Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership




A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Australian Tales (1896)
Author:     Marcus Clarke
eBook No.:  0400711.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          September 2004
Date most recently updated: September 2004

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au


Title:      Australian Tales (1896)
Author:     Marcus Clarke







TO THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
BY THE AUTHOR'S WIDOW.




Contents

    I. "Mark Twain" On Marcus Clarke
   II. Preface by Hamilton Mackinnon
  III. Biography - by Hamilton Mackinnon
   IV. Australian Scenery
    V. Learning "Colonial Experience"
   VI. Pretty Dick
  VII. Poor Joe
 VIII. Gentleman George's Bride
           Chapter I
           Chapter II
           Chapter III
   IX. Bullocktown (Glenorchy)
    X. Grumbler's Gully
   XI. Romance of Bullocktown
  XII. How the Circus Came to Bullocktown
 XIII. The Romance of Lively Creek
           Chapter I - "Green Bushes"
           Chapter II - The Mystery
           Chapter III - The Sumpitan
  XIV. King Billy's Troubles: or Governmental Red-Tapeism
   XV. Holiday Peak
  XVI. "Horace" in the Bush
 XVII. Squatters Past and Present
XVIII. The Future Australian Race
           Our Ancestors
           Ourselves
           Our Children




I. "Mark Twain" on Marcus Clarke

Mark Twain Lecture, Melbourne, Oct., 1895

I not only regret, but feel surprised that the 'Selected Works' of
Australia's only literary genius--a genius such as you will not see again
for many a long year--should be out of print. Through the courtesy of his
widow I obtained a copy of the work after failing to buy one anywhere.
And such a work, such reading, such power. It was just the sort of
reading to banish from one's thoughts such pain as I have been suffering.
The subjects so interesting, and their treatment so brilliant and
fascinating. No works of such a man should be left unpublished. It is the
duty of Australians to assist the widow of so great a writer in
publishing his works. I may tell you that we think a deal more of Marcus
Clarke in our country than I am sorry to think you do here. (Applause).




II. Preface

Hamilton Mackinnon

In placing this, the first volume of a cheap series of the miscellaneous
works of the late MARCUS CLARKE before the Public of Australia, I venture
to think that I am not only fulfilling my duty as his Literary Executor,
but am removing a reproach which attaches to that Public in the eyes of
such literary lights as Lord Rosebery, Sir Charles Dilke, "Mark Twain,"
the late Oliver Wendell Holmes and others who have spoken and written in
no stinted phrases as to Marcus Clarke's position in the intellectual
world, and expressed surprise at his works not being more popularly known
among those on whom his genius has shed world-wide renown. To enable
these works to come within the buying power of all classes, this series
is being brought out at a price which no one should cavil about. It is
therefore to be hoped that the people of these "new lands 'cross the
seas" will give an emphatic denial to the old world saying--"a prophet
hath no honour in his own country." In conclusion, grateful thanks are
due to those who have rendered the publication of this book possible by
assisting the author's widow in the very practical manner of advertising
in it; and of these let it be said:

"Cast thy bread upon the waters, for
Thou shalt find it after many days."

Hamilton Mackinnon




III. Biography

Hamilton Mackinnon

Marcus Andrew Hislop Clarke was born at Kensington--the Old Court suburb
of London--on the 24th April, 1846. His father, William Hislop Clarke, a
barrister-at-law, was recognised as a man of ability, both professionally
and as a littérateur, albeit eccentric to a degree. Of his mother little
is known beyond that she was a beautiful woman, of whom her husband was
so devotedly fond that when her death occurred some months after the
birth of the subject of this biography, he isolated himself from the
world, living afterwards the life of a recluse, holding of the world an
opinion of cynical contempt. Besides his father, there were among other
brothers of his two whose names belong to the history of the Australian
colonies; the one is that of James Langton Clarke, once a County Court
Judge in Victoria, and the other, Andrew Clarke, Governor of Western
Australia, who died and was buried at Perth in 1849. The latter was the
father of General Sir Andrew Clarke, K.C.M.G., formerly Minister of
Public Works in India, and Governor of the Straits Settlements. To the
colonists of Victoria he will be better known as Captain Clarke, the
first Surveyor-General of the colony, the author of the Existing
Municipal Act, and one of the few lucky drawers of a questionable pension
from this colony. The late Marcus Clarke claimed a distinguished
genealogy for his family, which, though hailing as regards his immediate
ancestors from the Green Isle, were English, having only betaken
themselves to Ireland in the Cromwellian period. And among his papers
were found the following notes referring to this matter:--

In 1612 William Clarke was made a burgess of Mountjoie, Co. Tyrone, and
in 1658 Thurloe wrote to Henry Cromwell, desiring him to give Colonel
Clarke land in Ireland for pay.

With an inherited delicate constitution, and without the love-watching
care of a mother, or the attention of sisters, he passed his childhood.
And that the absence of this supervision and guidance was felt by him in
after years, we have but to read this pathetic passage from a sketch of
his:--

To most men the golden time comes when the cares of a mother or the
attention of sister aid to shield the young and eager soul from tile
blighting influences of wordly debaucheries. Truly fortunate is he among
us who can look back on a youth spent in the innocent enjoyments of the
country, or who possesses a mind moulded in its adolescence by the gentle
fingers of well-mannered and pious women.

When considered old enough to leave home the boy was sent to the private
school of Dr. Dyne in Highgate, another suburb of London, hallowed by
having been at one time associated with such illustrious names in
literature as Coleridge, Charles Lamb, Keats, and De Quincey. There he
obtained whatever scholastic lore he possessed, and was, according to the
opinion of a schoolfellow, known as a humorously ecentric boy, with a
most tenacious memory and an insatiable desire to read everything he
could lay hands on. Owing to his physical inability to indulge in the
usual boyish sports, he was in the habit of wandering about in search of
knowledge wherever it was to be gleaned, and not infrequently this
restless curiosity, which remained with him to the last, led him into
quarters which it had been better for his yet unformed mind he had never
entered. Here especially was felt the absence of a mother's guidance,
which was unfortunately replaced by the carelessness of an indulgent
father. Of his schooldays little is known, save what can be gathered from
a note-book kept by him at that period; and even in this the information
is but fragmentary. According to this book he seems to have had only two
friends with whom he was upon terms of great intimacy. They were
brothers, Cyril and Gerald Hopkins, who appear, judging from jottings and
sketches of theirs in his scrap album, to have been talented beyond the
average schoolboy. Among the jottings to be found in this school record
is one bearing the initials G.H., and referring to one "Marcus Scrivener"
as a "Kaleidoscopic, Parti-colored, Harlequinesque Thaumatropic" being.
Another item which may not be uninteresting to read, as indicating the
turn for humorous satire, which, even at so early a period of his life
the author had begun to develop, is an epitaph written on himself, and
runs thus:--

Hic jacet
MARCUS CLERICUS,
Qui non malus, 'Coonius
Consideretus fuit
Sed amor bibendi
Combinalus cum pecuniae deficione
Mentem ejus oppugnabat--
Mortuus est
Et nihil ad vitam;--restorare
Posset.

To his schoolmaster, the Reverend Doctor Dyne, the following dedication
to a novel (Chateris) commenced by his former pupil shortly after his
arrival in Australia was written. From this it is apparent that the
master had not failed to recognise the talents of his gifted pupil, nor
yet be blind to his weaknesses. It reads--

To T.B. DYNE., D.D.,

Head Master of Chomley School, Highgate.
This Work
is respectfully dedicated in memory of the advice so tenderly
given, the good wishes so often expressed, and the
success so confidently predicted for the author.

But whatever good influences might have been at work during his residence
at Dr. Dyne's school, they were, unfortunately for their subject, more
than counter-balanced by others of a very dissimilar character met with
by him at his father's house. It seems scarcely credible that so young a
boy was allowed to grow up without any restraining influence, except
those of a foolishly-indulgent father, as we are led to believe was the
case from the following extract, which the writer knows was intended by
the subject of the biography as a reference to his boyish days when away
from school. Doubtless the picture is somewhat over-coloured, but
substantially it is true:--

My first intimation into the business of "living" took place under these
auspices. The only son of a rich widower, who lived, under sorrow, but
for the gratification of a literary and political ambition, I was thrown
when still a boy into the society of men twice my age, and was tolerated
as a clever impertinent in all those witty and wicked circles in which
virtuous women are conspicuous by their absence. I was suffered at
sixteen to ape the vices of sixty. You can guess the result of such a
training. The admirer of men whose successes in love and play were the
theme of common talk for six months; the worshipper of artists, whose
genius was to revolutionise Europe, only they died of late hours and
tobacco; the pet of women whose daring beauty made their names famous for
three years. I discovered at twenty years of age that the pleasurable
path I had trodden so gaily led to a hospital or a debtors' prison, that
love meant money, friendship an endorsement on a bill, and that the rigid
exercise of a profound and calculating selfishness alone rendered
tolerable a life at once deceitful and barren. In this view of the world
I was supported by those middle-aged Mephistopheles (survivors of the
storms which had wrecked so many Argosies), those cynical, well-bred
worshippers of self, who realise in the nineteenth century that notion of
the Devil which was invented by early Christians. With these good
gentlemen I lived, emulating their cynicism, rivalling their sarcasm, and
neutralisng the superiority which their existence gave them by the
exercise of that potentiality for present enjoyment, which is the
privilege of youth.

Again, in another sketch he wrote, referring to this period of his life:--

Let me take an instant to explain how it came about that a pupil of the
Rev. Gammons, up in town for his holidays, should have owned such an
acquaintance. My holidays, passed in my father's widowed house, were
enlivened by the coming and going of my cousin Tom from Woolwich, of
cousin Dick from Sandhurst, of cousin Harry from Aldershot. With Tom,
Dick, and Harry came a host of friends--for as long as he was not
disturbed, the head of the house rather liked to see his rooms occupied
by the relatives of people with whom he was intimate, and a succession of
young men of the Cingbars, Ringwood, and Algernon Deuceacre sort made my
home a temporary roosting-place. I cannot explain how such a curious
Ménage came to be instituted, for, indeed, I do not know myself, but such
was the fact, and "little Master," instead of being trained in the way he
should morally go, became the impertinent companion of some very wild
bloods indeed. "I took Horace to the opera last night, sir," or "I am
going to show Horatius Cocles the wonders of Cremorne this evening,"
would be all that Tom, or Dick, or Harry, would deign to observe, and my
father would but lift his eyebrows in indifferent deprecation. So, a
wild-eyed and eager schoolboy, I strayed into Bohemia, and acquired in
that strange land an assurance and experience ill suited to my age and
temperament. Remembering the wicked, good-hearted inhabitants of that
curious country, I have often wondered since "what they thought of it,"
and have interpreted, perhaps not unjustly, many of the homely tenderness
which seemed to me then so strangely out of place and time.

In the midst of this peculiar and doubtful state of existence for a youth
his father died suddenly, leaving his affairs in an unsatisfactory state.
This unexpected change brought matters to a climax, and at seventeen
years of age Marcus Clarke found that instead of inheriting, as expected,
a considerable sum of money, he was successor to only a few hundred
pounds, the net result of the realisation of his late father's estate.
With this it was arranged by his guardian relatives that he should seek a
fresh field for his future career, and accordingly in 1864 he was shipped
off to Melbourne by Green's well-known old liner, "The Wellesley,"
consigned to his uncle, Judge Clarke, above mentioned. Referring to this
episode of his life, he has written in the following sarcastic and
injured strain:--

My father died suddenly in London, and to the astonishment of the world
left me nothing. His expenditure had been large, but as he left no debts,
his income must have been proportionate to his expenditure. The source of
this income, however, it was impossible to discover. An examination of
his bankers' book showed only that large sums (always in notes or gold)
had been lodged and drawn out, but no record of speculations or
investments could be found among his papers. My relatives stared, shook
their heads, and insulted me with their pity. The sale of furniture,
books, plate, and horses, brought enough to pay the necessary funeral
expenses and leave me heir to some £800. My friends of the smoking-room
and of the supper-table philosophised on Monday, cashed my IOU's on
Tuesday, were satirical on Wednesday, and cut me on Thursday. My
relatives said "Something must be done," and invited me to stop at their
houses until that vague substantiality should be realised, and offers of
employment were generously made; but to all proposals I replied with
sudden disdain, and, desirous only of avoiding those who had known me in
my prosperity, I avowed my resolution of going to Australia.

After one of those lengthy voyages for which the good old ship "The
Wellesley" was renowned, the youth of bright fancies and disappointed
fortune set foot in Melbourne; and, after the manner of most "new chums"
with some cash at command and no direct restraining power at hand, he set
himself readily to work, fathoming the social and other depths of his new
home. The natural consequence of this was that one who had prematurely
seen so much "life" in London, soon made his way into quarters not highly
calculated to improve his morals or check his extravagantly-formed
habits. In other words, he began his Bohemian career in Australia with a
zest not altogether surprising in one who had been negligently allowed to
drift into London Bohemianism. And naturally, a youth with such
exceptional powers of quaint humour, playful satire, and bonhomie became
a universal favourite wherever he went, much, unfortunately, to his own
future detriment. But, in due course, a change came of necessity o'er
this Bohemian dream, when the ready cash was no longer procurable without
work. It was then, through the influence of his uncle the Judge, that the
impecunious youth was relegated to a high stool in the Bank of
Australasia. As might have been expected of one who spent most of his
time in drawing caricatures and writing satirical verses and sketches he
was a lusus naturæ to the authorities of the bank, and this is not to be
wondered at when one learns that his mode of adding up long columns of
figures was by guesswork, to wit, he would run his eye over the pence
column, making a guess at the aggregate amount, and so on with the
shillings and pounds columns. After a patient trial of some months it was
considered, in the interests of all concerned, that he should seek his
livelihood at a more congenial avocation, and thereupon he left the bank.
But here must be mentioned the manner in which the severance took place,
as being characteristic of him. Clarke applied for a short leave of
absence. The letter containing this request not having been immediately
answered he sought the presence of the manager for an explanation, when
the following scene took place:--Clarke: "I have come to ask, sir, whether
you received my application for a few weeks' leave of absence." The
Manager: "I have." Clarke: "Will you grant it to me, sir?" The Manager:
"Certainly, and a longer leave, if you desire it." Clarke: "I feel very
much obliged. How long may I extend it to, sir?" The Manager:
"Indefinitely, if you do not object!" Clarke: "Oh! I perceive, sir; you
consider it best for us to part; and perhaps it is best so, sir?" And Mr.
Clarke ceased to be a banker. Here it will not be inopportune to quote
from an article on "Business Men," written by him subsequently, referring
to this banking experience:--

It has always been my misfortune through life not to be a Business Man.
When I went into a bank--The Polynesian, Antarctic and Torrid Zone--I
suffered. I was correspondence clerk, and got through my work with
immense rapidity. The other clerks used to stare when they saw me
strolling homewards punctually at four. I felt quite proud of my
accomplishments. But in less than no time, a change took place. Letters
came down from up-country branches. "I have received cheques to the
amount of £1 15s. 6d., of two of which no mention is made in your letter
of advice." "Sir! how is it that my note of hand for £97 4s. 1 3/4d., to
meet which I forwarded Messrs. Blowhard and Co.'s acceptance, has been
dishonoured by your branch at Warrnambool?" "Private--Dear Cashup: Is your
correspondent a hopeless idiot? I can't make head or tail of his letter
of advice. As far as I can make out, he seems to have sent out the
remittances to the wrong places.--Yours, T. TOTTLE." I am afraid that it
was all true. The manager sent for me, said that he loved me as his own
brother, and that I wore the neatest waistcoats he had ever seen, but
that my genius was evidently fettered in a bank. Here was a quarter's
salary in advance, he had, no fault, quite the reverse; but, but, well--in
short--I was not a Business Man.

In addition to this the following remark, bearing on the same subject,
written in one of the "Noah's Ark" papers in the Australasian, may also
here be quoted:--

A Man of Business, said Marston, oracularly, is one who becomes possessed
of other people's money without bringing himself under the power of the
law.

Finding commercial pursuits were not his forte, the youthful ex-banker
bethought him of turning his attention to the free and out-door existence
of a bushman. Accordingly he, shortly after leaving the bank in 1865,
obtained, through his uncle, Judge Clarke, a "billet" on Swinton Station,
near Glenorchy, belonging to Mr. John Holt, and in which the Judge had a
pecuniary interest. Here he remained for some two years mastering the
mysteries of bushmanship in the manner described in the sketch in this
volume, styled "Learning Colonial Experience." It was during his sojourn
in this wild and mountainous region that our author imbibed that love for
the weird, lonely Australian Bush, which he so graphically and
pathetically describes in so many of his tales--notably in "Pretty Dick,"
a perfect bush idyll to those who know the full meaning of the words
Australian Bush. Although sent up to learn the ways and means of working
a station, it is to be feared that the results of the lessons were not
over fruitful. Indeed, beyond roving about the unfrequented portions of
the run in meditation wrapped, pipe in mouth and book in pocket, in case
of thoughts becoming wearisome, the sucking squatter did little else till
night set in, and then the change of programme simply meant his retiring
after the evening meal to his own room and spending the time well into
midnight writing or reading. From one who was a companion of his on the
station at the time, viz. the popular sports-man--genial, generous--Donald
Wallace, I have learned that though Clarke wrote almost every night he
kept the product of his labour to himself. But we now know that the work
of his pen appeared in several sketches in the Australian Magazine then
published by Mr. W. H. Williams. These were written under the nom de
plume of Marcus Scrivener. It was while residing in this district that he
took stock of the characters which he subsequently utilised in all his
tales relating to bush life. For instance, "Bullocktown," is well known
to be Glenorchy, the post-town of the Swinton Station, and all the
characters in it are recognisable as life portraits presented with that
peculiar glamor which his genius cast over all his literary work. And to
one of the characters in it--Rapersole--the then local postmaster, Mr. J.
Wallace, I am under an obligation for supplying me with some incidents in
our author's bush career. According to Mr. Wallace young Clarke was a
great favourite with everybody and was the life and soul of local
entertainments such as concerts, balls, &c., in which he took part with
great zest. He was also at that time a regular attendant at church, and a
frequent visitor to the local State-school, in which he evinced a lively
interest, giving prizes to the boys. He was, moreover, an omnivorous
reader, getting all the best English magazines and endless French novels
from Melbourne regularly. But whatever progress he may have been making
in his literary pursuits, it was found by Mr. Holt that as a "hand" on
the station he was not of countless price. Indeed, it was discovered
after he had been there some months, that not only did the gifted youth
pay little heed to his unintellectual work, but that he had to a great
extent imbued the station with such a love for reading--more particularly
the novels of Honoré Balzac--that the routine duty of their daily
existence became so irksome that they sought consolation by taking
shelter from the noonday sun under some umbrageous gum-tree, listening to
their instructor as he translated some of the delicate passages from the
works of the Prince of French novelists. Accordingly it was mutually
agreed by the employer and employé that the best course to pursue under
the circumstances was to part company. But, fortunately for the literary
bushman, it was just at this time when he had tried two modes of making a
living and had hopelessly failed in both, that a person appeared on the
scene who was destined to direct his brilliant talents to their proper
groove. There came as a visitor to Mr. Holt, in the beginning of 1867,
Dr. Robert Lewins. As Dr. Lewins had no small share in shaping the after
career of Marcus Clarke, it behoves me to briefly refer here to him and
his theories. Dr. Lewins, who had been staffsurgeon- major to General
Chute during the New Zealand war, had shortly before this arrived in
Melbourne with the British troops, en route to England; and, being a
friend of Mr. Holt's, went on a visit to him to Ledcourt, on which
station Clarke was then employed. Learning while there of the peculiar
youth whom Mr. Holt had as assistant, Dr. Lewins, who was like most
thinking men of his class, always on the look-out for discoveries,
whether human or otherwise, sought an introduction to the boy, whom
practical Mr. Holt considered, a "ne'er do weel." And no sooner was the
introduction brought about than the learned medico discovered that,
buried within view of the Victorian Grampians, lay hidden an intellectual
gem of great worth. Rapidly a mutual feeling of admiration and regard
sprang up between the young literary enthusiast of twenty and the learned
medico of sixty--an attachment which lasted through life. The savant
admired the rare talents of his protegé with the love of a father; while
the fanciful boy looked up to the learned man who had discerned his
abilities, and placed him on the road to that goal for which he was
destined. But the influence of the elder on the younger man did not cease
here, as without doubt the former converted the latter to his views
regarding existence. What these views were the Doctor explained in more
than one pamphlet addressed to eminent men in England and Europe. As
regards his pet theory, which he affirmed he had proved beyond doubt by
experiments, extending over forty years, in all parts of the world, it
may be, for the curious, briefly explained in his own words, as follows:--

"I. That there is no distinct vital principle apart from ordinary
inorganic matter or force,

"II. That oxygen is capable of assuming an imponderable form, and that it
is identical with the Cosmic 'primum mobile', the basis of light, heat,
chemical affinity, attraction, and electric force."

"III. That the theory of materialism is, in fact, the only tenable
theory."

The result of this tuition as regards Clarke was a remarkably able
article on "Positivism," which he wrote some months afterwards, and
which, I believe, saw light in one of the Liberal English reviews. But I
am forestalling the order of the biography. Having satisfied himself upon
the merits of the newlyfound intellect, the doctor, on his return to
Melbourne, told the proprietor of the Argus, with whom he was acquainted,
of his discovery, advising him to secure the unknown genius for his
journal, and so, in the course of a few weeks after meeting Dr. Lewins,
Marcus Clarke appeared in Melbourne, and in February, 1867, became a
member of the literary staff of the Argus. After an initiation into the
mysteries of a newspaper office the young journalist was allotted the
task of theatrical reporter, which routine drudgery he performed
satisfactorily till one night he took upon himself to criticise an
entertainment, which, unfortunately, through the indisposition of the
chief performer, did not come off. This carelessness on the part of the
imaginative critic led to his withdrawal from the Argus reporting staff,
but his relations with that paper and the Australasian were, however,
continued as a contributor. It was during this period that Marcus Clarke
contributed to the Australasian the two masterly reviews on Doré and
Balzac, published in these pages, besides writing weekly for the same
journal those sparkling and humorous papers, "The Peripatetic
Philosopher," which brought his name prominently before the public and
placed him at once in the front rank of Australian journalists--and here
it may be mentioned that the letter "Q.," under which he wrote the weekly
contributions, was the stock brand of the station on which he had
attempted to learn "colonial experience." Apart, however, from his
contributions to the Australasian, he supplied special articles to the
Argus, and acted as the theatrical critic of that paper for some time,
during which he wrote some admirable critiques on the late Walter
Montgomery's performances--critiques which gained for him the admiration
and regard of that talented actor, though unhappily they fell out
afterwards for some foolish reason or another. But the active brain of
the sparkling littérateur was not satisfied with journalistic work
merely. With the pecuniary assistance of a friend and admirer, the late
Mr. Drummond, police-magistrate--whose death shortly afterwards by poison
received from one of the snakes kept by the snake-exhibitor Shires, whom
he held to be an impostor as regarded his antidote, caused so much
excitement--he purchased from Mr. Williams the Australian Magazine, the
journal in which had appeared his earliest literary attempts. The name of
this he altered to the Colonial Monthly; and with praiseworthy enthusiasm
set about encouraging Australian literary talent by gathering around him
as contributors all the best local literary ability available. But,
despite his laudable efforts to create an Australian literature, racy of
the soil, he was doomed to disappointment and loss. The primary cause of
this unfortunate result may be ascribed to the sneers which any attempt
made by an Australian received at the hands of a few selfsufficient,
narrow--minded individuals, who, sad to say, had the ear of the then
reading public, because they unfortunately happened to be in a position
to dictate on literary matters. It was in the Colonial Monthly that
Clarke's first novel, Long Odds, appeared in serial form. Of this,
however, he only wrote a few of the first chapters, as shortly after its
commencement he met with a serious accident through his horse throwing
him and fracturing his skull--an accident from the effects of which he
never totally recovered. Some months prior to this mishap--about May,
1868--Clarke, in conjunction with some dozen literary friends, started a
modest club for men known in the fields of Literature, Art, and Science
--THE YORICK. This has developed in the course of the past fifteen years
into one in which the three elements predominating originally are lost in
the multifarious folds of "Professionalism." The Yorick Club was the
outcome of the literary and Bohemian--analogous terms in those
days--spirits who used then to assemble nightly at the Café of the Theatre
Royal to discuss coffee and intellectual subjects. These gatherings grew
so large in the course of time that it was found necessary, in order to
keep the communion up, to secure accommodation where the flow of genius,
if nothing else, might have full play without interruption and intrusion
from those deemed outside the particular and shining pale. Accordingly a
room was rented and furnished in Bohemian fashion, with some cane chairs,
a deal table, a cocoa-nut matting and spittoons. In this the first
meeting was held in order to baptise the club. The meeting in question
debated, with the assistance of sundry pewters and pipes--not empty,
gentle reader--the subject warmly from the first proposition made by
Clarke, that the club should be called "Golgotha," or the place of
skulls, to the last, "alas, poor Yorick!" This brief name was accepted as
appropriate, and the somewhat excited company adjourned to a Saturday
night's supper at a jovial Eating-House, too well known to fame. The
first office-bearers of the club were:--Secretary, Marcus Clarke;
Treasurer, B. F. Kane; Librarian, J. E. Neild; Committee, J. Blackburn,
G. C. Levey, A. Semple, A. Telo, J. Towers. The first published list of
members gives a total of sixty-four, but Time has made many changes in
that list, and Death has been busy too. Of the sixty-four original
members there have passed away the following well-known intellectuals:--B.
C. Aspinall, Marcus Clarke, Lindsay Gordon, Henry Kendall, T. Drummond,
J. C. Patterson, Jardine Smith, A. Telo, Father Bleardale, etc. It was at
the "Yorick" that Marcus Clarke first met one of whose abilities he
entertained a very high opinion, and towards whose eccentric and mournful
genius he was drawn by a feeling of sympathetic affection, namely, Adam
Lindsay Gordon, poet, and the once king of gentleman Jocks. Nothing could
have shown more assuredly the deep feeling and regard felt by Marcus
Clarke for Lindsay Gordon than pathetic preface he wrote for the
posthumous edition of the poet's works (an extract from which preface is
given in this volume under the title of "The Australian Bush") when the
poet himself put an end to his life, to the horror of the community,
which did not learn till after the heartbroken poet's death that it was
only the want of the wherewith to live upon which drove one of the
brightest geniuses Australia has seen into a suicide's grave. To those
who knew Gordon and Clarke intimately, the keen sympathy of genius
existing between them was easily understood, for there was, despite many
outward differences of manner, a wonderful similarity in their natures.
Both were morbidly sensitive; both broodingly pathetic; both
sarcastically humorous; both socially reckless; both literary Bohemians
of the purest water--sons of genius and children of impulse. That the deep
feeling for the dead poet and friend lasted till death with Marcus Clarke
was evidenced by his frequently repeating when in dejected spirits those
pathetically regretful lines of the "Sick Stockrider"--

I have had my share of pastime and I've done my share of toil.
And life is short--the longest life a span;
I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil,
Or for the wine that maketh glad the heart of man.
For goods undone and gifts misspent and resolutions vain
'Tis somewhat late to trouble. This I know--
I should live the same life over if I had to live again;
And the chances are I go where most men go.

And to see him seated at the piano humming these lines to his own
accompaniment, while the tears kept rolling down his cheeks, was proof
enough that the tender chords of a beloved memory were being struck, and
that the living son of genius mourned for his dead brother as only genius
can mourn. Turning to a more lively memento of Lindsay Gordon,
characteristic of him when the spirit of fun possessed him, the following
note, written to Clarke and kept by him sacredly, will interest his many
admirers:--

Yorick Club.

Dear Clarke,--Scott's Hotel, not later than 9.30 sharp. Moore will be
there. Riddock and Lyon, Baker and the Powers, beside us; so if 'the Old
One' were to cast a net--eh?--

        Yours,

                A. LINDSAY GORDON.

It was shortly after Gordon's untimely and sad death that Clarke became
acquainted with another erratic though differently constituted son of
genius--Henry Kendall, the foremost of Australian-born poets. Kendall met
with warm sympathy from the friend of Gordon, and, moreover, with a
helping hand in the hard life-struggle--which the poet feelingly referred
to in the following memorial verses written on the death of his friend
and benefactor:--

The night wind sobs on cliffs austere,
    Where gleams by fits the wintry star;
And in the wild dumb woods I hear
    A moaning harbour bar.

The branch and leaf are very still;
    But now the great grave dark has grown,
The torrent in the harsh sea-hill
    Sends forth a deeper tone.

Here sitting by a dying flame
    I cannot choose but think in grief
Of Harpur, whose unhappy name
    Is as an autumn leaf.

And domed by purer breadths of blue,
    Afar from folds of forest dark,
I see the eyes that once I knew--
    The eyes of Marcus Clarke.

Their clear, bright beauty shines apace
    But sunny dreams in shadow end.
The sods have hid the faded face
    Of my heroic friend.

He sleeps where winds of evening pass--
    Where water songs are soft and low,
Upon his grave the tender grass
    Has not had time to grow.

Few knew the cross he had to bear
    And moan beneath from day to day,
His were the bitter hours that wear
    The human heart away--

The laurels in the pit were won;
    He had to take the lot austere
That ever seemed to wait upon
    The mail of letters here,

He toiled for love, unwatched, unseen,
    And fought, his troubles band by band;
Till, like a friend of gentle mien,
    Death took him by the hand.

He rests in peace. No grasping thief
    Of hope and health can steal away
The beauty of the flower and leaf
    Upon his tomb to-day.

So let him sleep, whose life was hard!
    And may they place beyond the wave
The tender rose of my regard
    Upon his tranquil grave.

The idiosyncrasies of the two men were in many respects widely
dissimilar--Clarke's belonging to the polished school of the Old World
while Kendall's were akin to those of his own native land, in the New
World, but the acquaintanceship ripened into mutual admiration and
friendship; and together they worked on Humbug, the brilliant weekly
comic journal, started about this time by Clarson, Massina & Co., under
the editorship of Clarke. Probably one factor which exercised an
influence over Clarke in the interests of Kendall was the poem, written
to Lindsay Gordon's memory by Kendall, of which the following few lines
may here be given:--

The bard, the scholar, and the man who lived
That frank, that open-hearted life which keeps
The splendid fire of English chivalry
From dying out; the one who never wronged
Fellowman; the faithful friend who judged
The many, anxious to be loved of him,
By what he saw, and not by what he heard,
As lesser spirits do; the brave, great soul
That never told a lie, or turned aside
To fly from danger; he, I say, was one
Of that bright company this sin-staned world
Can ill afford to loose.

During this period, 1868-69, Clarke was a regular contributor to the
Argus and Australasian, writing leaders for the former journal, and,
besides the "Peripatetic Philosopher" papers for the latter, a series of
remarkably able sketches on "Lower Bohemia." These articles, as their
name implies, were descriptive of the life then existing in the lowest
social grades of Melbourne, composed to a great extent of broken-down men
of a once higher position in life, drawn hither by the gold discovery.
They made a great impression upon the public, being full of brilliantly
realistic writing, reminding one greatly of Balzac's ruthless style of
exposing without squeamishness the social cancers to be found among the
vagrant section of a community. Apart from his connection with the two
journals named, the prolific and sparkling journalist contributed at this
time to Punch some of the best trifles in verse and prose that ever
adorned its pages. This connection, however, he severed about the middle
of 1869, on undertaking the editorship of Humbug, a remarkably clever
publication. In Humbug appeared, perhaps, the best fugitive work Marcus
Clarke ever threw off. Besides his own racy pen, those of such well-known
writers as Dr. Neild, Mr. Charles Bright, Mr. A. L. Windsor and Henry
Kendall were busy on the pages of the new spirited, satirical organ,
which was ably illustrated by Mr. Cousins. Notwithstanding, however, all
this aray of talent the venture was not financially a success, as at that
time, the taste for journalistic literature was very much more limited
than now, and a writer, however gifted, had then a poor chance of earning
a livelihood by the efforts of his pen. While thus rapidly rising in the
rank of Australia's littérateurs, Clarke was unfortunately induced, by
the foolish advice of friends, who felt flattered by his company, to live
at a rate far exceeding his income, naturally becoming involved in debt.
From this there was no recourse but to borrow, and so the presence of the
usurer was sought. Thus commenced that course of life which, after a few
years of ceaseless worry, brought, long ere his time, the brilliant man
of genius, with the brightest of prospects before him, to the grave
brokenhearted. Surely those who led him into the extravagances, men his
seniors in years and experience, must bear their share of responsibility
for the dark end to so bright a beginning. And yet some of these were his
bitterest enemies afterwards. Undeterred, however, by the pecuniary
difficulties in which he found himself, he, with characteristic
thoughtlessness, plunged into matrimony by espousing Miss Marian Dunn,
the actress-daughter of genial John Dunn, Prince of Comedians. This young
lady was at the time of her engagement to Clarke playing with great
success a series of characters with the late Walter Montgomery, who
entertained so high an opinion of her histrionic abilities, as to urge
her to visit England and America with him. But the little lady preferred
to remain in Australia as the wife of the rising littéateur, and so they
were married on the 22nd of July, 1869, the only, witnesses of the
marriage being the bride's parents and the best man, the late Mr. B. F.
Kane, Secretary of the Education Department. And the strangest--but
characteristic of him--part of the ceremony was that the bridegroom, after
the connubial knot was tied, left his bride in charge of her parents,
while he went in search of lodgings wherein to take his "better half."
Having settled down as a Benedict, so far as it was possible for him to
do so, our author, doubtless inspired by the society he had married into,
set himself to work for the first time as a playwright, the result being
the production of a drama styled Foul Play, a dramatisation of Charles
Reade's and Dion Boucicault's novel of that name. It met with but partial
success. But not discouraged by this comparative failure, the
newly-fledged dramatist wrote, or rather adapted from other sources, for
the Christmas season of 1870 at the Theatre Royal, a clever burlesque on
the old nursery story of Goody Two Shoes, which met with considerable
success both from the Press and the public. But even in this, his almost
initial piece, he betrayed that weakness, theatrically speaking, which,
more or less, mared all his dramatic efforts, namely, writing above the
intelligence of the average audience. Soon after this overwork had told
its tale upon the restless brain, and the doctors ordered change of air
to the more salubrious climate of Tasmania. But as funds were, as usual
with him, decidedly low, how was the change to be effected? Eureka! He
would ask the Publishers of the now defunct Humbug to bring out a tale of
his in their Australian Journal. The tale should be full of thrilling
incidents relating to the old convict days in Tasmania. Brimming over
with the idea he sought the presence of the publishers in
question--Clarson, Massini & Co.--and made his suggestions. The offer was
at once accepted, and the needy writer received the necessary aid to take
him over to Van Diemen's Land, in order to improve his health and enable
him to pore over prison records. Thus was the now deservedly celebrated
novel, His Natural Life, initiated. But as to how it was completed is
another matter. Let the unfortunate publisher testify his experience. And
in such manner was produced His Natural Life. But the reader must
remember that the work, as now published by Messrs. Bentley in London, is
very different, as regards the construction and ending, to that which
appeared in serial form in the Australian Journal. As without doubt this
is the best and most sustained effort of Marcus Clarke's genius, and the
one upon which will chiefly rest his fame in literature, it is only right
to publish here some extracts from the various reviews written of the
novel in English, American and German papers.

The Daily Telegraph, London:--"And who," some thousands of readers may
ask, "is Mr. Marcus Clarke? Until a recent period we should have
confessed the very haziest knowledge of Mr. Marcus Clarke's existence,
save that in the columns of Melbourne newspapers his name has appeared.
Mr. Marcus Clarke has hardly entered into the ken of perhaps more than a
hundred persons in England; but, having read the forcible and impressive
novel entitled His Natural Life, we have not only come to an acquaintance
as admiring as it is sudden with the author's name, but esteem it by no
means a venturesome or hazardous act to predict for it a fame as great as
that achieved by any living novelist. Indeed this wonderful narrative,
which, despite the thrilling incident, bears on every page the honest
impress of unexaggerated truth, has the material of a whole circulating
library of tragic romance within itself. The only fault is the
over-abundance which necessitates hurry in its disposal. But if Mr.
Clarke's future has been embarrassed in some measure by its own riches,
the author may well be satisfied with the result, for he has furnished
readers in the old and new countries with matter for grave and earnest
reflection; he has re-opened a discussion that has too soon been
abandoned to torpor, and he has, in short, rendered better service than
the State of Letters is wont to receive at the hands of a mere novel
writer. . . . We have by no means over-praised this novel. The temptation
to run into superlatives is great, and it has been resisted here for the
one reason, if for no other, that, highly meritorious as Mr. Marcus
Clarke's first English publication stems in our eyes, we are yet of
belief, after its perusal, that he is destined to give the world yet
greater and more effective because more concentrated work."

Boston Gazette, America:--"One of the most powerfully written and most
absorbingly interesting novels that has lately attracted our notice is
His Natural Life, by Marcus Clarke. It is a story dealing with convict
life in Australia, and has been written 'for a purpose.' The plot is
constructed with remarkable skill, and in the depicting of character the
author manifests a talent we have rarely seen surpassed in any modern
writer of fiction. A similar high degree of praise may be awarded him for
his description of scenery. The book is intensely dramatic both in
subject and treatment, but it is quite free from 'sensationalism' in the
objectionable sense of the word. The style is healthy, manly and
vigorous, and shows a surprising facility in word painting. Mr. Clarke
professes to have drawn his characters, localities and incidents directly
from nature, and his work bears internal evidence that he has. It is the
most stirring story of its class that has appeared since Victor Hugo's
Les Misèrables, of which it has all the fire and artistic feeling, minus
the affectation. This novel cannot fail to make its mark."

The Stectator, London:--"It is something to write a book so powerful,
especially as all the power is directed to the noblest end."

Saturday Review, London:--"There is undeniable strength in what Mr. Clarke
has written."

Morning Post, London:--"This novel appals while it fascinates, by reason
of the terrible reality which marks the individual characters living and
breathing in it. The tragic power of its situations, the knowledge of the
sombre life which the author shows so vividly in the able handling of its
subject, the pathos which here and there crops up like an oasis in a
sandy desert, lead the reader from the beaten track of fiction."

The Graphic, London:--"It is, of course, possible that Mr. Marcus Clarke
may turn out to be a man of one book, and out of his element in any
atmosphere but that of convict and penal settlements. He shows, however,
too much knowledge of human nature generally to make us think this at all
likely, and if so, he must be hailed as a valuable recruit to the ranks
of novelists of the day."

Vanity Fair, London:--"There is an immensity of power in this most
extraordinary book."

The World, London:--"Few persons will read his remarkable descriptions of
convict life and antipodean scenery without recognising an author of
commanding originality and strength."

The Reform, Hamburg (translated irom the German.):--"This novel treats of
a terrible subject. The life of the prisoners in Van Diemen's land is set
before us in a panorama painted by a master hand. Ladies of a sentimental
turn had better abstain from reading this story, unless they choose to
risk a nervous fever. The romance is full of power. The writer
illuminates the lowest depths of human nature in a manner which holds us
spell-bound, despite ourselves. Marcus Clarke is a master of psychology,
and his descriptions of nature are as effective as his style is pure."

And from no less a giant in literature than Oliver Wendell Holmes, of
Boston, America, the following complimentary letter was received by
Clarke in acknowledgment of a copy of the novel sent to the author of the
Autocrat of the Breakfast Table:--"The pictures of life under the dreadful
conditions to which the convicts were submitted are very painful, no
doubt, but we cannot question the fact that they were only copied from
realities as bad as their darkest shadows. The only experiences at all
resembling these horrors which our people have had were the cruelties to
which our prisoners were subjected in some of the southern pens for human
creatures during the late war. I do not think they were driven to
cannibalism, but the most shocking stories were told of the condition to
which they were reduced by want of food and crowding together. There are
some Robinson Crusoe touches in your story, which add greatly to its
interest, and I should think that the colonists, and thousands at home in
the mother country, would find it full of attraction in spite of its
painful revelations. This work cannot fail to draw attention, and make
your name widely known and appreciated as an author throughout the
world."

Besides contributing this historical romance to the columns of the
Australian Journal Clarke was busy writing in the Australasian those
sketches of the early days of Australia, which were afterwards published
in book form under the title of Old Tales of a Young Country. These
sketches, like his great novel, though highly interesting as historical
records of the colonies, were for the most part worked up from
governmental pamphlets and old journals. But in the casting they were
stamped by the genius of the master-hand, which could appropriate and
improve upon the appropriation as only men of original calibre are able
to do. In the meantime the "Peripatetic Philosopher" ceased to adorn the
pages of the Australasian with his caustic and eccentric dissertations,
because, through the influence of one of the noblest patrons of letters
in Victoria--the late Sir Redmond Barry--the Philosopher had been found a
congenial post as Secretary to the Trustees of the Public Library, of
whom Sir Redmond himself was the respected President. This appointment
was made in June, 1870, and from that time Clarke ceased to be connected
with the staff of any journal, though remaining a brilliant and valued
contributor all his life to newspapers, magazines, reviews, &c., instead
of, unfortunately, concentrating his exceptional powers on the production
of works of a class with His Natural Life. Among other articles
contributed by him about this time were the "Buncle Letters," which
appeared in the Argus and attracted much attention, being running
comments of a satirically humorous character, on the social and political
events of the day, supposed to be written by one brother resident in town
to his less sophisticated brother in the country. In the same journal,
Clarke wrote a descriptive sketch of the mining mania which had seized
upon Sandhurst at the time; and for piquancy the sketch was among his
best in descriptive journalism. At this period, also, he once more tried
his hand at the drama, and adapted for John Dunn, his father-in-law,
Moliére's celebrated comedy, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, into English,
under the title of Peacock's Feathers, which was produced with great
success at the Theatre Royal. Mention has been made of the interest Sir
Rednond Barry evinced in the rising littérateur whom he took under his
parental wing when obtaining for him the post in the Public Library. And
this interest and regard the respected Judge retained for his protégé,
despite his oft-repeated thoughtless acts, to the end of his life, which
end arrived, strange to say, only some few months before that of the much
younger man, who, on hearing of Sir Redmond's death, expressed himself as
having lost his best and truest friend. But with all the warm regard
existing between the vererable judge and the youthful author, there was
always a certain characteristic hauteur on the one hand, and a
reverential respect on the other, in their official and social
relationships. In proof of this a couple of examples may be related. It
was a hot summer's day, and, as was his style in such weather, the
librarian was dressed dandily in unspotted white flannel, a cabbage-tree
hat shadowing his face. So clothed he was leisurely wending his way up
the steps of the library when he met the President, looling more
starched, if possible, than ever, and wearing the well-known,
flat-rimmed, tapering, belltopper, which shone sleekily in the glare of
the noonday sun. The following brief dialogue then ensued:--President:
"Good morning, Mr. Clarke." Librarian: "Good morning, sir." President: "I
scarcely think your hat is exactly suited to the position you occupy in
connection with this establishment, Mr. Clarke--Good morning," and with a
stiff bend of the erect body the President took his departure with just a
glimmer of a smile playing round the firmlyclosed lips. Again, not long
before Sir Redmond's death, and when the librarian had got himself into
"hot water" among the "unco guid" section of the Trustees, through
writing his clever though caustic reply to the Anglican Bishop, Dr.
Moorhouse's criticism on Clarke's article, "Civilisation without
Delusion," the President appeared one evening in the librarian's office
with a clouded countenance, and said, "Good evening, Mr. Clarke." The
librarian, with an intuitive feeling that something was wrong returned
the salutation, when the President remarked: "Mr. Clarke, you would
oblige me greatly if you were to leave some things undone. For instance,
that unfortunate article of yours--attacking so estimable a man as the
bishop. Very indiscreet, Mr. Clarke. I--think--I--should-require-to-have-
some-- thousands a year of a private income before I would--venture--upon
writing such an--article on --such a subject, and among so punctillious a
community as exists here. Good evening, Mr. Clarke:" and the librarian
was left dazed and speechless at the solemnity of the rebuke, and the
dignified departure of his President. Recurring back to the literary work
being done by our author, we find that it was during the next two
years--namely, in 1872-73--that his prolific pen was in its busiest mood,
for within the space of those twenty-four months he wrote the
psychological dialogues styled "Noah's Ark," in the Australasian; these
were interspersed with those exquisitely told stories, subsequently
published in book form under the names of Holiday Peak and Four Stories
High. The former was dedicated to Oliver Wendell Holmes upon whom he
looked as one of the brightest gems in the literary firmament, and from
whom he had received much literary encouragement; the latter was
dedicated to an appreciative friend, the late kind-hearted though
explosive William Saurin Lyster, the man to whom Australian lovers of
music owe a deep debt of gratitude as the first introducer of high-class
opera and oratorio to these shores. Of these stories, Pretty Dick is
perhaps the finest piece of work as regards execution done by Australia's
greatest literary artist. And in this opinion I am not alone, as the
following letter, from one who stands very high in the world's estimate
as a master of true pathos und humour will show:--

DEAR MR. CLARKE,--Boston, 23rd December. 1872.

I received your letter and MS., with the newspaper extract, some two or
three days ago, and sat down at once and read the story. It interested me
deeply, and I felt as much like crying over the fate of "Pretty Dick" as
I did when I was a child and read the Babes in The Wood. I did cry then--I
will not say whether I cried over "Pretty Dick" or not. But I will say it
is a very touching story, very well told. I am, Dear Mr. Clarke,

        Most sincerely yours,

                O. W.

Apart from these tales, there appeared among the "Noah's Ark" papers some
excellent original verse, at times approximating to poetry and several
metrical translations from Greek, Latin, German and French poets. He also
composed in this year,--1872--his most effectively written drama, Plot,
which was produced at the Princess' Theatre with success. Following on
Plot, he wrote, or rather adapted, the pantomime of Twinkle Little Star,
which was played at the Theatre Royal during the Christmas season making
quite "a hit." It was about this time that the relations between Marcus
Clarke and the journals with which he had from the commencement of his
journalistic career been connected became strained, as is said in
diplomatic jargon, and shortly afterwards, all connection between them
ceased for ever. As a good deal of misconception exists about the breach
that took place between the subject of this biography and the
representatives out here of the proprietors of the Argus and
Australasian, it is advisable in the interest of the author to explain
the cause of the breach. It was in this year that Mr. Bagot, the
"indefatigable" Secretary of the Victoria Racing Club, declined while
under some peculiar influence to issue free tickets to the press, as had
been the universal custom from time immemorial. The very natural reply of
the press to this uncalled-for and blundering affront was simply not to
report the races. This was agreed to by the morning journals then
published in Melbourne. But in the Evening Herald which was not, through
questionable motives, consulted in the matter, there appeared the night
the Cup was run, a remarkably clever report of the event--perhaps the
cleverest description of the Cup meeting which has been seen in the pages
of any Melbourne journal. Naturally the sparkling report caused no small
consternation in the ranks of journalism in the city; more especially
among the authoritics of the Argus, who did not fail to recognise it to
be the ingenious brainwork of their own contributor--Marcus Clarke. When
questioned on the subject the erratic journalist denied having been at
the races, but admitted writing the sketch, claiming his right to do so
on the ground that, as the Argus did not choose to employ him because of
a disagreement with Mr. Bagot he had every moral right to earn an honest
penny from the proprietors of another journal who afforded him the
opportunity of so doing. This, however, did not satisfy the ruling power
of the Argus (Mr. Gowen Evans), who was probably chagrined to read in
another journal the work of one whom he looked upon as that paper's
property. The result of this attempt at autocratic interference and
dictation was the loss to the journals in question of the writer whose
work above that of all others had adorned their columns, and increased
their popularity. Having parted from the journals which he had so greatly
aided by his rare abilities, Clarke became attached as a contributor to
the Daily Telegraph and subsequently to the Age and Leader. The next,
most important and unfortunate, event which overtook him about this
period was his insolvency. Though long expected, and known to be
inevitable, the victim of untoward circumstances put off the evil day by
every means in his power, thereby sinking deeper and deeper in the mire,
till at last his doom had to be met, and his name appeared in the
bankruptcy list. What those who had helped to lead him into this position
felt when the disagreeable fact became known can only be conjectured,
but, at any rate, their foolish dupe felt the position more acutely than
any acquaintance of his could possibly imagine, judging by the
light-hearted manner in which he discussed the subject with one and all.
Only these who knew Marcus Clarke intimately--and they were few--realised
how keenly he suffered from the thought that one, like himself, with a
name and a fame, who had had every chance of being independent, should
become what he, poor, generous, thoughtless fellow, had become. Still, it
was unavoidable, and his fate was sealed. Would that the first mistake
had acted as a warning, but it was not to be, for no sooner was one
difficulty overcome than another commenced, ending only when life was no
more--that life which was driven to its death by the merciless snares of
the crafty usurer, against whom, at the last, he fought as desperately as
man does against the remorseless python, who knows his prey is safe in
the fatal embrace. Yet despite all these monetary troubles, the
inherently strong sense of humour in him would trifle with the
seriousness of the position, for it was about this time that he penned
the following remarks as the real excuse for his chronically impecunious
condition:--

I have made a scientific discovery. I have found out the reason why I
have so long been afflicted with a pecuniary flux. For many years past I
have tried to tind out why I am always in debt, and have consulted all
sorts of financial physicians, but grew no better, but rather the worse.
The temporary relief afforded by a mild loan or an overdraft at the bank
soon vanished. I once thought that by the judicious application of a
series of bills at three months I could cheek the ravages of disease;
but, alas! my complaint was aggravated, while I had not courage for the
certain and painful remedy of the actual cautery, as recommended by Dr.
Insolvent Commissioner Noel. My friends said I had "Got into bad hands,"
that I had been deceived by advertising quacks, whose only object was to
depress the financial system and keep me an invalid as long as possible.
I applied for admission into the Great Polynesian Loan Company's
Hospital, and pawned myself there, in fact, at the ridiculously low rate
of 350per cent. I was insured in the Shylock Alliance Company (which
afterwards, to my great disgust, amalgamated with the Polynesian) and
there I sold the reversionary interest in my immortal soul, I believe, to
a bland gentleman who calculated the amount of blood in my body and flesh
on my bones by the aid of a printed money-table. Yet my financial health
did not seem to improve. I grew anxious, and began to reason. I resolved
to write a book. I wrote one, and called it A Theory for the Causation,
and Suggestions for the Prevention of Impecuniosity; together with
Hypotheses on the Causation, and Views as to the Prevention of
Composition-with-creditors, Bankruptcy, Fraudulent Insolvency, and other
Pecuniary Diseases. In the course of examination of Bills of Sale,
Acceptances, Liens on Wool, and other matters, I discovered by accident
the cause of my disease. It was the simplest thing in the world. The
idiots of doctors had been treating me for extravagance whereas the fact
was that I was cursed with so powerful and innate a passion for economy
that I never could bring myself to the expenditure of ready money.

