the habit of addressing each
other as though they were in a public restaurant had settled on
them.

Julia did not give up hope.  She knew she was beautiful and
believed that what she had failed to do with gentle, tactful words
she would do with gentle, tactful deeds when the time came.  The
time came at last, for James's duties as a husband could be shirked
no longer, and, alas for duty . . . he failed miserably.

He was awkward, resentful, and cold, and he made Julia cold and
awkward and, at last, resentful too.  Poor James, he felt ashamed.
He could not understand the blight which had descended on him.  He
could only soothe himself by saying, "If it was Jennis it wouldn't
be like this," and the image of Jennis rose before him, alluring,
profoundly disturbing.  Through these first days it haunted and
tortured him with a fierce, lusting fire at the centre of his
vitals which left him gutted and dead within.  To the vision of the
wife he had lost he could not help comparing the wife he had got,
and as the one was a vision and the other flesh, peaked from
seasickness and sleepless nights, the comparison was hopelessly to
Julia's disadvantage.  Her mouth was too small; her eyes too
narrow; her voice too hard; she was too tall, too pale, and too
damned conceited.  Poor James . . . if the placid Jennis Bowen, in
her quiet dreams of lovers kissing the palm of her hand, ever found
the spleen to wish James some evil for deserting her, she had her
wish now.

James cursed everybody except himself--Cabell, his sister,
Ludmilla, Aurelia, Julia.  It was all his father's doing: for the
sake of money he had sacrificed James to this ignominy and loss.
And who was to benefit?  Harriet, of course.  SHE could do what she
liked--cut up rough with any man to God knew what limits and be
forgiven--but he'd only loved one woman and they had all plotted to
take her away from him.  "It's filthy.  It's unjust.  But I'll get
even with them."  How?  Even to him these threats sounded feeble.
"I wish to Christ I'd made a break when I wanted to."  But the time
for that courageous gesture was gone and James guessed, for an
instant, that his potency had gone irretrievably with it.  If he
had had the courage to stand up to his father, to stand up to the
Doug Peppiotts of society without money to shield him, would he not
have been more of a man?  It was a horrible, worse, a futile
thought on this side of the decision he had made four years ago.
He repudiated it.  "No, a man's got duties to look to.  Social and
family duties.  That's the test of manliness--duty.  I've got a
duty to my father."  And his rage against Cabell, which had turned
to rage against himself, melted into the sentimental thought, "Poor
old Dad.  He's had a hard time.  A man's got to lend him a hand now
when he needs it."

This was the fourth night at sea, the fourth night after James's
fiasco.  For three nights Julia had watched the wedge of light
under the door between their cabins, heard James undressing, and
longed for another chance to take him in her arms.  For three
nights she had seen the light go out and heard him scramble into
bed.  Her hands tightened on her breasts, warm through the silk of
her night-dress but suddenly cold and congealed within.  The stick!
The idiot!  The milksop!  Had he really only married her because
his father told him to?  She had guessed it from the beginning: it
was true.

On this fourth night, prepared to make another effort in the cause
of duty James came to his cabin, undressed, folded his pants,
shirt, and underclothes neatly and put them away in the wardrobe,
hung his coat after carefully scratching a spot of paint off the
sleeve, washed, cleaned his teeth, his nails, brushed his sleek
black hair, put on his dressing-gown, and after an automatic glance
round the cabin to see that everything was in its right place,
listened at the door.  Julia was in bed.  He turned the knob: the
door was locked.

Next morning Julia greeted him on deck with the old familiar smile.
He realized, seeing it again, that she had not looked at him with
that amused, superior veiling of her eyes for some time.  ("Suppose
she's been too seasick.")

"Don't scowl at me in public," Julia said.  "You forget that we're
supposed to be an ideal couple on its honeymoon."

James had a brief struggle and got his wooden expression on.  "Are
you quite recovered?"

"Oh, quite.  I was never far gone, you know."

The first shot in a long battle.  The tireless, stinging malice of
her tongue surprised even James.  Not an opportunity for ridicule,
scorn, or slanderous double entente did it let pass.  He thought
she must lie awake at night thinking of nasty things to say.
Perhaps she did.  She would not have had to work her invention
hard, though: James was a very open mark.

This trip to England, legendary England, was an apocalyptic
adventure and excited James to exclamations of naïve wonder.
London: his first glimpse of a big city; the height of the
buildings; the fog; the noise of the traffic; the multitudinous
life; the wealth and luxury, the poverty and degradation; the Queen
("By jove, the Queen herself!") driving down Whitehall ("In such a
dingy coach!"); the changing of the Guard ("Don't gape, dear,
they'll know you come from the colonies"); the Tower of London;
Westminster Abbey ("And Wordsworth lies under that stone!"); the
Bank of England ("Incredible!"); the Archbishop of Canterbury
preaching in St Paul's; the Burlington Arcade (Good lord, his
clothes were ten years behind the times); Covent Garden, Tetrazzini
("Don't clap as if it was a music hall in Brisbane, dear"); Watling
Street ("Caesar might have stood here!"); "And this is the Old
Bailey, my dear.  You must have heard of it"; dukes and marquises
by the dozen, butlers and footmen ("I do wish you wouldn't look as
if you thought they would bite you"); the Lord Mayor's banquet and
Mr Joseph Chamberlain asking him questions with respectful
attention ("He knows of my father!"  "No doubt they have a record
of your mother, too"); a week at Owerbury ("So he really did belong
here!"); Tenterburn Hill, the gorsebush in the yard, the crack in
the north wall, the chimneys worn by the weather, the murky
portraits of Cabells down in the hall--just as his father had told
him ("Good lord, look, Julia, my father at eighteen!"  "Really?  It
looks like another Tichborne Case, my dear.")

Julia had been travelling since she was six years old.  It was all
as familiar to her as the back of her hand.  She sighed and yawned.
"Forgive me not sharing your colonial enthusiasms, my dear," she
said.  Now Julia WAS a bitch, for she had once looked forward to
being James's guide in this romantic Old Country.

"A Cabell came over with the Conqueror," James's cousin, David
Cabell, told them proudly.

"Indeed.  You are twice distinguished then, James," Julia said.

"How so?"

"Didn't you have ancestors who went over with the First Fleet?"
She leant her face towards him, as if provoking him to smack it.

The temptation was sometimes almost too much for him.  A red mist
blotted out his sight and his hands itched to take her by the
white, insolent throat and choke her.  He went away by himself
trembling, scared out of his wits by the violence of his feelings.
"My God, can it be true what Cash said?"

His only protection was to deafen himself, blind himself, and make
himself more wooden.  He soon had a highly developed instinctive
mechanism for repressing the least sign of interest or pleasure in
the world around.  A remarkably quiet fellow for a colonial, people
thought.  A bit TOO dry maybe, but a thorough gentleman.

Imperialism was in the bud.  Cecil Rhodes, Jameson Raids, Kipling,
and Our Splendid Empire!  James found himself regarded as a
distinguished visitor--son of one of Australia's greatest living
pioneers, the chap who ran the Waterfall goldmine.  Invitations to
dinner-parties, house-parties, tea-parties, week-ends, hunts,
shoots, drives, and whatnot caught him into the rhythm of a social
life where his blindness, deafness, and woodenness passed for good
breeding.

Politicians, journalists, investors, and the merely polite
encouraged him to talk of his father and the way empires were
founded.  He complied, hesitantly at first.  He told them of
younger sons of good families leaving England like the old
conquistadores with noble and romantic aspirations, of heroic
fights with blacks, the ideal of a new British land shining before
them like St James on his white horse at the battle of Otumba, and
convinced his hearers


          That nothing in the ages old
          In song or story written yet,
          On Grecian vase or Roman arch,
          Though it should ring with clash of steel,
          Could braver histories unfold
          Than this bush story yet untold,
          The story of their westward march.


In the process he convinced himself.  A new conception of his
father took root in his brain when he had been telling the story
for two years, in fact a new father--a pioneer, a nation-builder, a
bearer of the precious torch to the earth's dark places, a selfless
forerunner of progress, glorious sacrifice on the altar of
England's mission to civilize the world . . .

Resigned?  What an idea?  He was grateful and content.  Except just
now and then at the end of a wet, bleak day in the company of
wooden people.  But he would surely get over that despair which
gutted him like a blunt knife and left him hollow.  Given time
surely his devils would suffocate themselves and he, too, become as
wooden within as he was without.  It was his grand ideal and would
be, if you like, his tragedy.



CHAPTER SIX: LARRY'S WANDER YEARS


As for Larry, Harriet's other encouraging example . . .

When he left the Travellers' Rest he rode to the crossing in the
middle of the town and gazed north where the road to the Reach
crawled over the downs.  Then he spat and turned away.  This simple
act strengthened him, seemed to cut ties which tug-tug-tugged at
him all the time.  Let him have the Reach, let them fight--there
was a continent waiting for him, as Berry said.  Riding towards the
hazy, western horizon, with the rise and fall of the road visible
for miles ahead, Larry had that common feeling of Australians that
no custom or loyalty binds them to any spot on the earth's surface,
that all the wide country, from Leeuwin to the Gulf, and all its
possibilities are theirs.  A spacious feeling, an optimistic
feeling which gave Larry the illusion that he was on the threshold
of a new life and that the old, with all its disappointments and
torments, was dead.

For two weeks he rode into an unknown land, a land of
unrecognizable birds and flowers and trees, the flat, red land of
the Inside.  Its newness excited him and wiped away the lines of
painful thought on his face, as though he really had sloughed a
skin and left it behind with the past.  The valley was a settled
place with a busy road, well-beaten tracks, and water never more
than a couple of miles away.  Here, for tens of miles, there was no
sign of man or beast or waterholes, only the silent, flat landscape
which opened, day after day, upon silent flat landscapes, like the
images in duplicated mirrors.  The grass was white and the stunted
trees were bluish-grey with delicate leaves.  Over the clay the
sand was only a few inches deep, precarious foothold for pastures
and men.  For miles, where fires had burnt out the scrub or the
stupid greed of early settlers had cut it down, the sand had blown
away and exposed the red clay like a great scalded wound.  The
sunlight scorched as though it came through a burning-glass and
sparkled with the diamond clarity of a crisp winter's day.  The
stars were enormous and lurid with a steely light.  The sky was
bleach-white, like a roof of bone.  There were rivers, dry beds of
sand and waterworn stones with pools of slime every twenty or
thirty miles.  The strip of black earth lining the banks for two
hundred yards on each side was the tidal mark of the rains.  An
unsubduable country, where men fought a truceless war with the sun,
constantly advancing or retreating as the drought was broken or
broke them.  Some years the rain came and men made fortunes.
Sometimes the rain did not come for years and they lost fortunes
and their lives.  Larry passed dried-up waterholes where the bones
of cattle and sheep were feet deep.  At the homesteads he found
children who had never seen rain.  One day he took a wrong turn at
a crossing of two tracks and about sundown, when his tongue was
beginning to taste like a piece of hot felt, he came on the naked
skeleton of a man.  The rags of the man's clothes were scattered
about the track.  He had gone mad with thirst and torn them to
pieces.  To shorten his agony he had climbed a tree, tied his belt
to a branch, and tried to hang himself, but the branch had broken
and the skeleton lay under the tree with the branch across its
chest and the belt around its neck.  Near-by was the man's wallet,
stuffed with banknotes.  Larry was superstitious and threw it down
beside the skeleton.  He knew that he was on a waterless track,
within a few hours of his own end unless he could get back to the
crossing and find a hole.  At dawn next morning he reached a
boundary-rider's hut.  He did not see the man standing in the
doorway: he saw only a trough of dirty brown water and plunged his
head in beside his horse's.

Larry found work in the Never-Never, the land which stretches
westward through the ancient, dead, inhuman heart of Australia and
never ends.  He stayed there a year.  The obsessing struggle for
life turned his thoughts outwards and encouraged the idea that the
past and the thoughts which had tormented it were dead and done
for.  The past was not a favourite topic among the tough characters
who supported life in these outposts--"every man-jack with a
warrant out against him somewhere," the overseer told Larry.  They
measured a man by his ability to ride, drink, use his fists, and
hold his tongue.  Larry passed muster.

Still, they were curious about him.  They watched him.  There were
two of them in the hut where Larry lived out on the boundary, fifty
miles from the head station.  One of them was a bit off his head.
Every night he used to walk a mile into the paddock, take off his
clothes, leave them there and walk back naked to his bunk--"to
trick the fleas."  The other one was a little man of prodigious
strength, as though he had been a big man and the sun had shrunk
him.  He could kneel with his hands on the ground and rise with two
men standing on his wrists.  He was quite sane, only vague with
that vagueness of men who have lived too long under the open sky
with no roof to press their eyes down on the earth.  His name was
Chivers.  He tried to talk to Larry, but before he got to the point
he was trying to make, his mind wandered and he fell into silent,
fierce thought.  After a while he would jump up and grab his lead
pencil and scribble furiously on the galvanized-iron wall, "Rome
wasn't built in a day," or "The proper study of mankind is man," or
"Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well."  The walls were covered with
thousands of these tags, scraps of Greek and Latin, Euclidean
diagrams, algebraic equations--straws of a drowning mind.  Every
time he met Larry he buttonholed him as if he had something
important to say but he could never quite get at it.  He peered
into Larry's face and muttered, "Ah.  Umn.  Ah.  Umn.  Another
time, another time."

Then one day the ration-cart brought some old newspapers.  A couple
of nights later he looked up from studying them and said, "What'd
you say your second name was?"

"Cabell," Larry said.

"Ah."  His eyes lighted.  "That's your old man then who owns the
Reach where the strike was?"

Larry grunted.

"There's a bit here in the paper about him and the goldmine at
Waterfall.  Now I knew there was something you put me in mind of.
It must've been a great strike!"

Larry grunted again.

"I read a bit there in the Worker about you, how you stuck by the
shearers and your old man give you a thrashing."

Larry got up to go out.

"Wait a bit.  There was something I wanted to get straight.  Just a
minute now.  Let me think.  Ah yes, how many blokes did you say
were in the camp?"

"How the hell do I know?"

"You were there."

"Of course I was there."

"I read that four hundred blokes were there the night Coyle was
pinched and only about half a dozen Johns.  They must've been a
poor lot to stand by and let a mate get taken like that.  No wonder
your old man thrashed them."

Slow, suspicious thought reawakened on Larry's face and drew his
brows together.  "What d'you mean?"

"Just a minute.  Just a minute."  Chivers waved him off.  He was
thinking.  After a while he dashed to the wall and wrote, "There
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

"What d'you mean saying about us--them blokes not rescuing Coyle?"
demanded Larry.

"Another time," Chivers said impatiently.

When everybody was asleep Larry got out of his bunk and took the
papers down from the rafters to see what it was Chivers had been
reading.  He found it after a long search--Cabell's speech to the
annual meeting of shareholders about the new developments at the
mine.  Memories of the valley came back irresistibly to him, its
blue hills and green paddocks, its ever-flowing river, the rich
scrub on its ranges, the purple lotus in its waterholes, the
familiarity of its life, and he was all at once sick and tired of
the sun-charred plains, the sand, the parching heat, the men he did
not know, sick and tired for the sight of a hill and the men and
the places he had known from childhood.  But when he thought of
that old life he thought of his father, of the injustices he had
suffered and his shameful, cowardly defeat, and when he thought of
the men, his mates, the guilt of his betrayal agitated him again.
There was no stopping his mind once he let it free on this tack.

Chivers watched him speculatively for several days, scratching his
head and whispering to himself.  It got on Larry's nerves at last.

"Who the hell're you looking at?"

"You put me in mind of something I wanted to say," Chivers said.
"Something I wanted to ask."

"I don't ask you no questions, do I?" Larry said angrily.

The door opened and the madman came in, stripped to the absurd
nakedness of a skinny body with a black beard like a covering in
the wrong place.  "Tricked 'em that time," he grinned.  "Come home
a new way through the scrub."

Chivers looked at his hairless legs.  "That's it.  You were at the
strike up Cabell's Reach, weren't you, the time they raided the hut
and took the scabs off without any pants?  That must've been
something to see."

Larry pushed his chair back.

"Wait a bit now--something I want to ask you.  About that bloke
Coyle who got three years.  How come?  Weren't you all his mates--
four hundred of you?  They must've been a pack of go-alongs!"

"There was a lot of police there," Larry mumbled at his questioning
eye.

"I read a bit about it in the papers--about half a dozen it said."

"There was more, I tell you.  There was police and guns."

"That's how it was, eh?  I thought there must be something.  Mates
ought to stick together.  Hold on.  That's what I wanted to ask.  I
read where at the trial there was a scab who said he saw Coyle
fighting with one of the shearers outside the shed and the shearer
laid Coyle out and handed him over to the police."

"That's a lie."

"No, it ain't.  I read it.  A bloke named--what was his name?  One
of the strikers.  He turned against his mate and helped the police
catch him.  It was in the Worker."

Larry twisted his soft beard, which licked sideways from twisting
as though a strong wind was blowing across his face.

"I remember," Chivers said.  "Goggs was his name--that's it."

Larry smiled shiftily.  "Goggs--yes."

"Ain't it right what I said?"

"I heard something," Larry mumbled.  "I didn't get the hang of it."

Next morning when they woke up he was gone.  He got his cheque from
the homestead and rode another sixty miles to the nearest grog
shanty, handed the cheque in, and came to three weeks later in a
litter of empty brandy bottles.  He saddled his horse, took the
bottle of rum and the sovereign the pub-keeper gave him, and rode
away, but half a mile down the track, as the plains opened out
before him again with their urgent questioning of a destination, he
turned and rode back to the shanty.  He drank his saddle and bridle
and after that his horse, then started on foot for Brisbane five
hundred miles off.  His body was bruised and his face was patched
with fly-haunted scabs.  He did not remember how he had fought the
pub-keeper and his chucker-out when they turned him away to face
the world again.

He tramped to the coast and back to the west and down to the coast
once more.  He could not rest anywhere for more than a week or two.
He navvied on a new railway, drove a mob of cattle across the
Downs, was yardman in a Brisbane hotel, broke horses, jumped the
rattler, humped his swag, joined the rush to Kalgoorlie.  In
Doyle's hotel in Kalgoorlie one night a miner from Waterfall
recognized him.  "Jesus, mates, here's Larry Cabell.  His old man
damn near owns Waterfall and here he is on wages."

"Jesus, your old man owns Waterfall?"

They gathered round to hear the story of how Cabell and Larry had a
fight and Cabell kicked Larry out.  "He was a proper old bastard.
He's got everybody dead scared."

"Who's scared?" Larry said.  "I cleared out myself."

After that he thought he saw the doubtful look in everybody's eye.
He hung back from the riotous comradeship of the camps and the pubs
and was lonely.  He felt no permanence, no continuity, no purpose
in his life suspended over an uncompleted past.  He worked a
passage back to the east.  In Sydney he heard of a boat preparing
to take a hundred shearers to the New Australia settlement in
Paraguay and grasped at the idea of going with them, but dropped it
at once, remembering what Coyle had said to him about going to
South America and understanding, at last, that what he wished to
flee from would follow him like a shadow till it was satisfied or
he died.  In the same article he read that some citizens were
getting up a petition to demand that the prisoners condemned during
the last strike under an old English law no longer in force in
England should be released.  He never looked at a paper again.  He
hoped that Coyle would die in prison.

Wandering slowly north where the tug-tug-tugging in his breast drew
him, he came to Pyke's Crossing.  Outside Liam O'Connor's store a
hearty voice accosted him, "If it isn't Larry."

Berry was coming out of the store with a bag of sugar on his
shoulder.  He dumped it hastily into his cart and ran across the
street to catch hold of Larry's arm before he could escape.  "Man,
wait a minute, can't you?"  Then his smile went and he shook his
head.  "Have you been to hell and back?"

Larry had changed--much for the worse.  He was dirty and ragged.
His boots were coming to pieces and his hat had half a brim.  A
patch of hessian covered the seat of his trousers.  Exposure had
scarified his skin and burned it nearly black.  Hard walking and
short commons had taken all the flesh off his bones.  Booze had
reddened the rims of his eyes.  And a hand to mouth life had given
him the look, half-menacing, half-timid, of an outcast dog.  He
tried to get past with a gruff "Good day," but Berry kept him.

"You've got a lot to tell.  Come and have a drink."

He wanted a drink badly.  They went into the Travellers' Rest.

Berry was shocked to see the way he drank, tossing off half-glasses
of raw spirit like water.  Berry paid and watched and asked
questions, but Larry would not answer.  He glanced at Berry
sideways now and then and reached for the bottle.  At the seventh
glass he became quarrelsome.  "Mind your own bloody business.  It
ain't nothing to you where I been or where I'm going."

"Get along now," Berry said.  "We been mates long enough for a man
to show interest."

"I'm no mate of yours," Larry said.  "You're a crawler.  You ran
away from my old man and let Coyle be taken by the police."

"Here, that's not a fair thing."

Larry pounded the bar.  "You're a scab and a whiddler.  You were
scared of my old man and left your mates in the lurch.  But I ain't
scared if you are.  I'm going back.  One of these days . . ."

Even Berry's simple mind detected a hollow sound in this and he
began to notice that there was something soft and sodden about
Larry's mouth, his whole down-at-heels appearance.  He remembered
Larry as a stockman-dandy, always fidgeting about spots on his
white Canton moles, and a madly reckless fellow who talked little
and did wild things.  "Poor devil, he's gone to the dogs."

Larry looked at the empty bottle.  "How about another drink?"

Berry was ashamed.  Had Larry Cabell sunk to pub-crawling?  He
bought the drink and hastened to excuse himself.  "If you're ever
out near us, Larry . . ."

Larry turned away.  He felt sorry for what he said as soon as he
spoke and wanted the drink to make friends with Berry over it; but
he felt more sorry for himself because of what Berry had not said.
He had expected Berry to protest, as of old, against his threats,
as though they were real ones.  Did even Berry know what a coward
he had been?

Long after Berry had gone he sulked over the bar.  The rum turned
stale in his stomach and he looked round for someone to pick a
fight with . . .

On his way home Berry turned the cart back to the Travellers' Rest,
annoyed with himself for having judged Larry so hastily.  When he
found him lying in the gutter outside the Rest where they had
thrown him half an hour before, he felt much to blame.  Larry was
hopelessly drunk and covered in blood.  Berry lifted him gently
into the cart and took him home, put him to bed in the loft over
the threshing floor, and laid out a clean shirt and a clean pair of
dungarees for him.

In the morning there was no sign of Larry.  Berry saddled his horse
and overtook him a few miles along the road.  "Come back, man," he
said.  "It's a rough place, but it's something.  I've told the old
woman and she's pleased to have you."

"I don't want no handouts from no man," Larry said.

"It's not a handout," Berry said.  "I need someone round the place.
It's too heavy for me and the girl and the old woman with the
harvest coming on."

Larry wanted to go back.  A place to live in again, a horse to
ride, cows to milk, a roof to sleep under, and a mate, who knew
him, to talk to . . .

"I called you a crawler yesterday," he said.

"That.  Aw, you'd had one too many."

"I don't want forgiveness from you," Larry began, but turned his
face away and muttered, "Besides you knew I was lying--what I said
about my old man.  It was ME let Coyle down.  I could've saved him
but I ran like a dingo.  Nobody wants to be mates with a bloke who
done a thing like that."

Berry was wise enough to say nothing more except, "You please
yourself.  If you'd stay over the harvest we'd be right grateful."

Larry went back with him.

Berry's homestead was a slab house of two rooms and kitchen,
whitewashed inside and out and so clean that after nearly two and a
half years of filth and rags Larry had to be pushed into it every
time Mrs Berry called him to a meal.  She was a happy, fat woman
who cooked enormous feeds of corned beef and pumpkin pie and
laughed till the tears came into her eyes every time she looked at
Larry's crooked beard.  She told long, pointless stories about sick
cows and dogs which had died from tick and made Larry feel at home
with her tacit assumption that he was privy to all the involved
relationships of Strawberries and Daisies and Blossoms dead ten
years ago.

When the harvest was over Larry agreed to lend a hand with the
threshing--then he did not want to go.  Something had happened to
change the whole direction of his life, or so he thought.

Jean Berry, Berry's only child, was twenty-one years old, big like
her father, with big, red hands used to milking and guiding a
plough, full, thrusting breasts, red hair, broad, sunburnt face, a
little turned up nose, merry eyes, a ripe mouth, and her mother's
ready laugh.  She seemed to have no cares in the world, although
she had to work from the first flush of dawn till late at night and
got nothing for it except a cotton dress and a pair of stockings
and shoes once a year.

Such happy-go-lucky ways, such uncomplaining acceptance of life on
a few stony acres when the squatters fattened on the pick of the
land irritated Larry.  Didn't she resent it?  No, she said, what
was wrong with the farm?  They didn't starve.

"But why should my old man be as rich as a Jew and yours have
hardly the feed for a few cows?  Why should my sister get any
fandangle she wants and you not have hardly a pair of shoes to your
name?"

"Ach, what's it matter?  Your old man can't eat more than three
meals a day and your sister can't put on all her silks and satins
at once, can she?"

"It's got to be made more just," Larry said.

She laughed.  "Now then, don't you start in about parliaments and
votes and that.  We get more than a bellyful of it from Dad."

Larry thought she was laughing at him and dried up.

"Oh now, Larry, don't be savage at me for laughing.  Only--what's
the use of it?  You talk and talk and talk and go on strike and put
yourself in danger, what for?"

"Because it ain't right him having everything."

"It'll never concern me what he has," Jean said, "as long as I get
feed for the chicks and pigs and my own kids."  She looked at him
along her shoulder.  "If a man wants me, that is."

"Aw," Larry said.  He was piling straw away from the threshing
floor.  She lay on a heap of it watching him, her loosely-bundled
hair spread out behind her like a fine silk kerchief.  Her brown
legs were bare to the knee where her dress was caught up.  Her
thighs and hips and broad, big breasts pressed through the thin
cotton stuff of her dress, which was stained with sweat under the
armpits.  She breathed quickly from the exertion of swinging her
pitchfork, which she held between her knees, slowly stroking the
white haft as she gazed abstractedly at Larry.  Her heavy, almost
stupid face, made a strange contrast with his, deeply lined by his
self-obsession.  It was not at all a stupid face when you looked at
it closely, a peasant's face unexpressive merely of superfluities.
Her big, prostrate body had the beauty of its utility and the grace
of complete relaxation.

Larry moved away, stabbed the trusses and slung them into the loft
in a hurry to be done.

"You'll tire yourself out working that way," Jean said sleepily.
"Here, sit a while, why don't you?"

"There's no time," Larry said and went on pitching till there was
no straw left except what she lay on.  He paused beside it, eyes
averted, waiting for her to get up.

"Oh, come here, Larry," she said.  "Why must you be ever slaving
and hurrying and looking black, as if the devil was on your heels.
Now sit awhile or I'll make you."  She reached out and caught him
behind the knee and pulled.  Larry's leg gave way and he fell
heavily across her.  He tried to rise, pushing with one hand on her
breast, while she held him, laughing, gasping, and enveloping him
in her smell of sweat and hay and sunburnt hair.  "Now I'll see if
you've got a laugh in you," she cried.  She twined her legs round
his, her arm round his neck, and tickled him.

He fought roughly away and stood up, red as a turkey, tucking in
his shirt.

"Oh, I'm real sorry.  Are you savage?" she said, but the sparkle in
her eyes belied her.

Larry gave one look at her red face and tousled hair and thighs
uncovered and went quickly up the ladder to stow the straw in the
loft.

She watched his legs go and ran to the door.  Her father was down
in the paddock mending the fence, her mother singing in the
kitchen.  She twisted up her hair and went back to the ladder.
"Hallo, Larry, are you there?" she called huskily.  "I'm coming to
give you a real tickle up this time."  As her legs vanished into
the loft they kicked the ladder away.



CHAPTER SEVEN: HOBO'S BLESSING


Life went more or less smoothly at the Reach thanks to Harriet's
firm mind and the affairs which kept Cabell almost continually at
the mine or in Brisbane.

But Cabell was on pins and needles.  The year was well on and Cash
was not gone yet.  He would go next month, and when next month came
decided that the weather wasn't quite right, or he was waiting for
a new sail from the sailmaker, or he was too lazy, or the crew got
tired of standing by and he had to look for a new one.  Now he had
decided to wait over till the Melbourne Cup, and confessed that he
had not even begun selling his racehorses yet.  Cabell lived in
fear that Harriet would see some mention of Cash in the newspapers
and know that he had lied, or that Cash would keep his promise to
write before he sailed.  More recriminations, tears, and angry
words--that was the least he could expect.

He answered Cash's notes with all the amiability he could manage,
giving bright accounts of his investments to discourage him from
coming near Brisbane.  He even went so far as to take over some of
Cash's unsaleable land so as to report fat profits paid to his
account at the Queensland Bank.  To Cash's inquiries about
Harriet's health he replied that Harriet sent her best wishes for
the journey and again her grateful thanks for his present, which
she hoped she would find use for when in the near future she went
Home to live.  Further, she begged him not to trouble to write, as
she was sure that he had as much business as she to prevent him
doing so.  Cabell spent a long time on this particular postscript
and hoped that it was not too transparent.  But he did not relax
his watch on the mail, nor forget to charge Miss Montaulk, under
dire threats, to steal whatever letters came for Harriet.

The letter came at last, reached Harriet by a lucky chance, and did
all he expected of it to blast the tenuous peace at the Reach.
Cash ran a horse in the Cup, lost, sold his stable, and returned to
Sydney to prepare for sailing at once.  Coming in from her ride
late for lunch one day Harriet overtook the coach as it pulled up
at the gate to deposit the mail.  She carried the letters to the
house, idly turning them over as she walked along the veranda.
Miss Montaulk ran out and snatched them from her just as she saw
her own name on an envelope.  "Oh, wait, there's one for me."

"Let me see."  Miss Montaulk tried to get the letter away.  "Now,
Harriet, your father specially told me . . ."

Harriet guessed at once that it was something her father did not
want her to have and wild horses would not have dragged it out of
her hands.  There was an unseemly struggle in front of Ah Lung,
which ended with Miss Montaulk's hair coming down and Harriet
flying in triumph to her room, where she paused only to lock the
door before she tore open the envelope, saw the signature, and
tried to devour the clumsy writing at a glance.