But turning to a pleasanter and more interesting subject, the Cave of
Adullam has to be mentioned. The Cave of Adullam! "What is that?" may ask
the uninitiated reader. Well, the particular cave alluded to was a club
house, once situated in Flinders Lane, behind the Argus office, where
stands now some softgoods palatial structure. To this only a very select
body of members was admitted, the selectness in this case necessitating
that a member should be happily impecunious, and, if possible, be hunted
by the myrmidons of the law. From this brief description it will be seen
that the Adullamites were a family sui generis. The entrance to the
modest building was not easy of access, being only reached by a tortuous
lane of ominous appearance, guarded by an animal who boasted the bluest
of blue bulldog blood. The pass-words were--"Honor! No Frills!" The
members were mostly composed of literary Bohemians, whose wordly paths
were not strewn with roses, and between whom and the trader there existed
a mutual disrespect. Chief among the members of this exclusive
brotherhood was the subject of this biography, who, having discarded the
more conventional surroundings of the Yorick Club, became a shining light
within the shades of the Cave of Adullam. And to commemorate the genius
of the members of the Cave was written a Christmas tale, yclept 'Twixt
Shadow and Shine, which contains fanciful portraitures of the leading
Adullamites. But, alas! the destroyer of all things, Time, has one by one
scattered its members, till now the place that knew the members of that
eccentric Bohemian band knows them no more. Sic transit gloria, &c. And
with Hamlet we may say, addressing that once coruscating group--"Where be
your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that
were wont to set the table in a roar? Not one now to mock your own
jeering? Quite chap-fallen!" Notwithstanding, however, all the merry
goings on at the Cave, Clarke was, perhaps, harder at work in those years
than at any other time, although certainly the work was thrown off
without much effort, and with as little care for a future reputation. It
was at this time he first became a contributor to the Age and Leader,
with which his connection lasted up to his death, having gone through the
trying ordeal incident upon the Age cum Berry Reform Agitation of 1877,
'78, '79, into which he threw himself with all the zest of a thorough
hater of Shoddocracy, writing some of the most telling articles which
illumined the pages of these journals at that time. And he fought the
more zealously in the fray, because he wrote under the editorial guidance
of one upon whom he looked as, at once, the best read and the ablest
journalist on the Australian press--Mr. A. L. Windsor. It was during this
period he enjoyed the friendship and confidence of the then Governor of
Victoria, Sir George Bowen, and was offered by Mr. Graham Berry (now Sir)
the Librarianship of the Parliament Library, which he declined, relying
upon securing that of the Public Library, in which, however, he was
doomed to disappointment a year or two later. Clarke, apart from
Melbourne journals, contributed largely to the Queenslander as also to
the Sydney Mail through the introduction of the late Mr. Hugh George, the
gentleman who as general manager of the Argus raised that paper to a high
position, and who subsequently was the valued general manager of the
Messrs. Fairfax's newspapers in Sydney. Of all those connected
prominently uith the Argus when Marcus Clarke was its brightest ornament,
Mr. Hugh George alone remained to the end the generous advocate of his
exceptional abilities, of which he never lost an opportunity to avail
himself in the Sydney journals, over which he exercised a control. And
about the last negotiations Clarke entered into only a few weeks before
his unexpected death, were with that gentlernan, in connection with a
proposal that he should start on a tour through the colonies and South
Sea Islands as the accredited "Special" of the Messrs. Fairfax's
newspapers, and of the London Daily Telegraph, for which brilliantly
written journal he had been acting for some years as "Australian
Correspondent;" and that he was held in high estimation by the
authorities of that remarkable paper the following letter, written by its
proprietor and editor, speaks for itself. Wrote Mr. Lawson Levy:--

"Without having the pleasure of your personal acquaintance, I am sure you
will pardon me if I venture to address you on a subject which may not be
without interest. I have read your books with very great pleasure, and it
has occurred to me that you possess most of the qualifications for
journalism of the highest order. Has the idea ever occurred to you of
adopting this branch of literature, and would it suit your views to come
to England? I am, of course, ignorant of what your position may be, and
ignorant of any feeling that you may have upon the subject. It is quite
possible that ties may bind you to Australia--ties that you cannot break.
If, however, the idea should have entered into your mind, tell me in a
letter what your position is, what income you would require to entice you
to come to London, whether you feel yourself competent for journalistic,
work, whether you have ever done any, and if you have, you would perhaps
think it advisable to send me by the next mail, samples of such work. If,
moreover, for the moment, the notion should seem acceptable to you, sit
down and write me three or four leading articles on any subject that may
seem best to you--articles that will make about a column of our newspaper
matter; and put into them as much of your force and vigor as you can
command. Under any circumstances, whether my ideas waken any sympathy in
your mind or not, I am sure you will permit me to congratulate you on the
success your works have met with here."

Why Marcus Clarke did not avail himself of the chance of going to London
under such auspices it is difficult to imagine, the more particularly
that he was well aware that such talent as his had no possible scope in
this, a new country, whereas in London literary circles it would have
been appreciated at its proper value. Surely, in the face of such
encouragement, a genius, well nigh suffocated by the denseness of the
quasi-intellectual atmosphere surrounding it, should have seized the
opportunity to move from scenes clouded over with trouble, and from a
community which gave but a feeble response to its bright efforts? But,
somehow, it did not, or could not. Returning to the year 1876, an event
happened which deeply affected Marcus Clarke. In August of that year his
father-in-law, genial, witty John Dunn, for whom he had a sincere
affection, fell down dead in the street. The bitterness of this loss was
greatly aggravated by his inability to publish the autobiography of the
deceased actor, which he had together with Dr. Neild revised at the
author's request, with a view to its publication after his death. But the
wish of the deceased was not carried out, owing, it is said, to an
objection taken by a daughter of the actor, who had married into
so-called Society circles, to have the ups and downs of a poor player's
family career submitted to public view. Accordingly, the autobiography of
Australia's clever comedian was not brought out, and the early history of
the Australian stage has been lost to the public. For the next three
years, besides the journalistic work alluded to, Clarke was busy at
dramatic composition, producing, in conjunction with Mr. Keely, Alfred
the Great, a burlesque, which achieved a success at the Bijou Theatre,
during the Christmas season of 1877. This was followed by the adaptation
for the Theatre Royal of Wilkie Collins' sensational novel Moonstone.
This play was not the success anticipated, but it must be said in justice
to the author that it was considerably spoiled by the pruning-knife of
the management, which did its slashing with little judgment. Another
piece, a comedietta, styled, Baby's Luck, was subsequently written for
Mr. J. L. Hall, in which that popular actor appeared to great advantage.
Fernande, a clever adaptation of Sardou's emotional drama of that name,
was also written about this time, but never produced owing to a
disagreement over the matter. Of this adaptation Miss Genevieve Ward
expressed to the writer a high opinion of its merits, which, coming from
so great an artist and one who had read the play in the original, is no
small compliment to the author. It may also be surmised that it was
during this period that the fanciful extravaganza of The King of the
Genii was composed. This piece is written in a Gilbertean manner, and is
not unlike that author's Palace of Truth. Yet Clarke's ability as a
playright was thrown away, as theatrical managers in the colonies had
not, unfortunately, either the capacity to know a good thing, or the
enterprise to encourage local talent. But not only was Clarke's pen busy
at dramas--it was tempted into an entirely new field--that of history. At
the suggestion of the then Minister of Education, the late Mr. Justice
Wilberforce Stephen, he was engaged to write a history of Australia for
the State-schools, which had just come under the new secular, compulsory,
and free Education Act. This work entailed upon the writer more routine
labour than was to his taste, and consequently, instead of devoting
himself to the somewhat tedious task, he, after commencing the book,
handed it over, in his usual good-hearted way to some impecunious
friends, who did not possess any literary qualification for such work,
the consequence being that the book turned out to be a miserable fiasco,
and was never used in the schools for which it was intended. Some notion
of its value may be gleaned from the following critical notice of it in a
leading journal:--"In short, the book before us is calculated to impress
the reader with the idea that it has been compiled by some literary
charlatan rather than by an author of Mr. Marcus Clarke's ability and
reputation." But because little or no attention was given by the supposed
author of the history to the work, it must not be imagined that the
fertile mind was inactive. That clever, though eccentric, brochure, The
Future Australian Race, was written at this period. Of it an English
paper wrote:--"It deals with a subject of considerable ethnological and
social interest in language more forcible than philosophical. Mr. Clarke
considers that vegetarians are Conservatives, and 'Red Radicals,' for the
most part meat-eaters, while 'fish-eaters are invariably moderate Whigs.'
He thinks that 'the Australasians will be content with nothing short of a
turbulent democracy,' and that in five hundred years the Australasian
race will have 'changed the face of nature, and swallowed up all our
contemporary civilisation,' but it is fortunately 'impossible that we
should live to see this stupendous climax. Après nous, le déluge.'"
Besides this his restless mind was weekly giving out articles, reviews,
and sketches, bearing his own mint mark, in the Age, the Leader, the
Sydney Mail and Morning Herald, and London Daily Telegraph. It was also
at work on the Melbourne and Victorian Reviews, in a somewhat
significant, albeit imprudent manner, for it was in the Victorian that
his "disturbing" article on "Civilisation Without Delusion" appeared, and
in the Melbourne his clever rejoinder, to Dr. Moorhouse's reply to the
original article, saw light. The last efforts of Clarke in the direction
of dramatic work, were the two comedies written for his wife on her
re-appearance, after an absence of some years, at the Bijou in the winter
of 1880. Of the two, the one, A Daughter of Eve, was original; the other,
Forbidden Fruit, being an adaptation from the French. The former is
undoubtedly clever, being on the lines of Sheridan's comedies; and in the
leading character of "Dorothy Dove," Mrs. Clarke did every justice to her
histrionic abilities. Besides these comedies, the author left unfinished
the libretto of Queen Venus an Opera Bouffe on which he was engaged with
M. Kowalski, the eminent pianist, at the time of his death; also the
plots and a portion of the matter of the following;--Reverses, an
Australian Comedy; Paul and Virginia, a burlesque; Fridoline, an opera
comique, and Salome, a comedy. And now reference has to be made to that
which more than any other single cause led to the unfortunate pecuniary
and other complications in which the subject of this memoir became
involved during the last year or two of his short life--namely his
appointment as agent with power-of-attorney to act as he deemed desirable
for his cousin, Sir Andrew Clarke, in connection with some landed
property owned by that gentleman in this colony. Paradoxical as this
statement may appear it is nevertheless too true that the confidence
placed by Sir Andrew Clarke in his cousin's ability to act as his sole
and unchecked agent in business matters was one of the most fatal errors
ever committed both for the principal and the agent. For the former it
meant pecuniary loss, for the latter neglect of all literary work. That
Marcus Clarke was altogether to blame for the "mixed" condition into
which the business affairs of his cousin got is simply absurd. All that
can be urged against him in the matter is that he was negligent and
thoughtless in connection with them as he had always been with his own.
However, the less said the better in connection with this episode of the
brilliant littérateur's life for after all it was not his fault but
misfortune, as he has said himself, that he was not a Business Man.
Indeed, no reference would have been made to this matter were it not that
it was the greatest misfortune that ever happened to Clarke that he had
anything to do with this business, as it not only led him to abandon his
proper duties, but led him, also, deeper into the clutches of usurers,
who eventually wrought him to death before his time. And it is probably
owing to this "bungle" that Sir Andrew Clarke has not seen his way to
help (although receiving a handsome pension from this colony) the widow
and children of him of whose abilities he could think so highly as to
induce the Prince of Wales, when on his visit to India where Sir Andrew
was Minister of Public Works, to read His Natural Life. The Prince did
read the book, and was so struck by its powers that he expressed a desire
to meet the author, who, he suggested, ought to go to that intellectual
centre of the world--London. It may be assumed that it was owing to this
unfortunate business craze which had seized hold of our author, that
there had been left behind in an unfinished state a novel which began so
brilliantly as Felix and Felicitas. Commenced years before, it was
allowed to lie by during his "landlord" days, and until a few months
previous to his demise, when it was re-commenced; but too late, for the
hand of Death was already upon him, as he himself too well knew and
frequently remarked during the last few weeks of his life--notably on the
Queen's Birthday, preceding his decease--when, walking with a friend in
the vicinity of the Yarra Bend Asylum he mournfully remarked, "Which
shall it be--the Mad Asylum or the Pauper Grave? Let a toss of the coin
decide--head, grave; tail, asylum." And forthwith a florin was tossed, and
fell tail uppermost. "Not if I know it, my festive coin. No gibbering
idiot shall I e'er be; rather the gleeful, gallows-tree." That English
literature has lost through the incompletion of Felix and Felicitas, no
judge who has perused the opening chapters can deny; and that the promise
of artistic merit held out by these chapters was fully realised by
authorities on the subject is proved by the anxiety of Messrs. Bentley
and Sons to urge on the writer to complete the work for publication in
London; and so capable a critic as Mrs. Cashel Hoey, writing from London
to the Australasian of the story, remarked:--

The literary world here has received with great regret the intelligence
of Mr. Marcus Clarke's death. His tales of the early days of the
colonies, and his very striking novel, His Natural Life, made a deep
impression here. We were always expecting another powerful fiction from
his pen. I fear he has not left any finished work, and I regret the fact
all the more deeply that I have been allowed the privilege of reading a
few chapters of a novel begun by Mr. Marcus Clarke, under the title of
Felix and Felicitas. The promise of those chapters is quite exceptional;
they equal in brilliancy and vivacity the best writing, of Edward Whitty,
and they surpass that vivid writer in construction. It is difficult to
believe, while reading the opening chapters of this, I fear, unfinished
work, that the author lived at the other side of the world from the
scenes and the society which he depicts with such accuracy, lightness,
grace, and humour.

In order to enable the reader to have some idea of the interesting nature
of the plot of the story ideally drawn, it is said, from the author's own
experiences, the following sketch of it written by him for the publishers
will doubtless be welcome:--

The following is a synopsis of my novel now in MS. The title is FELIX AND
FELICITAS. Those who were in the Academy Exhibition of 18--remember the
picture "Martha and Mary." The artist was a Mr. Felix Germaine, the son
of a country parson having a rectory near Deal. I know the place well.
The brother of this clergyman is travelling tutor and friend to Lord
Godwin (one like Lord Pembroke), who has just returned from a cruise in
the South Seas in his yacht. Ampersand, the idler (everybody knows him),
meets Godwin on his return, and tells him of the success of his old
schoolfellow--Felix. He brings both to a concert at Raphael Delevyra's,
the famous pianoforte maker; and there they hear some good musical and
witty talk. Stivelyn, Carbeth, Storton,--not unlike Swinburne, Buchanin,
and Albert Grant--are there amongst others. Felix, who is married to a
charmingly domesticated wife, falls in love with Mrs. Delevyra, who, as
all the world knows, was Felicitas Carmel--the niece of Carmel, the
violinist, who retired from public life, having paralysis of the left
hand. (N.B.--The great Beethoven was deaf; but his torments were nothing
to Carmel's.) Mr. Delevyra is a rich, thriving man--some say that his name
is really Levi--but Felicitis doesn't care for him. She and Felix you
see--want to live that Higher Life of which we have heard so much lately;
and consequently they resolve to break the Seventh Commandment. They get
away in Godwin's yacht; and now begins my effort at mental analysis. In a
little time they grow weary; then blame each other; then they are poor:
and finally they hate each other--each blaming each for causing the
terrible fall from the high standards of Ideality settled by them in
their early interviews. In the midst of this Delevyra arrives. The Jew
has made up his mind. He loves his wife; but she has betrayed him. He
will not forgive her; or rather he cannot forgive himself. He explains
the commonsense view of the matter. He shows her that she has spent
two-thirds of his income--that her desertion was not only treacherous, but
foolish, inasmuch as she loses respect, position, and money. In fine,
with some sarcasm and power, he strips adultery of its poetic veil, and
shows it to be worse than a crime--a blunder. Felix expects a duel--not at
all. Delevyra discourses him sweetly upon the "Higher Life," and says to
his wife-- "If this is the congenial soul you pine for I will allow him
£300 a year to live with you and make you happy." Felicitas
travels--divorced and allowanced (Teresa Perugino did the same.) She
writes books, poems, and travels--very recondite stuff they say. Felix,
utterly shamed, goes home in Godwin's yacht. He is wrecked at Deal, near
his own house, and his body is brought to his wife. He, however,
recovers, and lives happily. Ampersand says in the last chapter--"You ask
what the Modern Devil is." It is an Anti-Climax. We haven't the strength
to carry, any thing to the end. These people ought to have taken poison
or murdered somebody. I saw Felix the other day. He is quite fat and
rubicund. His wife henpecks him. He makes lots of money by pictures--but
they are not as good as "Martha and Mary".

The romance is musical, aesthetic, and sensational. It is not written
virginibus puerisque, but the effect is a moral one. Some of the
characters may be recognised, but I have avoided direct personality.

And now comes the last scene of all, and it is with a sorrowful heart I
pen these lines, for Memory flies back to the bright days of our early
friendship, when, boys together, we never found "the longest day too
long," and whispers, in mournful tones, "Ah! what might have been." But
it was not to be, and I bow in silent submission to the Omnipotent Will.
Some months before the end came the never strong constitution of my
friend began to give forth ominous signs of an early break-up. The
once-active brain became by degrees more lethargic, and the work which at
one time could be executed with rapidity and force became a task not to
be undertaken without effort. The vivid, humorous imagination of the
Peripatetic Philosopher assumed a more sombre hue, yielding itself up to
the unravelling of psychological puzzles. The keen vein of playful satire
which was so marked a feature of his mental calibre turned into a
bitterness that but reflected the disappointed mind of this son of
genius; and hence, for upwards of six months, from the opening of the
year 1881 to the day of his death in the August of that year no literary
work of consequence was done with the exception of the Mystery of Major
Molineux, which opened in his usual finished style, but which through
force of untoward pecuniary circumstances was wound up suddenly, leaving
the mystery as mysterious as ever. But above all other matters that
occupied his thoughts during the few weeks preceding his death--and the
one which may be set down as the chief cause of that death, was the
compulsory sequestration of his estate by Aaron Waxman, usurer (since
gone to render his account before the Almighty Tribunal), which meant the
loss of his position in the Public Library. All these mental troubles
came upon the broken-down body in a cluster, and the burden was too heavy
to bear. Struggling against his bitter fate--the more bitter that he knew
he was himself greatly to blame--he fell by the way, crushed in mind and
body, and the bright spirit passed away from the weakly tenement of clay
which held it, to, let us hope, more congenial realms, leaving behind it
a blank in the social and literary circles it was wont to frequent, which
cannot be filled up, for that spirit was sui generis. The illness which
immediately caused his decease commenced with an attack of pleurisy, and
this developing into congestion of the liver, and finally into
erysipelas, carried him off in the space of one short week. Indeed he
had, during the last year of his life, suffered so frequently from
attacks brought on by a disordered liver, that little heed was given to
the final attack till a day or two previous to his death, when the wife,
who had so unwearyingly attended him night and day, found that matters
were more serious than anticipated and sent for an old companion and
friend of her husband's, Dr. Patrick Moloney. From the beginning he held
out little hopes, as the constitution was sadly worn out, and the mental
worry of the latter weeks had completed the task of dissolution. But the
dying man himself did not evidently realise his position even up to the
time of the insensibility which preceded death setting in, for only a few
hours before his decease he remarked jocularly to his watchful wife,
"When I get up I will be a different man with a new liver," and then
asked for and put on his coat. But the end came upon him rapidly. Losing
his speech he beckoned for pencil and paper, and seizing hold of the
sheets moved his hand over them as if writing. Shortly afterwards the
mind began to wander, but still the hand continued moving with increasing
velocity, and every now and then a futile attempt to speak was made. But
the tongue could not utter what the fevered brain wished apparently to
explain; and then, by degrees, the arms grew weary, the body fell back on
the pillows, the large, beautiful eyes, with a far off gaze in them,
opened widely for a second--then closed--and all was over on this earth
with Marcus Clarke. At 4 o'clock on the afternoon of Tuesday, 2nd August,
1881, he died, aged 35. Reader, let us draw the veil over this sad scene.
The sorrow caused by the passing away of so bright a spirit is too
mournful to dwell upon.




IV. Australian Scenery


What is the dominant note of Australian Scenery? That which, is the
dominant note of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry--Weird Melancholy. A poem like
"L'Allegro" could never be written by an Australian. It is too airy, too
sweet, too freshly happy. The Australian mountain forests are funereal,
secret, stern. Their solitude is desolation. They seem to stifle in their
black gorges a story of sullen despair. No tender sentiment is nourished
in their shade. In other lands the dying year is mourned, the falling
leaves drop lightly on his bier. In the Australian forests no leaves
fall. The savage winds' shout among the rock clefts, from the melancholy
gums strips of white bark hang and rustle. The very animal life of these
frowning hills is either grotesque or ghostly. Great gray kangaroos hop
noiselessly over the coarse grass. Flights of white cockatoos stream out
shrieking like evil souls. The sun suddenly sinks, and the mopokes burst
out into horrible peals of semi-human laughter. The natives aver that
when night comes, from out the bottomless depths of some lagoon the
Bunyip rises, and in form like a monstrous sea-calf, drags his loathsome
length from out the ooze. From a corner of the silent forest rises a
dismal chant, and around a fire, dance natives painted like skeletons.
All is fear-inspiring and gloomy. No bright fancies are linked with the
memories of the mountains. Hopeless explorers have named them out of
their sufferings--Mount Misery, Mount Dreadful, Mount Despair. As when
among sylvan scenes in places

"Made green with the running of rivers,
    And gracious with temperate air,"

the soul is soothed and satisfied, so, placed before the frightful
grandeur of these barren hills, it drinks in their sentiment of defiant
ferocity, and is steeped in bitterness.

Australia has rightly been named the Land of the Dawning. Wrapped in the
midst of early morning her history looms vague and gigantic. The lonely
horseman, riding between the moonlight and the day, sees vast shadows
creeping across the shelterless and silent plains, hears strange noises
in the primeval forests, where flourishes a vegetation long dead in other
lands, and feels, despite his fortune, that the trim utilitarian
civilisation which bred him shrinks into insignificance beside the
contemptuous grandeur of forest and ranges coeval with an age in which
European scientists have cradled his own race.

There is a poem in every form of tree or flower, but the poetry which
lives in the trees and flowers of Australia, differs from those of other
countries. Europe is the home of knightly song, of bright deeds--and clear
morning thought. Asia sinks beneath the weighty recollections of her past
magnificence, as the Suttee sinks jewel-burdened upon the corpse of dread
grandeur, destructive even in its death. America swiftly hurries on her
way, rapid, glittering, insatiable even as one of her own giant
waterfalls. From the jungles of Africa, and the creeper-tangled groves of
the Islands of the South, arise, from the glowing hearts of a thousand
flowers, heavy and intoxicating odours, the Upas-poison, which dwells in
barbaric sensuality. In Australia alone is to be found the Grotesque, the
Weird, the strange scribblings of Nature learning how to write. Some see
no beauty in our trees without shade, our flowers without perfume, our
birds who cannot fly, and our beasts who have not yet learned to walk on
all fours. But the dweller in the wilderness acknowledges the subtle
charm of this fantastic land of monstrosities. He becomes familiar with
the beauty of loneliness. Whispered to by the myriad tongues of the
wilderness, he learns the language of the barren and the uncouth, and can
read the hieroglyphs of haggard gum-trees, blown into odd shapes
distorted with fierce hot winds, or cramped with cold nights, when the
Southern Cross freezes in a cloudless sky of icy blue. The phantasmagoria
of that wild dreamland termed the Bush interprets itself, and the Poet of
our desolation begins to comprehend why free Esau loved his heritage of
desert sand, better than all the bountiful richness of Egypt.




V. Learning "Colonial Experience"


There were three of us, Dougald McAlister, Jack Thwaites, and myself. The
place was called in the grandiloquent language of the bush, "The
Dinkledoodledum Station" (I like these old native names), because it was
situated in the Dinkledoodledum Creek. Dinkledoodledum--as any philologist
can guess by the sound of it--means the Valley of the Rippling Streamlets;
but alas! never a rippling streamlet did our eyes behold during our stay
in the inhospitable valley.

The station had just been purchased by Thwaites' brothers--is not his name
now synonymous with gold, from the Great Glimmera to the Adelaide
Desert?--and had been overstocked by its former proprietor. Along the
Glimmera banks, where jovial but family-burdened Boschman kept his
boundaryriding habitation, the ground was as bare as a billiard-table,
and the travelling sheep that called the Great Glimmera their "feeding
track," were only too glad to escape beyond the Dinkledoodledum boundary
into the pleasant paths of Whistlebinkie. Let it not, however, be
imagined that our station was always in this condition. On the contrary,
it had been renowned as a place flowing with milk and honey. It was
reported that Clibborn had made his fortune out of it; that Wallum had
retired to independence and hot grog after twelve months of it; and that
Thwaites was in a fair way to do exceedingly well if he could but "hold
on" to it.

Unluckily, what with the former proprietor's mania for feeding two sheep
to every three acres (one sheep to every five acres was about the
Dinkledoodledum standard) and a succession of bad seasons, the "holding
on" was hard work. Economy was absolutely needful, and McAlister, Jack
and I practised it healthily. Mutton and damper all the week, and damper
and mutton on Sundays, was the order of the day, and we carried it out to
the letter. No epicurean feasts of beef or of pork disgraced the
frugality of our board. Never to our table came the feeble fowl or the
enervating kitchen-garden vegetable. We had no milk, for our dairy cattle
were starving; no eggs, for our poultry refused to lay; no pumpkin pie,
for our soil was too poor to grow even that harmless esculent. Yet on
Spartan fare we led Spartan lives, and were happy.

Oh, that bark hut! Never shall I forget the first day when I, a slim and
somewhat effeminate youth, with London smoke not yet cleared from my
throat, beheld its dilapidated walls. "You will sleep here," said Jack,
pointing to a skillion which seemed to have been used as a sheep-pen, so
marked was the "spoor" of those beasts. "With all my heart," said I, as
that organ sank within me--down, down, down, until I could feel it
palpitating in the very tips of my riding-boots. But I did not regret my
acquiescence. How many nights in that humble shelter have I listened to
the skirr of the wild cats, and watched the one bright star that
pertinaciously peeped through the chinks of the bark sheets. How many
nights have I lighted my lonely pipe, and wrestled alone with my own
particular angel, even as Jacob wrestled at Pennel. Happy Jacob! would I
owned thy cunning of wrist and elbow. How many nights have I trimmed the
reed in the pannikin of tallow, and read the half-dozen books I possessed
until I could read no more. How many nights have I slept the unutterably
sweet slumber of virtuous weariness, until my Jack, bursting in with
clanking spurs, would rouse me with his "All aboard!" Aye, old skillion,
I have had some happy hours in thee; so peace to thy ashes, for, sooth to
say, thou art now but fit for burning.

It is proper to boast of the Australian summer. Those who have lived in
tents, camped by rocky waterholes, kept dew-sprinkled watch beneath the
yellow moon, and ridden through fiery noons hard upon the tails of the
head-long herd, can with justice boast of the wild intoxication of that
burning ether. I have known it, I! Not the draught which the great spirit
gave to eager Faust maddens so gloriously. Australian summer, dost thou
say? I am with thee. With open shirt ballooned behind thee, with
streaming hair and bloody spurs, urge, urge the straining steed across
the level plain! No tree mars the prospect of immensity. In front, the
flying emu, and behind--naught but the whistling air! The grey grass
spins, the grey plain reels, the cloudless sky glows molten brass above.
It comes--the hot wind of the desert! Bitter--fierce from the sand--hills of
the scorching north, it sweeps upon thee! Ride! Ride!

There are fifty miles of grass before thee, and the blood of an Emperor's
battle steed beats beneath thy saddle-flaps. What are fears, griefs,
loves? Throned upon the rocking saddles of our stretching barbs, we laugh
at fate. Stand in thy stirrups now, and shout! Ha! ha! Tell me what
draught of love or wine compares with this--the champagne nectar of a
hot-wind gallop!

But the time to enjoy our hut was in the winter--the wild, wet winter that
lashed the groaning gums, and scoured to white rage the risen river. All
the hot summer wooed us to the air. Through parching noons and dewy
nights we rode and revelled. Then camped the cattle by the shrinking
swamp, and the wild horses came down to drink at the famished springs.
Then we went expeditions in the balmy moonlight, and roused the drowsy
township with the clattering echoes of our hurrying hoofs. Then came
Harry of the Gap, Tom of the Scano, and Dare-devil Dick, of Mostyn's
Folly, to "foregather" with us. Then were Homeric days, musical with
chanted melody, and fierce with the recklessness of horsetaming youth.
Then were our hearts great within us, and in that glowing atmosphere,
beneath that burning sun, our bright blood bounded, and we lived!

But in gray, chill winter the bark hut, so long deserted, repaid our
ingratitude by generous kindness. Creeping, all wet, and weary with
travel, splashed with mire, and torn by prickly scrub, to its friendly
shelter, it glowed warm welcome, its rough but honest sides laughing in
the beams of the roaring logs till they were nigh to crack again. How
cheery were those evenings. How we ate the ewe mutton, and laughed at the
mishaps of the day; how we smoked, and toasted our toes and "yarned;"
three sworn comrades, singing the songs of our native Britain to the
accompaniment of the whistling Austral wind.

The hut was not commodious. When duly camped within it, indeed, we had
but scant room. When McAlister had flung his lazy length upon the
lounging chair (a wool bale stretched upon the racktoothed iron skeleton
of some long-forgotten patent) and I had usurped the cane-bottomed
American importation, there was but one place for Thwaites, and that the
table top. Thwaites would roost there, like some intelligent bird, and
chant the lays of his native country. We called him the "Little Warbler."
Thwaites was a young man of military tendencies. He had belonged in the
old country to the Diggleshire Yeomanry Cavalry (who received the thanks
of their Lord-Lieutenant and county, you may remember, for their conduct
in the great insurrection of the cider-sellers against the patent
bottling process), and in our excursions into the bush he was perpetually
waving a brass-headed whip which he affected, and with wild cries of "St.
George and Diggleshire!" charging the brush fences. Paddy, his big-boned
horse, put him down badly one afternoon, and he gave up this method of
exhilaration. McAlister, who owned that sense of dry humour which is a
fungoid growth peculiar to Scotland, would artfully excite Thwaites to
wrath by the assumption of anti-Hanoverian tendencies, and induce in him
a violent outburst of loyalty, and frequent reference to a lady of whom
he habitually spoke as "My gracious sovereign, whom God preserve."
McAlister himself was not without his prejudices, for on one occasion I
distinctly remember that we removed the table, and fought over the merits
of poor Mary Queen of Scots. I had ventured to hint that her conduct in
the matter of Bothwell was not quite incapable of impeachment, and
McAlister challenged me to trial by battle. In justice to the soundness
of a reasoning which has sent so many honest men to Hades, I will presume
that my cause was a bad one, for I received a very sound and cornplete
drubbing.

One of poor Thwaites's duties was to "keep the books," and once a week he
would labour painfully, but religiously at his task. The, "books" could
not have been very difficult to "keep," I think, but somehow or other we
never could keep them. I am now inclined to think that our system was too
comprehensive, for, as we put everything down in a volume called a
day-book, (lucus a non lucendo, I suppose, for we never wrote anything in
it until night), and transferred it bodily to a ledger, our accounts were
pretty mixed. After I had been there a month, Thwaites mounted his horse
solemnly and mysteriously one morning, and rode off one hundred and
twenty miles to his brother. Two days afterwards he returned, dusty but
calm, and big with intelligence of importance. After supper, he said to
me gravely, "you have been in a bank, haven't you?" I replied that I had
for a month or so, until my ravages among the well kept books were
presumed to have permanently affected the brain of Napoleon Smith, the
manager. "Then," said Jack, "since you've been used to banking, my boy,
my brother thinks that you can keep the books." I was ready for any
hazardous experiment in those days, and I consented. I think on the whole
I did pretty well, though three rams (half-bred Leicesters, and as strong
as bullocks), got into Derwent Joe's account, and could not be got out
again by any financial operation I could devise, while I was always
dropping boots and things in "carrying over." Jack would endeavour
sometimes to see how I was getting on, but he told me one day that he
couldn't understand why I should keep four plugs of Barrett's twist in
the Long Swamp Paddock, and put our married couple's wages to the debit
of Weathers and Weaners. I really don't think he understood much about
it.

In the Long Swamp Paddock, by the way, lived one Long Tom, who was an
oddity. He was nearly seven feet high and thin as a harpoon. He had been
a sailor, digger, explorer, stockman, everything but a quiet
stop-at-home. For the last ten years, however, he had rested in the hut
by the Long Swamp, and the place was known as Long Tom's Waterhole;
indeed, Long Tom and his dog were better known at the stations round
about, than the name of the Chief Secretary of the Colony. His dog was
one of the biggest impostors--for a dog--that I have ever met. He was
called Old Moke, and was supposed to be of marvellous sagacity; he was a
stumpy-tailed, long-bodied, shambling beast, who worked just when he
chose, and as he chose. Long Tom, when riding to muster, would remark
that if we didn't get the sheep soon, he would have to put "Old Moke on
'em," as though the act was equivalent to working a miracle, or
dissolving Parliament. By-and-by Old Moke was "put on." "Moke!" Tom would
remark in tones of conscious superiority, "get away forward!" We would
hear a howl, and see a streak of white lightning slip out from under the
belly of Tom's horse. Moke had obeyed the summons. By-and-by, in the
depths of the forest, faint barks would be heard, and Tom would grow
uneasy. He would whistle. Still the barking would continue, and
presently, with a rushing sound, a flock of ewes would fly past us
bewilderedly. Tom would shift in his saddle, and we would grin.

Presently McAlister gallops up, raging. "Call off your cursed dog, Tom!"
he shouts. "Hi, Moke!" roars Tom. "Moke! Moke! Sink, and burn,
and-and-and----the dog. Moke! Hi! Moke!" Then would Long Tom, vomiting
fury, gallop madly into the bush, some agonised howls would be heard, and
old Moke would be seen no more until supper, when he would meet us at the
hut wagging his delusive stump defiantly. Yet everybody around believed
in the beast. Old Moke was a sort of religion at the Dinkledoodledum, and
to express doubt of his immense value would be heresy of the deepest dye.
One would meet stockmen going home with puppies, squeaking at their
heels. "Any good?" one would ask, nodding at the black and white mass.
"Good! I believe you. That's one of old Moke's," would be the proud
reply. Alas! old Moke--honest impostor, thou and thy crack-brained master
are both gone! Gone, let us hope, old dog, to a place where the faults of
both of ye will be as lightly dealt with as in the pleasant days of old.

When Thwaites had gone to bed in the corner--he was a most determined
sleeper--McAlister and I would pitch another log on the fire and prepare
for enjoyment. Carefully filling our pipes, we placed the grease-pannikin
on a mark made exactly in the centre of the table, and "yarned." By
"yarning," dear reader, I don't mean mere trivial conversation, but hard,
solid talk. McAlister was a man of more than ordinary natural talents,
and had he been placed in other circumstances, would have cut a figure.
It was not easy to argue with him, and some of our discussions lasted
until cock-crow. The arguments not unfrequently merged into
story-telling, and in that department my memory served me in good stead.
I had been a sickly brat in my infancy, and having unfettered access to
the library of a man who owned few prejudices for moral fig-leaves, had,
with the avidity for recondite knowledge which sickly brats always
evince, read many strange books. I boiled down my recollections for
McAlister, and constituted myself a sort of Scherezade for his peculiar
benefit. He would smoke and I would fix my eyes on a long strip of bark
which hung serpentwise from the ridge pole, and relate. I think if that
strip of bark had been removed, my power of narration would have been
removed with it. In this fashion we got through a good deal of Brantome,
several of the plays--or rather plots of the plays--of Wycherley,
Massinger, and Farquahar, and most of Byron. We rambled over the
Continent with Gil Blas, discussed the Alchemists, strolled up and down
Rome with Horace, and investigated the miracles of the early Saxon
churchmen in company of a lot of queer fellows who lived somewhere about
the time of the Venerable Bede. We talked Candide and Dr. Lardner's
Encyclopædia; we saw Hogarth with Ireland's descriptions; we quarrelled
bitterly over Tom Paine's Age of Reason, and made friends again over the
pathetic adventures of one Moll Flanders, a friend of Daniel Defoe.

Oh, cheery bark hut, despite all miseries of rough ways and rougher
weather, despite all hideousness of lamb-cutting and sheep-slaughtering,
despite the figs of tobacco that would get mixed up with my record of
maiden-ewes and two-toothed wethers, despite rain, storm, and tough
mutton, I recall thy memory with unfeigned regret. Thither "never came
the trader, never waved a European flag;" no smiling bill-discounters
ever invaded thy sacred precincts; no severe duns, rightly claiming that
which is, alas! their own, and that which I am unable to pay them, ever
darkened thy hospitable doorway; no folio documents, demanding instant
official attention, were ever brought by the merry black-boy to thy rude
letter-box; no monstrous civilisation with its luxurious necessities
overshadowed, Upas-like, thy imperfect roof. A glorious barbarism was
thine, a jovial freedom born the cares of the morrow was the charter of
thy liberties. I disliked thee once, and grumblingly did abuse thy
hospitable shelter, but I have since found other roofs less pleasant than
thine, have since--pent within stucco and inurned in marble mockery of
grandeur--yearned for the careless fortune of thy uncultured surroundings,
cried often in vain amid the uncomfortable comfort of the city.

"Give me again my hollow tree,
My crust of bread and liberty."




VI. Pretty Dick


A hot day. A very hot day on the plains. A very hot day up in the ranges,
too. The Australian sun had got up suddenly with a savage swoop, as
though he was angry at the still coolness of early morning, and was
determined to drive the cattle, who were munching complacently in the
long rich grass of the swamp, back up under the hill among the thick
she-oaks. It seemed to be a settled thing on the part of the sun to get
up hotter and hotter every morning. He even went down at night with a red
face, as much as to say, "Take care, I shall be hotter than ever
to-morrow!"

The men on the station did not get into smoking humour until he had been
gone down at least an hour, and as they sat on a bench and a barrel or
two, outside the "men's hut" on the hill, they looked away across the
swamp to that jagged gap in the ranges where he had sunk, and seeing the
red flush in the sky, nodded at one another, and said, "We shall have a
hot day to--morrow." And they were right. For, when they had forgotten the
mosquitoes and the heat, and the many pleasant things that live in the
crevices between the slabs of the hut, and gone to sleep, up he came
again, hotter than ever, without the least warning, and sent them away to
work again.

On this particular morning he was very hot. Even King Peter, who was
slowly driving up the working bullocks from the swamp, felt his old enemy
so fierce on his back, that he got up in his stirrups and cracked his
whip, until the hills rang again, and Strawberry, and Punch, and
Doughboy, and Damper, and all (except that cynical, wicked Spot, who
hated the world, and always lived away by himself in a private clump of
she-oak) straightened their tails and shook their heads, and galloped
away up to the stockyard in mortal terror. The horses felt the heat, and
King Peter's brother, who was looking for them on the side of the Stony
Mount, had a long ride up and down all sorts of gullies before he found
them out, and then they were unusually difficult to get together. The
cockatoos knew it was hot, and screamed themselves away into the bush.
The kangaroos, who had come down like gigantic shadows out of the still
night, had all hopped away back into the scrub under the mountains, while
the mist yet hung about the trees around the creek-bed. The parrots were
uneasy, and the very station dogs got under the shadow-lee of the huts,
in case of a hot wind coming up. As for the sheep--when Pretty Dick's
father let them out in the dawn, he said to his dog, "We shan't have much
to do to-day, old woman, shall we?" At which Lassie wagged her tail and
grinned, as intelligent dogs do.

But who was Pretty Dick?

Pretty Dick was the seven-years-old son of Richard Fielding, the
shepherd. Pretty Dick was a slender little man, with eyes like pools of
still water when the sky is violet at sunset, and a skin as white as
milk--that is, under his little blue and white shirt, for where the sun
had touched it, it was a golden brown, and his hands were the colour of
the ripe chestnuts his father used to gather in England years ago. Pretty
Dick had hair like a patch of sunlight, and a laugh like rippling water.
He was the merriest little fellow possible, and manly, too! He understood
all about milking, did Pretty Dick: and could drive up a refractory cow
with anybody. He could chop wood, too--that is, a little, you know,
because he was not very strong, and the axe was heavy. He could ride, not
a buck-jumper--that was his ambition--but he would take Molly (the
wall-eyed mare) into the home station for his father's rations, and come
out again quite safely.

He liked going into the station because he saw Ah Yung, the Chinaman
cook, who was kind to him, and gave him sugar. He had all the news to
bear too. How another mob of travelling sheep were coming through the
run; how the grey mare had slipped her foal; how the bay filly had bucked
off Black Harry and hurt his wrist; how Old Tom had "got the sack" for
being impudent to the overseer, and had vowed to fire the run. Besides,
there was the paper to borrow for his father, Mr. Trelawney's horses to
look at, the chat with the carpenter, and perhaps a peep at the new buggy
with its silver-mounted harness (worth, "oh, thousands of pounds!")
Pretty Dick thought perhaps, too, he might go down to the house, with its
garden and cool verandah, and bunches of grapes; might get a little cake
from Mary, the cook or even might be smiled upon by Mrs Trelawney, the
owner's young wife, who seemed to Dick to be something more a lady--to be
a sweet voice that spoke kindly to him and made him feel as he would feel
sometimes when his mother would get the Big Bible, that came all the way
from England, and tell him the story about the Good Man who so loved
little children.

He liked to go into the station, because everyone was so kind to him.
Everyone loved Pretty Dick: even old Tom, who had been a "lag," and was a
very wicked man, hushed the foul jest and savage oath when the curly head
of Pretty Dick came within hearing, and the men always felt as if they
had their Sunday clothes on in his presence. But he was not to go into
the station to-day. It was not ration-day; so he sat on the step of his
father's hut door, looking out through a break in the timber-belt at the
white dots on the plain, that he knew to be his father's sheep.

Pretty Dick's father lived in the Log Hut, on the edge of the plains, and
had five thousand sheep to look after. He was away all day. Sometimes,
when the sheep would camp near home, Pretty Dick would go down with some
fresh tea in a "billy," for his father, and would have a very merry
afternoon watching his father cut curious notches in his stick, and would
play with Lassie, and look about for 'possums in the trees, or, with
craning neck, cautiously inspect an ant-hill. And then when evening came,
and Lassie had got the sheep together--quietly without any barking you
know--when father and son jogged homewards through the warm, still air,
and the trampling hoofs of the sheep sent up a fragrance from the crushed
herbage round the folding ground, Pretty Dick would repeat long stories
that his mother had told him, about "Valentine and Orsen," and "Beauty
and the Beast," and "Jack the Giant Killer;" for Pretty Dick's mother had
been maid in the rector's family, in the Kentish village at home, and was
a little above Pretty Dick's father, who was only a better sort of
farm-labourer. But they were all three very, happy now in their adopted
country. They were all alone there, these three--Pretty Dick, and mother
and father--and no other children came to divide the love that both father
and mother had for Pretty Dick. So that when Pretty Dick knelt down by
his little bed at night, and put his little brown hands together, and
said, "God bless my dear father and mother, and God bless me and make me
a good boy," he prayed for the whole family, you see. So, they all three
loved each other very much--though they were poor people--and Pretty Dick's
mother often said that she would not have any harm happen to Pretty Dick
for Queen Victoria's golden crown. They had called him Pretty Dick when
he was yet a baby, on board the "Star of Peace" emigrant ship, and the
name had remained with him ever since. His father called him Pretty Dick,
and his mother called him Pretty Dick, and the people at the home station
called him Pretty Dick; and even the cockatoo who lived on the perch over
Lassie's bark-kennel, would call out "Pretty Dick! Pretty Dick! Pretty
Dick!" over and over again.

Now, on this particular morning, Pretty Dick sat gazing between the
trunks of the gum-trees into the blue distance. It was very hot. The blue
sky was cloudless, and the sun seemed to be everywhere at once. There was
a little shade, to be sure, among the gum-tree trunks, but that would
soon pass, and there would be no shade anywhere. The little fenced-in
waterhole in the front of the hut glittered in the sunlight like a piece
of burnished metal, and the tin milk-pail that was turned topsy-turvy on
the polepaling, was quite dazzling to look at. Daisy, the cow, stood
stupidly under the shade of a round, punchy little she-oak close by, and
seemed too lazy even to lie down, it was so hot. Of course the blow-flies
had begun, and their ceaseless buzz resounded above and around, making it
seem hotter than ever, Pretty Dick thought.

How hot father must be! Pretty Dick knew those terrible plains well. He
had been across them two or three times. Once in the early spring when it
was pleasant enough with a cool breeze blowing, and white clouds resting
on the tops of the distant mountains, and the broad rolling levels of
short, crisp, grass-land sweeping up from their feet to the horizon
unceasingly. But he had been across there once in the summer, when the
ground was dry and cracked, when the mountains seemed so close that he
almost thought that he could touch them with his hand, when the heavens
were like burning brass, and the air (crepitant with the ceaseless
chirping of the grasshopper) like the flame of a heated furnace. Pretty
Dick felt quite a fresh accession of heat as he thought of it, and turned
his face away to the right to cool himself by thinking of the ranges.
They were deep in the bush, past the creek that ran away the other side
of the Sandy Rises; deep in the bush on the right hand, and many a weary
stretch of sandy slope, and rough-grassed swamp, and solemn wood, and
dismal, deserted scrub, was between him and them. He could see the lofty
purple peak of Mount Clear, the highest in the range, grandly rising
above the dense level tops of the gum-tree forests, and he thought how
cool it must be in its mighty shadow. He had never been under the
mountain. That there were some strange reaches of scrub, and sand, and
dense thickets, and tumbled creeper-entwined rock in that swamp-guarded
land, that lay all unseen under the shadow of the hills. He knew, for he
had heard the men say so. Had he not heard how men had been lost in that
awesome scrub, silent and impenetrable, which swallowed up its victims
noiselessly? Had he not heard how shepherds had strayed or slept, and
how, at night, the sheep had returned alone, and that search had been in
vain, until perhaps some wandering horseman, all by chance, had lighted
upon a rusty rag or two, a white skull, and perhaps a tin pannikin with
hopeless scratchings of name and date? Had he not been told fearful
things about those ranges? How the bushrangers had made their lair in the
Gap, and how the cave was yet visible where their leader had been shot
dead by the troopers; how large sums of stolen money were buried there,
hidden away behind slags and slabs of rock, flung into fathomless
gullies, or crammed into fissures in the mountain side, hidden so well
that all the searching hands and prying eyes of the district had not yet
discovered them? Did not Wallaby Dick tell him one night about the Murder
that had been done down in the flat under the large Australian moon--when
the two swagmen, after eating and drinking, had got up in the bright,
still night, and beaten out the brains of the travelling hawker, who gave
them hospitality, and how, the old man being found beside his rifled
cart, with his gray hairs matted with blood, search was made for the
murderers, and they were taken in a tap-room in distant Hamilton,
bargaining with the landlord for the purchase of their plunder?

What stories had he not heard of wild cattle, of savage bulls, red-eyed,
pawing, and unapproachable? What hideous tales of snakes, black, cold,
and deadly, had not been associated in his mind with that Mountain Land?
What a strange, dangerous, fascinating, horrible, wonderful place that
Mountain Land must be, and how much he would like to explore it! But he
had been forbidden to go, and he dismissed, with a childish sigh, all
idea of going.

He looked up at his clock-the sun. He was just over the top of the big
gum-tree--that meant ten o'clock. How late! The morning was slipping away.
He heard his mother inside singing. She was making the bread. It would be
very hot in the hut when the loaf was put in the camp-oven to bake. He
had nothing to do either. He would go down to the creek; it was cool
there. So he went into the hut and got a big piece of sweet cake, and put
it in the pocket of his little jumper.

"Mother," said Pretty Dick, "I am going down to the creek."

"Take care you don't get lost!" said she, half in jest, half in earnest.

"Lost! No fear!" said Pretty Dick.

--And when he went out, his mother began to sing again.

It was beautifully cool down by the creek. Pretty Dick knew that it would
be. The creek had come a long way, and was tired, and ran very slowly
between its deep banks, luscious with foliage, and rich with grass. It
had a long way to go, too, Pretty Dick knew where it went. It ran right
away down to the river. It ran on into the open, desolate, barren piece
of ground where the road to the station crossed it, and where its bright
waters were all red and discoloured with the trampling of horses and
cattle. It ran by the old stockyard, and then turned away with a sudden
jerk, and lost itself in the Five Mile Swamp, from whence it re-appeared
again, broader and bigger, and wound along until it met the river.

But it did not run beyond the swamp now, Dick knew, because the weather
had been so hot, and the creeks were all dried up for miles around--his
father said--all but this one. It took its rise in the mountains, and when
the rainfall was less than usual, grew thinner and thinner, until it
became, what it was now, a slender stream of water, trickling heavily
between high banks--quite unlike the dashing, brawling, black, bubbling
torrent that had rushed down the gully in flood-time.

Pretty Dick took off his little boots, and paddled about in the water,
and found out all kinds of curious, gnarled roots of old trees, and funny
holes under the banks. It was so cool and delicious under the stems and
thick leaves of the water frondage that Pretty Dick felt quite restored
again, and sang remembered scraps of his mother's songs, as he dodged
round intervening trees, and slipped merrily between friendly trunks and
branches. At last he came out into the open. Here his friend, the creek,
divided itself into all sorts of queer shapes, and ran here, and doubled
back again there, and twisted and tortured itself in an extraordinary
manner, just out of pure fun and frolic.

There was a herd of cattle camped at this place, for the trees were tall,
and big, and spreading. The cattle did not mind Pretty Dick at all,
strange to say. Perhaps that was because he was on foot. If he had been
on horseback now, you would have seen how they would have stared and
wheeled about, and splashed off into the scrub. But when Pretty Dick,
swinging a stick that he had cut, and singing one of his mother's songs,
came by, they merely moved a little farther away, and looked at his
little figure with long, sleepy eyes, slowly grinding their teeth from
side to side the while. Now the way began to go up-hill, and there were
big dead trees to get over, and fallen spreading branches to go round;
for the men had been felling timber here, and the wasted wood lay thick
upon the ground. At last Pretty Dick came to the Crossing Place. The
Crossing Place was by the edge of the big swamp, and was a notable place
for miles round. There was no need for a crossing place now though, for
the limpid water was not a foot deep.

Pretty Dick had come out just on the top of a little sandy rise, and he
saw the big swamp right before him, speckled with feeding cattle, whose
backs were just level with the tall rushes. And beyond the big swamp the
ranges rose up, with the sunlight gleaming here and there upon jutting
crags of granite, and with deep cool shadows in other places, where the
noble waving line of hills sank in, and made dark recesses full of shade
and coolness. The sky was bluer than ever, and the air was heavy with
heat; and Pretty Dick wondered how the eagle-hawk that was poised--a
floating speck above the mountain top--could bear to swoop and swing all
day long in that fierce glare.

He turned down again, and crossing the creek, plunged into the bush.
There was a subtle perfume about him now; not a sweet, rich perfume like
the flowers in the home station garden, but a strange intoxicating smell,
evolved from the beat and the water, and the many coloured heath
blossoms. The way was more difficult now, and Pretty Dick left the bank
of the creek, and made for the open space--sandy, and bunched with coarse
clumps of grass. He went on for a long time, still upwards, and at last
his little feet began to tire; and, after chasing a dragon-fly or two,
and running a long way after a kangaroo rat, that started out from a
patch of broom and ran in sharp diagonal lines away to hide itself in
among the roots of a she-oak, he began to think of the piece of sweet
cake in his pocket. So when, after some little time, emerging from out a
dense mass of scrub, that scratched and tore at him as though it would
hold him back, he found himself far up the hills, with a great gully
between him and the towering ranges, he sat down and came to the
conclusion that he was hungry. But when he had eaten his sweet cake, he
found that he was thirsty too, and that there was no water near him. But
Pretty Dick knew that there was water in the ranges so he got up again, a
little wearily, and went down the gully to look for it. But it was not so
easy to find, and he wandered about for a long time among big granite
boulders, and all kinds of blind creeks, choked up with thick grass and
creeping plants, and began to feel very tired indeed, and a little
inclined to wish that he had not left the water-course so early. But he
found it at last--a little pool, half concealed by stiff, spiky, rush
grass, and lay down, and drank eagerly. How nice the first draught was!
But at the second, the water felt warm, and at the third, tasted quite
thick and slimy. There had been some ducks paddling about when he came
up, and they flew away with a great quacking and splashing, that almost
startled him. As soon as they had disappeared though, the place was quite
still again, and the air grew heavier than ever. He felt quite drowsy and
tired, and laid himself down on a soft patch of mossy grass, under a
tree; and so, after listening a little while to the humming of the
insects, and the distant crackling of mysterious branches in the forest,
he put his little head on his little arm, and went fast to sleep.

How long he slept Pretty Dick did not know, but he woke up, suddenly with
a start, and a dim consciousness that the sun had shifted, and had been
pouring its heat upon him for some time. The moment he woke he heard a
great crashing and plunging, and started up just in time to see a herd of
wild cattle scouring off down the side of the range. They had come up to
drink while he was asleep, and his sudden waking had frightened them. How
late it must be! The place seemed quite changed. There was sunlight where
no sunlight had been before, and shadow where had been sunlight. Pretty
Dick was quite startled at finding how late it was. He must go home, or
mother would be frightened. So he began to go back again. He knew his way
quite well. No fear of his losing himself. He felt a little tired though,
but that would soon wear off. So he left the little pool and turned
homewards. He got back again into the gully, and clambered up to the top,
and went on sturdily. But the trees did not seem familiar to him, and the
succession of dips in the hills seemed interminable. He would soon reach
the Big Swamp again, and then he could follow up the creek. But he could
not find the Swamp. He toiled alone, very slowly now, and at last found
the open plot of ground where he had stopped in the morning But when he
looked at it a little, it was not the same plot at all, but another
something like it, and the grim ranges, heavy with shadow, rose all
around him.

A terrible fear came into poor little Pretty Dick's heart, and he seemed
to hear his mother say, quite plainly, "Take care you don't get lost,
Pretty Dick!" Lost! But he put the feeling away bravely, and swallowed
down a lump in his throat, and went on again. The cattle-track widened
out, and in a little while he found himself upon a jutting peak, with the
whole panorama of the Bush at his feet. A grand sight! On the right hand
towered the Ranges, their roots sunk deep in scrub and dense morass, and
their heads lifted into the sky, that was beginning to be streaked with
purple flushes now. On the left, the bush rolled away beneath him--one
level mass of treetops, broken here and there by an open space of yellow
swamp, or a thin line of darker foliage, that marked the meanderings of
some dried-up creek. The sun was nearly level with his face, and cast a
long shadow behind him. Pretty Dick felt his heart give a great jump, and
then go on beating quicker and quicker. But he would not give in.
Lost!--Oh no, he should soon be home, and telling his mother all the
wonders of the walk. But it was too late! He must make haste. What was
that!--somebody on horseback. Pretty Dick shaded his eyes with his little
hand, and peered down into the valley. A man with a white puggarree on
his hat, was moving along a sort of cattletrack. Joy!--It was Mr. Gaunt,
the overseer. Pretty Dick cooeed. No answer. He cooeed again,--and again,
but still the figure went on. Presently, it emerged from the scrub, and
the poor little fellow could see the rays of the setting sun gleam redly,
for an instant on a bright spur, like a dying spark. He gave a despairing
shout. The horseman stopped, looked about him, and then glancing up at
the fast clouding heavens, shook his horse's bridle, and rode off in a
hand-gallop. Poor Pretty Dick. He knew that his cry had been
unheard--mistaken, perhaps, for the scream of a parrot, the cry of some
native bear, or strange bird, but in his present strait, the departure of
the presence of something human, felt like a desertion. He fairly gave
way, and sat down and cried. By-and-by he got up again, with quite a
strange feeling of horror, and terror, and despair; he ran down the steep
side of the range in the direction in which Mr. Gaunt had gone, and
followed his fast fading figure, calling and crying with choked voice.
Presently he lost him altogether, and then he felt his courage utterly
fail. He had no idea of where he was. He had lost all power of thought
and reason, and was possessed but by one over-powering terror, and a
consciousness that whatever he did, he must keep on running, and not stop
a moment. But he soon could run no longer. He could only stagger along
from tree to tree in the gloomy woods, and cry, "Mother! Mother!" But
there was no mother to help him. There was no human being near him, no
sound but the hideous croaking of the frogs in the marshes, and the
crackling of the branches under his footsteps. The sun went down suddenly
behind the hills, and the air grew cool at once. Pretty Dick felt as if
he had lost a friend, and his tears burst forth afresh. Utterly tired and
worn out, he sat down at the foot of a tree, and sobbed with sheer
fatigue. Then he got up and ran round and round, like some hunted animal,
calling, "Mother! Mother!"

But there was no reply. Nothing living was near him, save a hideous black
crow who perched himself upon the branch of a withered tree and mocked
him, seeming to the poor boy's distorted fancy to say, "Pretty Dick!
Pretty Dick! Walk! walk! walk!"

In a burst of passionate, childish despair, he flung a piece of stick at
the bird, but his strength failed him, and the missile fell short. This
fresh failure made him cry again, and then he got up and ran-stumbling,
and falling, and crying-away from the loathsome thing. But it followed
him, flapping heavily from tree to tree, and perched quite close to him
at last, croaking like an evil presence--"Pretty Dick! Pretty Dick! Walk!
walk! walk!"

The sweet night fell, and the stars looked down into the gullies and
ravines, where poor Pretty Dick, all bruised, bleeding, and despairing,
was staggering from rock to rock, sick at heart, drenched with dew,
hatless, shoeless, tear-stained, crying, "Mother! mother! I am lost! Oh,
mother! mother!"

The calm, pitiless stars looked down upon him, and the broad sky spread
coldly over him, and the birds flew away terrified at him; and the deadly
chill of loneliness fell upon him, and the cold, cruel, silent night
seemed to swallow him up, and hide him from human sympathy.

Poor Pretty Dick! No more mother's kisses, no more father's caresses, no
more songs, no more pleasures, no more flowers, no more sunshine, no more
love--nothing but grim Death, waiting remorselessly in the iron solitude
of the hills; in the sad-eyed presence of the speechless stars. There,
among the awful mystery and majesty of nature, alone, a terrified little
human soul, with the eternal grandeur of the forests, the mountains, and
the myriad voices of the night, Pretty Dick knelt trembling down, and
lifting his little, tear-stained face to the great, grave, impassable
sky-sobbed.

"Oh take me home! Take me home! Oh! please, God, take me home!"

The night wore on--with strange sounds far away in the cruel bush, with
screamings of strange birds, with gloomy noises, as of the tramplings of
many cattle, with movements of leaves and snapping of branches, with
unknown whirrings as of wings, with ripplings and patterings as of
waterfalls, with a strange heavy pulsation in the air, as though the
multitudinous life of the forest was breathing around him. He was dimly
conscious that any moment some strange beast--some impossible monster,
enormous and irresistible, might rise up out of the gloom of the gullies
and fall upon him;--that the whole horror of the bush was about to take
some tangible shape and appear silently from behind the awful rocks which
shut out all safety and succour. His little soul was weighed down by the
nameless terror of a solitude which was no solitude,--but a silence
teeming with monsters. He pictured the shapeless Bunyip lifting its
shining sides heavily from the bottomless blackness of some lagoon in the
shadow of the hills, and dragging, all its loathsome length to where he
lay. He felt suffocated; the silence that held all these indistinct
noises in its bosom, muffled him about like a murderous cloak; the
palpable shadow of the immeasurable mountains fell upon him like a
gravestone, and the gorge where he lay was like the Valley of the Shadow
of Death. He screamed to break the silence, and the scream rang around
him in the woods, and up above him in the mountain clefts, and beneath
him in the mute mystery of the glens and swamps,--his cry seemed to be
re-echoed again and again by strange voices never heard before, and
repeated with indistinct mutterings and moanings in the caverns of the
ranges. He dared not scream a second time lest he should wake some awful
sound whose thunder should deafen him.

All this time he was staggering on,--not daring to look to right or left,
or anywhere but straight on--traight on always. He fell, and tore his
hands, and bruised his limbs, but the bruises did not hurt him. His
little forehead was cut by a sharp stone, and his bright hair was all
dusty and matted with blood. His knees shook and trembled, and his tongue
clove to his mouth. He fell at every yard, and his heart seemed to beat
so loud, that the sound filled the air around him.

His strength was leaving him; he tottered from weakness; and, at last,
emerging upon a little open platform of rock, white under the moon, he
felt his head swim, and the black trunks, and the masses of fern-tree
leaves, and the open ground, and the silent expanse of bush below him,
all turned round in one crimson flash; and then the crimson grew
purple-streaked, and spotted with sparks, and radiations, and bursting
globes of light and colour, and then the ranges closed in and fell upon
him, and he was at once in his little bed at home--oh, so-fast--asleep!

But he woke at last, very cold and numbed, and with some feeling that he
was not himself, but that he had been dreaming of a happy boy named
Pretty Dick, who went away for a walk one afternoon many years ago. And
then he felt for the blankets to pull them up about his shoulders, and
his little fingers grasped a prickly handful of heather, and he woke with
a terrible start.

Moonlight still, but a peaceful, solemn, sinking moon. She was low down
in the sky, hanging like a great yellow globe over the swamp that rose
from far beneath him, straight up, it seemed to a level with his face.
Her clear cut rim rested on the edge of the morass now. He could almost
touch her, she looked so close to him; but he could not lift his little
arm so high, and besides, he had turned everything upside down before he
went to sleep, and the moon was down below him and the earth up above
him! To be sure! and then he shut his eyes and went to sleep again.

By-and-by it dawned. The birds twittered, and the dew sparkled, and the
mists came up and wreathed themselves all about the trees, and Pretty
Dick was up in the pure cool sky, looking down upon a little figure that
lay on an open space among the heather. Presently, slowly at first, and
then more quickly, he found out that this little figure was himself, and
that he was in pain, and then it all came back with one terrible shock,
and he was Lost again.

He could bear to think of it now, though. His terror, born of darkness,
had fled with the uprising of the glorious golden sun. There was, after
all, no reason to be afraid. Boys had been lost before, and found again.
His father would have missed him last night, and the station would be
speedily roused. Oh, he would soon be found! He got up very painfully and
stiffly, and went to look for water. No difficulty in that; and when he
had drunken, and washed his face and hands, he felt much better. Then he
began to get hungry, and to comfort himself with the thought that he
would soon be found. He could almost hear the joyful shout, and the
welcome, and the questioning. How slowly the time went on! He tried to
keep still in one place, for he knew now that his terror-driven feet had
brought him to this pass, and that he should have kept still in the place
where he saw Mr. Gaunt the night before.

At the recollection of that bitter disappointment, and the thought of how
near he had been to succour, his tears began afresh. He tried hard to
keep his terrors back--poor little fellow,--and thought of all kinds of
things--of the stories his mother told him--of the calf-pen that father was
putting up. And then he would think of the men at the station, and the
remembrance of their faces cheered him; and he thought of Mrs.
Trewlawney, and his mother. O--suppose he should never see his mother
again! And then he cried, and slept, and woke, and forgot his fears for
awhile, and would listen intently for a sound, and spring up and answer a
flancied shout, and then lie in a dull, stupid despair, with burning
eyes, and aching head, and a gnawing pain that he knew was Hunger. So the
hot day wore out. The same beat as yesterday, the same day as yesterday,
the same sights and sounds as yesterday--but oh! how different was
yesterday to to-day,--and how far off yesterday seemed. No one came. The
shadows shifted, and the heat burnt him up, and the shade fell on him,
and the sun sank again, and the stars began to shine,--and no one came
near Pretty Dick. He had almost forgotten, indeed, that there was such a
boy as Pretty Dick. He seemed to have lived years in the bush alone. He
did not know where he was, or who he was. It seemed quite natural to him
that he should be there alone, and he had no wish to get away. He had
lost all his terror of the Night. He scarcely knew it was night, and
after sitting on the grass a little longer, smiling at the fantastic
shadows that the moonlight threw upon the ground, he discovered that he
was hungry, and must go into the hut for supper. The hut was down in the
gully yonder he could hear his mother singing-so Pretty Dick got up, and
crooning a little song, went down into the Shadow.

       *     *     *     *     *

They looked for him for five days. On the sixth, his father and another
came upon something, lying, half-hidden, in the long grass at the bottom
of a gully in the ranges, A little army of crows flew heavily away. The
father sprang to earth with a white face. Pretty Dick was lying on his
face, with his head on his arm.

God had taken him home.




VII. Poor Joe


He was the ostler at Coppinger's, and they called him Poor Joe. Nobody
knew whence he came; nobody knew what misery of early mutilation had been
his. He had appeared one evening, a wandering swagman, unable to speak,
and so explain his journey's aim or end--able only to mutter and
gesticulate, making signs that he was cold and hungry, and needed fire
and food. The rough crowd in Coppinger's bar looked on him kindly, having
for him that sympathy which marked physical affliction commands in the
rudest natures. Poor Joe needed all their sympathies: he was a dwarf, and
dumb.

Coppinger--bluff, blasphemous, and good-hearted soul--dispatched him, with
many oaths, to the kitchen, and when the next morning the deformed
creature volunteered in his strange sign-speech to do some work that
might "pay for his lodging," sent him to help the ostler that ministered
to King Cobb's coach-horses. The ostler, for lack of a better name,
perhaps, called him "Joe," and Coppinger, finding that the limping mute,
though he could speak no word of human language, yet had a marvellous
power of communication with horseflesh, installed him as tinder-ostler
and stable-helper, with a scat at the social board, and a wisp of clean
straw in King Cobb's stable.

"I have taken him on," said Coppinger, when the township cronies met the
next night in the bar.

"Who," asked the croniest, bibulously disregarding grammar. "Poor Joe,"
said Coppinger.

The sympathetic world of Bullocktown approved the epithet, and the
deformed vagabond, thus baptized, was known as Poor Joe ever after.

He was a quiet fellow enough. His utmost wrath never sufficed to ruffle a
hair on the sleek backs of King Cobb's horses. His utmost mirth never
went beyond an ape-like chuckle, that irradiated his painstricken face,
as a stray gleam of sunshine lights up the hideousness of the gargoyle on
some old cathedral tower.

It was only when "in drink" that Poor Joe became a spectacle for
strangers to wonder at. Brandy maddened him, and when thus excited his
misshapen soul would peep out of his sunken fiery eyes, force his
grotesque legs to dance unseemly sarabands, and compel his pigeonbreast
to give forth monstrous and ghastly utterances, that might have been
laughs, were they not so much like groans of a brutish despair that had
in it a strange chord of human suffering. Coppinger was angry when the
poor dwarf was thus tortured for the sport of the whisky-drinkers, and
once threw Frolicksome Fitz into the muck midden for inciting the cripple
to sputter forth his grotesque croonings and snatches of gruesome
merriment. "He won't be fit for nothin' to-morrer," was the excuse
Coppinger made for his display of feeling. Indeed, on the days that
followed these debauches, Poor Joe was sadly downcast. Even his beloved
horses failed to cheer him, and he would sit, red-eyed and woe-begone, on
the post-and-rail-fence, like some dissipated bird of evil omen.

The only thing he seemed to love, save his horses, was Coppinger, and
Coppinger was proud of this simple affection. So proud was he, that when
he discovered that whenever Miss Jane, the sister of Young Bartram, from
Seven Creeks, put her pony into the stable, the said pony was fondled and
slobbered over and caressed by Poor Joe, he felt something like a pang of
jealousy.

Miss Jane was a fair maiden, with pale gold hair, and lips like the two
streaks of crimson in the leaf of the white poppy. Young Bartram, owner
of Seven Creeks Station--you could see the lights in the house windows
from Coppinger's--had brought her from town to "keep house for him," and
she was the beauty of the country side. Frolicksome Fitz, the
pound-keeper, was at first inclined to toast an opposition belle (Miss
Kate Ryder of Ryder's Mount), but when returning home one evening by the
New Dam, he saw Miss Jane jump Black Jack over the post-and-wire into the
home station paddock, he forswore his allegiance.

"She rides like an angel," said pious Fitz, and the next time he met her
he told her so.

Now this young maiden, so fair, so daring, and so silent, came upon the
Bullocktown folk like a new revelation. The old Frenchman at the Melon
Patch vowed tearfully that she had talked French to him like one of his
countrywomen, and the school master--Mr. Frank Smith--duly certificated
under the Board of Education--reported that she played the piano divinely,
singing like a seraph the while. As nobody played (except at euchre) in
Bullocktown, this judgment was undisputed. Coppinger swore, slapping with
emphasis his mighty thigh, that Miss Jane was a lady, and when he said
that he said everything. So, whenever Miss Jane visited the township, she
was received with admiration. Coppinger took off his hat to her, Mr.
Frank Smith walked to the station every Sunday afternoon to see her, and
Poor Joe stood afar off and worshipped her, happy if she bestowed a smile
upon him once out of every five times that he held her tiny stirrups.

This taming of Poor Joe was not unnoticed by the whisky-drinkers, and
they came in the course of a month or so to regard the cripple as part of
the property of Miss Jane--as they regarded her dog for instance. The
schoolmaster, moreover, did not escape tap-room comment. He was
frequently at Seven Creeks. He brought flowers from the garden there. He
sent for some new clothes from Melbourne. He even borrowed Coppinger's
bay mare "Flirt," to ride over to the Sheep-wash, and Dick the mail-boy,
who knew that Coppinger's mare was pigeon-toed, vowed that he had seen
another horse's tracks besides her's in the sand of the Rose Gap Road.

"You're a deep 'un, Mr. Smith" said Coppinger. "I found yer out sparking
Miss Jane along the Mountain Track. Deny it if yer can?"

But Frank Smith's pale cheek only flushed, and he turned off the question
with a laugh. It was Poor Joe's eyes that snapped fire in the corner.

So matters held themselves until the winter, when the unusually wet
season forbade riding parties of pleasure. It rained savagely that year,
as we all remember, and Bullocktown in rainy weather is not a cheerful
place. Miss Jane kept at home, and Poor Joe's little eyes, wistfully
turned to the Station on the hill, saw never her black pony cantering
round the corner of Archie Cameron's hayrick.

A deeper melancholy seemed to fall on the always melancholy township.
Coppinger's cronies took their "tots" in silence, steaming the while, and
Coppinger himself would come gloomily to the door, speculating upon evil
unless the leaden curtain lifted.

But it did not lift, and rumour of evil came. Up the country, by Parsham
and Merrydale, and Black Adder's Gully, there were whole tracts of
grass-land under water. The neighbouring station of Hall's, in the
mountains, was a swamp. The roads were bogged for miles. Tim Doolan was
compelled to leave his dray and bullocks Tom and Jerry's, and ride for
his life before the advancing waters. The dams were brimming, at
Quartzborough, St. Rey reservoir was running over. It was reported by
little McCleod, the sheep-dealer, that the old bridge at the Little
Glimmera had been carried away. It was reported that Old Man Horn, whose
residence overlooked the river, had fastened a bigger hook to a larger
pole (there was a legend to the effect that Old Man Horn had once hooked
a body from the greedy river, and after emptying its pockets, had softly
started it down stream again), and was waiting behind his rickety door,
rubbing his withered hands gleefully. Young Bartram rode over to
Quartzborough to get McCompass, the shire engineer, to look at his new
dam. Then the coach stopped running, and then Flash Harry, galloping
through the township at night, like the ghost-rider in Bürger's ghastly
ballad, brought the terrible news:--THE FLOODS WERE UP, AND THE GLIMMERA
BANK AND BANK AT THE OLD CROSSING-PLACE.

"It will be here in less than an hour," he shouted, under Coppinger's red
lamps; "make for the high ground if you love your lives;" and so wet,
wild-eyed, and white, splashed off into the darkness, if haply he might
warn the poor folk down the river of the rushing death that was coming
upon them.

Those who were there have told of the horrors of that night. How the
muddy street, scarce reclaimed from the river-bed, was suddenly, full of
startled half-dressed folk. How Coppinger's was crowded to the garret.
How the schoolmaster dashed off, stumbling through the rain, to warn them
at Seven Creeks. How bullies grew pale with fear, and men hitherto mild
of speech and modest of mien, waxed fiery-hot with wrath at incapacity,
and fiercely self-assertive in relegating fools to their place in the
bewildered social economy of that general overturn. How the roaring flood
came down, bearing huge trees, fragments of houses, grotesquely terrible
waifs and strays of house-hold furniture upon its yellow and turbid
bosom, timid women grew brave, and brave men hid their faces for a while.
How Old Man Horn saved two lives that night. How Widow Rae's cottage,
with her light still burning in the windowsill, was swept off, and
carried miles down stream. How Archy Cameron's hayrick stranded in the
middle of the township. How forty drowned sheep were floated into the
upper windows of the "Royal Mail". How Patey Barnes's cradle, with its
new-born occupant sucking an unconscious thumb, was found jammed in the
bight of the windlass in Magby's killing-yard. How all this took place
has been told, I say, by, those who were present, and needs no repeating.
But one thing which took place shall be chronicled here. When the terror
and confusion were somewhat stilled, and Coppinger, by dint of brand and
blankets, had got some strength and courage into the half-naked,
shivering creatures clustered in his ark, a sudden terrible tremor went
through the crowd, like an electric current. In some mysterious way, no
one knew how originating, or by what fed and fostered, men came to hear
that Bartram's Dam was breaking. That is to say, that in ten minutes or
less, all the land that lay between Coppinger's and the river, would be a
roaring waste of water--that in less than ten minutes the Seven Creeks
Station, with all its inmates, would be swept off the face of the earth,
and that if Coppinger's escaped it would be a thing to thank God for.

After the first sharp agony of self-apprehension, one thought came to
each--Miss Jane.

"Good God," cries Coppinger, "can nobody go to her?" Ten men volunteered
to go.

"It's no good," said faint-hearted Riley, the bully of the bar.

"The dam'll burst twice over 'fore you can reach the Station."

It was likely.

"I'll go myself," cries brave old Coppinger; but his wife clung to his
arm, and held him back with all the weight of her maternity. "I have it,"
says Coppinger; "Poor Joe'll go. Where is he?"

No one had seen him. Coppinger dashed down the stairs, splashed through
the yard into the stable. The door was open, and Blackboy, the strongest
of King Cobb's horses, was missing. Coppinger flashed round the lantern
he held. The mail-boy's saddle had disappeared, and faintly mingling with
the raging wind and roaring water, died the rapid strokes of a horse pat.

Poor Poe had gone.

       *     *     *     *     *

The house was already flooded out, and they were sitting (so I was told)
with their arms round each other, not far from where poor Bartram's body
was found, when the strange misshapen figure, bestriding the huge horse,
splashed desperately through the water, that was once the garden.

"Rescue," cried Frank, but she only, clung to him the closer.

Poor Joe bit his lips at the sight of the pair, and then, so Frank Smith
averred, flung him one bitter glance of agony, and dropping his deformed
body from the back of the reeking horse, held out the bridle with a
groan.

In moments of supreme danger one divines quickly. Frank placed his
betrothed upon the saddle, and sprang up behind her. If ever Blackboy was
to prove his metal, he must prove it then, for already the lightning
revealed a thin stream of water trickling over the surface of the dam.

"But what is to become of you?" cried Miss Jane.

Poor Joe, rejecting Frank's offered hand, took that of Miss Jane, patted
it softly, and let it fall. He pointed to Coppinger's red light, and then
to the black wall of the dam. No man could mistake the meaning of that
trembling finger, and those widely-opened eyes. They said "Ride for your
lives ride!" plainer than the most eloquent tongue owned by schoolmaster
could speak.

It was no time for sentiment, and for the schoolmaster there was but one
life to be saved or lost that night. He drove his heels into the good
horse's sides, and galloped down the hill. "God bless you Joe" cried Miss
Jane. Poor Joe smiled, and then, falling down on his knees, waited,
straining his ears to listen. It was not ten minutes, but it seemed ten
hours, when, through the roar, he heard a distant shout go up. They were
saved. Thank God! And then the dam burst with a roar like thunder, and he
was whirled away amid a chaos of tree trunks.

       *     *     *     *     *

They found his little weak body four days afterwards, battered and
bruised almost out of recognition but his great brave soul had gone on to
judgment.




VIII. Gentleman George's Bride

Chapter I

When it was known at Bullocktown that old Keturah Gow was going to be
married to Gentleman George, there was somelaughter and much shaking of
heads.

Keturah was a woman of hard middle age. Scotch by birth, and
Presbyterian by religion, she had come to Australia as the nurse of Flora
McLeod, now Mrs. Marrable, of Seven Creeks, and had lived twenty years in
the bush. The man whom she was about to marry was named George Harris. No
one knew whence he came, or how long he had lived in the colonies. He had
no religion worth mentioning, and no accomplishment save that of
horsemanship. His age was three-and-twenty, or thereabouts and being
impatient of temper, handy with his fists, prodigal of his money, and
possessed of a certain gipsy beauty of face and figure, the intelligent
stockmen called him 'Gentleman George.'

In vain did the gossips of Bullocktown animadvert upon the match. In
vain did Longbow borrow Muniford's spring-cart and Coppinger's grey mare
for the express purpose of making a pilgrimage to the Gap, and warning
Neil Gow, the shepherd, of the misery which awaited his sister. 'She must
just gang her ain gate,' said crippled Neil, wagging the stump of his arm
in a feeble circle as though he would fain have waved the hand that was
wanting. 'I've said a' I can, I'll say nae mair.''Shall I speak to her?'
asked Longbow. 'As ye please,' quoth Neil; 'but Kitty's the deevil's
temper, and maybe she'll claw oot ye're e'en, man!' So Longbow sighed and
shot ducks. In vain did Mrs. Marrable implore the headstrong old woman to
reconsider her determination. 'The fellows a ne'er-do-well, Keturah--John
says he is: he only wants your money (for Keturah had saved some £200
during her servitude). He's a bad man.' Keturah only sighed and vowed
that all the world was prejudiced against puir Geordie. In vain did John
Marrable--not without a hearty English curse or two--command Gentleman
George not to make a fool of himself and to let the old woman alone. 'If
she's minded to marry me,' said the young man, with a droop of his
thickly-lashed lids, 'It isn't for you to interfere, sir--excuse me. I
suppose a man can marry anyone he likes.' 'I suppose he can, confound
him,' replied honest John Marrable. In vain did Coppinger, the publican,
suggest--over a nobbler of P.B.--that George was throwing himself away.
'You'll have the whole township laughing at you, George.'' Shall I?'
returns George, fiercely, and catching Alick, the blacksmith, in the very
dead waste and middle of a grin, forthwith pitched him into the sandy
street. 'Folks won't laugh at me twice, I'll pound it,' said he, and
Alick--his mouth full of sand--reechoed the sentiment with spluttering
humility. So the pair were married in due form, and the wedding feast was
held at the 'Saw-pits.'

The 'Saw-Pits' was a public-house situated half-way between the Gap
(where, under the shadow of the hills, nestled Neil Gow's hut), and the
distant Glimmera, on whose farther bank smoked the chimneys of
Coppinger's and drowsed the world of Bullocktown. The High Road was wont
to run through Bullocktown and bend abruptly westward to avoid crossing
the chain of water-holes called the Great Glimmera River; but three
floods and a new Postmaster-General, with a turn for economy, had altered
all that. The mail-carrying coaches had been directed to take the
shortest cut, and a bridge had been built, in order that they might do so
with convenience. The building of this bridge had established a colony of
sawyers, and the bridge completed, the mill was converted into a tavern.
Where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Where
is liquor, there flock the bushmen. It is thus that townships are formed.

The keeper of the 'Saw-pits' was one Trowbridge, who with his two
daughters had migrated from Bullocktown. Neil Gow was a great crony of
his, and despite the orders of Marrable (who, when a public-house was
established on his run, thought the end of the world was come) frequently
rode the bob-tailed pony through the sweet summer night, and 'hung him
up'to Trowbridge's verandah-post. Trowbridge and the one-armed boundary
rider had often seriously conversed on the subject of Keturah's
approaching marriage, and it had been agreed that the wedding feast
should be held at the 'Saw-pits.'

'She may do what she likes, lad,' said Trowbridge 'and if the match
turns out ill, neither thou nor I will be to blame. But if we don't make
every mother's son of 'em as drunk as a fiddler's bitch, my name ain't
Tom Trowbridge!'

The laudible purpose of the publican seemed likely to be fulfilled.
Before the wedding party arrived, the 'Saw-pits Hotel' was crowded.
Trowbridge's Sunday shirt had come to torment him before the time, and
Alick anticipated the daily period of his intoxication by full three
hours. In the hollows round about the creek were camped tilt-waggons
galore, and in the half-acre of mud that did duty for the stableyard of
the 'Saw-pits,' the brand new buggy of Jim Porter, the lucky reefer, lay
stranded like a skeleton-wreck upon a bleak, inhospitable shore. Festoons
of such wild flowers as were procurable, decorated the front of the
hostelry, and wreathed themselves lovingly about the transparent beauties
of Hennessy and Otard, while in the long room, where dancing was to be
undergone, the air was pungent with the exhilarating odour of smashed
gum-leaves. To these preparations arrived presently, in a cloud of dust,
the bridal party.

Let the classical reader recall the triumphs of old Rome, the glittering
spears, the hollow-clanging shield, the sound of the trumpets, the
thunder of the captains, and the shouting. First, galloping furiously, a
crowd of horsemen, bearded and long-haired, cracking their whips like
pistol-shots, and filling the air with Homeric laughter. Then a mass of
vehicles, bumping, jolting, leaping, filled with men in white shirts, and
women with yellow shawls. Then were stockriders, some with led horses, in
order that the swift pace of the morning might be preserved on the
homeward journey. Now behind, now before, in the midst of this fury and
clamour, borne along, and overwhelmed by dust and friendship, clattered
the triumphal car--a hooded buggy lent by Coppinger, to which were
attached four grass-fed nags, postillioned by the two sons of Archy
Fletcher, youths to whom, in the matter of rapidity of locomotion, Jehu,
the son of Nimshi, would have appeared but as a farmer's wife, jogging
with egg-laden panniers to market. From the buggy--jerked to a swaying
standstill in the most approved bush method when the fore legs of the
leaders threatened the skillion window of the inn--descended, to shouts
that rent the hot heaven, the happy pair.

Gentleman George was dressed in the height of bush fashion. A
cabbage-tree hat, so browned and battered that it boasted the colour of a
well-smoked meerschaum, adorned his handsome bullet-head. A short linen
coat served but to enhance the purity of a white shirt, from the falling
collar of which fluttered the ends of one of those gaily-coloured
kerchiefs known to London costermongers as 'Kingsmen.' Round his supple
waist was girded a red silk sash, and tightly-fitted breeches of creamy
whiteness met, and defied boots, so marvellously black, so astonishingly
wrinkled, that Mr. Rapersole, bootmaker and parish clerk, had forgotten
an Amen in gazing at them. As this hero walked, the rowels of huge
German-silver spurs, loosely fastened by one broad semicircular strap,
click-clacked upon the boards in the musical manner so dear to the
stockman's soul. Keturah, now Mrs. Harris, was none the less imposing in
her attire. She wore a purple shot-silk dress, on the shifting surface of
which played rays of crimson and gold, as shoot the colours of the prism
across a mass of molten metal. From beneath this marvel two white boots
played in and out--not so much like Sir John Suckling's mice as like plump
mill-rats newly escaped from a flour-bag. Keturah wore a red velvet
bonnet adorned with blue and white flowers; her shawl, fastened by a
plaid brooch, was a glowing yellow with a green border, and her hands
swelled in all the magnificent mockery of mauve kid gloves. Yet, with all
this, her honest brown face shone with an honesty of purpose and a
hopefulness of future happiness that rendered it almost beautiful.

She hung lovingly on her husband's arm, smiling up at him, nor removing
her eyes from his face but to gaze proudly at the cheering crowd. He
walked rather quickly, and his lips tightly compressed, and his black
eyes set forward steadily, seemingly wrought up to endure the scene, but
anxious to be quit of it. She seemed to say, 'See what a noble husband I
have won!' He seemed to say, 'I guess your thoughts, but my marriage is
none of your business.'

'He's a temper, Jenny,' said Susie Barnes.

'My word!' assented Jenny.

'She aint such a bad-looking bit of stuff after all,' said Jim Porter.
'I'd rather marry her than break my leg, blowed if I wouldn't.'

So the wedding feast began.

It is not for my feeble pen to detail the glories of that day. The
little township--buried as it was beneath the shadow of the purple hills,
and yet preserving in itself all the petty malice, the local jealousy,
the blatant conceit of larger towns--gave loose on this one occasion to
the wildest merriment. Local feuds were forgotten, personal hatreds
forgiven or suspended. Even Mr. McTaggart, a rabid Orangeman from Derry,
forbore to attack Mr. Michael Murphy, a rabid Ribbandman from Clare, and
going out into the solitude of the bridge, drank in silence his favourite
toast of 'Here's the Pope in the devil's belly, and Martin Luther
pitching red hot priests at him!' a toast which was wont to cause Mr.
Murphy's 'bhlood to bhoil, bhoys,' and to bring about wrathful combats.
Fighting Fitz, the poundkeeper, who was at daggers drawn with Dick
Mossop, Scabby Barton's overseer, on account of a brindled poley bullock
branded P.W. over T.S. on the off rump, with a notch in both ears, and a
star on the forehead, consented to be friends again, and even offered to
sell Dick a certain bay mare in defiance of the Impounding Act.
Rapersole, of course, could not be kept from politics, and insisted on
putting what he was pleased to call 'supposititious' cases in such
numbers that Neil Gow, vowing him a bletherin' bumbee's byke, took him by
the collar, and flourishing the stump of his arm menacingly, deposited
him in an empty buggy. The breakfast was an immense success. Tom
Trowbridge presided, having formally asked permission to lay aside his
unaccustomed coat, and carved a noble round of beef with the air of a
gold stick in waiting. But a round of beef was not the only viand. There
was mutton broth and cow-heel, and an ox's head decorated with flowers,
and rump steaks, and sweetbreads, and a haggis, and lamb's head, and
sheep's trotters, and cold saddle of mutton, and preserved peaches, and
tins of jam, and sago pudding, and plum duff, and bottled ale, and tea,
and sweet cake, and brandy, and rum, and one bottle of champagne for the
ladies.

'My eyes that's a merry tightener!' said Chirrup, the mail-boy. 'Could
you eat any more, Archy?' 'No fear!' said Archy, ruefully, 'them blessed
puff-tillooners did my business.' After the breakfast and the
speeches--you should have heard Rapersole's!--and the digestive smoke,
drinking and dancing commenced, Trowbridge doing his best to carry out
his promise to Neil Gow and vindicate his self-impugned title to his
name. Some notion of the result may be gleaned from a glance at his bill,
duly paid by Mrs. Keturah Harris two days afterwards.

To Mr. George Harris' weding brakefast:-
  	                   ...  ...  ...      Pounds  shilg.  d.
The brakefast              ...  ...  ...      10      0       0
Noblers                    ...  ...  ...      0       2       0
8 spiders                  ...  ...  ...      0       8       0
Dit o                      ...  ...  ...      0       8       0
Refreshments for lades     ...  ...  ...      2       0       0
Peppermint drops           ...  ...  ...      0       1       0
ginger Bear and bitters    ...  ...  ...      0       0       6
Drinks, phromiskus         ...  ...  ...      1       10      0
Squar gin for six          ...  ...  ...      0       3       6
Kake speshul               ...  ...  ...      1       10      0
Shout round                ...  ...  ...      5       0       0
Dit o                      ...  ...  ...      5       0       0
Music                      ...  ...  ...      2       0       0
Drinks for same            ...  ...  ...      0       10      0
Rossin                     ...  ...  ...      0       2       6
10 noblers                 ...  ...  ...      0       5       0
24 spiders                 ...  ...  ...      1       4       0
Tobaco                     ...  ...  ...      0       2       0
24 noblers                 ...  ...  ...      1       4       0
2 broken chares            ...  ...  ...      1       0       0
1 winder                   ...  ...  ...      2       10      0
Hoarse feed                ...  ...  ...      9       0       0
Shout all round            ...  ...  ...      5       10      0
Dit o parting              ...  ...  ...      5       10      0
Beds for 12                ...  ...  ...      2       0       0
Shampane for lades         ...  ...  ...      1       0       0
Tottal                     ...  ...  ...      56      0       6
Received by cash           ...  ...  ...      56      0       6

T. TROWBRIDGE.

In the consumption of such items as those mentioned above did the day
wear out; and Trowbridge nobly fulfilled his promise. Of the sixty or
seventy persons present, but a very insignificant number went home sober.
Indeed, had it not been for the coquetry of Jenny Joyce, who, riding her
father's bay horse, Walkover, dared any of the young men to give her five
minutes' start and catch her before she reached the Bluff, there is no
saying what might have happened. Eight or nine of the best-mounted
followed laughing Jenny, but no one got within arm's length of her supple
waist save Harry Scallan, and they do say that she checked her nag to let
him snatch the kiss he had begged for in vain. However, Harry never
confessed the fact; but as Dick Mossop, his rival, broke his horse's
knees at Mount Hopeless, but half-way to the Bluff, and Jenny became Mrs.
Scallan a month afterwards, Harry could afford to be generous. Two or
three horse-accidents happened that day. Jim Porter saddled his new
buggy-horse, and attempting to ride him, despite the advice of Gentleman
George himself, was bucked ignominiously, and his collar-bone
ingloriously fractured. Lucy Sperrin's grey pony kicked Chirrup in the
stomach and hurt him badly. 'Serves him right for fossicking round me,'
Miss Lucy had said. 'I told him the mare was handy with her heels.' Poor
Cooke--Mad Cooke, who wore a silver plate on his head, to the wonder of
Bullocktown--must needs bring out his old stock-horse and witch the world
with noble horsemanship. 'Heigh, boys! Heigh, boys!' he would cry while
at full gallop. 'There's none of ye can go up the hills like Ballie!'And
indeed no one attempted to do so, all standing aghast at the feats Ballie
performed upon the side of the steep hill that shadowed the inn, until
poor Ballie put his foot into a hole, or slipped on a rolling stone, and
his master came to earth with a fresh brain concussion--the third in his
short mad life-time.

Amid such sports the hot, sweet day wore out to cool evening. The pure
perfume of grass, and earth scented the air. The red sun sunk in glory
behind the ragged shoulder of the bluff. A purple mist slowly enveloped
the hills the laughing jackasses, merry fellows, set up a tremendous
chattering; the frogs began to babble in the marshes, the sheep to move
off their camps, the cattle to make for water. The wedding-day was over,
and as, amidst a hurricane of cheers, Gentleman George handed his wife to
the spring-cart that was to bear them to their home in the Swamp Hut, the
great stars came slowly out and looked with tender eyes upon this
hopeful, ill-dressed bride.

A week afterwards frolicsome Fitz, wandering in search of prey wherewith
to feed his ravenous Pound, met jolly Polwheal, the butcher, coming from
the Swamp Hut.

'Have you seen the bride' asked Fitz.

'Ay, and a comely wench she's grown. She looks a young 'oman, Fitz.'

'Does she?' says Fitz, 'That's rum, too.'

Polwheal laughed, 'you're not a felosopher, Fitz! Don't you know,' he
added, borrowing a metaphor from his own profession, 'that a working
bullock, if you get him fat after a spell, makes the best beef.' In
regard to the appearance of Keturah Harris, Mr. Polwheal was right. She
had become a very comely woman. The lines in her face had faded, her
spare figure had rounded, her withered arms had fattened, her grey eyes
had a youthful sparkle, and her step a youthful lightness; she seemed a
younger woman by twenty years. If you passed by the Swamp Hut, at any
hour of the day, you could hear her singing, and the good-tempered woman
who brought you out a pannikin of tea, or asked you to have a slice of
sweet cake, was a very different being from 'old Ketty,' of the home
station, the shrewish-tongued and withered maiden who was the terror of
wandering swagmen. Bullocktown wondered at the change, and were not
disinclined to roughly jest upon the subject with Gentleman George. That
worthy, however, went about his business of stock-riding in silence, and
seemed determined by honest attention to his business to merit the
kindness shown him by Mrs. Marrable, and deserve the 'married couple'
billet which John Marrable had bestowed upon him.

The astute reader will no doubt have come to the conclusion that this
conduct of Gentleman George was but assumed for his own ends; and the
astute reader will be right. Gentleman George had not the least intention
of passing his life as a stockrider to Mr. Marrable and as the young
husband of an old woman. He had married Keturah for her money, and
intended, as soon as he could obtain that money, to take himself off.
Until he was in a position to do this securely, it was his interest to be
kind and gentle, and the scoundrel was kind and gentle accordingly. I
trust, however, that the astute reader who has discovered this will not
consider Mr. Harris a very great villain. For a young man to marry an old
woman for her money, is not such a very rare thing, nor have there been
wanting cases in the best society where the lady has been deserted
afterwards. I admit, however, that to perpetrate such an offence for two
hundred pounds does show a coarseness of intellect. If Keturah had been
possessed of two hundred thousand pounds now, the case would have been
different, and good society might have admitted Mr. Harris to its bosom
without a pang. Yet men can but act according to their opportunity, and I
am sure that had Gentleman George seen his way to marry a lady with two
hundred thousand, or even one hundred thousand pounds, he would have left
poor Keturah alone.

There is no necessity to protract the story at this period. In six
months George had got possession of the endorsed deposit receipt of the
Bank of Australia, Quartzborough, for £201 8s. 0d., had kissed his wife,
told her he was going to look after the mare and foal last seen in
Ponsonby's paddock. Once clear of the hut he saddled his own nag
Peppercorn, secured his swag already 'planted' on the river bank, set out
a smart canter for Quartzborough; drew the money, and slept that night at
Hamilton, doing ninety-five miles in eleven and-a-half hours.

Poor Keturah was like a mad woman. At first she thought that some
accident had befallen him, then that he was detained at a neighbouring
station. She would fain have roused all the station to look for him. She
ran to her mistress raging and upbraided her for not suffering the dam to
be dragged. Then she began to suspect, then to weep, then to vow revenge.
'He's left ye missis,' said the wife of the other boundary-rider. 'He's a
bad lot. Ye'd better forget him.'

'I'll no forget him, the black villain,' said the deserted woman. 'I'll
pray to God on my bended knees that I may meet him, and if he's a heart
o' flesh I'll wring it.'

'Come, Ketty,' said her mistress, some days after, 'It's no use
greeting, woman. The fellow's gone.'

'Let him go,' said Ketty. 'I'll find him oot. Ef he's on his dying, bed,
I'll find him oot, and dinna let him ask me to raise a finger to save
him.'

'I must take her away,' said Mrs. Marrable to her husband. 'She can't
bear the sneers and looks of the folk about.'

'All right, take her with you to town when you go,' said, John Marrable.

Thus it came to pass that having been twenty years in the bush, Keturah
Harris became Upper nurse in the family of Mr. Thomas Marrable, of the
firm of Marrable and Davis, softgoods-men.


Chapter II

The soft-goods firm of Marrable and Davis was a wealthy one. The
Marrable interest consisted of Thomas Marrable (the brother of the
station-owner) with his son Harry, and Mr. Israel Davis, once chief
clerk, now partner. The office was in Flinders Lane--a big stuccoed
building of four soreys, having swing-doors embellished with double
plates of brass. Mr. Marrable was a politician and an importer. His son
dressed in the latest London fashions, played loo and billiards equally
badly, and cherished a secret ambition to belong to the Melbourne Club.
He was a thin young man, with a blotched face; rode fairly to hounds, had
large private expenses of a disreputable sort, and avowed a profound
contempt for cads--which was unselfish. Mrs. Thomas was the daughter of a
buttonmaker of Birmingham; she brought 'money' into the business, painted
her face daily, had four unhealthy children, and compelled Marrable to
reside at Toorak, in case she should ever 'go into society.'

Mr. Davis lived in a cottage at St. Kilda, and was remarkable for his
bachelor parties. He was a tall, slim man of irreproachable manners, and
the slightest suspicion of an accent. He drank the best wine procurable,
smoked the best cigars, was a patron (and a judicious one) of the
fine-arts, owned a cultivated musical taste, and flattered himself that
he was utterly without principle. 'My dear fellows,' he would say to the
guests (gentlemen who ate his admirable dinner and d----d him going home
'for an infernal Jew, sir'), 'I have no principle, and no religion. My
father was a slopseller in Monmouth Street. What's that to me? I am
myself with a good dinner, and a good digestion. You call yourself
Christians--bah--you're asses. Every man his own creed, that's my motto. I
am Israel Davis--that's my religion. Harry, here, who has been drinking
too much claret, thinks himself superior to me. Let him--that's his
religion, and quite sufficient for him.'

Flinders Street respected Mr. Davis. 'He's a crafty beast, that beast
Davis,' said Mr. Podosokus, the bill-broker. 'He did me out of £50 as
easy as kiss my hand. Dam him. I like that fellow. He's such a beast.'

'A thorough business man,' said Cammolard, of the Border Bank. 'A hard
head. A hard heart. A thorough business man.'

'I don't like that Mr. Davis,' said Milly Smith, who met him at the
Marrables' once. 'He's so polite.'

'What do you mean, dear?' asked Mrs. Smith, but Milly couldn't explain.

'I wonder if he has as large an interest in the firm as young Mr.
Marrable,' said the mother.

'I don't like young Mr. Marrable, either,' said poor Milly. 'He's so
rude.'

'That wasn't what I asked you, Miss,' said the old lady sharply, and
fell into a financial reverie.