DEAR MISS HARRIET,

You see I'm still here talking about making a break.  [Harriet's
heart opened as though it would burst.  For a moment she was quite
blind.  "Oh," she gasped aloud.]  I wonder what Jimmy would say if
he knew, after all the good advice I gave him on the same subject.
Well, I must be getting old as we agreed.  ["I didn't agree to any
such thing."]  When the time comes I find a dozen and one things to
keep me, which proves I don't want to go, I expect, though God
knows what else I'd rather be doing better than filling my lungs
with sea air--that is, unless I could break an arm again and have
you feed me pap like you used to.  [Harriet crushed the letter into
a ball against her lips.  "Oh, you darling."]

But the day has come when I can't make any more excuses.  I've sold
my horses and top-hats and your father's looking after my business,
so by the time this reaches you I'll be gone.  The crew is standing
by to raise anchor as soon as this letter and one to your father is
written.  [Harriet's heart closed again.  "You fool," she whispered
indignantly, "Why didn't you write before."  Then she thought of
her father and the lie he had told her and she stamped.  "Oh, the
hateful, lying tyrant."  But her eyes ran on quickly.]

Thanks for the message you sent in your pa's letter.  All the same
I'm going to write as I promised.  [Harriet's mind kept up an
automatic fire of maledictions on her father's perfidy as she
read.]  I suppose the Waterfalls were a bit of a surprise, seeing
that you'll have more than enough money when Cabell dies.  But it
struck me--it's probably like my hide to say this, but if I am
wrong there's no harm done, but from a word or two you've dropped I
got the notion your wishes in the matter of a husband mightn't
coincide with his, and what I thought was, if you ever fell in love
with a young fellow who wasn't well off (I know you told me you
didn't want to marry, but then you might change your mind) when
your father wanted you to hitch up with some Tomnoddy (and
Tomnoddies are not in your line, believe me) you'd have enough
money of your own to do what you liked with.  That's how I figured.
Now, Miss Harriet, don't look down your nose at me the way you used
to for presuming to know what's in your mind.  I'm only going by
what you've always said about not letting anything stand in your
way if you ever fell in love with a man.  I don't believe you
would.  But your father is a precious obstinate fellow and seems
set on marrying you to some dude you maybe couldn't stand the sight
of.  So if it comes to that you'll always have this money to fall
back on.

Now if I've done wrong and offended you, Miss Harriet, try to
forgive me, because I only do it for your happiness which is very
important to me, and give the money away to some home for lost dogs
or something and accept the humble apologies of,

Your old friend,

JACK CASH.


Harriet folded the paper slowly, put it into the envelope, and
stared blindly at her own name.  The tears pat-patted on to the
paper and smudged the ink.  So all these months while she had been
resigning herself to the fact that Cash was gone, he was not gone
at all.  She could have written and he would have come and
everything would have turned out right, for he must love her, he
MUST--she was sure of it now.  What else could he mean by "making
excuses to stay," and "the only thing he'd rather do than go away
was be near her"?  Her instinct of it, which she had been afraid
too sanguinely to believe, was right.  All this time he had been
waiting for a sign from her, and her father knew he was waiting,
and had lied.  "Oh, the vile wretch.  I'll make him pay for doing
this to me!"

She heard stealthy movements on the other side of the door.  Miss
Montaulk was listening.  Her anger bubbled over.  She took a paper
knife from the table, opened the door, and threw herself on Miss
Montaulk, who was crouching at the keyhole.  If it had been a real
knife Miss Montaulk's days would have ended there.  As it was
Harriet took a long sliver of skin from between her shoulder-blades
and tattered the back of her dress before she escaped.  If it had
been a real knife Harriet's days would have ended too, for she
turned back into the room sobbing and pressed the blunt point to
her breast till the ivory blade bent and broke.

Cabell came reluctantly from Brisbane to deal with the new
situation, luridly described in a letter from Miss Montaulk.  He
was tired.  The grey was spreading in his beard, the weight of
invisible burdens was stooping his shoulders.  Worry about Cash and
Harriet and the strain of guarding his fortune through anxious
times was telling on him.  The panic he had foreseen and prepared
for was beginning.  Even the sturdy Waterfall shares, in which most
of his capital was now concentrated, felt the pinch of the market,
and bank managers pestered him every minute of the day with testy
demands for margin or a settlement of his tremendous liabilities.
Thanks to Ludmilla and the lesson he had learnt three years ago he
had the resources to see him through, and there was pleasure in
watching the misery of those who hadn't, but the future was
uncertain.  Two big banks, which had seemed as solid as Gibraltar,
had closed down, and land-jobbers, speculators, and squatters with
top-heavy mortgages were falling like skittles.  But more
destructive than worry and overwork was a question which had begun
dinning his ears, "What is it all for?  Who will thank me?"  Twenty
times a day he thrust this question aside and the memory of
Harriet's face looking at him with hatred the night she avowed her
love for Cash, but they returned ever more urgently, mockingly
insistent.  He fought on with unblunted cunning and ruthlessness,
but with failing zest even in the long-imagined triumph over "that
mob."

There was, for example, the famous affair of the Investment
Corporation and Bank with its million and a half of capital,
subscribed mostly by small wage-earners in the boom days.  The
Corporation might have pulled through.  Samuelson had been a good
manager and had seen that liabilities were covered by good
investments, but all land companies were under a cloud and the
public, and especially the banks who were its creditors, watched
the Corporation suspiciously.  A few weeks before Samuelson had
told the directors, of whom Cabell was one, that heavy selling of
Corporation stock, or even a rumour that the big holders in the
company were trying to unload their shares, might start a flutter
that would lead to the calling of loans redeemable only by the
selling of assets on a bad market.  Bankruptcy would follow
inevitably.  The seven directors, who held five hundred thousand
pounds' worth of shares and debentures between them, agreed to
support the market, "for the sake of the widows and orphans, our
shareholders," Peppiott said.  Cabell gave his word, but he did not
trust Peppiott.  What if it was a trick to keep his shares off the
market while they got rid of their own?  Besides, he reflected, a
tidy sum might be cleaned up here if these gentlemen really did
support the market, not to count what Peppiott would lose if, in
spite of all his care for the widows and orphans, the Corporation
had to close down.  So Cabell discussed the matter with his broker
and the next day began to sell his hundred and fifty thousand
shares.  Most of these the directors bought in, and not suspecting
anything called on Cabell to pay his share into the pool.  He
replied by resigning from the board and letting every one know that
he was getting out of the Corporation as quickly as he could.  Then
he began to sell Corporations forward in Melbourne and Sydney while
using every power that prestige and his long association with the
Corporation gave him to abuse its credit and spread the rumour
among the bankers and speculators and journalists.  The directors
held out for five days, while small holders and big holders alike
threw eight hundred thousand shares on the market where Investment
Corporations were hardly worth the paper they were printed on at
the end of the week.  Three of the directors were then ready to
file their petitions, three, including Peppiott, were green with
funk, and Cabell was one hundred and eighty thousand pounds in
pocket.

The exploit, which Cabell had just pulled off when Miss Montaulk's
letter arrived, earned him new respect and hatred, but its pleasure
tasted unexpectedly stale.  "What's it all for?  Who will thank
me?" he asked himself as the coach rattled him across the valley.
The knowledge that he had done a dirty trick aggravated his sense
of Harriet's treachery.  Why did he make enemies if not in fighting
for her?  Surely the least she could give him was affection; but
she had no heart, no pity.  Nervously he reread Miss Montaulk's
letter.  It upset him, especially the story about the stabbing.
"She's got bad blood in her.  She'll stop at nothing."

But there were no hysterics when he arrived.  Harriet had recovered
from that.  She greeted her father coldly but she greeted him, and
she sat down to dinner with him and ate well.  She even smiled at
him once or twice with spiritless affability and submitted to being
kissed before she went to bed.

Cabell was not relieved.  On the contrary, he would rather have had
it out, whatever was stored behind her compressed mouth.  There was
something malign in her false geniality and in her eyes which
called forth again the resemblance to her mother.  He felt that
they were watching all the time in the shadow of their sockets for
an opening through which to strike a careful blow.  What sort of a
blow?  Could she be making up her mind to repeat her performance in
Brisbane?  But Cash WAS gone now.  Or was he?  Plots to elope in
the schooner and whatnot swirled in his brain.

Miss Montaulk's eyes rolled at the idea.

"I've got to have that letter.  It will tell us everything."

Miss Montaulk considered.  "There's one way.  When she goes to the
bath to-morrow morning lock her in and search her rooms."

"There'd be hell to pay."

"But you might save her from something worse than death!"

Cabell knew it was a mad thing to do, that it would offend Harriet
brutally, but he could not help himself.  The fantasies he had
built up around Harriet, and the inner knowledge that he was
fighting with her to keep his faith and purpose in life, made his
jealousy uncontrollable and gave it a fair face.  He carried Miss
Montaulk's plan out.

After demanding peremptorily to be released Harriet ceased rattling
the door handle and sat on the edge of the bath, silently weeping
and raging by turns.

For three hours Cabell and Miss Montaulk searched her rooms--among
her clothes, in her books, under the carpets, but found nothing.

Miss Montaulk egged him on.  "She has it with her now.  You must go
in and take it from her."

"No, no, I couldn't do that."

"Think of her danger.  Surely the end justifies the means."

Cabell went to the bathroom door.  "I'm sorry to be doing this,
Harriet, but I must have that letter you got from Cash.  Where is
it?"

"You'll never get it," Harriet said.

He opened the door.  Harriet was standing against the wall, her
hair down and her dressing-gown wrapped tightly round her body.
She looked frightened.

"Give me the letter please, dear," Cabell said, nervously breaking
his nails.  "I know more about the world and the scamps in it than
you.  Remember the unhappiness you brought on yourself before and
let me guide you now."

Harriet's eyes blazed.  "Drive you mean--or trick."

He seemed hardly to notice her reply.  He was thinking how pretty
she looked with her hair down in wavy, chestnut ropes and the thin
column of her neck bare--how fragile.  Not for a long time had he
seen her so young and fresh.  Tenderness swept his hesitation away.
He tried to put his hand on her shoulder, but she drew back.
"Little Harriet," he said, "believe me, I'm only doing this because
I love you more than anything else in the world."

Harriet pouted scornfully and drew her wrap tighter, sharply
defining through the silk the curve of her hips.

He turned his eye away.  "So don't make me do things which will
hurt us both.  Give me the letter.  I know you've got it with you."

"I'll never give it to you.  I've told you once.  Now let me go."
She tried to slip past between him and the bath, but he put an arm
round her shoulders and held her.

"You must give me the letter first."

"Oh, if you only knew what you're doing to me," Harriet cried with
sudden tears.  "In a minute you'll make me do something dreadful."

Tenderness swept him again.  He drew her closer, comfortingly.
What tiny bones, what thin shoulders.  Like a warm little bird
quivering with fright in the hand.  "You're hurt, I know.  But I've
got to do it.  You're hardly more than a helpless child and there
are evil things in the world it's my duty to protect you from, even
if I make you hate me.  I must do it because I love you.  I'd
suffer the torments of the damned to keep you fresh and innocent
and young, and if a fellow like Cash insulted you I'd hang to pay
him back."

Harriet wriggled out of his arm.  A faint perfume of powder and
scented soap enveloped him.  As she struggled the dressing-gown
fell open at the neck and he saw, lying on her breast where her
hand held it, a fold of paper.

Instantly his emotions changed from melting tenderness to anger.
The lid came down over his eye, his jaw clamped, and the colour
faded around the purple welt across his cheek.  He pushed her
roughly against the wall.  "So you carry it there, eh?  The paper
his dirty paws have been mauling.  Here, hand it here at once or
I'll--I'll . . ."

Harriet edged along the wall to put the bath between them.  "Don't
dare," she said in a shaky voice.  "I'm my own mistress.  I've a
right . . ."

He leapt at her and they wrestled, Harriet holding the gown close
to her throat while Cabell tried to pull her hands away.  Suddenly
she gave a terrified whimper and cried, "Here, take it," whipped
the letter from her breast, and threw it on the floor.

Miss Montaulk ran in from the doorway and picked it up.

For a moment longer father and daughter gazed at each other, then
Cabell's eye drooped and he shuffled away.  At the door he looked
back, gestured.  "Damn it all, Harriet, I'm your father."

"Certainly," Miss Montaulk said.  "Certainly."

Harriet slammed the door.



CHAPTER EIGHT: FLANAGAN AGAIN


Cabell was ashamed of what he had done but that made him only more
insistent that he had done what was right.  If he was in the wrong
Harriet was in the right, which was impossible, for Harriet wanted
to leave him for Cash, and Cash, as every one knew, was a tramp.
So Harriet must be wrong, and right and honour must be all on his
side.  He, not Harriet, was the one to forgive, and HIS love was so
selfless that he had forgiven her already.  But Cash . . .

Here was a man who owed him everything, yet he used the money and
hospitality Cabell had given him to poison Harriet's mind.  Why,
even as he wrote this letter he was asking fresh favours and
receiving them--"and no doubt laughing at me all the time, the
crook!"  What could be bad enough for a man like that?  "He ought
to be crushed like a bug."  But it was one thing to argue the moral
duty and imagine the joy of crushing Cash but quite another to do
the crushing.  The most obvious way to get at him was through his
money, but Cash was cunning.  His lawyer, Cabell's co-trustee, was
devoted to Cash that way, and as for strangling him, he was already
safe at sea.  "Lucky again," Cabell reflected when several hours of
hard thought failed to turn up any other means of making Cash
suffer; but Cash's luck, as Cash himself often said, did not work
in straight lines.

Cabell went to the mine for a week to escape Harriet's angry
silences and console himself with the spectacle of his new works
now almost complete.  He was sitting in the office poring over
reports from the chemists and engineers one evening when his clerk
came in and told him that a gentleman, just arrived from Brisbane
on the afternoon coach, wanted to see him.

"Send him in."

Cabell glanced up at the bulky shadow in the doorway, and his mouth
came open as Flanagan, staggering under his fat as though a gale
was blowing against him, entered and waved a gracious greeting.

He pulled a chair up to the table and sat down.  The dust of the
journey was still thick on him, except where a hasty pot of beer
had washed a half-moon of dirt from his upper lip.

"Well!" Cabell said, shocked.

Flanagan's impudent blue eyes, watering from the grit under their
lids, were like two little pieces of ice melting slowly in the
furnace of his face.  "I guessed I'd find ye hereabouts.  Sittin'
on yer mountain of gold."

"What d'you want?" Cabell demanded.

"Och now, ye were always an impatient fellow, Cabell.  Give a man
time to collect himself.  It must be thirty years close on since I
set eyes on ye face to face."

"I remember it," Cabell said.

"There, there," Flanagan rumbled soothingly.  "Let bygones be
bygones.  I'm willing to."

"You!"

"Sure.  Haven't I let meself be rolled and bumped half out of me
skin to come four hundred miles to see ye."

"For no benefit to me, I'll be sworn."

"The answer's yes and no," Flanagan said.  "A matter of give and
take."  He sank, gasping, into his quagmire for a moment, then
pulled himself out with a hand on the edge of the table.  "I've got
a little proposition to make ye . . ."

"Save your breath," Cabell said.  "I want nothing to do with you.
I know you're in a bad way, and if you expect help from me you're a
fool."  He stood up.  "Now be on your way.  If I'd known it was
you, you'd not have got in here."

"You'd've been the fool then," Flanagan said softly, not moving.
"You'd've lost fifty thousand pounds."

"Uh?"

Flanagan smiled, but the cleaned circle on his upper lip made it
look like a malignant grin.  "Come now, man, don't be jumping round
like a Jack-in-the-box and you and me old friends and might've been
connected by marriage.  Ah, that was a hard thing ye done there,
Cabell.  I doubt if Jimmy'll ever forgive ye, especially if ye bear
down hard on the poor girl now and drive her to destitution."

"What the devil are you talking about?  What's the point?"

"The point is simple," Flanagan said.  "I'm up the spout and I need
thirty thousand pounds to get out again."

His cool impudence made Cabell sit down and take a long breath
before he replied, "Do you think I'd give you the smell of my
breath if it was to buy you out of hell?"

"All things considered," Flanagan said complacently, "I'm sure you
would."

"Look here, Flanagan, d'you remember the time I came to see you in
Brisbane when you were a minister and McFarlane was stealing land
from me, and you kept me kicking my heels outside your door for
days on end and then refused to help me and dragged my name in the
mud when I went to court.  I was a young man in those days,
Flanagan, at the turning-point of my life, and you brought more
misery on me than I could ever repay."

"I seem to remember something about it," Flanagan said.  "But
what's the misery you're yelling about.  You've got on, and here's
the McFarlanes and me . . ."

"Yes," Cabell said.  His face relaxed as he looked over Flanagan's
head at the scene beyond the office window.  Dusk was falling on
Monaghan Street.  The pubs were roaring full--the day shift
fighting in to slake its thirst, the night shift fighting out after
its last drink.  Away across the ridge the stampers marched, like
an endless army plodding by.  As the quick darkness came down
Flanagan sank deeper and deeper into his bog till there was only a
black round hole from which emerged tentatively his expiring
breath, but Cabell's face grew clearer and uglier with a fiery
radiance reflected from the furnaces which glowed on the pitchy
mountain-side as though the miners had opened a tunnel straight to
the earth's incandescent heart.  "Yes, things have changed a bit,"
Cabell said.  "YOU'RE sitting on the wrong side of the table to-
day."

"Well now," Flanagan said, "I wouldn't be so sure of that--I mean
about who's sitting on what side of the table."

"No?"  Cabell chuckled.

Flanagan chuckled too.  That merry sound coming from the depths of
his black pit was disquieting, as though a man should laugh up from
the bottom of a well when you'd pushed him in.

Cabell's eye turned with the furnace light prinking it.

"You've forgotten your fifty thousand pounds," Flanagan said,
"haven't ye?"

"Fifty thousand pounds?"  Cabell racked his brains again.  He had
no fifty thousand pounds in danger.  Every penny of his money was
tied up snugly against the storm.  "What's your bluff?"

"What's yours?  I just happen to know you've got fifty thousand
pounds in the Queensland Incorporated under Cash's name."

"Oh?  What of it?"

The clerk came in quietly and lit the lamp.  Its yellow glow
revealed Flanagan on dry land again, dripping moisture, his face
streaked with red mud, and panting hard as he clung to the arms of
his chair.  "There now.  Who's on what side of the table?  Ha ha."

"If you've got something to say, say it."

"I've got a lot to say--but what for?"

"I'll pay what it's worth."

Flanagan pulled a paper from his pocket.  "Ye'll sign my
guarantee?"

"Be damned."

"Ye'd rather lose your fifty thousand?"

Cabell understood at last.  "You don't mean to say . . ."

"That the bank's bust?  Yes.  If the Government moves three hundred
thousand of its balance and there's a run, as there might be any
minute, the bank's done for.  And the Government will move its
balance within forty-eight hours."

Cabell whistled.

"And that's where I'm as good as a fairy godmother to ye," Flanagan
said.  "I can get ye that money out."

"You can save it?"

"Sure," Flanagan said.  "For a friend."

Cabell got up and pulled the blinds down thoughtfully, went to the
door and looked into the outer office.  The clerks were putting on
their hats to go home.  He closed the door, returned to the table,
sat down, and pondered.  It was strange to see what life had done
to these two men, who had been young together in Moreton Bay fifty
years before.  The crude young Dublin tough it had fattened and
softened into a good imitation of a gentleman; the nervous young
English gentleman it had coarsened into a tough.  "Listen,
Flanagan," Cabell said, "I'll see you through your trouble."

"Good for ye.  I knew ye'd be sensible.  And I'll see ye through
yours."

"Never mind that.  You'll forget that you've ever told me a word,
see?  Whatever happens you'll keep your mouth shut, or I'll have
you sold up on the spot."

"But the fifty thousand?"

"I told you to forget it."

"But you'll lose every penny, man, I'm telling ye."

"That's my affair," Cabell said.  "Now let us see what security
you've got."

Flanagan's urbanity of a man for whom the world holds no more
surprises deserted him.  His eyes burst the scummy surface of the
morass like two bubbles.  "Here, sign this quick," he said, pushing
his paper under Cabell's nose, "before you're took off to the
asylum. . . ."

Cabell returned to the Reach, and for three days waited eagerly for
the coach to bring his letters and papers from Brisbane.  On the
fourth day a terrific storm drenched the valley, and the coach did
not come again.  News filtered through of floods on the land and
storms at sea.  Half of Brisbane was washed away--millions of
pounds' worth of property destroyed, hundreds drowned.  He sent
Sambo to Pyke's Crossing for his mail, but Sambo had to turn back.
Another fortnight passed before a reasonable account of the great
flood of Ninety-three reached the valley.  Victoria Bridge was
gone, miles of houses and buildings put up in the boom time were
destroyed, the city which he had seen grow from a collection of
humpies was a waste of waters.

The news depressed Cabell.  Even the reflection that this would be
a terrible blow to "that mob" and that his own fortune was safe did
not cheer him as he read of the destruction in Brisbane, of English
investors taking their money away, of hungry men marching in the
big cities, of old squatting families, older in Australia than his
own, losing their properties.  It seemed to be the end of an idea
of nationhood which had taken hold of everybody during the last
decades when Australia was called "The Land of Promise," "The New
America," when railways and roads spread thousands of miles into
the wilderness, cities grew, population doubled itself, and wealth
flowed from mines and stations and factories.  He never talked of
that idea, as Dr Barnett was so fond of doing, but, in spite of
himself perhaps, he had given the best years of his life to it.  He
was one of the landtakers who had made the country habitable for
human beings.  He had cut the first roads, helped to improve the
breed of the sheep which carried the country on its back, developed
fresh resources of its wealth in Waterfall.  True, what he had
given was only the by-blow of his money-grubbing, but it set him
above all other money-grubbers of the Peppiott kind.  Though he
revolted against this conception of his purpose and would continue
to revolt till his dying day, still he knew that whatever dignity
and significance his life had must depend upon the dignity and
significance of the country he had made.  So if after all Australia
was to come to nothing, what was left in his life except a long,
sordid, and not always honest struggle for money?  What was it all
for?  All the hardships, disappointments, hatreds, and crimes?  He
had lived to see his enemies broken--Emma dying, Flanagan crawling
for help, the smirking, gossiping mob in Brisbane brought down: was
that his fulfilment?  No, no, there was no flavour in triumph he
found, for triumph emptied the springs of hate.  Was it the glory
of wealth and power?  When those who had called him "a voluntary
jailbird" were dead?  Was it for his family--for James and Geoffrey
and Larry?  "They hate me like a black snake."  Only one thing was
left to ennoble the shifts and brutalities of his long struggle--
his love for Harriet.

So he turned to Harriet with the exigence of a man protecting his
last illusion, his last spark of an excuse for living and
suffering.

Harriet would have nothing to do with him.  Though he knew he was
in the right he begged her to forgive him.  He begged abjectly,
like a lover, but Harriet had his own iron in her heart.  He
complained of pains over his sound eye and pretended to be sick,
but she took no notice.

"You don't care for your father any more?"

"After what you've done to me, and to Larry, and to James?"

"It's not what I've done to Larry and James, it's what Cash, the
swine, has done to you."

"He's done nothing."

"Don't tell me, girl.  He must have.  To love a man like that--it's
incredible!"

"A man like that!  He'd've protected me from you."

Cabell laughed wildly.  "Him protect you!  He couldn't protect
himself.  Look at that."  He pushed the paper in front of her and
pointed at a splash of headlines.  "The Queensland Incorporated
Bank's bust.  All his money was in it.  D'you understand?  He's a
pauper.  He couldn't buy you a loaf of bread."

Harriet looked at him.  "But how could he lose his money?  Weren't
you to look after it?"

"Yes, yes," he muttered, turning from her eyes, "but accidents
happen."



CHAPTER NINE: HE LOVES ME; HE LOVES ME NOT


Her father had ruined Cash: Harriet was sure of it.  But for the
moment she was less concerned with the cause of the calamity than
with the awful fact that Cash was penniless.  What would become of
him?  She thought at once of the twenty-five thousand pounds.  He
must take that back now, but how was she to tell him so?  Apart
from the insurmountable difficulty of writing and sending off a
letter under Miss Montaulk's eye, where should a letter be sent?
She looked at the map.  Months might pass before he touched at one
of those little pinpricks of land on the blue waste and learn what
had happened.  She guessed how he would take it, not very
tragically, and she guessed, too, that he would not return to
Australia.  He would fear the very thing she wanted to do.  He had
given her the money for a special purpose and nothing would
persuade him to take it back.  Writing letters, she admitted on
second thoughts, would be a waste of time.  There was nothing left
for her except to spend her compassion on the picture of a
victimized, and therefore still more lovable Cash.

Cabell hung round the house for a week complaining of pains over
his eye, trying to wring some sympathy from her, but Harriet
hardened her heart, refused to go to meals, and finally locked
herself in her room with a vague idea of forcing him to make up
some of the damage he had done to Cash.  Heavily he took himself
off to Waterfall again.

The day after he left Geoffrey came up from Brisbane.  The collapse
of the Investment Corporation and its bank had mercifully relieved
him of a job, and the flood had interfered with his more serious
activities around Frogs' Hollow, so he returned to the Reach for a
spell.  Also, he had an end in view.

"I say, Sis, heard about Cash?"

"Heard what?"

"He's ruined."

"Oh, Father did say something."

Geoffrey looked at her slyly.  "Did he tell you how?"

"Some bank closed up."

"But the old man didn't have any spondulicks in it to lose.  He saw
it coming, didn't he?  And yet he was Cash's trustee!"  He winked.
"I say, Sis, you know what they reckon down in Brisbane?  That it
was the old man who put the kibosh on him."

"He says it was an accident."

"HE says."  Geoffrey sniffed at her simplicity.  "Then why aren't
they on speaking terms?"

"They were.  Till Cash went away."

Geoffrey thumbed his arm-holes and rocked on his heels.  "D'you
want me to tell you something, Sis--something that will make your
little maiden heart go pit-a-pat?"

Excitement tightened Harriet's throat.  She could hardly say
"What?"

"Cash didn't go away."

"Oh, but . . . are you sure?"

Geoffrey grinned as he watched the colour rise in his sister's
face.  "So the yarn going round Brisbane IS true, is it?"

"About Cash?"

"About Cash and the old man and you."

"What do they say?"

"What do you expect them to say when a girl nurses a fellow for
three months (a fellow who wants to knock off blokes' heads in pubs
for talking about her, mind you), and then he makes her a present
of twenty-five thousand quid and her old man turns round and does
him out of all his dough?"

Harriet's face burnt.  "I don't know what they say, but it's a lie
if it's . . . that."

"No need to try and pull my leg, Sis," Geoffrey reassured her.
"I'm a man of the world.  I understand."  He strutted round the
room and stopped in front of her with a sympathetic look.  "I
always liked you, Sis, and did you a good turn more than once,
didn't I?  I might be able to do you another some day.  By the way,
did he really give you twenty-five thousand quid?"

Harriet was impatient to know what Geoffrey meant by saying that
Cash had never gone away, but she knew better than to put a high
price on the information by asking outright.  "Yes, yes," she said,
"he did.  Before he sailed he gave Father some shares in Waterfall
for me."

"Oh, shares.  Not dough.  And the old man's got them."  Geoffrey
screwed up his nose.  "That's different.  I thought if you had all
that dough lying around you might like me to invest a few hundred
for you.  I know a dead cert down Randwick for next month.  Don't
expect you'd tap the old man . . . ?"

"No."

"There," Geoffrey said indignantly.  "That's all the thanks a bloke
gets.  Well, you wait till the next time you ask me . . ."

"I've got my jewels," Harriet said to placate him.  "Perhaps if you
wanted it badly . . ."

"You can keep them.  There's not a pop-shop open in Brisbane and
Cash hasn't got a bean.  The other night in the Royal he couldn't
lend me a fiver."

"Oh, then he's at the Royal Hotel in Brisbane!" Harriet cried.

"Cash?  Yes, of course.  I was going to tell you.  He gave me a
message for you.  Only, by jove, Harriet, a chap oughtn't to be
carrying messages to his sister from a fellow like that.  I ought
to tell the old man by rights."

"Tell him then," Harriet said disdainfully, but Geoffrey's "Serve
you right if I did, you stingy little beast," brought her to heel.
"No, Geoff, don't.  I'll get you the money somehow if you'll wait.
I promise.  Only . . . what did Mr Cash say?"

Geoffrey nudged her.  "Jacky, you mean, not mister.  Now no tricks,
Sis.  You'll get the money?"

"I swear."

"Well, he just said to tell you that a storm blew his mast out but
he expected to be ready to sail again soon."

"Is that all?"

"And he said it wasn't as serious as it seemed at first and nobody
was to blame.  D'you know what he means?"

"He means his ship."

"Aw, my eye.  He means his money, and that it's not the old man's
fault."

"But it must be."

"Everybody knows that.  But what follows?  That the old man found
out that you and Cash . . ."

"Geoffrey!"

"I'm only telling you what they say."

"Then Cash knows--I mean that Father . . ."

"Knows?  Aw, Sis, come off it.  He could make a long guess, I
suppose, even if everybody wasn't talking about it.  And isn't that
why he tells them that it wasn't the old man's fault he lost his
money, just to cover up your tracks?  But the way he says it--you'd
think he was ready to fetch them one for slinging mud at the OLD
MAN'S honour."

"But why doesn't he come and see Father and have it out with him?"

"Why?" Geoffrey said.  "And naughty echo answers why?  What D'YOU
think?"

"I don't know what to think?" Harriet said worriedly.  "But how is
he?  How does he look?"

"How d'you expect a man to look after losing all his dough?  But as
a matter of fact, he doesn't.  He looks nearly cheerful.  Perhaps
he's saved some.  They reckon the bank will pay--in years to come."

Harriet caught his hand.  "Does he?  Looks pleased?  As if he'd
just found out something good?  Or as if he'd just suspected it,
eh?  As if it was just dawning on him?  As if he didn't know
whether to believe it or not?"