Now, despite his hard-headed and hard-heartedness, Mr Davis had done one
kind thing. He had 'taken up' a bill signed 'Marrable and Davis,' which
was written by Mr. Harry. This bill was for £250 and had been discounted
by Mr. Davis's unacknowledged brother, Zebulon Davis, the proprietor of
the Victorian Loan and Discount Company, capital £300,000,000, offices 29
Elizabeth Street East. Mr. Zebulon Davis was the 'Company,' and the
capital was supplied by Mr. Israel. When some poor devil of a borrower
took his miserable acceptance to the offices at 29 Elizabeth Street, he
would be received by Zebulon, who would scan the oblong slip doubtfully,
saying, 'It ish an unushual transhaction, Mr. Blank, but I'll lay it
before the Board,' and so send a messenger round to Israel, with
particulars. If Israel said 'Yes,'the cash, less 90 per cent., was handed
to applicant. If Israel said 'No,' Zebulon would put off the transaction
for a day or two, on pretence of making inquiries, and then suggest that,
perhaps, 'with another namesh'--&c.

When a bill for £120, with the signature of the firm, was presented to
Israel, he saw the state of the case at once, and being a business man he
directed it to be discounted on easy terms. 'It is a forgery,' said he to
his brother when they met that evening. 'It is sure to be taken up.' Sure
enough it was taken up by Mr. Harry in person, who had borrowed £120 from
Davis 'just for twenty-four hours.' The next day Harry brought the
company another bill for £250-- 'I don't like to put it through the bank,'
he said, 'but it's all right.' By his brother's directions, the 'Company'
cashed this second forgery, and on the day it fell due, Mr. Davis called
Harry into his private room and showed him the document.

'Do you see this?'

Harry turned very pale.

'The money-lender to whom you took it had his suspicions, and brought it
here. Fortunately I saw him, and not your father. I have paid it.'

Harry, stammering thanks and excuses, stretched out his hand for the
document, but Mr. Davis twitched it away.

'Oh, no,' he said. 'Excuse me, dear boy, I shall keep this until you
repay me the £250.'

It was after this transaction that Harry Marrable's face became blotchy,
and that he had that awkward fit. Dr. Dignato knew it was brandy, so he
said it was blood, and ordered the boy to go into the country. Thomas
Marrable sent him to his brother's station.

At last Harry Marrable saw a way of paying his debt to the hated
Davis--the very way by which he had incurred it. Honest Jack Griswold's
'Trumpeter' was certain to win the steeplechase, and as the 'talent'
didn't think so, Harry could get 20 to 1 about him. A simple outlay of
£12 10s. would free him from Mr. Israel Davis at once and for ever.
Honest Jack Griswold was a man of honour (so the sporting world thought),
and his horses ran straight, which was more than did those of some other
men. The 'talent,' --consisting of Mr. Blackadder, Mr. Samuelson, Mr.
Barnabas, Mr. Mephisto, and little Tobyman--had been assured that the
horse for 'this event' was 'Bandoline' (by 'Cosmetic,' out of that famous
mare 'Bearsgrease'), and laid their 20 to 1 accordingly. Harry got on his
money, and being informed by some broken-down hanger-on of the 'Ring'
that 'Trumpeter' was 'meant,' felt happy. Mr. Israel Davis (who betted a
little also) had invested against Honest John Griswold's stable, simply
because he believed that a man who was called Honest must necessarily be
a rogue.

Such were the conflicting interests that revolved round the house at
Toorak in which old Keturah was upper nurse.

Now there is--or was--a place called the Casino de Carambole. It stands
midway in the street of Bourke, and is frequented by wicked people. Its
pillars are mock-malachite, its glass is mock-crystal, its
gooseberry-juice is mock-champagne, and its love-making is mock-turtle.
The ostensible landlord of this saloon was one Oily O'Connor, a fighting
man; the real owner was Zebulon Davis, and behind him was the gentlemanly
partner of Marrable and Co. Not that Israel ever went there. Not he. His
taste was too refined for such vulgar debaucheries, he simply drew a
share of the profits. The sort of people who went were overseers of
stations, juvenile owners of the same young men of fashion (Heaven help
them!) who came out from England superfluously oxygenated, betting-men,
card-sharpers, day-waiters at hotels, and now and then some stray
newspaper-man, or officer of the Frolicking Five Thousandth.

'It isn't that I am a moral man,' said Davis, when urged to visit this
scene of revelry, 'but the place is so deuced unwholesome.' He was right,
it was very unwholesome. Perhaps one of the most unwholesome elements in
it was the perpetual presence of the 'Talent.' Mr. Blackadder, shiny of
eye, and Rat of head; Mr. Samuelson, small of stature, and red crimpy of
hair, freckled and moist of countenance. Mr. Barnabas, cold and reserved;
Mr. Mephisto, perpetually grinning at the world through the horse-collar
of his own whiskers; and little Tobyman, that loathsome pretender to
childish gaiety and innocence. These worthies would knot in corners like
vipers, would lean over bars until the crowns of their bran-new hats were
the only objects visible to the spectator, would hoarsely 'shout'
champagne, or dance on the waxed floor with exuberance of gesture. A
variety of dimly-lighted barrooms surrounded this delightful spot, and to
these such pigeons as Harry Marrable were admitted--as into traps. The
'talent'--presumedly under the influence of gooseberry-juice--were wont to
drop awful hints of 'stable secrets,' upon the knowledge of which 'pots'
of money could be put with absolute safety. When Mr. Davis spoke of the
Casino to his brother, he always wiped his hands with his handkerchief.

'I wish that confounded den of yours was burnt down,' he said one day.
'It is positively a disgrace to the city.'

'Oh, no, yer don't, Israel,' said Zebulon, grinning with all his yellow
fangs (the teeth of this honest fellow were ringed near the gums, as
though they were posts stuck into a spongy soil, which had sunk since
their first embedding). 'Oh, no, yer don it. It's worth five thousand
pounds any day.'

'I do with all my heart,' repeated Israel, earnestly. 'It's a
disreputable hole, that's what it is, and--and I've just insured it for
ten.'

'I can't understand how that ruffian O'Connor keeps that sink of
iniquity going,' remarked Tom Provis the same evening at the dinner-table
of Mr. Davis, 'I suppose the Jews--' and then he felt his host's keen eye
upon him, and paused.

'Go on, dear sir,' said Davis; 'you would say the Jews help him. So they
do. O'Connor isn't his name. His name is Levison. I am connected with his
family. We are all connected; we all help each other. Do you ever see a
Jew dig, or beg, or do menial service? Did you ever have a Jew servant?
Did you ever know a Jew, however poor, who hadn't a sovereign to lend at
interest? My dear sir, we Jews rule the world. Freemasonrystuff!
Priestcraftbosh! When we were turned out of that ill-built and
inconvenient town, Jerusalem, we made a vow to take possession of the
Universe--and we've done it, too.'

'But how?' asked Provis, 'how?'

'By sticking together,' said Mr. Davis. 'All Jewry my dear Provis, is
one great firm--a huge bank which keeps the table against all Christendom.
By the way, talking of banks, shall we cut the light pack or call the
rattling main?'

'All right,' said Provis, and presently proved his birthright as a
Christian by losing £50.

Now into this Casino there strolled one evening Mr. Finch, the gentleman
who was to ride 'Bandoline.'

'Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Blackadder,' said he 'I want to
see him immediately.'

Harry Marrable, who, in company with a cigar and a friend (of equally
bad odour in different ways), was gleaning 'information,' heard the
question, saw that the long coat and neat boots belonged to a horsey-man,
and guessed that something was wrong with Mr. Blackadder's property.

Blackadder came out of an adjoining pigeon-hole, and bent to hear the
news. 'I'll be out in the morning, Finch,' he said, and as Finch turned
to go, Harry jumped up with an exclamation of surprise.

'George Harris, by Jove!' said he, and clapped him on the back.

Gentleman George turned very red and then very pale when he saw who it
was--the pair had often ridden together at Seven Creeks and made as though
he would fain get away. Harry held him fast, 'Look here, George,' he
said, 'your old woman's living nurse at my mother's, do you know that?'

'Don't say you saw me,' said the other. 'Well,' returned Harry, 'I don't
see why I shouldn't. Come in here, and let us have a talk.'

Here was the Yorick's Head, a theatrical tavern kept by one Porboy, and
a place not likely to be visited by members of the Ring.

'Sit down and have a drink,' said the young man, pointing to a chair
situated beneath a portrait of G. V. Brooke. 'So you are going to ride
'Bandoline.' Two whiskies, Mrs. Porboy, please. Hot? No; cold. Cold, my
girl. Now, George, look here. Where have you been hiding? There's been a
jolly row over this bolting.'

'I don't see what business that is of yours, Mr. Harry,' said the
stockman, his false eyes drooping. 'It won't do you any good to set my
wife on to me.'

'Well, no; it wouldn't do me any good,' returned the boy, sipping the
whisky: 'but it ain't right, you know, George. 'Pon my soul it ain't. The
old soul's awfully cut up about it.'

'What does she say?' asked Gentleman George, looking very hard at James
Anderson as Ingomar.

'She don't say much,' replied the other, 'but she thinks a lot. She'll
make it hot for you when she meets you, you be bound. It'll put you on
the roads, my boy, or something like it,' he added with a shiver.

Gentleman George seemed to read all the petty soul of the wretched young
profligate in the evil glance he cast at him.

'Would you like to make some money, Mr. Harry?' he asked.

'Should I? By Jove, I should!' said Harry, thinking of the accursed
bill, and the thrice-accursed Davis. 'Do you know a way?'

'I ride "Bandoline" next week. Lay against him.'

'I have.'

'Then you'll lose.'

'Well, you're a queer fellow. If I shall lose, why tell me to risk my
money.'

'If you won't say anything about me to the old woman, you shan't lose
your money, for "Bandoline" shan't win!'

'You are a pretty scoundrel!' said the young forger, feeling quite
indignant at the mention of a sin to which he was unaccustomed.

'Think of the money you can make,' said Gentleman George.

'If I pull "Bandoline," you can put the pot on "Trumpeter," and make
money both ways. It's only holding your tongue for a week after all.'

Harry Marrable took a turn up and down the room.

'I won't tell your wife until after the race, at all events,' he said
'and if "Bandoline" wins--'

'He won't win, Mr. Harry,' returned the man. 'I've no wish to meet that
old skeleton any more, I can tell you.'

With this tacit agreement, they then parted.


Chapter III

The appearance of a racecourse is much the same all the world over, and
the Melbourne Racecourse differs only from that of Epsom in the regard of
an octave. The melody of the turf is set a little lower to suit the less
refined ears of our musicians. The grand opera of a steeplechase varies
only in the class of singers; our tenor is not so good as he of London,
our prima donna would not be thought much of at Liverpool, and our corps
de ballet is neither so well dressed nor so well drilled as that which
dances on the springy sward of the Downs, or joins in the tremendous
chorus which salutes the winner of the Grand National. But we do our best
to put the production of Signor Sathanas on the stage, and our libretto
is translated into Australian by the best man we can discover. Our
resources may be insufficient, but no one can doubt our willingness to
please. The dramatis personæ jockeys, fine ladies, lorettes, Jews,
three-card-men, loafers, swindlers, gamblers, pickpockets and police--are
represented to the best of our ability, and if we do not raise the
curtain upon so splendid an array of beauty and fashion as that which
yearly beams from the dress-circle of the Epsom Grand Stand, we have at
least equalled the legitimate theatre in our transpontine luxury of
villains. The 'Ring' is overpoweringly admirable. No racecourse in the
world can boast greasier, flashier, hoarser-voiced, or dirtier-handed
bookmakers than Mephisto, Blackadder, Samuelson, Barnabas & Co.

Young Harry Marrable, walking up and down the lawn--elbowed by bawling
bookmakers shouting the odds beneath the charming noses of the soft-goods
aristocracy--was ill at ease. He had not seen Gentleman George, otherwise
Mr. Finch, since the evening he had met him so opportunely at the
'Casino,' and though he had followed the advice given him in the matter
of backing 'Trumpeter,' he was by no means certain that the ingenious
husband of poor Keturah would perform his promise. Mr. Davis--who,
resplendent in white coat and lavender gloves, smoked a priceless cigar
on the cynical retirement of a camp-stool--had taken occasion a few
minutes before to remind him that he 'wanted that £250 to-morrow, dear
boy.' The course buzzed with the name of 'Bandoline,' upon the result of
whose performance the greatly little Tobyman was understood to have
risked £2,000. In addition to these anxieties was the awkward feeling
that he had no business there at all, for his father, Thomas Marrable,
had been taken seriously ill two days before, and was even then in a
'critical' condition. So, with fevered hands, dry lips, and an unpleasant
feeling as of mental indigestion, Harry watched the preparations for the
event of the day.

'--refused the jump,' and amid a furious medley of cheers, groans, and
yells, 'Trumpeter' and 'Bandoline,' alone in the race, had but one fence
between them and victory. 'Bandoline' led by half a length, Gentleman
George sitting well back, composed, and easy.

'That fellow can ride,' said Horsefall. 'Who is he?'

'A man called Finch, a horse-breaker, I think,' returned Captain Pips. 'I
don't know anything--ah! My God, he's killed.'

It was 'Trumpeter's' race, for 'Bandoline,' swerving at the final
fence, breasted it, toppled, and fell, crushing his rider beneath him.

Harry turned sick. Was this an accident, or had the daring scoundrel,
recklessly faithful to Luck and his promise, 'pulled' the beast as he had
agreed, and so brought about this catastrophe? Blackadder, muttering
oaths, shouldered his way through the crowd.

'He has broken his neck,' said he to Tobyman.

'Has he?' said Tobyman, ruefully adjusting the hat upon which he had
jumped three minutes before. 'I knowd he was ridin' too 'ard at it.'

'He be damned,' says Blackadder, roughly contemptuous, 'I mean the
horse.'

Harry felt a hand on his shoulder. It was that of Mr. Israel Davis, and
its touch was not quite so firm as usual.

'How did you come off?' he asked.

'I've won,' said Harry. 'I can pay you that money the day after
to-morrow.'

'I'm glad of that,' said Davis. 'I shall want all the money I can get.
I have lost a small fortune--for me. Curse the brute!'

'I don't think it--it was the horse's fault,' said Harry. 'It--it
seemed--'

'Of course it wasn't the horse's fault,' snapped Davis, no longer a
Russian but a Tartar;' I meant the man.'

While they were cheering Trumpeter and Griswold, somebody brought a
hurdle, upon which the unhappy rider of the dead horse was lifted and
borne off the course. When Harry, trembling to know the worst, reached
the spot, he saw only turf, trampled with boot-heels, and ploughed with
an insignificant furrow at the place where ill-fated 'Bandoline' had
literally bitten the dust. He made for the gates and home.

His father was no better, and Mrs. Harris, who had been invested with
the responsibility of nursing the invalid, shook her head when
questioned. By-and-by Dr. Dignato came, in a carriage accompanied by a
kennel of dogs, and remarked that 'our patient must have quiet--perfect
quiet. So I heard they killed a man to-day.' Mrs. Marrable had retired to
her own room, and sent down her 'maid' every hour to 'make inquiries.'
The children had been ordered to refrain from noise, and were 'playing at
visiting.' Miss Mabel was the lady of the house, and said, 'How do you
do?' to Miss Fanny. 'Did you go to the concert? How are the dear
children?' After this they had a 'dinner party' at which little Toodles
and Master Alfred personated the two 'poor relations,' and were
instructed by Miss Mabel (a clever girl for her age) to refuse a second
helping of pudding while Fanny (as footman) took care to only give them
'once champagne.' Harry went into the garden and smoked bitterly.

He had won his money, and released himself from Davis. So help him
Heaven, he would never run risks of this nature again. He hoped that
George hadn't done that purposely. It didn't look as if he had, although
it was rumoured that people near the chair had seen him pull the horse
off the jump. He hoped he wasn't dead. Should he tell old Keturah? What
would be the use? He would 'sound' her, and see in what mood she would be
likely to take the news that her husband had been found.

He went to town next day as usual, and 'stuck to business.'

On the evening he said to Keturah, 'Have you ever heard of your husband,
Mrs. Harris?'

'No sir,' said she, with a blush and a frown, 'and dinna want to.'

'Ah! Somebody told me that they had seen him at--at Ballarat.'

'It's like enough. But, if you please, Mr. Harry, say nae mair; he's
dead to me, let him be where he may, the black villain.'

'But, Ketty, suppose now that you heard he were ill, would you go to
him?'

'No.'

'--if you heard he was dead.'

She turned pale, 'What do you mean, sir--it's ill jesting wi' me. I tell
ye, I'd not go if he were dying in yon room, unless he sent for me; and
then I'd tell the villain what I thought o' him,' and leaving her
questioner with an iron face, she went straight to her own room and
inconsequentially wept.

The next day Mr. Marrable felt better.

'Bring Davis home with you to-night, Harry,' he said 'I want to talk to
him.' Mr. Davis started when Harry gave him the message, and asked if Mr.
Marrable had quite recovered. 'No, but he's much better, thank God,' said
Harry. 'I say Davis, I'll get that money for you this afternoon.' 'All
right,' said Davis, frowning. 'I am glad to hear it.' But when Harry
Marrable had shut the door of Mr. Israel Davis's room, that gentleman
took the trouble to lock it after him, and then sat down to ruminate on
his own position.

The fact was--Mr. Israel confessed it to himself with many
self-reproaches--that his vaunted sagacity had been at fault of late. His
dubious speculations in 'bills' had not turned out so well as he thought
he had a right to expect. Much 'paper,' of a kind which the 'Company' had
imagined to be of the 'safest,' had been returned upon him. Some
obnoxious journalist, in want of a 'subject,' had chosen to attack the
Casino de Carambole, and a series of 'leaders' upon that institution--
'leaders' which bristled with moral sentiments and blazed with Latin
quotations, more or less incorrectly printed--had appeared in the daily
press. The unlucky accident to 'Bandoline' had placed Mr. Davis in sore
straights for money, and he confessed dismally that the £250 which that
accident would enable young Marrable to pay him would be but a small
instalment of the sum the bookmakers would demand that evening. He had
counted upon this 'bill' being a tower of financial strength to him in
days to come. When Mr. Harry Marrable was admitted to a larger
participation in the profits of the firm, the astute Davis had promised
himself that he would not part with the forgery for less than three times
the amount which he had paid for it. Mr. Marrable was ill. It was
possible that he might die. It was probable that he would take a less
active part in business, and that the time for the 'sweating' of the
foolish Harry was nigh at hand. It was provoking that by a turn of
fortune Mr. Israel was to be a loser in a double sense. He went to the
safe and took out the bill. There it lay--worth £1,000, at least, if he
could only keep it a few months longer. The signature was well forged.
The words Marrable and Davis were capitally imitated. Mr. Israel smiled
as he recognised the final flourish of his own 's.' How provoking to be
compelled to give up so splendid a prize! He began to wonder at the mood
in which Master Harry must have found himself when he began forgery as a
profession. He could imagine Harry Marrable with the door locked, as it
was locked now--playing with a pen, as he himself now played--scribbling
the signature of the firm, as he himself now--! A bright notion occurred
to Davis. He thought he saw a way to receive the £250, and keep the bill
into the bargain. He would try.

He was engaged in 'trying' for some time, and having at last succeeded
to his satisfaction, he put on his hat and went out. 'If Mr. Henry should
ask for me,' said he to the chief clerk, 'be good enough to tell him that
I have gone home, and that I will see him at his father's this evening.'
The clerk delivered the message, and Harry felt a little alarmed. Surely,
Davis did not intend to reveal the ugly secret! No, he could not imagine
that.

He sat with the sick man, on thorns, until the grinding of Davis's
cab-wheels upon the gravel proclaimed his fate at hand.

'Here he is,' he cried. 'I'll fetch him up,' and meeting Israel on the
stairs, he dragged him from the stairs into the dressing-room adjoining
the bed-chamber.

'Where's the bill?'

Mr. Israel was very calm.

'I am sorry I was obliged to leave, Harry. How is your father?'

'Better,' said Harry. 'Have you got it with you?'

'I have,' said Mr. Davis, producing the bill from his pocket, and waving
it gently in the air.

'Then here's the money,' cried the poor boy, 'see, twelve £20 notes and
a £10; count them.'

'I do not know, sir,' returned Mr. Davis, 'If I am altogether justified
in giving up this document. I really, think, dear boy, that your father
ought to be informed of the business.'

'Oh, for God's sake!' cried Harry in great alarm.

'I am sorry, dear boy, but really ----'

'Is that you, Davis?' said the voice of the sick man querulously; 'why
don't you come in?'

'Oh Davis! give it to me!' urged Harry, with dry lips. 'Here take the
money, I'll give you £50 more, I will, upon my honour Davis, I say.'

Mr. Israel Davis seemed to relent. He set his back against the
dressing-room door, and extending one hand for the money, held out the
bill with the other.

'Here then,' he said, nodding at the lowered gas-lamp, 'take it and let
me see it burned before I leave the room.'

Harry clutched the bill, and had already held it towards the flame, when
the door was flung open with that violence which is natural in a person
who wishes to hastily enter a room, and who is ignorant that any
impediment is likely to prevent him so doing with ease. The effect of
this accident was to propel the elegant Israel forcibly forward.

'I beg your pardon,' cried Keturah, the intruder, aghast, 'but, the
master's calling for ye.'

Mr. Davis muttered something inelegantly like an oath, and Harry, seeing
through the open door his father's face, was seized with a sudden
impulse.

He ran into the room, flung himself by the bedside, and holding out the
forged acceptance, sobbed out his story in a few hurried words.

'I was in debt, father. They pressed me. I did this. Mr. Davis had it. I
have paid him. See, here it is. Forgive me!'

Mr. Israel Davis stood astounded. Of all things in heaven and earth, he
had not calculated upon this!

Thomas Marrable raised himself in his bed and called his Partner.

'What is this, Mr. Davis? My boy forged upon the firm--you should have
told me. I would have paid it sooner than that this should happen.'

'I thought, sir,' returned Mr. Davis, whose agitation had subsided into
a wolfish calmness, 'that you would be glad to be spared the pang of
knowing such an--an indiscretion. The note was presented to me, and I paid
it. Do you blame me?'

'--No,no,' said poor Thomas Marrable. 'You did it for the best, I have no
doubt; yet----'

'Say no more, dear sir,' said Mr. Israel. 'Your son, I am sure, is truly
penitent. Let us burn the bill, and forget that----'

'Why!--Why!--Why, you infernal scoundrel!' burst out young Mr. Harry, who
had been staring at the fatal paper. 'This--this is not the bill I gave
you!'

'Nonsense!' said Mr. Davis, showing his teeth in a vicious grin. 'What
else should it be, give it to me, and let me burn it.'

In his haste he made as though he would absolutely tear it out of the
young man's hands, but Harry held it fast.

'See, father. This is not the bill. I am sure it is not. That is not my
signature.'

'Mr. Davis,' says Thomas Marrable, 'what the devil is the meaning of
this? Where is the bill that you say my son has forged?'

'You have it in your hand, sir.'

The old man looked from one to the other in bewilderment. He was an
honest tradesman, and he did not comprehend such complications of
finance. Harry--who was in advance of his father in knowledge of roguery,
by virtue of the very forgery he had committed--came to the right
conclusion.

'I see what it is, father,' he said, 'he has forged this, so that I
might burn it. He has got the original bill himself.'

Mr. Israel Davis was no common rogue, and he saw that there was but one
way to redeem his blunder.

'My dear Mr. Marrable, your son is right. How much will you give me to
return you the bill, and retire from the firm?'

'I'll--I'll send you to gaol!' cries Marrable.

'--And have the transaction explained in court? No, that would be a
blunder worse than mine. Give me £500 and we will exchange documents.'

'I'll see you ---- first,' says Thomas Marrable.

'Not first, dear sir, not first,' returned Israel Davis, regaining all
his composure. 'Afterwards you may have that pleasure. Come, £500. I will
forego 20 per cent. on my share in the business and leave on the day your
cheque for the balance is honoured.'

'I will see my solicitors,' groaned Thomas.

'I will see them if you like, dear sir; I shall explain matters more
fully.'

Thomas Marrable stared.

'Are you not ashamed to talk like this,' he said at last.

'Ashamed! why should I be ashamed?' said Davis, with coolness. 'I was
ashamed when you found me out--ashamed that I had allowed so trivial ill
accident as the sudden opening of a door to disarrange my plans. But that
is all, dear sir. You are a Christian, so is your dear boy there. You
would be ashamed, perhaps. You have a "moral sense", a "society", a
"parson." Bah. I am Israel Davis.'

'You are a monstrous scoundrel! Go. I will write to my solicitors.'

'Good evening, my, dear sir,' said Mr. Israel.

They heard his cart-wheels crunch the gravel, and then old Marrable
looked at his son.

'It was my fault, Harry. I should never have allowed you to come in
contact with that scoundrel. He is enough to corrupt any one.'

Harry Marrable suffered the excuse to be made, and left the sick-room
with stern promise of repentance and amendment. On his way he met
Keturah, cloaked and hooded.

'Oh, Harry, tell me,' cried she, 'Did you know anything?'

'What do you mean?'

'When you spoke to me last night about my husband. He's sent for me.'

'The, deuce he has!'

'A cab's come to fetch me. I have seen the mistress. I am going at once.
Tell me, Mr. Harry is he sick or well?'

'How should I know, Ketty,' said the young man, fearful of betraying
himself. 'He can't be ill if he has sent for you. Go and Make it up with
him.'

'No, I'll never do that,' said Keturah, her anger rising. 'I'll see him,
and tell him my opinion o' him, as I vowed I would do.'

The cab which had been sent for Mrs. Harris was not a handsome vehicle.
The wheels were disagreeably loose, the iron step was bent and twisted,
the cushions were mouldy, the tarpaullin-hood ragged and insufficient.
The conduct of the driver, moreover, was not calculated to inspire
confidence. He was a large, loose man, with a white nose and a mottled
face. His enemies said that he drank so much brandy that his nose had
passed through the red stage and achieved a white heat. He wore a
flapping Yankee hat, and drove at a great pace, shouting.

So rapid was the manner in which the ricketty vehicle was whirled
through space, that it was not until the panting horse dropped into a
grateful walk at Prince's Bridge that the poor old woman felt herself
enabled to ask questions.

'Who sent ye? and how far's Flemington?'

'Barney Welsher sent me,' returned white-nose, 'and it's about two
mile.'

'Who's Barney Welsher?' asks Keturah alarmed.

'He keeps the "Horse and Jockey" on the Flemington course there. I'm a
Flemington car, I am. I driven Joe Blueitt and another bloke, ye see,
over there, ye see, when--cck!--out comes Barney, and ses "Go to Toorak and
find Mr. Marrable's 'ouse, ask for a Mrs. Harris, and tell 'er 'er
'usban' wants 'er. Bring 'er out 'ere," he says, "and drive like 'ell" he
ses. Ha'ay! Gu-u- u-ur!

--And the banging and slamming of the jolting car rendered further
explanation impossible.

Keturah was considerably relieved when the man, who had never ceased to
howl at his horse, or to thwack him violently with a lashless whip,
pulled up in safety beneath the solitary lamp of a lonely public-house,
and sat gloomily waiting for Mr. Welsher to emerge. At sight of this
worthy hirer of cabs poor Keturah felt a strange terror seize her. Mr.
Welsher was in his shirt-sleeves, a pipe decorated his mouth, and in his
left paw he held a very greasy 'hand' of cards. Nevertheless, when he
espied the old woman, he handed her out with a solemnity that--contrasted
with his appearance and evident pursuit--had something bodeful in it.

'I heard that--that my husband was here,' said Keturah.

'So he is, marm,' replied Mr. Welsher, scanning her curiously. 'Walk in.
There's some coves in the parlour, but don't mind them. 'Ave a drop o'
gin after your drive? No--well, then, this way.'

The 'coves in the parlour' were not prepossessing. They were the sort of
'coves' engendered in the foul air of a stable; the sort of 'coves' to
whom the inside of a prison would not he unfamiliar, it might be wagered.
In the 'parlour' was that atmosphere of oaths and brandy, onions, cheese,
and humanity, which may be found in apartments where seven foul-fed,
foul-clothed, foul-mouthed ruffians have been playing 'euchre' for nine,
consecutive hours. The cleanly Scotchwoman drew her honest petticoats
about her and walked daintily. This was a strange place to where she had
been brought, yet she felt that no harm was meant. Mr. Welsher politely
aided her entrance, by saying, 'Now, then, make room there. Blarst yer,
make room.' The terms in which the request was couched were not elegant,
but they were intelligible, and Keturah felt that the sentence was
dictated by a spirit of the truest politeness.

She passed through the unsavoury crowd and entered a room beyond the
adjoining passage. Something was lying on a bed there. Something bound
up. Something which had candles burning at its bedside, and a cup of
water within reach of the hand it could not move. Something which Keturah
Harris would have taken for a corpse, but for the great black eloquent
eyes of it, which gazed at her with all the dumb agony of a dying dog.

Revenge melted into air.

'Geordie! my bairn! Geordie, my jo!'

Mr. Welsher reverently damned his soul, and shut the door, for the old
faithful wife was on her knees at her husband's bedside.

       *     *     *     *     *

"But what became of Israel Davis?"

"Who knows. He made good terms with the Marrables and left the colony--it
is rumoured for America. But a man of his ability could get on anywhere."

"And now tell us the end of Mrs. Harris."

"I can only tell you this, that her story is true from beginning to end.
Mrs. Harris is a 'charwoman.' She comes and washes stairs and so on at my
house. When she gets her miserable wage, she goes home--to a wretched
little house in a poor Melbourne suburb. In that house, there is a
paralyzed and helpless man who has not yet reached middle-age. He is her
husband. She expends her earnings in buying him nourishing food, and
paying a child to mind him when she is away. She lives on scraps and
pieces, and broken victual. He has brandy and tobacco. Aye, I've seen the
woman hold the pipe to the speechless lips of the poor blackguard while
he pulled at it!"

"Ah! there is a great deal of poetry in the lives of some very
unpoetical-looking people, isn't there?




IX. Bullocktown

    (Glenorchy)

Bullocktown is situated, like all up-country townships, on the banks of
something that is flood in winter and a mud-hole in summer. For general
purposes the inhabitants of the city, called the something a river, and
those intelligent land surveyors that mark "agricultural areas" on the
tops of lofty mountains, had given the river a very grand name indeed.

The Pollywog Creek, or as it was marked on the maps, the Great Glimmera,
took its rise somewhere about Bowlby's Gap, and after constructing a
natural sheepwash for Bowlby, terminated in a swamp, which was
courteously termed Lake Landowne. No man had ever seen Lake Landowne but
once, and that was during a flood, but Lake Landowne the place was
called, and Lake Landowne it remained; reeds, tussocks, and brindled
bullocks' backs to the contrary notwithstanding. There was a legend
afloat in Bullocktown, that an unhappy new-comer from Little Britain had
once purchased Lake Landowne from the Government, with the intention of
building a summer residence on its banks, and becoming a landed
proprietor. The first view of his estate, however, as seen from the hood
of a partially submerged buggy, diverted his ambition to brandy and
water, and having drunk hard for a week at the "Three Posts," he returned
into his original obscurity by the first Cobb's coach driver that could
be prevailed upon to receive him.

I do not vouch for the truth of the story, I only know that a peculiarly
soapy part on the edge of the "lake" was known as "Smuggins' Hole," by
reason of Smuggins, the landed proprietor, having been fished therefrom
at an early period of his aforesaid landed proprietorship.

However, any impartial observer in the summer months could see Spot and
Toby and Punch, and the rest of the station bullocks, feeding hard in the
middle of the lake, and if, after that, he chose to make observations,
nobody minded him. Mr. Rapersole, the bootmaker, and correspondent of the
Quartzborough Chronicle, had a map in his back parlour, with Lake
Landowne in the biggest of possible print on it, and that was quite
enough for Bullocktown. Impertinent strangers are locally speaking the
ruin of a township.

There was a church in Bullocktown, and there were also three
public-houses. It is not for me to make unpleasant comments, but I know
for a fact that the minister vowed that the place wasn't worth buggyhire,
and that the publicans were making fortunes. Perhaps this was owing to
the unsettled state of the district--in up-country townships most evils
(including floods) are said to arise from this cause--and could in time
have been remedied. I am afraid that religion, as an art, was not
cultivated much in Bullocktown. The seed sown there was a little mixed in
character. One week you had a Primitive Methodist, and the next a
Hardshell Baptist,--and the next an Irvingite or a Southcottian. To do the
inhabitants justice, they endeavoured very hard to learn the ins and outs
of the business, but I do not believe that they ever succeeded. As
Wallaby Dick observed one day, "When you run a lot of paddocked sheep
into a race, what's the good o' sticking half-a-dozen fellers at the
gate? The poor beggars don't know which way, to run!" The township being
on a main road, and not owning a resident parson, all sorts of strange
preachers set up their tents there. It was considered a point of honour
for all travelling clergymen ("bush parsons," the Bullocktownians called
them) to give an evening at the "brick edifice." Indeed, Tom the publican
(who owned the land on which the "edifice" was built), said that it was
"only fair to take turn about, one down t'other come on, a clear stage
and no favour," but, then, Tom was a heathen, and had been a
prize-fighter. I think that of all the many "preachments" the inhabitants
suffered, the teetotal abstinence was received with the greatest favour.
The "edifice" was crowded, and Trowbridge, vowing that the teetotaler was
a trump, and had during, the two hours he had been in his house drunk
ginger-beer enough to burst a gasometer, occupied the front pew in all
the heroic agony of a clean shirt and collar. The lecture was most
impressive. Tom wept with mingled remorse and whisky, and they say that
the carouse which took place in his back-bar after the pledge was signed
was the biggest that had been known in Bullocktown since the diggings.
The lecturer invited everybody to sign, and I believe that everybody did.
"Roll up, you poor lost lambs," he cried, "and seal your blessed souls to
abstinence!" He did not explain what "abstinence" meant, and I have
reason to believe that the majority, of his hearers thought it a peculiar
sort of peppermint bitters, invigorating and stimulating beyond the
average of such concoctions.

The effect, however, was immense. The lambs signed to a wether, and where
they could not sign, made their marks. The display of ignorance of the
miserable art of writing nearly rivalled that shown at a general
election. As the lecturer said afterwards, over a pint of warm
orange-water in the barparlour, "It was a blessed time," and Mrs.
Mumford, of the Pound, volunteered to take her "dying oath" (whatever
that might be) that Jerry had never been so "loving drunk" in all his
life before. Billy, the blackfellow, came up to the homestead two days
afterwards, gaping like a black earthquake, and informed us that he had
taken "blackfellow pledge, big one square-bottle that feller," and felt
"berry bad." McKillop, the overseer, gave him three packets of Epsom
salts, and sent him down to the creek with a pannikin. Strange to say, he
recovered.

It was not often that we had amusement of this sort in Bullocktown.
Except at shearing time, when the "hands" knocked down their cheques (and
never picked them up again), gaiety was scarce. Steady drinking at the
"Royal Cobb," and a dance at "Trowbridge's" were the two excitements. The
latter soon palled upon the palate, for, at the time of which I write,
there were but five women in the township, three of whom were aged, or as
Wallaby said, "broken-mouthed crawlers, not worth the trouble of
culling." The other two were daughters of old Trowbridge, and could cut
out a refractory bullock with the best stockman on the plains. But what
were two among so many? I have seen fifteen couples stand up in
"Trowbridge's" to the "Cruiskeen Lawn," and dance a mild polka, gyrating
round each other like intelligent weathercocks.

The stationary dance of the bush-hand is a fearful and wonderful thing.
Two sheepish, blushing stockmen grip each other's elbows, and solemnly
twirl to the music of their loose spurs. They don't "dance," they simply
twirl, with a rocking motion like that of an intoxicated teetotum, and
occasionally shout to relieve their feelings. If the "Cruiskeen Lawn" had
been the "Old Hundredth," they could not have looked more melancholy.
Moreover, I think that to treat a hornpipe as a religious ceremony is a
mistake. The entertainment was varied with a free fight for the hands of
the Misses Trowbridge. One of these liberal measures was passed every ten
minutes or so, Trowbridge standing in the background, waiting to pick up
the man with the most money. As a study of human nature the scene was
interesting, as a provocative to reckless hilarity it was not eminently
successful.

The other public-houses were much of the same stamp. The township was a
sort of rule of three sum in alcohol. As the "Royal Cobb" was to
"Trowbridge's," so was "Trowbridge's" to the "Three Posts," or you work
it the other way. As the "Three Posts", was to "Trowbridge's" so was
"Trowbridge's" to the "Royal Cobb." The result was always the same--a
shilling a nobbler. True, that "Trowbridge's" did not "lamb down" so well
as the "Three Posts," but then the "Three Posts" put fig tobacco in its
brandy casks, and "Trowbridge's" did not do that. True, that the coach
stopped at the "Royal Cobb," but then the "Royal Cobb" had no daughters,
and some passengers preferred to take their cut off the joint at
"Trownbridge's." Providence mindful of Mr. Emerson's doctrine of
compensation--equalised conditions even in Bullocktown.

The "Royal Cobb" was perhaps the best house. Before Coppinger bought the
place, it was kept by Mr. Longbow, a tall, thin, one-eyed, and eminently
genteel man, who was always smoking. He was a capital host, a shrewd man
of the world, and a handy shot with a duck gun. No one knew what he had
been, and no one could with any certainty, predict what he might be. He
shot birds, stuffed beasts, discovered mines, set legs, played the
violin, and was "up" in the Land Act. He was a universal genius, in fact,
and had but one fault. His veracity was too small for his imagination.

It was useless to argue with Longbow. He was "all there," no matter where
you might be. The Derby! He had lost fifty thou. in Musjid's year. The
interior of Africa! He had lived there for months, and spoke gorillese
like a native. Dr. Livingstone! They had slept all night with but an
ant-hill between them. The Duke of Wellington! He had been his most
intimate friend, and called him "Arthur" for years. I shall never forget
one pathetic evening, when, after much unlimited loo, and some
considerably hot whisky, Longbow told me of his troubles. "Beastly
colony!" he said, "beastly! Why, my dear boy, when I was leaving;--but
there, never mind, Buckingham and Chandos was right. Never mind what they
may say, Sir, Buckingham and Chandos was right as the mail." I replied
that from the reports I had read of Buckingham and Chandos, I had no
doubt whatever that he was all that could be desired by the most
fastidious. Upon which Longbow favoured me with a history of B. and C.
lending him £20,000 on his note of hand, and borrowing his dress
waistcoat to dance at Rosherville Gardens. Before I left he volunteered
to produce--some day when I wasn't busy--the Duke of Wellington's autograph
letter, containing the celebrated recipe for devilled mushrooms, with a
plan of the lines of Torres Vedras drawn on the back of it, and he would
not allow me to leave him until he told me how Her Majesty had said,
"Longbow, old man, sorry to lose you, but Australia's a fine place. Go in
and win, my boy, and chance the ducks!" This last story was quite
impressive, more especially as Longbow acted the scene between himself
and Her Majesty, and making the whisky-bottle take the place of the
Duchess of Sutherland--alternated parts with himself as poor Jack Longbow,
and himself as the first lord-inwaiting, crying, "Damme, Jack, come out
o' that; she's going to cry, you villain!" I listened with approving
patience, and never smiled until the very end of the story, where Longbow
rushed frantically from the Presence, and knocked A. Saxe Gotha head over
heels into the brand new coal-scuttle on the landing! "Oh! those were the
days! D----the colony, and pass the whisky!"

Opposite the "Royal Cobb" was the schoolhouse. It had four scholars, and
the master was paid by results. He used to drink a large quantity of rum
(to settle any symptoms of indigestion, arising from his plethora of
funds, I suppose), and was always appealed to on matters of quotation. He
was a very old man with a very red nose, and "had been a gentleman."
There was never an up-country township yet that had not some such
melancholy waif and stray in it.

When the schoolmaster got very drunk indeed, he would quote Aristophanes,
and on one memorable occasion put Flash Harry's song--

"Oh Sally, she went up the stairs, and I went up to find her;
And as she stooped to buckle her shoe, I tumbled down behind her."

into Horatian alcaics. He quarrelled with the Visiting Inspector because
he (the V.I.) said that wigs were not worn by the ancients and our
broken-down gentleman put him into his purgation with the case of
Astyages as given by Xenophon. He confessed afterwards that setting your
superiors right on matters of quotation is not politic, and that he
wished he had let it alone. He was from Dublin University. How is it that
the wittiest talkers, the most brilliant classics, and the most
irreclaimable drunkards, all used to come from Dublin University?

There was a Post-office in Bullocktown, kept, if a post-office can be
kept, by Mr. Rapersole aforesaid, who was regarded as quite a literary
genius by the bullock-drivers. Mr. R. "corresponded for the paper"--the
paper--and would loftily crush anybody who gave him cause of offence. If
Rapersole lost a chicken or missed a pig, the world was sure to hear of
it in the Paper. Rapersole, however, did not affect writing so much as
speaking. "The platform for me!" he would say, as though the platform
were a sort of untamed fiery steed, and he a rough-rider. However, nobody
came forward with the article, and he did not "show." It was generally
believed in Bullocktown, however, that if Rapersole once got his
platform, the universe might consider itself reformed without further
trouble.




X. Grumbler's Gully


The mining township of Grumbler's Gully is situated about twelve miles
from Bullocktown.

There are various ways of approaching Grumbler's Gully. If you happen to
be a commercial traveller, for instance, in the employment of Messrs. Gin
and Bitters, and temporary owner of a glittering buggy and trotting mare,
you would most likely take a tour by way of Killarney, Jerusalem,
Kenilworth, Blair Athole, St Petersburg, Maimaitoora, Lucky Woman's, and
Rowdy Flat, thus swooping upon Grumbler's Gully by way of Breakyleg,
Spicersville, Bangatoora, and Bullocktown. If you were a squatter
residing at Glengelder, The Rocks, or Vancluse, you would ride across the
Lonely Plains, down by Melancholy Swamp and Murderer's Flat, until you
reach Jack-a-dandy, where, as everyone knows, the track forks to Milford
Haven and St. Omeo.

If you were a Ballarat sharebroker, and wanted to have a look at the
reefs on the road, you would turn off at Hell's Hole, and making for Old
Moke's, borrow a horse, and ride on to the Hanging Rock, midway between
Kororoot and Jefferson's Lead, this course taking you into the heart of
the reefing country. You could jog easily from Salted Claim to
Ballyrafferty, Dufferstown, and Moonlight Reefs, calling at the Great
Eastern, and entering Grumbler's Gully from the north by way of the
Good-morning-Bob Ranges and Schnilflehaustein.

The first impression of Grumbler's Gully is, I confess, not a cheering
one. I think it was Mr. Caxton who replied when asked what he though of
his new-born infant, "it is very red, ma'am." The same remark would apply
to Grumbler's Gully. It is very red. Long before you get to it you are
covered with dust that looks and feels like finely-powdered bricks. The
haggard gum-trees by the roadside--if you can call it rightly a
roadside--are covered with this red powder. The white near leader seems
stained with bloody sweat, and the slices of bark that, as you approach
the town, fringe the track, look as though they were lumps of red putty,
drying and crumbling in the sun. On turning the corner, Grumbler's Gully
is below as a long straggling street, under a red hill that overlooks a
red expanse of mud flecked with pools of red water, and bristling with
mounds, shaft-sheds, and wooden engine-houses. The sun is sinking behind
yonder mighty range, under whose brow stretches that belt of scrub and
marsh, and crag that meets the mallee wilderness, and minor mountains
rise up all around us. Grumbler's Gully is shaped like a shoe with a lump
in the middle of it, or rather perhaps, like one of those cock-boats that
children make with folded paper. It is a ridge of quartz rising in the
midst of a long valley surrounded by mountains.

The place is underlined with "sinkings," and the inhabitants burrow like
moles beneath the surface of the earth. It is no disgrace--quite the
reverse--in Grumbler's Gully to wear moleskin trousers stained with the
everlasting red clay. There is, indeed, a story afloat there to the
effect that a leading townsman presided at a public dinner in those
garments, and was not a whit less respectable than usual. In getting into
the bar of the "Golden Tribute Hotel," you become conscious that the
well-dressed and intelligent gentleman, who, in the whitest of shirt
sleeves, handed you "Otard" (the brand then in fashion in the Gully), and
bid you help yourself, was a shareholder in a rich claim, and could
topically speaking, buy and sell you over again if he like without
inconvenience. In drinking the said "Otard" you become conscious of a
thumping vibration going on somewhere, as if a giant with accelerated
action of the heart was imprisoned under the flooring; and getting out
into the back yard, where Mr. Merryjingle's pair horse and buggy is
waiting for Mr. Merryjingle to finish his twentieth last glass, you see a
big red mound surmounting the stable, and know that the engine is pumping
night and day in the Golden Tribute Reef.

But all the hotel-keepers of Grumbler's Gully are not as elegant as Mr.
Bilbery. There is Polwheal, for example, the gigantic Cornishman, who
lives in the big red building opposite the Court-house. Polwheal
considers his hotel a better one than the "Golden Tribute," and swears
largely when visitors of note stop at Bilberry's.

For Polwheal's hotel is of brick, and being built in the "good old times"
cost something like a shilling a brick to erect, whereas Bilberry's is
but a wooden structure, and not very substantial at that. The inmate of
Bilberry's can hear his right-hand neighbour clean his teeth and can
trace the various stages of his left-hand neighbour going to
bed--commencing with the scratching of a safety match, and ending with the
clatter of hastily deposited boots. When the Country Court sits at
Grumbler's Gully, and the Judge, Crown prosecutor, and others put up
there, it is notorious that Bilberrry is driven politely frantic by his
efforts to put Mr. Mountain, who snores like the action of a circular
saw, in some room where his slumber will not be the cause of wakefulness
of others. It is even reported that a distinguished barrister, after
plugging his ears in vain, was compelled one sultry night to take his
blankets and "coil" on the wood heap in order to escape from the roaring
of Mr Mountain's fitful diapason. I, myself, tossing in agony three rooms
off, have been enabled to accurately follow the breathing of that worthy
man, and to trace how the grunt swells into a rumble, the rumble reaches
a harsh, grating sound, which broadens into the circular saw movement,
until glasses ring, roofs shake, and the terrified listener, convinced
that in another instant Mountain must either suffocate or burst, hears
with relief the terrific blast softened to a strangled whistle, and
finally dies away into a soothing murmur, full of deceitful promises of
silence.

Now at Polwheal's you have none of this annoyance, but then Polwheal's
liquor is not so good, and his table is not so well kept. Now, often with
the thermometer at 100, have I shuddered at a smoking red lump of boiled
beef, with Polwheal in a violent perspiration looming above in a cloud of
greasy steam! But Polwheal has his patrons, and many a jorum of whisky
hot has been consumed in that big parlour, where the Quartzborough
Chronicle of the week before last lies perpetually on the table. Then
there is "Bosk-eyed Harry's" where the "boys" dance, and where a young
lady, known to fame as the "Chestnut Filly," was wont to dispense the
wine cup. Also Mr. Corkison's, called "Boss" Corkison, who dressed
elaborately in what he imagined to be the height of Melbourne fashion,
owned half the Antelope Reef, and couldn't write his own name. "Boss" was
an ingenious fellow, however, and wishing to draw a cheque would say to
any respectable stranger, "Morning, sir! A warm day! Have a drink, sir!
Me name's Corkison! Phillip, a little hard stuff! Me hand shakes, sir! Up
last night with a few roaring dogs drinking hot whisky. Hot whisky is the
devil sir!" Upon the stranger drinking, and strangers were not often
backward in accepting hospitality, "Boss" would pull from his fashionable
pocket-book a fat cheque-book, and would insinuatingly say, "Sir, shall
be obliged if you will draw a chick, for me (he always spoke of chicks)
for £10, sir. Jeremiah Corkison. I will touch the pen. Sir, I am obliged
to you." If the stranger was deceived by the subterfuge, "Boss" would
waylay him for days, with the "chicks" getting bigger and bigger, and his
hand getting shakier and more shaky, I may mention Tom Puff's store,
where one drank Hennessy in tin tots, and played loo in the back parlour:
and the great Irish house, where you got nothing but Irish whisky and
patriotism. I have no time to do more than allude to the "Morning Star,"
the "Reefer's Joy," the "Rough and Ready," or the twenty other places of
resort.

Leaving hotels for awhile, let us walk down Main Street. Society in
Grumbler's Gully is very mixed. I suppose that the rich squatters who
live around about consider themselves at the top of the tree, while the
resident police-magistrate, the resident barrister, the Church of England
clergyman, and the Roman Catholic priest, and the managers of the banks
sit on the big limbs--leaving the solicitors, rich storekeepers, and
owners of claims to roost on the lower branches, and the working miners,
&c, to creep into the holes in the bare ground. Of course the place is
eaten up with scandal, and saturated with petty jealousy. The Church of
England clergyman will not speak to the Presbyterian minister, and both
have sworn eternal enmity to the Roman Catholic priest. The wife of the
resident magistrate, and wives of the bank managers, don't recognise the
wives of the solicitors. If you call on Mrs. M'Kirkincroft she will tell
you--after you have heard how difficult it is to get servants, and that
there had been no water in the tank for two days--that shocking story,
though remember, only a rumour, of Mrs. Partridge and Mr. Quail from
Melbourne, and how Mrs. Partridge threw a glass of brandy-and-water over
Mr. Quail, and how Mr. Quail went into Mr. Pounce's office and cried like
a child, with his head on a bundle of mining leases.