"Hold on.  Stop jabbering.  What d'you mean?"

"He might have found out that I love him," Harriet said excitedly.
"I told Father and he turned on Cash, the beast.  He kept us apart
and lied to me and searched my room and stole a letter.  He thinks
that Cash knows too.  But he doesn't.  Unless he's guessed now
and . . .  Wouldn't he ask himself why Father should have done this
unless I'd . . ."  She covered her face in her hands.  "Oh, I'm
going crazy.  How could he suspect?  There must be some other
reason why Father ruined him, something we don't know of.  Or just
Father's greed perhaps.  And even if he did suspect, perhaps he
wouldn't care.  Would he, Geoff?  What do you think?"

"Perhaps he would," Geoffrey said, preening his side-levers with a
faraway look in his little currant eyes.

"What makes you think so?  Did he say something more?  A word?"

Geoffrey winked.  "I'm not saying he did and not saying he didn't.
But what suppose he did?"

"Oh, if I knew for certain I'd . . ."  She hesitated.

"Yes?" he prompted.

Her eye penetrated his solicitous interest.  "You sneak, Geoffrey,
you're trying to make me say something so that you can tell Father
like you did with James."

Geoffrey was affronted.  "I'll be blowed, if that's not the last
time I . . ."  Harriet ran after him.  "I didn't mean it, Geoff.  I
trust you.  Haven't I told you everything?"

"As if I wanted to know.  Only that I felt sorry for you . . ."

"Oh yes, Geoffrey, I do want your advice.  You know what men are
like.  Did it seem as if he might--perhaps--not exactly love me--
but . . ."

"Well, now I come to think of it perhaps . . ."

"But can't you say for certain," Harriet cried impatiently.  "Oh,
if I could only be sure!"

"You'd clear out again?"

"Yes, I would, and take him back the money he gave me."

"So you would?"

The satisfaction in his voice alarmed her.  "But you won't tell
Father?"

"By jove, a chap ought to resent aspersions like that," Geoffrey
said, "if he didn't know you were a bit unbalanced!"

Harriet locked the door on him and sat down to think.  Her brain
was unbalanced, as Geoffrey said, and what wonder?  What she had
dreamed of secretly for months past had happened, when she had at
last given up hope that it would ever happened: Cash had come back.
Among all other uncertainties and possibilities that stood out
clear and positive in her mind, but when she tried to resolve the
muddle of theories and rumours and doubts around it she became
confused again and depressed.  Cash was back, but what then?  Was
she to write and tell him that he was the man without money whom
she loved against her father's wish?  What would he answer?  A few
weeks ago she was sure he loved her, but now that she looked for
the reasons which made her sure they turned out to be as tenuous as
the suspicions she had already discounted.  He gave her a present
and told her that her happiness was important to him?  What did
that prove?  To the scandal-mongers it proved that she and Cash
were lovers already, so might not her deductions be wrong too.  "If
only I could see him and talk to him."  But how?  By running away?
It was all very well to make glib, heroic resolves, but how was she
to run away without money, even supposing she could evade Miss
Montaulk and her father.  Besides, to run away and go to Cash, with
everybody in Brisbane already whispering and remembering Doug
Peppiott . . .  Oh, the shame if Cash sent her back, the terrible
uncertainty, if he married her, that he might do so because he was
generous and chivalrous, not because he loved her.  No, she could
not run away, not unless she was sure.

And yet . . . why did he not come to see her father, unless he knew
that Cabell had ruined him through some spite it would be useless
to argue against?  Mustn't he suspect the truth?  Surely, if there
was some other reason than that which the gossips in Brisbane gave
him, such as greed for instance, he wouldn't try to pretend that
Cabell was blameless.  Yes, it MUST be true, as Geoffrey said, that
he did so because he knew and wanted to put people off the track
for her sake, and that he avoided her father because . . . why, of
course, BECAUSE HE FELT GUILTY.  Yes, yes, that's what his message
meant.  "It's not your father's fault, it's my own, because I fell
in love with you and tried to interfere with his plans."  That was
what he meant.  Wasn't it possible that he had actually told her
father that he loved her and that they had quarrelled about it,
which would explain why her father had been so vindictive even
before Cash gave her the present and she confessed . . .  Then
there was that other part of the message--that "it wasn't so
serious as it seemed."  But it was serious.  He had lost all his
money.  Her heart leapt.  But it wouldn't be serious if by losing
all his money he had discovered that she loved him--supposing he
loved her.  And mightn't he guess that when he tried to explain why
her father had turned on him suddenly.  It wasn't impossible even
that Cabell had written and told him why he had ruined him.  Yes,
Cabell would do that.  And if he had written, or if Cash had
guessed it for himself, and if his message meant that he had found
out and that he was glad of the calamity which had opened his blind
eyes, didn't she have all the assurance she needed?  He might even
have said more and Geoffrey not told her, for Geoffrey was her
father's sneak.  But he had hinted, hadn't he?  SURELY he had
hinted!

Ah, but could she trust Geoffrey?  Or any one else?  Doubt pricked
the hopes which had run away with her and down came all her
sophistical arguments.  "What rot.  Why should any of that be true?
He doesn't come to the Reach merely because he doesn't want to give
me the chance to offer the present back--or else he's too busy,
which is more likely.  And why shouldn't his message mean exactly
what it says and all the rest be Geoffrey's invention, even the
tale about people talking?  And how could he guess what had
happened up here, unless he had second sight?  And . . . and I'm a
fool."

Up and down the room, up and down all the afternoon she went,
churning these vain hypotheses over in her brain till she felt
sick.  Oh, for somebody to talk to about it, for somebody to advice
her!

She went out on to the veranda.  Geoffrey was there, smoking a big
cigar.  He put it away guiltily when he heard a step, but grinned
when he saw her and stuck it jauntily in the corner of his mouth.
It was one of Cabell's, which he had stolen.

She turned away impatiently from his fat, over-indulged face and
eyes of a dog which never knows whether it is to be stroked or
kicked.  How could he help her?  She wanted somebody to steel her
against her father and the smirking, whispering world, and of
course there was no one.  Under this roof he had broken them all.



CHAPTER TEN: MOTHER AND DAUGHTER


She stopped on her way back to the room, remembering her mother.
There was one who could help her--if she would.  For a moment she
hesitated, then hurried around the veranda to the back of the house
where the old kitchen jutted into the yard.  There was a new
kitchen now, for when Cabell brought in a Chinese cook and
appointed Miss Montaulk housekeeper Emma refused to be driven from
her old haunts and even began to sleep across the hearth on a dirty
bundle of rags.  A devastating and final change was at work in her.
She was over seventy now and the weight of all those years seemed
to have fallen upon her suddenly.  She had begun to look dirty.
Grease-spots mildewed on her dress and the soot of the fire caked
in the fine wrinkles of her face.  The kitchen, which had been her
pride, with its shining brass pots and shining black stove and
flagstones and walls whitewashed once a week, was invaded by rats
and by flies which buzzed about forgotten scraps of meat.  "She's
going back to type," Cabell told himself, and Miss Montaulk said
she was going mad.

The kitchen door was ajar.  Harriet paused and looked in through
the crack.  Emma was sitting on her heels before the fire with her
shawl over her shoulders and her few wisps of hair hanging down,
and the glow from the flames glittering on her face.  She was
whispering to herself, frowning, waving her hands.  Her face looked
more squawlike than ever in its emaciation--the face of an old
gipsy woman weaving spells with sibyllic patience and fore-
knowledge, Harriet thought.  As she watched, the faith she had
always had in her mother's power and knowledge of life was
reinforced by a sudden, literal belief in the old woman's witchlike
wisdom.  It overcame her shyness at the door and took her to the
table where she stood waiting for Emma to look round and see her.
But she had to say, "Mother, may I speak to you a minute?" and
repeat it twice before Emma turned her head, cringing, with her
eyes at the corner of their narrow lids.

"I have something to tell you.  I want your help," Harriet said.

Her mother looked away as though she did not recognize her, but the
unsteadiness of Harriet's voice, or perhaps the unwashed tear-
stains on her face, had caught Emma's attention, and she glanced up
again smiling.  It was an unpleasant smile, and disconcerted
Harriet.  She backed defensively against the table and jerked out a
nervous, "But if you're busy I'll go away."

Emma grunted.  "Been grizzling again?  You're always grizzling.
One day you'll get something to grizzle for."

"Oh, don't you start, Mother," Harriet said.  "I'm . . . oh,
Mother, I'm so unhappy."

Emma cackled.  "You spoilt brat.  Have you felt a pea under your
feather mattress or what?"

"Can't you see I'm not like that--not a spoilt brat?" Harriet
protested.  "I don't want his money and his presents.  I'm like
you."

"You look it," Emma said dryly, eyeing her dress, her bracelets,
her boots which fitted her tiny feet like gloves, her manicured
hands.

"But I am.  In here I'm like you."  Harriet pressed her hands to
her breasts.  "I couldn't be a lady.  Not without pretending that a
part of me didn't exist, and I don't want to pretend.  Besides,
they despise me, all the ladies, all the Nice People in Brisbane."

"Huh, told you about your mother, did they, like they told James?"

"Oh, don't think I'm ashamed like James.  I'm glad.  I'd rather be
you than Mrs Peppiott."

"Oh, aye," Emma said sarcastically.  "I've had a high time of it."

"I know you've had troubles, Mother.  It must have been terrible.
But nothing could be more terrible than feeling ashamed of
yourself, wondering what other people are thinking of you, and
perhaps for that reason losing everything you want in here."  She
pressed her breasts again.  "Can you understand?  I did something
dreadful in Brisbane--with a man.  Everybody knew about it.  I was
so ashamed of myself I could hardly hold my head up.  I wanted to
marry any fool, any Tomnoddy, who could protect me.  What if one
had come along and taken me because of Father's money and looked
down on me afterwards.  That would have been more terrible than
physical pain."

Emma turned up her face, which age had withered till it seemed
hardly bigger than a baby's face.  It had lost its old expression
of sad restraint, and in their shrunken setting the eyes seemed to
reflect an uncontrollable fire which had charred the skin around
them and now was eating deeper and deeper into her.  "A fat lot you
know about pain," she said, "or shame, or losing what you want."
She pulled the shawl close and shivered slightly, though it was
suffocatingly hot in the little kitchen with all the windows
closed.  "When I was younger than you they took me, the traps, and
put me on the ship for Australia.  The filth, the stink, the rotten
meat, and the men--you didn't get any chance to pick and choose
what your fancy stomach wanted there."

Harriet put up her hand in feeble protest.  "Oh, don't.  I know."

The old woman grinned spitefully and lifted her voice.  "And then
when we arrived they drove us ashore, and there were the men
waiting on the beach with their tongues hanging out--drunken
soldiers and brutes from the bush who hadn't seen a woman for
years.  They drove us up the street with the men running along and
singing out at us and trying to touch us.  Then they put us in the
factory and men came to look at us like cattle, and I was sent into
the country with one and I ran away."

Her voice dropped until she was whispering her story to the fire,
frowning, waving her hands, as she had been whispering it when
Harriet came in.  She seemed to have forgotten Harriet, lost in the
enormous memory of her pain.  "Yes, I ran away and they caught me
and in public, yes, in the streets with all the men standing round
and grinning, they stripped me half-naked and flogged me till the
skin broke on my back.  And then the man who had ordered me to be
flogged and watched them do it, a drunken swine named Major
Mowlatt, he took me off to be his servant and bought me dresses and
silk shoes.  That was on the Murray, fifty-three years ago."

Harriet whimpered in a deep breath.

Emma sniffed at her.  "You wouldn't like to have a man who looked
down on you, eh?  How would you like to have one who sent for you
when he had his drunken friends in and pulled your dress off to
show them your back with the scars down to your waist?  Yes, I was
young enough to feel shame, but soon I gave up caring.  I thought I
was too dirty for any man ever to want, and when it was time to go
free I didn't care whether I stayed or went, until my cousin, Jem,
came and took me."

The two women looked at each other, the old woman and the young
woman, the one filthy, in rags, with her features almost eaten away
by the years, the other with hardly a line on her face, carefully
preserved against the sun, and as fragile in its small, clear
features as a cast in delicate porcelain; yet between them was so
plain a likeness that you could see, pathetically, in the young
girl the old woman's wasted beauty and passion; and in the mother,
tragically, the hatred and despair that could ravage the daughter.

Harriet saw it and shuddered.  "I understand, Mother.  I felt like
that too.  A man called me a whore.  I felt dirty too, as if I was
finished for life.  I could have killed myself.  But now I'm glad.
I can't explain it, but I'm glad I'm what THEY call depraved,
because it must be what they're not, all those women.  And that's
why I'm glad I'm like you, because you're not like them."

Emma sneered at her defiance.  "Just like your father, that's what
you are--eaten up with pride.  A proper Cabell."

"But I'm a Surface too.  I'm your daughter as well as his."

Emma held her off with a look of distrust.  "What d'you want then?
Sympathy?  Hasn't he given you enough?  Hasn't he robbed my Larry
so that you can have your silks and necklaces?  What d'you come in
here snivelling for?"  She grinned again, and the fine tattoo lines
shifted their pattern.  "Aye, you'll snivel for some reason, my
lass, when Larry comes back."

"Will he come?" Harriet said to soothe her.  "How do you know?"

"Will the sun rise?" Emma said.  "Because he IS a Surface, that's
why?  Because he IS like me in here."  She pressed her own flat
breast.  "And because he hates all your aristocratic mugs as I do.
He had his chance to be a gentlemanly Cabell, but he wouldn't take
it.  He was right.  To hell with them.  They flogged and insulted
me, and now my Larry and his mates will do the same with them."
She nodded and mouthed over the fire, more than ever like an old
sibyl calling up evil chance.  "Oh yes, my fine young lady, you'll
snivel with a vengeance then."

"Don't wish me evil," Harriet said.  "I don't want to take anything
that is Larry's.  I want to do what Larry did--escape."

"Escape--what from?"

"From Father.  I want to go away from the Reach.  I love somebody--
Mr Cash.  Do you remember him?  He was Father's partner, but Father
turned against him because of me and ruined him.  I don't know what
his feelings are.  I wish I did.  If he loved me I'd . . . perhaps
I'd run away."

Emma studied her excited face.  "You're play-acting," she said.  "I
know you hysterical young chits."

"But I would," Harriet insisted fiercely, and she told her mother
everything that had happened between Cash, her father, and herself,
and what news Geoffrey had brought.

Emma listened closely and an ugly expression of cunning sharpened
her eyes.  "Well, what's stopping you?  You're not locked up."

"I'm so afraid," Harriet said.  "I might make a mistake and be
lost.  I could never come back."

"You're frightened of the ladies in Brisbane."

"I'm not."

"Oh, yes you are.  You're thinking of the ladies in Brisbane you
pretend not to care about, but you care about them more than about
your man.  Like me, you call yourself.  A lot you'd care for
anything else but your man if you were.  What does it matter
whether he loves you or not, if he's in trouble?  You love him,
don't you?  D'you think I served your father all these years and
spent myself for Larry because I thought they loved me?  Love means
give, not take."  She waved Harriet off.  "Go and take a pill,
girl.  Tight-lacing and rich food, that's what wrong with you."

Harriet was indignant.  "That's not true, Mother.  I don't care
about anything.  But how can I go without money.  I'm all alone.
They watch me like a prisoner.  Even now they'll be watching, and
when Father comes home they'll tell him I was here and that will
bring trouble on you."

"You needn't bother your head about that," Emma said.  "I'd be
pleased to see him if you'd gone.  Aye, very pleased."  She stirred
the fire and huddled closer to it.  The sun was sinking and it was
dark in the kitchen behind the cobwebbed windows.  "And if you had
the money," Emma asked, "you'd go?"

"Well--yes."

Emma broke some sticks on to the dying flames.  The fire leapt up,
on her face, in her eyes.  "I'll give you the money," she said
turning.  "Oh, it's not mine.  Don't thank me.  Thank him.  It's
his money.  It was meant to bribe my Larry out of the way, but he
refused it.  Now you can have it.  That's fair, isn't it?  I'll
remind him of that.  Oh, I'll remind him of a lot of things when he
comes in here.  You needn't worry."

She got up from the fire and shuffled across the flags, cackling
merrily to herself.  From the shelf behind the door she took down
an old biscuit-tin and fished out a small paper packet.  "There,"
she said, laying it on the table.  "There's fifty pounds.  Go on,
take it.  Lost your nerve, eh?"

"No," Harriet said, "but I should go, shouldn't I, Mother?  I'm so
frightened."

"Of course.  Of course," Emma said impatiently.  "Go tonight when
they're asleep.  Nobody will hear you.  You'll be in Brisbane
before he gets back from the mine."

Harriet looked away from the ugly, gloating expression on her
mother's face.  "She's only saying it to spite him.  She doesn't
care what becomes of me."  Then she turned back and threw her arms
around her mother and clung to her, peering into her eyes.  "Don't
lie to me, Mother.  Tell me the truth.  Do you think he loves me?
Am I mad?  Don't tell me to go because you think it will ruin me
and hurt Father."

Emma pushed her off and returned grumbling to the fire.  "I've
given you the money.  Take it or leave it."

Harriet sighed.  It was useless to expect understanding here.  The
rift between them was too wide.  She walked over to the table and
fingered the little parcel.  A sovereign slid out and rolled around
the table.

"Harriet," Emma said, "come here, girl."

Harriet glanced around.  The old woman was holding out her hand.
She closed it on Harriet's arm.  "Perhaps you'd better not go," she
mumbled.  "What's the good of my advice?  I'm a wicked old woman."

"No, no, you're not," Harriet said, pressing her hand.  "It's been
terrible for you.  I know why you hate him.  I'd hate him too if I
had to stay much longer.  The other day he broke into my room--I
could have killed him."

Emma searched her face.  "Perhaps you're right.  Perhaps there is a
lot of Surface blood in you."  She ran a finger down Harriet's
cheek.  "And you're not ashamed of it?"

"No, Mother."

"You used to hide behind my skirts when you were little," Emma said
softly.  "Do you remember?"

"I've always wanted to hide behind them," Harriet said, "but you
wouldn't let me.  You kept me off.  That day I came in here--you
laughed at me."

"Yes," Emma said sadly, "it's a terrible thing to be ashamed, as
you said.  It makes you suspect even your own children.  But it was
him who kept me ashamed.  God knows, I was ready enough to forget
what had gone, but he was always throwing it in my face.  You're
right, child, don't marry a man who'll look down on you."

"I'd kill myself first," Harriet said.  "He wants me to go to
England for a husband, but I couldn't, Mother.  It would be you and
Father all over again."

Emma nodded.  "And you love this man Cash?"

"Yes."

"He's a good man.  He's been through the mill.  He must love you
too, leaving you all that money."

"Do you think so?  Really?  Truly?"

"I'm sure he does," Emma said, "but I don't know what to tell you
to do.  I only know what I'd do.  I'd go.  But all Surfaces are
reckless fools."  Harriet threw her arms round her mother again and
kissed her on the mouth.  "Then I'll go, Mother.  I will.  Aren't I
a Surface?"

"It would be better, maybe," Emma said uncertainly.  "Anything
would be better than sitting here year after year hating him and
waiting for him to die."

Harriet could not stop kissing her mother.  Her heart was light and
gay all at once and her whole body felt radiant, fortified by an
act of decision.

Emma had to tear herself away.  "Well go, child, before they come
spying out what you're up to.  Go on."  She pushed Harriet towards
the door.  "Here's your money.  Be brave, child, and God bless
you."

Harriet kissed her a last time and ran back to her room in wild and
joyous excitement. . . .




PART VI: PIONEERS!  O PIONEERS!



CHAPTER ONE: BAD CONSCIENCE


About this time it was that Jean Berry chased Larry up into the
loft.  Once more Larry felt that his old life had died and a new
world opened before him.  Occasionally, for politeness sake, he let
Berry take him to a meeting of the Pyke's Crossing Labour League,
which Berry had helped to form in the hope of returning a Labour
member to parliament at the next elections, but the speeches about
wicked squatters and the Utopia of Democracy did not touch Larry.
His mind kept wandering to Jean, who would be waiting in his room
at the farm, a promise beside which prophecies of the Golden Age of
Human Brotherhood seemed nebulous and dull.

But as he fell more in love with Jean, and began to think that it
would be good to marry her and have a place of his own, children
perhaps, an itching little uneasiness irritated his mind, so he put
the idea aside without trying to understand why he felt guilty
about it.  A few nights later when he was lying in his bed in the
harness shed with Jean, Berry came to the door to tell him
something and nearly caught them.  They were both so scared that
Jean did not go again, and they had less of each other and were
both unhappy.  So Larry lying in his lonely bed thought of marriage
again and the uneasy feeling came back and gradually concreted
itself into the sense of a duty to his mother neglected.  "I ought
to write and tell her that I'm going to marry and settle down and
won't go back to the Reach no more," he told himself, but that did
not soothe the guilty feeling at all, only made it worse.  One day
soon afterwards when he was in Pyke's Crossing buying stores he met
a swaggie who told him of the change that had come over Emma.  Only
the swaggie said that it was all Cabell's doing and that he refused
to let Emma live anywhere except in the kitchen or eat anything
except the scraps from the table.  He told Larry that Emma was sure
he would come back one day, and that she spent all her time
watching for him.  "But you'll need to go soon if you want to see
her alive," he said.  "She hasn't got the condition of a half-
starved rabbit on her."  Larry said nothing to the swaggie, but he
flared into anger within.  "Why should I go back?  I didn't tell
her I would.  I've wasted half my life already hanging around
because she wanted me to.  If it hadn't been for her I'da had a
wife and a place of my own twenty years ago."  Later he was
surprised at himself and ashamed.  "I'll go back and see her one of
these days," he promised, "before she dies."  BEFORE SHE DIES.
Months passed and he did not go, but every time he was in Pyke's
Crossing he kept his ears open as if he expected to hear some
important news, and the more expectantly he listened the more
guilty he felt, until suddenly he refused to go near Pyke's
Crossing any more, and when Berry came back one day and said,
"Heard a bit of news that'll interest you," Larry shouted, "Keep it
to yourself.  I've finished with the Reach, I tell you."  Berry did
not press the news on Larry, for it was bad news and he was afraid
of what it might make him do.

The year brought a fresh crop of troubles.  The shearers' union had
decided to call another strike.  It was to be a different strike
from the last.  In 1891 the men went into the struggle with vague,
idealistic notions and the squatters severely beat them and
severely punished them afterwards.  As a result the shearers split
up into three camps--the dyed-in-the-wool Utopists like Budge
cleared out to South America to start afresh; the men like Berry
who believed in democracy and the vote and the power of ideas
renounced strikes and violence for a parliamentary party; and the
third group was left to do its worst.  By and large these were
native-born bushmen, descendants of the old hands, who had grown up
to a tradition of hating squatters, landtakers, bosses, toffs,
governments, and police.  When the Budges and Berrys took
themselves off they were ready to start the new strike where the
last one finished and fight it for the sheer joy of harassing an
hereditary enemy.

Berry and the selectors round about had been discussing the strike
to come for weeks.  They all belonged to the union and spent three
or four months each year shearing in Queensland and New South
Wales.  Berry tried to persuade every one not to go shearing this
year as, according to him, the sooner the strike was over and lost
the sooner the men would realize that their only hope was in
putting representatives into parliament.  Larry listened to the
arguments but said nothing.  He did not want to go away from the
farm just now; Jean's love was still too new and near.  And yet--he
could not hear all the talk about burning fences and kicking scabs
and "getting even with the squatters" without a stir of excitement
and a twinge of self-reproach.  At last the selectors began to go
off for the shearing, taking their rifles with them, and Larry and
Berry and a few older men were the only ones left behind.  Larry's
conscience pricked him.  "You're a scab.  You're scared.  That's
why you don't go to see your old woman.  That's why you hang on to
Berry--because he gives you arguments why not to go . . ."

One afternoon he was chopping wood in the yard when Jean came round
the house and said in a worried voice, "There's a man out here
looking for you, Larry."

"What sort of a man?"

"A bad-looking sort.  He's got eyes like a dead man."

Larry dropped the axe.

"What's wrong, Larry?  Will I send Dad out and tell him to go
away?"

"No, don't tell your dad.  I'll go."  Larry went round to the front
of the house and found Coyle sitting on the steps.

"Good day," Coyle said.  "They told me down Pyke's Crossing you
were here."

"I'm helping Berry a while."  Larry examined Coyle's face.  It was
thin and as viciously wedgelike as ever.  He was something like a
dead man, as Jean said, like a cadaver animated with galvanic
energy, not with human feeling.  It made his eyes shine with a
glassy light and kept his hands and mouth twitching in a queer,
unco-ordinated way.  As he looked up at Larry he chewed a stem of
grass in the corner of his mouth, biting at it with quick little
bites as if he was excited, but his voice was calm and soft as of
old.

"Berry must have a bit of a goldmine to keep you both here without
going shearing," he said.

"Ain't no use him going shearing and there's a strike," Larry said.
"He's got a wife and daughter."

"And what about you?"

"Well, I ain't going neither if you want to know," Larry shouted.

"Keep yer hair on," Coyle said.  "Nobody's calling you a scab."

"I'm no more a scab than you," Larry shouted.  "It was your own
bloody fault."

"But who's saying?  I ain't."

"It was your own bloody fault," Larry kept shouting.  He shook his
fist in Coyle's face.  "You tried to get me caught.  And I didn't
know he was that near.  The light was in my eyes . . ."

"All right," Coyle said gently.  "All right.  Me and you were
mates, weren't we?  I ain't going to start chucking mud at a man
who was my mate."

They were silent.  "Anyway," Larry burst out again, "what's the use
striking.  You won't win.  There won't be no republic or rise in
wages or nothing."

"Who's saying there will be?"

"Then what's the use?"

Coyle spat.  "You wouldn't ask that if it'd been you instead of me
they boned that night.  They brought me down to Pyke's Crossing
where there were five other blokes they'd arrested and they
handcuffed us all to a chain.  'Screw 'em together like dogs,' the
Inspector says, and they kept us like that for ten days.  Even
though I had a touch of the fever, not even to bog.  Then they got
out a law the English ain't mean enough to use for the last seventy
years.  When they were taking us into court the mob booed the four
Johns with us and when the Beak comes in he asks what the noise was
and they told him, and he said 'It's a nice place where this can
happen.  How many police were there?'  And the Sergeant said
'Four.'  And the Judge said, 'Let me see.  You all had six-shooters
and four times six is twenty-four shots.  Not many would have booed
a second time if I'da been there.'  And even the John said, 'You
can't shoot men for disorderly conduct,' and the Judge said, 'You
could've found some excuse.'  And then he give us a three stretch
on bread and water and lousy stew, and we were kicked from pillar
to bloody post by warders, like criminals."  He grinned.  "All
right, we're criminals then."

"Aw," Larry said disparagingly, "You go and do your own dirty work,
Coyle."

"My dirty work!  What about yours?"

"It can wait a bit," Larry said.  "One day I'll go up and see my
ma . . ."

"That's about how long you'll need to get the guts," Coyle sneered.
"Till the sod's piled on you."

"Eh?"

"Eh what?  Didn't you know your ma's dead?"

Larry started.  "Dead?"

"Come off it!"

"Struth!  I didn't know."

"Nor that your old man killed her."

Larry looked incredulous.

"You ain't heard about your sister and Cash?  She ran away with him
while your old man was at the mine once, and when he come back he
went in and roused hell out of your old woman for putting them up
to it, as your young brother Geoffrey reckoned he seen.  But she
only laughed in his mug and told him straight she'd given your
sister the dough to run off with.  Then he pulled off and socked
her on the jaw and she fell and cracked her head on the flags.  Pat
Doolan was there talking to her at the kitchen door at the time and
seen everything that happened.  She didn't kick the bucket that
minute, but they carried her to bed and she never got out again and
pegged about six months ago.  Sure, it's gospel.  Your old man's
been running about the country like a madman the last nine months
looking for your sister, but never got a smell of her."  Coyle
chuckled.  "She's clean knocked the stuffing out of him.  He's up
the Reach now and they reckon he can't say boo to a baa-lamb."

"I never heard a word."

"No?  Nor what your old woman said to him just before she died--
that you'd come back one day?  'I tried to make him into a
gentleman,' she says, 'but you wouldn't let him, so now you'll have
to swallow what he is.'  That's her identical words."

"How'd you know that?" Larry said angrily.  "You're making it up."

"I know it because she told me.  She heard I was back in the valley
and sent for me and give me a message for her loving son.  Lucky
she died then and never found out you'd scabbed on us both."

"Who scabbed on her?  I'll break your lying jaw."

Coyle only grinned.

He stayed at the farm for the night and had fierce arguments with
Berry.  Larry listened closely, anxious to be convinced that the
best way to get at the squatters was to stay out of the strike so
that everybody would put their weight behind the parliamentary
party.

"Parliamentary party me eye!" Coyle scoffed.  "It's only an excuse
for poling on your mates when there's danger."

Larry shifted uneasily.

"You're a murdering hypocrite!" Berry exploded after a glance at
Larry.  "I know what you're after, carrying tittle-tattle here.  It
doesn't matter to you what becomes of your mates--it's only an
excuse for getting hanged like your father you want."

Coyle laughed wildly.  His eyes shone with the mad fire Larry had
seen in them twice before.

Larry left the room and went to bed, but he could not sleep.
Arguments went on and on in his head.  At last he dozed off and
dreamt that he was in a court, shackled to a chain with Coyle, and
the Judge was pointing at him and saying "You killed your mother,
you murdering hypocrite."  On the bench in front of the Judge lay
the body of his mother with her face smashed in.  He was looking at
it sideways, not game to take a good look, wanting to make sure
that she was QUITE dead.  As he looked the body stirred and sat up
and it was not his mother at all, but Jean.  He called out to her,
but she paid no attention and walked out of the court.  Then the
Judge put on a black cap and turned into his father, and Larry
tried to run away but Coyle cunningly twisted the chain around his
legs and he fell.  In his despair he dragged Coyle down and they
fought, and he strangled Coyle, got free, and escaped. . . .