If you call on Mrs. Pontifex, she will inform you--after you have heard
that there has been now water in the tank for two days, and how difficult
it is to get servants--that Mrs. M'Kirkincroft's papa was a butcher at
Rowdy Flat, and that M'Kirkincroft himself made his money by keeping a
public-house on the road to Bendigo. Mrs. Partridge has a very pretty
history of Mrs. Pontifex's aunt, who came out in the same ship with Mr.
Partridges' cousin, who was quite notorious for her flirtations during
the voyage; and Mrs. Partidge who is a vicious, thin-lipped, little dark
woman, pronounces the word "flirtation" as if it included the breaking of
the seventh commandment seventy times over. You hear how Tom Twotooth ran
away with Bessie Brokenmouth, and how old Brokenmouth took his entire
horse, Alexander the Great, out of the stable in the middle of the night
and galloped to the "Great Eastern," only to find the floods down below
Proud's ferry, and the roads impassable. You hear how Jack Bragford lost
over £600 to Dr. Splint, and how Jack drew a bill which was duly
dishonoured, thereby compelling poor Sugman Sotomayordesoto, the wine and
spirit merchant (who is as generous as becomes a man in whose veins runs
the blood of old Castile), to impoverish himself in order to pay the
money. There are current in Grumbler's Gully marvellous scandals
respecting the parson, the priest, and the police magistrate--scandals
which, though they are visible lies, are nevertheless eagerly credited by
dwellers round about. There are strong flavoured stories--old jokes such
as our grandfathers chuckled at--told concerning the publican, the miners,
and the borough councillors: and a resident of Grumbler's Gully would be
quite indignant if you hint to him that you had "heard that story
before."

But come back to Main Street. The architecture is decidedly irregular. A
bank shoulders a public-house, a wooden shanty nestles under the lee of a
brick and iron store. Everything is desperately new. The bricks even look
but a few days baked, and the iron roof of the Grumbler's Gully Emporium
and Quartzborough Magazin des Modes has not as yet lost its virgin
whiteness. The red dust is everywhere flying in blinding clouds. The
white silk coat of "Boss" Corkison looking for the stranger is powdered
with it: and the black hat, vest, trousers and boots of Jabez Hick--Jabez
P. Hick he insists on signing himself--are marked with red smudges.

Mr. Hick is a very smart Yankee (there are one or two in Grumbler's
Gully), and is the proprietor of the Emporium. He has also a share in the
General Washington United, and has been down to the dam this afternoon to
look at the small amount of water which yet remains there. The dust lies
thickly on the hood of Mr. Salthide's buggy, standing at the door of
Copperas, the ironmonger, and ruins the latest Melbourne toilets of Mrs.
Partridge and Mrs. Pontifex, who continue to think Main Street Collins
Street, and make believe to shop there daily from three to five. The
peculiarity of Main Street is it incongruous newness. Around are solemn,
purple hills, with their hidden mysteries of swamp and wilderness; and
here, on the backbone of this quartz ridge in the midst of a dirty,
dusty, unsightly mudpatch punched with holes, and disfigured with
staring, yellow mounds, are fifty or sixty straggling wooden, iron and
brick buildings, in which live people of all ranks of society, of all
nations, of all opinions, but every one surrounded with his or her
particular aureole of civilisation, and playing the latest music,
drinking the most fashionable brand of brandy, reading the latest novels,
and taking the most lively interest in the election for president, the
Duke of Edinburgh, the Spanish question, the Prussion war, and the
appalling fact that oysters in London are positively three shilling a
dozen! A coach thundering and tattling at the heels of four smoking
horses drops upon them twice a day out of the bush, and the coachman
delivers his mails, skims a local paper, has a liquor, retails the latest
joke (made in Melbourne, perhaps, twenty-four hours before,) and then
thunders and tattles away again through the lonely gum-tree forest, until
he drops upon just such another place, with just such another population,
at the next quartz out-cropping fifty miles away. Amidst all this there
is not nationality. The Frenchman, German, and Englishman all talk
confidently about "going home," and if by any chance some old man with
married daughters thinks he will die in the colony, he never by chance
expresses a wish to leave his bones in the horribly utilitarian cemetery
at Grumbler's Gully.

A word about this Grumbler's Gully Cemetery. It is close to the hospital,
a fine building containing fifty beds, and supported by voluntary
contributions: and the patients can see the grave of a man who died
yesterday quite readily. Grumbler's Gully can see no reason why they
should not see it. Sick people must die sometimes, of course. In the same
spirit has the cemetery been built. It is a square patch of ground
surrounded by a neat iron railing. Everything spick and span new, the
railing not even rusted, to the sordid red mounds not even overgrown with
grass. No tenderness, no beauty, no association, no admirable place to
hold the loathly corpses that were once human beings: a most useful
graveyard and nothing more. Nothing more: save that near these ugly
mounds, unpolitical, untaught, ill-dressed man and woman will sometimes
linger, sparing an hour from the common toil of practical place to
foolishly weep, thinking on the friends that are gone. The hideously
excellent cemetery of Grumbler's Gully always seemed to me to realise the
life of the colony--the stern, practical, laborious, unleisured life of a
young country, a life in which one has no time to think of others until
they have left us and gone Home.

Close beside the hospital is the church and over against the church the
chapel, and glaring viciously at both of them in an underbred way is the
meeting-house. Religion, or rather difference of religion, is a noted
feature in Grumbler's Gully. Formerly the inhabitants might have been
divided into two classes, teetotalers and whiskey-hot men. There was a
club called the "Whisky Hot Club" at Polwheal's each member of which was
pledged to drink ten whiskeys hot "Per noctem," the qualification for
membership being three fits of "delirium tremens"--but of late these broad
distinctions have been broken down, and the town now boasts five sects,
each of which devoutly believes in the ultimate condemnation of the other
four. There is a Band of Hope at Grumbler's Gully, likewise a Tent of
Rechab. The last has fallen into some disrepute since it was discovered
by a wandering analytical chemist that Binks Brothers, who were
affiliated Jonadabers in the third degree, and who supplied the camp with
teetootal liquids, habitually put forty per cent. of proof spirit into
the Hallelujah Cordial. There was quite a run upon Hallelujah Cordial for
a few days after this discovery. The moving religious element, however,
in Grumbler's Gully is a Mr. Jack. Jack was a cabinet maker when in
darkness and did not get "called" until he had been twice insolvent. He
was so near fraudulency the second time that it is supposed that his
imminent danger converted him. Jack is a short, squat, yellow-faced,
blacktoothed, greasy-fingered fellow, with a tremendous power of
adjective. When he prays he turns up his eyes until nothing but a thin
rim of white is visible, over which the eyelids quiver with agonizing
fervour. When he prays he is very abusive to his fellow-creatures, and
seems to find intense consolation in thinking everybody around him
deceitful, wicked, and hard-hearted. To hear him denounce this miserable
world, you would think that, did he suddenly discover that some people
were very hopeful and happy in it, he would suffer intense pain. He
travels about the country "preaching the Word," which means, I'm afraid,
sponging on the squatter, and has written a diary, "Jacks' Diary,
published by subscription," which sets forth his wanderings and
adventures. Passages like this occur in that Christian work:--

"Nov.28th.--My horse fell with me at Roaring Megs (a claim to be
understood, not a lady), and I could not get him to rise. After poking
him with sharp sticks for some time in vain, I bethought me of lighting a
fire beneath the beast: this roused him, and I lifted up my heart in
prayer,--Isaiah xix. 22."

"Nov. 29.--Came to Bachelor Plains, and put up at home station. The
overseer, an intelligent young man, put my horse into the stable and gave
him some oats, the which he has not tasted for many months. In the
evening, after an excellent repast, I ventured to commune in prayer, but
the overseer pulled out a pipe, and began to play euker with a friend. I
felt it my duty to tell them of the awful position in which they stood,
and upon their still continuing to gamble, to curse them both solemnly in
the name of the Lord."

It will be seen by this that Jack is not averse to a little blasphemy. He
is a self seeking, cunning dog, who is fit for nothing but the vocation
he follows, vis.:--that of "entering widows' houses, and for a pittance
making long prayers." Yet he has a large following, and crowds the chapel
when he preaches. The result is that all the rationalistic-going men in
the township, and there are some half-adozen, disgusted with the
hypocrisy and vulgarity of this untaught preacher, have come to consider
all clergymen knaves or fools, and to despise all religion.

These enlightened persons hold meetings at the "Morning Star Hotel," and
settle the universe quite comfortably. They are especially great at such
trifling subjects as "The Cause of Poverty," "Our Social Relations," "The
Origin of Species," "Is Polygamy or Polyandry best calculated to insure
the Happiness of the Human Race." "Whence do we come," "Whither do we
go," and so on. Indeed, Grumbler's Gully was at one time denounced by the
opposition (Baker's Flat) journal as having dangerous tendencies to pure
Buddhism. The local paper, however, retorted with some ingenuity, that
the Baker's Flats were already far gone in the pernicious doctrines of
Fo, and that it was well known that Hang Fat, the Chinese interpreter,
held nightly séances in order to expound the teaching of Confucius.

A word about the local literature. The Quartzborough Chronicle and
Grumbler's Gully Gazette is like all other country newspapers--whatever
its editor chooses to make it. Local news is scarce. Arrival of
telegrams, a borough council riot, or two police-court cases, will not
make a paper, and the leading article on alluvial diggings, Mr. Pagrag's
speech on the Budget, Mr. Bobtail's proposition for levelling the
Gippsland Ranges to fill up the Sandridge lagoon, or what not, or a
written "cuttings" become things of necessity, and Daw, the editor,
"cuts" remarkably well.

Daw is a capital amateur actor, and a smart journalist. His leaders can
be good if he likes to put his heart into his work, and every now and
then a quaint original sketch or pathetic story gives Grumbler's Gully a
fill-up. Daw writes about four columns a day, and is paid £250 a year.
His friends say he ought to be in Melbourne, but he is afraid to give up
a certainty, so he stays, editing his paper and narrowing his mind,
yearning for some intellectual intercourse with his fellow-creatures. To
those who have not lived in a mining township the utter dullness of Daw's
life is incomprehensible. There is a complete lack of anything like
cultivated mental companionship, and the three or four intellects who are
above the dead level do their best to reduce their exuberant acuteness by
excess of whisky-and-water. The club, the reading-room, the parliament,
the audience that testifies approval and appreciation are all found in
one place--the public-house bar. To obtain a criticism or a suggestion one
is compelled to drink a nobbler of brandy. The life of an up-country
editor is the life of Sisyphus--the higher up the hill he rolls his stone,
with more violence does it tumble back upon him. "You want an editor?"
said a hopeful new-chum to the lucky job printer who owned the Blanket
Flat Mercury. "I have the best testimonials, and have written largely to
the English Press." The man of advertisments scanned the proffered paper.
"Clever! sober! industrious! My good sir, you won't do for me. I want a
man as is blazing drunk half his time, and who can just knock off a smart
thing when I tell him." "But who edits the paper?" then said the
applicant. "Who?" returned the proprietor, flourishing his scissors over
his head in indignant astonishment, "Why, I do! All you have to do is to
correct the spellin', and put in the personalities!" It is remarkable
that in this free colony, where everybody is so tremendously equal, the
tyranny of cash is carried to a greater extent than in any other country
on the face of the earth. Men come to Australia to get rich, and if they
don't get rich they go to the wall. In Melbourne one can in a measure
escape the offensive patronage of the uneducated wealthy, but in a mining
township, where life is nothing but a daring speculation, the brutal
force of money is triumphant.

But it is time to "have a drink"--the chief amusement of the place. If we
cannot imitate these jolly dogs of reef-owners, who start from
Polwheals's at 10 a.m., and drink their way to Bilberry's by 2 p.m.,
working back again to unlimited loo and whisky-hot by sundown, it is
perhaps better for us, but we must at all events conform to the manners
and customs.

To sum up the jollity of Grumbler's Gully in two words--"What's yours?"




XI. Romance of Bullocktown


Mr. John Hardy, the schoolmaster, was regarded with some degree of awe by
the Bullocktown folks. As a general rule, Bullocktown stood in awe of
nothing under or over heaven, believing utterly in the eternal fitness of
things, and the propriety of its own existence. But Mr. John Hardy was a
human being of a type so unfamiliar to Bullocktown, that for once in its
life the township unwillingly did reverence.

The new schoolmaster was a tall, gaunt, angular man, with a mop of black
hair, large bony hands, and black melancholy eyes. He arrived by the
night coach with no more property than a small bag sufficed to carry, and
asked Flash Harry if the schoolmaster's house was anywhere near. Harry
pointed with his whip to the little hut which, embowered in creepers,
stood on the hill, and the new comer at once tramped away to it, ignoring
with provoking complacency the great business of "liquoring up" which was
the commercial pursuit of Bullocktown.

Nor was he more sociable next day. Maggie Burns, who was "keeping" the
schoolhouse, deposed that Mr. Hardy had asked her for a light, opened his
bag, produced a small book, and read till daylight. At daylight he had
gone for a walk, and returned laden with plants and ferns, just in time
to open school. School being over, he went for another walk, and did not
come back till 10 o'clock. This process of self-abstraction from the joys
of Bullocktown was at first resented. It was the custom that every
stranger should be made free of the place--receive the liberty of the
city, so to speak--by at least one glorious bout of brandy. Intoxication
in Bullocktown had become elevated into an art, and, as with other
delights of a sensual character, connoisseurs studied to protract its
enjoyment as long as possible. Rumours were afloat that Mr. Hardy was a
scholar of eminence, a man of much erudition, whom "circumstances" had
compelled to accept the appointment of a common schoolmaster. A report
filtered through the common layers of society, as such reports
mysteriously do filter, that Mr. Hardy had been a man well known in
Melbourne, and that his name was not really Hardy, but something else.
Now, Bullocktown, the best hearted place in the universe, was ready to
receive this unfortunate victim of unknown circumstances with open
arms--was ready to clasp him to its manly bosom, and to initiate him into
all the art and mystery of its profession of drinking. For the proper
reception of such a stranger, Bullocktown was prepared to risk a present
of insensibility and a future of trembling delirium. Had it been possible
to set the kennels running with red wine, and have the fountain in the
square spouting particular sherries, Bullocktown would have done it; but
it was quite impossible for there were no kennels, no fountain, no
square, and no red wine or sherries (worth mentioning), in Bullocktown.
There was no lack of brandy, however: Henessy, Otard, and "Three Star"
were all at command, and brandy would have flowed like water had the
stranger wished it. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that when Mr.
Hardy declared that "he did not drink," Bullocktown considered itself
slighted.

A sort of consultation was held at Coppinger's as to the course to be
pursued with this extremely unsociable schoolmaster. Fighting Fitz said
that not only had Mr. Hardy refused to drink with him, but that he had
mildly but decidedly withdrawn from his company. Archy Cameron said that
if he got "Good day," it was as much as he did get; for all that his
three children were regular attendants at the schoolhouse; and Coppinger
topped the chorus of complaints by relating that Mr. Hardy had not only
declined to partake of the gentle stimulant afforded by brandy and
bitters at 9 a.m., but that he had expressed himself astonished at the
inordinate consumption of grog by the men, women, and children of the
district.

"He flew into a tearing rage," said Coppinger, "and declared that drink
was the curse of the country. I don't say that it isn't, boys, but I'm
d----d if I'll allow any man to say so in my bar!"

So it was agreed that Mr. Hardy should be sent to Coventry. Strange to
say, he did not seem to mind this decision in the least; in fact, his
punishment seemed rather to amuse him.

One creature in the township, however, did not partake of the general
feeling. Rose Melliship, the daughter of old Melliship, of the Sawpits,
openly said that the conduct of Bullocktown was "mean and ridiculous."
Now, had anyone but Rose said this, Bullocktown, with its Widow Grip at
the head of it, would have arisen like one woman, and torn her to pieces;
but Rose was privileged. It was known in Bullocktown that old Melliship
had "married a lady," and this fact constituted the pale, quiet girl the
constitutional sovereign of the little State. Nothing that Rose Mellishop
did could be anything but right; anything she said was received with the
respect due to a Queen's speech ere yet Prime Ministers had acquired the
art of writing. Rose Mellishop herself did not disdain this humble
homage. Whatever her parentage may have been, it was certain she owned a
large share of that grace and intelligence which are presumed to belong
entirely to the aristocracy. Rose Mellishop, taught at a common school,
with a few books, with no companions of similar tastes to her own, grown
to womanhood among vulgar sights and sounds, was--well, let me put it
plainly at once--the one woman for whom John Hardy felt he had all his
life been seeking.

I do not know how their courtship began;--I fancy at some accidental
meeting, at which a word or two on either side gave token to each of
sympathy with the other; but no one ever knew. They met, talked, and
parted. Rose, with feminine instinct of such things, knew the middle-aged
man loved her, though he had never expressed to her his love as lovers in
books were wont to express it. He was often absent-minded, always sad,
sometimes impatient.

"You have some great trouble," said Rose once to him. "Tell it to me; I
will try and comfort you."

But he angrily put by the question, and she said no more.

There was not much love-making at these interviews. It was enough for her
to listen, to know that her thoughts were understood, that those
speculations which she had imagined tremblingly were hers only, were
common to many; that there was by her side a strong soul upon which she
could lean and rest.

It seemed enough for him to have near him a tender-eyed woman, with soft
voice, and bright perceptions, who comprehended without explanation, and
read his griefs before he could utter them. It was to both of them, as
though their souls, long divided, had mysteriously met. There was harmony
between them.

Yet they had been many months acquainted before John Hardy spoke of
marriage.

Old Melliship had a shrewd notion of the progress of affairs, and
desired, in his worldly wisdom--which is, we know, so much superior to
anything else in this world--to bring the schoolmaster to book. He told
Rose he was going to send her to Melbourne on a visit to her uncle, the
cooper. Rose told this to Hardy, and Hardy called on Melliship next day
to try and dissuade him.

"You had better leave your daughter here, Mr. Melliship. She is just at
an age when she should remain at home; and--we are reading French
together."

"Look ye here, Mr. Hardy," returned old Melliship, "I think you read
French a deal too much together, that's a fact."

"Sir," stammered Hardy.

"Oh, I don't think you mean no harm. You are a gentleman, I believe, and
I can trust my girl anywhere; but--she'd better go to town a bit."

John Hardy slept less than ever that night, if Mrs. Burns is to be
believed. According to her account, he walked up and down his schoolroom,
as one in violent agitation, for some hours, and then dashed out of the
house, hatless, into the bush. When the school opened, however, he was at
his place, as quiet, through perhaps paler than usual, and after school
he walked straight to the Sawpits.

"I have come to ask you to marry me, Rose."

She blushed a little--a very little--and looked away across the hills
without ansering.

"Do you love me enough to do so?" he asked, after a pause.

"I was thinking," said she, frankly, turning her head; and then--giving
him both her hands--"Yes, I do. I will marry you."

It was his turn to look away and to keep silence. By-and-by he spoke in a
laboriously controlled voice. "I have no fortune to offer you, no hopes
of future grandeur to hold out to you. If we marry we must live here, or
in some place like this, poor and obscure, until we die. Are you
content?"

"Yes, dear, I am content."

He turned--suddenly and passionately--catching her in his arms, and
devouring her face with his great eyes.

"Rose, do you love me enough, knowing me only as you do, to keep faith
for me, to think always well of me, to remember that whatever
happens--whatever has happened--I loved you, and will love you always?"

For reply, she gently unwound his arms, and took his hot hands in her
cool ones.

"There is some mystery in your life. If you choose to tell it to me, tell
it. But I do not seek to know, saving that I may comfort you. It is idle
to promise that we will always love. How can we tell? I love you now, and
you only, dear, of all men on earth. What does it matter to me what you
have done, or may do?"

There was no passion in the tones, though, perhaps a taste of high-flown
sentiment might not have seemed misplaced in a reply to such a wild
appeal as his; but the simple truthfulness of the grave, sweet voice
soothed and convinced the questioner.

"You are a woman who would meet death for one you loved, my rose!"

"Death is the least of human ills," said Rose, smiling at him, "if your
philosophy is to be believed. Ah, my love, my love, you need not doubt
me."

       *     *     *     *     *

The township was more indignant than ever when it heard that "that d----d
Hardy" was going to marry their pride and darling. Not only did the
township receive a blow in the tenderest portion of its corporeal anatomy
by old Melliship daring to give away his daughter at all, but it was
highly offended by the fact that old Mellishop had done this deed propriâ
motu, and without duly lubricating that machine he called his mind, with
brandy. The affair would appear to have been decided without even a
"nobbler." In a township where the advent of a calf was the subject of
alcoholic rejoicing, such a proceeding was simply monstrous. Moreover, by
thus artfully placing himself under the protection of the township's pet,
"that d----d Hardy" had escaped the usual penalty decreed by the jovial
fellows at Coppinger's for bridegrooms. Had the schoolmaster married
anyone else, the whole battery of Bullocktown wit and humour would have
been turned against him. In accordance with the time-honoured practice,
his door would have been nailed up, his chimney choked, his water-tank
filled with the bodies of defunct township cats, and his wood-heap carted
into the bush. A band of merry boys would have exploded in his back yard,
and have banged kerosene tins beneath his wedding window. The jovial dogs
might even have gone so far as to burn him in effigy--as they did Boss
Corkison, of Quartzborough, at the back of the Church. But it was
impossible that these jests should be indulged in when Rose Melliship,
"whose mother was a lady," was to be the subject of them. So, with a
sigh, Bullocktown saw the wedding morning of the schoolmaster arrive, and
gave up all projects of midnight merriment.

The little Church by the river bank was crowded, and when Rose came out
with her husband the cheers deafened her. Tears stood in her eyes. "How
ungenerous she had been to despite these people. They had good hearts and
loved her."

As the thought crossed her mind she looked up to John Hardy to compare
him proudly with the others, and was astonished at his paleness. His
mouth was firmly shut, but the lips quivered, and from time to time the
muscles of the face relaxed as though weary with the strain put upon
them. It was evident that the schoolmaster suffered strong emotion.

The Quartzborough and Seven Creeks coach, which passed through
Bullocktown at noonday, made its appearance in a cloud of red dust from
over the hill and swung heavily towards the Church. Flash Harry seeing
the locked mass of buggies, carts, and horsemen which hung upon the tail
of the bridal party, checked his unicorn team, and waved a hasty order to
clear the way.

Fighting Fitz, spurring his buck-jumping ginger-coloured nag beside the
wheel, urged a parley.

"Curse ye man," cried Harry, savagely, "let me pass. Are they married?"

"Yes," says Fitz, "as fast as old Spottleboy can do it."

"God help him then! I'll break every bone in his body."

"Whose?"

"His!" returned Flash Harry, pointing to the bridegroom. "Let me pass I
tell ye, man; we don't want a scene here."

But it was too late. The scene was over. There was no box-passenger on
the coach that day, but it seemed that the bulging leathern curtains
concealed somebody. They were parted with a wrench, and from them tumbled
something that looked like a bundle of parti-coloured clothes, surmounted
by a horse's tail. This object lying, groaning feeble oaths, at the very
feet of the advancing pair, Coppinger caught hold of it, and dragging it
upwards, discovered a being with tangled hair and dirty hands, and
bloated lips murmuring blasphemy--a being that was obscene, drunk, and a
woman.

The party paused, disgusted at this hideous intrusion into their midst,
and Flash Harry felt constrained to say, "Come, get in again, mum, get
in; I knew that last nobbler at the Cross Reefs would set yer off. Get
in."

But the bemuzzled poor wretch, striking some frowsy hair out of her eyes,
made reply by suddenly plunging at the bridegroom.

"Wha's all this, John?" said she, supported by Coppinger. "Don' ye know
me?"

The face and attitude of the miserable schoolmaster answered more
decidedly than words.

He had loosed hold of the bride's arm, and stood apart, haggard, wild,
despairing. Presently he raised his head, and taking a step forward,
indicated with a gesture, the drunken woman, and said, with a deliberate,
level accent of disgust and despair on each syllable--"This is my wife."

Old Melliship clenched his fist, and stepped out to fell the man to the
earth, but his daughter laid her light touch upon his arm, and
restraining him by that single gesture, stood motionless, tearless,
speechless,--looking at the hideous thing which had come to blight her
life. The drunken woman, her intellects roused by the dramatic force of
the scene, suddenly seemed to comprehend her husband's offence, and,
breaking from Coppinger, rushed forward to pour forth a torrent of
blasphemous reproach, until exhausted with her own violence, she fell
prone before them all upon the Church steps, a spectacle to shudder at
and to pity. Her husband raised her from the ground and placed her inside
the porch. Then, averting his face, he seemed to wait until he should be
left alone with her, and so standing, became conscious of a hand on his
whose electric touch thrilled him. It was Rose. "How you must have
suffered," she said, and kissed the hand she held.

There is much delicacy in the minds of the poor, and those who are forced
to live face to face with nature. The rovers of the bush and the sea are
seldom vulgar, for in the forests and on the ocean, are no meanness, no
vulgarities. Bullocktown felt that at a moment like this it was an
intruder. Flash Harry flogged his horses, Fitz struck spurs to his pony,
Coppinger made for his buggy, and in a few seconds the space in front of
the Church was empty.

       *     *     *     *     *

"You are a d----d villain," said old Melliship. "What could make you come
into a quiet place like this to break my lass's heart?"

"I intended no wrong, sir; believe me. She will understand me, if you do
not. But I was weak. You do not know, perhaps, what it is to have a
drunken wife. Pray god you never may. Pray God you may never know what it
is to come home, and find the mother of your children--oh, my God!--how can
I picture what I have suffered! Night after night, sir,--for my business
took me out--have I found her there,"--(pointing with both hands to the
floor)--"drunk, drunk, drunk! I have been rich; she has made me poor. I
have had a good name; she dragged it through the dirt. I have had
children; she let them die. I have been much to blame--of course, where is
there a case of wrong in which one only is blameworthy? But I am
passionate; have tastes incompatible with dirt and shame; am cursed with
too keen a memory, too feeble hope. I despaired."

The girl had drawn closer to him, and was now almost on his heart. Yet
her father did not chide her. In the frightful incongruity of all things
around them, it seemed natural only that she should be there.

"At last I left her. I had money, which I assigned for her. I thought I
would seek peace in some harmless way of life, in some quiet place like
this. I came here, and--and, for the first time met a woman whom I could
love. Do not frown, sir. I do not think you understand your daughter nor
me! That I have done wrong, I admit. I was weak, weary, suffering, alone;
and love is very sweet to those who can taste it first in middle age. I
thought myself so far removed from chance of discovery that no shame
could come to your daughter by my act; and my way of thought led me to
see for her no sin where there was no shame. Enough--I have been punished.
Good-bye my Rose; this is the calamity I feared."

The old man made in silence for the door. Turning then for his daughter,
he saw her clinging to John Hardy's breast, and heard her last farewell
to him. "Good-bye, my love, my love! When first I knew you, I used to
think it no desert in me to love a man so worthy, and have wished, in
foolish dreaming, you might do some terrible act for which all the world
would spurn you, and so make my love of value. Good-bye, my----. You must
go back--you must! Good-bye. Nay, I have nothing to forgive, nor you to
regret. Time may cripple us with sorrow, or with suffering, but it cannot
change our loves--cannot, at least, destroy the memory, that we have known
each other. Good-bye!"

So she left him, and his last look of her showed him a sweet face,
smiling sad hope, and streaming with silent tears.

The next morning he returned to Melbourne and fate, with his unhappy
wife.

       *     *     *     *     *

"But did they meet again, and does she love him still?" Ah, these are the
questions always asked.




XII. How the Circus Came to Bullocktown


When it became known that the Circus was coming to Bullocktown there was
much excitement. Anything in the shape of amusement was so eagerly seized
upon--even a pound sale was considered a joyous occasion--that the news of
a circus within cooey, as one might say, almost took away the breath of
the inhabitants.

The intelligence was brought by 'Arry the mail boy, who, riding at
Grogmore and Brandyvale twice aweek, had on his last journey fallen in
with the Circus, camped (quite condescendingly) by the Muddy Waterholes.
'Arry's description of the regal magnificence of the proud proprietors of
this travelling raree show fired all the youth of the township, and
juvenile Bullocktown burned for the arena. As has been hinted at,
juvenile Bullocktown did not often get a chance to do anything but burn.
Bullocktown did not offer any vast attractions to the itinerant showman,
and even the Wizard Oil Man, daring beyond his compeers in exploring of
"untrodden ways," drew the line at Quartzborough, and turned off to
Grogmore by the way of St. Omer and Whisky Flat. Two "performances" had
indeed been given in the biggest parlour of the "Royal Cobb," but they
were not eminently successful. One of these was a "lecture," and the
other an "entertainment." I witnessed both, and until I saw the
entertainment, would have ventured to wager large sums that nothing in
the way of amusement could be more dreary than the lecture.

The "Siege of Sebastopol," with illustrations, is, one would think, a
subject which could be rendered interesting, if not instructive, but it
wasn't. In the first place, the illustrations were not all they might
have been. A comic set of magic lantern slides representing Chinamen
seized by sailors, rats entering the practicable mouths of sleeping
miners, and marvellous men in red garments chasing anatomically alarming
youths in blue, does not give one a very accurate idea of the Russian
Campaign. Moreover, the lecturer was afflicted with what he was pleased
to term "whisky in the hair," and was uncertain in his movements.
Bullocktown grew bewildered when informed that, "'ere they saw the
'Eurilas' twentyeight guns as hengagin' the Rooshan frigate 'Chokemoff,'
181 guns (to the left Hadmiral Sir C. Napier standing on the foretops'le
sheet-blocks)," and were presented with a portrait of the Vale of Pempes,
by moonlight, instead. Jack Harris, the son of the butcher, asked the
lecturer in an unsophisticated way to "bung out his blank Sebastypool and
get on," and when the lecturer wobbled in his speech, and hiccoughed
solemnly during the Bombardment of Cronstadt, told him that "he'd never
buy the child a new frock," and advised him to "knock off and have a
smoke." Eventually the lecturer appealed to Longbow, who made a little
speech, in which he stated that if his respected friend, Miss
Burdett-Coutts, could by any possibility have heard the ungentlemanly
observations of Mr. Harris she would "never get over it," as though it
was a five-barred gate to be taken at a fly with a bad take off and an
uncertain landing. Mr. Patrick Rafferty (senior-Constable Rafferty the
Quartzborough Chronicle called him) cut the gordian know by locking Jack
Harris in the stable until the "lecture" was concluded.

The "entertainment" was given by Mr. And Mrs. Montacute, late of the
Theatre Royal and Haymarket, Melbourne. The biggest table in the "Royal
Cobb" was the stage, and Mrs Montacute ran laughingly up a pair of steps
on the left hand to meet Mr. Montacute, who bounded gracefully from the
vantage ground of an inverted bucket on the right. The curtain was a
horse-cloth, and the orchestra a piano, played by Tom Patterson, the
overseer at Mount Melancholy, who had an ear for music, and who, being in
the township on a matter of post-and-rail fencing, most generously
volunteered his services. I am afraid that the artistic position which
poor Mr. and Mrs. Montacute occupied at the Theatre Royal and Haymarket
had not been the most exalted one, but they did their best, and were
received with rapturous applause. Indeed, when Mr. Montacute, clad
severely in a dressing-gown of Longbow's (given him, of course, by his
"intimate friend, the Marquis of Doon"), rolled his eyes, and asked in a
terrible voice, "Who has been opening oysters with my razor?" the peals
of laughter were deafening. This was the more complimentary to the comic
powers of Mr. Montacute, for none of the "born inhabitants" of
Bullocktown had ever seen an oyster in all their lives.

But to resume. Riding along the bush road to Grogmore the day after the
deliverance of 'Arry's budget, the traveller of the guide-books would
have observed that the gum-trees were here and there "blazed" with
posters--"Buncombe's Imperial Yanko-American Circus!" "The most complete
Stud in the Australias!" "The Boneless Brothers of Blazing Beet!"
"Mademoiselle Zepherina, the Fairy Equestrienne!" "Feats in the Haute
Ecole!" "Mr. Stanislaus Buncombe, the Machiavelian Clown!" and so on;
while the pictures of the Brothers distorting their boneless limbs, the
Machiavellian Clown roaring with laughter at his own jests, and
Mademoiselle Zepherina performing her feats in the Haute Ecole, were
calculated to appal the stoutest beholder. By mid-day Bullocktown shook
to its foundations--the Circus had arrived.

Most of us have seen that inexpressibly melancholy spectacle--a "Triumphal
Entry by Circus Riders." We know the paint and powder, and long hair, and
fillets, and piebald ponies, and big drums. We are familiar with the
lovely damsels who are not lovely, and the spirited steeds that are not
spirited, and the golden car that is not golden, and the sham and
pretension of the whole business. We know how cold and wretched the
Bounding Bucks look in their silk tights at mid-day, and how singularly
bony are the Boneless Brothers. We sympathise with the dusty team of
sixteen creams that comport themselves with such preposterous affectation
of suddenly making for their native postures, and dragging at their fiery
heels the fragments of the Triumphal Car. We observe even the bulged and
blackened stocking-knee of the Famed Equestrienne, and bethink us how
many times it has knelt in vain to the murderous marauder, who,
bestriding three steeds at once, would fain bear off the pearl of the
Haute Ecole across his triple saddle bow. All this we have seen, and have
commented on in our various methods: some parsonically, with hints of
burnings in store for the abandoned folk: some cynically, as betokening a
condition of sham and humbug typical of much in humanity: some kindly and
cheerily, with knowledge of good fellowship and friendship displayed
among these hard-working holiday-makers that might put better dressed and
more respectable people to shame. But I doubt if it has fallen to the lot
of many of us to see the strange sight which this eighth wonder of
Bullocktown presented when contrasted with its surroundings. The sordid
little wooden stores, the grey, grim gumtrees, the staring public-house,
the unmetalled roads, the dispiriting "newness" of the whole place, and
in the midst of this position of unreal heroes, mock marauders, motley
clowns, and pasteboard knights-in-armour.

Three times did the Circus encircle the township, and then it coiled
itself gradually into the back yard of the "Royal Cobb," to be seen of
men no more until night. By-and-by certain cadaverous, greasy-haired
people came into Longbow's bar, and condescendingly drank with the
inhabitants. In the bar congregated at once the rank and fashion of the
township.

Mr. Bluffem was there; also Mrs Bluffem, called by her affectionate
husband, "Ize Betsy," and popularly known as "Bluffem's Pet." Flash
Harry, the coachdriver, was there, in breeches of appalling tightness and
loose spurs that jingled highwayman like as he walked. There was also
little Potkins, the owner of the adjoining run of marsh-mallows; and
numerous horses--"mokes" as their owners termed them--were hanging at
various degrees of neck extension to the rings on the "Royal Cobb"
verandah-post. By-and-by the Boneless Brothers, attended by an admiring
crowd of township children, marked out a sort of free selection on a
piece of waste ground, between McTaggart the blacksmith's and the
schoolhouse, and in the course of an hour or so a wondrous erection of
poles and canvas, to which the tent of the Fairy Peri Barron (so
celebrated in Eastern story) was but a shanty in comparison, rose into
being. On the top of this canvas mushroom flew in the hot wind an
enormous flag. The "Circus" had become a fact.

During the afternoon the world and his wife trooped into Bullocktown.
Stockmen were abundant, and riding their own horses for the day, behaved
with that reckless disregard of life and limb which characterises
stockmen on such occasions.

The yard of the "Three Posts" presented a curious appearance. Hans
Kolsen, the "cranky shepherd," was expatiating on the mystery of the
mallee to a crowd to bearded fellows, who alternately ridiculed and
"shouted" for him. Sandy McDonald fought a pitched battle with Andy
O'Brien; and that onearmed hero, old Niel Gow, the boundary rider
("shepherd ranger" he loved to term himself) bent pewter pots and held up
strong men in his teeth, and achieved other feats for which he had become
celebrated throughout the district. The fiddles struck up fast and
furious in the "long room," the tobaccoed brandy circulated freely, and
before sundown, had the traveller before-mentioned paused for an instant
at the bridge, he could not have failed to have come to the conclusion
that Bullocktown was in the primary stage of intoxication.

The Circus was to open at half-past seven o'clock, and shortly before
that hour the crowd around the "Royal Cobb" increased in density. Mr.
Patrick Rafferty--his whiskers blazing with a sense of duty--exerted
himself to the utmost to preserve order, and with patriotic disregard of
expense, dressed himself defiantly in full uniform. The avenues and
passages of the "Royal Cobb"--not too many nor too wide--were choked with
enthralled inhabitants. The Equestrienne was eating in an adjoining
apartment. Rumour, with its thousand tongues, even hinted that Stanislaus
Buncombe himself had, with Machiavelian Clownishness, ordered steak and
onions. Great thought! The dish rose in the estimation of Bullocktown
from that hour.

The violet darkness of a moonless summer night had fallen on the tent
when the canvas flap was lifted to admit the multitude. Prices did not
rule high--one shilling to the pit, one shilling and sixpence to the
boxes, and sixpence to all other parts of the house, were the advertised
charges; and Bullocktown, on pleasure bent, thronged to the pit. It was
rumoured that three shillings had been charged in Quartzborough for a
seat in that locality, and that so high were the notions of the Circus
proprietors that but for the necessity of "spelling" their horses they
would not have performed in Bullocktown at all, but gone straight to
Grogmore. It was pleasant to see how Bullocktown appreciated the honour
done it, and lavished its shillings on pit seats.

The aristocrats--that is to say, Little Potkins, Tom Patterson, Dick
Stevens of the Gash, and other wealthy squatters, occupied the boxes, and
tapped their boots with the thong-ends of their Sunday riding whips with
much dignity. Meerschaum pipes obtained about this part of the house, and
young Sholtz (learning colonial experience), who was generally supposed
to devote his existence to the colouring of these articles, had mounted
the most gigantic specimen in his collection in pure honour of the
occasion. Tom Patterson, the rogue, ogled the two township belles, and
even dared to cast the eye of flirtation on pretty Mrs Ballantine, the
poundkeeper's lately achieved bridge. Potkins sucked the German-silver
head of his whip, and looked knowing, while Stevens, who was in "society"
when in town, leant against the post and assumed a "blasé" air.

A moment of anxious expectation, and the Machiavelian One himself leapt
into the ring.

I believe that the Machiavelian One was a good clown. I have seen his
memoirs, penned by my versatile "hic-et-ubique" friend. Bob Jingle, bound
in green covers, with a pensive portrait of the humourist himself on the
back of it, and been alarmed at his violent predilection for jesting. I
am willing, even now, to believe that the M.O. has turned fifteen double
somersaults in succession, peeling and eating an orange during the
process, and that as a "jumpist," so to speak, he is without a rival. But
candour compels me to admit, on this occasion, he was not sparkling. I
have heard funnier jests than those that fell from his Machiavelian lips,
and have witnessed acrobatic feats quite as dangerous as those which
horrified the Bullocktown public on this particular evening. But perhaps
the day's journey had fatigued him, or perhaps--and this supposition is
not an improbable one--he did not care about wasting his best jokes upon a
Bullocktown audience.

It was well that he did not, for from the instant he entered a storm of
noises shook the canvas. All the powers of bullock-driving
"badinage"--seldom elegant--were put in force to drive him from the ring.
The good folks thought he was the fool he feigned to be and laughed at
him, not with him! When the ring-master, chose, I imagine, for that
exalted office on account of the peculiar breadth and beauty of his
whiskers, lashed the clown, the audience solemnly applauded him; and when
poor Stanislaus, in ecstasies of melancholy laughter, upset and trampled
upon the ringmaster, the audience cried "shame" at the unmanly action. It
was evident that they regarded the jester as the one serious blot upon
the amusement of the evening!

This being the unexpected conclusion, haste was made to bring in the
Equestrienne, who was graciously received. Mademoiselle Zepherina sat
gracefully on the tail end of her fiery charger--a Roman-nosed animal of
sedate and wise appearance who seemed to be rather ashamed of his capers
and caparisons--stood upon one leg, smiled beamingly, and leapt through
hoops and bounded over silk scarfs (falling upon her knees with
tremendous accuracy) until Bullocktown would have died for her fair sake
to a man. Three times was she compelled to re-enter and kiss her fingers
in acknowledgement of the homage of her subjects; and in the last grand
act, where her sailor-lover (having torn off his trousers and flung them
to the wind) stripped off so many costumes during his rapid flight that
blushing matrons, unused to daring acts of equitation, wondered alarmedly
how deep he meant to go, the applause was deafening. The lover peeled to
the last tight, waved his breathless thanks, and sank exhausted on the
pad of his foaming piebald. As the flap closed on the pair the tumult was
a hurricane, tempered by hiccups.

At this entrancing instant a pattering sound was heard. One of those
violent sudden showers which sometimes burst upon up-country townships
was about to descend on the tent. The ring-master paused in the midst of
a whip-crack, and the Machiavelian jester had need of all his diplomacy
to assume a jocular appearance. All faces turned simultaneously to the
roof, and some half dozen men were observed to rush past the ticket-taker
and vanish into the now cloudy night. The entrance of the Boneless
Brothers recalled us to revelry. No event of less importance could have
availed to do so.

The boneless pair were certainly very startling. The way in which they
defied the anatomists, by putting their heads where their feet ought to
be, and tying themselves into knots of the most gristly description, was
perfectly perplexing. Longbow, who, amongst other professions, owned that
of a surgeon, said that the cartilaginous formation was extraordinary;
only equalled, indeed, by that of his poor dear friend, Lord Herbert of
Cherberry, who had (upon Longbow's soul) the most remarkable development
of muscle ever vouchsafed to man. But when the B.B. bent themselves into
a triumphal arch, of which their heads were the keystone, and walked upon
their hands twice round the arena, even Longbow felt compelled
conscientiously to admit that Lord Herbert of Cherberry was, in
comparison, cartilaginously nowhere.

As the brothers rose, empurpled from this feat, a hideous yell resounded,
and the canvas, after swaying ominously, bulged into the centre.

The tin-hoop chandelier, with its wreath of flaming tallow-dips, dropped
rattling into the "boxes," and amid a wild shried of dismay the whole
fabric collapsed upon us. Those merry fellows outside had cut the ropes!

The cries of women pierced the canvas, and a running accompaniment of
strong language testified that male Bullocktown was not at ease.

It is not a good thing to be suddenly swamped into a sea of dirty canvas,
and for a few moments suffocation seemed imminent. Longbow, however, who
was next to me, suggested a remedy.

"I've got a knife in my trousers pocket," said he, in semi-stifled tones,
"and if you can get it out we'll cut the canvas. My arms are immovable."

Painfully conscious of the immediate and oppressive presence of "Ize
Betsy," I made shift to grasp the desired weapon, and plunged it into the
blinding mass above me. With a sound like that emitted by a tearing sheet
the tent split in sunder, and we wriggled out. The momentary glimpse we
got of the chaos out of which we had escaped was not calculated to
reassure us. The centre tent-pole alone remained. Grimly upright, it
protruded from a heaving desert of dirty white canvas, upon which the
gathering rain fell patteringly. This canvas was here and there bulged
with heads and pinnacled with feet.

Indistinct growlings and groanings escaped from it, and at the slit from
which we had emerged peered one forlorn face.

It was that of Sanislaus Buncombe himself.

Longbow extended his hands which had been pressed so many times in
friendship by F.M. the Duke of Wellington, and dragged the Machiavelian
one gasping in the air.

"Oh my!" said he, "here's an almighty slide."

He spoke truly. It was an almighty slide, and looked like nothing so much
as a dirty avalanche that had lost its way in a London fog, except
perhaps a monster bundle of clothes split on their course to a Titanic
wash. The clown surveyed the scene with emotion, but at last the driving
rain, filling his clownish pockets with water, compelled him to cease
meditation. Around us, on the edge of this overturned Circus riding, were
several figures who appeared from their gestures to be on the point of
expiring in convulsions of laughter. These were the merry dogs who had
perpetrated this exquisite jest. Stanislaus seized upon two of these as
volunteers, and borrowing the knife that had done such good service, he
rapidly cut the cords that bound the canvas to the tent-pegs.

For an instant it appeared as though the vast sheet would be twisted into
a ball by the struggles of the creatures beneath, but Buncombe catching
one end of it, and Neil Gow the other, they "skinned" it from the
corporate body beneath. Rending as it ran, into its various sections, the
emblazoned tent was pulled from the elite of Bullocktown. Squirming,
struggling, gasping, fighting, there lay the best blood of the township,
the human bottles that held what Daw, the editor of the Quartzborough
Gazette, so euphoniously termed the "vital fluid of the colonies."

Despite all one's knowledge of their misery and discomfort, one could not
forbear a laugh at the appearance of the "audience." It was as though we
had overturned a huge stone that covered a snug family of earth worms.
Though not a head was visible, I never fully realized the truth of the
saying "that man is but a forked radish with head fantastically carved"
until then. Stanislaus was a modest man, and he turned away his face with
a gasp of dismay.

In a few minutes, however, all were upright, and then was confusion worse
confounded than before. Several friendly fights, began under the
obscurity of the canvas, were concluded above ground; women wept over
crushed bonnets and torn dresses. "Ize Betsy" urged her lord to execute
instant vengeance upon the whole troupe of circus-riders, and catching
sight of poor Stanislaus, made at him like a lioness. Not all the
diplomacy of Machiavel was equal to the occasion, and feebly uttering "My
good woman!" the proprietor of the Yanko-American Circus turned and fled.
"I'll good woman you," screamed Mrs. Bluffem. "Wait a minute, you dog!
Wait a minute."

But Stanislaus had no such intention. Bounding over the fallen patriarchs
of the village, he ran like a deer for the "Royal Cobb," and reaching his
bedroom a hand's breadth in advance of "Ize Betsy," locked the door,
vanished from view. Mrs. Bluffem, foiled in her vengeance, and wet to the
skin, screamed "Fire!" at the top of her voice, and, falling into strong
convulsions, was only to be got round by still stronger brandy and water,
administered scalding hot in the biggest tumbler the house afforded.

By-and-by, however, the first flavour of alarm having gone off, it was
found that after all the affair was a most excellent jest, and merited
drinks all round. So more dark brandy was consumed, and Bullocktown
agreed in the parlour, passage, and what not of the "Royal Cobb" that it
had not enjoyed itself so much for years, and that the true way to see a
circus performance was to cut the ropes at the earliest opportunity.

This conclusion having been amicably arrived at, and the Yanko-Americans
pledged bottle deep in liquor--which they drank suddenly and silently, as
though they were not quite satisfied at the hilarity of their hosts--it
was discovered that there was yet more excitement. A Mysterious Beast and
a Knife-Swallowing Boy were exhibiting in a small booth which had escaped
the general overthrow, and sixpence was the price of admission.

The Mysterious Beast was certainly very mysterious. He was a
clean-shaved, melancholy animal, with a collar of gray fur round his
neck, and a chain round his body. He sat on his hind legs in a corner,
and moaned plaintively, shaking his miserable head from side to side as
though he would exclaim against the wickedness of the world and the
intolerable vanity of circus-riders. The only creature I had ever seen
that resembled him in the slightest degree was a worthy pastor at
Aberdeen that preached there to me on the Sabbath upon "Balwin' oop the
trumpet i' the fool moon," and did so with just such a woebegone
expression. It was evident that the Mysterious Beast was weighed down by
the consciousness of his mystery. He felt the loneliness of genius.

The Knife-Swallowing Boy was, however, of a most cheerful character. He
was stupendously fat. (I am indeed of opinion that he was in training for
greatness in that profession, and burned to eclipse Lambert). His eyes
were of pale blue, and his cheeks a sodden white. His tights were
stretched to their utmost, and rolls of adipose tissue hung down over his
spangled boots. If he swallowed nothing but knives, cutlery must have
agreed with him wonderfully.

He commenced operations by a snack of pebbles. Handing round some good
sized pieces of quartz upon a plate, he informed us that he was in the
habit of consuming these delicacies in prodigal profusion, and that he
found they were eminently satisfying and agreeable. Having said this he
swallowed--or seemed to swallow--five or six in rapid succession, and made
a low bow. The audience thrilled with delight, and one gentleman, in an
ecstasy of admiration, swore with surprising energy for several minutes.

The boy, however, took this compliment as his evident due, and
disdainfully spat into his hand. A lean man in the corner, who acted as
showman to this exhibition, said as solemnly as though he really believed
it, "He eats ten o' them every morning afore breakfast. It is supposed by
physicians that the flints striking fire with the steel, enables him to
better digest this remarkable repast." The boy sniffed contemptuously at
this, and pretend not to know that everybody was looking at him.

"He will now swallow a sword," said the lean man. "'And it round Master
Merryweather! 'and it round!" So the sword was 'anded round, and
everybody felt it and weighed it, looked knowingly over it, and tried if
it would go into the handle, and if it was real steel, and winked their
eyes mysteriously, or affected to pass it by with a placid smile, as
though they had seen it habitually from boyhood, and knew the man who
made it.

During this process I got a little closer to the boy, and observed that
he was standing on a platform, around the bottom of which was a legend to
this effect:--

"JOHN LAMBTON MERRYWEATHER,

"Age fourteen and a-half years, born in the County of Grant. He swallows
knives, swords, and all sorts of old iron. He eats pebbles, and is
passionately fond of Chalk.

"Australians!

"PATRONISE NATIVE TALENT!

"Price 6d."

By the time I had read it over, the sword had been returned, and the
swallow was about to commence. Stretching his legs very wide apart, the
boy flung back his head until the Adam's-apple in his throat protruded in
a dangerous manner, and then holding the sword very straight in the air,
he allowed it to slide into his gullet. To the horror of all of us, the
hilt rested upon his teeth, and the blade consequently fifteen inches
deep into his stomach. After remaining in this position for an instant,
the boy rapidly stretched out his arms, and the lean man, mounting on a
chair, dexterously drew the weapon from its human sheath, and handed
round the reeking blade to be admired.

During the awe-stricken silence which followed upon this feat a wild
shriek was heard. It proceeded from little Potkins, who, tormenting the
Mysterious Beast, had been bitten severely for his pains.

"Go it!" says the lean man. "Wot der want to hirritate him for?"

"I wasn't irritating," says Potkins.

"Yes yer were, I sor yer," says the boy. "You was a rokin' of him."