He woke up and sprang quickly off the bed and went out into the
yard.  For an hour he walked about muttering to himself.  Then he
went into the barn where Coyle was sleeping.  He crept over the
floor and touched Coyle's boot, crept nearer, and had his hand on
Coyle's shoulder when Coyle awakened.  "What's the idea?"
"We better go," muttered Larry.

Coyle laughed softly.  "I reckon we better."

Larry rolled up a swag and they departed as the cocks were crowing
at the false dawn.  "I'll be back in a few days," he comforted
himself as he took a last look at the dark farmhouse.

They tramped north slowly.  At night whenever he woke up Coyle was
sitting at the fire watching him, and in the daytime, as they
plodded over the dusty hot Downs, lagged a hundred yards behind.
He seemed to be driving Larry before him, and as every day brought
them thirty miles nearer to the Reach Larry hated him more.

They heard that the strike was on.  A coach-driver told them that
the strikers at the Reach had caught Goggs, who had been working
for Cabell since the last strike, and drowned him in the river,
that miles of scrub and grass were on fire, and that the strikers
had thrown a cordon round the homestead and allowed no one to pass
without a ticket from the union.  "Old Rusty's cracked up.  There's
no fight in him."  A couple of days later a posse of mounted
infantry and police went by.

They were in sight of the ranges now.  Larry turned on Coyle and
chased him a mile along the road before he landed a stone on the
back of Coyle's knee and brought him down.  He rushed up, but the
look in Coyle's eyes, a jeering look, made him stop and bluster,
"What're you looking at, you sod?  The way you lag behind and sit
up all night, as if I was going to cut your throat--it'd get any
bloke's gall."

"Well, aren't you?"

"Why should I?"

"To save yourself walking fifty miles and meeting your old man at
the end."

"You're a liar."  Larry began to kick him.  After two or three
savage kicks he went to the side of the road and sat down.  "It's
not the same for you," he said in a pleading voice.  "You've got
nothing.  But I have."

"A blanket and a billy and a pair of Berry's cast-off duds?  A fine
inheritance.  Did you read the bit in the paper where your brother
James's bringing back five stallions he paid four thousand quid
for?"

"If I can get married and settle down, that's all I want," Larry
said.  "They can have the rest."

"Don't fool yourself," Coyle said.  "You'll never settle down.
It's not in you, nor any of us.  We ain't that kidney.  That's why
we're here.  That's why they kicked my old man and your ma out,
because they didn't have the blood of lickspittles.  Some they
hanged and some they sent to America and the rest they sent here,
because they were funked.  We're rebels like them and always will
be as long as the blood isn't watered out."  He picked himself out
of the dust and limped over to Larry.  "It's not to settle down you
want--only an excuse for not having another go at your old man.
But what's biting you?  You heard what the cove said, that he's got
the stuffing knocked out.  By your sister!  Jesus, Larry.  Can't
you finish what she begun?  Besides," he added after a long pause,
"there's your ma . . ."

"She was off her nut."

"Suppose she was.  Who sent her?"  He stood up.  "But just say the
word--just say that you could settle in peace and have it in your
mind that there was a bloke who'd robbed your ma and half-starved
her and then cracked her on the mug--just say it and we'll turn
round and go back to Pyke's Crossing this minute . . ."

They reached the camp three days later.  It was a bigger camp than
the last and a lot rowdier.  Police and infantrymen and strikers
fought all day.  The strikers pelted them with stones till they
charged and beat the men down with the flat of their swords.  Miles
of fencing had been burnt and much grass, as the coachman had
reported, but it was not true that they had drowned Goggs.  They
had belted him with his stock-whip and thrown him in the river, and
now he was in bed at the homestead dangerously ill.  Larry knew few
of the strikers but they all knew Coyle and of his quarrel with his
father, so both were received as heroes.  The strikers took it for
granted that they would do something especially outrageous and
Coyle winked.

Larry was not at all pleased to have so much expected of him.  The
liberties the strikers were taking with his father's property
scared him.  In a minute Cabell would surely wake up and take some
savage revenge.  The strikers expected that too.  Not for a moment
did they believe they would win the strike, but this made them only
more anxious to destroy as much as they could while they had the
chance.  A regiment of artillery was coming up from Brisbane, they
said, to blow them out of the camp.  So they went to work firing
the grass and buildings and beating up policemen, laughing and
joking about it as though it was a good game, but underneath they
were full of despair.  The financial collapse had ended the era of
wild hopes: wages were down, work was scarce, people were starving
in the cities, immigrants returning to England, the dream of a
working man's paradise abruptly blown up.

"We've lost everything, but Cabell and the rest eat their three
meals a day" was the burden of the speeches.

Larry could not listen without feeling the knot of pain tighten
once more in his belly, but the thought of Jean still detached him
from them.  One day his father rode by with the police inspector to
visit Ningpo where the strikers had been trying to burn the old
homestead.  As soon as they saw him the men rushed out of the camp
and pelted him with stones and cowdung.  The cowdung plastered
Cabell's back and the strikers ran along the side of the road
booing.  Larry held his breath, expecting his father to turn and
ride them down.  Instead he hurried his horse and never lifted his
head.  Larry caught a glimpse of his father's face and it looked as
though another face had been clapped on top of the old one.  It was
grey and the pride was gone out of it.  "We got him bluffed," the
strikers exulted.

Next day Larry received a letter from Berry:


DEAR LARRY,

You needn't have sneaked off in the night without saying good-bye.
I'm enclosing the twenty pounds I owe you for wages, as I don't
expect we will see you again.  I was beginning to hope that you
might settle down in these parts.  But I wish you luck just the
same.

JACK BERRY


Larry was in an agonizing frame of mind.  Jean, too, must think
that he had sneaked off and left her for good.  She might stop
loving him or look out for another sweetheart.  He wanted to leave
the camp and hurry back to her, but that was impossible.  All
Coyle's lying, jeering taunts would be true.  Yes, he must go
through with it now if he ever wanted peace of mind, and the sooner
the better.

He brooded all that day and as soon as night fell went up the road,
climbed the fence out of sight of the sentries at the gate, and
crept back to the homestead.  In the darkness of the orange-grove
he paused.  He could hear his father walking on the veranda.  He
was talking to himself.  Larry could not hear what he was saying,
but the savage sound of the words belied the theory that his father
had no anger left in him.  Larry crept away again.  Safe in the
camp once more he was ashamed of himself, and next night returned
to the garden; but Cabell and the inspector of police were together
in Cabell's room drinking whisky.  On the third night he waited
till all lights were out in the homestead except his father's.
This time he found Cabell alone in his room.  He was sitting at the
table with his head in his hands talking to himself.  The grey,
prideless look of defeat was on his face.  It gave Larry courage to
climb on to the veranda and tiptoe to the door.  With his hand on
the knob he paused to look around and listen.  The sound of snoring
came from the open French lights.  "It's hopeless," he thought.
"They'll catch me before I can move."  Then his mind went blank
with the unself-consciousness of a reckless moment and he was
standing before his father's startled face.

For a long time neither spoke, but Larry raised his hand to his
beard and twisted it till his mouth seemed to be grinning drunkenly
down at the old man.

"Larry!  Where the devil did you spring from?"

Larry let his beard go.  It made a faint crepitation in the
mutually embarrassed silence.

"I've been looking for you the last six months," Cabell said.
"I . . . but sit down."  The way he spoke, nervously but not as
though he was annoyed at seeing Larry, far from it, took Larry off
his guard.  He found himself reaching obediently for a chair and
pushed it violently away.

"I've got no time to sit down."

Cabell drummed his fingers on the table and his eyes shifted
between Larry and the floor.  Larry noticed again the grey, abject
look, the haggard pouches under his eyes.  He was trying to say
something, but the words stuck in his throat.  Half a minute passed
before he managed to mumble, "You heard about your mother, I
suppose.  She . . . passed away seven months ago."

"I heard."

"Hmn."  Cabell licked his lips, glanced up and down again.  Then he
blurted out indignantly, "It wasn't my fault she died.  The bitch
starved herself to death.  I was never hard on her.  Other men
would have used her a damn sight worse.  I married her, didn't I?
And as for you--you'd've had your due."  He looked at Larry again
shiftily.  "Haven't I had men looking all over the country?  I
wanted to make you manager at McFarlane's."

"He's trying to get round me," Larry thought, but felt at the same
time that his father's eager, conciliatory words were not really
addressed to him, that there was someone else in the room.
Cabell's eye wandered restlessly and he seemed hardly to see Larry,
as though he was concentrating his attention on making some
eavesdropper hear what he was saying.  This so affected Larry at
last that he turned and peered into the shadows beyond the light's
circle.  When he looked round Cabell was peering there too, and his
gaze remained fixed on the corner for several seconds before he
raised it to Larry and asked hoarsely, "Did you hear something?"

"Hear what?"

Cabell gestured, "Oh, nothing," looked back at the corner and
laughed uncertainly.  "Nothing, of course.  It's the damned
loneliness of the place since--this last year.  It gets on your
nerves.  But now you're back . . .  You'll take over McFarlane's,
won't you?"

Larry answered nothing, twisting his beard again.

"Confound you, man," Cabell flared.  "Can't you speak?  Isn't it
enough?"

"I don't want any favours."

"Favours?" Cabell said, conciliatory at once.  "It's not a favour.
You're my son, aren't you?  When I die it'll be yours, along with
the rest.  Don't look as if you didn't believe me.  I offered to
make you manager before, didn't I?  In front of her.  And you
refused it?  Didn't you?  Now you can't deny that."

"I don't want nothing from you."

Cabell stood up.  "You sulky dog, you'll take it.  D'you hear?
Hell and damnation, it's ME who pays for your dirty temper.  She
robbed me of my daughter for it."  He sat down again, breathing
heavily, and there was a long pause.  "I don't say I wasn't a bit
quick off the mark myself in the past," he admitted mildly, "but
you didn't want to be handled with kid gloves, did you?  Just the
same, I'll"--he frowned, swallowed--"beg your pardon if you want
it.  And now let us be friends."  He held out his hand.  "Eh?
You'll shake on it?"

"No!"  Larry banged the table, making the lamp-glass rattle and the
flame splutter and leap on the wick.  "I won't be bought.  You
killed my mother."

Cabell shook his head.  "No, Larry, that's a lie."

His meekness had put fire into Larry.  "Yes, you did.  You starved
and neglected her.  Then you hit her on the face and knocked her
down."

"Don't say it," Cabell said miserably, glancing right and left.
"Don't say it.  You'll bring bad luck on me."

"It's the truth," Larry cried, whipping his rage up.  "You robbed
her.  You hit her.  You killed her.  You . . ."

Cabell sprang from his chair and tried to put his hand over Larry's
mouth.  They struggled.  Cabell half fell and started to rise, and
Larry kicked him on the temple and he fell again.  He lay, semi-
conscious, trying to cover his face with his hands and catch hold
of Larry's foot, which struck him again and again on the head, and
the jaw, and the mouth, with its heavy metalled toe.  Larry did not
see the door open on Geoffrey's fat face, which shook like a jelly
as he squealed, "Murder!  Help!  Inspector Carmody."  As though his
boot was controlled by a spring which had started to unwind in the
pit of his stomach and could not be stopped, it rose and fell,
missing its object three times out of five, while Larry observed
its movements as if it was somebody else's boot and somebody else's
rage propelling it.  Once, when it left off kicking Cabell for a
moment to stamp on a set of false teeth which had fallen from his
father's open mouth, he chuckled; and all night, as he sat in the
woolshed handcuffed to a beam and heard the sentries walking up and
down outside, he kept thinking of those teeth and grinning.  "He
even spewed his teeth," he kept saying to himself, as if it was a
confession of Cabell's final, hopeless impotence.



CHAPTER TWO: THE DUTIFUL SON


The news that Harriet had run away uprooted James from London.

Julia was annoyed.  "Leave civilization and comfort again--whatever
for?"

"My father's an old man," James said.  "It will be a terrible blow
to him--terrible."

"You mean you hope it will."

He strode about the room muttering, "I foresaw it.  I tried to
prevent it.  I reasoned with her.  But she'd have none of my
advice.  And now!  Poor Father.  How he spoilt her.  Every wish
anticipated.  She could do no wrong.  Little did he think . . .
poor old Dad."  He turned his eyes up.  "But God disposes."

He looked the picture of misery, but that was his normal look these
days.  His face, framed in mutton chops already sprinkled with
grey, was long and lugubrious, with vertical wrinkles, like the
wire basket of a muzzle, round his tight mouth.  He was as thin as
a rake and a martyr to indigestion and colds in the head.
Impossible to imagine that recklessness had ever sparkled in those
yellow eyes, or happy boyish laughter rung from that thin throat
with the drooping Adam's apple, from which his voice came in a
fluty monotone that gave his most complacent utterances a baffling
note of complaint--impossible yes, for any one except James.  He
still fought nightly battles when his devils danced before him the
pageant of a gay, brave, defiant lad and he buried his face in the
pillow and moaned, "Say, could that lad be I?"  It was some
comfort, some little bitter comfort to reflect then upon the Will
of God which excuses and justifies the will-lessness of men.

"You seem to overlook the fact that Harriet is apparently very
happy," Julia interrupted, "although she neglected your advice."

James stopped in his striding and re-read Harriet's letter.


DEAR JAMES,

You will be surprised to learn that I have run away from Father to
marry Jack Cash.  No, you shouldn't be surprised, Jimmy, because I
always told you I would.  Oh, how glad I am.  How happy, happy,
happy.  Jack was just the man for me.  It took me a long while to
find out, that is, it took me a long while to find out what other
men were like and what a priceless, dear gem of a man he was.  Be
pleased for me, Jimmy.  I'm going to have a baby.  If it's a boy,
one of its names shall be yours.  Oh, Jimmy dear, hasn't everything
turned out right after all.  Hasn't it? . . .


"The ungrateful little beast!" James muttered.  His hands trembled
on the letter and his upper lip shook like a leaf on the sharply
intaken breath.

"But she'll pay for it.  Such selfishness won't go unpunished."

"Otherwise what reward for Esau?" Julia said with a wry smile.

"I know my duty if that's what you mean," James said loftily.

"Faute de mieux!" Julia said.  "So I must go and live amongst sheep
and cattle and stupid people again."

"Naturally my place is at my father's side."

"Oh, James," she pleaded, "try to tell the truth for once.  You
know you hate the Reach as much as I do.  You know you hate him
too.  He's a horrid old man.  He bullies you."

"Indeed!"  James's surprise was almost genuine, so far had the oft-
repeated story of the noble Australian conquistador, and the tales
of Mr Kipling, and the reverence of investors sunk in.  "Father is
human like the rest of us," he said in that studiously equable way
he had cultivated for intercourse with Julia, as though she was a
very irritating child he was determined to treat kindly, "and he
has his--er . . ."

"Eccentricities?"

"Moods," James said judicially.  "But they are justified by his
position, his age, and the stupendous work he has done for his
people.  It's not for us to judge him.  If he spoilt Harriet he has
had to suffer for it.  Ahem."

"He's an old brute," Julia said, "and I'm not going to live under
the same roof with him."

This was very bad psychology on Julia's part, for if anything was
needed to turn James's pleasant little dream of confronting a
penitent and broken father with forgiveness it was the additional
satisfaction of making Julia do something she did not want to do.

"Of course you will live under the same roof.  Where else is there
to live at the Reach?"

"I won't go.  I won't leave this house."

"I shall put this house in the agent's hands to-morrow," James
said, and he did.

But when the time came to leave his home in Westminster, his club
in Carlton Terrace, his dinners with Imperialist statesmen, his
nodding acquaintance with peers of the realm who borrowed money
from him, he weakened a little.  Even the joy of having his father
all to himself now promised hardly to balance the ordeal of eating
at the same table with Julia and his mother.  He put his departure
off from month to month.  Then came the news of Emma's death.  He
wrapped a crape band round his arm, received the condolences of his
friends with a resigned melancholy, and sailed for Australia.

In advance he savoured the homecoming to the lonely and desolate
old man who would understand at last which of his children really
loved him.  As the ship ploughed with aggravating slowness across
the Indian Ocean James paced the decks and planned magnanimous
speeches.  His father had been unjust, cruelly unjust, but far be
it from James to tell him so.  He would say, "Father, I have given
up my beautiful home in London and all my friends and a most
congenial life to come back to you when others, in whom you wrongly
confided your trust, have deserted you.  What more can I do for
you?  Don't be afraid to lay your burdens on my shoulders.  I am
young and strong and willing.  I will take over your work while you
spend the evening of your days in peace."

Of course it did not work out that way at all.  The first newspaper
James opened on landing at Sydney told how Larry was in jail
waiting to be charged with feloniously wounding Cabell with intent
to murder, and that Cabell was to give evidence against him as soon
as he was well.

"Another scandal in the family?" Julia said.  "Dear me, what will
your dear Lady Beavershank say?"

James put his hands under his coat-tails and cracked his knuckles,
but his face, as always when Julia spoke in that mocking voice,
leaning her own towards him as though inviting him to slap it, was
blank except for the slight uplifting of an eyebrow at an
incomprehensible impertinence.

A week later he was in his father's room at the Reach, not
supporting a tottering ancient with assurances of devotion but
absorbing through wide eyes and tingling ears and gaping mouth the
forgotten form of a hateful and obscene old tyrant.

"Don't talk to me, you young jackanapes," Cabell said.  "I'll see
the bastard gets his deserts if I have to drag myself to the court
on crutches."  His face was blue and lop-sided with contusions, his
mouth fell in on his bare gums, and his brow was gone from his
sound eye where the toe of Larry's boot had flayed it.

"But the scandal!" James protested, his high, smooth voice slightly
mincing after Cabell's.  "Think what people will say--a father
sending his son to jail!"  He pulled a silk handkerchief from his
pocket and dabbed his perspiring forehead.  A faint perfume
struggled through the room's stench of horse medicines and greasy
old harness.

Cabell looked at him blackly and spat on the floor.  "What's
scandal to me!"

"But my friends in London!" James wailed.  "It might leak out.
Have some consideration, sir."

"What do I care for your friends," Cabell said, eyeing him again,
jealously--his stylish clothes, his appearance of a highly
respected gentleman.  "They're not my friends.  I can't lose any
more than I've lost."  He ranted around the room.  "His bitch of a
mother robbed me of the only thing I'd ever loved.  She poisoned
Harriet's mind against me.  Well, I'll show her.  I'll show her.
If she's got fifty thousand devils in league with her she can't do
any worse now."

"How can you say it, sir!" James said shocked.  "Mother is dead."

"Aye, and damned!"  He stumbled back to his chair and sat down.

"Perhaps you do her an injustice," James said cautiously.  "Of
course, far be it from me to say anything to Harriet's discredit,
but she was always extremely wilful and a trifle spoilt.  She was
always talking about running away.  God knows, sir, I argued with
her.  If she'd listened to me you'd've been spared, but she'd made
up her mind long, long ago.  You can see from this."  He showed
Cabell Harriet's letter.  "I only show it to ease your own mind,
Father.  You may think that there was something, some kindness you
neglected.  Also to disabuse you of any feelings against Mother."

Cabell read the letter, snarling.  "I heard about the brat.  So
it's true.  Says he married her.  I don't believe it."

"Oh, yes, yes," James said quickly.  "I'm sure they're married.
I'm sure it's perfectly regular."

"Think so, do you?  Well, I don't.  Mark my words, he'll leave her.
He's a tramp.  He's deserted women before.  One day the coach'll
drive up and out will step your precious sister.  That's how it'll
be.  Out she'll step, with a brat on her hip--if it hasn't died of
starvation before that.  And she'll come in here and beg me to
forgive her.  She'll stand there and confess what a mistake she
made.  Oh, yes, she will.  I know it.  I know it."

"Ah, Father," James said soothingly, "hope deferred maketh the
heart sick.  Harriet will never come back."

"Who said anything about hope?  She's got whore-house blood in her.
Let her go there when he abandons her."  Then his head sank into
his hands and a heavy sigh shook him.

It was the cue for James's little piece.  "Believe me, sir, I know
how these events must have distressed you, but it's not right to
say that you have lost everything.  In London some very
distinguished gentlemen expressed their HIGHEST esteem for you.  Mr
Joseph Chamberlain himself . . ."

Cabell seemed not to hear.  He was sneering down at the letter.

James's speech died in his throat.  Was this really the man Mr
Joseph Chamberlain esteemed?  Was this the man who "kept the Light
burning in the Outposts of Empire?"  It would be putting it mildly
to say that James was shocked at re-discovering the little details
sentimental memory had repressed during the last three years--the
tilt at the corner of the mouth, for example, the indecent tongue,
and worst of all the stamp, on every feature, of an equivocal past.
He was revolted, outraged, and, finally, speechlessly angered.
Why, this man was by no means at the end of his wicked days, James
thought, as he watched his father crush the letter into a ball and
throw it across the room.  He still had the energy for black deeds,
and the inclination too.

But comfortingly, as he looked at the grey beard, the skin almost
transparent on the ravaged skull, the back humped under the weight
of sorrow, he realized that the hard years had left their mark, and
he thought of those gum-trees which flower long after the ants have
eaten to their heart, strong-seeming, till one night the wind comes
and smashes them and everybody marvels to see how only a little
fibre was left intact to sustain them.  This thought quite melted
his heart again and he said, feelingly, "Besides, I hope that you
don't doubt my anxiety to serve you and my deep affection, sir."

"Affection be damned," Cabell snorted.  "Take your starched pants
where they belong.  There's no place for them here."

James was hurt.  "Indeed, Father, I'm no less of a man for trying
to look and behave like a gentleman.  And as for where I belong,
sir, that's here.  I wish to take up your work where you leave it--
this glorious work of an empire-builder for which you are so
esteemed abroad."  He got this interpretation of his father's
purpose in life over quickly and looked up anxiously to see how
Cabell took it.

His head sunk in his shoulders, blinking on vacancy, Cabell said
nothing, so James expanded, "If I may say so, sir, the country is
now beginning a new phase of its history.  The work of the pioneer
is done, and we have now entered the epoch of politics and culture.
Australia and the Empire will never forget what they owe to those
who blazed the trail, but even those deficient in physical
strength, like myself, may now take a part in the work.  In fact,
as I see it, what is most needed now is not physical strength but
the moral and civilizing influence of the--ah . . ."  A light in
his father's eye choked the words back again.  He gestured and
added less rhetorically than he had begun, "gentleman."

Cabell's eye flickered at him for several seconds.  "I don't
understand long words," he said, "but it sounds mighty like as if
you were telling me I ought to go and bury myself."

"I hope you'll be spared to us many years yet," James said quickly,
jutted his jaw, and added, "but . . ."

"But what?"

"Why, sir, you can't go on like this for ever," James said,
furiously.  "The business between you and Larry--it's barbaric.
Decent people don't do such things.  The times are changed.  You--
yes, you ought to retire."

Cabell stood up and kicked his chair away.  "So that's what's
brought you back.  Thought you could smell dead meat, eh?  You were
wrong.  Understand?  I'll see you all under the ground."  He
marched the room again, waving his hands, cursing, and repeating,
"I'll see you all out.  I'll live to a hundred."

Then a surprising thing happened.  The chair he had kicked aside
was standing in the middle of the room.  He blundered against it
and knocked it over.  James picked it up and put it out of the way.
When Cabell returned he swerved away from where the chair had
fallen and blundered into it again.  "Is the old fool blind?" James
wondered irritably, and as he picked the chair up a second time and
stood it against the wall, he looked at his father's swollen,
blackened eye.  Cabell was coming down the room.  As he passed
where the chair had been he hesitated and put out a hand to feel
his way.

"By jove," James thought, "so he is."



CHAPTER THREE: POOR OLD DAD


Cabell was not blind, not quite.  He could recognize James across
the table, could read a letter if he held it close to his face, but
ten paces away forms were capricious.  He refused to admit it.  The
doctor warned him that Larry had injured his sound eye, which had
been doing double work for years, and that his only hope of keeping
the bit of sight he had was to stay in his room with the blinds
down; so he got rid of the doctor.  "See as far as ever I could."
Even to himself he pretended that he could see the top of Black
Mountain, the road across the valley, the cattle he heard splashing
in the river mud.  He bathed his eye in salt water, sat up till the
early hours figuring over mining reports and stock lists, and
fearfully watched the circumference of light contracting about him
every day.

To spy out what went on behind the fog, cover for thieves and
conspirators, he kept Geoffrey at his side.  "Looks like rain," he
would say, staring at the sky he could not see.

"Looks a bit that way," Geoffrey would agree.  "There's a cloud on
Black Mountain."

"I can see it," Cabell would say testily.

Geoffrey took care he did not see him grin.

No hint of blindness passed between them.  For months Cabell had
been swearing that he would go and belt the life out of Cash as
soon as his detectives tracked Harriet down, but Geoffrey knew that
all the time he had in his drawer a report from the detectives
telling him that Harriet and Cash were in Sydney, married, and that
he could do nothing.  Geoffrey listened to his father's rambling,
savage threats and helped him to curse the stupidity of detective
agencies.

But Cabell was not mad.  When Geoffrey was least expecting it
Cabell would pounce and grab him by the collar.  "That's a new suit
you've got on."

"It's not.  I got it last year."

"Don't lie to me.  Where'd you get the money?"

Geoffrey argued, swore, and fought in vain.

"You're skinning me, you young leech.  I know.  You and Custard
have been selling cattle."  Cabell clouted him till he howled for
mercy.

"Ow, Pa, don't hit me.  I'll tell you.  We sold the Durhams on
Stony Creek."

"Where's the money?"

"Let me go and I'll tell you.  You're choking me."

Cabell let go his collar and he skipped around the table.  "It's a
lie.  We didn't sell anything."

Cabell went for him again, but he kept just within the grey fringe
of the fog.  "Go and see for yourself, why don't you," he squeaked,
impudent in his safety while Cabell groped after him.  "Who wants
your rotten Durhams?  I could've had all the money I wanted,
couldn't I?"

The old man paused.  "Eh?  What d'you mean by that?"

"I needn't've called Inspector Carmody, need I?"

"You dog.  Wait till I get a fist on you."

"There you are, that's all the thanks a bloke gets.  A bloke saves
your life and you're always picking on him.  I could've been having
a good time now.  I could've owned my own racehorse.  I could go to
America.  But a bloke tries to be a good son and you treat him like
this.  All right, Pa, next time I'll know better."

Cabell threw the inkstand at him.  "Get out of this before I kill
you."

"All right," Geoffrey said in a hurt voice.  "I'm going.  I'll get
a job in Brisbane.  I'll go at once."  He faded from the doorway.

"Come back here," Cabell growled.  There was no answer.  Geoffrey's
feet pattered away along the veranda.  "Come back here, I tell
you," Cabell shouted.  A door slammed.  The house was silent.
"Geoffrey!  Geoffrey!  You young sod, come back here at once."  He
heard Geoffrey go whistling down the slope.

He returned to his table, piled with letters to be answered,
ration sheets to be checked, confidential orders to brokers to be
written . . . and no amanuensis, nobody he could trust.  At the end
of the day when Geoffrey came in to dinner he said, wheedling,
"What was that horse you said was for sale?"

"Thunderlight."

"Yes.  How much did you say?"

"Eight hundred guineas."

"I might buy it for you.  A little Christmas present, eh?"

"Ugh, Christmas.  By Christmas I'll be in America."

"America?  Damn it, you'll be here."

"What's a bloke want to hang around here for?  A bloke's not
appreciated.  A bloke's only a hanger-on.  I'm going to America."

Cabell bit back his anger.  "I'll buy you the horse and double your
allowance right away--how's that?  What could you do in America?
You've got a good home here."

"A good home!" Geoffrey grumbled.  "Where a bloke's always being
accused of pinching off his father!  I tell you, a bloke's got
pride.  I've had enough.  I'm going."

Of course he did not go.  Cabell gave him a racehorse, paid his
bills, doubled his allowance, submitted to being robbed, and had
miserable nights wondering what would happen if one of his business
enemies ever discovered how cheaply they could buy Geoffrey, and
the hundred ways they could use him, or if Larry were to get free
and come back.

So really he was not sorry to have James in the house once more.
James had always done as he was told and Cabell had no doubt he
would go on doing it.  No backbone and a prig, but honest.  As his
proxy in Brisbane and at the mine he would obey orders, and if he
didn't Geoffrey would smell him out.  Thus the indomitable old man
prepared to go on fighting, though no longer with any purpose
except to hide from himself that he had no purpose for which to go
on fighting and amassing wealth.  He did not want to see the blind
wall, hear the question, "What was it all for?  Who will thank
you?"

From the first peep of dawn when he awoke till well after midnight
when sleep came reluctantly over his sharp, obscure, and
unconfessed pain, he sat at his desk and tried to keep his eye
turned out by loading himself with worry about the most trivial
details of the mine and the stations.  He scrutinized every line in
the mine managers' reports, every figure in Custard's schedules of
stock and rations, checking them again and again with mercifully
time-wasting calculations and tormenting the life out of his small
army of administrators with niggling demands for an explanation why
the boilers had consumed 2.2 tons of wood for a crushing of 9.5
tons of stone on 11 May, and 2.3 tons for a crushing of 9.1 tons on
14 May, and where the devil were the hundred lambskins booked at
Ningpo on 15 February last and not included in the stocktaking on
30 June?  And when there were no reports to read and no complaints
to write he filled in the black gap of hours with long sums
estimating how many pounds of wool he would take from his sheep by
the year 1900, how much gold there was in Black Mountain, how many
years before it was worked out ("Twenty, eh?  I'll see the end of
it then!"), what his share would be . . .

But best of all he liked to pass the hours nagging his family--
especially James.  Any excuse was good enough.

"That horse Sambo showed me this morning, is that the horse you
wasted a thousand guineas on?"

"I don't think it was wasted."

"YOU don't!"

"He calls it Cabell's Pride," Geoffrey put in with a snicker.

"Oho, does he?  Crowbait--that's what Sambo calls it."

"Its grandfather won the Derby," James said, "and its mother ran
third."

The old man laughed.  "Don't tell me.  Some horse-butcher saw a
fool coming."

"Excuse me, Father, Lord Blackenridge is my friend."

"Oho, listen to him.  The Lord's his friend."  He changed his
attack, becoming nastier.  "Think you're a gentleman, don't you?
Think you're too good for us?  You're the son of a bitch, that's
what you are.  Your mother was a criminal and so is your brother
and your damned sister--she'll be on the streets before long, mark
my words.  She'll come back here one day and I won't see her.  I'll
let her have her say and I won't answer.  I'll shut the door on
her.  She'll have to sit on the steps till the coach comes and beg
a ride to Brisbane.  You'll see.  You'll see."

Geoffrey yawned and drowsed.  Miss Montaulk tut-tutted and nodded
her sweat-streaked mask of cosmetics over the inevitable bit of
dingy crochet, murmuring "Ah me!  That I should have lived to see
it!  What did I tell you!"  Julia watched James.  James looked down
his thin, disgusted nose.

"It's the truth I'm telling you about yourself," Cabell sneered at
him.  "Look at the colour of your skin.  Is it a white man's skin?
Is it?"

Sometimes there was the faintest yellow tinge under James's cheeks,
jaundice or indigestion most likely, but Cabell loved to insist
that it was a mark of gipsy blood.  "It'll spread," he taunted
James.  "You'll see.  Your mother was fairly white when I met her,
but your Uncle Dirk Surface was as yellow as butter.  It'll come
out after you're forty.  Just watch yourself in your glass, you
snob.  A fine sight for your London friends you'll be.  Mr Joseph
Chamberlain, eh?  By God, they won't touch you with a poker.  All
your flash duds and la-di-da manners won't cover it up."

Behind his wooden face James writhed, but Cabell could not see
that.  The insults he heaped on James frightened him.  "Why doesn't
he say something?  Ah, they're all like her.  They don't speak.
They store it up and stab you in the back."

"What's in your mind there?" he cried.  "What're you thinking?
I'll tell you.  You think I'm going blind, don't you?  You think
you won't have to put up with me much longer.  Oho, don't you
worry."

"It's the truth," James spat through his tight, colourless mouth.
"You're nearly seventy.  Your eye will never get better."  He took
a breath and added soothingly, "Really, sir, you ought to try to
compose yourself.  You should think of the future and seek some
spiritual consolation."

"Christian forgiveness, eh?  Oho, I know what that means.  Forgive
Larry so that he can come up and finish the job, eh?  If you want
my brains kicked out, do it yourself why don't you?"

A week after James's return they brought Larry up for trial, but
Cabell was still afraid to take his eye out in the sun and Larry
was remanded for another month.  By that time Cabell's face had
healed and the hair was growing on his brow again.  His sight was
worse but he swore to himself that it was better and to prove it
took Geoffrey off to Pyke's Crossing and gave evidence against
Larry, who was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude.  The
scandal was terrific.  The Labour newspapers reported how Larry had
to be dragged from the dock shouting, "He starved my mother.  He
hit her in the face."

Outside the court a crowd waited to hiss Cabell as he walked to the
hotel.  Geoffrey took one look at them and deserted his father.
But they did not hiss.  The stiff set of his jaw made them think
twice about it.  He looked as if he was printing every face there
on his memory for future reference.  Actually he was floundering
like a bat, and he had locked his jaws to prevent himself from
singing out for someone to lead him down the street.

When he'd put Larry out of the way he was quieter, scared--scared
of ghosts.  He believed that Emma was haunting him.  At night-time
James heard him talking in his room.  "I offered to make him
manager twice, but you let him do this to me, so that I couldn't go
after her and bring her back . . ."

One day he went out to the flame-tree under which Emma was buried
and dug the coffin up and carried it on his shoulder down to the
scrub and buried it there.  No use.  He could still see her
crouching in dark corners at night, wizened, foreknowing, and full
of hate.

James wanted to pack up and clear out of the madhouse back to
London, but his conscience pricked him.  He called it his
conscience.  Under the thought, "Poor old devil, he's half off his
head, half-blind, and nearly half-dead," was the assurance that if
he waited a little longer the foul old brute who dishonoured his
father's name would be out of the way; for James found that he had
two fathers, this one and the romantic, aristocratic old pioneer
who was esteemed in London.  The second was much the more real.  He
was always slightly surprised when he went into Cabell's room and
found the battered face squinting at him.

Poor James was learning more than he wanted to know about the way
Cabell had performed his historic mission.  Less abusive now, the
old man prepared him for work by letting him into the secret of
complex financial wanglings and wire-pullings.  How he had done the
McFarlanes out of their land, how he had made a hundred and eighty
thousand pounds out of the Investment Corporation, how he had
speculated in land, how he circumvented the miners' attempts to get
better wages out of the Waterfall Goldmining Company by bribing
their leaders, how he used money and influence to prevent awkward
inquiries into accidents at the mine, how he subsidized the
election funds of politicians who sent him soldiers during a
strike, and the dozen other shifts by which he, like all rich men,
contrived to remain rich and grow richer--these aspects of empire-
building hitherto unsuspected stunned James's innocent mind.

James protested against taking part in such infamous affairs.

"Infamous, you think?  I've had to fight for every cent with cut-
throats and droughts and stupid sheep and God knows what else."
Cabell spoke quietly, with a note almost of entreaty in his voice.
"It's easy to talk now.  I didn't do these things because I liked
them, but because--because . . ."  He sheered away from talking
about the motives which had driven him through the last half-
century lest he should see that those motives no longer existed.

"I know that," James said.  "In the early days it was unavoidable.
Lands aren't won without . . ."

"I didn't come to win any lands," Cabell interrupted irritably.
"Don't you see you can't gloss it over by telling me that some
confounded politician in London esteems me.  I don't give a damn
for his esteem.  A lot of good to decorate a dead conscript with
honour and glory."  His irritation passed and he spoke beseechingly
again with his hand on James's arm.  "Glossing it over isn't just,
James.  You've got to go back and find out how every drop of sweat
and blood was spilt, and understand that it couldn't have happened
otherwise and . . . no, not forgive, damn you, sitting on your
pedestal.  If you could understand you wouldn't be the kind of smug
bastard who talks about forgiveness.  You'd go down on your knees
and ask for it from all the generation of poor devils whose lives
were wasted before this country became a place you could wear your
starched pants in."  He turned back to the papers they were
studying.  "What's the use talking?  It's all plain black and white
to you."

This kind of talk distressed James more than straight out cursing.
The entreaty in the old man's voice hinted at dark, dark deeds and
asked James not to judge too severely those deeds which had loomed
in James's nightmares since boyhood.  Something worse than cheating
shareholders and robbing men of their land?  James never again
talked of the infamy of his father's business methods or encouraged
him to speak in that apologetic and horribly suggestive strain, but
industriously set to work to master the intricate workings of
station and mine and real estate market so that as soon as possible
the power of doing mischief to the name of Cabell might be taken
from the old man.

He trotted to and fro between the Reach and Brisbane and Waterfall,
interviewing bankers and cabinet ministers, addressing directors,
bossing managers and foremen, as his father ordered him.  He was
forced to know unpleasant people, shady lawyers, stock-jobbers, and
real estate touts who slapped him on the back and called him by his
first name, made him smoke bad cigars and listen to dirty stories,
choke down vile liquors and exchange banter with their favourite
barmaids.  The heat, and the noise, and the dust, and the smell of
Waterfall sickened him, continuous travel made his digestion worse,
and with alarm he noticed that coarse talk was coming easily to his
lips and sharp business trickery to his mind.  In the beginning he
had been disgusted to discover that his father had a share in a
slum property in Sydney--one of the nastiest slums in the world,
people said--at the end of a year he was automatically haggling to
invest money in more places of the same kind.

But he didn't like it at all.  He could feel his hands getting very
dirty.  Couldn't they invest the money in something more
respectable? he suggested.  Perhaps pull the slums down and build
new modern tenements where people wouldn't die of typhoid at quite
such a fearful rate?  The old man listened wearily, then told him
to go and see that the prices in the station stores had been marked
up in readiness for the shearers or to threaten the manager at
McFarlane's with the sack for overserving the hands five pounds of
tea in their rations last month.  A devil of a life it was.  Ten
times a week James determined to put an end to it, but obedience to
his father was an old habit with him now--or filial duty, as he
called it.  As though being bullied by his father, spied on by
Geoffrey, and humiliated by the work he had to do wasn't enough,
Julia began to nag.  She was bored sick at the Reach.  She wanted
to go back to London.

"Quite impossible," James said.  "You see how it is with Father.
Somebody has to look after things."

"Do you flatter yourself you're looking after them?" Julia scoffed.
"You message-boy!"  She was beginning to use her rapier like a meat-
axe.  Also her face was hardening and her body was growing stringy.

James regarded her with his usual cold surprise.  What a common
grating tone her voice had nowadays!  "I would be much obliged if
you would let me know my own . . ."

"Duty?" she sneered.

"Yes, duty."

"Duty, buncombe!  Duty, my eye!  You'd smother him in his sleep if
you had the bowels.  Don't talk to me about duty, you snivelling,
hypocritical, stuffed imitation of a man."

"Really, Julia . . ."

"Yes, an imitation of a man.  You've always let that old pig have
his own way.  That's why you married me and that's why we're living
in this filthy, rat-ridden hole.  Because he says so.  You know you
don't like it.  You much prefer being stroked by fat, elderly
peeresses.  My, it's a wonder, James, you ever learnt to do up your
pants by yourself."

He dribbled out a smile.  "I don't understand a word you're saying,
my dear."

"You don't?  I'll mighty soon make you understand.  You get me out
of this house soon or I'll take to drink like my mother."

"Julia!"  He came down off his high horse in a hurry.  "Of course I
understand--dull life, yes.  But there are nice people.  You'll get
to know them.  And, of course, I intend to have this wretched house
pulled down and re-built.  It is, as you say, a little . . ."

"You re-build the house!"  Julia laughed.  "Have you told him?"

"Not yet," James confessed.  "But at the first opportunity . . ."

He did try to mention it but somehow never got to the point.  As a
compromise he had a talk with Custard about moving the drafting-
yards and the slaughter-house a few miles down the river and
planting a garden in their place.

"What's boss say?" Custard asked.

"No need to trouble him with such a trifle," James said.  He hoped
to spring the accomplished fact on the old man, who now rarely went
out, but he omitted to grease Geoffrey's palm.

Cabell rushed down to the yard and shook his fist in Custard's
face, and threatened to put a head on him if ever he took orders
again without making sure that they were his boss's orders.

Custard cringed.  "Aye, sir.  Aye, muster."

Nobody guessed that he could hardly see Custard's face as he held
his own so close that their beards mingled.  Slowly, stiffly, he
marched back to the house.  A rail from the partially demolished
yards lay in his path.  James put out a hand to guide him, then
took his hand away.  He stumbled over the rail and stamped on
quickly, trusting to luck, knowing that their eyes were upon him.

Goggs was standing near.  He had seen James's hand move.  He
glanced round to make sure Geoffrey was not near, then grinned at
James.

Goggs was a cunning fellow--he knew that time was on James's side.



CHAPTER FOUR: BLIND


Yes, time was against him.  Every day the smudge of light on his
eye grew smaller.  Last month he could see the far edge of the
table, and last week the stain of spilt ink in the middle, and two
days ago the knot in the wood near the corner of the blotter.  It
was as though he watched his vital essence melting away on the
table before him.

For days he nurtured it, this little grey circle of light, sat
motionless, hardly breathing, in his room with the blinds down, his
eye closed, glancing out from under his hand now and then to see
that it was still there, still intact, the final, guttering dregs
of sight.  If James came in with papers for him to read or sign he
would storm him out of the room and lock the door.  Traitorous
swine, trying to gouge the eye out of him!  Hours passed.  He sat
at the table with his head in his hands.  When he opened his eye
again the visible patch of blotter, paper, pen, was almost gone,
and as he stared, leaning over the table with a look of outrage and
consternation as though he had discovered a bug or a centipede
crawling across it, the darkness swallowed everything.  He
floundered to the window and pulled the blind aside and bellowed,
"Hey, what's the time, you?" to the man he could hear rattling milk
cans in the dairy.

"Somewheres near six, I reckon," the man shouted back.

"Ah, thank God, it's ALL dark."

He went on like this for days.  From without came the sounds of the
station's life, horsemen arriving and departing, Sambo and Custard
arguing, plates rattling, a stock-whip, dogs barking, the bellows
in the blacksmith's shop, a swaggie begging at the back door, the
jingle of trace chains, creak of dray-wheels, a brief splutter of
quarrelling between James and Julia, James and Geoffrey, cattle,
sheep, and the opaque bush silence roaring up between these fretful
human interludes--sounds so accustomed that he was hardly aware of
them till he realized suddenly with astonishment that his station
and his mine went on working without any co-operation from him, as
though he was already dead.  Then he opened the door and bawled for
James, Geoffrey, Custard, Miss Montaulk, the book-keeper, the
storekeeper, demanded to know what was being done, why something
different wasn't done, changed every one's plans, upset the house,
and produced convulsive twitchings even on the petrified face of Ah
Lung.

Within half an hour he was galloping across the valley towards
Black Mountain, potent and assured once more on his big piebald
stallion, which rushed him on with his retinue of sons and
sycophants spluttering far behind in his dust.  He reached down and
felt the muscles cording under the soft, hot hide and his own
mastery in the horse's response as it quickened the clatter-rap of
its gallop to a fluid thunder of hoofs, which stampeded sheep and
cattle browsing along the fence and started dogs barking miles away
at the mountain echo of an affrighted flight.  Five miles down the
road he rested the horse and waited, chuckling, for the others to
come up.

Now again he discredited the cold imminence of darkness.  In the
mine the roar of the furnaces, the stink of the chemical vats, the
shrieking of the new overhead tramway bringing rock from the
terraces, the rumble of blastings, the chink of pickaxes, the
marching stamp of the batteries all reconstructed for him, to its
minutest detail, the burrowing industry of this golden mountain in
which his will had already triumphed over fate and the rapacity of
men.  He went to the ingot room and fingered the smooth, heavy
bricks of gold.  One of the richest men in the southern hemisphere
he was--despite ill fortune, despite enemies.  "No, they can't get
rid of me yet."

He sent the others back to the Reach and stayed on in his office
designing a new chimney to catch the tiny fragments of gold that
went out in smoke.  His flag fluttered over the mine.  Engineers,
managers, foremen waited upon him, obsequiously petitioning,
explaining, defending themselves and bowing to his judgments.  He
sacked this one, grudgingly commended that one, ordered another one
to America to study new machinery, commanded the town council to
build new footpaths in Monaghan Street, sent a sick miner's wife a
hundred pounds to buy the family a holiday at the sea, refused to
shorten the gruelling shifts of the furnacemen by half an hour a
week, and capriciously, "just to show who's boss," suddenly
declared a public holiday in the middle of the week for no reason
at all.

"No, they can't get rid of me yet.  I'll live to a hundred."

Then one evening he returned home sagging in the saddle as though
every bone in his body was broken.  He felt his way on to the
veranda and into his room without a word to James and Geoffrey,
waiting at the top of the stairs for him.  On his table lay a heap
of papers James had left.  He felt them but could not see them.
"It'll come back," he kept muttering to himself.  "Of course it
will.  I'll just rest and wait a while."  He locked the door and
lay down and waited.  After an hour or two he slept.  When he awoke
he stared up at the ceiling for a long while before slowly,
doubtfully he raised his hand and held it in front of his face,
closer, till it touched his nose, hot, clammy.  "Maybe it's all
dark."  He climbed off the bunk and went to the window.  People
were moving in the yard.  He raised the blind and called softly,
"Hey you, what's the time?"

"Somewheres round nine, I reckon."

"Nine you reckon, huh?"

"Well, ain't the sun a good bit over the hills?"

He moved back into the room and steadied himself against the end of
the bunk . . .

James sent for a doctor from Sydney, the best there was in
Australia.

"Why?" Julia said compassionately.  "Why not let him be?"

"It is best that he should know."

"Know the worst, you mean."

"One hopes for the best," James said.  "Naturally."

There was no hope, the doctor said, none at all.

James broke it to him, firmly, gently, "No hope, Father.  No hope
at all."

"Quacks are sometimes wrong," he said in a quiet voice.

"He is the best man in Australia.  One of the best in the world."

"But he could make a mistake.  It's easy to make a mistake even
when you think you know everything.  I've made mistakes crossing
sheep and I ought to know about sheep.  Maybe--it's possible, don't
you reckon?"

James put his hand on his father's shoulder.  "It's best not to
encourage false hopes, Father.  A little nerve was broken, he says.
It was hardly as big as a pin-point but it can never grow again.
It's scientifically IMPOSSIBLE."

"A little nerve hardly as big as a pin-point!  That's funny--being
done in by a thing like that when you've come through being
speared, burned, nearly drowned, starved, lost in the bush and
worse, with only a few scratches.  There must be a devil right
enough--or a God.  The same thing--a damned unjust devil of a God."

James tut-tutted.

"No, wait a minute.  I didn't mean that."  A repulsive expression
of terror and cunning crossed the old man's face.  He caught
James's hand.  "Son, you don't hold anything against me, do you?"

"Me hold anything against you, Father!  Good heavens no," James
said, shocked.  He tried to free his hand.  The look on the old
man's face, the damp cold of his hands disgusted him.

"No, tell me the truth.  I've done you many wrongs.  Harriet told
me.  But try to understand and forgive me, James."

"You exaggerate, Father.  I've nothing to forgive you, and I'm sure
nobody else has.  You've led a noble life of service."

"I've done terrible things, James," Cabell said.  "Terrible
things."

"Not at all," James retorted, almost indignantly.  "You're letting
this unbalance you.  You must try to bear it like a man, sir."
Alarmed by the success of his efforts to save Cabell from the
anguish of false hopes, he added, "Besides, who can tell, your
sight may come back--by a miracle.  Wonderful things have
happened."

Cabell's grip tightened.  "That's it--a miracle.  Men have been
raised from the dead, eh?  Not saints--sinners like me."

James got his hand away and wiped it on his handkerchief.  He
turned his eyes up.  "God's will be done, Father.  We can only hope
for the best.  You must try to take it more philosophically.  You
have years to live--years of rest.  You've earned them."

"Years!" Cabell murmured.  "Years like this.  No, blast and damn
it."  He shook his fists in the air.  "It's impossible.  It's
bloody impossible."

James shrugged, sighed.  "Now, Father, you musn't be unreasonable.
What is to be will be.  All flesh is mortal."

James's droning platitudes reminded Cabell of something.  He
dropped his fists and said, "That parson fellow who's always nosing
round Miss Montaulk, what's his name?"

"Mr Tomlinson?"

"That's it.  I'd like a word with him.  Perhaps you're right.  I
ought to take a bit of thought.  I've been pretty violent."

James grimaced.  "He's such a gossip.  Nothing to gossip about here
of course, but in your present state of mind . . ."

"Do as you're told, damn you," Cabell growled.

So the Rev. Mr Walter Tomlinson came to see Cabell.  Very nervously
he entered the dark room and gasped for breath in the hot, rank
air.  He was a young man from Oxford, who preached in a galvanized-
iron church on Monaghan Street, ovenlike and bare except for an
altar cloth embroidered by his mother and arum lilies from Miss
Montaulk.  He had fifteen parishioners.  The rest of the population
were Roman Catholics or played two-up.  He regarded Cabell with
horror and awe as the wickedest and richest man he had ever known.

"Sit down," Cabell said.  It was the first time Cabell had spoken
to him.  He thought Cabell had sent for him to make some complaint,
and was ready to forswear and abjure anything rather than be roared
at as he had heard Cabell roaring at men in Waterfall.

He sat down.  "I came at once," he said anxiously.

"Thank you."  Cabell pondered.  "Damn it, I don't know how to
begin," he said at last.  "I'm blind--blind as a bat.  But you've
seen that for yourself."

"Oh, indeed?" the little parson said politely.

"Some nerve's been broken.  As small as a pin-point they say, and
it won't grow again.  So I've got to sit here like a stuffed dummy
for the rest of my days--like a castrated bull."

"Doctors are very clever," Mr Tomlinson suggested.  "I heard of one
who made a nose grow on a man."  Then he noticed that Cabell's nose
had set crooked after the fight with his son, and he was confused.

"I know, I know.  But they can't do anything for me.  I'm cursed."

"Oh?" Mr Tomlinson said, as if Cabell had told him that he was
catarrhal.

"I haven't thought much about religion.  Haven't had time.  No
excuse, I suppose.  But damn it, I had to eat or be eaten."

"You've lived a very busy, useful life," Mr Tomlinson said
approvingly.

"I've lived a hell of a life," Cabell said.  "I suppose you'll tell
me a man reaps as he sows, but surely if there's a God who sees
everything--it says every hair on your head is numbered, doesn't
it?  But no man who saw everything from start to finish would do
this to me.  Surely there must be some possibility, some hope.
Eh?"

It was beginning to dawn on Mr Tomlinson that Cabell was not going
to roar, but expected some spiritual aid from him.  He wriggled and
cleared his throat and said "Just so, just so" several times,
feeling, before this eager, ugly, blind, but still vividly living
face, rather as a taxidermist might if called in to deal with a
wild tiger.

The old man put a bony hand on his knee.  "You think so, eh?  It's
possible--a miracle."

Mr Tomlinson leant away from the pungent breath and the lips curled
back viciously on bare gums.  What a horrid old man.  "Quite, oh,
quite.  God is merciful and--ah--merciful, and his only begotten
Son has taken the burden of sin from us and ah . . ."  As he
pressed back in his chair from the twisted face pushed close to his
and thought, "He's mad.  He'll strangle me," his voice went on "ah-
ahing" with the detached volition of a reflex.  "Afflictions sent
from Heaven--measure of God's love--redeemed in Paradise . . ."

"Yes, yes," Cabell interrupted, "but stop beating about the bush.
Have I got to spend the rest of my days rotting in darkness, and
what for?  It can't be God's will.  I wouldn't wish it to a dog."

"God has seen fit--many blessings--loving children all around you--
especially Mr James, I mean . . ."

"While I could keep my eye on him!"

Mr Tomlinson disentangled himself from Cabell's clutches and his
voice ran more smoothly.  "Ah, Mr Cabell, who can tell what sweet
grace may descend on you in this adversity.  The outward eye is
blasted so that the inward eye may see more clearly.  The outward
eye has been fixed on base and worldly things, but the inward eye
shall see the things of God."  Cabell listened attentively to the
braying, cultivated voice, which became louder and more eloquent as
Mr Tomlinson realized that this horrid old man was really a
frightened old man.  He called on Cabell to repent, promised to
pray for him, was polite, a little condescending.

The eager look left Cabell's face.  He muttered deep in his throat.

Mr Tomlinson paused.

"How old are you?" Cabell asked.

"Thirty years come September."

"You know what God feels about things?"

"I am His ordained minister."

"Have you ever felt a man's hands round your throat?"

"Indeed, no."

"Have you ever committed murder?"

Mr Tomlinson stared.

Cabell nodded.  "I was a fool."

"We are all foolish, weak, and sinful," Mr Tomlinson said.

"I was a damn fool," Cabell said.  "Now shut up and get out of
here."

"I beg your pardon?"

Cabell rose.

Mr Tomlinson departed.

So much for spiritual consolation.



CHAPTER FIVE: JAMES TAKES OVER THE GOOD WORK


A month later James delivered his ultimatum.

"I've been thinking things over, Father, and it seems to me that
one or two adjustments are advisable."

Cabell winced, but said nothing.

"To begin with, there's the mine.  In your present condition . . ."

"I know, I know," Cabell said.  "I'll have you put in as chairman,
but, by God, you'll do as you're told or . . ."

"Of course, I'll never want to do anything except serve you," James
said, "as I've done in the past."

Cabell moved uncomfortably.  "Look here, James, I didn't know Julia
was going to turn out a nagging bitch."

"I don't know what you mean, Father," James said coldly.  "Julia
and I are very happy together."

"Then what're you always harping on past favours for?"

"Only to reassure you."

Cabell snorted.  "Save your breath, but if you try any monkey
tricks at Waterfall . . ."

James hemmed and hahed and made a few false starts before he got it
out:  "I've just written to the directors to tell them that neither
you nor I will want to have any personal control in the future."

"You've what?"

James repeated it.  "The type of man one has to associate with and
the work one has to do--I'm not cut out for it, Father.  You
remember I was afraid of that years ago, but you insisted and I
gave in.  The last eighteen months have made me sure that I've no
aptitude for money-grubbing.  I've other plans in view--of course
if you approve."

"To the devil with you.  I'll put Geoffrey in."

"I've been wanting to tell you about Geoffrey, Father, but you've
kept the door locked and I didn't like to disturb you.  He
expressed a desire to go to America when he was in Brisbane last
week, so I've promised him an ample allowance--as long as he is
abroad."

"You false dog," Cabell exploded.  "But you can't get around me.
I'll put somebody in, and you can take yourself off this instant."

"You're not serious, Father.  Leave you to the mercy of the first
scoundrel who comes along to take advantage of your affliction.
You can't wish that?"

The old man stood up and strode across the room, turned to come
back and ran foul of the end of his bunk, took a few steps, lost
his nerve, and felt his way hesitatingly to the table, sank into
the chair, swore.  "I'll be damned if I don't put someone in just
the same."

"You've a perfect right to use your vote as you wish when the
matter comes up," James agreed, "but, of course, I too . . ."

"You?  You're only my damn puppet."

"Of course I'll only want to do what pleases you," James said.
"But I took the liberty of telling Miss Ludmilla by cable about
your illness and she agrees that . . ."

The old man hung on the arms of his chair--with his skinny elbows
out and his head sunk in his shoulders like a spider at bay and
ready to spit poison.

". . . you should be relieved of the responsibility of looking
after her shares."

"I won't have it.  I'll cable her myself.  I'll . . ."

"Why certainly, Father," James interrupted quickly.  "Would you
like to send it now?  I've got a pencil and paper here.  I'll see
it goes off to Pyke's Crossing at once."

Cabell stood up, sat down, then felt for something to throw.

James moved the inkwell out of his reach.

"James, you're a bastard," Cabell said, in a tone of dawning,
amazed discovery and did violence to his own hair instead.

James was hurt.  His face acted all the emotions automatically,
although there were no eyes to see.  "You make it very difficult
for me to do my duty, Father," he said reproachfully.  "Frankly,
it's no pleasure for me or for Julia to live here when we might be
living in England.  I don't expect you to understand what we have
both given up, but I think I have a right to ask you to remember
that I'm the only one of your children who hasn't abandoned you for
his own selfish pleasure."  He walked to the window and left the
old man breathing quickly as though a hot, bitter draught had just
been forced down his throat.  But he turned at once and smiled
forgivingly.  "Pardon me, Father.  I'm afraid I sometimes forget
you're not quite your old self these days.  Now there's another
small matter.  Larry.  He's in jail."

"Thank God for that," Cabell said.  "I wouldn't like to be at the
mercy of two of you."

"But your son!  My brother!  And a Cabell!"

"It's nothing new in the family."

James cracked his knuckles under his coat-tails.  "I quite
understand that in sending Larry to jail you acted under great
provocation and in the heat of the moment . . ."

"I sent him to jail because he tried to do me in and would try
again if he got out."

"I quite understand," James raised his voice, "that you acted in
the heat of the moment and that in your heart you were sorry for it
after.  So I've taken the liberty of telling the Minister for
Justice that you'd be much obliged if he'd use his influence to get
Larry's sentence shortened."

"My God, I'll put a stop to that.  I'll send Custard to Brisbane."
He got up and fumbled his way to the window.  "Custard!  Hey you,
where's Custard?"

James drew his father away and pulled the blind.  "I'm sorry if you
had any special affection for Custard, Father.  I gave him the sack
a week ago.  He was robbing you shamefully."

Standing in the middle of the floor with his mouth hanging open,
his stiffened knees slightly bent, his shoulders bowed, Cabell
looked lost, ludicrous.

A smile escaped James, but he disowned it at once, hastened to push
his father's chair up and force the old man into it.  "This is all
very painful for us both," he said, "but I'm sure you'll agree that
the times have changed.  The country is becoming civilized.
Violence is archaic.  Your action against Larry excited some
extremely disagreeable publicity.  Some low Labour papers in
Brisbane and Sydney make a practice of writing about you in the
most exaggerated terms.  Nobody with any sense would pay attention
to such drivel, of course, but for the sake of your good name I've
decided to make a gesture."

The old man ran his hand over his face and rubbed his eye, as
though he hoped to awaken himself from a bad dream.

"As you are aware," the wooden, didactic voice of James droned on
and on, "some foolish idealists who were defeated in the strike of
Ninety-one went to Paraguay and set up a so-called Utopian colony
there.  Needless to say it failed, and although they brought their
sufferings on themselves, these newspaper fellows have made a
pathetic story of it and attempted to misrepresent your part in
locking up the land.  It would be more than a reply if we were to
divide up, say, fifty thousand acres of good agricultural land and
offer it to be settled by the men who say that they struck against
you because you had grabbed their land from them and that you
turned Larry out for taking their part."

"Give land away?  My land?"

"It's very simple," James said.  "I've asked the Government to send
a surveyor to cut the land up into blocks.  Then we'll invite the
men to take up selections and call the settlement the Derek Cabell
Memorial Settlement.  It would be heard of throughout the Empire."

Cabell got a grip on words again.  "You fathead, James.  D'you
think I'd give a unionist the value of a scabby sheep!"

"On second thoughts I'm sure you'll agree that it would be a very
good scheme, Father.  We'll talk about it another time.  And that
reminds me--sheep . . ."

"You'll not say another word or I'll . . ."  He felt over the empty
table.  "Anyhow, you'll not say another word.  And what about
sheep?"

"That's a trifle.  I had a government expert up to look over the
pastures and he agrees the country is wasted on sheep.  The fine
grasses are all eaten out and . . . in short, I propose that we put
the studs up for auction and get rid of the rest of the stock and
try out what we can do breeding horses and stud cattle.  Of course
we wouldn't need all the land.  We could sell some perhaps.  But
that's another thing to discuss later.  Sometime I'd like to have a
word with you about the new house, too.  I don't ask anything for
myself, Father, but one has to think of Julia.  She's giving up a
lot to let me stay here and carry on your work.  Oh, I'm not
saying that to ask for any special thanks from you.  It's only
my duty . . ."