"Yer carn't expect beasts to be quiet when folks rokes 'em."

Flash Harry scented a riot.

"Shut up, you young quartz-crusher," said he. "Who asked for your
opinion."

The boy solemnly advanced.

"Hold on my pipkin," he said. "Wait till I get up with yer; and we'll see
whose quartz'll get crushed."

"Come on young stoneworks," says Harry. "Roll up here and show yer
muscle."

The crowd parted like water, and in another minute Harry and the boy were
at it hammer and tongs. I'll do Harry the justice to say that he fought
well, but he was nowhere against the boy. That corpulent infant had been
apparently bred to the science of self-defence, and the precision with
which he planted his fatal left upon the nose of the horsebreader was, as
Longbow declared, beautiful to see. After the third blow of this sort,
which induced Harry's nose to spurt burstingly beneath the fat fist, as
though it had been a suddenly-quashed gooseberry, the fight was virtually
over, and the boy withdrew. Harry was removed by Potkins, and harmony
seemed again restored, when a terrible accident was found to have taken
place--the Mysterious Beast had vanished. Taking advantage of the
confusion, the captive had escaped. It would be "roked" no more.

The lean man was violently wroth at this, and preposterously accusing
Neil Gow of having concealed the marvellous animal about his person, was
promptly knocked head over heels by that gigantic worthy.

The boy came to the rescue, and the row, for it deserves no better name,
became fiercely general. The booth was uprooted, and the knife-swallower
ran some danger of annihilation. But help was nigh. The Circus-riders
came down upon us in a compact mass, and cut into us like a wedge. Hemmed
in and separated from our companions, Longbow and I surrendered at our
discretion, but the others, madly drunk, fought until they could fight no
longer. The place where the Circus had been was the arena of one of the
freest fights I remember. The Circus men were terribly sober, and in most
unpleasant "condition." They had evidently made up their minds to avenge
the destruction of their tent, and they did so most completely. I did not
see much of the combat, but in about half-an-hour the Yanko-Americans
returned, and ordered whiskies hot. Their coats were torn, and their
faces badly cut, but not a Bullocktown man showed in their wake.

One of the Bounding Brothers was kind enough to ask me for a light, and I
took the opportunity of enquiring what had become of my companions.

"Guess we kinder squelched 'em," said he. And I guess they kinder had,
for not another resident showed his nose that evening.

Having thus celebrated their victory, the Yanko-Americans began to look
about them for amusement, and strange to say they found it ready at their
hand.

Curiously enough that very evening had arrived at the "Royal Cobb" that
teetotal lecturer whose eloquence had formerly moved Bullocktown to
repentance and sodawater. The name of this distinguished man was Barclay,
and he had with him a teetotal friend, who, by one of those laughable
coincidences which so often occur in life, was named Perkins. These two
were sworn friends, and hunted in couples. The low-backed shandy-dan--half
buggy, half go-cart--in which they rode was well-known in the district,
and with its full freight of lecturers and lecturers' wives, had been
dubbed. "Barclay and Perkins Entire." This shandy-dan was now resting in
Longbow's backyard, and the four eschewers of the evil of strong drink
seated in Longbow's best parlour.

Mrs Barclay was a tall, thin, and aristocratic lady; Mrs Perkins was
podgy, short, and plebeian. Mrs Barclay was severe in demeanour; Mrs
Perkins was merry with all. Mrs Barclay read serious books; Mrs Perkins
affected novels of the Percy B. St. John type. They both, however, agreed
on the subject of alcholic liquors; for the matter of that they might
have been twinned in teetotalism. It was rumoured that Mrs Perkins had
been heard to express more than friendly admiration for Mr. Barclay, and
that Mrs. Barclay had owned to a tender respect for the noble character
of Mr. Perkins. As for Barclay and Perkins, they were both like brothers.
To see them you would think Cato and Hortensius were not more unselfishly
affectionate.

Plump upon this happy quartette did Stanislaus Buncombe, creeping down
the passage in mortal terror of "Ize Betzy," fall.

"A thousand pardons."

"Pray! Cone in," said Mr. Perkins, with a sigh. "It may chance that we
win another soul to grace."

This blessed utterance was heard by the troupe, and expecting fun, they
blocked the doorway.

"Come in, me Keristian friends," says Barclay, with a sigh that seemed to
rend his vitals. "Oh! Come in!"

Mr. Perkins in the meanwhile addressed himself to Stanislaus with a
smile. "Do you drink, sir?"

"Thank you," says the bewildered Machiavel, expectant of liquor. "I do."
"I thought so," returned Mr. Perkins, throwing himself back in his chair.
"Dorothy! My dear, just look at this unhappy man!"

Mrs. Perkins tittered (in a pious way) and looked. "Is he not a miserable
spectacle," asked Perkins, with deep sorrow in his tones. "Oh why do the
heathen thus furiously rage together?"

Stanislaus began to see how the land lay, and with Machiavelian
sharpness, winked at his joyous band. "Ize Betsy" had departed, and he
felt himself a man again. "My dear sir," he said, "do you know that your
teetotal cordials are more pernicious than any quantity of ardent
spirits."

Barclay waved his hand to Perkins, as who should say, "here is another
benighted heathen. Hark at him!"

"I was not aware of it," says Perkins, "I have heard the argument many
times before. It is a favourite one with the children of Beeelial."

"It's a fact," says Stanislaus. "Mr. Longbow, bring me some stomach
bitters."

Longbow brought them.

"Drink this," said he, "and tell me your candid opinion."

Perkins drank and handed the bottle to Barclay. The bitters were good,
for the holy men smiled a pleasant smile.

"It is comforting," said Barclay.

Stanislaus pretended to be astonished, and drank himself. "Upon my word,"
he cried, "it is not bad. I half begin to believe your doctrines." "Sit
down, my friend," cried Barclay, "and I shall expound them yet further
into thee."

"The ladies," says Stanislaus, "if they will forgive a poor player, but
discussion is weary, and--may I suggest lemonade?"

Mrs. Barclay iced herself at once, but Mrs. Perkins bowed a gracious
assent, and the lemonade was brought.

I have not now space to give the sermon that was preached by the pair,
but it was a good one, and one of these days I may repeat it. Suffice it
here to say that we all sat down and listened, and that the two holy men
applied themselves to the stomach bitters between whiles. Speaking was
dry work. The evening waned, and Stanislaus gallantly ordered more
lemonade. We drank a good deal of lemonade, and then the ladies retired
to a sort of cock-loft bed-chamber suite of their rooms that were built
upon the upper storey.

"The bitters are empty," said Stanislaus. "Another bottle. Your discourse
has impressed me."

Some more bitters were brought, and more lemonade, and presently I began
to feel unaccountably drowsy.

A glance through the open door explained the mystery. Longbow, doubtless
by that villain Stanislaus' directions, had been putting gin into the
lemonade, and brandy into the cordial.

What need for further explanation. Perkins began to wander in his speech,
and Barclay to get unsteady on his legs. Babbling peacefully of
teetotalism, they were soon as happily drunk as the most confirmed toper
of us all. Stanislaus, triumphant, called for a "health," and filling up
a cordial glass to the brim with brandy, he handed it to Perkins.

"Water for ever," cried he.

"Wah! Wah! Water for--egh," says Perkins, draining the brandy, with a
dreadful splutter, and suddenly awakening to the consciousness of the
trick that had been played upon him. "Why you oul, oul villain, I'm
t-t-tight!" Here his speech failed him, and he fell exhausted on the
carpet.

Then came our task to convey him to bed. With wondrous exercise of
mechanical ingenuity, we bore him up stairs, and opening the doors of
their rooms, bundled him in and retreated. But when half way up the
stairs a wild cry arose, and two white figures rushed at each other on
the landing.

"Jeerusalem!" says the leader of the Yanko-Americans, "but we've put 'em
into wrong rooms."

It was even so. Mr. Barclay had enraded the chamber of Mrs. Perkins, and
Mr. Perkins that of Mrs. Barclay. 'Twas like a scene from Smollett. The
two ladies, each thinking that she had discovered her husband's
infidelity, flew at each other with deadly fury. Barclay, holding on by
the bannister, denounced them both, but Perkins, too drunk to stand,
clapped his hands feebly, and said with the last flicker of expiring
sense, "Gug-go it Kak! Kak-Karoline!"

       *     *     *     *     *

Who is it says that nothing is more gratifying to the gods than the
spectacle of a good man struggling with adversity!

But I am not a god, so let me draw the veil.




XIII. The Romance of Lively Creek

Chapter I

"Green Bushes"

The township of Lively Creek is not the sort of place in which one would
expect a romance to happen; and yet, in the year, 18--, when I accepted
the secretaryship to the Mechanics' Institute, occurred a series of
circumstances which had in them all the elements of the wildest French
fiction.

The unwonted impetus given to social relations, which was affected by the
"opening up" of the Great Daylight Reef, brought together those
incongruous particles of adventurous humanity which are to be found
floating about the gold-mining centres of Australian population, and in
six months the quiet village--up to that time notorious for its extreme
simplicity--had become a long street, surrounded by mounds, shafts, and
engine-houses, and boasting a Court House, a Mechanics' Institute, half a
dozen places of (variously conducted) religious worship, and some twenty
public-houses.

The thirst for knowledge which attends upon worldly success soon made my
office a laborious one, for, in addition to my duties as Librarian, I was
expected to act as Master of the Ceremonies, Conductor of Conversaziones,
Curator of a Museum of Curiosities, and Theatrical Manager. The Committee
of Management were desirous that no attraction which might increase the
funds of the institution should be passed over, and when Mademoiselle
Pauline Christoval (of the Theatres Royal, Honolulu, Manilla, Singapore,
and Popocatapetl) offered a handsome rent to be permitted to play for six
nights in the great hall, I was instructed to afford every facility to
that distinguished actress.

Mademoiselle Pauline was a woman of an uncertain age--that is to say, she
might have been two-and-twenty and was not improbably three-and-thirty.
Tall, elegant, self-possessed and intelligent, she made her business
arrangements with considerable acuteness, and, having duly checked all
items of "gas" and "etceteras," announced that she would play the Green
Bushes, as an initiatory performance. "I always act as my own agent,"
said she, "and my Company is entirely under my own direction."

Upon inquiry at the Three Star Brand--where the Company were lodged--I
found this statement to be thoroughly correct. Miss Fortescue (the wife
of Mr. Effingham Bellingham, the "leading man") had already confided to
Mrs. Butt, the landlady, several items of intelligence concerning the
tyranny exercised by the lady manager. Mr. Capricorn, the "juvenile man"
(husband of Miss Sally Lunn, the charming danseuse), had hinted vaguely,
with much uplifting of his juvenile brows, that Mademoiselle was not to
be trifled with, while I found that old Joe Banks, the low comedian (the
original "Stunning Joseph" in the popular farce of My Wife's Aunt), had
shaken his venerable head many times in humorous denunciation of "the
artfulness of Christoval."

There was much excitement in the bar-parlour of the "Main Reef Hotel" at
the dinner hour. So many reefers took me mysteriously behind the door,
and begged me to bring them casually behind the scenes during the
performance, that it was evident that, for the first night of the six, at
all events, the improvised theatre would be crowded. The only man who
manifested no interest was Sporboy--Sporboy, the newly-arrived; Sporboy,
the adventurer; Sporboy, the oracle of tap-rooms; Sporboy, the donor of
curiosities to our Museum; Sporboy, the shareholder in the Great
Daylight; Sporboy, the traveller, the narrator, the hot shisky
swiller:--Honest Jack Sporboy, the richest man, the hugest drunkard, and
the biggest liar in all Lively Creek.

"I've seen enough of them sort o' gals," said he. "I'm getting old. My
hair's grey. Pauline Christoval, of the Theatres Royal, Manilla, and
Popocatapetl, eh? Bosh! Hot whisky."

"But, Captain Sporboy, your influence----"

"Oh yes! All right. I've been in Manilla. I've eaten brain soup and Basi
in Hocos, my boy. Human brains. Devilish good, too. Ha, ha! Another lump
of sugar."

"Human brains, you old cannibal!" cried Jack Barnstaple. "What do you
mean?"

"Just what I say, dear boy," returned the old reprobate, wagging his
Silenus head. "When I was in Pampalo we made a trip to Pangasinan, and
assisted at a native feast. The Palanese had just achieved a victory over
the Quinanès, and seventy-five heads were served up in my honour. Gad,
gentlemen, the fellows cracked 'em like cocoa-nuts, and whipped out the
brains in less time than you would take to disembowel a crayfish!"

"But a theatrical entertainment, my dear Captain Sporboy, merits your
patronage."

"Seen 'em all, sir. Tired of 'em. N'York, Par's, London. No! Jack
Sporboy, sir, is tired of the vanities of life, and prefers the noble
simplicity of hot whisky. I had the Theatre on Popocatapetl myself once,
and lost 4,000 dol. By a mêtis that I hired to dance the tight-rope. Fine
woman, but immoral, gentlemen. She ran away with my big-drum-and-cymbals,
and left me to support her helpless husband. Never trust a half-caste;
they are all treacherous."

So we left the virtuous old gentleman to the enjoyment of his memories,
and went to the hall. My anticipations were realized. The Green Bushes
was a distinct success. Joe Banks, as "Jack Gong," was voted magnificant,
and for the "Miami" the audience could not find words enough in which to
express their admiration. Mademoiselle added to the attractions of her
flashing black eyes, streaming black hair, supple figure, and delicate
brown hands, a decided capacity for the realization of barbaric passion,
and her performance was remarkably good. The Lively Creek Gazette,
indeed, expressed itself, on the following morning, in these admirable
terms:--"Mademoiselle Christoval's 'Miami' was simply magnificent, and
displayed a considerable amount of dramatic power. She looked the Indian
to the life, and her intense reproduction of the jealous wife rose almost
to mediocrity in the third act. Indeed, in the delineation of the fiercer
emotions, Mademoiselle Christoval has no equal on the Colonial stage, and
we have no hesitation in pronouncing her a very nice actress." After the
drama was over, I took advantage of my position to go "behind the
scenes," and, while Joe Banks was delighting the public with the "roaring
farce" of Turn Him Out, to compliment the lady upon her triumph. I found
the door of the improvised dressing-room beseiged by the male fashion of
the township, who (having made Lame Dick, my janitor, drunk) had obtained
introductions to the eminent tragedienne. Foremost amongst these was
Harry Beaufort, the son of Beaufort, or Beaufort's Mount.

"Ah," said I, "are you here?"

"Yes," said he, blushing. "I rode over today from Long Gully."

"Mr. Beaufort and I are old acquaintances," said the soft tones of the
lady, as emerging, cloaked and bonneted, from the rough planking, she
melted the crowd with a smile, and turned towards me, "Will you join us
at supper?"

I looked at Harry and saw him blush again. It stuck me that he was only
two-and-twenty; that his father was worth half-a-million of sheep, and
that Mademoiselle Christoval was not a woman to marry for love.

"Thank you," said I. "I will."

We had a very pleasant supper, for though I was evidently a skeleton at
the banquet, the actress was far too clever a one to let me see her
uneasiness. Harry sulked, after the manner of his stupid sex, but the
lady talked with a vivacity which made ample amends for his silence. She
was a very agreeable woman. Born--so she told me--in the Phillipines, she
had travelled through South America and the States, had visited
California, and was now "doing Australia," on her way to Europe. "I want
to see Life," she said, with extraordinary vigour of enjoyment in her
black eyes, "and I must travel."

"Why don't you take an engagement in Melbourne?" I asked.

"Can't get one to suit me. I don't care about sharing after everything a
night but the gas. Besides, I only want to pay my way and travel. I
should have to stop too long in one place if I took a Melbourne
engagement."

"And don't you like to stop in one place?" asked Beaufort.

"No," said she, decidedly. "I am an actress, and actresses, like fine
views, grow stale if you see them every day."

"But did you never think of leaving the stage?" asked the young man.

"Never. I was born in a theatre. My mother was a ballet dancer. My father
was an actor. My grandfather was clown in a circus. I have played every
part in the English language that could be played by a woman. I could
play 'Hamlet' to-morrow night if the people would come and see me. Why
should I leave the stage?"

"True," said I, "but you may marry."

Oh! The vicious look she gave me!--a dagger sheathed in a smile.

"I never intend to marry. It is growing late. I am an actress--the people
will talk. Good-night."

We parted with mutual esteem; and, as she shook hands with us, I saw,
lurching up the passage, the whisky-filled form of the Great Sporboy. His
eyes, attracted by the light from the room, fell upon us, and--surprised,
doubtless, at the brilliant appearance of Mademoiselle Pauline--he
started.

Mademoiselle Pauline grew pale--alarmed, perhaps, at the manner of the
intoxicated old reprobate--and hastily drew back into her chamber.

"Go away. You're drunk!" said Harry, in a fierce whisper.

"Of course I am," said Sporboy, advancing diagonally, "but that's my
business. Who's that?"

"That is Mademoiselle Pauline," said I.

"Ho!" cries Sporboy, his red face lighting up as if suddenly illumined by
some inward glow. "Ho! Ho! That's she, is it. He, he! A fine woman. A
fair woman. A sweet woman." It was a peculiarity of this uneducated
monster to display a strange faculty for mutilated quotation.

"Ho, ho! I wish ye joy o'e the worm. So a kind good-night to all."


Chapter II

The Mystery

Busy all next day, I found in the evening that the tragedienne had been
indisposed, and had kept her room. Harry Beaufort, who informed me, said
that she had intended to throw up the engagement, and quit the town, but
that he had persuaded her to remain. "I do not want her to do anything
that may appear strange," he said. Then, sitting in the little room off
the bar, underneath the picture of the Brighton Mail, he told me the
truth. He intended to marry Mademoiselle Pauline. "But," said I, "do you
know anything about her? I will tell you frankly that I don't like her.
She is a mystery. Why should she travel about alone in this way? Do you
know anything of her past life?"

"No."

"So much the worse. One can always obtain the fullest account of an
actress's life, because she is a notable person, and the public takes an
interest in the minutest particulars concerning notable people. If, as
she says, she is the daughter of an actor, fifty people of the stage can
tell you all about her family. Have you made enquiries?"

"She came from California," said he. "How should they know her? Come, let
us go into the theatre."

I went in, and saw, to my astonishment, the cynical Sporboy seated in the
front row, applauding vehemently, and sliming 'Miami' with his eye as a
boar slimes a rabbit it intends to devour.

"Capital!" he was exclaiming, "Capital! What a waist! What an ankle! What
a charming devikin it is! Black blood there, boys! Supple as an eel. Ho,
ho! Good! Our Pauline shall receive the homage of her Sporboy in the
splendid neatness of a whisky hot!"

The stage, being of necessity but three feet from the front seats, these
exclamations were distinctly heard by the actress, who seemed to shiver
at them, as a high-bred horse shivers at the sight of some horrible
animal. But she never turned her flashing black eyes to where the
empurpled vagabond wheezed and gloated. She seemed, I thought, rather to
avoid that fishy eye, and to feel relieved when Sporboy went out for that
"splendid neatness," and did not return. I complimented her--in my
official capacity--upon the success of her performance, but she seemed
tired and anxious to get to the hotel. I offered to escort her, and when
on the steps was met by Sporboy.

He lifted his hat with a flourish which made the rings on his fat hands
flash in the gaslight. "Introduce me!--Nay--then, I will introduce myself.
John Sporboy, madam, late of Manilla, 'Frisco, Popocatapetl, and Ranker's
Gully. John Sporboy, who has himself fretted his little hour upon the
stage, and has owned no less than ten theatres in various parts of the
civilized world. John Sporboy craves an introduction to Mademoiselle
Pauline Christoval."

She paused a moment, and then--probably seeing that opposition might
expose her to insult--said to me: "Pray introduce your friend, if he is so
desirous."

"Spoken like a Plantagenet," cried Sporboy. "Mademoiselle, I kiss your
hands. If you will permit me, I'll sing the songs of other years, of
joyful bliss or war, and if my songs should make you weep, I'll touch the
gay guitar!"

"Pray come upstairs," said she, coldly; "all the people are staring at
us."

The Great Sporboy was never greater than on that well-remembered evening.
He talked incessantly, and when he was not devoting himself to the
"elegant simplicity of whisky hot," he was singing Canadian boat songs to
his own piano accompaniment, or relating anecdotes of his triumphs in
Wall Street, his adventures on the Pacific Slope, or his lucky hits in
every kind of speculation.

"I have been through fire and water. I know most things. I have been up
some very tall trees in my time, and looked around upon some very queer
prospects. You can't deceive me, and my advice is, don't try, for, if you
do, I'm bound to look ugly, and when I knock a man down, ma'am, it takes
four more to carry him away, and then there's five gone! Tra-la-la!
Pu-r-r-r!" And he ran up and down the keys with his fat fingers.

"I think Mademoiselle Pauline looks tired," said I.

"Oh, no," she returned, uneasily. "Not at all. Captain Sporboy is so
amusing, so vivacious--so young, may I say?"

"You may, Mademoiselle," said Sporboy, "say what you like."

To lovely women, Sporboy was ever as gentle as the gazelle.

"Pray"--suddenly wheeling round upon the music-stool and, liquorishly,
facing her--"have you heard lately from your sainted MOTHER, ma'am?"

They say that a creature shot through the heart often leaps into the air
before it falls dead. Mademoiselle Pauline must have received at that
instant some such fatal wound, for she leapt to her feet, standing for an
instant gazing wildly at us, and then sank back into her seat, speechless
and pale.

"What do you mean? I do not understand you," she gasped out at length;
and then, as though her quick intellect had assured her that deceit was
useless--"I have not seen my mother since she left me, seven years ago, at
St. Louis."

"As she left me once before!" said Sporboy, with savage triumph in his
bloodshot eyes. "I thought I knew you, Miss Mannelita. 'Should old
acquaintance be forgot?' eh? I hope not."

I rose to go, faltering some lame excuse, but Sporboy stopped me. "Nay,
my young and juvenile friend (as I used to say in Chadband), be not
hasty. This lady and I are old friends. 'We met, 'twas in a crowd;' and I
thought she would shun me. Ho, ho! Let us drink to this merry meeting!
For 'when may we three meet again?' I will order Moet and Chandon."

"I think, Sporboy, that you have drunk enough." (She was sitting
motionless, waiting, as it seemed, for the issue of events.) "Let us go
home."

"Home. It's home I fain would be--home, home, home, in my ain countree!
Eh! Miss Pauline, 'I'd be a butterfly born in a bower.' EH?"

"If you have anything to say to me, sir," (the dusky pale of her cheeks
illuminated by two spots of crimson) "you had better say it."

"I, my enslaver? No, not I, not I, not I! Was it Vestris used to sing?"
(Humming it) "'I'll be no submissive, w i-fe, no, not I, no, not I!'
Would you like to be a submissive wife, ma'am? God help the man who gets
you! Adieu, adieu! 'Hamlet, r-r-remember me!'"

"Good heavens, Sporboy," said I, when I got him outside, "what on earth
did you go on in that way for? What do you know of her?"

"Ho, ho!" chuckled Sporboy, with thickening utterance. "What do I know of
her? Tra-la-la! Tillyvalley! No good, you may depend."

"Tell me what you do know then. Young Beaufort wishes to marry her."

"I know," said Sporboy, with another chuckle; "he told me. He's gone to
Melbourne by the night coach to make arrangements."

"When will he be back?"

"The day after to-morrow. Tra-la-la! Oh haste to the wedding, and let us
be gay, for young Pauline is dressed in her bridal array. She's wooed and
she's won, by a Beaufort's proud son, and Pauline, Pauline, Pauline's a
lady."

"But, Sporboy, if you know anything absolutely discreditable about her,
you ought to tell me."

"Not to-night, dear boy. To-morrow! 'To-morrow, and to-morrow, and
to-morrow, creeps on this pretty pace from day to day, and all our
yesterdays have lighted fools away to dusky death.' Where's the brief
candle? So to bed, to bed!"

All night I tossed uneasily. The strange mystery of this handsome and
defiant woman affected me. Who, and what was she? What did the profligate
old adventurer know of her? Was she innocent and maligned, or a guilty
creature to be unmasked and abandoned to her own fortune? The hot morning
steamed into my window, and woke me from some strange dream, in which
such conjectures as these had taken visible shape to torment me. I
approach the lattice-work, and distinguished the tones of Sporboy and
Mademoiselle Pauline.

"Why do you wish to persecute me?" she said. "I am not interfering with
your schemes. This boy is not a friend of yours. I have not seen you for
years."

"No, my charming child, you have not. You thought me dead, eh?"

"I had hoped so often," said she, slowly.

"But we don't die young in our family, my dear," he laughed. "'We live
and love together through many a changing year'--ay, and hate together!
Ho, ho!"

"What do you want to do then?"

"To make you suffer for your mother--for your infernal wretch of a
half-bred, Spanish-blooded, treacherous devil of a mother--my young lamb."

"How?"

"By waiting until your lover comes back with his licence in his pocket,
and then telling him as much of your history as I know, and as much more
as I can invent."

She fell upon her knees.

"O, no, no! You will not do this. I will go away to-night, to-day, this
hour. I never injured you. If you knew the life I have led. I am weary,
weary. This boy loves me. He is honest, and, and----"

"And rich, my Manuelita?"

"I cannot marry a poor man. You should know that. I have suffered poverty
too long."

"But have you not your Profession? Are you not an eminent tragedienne? Do
not the diggers throw the nuggets? I am ashamed of you, my Manuelita,"
and he began to whistle as though intensely amused.

She rose to her feet. "My profession! I hate it! Hate it! Hate it! I
never wished to belong to it. I was forced into it. Forced by my mother,
and by you----"

"And by others, my pigeon!"

"When I was thirteen you sold me. When I was fifteen I was a woman. I am
thirty now, and do you think that fifteen years of sordid cares and
desperate strifes have led me to love my art--as you call it? An art! It
is an art. But you, and men like you, have made a trade of it--a trade in
which bare bosoms and blonde hair fetch the highest prices."

"Gently, sweet Manuelita! Tra-la-la-la! Tum-tum! Tra-la-la-la!" and he
stopped his whistle to hum, beating time with his hand on the
verandah-rail.

"All my life. I have been told to get money--money--money--money. Good looks
are worth--money. Health is worth--money. I am taught to sing, to play, to
dance, to talk, that I may bring--money. Well, you have had your profit
out of me. Now, I am going to sell myself for my own benefit!"

He stopped whistling and caught her by the wrist.

"I tell you what you are going to do. You are going to do just as I tell
you, until this time to-morrow morning. You are going to stop acting, for
I won't let you out of my sight. (Don't start; I will pay the salaries of
your people.) You are going to remain with me all day. We will visit the
claims, the shops, the museum, the places of interest, and this time
to-morrow your lover will arrive, and I shall have the honour of relating
to him the particulars of your lively career in the United States,
Mexico, California, and the Great Pacific Slope."

"I will not obey you. Let me go."

"Does my Manuelita wish that I relate her history to the world then? That
I print it in the local paper; that I tell my friend Craven, the
police-magistrate and warden that----" and he approached and whispered
something in her ear which I could not catch.

There was silence for a moment, and then the sound of suppressed sobs.
Sporboy had conquered, for he walked away humming, and in a few minutes I
saw him pass out of the door below me, and--with no trace of the debauch
of last night upon him--call out to the waiter, "Mademoiselle has asked me
to breakfast, Chips. When the heart of a man is oppressed with cares, the
mists are dispelled when a woman appears! Rum and milk, Chips."


Chapter III

The Sumpitan

I went about my business that morning rather more satisfied than I had
been. It was evident that, however infamous, from a moral point of view,
might be the behaviour of Sporboy, the woman was an adventuress who
merited exposure, and that the action proposed would liberate my foolish
friend. I resolved to wait events.

The first event was the arrival of Sporboy to pay me for the Hall. "Our
charming friend--I knew her poor dear mother in 'Frisco--is unwell and
cannot play. Genius, dear boy, is often a trying burden. I have taken
upon myself to show her about the township, to take her for a drive to
the dam--to amuse her mind in fact. Is that whisky in that bottle? No?
Ink! Ah, I will not trouble you. Till we meet, dear boy! Ho, 'let me like
a soldier fall.' Tum, tum! Te, tum! Tum, tum!"

The second was the report started at the "Main Reef Hotel," that Sporboy
was going to marry Mademoiselle Pauline, and that he was taking her down
his claims to show her his wealth.

The third was the appearance of the pair themselves in Merry-jingle's new
buggy, to "look at the museum." "We have done the dam, seen the claims,
been down shafts, and exhausted nature generally," said Sporboy.
"Ma'amselle is almost expiring."

In truth she looked so. She was very white and nervous, and glanced about
her with the stare of a hunted animal. Knowing that which I did know, I
thought that Sporboy might esteem himself fortunate in not having been
precipitated down a shaft by a little hand which so nervously twitched at
the magnificent shawl of Angora goat's hair, which had been the envy of
Main Street for the last three days. I almost pitied the poor creature.

"Show us the wonders of the Museum," cried the vivacious Sporboy
(smelling strongly of the elegant simplicity of hot whisky). "Let us see
your fossils, your emu eggs, your Indian shields, and your savage weapons
of war! Ho, ho! Here is a canoe, Ma'amselle. How would you like to be
floating in it away back to your native land? Here we have a model of the
Great Lively Creek Nugget. How would you like to have that now, and live
in luxury all your days?"

If this was the method of torment he had put in practice since morning,
she must have had more than human patience to endure it in silence.

"Here we have a club from New Caledonia. How nice to cleave the skull of
your enemies! Our charming friend, Pauline, if she has enemies, might
long to be able to use so effective a weapon! Or this spear! Adapted even
to a woman's hand! Ho, ho! Miami, would you like to draw this little bow,
and spit your foe with this arrow? By the way, how goes the time?"

It was two o'clock, and I told him so.

"The coach for Melbourne passes at three; would you like to go by it?" he
asked her. "But no, I would not recommend it. And yet the company is paid
a week in advance. They would not stop you. Shall we make a trip?"

She turned to him half hopefully, as though deceived by his tones, but
catching the malignant glance of his eye flushed and turned away.

Skipping from case to case like an overgrown bee, he paused at last.

"Ho, ho! What have we here! Oh! My gift. The Sumpitan, or blow-pipe, the
weapon of the natives of Central America, presented together with a case
of poisoned arrows, by John Sporboy. Tra-la-la! Observe this:--The fellow
takes one of these little wooden needles stuck into a pith ball, puts it
into the pipe, blows, and puff!--down falls his dinner!"

He commenced capering about with the long reed to his lips, swelling out
his cheeks as in the act of blowing, and looking--with his big belly and
tightly-buttoned coat--like a dissipated bullfrog.

Mademoiselle seemed roused to some little interest by this novel
instrument.

"But how can they eat poisoned meat?" asked she.

"The poison does not injure the meat," I replied, with the gravity proper
to a Secretary. "It is the celebrated Wourali poison, and effects no
organic change in the body of the animal killed by it. You fire at him;
he feels the prick of the needle, and, as Captain Sporboy says--puff--he
falls dead in a few minutes!"

"Ho, ho!" cries the exhilarated Sporboy from the other end of the room.
"See me slay the Secretary with his own weapons," and wheeling about, he
blew at me a pellet of paper, propelled with such force that, narrowly
missing my face, it struck and knocked to the ground a little Indian
figure, which shivered into fifty pieces.

The gross old villain was somewhat sobered by this incident, and taking
the quiver from the hands of Mademoiselle, replaced it, together with the
reed in its accustomed rack.

"I am an ass," he said. "Let us return to the hotel and see the coach
come in. We may have news of absent friends, who knows? My Pauline, thy
Sporboy awaits thee!"

Paler and colder than ever, she allowed him to lead her away, and they
departed. The manner in which Sporboy treated the wretched woman whom he
had vowed to unmask disgusted me. It was unmanly, cruel. That she should
be prevented from ruining a young and wealthy fool was right and
necessary, but there was no need to torment her, to play with her as the
cat plays with the mouse. Surely the best thing to do with her would be
to let her go her own ways back into the great world out of which she had
come. I determined to see Sporboy, inform him of that which I had
overheard, and beg his mercy.

At four o'clock, the hour for closing the Museum, I went down to the
hotel. At the door I saw Stunning Joe Banks.

"I was coming to see you," he said; "I want to take the Hall."

"Oh certainly, but I must see Mademoiselle Christoval first."

"She's gone!"

"What?"

"Gone to Melbourne."

"When?"

"By the three o'clock coach. It's all right. We're all square."

"But," said I bewildered, "what about Sporboy?"

"Which?" asked Joseph, with one of those fine touches of humour for which
he was so distinguished. "What?"

"Excuse me a few minutes," I said. "There is something strange here," and
I hastened down Main Street, "Captain Sporboy in?" I asked Chips.

"He was here this afternoon, sir."

"When did Mademoiselle Christovel leave?"

"She came down with the Captain in his buggy, and went upstairs with him.
Presently she rang the bell and told me to take her passage by the coach.
She paid her bill, sent down her boxes, and was O.P.H., sir."

"And was not Captain Sporboy with her?"

"No. Sir. Didn't see him after he went upstairs with her. P'raps he's in
his room."

I went upstairs and knocked at the Great Man's door. No answer. I opened
the door, and nearly fell over Sporboy's body. He was lying on the floor,
just inside his room--DEAD!

My hurried summons filled the room with people in a few seconds. We
lifted the corpse from the ground. There was on it no mark of violence,
save that in falling the dying man had struck his nose against the floor,
and the blood had slightly spotted his shirt front, and that his right
hand doubled under him was bruised and discoloured.

"I wonder," said the Coroner, taking his "Three Star" afterwards in the
bar, "that a man of his habits was so apparently healthy. He drank whisky
enough to have killed a regiment of dragoons. Those sort of subjects
almost always die suddenly."

Suddenly, indeed, when he was last seen by Mr. Butt, in perfect health,
shaking hands with Mademoiselle Christovel at the threshold of the room
that was his death-chamber.

The romance of Lively Creek was over, buried in the grave of the
friendless adventurer. No one ever knew the nature of the secret which
bound the Great Sporboy to the travelling actress, for when Harry
Beaufort returned by the morning coach, he found a letter awaiting him,
containing three lines of farewell from the unworthy woman he had hoped
to marry, and who disappeared into the unholy mystery out of which she
had emerged.

       *     *     *     *     *

Was it accident or murder which removed the profligate prosecutor of
Pauline of Manuelita so opportunely and so suddenly from her path? In
common with the rest of the world I believed the former--until yesterday.

Despite the strong motive for the crime, the absolute absence of all
testimony, medical or circumstantial, against her had compelled me to
adjudge her innocent of the deed. I thought so then--I hope so now--but the
reason I have recalled upon paper the details of this unfinished history
is, that upon taking down yesterday, for some official purposes, the
Sumpitan quiver, which had hung upon its accustomed nail for the last ten
years under the noses of all the world, I found that the tiny, poisoned,
thorn-point of one of the wooden needles had been broken off, and caught
by a splinter in the little cane ring which sustained the mutilated shaft
was a fine white thread--the hair of the Angora goat.




XIV. King Billy's Troubles: or Governmental Red-Tapeism


"It is perfectly monstrous," said I, "this is the ninth pair he has had
since shearing. Buckmaster himself would be ruined at this rate."

"My love," suggested Mrs. Tallowfat, "he can't go about without them."

I made some pettish observations about the "poor Indian" and "beauty
unadorned &c.," but Mrs. Tallowfat said "stuff" in a tone which precluded
argument. "The Bellwethers are coming up to the station next week" said
she "and to have a black fellow walking about--Oh, it's not to be thought
of."

"Budgeree, climb tree" says King Billy, turning his dilapidations towards
us with the elegant simplicity of the savage. "Slip down long o' 'possum.
Big fellow hole that one."

There was no disputing it.

"Well my dear" said I, "he'll get no more from me I'll--I'll write to the
department."

His Majesty King William the First was the chieftain of the Great
Glimmera blacks, and carried on his manly breast a brass label inscribed
with his name, date and title. He was general "knock-about-man" on the
station, and as I had been idiot enough to allow myself to be made a
corresponding member of the Board for the Protection of Aboriginals,
William imagined that he had a right to demand from me unlimited
clothing. The Board liberally supplied the few blacks who yet survived
the gin bottle with a blanket per year (by the way, the storekeepers who
gave rum in exchange vowed the quality was most inferior); by some
accident the blanket intended for the monarch had been captured by some
inferior aboriginal, and had never been replaced. William indignantly
demanded to be clothed, and to quiet his outcries I gave him a pair of
pantaloons. The gift was so highly appreciated, that when the blanket did
arrive, His Majesty declined to wear it. "What for you gib it that." "No
good," said he, with profound contempt, and continued to eat, drink,
sleep, ride, and climb trees in my pantaloons.

"Mrs. Tallowfat," said I, "I will write to the department."

I did write--a forcible, and I flatter myself, even elegant letter,
setting forth the poor savage's yearning for civilisation, begging that
the Board would take the matter into their favourable consideration, and
supply the dethroned monarch with one pair of moleskins a year. A week
passed, and I received a letter from the secretary.

8796/B.

BOARD FOR THE PROTECTION OF ABORIGINES.

July 27th, 186--

Sir,--I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of 20th inst.,
requesting that the aboriginal named in the margin may be supplied with
one pair of moleskin trousers annually by this department, and in reply
have the honour to inform you that I will lay the letter before the Board
at their next sitting, and communicate to you their decision on the
subject.

    I have the honour to be, Sir,

        Your most obedient humble servant,

            JOHN P. ROBINSON,

                Secretary to the Board.

To Tiyrus Tallowfat, Esq., J.P.,

            Cock-and-a-Bull Station,

        Budgeree Flat, Old Man Plains, Great Glimmera.

This, so far, was very satisfactory, and I triumphantly snubbed my wife,
who had ventured to hint that I should find my application treated with
nonchalance. Weeks, however, rolled away, Billy wore out two more pairs
of trousers, and the Board did not write. I sent another despatch; no
answer. Another; no answer. A third; still no reply. I got angry, and
penned a sarcastic note. "Am I Briareus?" asked I, sardonically, "that I
should keep a hundred pairs of breeches on hand." My sarcasm had the
desired result. It provoked an answer.

No. 11,289/C.

28th September, 186--

Sir, I have the honour, by the direction of the Board for the Protection
of Aboriginies, to acknowledge the correspondence cited in the margin,
and to inform you in reply that the Board have given your application
their fullest and most complete attention. The practice, however, of
supplying breeches to black fellows is one which has not hitherto
obtained in this department, authorised, under Act Vic. cxxii., Sec.4001
to provide blankets and petticoats only. I am directed, however, to
inform you that the Board will again consider this somewhat important
matter, with a view to bringing it under the notice of the Hon. The Chief
Secretary at an early date.

I am further instructed to say that your observation on the subject of
"Briareus" is not only incorrect, but considered by the Board to be quite
uncalled for.

I have the honour to be, &c.,

JOHN P. ROBINSON.

I was staggered. What vast machinery had I not set in motion. Good
gracious! I had no desire to trouble the Chief Secretary. I would write
to him and apologise. Like an ass, I did so.

In three months I received back my letter, marked in red ink, in blue
ink, in green ink, minuted in all directions, and commented upon in all
kinds of handwriting.

"Noted and returned, W.P.S." "Not on the business of this department,
O.P.G." "Refer to the Paste and Scissors Office, M.B." "Apparently
forwarded in error, L.B.O." Across the right hand bottom corner of this
maltreated document was written, in fine bold hand, with which I
afterwards became hideously familiar. "Communications on the subject of
Clothing of Aboriginals must be made to the Hon. The Chief Secretary
through the Gunnybag and Postage Stamp Department Only, O.K."

This was decisive, though who "O.K." was, and what the Gunnybag and
Postal Stamp Department had to do with the Clothing of Aboriginals (who
wore neither Gunnybags nor Postage Stamps), I could not tell. However, I
was not yet beaten. I wrote to the Hon. Silas Barnstarke, then
Comptroller General of Gunnybags, enclosed the returned letter and begged
that he would use his influence in the proper quarter to procure a pair
of moleskins for King Billy. The Hon. Silas Barnstarke was an official by
nature, and he replied after six months accordingly.

8024/8749 362B.

GUNNYBAGS AND POSTAGE STAMP DEPARTMENT.

3rd July, 187--.

[Official.]

Sir,--In reference to your note of 24th January last, I have the honour to
inform you that no official cognisance of blackfellows' breeches can at
present be taken by this Department. I have the honour to be, &c.,

SILAS BARNSTARKE,

Comptroller of Gunnybags.

[Semi Official]

My Dear Sir,--I have to regret that I am unable to comply with your very
reasonable request.

Yours faithfully,

S. BARNSTARKE.

[Private]

Dear Tallowfat,--I can't do anything about this confounded blackfellow.

Yours,

S.B.

In the meantime King William wore out three more pairs. I wrote again to
the Board, and, after waiting the usual time, received the following
reply:--

3684/X.

9th October, 187--.

Sir,--I have the honour by direction of the board, to inform you that they
cannot at present move in the matters named in the margin.* The subject
of the Clothing of Aborigines in general has occupied the gravest
attention of the Board for the last six months, but, after mature
consideration, they fail to see how your request can be in any respect
complied with, unless by the direct authority of His Excellency the
Governor-in-Council.

I am instructed to suggest, that perhaps in the meantime, as the case
seems urgent, and His Excellency is in Adelaide, a kilt might meet the
difficulty.

I have the honour, &c.,

JOHN P. ROBINSON.

*Blackfellow's Breeches

"A kilt meet the difficulty! No, nor half of it." In indignant terms I
wrote to this half-hearted Robinson. "No one but an idiot," said I,
"could make such a preposterous suggestion." The phlegmatic creature
replied (after three weeks) as follows:--

3784/X.

1st November, 187--.

Sir,--I have the honour to acknowledge your communication of 12th October
last, in which you inform me I am an idiot, as per margin, and in reply
thereto, I beg to inform you that on that point a difference of opinion
exists in this Department.

and he had again "the honour to be."

This seemed a fatal blow to my hopes, but I wrote again, begged to
withdraw the offensive expression made in the heat of the moment, and to
request that the Board would condescend to take my petition into earnest
consideration. Mr. Robinson replied in a temperature and forgiving
spirit.

The "Board" he observed, in the most elegant round-hand "are most
desirous to promote the welfare of Aborigines in the minutest particular,
and I am directed to state for your information that a proposal to
amalgamate the votes for flannel petticoats and patent revolving beacons
will be made to the Government, which amalgamation will enable the Board
to issue one pair of moleskin trousers, as per Schedule B., to every
three adult aboriginals in the colony. I am directed to ask if you have
any suggestions to offer with regard to cut, number of buttons, flap or
fly, &c."

I could not see how one pair of breeches between every three adult
natives would "meet the difficulty," as Mr. Robinson elegantly put it,
nor did I understand why the votes for flannel petticoats and patent
revolving beacons needed amalgamation, but I replied thanking the Board,
and wrote to my friend O'Dowd, member for the Glimmera, to beg him to
make a "proper representation" on the subject. O'Dowd was at that time
"in opposition." I saw in the Peacock that "the hon. Member for Glimmera
gave notice that he would ask the hon. The Comptroller of Gunnybags, on
the following Thursday, if he was aware of the particulars attending the
case of an aboriginal known as King Billy."

My hopes rose high, when, on the following Thursday, O'Dowd delivered
himself of a terrific speech, in which he accused the Government of the
most wanton barbarity, and drew such a terrible picture of the
trouserless monarch hiding in the dens and clefts of the rocks, that it
brought tears into my eyes as I read it.

Barnstarke, however, who had kept two clerks at work night and day,
copying the correspondence replied in his usual calm and dignified
manner. "The attention of the Government had already been called to the
lamentable condition of the aborigines in that wealthy and populous
district, where the hon. Member who had just sat down owned such
extensive property, and he might inform the hon. Member that the
Government had taken steps to remedy, in some measure, the effects of the
apparent parsimony of the inhabitants of the Glimmera district, by a
method which he was convinced would fully satisfy every intelligent and
liberal member of that House."

O'Dowd was muzzled, but, as luck would have it, little Chips, the leader
writer to the Peacock, was in the gallery and wanted a "subject."
"Monstrous case about that blackfellow," said he to the editor later in
the evening. "I should like to do a smart little thing on old Barnstarke
about it."

There was nothing better going, and the article was written. I forget it
now, but I know it was vastly clever, quoting Horace twice, and comparing
poor Barnstarke to Le Roi Dagobert. In fact, it was full of as much
withering scorn as Chips could afford for £2 2s., and Chips was liberal.

Thus encouraged by the support of the Press, O'Dowd moved for a
Commission to inquire into the subject of Aborigines' breeches, with
power to call for persons and papers.

The Commission was granted, sat at the Parliament Houses for nine mortal
weeks, examined 300 witnesses, ordered "plans and specifications" of all
the breeches since the original fig-leaf, and at a cost of £2000
published a Report of 1000 pages, containing a complete history of the
development of breeches from the earliest ages.

This Report contained my correspondence in an appendix, and advised that
all the Aborigines throughout the Colony, male and female, should at once
be provided with three pairs of broadcloth pantaloons a-piece.

In the meantime King Billy wore out four pairs of mine.

Elated, however, by the successful issue of my labours, I gave him the
garments, and waited for my revenge. I waited for three months.

It was nearly the end of the session, and I had almost begun to despair,
when I received a large packet from Mr. Robinson, enclosing a copy of the
Report, and asking for a "return of the number, height, age, and weight
of all the Aborigines in the district." I set to work without delay to
furnish this return, and had the gratification of seeing by the papers
that "In reply to a question by Mr. O'Dowd, the Comptroller of Gunnybags
informed the House that the Report of the Blackfellows' Breeches
Commission had been referred to the Board for the Protection of
Aborigines, who would give the recommendation of the Commission their
best attention."

It seemed that we had come back to the place whence we had started.

Nothing was done, of course, during the recess, but when the House was
about to sit, I saw that the Peacock was "informed that the Special
Report of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, which, we
understand, will be shortly laid on the table of the House, contains some
startling revelations on the subject of blackfellows' breeches, and
proves beyond a doubt the necessary for an Absolute Freetrade Policy for
this Colony."

The Ministerial journal (the Peacock was always in opposition) hinted
that "it was the intention of the liberal and intelligent Government, to
further Protect the Native Industry of the Colony by placing a tax of
4½d. a leg on every pair of imported moleskins--a proceeding which cannot
fail to redound to the credit of that Government, whose fiscal policy we
have always upheld through the medium of our advising columns." It was
not to be expected that the Peacock could allow such a gross fallacy to
pass unquestioned, so it inquired sarcastically the following morning if
"its Little Bourke contemporary was aware that America had been plunged
into Civil War in consequence of the bloomer movement, which deprived
thousands of hard-working negroes of their nether garments." "The Imports
of the United States during the year 1862, when a freetrade policy
prevailed," said the Peacock "reached a total of $8,936,052.18. In 1863,
when Henry Clay, a member of the notorious Pantaloon-and-gaiter-Ring,
levied a tax of one red cent, on every article of clothing that came
below the knee, the Customs returns showed a deficit of $18,000,000,000.
This fact speaks for itself."

At it again went the protectionist paper, and proved entirely to its own
satisfaction that the only way to make mankind happy, was to encourage
the growth of breeches industry by severe protective duties. "It is
rumoured" said the protectionist paper "that an effort will be made by
the soft goods faction to import the 200,000 pairs of breeches required
for our aboriginal population. Quem deus vult perdere, &c. Such an act
would blur the blush and grace of modesty. We trust that a patriotic
Government will look to it. We have imported too long. Our short-sighted
and venal contemporary, not satisfied with importing its Sparrows,
Rabbits, Bulls, and Editors, must needs attack the country in its most
vital point--stab it in its very seat of honour. We are confident that Sir
Ossian M'Orkney, however much he may have appeared to lean towards the
unholy condition of Flinders Lane, will draw the line at breeches."

The controversy was highly interesting, but in the meantime King Billy
wore out four more pairs--leathers. I wrote to Barnstarke informing him
that while the great question of Freetrade or Protection yet remained
unsettled, my wardrobe was becoming absorbed into the surrounding forest,
and that unless something was speedily done, I would send the monarch
breechesless to Melbourne, marked "This side up with care," and let his
country deal with him.

Barnstarke replied that "while deprecating the indiscreet haste which I
had displayed in the treatment of a matter of so much importance, he was
willing to do everything in his power, and after consultation with his
colleagues, had given instructions to the Chief Commissioner of Police to
forward an old pair of regulation cords, which would perhaps satisfy me."
No cords came, but a very large letter from the Chief Commissioner, in
which he regretted that all the regulation cords of the Department being
in constant use, he was unable to comply with the request of the Hon. The
Comptroller of Gunnybags, but that he had forwarded my letter (forwarded
to him through the Department of the Hon. The Chief Secretary by the Hon.
The Comptroller of Gunnybags) to the Commandant of the Local Forces, with
a request that he give the matter his immediate attention.

Three weeks passed, and I received a letter from the Commandant of the
Local Forces, who, in a military "memo" in red ink, begged to forward me
copies of the correspondence between the Hon. The Comptroller of
Gunnybags, the Chief Commissioner of Police and himself, and to attach a
list of the articles with which "it was in his power to supply me through
the usual official channel." The list was five folio pages of close
print, and contained, I believe, every article under heaven except the
one I desired. I replied by marking a few dozen, convinced that nothing
would come of it, and wrote again to Barnstarke. Barnstarke sent me a
parcel with a private note.