The old man listened to the toneless, wooden, eloquent, righteous
voice.  It stopped at last and he raised his face to James and
whispered confidentially, "I wish I could see for a minute, James.
Just for one short minute.  I'D CHOKE YOU."

James looked down at his father's blind eye.  It did not look
blind, flashing up into his with a concentration of all the room's
light.  Inwardly, for a minute, he shuddered at the memory of the
power that was in that eye once.  Broken by the breadth of a pin's
point--but broken for ever!  He shook his head compassionately.
Poor Father.  Poor old Dad.  He put a hand out to press the fist
lying on the table, but thought better of it, sighed, and left the
room.



CHAPTER SIX: HUSBAND AND WIFE


Needless to say these things were not done all at once, but time
was on James's side.  The old man was like the great ant-eaten tree
which has ridden gales for a century, stunting everything that
grows in its shade, sucking all the blood of the earth to itself
with its long, greedy roots till one night comes a little wind
which hits it just in the right place and down it goes, and
everybody sees with wonder how frail a tree it really was.

Having delivered his ultimatum James was alarmed at his own
temerity.  Surely that shattered stump of a giant would put forth
new limbs, new choking and ineradicable roots.  The old man stayed
in his room for a week, taking his tray of food from Ah Lung at the
door.  One night as James was walking along the veranda, wondering
nervously what schemes the old man was hatching in his dark lair,
he heard the harsh, ugly, ridiculous and most moving of all sounds,
a man crying.  He stopped, unable to believe his ears, then tiptoed
to the door and listened.  Yes, his father was crying.

He opened the door and entered, struck a match.  The old man was
sitting on his bunk with his elbows on his knees and his chin in
his hands, his face twisted in that funny grimace which makes grief
seem most terrible.  Around him on the dirty and rumpled bed-
clothes Harriet's jewels were scattered.  In the brief splutter of
the match they sparkled with cold, hectic gaiety, repudiating the
old man's sorrow and his effort to draw from them some warm comfort
of memory, some odour of the personality they had decorated.  They
were like pitiless eyes turning from the boredom of his tale with
coquettish interest in a new-comer, like an old man's weary and
derisive whores.

James's first emotion was of jealousy, then of Spartan disgust at
the sight of a man's beard wet with tears and a face which had
seemed dead to feeling so helplessly contorted by its grief, and
then amazement at the discovery that all these days his father had
not been gathering his forces for a struggle but brooding
childishly--like an old woman rather than a man, James thought--
over these bits of jewellery.

"Come now, Father," James said, "what's the matter?"  He had to
repeat it several times and shake him before the old man noticed
that he was in the room.  But he paid no attention nor tried to
control himself, his broken manliness for the moment without shame.

A second match showed James the unexpected meagreness of his half-
naked body, the ribs sticking through the white skin, the chest
fallen in, the arms withered to the bone, and all the irrecoverable
wastage of age; but what most astounded his mighty awe of his
father was the realization that he, who kept little grudges burning
for years, had forgiven Harriet.  James took after his father in
that; his heart was a storehouse of unforgotten injuries, too, and
he felt that forgiveness was a more convincing sign of weakness in
a man than even tears.  James began to believe what he had been
telling himself for weeks, that the old man's will was dying.

Cabell was about the house again in two or three days, as crapulous
and combative as ever, but his voice sent cold shivers of
apprehension down James's spine no more.  With the aid of new
managers and new spies, among whom Goggs quickly insinuated himself
into a high place, he set to work on his plans for reorganizing his
father's affairs, hardly bothering to explain what he did but, when
he became too obstreperous, letting the old man taste his impotence
in an attempt to make men who took their cue from James and were no
longer in awe of him do as he wished.  Furiously then Cabell,
guided by Sambo, the only faithful one, rode about the station
cursing at overseers who listened and said, "I'll ask Mr James
about it," enjoying his futile shinnanikan after going in terror of
his name for so many years, till he wore himself out and returned,
with voice frayed and palms torn where the nails of his clenched
fists had cut into the flesh, to sulk a week out in his room.  Hard
times they were for Sambo, who went back to punish them with his
own enfeebled fists for the grins Cabell could not see.

At the end of a year the valley had changed again.  Surveyors cut
up the lush river flats.  The old shearers of Ninety-one came and
listened suspiciously to James, winked at each other, and went away
baffled.  "A catch in it somewhere," they opined.  But some of them
returned, the settlement filled, humpies and fences went up, corn
and cotton and fruit plantations patched the grey landscape with
alien colour.  The O'Connors built a store, Mr Tomlinson, with
James's help, a church and later a parsonage where Miss Montaulk
became his housekeeper.  Goggs, genuine old Ninety-oner, borrowed
money from James and opened a pub, borrowed more and lent it at
interest till he had half the struggling poor devils in his
clutches.  But that was still in the future.  For the moment James
contemplated his work with a glowing sense of feudal largess,
strutted among his tenants like a true country gentleman, and
delivered bad advice about experimental agriculture.

Then there was Larry, freed after two years in prison and married
to the daughter of Berry, not perhaps a very creditable connexion,
as Berry was one of these Labour fellows who had got into
parliament somehow and kept alive the fiction that the pioneers of
This Great Free Land of Ours were men of the basest, mercenary
motive, to illustrate which, James was annoyed to see, his father's
name was still often cited.  But it might have been worse with
Larry, who had shown an inclination, on leaving jail, to tramp
around the country in the lowest kind of company, refusing all
James's offers to send him to America and pay him a remittance as
long as he stayed there, until Berry found him and took him home.
A less upright man than James would then have washed his hands of
Larry, but he saw, in drafting Cabell's will, that Larry was not
forgotten.  "Nobody shall say I did my brother out of what he had a
right to expect."

Cabell's opposition flared and died, flared and died, becoming
weaker and weaker, but he had one victory.  James did not succeed
in pulling down the weather-beaten old homestead, in the fusty
darkness of which he, like his father, felt the ghosts scuttle from
a room as he entered it, leaving the air vibrant with their
passing.  James almost saw the hem of his mother's dress swish
round the end of the passage, her sad face staring from the little
windows, almost heard the lisping patter of her feet on the kitchen
flags.  Here, still alarmingly, the past spoke to him.  The place
smelt of rot, decay, and death.  Its beams crumbled at a touch, and
James had fantastic moments of forgetting about white ants and
imagining that the walls were saturated with some evil virus
distilled from the deeds done here, a virus transmitted into his
own blood and bones perhaps, he thought, because he was never able
to forget what Cash had told him.  He wanted to burn the place
down, scarify with flames the earth on which it stood, dank and
infested with fungoids and sickly grass.  He sent to England for
photographs of Owerbury House, had architects design a mansion in
the same style, only bigger, to crown the slope, engaged builders,
and prepared to move into the homestead at McFarlane's till the new
house was ready.  Cabell listened to his plans without comment, but
at the last moment, when the coach was ready to carry them across
the valley, he rebelled.  If they wanted to burn the house down let
them, but they'd burn him in it.  They could rob him of his money
but they weren't going to build a prison for him.  He was less
lonely with his ghosts than he would be in the new life James was
bringing to the Reach, new snooty servants, gentlemen jackeroos,
chattering hordes of "society jackanapes" who had begun to visit
Julia.  Short of carrying him to the coach, with the hands and
servants looking on, there was nothing James could do, except smile
compassionately, crack his knuckles, and say, "Why, of course,
Father, it's just as you wish.  I thought you'd be more
comfortable, that's all."  So the luggage was unloaded and they
came back into the house, its floors bereft of covering, its walls
of the books and pictures and bric-a-brac James had brought from
England, more repulsively hostile than ever.  James could not
stomach it, so he cleared away the garden on one side and built a
new wing, temporarily he promised Julia.  Surely time was on his
side.  Time would burn the old house, purge the haunted air,
sweeten the smell of the past, and even, at last, bury that foul
parody of a father that the other, nobler father might shine before
men.

"If you're depending on him to die we'll be in this cowshed of a
place for the next fifteen years," Julia said.  Julia's voice was a
sustained, shrill, metallic vibration of nerves screwed down as
tight as piano wires.  Her astringent elegance was turning to sharp
points of bone, her wit to a waspish, spinsterish exasperation, her
insouciance to a dead formalism of smiles, words, and gestures
which covered her personality as frost covers a lovely flower.  She
was still beautiful--or rather one felt that there was beauty
somewhere under the hardened face, the beauty rusting from a
musical instrument which no one any longer tries to play.  Looking
at herself in the mirror she saw the epitome of her desolation in
the spectacle of her body withering and fading from the beautiful
clothes which once had husked it as harmoniously as the orange-skin
the orange.  When she compared the two Julias, the one which
belonged to these dresses, the one which belonged to them less and
less, she sometimes wept a little.

"Good heavens," James said, "of course I'm not depending on him to
die.  What an idea!"

"What CANT."

James put his chin up and looked at her along the knife-edge of his
nose.  "I suppose I can hardly expect you to feel a jot for my
father when you showed so little feeling for your own poor mother."
He eyed the dress of powder-blue foulard she was wearing and
glanced at the band of black crape on his own arm.

A few months before Aurelia had fallen down the steps of a house in
Rome and ended a last fling.  James had received reports of her
junketings with horror, but as soon as the news of her death
arrived he stretched his face, went into mourning, bought a stock
of black-edged note-paper, and advertised the sad event in all the
papers:


At the Villa D'Este, Rome, on 15 March, 1897, Aurelia Considine
(widow of the late Martin Augustus Considine, brother of Sir Josiah
Considine, of the Oaks, near Fairlight, Sussex), and mother of
Julia (Mrs James Cabell).

                A gracious friend from us is gone,
                A voice we loved is dead.

          Inserted by her loving Daughter and Son-in-Law.


Julia's mirth was obscene and rather desperate.  She got out her
brightest clothes and wore them, flung anecdotes of her mother's
most purple passages at him.  He was coldly amazed.  "Have you no
respect for the dead, even if you had no love for the living?"

Now she said, because she knew that nothing got through the wood so
painfully, "You're a prize humbug and hypocrite."

A retort, hot and sour like bile, came up his throat, but he
swallowed it.

James was not a hypocrite.  The suspicion of it would never torment
a hypocrite as it tormented James.  Which was the truth in him--
this grave, equable, gentlemanly fellow whom everybody respected,
whose aspirations were lofty, thoughts moral, and habits exemplary;
or those dancing mad devils which made a witches' sabbath of his
nights?  If he was a hypocrite, the truth in him was this ugly
thing which had come to him, he believed, from the past, from his
mother the convict and that evil old man who had usurped his
father's name.  No, that could not be true.  He denied his devils:
they didn't exist.  He denied his hatred and resentment against the
old man on the veranda.  He denied his unaccomplished desire.  He
denied the past: it was all a lie.  Feverishly he clung to the
forms and conventions of gentlemanliness, correct behaviour,
respectable feeling, as interpreted at the heart of civilization.

Here, on the edge of outer darkness, where devils breathed their
native air, a starched shirt at the dinner-table was more than a
starched shirt--a buckler behind which you fought for your soul.  A
gentleman could afford to walk down Piccadilly unshaven or, in the
unimpeachable purity of a Carlton Terrace Club, dispute the
opinions in a Times leading article, but put him in the middle of
darkest Africa and he would sweat and suffer in the proper clothes
at dinner each evening and become furiously Anglophile . . . or go
to the dogs.  So James, among horse-trainers and cattle-buyers,
constantly reminded by his father of the changes bush life could
work in a man, became, like Dr Barnett's father and many another
colonial, more English than the English.  But below this façade,
what wretchedness, what confusion!

Flanagan wrote to him saying that he would not be able to pay the
money he owed Cabell, for which a bill was falling due within a
month or two, and suggesting that James should call and see him
next time he was in Brisbane.

James went--oh, no, not in any spirit of revenge, not with hardened
heart.  Why should he feel that way?  Flanagan had given him good
advice, he had followed it, and he was very glad he had followed it--
for to-day he was in a position to send Flanagan a message telling
him to present himself at James's hotel within an hour and Flanagan
would have to come.  He could tell Flanagan that the bill must be
met; he could sell Flanagan's house over his head.  What would
become of Flanagan then?  And what would become of Jennis and of
her husband, Doug Peppiott, who, as everybody knew, lived on the
thin bounty of Flanagan and his father, both deeply entangled since
the crisis of Ninety-three had brought them together?  And what
would be left of Mrs Bowen's fussy pride if he cared to pay her
back for the things she had said to him in the drawing-room that
day?  If . . . but of course such an ignoble idea would never cross
his mind.

As he entered Flanagan's study and remembered, with the clarity of
his life's sharpest experience, what had happened in this room nine
years ago the idea did more than cross his mind: it possessed him
in a convulsion of loathing for the fat, crafty face beaming up
from the depths of an armchair.

"Jimmy, me boy, me boy!" Flanagan cried with a joviality all the
more patently hollow because he was laid out by a gouty foot.
"Och!  Ugh!  Ow!" he interrupted his blandishing welcome, turning
up the whites of his eyes with pain.  "It's the devil of a thing to
be old, Jimmy.  Me sins are finding me out."

James said, in his woodenest voice, that he was sorry.

"There now, waste no words on the shell of a man but sit down close
and tell me about yeself.  It's mighty wrong in ye not giving your
friends a sight of ye before this."

"I've been busy," James said unresponsively.  "You wished to see
me, I believe?"

"Sure and I wished to see ye.  Aren't I telling ye the sight of
ye's worth pounds of physic.  Ah, Jimmy, Jimmy, it was a sad day
for me when your da cut the silken threads which bound ye to this
house."

"I believe you wanted to talk business with me," James insisted.

Flanagan abandoned poetry for base matters with another smile,
bravely distilled from his agony.  "That's generous of ye, Jimmy,
saying that, because it's ye that have the right to all the
talking."

"I received your letter of the fourteenth instant," James said,
"intimating that you would be unable to meet your obligations to my
father."

"That's a fact, and I blush to confess it, even to an old friend
like you."

"I believe the sum is thirty thousand pounds, plus current
interest, which you owe him?"

"That's the sum right enough.  But of course it's only a manner of
speaking to say that I owe it."

"I think the bill has your name on it?"

"Sure, sure, but what's Michael Flanagan, Jimmy?  Behold the man.
A breathing corpse, a crayture nearly delivered from the cares of
the world and responsibility for mortgages and bills of sale.  It
isn't him owes ye that thirty thousand, me boy, it's his poor,
innocent, helpless granddaughter that must turn in the bloom of her
young womanhood and pay for the mistakes and extravagances of her
grandfather."  He shook his sly old head.  "Ye can imagine the
weight of it on me conscience, leaving that child at the mercy of
heartless creditors.  Och now, don't take offence.  I'm not calling
ye a Shylock or nothing, but it sends cold shivers up me when I
think what could be done to her according to the strict letter of
the pitiless law."

James stared into the garden, defending himself behind the memory
of the day he sat in this very spot, perhaps this very chair.
"Have you anything to suggest?" he said, unwilling yet to decide
whether he would punish Flanagan with magnanimity or a writ of
attachment.

"What would I be suggesting to you?" Flanagan said humbly.
"Whatever ye say I'll thank ye for with a gratitude that will echo
through every heart in me house and make us your devoted slaves for
ever."

"Why should it be something you'd thank me for?" James snapped.

Flanagan became busy with his mummified foot and pretended not to
hear.  When the corners of James's mouth relaxed and the dangerous
moment seemed past, he stopped blowing and panting and said, "But
of course I wouldn't see ye letting yourself in for any
unbusinesslike arrangement out of your generosity.  What say we
renew the bill for another five years?"

James was still enjoying the Jovian pleasure of balancing
Flanagan's fate, but the bland impudence with which Flanagan
arranged the affair took all the sting out of magnanimity.  In a
pique, he said, "I'm afraid that wouldn't be satisfactory."

"No?"

"Thirty thousand pounds is a lot of money, Sir Michael, and this is
a time when one can make good use of it."

"Jimmy!  Jimmy!" Flanagan cried in dismay.  "Have I got the gout in
me foot or me ear that I hear ye say your money would be better
used than in saving a poor orphan girl that you once had a soft
spot for from destitution?"

"This is a matter of business, Sir Michael.  I wish you wouldn't
try to confuse the issue."

"Sure," said Sir Michael tearfully, "business is business and the
soft feelings of the heart are another thing to be kept in a
different compartment, but woe the day that I hear young Jimmy
Cabell saying it."

"You gave me my first lesson in keeping them apart," James said,
then bit his lip.

Flanagan was on to him like a weasel.  "Then it's not only business
makes ye so hard?  Ye think ye've got something to pay me back
for?"

"Certainly not.  Why should I?"

"Ye think I let ye down the day ye came to see me here?"

James laughed.  "Good heavens, I'd forgotten about it--almost."  He
felt that this did not ring quite true, so he added loftily, "A lot
of water has passed under the bridge since then.  I married, and
er . . . a charming girl, and er . . ."  He floundered, and at last
had to dispose of the charge by saying, "Anyway, the decision rests
with my father.  I'm only his agent."

"Ah, but ye can do a lot, Jimmy, for the sake of old times."

James rose.  "I'll do what I can.  I'll tell him what you say and
communicate with you later."

Flanagan struggled out of his chair.  He had yet another card to
play.  Tapping the floor loudly with his stick he hobbled across to
James.  James was backing to the door but Flanagan hung on his arm.
"I'll come and see ye off.  Easy now, me boy.  Ouch, a bit slower.
I'm not as spry as . . ."

A knock on the door leading to the next room halted him.  "Who is
it now?  Come in."

The door opened slowly to a smell of violets, and Jennis poised on
the threshold with a slow, soft coo of surprise.

"Och," Flanagan said severely, "didn't ye know I was busy, didn't
ye?"

Half-smiling recognition, half-confused, she started to withdraw,
but Flanagan said, "Come in now ye're here, and give an old friend
your greeting."

She stepped close to them and offered her hand, and James felt
again the full, soft, fleshy weight of it against his palm as a
revelation of her body's nakedness.  He dropped it quickly, and all
the studious self-possession went from him, leaving him embarrassed
and incoherent as her dreamily speculative eyes searched his face
and asked, he imagined, why he had delivered such swashbuckling
speeches, then run away.  He was annoyed with them both and wanted
to escape, but could not find the formula which would get him
through the door.  With relief he saw the fatuous smile with which
Flanagan looked from face to face turning into words, but it seemed
an interminable time before Flanagan said, "Have ye lost your
tongue, Jenny?  Ye bellyache because he never comes to see ye and
when he does ye've got nothing to say."

"Grandfather!"

"Ye little witch, I'll tell on ye."  He pinched her cheek and
laughed, then pretended to be shocked at himself, "Here, what am I
saying?  Me mind's wandering.  Forgive a sentimental old fool,
children.  Seeing ye together just brought back the drame of me
life."

"I came to ask if you wanted tea?" she said.

"No, no.  Take Jimmy along with ye.  I don't want no tay."

Her eyes melted into James's.  "I was going to ask him."

He heard himself saying, "Really, no, really.  You must excuse me.
I'm due back in town.  I'm late."

Only when he was out on the street, fuming, "It was all arranged.
It was all a trick.  He tapped his stick to bring her in," did the
image of her begin to burn clearly on his senses--the ripe maturity
of her body which mothering two children had brought to the
fullness of its weighted perfection, the soft flesh of her arms
peeping through slashed sleeves, her lusciously half-open mouth,
the tender sing-song of her lazy voice, and her eyes more
provocative than ever with a woman's happy knowledge in place of
the old wonder and discontent.  He rubbed the palm of his right
hand vigorously against his coat and hurried on.  People called to
him across the busy pavements and waved, but he hung his head and
pretended not to notice.  He wanted to get back into his room and
shut the door.  He felt that something was working to pieces in him
and some unpleasant expression coming out on his face which they
would see if he stopped and let them look.  A ridiculous fancy, but
when he reached his suite in the Royal he could not make himself go
to the mirror.  He opened the window and stood in the cool breeze
from the river, breathing deeply.  Gradually the sweat dried in
elastic bands round his jaw and he went across to the dressing-
table and looked.  What he saw was only the pale, melancholy face
he was used to, of course, so pale that the tight cap of black hair
was like a wig over it.  He sniffed at his folly; but as he gazed
the face in the glass became slowly unfamiliar, unreal.  For the
first time, studying it with the eyes of nine years ago which that
afternoon had reopened, he saw that youth had gone from it.  He saw
the unhealthy blotches round the eyes, the hollows under the cheek-
bones which only yesterday it seemed were full, the hair thinning
from the temples, and the dyspeptic wrinkles at the end of the
mouth.  He returned to the window and sat down in the arm-chair
frowning.  Again, vividly, he felt the heavy, boneless hand on his
palm.  He took up the morning's paper and tried to read but the
words would not come together.  "It was a trick," he said aloud
angrily, but he felt no anger, only a sharper stimulation, and then
he was looking out across the roofs of the town towards Frogs'
Hollow with his heart swelling across his chest, so that he could
hardly breathe.  "This is appalling.  I must be going off my head."
He pulled the blind down and turned on the light and forced himself
to write a long, technical letter to a horse-trainer who was
preparing Cabell's Pride for the coming Sydney Cup meeting.

Then it was time for dinner.  He took a bath, dressed, and went
downstairs.  The dining-room was nearly empty.  His quick glance
around counted five women, four waitresses and a woman sitting
alone at a table.  After a second or two he realized that there
were seven or eight men at the tables, some of whom had looked up
and nodded as he entered.  He tried to concentrate his attention on
the men, but the women stood out of the picture as though a
spotlight was on them, on their swaying hips, their necks, their
mouths.  While he was staring at the woman eating, she looked up at
him and smiled.  His heart bolted, his breath caught before he
realized that she was a woman whose husband he knew and that she
was merely smiling recognition.  In the anticlimax his heart
contracted to a little, cold ball against his ribs.  He ordered a
quick dinner, ate it quickly and tastelessly, and went back to his
room.

There were yellow pools of light around the street lamps and the
shops now.  He stood at the window again, looking across to Frogs'
Hollow, thinking of the stories he had heard, thinking, thinking,
thinking, while the blood beat into his temples and drew a tight
band around his brain.  "It's appalling.  You must be off your
head," but on the other side of his mind he argued, "It's not
natural--the way I live.  A man's a man.  Others have gone there,
not hooligans like Geoffrey.  The very best people kept mistresses.
Look at Lord Blackenridge and the Earl of Coverdale.  Nobody
thought any worse of them.  Wellington, too.  Some of the women are
quite ladylike."

He put on his hat and coat and went downstairs again.  As he passed
the corner he looked across the dark wastes of Edward Street which
led towards the river and Frogs' Hollow, turned and stepped out
briskly for his club.  In the smoking-room he found a man who
wanted to talk about the acceptances for the Sydney Cup, and James
clung to him long after the subject was exhausted, repeating over
and over the genealogy of Cabell's Pride and the history of its
sire's achievements in England till the man stared, then yawned,
and at last dozed.  James left him reluctantly.  Ten o'clock.  Soon
he could go to bed, sleep, and in the morning catch the first train
home.  Work--that was what he needed, work.  He compressed his lips
and wandered into the billiard-room.  An absorbing game of Russian
pool excluded him.  Glancing into the bar he saw Jeffers, a lawyer,
one of the men he had dealt with for his father, a bawdy fellow
who . . .  "My God he knows those places.  He's always making up
parties."  He withdrew in a hurry and went on to the library, where
he read the English papers mindlessly for an hour, trying to
visualize names and places and recover the feeling of his spiritual
fellowship with that untarnished world, but the feeling would not
come and his efforts to evoke it ended in a sense of disillusion,
of vapidity.  As he passed the bar on his way along the hall to get
his hat he heard the rich burst of men's laughter.  He paused at
the door again, breathing the male smells of whisky and cigars, but
the faces at the bar, glancing up from Jeffers's lewd histrionics,
held off an uninitiate, a notorious prude.  He was furious because
he felt snubbed and for the moment could marshal no pride against
them.

A hansom was waiting at the kerb, but he waved the cabman off and
started slowly towards Queen Street with his coattails flapping in
the wind.  It was a hot wind now, blowing from inland.  "I can't
sleep in this.  I'll take a walk to the river first," and his heart
commenced to pop again; but he passed two riverward side streets
before he plunged, after a quick glance back along the lighted
thoroughfare, into the darkness.  "Hypocrite," he sneered but did
not hear himself.  Unconsciously he hurried now, between the high
walls of warehouses and decayed remnants of the old town, lop-sided
little buildings so shrunken and twisted that light shone out
through the walls.  For a while he lost his way in the unfamiliar
terrain and the darkness smelling of rubber and tar and stale
horsedung and the unaired miasma of slums, saw a light at the end
of the labyrinth of galvanized-iron fences at last, and hastened
towards it.

He hastened with the inert, dizzy compulsion of a straw in a
cataract, unaware of his pistoning legs, towards the stirring scent
of joss sticks and the sound of a woman singing at a piano.
Suddenly he was out in the light with women all about him.  They
sat on the kerb, on the steps of the houses, or lounged against
veranda posts, their kimonos billowing open in the wind.  The light
was hazy, filtered through red window blinds, but he felt, with
their languid curiosity on him, that it was broad daylight.  Above
the noise of voices bandied to and fro across the street, some men
quarrelling with a woman around a distant lamp-post, a drunken
sailor singing, a burst of Chinese gabble from a door which opened
surprisingly upon the plush interior of an apparently deserted shed
and shut again at once, he heard girls calling, "Hallo, dearie.
Looking for someone?  Won't I do?"  But he did not understand yet
that they were speaking to him.  He stood with one foot in the lane
and one in the street orientating himself and recovering from the
shock of finding how blatantly these things were done, three
hundred yards from the quiet respectability of Queen Street.  This
was not at all what he had expected.  Now he did not know what he
had expected, and in the quick moral revulsion from the publicity
and sordidness of the street tried to deny that he had expected
anything at all.  "What a cesspool.  Right in the middle of town
where a man stumbles on it walking to the river!"

A girl detached herself from a post and came across the footpath.
"Hallo, dearie.  Looking for me?"  Her kohled and carmined
caricature of beauty, which reminded him of someone he knew,
breathed stale powder and stale booze into his face.

He drew back sharply.

"I'm not going to bite you, old codger," she said.  "I thought you
was looking for a friend.  Lost your way, have you?"

"Yes," he said severely.

"That's the way back to Queen Street if that's what you want."  She
pointed up the street between the lines of kimonos.

He peeped around the corner at the gauntlet he would have to run,
then spun about and careered down the lane, back through the tar
and dung-smelling darkness which tasted like the water of a
stagnant pool befouling him as he rushed through it.  He pulled
himself back into the shadows as he was about to re-enter the
street leading to the club.  Some men were passing.  He recognized
Jeffers's voice.  What if they were to see him--HIM who had always
turned up his nose at their dirty jokes and their plans for a
"night out with the girls."  He flattened against a wall and hung
there till their voices faded in the distance.

Back in the hotel he bathed once more.  The devils were under
hatches again.  His only emotion now was fear.  Would that girl
recognize him if she saw him.  He had heard stories.  Sometimes
they blackmailed you.  But acuter was the fear which came over him
as he lay on the bed thinking of what he had done, the risks he had
run, how for those five minutes no considerations of propriety,
morality, or honour had been able to restrain him.  He realized now
that the whole evening had been a violent struggle against the
evil, ugly thing in him, which had broken his will like a match-
stick at last and scattered the careful poses of nine years.  Was
it so strong?  "Well, nothing happened," he tried to console
himself, but it was no consolation to discover on what a volcano he
lived.  In the early hours he dropped off to sleep and dreamt that
he was walking down endless corridors with Miss Montaulk.  She kept
saying something which annoyed him until he hit her savagely across
the cheek.  Afterwards he was trying to wash some filth off his
hand--the paint from Miss Montaulk's face.  Then it wasn't paint at
all, he saw, but his own dark skin . . .

He awoke with a depressing sense of guilt which sent him back to
the Reach determined to be mild and long-suffering with Julia in
future and to devote himself more strenuously to uplifting work.
He was mild, he was equable, as he had the strength to be, yet
every effort he made only increased the ferment in his mind and the
tension between Julia and himself.  He felt, as he watched himself
staring back into her mocking eyes and cracking his knuckles behind
his back, that a climax was maturing, and he looked away quickly,
not wishing to see what it might be.  Desire surged up again, he
forced it back, it curdled into hate.  But the struggle was wearing
him down, the struggle not only against the act of taking Julia by
the proffered throat and shaking the insolence out of her, against
the impulse to kick the old beast on the veranda who disgraced him
to his visitors, but also the struggle to support the fiction of
contented matrimony and filial pride which was his façade to the
world and to himself.  His hate was like a hot stone he juggled in
his hands because he had nowhere to throw it.

Flanagan, uneasy at his long silence, wrote offering to discuss a
compromise on his proposal if James would call again.  Gout, he
said, still held him.  Panicky, James replied that he could not
leave the Reach.  Flanagan could have the money for another five
years.  He would rather Flanagan kept it than run the risk of
seeing once more what he had lost.

But that was not to be evaded.  It was all around him.  Every time
he heard the stockmen laughing with the maids in the dairy or at
the kitchen door of a Sunday afternoon he became irritable, and
afterwards was humiliated.  He forbade the stockmen to come into
the yard, found fault with the maids till they turned up their
noses and left.  It was better when the agency refused to send any
more girls and they had to have Chinamen again.  From the dark
orange-grove came no more unsettling warm laughter on moonlight
nights.

The year dragged on and the time came for him to go south for the
Sydney Cup, his first big race.  He packed with relief at escaping
for a while from the strain of keeping up pretences against Julia's
perpetual nagging and the senile but persisting old brute on the
veranda.

But Julia announced that she would go with him.  No use arguing.
"I wouldn't miss old Crowbait for the world."

"Don't you think that joke's a little threadbare by now?"

"No, I think it's one of the best jokes I've heard, your paying a
thousand guineas for that horse because old Lord Thingumajig put
his arm around your shoulder and called you his dear James."