[Private]

Dear Tallowfat,--I don't see how to please you, but as the matter will be
brought before the House shortly, and those confounded fellows in the
Opposition will be sure to make a handle of it, I have begged a personal
interview with the Governor, stated your case, and asked him as an old
friend of my cousin, Lord Lofty, to help me. His Excellency, in the
kindest and most delicate manner, has sent me an old pair of "plush,"
discarded, I believe, by one of the vice-regal domestics, and placed them
entirely at your service. For goodness sake, my dear fellow, keep the
matter dark, for I sadly fear that so irregular a proceeding will result
in some confusion in this Department.

Yours, L.B.

P.S.--I rely as ever on your powerful support in case of a General
Election.

We clothed King Billy in the Vice-Regal Plush, and for some months he was
happy. The papers having got hold of a Divorce Case, was engaged (in the
cause of morality) in commenting on the particulars, and I had hoped that
matters would not rest. But I had forgotten one thing--"The Audit
Commissioners."

Early in the following spring, Tommy, the boy who rode for the mail to
Bullocktown, informed me that there was a packing-case at the Post
Office, marked "On Her Majesty's Service," and addressed to me. I sent a
bullock-dray for it, and it proved to be a bundle of papers from the
"Audit Commissioners," accompanied by a note from Barnstarke.

[Private.]

Dear Tallowfat,--I knew that we should get into a mess about those
confounded breeches. It appears that they had been reseated by the
Government contractor, and that no requisition had been sent into this
office. The result is that the Commissioners of Audits (among other
queries) desire to be "informed" about this "gross irregularity." The
whole of the accounts of this Department are in arrear in consequence.
Can you tell them what they want to know?

Yours,

L.B.

I rose every morning at daylight for the space of a month, and read away
at the bundle. It contained some tolerably rough reading. All the
accounts of His Excellency's household were then noted and commented upon
in the most acute and accurate manner. The Audit Commissioners were
continually "dropping down" upon His Excellency, as thus--His Excellency's
valet desires a water-bottle for Excellency's bedroom, and is informed in
a brief note from the Chief Clerk of the Water-bottle Department of the
Government stores, that he "must requisition for it in the usual way." He
does so, and sends in the bill "in the usual form." A voluminous
correspondence then occurs between the Government Storekeeper, the
Commissioners of Audit, and the Contractor, as to whether "cut-glass
bottles" should or should not be charged for at a certain rate. This
question satisfactorily settled, the Contractor applies to the Government
Storekeeper to apply to the Commissioners of Audit to "pass the account
through the Treasury," and is informed contemptuously that "the number of
pints not being stated in the voucher, the Commissioners of Audit are
unable to forward the account in question." This causes another
correspondence with the Treasury, and, just as I had worked myself into a
fever of expectation, imagining that the money must at last be paid, the
Treasurer triumphantly encloses a copy of the Registrar-General's
certificate of the death of the applicant, and refers the whole matter
for adjustment by the Curator of Intestate Estates.

I stumbled also upon an exciting chase after an item of 2¾d overcharge
for farriery, which at last proved to have been paid for a threepenny
drink to the smith, less the "usual discount on Government contracts,"
but I found nothing bearing upon my breeches, or His Excellency's
breeches, or King billy's Breeches, or, to speak more correctly, and in
accordance with official exactness, the "one pair of double-plush extra
super small clothes, the property of Her Majesty the Queen of Great
Britain and Ireland, Fid. Def."

With bewildered brain, I returned the bundle to Barnstarke, and begged
him to settle it anyhow. He replied that the only thing to do was to at
once return the breeches to the Government Store keeper "for," said he,
"if this is not done, we must move the Treasurer to put a sum of 5s. 4d.
on the Supplementary Estimates, and such a course will naturally cause
great inconvenience to this Department."

I sent him down a blank cheque, begged him to fill it up for any sum he
pleased, and settle the matter at once. Alas! Little did I know the
wisdom by which the world is governed. Barnstarke was most indignant.

"Not only," said he in his reply, "is the course you propose most
improper, and utterly opposed to all the traditions of official business,
but it would put the Department to the utmost inconvenience to entertain,
even for an instant, such a monstrous proposition. You will, I trust,
excuse me speaking thus plainly, when I inform you that, to enable me to
receive the sum of money you so rashly proffer, I should require a
special vote to the House. If it is absolutely impossible for you to
return the breeches, the Treasurer must be moved in the usual way." What
could I do? The breeches were torn to shreds by this time, and fragments
of them gleamed derisively from several lofty gum-trees in the vicinity
of the station. There was evidently no help for it. The Treasurer, poor
fellow, must be "moved in the usual way," whatever that might be.

In the Supplementary Estimates for 187--accordingly appeared the following
item:--

Comptroller of Gunnybags:

"Division, 492; Sub-division, 8.

"His Excellency the Governor-General and Vice-Admiral of the Colony of
Victoria.

"For re-seating one pair of extra plush small clothes, 5s. 4d."

It was thought there would have been a row. The Treasurer trembled when
he submitted the fatal item to the House, and an ominous silence reigned.
"I would ask the Hon. The Treasurer," said Mr. Wiggintop rising, "if this
piece of wanton extravagance is to be paid for out of the Imperial or the
Colonial Funds.

"The Colonial funds of course," says a rash member from the Government
benches. Wiggintop sat down quietly, and those who knew his antipathy to
Downing Street, trembled for the fate of the Ministry.

The next morning the Daily Bellower, a paper that went in for economic
democracy, laughed bitterly. "So then this is the way in which the
Victorian taxpayer is robbed to support the liveried myrmidons of an
effete and palsied aristocracy. The representative of Downing Street, not
contented with gloating over the Victorian artisan from Toorak, must
needs clothe his footmen out of the proceeds of the hardy miner's toil.
The rogue wants his breeches re-seated, does he! Pampered menial."

There was no standing this. The Ministry resigned, and Wiggintop was sent
for. He formed a Ministry in twenty-four hours, and went to the country
with the breeches metaphorically nailed to the mast-head of his future
policy. "It shall be my business," said he at an enthusiastic meeting of
his constituents, "to see that every half-penny of that 5s. 4d. paid is
out of the Royal Exchequer." When Parliament met, Wiggintop called for
"all the correspondence connected with this gross case of Imperial
tyranny" (the report of the Blackfellows' Breeches Committee, came in as
an appendix this time), "in order that he might lay it on the table of
this wronged and outraged House." He did so, and, to the triumph of the
Colonial Progress Party, it was resolved by an overwhelming majority that
the question should be immediately referred to the Privy Council.

I imagined that all was over. But by the return mail, Wiggintop received
the gratifying intelligence that a Royal Commission had been appointed,
who would examine personally the witnesses in the most important case. A
few days after the Bellower informed the public that the first blow had
been struck, the "pampered menial" had gone home in the "Great Britain"
to give his evidence.

By the following mail was transmitted a list of witnesses who were
required to be examined before the fourteen noblemen and gentlemen of the
Royal Commission. Of course, I was one, but my blood was up now, and I
resolved that I would not shrink from my duty. I left orders with my
tailor to supply King Billy, and started. With my gained experience of
the celerity of officaldom, I spent a couple of months in London
sight-seeing, and then thinking it about time to attend to business,
wrote to the Secretary to the Commission, but received no answer. I
waited two months more, and then having primed myself with names, called
at Downing Street. It was the "silly season," and London was empty. A
messenger was elegantly lounging on the steps of the Colonial Office,
however, and to him I addressed myself.

"Is Lord Lofty within?"

"No, His Lordship is in Greece."

"Mr. Chicester Fortescue?"

"Gone to Norway."

"Mr. Washington White?"

"In the South of France."

"Mr. Fritz Clarence Paget?"

"Rusticating in Boulogne."

"Good Gracious," said I, "is there no one to look after the interests of
these two million of colonists?"

"I think you'll find a young gentleman upstairs," said the messenger,
carelessly.

I went upstairs, and after some investigation found the young gentleman
who looked after the colonies. He was very spruce and very small, with
his hair cut very short, and wore a rose in his coat and a glass in his
eye. He stared at me as I entered, as one who should say, "What the deuce
do you mean coming into a Government Office in this way."

"Mr. Crackelly Jenks?" said I.

"Quite so! What can I do for you?"

"I have called about the Breeches Commission!"

"Ah! Door B., first on the right, third turning to the left! Not here!
Mistake."

"Pardon me! Sir, I have called there, and they referred me to you."

"Oh, did they," says Mr. Crackelly Jenks. "Ah! Well, what is it?"

"I wrote some time ago to Mr. Washington White, who acts as Secretary to
the Commission."

"What Commission?"

"The Breeches Commission!"

"Oh! Ah! Is there such a thing! Quite so! Didn't know! Beg your pardon!
Go on!"

"My name is Tityrus Tallowfat. I am an Australian! Sir, and have come
36,000 miles!"

"All right! Marrofat! Sit down. Never mind the distance! Every Australian
tells us that. So you're from Victoria Island! Eh?"

"Victoria! Sir! Capital, Melbourne."

"Oh! Ah! Yes, stupid of me, but the Vs. are not in my department, don't
you see! I take the Bs., Bermuda, and so on; but, however, never mind, I
daresay we shall go on. You want to see White?"

"Well, no!" said I, "I want to know----"

"Hadn't you better put it in writing, Marrowfat? Put it in writing now!"

"There is no occasion for that," said I, taught by bitter experience, how
futile was such a course; "I have already written to Mr. White."

"Ah!" says the young gentlemen at once relieved. "Why didn't you say so
before? Tomkins bring me Mr. White's letter-book." Tomkins brought it,
and Mr. Jenks perused it. "You must be under a mistake, Marrowfat," he
said at last. "There's no letter mentioned here."

"But I wrote one sir," I ventured to remark.

"I rather think not, Marrowfat," said he. "You must be in error,
Marrowfat."

"But my dear sir----"

"But my dear sir, the thing's as plain as a pikestaff. We register all
our letters of course; now there is no letter mentioned here, so we
couldn't have received one. Don't you see!"

"Perhaps it might have escaped you," I hesitated again.

He smiled a patronising smile. "My dear Mr. Marrowfat, our system of
registration is perfect, simply perfect; it couldn't have escaped us."

Just then, the door was burst open, and there entered another gentleman
with a letter in his hand.

"Hullo!" said Mr. Jenks quite unabashed. "Here it is! Egad that's
strange. Thanks my dear Carnaby, thanks. Now, sir," (to me severely, as
if I had been in fault) "perhaps you can explain your business."

A bright idea struck me! I would inquire as to the probable result of my
inquiries.

"That letter, sir, fully explains my business. May I ask you what will
become of it?"

"Become of it! It is the property of the office, sir."

"But what will be done with it."

"It will go through the usual official course, I presume," said Mr.
Jenks.

"And what is that, may I ask."

"Oh! Said the young man, waving the letter as he spoke, Mr. White will
hand it to Mr. Paget, who will minute it, and send it on to Mr.
Fortescue. He will pass it through his department, and then it will, in
the usual official course, reach Mr. Secretary Landwith; he will send it
to the Commissioners."

"Oh! And what then!"

"Well, the Commissioners will have it read and entered in their minutes,
and, then, unless they choose to send it to the Privy Council, they will
return it to us in the usual course."

"As----"

"From Mr. Secretary Landwith to Mr. Fortescue from Mr. Fortescue to Mr.
Paget, from Mr. Paget to Mr. White, from Mr. White to me!"

"And what would you do with it?"

"I should hand it to the Chief," said Mr. Jenks.

"And what would become of it then?"

Mr. Jenks admired his boot, gloomily, and said at last:--

"'Pon my life, Marrowfat, I don't know. The Chief is rather absent,
and--between ourselves--when once a document gets into his hands, 'gad,
there's no telling what he may do with it."

"Sir," said I in a rage! "I wish you good-morning."

"Good-morning, my dear Marrowfat," said Mr. Jenks, with perfect
affability, "anything we can do for you, you know, d'ighted I'm sure."

I did not pause to ask what would become of my letter in the alternative
of the Commission choosing to hand it to the Privy Council, but left the
office. Outside were some thirty or forty of the cloud of witnesses. "Ha!
Ha!" they laughed, "here is Mr. Tallowfat, we've been all over London
looking for it."

"Gentlemen," said I, "it may be in the moon for all I know of it. If I
don't go home and go to bed, I shall be a subject for Bedlam."

I waited in London ten months, and, hearing nothing of the Commission,
returned to Melbourne. King Billy had cut the Gordian Knot by dying, and
as, according to the custom of his race, he was buried dressed; he took
my fifty-third and last pair of breeches with him to his long home.

The Commission is still sitting, I suppose, for we hear the most
flourishing accounts from the Agent-General, of the wonderful progress
they are making with the collection "of the vast mass of interesting
evidence, which I shall have the honour to transmit to you in the usual
official course."

"But if ever 'I write to the Department' again I'm----"




XV. Holiday Peak


It was dusk when we reached the flat, for, determined to make the most of
my brief holiday, I had wandered with Wallaby Dick all day among the
ranges.

Wallaby Dick was a lame man, with a face like one of those German toys
called "nut-crackers." He was very old, and had lived in his bark hut
under the Bluff for the last fifteen years. Wallaby could shoot or snare
any living creature that bred, and boasted that he knew every
mountain-path, track, and gully between White Swamp and Mount Dreadful.
So mighty was the prowess of his gun, that men from the stations round
about, spending a barren day stalking the scrub, would aver that Wallaby
had discovered the track which led to that legendary Land of Plenty
existing on the inaccessible summit of the ranges, and was wont to
withdraw from his kind to hunt there.

       *     *     *     *     *

There is an indescribable ghastliness about the mountain bush at night
which has affected most imaginative people. The grotesque and distorted
trees, huddled here and there together in the gloom like whispering
conspirators. The little open flats encircled by boulders which seem the
forgotten altars of some unholy worship. The white, bare, and ghastly
gums gleaming momentarily amid the deeper shades of the forest. The
lonely pools begirt with shivering reeds, and haunted by the melancholy
bittern only. The rifted and draggled creek-bed, which seems violently
gouged out of the lacerated earth by some savage convulsion of nature;
the silent and solitary places where a few blasted trees crouch together
like withered witches, who, brooding on some deed of blood, have suddenly
been stricken horror-stiff. Riding through this nightmare landscape, a
whirr of wings, and a harsh cry disturb you from time to time, hideous
and mocking laughter peals above and about you, and huge grey ghosts with
little red eyes hop away in gigantic but noiseless bounds. You shake your
bridle, the mare lengthens her stride, the tree-trunks run into one
another, the leaves make overhead a continuous curtain, the earth reels
out beneath you like a strip of grey cloth spun by a furiously flying
boom, the air strikes your face sharply, the bush, always grey and
colourless, parts before you, and closes behind you like a fog. You lose
yourself in this prevailing indecision of sound and colour. You become
drunk with the wine of the night, and, losing your individuality, sweep
onward on a flying phantom in a land of shadows.

"The moon will be up in an hour, my lad," said the old man. "Keep all the
left-hand tracks, and you'll pull the long Waterhole," and then,
whistling to his dog, he turned.

"But where are you going, Wallaby?"

"O, I'm going up the ranges," said Wallaby, with what appeared to me in
the dusk to be a fiendish grin, "for a holiday."

When I drew bridle, the moon flung my shadow on the turf, I had gained
the little plain which divides Mount Barren from Mount Scar, and the
panorama of the valley lay below me. Mile after mile stretched the dusky
grey tree-tops. Here and there a link of the chain of water holes which
connected the Great and Little Styx flashed white beneath the moon, and
from time to time the level surface of the forest was broken by the
spectre-like upstarting of some huge gum-skeleton grasping at air with
his crooked and ravenous claws. From out this valley, brooded upon by big
blue and floating mists, uprose a mysterious murmur composed of crackling
twigs, falling leaves, rustling wings, lapping water, and stirring
breezes--breathing of the sleeping bush. Above me to the right and left
towered, steel-blue in the moonlight, the twin peaks of Mount Mystery,
and between them, far up the gap that led, no one knew whither, a red
light gleamed.

The plateau on which I stood bore an evil reputation. It had been in old
times the camping-place of the blacks, and upon the largest of the three
gigantic stones, which disposed in the form of triangle, seemed to point
to the triple peaks of the triform mountain, human sacrifices had been
held, and horrible banquets celebrated. The earth, pawed by my impatient
horse, was black and rich--strangely black and rich when compared with the
surrounding soil, and the three enormous trees that overshadowed the
three alter-stones seemed to own roots fed with fat food, so vigorously
had they upsprung from out the rock. The gloomy glamour of ancient
barbarism was upon the place. Standing there alone, a usurping white man
within the mystic temple of a dead and forgotten creed, I seemed to
realize for an instant the whole horror of the ancient worship. Again the
skin drums resounded, again floated up to the full moon and wild chant of
the women, again the furious fires blazed high, again the people in the
valley of the peaks shouted to their savage divinity, again the painted
and naked priest reared high the thirsty knife and flung
himself--blood-red in the fire-glow--upon the panting victim. What
mysteries might not have been celebrated in this forest, haggard and grey
with age and storms? Those savage priests, those leaping warriors, might
be administering a right primeval, recalling in their wild dances the
mystic worship of Egypt, and completing, in their ignorance, the
magnificent allegory of that ancient Faith, which, through all the
world's history, remains still the hope of thousands. Here in this lonely
spot, among the frowning hills, where the pious Christian cries to this
risen Lord, might sacrifice have been done to Mithra the virgin-born, to
Isis the virgin-mother, to Osiris stretched upon his cross, or to Tammuz
the slain for our sins, and re-risen from the dead to save us. Here might
the trembling neophyte have prostrated himself before a barbaric
Hyphon--that terrible genius of darkness and of doubt, that great Serpent
Tempter of the ancient mysteries! In Mexico, in Africa, amid the snows of
the Himalayas and the deserts of Central Asia, dwells his ancient
worship. The mighty monuments which frown in bewildering grandeur from
out the virgin forests of Darien, the legends of the sacred islands of
the South, the world rites of Papua and the Marquesas, give token of the
mystic lore of Egypt and the East. Its symbols are used equally by Jew,
Turk, and Christian, and now, in this strange and barren land, long
deemed worthless to the tread of white feet, did I meet again the traces
of the old religion.

As these speculations held me, methought that the mysterious light in the
mountain cleft moved higher, and that it was joined by another light. My
mare snorted and wrenched at her bit, as though eager to leave the spot
of ill omen. The first light twinkled, went out, beamed forth again, and,
impelled by one of those sudden resolutions which seemed like
inspiration, I rode down the side of the rise, and made towards it. The
flats between the gorge and the mount were marshy, and bestrewn with
fallen timber. Belts of impenetrable scrub intersected the numerous
water-courses. The air grew cool, and a heavy dew began to fall. The moon
had risen high, and was riding serenely in a wine-dark and cloudless
heaven. A stillness reigned, the mysterious lights moved steadily
onwards, and before me fluttered from tree to tree, swooping in upon me
from time to time, as though to lure me on, a huge grey bat, through
whose transparent wings I could almost see the sparkle of the
coldly-gleaming stars. I pressed forward, and the two lights were joined
by a third. The second light twinkled and went out, as the first had
done, but to be again re-lumined; and then, not a hundred yards before
me, the three moving points of fire beamed forth bright and clear.
Another instant, and my snorting horse dashed the pebbles under her
hoofs, and, rearing with terror, came to a sudden pause before three men
who barred the rocky roadway.

"Hullo, Wallaby Dick!" I cried, "is this your holiday?"

But no answer came from the grey lips of the old man, who, facing about,
with glassy eyes, thrust forth his flaming torch of mountain pine, as
though to forbid my progress.

I turned to his companions, and a species of ludicrous terror seized me.
One was dombie, the blackfellow, the other Ah Yung, the Chinaman. All
three--European, Australian, and Mongol--were naked to the waist, each
carried a blazing pine-torch, and on the face of each sat that hideous
expression of death in life which caused the yellow fangs of the old
wallaby hunter to glisten like the teeth of a skeleton.

"Whither are you bound?" I cried, controlling, with difficulty, my
terrified horse.

Dombie raised his lean black arm, and silently pointed to the extremity
of the gorge. I looked, and saw from behind a huge boulder upshoot a
pillar of fire. As though this illumination had been some wellknown
signal, from all parts of the mountain burst forth the red glare of
torches. Above, around, and below burned innumerable spots of fire. The
gorge seemed to swarm with fire-flies, the mountainside to be honeycombed
with glow-worms, while in the valley I had left, an immense multitude
pressed onward and upward, their torches tossing wildly as they came.
Bewildered and alarmed, I rubbed my eyes to see if I was dreaming; but
no, I was wide-awake, and conscious that it needed all the strength of my
muscles to sit my now maddened horse.

"What foolery is this?" I cried. "Ah! Yung! Dombie! Speak." But they
turned abruptly and breasted the mountain, singing a wild chant as they
went. I was forced to follow, for an all sides pressed the multitude.
Perhaps from the glare and smoke of the torches my brain had become
stupified, or my vision impaired, but it seemed to me that the persons
who surrounded me were of all nations and colours. Mulattoes, Blacks,
Chinese, Yellow men, and Red men, all the barbaric nations of the South
came hurrying onwards: walking, riding, crawling--old men, women, and
cripples--as they swarmed along the mighty mountain-side like travelling
ants. The fire behind the boulder, fed fast by the gigantic shadows, shot
high up into the night its threefold flame. I turned, and lo! The moon,
mounted to her zenith, flung down the hill I had left the triple shadow
of the three altars! The murmurous prelude to the hymn already began to
tremble over the valley, and the multitude, pressing nearer to the
sacrificial fire, carried me along with them. I looked round in vain for
escape,--no, not in vain; at the very instant when another plunge of my
mare would have flung me beneath the feet of the crowd, a young girl,
riding on a white mule, pointed to a narrow cleft in the wall of rock on
my right. I comprehended her, and wheeling my horse, forced myself clear
of the press. A sharp salt wind blew in upon me, and in another instant
the strange multitude and the mysterious fire faded behind me, and I was
galloping up the gorge in the teeth of a driving storm.

       *     *     *     *     *

You, reader, who have known what it is to ride hard all night in an
Australian mountain tempest, will appreciate the delight with which I
hailed the glorious outburst of a sunny morning. I could not but think my
vision of the night a dream, born of my own thoughts and the mysterious
influence of the moonlit forest; and in the pure bright air of morning I
laughed my follies to scorn. One thing was certain, however, in my dream
or my stupidity, I had galloped up the ranges, and by some strange chance
had struck that long-sought-for path which led to the mysterious and
legendary land behind the mountains. Dismounting, and leading my weary
horse by the bridle, I followed a sort of track along the top of the
range, and looked, as I went, upon the scenery of the new country in
which I found myself. The path wound in and out among the crags, and I
soon lost all glimpse of the semi-civilised land I had left. I saw at my
feet what seemed at the first glance to be a little township embosomed in
encircling gardens. As I drew nearer, however, I saw what I had taken for
a township was really a collection of buildings, apparently belonging to
a large, white, low-roofed house, which stood on the edge of a slope of
vineyard. It was evident that some settler, more adventurous than his
neighbours, had penetrated the mysteries of the mountain, and had set up
his abode in this fertile and charming valley. Wallaby Dick had indeed
discovered a pleasant place in which to spend his holidays! Descending
the track, which soon widened into a broad and well-kept road, I pulled
the hanging handle of a bell which was suspended from a lofty wooden
gateway before a huge and nail-studded door. The echo of my summons had
not died away when the door was flung open, and Wallaby Dick himself
appeared, his face no longer wrathful or ill-humoured, but beaming with
smiles of welcome.

The appearance of the old man made me start. "You here, Wallaby? Why,
what mystery is this?"

"No mystery," said Wallaby, with the merriest laugh I had ever heard from
his lips. "I have arrived before you, that is all. Come in; you are
expected."

"Expected! Then what place is this?"

"It's got a lot o' names," said Wallaby. "Some calls it one thing, and
some another. I call it Holiday Peak, because I comes here for my
holidays; but it's known to many folks as Mount Might-ha-been."

"Many travellers stop here, it appears?" I enquired.

"Oh yes," said the old fellow, hobbling off with my horse. "Most people
passing this way stop here for a night, at all events, especially about
the beginning of the new year. However, you go in, and I'll show you
round by-and-by."

I went through the court-yard, and up the broad stone steps into an open
space or square, in the midst of which a fountain played. Ah Yung was
standing at the door of a queer little pagoda. No longer the greasy
Chinaman cook, he was dressed with great splendour in the fashion of his
country, and, bowing, invited me in. The house was wonderfully furnished.
A Chinese woman, of pleasing countenance, sat on a low cane-chair,
nursing a baby, and a domestic squatted on his hams in a corner of the
verandah, filling the bowl of Ah Yung's capacious pipe. Through the open
lattice-work I saw spreading paddy-fields, and could catch the monotonous
song of the stalwart river coolies as they propelled their heavily-laden
barges up the river.

"All this is mine!" said Ah Yung, embracing with one sweep of his hand
the furniture, the matron, the fat baby, the opium-pipe, and the
paddy-fields.

"All yours! But if you own so fine a property, why do you work as cook in
the men's huts?"

"Cook in the men's hut! What do you mean?" returned he with a pitying
smile. "Me no cook. Me Chinee gentleman. Me mightabeen cook if me run
away on board ship, and go fool my money in lottery!"

I turned away bewilderingly, and found myself face to face with my old
college friend, Jack Reckless.

"Jack Reckless!" I cried, astonished at this new apparition. "Why, man, I
thought you were----"

"Don't be afraid of saying it," said Jack, cheerily, though a touch of
sadness caused his voice to quiver.

"You thought I was in gaol for forging Huxtable's name to a bill. No,
thank God, my boy! I might have been, but instead of yielding to the
devilish temptation, I told my dear old father all about my debts and
duns, and a year or two of economy set all right. You shall come over by
and-by, and see my wife. You remember little Lucy?"

"Little Lucy! Yes;--but wasn't that dreadful story true?"

"True! No. She saw through the scoundrel's pretended affection, and as I
was out of debt, and in a fair way of doing well, married me instead of
running away with him. But I must go to the farm now." he concluded,
pointing to a picturesque roof that nestled in a pretty English
landscape; "I call for you tomorrow."

I walked up the lime-tree avenue which led to the Old Manse more
bewildered than ever. Then the terrible story of sin and shame which had
wrecked two homes was but a fiction after all? My spirits rose with the
thought; indeed, gazing on that lovely garden, stretching terrace after
terrace, away to the crystal river, it was difficult to harbour thoughts
of sorrow or of suffering, and I felt, as I drank in the pure clear air
of the mountains, almost as vigorous as Dombie, who, no longer blear-eyed
and palsied with excess of tobacco and rum, but young, healthy, and
hopeful, dashed past me with a "Hulloa!" making hard for a flock of emu
yonder.

Passing by an old house which stood back from the others in the terrace,
my attention was caught by a crimson scarf trailing from one of the upper
windows. "An artist lives there," was my first thought, for nowhere in
the world but in the pictures of Prout do we see bits of colour floating
about in that fashion. "Yes, you are right," said a young man emerging
from the well-dressed crowed which throngs in spring the steps of the
Academy.

It was Gerard! Gerard, my boy friend, who fled from Oxford to Stonyhurst,
and embraced the discipline of Loyola.

"Gerard, what means this?"

"Dear old fellow," said he, putting his arm round my neck in the fond old
schoolboy fashion, "it means that I thought better of my resolve, and
followed out the natural bent of my talents. My picture, the 'death of
Alcibiades,' is the talk of the year. I shall soon be as famous as you."

"As I. You jest. A poor devil banished to Bush Land, tied neck and heels
in debt, soon slips out of the memory even of his friends."

"So you persist in that dream out Australia! Surely you know that the
fortune was recovered, and that your year of poverty but served to
correct your boyish extravagances, and that in easy circumstances you
banished Poins and Pistol, and settled down to the career you chose!"

"Gerard, you are laughing at me!"

"Come into your house, then, and be convinced," said Gerard.

My house, it appeared, was a villa at Richmond. The railway-station was
sufficiently near to take me into town when town-talk was needed, and yet
the cottage in its charm of park and river was sufficiently far away from
London smoke to suffer one's soul to breathe freely.

"I wonder," said Gerard, "that with the horses you keep, you ever travel
by the train?"

"My horses, then, are considered good?"

"Horses and books are your only extravagances. It is lucky that your
income is not sufficiently large to suffer you to indulge a taste for
pictures. You had better put down your yacht, and buy my 'Death of
Cromwell.'"

"No, no," said I, dreamily, accepting this novel position; "I always had
a taste for yachting;--but come in and let us converse."

"You dine with Carabas to-night, remember," said Gerard; "Ballhazar Claes
and Byles Gridley wil be there. I know you affect to dislike dinners, but
the marchioness is a good soul, and you must not disappoint her."

"True," said I, "she is; and after presenting my eldest daughter too. I
shall certainly come."

"The Superfine Review has cut up your book as usual," remarked Gerard,
turning over the papers on the horse-shoe table; "but to an author whose
readers are counted by millions, and to whom Bentley gives £5,000 a
volume, a sneer in the Superfine is not of much consequence."

"No, indeed," I replied, feeling much as if someone had taken away my
head and left me a bubble of air in the place of it. "Besides, I write
for the Slaughterer, and the two papers are at daggers drawn."

"Ah! Lucky fellow," said Gerard, throwing open the window to inhale the
perfume of my rose-garden. "How different things might have been if you
hadn't taken your uncle's advice."

"You are right," said I, "but help yourself to wine, and let us walk
somewhere. To tell you the truth, my head feels a little queer this
morning."

"That is often the case," returned Gerard, "when first one comes to
Holiday Peak, but you will soon get used to our mountain air. Order your
horses, and we will go and call on Mostyn. He didn't marry the widow
after all, and is still the same jolly fellow as of old."

"Aye, I remember how he used to take me up from Aldershot in the
baggage-train, and introduce to my schoolboy eyesight the wonders of
London at midnight. Pray, are the Arminda Gardens still existent?"

"I don't know what you mean. Mostyn never took you to London with him.
You were never in the Armida Gardens in all your life."

"Thank goodness, Gerard! Are you sure?"

"Quite certain. You might have wasted your youth in such places, and got
into no end of mischief, had not your father kept such a strict and
friendly eye upon you."

"Ah," said I, "you are right. Let us, then, remain at home to-day. Mostyn
can wait."

"As you please," said Gerard. "Here is the end of Denis Duval. Have you
read it?"

"The end of Denis Duval! Why, poor Thackeray died before he finished it."

"Nonsense! He is as hearty as you or I. I met him at Dickens's (they are
great friends now, you know) the other day, and he never looked better.
If it had not been for his excellent constitution, and the attention of
Dr. Lydgate, however, he might have been dead long ago."

"Gerard, my dear fellow," said I, rising. "I--I feel a little confused;
leave me for a while. We will meet at dinner."

"Very well," said Gerard. "I will take Constantia for a drive."

"Constantia! What, not the girl we----"

"The same, dear old fellow."

"And she did not marry Count Caskowisky?"

"Count Caskowisky be confounded! No; she married me. We have three
children. Sans adieu!"

I fell back in my easy chair, my easy chair, stupefied. I must be
dreaming! But no, the well-bred presence of my Swiss valet, as he laid
out my dress clothes, was too palpable a reality!

       *     *     *     *     *

The most notable the Marquis of Carabas lived at Grosvenor Gate, and it
seemed to me that my five hundred-guinea horses had never accomplished
the distance in so short a time. Scarcely had I entered the carriage when
I was sitting beside the marchioness, and pulling Julie's silken ears
with all the freedom of an old acquaintance. Vivien Grey and I were the
only persons allowed that privilege, but since his marriage with Violet
Fane, he had resided principally abroad.

"So you have returned at last," said the marchioness. "You and the count
have the reputation of being the most erratic pair in Europe."

The tall, thin, pale man, with the wonderful eyes, bowed slightly.

"The Countess of Monte Christo," said he, "has ordered me to give up
travelling."

"And you obey?"

"Yes. I am tired of having my own way," said Monte Christo.

"Omnipotence becomes wearisome. Moreover, I have pensioned Bertuccio and
sold my island."

"Indeed? To whom?"

"To an Australian wine-grower. He finds the rick admirably suited to the
growth of White Ivanhoe, and he has turned my cavern into cellars. Faria
and he are planning a press on a new principle."

"Then M. L'Abbé recovered from his attack?" I enquired.

"Certainly. A few seconds after I had taken that involuntary leap into
the sea from the summit of the Chateau D'If, the gaoler returned, gave my
poor friend another dose of the cordial, and revived him to rejoice in
the pardon sent by the Emperor. He is the tutor of my eldest son, Morcuf
Villefort Danglars. Ah! Marchioness, if you could only see our little
family circle, you would deem me the happiest man in Christendom. Dear
Danglars! How I long to press his honest hand once more! Poor fellow,
what enemies we might have been had the story Dumas chose to invent been
true."

Lord and Lady Byron sat opposite to me, Balzac being between them.

"It is needful that some man of sense should separate so absurdly
affectionate a pair," benevolent Lord Steyne whispered to me, "for they
cannot keep from cooing even at dinner. By the way, Mrs. Crawley, I
visited your orphanage to-day, and must congratulate you upon the
excellent use you have made of poor Miss Crawley's fortune."

Sweet Becky lifted her guileless eyes, and smiled. "Ah, Lord Steyne, it
is Rawdon whom you should praise--not me. He has quite a genius for
charity."

"I will bet fifty guineas that Steyne has been giving another cheque,"
whispered the Rev. Henry Foker; "that man's charities are unbounded."

"I thought----" I stammered.

"I know," said Archdeacon Castigan, "you thought Wenham's confounded
story was true! Ah me, dear sir, what is, and what might have been are
two very different things. For instance, Newcome yonder might have
married Mackenzie--that is the present Mrs. Foker--had not Lady Kew
insisted upon dowering Ethel with her fortune, Sir Barnes, and Lady
Highgate begged me to carry her compliments to Lady Clara. I discharge my
duty!"

Good simple-minded Sir Barnes smiled. "Tell Highgate I am angry at his
absence. He never comes to Newcome now."

At the other end of the table they were talking of the unfortunate
condition of Prussia.

"I am told had it not been for the French subscription, whole families
would have perished of hunger," said Steerforth. "And yet think how
different things might have been had Bazaine been defeated," returned Sir
Montague Tigg.

"Might have been! Yes. The 'Anglo-Benegalie' might have been wrecked,
with other institutions of a similar character," laughed Bishop Prindie
in the ear of Indiana.

"But M. Teeg is such a financier! My husband thinks him unequalled."

"But your husband is so well-bred a gentleman, madam, that he thinks well
of everyone."

       *     *     *     *     *

The conversation made my head ache, and I seized the earliest opportunity
to escape.

"Come to the club," said Warrington, "and smoke a cigar. Laura is away on
a visit to Mrs. Pen, and I am a bachelor."

"Did you marry Laura, then? I thought that----."

"That I had married someone else. No, thank God; I was very near it,
though."

The club was full. Ferner and his crony Romaine, as usual, were the life
of the smoking-room. George Gentle (of Fen Court), was playing Mr.
Cassaubon at billiards. Major-General Hinton and Colonel Lorrequer
betting on the game.

"So Monsoon has turned trappist." said Prince Djalma to Admiral Cuttle,
K.C.B. "Who would have expected such a thing?"

"L'homme propose, mais Dieu dispose," returned the Admiral.

"For which overhaul your conversations-lexicon. Jack Burnsby became a
local preacher."

The Prince puffed his cigar meditatively. "A fine woman the Macstinger,"
said he, "I don't wonder that ce cher Bunsby broke his heart at her
refusal of his hand. But, then, who could resist Fosco."

"Save Quilp, I seldom met a more fascinating man," said Guy Livingstone.
"He is too fond of violent exercise though, for my taste. I detest your
muscular heroes."

"Who does not?" said Kingsley, from the little table where he sat with
Dr. Newman and Swinburne. "Algernon, we're four by honours?"

"Then do not strive to awake my friend," said a gentle-voiced little
gentleman, sucking a Trabuco. "It is good to dream."

"Who is that?" I whispered to Singleton Fentenoy, as we descended the
steps.

"Pio Nono. The Baptists allow him one hundred and fifty pounds a year,
and he lodges over a hatter's in Piccadilly."

       *     *     *     *     *

Fentenoy and I strolled down the Haymarket, and the familiar faces passed
and repassed us. There is but little variety, after all, in life. We had
both been absent from England during twenty years, and here the same
music was resounding, the same eyes glittering, the same laughter
ringing. There was, however, a strange reality about it all that saddened
me.

"Singleton, do you remember when you thought that tawdry ball-room a
palace, those silly fellows yonder the most daring of rakes, and those
poor half-educated, good-hearted girls the equals of Ninon de L'enclos,
and Faustina Imperatrex? Let us go away; I am memory burdened."

We walked onwards, and by-and-by found ourselves near Notting Hill.
Singleton paused at the gate of a little villa, and pointed to the
windows. The blinds were drawn up, and I saw, seated in a pleasant
drawing-room, a young lady--it was Jenny--

"Lazy, laughing, languid Jenny,
Fond of a kiss, and fond of a guinea."

Her face brought back to me a strange dream of boy-and-girl folly, of a
merry, thoughtless flight by train and boat, made dishes, French wines,
babble, kisses, tears, and no pocket money.

"But I thought Lord Dagon had discovered in my funny little friend a
bonne worthy of his purse."

"Your funny little friend! What do you mean? She married the respectable
grocer, and never heard of Lord Dagon except in the newspapers. It was
fortunate that you went to Scotland as you intended though, for there
might have been mischief."

"Good heavens!" I said, "am I then to believe that everything has
happened as it should have happened, and that I have no regrets."

But Singleton had gone, and I was alone above the broad terrace above the
moon lighted garden.

       *     *     *     *     *

Tier upon tier swept upwards to the castle-crag the busky slopes of
verdure. Pierced with alleys of bloom, gleaming with statues, musical
with fountains, the marvellous gardens of the palace lay sleeping beneath
the moon, even as they had slept when the Fairy-Prince leapt the
briar-hedge to win with daring kiss his enchanted bride. The mellow
lights in the pavilion of the Arabian jeweller shone in the waters of the
lake. I heard the silvery laugh of Noureddin's Persian, and could
distinguish the gilded barge of the great Caliph, as, encompassed with
barbaric music, panoplied in Eastern pomp, he moved towards the
mysterious city. There, crowded with the misty halo of its myriad lamps,
the great Babylon lay beneath me in the valley. At the white-stone
breadth of the quay swung the rising tide of a hundred argosies. All of
squallor, misery, and sin was hidden; and the majestic angel on the
doomed summit of the great cathedral seemed to plume his shining vans for
upward flight into the clear cold purity of the star-sprinkled heavens.

This, then, was the world of which I had dreamt, and that other sordid
one in which I had lived so long was but a dream! How often a truant
schoolboy, in depths of summer woods, garlanded with cool hyacinth, and
couched on rustling fern, had I not seen this fair world! How often lying
awake, while the breeze piped shrill across the coldly tossing sea, had I
not beheld these glories of land and lake, of spired city and
embattlemented rock. How often weary and hot with folly or with toil, had
not that magnificent moon swum up into heaven to soothe and comfort me.
Here, then, was Atlantis, here the Fortunate Isles, the Valley of
Avilion, the true El Dorado--the wondrous Land of Might-have-been!

As one entranced in waking slumber, I moved through the portal, where
frowning in war-like steel, sat ready horsed for combat the guard of
Barbarussa. Charlemagne and Arthur had come again, and Duraudel gleamed
once more in the grasp of risen Roland. The mighty laughter of the heroes
shook the hall, and the smile of happy Metaine was reflected in the lips
of gentle Aude. Yes, it was true!--chivalry lived still, and smug
tradesmen, rejoicing in the science of money-breeding, had not beaten
honesty and love to death with their yard-measures. All around me were
beauty, truth, and honour, and serene in the midst of great and noble
souls. I felt my spirit strengthened and sustained. At length, above a
door of ivory, half hidden by a purple curtain, I saw, perched upon the
bust of Pallas, the mocking figure of a raven. The door yielded and I
entered. I was in a long apartment, going on a balcony open to the night;
as I entered, a lady clad in white came towards me. I knew her at once.
It was the Lady Lenore.

Lenore! The lost Lenore. She who forever waits and forever eludes our
passionate arms. Dante called her Beatrice, Petrarch Laura, Burns knew
her as Mary, Byron as----but why multiply names? She is for all of us, the
impossible woman. Name her yourself, dear reader, lounging on the club
sofa, wiling away an hour before dinner with this silly story. You are
very cynical and pleasant now, and worship your stomach complacently. But
there was a time, was there not, when "you were young, and songs were
sung, and love-lamps in the casements hung," when something might have
been that was not and never will now be? Or will you name this little
figure with the sad sweet eyes--are they brown or grey for you? Oh!
Prosperous and well-dined merchant, musing with your fond children round
your knees, and your faithful wife smiling cheerily at the end of the
table? You love your wife and children, but, but--was there not--is there
not--an ideal somewhere in your heart, albeit shut up and locked down, and
the Family Bible laid at the top of it? Yes, she exists; here, in the
land of might-have-been, call her by what name you will.

"Lenore!"

She gave me two cool hands and kissed me.

"At last, then! At last. Lenore! The Raven prophesied falsely. Our pain
and sorrow, our 'strange, unsatisfied longing,' are over, and at last--oh,
other half of my soul--I have and hold thee!"

She did not speak, but her eyes said more than words, and her slight
figure trembled in my arms.

I drew her to the window, and with brain and blood on fire, pointed to
the vessels at anchor at the quay.

"Whether this strange land be a land of shadows, I know not; but I know
that thou art real. Come my love, come; see the boat lies below. Let us
leave this place."

She raised her head from my shoulder, and looked around. In the far east,
where the waves tumbled white upon the shore, trembled the dawn. The moon
was fading, the city, the river and the enchanted gardens lay lapped in a
mysterious light--alas!

"The light that never was on sea or land,
The consecration and the poet's dream.

"Come," I repeated; "stern Heaven is kind at last, and we have met, why
should we part again?"

But even as I pleaded, in tones that had perhaps too much of earth in
them for that fair spirit, she seemed to withdraw from me. One glance,
sad and tender, pitying and hopeful, thrilled me, a farewell kiss, pure
as fire, light as a falling rose-leaf hushed my lips, and--I was alone.

Alone upon the triform hill whose mysterious altars reddened in the risen
dawn. My holiday was over.

       *     *     *     *     *

Little Nelly (to the story teller)--"But Mr. Marston, did you not go back
to Holiday Peak?"

Marston--"I did not know the way, my dear."

Little Nelly--"But there must be a way. If so many people stop there, a
coach should go near the place."

Marston--"There is a coach that goes to the very door, little one--a coach
by which we must all travel one of these days--a black coach drawn by
black horses. Some day they will take me when I am sleeping soundly, and
put me into a big box, nail me up, and put on the lid a neat brass
plate:--

'JOHN MARSTON,
'ÆTAT--,
'FOR HOLIDAY PEAK. WITH CARE.
This Side Up.'

"GOOD-NIGHT."




XVI. "Horace" in the Bush


The coach had broken down at Bullocktown, and we five--that is say,
O'Donoghue, Marston, Tom Dibdin, McTaggart and myself--were partaking of
eggs, bacon and whisky at Coppinger's.

"I fear I shall be late," said classic Marston, a professor at the
Melbourne University, who had been holiday-making with us, "the
examinations are on Tuesday."

"Time eneuch to harry the puir deevils," said compassionate M'Taggart,
the squatter, of Glenclunie.

"Hould yer whilst," interrupted O'Donoghue, "the professor's thinkin' of
how he'll bamboozle the bhoys. If he wasn't quoting Artisophanes in the
coach, I mistook the jolting o' the vayhicle for the full-mouthed
sintences o' that roarin' old haythen."

"O'Donoghue, you are personal. I never quote Greek."

"Widout book, ye old imposthor! Marsthon, I dispise ye. Ev I don't hate
ye may I be cut up into copy-paper and have Argus leaders scribbled upon
me."

"In truth," returned Marston, lighting his pipe with a fire-stick, "I was
thinking rather of the Latin than the Greek."

"It is much the same," said I rashly, "the Latins prigged their good
things wholesale."

"No, by the mass!"

"Look at that elegant robber Horace. The 'O saepe mecum' ode is a calm
theft from Alcaelus."

"Pardon me, sir," said a voice at the door, "You do the friend of Virgil
an injustice. He is rather sinned against that sinning."

We turned and saw the box passenger, a comfortable, well-dressed fellow
with blear eyes.

"Do you mean to say," cried Marston, fired at the interruption, "that
Horace did not copy from the Greek? Why, that elegant Epicurean was
swaddled in Greek literature. The classics of his day were birched into
him by Old Orbilius. He was Greek even in his politics, first a
republican, and then a monarchist."

"He has been copied even in that," said the new comer; "there is nothing
like free land selection to make your radicals conservative. If the
Ministry will give me a Sabine farm I'll cultivate my dried olive, sit
under my preserved fig-tree, and vote for them in all particulars."

"Horace was a mean man," said M'Taggart, "for I've heard that he wrote
mony a screed against old Mecaenas before he got his patronage."

"The rumour is untrue," says the stranger. "You mean that nonsense about
the trailing gown, I presume? The charge was never proved sir."

"I admit it," said the professor, "'twas a calumny."

"He was just a weathercock," cries M'Taggart, "a time-serving rogue,
blown aboot wi' every blast o'doctrine."

"He began life as a patriot."

"A youthful indiscretion," said the urbane intruder. "He afterwards
repented, and went--to his villa."

"Faix, he jist sold himself for a Government billet, like many an honest
man before and since," laughed jolly O'Donoghue.

"The res angusta domi, and being in debt to the butcher, will do much to
change a man's opinions," returned the stranger. "What says the bard
himself! 'Aurum per medios ire satellites.'"

'Danaë grim-guarded in her brazen tower,
With dogs and double-doors 'gainst those who sought her,
Fell a sweet victim to this mighty power
Of half-a-crown bestowed upon the porter.'

Marston started.

"You seem familiar with the poet," said he.

The stranger smiled sadly.

"Sir," he answered, "I have spent my life in exposing plagiarisms from
my--from Horace's writings. It is melancholy to see how the so-called
'original' writers have pilfered from the ancients."

"Sit down, sir and join us!" cries Marton, fairly astride his hobby.
"What will you take?"

"You have no Massic?" asked the guest, seating himself.

"To be sure we have," says honest Dibdin. "Coppinger, hot whisky to the
gentleman."

The stranger smiled and proceeded. "The moderns are thieves."

"They are," said Marston. "I agree with you. Tennyson owes his being to
Theocritus."

"Keates smacked of him."

"No, his plagiarism was unconscious genius. 'Hyperion' might have been a
fragment of Æschylus, and yet the doctor's boy was ignorant of Greek."

"I don't think," said I "that our Australian writers can be accused of
plagiarising from the Latin. I have observed that quotations printed or
spoken are mostly wrong."

"Cynic."

"Your Australians are not plagiarists!" cries our guest, swallowing his
whisky at a gulp. "'Ye powers that smile on virtuous theft!' But two days
since the editor of the Dead Horse Gully Tribune inserted the following
as original poetry. You will see that the idea is stolen from Horace, the
ninth ode of the first book beginning--

'Vides ut altâ, stet nive candidum
Soracte.'

"The fellow had the impertinence to call it 'The Squatter's Advice to his
Nephew,'" and helping himself to another jorum, our visitor warbled--

(Air--"Rosin the Beau.")

"Come, Jack, draw your rocking-chair nigher,
Mount Macedon's white with the snow;
Pitch another pine log on the fire,
And tip us 'Old Rosin the Beau.'

I ne'er saw the bush look so barren
(When I rode out this morning with Sam),
And last night--so I'm told by M'Claren--
There's something like ice on the dam.

Let it slide. To us all heaven's handy.1
To the cold ground we one day must go;
In the meantime--that's Hennessy's brandy
Sit down, lad, and rosin your bow.

Who knows what may happen to-morrow,
What lot is our ultimate fate;
There are some who rejoice to court sorrow--
I'd rather be courting of Kate.

God gave lasses and glasses to men, Jack--
'Twould be wrong not to use them, you know;
When you're bald as a bandicot, then, Jack,
'Twill be time to be solemn and slow.

Chorus

In the spring time, life's music was playing,
Do we pause in the melody's flow;
In the winter--the cause for delaying
Is, of course, Jack, to rosin the bow!"

"Euge! Euge!" cried Marston, "but the last verse is not a paraphrase on
the original."

"True," said the stranger, "The last verse contains an allusion that
likes me not. The 'risus ah angulo', the 'laugh from the corner' might be
thought to hint at Ballarat and its Stock Exchange."

"By the mass" says O'Donoghue, "but the strain is worthy of Trinity.
'Leonum arida nutrix.' Mac, ye spalpeen, I feel my heart big within me,
and could break your head for the honour o' ould Ireland on the slightest
provocation."

"True indeed for--

Baktrion epi tauton me gar de melathalainon.
Poluphlois ketikimboun, kai kikety rolopoloios,'

"If that's not Homer, it's mighty like him," cries O'Donoghue. "Ah, ye
deceaver, it's gibberish you're talking. Marston, hand me the impty
bottle that I may throw it at him."

"Brawling in your cups, gentlemen! Fie! That is but barbarian at best. As
Horace says--

'Natis in usum laetitiae scyphis,
Pugnare Thracum est,'

or, as a countryman of your friend's has translated it--

'To foight over punch is like Donnybrook fair,
When an Irishman, all in his glory, is there.
Hould your whist! See the combatants, Bacchus between,
With that sprig of shillalagh, his Thyrsus so green!'"

"Sir," said O'Donoghue, in great heat, "you wrong the illustrious
composer of that ancient melody. The janius o' Paddy Macguire never
stooped to copy. But you don't drink; the whisky is with you."