"That's utter rubbish.  I bought the horse from his agent.  It has
won races, anyway, hasn't it?  Father's forgotten what a good horse
looks like."

How badly he wanted the horse to win, not for the sake of the
horse, not for the glory, not even for the pleasure it would be to
come home and crow over his father, but for the same reason which
made him stay out on the run and eat in a stockman's hut rather
than face Julia across the table when she was in a bad mood.
Inside him there was a big sore just waiting for a touch to burst.
He was afraid of the bursting, afraid of the corruption he would
see.

But, despite Julia, he began to enjoy himself as soon as he set
foot in Sydney and the excitement of a big race meeting obscured
his troubles.  There was a dinner at Government House, an aide who
remembered meeting him with Lord Salisbury at Ascot, an Americo-
Italian Marchesa who put herself under his protection on the
racecourse because he was the "first real gen'leman" she'd met in
the Antipodes.

On the afternoon of the big day he was at the stalls looking over a
horse with a number of his friends, including the Marchesa, when a
young man with a happy mouth and a pair of sloe eyes twinkling in a
face faintly coffee-stained touched him on the shoulder and said,
"You're James Cabell, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"Put it there.  I'm your cousin, Rab Surface."

James looked at the checks on the waistcoat, the grey derby over
one ear, the dark complexion, and pressed the man's hand furtively
as though he was taking a tip out of it.

The Marchesa got out her lorgnette, turned it on the young man, on
James.  The shape and colour of their eyes, the silky blackness of
their hair agreed.

"Not thinking of buying this nag?" the young man said.

"What's wrong with it?" said the owner, who could almost feel
James's money in his pocket.

"Too much bone," the young man said.

"I'm not selling it for sausage meat," the owner snapped, and they
laughed.

"What's that?" the Marchesa demanded.  "What?  What?"

"Mr Surface is our leading family butcher," somebody explained and
laughed again alone while every one copied James and examined the
horse intently.

The young man became aware of their backs.  Only the Marchesa
continued to look at him, entomologically through her glasses.  "My
dad owned the mare, you see," he explained.  "She cracked up on him
after five starts.  You don't like to see one of the family rooked,
do you?  I wouldn't buy it for the cart."

It was a parting shot as he rejoined his friends.  As his loud,
good-natured laugh dissolved into the crowd they heard him say,
"Oh, my cousin.  Too much of a toff to . . ."

James made a point of buying the horse, off-hand, grandly, but when
they got back to the paddock the Marchesa spotted someone she knew
and that was the last James saw of her.

Oh, HOW badly he wanted to win the race, but Cabell's Pride was not
even placed.  "Unless you count from the other end," Julia said.

The exasperation of a wretched day, of wretched months, coruscated
around this harmless remark.  Back in the hotel, before she had
time to remove her gloves, he pounced.  "You're pleased, aren't
you?  You've got no pride, no loyalty."

"You should try the other branch of the family," she said.  "They
seem loyal enough."

He tried to get away from her.  Again he felt things working to
pieces inside, the strange disarticulation of his face as though a
mask was slipping off it.

"They might even buy Crowbait from you--for the cart."  She leant
against the head of the lounge offering him her cheek.

A shocking thing happened.  James slapped the cheek, and finding a
delight in doing so, a sudden freedom around the heart as though
his too constricted chest had burst, slapped a brisk one-two on
both cheeks.  It was the most passionate contact they had ever had.

Julia flopped on to the lounge, her face red, her eyes shining with
pain, her features loosened around an expression of drunken
astonishment.  His blows had broken the glassy surface of her
elegance: her hat hung over one ear, her hair was coming down, a
tear left a little snail's track of silver along the side of her
nose.  She looked, all at once, miserably unhappy and defenceless
as her lips trembled, her nose puckered up, and she began to
blubber.

"My God!  Julia!" James cried, stricken by pity and tenderness at
the sight.  He sat down beside her and put his arm around her
shoulders.  He could hear his heart, like somebody walking on the
carpeted floor overhead.  Each beat was like a stone dropping into
the pool of his blood and sending wave after wave of warmth against
his skin.  Then he was conscious of nothing except his compassion
for her tears.

She stopped blubbering and looked at him, not as she usually
looked, through half-closed eyes, but through very wide and
frightened eyes, with one hand pressing against his chest . . .

Afterwards, when she sat on the lounge smoothing the creases out of
her dress, her hair down, her hat crushed under the cushions, her
still-gloved hands adding the last touch of bizarre abandon to the
scene, he could not believe that it had happened.

He sought in his chaotic mind for some formula of explanation or
apology that would exonerate him, but found only an unspeakable
self-disgust.  What a vile thing!  What a vile feeling of brutal
joy!  It had overwhelmed him in a second as it did that night in
Frogs' Hollow.  As though to show the measure of this madness the
door, carelessly half-shut, came slowly open in the draught.  He
had not even thought whether it was locked or not!

Instinctively he turned to the mirror over the mantelshelf to
straighten his tie and pat his hair into place, and the pale,
melancholy, worried faced rising from the tall collar, the
beautiful frock-coat out of Bond Street mouthed at him, "You
hypocrite!"

But feeling his collar tight around his neck again, the weight of
the coat on his shoulders, he began to regain control of himself,
as though the knowledge that those clothes, those accoutrements of
a gentleman, were his, reinforced him.  "I'm sorry," he said, with
frigid politeness, apologizing for a minor breach of good manners.

Julia looping her hair up, smiled.  It was the kind of smile he had
often thought of her smiling if she knew what he had done in Frogs'
Hollow.  No reply was possible except to leave the room pretending
that he was not sneaking away . . .

Of course, after this he was more wooden than ever . . . for a
while.  But the devils in both of them had learnt a dangerous
lesson.  They were to repeat the scene with many variations before
reaction completed the petrifaction of James and led Julia on to
whatever was the next stage in the dissolution of her elegant
sensibilities.

Each of these backslidings--bouts of fever, as he thought of them,
from an inherited virus--one may detect by the refreshed vigour
with which James crusaded his father's good name.  Returning from
the Sydney Cup of Ninety-eight he inaugurated the Foundation Day
ceremonies of 23 February, the anniversary of Cabell's arrival in
the valley.  He built a marble obelisk at the ford where Sambo said
the landtakers had crossed their sheep and cattle and "had a swig."
A brass plate at the base of the obelisk said:


                           DEREK CABELL
            (of Owerbury Court, Owerbury, Dorset, Eng.)
                   And His Five Gallant Comrades
        Here Completed Their Arduous Trek From Moreton Bay
              And Opened New Lands to the Heritage of
                        The British People
                                on
                         23 February, 1847


On 23 February each year the school-children from the Derek Cabell
Memorial Settlement marched to the obelisk and heard James deliver
an oration on Our Legacy of The Pioneers:


CHILDREN,--We have met here to honour the names of Great Men and in
particular One Great Man, my Father, who fifty-two years ago today
drove his small flocks across this river and suffered loneliness
and hunger that you and I might live in This Great Land of Ours and
enjoy its fruits.  His achievement was all the greater because his
birth and training had not prepared him for such hardships.  He
came of a family which had sent its sons for generations to the
Church and the Army, where many of them had made the name of Cabell
famous in the Homeland.  One of his brothers was a Colonel of
Hussars and another was a bishop.  If Derek Cabell had chosen to
follow in their footsteps there is no doubt that he would have won
distinctions for himself in England too, but he preferred to serve
his Queen and Country in another way, by spreading the light of
Civilization into the dark corners of the earth and planting The
Immortal British Traditions in the Fifth and Oldest Continent.  He
was an Empire-builder, or as Mr Joseph Chamberlain calls him, "a
Torch-bearer."  Withal he is a generous, just, and noble-hearted
man as any who have been privileged to know him intimately will
agree. . . .


The Rev. Mr Tomlinson prayed that they should remain worthy of the
heritage the pioneers had handed on to them and the children sang
"Advance Australia Fair" and "God Save the Queen" and marched away
to eat buns at James's expense.

The more touching ceremony, in which ten little girls from the
settlement school laid a wreath each year on Emma's grave, "so
prettily set among the tall, silent gums beside the river," as the
Waterfall Gazette described it, came some time later--after a
political crisis when one of the parties was depending on a by-
election in the Cabell Valley district and James helped with
liberal funds and got in return every scrap of paper which proved
that one Emma Surface had ever been a guest in Her Majesty's penal
settlements.



CHAPTER SEVEN: BEGINNING OF THE END


Unwitting of his slow but certain apotheosis the old man followed
the sun along the veranda through hours no longer apprehended.
Time was now a flicker of nights and days in his brain pausing upon
attenuated instants--images mostly irrelevant.  A smell of lilac, a
girl's taut nipples staining faintly pink her wet muslin bodice
blotted out a lifetime: or the remembered bite of water on a
parched throat, or the dry touch of land under his feet in a
swirling river, or a black ridge of gum-trees mirrored in a
winter's crystal dawn, or a horse arching its back under him, or,
as though it was yesterday not seventy-five years ago, a face
leaning tenderly down to his. . . .

The beginning of the end.

For a long time after James had finished clipping his old claws he
had brooded over the singularly ordered pattern of his life, the
pattern of a long retreating battle--from his young aspirations,
from Owerbury, from his soft English skin, from his ideals of
decency and honour, from his dream of seeing Owerbury again, from
his plans for Harriet, from his power in the world--till the one
thing left to evacuate was his body, and had demanded indignantly
that James should try to grasp the pathos of this battle which was
doomed to have only death for its fulfilment.  James replied,
soothingly, that he could be assured of an illustrious place in the
Empire's roll of honour, that he was sending a paper to the Royal
Colonial Society which would make clear what Imperialism owed to
the Australian pioneer.  In vain the old man damned the Empire,
fumbling incoherently to make James perceive that the better
colonist he had been the farther he had drifted from the little
English village he had longed for.  Oh, it wasn't the sea which lay
between them, it wasn't even Emma, it was himself, the fellow he
had become through murdering blacks, whacking the bush, fighting
men, and keeping himself afloat in a land where the law was every
one for himself and the devil take the hindmost.  "Don't you see?
Don't you understand?"  But James had tiptoed away.  He did not
encourage these distorted memoirs of senility.

The old man was left to talk with his ghosts, mutter, mutter,
mutter all day and all night.

"You treated me like a dog," Emma said.  "Don't you remember that
night?"

"I remember, woman.  But it's been all I could do keeping my own
head above water."

"Pooh, you were running after shadows."

"That's a fact--shadows.  Like a donkey after his carrot, eh?"  His
cracked laughter echoed through the empty rooms of the house which
James had deserted.  "But you had your carrot too, didn't you?  It
was Larry.  And you never caught up with it either.  He he he!  We
all had our carrots.  That's the way they keep you jogging, see?
It's as simple as falling off a log.  I discovered it once and
forgot it again.  I wanted to forget it, I wanted to live, and
living is fighting for something.  No, no, not for something,
against something, against finding out what's at the end.  D'you
understand?  It wasn't for the money, it wasn't to hurt Larry, it
wasn't to beat you--that just happened."

"Pooh.  And what did you get out of it?"

"That's a fact--nothing."

"You could have lived like a king."

"That's a fact.  I could've spent the money, eh?  I never thought
of that."

"Well, somebody else is spending it for you now."

"Yes, the squirt!  Did you see what he eats?  Oyster soup
yesterday.  That's the first oysters I've tasted for years.  And
cigars!  He brings them from America.  Two shillings each!"

"It's him who got what you slaved for," Emma said, and this time
her laughter cackled in the dusty silence of the old rooms, where
wasps nested and spiders hung their grey webs and the axe marks
flaked off the walls and showed the great slabs powdered and
honeycombed within.  "It's him who hobnobs with the lords and
ladies.  It's him who wears fine clothes.  It's him people bow and
scrape to.  Ha ha!  Where's your goldmine?  He's selling the shares
in it.  Where's your sheep you fought the crows and the dingoes
for?  He's got rid of them.  Where's the land you lost an eye over?
He's giving it away--to UNIONISTS.  Ha ha--"

"Shut your trap, woman.  I'll live to see him sweat the starch
out."

"You'll not live another year."

"I'll live to a hundred."

"Listen!  Can't you hear it nibbling?"

"That's mice."

"It's death.  It's inside your own head, eating you up a little bit
at a time while you sit there.  That's how it goes--day and night,
day and night."

"It's mice, I tell you.  See, when I make a noise it stops."

"You think it stops.  But it doesn't.  Listen!  Can't you hear it
nibbling?"

"You old witch, you get out of here.  I've had enough of your gas."

He felt his way out on to the veranda, along the rotting veranda
rail, until his foot touched the rocking-chair, and sat down.  Her
dress swished across the floor behind him, but he pretended not to
notice.  He sat on the edge of the chair with the rockers tipped up
trying to push himself through the darkness, out into the sunlight,
out into the valley; but there was nothing to grip.  The smell of
sheep was gone.  The old voices were gone.  The stockyard was gone
with its happy hullabaloo of men breaking horses, cutting out,
branding.  Even the bush silence was gone.  The clatter and buzz of
a lawnmower, the hiss of steam from the engine-house where they
generated electricity and made ice, the clerks skylarking in
James's new model store and office, telephones ringing, the pit-
pat, pit-pat of tennis balls where the orange-grove used to be,
women's voices, and James saying, "Mrs Astley, won't you try a
game?"  Mrs Astley?  Who's she?  By God, Curry's daughter in my
house!  I'll put a stop to this.

The maid brought him his cup of tea.

"Hey, you, what's the time?"

"Who're you calling you?  Ask civil and I'll tell you."

"By God!  By God . . ."

"It's four o'clock if you want to know.  Now hurry up and finish
the tea.  I don't want to come all the way back here for the cup."

He finished it obediently.  "Hey, you, what's for dinner?"

"Wait and see."  The maid snatched the cup and went off.

He slid back into the chair.  "How long the days are!"

"They've chopped all the orange-trees down," Emma said.  "Do you
remember the day I planted them?"

"Yes, damn you, I remember."

She cackled through the house again.  "You thought you wouldn't see
them bear fruit, didn't you?  You thought you'd be in England by
then?  And now he's cleared them out because they've stopped
fruiting.  Ha ha!"

"Shut your trap."  Then he muttered peevishly, "I'm hungry."

Gradually, in a year, two years perhaps (he lost count), the
pattern shifted, the links between its events dissolved, and before
he could piece inexplicable hieroglyphs together again he dozed off
in the sun.  He awoke and tried to identify a nameless face with
silky dragoon whiskers and account for the feeling of irritation
they caused him and why they reminded him of Harriet crying and old
Peppiott beating his wife with a stock-whip.  Unbidden, unsorted,
his memories flowed, bright and painfully moving.  He started up in
a rage to go somewhere, but before he touched the veranda rail he
had forgotten where or why.  He shook his head sadly and sighed,
but already the scene had moved twenty years back or twenty years
forward, or perhaps to something which had never happened,
something he had only dreamed.  To and fro, to and fro the pictures
shuffled, like pebbles in a sieve, and every day some of them
escaped, till only a few grey grains caught in the mesh, a few
heavy, sharp stones.  All the rest--gone, forgotten, except when
some special stimulus charged the cells of his brain and the old
masterful personality leapt out on his face and his tongue in a
quick flare of anger or scorn.  Sometimes it was Sambo's voice,
sometimes when James or Julia tried to thwart him.  He had begun to
crave for the things he had denied himself all these years--wines
and food and good cigars.  He sat for hours thinking greedily of
oyster patties, turkey stuffed with chestnuts, smoked salmon,
grilled trout, scones heaped with jam and cream, the sucking pigs
they ate in Owerbury at Easter, partridges and pheasants, haunches
of venison, pickled herrings, the Westphalian ham his father used
to cut in thin shavings and eat with sherry and olives. . . .

James had laid in a cellar of wines and kept a good cook.
Obscenely the old man stuffed himself till the food ran out at the
corners of his mouth and they led him away and shut him in his own
stronghold yelling that they were trying to starve him.

One night a governor on tour came to stay at the Reach.  All the
afternoon the old man sat in his chair sniffing excitedly and
rubbing his hands.  He could smell the poultry and fish and hear
the ice-cream churner and the clink of bottles going to the
freezer.

James came and said, placatingly, "Now, Father, I've got a nice
little dinner for you."

"Ah."

"There's whiting, grouse, roast lamb, asparagus, ice-cream, and a
bottle of whatever you please.  How's that?"

The old man licked his lips.

"I'll have Foo serve it in your room in half an hour."

"Eh?"

"Now, Father, you'd be much more comfortable in your room.  I'll
see to it at once."

When he had gone the old man began to think, "What's he want to
keep me away for?  There's something he doesn't want me to have,
something special.  I can smell it.  Roast pork--that's what it is,
and he gives me roast lamb.  The swipe.  I won't have it.  I'm
going to the table."

Cunningly James had his father's meal served half an hour before
dinner, knowing that he could not resist eating and that after
eating he would go straight to sleep, but he underestimated the yet
unsubdued fury of the old man.  He ate his food all right, but when
James came into the dining-room five minutes before the meal to see
that everything was in order for a distinguished guest he found the
old man sitting in the governor's place demanding roast pork and
swearing that nothing short of dynamite would uproot him.  It took
five Chinamen to carry him to his room and lock him in.
Fortunately his voice was not what it was: horses no longer pricked
their ears down in the paddock when he roared.  A remote hiss and
whisper of blasphemy, inaudible, as far as James could see, to
august ears, soon died away, and the servant left to watch at
Cabell's door came to report sotto voce, "Boss he snore velly quiet
now."

This was one of the grains which did not go down the sieve.  It
rolled around and around the old man's brain, collecting other
grains, till it became the token of every affront he had suffered
in the last sixty years.  It was the burden of an incessant
complaint to Sambo, the servants, whoever would listen:  "He tried
to keep me away from the table and starve me because he had some
toff to dinner.  That's the sort he is.  Spends my money on roast
pork and locks me up in my room so I won't get any.  Him and the
Chows--Chows, mind you!"

There was even a worse indignity in store.  Julia had him forcibly
bathed.  He refused to wash, refused to change his clothes.  He
must have known how it annoyed them.  His beard matted, his hands
were black, his cuffs and collar stiff with greasy dirt, rooms
needed airing when he left them.  One day Julia had the bath filled
with hot water and carbolic and ordered the Chinaman to dump him in
and scrub him.  There was a merry half-hour in the bathroom, from
which he emerged spluttering and malevolent.  "I'll show you up for
this," he told Julia.  "You wait."

Julia laughed.

"A blackgin's daughter.  That's what you are.  I can prove it."

"The dregs of a noble man," James sighed, but consoled himself that
that noble man was now an unassailable fact of national history.
Landtaker--empire-builder--and now philanthropist.  Movements for
ameliorating the lot of unfortunate aborigines, rapidly becoming
extinct, for carrying the consolations of religion to boundary-
riders on distant outstations, for fighting vice, building
churches, educating workers, uplifting the poor, always commanded
the purse of one Derek Cabell.  Such philanthropy could not go
unrewarded, and the new King Edward was pleased to bestow a
knighthood of the British Empire on this old man whose name, even
as an object of abuse, people had forgotten in the noisy events of
the changing century.



CHAPTER EIGHT: OLD MEN REMEMBER


Suddenly the old man would start up and demand to have his horse
saddled, and go tearing across the country.  It was generally after
Sambo had been delivering him one of his sardonic commentaries on
the decadence of men and beasts.

Nobody knew how old Sambo was, but he must have been nearly as old
as Cabell.  The years had fined him away to a thin transparency of
skin and delicate bone and almost falsetto voice, so that it seemed
as though a touch would make him fall into a heap of white ash.  At
the door of his hut, where he had nailed up the bleached skull of a
horse--"That selfsame identical roan the boss pinched offa Flanagan
down Moreton Bay sixty year ago"--he sat and watched with faded
eyes, which could tell the age and ancestry of a cow a mile off,
the incredible mutations of his world, now arguing with himself,
now belittling the wonders of modernity with tales of heroic horses
and riders.  With his whims and fancies--a habit of calling James
"young Jimmy" and threatening him with a terrible visitation of
wrath from the boss ("Kick the backside offa you he will, shifting
them young bulls off green feed this time of the year"), and with
an annual attempt to reach Brisbane and the elysia of Frogs'
Hollow, doomed to perish at the first grog shanty, whence he
returned, a miraculously animated cadaver, two months later--James
forbore.  It was hard to do otherwise.  Sambo's tongue was
something he went a long way to pacify.

"You--you ain't hardly crowbait in comparison to your old man,
young Jimmy.  Could youa done for all them black savages, like him,
with the fever on and the blood coming out his face by the
bucketful from the brand they give him?  Up there on Black Mountain
it were--one morning just after the rains.  We shot 'em all, every
black son-of-a-gun, and burned 'em after with a smell makes your
mouth water every time you think of it.  A proper barbecue.  They
was pretty fat after tuckering up on our Durhams and there wasn't
much tinder needed to get a start.  Only we couldn't burn old Tom.
He was nothing but bones and greenhide, and every time I chucked
him on he put the fire out.  So we dug him a hole.  And then the
fever come over the boss and he collapsed down, and that's the only
time I ever did see him collapse down, but the fever came over him
extra-special bad then.  I'da like to seen you do for a whole tribe
of black myall savages with the fever on you like he done.  You
ain't turned out nothing like him, young Jimmy--you musta chucked
back to them new-chum blokes in England he usta talk about.  Your
old man wouldna stood for cutting up the land the way you done and
getting rid of good monkeys and breeding them skinny-legged horses
that can't hardly walk offa the grass without going lame on a
bloke.  Not to mention you letting them union blokes come in
planting things.  Cocky farmers!  No, it ain't regular, Jimmy.  You
know what your da said straight out about them--how he'd brain you,
for just suggesting it.  Cripes, he's a savage man, I'm telling
you.  Like the day me and Monaghan discovered a bit of a goldmine
up in the hills.  My oath, I was scared.  He had every blooming
bloke scared then--a fine swearing man that'd knock you down soon's
look at you.  Jeez, wasn't you bluffed of him!  All for running
away and not being a ingyneer, wasn't you?  And you didn't run away
and you was a ingyneer.  Ingyneer!  Blimy, what's a ingyneer know
about cattle.  You're turning them there Herefords into cocky
farmers' milking shorthorns.  Ain't nobody been gored round these
parts the last coupla years. . . ."

On moonlight nights he went up to the old homestead and sat on the
steps and played his mouth-organ.  After a while Cabell would come
out.  "The moon's up, eh?"

"Yeah."  He went on playing softly.  Down in the settlement the
dogs were howling.  A cow came to the river to drink, and the moon
spangles on the water tinkled against the roots of the trees along
the bank.

Sambo wiped his mouth.  "Say, boss, remember that night it was full
moon and we got the old red bull that was taking the cows offa
Andy's Camp?"

"It wasn't the red," Cabell grumbled, "it was a roan scrub that had
a white calf with her."

"Garn.  Whatya talking about!  It was a red bull I tell you, with a
strawberry heifer--the one that chased you the time we was running
in fats for Smiths at Ipswich.  Remember?"

A long pause.  "I remember," the old man said, and after another
long pause chuckled, "She was a randy old tart, she was--a calf off
one of the first lot that came up from Moreton Bay."

"Yeah, that's right.  That was her sister, that big brindle cow we
usta milk."

"Be damned.  That wasn't her sister.  Her sister was a white cow
that McFarlane pinched and was always with the mob up near where I
set fire to the boundary fence."

"Her!  Cripes, you must be going offa your nut.  She was piebald,
the cow McFarlane pinched.  Her mother wasn't the one with the
broken horn that got bogged up near Ningpo.  It was the sister of
that one.  Their father was the yellow bull I shot in the gully out
near Jardine's."

"It wasn't you shot it.  It was me."

"Garn.  I shot it with me new Snider."

"You hold your clap.  I shot it with--with--I shot it."

They were silent for a long time, offended with each other.  Then
Cabell chuckled again, "By God, remember how he nearly horned Bill
Penberthy?  Used to run with the little down-horned heifer . . .
she's alive yet . . . got another calf . . . saw them near the
Three Mile . . . when I went to run in the bullock for the cask
last . . . last . . ."

"That was a long time ago, boss," Sambo said gently.
"Eh?"

"There ain't no Three Mile now.  That's where all them cocky
farmers are young Jimmy cut up the land for."

"What's that?  Cut what land up?"

"You know.  Ten years ago that was."

"Yes, yes, now I remember."

Sambo went on playing.  The old man got up and paced the veranda,
getting angrier and angrier.  Suddenly he stopped and said, "Go and
put my saddle on.  I'm going out."

Sambo went and saddled two horses.  At first Cabell rode the
piebald stallion, one of his own breed, foaled in the rocky gullies
where the colts spent two years galloping up and down almost
inaccessible declivities till they were run in and broken, horses
to ride and trust on the blackest night because they had learnt
every hole and fallen log.  But the stallion was dead now and no
more horses were bred at the Reach that way.  James's foals of
thousand-guinea sires grew up in fenced paddocks "where they sweep
away every stick and stone as if the nags had glass feet," Sambo
said indignantly, and were gently cajoled, never driven.

James had warned his father once, "These horses are not meant for
careering madly round the country-side at night.  You'll come to
grief."

Sambo smiled pityingly.  "Whatya talking about.  Boss'd ride
anything with hair on."

Anyway, he'd done his duty, James reflected, as he heard them go
off down the road at a demented gallop, racing neck for neck in
some old man's fantasy of recaptured youth.

Early in the morning they would return, quarrelling.  James would
awake, turn over and sigh. . . .

One night a frantic banging on the door roused him.  It was Sambo.
Cabell had been riding a chestnut taffy horse, newly broken in.  It
had fallen with him.

They brought him home on a door.  The young doctor from the
settlement thought that the skull was fractured.  "He can't live.
He may never even regain consciousness."

"I warned him.  I tried to stop him," James kept repeating.

Sambo sat on the veranda steps and grizzled like a child.



CHAPTER NINE: RETURN OF A PRODIGAL


James had long ago decided what duty would require him to do at
this crisis.  He sent off two telegrams, one to Harriet, one to
Larry, and a cable to Geoffrey in New York, telling them that
Cabell was dying; drew up an order for the family's mourning; and
from the filing cabinet in his office took out a folder marked
"Obit.  Father," read it over, added a few commas, wrote into the
blank space "September" with a query after, addressed the envelopes
to the newspapers, set them in a neat pile on his desk, and sat
down to wait.

The dusty winter was coming to an end.  Down in the settlement the
ploughs had opened up geometrical stretches of black and red earth,
congenially suggestive to James of ordered and respectable
husbandry and a page of life freshly turned and yet unmarked.  The
birds which had fled north from the brief spell of cold were coming
back to the trees along the river.  The peach-trees were in bloom
and the little green and gold love-birds fluttered from branch to
branch in a snowfall of pink petals.

James tried to fix his mind on solemn thoughts proper to the
occasion, but it was difficult.  A picture of his new house, an
English lawn down that side of the slope, another tennis court over
there, a bowling-green on the shady side, and all these unsightly
native trees gone, kept rising to his eyes.  Once or twice he fell
asleep in the warm breeze.  He roused himself, shook his head, and
heaved a sigh.  Poor old Dad!

Sambo was playing his mouth-organ under the flame-tree in the
backyard.  James sent one of the servants out to remind him that it
was no time for mouth-organs with his old master passing away. . . .
At least the doctor assured James that he was sinking fast,
could not last another day--and that went on for a week.  The
mourning arrived--arm-bands and hatbands for the hands and the
domestics, black silk for Julia.  Harriet telegraphed that she was
on her way from Sydney.  James's message had been following her
from old addresses.

James no longer relaxed in the balmy spring sunshine.  All day he
was tiptoeing back and forth to his father's room.  The old man lay
just as they had put him down--naked, bony arms on the counterpane,
his head, with a black rash of blood where he had fallen, twisted
slightly among the pillows.  Looking down at the uptilted mouth
James sometimes felt that the old man had closed his eyes when he
heard James coming, wasn't unconscious at all, but only fooling
them.

"His pulse is stronger this morning," the nurse said.

"Indeed?"

"A wonderful constitution!"

"Wonderful!" James agreed.  "Wonderful!"

A few hours before Harriet arrived Cabell was sitting up in bed
demanding food.

The doctor looked as James could not help feeling--as though the
old fiend had played a trick on them.  "Only one in a hundred . . ."
the doctor protested.

"All right.  All right," James said, then smiled.  "You must be a
wonder-worker."

"Only one in a hundred . . ."

"There's no need to apologize, doctor.  We are most grateful . . ."
When Harriet arrived with her three noisy young boys filling the
inside of the coach Cabell was in the rocking-chair on the veranda
snoring off a heavy feed of roast chicken.

James found no trace of his angular and overwrought young sister in
the matron who launched herself from the coach and kissed him
energetically and damply three times on the mouth.  A likeness, a
striking likeness to his mother there was, which brought back to
mind Emma's obstinate, deep-set eyes and obstinate, flat mouth, but
it was a likeness with enormous differences in the details.
Harriet's face was plump, with a double chin incipient, which
softened the obstinacy in her eyes and mouth.  Plainly, like her
mother, she demanded her own way, but she was in the habit of
getting it--that was the difference.  She was dressed in expensive
clothes but looked untidy.  Her dress, a shade too bright for her
years, fitted her where it touched, her hat, a shade too
luxuriously laden with bright artificial fruits, just did not match
her dress, the pearl-drop ear-rings with diamond corona were just a
little too ornate for a respectable woman, her laughter just a
little too loud and frequent.  She looked spoilt, a little, James
could not help thinking, of the parvenue, a trifle vulgar.  The
familiar way she spoke to the coachman when he was unloading her
portmanteaux from the boot--"Come on now, Joe, move your lazybones"--
the size of the wad of notes from which she stripped a tip far too
extravagant seemed strident over-emphasis to James.

"And how is he?"

"He's much better, thank you," James said, stressing his
proprietary rights in a father whose last hours he had not intended
to share with Harriet when he sent the telegram.

"Thank God for that," Harriet said, and started for the house.  "I
was afraid I'd be late."

"But wait a moment," James said, exerting his long legs to keep up
with her.  "He's asleep now, and besides . . ."  He held her back.
"Harriet, you can't rush into him after . . . everything.  Have
some thought for his feelings."

"Feelings?  Don't be silly.  He's got over it by this."

"He hasn't mentioned your name for ten years," James said solemnly.
"You couldn't expect it.  You treated him badly."

Harriet sniffed.  "I had my own life to lead."

"Exactly," James said.  "YOUR own life."  It annoyed him to see
Harriet so well, so satisfied, so unchastened.  "My dear Harriet,
you must remember that you cannot have your cake and eat it too.
Others . . .  However, leaving that aside, I hope you'll grant I
may know what should and should not be done in my own house."

Harriet shook his hand off her arm and went on without another
word.  The clatter of their feet on the veranda steps shook the
house and awakened Cabell.  He stirred and began automatically to
complain in a wavering voice, "Who's that?  Tell that woman of
James's--it's time for dinner."

Harriet gathered the pop-eyed children and looked at her father.
It was fourteen years since the night she tiptoed across this
veranda.  "Father," she said gently, "I've come to see you.
Harriet.  It's me."

"Time for dinner," the old man complained.  "They're starving me
here."

Harriet knelt and touched his hand.  "Harriet, Father.  Don't you
remember?  Harriet!  I've come to be with you."  She repeated it
slowly, stroking his hand.

James noticed that there were tears in her eyes.  Really, after all
these years, after what she'd done--if that wasn't rank hypocrisy!
He moved off to the end of the veranda to avoid looking on a--well,
to say the least--disgusting scene.

One of the children began to cry and his eldest brother, a thin,
tall, freckled boy with a long face, a long fine nose, and a heavy
under-lip, nudged him into silence.

The old man pulled his hand away.  "Eh?  What's this?  Harriet?"
He put his fingers out vaguely and touched her face, streaking a
tear across the grime of travel on her cheek, lowered his head
against the frayed cane back of the chair, and murmured, "Yes, she
died in Owerbury last year--no, a long time ago."

The flies buzzed back into his beard and crawled over his face,
over the hairless, atrophied eyelids, like old sea-shells.  Harriet
brushed them with her handkerchief.  A faint perfume of heliotrope
overlay, for a moment, his smell of an old man.  His head jerked
erect.  "Eh?  Harriet?  What's this?  What's this?"

"YOUR Harriet," she said.  "Don't you remember?"

He struggled half-out of the chair and sat, with his head tipped
back and sideways, as though listening to a sound far, far away, a
thin whisper barely audible under the jabber of resurrected voices.
"Harriet?  Harriet?" he muttered, as though the distant faint sound
was gradually taking a shape he could recognize.

James came back.  "This is really most inopportune, Harriet.  You
see how you're upsetting him.  He's hardly out of a sick bed."

The new voice cut across the weary darkness and scattered the
blurred pictures laboriously lifting themselves into the light.
The old man's lips worked and he began to complain again, "No food
for hours.  Tell that fellow James . . ."

Harriet stood up and wiped her eyes.  "How old he is, Jimmy.  I'd
forgotten."

"It seems that he's forgotten you too," James said condescendingly.
Duty and self-abnegation had been rewarded!

By the time Harriet had bathed herself and the children and eaten a
late lunch the old man was back in bed sleeping.  It would be
dangerous to disturb him, the doctor said.

Harriet wandered around the empty house with the children, looked
into the kitchen and saw her mother crouching over the fire-place
where still a few charred sticks lay, remnant of the very fire,
perhaps, which Emma had nursed as they spoke together that day.
Out in the yard she found Sambo sitting under the flame-tree,
looking not so forlorn as utterly dumb-founded by some volte-face
of mechanical laws.

He recognized her at once, jumped up, took off his hat, and stood
shyly treading on his toes.  "Lor', Miss Harriet, you got some
condition on you.  Come back to see the old man, eh?"

"Yes, Sambo.  ISN'T he old though?  Oh, so old.  I'd forgotten."

"Don't know about him being old.  What gets me's him falling offera
horse like that.  Cripes!"  He hastened to refute any suggestion of
lese-majesty.  "Course I know that chestnut taffy ain't much of a
horse.  One of them things young Jimmy there breeds up.  But still
'n' all, Miss Harriet, the boss falling offera horse like a new-
chum--you can't tell me that's a nateral way to die."

She left the children with him and went on alone to that part of
the house which had been her prison.  The roof was rusty, the
windows along the veranda were broken, the curtains hung in rags,
the blinds were faded dirty white; but inside everything was as she
had left it.  The carpets, the crude imitation tapestries on the
wall, the big gilt mirrors, the sofas and arm-chairs, and piano--
nothing was touched except by moths and rats.  A sharp pang went
through her, not for the past, but for the old man who had
preserved these last grains of a dream.  "Now, isn't that just like
Father, the sentimental old silly," she thought and sniffed, but
her throat tightened as she opened the piano and saw the keys
again, the unforgettable keys of many hours' practising--the D flat
with a little chip off the edge, the A slightly lower than the
rest, the F slightly yellower.  She felt a desire to talk to these
keys to which she had confided so often, which had given her
something that survived all disappointments and fed a fond hope for
the future.

She blew a cloud of dust off the stool and sat down.  The keys
squeaked as she touched them and the rusty wires hissed at her as
though reluctant to be disturbed.  Some of them did not answer, and
others spoke with the same faded, startling unlikeness to her
memory of them as the old man on the veranda.  Without premeditation
she began to sing a song she had not sung for eighteen years:


          Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
          Weiss, was ich leide.
          Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt
          Weiss, was ich leide.
          Allein und abgetrennt
          Von aller Freude
          Seh ich ans Firmament
          Nach jener Seite.
          Ach! der mich liebt und kennt
          Ist in der Weite.


It was her father's favourite song, a lonely man's song.  How
inexpressibly sad it sounded on these jangling, hoarse wires.  As
she sat with her hands resting on the keyboard she thought of the
last time she played it--that evening she made up her mind that she
would run away from him and he came in with blood on his beard and
tried to tell her a story about the past, something he wanted
sympathy for, and she had kept him off, afraid to feel sorry,
afraid of being engulfed in pity for him.  Well, she was afraid of
him no longer, nor had been since the night she ran away.  Then,
when she was most ruthless, she began to understand and pity him
most, with the only true understanding and pity, of the strong, the
fulfilled, for the uncompleted.  It was not perhaps a very tender
feeling, rather impatient, with a little scorn in it, like the
feeling Emma had had for him in the early days.

The opening door creaked and she jumped.  James looked in.  "I'm
sorry to interrupt your sentimental reveries, my dear," he said
with a smile which showed that he for one was not taken in by such
humbug, "but you're disturbing Father's sleep.  He's wakened up
twice."

"All right."  Harriet looked around the dark room for the last time
and joined James at the door.

"I'll be pulling this place down--well, some day," James said.  "If
there's anything you'd like in here as a keepsake I'll send it to
you."

"Oh no," Harriet said.  "I don't keep a junk store."

"Surely you'd like something to remember Father by," James said
disapprovingly.

Harriet laughed.  "I can't see us forgetting him in a hurry."

"Indeed no," James said, but he did not think it was quite the
thing to laugh.

Just before dawn next morning he knocked on her door.  He looked
hurt.  "You'd better come," he said.  "Father's asking for you.  Of
course he doesn't understand what he's saying half the time."

She slipped a dressing-gown on and joined him in the passage.  As
they went along the veranda he said, "He's been bellowing for the
last half-hour.  He's worn out the little strength he had.  Now
you'll be satisfied perhaps."

The old man was propped up in bed with pillows.  The tired nurse
rose from beside the bunk as they entered and said, "Here she is.
Now be quiet."

Harriet took her chair.  "Here I am, Father.  Do you want me?"

He put a hand out towards the sound of her voice but could not
reach so far.  She pressed it.  "Harriet, is that you?"  His voice
was weak but crisper, as though he knew what he was saying.

"Yes, Father.  Jimmy wired me that you were sick.  I came at once."

"You did, eh?"  He mused, as if feeling his way in an unfamiliar
place that was yet strangely familiar, like a man coming back into
a room he had not seen for many years and having to learn anew old
and well-known things.  But where's . . . where's . . ."

"Jack?"

"Jack who?"

"Jack my husband?  Jack Cash?"

"Ah yes, Cash."  He nodded.  "Dead, eh?"

"No!  He's in Sydney at home."

"I thought they'd hanged him.  No, no, that's right.  I remember
now.  I remember."  He pushed her hand away.  "So you came for the
funeral, eh?"

"Oh, I couldn't imagine you dead, Father.  But oh," she ran her
hand over his shrivelled arm, "how thin you are!"

"Stop snivelling.  I get enough crocodile tears from James."

James cleared his throat.

The old man lay snarling and muttering, "Tried to keep me away from
the dinner-table one night because some toff was here.  Had me
bathed too.  Wasn't clean enough for his fancy nose.  ME--I--I
could've been--been--finer gentleman only--things happened. . . ."
His head sank into the pillows and he drowsed away.

"You'd better go back to bed and finish your sleep," James said.

But as soon as she moved the old man awakened and called out
peevishly, "Sneaking off again?"  He caught the sleeve of her
dressing-gown, felt for her hand, and went to sleep again.

"You'll excuse me," James said.  "_I_ haven't had any sleep for a
week," and stiffly withdrew.

When the old man woke up again he was much recovered and he went on
recovering, miraculously.  It might have been the shock of falling
on his head, of hearing Harriet's voice again, or the music, or
maybe it was just the last automatic shudder of decaying cells, but
once again the pattern of his life reassembled from the dull
fragments.

"Oh, we've heard all this a thousand times before, Father," James
said impatiently.  "We understand it well enough, but it's all done
with now."

"There are some things you've never heard," Cabell said ominously.

"And we don't want to hear them," James said.  "We don't want to
have our noses rubbed in sordid details."

"Hear that?  Sordid details.  Oh, I know it well.  Tried to keep me
away from the dinner-table when his fine friends were here, didn't
you?  Tried to disown me.  Well, I disown you."

"Now, now, Father, behave," Harriet said.  "James has done his best
for you--everything you asked."

"He's a puppy."

"Don't be silly, Father.  He loves you as I do."

James exploded.  "Good heavens, Harriet, is it necessary for YOU to
tell him that.  I'VE given up my whole life to him."

But somehow it was necessary, and contrary to all justice and
gratitude the old man seemed to love his errant, prodigal daughter
more than his faithful, dutiful son.  Many times in the following
two months he would have tried to get lawyers in to make a will
disinheriting James of the Reach if Harriet had not wheedled and
bullied him out of it.  James was not grateful.  "Sly, false,
hypocritical," he thought Harriet was as he watched her sitting at
his father's feet on the veranda, stroking his hand and saying,
"Yes, yes, Father, of course I understand.  Because I made all
those Nice People hate me, too.  But I don't care.  I'm glad.
They'd only have liked me if I'd been a stuffed dummy in a glass
case."

"That's a fact.  That's what that monkey, James, my brother was--a
stuffed dummy.  If I'd been like him I'd've been living at Owerbury
now and none of this would have happened.  That's right," he patted
her hand, "you understand."

"And I hated them once as you did.  Oh, how I hated them.  If I'd
been a man I could have done terrible things--as you did."

"Yes, I did some pretty terrible things."

"Once you said it was only luck if one didn't do terrible things.
That's true, too.  I understand that now.  I'd've done terrible
things if it hadn't been for luck."

"There's a lot of luck in it, child.  That's a fact."

"But you must stop worrying about what happened, Father.  It was
bound to be just like that in the beginning.  If you were young now
it would be different."

"Isn't that what I'm always telling them?  He thinks we could've
opened up a blackfellows' country with kid gloves on."

"Yes, yes," she soothed him, "but it is opened up now and you
mustn't be unreasonable about James and his kid gloves."

But the old man would not be reconciled.  "They chucked me in a
bath . . ."

"Come, Father, come, don't start again.  Besides, others will
understand even better than we do.  My boys don't want to wear kid
gloves and they'll know what it was like for you--I'll see they
do."  She brought her eldest boy, Derek, with the grave face and
outsized nose, replica of Cabell's.  "He's just like what you must
have been, Father.  He's going to become a musician, a great
musician."

Cabell ran his hands over the boy's smooth face.  The boy tried
hard not to flinch from the fingers, like dry bones.  But his
grandfather was not pleased.  "What's the use talking.  Pious
claptrap.  I WAS like that--once. . . ."

After Harriet left him that afternoon he sat facing the red
deformed egg of the sun setting in dust, and talked excitedly to
himself, now in a furtive whisper, now angrily, now in a sad tone
as though renouncing something precious, while under the veranda,
where glaring toadstools sprouted from the stumps, crouched
Harriet's smallest boy, listening, wanting to run away, yet too
scared, too fascinated by the crazy voice to move.  The voice
stopped abruptly and the boy crept out and saw the old man sitting
up rigid in his chair, the copper light of the sun full on his
face, the long purple cicatrice, the ravaged eyes, the upper lip
curled back on bare gums, and the jaw like two pieces of iron
clamped together.  He would never forget that face, never.  Under
the drift of pleasant domestic and national legends it would remain
indelibly clear, demanding some explanation which pleasant legends
do not give.



CHAPTER TEN: SAD TALE CONCLUDED


Harriet was dressing for dinner when the child ran in and said that
something had happened to the old man.  The nurse and James were
there before her.  He was having some kind of fit.  Soon it passed
and they got him back to bed and sat around waiting for him to come
to.

Very cautiously the doctor said that it was the end, but nobody
believed him.  James, Harriet, and the nurse all looked tired and
resigned.

The room was like an oven.  A fire had broken out in the ranges and
a shift of the light breeze carried the smoke and the heat down on
the homestead.  The fire glowing in the trees along the hills
looked pretty at a distance, almost comforting, like the scattered
lights of a town.  Out in the darkness the cattle huddled together
and cried with fear, that peculiar cry which begins with short,
irritated bellowings and ends with a loud roar sinking and rising
between a murmur and a weird, cracked scream.  The birds were
restless, even the fowls in the yard, which clucked and cock-a-
doodled without respite.  The horses in the stable turned round and
round on the cobbles and challenged the nervous night with their
whinnyings.  The three children sat on the floor along the wall,
forgotten, tamed by their first sight of a bushfire and a man
dying, very white in the yellow lamplight under their freckles.

Julia came to the door and looked in at the old man, who lay under
the sheet breathing in dry gasps.  She was dressed as carefully as
usual in a white evening frock cut away at the neck and the back,
and the beads of sweat along her upper lip and her forehead, which
sparkled in the light, only made her look cooler, as though she was
wrapped up from the suffocating air in a thin silver gauze.

"What's the doctor say now?" she asked.

"He says it's grave, very grave," James answered in a hushed voice.

"You mean he's going to die at last?"

"Julia!"

"Oh, you make me ill, James.  You know perfectly well that I know
you've got a house booked at Southport at this moment and that
you've been re-booking it from month to month for the last three
months."

"Naturally I've hoped that Father would be well enough . . ."

"Oh!"  She turned her back on him and stared out at the darkness,
but the smoke, thickening so that the lamp on the table burned with
a halo, sent her in choking.  When she got her breath again she
said, "Well, do what you like, but I'm not going to wait any
longer.  I'm going to pack and get away from this heat to-night.
You two can stay and amuse yourselves."

James looked pointedly at the nurse before replying.  She took the
hint, murmured something about dinner, and went out.

"'Amuse' is hardly the word to use in a room where death is
hovering," James said.

"I don't believe he'll die," Julia said.  "He'll lie there, the old
beast, till we're all half-fried, and then get up and drag his
horrid old corpse around the house for another five years."

They all moved their eyes to the face on the bed, each trying to
estimate how much longer the will in that gaunt jaw could go on
fighting, and as they watched the sneering grin slowly widened and
let the light shine on the wet gums.  There was such malice in the
smile that Julia, whom the old man's wildest shinnanikan never
unpoised, put her hand over her mouth and said "Oh!"

The head lifted from the pillows a few inches and fell back again,
and the only sound was Cabell's quickening breathing.  He made
another effort and got on his elbow, clutching the sheet close to
his throat with his free hand and shivering.  "You don't think I'm
going to die, you hussy?  Well, you're frank.  And now, I reckon,
it might be time to be frank with you.  I've been thinking of it a
long while--since you had me chucked in the bath.  I smelt, you
said.  That's a fact.  But you smell too, with a smell you'll never
wash off.  Your mother . . ."

James hurried to the bunk.  "Is this the moment, Father?  In your
condition you'd best be trying to sleep."

"Get to the devil.  Bring Harriet here."

"I'm here, Father."  She crossed to the bunk and touched him.

"Sit down," he said.  "You're all going to listen to me now if it's
the last time you do."

James rushed at Julia and took her by the arm.  "Leave the room,
Julia.  Leave it at once.  I forbid you to stay and hear--hear
lies."

Julia lifted her arm from his hand and put the table between them.
She smiled, pulled up a chair, and seated herself.  Perhaps she
would have liked to run away but did not want the old man to know
that he could frighten her or perhaps it pleased her to cross
James.  She folded her hands in her lap and said, "Go on, Father.
We're listening, but you'll have to think hard to find anything to
say about Mother that will shock me."

James stopped spluttering at her across the table and said
appealingly, "Don't incite him, Julia, for God's sake.  He might
say something that we--you would never live down."

But the old man, groping for Harriet's hand, seemed to have
forgotten them.  The malice had gone from his face, sunk in the
pillows again, and when he began to speak it was in a whisper
barely to be heard above the commotion from the stables and the
fowlyard.  The weak voice, punctuated by his gaspings for breath,
sounded to the children against the wall absurdly inadequate to
cause such a flurry in a great, schoolmasterly man like their
uncle.

"I'm going back I don't know how many years," the old man was
saying to Harriet.  "I had a skin like your young colt and I had to
sink or swim.  I had a handful of sheep, and the overseer on the
place where I was working for tucker was stealing them, a brute by
the name of M'Govern, an old flogger, strong as a lion.  But I had
hands like James there, and couldn't tell B from a bull-foot any
better, but Gursey helped me and we got away.  He had six months to
do before he got his ticket-of-leave--Gursey.  But I swear I didn't
force him to make a break for it.  That was M'Govern.  He thought I
was putting my head down with Gursey and he was scared of Gursey.
So he looked for an excuse to get him out of the way.  He was going
to send him to Brisbane to have him flogged and I saved him--helped
him to clear out.  It would've been the end of him, that flogging."

It was the old, old story of Cabell's beginning in the colony sixty
years ago.  James had heard it a hundred times: how the convict
Gursey escaped and helped Cabell to find his stolen sheep and
brought him to the valley; how later he went away and returned
towards the end of his life and tried, in some mysterious way, to
blackmail Cabell, but settled down at last and stayed at the Reach
till he died.  James became calmer.  The old man's mind must have
wandered: there was nothing about Julia's mother in this story,
which was prompted by a bad conscience about the convict who had
lost his ticket-of-leave.

"You've told us all this before, Father," he interrupted the old
man.  "It wasn't your fault the fellow got himself into trouble."

"It wasn't my fault--you see that, don't you?" the old man said
anxiously, turning his face.  "I didn't make him escape just to
help me save a few measly sheep--even if they were everything I had--
my last razoo, mind you--my last hope of getting Home."

"Yes, yes," James said.  "We see that quite well, Father.  We've
assured you time out of number."

"Well, HE didn't see it," Cabell grumbled.  "Or wouldn't.  'You'd
do anything,' he said, 'ANYTHING.'  And--my God, I was hardly
teethed, and he'd been learning the ropes in jailyards half his
life."  He turned his face again, waiting for someone to reassure
him.

"Oh, quite!  Quite!" James said impatiently.

Cabell fixed his sightless eye in James's direction and frowned,
but turned back to Harriet and went on quickly, "We got away with
the sheep and came up here.  There was a price on his head.  But he
was safe here, and he could have stayed as long as he liked--to his
dying day, only . . . well, your mother came along and he let me
marry her.  He knew she was an old lag and he didn't let on.  It
was pure spite--or perhaps they made it up between them.  He told
me after I'd got the buckle on, and I kicked him out.  It was his
own fault.  Eh?"

Nobody answered.  This was something new in the story.  James and
Harriet sat thinking of it, of their mother, of Larry, and of the
strange relations between the three of them which this helped to
explain.

"He was in no danger, you know," the old man said, as if to
exculpate himself against their silence.  "The convict days were
over.  Everybody was too busy making money to think of looking for
a man who'd made a break seven years before.  Anyway, he wasn't
caught.  He humped his drum to the gold-fields and did well for
himself.  I began to get on my feet too.  I could've gone back to
England.  I had enough.  Emma would have listened to reason.  She
had her brat.  I'd've left her the station.  I just needed another
couple of years and--but you've heard about that.  McFarlane and
the land, I mean.  He pinched a lump off me and Flanagan, he was
minister then, he backed him up because of the roan stallion.  It
looked like a drought coming on.  I had to have the land--or give
up going back Home again.  So I went to court.  Peppiott was my
lawyer.  They dragged up a lot of dirt, a lot of lies, and
published them in the papers, and while I was waiting for the
appeal to come on Gursey came back.  He was looking pretty sick.
I didn't have the heart to turn him out, and the dog betrayed me
again.  He had M'Govern trailing him.  They'd met at the diggings
and M'Govern had blackmailed him, so he came back here knowing
M'Govern wouldn't drop off an easy thing.  He hoped M'Govern would
come and blackmail me too and I'd kill him.  You see, he thought
I'd do ANYTHING.  Well," he raised himself on his elbow again and
whispered, "I DID."

In a tone of profound conviction James said at once, "I don't
believe a word of it.  He's making it up.  His mind's wandering."

Julia bent her head and her slim shoulders shook.  She was trying
to suppress her laughter, but it broke out, girlish and pleasant to
hear.

James looked at her, pained, questioning.

"All right.  All right.  I'll stop in a minute.  I was just
thinking--oh, forgive my frivolous mind--I was thinking of your
next Foundation Day oration."

James opened his mouth to answer and swallowed some smoke and
choked.  She reached across the table and pounded him between the
shoulder-blades, but he turned himself away pettishly and went on
choking into his handkerchief till his collar came off the stud,
his hair fell in lank, black locks over his eyes, his eyes bulged
tearfully, and the colour streaked his cheeks as though Julia had
been clawing him.

The children along the wall stared in fright.  They had never seen
him with a hair out of place, so now he looked bedraggled, even
demoralized; and the antics of their elders around their dying
grandfather's bunk were, in general, extremely confusing.

The old man was talking again.  He had relaxed into the pillow as
though he was done, but Julia's laughter had roused him.  "Wait a
minute.  I was forgetting you."  He grinned towards Julia.  "You
and your smell.  You see this M'Govern, this flogger and sixpenny
bludger, he was nearly your father.  In fact, so was a blackfellow."

James stopped wiping the sweat from his face, Julia stopped
laughing, and they looked at each other, at the old man,
uncomprehendingly.

"Yes," the old man said, "when this M'Govern came back after Gursey
he got a job over at Ningpo and Ludmilla wanted to marry him to
Aurelia.  Ludmilla was cleaning the place up.  It had been going to
pieces for years, and then something brought it all to a head.
Your mother, it was--a drooping sort of a girl.  I didn't see what
was wrong with her at first, but it was as plain as a pikestaff
after.  The old Colonel, you see, he wouldn't have a man around the
place, in case one of them got sweet on the girls.  Crown princes--
nothing less was good enough, but crown princes didn't turn up.
There was nothing but myalls on the place, and your mother--I
suppose she got tired of waiting."

"Oh, Father," Harriet said sharply.  "How could you.  Oh."

It was Julia's turn, looking from face to face, to say, "Oh, the
brute.  It can't be true."

The old man's voice soared laughing and cracked high up in a
birdlike squeak of delight.  "It's true, right enough.  Why do you
think Ludmilla helped me the time I was in trouble, on condition
that I married James to you?  'So you'll help them to bury the
past,' she says.  Aye, it's buried all right.  Too deep for you to
wash off."

James looked at her, took four strides to the door, turned and
looked at her again.  As though she had confessed that what Cabell
had said of her mother had happened to her--that was just how he
looked.  And Julia, for a moment, looked like one who has laughed
at a joke and discovered too late that the joke was on herself.
Her eyes asked for mercy and there was a fiendish mercilessness in
James's.

Suddenly a face was beaming at them from the doorway, a round, red
face equipped with a professional obliquity to family crises.  The
nurse.

"Everything all right?" she asked.  Before she had quite said it
James had seized her by the shoulder and pushed her on to the
veranda.  He slammed the door and went back to the table.

At once, with the door shutting out the hot wind, the air seemed
lighter and cooler.  Julia laughed again, loudly this time and not
so pleasantly.

"It's sheer vindictiveness," she said.  "Look at him, the
vindictive devil."

Strange to say, Cabell did not look at all vindictive but rather
foolish as he tried to raise himself from the pillow again
fighting, it seemed, against the weight of the sheet become too
much for his exhausted body.  A fit of coughing defeated him.  He
lay for a long time breathing quickly and hanging on to Harriet's
hand as though he was afraid she would run away before he could
finish.

A gust of wind opened the door and brought back the smell of
burning gum-leaves.  "Something's burning," Cabell muttered from
the pillow.  "Burning, burning . . ." and repeated it several
times, trying to get a grip on an elusive idea.  "Ah yes, the house
burnt down, the old house.  That's it--I was telling you how
M'Govern--They wanted to marry him to Aurelia--yes.  He told me,
but I couldn't believe it.  They were such a stuck-up lot.  But he
swore, said he didn't want to blackmail me, or even Gursey.  I
didn't trust him.  He said he only wanted one thing--if I'd chuck
Gursey out again, in case he went whiddling to the colonel.
Ludmilla was passing him off on the old fool as a squatter.  But
how was I to know.  Gursey had money on him.  He might only have
wanted to get Gursey away so as to murder and rob him--and after
everything that had happened I couldn't allow that.  And the story
was true all the time.  He was going to marry Aurelia.  The parson
was already on the way.  Ludmilla had arranged it all.  Any port
in a storm--or perhaps she even believed herself he was a squatter
who'd lost his land.  Well, we all looked pretty rough I guess . . ."
Cabell put his hand over the empty red socket of his left eye
from which the patch had fallen.  "It was all true enough, but I
found it out too late.  We had a fight, M'Govern and me, and he
blinded me with his stock-whip.  I was as stone blind as I am now
for a couple of months, helpless as a kitten, and that altered
everything.  He'd been scared of me before, but now I was at his
mercy and he was a born bully.  He couldn't resist it.  Chucked
Ningpo and came here.  Thought he had a softer racket too, I
suppose.  Ludmilla used to make him wear a stiff collar over there
and grease his hair.  So he began bleeding me.  I was nearly on my
feet then, I told you--everything hanging in the balance, waiting
for the appeal.  I couldn't afford any more dirt.  He threatened to
tell the police about Gursey.  You could get a stiff term for
inciting a man to escape and harbouring him.  Wanted all my money
to keep his mouth shut--everything I'd saved for England.  And then
one night . . . over there it was."  He pointed across the room.
"No, in the old house.  There was a fire-place where we used to
hang the billy in the early days.  He was bending down to light his
pipe.  I could see it as plain as if my eyes weren't bandaged.  A
hundred times I'd watched him do it down in Moreton Bay, bending
over to put a twig in the embers, and his big fat neck ruckled up
on the shirt-band.  I leant over and dug my fingers into it and
pushed his face on the fire . . . and your ma, she came in and
finished him with an axe . . ."

They sat on the edge of their chairs straining towards his failing
voice, but they hardly noticed that he had stopped speaking,
absorbed into the picture he had created.  For many seconds, fed by
the acrid smell of burning, the noises of terrified animals, it
hung upon their minds, developing its appalling details of its own
volition, like a dream.  One of the children whimpered and they all
three started and looked at each other, then at the children,
asleep on the floor.

"You see how it happened, don't you?" the old man said.  He spoke
anxiously again, as if he had been getting up the courage to ask
that question and was afraid what they would answer.  "It couldn't
have happened otherwise, could it?"

Harriet pressed his hand.  "No, Father.  I don't see how it could
have been otherwise."

"Ah!"  He let himself gently on to the pillow again.  "Ah!"

James's chair creaked and he rose.  Automatically feeling to make
sure that his tie was set in the precise middle of the collar he
found that the collar was gaping and the tie under his ear.  He
looked at them with an expression of shocked and disapproving
alarm, as though they had caught him in shameful undress, and
hastily fiddled to adjust himself.  With his eyes on the ceiling he
wrenched the lugs of the sweated collar together, grimacing,
panting, jerking his legs.  The stud gave a little click, described
a shining arc across the light, and disappeared into the darkness
of the veranda.  James dropped his arms to his side and gazed after
it for a moment or two of dejected relaxation.  Then he pulled
himself up and went out to look for it, discouraged but persistent.

The old man's breathing quickened, his fingers slipped from
Harriet's hand.  She pressed them, but they did not respond.  He
was asleep.

She got up from the bunk and awakened the children.  They rubbed
their eyes and followed her to bed, pausing at the door to look
back and wonder again at the mysterious drama which had passed here
and left their aunt still primly, coolly sitting in her chair with
her hands folded in her lap and the dew on her upper lip, like
little bubbles in the glass she was made of, while their uncle
crawled about the veranda on his hands and knees, mumbling to
himself.

When Harriet returned in ten minutes Julia was gone from the room
and James was standing on the steps talking to the manager in a
subdued voice.  She sat down beside the bunk, unrolled a piece of
black silk, and threaded her needle.  But she put it aside soon and
sat watching the ruby line of fire along the hills.  She could hear
James's voice now and then.  ". . . very low.  His mind's
wandering, you know."

"A wonderful old gentleman," the manager said heartily.

"Wonderful," James agreed.  "Wonderful."  After a pause he repeated
it slowly, as though it was a formula his brain must but would not
learn, "A . . . wonderful . . . old . . . gentleman."

Harriet smiled to herself.  There was, perhaps, a little malice in
that smile.

Then she put her head on the bunk and began to weep.



THE END






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