"Non sum qualis eram, bonae sub regno Cinarae," said the red-eyed
stranger. "I am not the man I was when I supped with Lola Montes. I have
poor and unhappy brains for drinking. I mingle my liquors with water, and
one amphora of Reisling will set my brain-pan bubbling."

"This is a quaint fellow," whispered Marston to me. "Let us draw him out.
Though he avows himself a model of sobriety, there is a twinkle in his
eye that speaks an application for grape-juice. I hate your dry talks.
Coppinger! Another bottle of whisky! Sir, I salute you."

"I looks towards you, sir, and likewise bows."

"The whisky will open his heart," said Marston.

"We'll drag out his tongue, and while the sinner gapes, look for spots of
plagiarism in his entrails!"

"Steady!" cried M'Taggart, "the chiel hasna proved his case! That the
Southern poets may grab frae Horace, I mak' nae doot o'; but the Scotch!
Eh, man, whar's your plagiarism in Rabbie Burrrns?"

The stranger tossed off a mutchkin o' Glenlivet, and smiled a ghastly
smile. "Rabbi Burns," said he, in a strong Scotch accent, "was just the
biggest leear and thief extaunt. Leesten to this, mon," and again he
sang--

MY NANCY O!

"I've lately lived amang the girls,
And fought not wi'oot glory O!
But now nae mair they tug my curls,
My pow is getting hoary O!

Hang up my staff o mickle micht,
My pipes fa' tapsalterie O!
Hang up my lantern, by whose licht,
I clambered to my deary O!

O Venus, dear, I'm fidgin' fain,
Come down and ease my fance, O!
O' a' the girls I lo'e but ane,
Ah, leeze me on my Nancy O!"

"Now, sir," said the songster, "if that is not an impudent transcription
of 'vixi puellis nuper idoneus,' the twenty-sixth ode of the third book,
bray me in a mortar, and daub the walls of a printing-house with me.
Retro Sathanas!"

"Sir!" cried the Scotchman, amid the laughter of the company, "Rab never
wrote these lines. I defy you to prove him a plagiarist. May I never sup
parritch again if Rab was not a genius of Heaven's ain makin'. He
combined, sir, the antitheses o' Pope, wi' the tenderness o' Herrick.
Byron only surpassed him, in his love deeties and----"

"Horace, in his moments o' leesure," interrupted the stranger. "Stuff, my
good sir! 'Foenum habes in cornu.' you have a bannock to barley meal
skewered tae yer bonnet. I'll sing ye a mair rantin' melody, a carmen
seculare, a ditty not fitted for churchgoers. (Alas! Parcus deorum cultor
et infrequens, I have only been twice to the new Scotch Kirk since I came
to Melbourne), and I will ask you to judge calmly. Horace's ode begins
'Vitas hinnuleo me similis Chloe.' 'Tis the twenty-third of the first
book, as I need not remind you. The impertinent gauger paraphrases it
thus:--

TO PEGGY.

"Hoot! Why like a cantie heifer,
Skippin' at each breathin' sephyr,
Bonnie Peggy, fly me!
Though but rough my manners be,
They're no sae rough tae flechter thee;
Peggy, lassie, gang wi' me--
Sonsie Peggy, try me!

I'm nae bleth'rin, rantin' laddie,
But thy bairns maun hae a daddie;
Bonnie Peggy, try me!
Thy mither says 'tis time to wed;
Mithers must be no gainsaid--
Come and mak' thy weddin' bed,
Bonnie Peggy, by me!"

"Maist indecent, sir," said M'Taggart. "I'll no believe it o' Rabbie. And
yet I confess that the similes are unco alike."

Marston burst into Homeric laughter.

"Virginibus puerisque canto," said our guest with a blush. "I'm
singing-master at the common school, and am not used to such warmth of
language--save on occasions."

"Faith, then, this is one of them," said O'Donoghue. "There's Dibdin
half-seas-over already. It takes an Irishman to drink whisky. Your
English brains sop beer like sponges, but the thrue nectar of the gods
intoxicates their dull sowls."

"The gentleman has b-bowled you all out," said Didbin, huskily, "but my
grandfather, poor Ch-Charles, is at least spared. He was n-no
p-p-plagiarist."

"Didbin!" cried the stranger, leaping to his feet with an agility which
in a person teres atque rotundus was simply marvellous. "Charles Didbin!
The most unblushing scoundrel of them all! That 'O saepe mecum' ode of
which you were speaking when I entered has been transferred bodily to
Didbin's pages in the following infamous travistie":--

JACK JUNK'S RETURN TO WAPPING.

"Jack Junk, my old comrade, what fortunate breeze
Has blown you to Wapping and me?
Jack Junk, with whom after I ploughed the salt seas,
When Blake sailed to Trincomalee.

Jack Junk, by the Lord, lad, how often we've sat
In the fok'sel in boisterous weather,
And greased our pig-tails with the primest o' fat,
And swigged at the grog-can together.

D'ye mind how I fared, Jack, at Spirito Bar,
When the Portuguese boarded the wreck,
And, o'erpowered by numbers, full many a tar
Gasped his honest life out on the deck?

It was touch and go, Jack, for my heart was grown soft,
And thumped at my ribs like a knocker;
But that sweet little cherub that sits up aloft,
Snatched Tom Pipes from old Davy Jones' locker!

I've been in a few stiffish fights in my life,
But in that one I own I felt queer,
Though I chiefly regret that I left poor Poll's knife
In the ribs of that bloody mounseer.2

I got my discharge, Jack, and warped into port,
And the glass of life's fortune set fair;
But you--you old sea-dog--who by my side fought,
Must needs ship in the old 'Temeraire.'

Shove your wooden leg under the table, my lad!
The egg's fresh, the rasher is flaky;
Here's a quid of tibbacky, the best can be had,
And a can of right rousing Jammaiky!

So bouse round the bowl! Fill again! Damn my eyes,
To get drunk with a shipmate is proper!
I drink first! No! Well, lest a dispute should arise,
We'll decide it by skying a copper.3

Now wet t'other eye, man! Poll, lass, me old wife,
It ain't often I get on the spree;
But if even I mean to get sprung in my life,
It is now! With Jack Junk home from sea!"

"Hear! Hear!" roared the Professor, banging on the table, "Habet! Habet!
He's got it, by Hercules! A delicate paraphrase, if ever there was one."

But Didbin snored unconscious.

"Another strain, O most musical of strangers! No? Another drink then!"

"We won't go home till morning," roars O'Donoghue, "dum rediens jugat
asthra Phaybus. Till the early milk froightens the cats from door-step.
Hurroo! Nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus. Now's the time to shake a loose
leg, boys!"

"Let us batter down a door," cries M'Taggart.

"Or filch a sign," says Marston.

"There's the barber down the street," hiccups the classical stranger.
"Obsceno ruber porrectus ab (hic) palus, with a thundering great red pole
stuck out of his dirty little shop window! Let's have that!"

"Quo me Bacche rapis tui plenum," exclaimed I, feeling the whisky
impelling me to recklessness.

"Another song, a classic ditty!" cries Marston. "Tip us a stave of modern
Roman, mo jovial, potwalloping blade!"

"Absit somnus! Let slape me quite for iver if I go to bed this night.

"Och, Stony Stratford's a fool to Coppinger's."

Didbin, waking from his slumbers, began to sing--

I'm bound to win, when I go in,
Tommy Dodd! Tommy Dodd!
Heads or tails, I'm, bound to win,
Hurrah for Tommy Dodd!"

"Peace, wretch!" roared our guest. "Insult not the manes of the dead!
That ditty was Marcus Tullius Cicero's, and while I live shall be sung in
the original. Come, gentlemen, a chorus--

"'Civis nam Romanus sum,
Cicero! Cicero!
Ergo semper Vinco, quum,
Ineo! Ineo!
Sortem spargant aleaee,
Gaudeo! Gaudeo!
Seu Venus, seu Caniculae.
Evoé Cicero! '"

Didbin did not show in the morning; but I, having a slight headache, went
down to breathe the fresh air, and take a brandy and soda.

At the bar were M'Taggart and Marston consulting Coppinger.

"Went away in a buggy at six this morning to Quartzborough," said
Marston. "Who can he be?"

All were silent.

"Don't you know the stranger's name, Coppinger," said I.

"Mr. Flack, I think he said," replied Coppinger. "'Q.H.F.' was on his
portmanteau."

We stared at one another.

QUINTUS HORATIUS FLACCUS.

"It's impossible!" cried I.

"It's totally prepostherous!" said O'Donoghue.

"It's a metempsychosis!" suggested Marston.

"It's just whusky!" concluded M'Taggart.

[Footnote 1: Heaven is above all.--Cassio]
[Footnote 2: "Poor Poll's knife." How different in tone from the graceful
Relicta non bene parmula]
[Footnote 3: A most impudent rendering of the elegant original. Ovem
Venus arbitrium dicet hibendi]




XVII. Squatters Past and Present


Yesterday afternoon, when reading the remarks of our latest critic, Mr.
Anthony Trollope, upon Australian life and manners, I received almost
simultaneously a letter from my old friend, Robin Ruff, of the
Murrumbidgee, and a visit from my young acquaintance, Dudley Smooth
(nephew to Lord Lytton's friend), of "Scott's Hotel." Both were
squatters, both about equally wealthy, both good fellows in their way,
both occupied nearly the same position in society, both were alike--and
yet how widely different!

Robin Ruff, writing in a shaky hand, with honest independence of
spelling, and hearty contempt for necessary doubling of consonants, sent
a message to his grandson, and would I see Wether and Weaners' people
about "them yowes." Robin Ruff is an old man. He is nearer seventy than
sixty I should say; but he is as erect as a dart, and can ride a long
day's journey, or do a hard day's work, with many a younger man. He is
six feet high, his hands are knotted and brown--mottled with sun, and
hardened with labour. His shoulders are broad, his head well set on, his
eye confident. His head is white, and his beard is white also, save that
brown patch round the mouth that looks as if snuff had been spilt on it.
In appearance he is not elegant. His coat is too big for him, and his hat
is not of the fashionable mould. His boots are clumsy, and have thick
soles, which creak as he walks. He carries a big oak stick, and wears a
big silver watch. He looks very fierce indeed, and not at all a "lady's
man;" but people who know him well like him, and little children run to
him at first sight.

Robin Ruff came to this colony in 1836, the year before Mr. Latrobe was
made Superintendent. He had been squatting in Sydney before that, but
hearing much of the "new colony," came over to better his fortunes. Old
Ruff--long since put away comfortably in the kirkyard--had kept a little
shop in a little Scotch town, and had saved a bit of money, but Robin,
adventurous lad, wearied of the big grey hills and the quiet old
straggling street, and sowing, and reaping, determined to seek his
fortune. The old father advised, and the old mother wept beneath her horn
spectacles, but Robin would go. Wise bodies at market assembled,
predicted "nae guid" of the lad--(he rebuilt the market-hall the other
day, with good Aberdeen granite)--and it was generally prophesied that he
would bring his parents' grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.

For the first ten years of his Australian struggles he seemed likely
enough to fulfil the worst of their prophecies. It was a hard fight, and
little to get for it. But by steadiness and industry he got a little
money together at last. The marvellous virtue that lies in sheer hard
work brought him through after ten years, and made him independent.
Arrived in the Port Phillip wilderness, up the country he went. Land was
to be had easily enough in those days, and being his own bullock-driver
and stockrider, and shepherd, and farmer and cook, Robin Ruff soon made a
home for himself. He began to be looked upon as a "warm" man. Jolly boys
carousing in Melbourne town, at the foundation of Prince's Bridge, spoke
of Ruft's luck and cursed their own in genial fashion. By-and-by the
great crash came. Sheep and cattle were worth nothing, and Ruff's luck
seemed gone. But it turned again. He had bought land with his saved
money, and when the "diggings broke out" (like an eruption, one would
think), had recovered his losses.

He is an old man now, and people ask him why he doesn't "go Home and
live;" but he knows better. His daughter is married here, and his
grandchildren are here too. He has his station to occupy his mind, his
trips to Melbourne, his rubber, his pipe, his club, and his chats with
other jolly old boys. How the old fellows chuckle as some quaint
nickname, springing up in the conversation, recalls some hearty piece of
jollity in the "old days!" He did go home once, but he didn't like it.
London was so lonely. He didn't like to pull out his old clay pipe in his
dapper nephew's smoking-room, and when his niece talked French to him,
and asked his opinion of the mise en scéne at the opera he felt
uncomfortable. He went to his native town, but his father and mother were
dead, and he could remember nobody. A railway bridge spanned the burn
where he paddled in his boyish days, and the Telegraph Office had been
built where stood the tree on which he cut little Jeanie's name with his
clasp-knife forty years before. He gave money to the local charities, and
rebuilt the market-house, and for that the Town Council got at him and
gave him a dinner, and a fat cheesemonger, with a turn for oratory, made
speeches at him all the evening. Sickened, tired, and disappointed, he
took his passage for Melbourne, and, smoking his pipe in the "Port
Phillip Club," on the night of his arrival, with the old faces round him,
inwardly vowed he would go home no more. He is not a brilliant fellow to
talk to; he is not aristocratic, nor even deistical; but he is a fine,
honest, kind-hearted old man, and has not been without his use in this
brand-new go-ahead colony of ours.

As I looked up from his letter, I saw Mr. Smooth in the doorway. He was a
very different stamp. Mr. Smooth was a very young gentleman. His hands
were brown but well-kept, and his whiskers were of a fine yellow
floss-silk order, like the down on a duckline. He had but lately come
down from his station, but was arrayed in the most fashionable of
fashionable garments. His trousers were so tight, that his legs looked as
if they had been patented by some mono-manaic player on the flute, as
cleaning machines for that instrument of music. His waistcoat yawned like
a whited sepulchre. He wore half-a-yard of black satin tied round his
neck, or rather his shirt collar. His feet were encased in shoes of that
high-heeled class affected by step dancers, and the suddenly expanded
trouser-ends flapped around his ankles--entwined like two barber's poles,
by the red stripes of his silk stockings. In addition to a gold hawser
that swung heavily from buttonhole to pocket, and fluttered--so to
speak--with lockets and charms, as though it were a clothesline on which
such trinkets had been hung out to dry, he was spotted generally with
jewellery. His manly breast was like nothing so much as Biddy's
canvas-covered trunk studded with brass nails, and at his throat, and on
his wrists, gleamed gigantic plates encircled with his name and date--I
mean his crest and bearings. The crest of the Smooths is two flat-irons
rampant, and from every available portion of my young friend's body
gleamed golden repetitions of those time-honoured weapons. He wore a hat
which seemed to have been made by an eccentric hatter, who in the midst
of an attempt to imitate the head-covering of a sporting coal-heaver, had
been stricken with remorse, and finished his handiwork with a haunting
sense of the beauty of the episcopal broad-brim. His manner was affable
and easy, he smoked a very strong cigar, and cursed only to that extent
necessary and becoming in a man of fashion.

"Well, you melancholy old cuss," exclaimed this Arcadian youth, "how are
you? Got any soda and B.? I was so dooced cut last night! Went knocking
round with Swizzleford and Rattlebrain. C'sino, and V'rites. Such a lark!
Stole two Red Boots and a Brass Hat. Knocked down thirteen notes, and
went to bed as tight as a fly!"

This and more he tells me--sitting the while on the end of my sofa,
swinging his flute-cleaning legs, and puffing with his cigar, at an angle
of forty-five degrees. His language is ornate and redundant of
adjectives. Anything he doesn't like is "Beastly" or "Loathsome;"
anything he does like is "Festive," "Sportive," "Ripping." he calls his
father "a cheerful swell," or a "festive cuss," and when he goes to the
theatre with his family, he has heard to allude periphrastically to his
mother as a "square party in the boxes."

Mr. Smooth's papa--Dudley has been named after his uncle, for whom the
family entertain a profound respect, as a man moving in good
society,--came out here fifteen years ago and made his fortune by lucky
speculation in land. He owns several stations, has a house in the hottest
and most uncomfortable part of South Yarra, and is a most respectable
person, with a stake in the country, and a tendency to stomach. He has
placed Dudley on the Murriowooloomoolooneriangtrotolong station--he likes
the fine old native names,--and that young gentleman is "managing" it at a
fine rate.

Dudley is a great man on the Murrio, &c. He is called the "----boss," and
lives in the "house," in contradistinction to the "hut." He also keeps
his horses habitually in the stable, and feeds them on "oats"--tremendous
achievement! He has a buggy and a trotting mare. Nobody says anything to
him if he "coils" in the front parlour all the afternoon, and when he
rides over to the little public-house and is condescendingly blasphemous
towards the publican, the best brandy--without the Barret's twist at the
bottom of the cask--is brought out in his honour. At mustering time he is
in his glory--for, to do him justice, he can ride hard enough--and when he
gets drunk at night, his stories are voted exceedingly humorous. He is,
in his way, a sort of Epicurean. He despises the vanity which prompts
honest John Strong of the Plains to jump over a hurdle with a fat wether
under each arm; but he is very particular about the brightness of his
stirrups, and is the only man on the station who has his boots cleaned
every morning.

When he comes down from the country, he makes, as it were, a foray into
an enemy's country. He does not enjoy himself during the day--the time
hangs heavily. Having paid a visit to his father and mother, if they are
in town, he "looks up a friend," and the two loaf aimlessly about the
town. They may be seen "knocking the balls about" at "Scott's" or the
"Port Phillip," or drinking "soda and b.," or "sherry and bitters," at
any decent bar in town. If it is a "selling" day, you can meet them at
Kirk's Horse Bazaar, lounging against the wall as though they owned so
many blood-horses themselves that the sight of anything on four legs was
wearisome. But it is at night when they enjoy life. What with the theatre
and the café they feel quite like old roués by midnight, and stroll down
to the Varieties or the Casino like a twinned Alcibiades in the
Agora,--only they have never heard of the Alcibiades. There they drink,
and smoke, and bask in the smiles of beauty. By two o'clock it is time to
"knock round," and having supped at Cleal's, and the night Hansom having
been duly chartered, Dudley and his friend take a tour in the provinces.
It is possible that in the course of their peregrinations they meet
Swizzleford and Rattlebrain, and then it is, ho, for the breakage of
lamps, the carrying away of signs, the pretty larceny of gilt hats and
wooden boots! Dudley is under the impression that his dancing society is
much sought after by ladies, and behaves to those poor creatures in a
tyrannically fascinating way, putting his name into their programmes with
a tender violence that is quite affecting. He dances a little wildly, but
with much vigour and height of action. He doesn't sing, but he can eat a
great deal, and is fully alive to the fact that a tip to the waiter will
secure a cool bottle of champagne for himself and friends, long after
finding none. He plays billiards fairly, and is proud of his skill at
pool. He makes a book on the races, and is almost as fond of losing as of
winning. This promising young gentleman is two-and-twenty, and intends
soon to go home and see the old country. He is quite complacent about it,
and talks of "doing Europe" as he would of doing "Collins Street."

Let me, in conclusion, add only that Mr. Smooth has not a very strong
sense of moral responsibility; for though he would not willingly do a
dishonourable action, he is so impressed with the virtue of success, that
a "smart" scoundrel is, in his eyes, a far more worthy being than an
honest dunderhead. He is making money, however, and has no reason to be
otherwise just now than honest. His station is fitted with the latest
improvements. His prize cattle are fattened on prize principles. His
sheep are washed with hot water, and his paddocks are sown with English
grass. He has not arrived at the glory of his next neighbour, the Hon.
Tom Holles Street, younger son of the Marquis of Portman Square, who was
educated at Oxford and Cirensester, and has taken up squatting on
scientific principles. The Hon. Tom washes sheep in an American dip at
the rate of two hundred a minute, drafts cattle in lavender gloves, has
nearly perfected a shearing machine, quotes Æschylus to his overseer,
prohobits all swearing, except on Sundays, and has named his
working-bullocks after the most distinguished of the early Christians.
The Hon. Tom belongs to a later phase of development, and our young
friend is far behind him in civilisation; but Dudley Smooth stands out in
alarming contrast to poor, honest, simpleminded Robin Ruff.




XVIII. The Future Australian Race

Our Ancestors

There has been much vaguely talked and written about the Coming Man.
There is certainly no doubt but that in a few years the inhabitants of
the colony of Australasia will differ materially in their mental and
physical characteristics from ourselves. Let us consider for a few
moments why and in what probable respect this difference will occur.

The tendency of that abolition of boundaries which men call civilisation
is to destroy individuality. The more railways, ships, wars, and
international gatherings we have, the easier is it for men to change
skies, to change food, to intermarry, to beget children from strange
loins. The "type"--that is to say, the incarnated result of food,
education, and climate--is lost. Men rolled together by the waves of
social progress lose their angles and become smooth, round, differing in
size only; as differ, and remain similar, the stones of the sea beach.
The effect of the increase of ease in the means of locomotion has been
making itself apparent for the last three hundred years. With the
discovery of the Americas there came upon all nations a sort of spirit of
freedom and a desire for change. Though the terms "Greek" and "Roman" had
been held to signify two distinct and certain forms of physiognomy, yet,
in the feudal towns of moyen age Europe, were priest-artisans who revived
the one, and stern Crusaders who re-begat the other. The Moors brought
the eagle beak of the East into Arabian Spain; and the fair-haired
Northmen, precursors of Columbus, sailing to the site of Boston city, bid
their savage virtues live again in their descendant redskin warriors. The
only "types" which have come down to predecessors of Columbus as
unaltered, say the archaeologists and the naturalists, are those of the
Copt, the Ass, and the Hyæna. The Chaldean is much the same as he was
pictured on the Ninevite marbles 3000 years ago, but in 1600 years the
Egyptian has had far less change than the average face of the dweller by
the Mediterranean knew during the three hundred years between the death
of Phidias and the placing of the Castellani sacrophagus in the British
Museum.

As for England, variation in national physiognomy is so astounding that
one is tempted to suspect the representation as untrustworthy. Yet
Holbein, Vandyke, Reynolds and Romney were fully competent to represent
what they saw, and we are forced to admit that, from the chivalresque
attitudes of Vandyke, through the sedate romance of Reynolds, to the
grosser intelligence of Romney, and up again to the spiritual brightness
of Richmond, the changes are true, though sudden. When we say of a
portrait, "What an old-fashioned air," we are really saying, "That is the
grandfather's face come back again." Even in the rudest times, and under
the most unfavourable conditions, those who drew the human face did their
best to copy the faces of their neighbours. An Egyptian artist never
presented a fair-haired or round-eyed face as his type of beauty. An
English manuscript-illuminator made his saints and virgins always
delicate and blue-eyed. Through the clumsy handling of the monkish
painters, we can still understand that our ancestors had, for the most
part, rolling eyes, fleshy noses, larger at the tip than the bridge, long
upper lips, strong chins, and coarse jaws. The long, symmetrical, oval
face, with its arched eyebrows and melancholy air, has, in these days,
disappeared. The Norman type is becoming absorbed. The face is square.
The Danish eagle-beak--the characteristic of the predatory race--sinks down
and broadens into the sensual and cogitative proboscis of the ruminating
animal. Those stern eyes which glowered in the semi-darkness of a
down-drawn visor have vanished. The cheeks, no longer pressed forward by
the locked helmet plates, relieve the mouth and raise the corners of the
lips. The nation, recovered from the Wars of the Roses, seems to breathe
freely. A chastened air of spirituality is cast over the brows, and the
features appear moulded by serious thoughts and high emotions. The
liberal patronage which the Tudors bestowed upon art culminated with the
arrival of Holbein in England, and from that date we can examine at our
leisure the gradual collection and assimilation of those features which
make up the "English Face."

Let us turn to the Royal portraits, as they are produced for us by
photography, and understand how it comes that at masquerades and on the
stage the modern countenance looks so obtrusively out of place. The type
of his nation during his life was Henry the Eighth, and Holbein's picture
of him does more than Froude's whole history to show us his real
character. Broad, burly, somewhat sullenly he stands, his feet wide
apart, his hands thrust into his belt, and his eyes looking straight at
you; his lips are full, sensual, firmly shut; his nose footed, and his
ears widely opened. The expression is that of the elephant--great
sagacity, little refinement, strong will, and courage dauntless to
resist. Anne of Cleves, who simpers beside him, is a long-chinned,
big-eyed, narrow-browed creature, perfectly placid and wholly
uninteresting.

But when we come to Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Kate Howard, and Parr, we
see the vivacity which was to thrill the next generation already
stirring. Anne Boleyn is plump, voluptuous, but refined and daring.
Seymour has an intelligent, earnest, and thoughtful face; Howard a sly,
sensual, and self-restrained one; Parr has the forehead of an artist, and
the mouth of a wit. Intelligence gleams from each head. In the next
generation of courseness of lip and jaw vanish. Mary has no sexuality
save that which springs from disease. Her pressed, vinegar lips, the
lower one almost split, the wide nostrils, and the prominent cheek bones,
give ample assurance that the broad lips, the high brow, and the somewhat
aesthetic weakness of her husband, could never match her temper.
Elizabeth's fine and haughty face comes like a burst of sunshine among
these gloomy intellects. Who is accountable for that aquiline nose, and
that firm, sweetly-moulded chin of Louis de Hervè's picture? Anne Boleyn
perhaps alone could tell. Elizabeth's nose is a revelation in national
physiognomy.

The club nose was the characteristic of the age. Louis XII had it, so had
the noble, serious face of the Duke of Suffolk, so had Dorset, Jane Grey,
James IV., Francis II., Mary of Guise; the beautiful, intellectual face
of Guilford Dudley would be nearly Greek but for this trait. Elizabeth
and her rival, Mary of Scots, were almost alone in exception. Were not
the supposition too fanciful, one might imagine that they escaped from
the influence of parental impress, and that their minds moulded their
features wholly. The heads of both women are keen with intelligence.
There is not a trace of sensual weakness or the sensual strength of the
last generation. An age of Spensers, Wriotheselys, and Raleighs was at
hand. Women began to rule, not through the flesh, as in the days of
chivalry and lust, but through the spirit. Elizabeth and Mary were alike
in one regard. They were both incapable of loving, and both for the same
reason. They never met a master, or at least one who cared to master
them. Elizabeth was too contemptuous to surrender, Mary too confident to
keep. One scorned to admit a lover, the other disdained to obey him. The
keynote of passion struck by these two women vibrated through Britain.
Men became adorers, poets, adventurers to win the one; murderers, rebels,
plotters, martyrs, to secure a lasting claim upon the other. What result
had this state of things in moulding the fleshy masks which these daring
and impetuous spirits wore? Let us see.

The portrait of Spenser shows us a haggard-eyed, eager-browed and
disappointed man. From the eagerness, the disappointment, came the
banishment of the world, the turning to nature, the yearning for the
good--the Faery Queene. Sir Nicholas Poyntz has a long, curling upper-lip
and no chin; Babington is an ardent visionary; Drake has soft, curling
hair, a streaming silk beard, a full face, and a look of deep melancholy.
A beautiful miniature of Barbor (who, by the death of Mary, was delivered
from the stake) is a most noticeable face. Nothing of the former
generation but the firm jaw remains. The nose describes a waved line, the
lips are keen and close, the forehead broad and slightly retreating, the
eyes large, well opened, and at once sad and scornful. When we compare
these faces with those of the Duc d'Anjou, cold, cruel, and selfish;
Henry Valois, weak, mean, and treacherous; the Duc de Guise, violent and
conceited, we begin to understand how England succeeded in creating a
literature and reforming a religion. The only French face which presents
strongly the characteristics of the English one of 1500–1600 is that of
Coligni, the Admiral of France, murdered at the Huguenot massacre. The
type of the intellect which was foreshadowing the reign of the Grand
Monarque is to be seen in the wonderful and beautiful face of the
infamous and delightful Catherine de Medicis.

Out of this melancholy and thoughtful splendour what came. That the
portrait of William Lenthall, Speaker of the Rump Parliament, on the one
hand; and Charles the First, when Prince of Wales, on the other. Charles
is a young man of high brow, secretive mouth, heavy nose, and a head
remarkable for its narrowness. There can be no question that the spirit
which animates such features is at once irresolute, rash, and
untrustworthy. Lenthal is sour, grim, and bitterly in earnest. The
relentless mouth, with its snag-tooth, the pinched nostrils, the long,
sloping nose, the eyes scaled like those of a snake, present a type of
extravagant melancholy even more detestable than that of the English
king. Between these extremes, however, there is a whole gamut of notes.
Cavaliers and Round-heads were both gallant fellows, and if some portion
of the dash and fire of the old barons held the one, the grave and
serious air of the thinking thrall gave solidity to the courage of the
other. The square brows, serious eyes, and stern air of the daughter of
Sir Richard Stewart is preserved in the rugged and thoughtful face of her
son, Oliver Cromwell.

With the restoration came the reaction. Black-browed hysterical-lipped
Charles loved pleasure, and gathered round him wits and rakes. Have not
all the portraits of this Court the same air? Make allowance for the
similarity of costume, for the fact that the artist, having to paint
every woman half naked, endowed each with the same redundant bosom and
flowing hair, and we shall yet be forced to admit that all the "beauties"
are very stupid, sleepy-eyed, over-fed persons; in their "fitness"
resembling Dudu, but though "large, languishing and lazy," yet by no
means of a "beauty that would drive you crazy." The men are better.
Rochester and Sedley had brains enough to have made them great men; but
the large mouths and bald temples show that the curse of the age was upon
them and that they were too lazy to be virtuous. Across the Channel,
however, men of the world enjoyed life still. The Court of Louis le Grand
was crowded with men of genius, and the best of much that was good in a
society which existed on a quagmire, looks out of the serene and
religious eyes of the second wife of Louis Quatorze, Francoise D'Aubignè,
Madame de Maintenon. There was no woman in England equal in sense and wit
to the widow of Scarron, but there was also no one equal in boldness and
villainy to Frances Howard, the poisoner of Sir Thomas Overbury.

During the next century the increase of the means of living gave a
solidity to the jaw, and banished the wrinkling lines of thought around
the eyes. There arose a race of refined Elizabethans. The English face in
the days of Anne was the face of indolent greatness. The very vices of
the age were those which sprang from a disdain of consequences. Men,
lived, made love, fought, drank, got into debt, or died in a stately
manner, doing out of sheer indolence all those things which the train of
the French Regent--his clever, pimpled, careless face is the mirror of his
age--did in laborious pursuit of pleasure. The strain of French vivacity
yet lingering in the airs which blew over the kingdom, gave us eager,
impulsive Pope; genial, careless Steele; brought us, by force of its
example, the bitterness of Swift; the salacious humour of Sterne; nay,
even the jovial tenderness of Goldsmith; while the backbone of "old
English manners" (as eating, drinking, and healthful profligacy were
termed) saved the nation from ruin in the general overturn of the
long-threatened French Revolution.

From this period the country of English physiognomy lies straight before
us, with finger-posts on either side. Gainsborough, Reynolds, and
Lawrence have reproduced our ancestors in their habits as they lived;
Hogarth, Rawlandson, and Gilray have taught us how to recognise them,
Lavater how to talk with them. These men and women were our immediate
forbears, and yet we are no more like them as a race than they were like
the Elizabethans, or than the heroes of the Armada and the Spanish man
resembled the feudal barons or the knights of chivalry.

With this much of introduction, let us proceed from the accession of
George I., and note the causes which have continued to produce those
nondescript physiognomies which we meet in our daily walk. We are all
familiar with the terms--"An Elizabethan face," "a Puritan face," "a face
for hair powder," "a nineteenth century face." We know still better the
expressions--"An Oriental face," "an Italian face," "an English face." Let
us endeavour to understand what these terms mean. Let us see why, in a
few years, we may talk of an Australian face, and what that face may be
like.


Ourselves

When we look at those portraits of gentlemen in white wigs, and ladies in
short-waisted dresses, which adorn the walls of some few houses in the
colonies, and are reproduced by the score in Wardour Street, for the
benefit of modern gentlemen who are desirous of begetting ancestors, we
are struck with one peculiarity--the fulness of the jowl. In the portraits
of notable men this peculiarity is almost exaggerated into a defect.
Johnson, Goldsmith, Garrick even, had it. It is one of the signs of the
times, and stamps a man as belonging to the Georgian era--to the days of
Hogarth's Beer Street, Smollett's Feast after the Manner of the Ancients,
and Gilray's Evacuation of Malta. What is the cause of big jowls, full
temples, and bull necks? What, in fact, is the cause of Georgian face?
Simple excess of aliment. The men of 1720 to 1795 were gross feeders. The
Germans are notorious crammers. It is their capacity for gorging which is
the measure of their power. They are a race of strong-willed men--men
combative and masterful. Experience shows that hollow-templed men are
poets, philosophers, and essayists. Facts show that the wits who were
supplanted by the strong thinkers of the Hanoverian invasion were exactly
such hollow-templed fellows. From the instant the Germans poured into
England--from that instant began the reign of full feeding and of drink.

Not to confine ourselves to the respective duration of the uninsurable
lives of Kings, let us consider, as from a height of observation, the
British people from Hogarth to Gilray. Their recorded lives are records
of alimentary excess. The Gate of Calais is a jest at the sparse feeding
of the French nation, and is remarkable as a proof that Hogarth, who may
be justly considered a type of the middle-class Englishmen of that day,
had no notion of nutriment save in the shape of lumps of cooked flesh.
His Frenchmen are represented as having become lanterns upon a diet of
rich soups, and his English as having been reared into grand adiposity by
the mastification of beef-shins and collops of veals. In Beer Street and
Gin Lane we see the same theory expressed. The drinkers of gin are
squalid, haggard and thin. Men kill themselves; women drop their children
over areas railings; corpses are thrust into coffinshells. All is hideous
and terrifying. The beer-drinkers are presented, not as well-contented
homekeeping persons, but as boozers, fat, swollen with malt, fermenting
with new yeast, rudely amorous, bestially desirous of all sensual
gratification. This full-up-to-the-throat sort of happiness was really
what was enjoyed at the time. In Midnight Conversation, hot punch in huge
bowls lends zest to song. In the Rake's Progress the hero is
dyspeptically insane. In Marriage à la mode, a cur, half-starved, leaps
on the table to seize a bone. In the Four Stages of Cruelty the good boy
offers his cake to save the life of the tortured dog. Everywhere intrude
shapes and forms of eating. In Midnight and Noon, the girl whom the black
boy is kissing, carries a huge pie. In the Industrious Apprentice a whole
row of Aldermen are seen, with napkins swathed under their fat chaps,
gnawing bones. In the Election Dinner the prevailing taste for gorging
and guzzling may be said to have reached its height. One man has burst
his waist belt. One pours wine over his friend's head. The disjecta
membra of the feast lie around, as are scattered the fragments of a
carcase torn by dogs. The host is dying of a surfeit. Oyster-shells
literally pile the tables. Tobacco-smoke completes what gluttony began,
and burdened stomachs kick against their load.

Let the reader bethink himself of the incessant device employed by the
novelists of the Georgian era to produce an embroglio. What is the excuse
for Mr. Tom Jones, Mr. Joseph Andrews, or Mr. Peregrine Pickle leaving
his chamber in the inn? A modern writer, true to modern facts, would
insinuate sleeplessness, a desire to smoke and so soothe the too active
brain, fear for his own or his horse's safety--a thousand other matters
turning upon mental exercise. Nothing of this sort occurs to the heroes
of Fielding or of Smollett. They go to bed and sleep soundly, but are
awakened by the effects of their gluttony. "Joseph, in whose bowels the
roasted port was still sticking," and "Jones, who began to feel the
effects of the punch, combined with the too hearty supper which he ate,"
rise from their beds and, returning, blunder into different chambers. The
device seems so easy that we are convinced it is natural. The men of that
time did habitually that which men of our time do but seldom--they
over-ate themselves. The caricatures of Gilray and Rowlandson are full of
allusions to this practice. To put out of mind those grosser jests with
which the student of caricature history must be of necessity familiar, we
can remember the Orgies of the P----- of W-l-s, and that recurring
decimal in the humorous sum the Household Economy of Farmer George.

The example of riotous living set by the Regent and his friends was,
however, an example tempered in some degree by taste. Escaped from the
insularity of her moral position, England contrived to get into her
cooks' heads some notions beyond roast beef, even though she was
compelled to achieve the task by conquering the nations who understood
the art of living. During the reign of H.B. we notice that the faces
depicted are less gross than of yore. Lord Althorp is a heavy jowled man,
to be sure, but the rising curve of little Lord John's nose had already
risen above the horizon, and the Iron Duke brings back the severest Roman
physiognomy. Though the sensual lip, the wrinkled throat, and the
retreating forehead were not to be eliminated for a generation, we see
clearly, in the first pages of the struggling Punch, that the English
national face has undergone a change. It has become lighter and more
keen. Science advances, restrictions upon trade are removed, men no
longer embittered by fierce party struggles, turn their attention to
money-making. Victoria reigns. The husband of the Sovereign is a man of
wide sympathy and philosophic mind. Under his auspices philanthropy
becomes fashionable. Universal peace brings attempts at improvement,
engineering schemes are projected, industrial social exhibitions held.
The picture has another side. The importance of trade is absurdly
magnified. To die "rich" is considered to be worth the cost of living an
unhealthy and dishonest life. Speculation--which hardens the eye, and
wears the strained muscles always engaged in concealing the expression of
natural emotion--is rife. Ruin, rapid and total, overtakes many. Genteel
Poverty asserts a physiognomy of its own, at once humble and haughty,
timid and stubborn. There rises out of this ruin, and this competition, a
creature who is known as "Brummagem"--a man who is neither very rich, nor
very clever, nor very well-behaved, but who pretends to be all three.
Videri quam esse is the motto of smart brokers, sharp traders, and those
who thrive by dexterity in avoiding legal offence. In the midst of
this--when Tennyson, the hollow-templed, high-nosed, haughty poet, is
writing "Maud" to urge the

Smooth-faced, snub-nosed rogues
To leap from counter and till--

war bursts, and England regenerates herself in the Crimea, and is fierily
baptized in Indian plains. From the men of those latter days--from the men
of the last half of this century, springs the Australian race. The gold
discoveries attracted to this hemisphere some of the best nerve-power of
England.

Already there existed in the Australias much sturdy Anglo-Saxon stuff.
The officers and soldiers who, with their families, constituted the free
population of early colonial days, were men of courage and daring. Many
of the voluntary immigrants were at least equal to the best middle-class
Englishman, while the banished population over which such men as Fyans
and Therry ruled, had at least the merit of being eminent in their
several capacities, even though their capacities had been misapplied.
Among the convicts were many men of great courage, great strength, great
powers of brain, and in many instances of astonishing talents for
mechanics and fine arts. It is only reasonable to expect that the
children of such parents, transplanted to another atmosphere, dieted upon
new foods, and restrained in their prime of life from sensual excess,
should be at least remarkable.

But criminality it is not reproductive. Being as abnormal a condition as
skill in painting or playing is an abnormal condition, it cannot flourish
beyond its generation. The genius of the thief buds, blossoms, and dies
as surely as does the genius of the artist. But for immigration the
convict continent would have been depeopled. Immigration ensued, and what
an immigration! The best bone and sinew of Cornwall, the best muscle of
Yorkshire, the keenest brains of Cockneydom--Bathurst, Ballarat, Bendigo,
had them all. With them came also the daring spendthrift, the young
cavalry officer who had lived too fast for the Jews, the younger son who
had outrun his income. Barristers of good family and small practice,
surgeons having all the Dublin Dissector in their heads and all the
hospital experience of Paris in their hands, met each other over a
windlass at Bathurst, or a drive at Ballarat. If there was plenty of
muscle in the new land, there was no lack of blood. Put aside prejudice
and look at the Bench, the Bar, and the Church of this great continent.
Look at the schools, libraries, and botanic gardens of Australia. Read
the accounts of the boat races, the cricket matches, and say if our youth
are not manly. Listen to the plaudits which greet a finished actor or a
finely-gifted singer, and confess also that we have some taste and
culture. Go into those parts of the country where the canker of trade has
not yet penetrated, and mark the free hospitality, the generous kindness,
the honest welcome which shall greet you. Sail up Sydney Harbour, ride
over a Queensland plain, watch the gathering of an Adelaide harvest, or
mingle with the orderly crowd which throngs to a Melbourne Cup-race, and
deny, if you can, that there is here the making of a great nation. You do
not deny it; but----. But what?

"There are many factors in the sum of a nation's greatness--Religion,
Polity, Commerce."

Granted; but these are controllable. There is only one influence which we
cannot escape, though we may modify it, and that is the influence of
Physical Laws. Let us consider what climate the Australian nation will
live in, and what food it will be prone to eat, and having arrived at a
distinct conclusion upon those two points, we can predict, with positive
certainty, their religion, their polity, their commerce, and their
appearance. You stare? Attend for a moment, and you will see that a
proposition of Euclid is not clearer.


Our Children

The quality of a race of beings is determined by two things: food and
climate. The measure of that quality is the measure of the success in the
race's incessant struggle to wrest nature to its own advantage. The
history of a nation is the history of the influence of nature modified by
man, and of man modified by the influence of nature. The highest
practical civilisations have been those in which man came off victor in
the contest, and employed the wind to drive his ships, the heat to work
his engines, the cataract to turn his mills. The lowest, those in which
nature reduced men to the condition of brutes--eating, drinking and
feeding. Given the price of the cheapest food in the country, and the
average registration of the thermometer, and it is easy to return a fair
general estimate of the national characteristics. I say a general
estimate, because other causes--the height of mountains, the width of
rivers, the vicinity of volcanoes, etc., induce particular results. But
the intelligent mind, possessed of information on the two points of food
and climate can confidently sum up, first, the bodily vigour; second, the
mental vigour; third, the religion; fourth, the political constitution of
a nation.

Before speculating on future events, let us apply our test to history.
The climate of Egypt is hot and moist, the inundation of the Nile renders
the soil wonderfully fertile, and food is extremely cheap and easily
obtained. The climate of India is hot, and the inhabitants live for the
most part on rice, which is cheap and usually obtained in abundance. The
climate of Mexico is hot. Indian corn, which formed the staple of the
food of the inhabitants, is astonishingly prolific and consequently
cheap. Now, cheap food means in all cases cheap marriage, or in other
words rapid reproduction of the species. A hot climate means small
expense in house-building, clothing, or furniture. A man sells his labour
to meet his requirements, and in a hot country his requirements are few.
In a hot country, therefore, wages are low, and the rapid increase of
population renders human life of little value. The difference between the
labourer and the employer of labour, then, is great, and from this
difference comes tyranny on the one side and slavery on the other. The
rich grow richer and the poor poorer. Wealth means leisure, and leisure
means luxury and learning. Consequently we should expect to find that a
nation living under these conditions would present the following
characteristics:--A poor and enslaved peasantry, a rich and luxurious
aristocracy, who cultivate great learning and some taste for art.

Now, this condition answers precisely to the condition in which Anthony
found Egypt, Warren Hastings found India, and Cortez found Mexico. In
each place the nobles lived in incredible luxury and the poor in
incredible misery. The learning of each nation was the marvel of its
successors. The expenditure of human life in each was terrible. Human
beings were not only sacrificed in thousands for the building of the
gigantic temples common to each country, but absolutely slaughtered like
sheep to celebrate the triumphs of a conqueror, or appease the anger of a
god. It is remarkable that the religion of each nation was bloodthirsty
and full of terror. Siva the destroyer, Tyhon the Betrayer, Kitzpolchi,
God of the Smoking Hearts, alike demanded offerings of blood and tears.
It is quite easy to account for this. Each nation grew up among scenes of
natural grandeur, and a witness to the almost daily performance of the
most majestic operations of nature. The hurricane, the storm, the simoom,
the flood, the earthquake--all were familiar to their minds, and poets
were created by the influence of the scenery which they described. Men
having, by the expenditure of their own blood, modified nature with
aqueducts, canals and roads, nature modified their struggles for freedom
by the imposition of a terrible superstition which darkened all their
days.

It is an absolute fact that religion is, in all cases a matter of diet
and climate. The Greek, with pure air, light soil, and placid scenery,
invented an exquisite anthropomorphism, in which he deified all his own
attributes. The Egyptian, the Mexican, and the dweller by the Ganges
invented a cruel and monstrous creed of torture and death. The influence
of climate was so strong upon the ancient Jews that they were perpetually
relapsing from Theism into the congenial cruelities of Moloch and
Astarte. Remove them into another country, and history has no record of a
people--save, perhaps, the modern Pagans of our Universities--more
devotedly attached to the purest form of intelligent adoration of the
Almighty. The Christian faith, transported to the Libyan deserts, or the
rocks of Spain, became burdened with horrors, and oppressed with
saint-worship. The ferocious African's Mumbo Jumbo, the West Indian's
Debbel-debbel, are merely the products of climate and the result of a
dietary scale. Cabanis says that religious emotion is secreted by the
smaller intestines. Men "think they are pious when they are only
bilious." Men who habitually eat non-nitrogenous substances and pay
little attention to the state of their bowels are always prone to gloomy
piety. This is the reason why Scotchmen and women are usually inclined to
religion.

Now let us consider what climate and food will do for Australians.

In the first place, we must remember that the Australasian nation will
have an empire of many climates, for it will range from Singapore and
Malacca in the north, to New Zealand in the south. All varieties of
temperature will be traversed by the railroad traveller of 1977. The
enormous area of Australia, that circle whose circumference is the sea,
and whose centre is a desert, is a strong reason against federation. It
is more than likely that what should be the Australian Empire will be cut
in half by a line drawn through the centre of the continent. All above
this line--Queensland and the Malaccas, New Guinea, and the parts
adjacent--will evolve a luxurious and stupendous civilisation only removed
from that of Egypt and Mexico by the measure of the remembrance of
European democracy. All beneath this line will be a Republic, having the
mean climate, and, in consequences, the development of Greece. The
intellectual capital of this Republic will be Victoria. The fashionable
and luxurious capital on the shore of Sydney Harbour. The governing
capital in New Zealand.

The inhabitants of this Republic are easily described. The soil is for
the most part deficient in lime, hence the bones of the autochthones will
be long and soft. The boys will be tall and slender like cornstalks. It
will be rare to find girls with white and sound teeth. A small pelvis is
the natural result of small bones, and a small pelvis means a sickly
mother and stunted children. Bad teeth mean bad digestion, and bad
digestion means melancholy. The Australians will be a fretful, clever,
perverse, irritable race. The climate breeds a desire for out-of-door
exercise. Men will transact their business under verandahs, and make
appointments at the corners of streets. The evening stroll will be an
institution. Fashion and wealth will seek to display themselves out of
doors. Hence domesticity will be put away. The "hearth" of the
Northerner, the "fireside" of Burns' Cottar, will be unknown. The boys,
brought up outside their homes' four walls, will easily learn to roam,
and as they conquer difficulties for themselves will learn to care little
for their parents. The Australasians will be selfish, self-reliant, ready
in resource, prone to wander, caring little for home ties. Mercenary
marriage will be frequent, and the hotel system of America will be much
favoured. The Australasians will be large meat-eaters, and meat-eaters
require more stimulants than vegetarians. The present custom of drinking
alcohol to excess--favoured alike by dietary scale and by carnivorous
pratices--will continue. All carnivora are rash, gloomy, given to
violences. Vegetarians live at a lower level of health, but are calmer
and happier. Red radicals are for the most part meat-eaters. A
vegetarian--Shelly exceptio quae probat regulam--is a Conservative. Fish
eaters are invariably moderate Whigs. The Australasians will be content
with nothing short of a turbulent democracy.

There is plenty of oxygen in Australia air, and our Australasians will
have capacious chests also--cateris paribus, large nostrils. The climate
is unfavourable to the development of a strumous diathesis; therefore, we
cannot expect men of genius unless we beget them by frequent
intermarriage. Genius is to the physiologist but another form of
scrofula, and to call a man a poet is to physiologically insult the
mother who bore him. When Mr. Edmund Yates termed one of his
acquaintances a "scrofulous Scotch poet," he intended to be personal. He
was merely tautological. It may be accepted as an axiom that there has
never existed a man of genius who was not strumous. Take the list from
Julius Caesar to Napoleon, or from Job to Keats, and point out one great
mind that existed in a non-strumous body. The Australasians will be freed
from the highest burden of intellectual development.

For their faces. The sun beating on the face closes the eyes, puckers the
cheeks, and contracts the muscles of the orbit. Our children will have
deep-set eyes with overhanging brows; the lower eyelid will not melt into
the cheek, but will stand out en profile, clear and well-defined. This,
though it may add to character, takes away from beauty. There will be
necessarily a strong development of the line leading from nostril to
mouth. The curve between the centre of the upper lip will be shortened,
and the whole mouth made fleshy and sensual. The custom of meat-eating
will square the jaw, and render the hair course but plentiful. The
Australasian will be a square-headed, masterful man, with full temples,
plenty of beard, a keen eye, a stern and yet sensual mouth. His teeth
will be bad, and his lungs good. He will suffer from liver disease, and
become prematurely bald--average duration of life in the unmarried,
fifty-nine; in the married, sixty-five and a decimal.

The conclusion of all this is, therefore, that in another hundred years
the average Australasian will be a tall, coarse, strong-jawed, greedy,
pushing, talented man, excelling in swimming and horsemanship. His
religion will be a form of Presbyterianism; his national policy a
democracy tempered by the rate of exchange. His wife will be a thin,
narrow woman, very fond of dress and idleness, caring little for her
children, but without sufficient brain-power to sin with zest. In five
hundred years, unless recruited from foreign nations, the breed will be
wholly extinct; but in that five hundred years it will have changed the
face of Nature, and swallowed up all our contemporary civilisation. It
is, however--perhaps fortunately--impossible that we shall live to see this
stupendous climax.



End of this Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook
Australian Tales by Marcus Clarke





This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia